Photo: Becca Diamond
As usual, there is a lot to do this month. But, it should be noted that this latest batch contains records that are some of my favorites from 2015 so far. There is something to please both those interested in the outer limits (of jazz, psychedelia and electro) and those interested in pure heaviness (of sound and sensations). Have fun.
Sam Andreae – ‘Solo’ (Grave Visions)
Sam Andreae has established himself as a remarkable young voice in Britain’s vibrant avant-garde jazz scene of late, not least through his work with Andrew Cheetham and David Birchall. Here, however, the Macclesfield-based saxophonist provides the first evidence of his enormous potential as a solo artist. Don’t expect the screaming saxophone sound of the free jazz legend, as “Solo” is an exploration of the tenor saxophone’s physical abilities quite unlike one might expect, making extensive use of acoustics, breath and feedback. The result is amazing, and almost impossible to analyze thanks to its voice specificity. “Solo” is an essential listen for anyone interested in the wild sonic possibilities at the jazz end of the spectrum.
Bell Witch – ‘Four Ghosts’ (Deep Knowledge)
Profound Lore continues to bring good things, and this new Bell Witch album is no exception. Working to a funereal beat, the Seattle duo (six-string bass and drums!) unleash wave after wave of mournful doom that borrows generously from both the heavier end of the contemporary sludge/drone metal spectrum and the resurgence of a more melodic doom represented by people like Pallbearer. What’s so impressive about ‘Four Phantoms’ – apart from its truly colossal sound – is the dexterity displayed by just two musicians. Dylan Desmond wields his bass like an instrument of emotion as much as blunt weight, and drummer Adrian Guerra clearly appreciates subtlety as much as power. Their 2012 debut album “Longing” showed tremendous promise, but this time Bell Witch knocked the ball out of the park.
swimming bump – ‘All Fours’ (deep knowledge)
Bosse-de-Nage have been one of the top black metal bands in the US for a few years now, and “All Fours” should be considered the latest in a string of consistently impressive releases. However, in light of Deafheaven’s sudden rise to prominence following 2013’s “Sunbather”, it’s possible to see interest in Bosse-de-Nage increase significantly with this release. The band’s core sound is very close to the ‘post-black metal’ vein but, strikingly unlike many similar bands, is augmented by the literary debauchery of vocalist and wordsmith Bryan Manning, whose approach sets them apart. certainly of their contemporaries. It’s hard not to feel that this is a black metal coming as much from the tradition of American underground rock, notably Slint, as from European creators. It also means it’s decidedly different from the Mogwai-obsessed Deafheaven, and, while the wave of new black metal fans drawn to ‘Sunbather’ should find plenty to enjoy here, cynics will also find something new to appreciate in the unique sound that characterizes ‘All Fours’.
Crowhurst – ‘Crowhurst’ (ivory wood)
Emerging more from a noise background than a black metal background, the Crowhurst project by Jay Gambit (aka Girl 27) is not going to please many purists on either side of the spectrum, but we feel that its creators have little interest in doing then. This self-titled effort marks a new stage in the development of the project, which borrows heavily from some of America’s major black metal innovators over the past decade – Nachtmystium’s psychedelic period is particularly relevant – while retaining the wide range of influences sound that previously topped Crowhurst’s records. Bringing in legendary Oxbow singer Eugene Robinson for the closing track is a particularly inspired decision, as it helps wrap “Crowhurst” in apocalyptic fashion.
Damian Dubrovnik – ‘Fountain of Vegas’ (Alter/Posh Isolation)
Danish duo Damien Dubrovnik have a strong commitment to a very contemporary take on the hardest elements of industrial music lineage. It’s definitely power electronic music you could hear at a fancy sound art festival as well as a sweaty basement show. It’s uncomfortable to listen to at times, especially on “Interior 1: Upper Lip” and the title track, but it’s never really painful to listen to. The most powerful noise music has been that capable of having a mental as well as physical effect on the listener, and ‘Vegas Fountain’ achieves this. This version’s rampant paranoia and claustrophobia make it deeply unsettling from minute one to the last.
Drudkh – “A furrow cut short” (Season of Mist)
Ukrainian troupe Drudkh are a mainstay of the Eastern European black metal scene and one of the few bands from this part of the continent to have broken through to gain wider recognition. ‘A Furrow Cut Short’ is not a reimagining of the band’s sound, nor a classic to rival ‘Blood in Our Wells’ or ‘Autumn Aurora’. It is, however, proof that they are one of the most consistent black metal bands in gaming these days. There’s just enough of a jagged edge here to keep things from getting too placid, but the band’s main strength remains their ability to conjure up evocative, atmospheric landscapes through their playing.
Gnod – ‘Infinity Machines’ (Rocket)
Manchester Gnods are one of a kind. Apart from their increasingly avant-garde approach to psychedelic rock, they are at the heart of the experimental music scene in the north of England, through their involvement in the operation of the Islington Mill in Salford and their support for the magnificent Golden Cabinet from Shipley. “Infinity Machines” is the band’s most comprehensive release to date. With a mammoth running time of one hour and 49 minutes, it’s a debilitating odyssey through underground dub and jazz-influenced noise. A triumphant record from a cutting edge band, you’ll be a changed person after an afternoon spent with this in your headphones.
Prurient – ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ (deep knowledge)
Dominick Fernow (pictured, top) is back with a Prurient double album, and it’s just as viciously effective as one would expect. While in recent years Fernow has become known for his (excellent) forays into the dancefloor with Vatican Shadow, Prurient has always been at the center of his musical thinking and ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ underlines this perfectly. There are clear shades of both Vatican Shadow and Prurient’s latest feature ‘Through the Window’ here, but there’s a new breadth to the project’s sound that manages to marry disparate elements of the traditions. ambient and sound. The resulting 16 tracks are never wild enough to be a throwback to the true hard-noise power electronics of Prurient’s early days, but atmospherically they are exhausting enough to raise huge questions from the listener. An intimidating and deeply disturbing opus from one of underground music’s greatest provocateurs.
Wiegedood – ‘De Doden Hebben Het Goed’ (Consultation Sounds)
Hailing from the Amenra-led ‘Church of Ra’ community and featuring Amenra bassist Levy Seynaeve on guitar and vocals, Wiegedood are the latest Belgian heavy band to make a huge impression. It’s black metal that leans heavily on the approach set by American bands like Wolves In The Throne Room, but it also has a noticeable Darkthrone-style kick. “De Doden Hebben Het Goed” pauses for breath every once in a while, but it retains a raw, if not necessarily sonorous, emotion that ultimately makes it one of the genre’s most compelling recent debuts. Expect great things from this trio in the future.
YDI – ‘A Place in the Sun / Black Dust’ (Southern Lord)
YDI (pronounced “Why die?”) only existed for a few years in the early 1980s, but the Philadelphia quartet managed to produce some of the most visceral sounds in American hardcore in their all-too-short existence. “A Place in the Sun/Black Dust” is a compilation discography – supplied by the ever-reliable Southern Lord – and acts as a welcome resuscitation of the band. The first 15 tracks here are dominated by demos, which are predictably lo-fi and add little for the uncompleted, but the tracks on the ‘Black Dust’ LP are punchy to say the least, with the band providing their own distinctive character. approach that highlights just how far ahead of the hardcore curve they really were. Black Flag fans of the “My War” era should pick this up without hesitation.
Let us know what you think – leave a comment!