Panic & Carousels April 2016 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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2016 has already brought forth a veritable goddamned flood of amazing releases, more than I could ever hope to cover here, the best I can do is skim the surface and let you know about a handful of albums that deserve your attention.

 

ulver-atgclvlsscap-350x350[1]Like the new Ulver album, ATGCLVLSSCAP, that came out on House Of Mythology back in January. Everything about this album set my alarm bells ringing like those at the beginning of England’s Hidden – from the astrologically inclined title to the undeniably prog elements and beyond – but sometimes you just have to go with it. ATGCLVLSSCAP is powerful medicine, friends – a bewildering, transcendent journey to wherever the fuck. There’s drones to lose yourself in, percussion workouts to freak out to, hash pipe Orientalism, something dangerously close to a power ballad with Nowhere (Sweet Sixteen) and the odd tip of the hat to their metal roots (still, Bergtatt this ain’t). And then there’s Cromagnosis, a ten-minute epic that moves from bass throb to a kind of cop show spacefunk to an exhilarating climax. None of this should work, none of it really makes any sense, but ATGCLVLSSCAP is one of the most thrilling and involving albums I’ve heard in quite a while.

 

 

Similarly powerful but worlds away in almost every respect is Rook To TN34, the third and best album yet from eMMplekz that came out on Mordant Music last month (on cassette, obviously). Nick Edwards (aka Ekoplekz) joked to me that this latest collaboration with Baron Mordant was their attempt to make a Sleaford Mods album and there’s something to that. But whereas Jason Williams’ words are frenetic and bile-flecked howls of despair, Mordant’s are more bewildered and surreal, perplexed and alienated – streams of digital ephemera and soundbites and buzzwords and cultural detritus (titles like Nostalgia For Early Plugins, Guetta Life and Gloomy Leper Techno, references to Trish Keenan, David Tibet and John Frusciante).

 

MM083 1600x1600Whilst every line of the Baron’s scrawl is deliciously quotable, a solid-state of the nation address from a tatty seaside town (the oft-referenced Hastings, “At 45 I found the place I wanted to die “), Edwards’ scree is as good as anything he’s done: ominous and unsettling, dubbed up and paranoid, glitchy and filthy. Hastings has a threatening, dubstep quality.  Painfully Teal sounds like Energy Flash with the air let out; there’s a mournful electro vibe to Gloomy Leper Techno (“cheers mate, bye… cheers, mate, bye… “), like Plone at a wake, and there’s something distinctly Martin Rev about Ancient Weather Riffs, while Hello, Mordant Music sees Edwards grinding The Baron through a Gibbytronic that’s set to maximum discombobulation. Rook To TN34 is a genuine rarity – something utterly unique and disturbing, laughing in the face of the mess we’re in, a mess we’re all so busy instagramming and hashtagging and facebooking that we don’t even know when to say stop. I really can’t recommend it enough.

blezard[1]Even aside from its essential Singles Club (Vol 2 is now in full flow, and there’s still some subscriptions left if you’re quick), God Unknown is becoming a label to watch. Label boss Jason Stoll (of Mugstar, who’s latest album I reviewed here) has a good ear and the nerve to release music that might otherwise not get heard. Whilst Henge’s self-titled debut didn’t really work for me (I liked the largactil sludge of the riffs but the vocals irked), the label has released a gem with Blezard, the debut from Cavalier Song.

 

Barely half an hour long, the album still has more ideas in its short running time than many bands can muster in a career: Anode is a sparse post-rock delight built round a spindly, affecting guitar line; Stones For Throwing shifts from abrasive riffs to ominous mid-section and back again; Oarfish is an absorbing tone poem, Easy Spider an almost Soft Machine chug layered with alarming effects and half-heard horrors, before climaxing with a relentless clanging riff; Trees is the most abstract of all, 10 minutes of bass rumbling and concrete wandering, pierced by a blazing riff that has an almost Eddie Hazel quality. Blezard defies genre but demands close attention. It’s absolutely worth your time.

 

 

large_151119Rangda[1]

I’ve always been fairly resistant to Ben Chasny‘s charms – he’s obviously a ridiculously talented guy but his various projects have never really connected. Till now. The Heretic’s Bargain (out now on Drag City), the third album from Rangda – his collaboration with two absolute heroes, Sir Richard Bishop and Chris Corsano – gets the balance between improv and melody just right. The guitar flash is properly in service to the overall sound, Chasny and Bishop working in and around each other to uplifting effect and Corsano’s drumming as ridiculously fluid as ever. By the time I get to the epic, shredding closing track Mondays Are Free At The Hermetic Museum, it’s all I can do not to start throwing air guitar poses in front of the mirror.

 

 

matmos-ultimate-care-2-album[1]Each time a new Matmos album appears, they seem to have further embraced the notion that constraints trigger creativity (like a musical version of the French literary tradition of oulipo). In the past this has involved sampled plastic surgery or parapsychological experiments. This time out, on the remarkable Ultimate Care II (out now on Thrill Jockey), they’ve made an album entirely generated from their own Whirlpool washing machine. As ever, the joy with Matmos is that the music more than delivers on the conceit: nigh on 40 minutes of metallic polyrhythms, mechanical clanking, squishy techno and moments of genuine loveliness. The fact that they’re actually taking the washing machine on tour is as ridiculous but conceptually consistent as you’d expect from the duo, as ever playfully serious and seriously playful.

 

I’ve already written about the latest live transmission from local heroes and Jagermonsters Blown Out, but the Evil Hoodoo release of their triumphant Supernormal set from last year isn’t to be missed.

cavern-anti-matter-void-beats-invocation[1]It’s a tired cliche that I preferred their earlier stuff, but that seems to apply with the new, ‘proper’ debut from Cavern Of Anti-Matter. Blood Drums, which slipped out on Grautag a couple of years back, was a delight – building on the Krauty tendencies of Stereolab but with none of the tropicalia nonsense that marred their later releases. But whilst void beats / invocation trex has lovely moments, it also has horrors like Liquid Gate, a tacky indie-dance monstrosity with vocals that sound like a very sub par Luke Haines. Worth exploring for the good tracks but caveat emptor…

 

0006423787_10[1]No such caveats with London trio Hag. Fear Of Man came screaming out of the capital in January on DNAWOT Records and totally delivered: 9 tracks of deeply gnarly metal-drenched hardcore that sounds like all your favourite noise-rock  /stoner bands but swerves sounding dated by just being so fucking good.  Sharing some of their sound – and their drummer – with the mighty Bad Guys, this is ferocious stuff that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Amphetamine Reptile in its heyday. And it’s touched by the hand of Tim Cedar, which ups the ante considerably.

 

 

While we’re celebrating all things noise-rock, respect is very much due to the good people of The Quietus who last week ran a series of ‘noise rock’ features – comparing 1986 with 2016, and listing the very best of a very nebulous genre. The lack of Killdozer pains me but it made for some great reading and gave column space to a lot of P&C favourites. Get stuck in.

 

FretThe fact that Fret! have been something of a Newcastle fixture for a few years now doesn’t mean you should take them for granted and they’re on something of a roll right now, with last year’s physical debut 7″ (Attune / Cowboy) and now the Killing Susan EP, just out on guitarist Steve Strode’s Cruel Nature label. When you’re used to seeing Cath Tyler in her folk form, it’s easy to forget she has a great throaty growl going on and a way with a sludgy low end bass. Strode’s guitar ticks all my favourite distorted-detuned boxes and drummer Rob Woodcock is a bit of a beast. This EP is five tracks of marvellous noise – nodding to late 80s Sonic Youth, that post-hardcore ‘tension and release’ style, and on the last two tracks – Boner M and Punch – something approaching a sleazy, surf-a-billy grind.

 

 

BitchinBajas_BonniePrinceBilly_EJ_FLD_MINI[1]In a column full of oddities, the debut album from Bonnie Prince Billy & Bitchin’ Bajas might just be the oddest of all, but it’s also the loveliest. Epic Jammers & Fortunate Little Ditties (just out on Drag City), is described as ‘collaborative cosmic music’, which doesn’t really do justice to the wonders within. Adding Will Oldham‘s plaintive vocals to the Bajas’ usual kosmische sound – equal parts Popol Vuh and Jackie O Motherfucker – is a masterstroke, Oldham’s minimal lyrics (often just the title repeated over and over) just one part of a languid, dreamy soundscape of flutes and guitars and drones. Growing out of what was initially a one-off collaboration for the lovely Ballad Of Shirley Collins tribute / fundraiser project from last year, this is deep listening music like they don’t much make anymore.

 

There was a lot more I wanted to cover this time out – the fantastically repellent collaboration between The Body and Full Of Hell, the tour 7″ from the mighty That Fucking Tank, the ludicrous but loveable Guerilla Toss album, January’s coruscating new album from Haikai No Ku on Box, the quietly fascinating Still Heat label – but they’ll have to wait, although tracks from all of them, and all of the releases mentioned, and a few other things that appear just ‘cos, are included in yet another Panic & Carousels mix made to accompany this column.

 

 

 

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