Just before Whitby, I’m trying to get a few posts in to catch-up a bit. First up, today, is this month’s Tracks, but also to follow will be Transmission: 008 and hopefully at least one review that I’ve had in the works for a while.
Tuesday Ten: 329
Tracks of the Month (Apr 2018)
2018 in Review
After last month’s perhaps more metal-leaning post than usual, normal service is broadly resumed this month, with a mix of styles and sounds to take in, from space rock to murder ballads, from thundering industrial noise to balladry. All in twelve songs (yes, twelve rather than ten this month).
As usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending (aside from the nine in my calendar for May already!), e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
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Track of the Month
RELIC return with a tougher, even harder-edged sound and sound even better for it. Just six shortish songs, this is a snappy, excellent collection of tracks, of which four could have been featured here. Best of the bunch, though, is the drilling, spiralling groove of Pray, that is the single best track that RELIC have released yet, a track that both looks backward and forward as it drags industrial music forward whether it likes it or not. One of the best industrial bands right now hit the bullseye again (see also Pulse Code Misery at #7 in Countdown: 2017: Albums).
In the Future EP
The return of Failure a few years back – with touring and an exceptional new album in the form of The Heart is a Monster – was a heartwarming event, a hugely influential band finally getting the respect and popularity they should have had in the first place, back in the mid-nineties. They’ve not rested on their laurels, though, and recently released the first of a trio of EPs this year that will eventually make up their fifth album. The EP has taken me a few listens, I must admit – partly because the lead track feels so different. Dark Speed has a faster, less dense feel that most of the band’s work, and the restrained vocals also seem to suggest that it is the intro to something else, but I’m liking it more the more I hear. Better, and more immediate to me, is Paralytic Flow, which has the characteristic chiming guitars, and a surging, powerful chorus that had me falling in love with the band all over again.
Yes, there’s a new VAST album at long last, and as recent singles have suggested, we are finally seeing Jon Crosby returning to the sound that made such a splash in the first place. Synths bubble through the taut rhythms, Bollywood-esque strings provide quite the flourish, and Crosby’s voice sounds better than it has done in some time. But it isn’t just the technical aspects that are impressive here, it is also that it is an excellent song in the first place. One of the great things about VAST, that hooked me in all those years ago, was that the smart, dense song arrangements were all backed with great songwriting, and it is quite wonderful to see that balance finally hit again. I have cautious high hopes for the imminent new album.
They’ve been playing this song for a while, but one of their more upbeat songs has become the release that precedes the album, and despite the familiarity for anyone who has seen them live recently, this song has a drive and power that’s quite impressive (and really showcases the use of the double-bass, too). Thematically it keeps with the dark, murderous intent on previous songs, but somehow they keep away from both evil and parody – a fine tightrope to walk that they do with ease.
They play a show later this week to launch the Bodies single, and then at the end of May play The Finsbury on Green Lanes to launch their debut album Skeletal Blues. I can’t make the first (in Whitby, of course), but I’ll be at the album launch show, and if you have any interest in murder ballads and death shanties (or is it the other way round?), you too should attend one or both. Trust me on this.
Quiet, The Winter Harbor
Another band with a fair break since their last album (I finally saw them live after years of waiting in 2012 – detailed on Into the Pit: 134, and the “comeback” album was released the year after), but then, Mazzy Star have never exactly been a band to rush anything. Much like their gentle, laid-back music, in fact, which never needs to rush anywhere. This first new song in a while, then, doesn’t see much change. Hope Sandoval’s voice is still the gorgeous, languid croon that it always was (she appears not to have aged whatsoever in twenty-five years), David Roback’s steel guitar still provides a stark counterpoint, but on this song a piano provides a gentle rhythmic base for all of it to wash over. Beautiful, elegant, bluesy sounds as ever from a band I could never, ever get tired of listening to.
Songs of The Saxophones
The latest in a long line, now, of songs I’d only have discovered through listening to 6Music, and cor, this sounds like Tindersticks. Which is not a bad thing, as more of that kind of thing is always welcome. This doesn’t have the darkened room desperation of Stuart Staples, Alexi Erenkov’s voice doesn’t half sound like him, for a start. The sparse instrumentation, though, is perhaps where they differ, a brighter and much less dense sound that gives a rather different atmosphere, but I can’t help but feel that this song ends rather too abruptly, as if it was edited down from a much longer take. Either way, this is an album going on my shopping list.
This Is Not A Phase
Amor / Noir
I have to admit that I wasn’t as taken with their last album as much as everyone else seemed to be – it simply didn’t “click” with me aside from one exceptional single – and I’m finding similar issues with the new album, although it certainly has it’s moments, and maybe it is just going to take some time to fully appreciate it. The lead single from the new album is an interesting one – a fist-pumping synthpop anthem for outsiders, with a reminder that our choices when younger can, and do, turn into lifelong ones, and others doubting those choices isn’t going to affect them. They play Infest in the summer, of course, and I’ll be intrigued to hear how they come across live.
Clawing At The Walls
The Sodomy of Morality
Much to my wife’s disgust/disappointment, I’ve been listening to and DJing with W.A.S.T.E’s brutal power-industrial-noise assault for over a decade now, and this new album – their first in four years – means I’m not going to be stopping anytime soon. While it has some more restrained moments – you need to take a breather at points, right? – it also has some moments of outright industrial violence, and this particular track is one of them. Pummelling beats (there are two rhythms going on), jackhammer breakdowns, glitchy, distorted-to-shit synths, howled vocals, aw yeah, this is exactly the nastiness that I was hoping for, and that my wife wasn’t.
We, The Dead
The Faceless Aberration
The question “remember when Aggrotech was good?” might result in some headscratching nowadays, partly because of something of a revisionism that has gone on, and partly because, well, quite a lot of it really wasn’t very good. We live in different times, now, of course, where bands that release work advocating or glorifying violence, well, aren’t quite as welcome as they were. Which is very much a good thing, and the less we have of songs about violence against women (in particular), the better.
So thank $DEITY for Ruinizer, then, who appear to have taken the good elements – the malevolence of the music, for a start – and actually run with that concept, to create music that isn’t offensive to the ears or to others, and instead is shit-kicking industrial. The heavy distortion on the vocals on this track in particular – not to mention the stuttering, drop-bass beats – and feeling of weight and heft here, as well as a distinct feeling of extreme metal influences in the atmosphere created, is seriously impressive, and in these times, actually makes Ruinizer stand out all the more. Actually, let’s not tar this with the brush of Aggrotech – this is vastly better than that.
What A Jerk
The 35 Year Anniversary of BC Studio
An impressive, partly-improvisational release to mark the 35th anniversary of celebrated New York and No-Wave producer Martin Bisi sounds like reason to celebrate to me (although, once again, I can’t imagine my wife will be too keen). I’ve not had the chance to listen to the rest of the album yet – but this track has convinced me I will be. Credited to EXCOP – in effect, a scratch band comprised of ex-members of Cop Shoot Cop and Swans, this sounds exactly as you might expect. Loud, dirty and rumbling, with a gloriously powerful bass-led groove, scratchy guitars and synths providing mindfuckery in the gaps. I can’t help but feel that there needs to be more from EXCOP, but I fear this was a one-off.
Let Them Be Alien
So here’s a confession – despite this band having been around for a while now, they’ve rather passed me by, and I’m perhaps thinking that I’ve missed out here, having had a promo of the new album sent to me a little while back. That said, having looked them up, I’ve certainly heard an older single – the ghostly, enigmatic Gallowdance – at events before. Anyway, the new material seems to follow on neatly from their earlier material, and latest single Alien is an impressive addition to the legions of darkwave, post-punk influenced bands out there at the moment, taking slower, more reflective pace, although I get the distinct feeling that William’s vocals in particular will be divisive for some.
If You Want Twee (You Got It)
Livin’ The Dream
I saw Keith’s “band” (well, revolving group of musicians, really, I guess) last Friday for the fifth time (Into the Pit: 205 refers), and as usual it was a hugely enjoyable set. With his third album imminent (delays in vinyl production stopping immediate release for the moment), the set had a few new songs in it, and by far the most immediate of them was this one. A snarky response, apparently, to being turned down by a festival that perhaps was too good for him in the first place, it probably gives enough information to work out what he’s talking about. In addition, his tirade against Ukelele Orchestras is well-timed and brilliant as it takes the song to another, joyous level. He’s right, too.