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Sludge & Tripe
Sludge & Tripe
Price: £7.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps Contraption- Sludge & Tripe LP Review (7.9/10), 18 April 2010
This review is from: Sludge & Tripe (MP3 Download)
Every once in a while I like to make an effort to treat my friends and family to samples of my favourite music. I don't know why, since it never makes me look like the culturally enlightened person I egotistically believe myself to be, but nonetheless I go ahead and play them some choice records, and it's usually the case that amongst these records they will hear something by at least one band known for wantonly mixing genres like there's no tomorrow - I'm talking about bands like Mr. Bungle and Naked City, `multi-genre' bands my friends and family seem to possess a matchless genius for absolutely hating. As much as I've tried I have never managed to convert a single person to these bands, but now, with the thanks of London outfit Perhaps Contraption and their debut album `Sludge & Tripe,' I may have found a way of getting my foot in the proverbial door.

That's because, while groups like Naked City and Mr. Bungle (for their last two albums at least) were well and truly avant-garde, Perhaps Contraption are first and foremost a rock band, whose music, for all its stylistic twists and turns, is almost entirely guitar-driven, and as such they represent a stepping stone between the different ends of the accessibility spectrum. Their modus operandi for the majority of `Sludge & Tripe' is to take an energetic rock template and genetically alter it in various colourful and resonant ways without disrupting its overall flow and feel. So on opener `The Old Dispensary' we have a brooding, stalking verse that recurrently takes about turns into a dance of breezy flutes and then delicate acoustic pluckings before leading into a crescendo featuring well-controlled, sliding noise guitar and a tricky odd-time signature. From the beginning vocalist Squire Squier asserts himself as someone with a knack for a catchy - and surreal - lyric, gifting us with the pearl of wisdom, "The chickens are all on chemicals/The public are all on chickens/The future's on the public/It's a chemical chicken public future that I've been dreaming of," which despite it's initially quirky appearance and delivery may very well be a perfectly legitimate indictment of agribusiness and what's it produce might do to the constitution of future generations.

The absurd lyrical content is a thread running through the entire album, reaching its apex on `Mumma's Shoes,' a jaunty country-tinged barnstormer (with a stately post-rock soundscape thrown in as an extended bridge for good measure) about a woman who loses her shoes one day while using them to fish for crabs, but after diving underwater to retrieve them finds an even better pair of boots amongst the seaweed (no, I'm not making this up). While this humour undoubtedly prevents the album from having any significant emotional weight, the sense of frivolity is more than strengthened by the band's often formidable chops. `Coffee, Tea?' features a ferocious riff that, with a shifting meter, would quite easily fit on any mathcore album we've ever heard, and juxtaposed with the lounge-y verse (replete with the histrionically sung lyric, "Tea makes you pee") it sounds all the more decapitating. And `Tetrahedron' - the most out-and-out rocker on the LP, with only a few solitary, bar-long non-sequiturs - is an exhaustingly fast-moving number with a scale-ascending-descending bass line and the kind of lead a guitarist in a waltz band might play if he were supremely pissed off.

The same impressive musicality is found in the off-kilter funk-metal of `Bluebells' and the tight pastoral jazz of `Swan's Regal Birdbath', and it's this musical ability that enables Perhaps Contraption to bring the often disparate and divergent elements of their songs into cohesive and progressive wholes where some other recent multi-genre bands have allowed themselves to simply pile segments on top of each other and hope for the best. Their methodical approach is to be applauded, and that they often marry these wholes to infectious choruses is a minor miracle. Admittedly some of the more inveterate avant-gardists may deem `Sludge & Tripe' a little too rock-centred in its attack, but everyone else may very well find an album that goes a long way towards keeping loud guitar music fresh and exciting. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: Frank Zappa, Dog Fashion Disco, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Mr. Bungle, Stump, Henry Cow, early Incubus.


And So I Watch You From Afar
And So I Watch You From Afar

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ASIWYFA- S/T LP Review (9/10), 31 Jan. 2010
It would be customary for the opening paragraph of a review, for "yet another" emerging post-rock band, to take the form of a checklist. Such a checklist would dismissively list the trademarks of said textbook post rock band and then try and address the reader's preconceptions. The band may or may not be very good. But what if the reader can't stand post rock? What if pretentious song titles and excessive track lengths make their blood boil? One read of this hypothetical checklist and click, their interest is elsewhere.

If this is you, hear me out a while longer. This band deserve your attention regardless of your personal pet peeves or gripes. Hell, for Belfast based (deep breath) And So I Watch You From Afar - hereby referred to as Afar - post rock is not even that accurate a genre to lump them into, despite the fact they're an instrumental band. Who knows, if you go as far as to check them out, you might find yourself reassessing your values. So let's take a closer look.

Set Guitars To Kill, the first track on Afar's eponymous debut album, does just that. A barrage of militaristic drums and feedback signals the beginning of the onslaught. At the one minute mark, the first of many iconic guitar signatures featuring throughout the album, enters in a cascade of feedback. The winding leads ebb and flow into one another gradually, creating a body of sound that rears up and eventually crashes back down around you with a devastating final riff. Who knew beauty could be done with such power?

Next up, A Little Solidarity Goes A Long Way is the single and one of the standout tracks on the album. You may be pleased to hear that it achieves this accolade with a truly concise running time of three and a half minutes. In this short time frame, Afar conjure up one of the most euphoric math-rock soundscapes of recent memory, the final minute of which will surely drive any guitar muso to close their eyes and tip their head back in awe.
Whilst a track-by-track rundown would be exhaustive and unappealing to the aforementioned cynics, third track Clench Fists, Grit Teeth...Go! has to be mentioned for its seemingly endless arsenal of hypnotic riffs and parts. That Afar can cram so much intrigue and, concurrently, intensity into the three songs alone is testament to their sheer musicianship.

If we were to choose a song title to sum up this whole album, it would have to be Tip Of The Hat, Punch In The Face. Afar have concocted an album that is cheeky, playful, epic and punishing in equal measure. Crashing cymbals and power chords meet intermittent whoops and hollers. Dancing guitar leads mingle with powerful bass grooves. Huge numbers like If It Ain't Broke, Break It are matched by more contemplative tracks like The Voiceless. Above all, the band are masters of dynamics, with a multitude of time changes and progressions keeping things interesting and giving the instruments voices that otherwise the band would lack, given they have no vocalist.

A word of advice to the uninitiated - listen to the album in two halves. The only criticism that could be levelled at this album is the overall play length, at over an hour; yet not one minute of that hour is wasted or below par. The length of the album could be an obstacle for first time listeners who may find the amount going on overwhelming, but this should not give them reason to give up. To listen to the eleven tracks in two shifts will be to give each the attention it deserves. Once the listener has heard everything Afar's debut album has to offer, they will, to reference the monolithic closing track, only ever wish to eat the album whole.

Whilst Afar are their own entity, and independent of other bands on the landscape, many readers will merely have to read the 'for fans of' section at the bottom to be sold. But to all you cynical people out there, has any of this peaked your interest? Whether it has or not, go and listen to A Little Bit Of Solidarity Goes A Long Way. After all, what's three and a half minutes of your life? If you're not up for investigating further after this little gem is over, you know the score: instrumental music is certainly not for you.

For fans of: Pelican, Battles, Vessels, Mastodon, 65daysofstatic, Oceansize


Fabric 50: Martyn
Fabric 50: Martyn
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabric50: Martyn review (8.5/10), 31 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Fabric 50: Martyn (Audio CD)
To most (read: the uneducated), dubstep as a sound remains the 2008-centric, 140bpm, bass and snare throb which Diplo once amusingly described as 'like ducks having sex'. It's true enough that on the club/warehouse scene, this still dominates the sound systems, because obviously, it's easy to move to. However dubstep as a genre has long since moved on, into darker, more cerebral and almost unrecognisable waters. Artists like Martyn, Brackles, Scuba and Untold are creating their own subtly distinct strands of the sound which pretty much make the name irrelevant.

Martyn in particular has come into the limelight recently with his Great Lengths LP. Featuring an obvious dancefloor sensibility but loaded with atmosphere and texture, he's drawn more comparisons with the Amon Tobins of this world than the Ruskos. His is a brand of music equally suited for bedroom musos as much as weekend skankers.

The album opens on a kitsch edge with Hudson Mohawke's Outkast-esque Joy Fantastic. Whilst not representative of the general sound of the LP, it does highlight Martyn's love for the offbeat and wacky. The 25 minutes past the neo-glitch-soul of the opener is all dark and brooding tones and off kilter rhythms; stuff suited for a late night smoke up in your mate's bedroom. Later tracks such as Is This Insanity and the Leftfield-esque Seventy Four dip into this vibe once again. Inevitably this may well deter casual listeners who want their ears immediately rocked; but ultimately the nature of the Fabric series gives the evil genius free reign to engineer mood and tempo as he sees fit into a continuous hour. The result is for the most part, inspiring.

Obvious standouts like Zomby's Mercury Rainbow and Martyn's own Friedrichstrasse shimmer and hop along nicely. Their juxtaposition with the more sombre numbers make them all the more effective, as any listener who buys into the sound like I do will surely find themselves nodding their head, moving their arms and tapping their feet in appreciation. Other highlights come from a cavalcade of top producers - Kode9's Oozi, Cooly G's Feeling You and Joy Orbison's Brkln Clln all shine and warrant selective repeat listens.

Martyn deftly chooses his final 15 minutes at the discerning listeners' mercy, to throw a series of knockout punches that will have them at his. The closing triumvirate of Vancouver, Rat Alert and Trilingual Dance Sexperience may well prove too much for a stoned punter; throwing a flurry of abrasive synths, insistent rhythms and pounding bass at the eardrums until one is likely to utter a dazed "woah there". The listener may well sit back, reeling from an intense end to an otherwise contemplative sparring session. But rest assured, they'll swiftly reach for the play button again for round two. (Kiron Mair)

For fans of: Brackles, Zomby, Untold, Pangaea, Joy Orbison


No Title Available

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loscil- Endless Falls LP Review (7/10), 31 Jan. 2010
In 2007 the American journalist Alan Weisman published `The World Without Us,' a speculative account of what would become of the human environment and the Earth should humanity suddenly pop out for cigarettes one day and never come back. Within its pages Weisman forecasted the disintegration of cities, the bursting of sewers, the rampant proliferation of vegetative life, and in the face of common wisdom, the demise of the rat and the cockroach (surely more than enough reason to sign up to the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement). But as sobering and as vivid a read as the book is, its dispassionate journalistic account does little to provide an especially visceral sense of how an egoless world might be experienced.

Step forward Loscil, aka Vancouver resident Scott Morgan, with his fifth album `Endless Falls,' which doesn't so much evoke the absence of humanity as the absence of life altogether. Like his previous four LPs its eight tracks deal in a strand of electro-acoustic ambient so primordial, so imperceptibly gradual in its pacing that you'd be pardoned for the belief that it had somehow grown in parallel with the universe itself rather than as a product of human blood, sweat and tears. And even though this would seem to suggest a sparseness that threatens to render the album void of effect and interest, those who listen closely to their music will quickly find that this isn't the case.

Beginning, and ending for that matter, with the sound of rain, `Endless Falls' is inaugurated by its title track, which of all eight pieces is conspicuously the warmest, featuring a cello that emerges seamlessly from the trademark reverberating drone to grieve for some indeterminate loss. Around the halfway mark (of an eight minute running time typical for the album as a whole) this cello drives forward a very subtle yet no less emotive modulation, which despite its understated power is deceptively the only modulation the listener will get the chance to hear. The instrument then steadily drops away as the track nears its fade-out ending, in the process lending the piece a kind of overarching symmetrical equilibrium.

This balanced structuring is common to every cut on `Endless Falls,' and coupled with the subsequent absence (a total absence) of event-like dynamic shifts it's what furnishes the sense of a human-less planet in which history has ceased to unfold. In following track `Estuarine' we begin to get the picture that the only thing remaining in Loscil's depiction of such a world is the metaphysical reality that, once underpinning human life, now flows and divides for no other purpose than to satisfy its own internal logic; hence a distinctly processed Fender Rhodes line, which beginning from echoing whole notes multiplies into a phrase of ominously descending couplets. And as this synthetic refrain convolutes further into its own haunting emptiness, it derives complements in the form of suspended piano chords and a spacey electronic heartbeat, both of which inevitably disappear as quietly as they had arrived.

Like `Estuarine,' many of the tracks on `Endless Falls' play as though they're the dilapidated traces of life and activity likely to be left over in the event of a global holocaust: vaguely recognisable, initially encouraging, yet profoundly stunted and hollow. Witness `Dub for Cascadia,' which in featuring an almost clubby bass line and hazy late-night keyboards seems to promise a return to civilisation. However the emptiness of this promise is soon betrayed, not only by the lack of any further movement, but most jarringly by the frequent waves of static that wash over the track's ghostly rhythmic base, layering it incrementally in a coating of dust. A similar half-episode occurs in `Lake Orchard,' where an unsettling celestial hum (faintly reminiscent of the sporadic moments of ambience that punctuate the Twin Peaks soundtrack) gradually spawns a journeying bass that, while providing an inordinately stirring chord progression, fails to turn its pulsing into anything distinctly divorced from its originary miasma.

These kinds of singular moments are littered throughout the album and, as well as demanding attentive earphone listening in order to fully pick them out, provide the counterpoint that saves it from complete, self-obliterating nihilism. That Morgan has achieved what he most likely set out to do with this release there can be little doubt, but such is the uncompromising form of his vision it's likely that some will feel alienated as well as under stimulated by what's being portrayed here. Sometimes the LP plays as though it wasn't actually intended for an audience at all, that it just simply is, yet it is precisely this ethereal inertia that makes `Endless Falls' such an enveloping and rewarding listen. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: Pan American, Gramm, Monolake, Auburn Lull, Bohren und der Club of Al Gore, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Cluster, Brian Eno, the ambient moments of GY!BE, Sunn O)))


You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago
You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago
Price: £15.64

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fire!- You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago LP Review (6.5/10), 23 Nov. 2009
A question rarely asked of music - "What is the point?" - is rarely asked because the point of music invariably becomes self-evident within the first resonant note of a song. That's not to say that the appreciation of music can't occur on an intellectual as well as a visceral level, but for this to happen the listener usually has to be able to conceptualise a connection between what he/she/it is listening to and some facet of human experience.

For the life of me I can't do this with `You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago,' the debut album from Swedish "psychedelic" jazz trio Fire! Featuring Mats Gustafsson of The Thing (and innumerable collaborations) on Saxophone, Johan Berthling of Tape on bass, and Andreas Werliin of Wildbirds and Peacedrums on drums, Fire! have announced their presence on the scene by delivering a teleologically baffling album that defies signification. This isn't so much of a problem with the first of the LP's four tracks, `If I took Your Hand,' which convulses by in a comparatively lean 7 minutes and features a wheezing, unhinged sax solo given force and momentum by an irresistibly solid groove. And neither is it a problem on the last of the four tracks, `You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago,' which at an even leaner 4 minutes takes a mischievous sax riff and runs it through a ringer of sly modulations and rhythmic accelerations.

But it is something of a problem with the two pieces which fill out the bulk of the album. The first of these, `But Sometimes I Am,' begins promisingly, with an expertly measured and atmospheric intro of ponderous bass notes and delicate symbol patters which stealthily pick up the pace as the tortured sax of Gustafsson rises from its disturbed slumber. The band gain an engaging ardour that sounds fit to burst and then, after 7 and half minutes of tension, the impetus simply evaporates without any kind of crescendo, as a subdued electric organ chord provides a foundation for some equally subdued (and also inscrutably non-verbal) coquettish purrs, provided by guest vocalist Mariam Wallentin and the only vocals to appear on the album.

The track goes on for another ten minutes, and despite escalating somewhat in volume and speed and throwing some fuzzy, indistinct guitar into the mix towards the end it never really makes good on its enticing beginning, since what it does essentially is forget about this beginning altogether, not by doing something in complete contrast to it, but in fact by puzzlingly doing the same thing in a slightly different colour scheme.

Luckily the next track, `Can I Hold You For A Minute?,' keeps things reigned in at a relatively tighter 13 minutes. Now I say relatively, since 13 minutes isn't usually taken as a standard of concision, and the matter isn't really helped by the track's lack of focus and movement. This lack largely comes from what is otherwise a laudable attempt to move beyond the genre of jazz and do something that has been described as "psychedelic." What this psychedelia entails in this instance is a murky haze of repeating distorted guitar chords, atonal guitar sub-melodies, an incessantly sustained Hammond organ chord, and some intermittent saxophone wails, and the problem is that the band move so far out of jazz (i.e. what they're best at) that they end up simply sounding like Comets on Fire on a much less exciting off day. They keep the same wall of sound going constantly for the best part of ten minutes, and while at times it does sound suitably huge, its monotony soon loses the power to stimulate, begging the question of why they're still going on, and on.

Which is a question I still can't answer. Although I'm sure if I really wanted to I could contrive something about life being repetitive and monotonous, or about how LSD can induce a dissolute and entranced state of mind (not that I'm in any way convinced that the band were trying to make a psychedelic album), but then again these observations hardly need pointing out in a work of art. But more importantly, it doesn't really matter whether or not `You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago' has a `message' or represents existence, what matters is whether or not it engages on a musical level, and for that question I can unreservedly say that it does, although nowhere near as consistently as you might have expected with the personnel involved. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: Original Silence, The Thing, Tape, Gutbucket, Vandermark 5, Comets on Fire, Other Dimensions in Music


Dolores
Dolores
Offered by ALL-MY-MUSIC-GERMANY
Price: £16.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bohren Und Der Club of Gore- Dolores LP Review (7/10), 5 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Dolores (Audio CD)
Back in the glory days of sixth form (and a regularly abused common room) there were a certain group of girls who would always criticise a predictable range of rock music for being "depressing." Perhaps the music the `grungers' listened to at the time - Radiohead, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins et al. - was gloomy, but what those girls didn't consider was that making music which evoked gloom might very well have been the primary goal of all the bands they sneered at, so that to label them "depressing" was to in fact congratulate them on an artistic vision well realised.

I'm sure Bohren & Der Club of Gore are no strangers to this kind of short-sighted criticism that fails to take them on their own terms. Their music, spanning a 17-year career and five previous LPs, is not exactly the kind of thing you'd hear playing in shopping centres and department stores around Christmas time as part of the network of Pavlovian stimulants intended to encourage nothing so much as an increase in consumption. Often misleadingly described as dark, or noir, jazz, it's a music that probably takes more inspiration from doom metal and sludge than it does Miles Davis or Ornette Coleman, with heavy, brooding bass, splintering drums, and chords (played on a Fender Rhodes and other electric and electronic keyboard instruments) that sustain for a mini-eternity. What Bohren do with this music is create an atmosphere that is at once desolate and menacing, and in their latest album - the appropriately titled `Dolores' (read dolorous) - they have become increasingly proficient in marrying this atmosphere to melody and movement.

Although it should be made clear that this is not melody and movement in any traditional sense. With opener `Staub' (`Dust' in American) things move at a geological pace, so much so that it's hard to tell whether it's an entire epoch that's being evoked in its massive scale or simply a single instant drawn out to abstraction. Either way the Rhodes (which sounds very much like a vibraphone or a glockenspiel) tiptoes over an elegiac, subterranean undertow with a refrain that, while intensely leaden, is tuneful in the same way that a digitalised rendering of the Mona Lisa would still be recognisable if blown up to several times its usual size on a computer screen. Yet while this motif and the tempo conspire to induce a shell-shocked trance, drummer Thorsten Benning doesn't so much play a beat as hammer isolated blasts once a bar which cut through the air and create a jarring, uneasy tension within the piece as a whole.

If `Staub' proves near overwhelming in its spectral bleakness, Bohren provide balance and respite in succeeding number `Karin,' which at a running time of three and a half minutes is one of a trio of seductively mellow lounge numbers which are peppered throughout the album and which go some way to justifying the usually reductive comparisons the band receives to Angelo Badalamenti and his contributions to the works of David Lynch. And for such a pared down and simple song it drips with ambiance; you can almost smell the musty odour of alcohol and tobacco as you drown your sorrows in a bar full of hardboiled detectives and suave gangsters.

Yet despite these few diversions, `Dolores' is not about urbanity turned surreal and violent. The bulk of its ten tracks speak of voids and wide empty spaces, the kind encountered in the dead of night or when you find yourself suddenly deserted by everyone you once trusted, and the kind that, if not repaired, can only be filled by mourning and anguish. Closer `Welten' (either `Worlds' or `Chimpanzees' depending on who you ask) is perhaps the most indelible example of this, as well as being the best example of their newfound flair for progression and insidious fluctuations of intensity. Beginning with a nearly pitch-black march through droning keys and yawning bass, it descends into a cavernous lull around the halfway mark, a lull which, rather than signalling the end of the album, is abruptly broken by a staggeringly oppressive saxophone solo that could kill a St. Patrick's day piss-up at a hundred paces.

This highlights a fact about `Dolores' which some might consciously miss despite being no less affected by it; that is, despite lacking even a split second of guitar or any other distorted instrument, it's one of the heaviest albums you're likely to hear all year. Perhaps it's a little too heavy for some, and unfortunately it is a little too unvaried from track-to-track to be a truly great album. But while Bohren & Der Club of Gore could be legitimately criticised on this latter point, there's no way they can be faulted for the crushing tenor of their artistic vision. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, The Mount Fuji Doom Jazz Corporation, Low, Japancakes, Om, Earth, Sunn O)))


Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Price: £5.41

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Storm of Light- Forgive Us Our Trespasses LP Review (8/10), 10 Oct. 2009
The progression in A Storm of Light's sound is immediately apparent in the closing seconds of 'Amber Waves of Gray'. `Forgive Us Our Tresspasses' marks a sizeable departure from the now-quartet's debut album, in which the unmistakeable stamp of Oakland auteurs Neurosis still hung heavy and distinct. A Storm of Lights sophomore release sees Josh Graham's group develop their own distinct vision of apocalyptic doom into a more panoramic scope; a bricolage of components raging from dark-wave ambience, crushing sludge riffs and near operatic vocal collages. An inspired list of con-conspirators is also on hand to strengthen Graham's nihilistic eco-centric narrative including spoken word excerpts from queen of noise Lydia Lunch, vocal accompaniments from the seraphic goddess Jarboe and bowed contributions from cellists Carla Kihlstedt (Book of Knots) & Marika Hughes. The sound is fuller, more complete and ultimately more original that its predecessor.

`The Tempest' also clarifies A Storm of Lights metamorphosis as well as the above opener. Decorated with crawling sludge bass tones and searing synth lines which groan in and out of tune, the track is propelled by Graham's rough hewn vocals; far more confident and lacking the Von Till influence prevalent on the previous effort. When the quartet reach the roaring crescendo, it is Graham's vocal arrangement blended with ferocious synth pads that eclipses the intensity of the quartet's trudging guitars. `Trouble Is Hear' showcases a similar approach, with vocals sung rather than bellowed which sit atop an abrasive chug riff which is a clear reference to `Celestial' era Isis, albeit with a stronger electronic element.

`Across the Universe' is one of the highlights of the record, obviously due to its inclusion of the enigmatic Jarboe, whose haunting vocals are used in an inspired textural fashion rather than brought to the fore, sounding like a fourth instrument. The percussion evokes everything that made Swans early work so devastating, with well placed drums rolls making every climatic statement, in the form of unbelievable crushing riffage, all the more powerful. It is as suffocating as it is sombrely sensual.

There is plenty of ground and pound present on this record, made all the more powerful with calculated inter-cutting with some of the less intense and stridently more eclectic elements of the record. `The Light in their Eye' is built upon a morose string ensemble, complete with marching drums, vaporous guitar and breathy vocals that exhale with every melodic change in a hypnotically rhythmic fashion. It is Lydia Lunch's contributions which contain the most interesting elements of the record. Awash with electronic manipulation, Lunch's androgynous croak is the perfect narration to Graham's oppressive politics; "The acts of man from past centuries will eventually destroy them. Man as pariah, piranha, parasite, all consuming ravenous beast that will devour every other creature."

A Storm of Light is leader Josh Graham's most cohesive fusion of image, concept and muscular musicality and `Forgive Us Our Tresspasses' marriage of word, vision and melody is undoubtedly his most successful foray into conceptual rock. Each piece is utterly claustrophobic with atmosphere and filled with a pronounced blend of inter-textual elements. The sound is one of near implosion and glowering with pessimism; perfect for a band evoking mans fall into ignorant self destruction, voiced with particular vehemence in each of Lydia Lunch's contributions `Law of Nature parts 1-3'. The power of the quartet's sound is no longer reliant on the low end drive of the guitars and thunderous percussion, its has been deftly augmented, and at times replaced, by the luminous intensity of synthetic and acoustic strings intertwined with Grahams harrowed and searching voice which propel the songs to their peak and reveal a variety of dimensions not found in the bands earlier work. They have managed to reference the likes of artists mentioned above and below, but this time around the quartet's sound is so huge, it swallows any obvious plagiarism that they could be accused of. A Storm of Light not only deliver on the promises of `And We Wept the Black Ocean Within' but have elevated themselves far above their expectations; one of the finest releases of heavy music this year. (David McLean)

For fans of: Neurosis, Lycia, Swans, Battle of Mice, Minsk, Isis, Jesu, U.S Christmas, Grey Daturas


Fluorescent Black
Fluorescent Black
Price: £11.32

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anti Pop Consortium- Fluorescent Black LP Review (8/10), 10 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Fluorescent Black (Audio CD)
As of 2009, a quarter of the Earth's population use the internet. While this hardly equates to some Neuromancer scenario in which people spend most of their time immersed in scarily convincing virtual worlds and artificial intelligences attempt to merge with these virtual worlds so as to become God, it should give those who enjoy nothing more than a good worry some pause for thought. Not only does it highlight the fact that we're becoming more dependent on technology for our day-to-day functioning, both as a civilisation and as individuals, but it also suggests that we're increasingly leaving behind our bodies and turning to the likes of Facebook and Twitter - mere digital pages of text - for our contact with others (now reduced to a few hideously ungrammatical phrases and the same obnoxious photograph repeated a thousand times). As a result it's no longer whole people we encounter but little bits and pieces, and while the internet compensates for this by enabling us to establish (tenuous) links with the distant and exotic, its overarching logic is convergence, the eradication of the exotic except as a static and tokenistic remnant of the past.

But who cares? No one, it seems, bar New York City's Anti-Pop Consortium, who have reformed after splitting up in 2002 to lay down their fourth album, `Fluorescent Black.' Their breed of leftfield hip-hop, already with one foot in science fiction and the futuristic, has been given an added impetus and a greater aesthetic cohesion in their treatment of the digitalisation of humanity. But even more importantly their music has become more forceful and inventive than ever, and after only a few listens it becomes undeniable that the group have delivered one of the year's best hip-hop albums.

In keeping with the motif of the individual's dissolution into bits and pixels which can be arbitrarily ordered and disordered according to the rhythms of technology and the layout of a webpage, many of the 17 cuts on `Fluorescent Black' feature abstract lyrical references to the marginalisation of the body (`Get Lite,' `Superunfrontable'), the technological perversion of human nature (`The Solution'), and the virtual shrinking of the globe (`NY to Tokyo'). But such themes are also reinforced by the group's penchant for unstable musical structures that jump around like a channel-hopper on his fifth Red Bull. Opener `Lay Me Down' begins with around 20 seconds of the kind of frantic riffing and drum work that wouldn't be out of place on a Dillinger Escape Plan album, before suddenly flipping at the proverbial click of a mouse to a dark and paranoid synth line that serves as the foundation for the interlocking lines of M. Sayyid, Beans and High Priest. And if anything the delivery and wordplay of these three men has only improved over time, at once more focused, acrobatic and sensitive to the nuances and disjointed rhythms of the music.

This maverick volatility is seen again and again, appearing in `Reflections' where the smooth oscillations of the rhymes and music culminate in another incendiary instance of rock carnage, and to startling effect in `Born Electric' where a fragile piano arpeggio and gently sung vocals are supplanted by nebulous, awe-inspiring electronics. Yet for all this dynamism - which is probably more the result of the sheer plethora of ideas swirling through the APC galaxy than any desire to complement a postmodern theme - the album is privy to the most concise and well-written songs of APC's career, with hooks abounding in all directions. `Volcano' features a rabblerousing chorus that perfectly feeds into the frenetic raps of the verse, providing the vocal rallies with added weight and intensity, and so does the orientally-themed `NY to Tokyo,' which also features a choice guest spot from Roots Manuva. And this terseness is magnified by the production of Earl Blaize, which in contrast to the sparse, claustrophobic production of `Arhythmia' is vibrant and layered (just take a listen to the restless beats of `New Jack Exterminator' or the cataclysmic electronic squall of the title track).

Blaize's skills round off what is a remarkably consistent and varied album, an album that is as experimental as it is explosive. It's also APC's best album, flying in the face of anyone who might've dismissed them on account of their hiatus. It just goes to show that no matter how much the accelerating movement of the world and technology seeks to alter and atomize us, there are always a select few who can resist the attack on their integrity and develop in their own inimitable way. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: El-P, MF Doom, Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock, Kool Keith, Odd Nosdam, Boom Bip


Let the Night Roar
Let the Night Roar
Price: £10.61

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars King Cannibal- Let the Night Roar LP Review (8/10), 10 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Let the Night Roar (Audio CD)
King Cannibal's debut album 'Let The Night Roar' is, by all accounts, a monster. You know it's kind. The slow, lumbering beast of your nightmares that you can run from, but you will never escape. The zombie that lurches and stalks you, and will get you in the end, no matter how hard you try. You know of this monster, but you've never heard it in an aural format - until now.

King Cannibal, aka Zilla, aka Dylan Richards, has been around on the scene for a few years now, peddling some well received mixtapes but never producing material of this calibre until the first 12 inch 'Aragami Style' was spawned back in 2007. A dastardly fusion of dancehall, dubstep and dark drum and bass rhythms; the track stormed dingy underground dancefloors and was championed by forward thinking pioneers like Amon Tobin and The Bug. Since that first awakening, the beast has grown ever-bigger, with a few more 12 inchers seeping into the public consciousness, and stirring up an anticipation amongst artists and fans alike. 'Let The Night Roar' is King Cannibal's Frankenstein, finally animated after years in the laboratory and sent growling into the night.

The 'Intro' which leads into first track 'Aragami Style' contains all of the whirrs and clunks you would hear in Jigsaw's dungeon of horrors and establishes to the listener that the following hour will not be a pleasant one. As the eerie ticking of a stopclock segues into Aragami Style's sinister opening, it is very clear that this is the calm before the imminent storm. A few more seconds of unease and the creature suddenly jolts to life in all it's gargantuan, smothering glory. The menacing bass and heavy, midpaced beats are not so much the sounds a rabid demon would imbue, more those of a stomping swamp thing. Awakening roars are replaced by hungry grunts when the onslaught of Aragami Style ends and the simmering tension of 'Murder Us' begins. Indeed, KC wants us to feel the darkness and evil through song titles like these, and malevolent bass throbs maintain an oppressive atmosphere. Rasping vocals from Jahcoozi bring a more human but no less moody edge to the proceedings. However these are not the strongest MC skills on display; next track 'Virgo' showcases rapid-fire French rhyming over a more straightforward dancehall instrumental, coming off like the evil twin that Buraka Som Sistema doesn't talk about; whilst on 'Dirt', Daddy Freddy spits a fury that embodies the violence King Cannibal set out to create.

The ogre continues it's swathe of destruction with machinegun drum fire and booming vocals on 'Colder Still', skittering percussion and bass bombs on 'The Untitled' and persistent rhythms on 'A Shining Force'. It almost seems invincible in it's relentless oppression. However, all beasts have a weakness, an achilles heel. For this one, it's the repetition of its favoured attack. Whilst the tracks vary in tempo to keep things fresh, the rattling drums and lurching bass are relied upon a bit too often which can make the cuts difficult to distinguish when listened to individually as opposed to in the running of the full work. Nevertheless, King Cannibal has cleverly ordered the tracks to ensure the best material bookends the work. Just when you thought you had the monster beaten, and it falls to the ground - leaving an uneasy, eerie mood displayed on 'Onwards Vultures' - it summons up one last burst of anger, one final sting of it's tail, on the previously released 'Flower Of Flesh And Blood'. Combining all the most effective elements of the previous 50-odd minutes, it displays its dominance with rumbling notes and a crushing dubstep beat. The final assault leaves us in no doubt that King Cannibal has come to conquer us. Mark these words, any dubstep/drum and bass aficionado that feels up to the challenge of taking this leviathan on (their headphones), will swiftly find themselves at it's mercy. (Kiron Mair)

For fans of: The Bug, Amon Tobin, Bar 9, Reso,


What We All Come To Need
What We All Come To Need
Price: £8.52

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pelican- What We All Come to Need LP Review (7/10), 27 Sept. 2009
Pelican have been around for 8 years now and this is their 4th album. Their sonic evolution from pummelling riffage on the early EP and Australasia to City of Echoes' more stripped down and textural approach has been topic of discussion of many a heavy music fan. You see - lovers of Pelican's music can usually be separated into two camps; a) the heavy sh-t and b) the swirly psychedelic progressive sh-t. I myself enjoy both aspects but tend to lean towards the heavy stuff. The monstrous riffing on early tracks like `The Woods' and `Drought' is hard to ignore.

With subsequent albums, Pelican have become masters of weaving instrumental guitar passages in and out of one another: of spiralling intertwining distorted melodies up into the heavens where the God of the Almighty Riff nods his approval. Yet, nothing really seems to happen anymore. There aren't any tension and release moments - no big build-ups into cathartic crescendos. Sure, it's fun listening to their riffs bob, weave and uncoil for 7mins at a time but us fickle listeners need a reward at the end of it. The early material was so brutally simple and powerful in it's sheer relentless heaviness that it was cathartic in itself - no crescendo needed - you're already in one my friend. The newer material - particularly their previous album, City of Echoes, sacrificed the simple, heavy riffs for the (actually quite stunning) intricate guitar interplay that they're now renown for. The primal factor has been overthrown by sophistication. Whilst it's impressive and still brilliant music it's just not as engaging as before.

What We All Come to Need definitely continues in the same vein as City of Echoes - textural, intricate and generally shorter track lengths. City of Echoes wasn't received particularly well when it was released back in 2007 because of this change. The majority of material on What We All Come to Need is more direct and a smidgen heavier than City of Echoes. The whole album has a lot more impact and whilst it's not a return to the massive churn of Australasia, it's a lot more satisfying.

Appearances by esteemed musical colleagues also serve to spice up Pelican's sound slightly. Greg Anderson (Sunn O))), Goatsnake) appears on the `The Creeper' to heavy it up a bit. Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom) lends some textural effect-making to `Specs of Light'. Allen Epley (The Life & Times, Shiner) adds some - shock horror - vocals to the final track. For everyone wondering what Pelican sound like with vocals, now's your chance. It actually works pretty well - Epley's vocals are clean and melodic and compliment rather than impose upon Pelican's backing. Whilst it's an interesting experiment I don't think it will catch on as they're obviously still an afterthought.

What We All Come to Need is a decent album and noticeably more focused, purposeful and also more varied than City of Echoes. If you're a Pelican fan there's nothing not to like on here but as I've mentioned they're strongest when they're pummelling your brain into a fine paste and sadly I can't foresee any return to such states of high drama.

For fans of: Isis, Cult of Luna, Russian Circles, Mogwai, Red Sparrowes, Subarachnoid Space.


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