Tagged: avant-rock

Drei, He Said

At first glance, the European trio Bader Motor may appear to be offering us nothing more than a very knowing take on Krautrock records, with their obvious quotes from Kraftwerk and Neu! LPs, and probably other Germanic references too. However, I’ll forgive any project which has Fred Bigot as a member, considering my fondness for his solo records where he mixes electronic noise with rockabilly in a highly enjoyable manner. not to mention the unusual Melt Famas record with its over-amped guitars and drums. Bader Motor are Bigot with Arnaud Maguet and Vincent Epplay – the latter played with Jac Berrocal and David Fenech – and the three have appeared together before on Musique Pour Les Plantes Des Dieux in 2009. This record, Drei drei drei (VEALS & GEEKS VAGO17 / LES DISQUES EN ROTIN REUNIS LDRR #056), not only has the clever Krautrock pastiches assembled by these French wags, but also offers their slightly sardonic version of electropop, disco, and general Euro-murk – the sort of banal aural wallpaper that might blight your continental tour at any point between the airport, the shopping mall and the cafe. This may be what the threesome have in mind when they speak of “a new class of space [rock] and Riviera Krautrock”. Riviera Krautrock?! What does that even mean? I can’t think of anything worse than experimental music recast as another consumer / lifestyle option for the “Riviera set”, those rich buffoons wearing expensive sunglasses and swimsuits, if indeed such a thing even exists any more outside of 1960s travelogue movies, but I’m prepared to believe Bader Motor are up to something vaguely subversive and sarcastic. As it turns out, this LP is an enjoyable listen with its edgy mix of user-friendly beats and melodic drones combined with odd, queasy noises, rough textures, and outpourings of filtered glorp. From 12th August 2016; available as an LP or download.

Skate Mutie from the Fifth Dimension

Impressive record by one-man American powerhouse Matt Weston on his four-track release Skate For The Lie (7272music#009). I was interested enough to browse his back catalogue, much of which seems to consist of self-released items on his own 7272 Music label, and without hearing them I do have the impression that Skate For The Lie is just a tiny glimpse into what this fellow is capable of. He credits himself with just percussion and electronics, but there seems to be so much more going on in just these four short tracks, many more instruments at work. On ‘You’ve Got That Song’ he sounds like an entire band, performing some wayward brand of outer-space funk-rock noise. There’s also the intense over-crowded explosions on ‘The Old Man With The Burning Eyes’, where it’s like about two or three punk rock bands having a friendly punch-up in a sweaty basement. Real energy music, and “maximal” in a way that I enjoy tremendously, by which I mean there’s no time wasted with wispy nuances of drone and fiddly digital manipulations.

What exactly is Matt Weston doing? I’m not sure. This particular release, we are told, “features multiple realisations of architectural site-specific electroacoustic notation”, a sentence that begs at least three pointed questions. Notation? I’m prepared to believe he’s a composer of some sort, but this stuff comes across as so spontaneous, so very much of the moment, that it’s not immediately obvious to me at what point he pauses to look at the music score. Admittedly, ‘Tarrings and Featherings’, a stark piece of restrained but strong drumming, resembles avant-garde percussion music in places, but there’s also a lot of hearty scrape-and-bang malarkey that would terrify most classical timpani players. ‘This Machine Kills LRAD’ is even more stark, but has bursts and eruptions of electronic noise that you could use to dig up half the pavements of Manhattan. If that’s Matt Weston’s notion of “electroacoustic”, I’ve no complaints, but it’s a long way from INA-GRM, Clyde. As to the claims about being site-specific and having some connection to architecture, I’m at a loss to explain, but one does feel a certain grandiosity in these hefty, industrial-ish, man-sized blocks of noise and sound, as if one were being overshadowed by the tower blocks of New York. He doesn’t mess about and he gets straight to the point.

If we put aside these abstracted ideas about music, we should also note this album “explores themes of loss and defiance”, which may refer to some personal crisis in the life of this Chicago-born musician who currently lives in Albany. The title, and Jeremy Kennedy’s cover art, remain a little obscure, but I could say the same about many of the other intriguing titles in his catalogue, such as Kidnapping Denials or The Last Of The Six Cylinders. I do like a musician who evidently dreams of being mistaken for Herman Melville one day. Lest you think Weston is some undiscovered lone genius, in fact he’s got friendly collaborators by the dozen – there are ample instances of his collaborative work with other bands, singers, improvisers, rockers, jazzers, and avantists of all stripe, a resume of which would probably leave you feeling quite sick. Two regular gigs to look out for are Arthur Brooks Ensemble V, and Arc Pair, a duo with drummer Amanda Kraus. Many thanks to Matt for sending this. There’s also a cassette edition available as Tape Drift Records TD76. From 3rd August 2016.

HØST: a wild ride into the most deranged realms of acid BM fury

 

Holokauston, HØST, New Zealand, The Dark Thursday, digital album TDT71 / Ukraine, Depressive Illusion Records, floppy diskette FNR218 (2017)

As debut extreme / experimental albums go, “HØST” by Holokauston, a one-man BM project based in India, is as mind-destroyingly extreme and bleedingly raw as any I’ve come across before. The music ranges from melodramatic synth-orchestral soundtrack music to primitive punk BM throb and pummel, all shot through with a demented and disturbed genius. As far as I can tell, the album is the work of Holokauston head honcho (and sole member) Arjun Somvanshi who produced it as well. I dunno what conditions Arjun S played under and what the studio was like but whatever, wherever it was, it must be one helluva hellfire-n-brimstone hellish place to be where churning guitars are chopped up into brain-destroying metal shuriken slivers that cut every nerve and every cell connection, the chainsaws wheeze with demon minds of their own, the drums throb and pulse in response to an unholy life force and the entire recording ends up a juddering, broken, psychotic beast on the rampage. Guitars spew industrial-strength liquid acid that corrodes and melts down machinery. Amazing how the fluttery pounding drums quickly take over your own heart beat and force your head and body to judder in time to the insane outpourings as well. The vocals range from angry crabby groaning and demented mutterings to screams and howls.

There do exist moments of the most astonishing clarity in which acoustic guitar melodies flow easily and breathy clear-toned voice sighs but these times are very brief and highlight the unhinged nature of the songs. In these moments, the production is clear and sharp, much better than what I would have anticipated for a self-produced album, probably made at home, in a country (India) where electricity isn’t always reliable and blackouts occur most days. After the album’s halfway point, the songs become much louder and sharper, and a lot more frenzied, so I assume the recording wasn’t all done in one hit. The riffs and melodies are much clearer and the racket turns out to be much more ordered and less chaotic than you might think. Arjun S really does play guitar and drums well and the more I listen to this album, the more cohesive the songs actually are in spite of their looseness.

All the way through you’re treated to a wild and exhilarating ride in sheer crazed acid BM fury but the craziest parts turn out to be the intro and outro title pieces which are truly bat-shit exercises in experimental synth keyboard / piano retarded noodling. I really had a great time with this album – the only downside is when it all ends and I have to readjust to the real world.

I’ll Be Your Mirror

Hello New York (OSR TAPES OSR60) is the “American” album, I suppose, by Maher Shalal Hash Baz, that highly eccentric Japanese band led by Tori Kudo that continues to baffle listeners across the globe. I think they may have caused a flurry of interest in the UK around 2000, when Stephen Pastel started to put out some of their records on his Geographic label, but copies of these never reached us. Matter of fact we don’t seem to have been graced with their music since 2009, when we heard the bizarre double CD C’est La Dernière Chanson which was recorded with the help of some local French players. It comprised over 200 songs, a fact I mention just to remind you of one of the many quirks of the Maher Shalal Hash Baz approach to playing and recording songs.

The tradition of “working with the locals” appears to continue on Hello New York, as he’s joined by some American players including Christina Schneider and Zach Phillips from CE Schneider Topical (Zach is also the owner of OSR Tapes), and clarinet player Arrington de Dionyso who has amazed us in the past with his wild solo records and with the group Old Time Relijun. How did Tori Kudo feel about playing in New York? “One of my dreams has come true,” he states on his modest sleeve note here, worried about whether his voice carried well when he said “hello New York”. Did he say it to an audience? These are live recordings, in case you were wondering, but done in a studio in Brooklyn. Packed crowd of eager fans at Madison Square Garden next time, let’s hope.

I can see why civilians struggle to listen to the music of Maher Shalal Hash Baz; clearly it sounds as though it’s being played “badly”, and when writing about it I always reach for the metaphor of a school band attempting to do easy-listening music. But it’s done this way deliberately, and the odd arrangements are what gives the music its character. Even so this particular record might be a way in for many listeners, as it’s got something of a rock vibe; for one thing, they set out to cover a Velvet Underground song (‘Sweet Jane’, rendered here as ‘Dulce Juana’), and at least half of the tunes resemble VU songs and jams that never existed. This may be because of the large number of guitar players who are credited on the sessions – eight in all, including Kudo. But it’s also endearing and exciting to hear the band attempt even the simplest rock syncopation in their rhythms, only for it to come out extremely clunky, with the percussion, xylophone and clarinets soon revealing their shortcomings when it comes to playing streetwise rock, or even gentle loping Indie-rock rhythms. This may be one of the things Pastel found so appealing in the first place. It certainly grows on you.

Playing ‘Sweet Jane’ is Kudo’s way of greeting New York, by paying homage to that most New Yorkian of rock bands. It’s clear he not only loves the band, but he’s taken every one of their recordings to heart in a way that shames even the most dedicated VU collector-nutcase; his rendition of ‘Sweet Jane’ is not only accurate and complete, but also a radical remake; it reveals unexpected nuances and meanings in the song. The song is echoed, I would claim, by a song which proceeds it on side one, called ‘Haarp’, which is dominated by Schneider and Phillips performing the sort of snappy off-colour repartee which Lou Reed would normally have carried out by himself, playing all the parts in his dramas of seedy low-life.

Kudo’s other way of greeting New York is to have played some John Cage music, apparently. Good move, given Cage’s position as some sort of patriarch of the New York school. I don’t know if this high experimentalism of Kudo shows up on the grooves. We do have some of his characteristically odd compositions, such as ‘Banksy’, scored for woodwind and percussion – less than a minute of deliciously perplexing gentle notes arrayed according to a weird logic. It’s not easy to summarise this elusive music, but one key characteristic is “brevity” – short tunes that end as soon as they begin, leaving many question marks at the end, although the longer workouts such as ‘Miss You My Baby Doll’ and ‘That’s All I Would Get’ tip the balance in the opposite direction, making their one simple point over and over again. Another key characteristic is “everything playing at once”, by which I mean no solos and no single instrument is especially highlighted. Great polyphony. Yet it coheres, and we can hear everyone clearly in a delicious jumble of music. One sense it takes some discipline and talent to be able to keep this many musicians under control without producing a horrible noise. There is an anecdote about Phil Spector and his enormous studio bands…which I’ll save for another time.

This endearing record feels more “chaotic” (in a good way) than the few Maher Shalal Hash Baz recordings I have heard, so perhaps Tori Kudo picked up some of the “energy” of New York that everyone talks about. It’s reflected to some degree in the back cover photos of the sessions, created by Christina Schneider, brilliantly collaging and overlaying her own images. A riot of colour, instruments and stands everywhere; almost like a dream in miniature of the Arkestra. Kramer (of Shimmy Disc fame) did the mastering, and the LP is 53 minutes long! From 19 May 2016.

30th January update: many thanks to Ed Walsh, who points out this cover is a pastiche of a 1973 LP by Silverhead.

Black Wisdom: taking dissonant black / death metal into dark ambient and prog-rock realms

Grey Heaven Fall, Black Wisdom, Russia, Aesthetics of Devastation, CD AOD-2 (2015)

True it is that French avant-garde black metallers Deathspell Omega have spread their influence widely across the world and across metal genres, and most bands who fallen under DSO’s spell have been content to follow in that band’s shadows and rarely venture beyond to take the Tao of Dissonant Metal into new territories. One band who might prove the exception is Russian trio Grey Heaven Fall on their second album “Black Wisdom” with a despairing message about the nature of God as a capricious, even psychotic and nihilistic being who demands humanity follow Him in His less-than-godly image, only to reject and damn His faithful when they obey His decrees. GHF play a straightforward and melodic song-based style of dissonant black / death metal, very similar to DSO in sound but easier on the ear in its structures and rhythms, with many surprises for those expecting yet more DSO hero worship and nothing else.

The first half of the album plays out in fast-paced minimal black / death style, dominated by grating raspy vocals filled with a mixture of anger, frustration and hopelessness. The long songs reach epic heights of sorrow and tragedy thanks not only to the dense and layered music and the intense emotion in the vocals but also passages of solo lead guitar that deliver even more pathos, as if there was not sadness enough already. The turning point where we start to sense that GHF are staking out their own territory comes with “Sanctuary of Cut Tongues”, a completely dark ambient piece springing from some hitherto hidden depths where black smoky mists block out the light and discourage entry, and only a forlorn guitar and distant chanting are evidence of spirit activity within. From then on, the remaining tracks stand out for their musical diversity: “Tranquility of the Possessed” includes slow doom elements along with the usual blackened death and “That Nail in a Heart” features a passage of downbeat urban blues guitar melody transitioning into a soaring prog-rock lead guitar solo of incredibly dark loneliness, and later a taut but delicate descent into a quiet atmospheric coda after more black / death rumble.

Parts of the album, especially in its second half, could have been edited for length and the production doesn’t quite do the music justice – it’s clear enough but doesn’t bring out the band’s full power. The drums especially don’t seem as thunderous as they should be for such intense and complex music. Apart from these admittedly technical details, the album is a very good and thoughtful effort. GHF certainly have the ambition, vision and technical chops to carve out a long and distinguished career. They do need to have a more distinctive sound away from the DSO worshippers: taking their music into realms of atmospheric, even psychedelic prog-rock might be one way of achieving that.

Red Giant

Fine instrumental music from Møster! on their album When You Cut Into The Present (HUBRO MUSIC HUBROCD2565), where Kjetil Møster and his men turn in five lively performances with a rock set-up that’s a framework for Kjetil’s sax melodies and the guitar efforts of Hans Magnus Ryan. Last noted this band for their 2014 album Inner Earth, where Steve Hanson responded warmly to their “heavy prog” vibe. I would concur…in places we can find traces of “jazziness” in their playing, and it’s not just because of the agitated sax blowing, but the fact that they don’t follow conventional verse-chorus structures or time signatures, and instead tend to keep blurting it out for eight or nine minutes at a time, in a sprawling jam-session style, provided we can use that phrase without any suggestion that this is flabby, self-indulgent or shapeless music. Rather, Møster! are as taut as a spelunker’s climbing rope (I’m using imagery suggested by the front cover, and I just hope they actually go cave exploring on weekends, thus validating my speculation) and punch their messages home with close attention to dynamics, energy, and concision. Come to think of it, their drummer Kenneth Kapstad may be one of the more important members in that regard. Whereas a lot of Hubro records tend to be a little too pleasant and countrified for me, this album delivers a strong avant-rocky punch to the bread-basket. The album title is derived from a William Burroughs quote, which is in fact completed by one of the track titles here, but it looks as though that’s about as this band goes as regards flirting with underground culture or experimenting with cut-ups. From 12 July 2016.

The Irrepassable Gate: an uneven recording with good moments … and some very long ones too …

How does the cliche go? “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here …”

Ash Borer, The Irrepassable Gate, Canada, Profound Lore Records, CD PFL174 (2016)

If you’re thinking “there’s no such word as irrepassable”, well you’re wrong now because US West Coast black metallers Ash Borer have just brought it into being. Go on, is there another word in English that expresses the sense of wanting to pass over or through a threshold or portal, finding yourself stuck, yet being unable to go back, and being possibly condemned to remain in eternal limbo? This is the sense I have with the title of Ash Borer’s most recent album after a long hiatus of three-and-a-half years after the band’s last release. The cover art also conveys an impression of an occult temple entry into another dimension, one that will have a dramatic effect spanning the rest of your life if you dare try to go through; and if you don’t, you’ll remain in a child-like state forever, unable to progress to a higher spiritual level or state of conscious existence.

The title track is a mighty roaring guitar-dominant beast rampaging through its jungle domain, all thudding drums, whining guitar and subterranean growling vocals. The sound is very clear and the style of music is close to very melodic, clean-sounding BM with thrashy elements. Any pretensions to being ambient BM are being left behind and Ash Borer is becoming a full-fledged guitars-n-drums band. This in itself presents a challenge to Ash Borer to convey atmosphere, mood, intense emotion and their full, densely layered style without the help of keyboards. Stretched over 11 minutes, the title track appears a bit one-dimensional as the band concentrates on piling riff upon riff and plows its path speedily and relentlessly, forcing listeners to follow as best they can. The slower, bass-heavy (in its first half anyway)”Lacerated Spirit” is more successful at carving out a three-dimensional sound and distinct atmosphere with feedback drone and an experimental bent. Likewise “Lustration” is another step further into the twilight world promised by the album title with deep drone, repeating guitar strum shrouded with echo and moaning voices and effects suggesting the presence of ancient spirit beings.

The album does have its bombastic moments and at times these and the long passages of never-ending blast-beat drumming, guitar noodling and background demon wailing can start to sound like filler material. There may be some fine melodies and moments where the music is intense and unsurpassable but when songs are very long and get carried away by constant repetitive fidgeting, no matter how technically good that is, such jewels can be missed. Listeners who find the second half of the album something of a drag (I have to say I did) can spend some time with the songs to their halfway points and shoot through to the final track “Lustration II” which is a return to the slower, complex doomy BM style of earlier songs like “Lacerated Spirit”.

As you can guess by now, this album was a very mixed bag of good, avant-rock music and longer scrabbling pieces of endurance-test proportions. The experimental ambient avant-rock style of tracks like “Lacerated Spirit” and the two “Lustration” pieces unfortunately doesn’t extend all the way through and the distinct sounds these have compared to the more straight-ahead melodic BM of the rest of the album make “The Irrepassable Gate” a very uneven recording. Well, Ash Borer didn’t exactly promise us a smooth ride through what may very well be a transition phase in their career. It seems that “The Irrepassable Gate” symbolises a formidable challenge for the band at this crucial moment in their history, whether to advance in a different musical direction or stay as they are, as it is a listening experience for its audiences.

Phantacusis

Another rather overpowering record from The Jazzfakers, last heard here with their 2013 offering Here Is Now, a record where “everything explodes in all directions” as observed by Stuart Marshall. On Hallucinations (ALREALON MUSIQUE ALRN064), David Tamura is the sax player, also works keyboards and guitar, and he leads this agitated New York combo down their musically omnivorous tunnels and hallways; Robert L. Pepper, from PAS, adds violin and electronics, and the rhythm section of Luczak and Zwyer have to work time-and-a-half (plus tips, extras, etc.) just to keep up with the aberrant howls and self-indulgent blurts emerging from the two soloist stars.

Tamura’s overly-expressive and juicy sax honks are much in evidence, and I’d never made the connection to John Zorn before, but perhaps the presence of Zorn’s producer Martin Bisi (who recorded Hallucinations in Brooklyn) has stirred a distant memory in that direction. If pushed, my preference is to plump for the strange electronic brew such as we hear on ‘Bicameralism’, a fuzzy nightmare which might result from Pepper’s violin / electronics combo or Tamura’s keys. There’s probably not much point in looking for connections to “jazz” as we understand it in these over-wrought splurges of abstract noise and crazy near-random eruptions, since the band are clearly equally informed by many other genres of music, including rock, free noise, free improvisation, and classical avant-garde composition. When Tamura does throw a jazzy piano riff into this stew, it seems at once too obvious, too throwaway, and too glib.

No denying he and all the Jazzfakers have tremendous chops, but on today’s spin I’d prefer something with a little more arrangement behind it. This time, the record is “themed” on the work of Oliver Sacks who apparently wrote a book by this title, and the press claim is that each member of the band was “under the influence of a different hallucinogenic state” during recording. Oh yeah…as if! From 25 May 2016.

IV / Appendixes: a compilation forming a bridge between albums, and a bridge between worlds

Aosoth, IV / Appendixes, Czech Republic, Cloven Hoof Brewing & Releasing, cassette Call 001 (limited edition) (2016)

I hadn’t heard of this trio before but the tough deep style did seem very familiar. Turns out all three members are or have been members of Antaeus, a couple of whose albums I’ve been acquainted with in the past. Talk about living in a very small world! This cassette release gathers up three short recordings Aosoth made after their fourth album way back in 2013 and forms a connection between that album and the next album to be released some time in the near future.

As might be expected of a band whose members are drawn from Antaeus, the music is not only hard-hitting, it’s also concise and has a very dark, bleak feel and a clear, crisp sound. All instruments can be heard clearly but the rapid-fire thudding percussion makes the strongest impression, more by its complex rhythms and constant changes than through its power. First track “Appendix A” is a robust and confident beast with a triumphant sound overall, varying rhythms and beats, and streamlined powerful riffing. The vocals are not great for this style of music – they need to be much stronger and deeper in my book – but like the rest of the music they are stern and forbidding, and do their job efficiently and minimally. “Appendix B” has more urgency and energy, and the half-spoken vocals stand out more from the music which not so much plays as pours out like hot molten lava cascades. Crisp and precise spoken-word recordings are well integrated into the music in the song’s first half while the second half features ever more deranged lead guitar scribble and dramatic martial drumming. A definite groove develops quite late in the song but disappears almost as quickly – there’s nearly always something new happening in the music if you pay close attention to it.

The music gets better as it goes: “Unbroken Dialogue” breaks with Aosoth’s BM style and heads into unstructured experimental dark ambient waters with found sound recordings, various ambient effects and oppressive background drone to create a malevolent soundtrack to an imaginary film of sinister occult and anti-Christian themes. Final track “Appendix D” returns to familiar blast-beat blackened death but somehow this music isn’t quite the same as it was before we listeners were treated to a glimpse of that yawning black Satanic abyss lurking deep within the Aosoth universe.

Individually and as a whole, the songs are very good – even though by their titles they form a definite group of related tracks and serve to bridge Aosoth’s last album and the next, they could just as well constitute a separate EP or mini-album. Some tracks boast very distinct melodies and riffs and all are different in their structures and details. The band’s austere approach to the music, in which every melody, every effect and sound serves a purpose, and nothing exists by accident, might be the most outstanding aspect of this recording. This extends even to the one experimental all-ambient track that appears on the recording.

If you, like me, aren’t familiar with Aosoth, you could hardly do worse than give this recording the time of day … or darkness, as it were, and from there either travel back to their previous recordings or wait for their next album.

We’re Not Dead Yet

Last noted Oiseaux-Tempête in 2015 with their second album ÜTOPIYA?…this French art-rock band eventually won me over through the sheer persistence of their music, even though I maintain they’re still too clever for their own good and the weighty bombast of their tone is something of a downer. Some of these reservations persist as I spin Unworks & Rarities (2012-2015) (SUB ROSA SR424), a set of six cast-offs where the core duo of Frédéric D. Oberland and Stéphane Pigneul are joined by assorted guest musicians. I don’t think this release was planned as an “album” as such, but it still coheres in a fragmented, semi-narrative way, perhaps because the band strive so hard for this “cinematic” resonance in everything they record. Every other track sounds like it’s lifted from a movie soundtrack, or is aspiring to be selected for that honour. A very depressing “state of the world” art-house movie with a message, at that.

In this vein, the track ‘No Go(l)d No Master’ stands out as a showcase for a clutch of spoken-word samples which appear to have been sourced from a series of hysterical pan-International activists, lamenting assorted crises that blight the 21st century globe; they make their plaint against a backdrop of free-form musical noises, where Oiseaux-Tempête do their take on the improvised art-noise thing in the mode of Art Bears or Henry Cow, only much more stilted and rigid. Not all ghastly though, as this track benefits from the splendid Ondes Martenot textures played by Christine Ott, a talented French lady who’s a composer in her own right, and who made a record for Gizeh Records this year; she also shines (though less brightly, as she’s buried in the mix) on ‘Black As Midnight On Moonless Night’. The Ondes Martenot is an unusual electronic instrument which I usually associated with recordings of Messiaen’s work, though it has appeared elsewhere.

Equally narrative in mode is the story-telling epic ‘The Strangest Creature On Earth’, which for its musical setting adopts a sort of sea-shanty dirge played on keyboards resembling concertinas; it stomps forward at an unvarying leaden pace and the overall mood is frozen stiff. On top of this, G.W. Sok (from The Ex) adds his ludicrous recit in a memorably bad piece of acting; his over-wrought declamation is cringe-worthy. Even so, there’s a cathartic effect produced by this grim, bone-chilling musical fable, a tall tale worthy of any American huckster from P.T. Barnum onwards. It’s also notable for the contributions of bass clarinet player Gareth Davis, whose work also impressed me on the ÜTOPIYA? album. We hear a few more moments of his splendid tootling on ‘Nec Mergitur’, a lively quasi-ethnic doodle which closes the record.

Oberland (guitars, mostly) and Pigneuil (synths, mostly) dominate the record though, and their heavy-handed instrumental style is shown for instance on ‘Quai De L’Exil’, a guitar-rich piece which strikes the listener as a French over-thought attempt to do the Dylan Carlson Earth thing; skeletal arrangements, emphasis on resonant twangs, and a sense of unearned self-importance handing over every ominous note and sound. ‘Black As Midnight…’ follows a similar template, predicts imminent catastrophe for mankind, and like many of the pieces here builds up to an intense freak-out climax at the end…for all their posturing, they’re still conventionally rockist in many ways. ‘Eclipse & Sirocco’ is admittedly quieter, a tasteful synth drone epic which in this context is positively serene, but still conveys a sense of tragedy and disaster on a global scale. As with previous record, I can’t escape the sense they’re trying to tell us something about the world in their musical surveys, and don’t like what they see. Last time the message was bolstered by numerous symbolic images and photos on the digipak, an onslaught of bombast I am spared on this occasion as I only have a promo card sleeve with the cover image of a defaced icon. A blinded saint, perhaps also appalled by the world as it was in the 6th century…From 25 May 2016.