Gonjasufi – CALLUS

Sumach Ecks, AKA Gonjasufi, first appeared on the scene seven years ago with the single ‘Holidays/Candylane’. Since then he’s released two genre defining albums, a slew of singles and a remix album. Now Ecks is about to release his third album CALLUS, and as A Sufi and A Killer and MU.ZZ.LE showcased, it contains the contents of his psyche DJ box.

‘Your Maker’ starts off with Malcom Catto-esque drums, but slowed down and echoed up, plus a bassline that Krist Novoselic would be proud of. Then the star of the show appears. Ecks’ half drawl/half spoken vocals. Even after a few listens it’s hard to work out what he’s on about, but that doesn’t really matter as the music and his delivery tells us everything we need to know. He sounds like he’s hurt and in pain, but the worst of it is over. Whatever caused the pain has past and all he needs to do now it wait for the wounds, internal/external, to heal. We’ve all been there, and sadly will be there again. ‘Afrikan Spaceship’ is a three-minute glitch work out. It’s hard to get a grip on it to begin with as the beats are machine gun fast and cut up like the William Burroughs novel. The bassline is so hidden under all this you don’t even notice it on a first listen. Then a maelstrom of synth starts to whip up a third of the way through that engulfs everything. Again the lyrics are laconic and elliptical. The final third of the track is a disjointed guitar solo that after a first listen feels like an after-thought, but after a few listens, and checking out the titles, feels like a Sun Ra riff from 1967 that was discarded/unused until Ecks got his hands on it.

New double A-side single ‘The Kill’/’Prints of Sin’ is a slow-burner filled with searing guitar solos, luscious string sections, ad-hoc electronics, tight drum loops and Ecks’ trademark distorted stream of consciousness vocals. Both songs bookend each other perfectly. ‘The Kill’ opens with angry drums and soothing synths, until Ecks starts to deliver poignant lyrics after poignant lyrics. As ‘The Kill’ progresses it gets slower and more abstract until it segues in to ‘Prints of Sin’. Kicking off with a bubble of electronics, it follows this blueprint until its warped outro. Both songs complement each other perfectly and showcase Ecks’ eclectic personality.

‘Krishna Punk’ is the song that sums up Ecks’ past, present and future perfectly. The title alone screams this. 8-bit beats and vocals that border on guttural whines and moans make up the song’s mains elements. As Ecks bemoans multinational corporations the music crashes down around him, much like his thoughts on big business. This is as concise as CALLUS gets and it’s a total banger too! ‘Poltergeist’ is the most jarring and haunting track on the album. The opening strings feel like nails being dragged down a chalkboard, and when the faux-witch house kicks in everything takes on a macabre vibe. “Keep holding on”, Ecks croons over melancholic keyboards and guitars. Then, suddenly, everything swells up and sounds like an epic nightmare featuring characters from AKIRA or Stranger Things. ‘When I Die’ is Ecks’ take on Joy Division, with throbbing bass riffs, claustrophobic keyboards and an underlying feeling of unease. ‘Last Nightmare’ closes the album as it started, with the sound of a man going through the wringer, making it to the other side and telling you about how to survive it when it’s your turn.

CALLUS was written and recorded over a four-year period. In a nutshell it is a raw punk-hop album. Throughout its fifty-minute duration Ecks creates music that is so lo-fi you can see the glue holding the samples together and with a vocal delivery that boarders on primal scream therapy. These themes, and production, make it Ecks’ most honest and purifying album to date. It goes to show that even when you are angry and hurt you can turn that around to create something positive and beautiful.
Nick Roseblade

 

 

Scott Walker – The Childhood of a Leader

The Old Man’s Back Again…
The Childhood of a Leader is a film by debut filmmaker Brady Corbet. Loosely based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s short story of the same name and John Fowles’ novel The Magnus. The plot is that in 1918 an American boy witnesses the creation of the Treaty of Versailles. This is the defining moment of his life and it shapes every decision he makes after. The music was composed by cult singer-songwriter Scott Walker. This is Walker’s first new material since 2014’s ‘Soused’ and it marks his third film score after 1999’s ‘Pola X’ and 2007’s ‘And Who Shall Go To The Ball?’ Like his previous scores it is a visceral affair and not for the faint hearted.

The score opens with the sound of an "Orchestral" tuning up, then BAM, we’re off and running. ‘Opening’ sounds like a mixture of John Williams’ ‘Imperial March’ and Bernard Herrmann’s theme from Cape Fear, but with the strings tuned to psychotic. It tells us this is going to be a choppy ride that will have us on the edge of our seat, both visually and musically. After the emotional rollercoaster of ‘Opening’, ‘Dream Sequence’ has a more electronic vibe to it. Droned synths form the backbone of the track while rumbling bass and screechy stabs interspace it, giving the whole piece an unsettling feeling. ‘Run’ is an ephemeral shot in the arm. Initially, soaring strings envelope us, until they begin to rush through us like banshees on a misty moor. ‘Versailles’ is the lynch pin of the album. It’s a massive claustrophobic mind fuck. At times it’s almost impermeable. Dense layers of abrasive music prevent you from finding your way then, like a Cornish fog, it clears and you can see the path, only for it to be obscured a moment later. What ‘Versailles’ does perfectly is take the motifs and emotions of ‘Opening’ and reinterpret elements of it, whilst hinting at what is to come.

‘Boy, Mirror, Car Arriving’ ratchets up the tension from the start. By the half way point the strings have been surpassed for chugging cellos. The sea-saw motion is fantastic and really closes the song on a disturbing high. ‘Third Tantrum’ feels like a reworking of Shostakovich’s ‘Fifth Symphony’, but in a really, really terrifying way! As the name suggests ‘Printing Press’ is rhythmic and mechanical. It also shows that Walker’s inventive streak is at an end. On his more recent albums he has incorporated non-instruments into his compositions. Glasses hitting a wooden table top and a man punching a dead pig have all been included. Here Walker sounds like he’s incorporated an old typewriter that is being put through a wringer. Then Morse code explodes from nowhere sending out a hidden message in an unexpected moment of calm, before the tension is ramped up again. ‘Finale’ acts as a bookend to ‘Opening’. Huge, almost distorted horns enclose us, while stabbing strings keep everything moving in a fluid manner. As with ‘Opening’ the Hermann motifs are back, but now played for all their worth. Everything sounds unrelenting, inspiring and terrifying.

Overall The Childhood of a Leader sounds like an angry Sibelius, Delius and Shostakovich with a bit of Mica Levi thrown in for good measure and by the end of it you feel like your teeth have been pulled and your nerve endings are frayed. The only real problem with The Childhood of a Leader is that it is the first album in over a decade where Walker appears to be following trends, rather than creating them. This isn’t to say the album is bad, far from it, during its thirty-minute duration there are moments of sublime ecstasy that make you realise how far ahead of the game he actually is. However there are moments that sound like other musicians and that isn’t what we want from any Scott Walker album, regardless of whether it’s a new solo album or a film score.
Nick Roseblade

David Brent – Life on the Road

David Brent first appeared on the 2001 reality TV show The Office as the manager of Wernham Hogg, a regional office of the paper distribution company in Slough. Throughout the series we were shown Brent’s professional and private life and bit by bit he became a national celebrity. We learn that before he worked for Wernham Hogg Brent was in the band Foregone Conclusion, who once had Texas support them. Then he just vanished from our collective consciousness. In 2013 he reappeared on YouTube with a series called “Learn Guitar with David Brent” and then performing with Doc Brown on the Comic Relief single ‘Equality Street’. From this there was enough public interest to get Foregone Conclusion back together and, more importantly, back on the road.

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Wilderness Festival 2016

Wilderness, set in the beautiful Oxfordshire hills just outside Charlbury, is renowned as the most middle class music festival you can find. With glamping tents stretching as far as the eye can see and feasting tents emblazoned with the likes of Hix, Petersham Nurseries and Raymond Blanc, it certainly feels that way when you're there.

But with the festival boasting some of the most varied and unique forms of entertainment and pitched in the most charming of locations, this stands out as the elegant queen of all UK festivals. From attending various yoga classes, to broadening your mind with topical talks and from taking part in interactive theatre, to learning how to basket weave, Wilderness has got it all.

Wilderness' musical line up this year was a little thin on the ground. There were only a handful of artists that were on my “to do” list, but thankfully what they lacked in headliners, they made up for in lesser known acts, and I came away with a whole raft of new music to add to my music library.

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Strange Cages – Ego Killer

So it’s happened. Strange Cages have released their debut EP, Ego Killer on Drastic Decline Records. Over its four tracks Ego Killer ranges from neo-psych, motorik, indie and lo-fi garage rock, but all garnished with Strange Cages’ rich and vibrant sound.

Lead singer Charlie McConnochie recently said, “Our past recordings have always been very raw – which is obviously fine. This time around we wanted to make something that sounded bigger and had more noise to it as well as keeping the rawness in there. I think we achieved that and we're all really happy with the EP”. The EP was recorded at Hermitage Works Studios at Manor House with producer, and Drastic Decline Records head honcho, Margo Broom. McConnochie said of working with Broom, “Margo was great, I don't think I'd go to anyone else now. She was completely involved in the whole thing and it's really encouraging to work with a producer like that. I know the kind of sound I want from recording, but I find it hard to actually get it down. Margo helped to pull it out of my head.”

The EP opens with title track ‘Ego Killer’. Mercury-tinged guitar, throbbing bass and frenetic drums welcome us, like when you bump into an old friend in a pub. They hug you, take you by the elbow, lead you to their table and then begins a night of catching up and merry making. Due to the nature of the music Strange Cages make, ‘Ego Killer’ does feel like an old friend and the more times you play it, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lead single ‘Bam Bam Boom’ is up next. And like ‘Ego Killer’ you are whisked away for three and a half minutes through bowel-loosening bass, unrelenting drumming and guitars that are hard to ignore!

Given that McConnochie says their influences are, “A lot of kraut and motorik influence and there's also Captain Beefheart and a bit of Hawkind in there. I don't know if anyone will hear that or not though? Lyrically, I like to write stuff that sounds twisted and paranoid.” These themes of paranoia come to the fore in the EP’s latter stages. Ego Killer closes with a duo of song that show that Strange Cages have a softer, more tender side. ‘Jealous Over You’ sounds like classic Jefferson Airplane, but with biting sardonic lyrics. ‘If You’re Leaving Me Cold’, like ‘Jealous Over You’ instead of insidiously visceral guitars, this time they are subtle and it’s McConnochie’s lyrics that are the main event. It’s an apt way to end the EP and hints that in the future Strange Cages might be delivering more of this kind of reflective garage rock.

Ultimately Ego Killer is the sound of a young band working out how to write songs full of the vim and vigour that they themselves feel. Yes there are moments on the EP when you can see, and hear, their inexperience, but this isn’t a bad thing, oh no, for you can almost hear their collective minds saying, “Oh, that’s how it all works!” The future looks bright for Strange Cages. If all goes well, we should be expecting albums based on dreams. McConnochie recounts one that would give any prog band a run of their money, in just the concept states, “I once had a dream that I saw my girlfiend digging her own grave. She was so high she was screaming lasers of joy. I don't think it was on earth though, because the sky was a dark pink. I'm hoping we'll get an album out of that.”

Facebook: facebook.com/strangecages
Twitter: twitter.com/strangecagesx

Nick Roseblade

Paperboy – Interview – 2016

Local five-piece Paperboy have been playing together for around three years now. From their early origins in reggae and ska they have morphed into a more soulful group, maintaining those influences while forging a new, original and relatable style. Following a recording stint at London’s AIR Studios, and subsequent release of their single and live video ‘In the Morning’, Brightonsfinest caught up with them for a chat.

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Yung – A Youthful Dream

If the fundamental of what makes something punk is artistic expression entirely on your own terms, then Yung certainly fit the bill. Even if their sound doesn’t always meet the genre’s sonic criteria. The embryo of Yung first began to form as songs recorded by frontman Mikkel Holm Silkjaer on his own, long before it was a physical band. A collection of songs recorded by Mikkel that only reached other people’s ears when his dad stumbled upon them after borrowing his laptop. Yung quickly grew to gain actual members, but still remains primarily a vehicle for the outpourings of Silkjaer’s psyche.

Like fellow Danish punkers Iceage – whom Yung are condemned to always be compared to – Yung have moved away from their early gnawed and brittle bursts of post-punk to make something more ambitious in its arrangements. Yung have made this leap in the space between those promising early releases to their first international album. A transition that took Iceage three albums to make. All kinds of instrumentations are added to give the album texture. The slide guitar on ‘A Bleak Incident’ and the gentle piano chords and trumpet refrain ‘The Child’ takes as its climax, give the album a luscious quality.

The influences of the fuzzed-up riffs of garage rock, the fragile compositions of indie and the upbeat melodies of pop punk can be heard in Yung’s music. But it’s all been filtered through their uniquely wide-screen sensibility. This is punk uprooted from the claustrophobia of the decaying urban environment and reimagined for the expansive and open-aired landscape of Scandinavia. With its rich greens, dramatic, rolling mountain ranges, and calm winding rivers. You can practically feel the cool sea breeze coming off ‘Morning View’ with its gentle acoustic strumming.

While their first EP Alter kept things short and sweet and These Thoughts are Like Mandatory Chores experimented with song structures and lengths, A Youthful Dream manages to find a nice compromise between the two. The songs are punchy but complex. Songs such as a ‘Uncombed Hair’ pile up riff after riff into densely packed arrangements, alongside softly cooed backing vocals and

Mikkel’s hoarse, gruff voice. His vocals are more than capable of producing enough rawness in the melodies without compromising any of their intrinsic catchiness. But sometimes he reaches further than his abilities allow, his voice catching or ending up sounding strained. In ‘The Hatch’ it’s ideal for the low, mumbling register of the verses but struggles when he reaches for the higher notes in his range. What should be a soaring, bombastic chorus ends up coming across a bit like a sustained whine.

Writing lyrics in a second-language, especially ones that deal with such personal subject matters, must be difficult and, to a degree, alienate yourself from your own experience. But Mikkel handles the challenge admirably. His lyrics often deal with the tensions and contrast between the interior world of his thoughts and the exterior one, and how the two both battle to try and control the other. Whether on ‘Pills’, which takes aim at society’s blanket solution of medication for dealing with mental health, or in ‘Commercial’ which documents the subconscious and appalling influence of advertising on our daily lives. On the other side of the coin, in ‘Morning View’ Mikkel croons “A quiet world / in a dominant mind”, the psyche tries to impose itself out of the world, and bend it to its will.

Whatever ‘The Sound of Being Okay’ actually sounds like, this song is certainly not it. One of the album’s most anxious moments and probably its most arresting, guitar lines twitch while the strain in Mikkel’s voice sounds almost like he is wincing in pain: “Can you hear that sound / deep inside your mind / It’s not the sound of being okay”. Likewise the closing title track is Yung sounding their most downcast. With a thudding rhythm and one sickly chord strummed over and over on the first beat, before the song lurches over into its chorus. Overall the album needs more moments like this, where those calm and pleasing Scandinavian landscapes become overcast by violent and turbulent storms.

While it manages to sound anthemic without being cloyingly sincere or emotionally manipulating, sometimes A Youthful Dream can sound too upbeat or pleasing for its own good.
Louis Ormesher

Website: yungbandstuff.com
Facebook: facebook.com/yungbandstuff
Twitter: twitter.com/yungbandstuff

 

 

Merlin Tonto – Interview – 2016

When you start talking about Brighton’s live music scene one band keeps getting mentioned time and time again. That band is Merlin Tonto. Considering that they make music that encompasses elements of Vangelis, Holy Fuck, Can and Socrates, prog-inspired rock with dance elements, you’d be forgiven for thinking it would all be a bit static live. Far from it! Their live sets are bombastic exercises in sound and vision.

This week sees the release of their new EP Baotou. Following on from 2014’s Tano Dragon, Baotou is another excursion to the place where analogue synths meet with surging bass riffs and careening beats. The band managed to find time in their busy schedule to answer a few questions about the EP and their thoughts on Brighton’s vibrant live scene.

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The Kills – Ash & Ice

The Kills are notoriously a duo that have no fear when it comes to getting to grips with their sexual tensions, anxieties and wrapping such topics within a lurid plethora of jagged guitars and Motorik rhythms. The lustful, loom of Mosshart alongside the merciless wizardry of Jamie Hince and his robust, growling guitar sounds are two things that have cemented them as the formidable duo within music. The title Ash & Ice points towards the binary and cathartic opposition that swills within their relationship and similarly produces such fierce sounds and theatrical performances. As opposites attract, Ash & Ice feels more than perfect as a title.

Arguably taking The White Stripes for inspiration and then pushing this male/female dynamic in a new path, recently adopted by the likes of Blood Red Shoes et al. Where The Kills have often stood higher than their peers is along the lines of that intensity that is seldom found within music. It is an intensity that has riddled its way throughout all of their four previous releases. The strictly platonic sexual tension that has always pulsated between Hince and Mosshart has lead to be the source of their musical prowess, the whole performance is swimming within sweat, devilish sounds and satanic rhythms.

From their 2003 debut release, Keep On Your Mean Side up until 2011’s Blood Pressures, their sound has always been ridiculously distinctive to being atypical of The Kills. It relies on little more than a methodic kick drum, heavy, gritty distortion rattled through a guitar, spat back out in some proto-blues punk fashion and the howl of Alison Mosshart. Over the time, little has actually changed about the roots of their sound, what has occurred though is an overall tidying up, looking back at the likes of ‘Fried My Little Brains’ and ‘Pull A U’, these are songs that relied upon DIY atmospherics that ran in tangent with the lo-fi production. Fast forward to Blood Pressures, what begins to dig in is a cleansing of the lo-fi. So where does Ash & Ice look set to take us? There first release in five years thanks to unfortunate hand fractures on behalf of Hince that have meant a relearning of guitar.

As well as an overall tidying up, there are other factors that cement the modern day Kills sound. One of which is with the building up of instruments. Whereas some bands often choose to strip back around their fourth album – The Maccabees, British Sea Power – because The Kills seemed to start so bare and naked, there has only ever been room to add. ‘Doing It To Death’, the opener of the album and first single released from the album emphasises this point from the off. There are still the overarching signature Kills sounds, however, listen closely and there is the abstract synth tapping that undercuts the chorus. This taps into the newer, Kills ethos that swims around dance floor derivatives a little more, finding more charm with electronics than with the squealing guitars and muffled vocals that previously occupied the duo.

The real fact is that the raucous guitar attitude that previously embedded itself within The Kills is nailed into that intense, do or die relationship that swam within the frisson set off by the duo. A sound that finds its roots heavily embedded within a punk ethos that rests upon a lo-fi, DIY pedestal. As times have changed, both members have become preoccupied with other musical ventures or lifestyles, whether that is Mosshart’s experience with The Dead Weather or Hince’s relationship with Kate Moss. That intensity has become less of a flame and more of an ember.

Ash & Ice for large parts certainly finds its ties within the Blood Pressures and Midnight Boom market which seems to be a confirmation of the groove which is flicking the pulse of the duo in modern times. It’s largely clean and tidy but dig a little deeper, and there are some real changes that are expressed within the LP. Musical influences seem a little more away from the hustle and cuss of Hince’s guitar, they are now found partly within Black Angels sounding guitar riffs; the likes of ‘Bitter Fruit’ gives you a great fat slice of fuzz crumble, this demonstrating the ambition that cuts into the duo. It limps slightly upon a psychedelic crutch with its hypnotic groove. ‘Heart of a Dog’ reaches out to Blood Pressures for guidance, not far from the Motorik garage-rock of ‘Heart Is A Beating Drum’, it ties big choruses into an intense, blues-coloured cigarette packet.

This is a new band in the sense that the emotional insecurity and anxiety that used to riddle its way through the sound of the duo is stripped away in favour of a more confident, abrasive style. Mosshart, having relocated to Nashville, TN has penned lyrics that express a person who is somewhat more comfortable within her own skin nowadays. The manic guitar jive of ‘Let It Drop’ packs guitar hooks into a dance-rock sensibility, it is the type of song that sets baying crowds into frenzies, however Mosshart stands ground where she may have previously wrapped it up into anxiety:

For my next trick
Gonna be like where she go?
Make an exit
Like adios amigos”

‘Siberian Nights’ does similar, when it expands from the Hitchcock sounding string section, it busts into that groove that was always admired in the duo’s sound, its quick fire drums and strangled guitar enforces Mosshart’s new found solidity:

I could whip you up like cream
I could drink your seven seas
Is that too close for comfort?”

The anxiety that paved way for their previous lo-fi ethos bled something much more abrasive and confrontational so ultimately, rather than turning on the screw, it has been loosened, only slightly though. That previous disconcertion is still present, just slightly more restrained, or perhaps articulated in more of a humane fashion.

Where the album really finds its true dizzy heights is within its lean upon that Marlboro smoke of Mosshart’s voice. It no longer seeks the same predatory intensity but instead finds its home in a maturer fashion. ‘Hum For Your Buzz’ takes off from the likes of ‘Black Balloon’, it’s washed within a haze of country-blues courtesy of Hince and carries throwbacks to old saloons, stained in whiskey debris and the blood from last night’s bar-brawl. The likes of ‘That Love’ and ‘Echo Home’ affirm this notion more so, a certain for the lovers of the delicate side the duo always possessed, it suggests that intensity within the relationship nowadays is no longer found within the explosive but more within the intimacy. It may not be as exciting, but it’s new and at least it feels genuine as opposed to the plasticity that may of been attained had they tried to reignite anything.

What Ash & Ice really seems to cement is the various influences from their past. It is an updated, less relentless take on their sound. Where comparisons are found, for example ‘Impossible Tracks’ and ‘M.E.X.I.C.O’, there is a slight updating, almost as if The Kills have chosen to visit past songs and add bits that they previously missed. ‘Impossible Tracks’ has the chorus that their previous sound never really allowed for, despite maintaining that grumbling guitar pattern.

So with The Kills in 2016, it’s time that we all lay down our axes and just accept the fact that the intensity that initially proved such a catch has now depleted. Any attempt to try and force it nowadays can spell no good for the band really because first and foremost, they are no longer the young starlets they once were, the novelty has vanished slightly now. Secondly, Jamie Hince is married to the supermodel, Kate Moss, so any suggestion that him and Mosshart were shacking up somewhere together would lead to nothing more than a lie built on sentiment for marketing purposes. What is nice though, is that their relationship means something still. It’s still present, and wisely, they have opted to let it grow alongside themselves, it is built upon a platonic intimacy now that is not set within this predatory battlefield. It’s new, but there’s still something great about this duo.
Tom Churchill

Website: thekills.tv
Facebook: facebook.com/TheKills
Twitter: twitter.com/TheKills
 

 

Three Trapped Tigers – The Haunt – 3rd May 2016

There are a few factors that help push instrumental-based bands in a live setting. As we have recently seen with the likes of Explosions in the Sky and Physics House Band, the light show and general aesthetic of the performance act as huge incentives towards the production and ultimately, the final package. Three Trapped Tigers was to be no different as they arrived onstage to stark blue lighting and an array of synthesised electronics that swooned around The Haunt. This helped generate the stage, not only in a physical sense, that Three Trapped Tigers were to puncture.

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