Various Artists – Singles and EPs

If you describe Tamara Parsons-Baker’s practice as a formula, it doesn’t inspire much excitement: simple, mainly diatonic guitar strums; emotive vocals; songs about unsuccessful love affairs; we have heard these elements before. However, the five songs on Lover proceed from a somewhat more warped perspective than this formula might suggest, lurking with mischief aforethought behind the placid surface of a nice friendly singer-songwriter. The opening songs on the EP require close attention to the lyrics to reveal their disturbing character, but when we get to ‘I Stuck It Out’ Parsons-Baker’s full weirdness emerges, in a frighteningly witchy evocation of a relationship haunted by madness and murder

Slabdragger/ Meadows – split LP (stoner metal)

The last split release I reviewed also involved Meadows. The rationale behind split releases is obviously to seek a synergy: the artists involved generally have a close stylistic affinity, or their audiences overlap, to their mutual benefit; sometimes I suspect the reason has more to do with the relationship between the artists than any overt promotional or creative goal. Sometimes the contrast involved is more striking than anything else, as in the combination of Chad Vangaalen’s lo-fi pop songs and Xiu Xiu’s medium-interrogating sound art that I reviewed some months ago. In their last split release Meadows moved a considerable distance to close the gap between their creative practice and that of their collaborators, Chestburster, and this time they sound a lot more like Slabdragger, but also, it must be said, a lot more like they normally do.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Schoolday nostalgia seems to be a current in many branches of music nowadays. It’s by no means a new thing, but it’s definitely growing. It’s curious how it lends historicity and distance to times that probably don’t seem at all distant to a greybeard like me; my theory is that it represents a re-appropriation, a staking out of territory in which an artist can feel rooted. It’s definitely not the dominant theme on NAM KYO, but it’s an important presence, and not just in ‘Were Still The Same’, where it is explicitly referenced. We live in an era where history is fragmented and recycled, and individuals are as disenfranchised from historical agency as from political agency. Asserting the significance of personal biography is one way to reclaim that agency …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

In recent years the avant-garde fringes of metal have become one of the most fertile sites of musical creativity and invention; while my central musical inclinations might be towards other areas, such as jazz or folk, and while those areas certainly harbour some radically creative minds globally, the majority of music produced and performed locally to me is pretty conservative. Earthmass is one of several bands I have the opportunity to engage with directly (attending gigs, meeting the members, building an ongoing relationship as a music writer, etc.) that pursue a radical formal agenda, and really keep their eye on the ball creatively. There is no uncritical regurgitation of the tropes of heavy music here, no taking the language as given …

Church Of Riff 2 at Colchester Arts Centre (metal)

What a lineup. Any casual punter could readily be forgiven for being carried out in a box. Not that the sounds on offer were remotely toxic; on the contrary, they were entirely wholesome nut cutlets of crunchthudriffery, but seriously, heavy things can crush you, and things as heavy as this can crush you flat. Perhaps that’s why Colchester Arts Centre is ‘never knowingly understood’: stand under this sort of malarkey and you can wave goodbye to three-dimensionality.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

It’s a hard lesson to learn, when you realise you’re not likely to hit the big time with your art, and you’ve already invested so much, with so little to show for it in material terms… it certainly can make you feel like an underachiever. Ben Black seems to conflate his focus on his work (rather than work) with a persistent immaturity, and looks wistfully around him at the homes, wives and cars of his friends. ‘How can I look my children in the eye/ and tell them Daddy didn’t make it because Daddy didn’t try?’ he asks, though, which more or less answers his own questions.

Another Dead Hero – Children Of The Witch (metal)

Ominous, dissonant, powerful, and employing a vocabulary that predates any form of extreme metal, it would be easy to class Another Dead Hero’s music as epic doom, for its atmosphere and for its approach, but it’s not so easily pigeonholed stylistically. It sounds like Another Dead Hero, which is to say that it doesn’t sound immediately unlike anything you’ve heard before, but on closer examination it sounds remarkably little like anything you’ve heard either.

Meadows – Meadows (sludge metal)

Meadows play some pretty extreme music. You could make all sorts of comparisons: The Melvins are an obvious point of reference; they also put me in mind of Bongzilla, although they have some fast thrashy passages to go with the slow stoner doom, and a turgidly saturated bass distortion that makes everything as thick as treacle. Although this is full of riff and incident, there’s something about it that almost crosses over into ambient

Shrine 69, Another Dead Hero, Meadows & Hobopope & The Goldfish Cathedral at The Northcroft Social Club, Sudbury, 20 May 2011 (metal/ pronk/ heavy rock)

The Northcroft seems to be going all out to turn itself into one of Sudbury’s busiest venues. They’ve been putting on a variety of local and regional acts from all areas of the musical spectrum, but tonight their upstairs room was hired out by some of the noisy bastards. The opening ceremony was provided courtesy of Hobopope & The Goldfish Cathedral, appearing in a duo configuration. HPATGC is Paul Rhodes’ name for some of the stuff he does, but he was accompanied by Ted Mint on guitar…