Enigmatic is a word I love to use, but rarely a word that I find applicable to a band. A large number of high profile acts seem to revel in PR; giving interviews, doing tours and hinting at their songs’ meaning or origin. Even musicians whose entire life has been surrounded by an aura of mystery, such as Bob Dylan, have at least shed some insight into their life and work. Portishead are such a band that, for most of their existence, has not been like this. They appeared on the scene out of seemingly nowhere in 1994 with their debut album Dummy, which was a big success in the UK and popularized the up and coming genre of trip-hop. The album won the coveted Mercury Prize despite facing perhaps the toughest competition ever in one year. (PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love included) Then, three years of silence before another album emerged, this one stranger and more sinister than the last. And then nothing. No tours, no albums, no interviews. The three members each went their separate ways for side projects. Portishead looked to be dead in the water.
“[Marijuana] was pretty integral to... my life at the time. The lyric “drop out of life with bong in hand” was kind of a creed at that point.” -Al Cisneros
Oh the vicissitudes of the human mind. After a solid afternoon being run down by that Golem of a Silencer album again and again while composing my thoughts, I needed a swift spiritual kick to the head to make me feel a bit better disposed to the idea of not digging into my wrists with a kitchen knife. In a half coma, I remembered a black metal band on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, one with a groove so good and cuts so catchy you’ll find yourself wondering what we saw in Hendrix. Let me introduce you to metals next big thing. Ladies and gentlepeople, it gives me orgasmic pleasure to introduce to you to Kvelertak. Kvelertak are the muscular standard bearers for the post-black metal movement. Black metal was unashamedly great, sure most of the music was derivative noise with little or no aesthetic value, but select albums, like that Silencer record, will really stick in the craw of many a person and change their opinion of music as a whole, and a genre that divisive and important is a rare and fascinating thing. Black metal is mostly over; like punk, once the shock value goes out of things it’s hardly worth pursuing anymore. The post-black metal movement is in full swing though, with bands like Solefald and Ghost lining up to take the sound and aesthetic in wild and wonderful new directions, and Kvelertak is the most viscerally unapologetically enjoyable album to yet come out of that movement. Think Hendrix playing for Torche; and then that mixed with Darkthrone mated with Mayhem and the baby delivered by caesarean section by a acid-addled Sid Vicious; BUT even that doesn’t do it justice. I may never have heard music as good as this. When I first heard Kvelertak’s debut self-titled record, it shot up the ranks of my favourite albums of all time like it had been wearing rocket boots and is still climbing. Some of the groove carpet laid down on this record for you to feel between your heathen toes is so thick and addictive it’s like heroin milkshake. It’s a stunning tribute to something that really has rocked the foundations of Scandinavian culture, black metal, sung as it is entirely in Norwegian; and a breathless love letter to the electric guitar by way of commemorating all the great stuff played on it. It is absolutely superb. Kvelertak is the sort of album that makes me think, if I can only get one this good every ten years, I can put up with as much cynical plastic pop and brain-dead tone-deaf metal as you can throw at me, I have enduring proof of what music can do.
It’s week three of the albums that defy genre series. I trust it has been of some enjoyment to you readers; it certainly was enjoyable writing it, considering two of the three albums named here are some of my all-time favourites. But we have reached week three, and thus, gravys and lentilmen, we have come full cycle, completing this little series in a similar fashion to the way we started it – with an album packed full of samples. In fact, except for miniscule vocal contributions on three of the songs, this album is created ENTIRELY from sampled material. A gimmick? Perhaps. But gimmick or not, DJ Shadow’s debut masterpiece Endtroducing….. is a stunning musical achievement. Not only that, but it completely defies categorization.
"I appreciate your kind words, but I am at this time not interested in any human contact." – Nattramn [vox]
Let me be a little bit frank for starters. Writing this column is easy. All I do is listen to music I usually know I like, and think about it and then try to commune with you why I love it so much. It’s easy, the music is freakin’ awesome and I have an excuse to mope around university ignoring everyone: I’m ‘working’. What that usually means is that I’m listening to Sleep’s Dopesmoker and their petty human concerns are far behind me now. I’ve always been attracted to extremity, in everything. To try to find my own barriers perhaps, to cross them, to find music that is genuinely too heavy is something I’ve always looked for (I happen to think that Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version is the heaviest record ever pressed) and this little 2001 debut really put the squeeze on me. This is some of the most inhospitable music I’ve ever listened to and I’m still not sure if I like it in the traditional sense. It far surpasses whatever mental requirements I have for inclusion in this weekly collection of margin doodles but listening to it without some preparatory Thorns to slip you into the black metal mindset would be like running headlong into a brick wall, or leaping unprotected into a bath filled with boiling water. Even if you’ve spent your formative years pouring over Cannibal Corpse sleeve art while banging out Darkthrone at top volume (guilty as charged), you’re going to find this trip pretty hard going. Strap in, we’re going to Sweden.
“Rock like rock shouldn’t be: a rock that your parents wouldn’t just love, given a chance, but one that they’d ask you to play again, louder. It ain’t right, obviously. But it rocks brilliantly”
Mike Diver – BBC
“The general message seems clear enough: space is cool, and life is awesome. Maybe it's a metaphor.”
Wentz_Equals_Death – Punknews.org
Well it’s the end of summer, or more precisely the end of the ridiculous university summer hiatus and soon it will be back to the liver-straining rigours of academia for I. As such, this week it’s been a listening week for the instant fun albums. In that spirit, Torche. Okay so what the fuck is up with Torche? The doom-pop thunder rock Miami quartet play some of the thickest licks around in guitarist Steve Brooks trademark ‘bomb-string’ detonation detune; they take elements from hardcore punk, stoner metal and their own unique aesthetic and supercollide it all together in records that aren’t quite like anything you’ve heard before. Yet they produce some of the most instantly gratifying, catchy tunes coming out of metal today. Each Torche record offers up another savoury half-hour of blessed-out stoner beats that have any Kyuss song blushing with envy and sound like Simon Cowell signed the Melvins, in the best possible way. Any of their albums or EPs would be more than worthy of an In Search of Space autopsy but the genesis of a sound is always it’s most interesting moment; a band’s first record is always the most fascinating so I bring you Torche’s debut self titled album, and dontcha just love that artwork?
I’m proud to admit that I’m Northern Irish. Not Irish, not British, but Northern Irish. Personally it’s not a matter of politics; it’s a cultural thing. Northern Irish people have an extremely unique sense of humour, way of life and culture that don’t really match up with those of our British and Irish counterparts most of the time. Also, for such a small country we have produced a great number of remarkable people: Seamus Heaney, C. S. Lewis, George Best, Alex Higgins, Rory McIlroy, Kenneth Branagh and Liam Neeson, to name a few [Stiff Little Fingers too, though you also gave stillbirth to Snow Patrol, so I think we can call it karmatically even. – Ed]. It’s worth being proud of. And in a year where Northern Irish golfers have brought the country to international prominence and respect, it seems appropriate to assert my love for my country. There mightn’t be a lot to do in it, but it’s a nice place to be. Anyway, the reason I say this is because the subject of today’s article, Van Morrison, is from our wee country, and despite the plethora of talent coming from it, I would quite honestly proclaim Van Morrison our finest export. And Astral Weeks, his first album for Warner Brothers, is his finest work.
“The no pressure, no rules, no expectations thing is holy” – Hermann Blaupunkt (guitar)
What’s this? It’s more than record of the week, it’s another underground strummer with finger permanently on ‘space’. I can certainly connect with the ideas associated with the name of Het Droste Effect: the endlessly repeating image within an image. The picture of the woman on the cereal box, holding a cereal box with a picture of the... You dig it? Play this record once, you’ll get all the ambience, all the space garage rock, some saxophone rocking towards the end with no let up in sight; but the next time you lay this sucker down to play again, it’ll open up like Pandora’s box, spreading forth its tentacular reach to every recess of the room, taking hold of everything; unabridged by genre, style, volume or pacing. Rocking you back and forward for its twenty minute runtime again and again until your first experience is a distant memory, and you’re peering into the eighth picture within a picture, the groove within a groove, trying to interpret the tiniest movement of the strings while the solid raucous and upstandingly groovy sound cascades back and forth unnoticed. Its refreshingly raw, ripped right out of the groove bible copy book and passed to the teacher as a book report and well HOLY FUCKING SHIT the book report blew the book out of the motha’fuckin’ water. It’s a stunning debut and the kind of hard rollicking rocking kick start that dreary bands dream they could write and the sort of record that’s so quietly revolutionary you wonder how somebody hasn’t stepped in to stop it. Surely being this awesome and having this much fun has got to be illegal! Het Droste Effect is like a cocktail that tastes of fruit juice and after two sips blows your head off.
Of course, we all remember where we were and what we were doing when we caught the news of the planes flying into the Twin Towers. I remember that it was a Tuesday because my grandparents were over at our house and they always came over on Tuesday. I had just come back from Primary School (I was 10) and my grandparents told me what had happened. The second tower had already been hit so I didn’t see that famous, terrifying live footage of the plane slamming into it. I remember, as I watched some news footage, I thought in my naivety that it wasn’t such a big deal and went down to do some homework. I came back up when I’d finished about 10 minutes later (Primary school homeworks weren’t exactly challenging) and just caught the live footage of the south tower collapsing. I think it really hit home at that moment.
It is ten years since the two planes hit the World Trade Centre. The Pentagon was also attacked and a fourth aeroplane crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside en route to the White House. There were many horrors of that day, people leapt from the towers to escape the smoke and the flames, a very public way to die. It was viewed as some sort of horrible accident in the opening moments. I remember commentators on television were asking how on a clear New York morning, a pilot could fly into such a prominent landmark. Then the second plane hit, and all at once, as it made its arc towards the towers and its bull’s-eye hit on the South Tower. That was the moment when confusion became clarity. Nobody watching could have believed anything except what transpired to be true. These were hijacked jetliners used as missiles, debatably the opening volleys in a war we didn’t understand and still don’t know how to win.
NOTE – Another Wine, Women and a Song or Two first, we have an exclusive interview with Jessica Numsuwankijkul, the vox and strings of New York newcomers Heliotropes; whose brand spanking shiny new Ribbons 7” has been the instigator of much rocking up of the shit round my life in the last few days.
‘Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.’ ~Henry David Thoreau
Let me tell you about addiction. Addiction is when you can’t have enough of something. My exponentially growing music library is testament to the fact I am addicted to music. Addiction can happen quickly, just one hit of opium is enough to confine you to the drunk-tank of the junkie for eternity, so it is with Heliotropes. I can’t wait for my next hit from my speaker syringe.
A sound. Like a burning in the soul. That is the sound of pre-Hex Earth (post-Hex Earth can almost be considered a separate entity). A recording group with such stunning purity of vision it is hard to separate out releases or make any in-depth sense of the overall meaning of the work, and yet the main thrust of their point is so obvious. Rock transportation is a reality, and Earth are completely aware of that. While I have talked about Sunn O)))before, the music of these two bands can be clearly separated. The music of Sunn O))) is very much a country understanding, as are all of Earth’s most notable drone contemporaries, what separates Earth’s pre-Hex discography from the rest of the drone music genre is the connection with modernity, electricity, the modern world and the post-industrial era. Earth’s music isn’t mechanical, it is electronic. It isn’t a rhythmic steam engine, it’s a circuit board composed of distortion and plugged right into your head. No release of Earth’s illustrates this more directly than the 2001 re-release of the 1995 live track Ripped on Fascist Ideas, and live recordings from 1990, collected in one release named Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars.
Hello, and welcome to the beginning of what I hope will be an interesting and challenging series of articles. I have wanted to do something like this for quite a while. Why? Well, the idea of grouping different music together and calling it the same thing has always been an eyebrow raiser for me. Of course, it’s necessary and most of the time it works, but quite often I have noticed gaping holes in the process of categorization. For example; The Beatles and Aerosmith are both “rock” musicians, but you wouldn’t say their music sounds anything alike, would you? Another one of my gripes with genre classification is that it implies too much of a generalization. When asked, “What type of music do you like?” people normally say something like “rock, pop and punk,” or whatever they like. I don’t know about, you but doesn’t that imply that the person in question likes every single artist who performs within the genres of rock, pop and punk? It all seems to very silly to suggest that someone will instantly like a song, whether good or bad, just because it falls into their genre of preference. Lastly, I believe that classing everything into a genre limits peoples’ acceptance and awareness of other types of music. If someone dislikes a genre, say jazz, I find it’s very difficult to recommend any jazz music to them because of their preconceptions about the genre. The reader will please excuse me for generalizing, but based on my experience this is often the case.
A sound. A single sound, multifaceted, twisting, bending and melting. Rumbling like distant shake and shudder of a heavy goods train multiplied to the sound of a foghorn. Monotonous and yet breathlessly urgent. Always seeming to be getting louder. The sound of Earth 2 is the noise I imagine when I see the stock footage of the bombing of Torabora. Barren, desolate. The rumble of an explosion slowed down to stretch out to over an hour. Each eddie and vicissitude burning, becoming impossibly loud. An almost godlike sound layered with a million intricacies and embellishments. This album is so short. Only one lifetime long but getting longer every listen. There isn’t enough time in existence to understand this record.
What is the nature of madness? This is a question asked by many storytellers and thinkers and still puzzled over. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest dares to ask a far more important and more difficult question: what is the nature of sanity? Propelled by a typically charismatic but unusually organic Jack Nicholson in his prime, as convict Randall P. McMurphy who arrives at a mental institution and becomes embroiled in a feud with the domineering and dictatorial Nurse Ratched over the fragile, impressionable Billy Bibbit. Around them is a nexus of complex and sympathetic characters who find themselves caught between the unstoppable force of McMurphy and the immovable object of Ratched. Adapted from Ken Kesey’s spellbinding and messy sixties novel.
The beginning of my personal “musical awakening” at the age of 12 or 13 saw me delving into the world of hard rock, and, for a few years, fervently rejecting any other form of music. Since I was about 15, I have broadened my horizons considerably, and have found a liking for so many other types of music that I have mostly left my love for hard rock on the ash heap of history. Yet there have been certain stand-out albums and personal favourites that I have never ceased to love, but merely neglect, for many years. One such album is Van Halen’s eponymous debut. Like many items of personal preference, whether for sentimental reasons or otherwise, I find it hard to express exactly what it is I love about the album. Sure, it’s packed with fantastic guitar playing, but what respectable 70’s rock album wasn’t? It’s got numerous hits, arena rock intensity, a lead singer that positively oozed sexuality… but nothing in this is terribly abnormal, right? Freddie Mercury was a more captivating singer and performer than David Lee Roth, Jimmy Page a more interesting guitarist than Eddie Van Halen. And yet it’s not just me who was so taken with the album: it was a monster seller, critically acclaimed and made the band into instant superstars. But why?
NOTE:- Sound of Perseverance Listener is an album created by Steven for the purposes of this piece. It is composed by tracks from their 1998 album the Sound of Perseverance, the structure remains the same but where possible, tracks have been replaced with their instrumental versions to change the emphasis within the work.
“I would like to do whatever I can to make sure people know that fake bullshit nu metal that people are calling metal is fucking garbage. It’s not metal. It’s okay if people want to like it, that’s everyone’s choice; but Coal Chamber, Korn and all these other bands are not metal, period. Metal is not about wearing a jogging suit on stage. It’s about maintaining what metal is. Metal was never a fad. It has been injured in America by corporate America so we’re here with our new album to further metal. We’re fans of what we do and I think we have a responsibility to the metal community.”-Chuck Schuldiner in 1998