JULIA KENT – ‘Green and Grey’ Important Records (03/11)
Canadian-born, New York City-based, Juila Kent’s solo career has developed over a few highly personal releases after years spent recording and touring in bands, most notably in cello-rock pioneers Rasputina and Antony and the Johnsons, “Green and Gray” continues this personalised approach. Her second release on the highly influential Important Records label, after 2007’s “Delay”. It is beautiful, melancholy and reminiscent of a stripped down early Rachel’s. Recorded in the spare room of her New York City apartment in-between tours using loops and layers of cello, electronics and field recordings of natural sounds, it gives the listener the feel of it being inspired by the intersections between the natural world and the human world, evoking beautiful images of trees sprouting new forms of life.
Kent’s gorgeous cello melodies mixed with electronics and field recordings allows a very intimate feel to the album, organic yet powerful, simple yet complex. “Green and Grey” is a compellingly beautiful album in every sense of the word. It is sad and it is happy, emotional and bare and allows us a vision of Kent’s personal universe. I’m hooked.
Bad Weather California – ‘Sunkissed’
Dreamy Flaming Lips style musicianship with echos of Wild Beasts and even the Meat Puppets. Not really of BTWOS interest but not bad all the same. Imagine the sun going down on a lonely desert highway as you drive with this on the stereo, it’d give you optimism until you find humanity again.
White Hills – Frying on This Rock
Our favourite space rock trio don’t let us down with this piece of plastic. ‘Frying on this Rock’ is a lot more raw than previous outings; however the trademark fuzzed out psychedelic guitar work and pounding drums are still in force. As if to make a point of this ‘Pads of Light’ packs incredible drumming with a killer riff bouncing around, swirling off into space. ‘Song of Everything’ rumbles and rolls into a Sonic Attack-like middle breakdown before sparking back to life. ‘I Write a Thousand Letters (Pulp on Bone)’ is a pounding slab of psych drone beauty. Enjoy….
A quiet monday night in the Kazimer with The Men! This highly anticipated show at BTWOS HQ, somewhat lets us down. We arrived to witness the sub-Biffy Clyro mumblings of Being Jo Francis. Too much to watch. Just too much. We were back for The Men. The reviews said a cross between Husker Du and My Bloody Valentine. It was like it was 1990 all over again. However, a bad sound and too big a venue just seemed to dwarf them, making them sound like Gas Huffer.
Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream
Thee Oh Sees are a band from San Francisco, Orange County (OC’s…), California, USA. Beginning as an outlet for John Dwyer of Pink & Brown and Coach Whips. After numerous releases and intense live shows Thee Oh Sees release their masterpiece. Carrion Crawler / The Dream started out as two EP’s before being released together on one album. These are long, sprawling, relentless psych-garage-rock rave-ups, that bring to mind Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd guitar-lines, Butthole Surfers and primal rock.
Thee Oh Sees are, proclaims my friend, THE SAVIOURS OF ROCK MUSIC. So don’t miss out….
Here we are again. I like this festival. Not as cold as last year but freezing all the same. The line-up is good but maybe lacking some diversity other years have given us. Anyway let’s go…
Typical, roll through the door, thinking this sounds great for a kick off, just as the riffs hit, they turn round and switch the amps off. Good start.
Not previously converted, they somehow remained under a scorched desert rock. Bardo Pond slows in the afternoon with some thickly fuzzed out grooves seeping into the skin and somehow transport the whole mundane shed to somewhere a little warmer. If i knew
Wolves in the Throne Room
Wolves in the Throne Room deck out the stage in blackened forest scrawls. Dry ice takes out the front row and guided solely by blue emitting l.e.d lights pegged to their fretboards open up with their new slab Celestial Lineage. How this manages to work at approx 19.00 hours is anyones guess but when Vastness and Sorrows epic downer opening notes spread out across the floor more than a few clench fists are in allegiance.
to this rhythm the world moves
the sun blasts down upon the earth
until the sun turns to powder and blows away
Aaron Weaver, drummer (and brother of guitarist Nathathan) nails the breakdown as the room goes a little blacker and the rest of WITTR go fuckin hyperspeed.
he rides day and night
the relentless hoof beats echoes
Did anyone notice the fuckin outrageous poster in the midst of floor to ceiling merch. I didnt (dickhead).
Pharoah Overlord and Circle are two peas in the same pod. Someone suggested they have crossed over. The Circle set appeared more like the Pharoah Overlord set last seen in the same venue same stage some years ago. Pharoah Overlord this time appeared a little more static and toned down into sublime riffage and occasional twisted venom from vocalist. Playing almost an identical set to last years Roadburn. Pharoah Overlord execute their path way more static than their Circle brotherhood, Eyes closed and mute, the rhythms come through thick then a small gap opens and it all trips out backed by monochromatic projections of pulsing lines. The only problem is the overlapping with Electric Wizard. Decisions, decisions.
Where to start with this one. Everyones (and i mean everyones) favourite doom band. Yet somehow all the real doom heads are missing? Everyones favourite doom band unless you actually listen to that shit? Yob was packed full of flares, cut off denims and a sense of collective fuck offness that is somehow missing here. The festival crowd lap this shit up though, wizard have a new line up. Someone will inform you that its their best yet. You will probaly ignore them. As you have heard it all before and by the time of writing they’ll probably have two new members. However they played a pretty killer set. All the classics “Return Trip”, “Funeralopolis” and a rejuvenated version of Black Mass that seems light years away from the lacklustre show in London last year.
Wow. First off the sound was fucking immense. They had a bunch of black balloons in front of the speakers and they danced apeshit through the entire set. Sometimes you could forget SD where actually playing and just watch a bunch of black balloons jerk about happily in their own peculiar way. Try describing this shit. Its a journos wet dream. Arab on Radar without the spastic speed. Wire or Gang of Four blended through a Ren and Stimpy show. No revivalist bullshit and kind of refreshing amidst all the festival stalwarts. Even people danced. I think.
Did this look like a Gaviscon commercial or was it just me? Drenched guttural vocals. A backdrop of intense heartburn. Red flames and pain, maybe old nick in there somewhere. Frances Monarch was new to most of our crew and maybe got the shitty end of the stick. Last up in the depths of midnight only the true were up front and loyal.
Fuck. Im used to going to bed around 23.00 hours so the night befores late night antics took their toll. Watching Manchester United get royally fucked by City in the local alehouse soon got the spirits up. As did a tall boy of black strong coffee. What this has to do with Eternal Tapestry i am not quite sure but they either appeared as a sweet comedown from the night before or a delicate start to Day Three. Maybe a mixture of both. Soft pysch jams that pack more groove when Nick Bindeman goes full noodle on his guitar.
Its around 17.00 and already looking pitch black outside. Winters arrived and Barn Owl are up next. Never having the pleasure to see them before the need to get a good spot in the tricky wide venue. Most of the time i got in late, found the gap around the central support beams then try and squeeze in when someone leaves to check out a band next door. This usually works out alright. Is their an underlying rule or code at these things? Dont get in the way of someone smaller is usually an unwritten one for me. However no-one seems to care so fuck it. Straight to the the front. Usually theres a bunch of space down there anyhows and no one seems to get particularly annoyed (or i have thick skin). Anyway a stellar spot down at the front. Eyes shut. Breathing slowed right down. Tranced out. Everyone says they sound like that band. Who gives a fuck. No percussion straight drone with accentuated lingering. Nailed it live. Amen.
Fire w/ Oren Ambarchi
Silver Apples or Fire. Thats a tough call. Fire win it out for me momentarily. Its not too busy in the venue. Ive never heard them or claim to know shit but am attracted to the fact that Ambarchi is with them. Grab another brew on the way in. Okay so i just googled them. They are from Sweden. I thought they were local for some reason. What do i know. The drummer is so pysched i watch amazed convinced that their ampeg head is gonna rock right off the cab directly onto him. The whole set is crankin. Ambarchi is crouched off stage throwing fucked up shapes out. Then things slow down and get a little dub. Then i make a disastrous decision to go catch Silver Apples. Dickhead. Bump into the crew who sit in the tent amazed at how shit they are. Minus the drummer. Its one Silver Apple. Go figure. They convince me that i do not want to check them out for myself. Easily persuaded. I then persuade them to see Fire, we catch two more songs. They are equally amazed.
Are you a circle fan? Do they take the piss? (overheard that one) Euro frauds? NWOFHM? Avant Rock? Costumes? I like that record but not that one. They are better when they riff out, smoke out, trip out? Of course they know their shit. They play like total retards. Have a fairly theatrical stage set (definitely not cool these days?) Have a cult like following (okay only two people dressed accordingly). Yet its claimed had the best show of Supersonic right here. After catching them a couple of times and giving up half way through.Solely cos i wait to hear Nopeskuningas, they dont play it, i pronounce they suck and leave. Here they straight ripped and do play Nopeskuningas. I nearly ran in the same spot jogging for a lost siberian train on the track to nowhere. I turn around and all my crew are also running in the same spot (whilst fist banging) on the track to nowhere too. Then Miko stops and gets all avant weird. Hushing the crowd. Then making them surge. Crawling all over the keyboards. Goose stomping behind the rhythm section. Anointing the rest of the bands heads with a bottle of water. Nopeskuningas goes on forever. Nopeskuningas. Nopeskuningas. Nopeskuningas.
I am fickle. I wait for Nopeskuningas, then think fuck it and split for White Hills. One night they played over the road from where i lived.I had no idea. Literally across the street. In an old church, I sat awake and wished someone would pull the cord. It sounded a gigantic mess. Echoed through the channels of religuous virtue. A couple of days later i got tuned in and regretted it. Every time since i try and make up. The sound was great. Even though they apparently didnt think so. Who gives a fuck what it sounds like on stage. Fuck them. They looked pretty great of course. Dave had a dashing shirt. Ego had a bitter snarl. It sounded fucking mega three people deep.
Till next year…
Words – Adam Cooke
Photos – David Smyth
Cave – ‘Neverendless’ Drag City
After their last album ‘Psychic Psummer’ appeared on Important Records Chicago’s Cave have moved over to Drag City for the release of this their third album; sticking with the same format of Sonic Youth esqe guitars, Neu! motorik beats and psych organ riffs interspersed with space synths Cave have taken this one stage further and produced this hypnotising and mesmerising masterwork. Only five tracks make up ‘Neverendless’ but reaching over 40 minutes in total with some unexpected twists and turns. ‘WUJ’ comes out like Stereolab running through some nifty echo fuelled choppy guitar riffs from Cooper Crain into Neu! style lines leading into a spacey almost jazz jam, with lots of guitar noise for the last 2 minutes of the track makes you want to nod your body and dance. Precision drumming powers ‘This Is The Best’ from a keyboard drone piece into a repetitive mantra only Oneida could compete with. ‘Adam Roberts’ is cosmic with outer-space grooves and goes through a number of keyboards shifts before drifting out with the same drone it started with. ‘On The Rise’ has some beautiful bass and guitar interplay and closer ‘OJ’ sees Cave bouncing Rotten Milk’s keyboard lines alongside the Dan Browning’s fuzz bass and Rex McMurry’s motorik beat.
‘Neverendless’ is a stimulating and mesmerising listen and one album I didn’t want to end. Cave have defined their sound and produced something wild, precise and somewhat satisfying. After seeing Cave play some of these songs live I’m glad to hear the results of their work, especially with ‘WUJ’ and “On The Rise’ being my live favourites from last year. However, I still think they have their masterpiece inside them, this is close though.
9/10 Jason Stoll
Oneida: Absolute II
The final part of the Thank Your Parents trilogy and, as it happens, the most challenging; quite what we’re supposed to be thanking them for isn’t clear on this uniformly dark release. The previous dispatch, 2009’s triple album Rated O, seemed to open up a new audience for Oneida; even the NME got behind them (it was listed in their albums of the year). Maybe it was this flirtation with popularity that was partly behind the direction of this latest album. Not sure this one is going to be a hit with the indie kids. Four tracks, each around 10 minutes, dominated by sparse electronic textures and, most surprisingly, no drums to be heard anywhere. Those of us used to Kid Millions’ propulsive grooves found it hard to imagine what Oneida would sound like without his drumming. This is (just about) recognisably Oneida but devoid of rhythmic impetus other than subtly throbbing drones and loops of feedback. The atmosphere is throughout crepuscular, ominous and the only appearance of a voice is in the second track, Horizons, but this is a voice distorted and fractured beyond any possibility of comprehension, denatured and baleful.
Perhaps it’s necessary to put this in the context of the trilogy as a whole, a hushed coda to the machine-like energy of what’s gone before, although, even acknowledging the wildly diverse Rated O, this collection does set itself apart from any previous work by the band. It’s not exactly the commercial suicide of Metal Machine Music, but it’s an abrasive listen by any standards. Gray Area‘s hushed synths and amp hum are rudely interrupted by shattering Swans-like guitar discords. Oneida are no strangers to extremes (Sheets of Easter was a 15 minute song constructed virtually entirely around a single chord and a single repeated word) but in a world where “extreme” is increasingly associated with a desensitising barrage of louder/faster/gorier this stasis feels more alienated and alienating, a statement of that very desensitisation.
The album starts with a track called Pre Human but the feeling is more post-human; during the closing title track a Soliloquy for Lilith-like shimmer is interrupted by shards and stabs which feel like the relics of an extinct industrial culture, a dehumanised music. Maybe the title Thank Your Parents is deeply ironic; this is the world we’ve inherited from them.
Where Oneida go next is anyone’s guess. They’ve recently been producing performances of astounding stamina (10 hours plus) so presumably there’s no shortage of material. The Thank Your Parents saga has taken them in a distinctly different direction to their previous release, the folk tinged Happy New Year. I can’t imagine this would be predictive of a new direction; it has the feel of a one-off, something the band needed to do, but I’ll be eager to follow their journey. It’s certainly been an interesting one so far.
Sarabeth Tucek -Harvest Sun Promotions, St Brides Church 05-09-11
The crumbling, neo-classical St Brides is the perfect rainy-evening venue for a tiny Sarabeth Tucek, accompanied on guitar by the producer of her most recent album, Get Well Soon, Luther Russell. Most of her set is taken from this album with the odd tone change as she picks pieces from her first record, which display how much her song writing and her confidence in her own exquisite voice has come in the last five years. Opening on a heavier note, unlike the album, Tucek and Russell, launch straight into what has been one of the most commented on tracks from the album, “Wooden”: an epic, consuming song which loses none of its Fleetwood Mac-esque power having been stripped of drum and synths live, but builds even better than on the record. Thankfully, live, her song choices play to the surprising strengths of this set up, making the most not only of her ability but also that of her accompanying guitarist.
These tracks, with the exception of quite a dull first encore taken from the first album, showcase not only the strength and range of a voice which on record, occasionally skirts the line of being “same-y” but also destroy any potential for Tucek’s new material to be shrugged off as middle-of-the road catharsis. Heavily influenced by the death of her father, one anticipates something a little more difficult to listen to with this album, but Tucek’s cool, almost dispassionate demeanour throughout her performance only adds to the genuine, brooding undercurrent flowing throughout the subtle, philosophical poetry of her songs. She remains completely impassive and unruffled as her voice swells, cracks and breaks around the walls of the imposing church on the impossibly beautiful, elegiac “Get Well Soon” and growls through the lower, more sombre phases in songs such as “The Fireman”. It is in this last song that the comparisons to Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Karen Carpenter are most evident, especially given that when watching both women live you are made to feel there is, vocally, a lot more hiding beneath the surface, effortless lilt.
On her more pared down (but never placid) laments such as, “Things Left Behind” and “A View”, Tucek’s voice brings to mind Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star, Warm Inventions) but the reverberating guitar work found elsewhere on near-rockers such as personal favourite “State I Am In” and the amazingly powerful “Exit Ghost” drags her new material from shoe-gazing, dream-pop and more into strong, guitar-striking, Neil Young-inspired grunge folk. Tonight, I realised that it is her ability to balance these two elements of her voice and her music, at once vulnerable and huskily striking, that makes Sarabeth Tucek such an impressive vocalist and carries a sentiment which could be considered trite into something much more unaffectedly emotive, engaging and ethereal.
Lesley Ann Taker
Monobrow – ‘Monobrow’ Tshirt/CD Album – Lancashire and Somerset Records.
Being asked to write a review of your own “bands” release is a bit fucking weird I admit it, but if anyone should do it I’d rather I do it than someone who’ll come out with annoying bullshit about Monobrow sounding like Band A on crack cocaine, or Band B getting rid of an unwanted christmas gift via the use of petrol and a lighter.
This recording was done in December 2009 I think, in one day. 5 drum kits, saxaphone, violin, oboe and two pedal boards with screaming children attached to each. Given Monobrow’s forever loose collective of members who I hadn’t fell out with / they fell out with me yet, we at times, like this recording actually managed to do that rarest of things, improv where people actually listen to what everyone else is doing. yes. holy shit etc.
It’s a good record if you like chaotic noise, shouting, and loads and loads of drums going off all over the place, and there’s over an hour of it. If you managed to see us live well done, we were pretty lazy as far as gigging is concerned outside of the Liverpool area, and the honest reason for that is I generally end up hating every gig I do outside of Liverpool, irrespective of how the gig goes. So anyway buy it, it’s really good, and it comes in a bundle with pretty much the best band tshirt I’ve ever seen. What are you still doing here?
10/10 – Sean Wárs
Wooden Shjips – ‘West’ Thrill Jockey
Thrill Jockey’s latest signings Wooden Shjips have truly given us an album based in the past, present and future. Combining the likes Spacemen 3, Loop, The Stooges, The Velvets, Suicide, Neu!, Hawkwind with drone rock minimalism and their own compelling formula of drone, fuzzed guitars; hypnotic vocals and dreamy organ rhythms pushed to their limits by the precise rhythm section sees ‘West’ being the gateway to the future. But hanging back in the past, ‘West’ is based on the mythology, romanticism and idealism of the American West, hence the title. Part of the allure is the concept of Manifest Destiny, the vastness, and the possibilities for reinvention, which is what Wooden Shjips have brought with ‘West’.
Part of this reinvention is the fact that this is the first Shjips album recorded in a proper studio, recorded and mixed in six days at Lucky Cat Studios in San Francisco and mastered by Spacemen 3’s better half Sonic Boom. Possibly their first album to give them a vastness and a chance to expand and enhance their influences over the length of the record, 7 tracks in total. You know it’s Wooden Shjips when you hear them, they are clearly defined and have a certain type of groove that only they know how to do. Ripley Johnson’s hazy and distrorted guitar patterns and vocals are here as with all their other releases but it seems to have transported the music further than they have before. It is an exhilarating listen.
Our introduction is ‘Black Smoke Rise’ a dark ride, relentless in its presence and staring through a haze of dust, wandering and swirling with Nash Whalen’s organ bobbing in and out. Pathfinding for the whole album by laying down the foundations of what is to come. ‘Crossing’ is a more horizontal trip whilst ‘Lazy Bones’ an uptempo freak-out with simplistic rhythms and drum patterns makes you want to dance and is arguably the best show of their expanded reinvention. ‘Home’ is the best Neil Young guitar line he forgot to write. ‘Flight’ is what you have come to expect from the Shjips; laid-back guitars, a solo Steve Hillage would be proud of, bobbing organ and a groove that grows and grows. This is psychedelia for the 21st century. ‘Looking Out’ is another uptempo force with its unrelenting pulse throbbing away and you hope it never stops. ‘Rising’ applies the Neu! trick of reversing and gives an other worldly feel.
The whole album with its steady driving rhythms and thick and distorted guitar lines is boundless, taking the listener on the metaphorical journey, into the vastness their sound produces, but you never get lost here. There are influences from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 00’s in the Wooden Shjips’ music but there is something they have made all their own, making ‘West’ a journey that should not be disregarded. They need it and so do you.
Arnold Dreyblatt – ‘Turntable History’ Important Records
Arnold Dreyblatt, composer, performer and media/installation artist, comes with a pedigree: an early association with Tony Conrad, followed by studies with La Monte Young, Pauline Oliveros and Alvin Lucier, some of the key figures in American experimental music of the post-Cage generation. Dreyblatt is often described as a minimalist, but his output is diverse and such easy labels can be misleading.
The recording under review is based on an audio-video installation from 2009 in a brick water-cistern in Berlin. All the sounds are sourced from recordings made of an MRI scanner, though quite how this was recorded I’m not sure, since microphones can’t be placed near such a machine because of the great magnetic field (sadly Black Sabbath were wrong – they don’t turn you into steel).
The nature of the sounds is surprisingly colourful, coming close to the richness of acoustic instruments (as the model of scanner is called the “Siemens Magnetom Symphony Maestro Class”, perhaps the designers were aware of its musical properties). At various points I was reminded of hurdy-gurdy, reed organ, double bass, viola da gamba and sho. The acoustic of the vaulted brick space is well captured, adding an atmospheric resonance to the sounds.
Some of Dreyblatt’s work suggests a refusal to differentiate between popular and high culture, using melodic and rhythmic figures which seem to derive from jazz or pop, while simultaneously experimenting with harmonic systems and just intonation which seems to continue in the lineage of Young’s music. This particular work is less indebted to popular idioms; its unbroken 40 minute duration is determinedly without melody, and rhythm is less of a feature than in many of the composer’s other works. Not that that should put you off; the sounds have an allure, tones pile up into fanfare like figures, the drones shimmer with shifting microtonal beats (a reference to Lucier, perhaps) over discreet ticking pulses and each sound has a detailed inner life. The music shifts through periods of density followed by relaxation, almost akin to inhalation/exhalation, establishing a meditative mood which rewards intensive listening. Recommended for adventurous listeners.
By Brett St. Clair 8/10