Reviews 2017

The following reviews stem from what we have received here (so far) during 2017…

If anybody is wishing to join the panel of reviewers at Adverse Effect,  please get in touch with a publishable example of a recent-ish release that adheres to the criteria concerning our reviews with respect to the label, year, format and website or contact address. It must be a physical release because this is what we specialise in and it must arrive from those areas of music we are concerned with (post-punk, post-industrial, electronics, electro-acoustic, improv, ‘noise’, avant-garde, modern classical, free jazz, etc.). Likewise, AE remains open to reviews of books, films and fanzines, etc. Of course, there are a few people involved already but there’s certainly room at this stage for a couple of others. If interested and then accepted, you will receive the occasional package of CDs, etc. received here to review. The aim right now is to expand on Adverse Effect and hopefully make it more effective. Other article submissions (interviews, overviews, etc.) are also welcome, but please note that nothing unsolicited will be published. Get in touch first if you think you have something you might like to include here. Thanks.
Also, of course, thanks to the labels/artists who continue to send in material. If you have something you would like reviewed, please send to the usual address:
ul. Wilenska 5/70
31-413 Krakow
Reviews by Richo Johnson and Steve Pescott…
ALLES Culture CD (Antena Krzyku, Poland, 2016)
Second album from this Lodz-based duo with a contemporary take on EBM and electro crossover that’s embellished by distorto vocals owing more to punk and industrial music than anything else. Threaded throughout is a melodic slant giving rise to a more cinematic nature, but Culture largely sounds like a heady mix of anger, discontentment and dancefloor shockwaves aiming straight for those who’d doubtlessly deny enjoying such indulgences usually. (RJ)
AMP Q Factors (A Mixtape) CD (, 2017)
Collecting ten mixes of Amp material recorded between 2000 and 2017, Q Factors may not necessarily hint at an overly prolific period for this London-based duo who last appeared on (physical) record nine years ago, but at least goes some way towards illustrating they didn’t disappear completely into hibernation. Anybody familiar with Amp will know they once formed an integral part of the landscape that blurred the lines between post-rock, shimmering atmospherics, drone-rock and even ventures through more abstract divergences. The fact they were proudly housed by US label Kranky back in the late 1990s doubtlessly says much about where their foundations lay. Since then, however, they’ve been through several labels before going the same way as many others and having decided to keep things in-house with their own label. It’s the future for many artists now, especially if fortunate enough to have decent distribution and time spare enough to deal with sundry related matters. What about the music, however? Opening with a comparatively mad and frenetic ‘Drowning Mind’, mixed by longterm collaborator Marc Challans, you could be forgiven for noticing a knowing nod towards former bedfellows Third Eye Foundation, but the following couple of cuts slide through more familiar fare, melding cushioned beats with ambient tones and Karine’s often hushed or gentle vocals. Jazz piano chords and some weighing in with subdued drum ‘n’ bass embellish proceedings and although it’s all a bit ’90s it’s a neat example of rock music sliding into the chill-zone.
 Fourth song, ‘Loveflower’, mixed by the usually more experimental Amp side project, Amp Studio, takes on some tempered post-industrial sounds before evolving into the kinda magical pop the group are known for. This later intensifies and splices some carefully controlled noise, proving itself to be a highlight I’m sure would benefit greatly from being blasted over a PA in a huge space. I’m sure it’d sound amazing live, too. Further blending of stuttering rhythms, tonal glaze, shimmering hues and buried vocals constitutes the majority of the other tracks, sometimes recalling Cocteau Twins, but what makes Amp stand out is the little detours to more abstract realms. Always a presence anyway, these especially take hold on another Amp Studio mix, ‘Push ‘n’ Hold’, itself setting the bar for great ways forward, and the haunting ‘When & Where’, mixed by Jon Attwood’s Yellow6 project.
 ‘Ombres Sur La Lune’, by Ladder to Royale, serves a rather sedate, tho’ no less hazy, ending to the album, once again proving that for a group noted for a certain palette in their approach to music, Amp are graced with a lot of movement within it that sometimes bursts out of the seams. Next to their absence of recent years, this collection shows that all the components that drive them are far from diminished. (RJ)
BAND ANE Anish Music V LP (Clang, Denmark, 2016)
The latest release from this Danish female solo artist collects three pieces spanning just 20 minutes or so that glide through Eno-esque territory sometimes bordering perhaps too closely with a new age-y sensibility hard to swallow. For all the Pete Namlook-ish leanings, however, there’s a personal stamp that especially shines through when Ane is adding vocals. This elevates things somewhat and the countless others operating in this sphere could certainly learn from it. Pity they only make a brief appearance as her voice is very effective. (RJ)
BLOOD TUB ORCHESTRA The Seven Curses of the Music Hall CD (Phono Erotic, 2017)
Although certain other elements are sometimes drawn into the melee, including a smattering of country twang or rock solid stomping on certain tracks, The Seven Curses… 
largely amounts to punked-up music hall originals generally otherwise long forgotten. Boozy, cheery, lewd and often played, apparently, for comedy purposes, the songs here are at least imbued with a sense of something deeper and at times can be both powerful and intoxicating. When considering artists/groups equally indebted to music hall, it’s easy to automatically conjure names such as Ian Dury & the Blockheads and Madness, tho’ at the same time you cannot help but feel Chas ‘n’ Dave’s presence isn’t so far away either. Chumbawumba and The Cardiacs also spring to mind as a cheap reference point to some of these songs but, ultimately, whether or not you’ll enjoy this album rests on your tolerance of music hall. An interesting concept, if one guaranteed to divide listeners. (RJ)
RYAN CHOI Three Dancers CD (Accretions, USA, 2016)
Three ukulele-led instrumentals by a Hawaiian improviser fleshing out his works with percussion and subtle electronics. Each of them is fairly buoyant and, maybe as expected, organic in nature, tho’ the fact that Choi is classically trained probably accounts for much of the restraint they’re rendered with. As a vivid testament to his obvious ability, Three Dancers is more than fine, but it’d be good to hear his ideas and skill smashed into the framework of a setting furnished by other players. In the meantime, these pieces, recalling dimly John Fahey’s approach to stratospheric note-bending, make for a pleasing introduction to an artist I’d like to think we’ll hear more of. (RJ)
LAURENCE CRANE / ASAMISIMASA Sound of Horse CD (Hubro, Norway, 2016)
Wonderful collection of works by a contemporary composer who has been steadily gaining recognition during recent years. On Sound of Horse he collaborates with Norwegian ensemble Asamisimasa on several pieces so delicately orchestrated they assume an almost ambient disposition. Spacious piano, fluttering melodies, soft-hued organ and serene guitar lines conjoin equally pleasant cello, vibraphone, clarinet and voice, each of them used sparingly from the school where less is more and understatement proves itself a more powerful mechanism for expression than anything beyond. Only on the fourth part of the title composition, appropriately subtitled ‘Loud and Rough’, do the proceedings at least for a couple of minutes or so become slightly more dramatic. Outside both this and some more frenetic guitar interludes in the fifth part of the same piece, ‘Very Plain’, Sound of Horse’ is a calm affair both vibrant in its refinement and healthily restrained in its panoramic grasp of sound. Something entirely magical is afoot here which needs celebrating. (RJ)

DEISON/MAURIZIO BIANCHI  Black Panorama CD (FinalMuzik, Italy, 2015)

Another page turns in the annals of legendary sound brutalist/first wave industrialist Maurizio Bianchi. Now well into his second wind since that longstanding radio silence, we’ve seen a near purple patch littered with a substantial wedge of solo ventures and alliances with kindred spirits such as Cria Cuervos and Paolino Conzoneri involved in a kinda sorcerer’s apprentice role to the shadowy Mr. B’s conjurations. Though the billing in this particular case might just point to an occasional role reversal (?).

Black Panorama comes as a shared disc with Deison (a.k.a. C. Deison), who’s a veteran circuitry manipulator of two decades standing, with over thirty releases to his name, including collaborations with Lasse Marhaug and Macronympha amongst other notables… With the now de rigeur sombre sleeve art, the accompanying half dozen pieces, culled from the M. B. archives, were, perversely cut (w/ further embellishments), during the summer of 2013. But as anyone who is au fait with Maurizio’s game plan will attest, the listener will be faced with a descent into a cold world of stifling darkness populated with imposing monolithic constructs. The unforgiving drones of ‘Cavernous Blackness’, occasionally mirroring the user-unfriendly passages of T.G.’s ‘In the Shadow of the Sun’ and the ersatz harmonium wheeze and insect stridulation of ‘Inert Darkness’ surely confirm this. Though ‘Glimmering Twilight’ might suggest an atom or two of optimism and hope, its seismic rumblings and steel on steel sonorities form the body electric of the most uncompromisingly powerful piece on show and, of course, the title reveals itself to be a cruel joke at the expense of anyone within earshot, myself included, naturally. (SP)


DIETER MUH Feeling a Little Horse CD (EE Tapes, Belgium, 2016)

Considering the fact that the first time this album was ‘available’, back in 1998, it was courtesy of a CDr released by the short-lived Mouth label in an edition of 15 copies, this reissue is more than justified. Catching a lengthy live recording spanning over 35 minutes by the duo of founder Steve Cammack and Dave Uden, there’s an alluring array of squelchy or hissing electronics here vaguely recalling  H30 before being escorted through perhaps moodier terrain. Rhythmic pulses and heavily distilled voices keep everything tacked into place whilst moonlit tidal tones and firmly harnessed stabs and rumbles eventually converge with the voices and build up to something poised to consume everything in their way. Powerful, mesmerising and with an insert proudly proclaiming these gents recorded this with “no overdubs, no tarting about” it is only too apparent they know their game. The disc also features three shorter bonus cuts, previously issued by EE Tapes on a couple of CDr compilations, from around the same period that serve as perfect accompaniment. Packaged in typical EE ‘7″ single’ style sleeve, too. Pisses on most such artists prone to “tarting about” in the studio, that’s for sure. (RJ)


HEXA Factory Photographs LP (Room 40, Australia, 2016)

Originally commissioned for David Lynch’s ‘Between Two Worlds’ exhibition in 2015, these ten pieces by the Australian duo of Lawrence English and Jamie Stewart glide stealthily between ominous rumble-driven fog crunchers and other such post-industrial gestures. With much emphasis on rhythmic textures and dramatic atmosphere, it isn’t difficult to see how these sounds could sufficiently accompany any world connected to David Lynch, but there are enough ideas wedded for them to be taken on their own terms as well. I don’t know how they compare to Stewart’s own other work, but they certainly appear a little weightier than the often understated approach of Lawrence English’s. Fine stuff indeed. (RJ)


HOLLYWOODFUN DOWNSTAIRS Tetris CD (Antena Krzyku, Poland, 2016)

Third album, I believe, by this New Zealand group. Following Poland’s neat Antena Krzyku label’s CD reissue of their second album, Reactions, also from 2016, which was originally released by NZ’s Press Gang imprint on both vinyl and cassette formats, this third release houses another twelve cuts of blistering post-punk-inspired noise cooked up by a trio of moody guys whose inside cover photo’s stance is only betrayed by a moustache that looks like it was rented from a ’70s hustler. Once past this, the sound is a full-on inferno of tumultous guitar-damaged and screaming vocal-driven attack dimly akin to a slightly more restrained Rudimentary Peni chugging it out with No Trend. Only ‘Reverse Ahoy’ is pared enough to reveal almost classic Ozzy-like vocals, which in and of itself isn’t entirely a bad thing tho’ the less anything is inclined towards metal (even rudimentary metal, such as Sabbath) the more my tolerance level at least remains stabilised. I’m sure these would be a blast live, though. (RJ)



IT IT ANITA Agaaiin CD (Luik Records, Belgium, 2016)

Beefy guitar-driven noise-rock duals with the kinda cosmic excursions towards pure brain-mulch territory The Strangulated Beatoffs were likewise prone to. When the terribly named It It Anita shed themselves of the more obvious dressing and follow patterns presumably made by spacecakes things become far more interesting. However, when not indulging thus everything’s boiled down to a sweat, grime ‘n’ gristle strategy that’s powerful enough but just doesn’t add anything to the sprawling canon of such music already overflowing from every conceivable corner of almost every city of the planet, unfortunately.. (RJ)


THE JAZZFAKERS Hallucinations CD (Alrealon Music, USA, 2016)

Just what I needed, and I’m being literal rather than facetious. Eight new tracks from this NYC group who’ve been active for almost 10 years now and have a few albums behind them already. This one is produced by the legendary Martin Bisi, a figure whose activities have long been pronounced on the New York scene by virtue of his production work for Swans, Bill Laswell, John Zorn and Sonic Youth et al, plus several solo records. It would appear he has long worked with The Jazzfakers, too, and I daresay it’s easy to understand how they’d forge a strong working relationship given the delphic noise conjured up in this almost No Wave-inspired free jazz setting. Between the eight tracks, presumably improvisations that bring together electronics and synths as well as bass, percussion, violin and sax, there’s much in the way of restrained headiness that takes on avant-strutting through alien landscapes before looking poised to spit acidic foam in some kinda post-apocalyptic meltdown. This is how modern jazz should be; untamed, volatile and unpredictable, with a galvanised approach that takes no prisoners even in its milder framework. And mostly, again, Hallucinations places much emphasis on nuance and a sense of discipline or space. For all the warmth embedded, however, The Jazzfakers are not apparently here for our comfort. Rather, they soundtrack our confused, convoluted, desperate and disparate times just perfectly. I need to get their other records right now. (RJ)


JFK/THE GREY WOLVES Assassin LP (Peripheral Records, 2016)

Reissue of these six collaborative recordings from 1988, neatly pressed onto red vinyl. Anybody familiar with Anthony Di Franco’s JFK project, especially from around this period, will know he specialised in rudimentary, factory hammered, rhythms melded with electronic, sometimes bass heavy, textures. As such, it’s difficult to discern the power-noise duo The Grey Wolves’ involvement here as any cranked-to-the-max overload is at best buried or kept to a more mannered distance. The rhythmic approach tends to dominate, but this perfectly okay. It’s only that it seems more of a JFK release than a collaboration. (RJ)



ALICE KEMP Fill My Body With Flowers and Rice LP (Fragment Factory/Erratum Musical, Germany, 2016)
For a long enough while now, defiantly lurking in one of the many hollows to be found in contemporary homegrown avant-garde music, Alice Kemp has been hacking away at often nightmarish sonic tendrils via her involvement with various groups and her previous solo endeavour, Germseed. Arriving from a similar school to Switzerland’s longstanding Schimpfluch-Gruppe, responsible itself for housing artists such as Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock, Dave Phillips and Sudden Infant, it is perhaps not entirely surprising that their very own Rudolf can also be found on the seven tracks constituting this album on, amongst other things, ‘de/composition’ duties. And, similar to the work nestled in this region of overt restlessness, Fill My Body With Flowers and Rice is one that through its guise of disquieting yet subtle forms and general discomforting atmosphere ultimately makes for a listen as thoroughly absorbing as a Joel-Peter Witkin photograph. Far more than simply presenting notions of beauty in decay, however, each piece here, replete with dreamlike title shaded by suitably nefarious gothic horror, plots its way through spaces as much serene as they are fogged by disturbances both tactful and of grander design. Natural sounds engage with skewed digital flotsam, sparse piano breaks out of something more threatening despite its lack of presence, a padded cell voice blends in with the proceedings and all manner of sound fragments and shapes most would deem non-music are sewn together to create a monstrous yet wonderful new space to reach into. Fill My Body…  is the second full-length release by Alice Kemp under her real name, following a typically limited edition CDr one from a couple of years ago and, exactly the same as that, it only suggests great things from an artist deftly handling her craft. I want more. (RJ)
KILLERKUME Trautzer Blaster LP (Odio Sonoro + others, Spain, 2015)
No idea why this LP from over two years ago just arrived to AE‘s cavernous Reviews Dept., but happy to oblige regardless. Maybe it took that long to reach here? This captures three tracks by a Brazilian guitar and drums duo, occasionally given to throwing in yelps and other such ur-sounds, firmly cut from an aggro position. This is like the psychotic metal pulverising of Gore given greater sense of purpose via Caspar Brotzmann’s Massaker. Pure improv pummel, like being jackhammered in the temples by tumultuous rock blast furnaced with the kinda non-jazz Borbetomagus crushed minds with. Once in a while, the relentless assault lets up for a few rusty razored gasps of air, skewed melodics thrust in several directions like hot plates, but the savagery is never far away. Much needed good shit. (RJ)
KLEISTWAHR Broken and Beaten in 5/8 Time lathe-cut 10″ (Independent Woman Records, New Zealand, 2017)
It could be ventured that such releases, put out in microcosmic editions of 30 or so, are a complete waste of time, but as a taster of the music by a given artist made available in a format that’s kinda fun, true to the DIY spirit of yore (when selling 30 copies of anything might be deemed a success) and has stupid collectibility appeal, I personally have no axe to grind. Kleistwahr, you doubtlessly know, is Gary Mundy of Ramleh’s solo endeavour and over the two tracks here assumes both an appealing foggy drone stance and something altogether more melodic and subdued, if no less capable of conjuring a midnight hour melancholy. This material is decidedly more reflective, maybe even submissive, but illustrates only too well the fact there’s more to Gary than being amongst the kings of the so-called ‘noise-heads’. Fitting in with the geographical location of the label perfectly, I’d say there’s a ring to the sounds here that wouldn’t be amiss on a Michael Morley record, but that’s no bad thing whatsoever. Although loong sold out, there’ll be a CD collecting these tracks, too. There’s inside information for you, right there. Get in touch with this amazing little label for info concerning more such releases in the meantime. (RJ)
LIMBS BIN 18 Rack Demo cassette (Torn Light, USA, 2017)
Josh Landes’ Limbs Bin have been going for several years now, producing various low-key cassettes, lathe-cuts and even a flexidisc of maxed-out earsplitting electronic howl of fantastic proportions, snagged somewhere between Napalm Death’s first album and Crank Sturgeon. There’s a decidedly American take on the proceedings in spite of a cap doffing to power electronics pioneers and perhaps some of the Japanoise set, but this seems rawer, angrier and more twisted with graphite humour than the contemporary face represented by, say, Prurient. In this sense, I’m sure brutal hardcore punk was as much of a starting point as these other signifiers, thus lending everything, conversely, a savage purity both confrontational and slightly absurdist. It works a fucking treat. (RJ)
MUDDERSTEN Karpatklokke CD (Sofa, Norway, 2017)  
Looks like this is the first album ‘proper’ from this Norwegian group, following a limited edition split-cassette release with fellow countrymen Wolf and the Gang. It collects seven pieces of fantastic space-mulch where abstract electronics, musique concrete, misshapen guitar loops and tuba belches all rub together like early Nurse With Wound still seemed somehow ‘safe’ or pedestrian. Rich, sometimes multi-layered, sounds arm wrestle for just a bubble of doubtlessly contaminated air whilst ‘neath all this those overflowing rivers of madness do their utmost not to drown  everything as ghost ships sound horns through dense fog. There’s a Lasse Marhaug mastering credit attached to this album that probably paints an even greater picture of what’s afoot. And that’s a recommendation where I’m concerned. (RJ)
MURMURISTS I Am You, Dragging Halo CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2016)
Hard to place where exactly, but Murmurists is a name I came across long before the man behind this project, Anthony Donovan, kindly offered to send me a couple of discs in order to learn more of the murky netherworld it is given to furrowing. Having collaborated in the past with the likes of Morphogenesis’ Clive Graham, Steve Beresford and a vast array of others via groups he’s participated in such as Vultures Quartet and Some Some  Unicorn, it’s relatively simple to understand how his cutting of teeth in the realms of improvisation, electro-acoustic soundforms and avant-garde electronics has rendered I Am You, Dragging Halo so perfectly realised. Comprising just one heavily contoured, or contorted, piece spanning approximately 46 minutes, the album proves mercifully difficult to remove oneself from as it peels back layer upon layer of ideas each as positively surprising as the last.
 Assuming all from a nightmare twirl of dissonant electronica to fragmented bursts of rock and avant-jazz in its quest to create a cinematic landscape at once broken, destroyed, dark and oblique, this music has an almost Lynchian quality to it rarely evoked well by many beyond classic Nurse With Wound. Only the work of luminaries such as Andrew Liles, Sion Orgon, Thighpaulsandra and Contrastate comes close with respect to both the quasi-dimensional sonic approach and production values evident here, but this is merely ornamental. Like  each of those artists, Murmurists has its own vision and the trajectory towards this doesn’t owe much to any reference points the casual listener may foist upon it irrespective of possible cursory winks and nods of approval. As with the previous album, I Cannot Tell  You Where I Am Until I Love You, itself only consisting of one lengthy composition which morphs hydra-like throughout, there’s something personal afoot that sets it head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.
 Using many different instruments and approaches to attain a cohesive whole even illuminated with carefully chosen and often thought-provoking dialogue snatches at various junctures, this emphasis on craftsmanship, of true artistry if you like, in order to try and understand and fully realise this personal vision makes for a rare precedent I’ll keep returning to. Stunning work. (RJ)
NACHTHEXEN eponymous 10″ (Harbinger Sound, 2017)
I saw these performing in Krakow in mid-2016 and was impressed enough to offer them a single on Fourth Dimension immediately. Whilst this never materialised, though, the excellent Harbinger Sound have at least stepped in and thus far made this release available, collecting a number of tracks originally housed on the Sheffield-based group’s debut cassette album and now already o/p and hard-to-find 7″. Over the eight cuts of sprightly, contempo punk hewn from the perspective of the four females who constitute Nachthexen, meaning Night Witches in German, the sound is made distinctive for Donna D-stroy’s weaving in of ravaged and unruly synth riffs, sometimes melodic but often sounding like they’re tumbling down a stairwell. It’s a touch that serves them well and not only places them amongst the pantheon of groups such as Metal Urbain, Tuxedo Moon and Screamers but adds a unique layer I’m sure they can explore further as their sound develops. As it stands right now, the group are raw, angry, defiant and suitably abrasive yet this is countered by a healthy dollop of bitingly sarcastic humour and general air of positivity. While song titles such as ‘Panic’, ‘Fuck the Diet’, ‘Drunk Lads’ and ‘Cheer Up Luv’ point to the reality the group are unfortunately submerged in in everyday life, there’s much to be savoured in this mix where a keen pop sensibility is sandpapered before being thrown against the wall. There’s an album coming on Harbinger Sound in due course, too, and I for one only anticipate good things from it. (RJ)
TOMONARI NOZAKI Tryptych CD (Forwind, 2016)
Released at the very end of 2016 this compilation gathers seven cuts by the prolific contemporary composer whose music forms wonderful shapes amongst the mists rolling from ambient music’s many hills. Designed, presumably, as some kind of overview or introduction to his work, it makes for a rather sublime entrance that brings together lush shimmering sounds, space-whispered textures and subtly contoured pools of tempered abstract noise a cut above the countless others chipping away at this particular game. Beautiful and utterly mesmerising, Nazaki’s compositions command visual accompaniment. The man needs to be given a film to match the scope of his cinematic music right now. Stunning music. (RJ)
ANDY NYXTA & NERON DARKIUSS Artefacts cassette (Default, Poland, 2017)
This was kindly handed to me by the label owner at a festival we both happened to be at during August. Cryptic due to its use of Greek lettering on the cover, it took me a fair while to ascertain exactly what this was, but it was worth the wait. Over the course of six tracks, we are treated to a neat selection of electronic sounds, some anchored in gentler waters and others serrated and moving mercilessly in several directions simultaneously, both originally composed around 20 years ago by these two, I believe, Ukrainian boffins. To describe this merely as ambient would serve it something of an injustice as there’s too much movement as the banks of sound tumble into each other like vast miasmic plumes. All six pieces appear like they’ve been beamed in from the very edge of someone’s convulsing consciousness, harnessing broken machine-like rhythms against a tide of chemically saturated atmospherics. Absolutely wonderful. I could listen to a lot more of this. Default, amongst other things, is dedicated to documenting archive works from Ukraine. I look forward to hearing more. (RJ)
RAMLEH Never Returner lathe-cut 10″ (Independent Woman Records, New Zealand, 2017)
Predating its appearance on the incredible Circular Time album, released in 2015 by a US label mostly known for metal and dark ambient records, Crucial Blast, ‘Never Returner’ is here snatched from a live recording from Blackpool in 2009. Typical of such recordings, it’s a gritty affair notable for some untypical (and, strangely, uncredited) audible vocals atop a loose rock setting version of the group with Martyn Watts on drums. Decidedly unhinged despite the strong backbone, it’s almost garage punk in its being poised at the precipice of a deep canyon permeated by rivers of acidic sweat. On the reverse we have a live studio recording of ‘Conquest Play II’ from 2014 which sees the core duo of Gary and Anthony firing up the synth and electronics for another burst of neatly controlled abrasiveness doing everything it can to belie the impression they’re actually nice guys really. As with the Kleistwahr 10″ this label put out, this was released in a horrendously limited edition of, I think, 50. Worth making the effort to track down, though. Makes a case for Ramleh putting out a regular single or some other vinyl release, at least. (RJ)
SCHROTTERSBURG Cialo LP (Extinction, Poland, 2016)
Released at the very end of 2016 the second album by this Polish trio has an appropriate wintry and desolate feel spread over its eight cuts. Arriving unashamedly from the post-punk milieu, each song vividly recalls groups from the early 1980s such as Joy Division, Artery, 1919 and UK Decay after being given a salubrious contemporary spin that renders everything seeming just that touch more powerful and angrier. It’s a decidedly immersive sound catching them more or less as they are live. And that’s perhaps where my only complaint is levelled, too. Whilst it is good to ensnare all the strengths of such a setting, I feel Schrottersburg would benefit much from a little more studio attention with respect to some other layers of sound, additional vocal tracks and the like. In the meantime, they’re certainly proving themselves as one of Poland’s finest successors to the lofty heights scaled by Siekiera (whose own 1986 debut is amongst the very best of them). (RJ)
SKULLFLOWER The Spirals of Great Harm 2CD (Cold Spring, 2017)
Whilst I wouldn’t go quite as far as many in declaring Skullflower founder Matthew Bower to be some kinda mystical guru on the guitar, there’s no denying his place as key purveyor of white heat bound six-string mangling. Over the course of the thirteen tracks here, aided by Samantha Davies (also known under the artistic guise of Gyr) on violin and additional guitar, the trademark Skullflower sound is healthily manoeuvred through billowing plumes of psychedelic noise that sound like they were initially baked at the very heart of Mauna Loa. What might appear unrestrained in this lava-stream of unadulterated sonic gush is nuanced with recurring flecks gyrating along the melee like broken dancers. Barbed strands glint shard-like amongst the layers of brimstone noise, should one get a little too comfortable whilst tugged by the undertow, but more than most else this is fantastic cosmic churn as delightfully all-encompassing as it is laced with convoluted threats or an inescapable sense of dread. I can’t say I keep up with everything of Skullflower’s, but every time I find myself immersed in their world via the occasional new release I’ve tripped over in my own quest to sprinkle a modicum of sense into my own life I’m never disappointed. Far from it. (RJ)
GEIR SUNDSTOL Langen Ro (Hubro, Norway, 2016)
Whilst only too clear this Norwegian guitarist is an accomplished and versatile player, given as he is to drawing from folk music from his native country to Indian classical, the music is perhaps just a little too light and saccharine for the most part. Aided by an array of other players who between them embellish the compositions (one of which was written by Georgio Moroder) with piano, harmonium, synths, various percussion instruments and more strings, there’s certainly a nice organic feel afoot, but everything wavers too heartily between hotel lounge bar and general muso territory to render it engaging enough to lose yourself in. The warmth of the production only pronounces just how squeaky clean Langen Ro is. This is the sound of someone who at least appears nothing has ever once gone wrong in his life. (RJ
I have to ‘fess that French artist Ghedalia Tazartes is a completely new name for me even though he’s clearly been active for a few decades now and has even had numerous releases on the fine Italian imprint Alga Marghen. There’s so much stuff out there that it’s easy for something to slip through the net, though. Not always a bad thing, either, but in this particular case it’s certainly a shame as the ten cuts here, recorded in collaboration with these two other similarly disposed artists,  embark on an unsteady stroll through a deep forest heavily intertwined with sounds as beguiling as they are mostly enchanting. Voices ranging from the gutteral to the kind of operatic style one would expect only to emanate from the guts of a near derelict Victorian asylum outstretch tendrils through all from melodic zither and sitar plucking to disembodied animal cries, ghostly rasps, doom rattle and an always engaging ‘ur’ approach to avant magic-making. In a perverse way,  Carp’s Head is akin to a monstrous folk music as imagined by Vlad Tepes before having its bowels ripped slowly from its more trad image, which is perfectly fine as far as I’m concerned. I only wish I understood the lyrics. (RJ)
THET LITURGISKE OWASENDET Wisconsin Mining State cassette (Forwind, 2017)
First time I’ve heard this artist, but he appears to have been pretty prolific since his first release appeared a coupla years back. Throughout the six tracks here, we’re treated to moody electronic rumbles, distant rhythms, shifting tectonic plates of quasi-industrial sound, proto pulses and chattering signals from a long dead satellite now presumably being sucked into a black hole and destined to be turned inside out or something. On one hand, the music is stark and muscular and, on the other, it alludes to the kinda psychedelia primed for stumbling through a dystopian k-hole without even a semblance of moral support. Either way, it succeeds where so many of these cod-horror death ‘n’ doom-fixated ‘ambient’ artists fail. It’s an immense sound and I like it as much as anybody with a functioning brain should. Shame only 30 were produced, but there’s a digital version available, apparently. That stuff’s lost on me, though. (RJ)
MIGUEL ANGEL TOLOSA Ephemeral CD (Sofa, Norway, 2017)
Third album under his own name by this Spanish artist now living in Cologne collecting ten compositions utilising carefully teased gush, penumbral digital flotsam and shimmering timbres. It all sounds fine and pleasant enough, but somewhat perfunctory and not far removed from an infinite number of other contemporary artists all more or less furrowing similar ground. Each of them apparently work with the same tools and similar ideas, slowly but steadily eradicating any personality in the whole process. The question mark after asking the point of such music these days is now so big and eblazoned with so many neon lights it’d outshine Las Vegas…  (RJ)
TRUPA TRUPA Headache CD (Ici D’Ailleurs, France, 2016)
The last track, ‘Picture Yourself’, on this remastered reissue of the third album by this Gdansk-based group, serves a triumphant and anthemic close to an approach converging indie-rock sensibilities with a clearly more experimental yearnings. It is due to the latter that Headache rises above the usual fare by young men attempting to straddle guitars when not otherwise ingesting poetry or dissecting the last Bela Tarr film over a bottle of cheap red plonk. Into a sometimes cascading veil of six-string attack reminiscent of Godspeed! the awkwardly named Trupa Trupa tuck in more erratic and oblique twists that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Sun City Girls album. Whilst I’d personally like to hear this decidedly avant-garde approach pushed more, the fact that it already exists not only illustrates the group have their heads screwed on but defiantly gestures towards far greater things. I’m all for joyous walls of guitar one can get utterly lost in, but more often than not it’s what lays in between ’em that counts. I look forward to the new album. (RJ)
TRUPA TRUPA Jolly New Songs LP (Ici D’Ailleurs/Blue Tapes/X-Ray Records, France/UK, 2017)
Newest album by this Polish group who set themselves apart from their native peers by singing in English. This is something I’ve often pontificated on when considering the comparative success (or not) of most Polish groups outside their home country and, perhaps sad to admit to a degree, it makes a huge difference if any such group has its sights set higher than average. Jolly New Songs collects eleven, you guessed it, new songs which perpetuate the themes of the last album, Headache, blending melody, dissonance, rhythms that occasionally jut against each other and even a pop sensibility keenly buffing away all nods towards gratuitous experimentation. Sometimes the latter can grate, such as on the thankfully brief lowdown strum-a-thon ‘Coffin’, but for the most part the balance is set just right. I’m reminded somewhat of Girls Vs. Boys or Breaking Circus at times, which is no bad thing when it comes to the rather more scuffed end of pop of course, tho’ it’s clear these guys owe as much to the more progressive strains of hardcore and its hold over what later transmogrified into post-rock. Whilst the mix itself might not be entirely new there’s a freshness and energy to Trupa Trupa’s sound bursting out. Coupled to the evident yearning to reach beyond these corridors, the group have much going for them. Let’s see where they go from here. (RJ)
VLADIMIRSKA Paper Birds CD (Gusstaff Records, Poland, 2017)
As far as I’m aware, this is the second album by this Krakow-based septet who, led by vocalist/accordion player/multi-instrumentalist Scotia Gilroy, also utilise an array of wind instruments and an upright bass besides regular rock instrumentation in order to conjure a breezy and sometimes jaunty folk-pop. There’s a lightness of touch to most of the nine cuts that constitute Paper Birds, tho’ occasionally more pensive strains are mixed into the fray that lend the proceedings a more smoky, moonlit quality counterbalancing everything perfectly. ‘Midnight Stroll’, coming across like a lolling blend of klezmer and Hugo Race, is a  suitably shaded highlight that sets the overall tone. (RJ)
JOHN WALL & MARK DURGAN Contrapt CD (Harbinger Sound, 2017)
Seven collaborative pieces by two artists generally housed in the worlds of abstract electronics, plunderphonics and electroacoustic shapeshifting. Akin to so many such releases, it’s not entirely a comfortable listen as we are subjected to a series of often queasy squelches, crackles, fizzes and rasps of a hue not unlike that of a robot having a mental breakdown, although there’s much to be said for the exploratory nature of these otherwise utterly immersive sounds. As is often the case, I feel music of this nature works far better as a live experience than on any recording, really, but as a testament to Wall and Durgan’s capabilities as alchemists of a potentially untamed sonic environment, Contrapt makes for a great document several cuts above the usual fare emanating from this space. (RJ)
CHRISTIAN WALLUMROD ENSEMBLE Kurzsam and Fulger CD (Hubro, Norway, 2016)
Christian Wallumrod is a prolific and highly respected Norwegian pianist given to contemporary takes on jazz and classical music, sometimes softly embedded in a more subdued setting dovetailing with near-ambient or cinematic music. The seven pieces here, buoyed stealthily along by tempered vibraphone, percussion, cello and subtle sax or trumpet flourishes, stem from a largely quieter zone where space and a penchant for subtlety and restraint reign over the (sometimes broken) melodies. The opener, ‘Haksong’, is a little busier with its lolling and more joyful and playful approach, whilst ‘Langsam’ is possessed of a sombre tone not unlike the general mood of the album, and ‘Phoniks’ delves deeper into an abstract domain where rasping textures jostle next to each other effectively. Everything is fine until the closer, ‘Kurzsam Und Onward’, jauntily grates away till the stop button has to be hammered full force. It is evident that this Ensemble, helmed by Wallumrod, has a fluid handle of a wide range of styles and techniques, most of them at least interesting, but an underlying cloying sensibility tends to get in the way of certain pieces, unfortunately. (RJ)
WIRE Nocturnal Koreans LP (Pinkflag, 2016)
Difficult for me to stand back from this group and criticise them. Even in their weakest moments during the past few decades they’ve retained an artful handle on a sensibility which casually wavers between a kinda scuffed pop, aggro-rock, ‘noise’ and their more experimental leanings. They’ve never been a group one can pigeonhole easily, despite a veneer still easy to slot into the post-punk landscape where they not only evidently found their own voice (154, their third album, pays witness to this sublimely and catches them pushing their undeniably punk defiance into territory more to do with Pink Floyd and Brian Eno than much else) but learnt to tease it way beyond expectations. Punk was always going to be, in a way, too limiting for them, at least in the sense most people perceive it. On the eight songs that make up Nocturnal Koreans, the group, still led by Colin Newman’s always agreeable history documentary narrator voice, once again delve into a world of knowing hooks, enterprising melodies and measured snarl where their post-production skills reign above all else. This is pop as it should be. Clever without any pretension and, more importantly, not trying to do anything beyond exist in a world of its own making. The nearest parallels I’ve ever been able to draw alongside Wire, irrespective of how utterly futile they might well be, have always been This Heat, Can and Robert Wyatt, but even then it has always been more about finely honed insightfulness than the actual music. I still stand by this, too, even on the 2016 version of the group. They were so far ahead from the very outset that each and every new album only, as a rule, maintains their lofty position. In a league of their own. Still. (RJ)
YA TOSIBA Love Party CD (Asphalt Tango Records, Germany, 2017)
Debut by this Scandinavian duo who converge Arabic sounds with a vibrant enough electro-pop approach. Pleasant but even with these additional elements not especially taking the dancefloor anywhere new, unfortunately. It’s almost as though Transglobal Underground never went away… (RJ)
VARIOUS ARTISTS The Harbinger Sound Sampler 2LP (Harbinger Sound, 2017)
Say whatever you like about Harbinger Sound or the duo, Sleaford Mods, that carried Steve Underwood’s label beyond its serving some kinda enclave to weirdo ‘noise’, post-punk and outsider artists of a largely DIY disposition, but it has never once strayed from its earnest and humble beginnings. As if to compound matters, this collection of twenty artists who’re all somehow affiliated with the world the label inhabits, each one offering a new or rare cut, has a ‘Pay No More Than £3.99’ statement proudly emblazoned on the front cover, just like how it used to be for certain punk/independent (before it became lame and limped into ‘indie’) releases. It is a touching gesture that works on a few levels, least of all the idea of hopefully introducing a new audience, possibly drawn to the set’s inclusion of a Sleaford Mods’ track, to entirely new sounds perhaps only otherwise connected to each other by the underlying attitude to their creation. And, indeed, it is because of this that, similar to most compilations, the array of sheer different noises on offer is so vast. A number of the artists/groups here are certainly new to myself as well, which when arriving from a generally reliable source such as Harbinger Sound is always a good thing.
 The proceedings kick off with a song by German punk group, Toylettes, who’re possessed of a neat ramshackle approach beamed straight from 1979, before Mark Wynn’s ‘Michael Buble Slippers’ recalls John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett after being shoved through a meat grinder. That’s a positive in my book, by the way. Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life proffer the third entry to the first side with ‘Your Day Will Come’, still catching the ex-Crass vocalist angry enough over a lolling, almost pop setting of piano and female backing singers buoying his poetry well. Sleaford Mods deliver a highlight with ‘Fat Tax’, built around a funky refrain and typically acerbic yet funny as fuck lines from Jay about ‘the fresh prince of bell-ends’ and an ‘alternative white chocolate mocha”, while Consumer Electronics round off the first side. The latter’s last album, Dollhouse Songs, in some ways saw the group pushing the envelope of their sound somewhat via beats and the inclusion of Sarah Ruth on vocals. All well and good, but (and this is nothing personal) Sarah’s ‘smurf having a fit’ vocals aren’t strong enough to carry the words, I feel. Philip is absolutely perfect in this domain, with his own craft having been honed to virtually untouchable heights. Why compromise that?
 Onto the second side and Mark Durgan’s setting things off to a great start with some distinctive rasping and curdled electronics somewhat removed from the work under his former guise of Purefier. John Paul, who engineers at Nottingham’s Rubber Biscuit Studios, follows this with his own take on Sleaford Mods’ style before Future Commuter might make you wonder where The Human League would have gone if instead of embarking on a pop career they’d have delved further into weirdness ‘n’ wonderment. The excellent Circuit Breaker, although more rhythmic, likewise keep such thoughts afloat and Sudden Infant round the side off with a live rendition of ‘Father’, one of Joke’s beefier works I’m sure would be fantastic caught in the original capacity of the performance. The one Sudden Infant show I’ve so far witnessed was incredible. Highly recommended should you get the chance.
 The third side catches Phil Julian opening things with ‘Blanking’ whereby the scrunched-up electronics at work here come as no surprise but are beguiling enough. Japan’s Pain Jerk then scatter more electronic noodling over a rudimentary rhythm that sounds like it got jammed, while Switzerland’s Massicot are adorned in a sprightly contemporary post-punk sound drawing from stranger waters kept in check by a violin and an adventurous rhythm section. Pisse, from Germany, maintain the punk-ish detour but seem a little mandatory by comparison, while Karies (likewise from Germany) continue the pace with their Joy Division-meets-Nice Strong Arm stance rounding the side off.
 The fourth and last side begins with LA punk group Urinals’ ‘The Girl Before’, which has a melodic pop-punk feel the like of which I’ve done my utmost to avoid for about three decades now. After this, Frustration, another more 21st Century take on post-punk sounds, from France, flex things up somewhat and include some neat synth stabs, while The Lowest Form, whose Luke Younger makes great electronic music as a solo artist, knock out some hardcore punk no more or less remarkable than Chaos UK, whose own ‘Impose’ contribution follows it. Was a time I could regularly listen to hardcore, and I daresay I still have a few such records tucked away in my collection, but most of it leaves me rather cold these days, much as I still appreciate the energy. Sweden’s Treriksroset take us back to some electronics damage that doesn’t very much stand out from the crowd, either, ultimately rendering this entire side, the weakest of all of ’em.
 All in all, though, and in spite of my own music preferences and petty grievances, I cannot fault this release as a whole on any count whatsoever. Not only does it adhere to that old cliche of doubtlessly having something for everybody (at least those interested in these areas of music) but it kicks against everything the now redundant Record Store Day stands for with its overpriced special editions and the main players of the, uh, ‘industry’ hogging the record plants and suchlike in order to play up to its dominance (and immediate cash injection, I daresay). ‘Fuck RSD’ indeed. Buy this release while you can and support one of the few voices of true independence who might well have smashed down the gates of mediocrity in their own tiny way without compromise.  (RJ)
MONOPIUM/K. Nightclubbing/Die Wolfe Kommen Zuruck CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2016)
Never a huge fan of split-releases, although have procured a number over the years and even released a few myself with Grim Humour back in the day. All the same, I understand their role as possible entry points to the work of the respective artists at a generally lower cost and, for sure, they can sometimes even be quite remarkable (let’s not overlook the NWW/Whitehouse split-LP of yore here, 150 Murderous Passions). Monopium, who have existed for several years now and already have a string of releases behind them, proffer four simplistically set pieces combining looped voices, skewed yet understated electronics and gauze-like ripples of sound. Although generally subdued, there are some neat tempered noises afoot. Nice. K., who have likewise been in operation for a few years with plenty of releases behind them, bring three pieces to the table that are in keeping with the overall restraint of the previous cuts but opt for a comparatively rhythmic-ambient approach redolent of Locust, CJ Bolland and even early Biosphere. (RJ)

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