In the wake of super-moons, eclipses, equinoxes and bluebells in February, 2015 is seemingly blossoming earlier than ever. I’m never actually sure if time is speeding up, or if that perception is merely part of the aging process. Whatever the reality, days pass in minutes; weeks pass in hours; months pass in days; and years, like policemen, just seem to get younger. As the oft-claustrophobic confines of the winter months have receded, and the blackened hue has lifted gracefully from my countenance, the first quarter of this new year has brought rewards of an eclectic but nonetheless vaguely thematic nature.
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Chez Encoule has been duly vibrating to many wonderfully cross-addictive sounds these past three months: inspiring compulsive obsessions with the freeform trance-skronk-drone-doom of the magnificent Selvhenter‘s ‘Motion Of Large Bodies’ (http://www.egetvaerelse.dk/?page_id=117); basking in the accommodating vastness of Torben Ulrich & Søren Kjærgaard‘s ‘Meridiana: Lines Toward A Non-local Alchemy’ (http://escho.bigcartel.com/product/esc46); wandering lonely as a cloud through the catalogue of the genius that is Richard Dawson (http://www.richarddawson.net/); passing away long nights trapped in the vortex of the works of Rhodri Davies (http://www.rhodridavies.com/); discovering new and enticing sounds by the likes of Aine O’Dwyer (http://mie.limitedrun.com/products/537633-aine-odwyer-music-for-church-cleaners-vol-i-and-ii-2lp) and Hannes Buder (http://www.hannesbuder.de/).
Notable new arrivals in the first quarter of the year include the debut ‘solo’ record from Elias B. Rønnenfelt under the guise of Marching Church: ‘This World Is Not Enough’. Elias himself describes the work thus:
“Although I have done a few things under the Marching Church moniker since 2010, the project, as in the constellation on this album, was born in November 2013 with Kristian Emdal, Anton Rothstein, Cæcilie Trier, Bo H. Hansen and Frederikke Hoffmeier.
We had agreed to play with Pharmakon at Mayhem, our warehouse space in Copenhagen, even though i hadn’t done anything with the project for quite some time. With two months before the show, I threw together a few half-thought-out ideas and sketches, presented them to the new band, and was amazed to see how the songs took life in their hands. I had a picture in my head of me in a comfortable arm chair, adorned in a golden robe, leading a band while a girl kept pouring me champagne. “What would this picture sound like?” was the question.
For some songs I was inspired by my friend Jamie Cripps, who unfortunately is no longer with us, and his project The Pale Horse, as well as a record by David Maranha called Antarctica that I was played one night at my favourite bar, The Nightingale in Tokyo. Those records made me want to create something that sounded half asleep and like it was being dragged across the ground, or smoldering in a bonfire, in order to keep on playing. At least that was the initial inspiration, in time it got a bit overtaken with an idea of being the leader of a soul group – people like James Brown, Young Americans-era David Bowie, and Sam Cooke were inspirations in this aspect.
Improvisation, something I have never done before, was crucial in the making of this album. The album works because of the band’s incredible ability of breathing life into these loosely written and at times very simple ideas and experiments. Though Marching Church might be a dictatorship, ‘This World Is Not Enough’ was very much a collaborative effort. Everyone involved does other projects as well, but I wouldn’t want to see it as a ‘side project’. That term seems degrading.
In conclusion, half-disgusted with talking about myself, I’m going to leave you with This World Is Not Enough—eight songs of nocturnal longing, preposterous self-obsession and cockeyed etiquette”.
Personally, as a great admirer of the work of Elias in his day-job as leader of Iceage, I am obviously biased towards the content lavished across the sides of ‘TWINE’. If you were at all taken aback by the breadth, depth, scope and sheer variety of ‘Plowing Into The Field Of Love’, be prepared to be decimated by the ambition held within the grooves of this sterling debut long player. As EBR states, to call this a side-project would be a travesty: this could well be EBR’s greatest statement to date . . . and to think, he shat it out with a hangover, after a mega-bender, in a week-or-so, from a few scribbled ideas in a battered notebook, with a bunch of close mates, with no real idea what was going to come out. I like that approach, and I like ‘TWINE”, a great deal. Yes, it’s pretentious. Yes, you can list a whole host of forebears that could conceivably be construed as ‘influences’, but the fact is that this record sounds better than the sum of it’s parts. It’s not languishing in a list, in a history book, being pondered over at seminars, or discussed around coffee tables in editing suites or green rooms. At the end of the day, Nick Cave was never this good, and David Bowie was always totally overrated in my book, so fuck you. One of the albums of 2015 has arrived early doors, you’ll catch up eventually.
A brace of new releases arrived from LVEUM, namely Barcelona‘s ‘Extremo Nihilismo En Barcelona’ twelve, and Rixe‘s ‘Coups Et Blessures’ seven:
‘Extremo Nihilismo En Barcelona’ comes resplendent in a striking sleeve oddly reminiscent of the cover to Dylan‘s ‘Self Portrait’, courtesy of the band’s drummer, and accomplished artist in his own right, Oriol Roca. The sumptuous packaging is completed by a full colour insert, lyric sheet, and two stickers. Musically, Barcelona pick up the baton where Firmeza 10 dropped it, delivering eight slabs of uncompromising hardcore, all capable of igniting conflagrations within your neo-cortex, to deconstruct any compartmentalism with their violent riffage, powerful female vocals, and a hyper-impressive rhythm section that can’t take any prisoners because it has already had them all executed on the very streets of the city from which the band take their name. It’s all over in eleven minutes, and you’re left wondering what hit you.
Rixe, meanwhile, hail from the streets of Paris, and their ‘Coups Et Blessures’ EP drops four shards of rugged, dextrous, pogo-tastic punk rock that nods in the general direction of Blitz, whilst retaining an identity of its own that stands apart from the legions of copycats jumping the Oi train as I type.
Hot off the presses from Denmark’s Dead Section comes the debut seven from UK woemongers of blackned punk, Shroud, whose earlier output on Tanatus has already brought the band kult status. The four tracks contained here – ‘Dawn Mist’/’Blood Rites’/’Silence’/’Moonlight’ – are suitably disgusting, slicing a gash through your lilly white neck, blooding your jugular, ending your life prematurely with their infernal racket.
Finally, put your hands together for Crawley’s The Suburban Homes, whose ‘The Suburban Home EP’ (Market Square Records) has to be one of the finds of the year thus far. Formed out of boredom and contempt for both the post-modern world and the confines of their locale, The Suburban Homes are one of those bands that John Peel would have booked for a Peel session within minutes of hearing this EP, and would doubtless have had the lyrics to ‘Pseudo Intellectuals’ engraved on his headstone, had he lived long enough to have witnessed the wonderment that is ‘The Suburban Home EP’. Three tracks recorded in someone’s bedroom in 2014 that sound like they were recorded in someone’s bedroom in 1978. Many try to emulate the vibes of the first wave of regional punk, when the filth and the fury flowed out from the epicenter like raw sewerage to infect the suburbs with the sounds of electric guitars, but very few pull it off like The Suburban Homes. Available in three different colour hand made sleeves, the EP comes with a free piece of tracing-paper toilet paper, you know, like you used to get in all public toilets back in the 70s? Nice touch (or not, if you use it for the purpose for which it was originally intended!). I’m pretty sure this has already sold out at source, but here’s a link to the sounds anyway. I got my copy from Mike at Inflammable Material, and apart from a couple of Pura Mania sevens I’ve got stashed away with Paco Mus, this is the only seven inch I’ve bought all year. Yes, I think it’s that good,
In the months preceding my next missive, trakMARXists, I will be venturing out live to catch a host of live performances from the likes of Sleaford Mods, Richard Dawson, Iceage, Stewart Lee and Selvhenter. If I have both the time and the inclination, I’ll try and tell you about them sometime in the not too distant future. I’ll also be reading a lot of Slavoj Zizek, Robert Macfarlane, David Foster Wallace and continuing to patronize the Down & Out monthly zine output, that I’ve been enjoying immensely. My current ambition is to be named as a ‘subscriber of the month’ before the end of the year, and qualify for one of those D&O compilation c/s tapes I read about with much interest:
Without further ado, I’ll bid you farewell. Remember, it doesn’t have to sound like Discharge to be punk rock in the heart, the mind, and the head. Punk rock is a state of mind, and it can be applied to anything. Even social work. Au revoir, mes amis.
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.
- 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