It’s hot, so hot your corpse paint is melting all over the Habitat pine scatter cushions that litter the stripped-oak floor of your older brother Todd’s bedroom. The balcony windows are open, and a mild sea breeze enters stage-left, but it’s still too hot to wear black. It’s still too hot to wear jeans. It’s still too hot. That’s Hobart for you. That’s Tasmania in the summer. That’s how hard it is to be kvlt in oppressive sunshine.
Over by the record player there’s a stack of Neil Young albums, and Todd’s broken Fender Shatocaster is lying on the bed, five rusty strings augmented by a length of barbed wire acting as a surrogate bottom E. There’s a toy drum kit over by the dresser. Some bright spark suggests forming a black metal band, and recording a string of near-unlistenable cassette tapes on Todd’s old Teac 4-track, with the aid of a knackered condenser mic, and notions of instigating an international kvlt scam begin to form in the bong-riddled frontal lobes of three young Tasmanians with a penchant for Norwegian woods and icy, malignant stares.
The smartest of the threesome suggests they blend the atonal dissonance of Crazy Horse‘s most coruscating fret-wankery with the dismal bi-polar eclecticism of early Darkthrone, to concoct a serviceable variant that could conceivably be critically acclaimed by bedroom-bound-wankers across the globe in a hail of fanzine-based hyperbole: Carved Cross were born.
Little is known of the kvltish enigma that Carved Cross have since become, which excuses my fictional account of their formation. I became aware of them through the pages/web presence of Down & Out zine, Australia’s premier underground publication. Over the course of the last three years, Carved Cross have spewed forth a dozen or so cassettes, and a split seven with Yorkshire blackened punkers and Legion Blotan moguls, Sump. Varying in fidelity from sub-unlistenable to faux-shambolic, this Tasmanian horde have redefined melancholic blackening in their own unique and distinctive manner. This isn’t depressive black metal like your neighbour’s fourteen-year-old ex-Grime addict has been blasting out of the shed these past few weeks, this is pseudo-music, obsessed with the saddening.
There’s a spectral beauty to Carved Cross‘s sound that urinates over the bloated corpse of Wolves In The Throne Room, defecates on the grave of Southern Lord Recordings, and raises a single-digit in the general direction of anyone or anything that has ever self-consciously regarded itself as ‘metal’. This is no-fi ambivalence with it’s finger so on the pulse of flatlining ennui that it meets itself coming back from the dead in a cacophony of reverberation that somehow elevates it above almost all other recorded sound emitting from the ramshackle recording edifices of the globe as I type. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Scream, wail, rasp, chunder. That’s what happens, repeatedly. Over the course of the 30-odd ditties I own by Carved Cross, nothing much else occurs.
Maybe that’s why I love them so. I’m bored with shitty lyrics anyway. I’m bored with structure and effort and craftsmanship, give me couldn’t-give-a-fuck insouciance over trying-too-hard-studied-perfection. any day of the week. Carved Cross have a guitar tone that soothes my world-weary, cynical tendencies. Mops by fevered brow. Wipes the shit stains from my hackneyed empathy. I hear the shape-throwing of Danny Whitten in the trebly register of Carved Cross‘s guitar tones: arcing, welding my concentration to the vast swathes of atmospheric sound-tundras that this Hobart horde conjure from the depths of the antipodean underworld.
There are rumours of further wax excursions planned for later this year, in the form of a vinyl full-length. In the meantime, there’s always Discogs for those inclined to hunt down cassette strays at inflated rates. Much of this shit is available to rip through sites like On The Board or Cloth Bodies or Metallic Imagery, but new shit will eventually emanate from Overuse, with information garnered from Down & Out.
In a world of constant disappointment, Carved Cross give me something to finger pensively in the wee-dark hours, and you’ve got to be grateful for these small mercies, haven’t you?
Lower – ‘Seek Warmer Climbs’ (posh isolation)
Originally released on vinyl by Escho back in June of 2014, ‘Seek Warmer Climes’ has now been issued on c/s by posh isolation.
Like a drunk driver on the hardcore highway, veering from one micro-genre-lane to another, Lower have explored a triumvirate of approaches across their trio of releases to date. Beginning with the constricted angst of ‘Walk On Heads’ back in 2012, Iceage‘s baby-brother-band then lurched to the right, and the comparatively fertile pastures of radio-friendly-unit-shifter-land with the follow-up, ‘Someone’s Got It In For Me’, later that same year. ‘Seek Warmer Climes’ sees Lower expanding their horizons, reaching out from behind the barricades of the Copenhagen scene that spawned them, as Lust For Youth, Var and Iceage have previously done so successfully.
Recorded over many months, with finance remaining a constant issue throughout the record’s gestation, ‘Seek Warmer Climes’ has taken almost as long to grow on this writer as it took to create. When I first heard the record, back in the summer of 2014, I felt it was obtuse, impenetrable, isolationist beyond compare. In the ensuing months, I have reengaged with it many times, but alas I have stumbled, and duly filed it away again, without falling in love. With this c/s release, however, I returned once again to the scene of the crime with renewed enthusiasm, and finally, everything has fallen into place, like the denouement to a particularly complexed thriller.
Eschewing the sand-drenched, wide-screen shot of singer Adrian Toubro employed for the vinyl’s original artwork, this c/s release features a blue-rinse close-up of the same frame, that immediately feels more in tune with the studied mood at the heart of Lower. There’s a knowing awareness that permeates this recording, a fitting maturity that was absent in the band’s earlier work.
Reinvigorated, I began to listen at length, again and again. I read up on reviews elsewhere, searching the internet for clues in the musings of fellow scribes. I read of exponential growth; the wordy interplay of poetry in motion; of sonic comparisons to artists as diverse as Wire, Joy Division, Dead Kennedys and Bryan Ferry. As hard as I listened, however, I could hear none of these influences with my ears. Instead, I heard ‘Heaven Up Here’-era Echo and the Bunnymen, at a push, maybe even The Sound, stretching things to the point of incredulity, possibly, The Chameleons, but, most certainly, not Bryan fucking Ferry. That’s just fucked up. I wondered at length about the cloth ears that had made these ridiculous comparisons; about the need to constantly look backwards when reviewing such forward-sounding records as ‘Seek Warmer Climes’. I wondered about the utter pointlessness of referring to something as ‘post-punk’ in 2015: what does that even mean?
For anyone who hasn’t fallen asleep yet, Lower make post-everything rock-and-roll for the discerning aesthete, and ‘Seek Warmer Climes’ is an album you deserve to add to your collection, whatever the fromat. Yes, it’s literary; yes, its poetic; yes, its licensed to preen, and doubtless, to pout. It’s majestic, it reveals hitherto unfathomed depth at every turn, and it stands as testament to both a band and a scene that have delivered way above and beyond expectation. Lower are the sound of intelligent young men making expressive, emotive, affecting, human music in motion.
The ancient art of Black Metal is often expressed as a reductivist medium, rarely are we blessed by artists/labels that celebrate the genre in a progressive or expansionist manner, which is why Crepúsculo Negro and it’s eclectic roster are more than worthy of your collective attention spans.
Representing the work of a horde known as the Black Twilight Circle, Crepúsculo Negro succeed where previous kults, such as Les Légions Noires, for example, have failed miserably. Sometimes hanging out in poorly lit caves in a vaguely threatening manner doesn’t just contravene health and safety regulations, it also fails to produce any art worthy of mention.
Crepúsculo Negro’s most recent releases, a brace of elaborate double c/s long players, in the form of Vohlan’s ‘Aq’ab’al’ and Arizmenda’s ‘Stillbirth in the Temple of Venus’ respectively, mark a creative peak, for both label and artists. From the impressive packaging to the final note on each album, these are veritable works of art, in every sense of the phrase: intricate, intense, seemingly inconceivable, utterly immense.
Volahn’s second full length, ‘Aq’ab’al’, explores the parameters of native occult theology in epic fashion. The scope and breadth of Volahn’s signature sound is simply gargantuan: galloping percussion, spiraling fretwork cascades, melodic intrigue and passionate delivery, set these recordings on high as truly venerable. Acoustic guitars and pipes haunt the mix when the fury collapses, revealing a stunning beauty at its blackened heart, ripped from its chest in an act of savage ritual.
As the Mayan calendar’s symbol for ‘night entering dawn’, ‘Aq’ab’al’ symbolizes both the dark corners of the earth, as well as those within our own consciousness. The Maya value both these realms in terms of spiritual and physical wealth. ‘Aq’ab’al’ thus represents the regenerating power of the still and the dark, a zone of rebirth & transformation: “Be still and know that I am God”.
This is a blackened twilight journey towards a sound portal, opening onto the dawn of the Mayan Gods, and their Jaguar warrior kings. ‘Aq’ab’al’ celebrates the spirit of indigenous ritual, through six compositions throwing shapes of cosmic black metal in metaphysical, esoteric hysteria.
By no means any the less impressive, Arizmenda’s third long player, ‘Stillbirth in the Temple of Venus’, maintains the delirium established by ‘Aq’ab’al’. Over the course of six episodes of agonizing, suffocating, psychotic black metal, Arizmenda weaponizes his approach to his art, rendering it lethal.
Both releases are available direct from the label, in cassette form, through the portal below, and in a variety of other mediums, including an amazing yellow splatter double vinyl version of ‘Aq’ab’al’, through Germanic metal vendors, Iron Bonehead.
Moriaty / Honey / The Interceptors
Mermaid Inn, Newquay, 21 Feb 2015
As the plummeting temperatures outside cut to the marrow, Moriaty’s Bones Tour accumulated literal resonance as it reached its terminus at the edge of Porth Beach. Inside, the mercury was rising as the crowded back room filled with those seeking shelter and beef. As the last of the evening’s diners gave way to those about to rock, Falmouth power trio the Interceptors called home the cows with an impressive live debut. After selling us all a swerve courtesy of some introductory delayed discord, they revealed themselves as having an effortless knack of cutting loose with waves of solid sound that do agreeable things to the medulla. Irrespective of the unreliability of brand new strings, this was a technically stunning first performance.
Honey breezed in, buoyed by the considerable tailwind generated by their triumphant ‘Weekend Millionaire’ album launch. A set combining most of the album, a couple of live favourites from the previous years’ ‘Suckle’ EP and a pulsating trio of new songs, gathered impetus and mass as it drifted/blasted toward the climatic aural earwormhole of ‘Black Teeth’. The set reached its pivotal point at the unreleased ‘King Of California’; a sprawling conflation of precision and abandon that signposts the next stage of the trio’s continuing metamorphosis. Like ‘HMV’ and ‘Circadian Rhythm’, two of Honey’s other as-yet-unissued gems, the lightning is earthed by the increasingly precise rhythm section of Ele and Sammy. Similar to ‘Weekend Millionaire’’s ‘Am F’ and ‘Ele’s Song’, the track suspends its own tension, creating a meniscus of restraint that is initially breached by Sarah’s solar flare six-string ejections, before the unit locks into place, unleashing what has been held back with increasingly adept accuracy and power. The momentum is maintained and developed.
Not long is too long between Moriaty gigs and the Devon duo’s opening night destruction of the Waynestock Festival back in late August now seems like an eternity ago. The final night of the tour feels like something of a homecoming, with Jordan and Matt returning to the county that loves them like no other, having cut a dirty blues swathe from Glasgow to Bristol over the past week. With the out front sound in capable hands, the duo’s confidence in their new material was immediately validated as a broiling pit quickly coalesced in response to tracks such as ‘Pulp Fiction’ and the savagely barbed ‘Politicians’. As the temperature reached levels suitable only for the kind of primordial hominids that inhabit the centres of volcanoes, established set stormer ‘Espernanza’ whipped the sweaty mass up into a foaming froth. Recent single ‘Bones’ is a live revelation; the sleek, polished studio version remade anew by the balls out vigour of Moriaty in the flesh. ‘The Devil’s Child’ was comfortably among last year’s best albums, yet the duo’s ability to surpass that excellence at gigs, owes as much to the perfect chemistry between Matt and Jordan as it does to their individual bounty of technical chops. Moriaty are a live band like few others – the straining floorboards as the valedictory cover of RATM’s ‘Bombtrack’ was testament to this, as were the reactions of the sweat-drenched throng that spilled out into the cool balm of the chilly night.
Representing the latest in the lengthening series of sound waves broadcasting impressively from Falmouth’s sonic hub, the Isabelles’ debut four-track, ‘Yours And Mine’ sounds like light refracting through a shifting maze of prisms. Live, they are a chimera that morphs before the eye, pulling in reference points (consciously and subconsciously) and projecting them across a canvas of their own invention. Hints of something familiar emerge from the bubbling postmodern gumbo that bubbles and glistens with forbidden ingredients – these are transient; quickly subsumed by the subsequent breakers that sound familiar and yet seem somehow transformed.
On disc, the new thing is announced by the purposeful discord that heralds ‘Small Stone’: Skins and wires vibrate, coruscating into a jagged drone, leavened by tripped-out vocals as it begins to shimmer and burn, gaining momentum until the cumulative acquisition of layers affords the track mass. Within this lysergic whirlpool, rhythm and melody orbit one another, binary nodes within a maelstrom of magnetic energy. Borne on these solar winds, ‘She’s In Pictures’ floats in. Describing a stratosphere, the track develops vapour trails as chemicals deliquesce from a mimosa haze penetrated by fuzz and drone, becoming heavywater droplets that boil and fizz at room temperature.
Old is made anew: ‘Beat On The Brat’ is put to the rapier rather than the cutlass. The Isabelles restrain themselves expertly, adding texture with six-string solar ejections that flicker around a shuddering superstructure of delicate solidity. EP closer ‘Colourtex’ quickly coalesces from primal ooze to a superdense gravity well that stretches sound across its event horizon like canvas across a frame. New space is opened up, then occupied with lightspeed hyper-immediacy as new sounds validate Aristotle’s plenism.
Be under no illusion – this is an exciting EP. But then, the Isabelles are an exciting group. These, we told ourselves, are just the sort of hondos we should be talking to. This being so, trakMARX sought out guitar firebrand Joel McConkey and made questions at him:
I guess the place to start is at the beginning. How did y’all get together?
Morgan, Josh and I were in a band called Hazards with Stan from Lost Dawn, which was around two years ago, but that’s no longer a thing anymore. Josh sent me and Morgan some demos that he wanted to play live with, so it all started there and someone told us about Johnny and his bass skills, so we got him on board
You kind of sprung into being apparently fully formed – did it all come together relatively easily?
It was easy – it was really quick, we’re quite full on when it comes to writing and recording. I think we’re going to take our time when recording the newer stuff – we’ve only been a band for about four months
Any significance in the band name?
Not really, we were called ‘The Not Hot Band’, but I never felt compatible with it. For like an hour before putting ‘She’s In Pictures’ online we were stood around Morgan’s kitchen deciding a name. I always fancied the idea of having a girl’s name for the band
Are you drawing from a very wide corpus of influences?
We all listen to the same stuff, but Josh listens to more Beach Boys, Pulp kind of stuff, whereas Morg and Johnny like more Ty Segall kind of things. I love the Growlers and Iceage – but the songs are kind of varied; we never force it, the songs just sound the way they do. I guess it depends who’s the main songwriter for the certain track.
What sort of length set have you built up so far?
Including the three original tracks on the EP, we’ve got about nine songs and we try to play a new cover gig we do; the last one was ‘White Wedding’. So, a descent size set for such a young band.
What’s next for the Isabelles?
Next month we’ve got three gigs in Falmouth booked and we plan to do a double EP for around May. Maybe a single before that.
- trakMARX: ROCK AND ROLL, GARAGE PUNK, PSYCHE, HEAVY METAL, PROTO PUNK, KRAUTROCK, JAP ROCK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, INDUSTRIAL, BLACK METAL, DOOM/DRONE, POST ROCK, NOISE, AVANT ET L'ART DE L'ETRANGER