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Noise Not Music #13: Blacklisters, Christian Fitness And More

Thursday, 17 September 2015 Written by Ben Bland

A late Noise Not Music this month, but one that hopes to make up for its belated appearance with a wide range of brilliant noisemaking, from Leeds’s answer to Big Black to avant-garde extreme metal at its most thoughtful.

New Releases

Blacklisters – ‘Adult’ (Smalltown America)

Leeds mob Blacklisters dropped one of the best debuts of the decade so far with ‘BLKLSTRS’ in 2012. Now they are (FINALLY!) back with ‘Adult’, a sophomore effort that chews up the vicious noise of their debut and spits it back out in the shape of something even more horrifically unbalanced. There’s fun for all the family here. Shirts is the sound of evisceration around the dinner table, while The Sadness of Axl Rose makes it possible to vividly imagine the Guns N’ Roses frontman being publicly humiliated on the BBC, having attempted to launch an ill-judged career revival via an appearance on Strictly Come DancingPower Ballad is what you should have playing on your laptop when you sledgehammer the radio to bits for spinning Sweet Child O’ Mine in the middle of the afternoon. In short, ‘Adult’ sees Blacklisters hone their craft to the extent that they now have a stupendously spiteful dose of vitriol for every occasion. They are surely one of the best bands in the country.

Christian Fitness – ‘Love Letters in the Age of Steam’ (Self-Released)

All hail Falco! The former Mclusky and current Future of the Left ringleader decided last year that he needed another output for his ever-distinctive songwriting talents, and Christian Fitness was the result. ‘Love Letters in the Age of Steam’ follows last year’s ‘I Am Scared of Everything That Isn’t Me’ and is just as crammed with top quality cuts as its predecessor. All the core facets of Mclusky/FotL are here, but they are presented in a more playful manner. The production is wonderfully lo-fi, the (frequently amusing) choruses are enormous, and the odd dose of experimentation is much appreciated. Particularly spectacular is The Harder It Hits, which progresses via falsetto vocals, croaky synths and what sounds like a guitar being played through a self-destructing PA system. The album as a whole is another triumph. This is self-released, so show your support by buying direct from the Christian Fitness Bandcamp.

Dead Neanderthals – ‘Worship the Sun’ (Relative Pitch)

New Wave of Dutch Heavy Jazz duo Dead Neanderthals are back, with another ear-bleeding pair of tracks. Worship (side one) is probably the more percussion-driven of the two. Rene Aquarius, behind the drum kit, appears to control the ebbs and flows. Saxophonist Otto Kokke weaves in and out with squalls and bursts of activity. The Sun is an even more reflexive affair. You can feel Aquarius and Kokke playing off each other, at times as if one. Drums take the back seat while the sax veers into solo territory, before the whole thing gracefully manoeuvres back towards visceral free jazz noise. This is probably as close as Dead Neanderthals have come to accurately capturing on record the improvisational nature at the heart of their performance style. If you really want to get the full Dead Neanderthals impact, however, then see the band live next time they are in the UK. You will not regret it.

Destruction Unit – ‘Negative Feedback Resistor’ (Sacred Bones)

Destruction Unit come billed as a “psychedelic” band, a description that here eschews a tendency towards the retro in favour of a form of (moderately) controlled punk chaos. ‘Negative Feedback Resistor’ is many things – exhausting, furious, noisy – but more than anything else it is fervently committed to the idea that, in 2015, “psychedelia” needs to be more than just passé revivalism. Destruction Unit seem to have decided that a contemporary manifestation of drug-induced musical experimentation should involve a belief in the principle of quantity as well as quality. So over the course of this record we are treated to frequent bursts of feedback, the odd out of place hard rock lick, drowned vocals and even occasional blasts of saxophone. These ingredients are often piled on top of one another like they have been hastily plucked out of the bargain basement section of the supermarket. All the while it sounds like some members of the band are playing a different song to their bandmates. This is a good thing, a very good thing.

Gnaw Their Tongues – ‘Abyss of Longing Throats’ (Crucial Blast)

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the work of Mories (Maurice de Jong) will know roughly what to expect from ‘Abyss of Longing Throats’, the latest release from his Gnaw Their Tongues project. Listened to through headphones, this album demonstrates Mories reaching a new level of claustrophobic intensity. Lick the Poison from the Cave Walls sees the album start as it means to go on. Suffocating guitars align with retching vocals in a way that makes most Darkthrone records sound like mid-’60s psychedelic hippy detours. The synth and string flourishes are typically ghastly. By the time things reach a conclusion – with Up into the Heavens, Down into the Circles of Hell – the album has become decidedly Pasolini-esque. This is the sound of the uncomfortable inner depravity that lurks within humanity. Realisation of this is – as in the Italian auteur’s most difficult films – both sickening and deeply enlightening.

Krallice – ‘Ygg Hur’ (Gilead Media/Self-Released)

Ludicrously over-complicated extreme metal bands are either brilliant or terrible. Or they are Krallice, floating along somewhere between the two. Those (like me) who are convinced that the one major flaw with Krallice’s records to date has been their inability to find the edit button will be relieved to learn that ‘Ygg Hur’ is only 35 minutes long. This newfound brevity has not been encouraged by any major stylistic overhaul. Instead it seems designed to give the quartet more focus, therefore allowing them to sound more like a metal band and less like a prog band for the first time in their existence. Contrastingly, however, ‘Ygg Hur’ might be Krallice’s most complex album to date. This record is not the result of a simplification of their enormously ambitious takes on the genre but instead a rejuvenation of their style to allow scintillating technical proficiency to blend seamlessly with renewed experimentation and, crucially, something akin to standardised songwriting. Despite its shortened length, then, ‘Ygg Hur’ might take even longer to digest than past Krallice LPs.

Legion of Andromeda – ‘Iron Scorn’ (Crucial Blast)

Japanese duo Legion of Andromeda first dropped ‘Iron Scorn’ back in February but, such was its impact that Crucial Blast have stepped in with a re-release. This is pretty horrible stuff. Try and imagine what might have happened if Justin K. Broadrick had assumed control of Napalm Death and blended its grindcore stylings with the industrialism of Godflesh. There are seven tracks here – all bar two over six minutes long – and the ultimate impression is of a band bludgeoning listeners into submission via the constant repetition of core motifs. The drum machine clatters, the guitars batter away with equally mechanical precision. The vocals, meanwhile, sound like they are being piped directly from a torture chamber somewhere in the Tokyo underground. ‘Iron Scorn’ comes with a warning: “No filler tracks, no fade-outs, no avant-garde intellectual scum: just seven slabs of inhuman heaviness fuelled by total hate. The world is dead and mankind is shit.” Given that, it’s hard to argue that ‘Iron Scorn’ doesn’t deliver on what it promises.

Lychgate – ‘An Antidote for the Glass Pill’ (Blood Music)

Extreme metal records with avant-garde pretensions usually alienate as many listeners as they attract. Bands like Arcturus, Dødheimsgard, Maudlin of the Well and Sigh exist in a sort of parallel world in which it is less the “progressive” features of their music than the dismantling of expectations that troubles listeners. Thus, although Lychgate are not quite as experimental as they perhaps think they are, ‘An Antidote for the Glass Pill’ will probably be a divisive record, if only because of the intense contradictions present throughout. There are moments here when Lychgate sound like they might veer off in the direction of Dream Theater or Queensrÿche. At other points the influences of Deathspell Omega or Emperor swerve into the equation. These comparisons, however, perhaps understate the extent to which Lychgate have created something of their own here. The best thing to say about ‘An Antidote for the Glass Pill’ is that it is constantly offering hints and then retracting them, constantly taking a new direction and then abandoning it. In essence, then, it is one of the most engaging progressive extreme metal records released for many a year.

Shit & Shine – ‘Everybody’s a Fuckin Expert’ (Editions Mego)

What the hell is Craig Clouse up to? You can’t veer between genres with every single record… especially not if you’re going to completely disregard the conventions of each of these stylistic boxes. But then, Shit & Shine has always been a project tailor-made to piss people off. They play gigs in rabbit costumes for fuck’s sake. What’s to like? Well ‘Everybody’s a Fuckin Expert’ sounds like dub techno from the 2020s, recorded on to broken shards of vinyl and then superglued together to create a juddering, permanently uncomfortable beast. At times it sounds like a hungover Squarepusher. At others it sounds like a malicious electronic god waging war on headphone users in advance of burning all their Four Tet records. Like the levitating dog on the album’s front cover, I’m having a great time.

Blacklisters Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri September 18 2015 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Fri September 25 2015 - OXFORD Wheatsheaf
Sat September 26 2015 - LONDON Shacklewell Arms
Sat October 03 2015 - LEICESTER Firebug
Sun October 04 2015 - MILTON KEYNES Craufurd Arms
Fri October 09 2015 - HUDDERSFIELD Parish
Sat October 10 2015 - MANCHESTER Gullivers
Fri October 16 2015 - GLASGOW Ivory Blacks
Sat October 17 2015 - LIVERPOOL Maguires Pizza Bar
Mon October 19 2015 - SHEFFIELD Corporation
Sun November 01 2015 - BIRMINGHAM Hare & Hounds.

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