Singles and EPs 007
Septic Trauma – Subservience (technical black metal)
self released, 2011, DD EP, 14m 50s
This three track EP seems to be Septic Trauma’s entire recorded output. A shame, as I could happily listen to a few dozen tunes in this vein. Many heavy rock bands lay claim to terms like ‘technical’ and ‘progressive’, but few have any reason to do so. Aside from the sheer ridiculousness of using a term like ‘technical’ to describe a style of music, most of the metal thusly classified makes no more taxing technical demand on its performers than that they should play fast and stay in time, which quite honestly is something any well trained monkey with a floppy pick can manage. The material on Subservience is a different matter: speaking as someone who has spent innumerable practice hours developing technique and fingerboard knowledge, this shit is hard to play. I also know what it is to play without frets, and playing fretless bass at high tempos, all over the board, while staying in tune, is no mean feat, but that’s exactly what happens here. Of course, being hard to play doesn’t making something worth listening to: Septic Trauma do not hew to the obvious in their melodic and rhythmic choices, but constantly take routes that challenge the listener to stay with them, and reward them fulsomely for doing so. They are constantly creative in their textures and arrangements, and the ideas are so varied, coming at you so thick and fast, that it’s a job to keep up. The band don’t ignore dynamics by any means, but being that this is metal and all, it has a particular sort of in-your-faceness which doesn’t do a lot of relenting, so this EP is a very rich meal. On first listening I was left a bit dazed, but then I should think that’s entirely the idea. This is a brilliant piece of music making, which is a judgement I make in respect of what it sounds like, and most definitely not because of how difficult it may be to play.
Stuart Newman – (We’re Living In) Another Dimension (indie rock)
self released, 2011, DD single, 3m 40s
I don’t know if this song is live, or faux-live, but the crowd noise that accompanies it serves nicely to position Stuart Newman as one voice among many. He’s not so removed from his listener, he seems to be saying, and then he keeps singing ‘we’, in particular ‘we’re all free’, and (unless you’re feeling particularly un-free I suppose) it makes you like him. Likeability is a strong suit here, in fact, with an easy, relaxed rhythmic feel, a pleasing acoustic rock sound, and a lovely voice that has just a hint of sardonic bite to it. There’s humour and soul, and there’s a lot of self-effacing musical skill, that makes the whole recording sound very natural, as though it was just meant to exist, in exactly this form. It doesn’t exactly challenge the average listener’s sensibilities, but actually, if you think about it (and thinking about things is one of my most irritating faults), ‘we’re all free’ is quite a challenging thing to say. Most people will like this.
Barren Waste – Dreaming In Aeons (experimental metal)
self released, 2011, DD EP, 14m 13s
More unfeasibly creative metal now, but in a rather different vein, one that exploits the sonic possibilities of its orchestration rather than the outer limits of its performers’ technique (although these are certainly some very fine players). I don’t really know how to classify this: grindcore is mentioned on the Bandcamp page, and I can certainly hear hardcore and noise rock elements, but the sludgy racket that results from abusing guitars in this manner is exploited in a way that is very much Barren Waste’s own. The only overt outbreaks of atonality are in some of the lead guitar breaks, but in fact, with the sheer hurricane of distortion the band favours, it can be very hard to pin anything down to a key centre. The vocals are certainly no help! If you’re looking for a pretty melody, look elsewhere…
This is definitely a demanding listen, and like all such ‘extreme’ music it invites submission, an unthinking abandonment to the sweaty morass of the moshpit, but there’s more to it than that. This sort of sound, full of anger and energy as it is, is clearly addressed to the body, and with most bands of such an ilk that’s the end of it, but Barren Waste do things in a way that invite a bit of thought and attention. The coruscating psychedelia of the solo in ‘Smoker’s Cough’ for instance, while plainly intended to have a practical, psychotropic function, is specifically addressed to the listener’s mind. I imagine the band are having a lot of fun making this cacophony, but there seems to be a seriousness of intent as well; there’s too much going on, too little willingness to sit in a stylistic groove, for the truth to be otherwise. Dreaming In Aeons is a very rewarding listen, and a very entertaining piece of art.
The Final Crisis – Counterparts (post hardcore)
self released, 2010, DD EP, 25m 47s
More warped guitar sounds from amplifiers on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but The Final Crisis rein them in somewhat. The first track, ‘To Get Us Through’, opens with a blast of raw guitar noise, like juice oozing from a damaged fruit, but it is quickly tamed and compressed, finding its place among the elements of a devastatingly heavy, but entirely orderly production. This EP is a document of the ruthless pursuit of a sound, power for the sake of pinning your ears back against your skull and making your trouser legs flap. Every element is shaped and moulded to its place in a sound where everything is in the red, hanging a whisker shy of the point at which your stereo starts to distort. The vocals are are a swaggering bullroar of challenge and aggression, and the arrangements exploit variations in pulse and dynamics in order to maximise the impact of the maximums. The trouble for me is that the meanings they exploit that power to convey don’t seem to go beyond the sheer power of the music itself. Although I was definitely wanting to headbang, and I find this a very engaging, exciting sound, I still kind of wonder what these musicians are all about. They do this thing extremely well, writing, arranging, performing, recording, mixing, mastering all carried out with impeccable chops, but other bands make a very similar sound, and I found it hard to get a sense of what The Final Crisis’ own unique voice might be. Having said that, on the evidence of this EP I’d put the band up there with the first rank of post-hardcore and metalcore bands: fuck Bring Me The Horizon, they’ve got all the money they need anyway. If this is your kind of music, Counterparts delivers.
Rick Fury – Shnide Promo (hip-hop)
Killamari, 2011, DD EP, 25m 28s
I don’t usually review adverts, but there’s a first time for everything. This is the first (apparently) of a series of Killamari mixtapes sponsored by/ promoting Shnide Clothing. Of course, this is Rick Fury, so he doesn’t even make it to the end of the intro bigging up the sponsor before he starts taking the piss and talking about ‘can’t no-one get it, fresh out the back of the shop, damaged shit’, and after that, it’s a Fury mixtape with the occasional name check.
This is a confident and mature sounding Rick Fury, fending off unrequited advances in the club, rather than desperately seeking them out with the offer of a bong and a cheese toasty afterwards. He’s still unafraid to throw his own self-doubt into the mix, but there’s less of it, and more sense that it’s a manageable part of who he is. There’s still the same mix of social awareness and humour, and still the same commitment to telling it straight, even if it’s also still hard to be sure whether he’s just fucking with your mind… His flows are relaxed throughout, and tight as a nut. Guest spots are slotted in nicely, bringing in some other voices and some other feels to good effect. D.J.A.D.S. supplies a varied and entertaining production, with atmosphere, texture and major nod factor. There’s a predominantly smooth, mellow mood, and some deep bass.
Rick Fury has always had a razor sharp way with his vocabulary, since the first time I heard him, and combined with his utterly unguarded approach to his autobiographical material (a very unusual thing in a style of music where everyone pretends to be hard men and career criminals), it makes for a very appealing listen. Shnide Promo is a bit of a taster for his forthcoming album, and if it’s any guide, that’s going to be corker. He just keeps getting better.
The Rail Abandon – From What (folktronica)
self released, 2011, DD single, 3m 9s
There’s a soft arpeggiated guitar ostinato running right through this track. Even when the bass comes in halfway through, and gives the whole thing a bit of root motion, it stays there as a pedal until it’s suddenly cut off, the last as well as the first element of the arrangement. It imparts a sense of cyclicity, as though you could stitch the two ends of the song together into an infinite Möbius strip of music. Chord changes are great, but when they’re deferred they can say as much through the tension they build as the way they release it. In this case, it’s a gentle sort of tension, that says, more or less, we’re going somewhere. And then, it’s a beautiful song, with a melody as simple as its arrangement, perfectly judged and sung with great warmth. Everything about this is gentle and low key, even when the bass comes in as ridiculously fat and heavy as it does, but it’s funky and moving and atmospheric all at the same time. A gorgeous track, and the first release from this project; I hope there are many more to come.