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Noise Not Music #10: Prurient, Bosse-de-Nage, Gnod And More

Monday, 11 May 2015 Written by Ben Bland

Photo: Becca Diamond

As usual, there is a lot to get through this month. But, it’s worth noting that this latest batch contains records that are among my very favourite of 2015 thus far. There’s plenty to please both those interested in the outer limits (of jazz, psychedelia and electronica) and those concerned with pure heaviness (of sound and feeling). Please enjoy.

New Releases


Sam Andreae – ‘Solo’ (Tombed Visions)

Sam Andreae has established himself as a notable young voice in Britain’s vibrant avant-garde jazz scene in recent times, particularly 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 squalling sax sound of free jazz legend, for ‘Solo’ is an altogether different exploration of the tenor saxophone’s physical capabilities than one might expect, one largely utilising acoustics, breath and feedback. The result is astonishing, and near impossible to analyse thanks to its distinctiveness of voice. ‘Solo’ is essential listening for anyone interested in the wild sonic possibilities at the extreme end of the jazz spectrum.

Bell Witch – ‘Four Phantoms’ (Profound Lore)

Profound Lore keep on bringing the good stuff, and this new Bell Witch album is no exception. Working at a funereal pace, the Seattle duo (six-string bass and drums!) unleash wave upon wave of mournful doom that borrows liberally from both the heavier end of the contemporary sludge/drone metal spectrum and from the resurgence in more melodic doom represented by the likes of Pallbearer. What’s so impressive about ‘Four Phantoms’ – apart from its genuinely colossal sound – is the dexterity displayed by just two musicians. Dylan Desmond wields his bass as an instrument of emotion as well as of blunt weight, and drummer Adrian Guerra clearly appreciates subtlety as much as power. Their 2012 debut, ‘Longing’, was enormously promising but Bell Witch have knocked the ball out of the park this time.  

Bosse-de-Nage – ‘All Fours’ (Profound Lore)

Bosse-de-Nage have been one of the best black metal acts in the United States for a good few years now, and ‘All Fours’ should be seen as merely the latest in a series of consistently impressive releases. In the light of Deafheaven’s sudden rise to prominence in the aftermath of 2013’s ‘Sunbather’, however, it’s possible to see interest in Bosse-de-Nage surging significantly with this release. The band’s core sound is very much in the “post-black metal” vein but, in a striking difference from many similar groups, is augmented by the literary debauchery of vocalist and wordsmith Bryan Manning, whose approach certainly separates them from their contemporaries. It’s hard not to feel that this is black metal that has emerged as much from the tradition of American underground rock, especially Slint, as from Europe’s originators. This also means that it’s decidedly different from the Mogwai-obsessed Deafheaven, and, while the wave of new black metal fans lured in by ‘Sunbather’ should find much to enjoy here, cynics will also find something fresh to appreciate in the unique sound that characterises ‘All Fours’.

Crowhurst‘Crowhurst’ (Ivory Antler)

Emerging more from a noise background than a black metal one, Jay Gambit (aka. Girl 27)’s Crowhurst project isn’t going to please many purists on either side of the spectrum but then one senses that its creators have little interest in doing so. This self-titled effort marks a new stage in the project’s development, one that borrows heavily from some of US black metal’s prime innovators over the last decade – Nachtmystium’s psychedelic period is particularly relevant – while also retaining the wide range of noise influences that have previously dominated Crowhurst records. Roping in Oxbow’s legendary vocalist Eugene Robinson for the closing track is a particularly inspired move, for he helps bring ‘Crowhurst’ to a close in suitably apocalyptic fashion.

Damien Dubrovnik – ‘Vegas Fountain’ (Alter / Posh Isolation)

Danish duo Damien Dubrovnik have a firm commitment to a very contemporary vision of the harshest elements of the industrial music lineage. This is definitely power electronics music that you could hear at a swanky sound art festival as well as at a sweaty basement show. It is uncomfortable listening at points, particularly on ‘Interior 1: Upper Lip’ and the title track, but it’s never exactly painful to listen to. The most potent noise music has been that capable of having a mental as well as physical effect on the listener, and ‘Vegas Fountain’ delivers there. The crawling paranoia and claustrophobia of this release makes it profoundly unsettling from first minute to last.

Drudkh – ‘A Furrow Cut Short’ (Season of Mist)

Ukrainian troupe Drudkh are mainstays of the Eastern European black metal scene, and one of the few groups from that part of the continent to have broken through to gain wider recognition. ‘A Furrow Cut Short’ is not a reinvention of the band’s sound, nor is it 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 the game these days. There’s just enough of a serrated edge here to keep things from ever becoming too placid, but the band’s main strength remains their ability to conjure up evocative and atmospheric landscapes through their playing.

Gnod – ‘Infinity Machines’ (Rocket)

Manchester’s Gnod are one of a kind. Their increasingly avant-garde approach to psychedelic rock aside, they are at the heart of northern England’s experimental music scene, through their involvement in the operation of Salford’s Islington Mill and support for Shipley’s magnificent Golden Cabinet. ‘Infinity Machines’ is the group’s most fully realised release yet. Clocking in at a mammoth one hour and 49 minutes, it is a debilitating odyssey through subterranean dub and jazz-inflected noise. A triumphant record from a band at the forefront of the cutting edge, you’ll be a changed person after an afternoon spent with this coming through your headphones.

Prurient – ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ (Profound Lore)

Dominick Fernow (pictured, top) is back with a Prurient double album, and it is every bit as viciously effective as one might expect. While in recent years Fernow has become better known for his (excellent) forays towards the dancefloor with Vatican Shadow, Prurient has always been at the centre of his musical thinking and ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’ emphasises this perfectly. There are clear shades of both Vatican Shadow and ‘Through the Window’, the last Prurient full-length, here, but there’s a new breadth to the project’s sound that manages to wed together disparate elements from the ambient and noise traditions. The resulting 16 tracks are never savage enough to be a return to the genuine harsh noise power electronics of Prurient’s earlier days, but atmospherically they are draining enough to raise enormous questions of the listener. A daunting and deeply troubling opus from one of underground music’s greatest provocateurs.

Wiegedood – ‘De Doden Hebben Het Goed’ (Consouling Sounds)

Emerging from the Amenra-led “Church of Ra” community, and featuring Amenra bassist Levy Seynaeve on guitar and vocals here, Wiegedood are the latest Belgian heavy band set to make a considerable impression. This is black metal that leans decisively upon the approach defined by American groups like Wolves In The Throne Room, but it also has a noticeable Darkthrone-style kick. ‘De Doden Hebben Het Goed’ does pause for breath from time to time, but it retains a rawness of emotion, if not necessarily of sound, that ultimately makes it one of the most convincing recent debuts of its kind. Expect excellent things from this trio in the future.

Reissues


YDI – ‘A Place in the Sun / Black Dust’ (Southern Lord)

YDI (pronounced “Why Die?”) only existed for a few short years in the early 1980s, but the Philadelphia quartet managed to produce some of US hardcore’s most visceral sounds in their all too brief existence. ‘A Place in the Sun / Black Dust’ is a discography compilation – provided by the ever dependable 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 non-completists, but the tracks from the ‘Black Dust’ LP are hard-hitting to say the least, with the band providing their own distinctive approach that emphasises how far ahead of the hardcore curve they truly were. Fans of ‘My War’-era Black Flag should pick this up without hesitation.





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