Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Hekla: 'Constantly In Motion and Evolving'

Photo by Sigga Ella.
Let’s be honest most music you hear after a certain age can be slotted in alongside already known musicians and bands, placed into a rough category, your musical universe starts to assume a shape. For writers the ‘sounds a bit like’ go to is quite handy, nothing wrong with common points of reference, a common framework. BUT every now and then you hear something that is so utterly different that you can’t, and possibly will never be able to, slot it alongside something similar. Henry Cow from the ‘70s still sound unique to me, I’m yet to hear a comparative band, and now there is another, Berlin based Icelandic musician Hekla Magnusdottir
One Sunday night in August I was listening to The Freak Zone on Radio 6 when her track ‘Hatur’ came shimmering out of the radio, otherworldly, ethereal, music from another set of assumptions about the relationship between sound, structure and the human psyche.
The ethereal beauty of Hekla’s music is based around the combination of theremin (not an instrument many of us are familiar with) and her voice, the video to 'Ekki Er Allt Gull Sem Gloir' contextualising them within an Icelandic landscape.
Already Hekla has had two releases and music included in a French film Les Garcons Sauvages with her new album ‘A’ coming out in September on Phantom Limb.
Intrigued by her music and it's eerie, fragile beauty I contacted Hekla in Berlin, where she now lives with her family (1), to find out more...

I was listening to 'The Freak Zone' on Radio 6 when this enchanting, atmospheric beautiful music came on, it was 'Hatur' off your new album, some British readers may not have heard of you, could you tell us a little about yourself musically?

I started to learn cello at nine and then went to study composition in university. But I think my approach to composition is not classical at all. I just like to improvise and play with effects and also like to make drawings and patterns that I then try to play with various different outcomes.

I've only ever seen the theremin being played by John Otway! Could you tell us a little bit about it? Why did you decide to take it up as an instrument?  

The theremin is an electronic music instrument. You play it by using your hands to manipulate the electromagnetic fields emitted by two antennas, one for pitch and one for volume. It was popular in 50s science fiction movie soundtracks. I had heard about the instrument and when I saw it in a music store I just decided to buy it on a whim.

Have there been any artists or musicians that have particularly inspired you?

Pamelia Stickney, Clara Rockmore and friends of mine doing music. Especially female friends doing their own thing is most inspiring to me.

You are also part of an Icelandic surf rock band, Bárujárn (1), do you play the theremin when with the band? Are you looking to create very different sounds with Bárujárn than in your solo work?

Yes! Around 2008 I was at a bar and the band members just told me to go grab my theremin and I just did sound effects, I didn't even know the songs. I definitely do very different sounds with Bárujárn. When I play with them now I do less effects with them, it's more haunting melodies while by myself it is much more experimental so it has totally flipped.

How does a Hekla track come together? What is the creative process, or does it vary from song to song?  

It does vary, but usually I start with improvising for a while and I record that and then I work more on the pieces that I most like. Then I will do variations in different keys until I find the right spot. But then there are songs that just start from a nice sound that comes out of an effect and I try to build something around that.

What sort of subjects do your songs explore or is it more of a transposing of emotion into music?

They are more of a transposing of emotion into music. The lyrics are mostly about emotions and not stories.

You have an album 'Á' coming out in September on Phantom Limb, how did the recording process for the album evolve? Is it like creating a sound collage of different recordings and combining them? Is it a balancing act between improvisation and structure?

I recorded it by myself at home. I am not looking for perfection; I do enjoy imperfection. Some recordings are even from my phone; it is exactly like a collage of my favorite sounds from a variety of times. After I improvise I will add layers and layers on top of each other and some have absolutely no structure and others have maybe a bit but not a super clear one.

Your music sounds like abstract art, an ethereal sound sculpture or soundscape, do you think it has been influenced by Icelandic culture or terrain?

I am very visual at least, I really like having something like video art or movies or music videos in the corner of my eye while I improvise. I think Icelandic culture is definitely very open minded for the arts, but there could be more funding from the government into music institutions and more proper concerts venues.

Has your music changed at all since moving to Berlin (1)?

I have performed a lot more since moving. That makes me do more variations on my songs and so everything is always constantly in motion and evolving.

I love the idea of theremin hand motions being transposed to notation (1), it seems appropriate for your music to also have a visual expression! Could this be the start of a parallel career as a visual artist!?  

I already do some graphic notations! You can see them here: https://www.heklaheklahekla.com/notation.html I was thinking to offer some merch based on them at some point.

You recently played in Darmstadt in Germany, how did it go?

My Boss looper didn't work so I unfortunately had to skip two songs, but now that I got home it works again. I guess Darmstadt did not want to hear those two. Other than that I think it went pretty well!

When you play live is there a lot of improvisation or are you aiming to reproduce a song as recorded? Is it even possible for a theremin based song to be the same twice?

I really am not going to bang my head trying to do a perfect copy as it is almost impossible to do on the theremin and I would just find that so boring, also. I love that it is kind of alive.

When you play live does the immediate environment affect what and how you play at all? For instance the differences in atmosphere and architecture?

Your mood while playing can affect your performance, the theremin is very perceptive to the tiniest movement and having a good atmosphere and architecture can definitely improve your state.

One of your songs was included in a French film Les Garcons Sauvages (1)-how did that come about?  

I did one half of the soundtrack, mostly very atmospheric songs, Pierre Desprats did the other half. I met the director while he was doing a short in Iceland and I sent him some music. It then was about 3 or 4 years until I heard back from him. I sent him some more music and he seems to have liked it. I have yet to see the movie.

And a very important question, is there any chance of seeing you play live in Britain any time soon?

Aha! I am doing a release concert at the Servant Jazz Quarters in London the 15th of October! See you there?

Hekla also plays The Cube Microplex, Bristol on 16 Oct 18, much thanks to her for the interview.

Bibliography.
(1)Jonsson, S.G. (2017) ‘Playing The Air: Hekla, Her Theremin and the Possibilities’ https://grapevine.is/culture/music/2017/09/06/playing-the-air-hekla-her-theremin-andthe-possibilities/

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Glen Matlock: Interview.

Photo by Olly Andrews.
Original bass player with the Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock was co-writer of 10 of the 12 tracks on Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols before leaving the band in 1977 (1). That same year he formed Rich Kids with Midge Ure, Steve New and Rusty Egan, the band releasing Ghosts of Princes in Towers the following year (2). Subsequently he has played with Iggy Pop, The Faces, Primal Scream and The Damned, toured with Dead Men Walking, had his own band, Glen Matlock and The Philistines, and been involved with various other projects (1)!
Over the last 40 years Glen has constantly been on the move, trying new things and collaborating with a variety of musicians. Never content to be defined by his Sex Pistols involvement this year Glen has a new album out in September called Good To Go which reaches back to pre punk music for inspiration.
On an atrocious phone line from London (hence the proliferation of ‘...’) we had a chat about his musical past and present and the making of the new album.    
I’ve been doing a bit of reading up and the thing that’s struck me is that you are constantly evolving, constantly trying new things, not defined by the Sex Pistols, was that a deliberate decision you made to continually be trying new things?
Glen: Well yeah, but also the Sex Pistols were the Sex Pistols and it was the sum of the people that were in it, once you step outside of that and you’ve got different people it’s a different thing. If you try and copy that you’re either going to fail miserably or you’re going to be dishonest, pretending you’re something you’re not. There is a bloke I know, he is a really nice bloke and a good drummer and he was in the tailend of the Ramones but he goes out with a pick up van pretending he was the Ramones almost, and I just think that’s wrong.
So he has allowed himself to get trapped...
Glen: That’s the last thing I want to be, I know if I do a gig people want to hear a couple of songs, and I enjoy playing them but not everything. I know if I went to see David Bowie and he didn’t play ‘Heroes; I’d have been disappointed so it is a bit of a juggling act. But I’d rather do newer stuff within my idiom. On my (new) album most of the tracks have got Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats on, he’s got a very innovative style. And Earl Slick who played with David Bowie and John Lennon, it’s quite high calibre. The guy who engineered it is Mario McNulty who did Bowie’s album before last. We’re not mucking around!
Quite a collection of musicians on the album! Earl Slick, Slim Jim Phantom, Chris Musto, Jim Lowe, Neal X (3) -was recording quite an organic process or did you have a clear vision of what you wanted before you went in the studio?  
G: I had a good, rough idea. But I think there is a good adage from Nick Lowe who said “Slap it down and tart it up!”There are nine tracks that we cut at the same time and then three that we cut a little bit later with Chris Musto on drums and Neal X on guitar on two, I think, and I got my mate Chris Spedding to play on one of the songs on the album.
The new album  ‘Good To Go’ is out in September isn’t it? I was having a listen and it seemed almost pre punk, it was quite rootsy, seemed to draw on blues, country and rock’n’roll-is that fair? How would YOU describe it musically?
G: I did some shows that were just me which I really enjoyed doing and maybe about three years ago I went to see Bob Dylan at the Albert Hall, and while I can appreciate Bob Dylan I’m not much of a fan, I don’t even know why he does it! He can’t be short of money, he does 200 gigs a year and he just looks like he doesn’t want to be there! He doesn’t acknowledge the audience, you can’t recognise hardly any of the songs!  But the band he had were fantastic... and I had a word with Slim Jim and... suggested using Earl, that was the thinking behind it and because they are American we recorded in America, so there’s bit more of an american influence . I don’t want to pretend I’m the latest thing and I’m going to compete with Dizzy Rascal, it just ain’t going to happen. I see it as classic rock, kind of, but I also think it’s got quite a bit of skiffle in it. So if you want to call it anything...Skiffle. On the album,I’m supposed to be the bass player but I don’t even play bass, I think I play bass on one track, I play acoustic guitar, it’s the rhythm on most of it, I do that because I really like The Spiders From Mars where Bowie played all the rhythm on an acoustic guitar.
Yeah, I noticed on the video for the single ‘Hook In You’ you’re playing an acoustic 6 string- a recent switch of instrument for you?
G: I’ve always played it, I played it even before I picked up the bass, I mean not very well, but well enough. If you had Bert Weedon’s ‘Play In A Day’ they say a guitar is an orchestra in your hand!
What sort of subject matter do you engage with on the album?
G: Lots of things, general life, ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ that life brings you but also how you cope with them and rise above them, rise to the occasion, and perseverance through heartbreak somehow.
Are your lyrics informed by observation, personal experience or other resources like films and books?
G: Bit of everything really, but mainly life. I tend to try and write like I’m having a conversation with somebody. I get most of my ideas just walking down the street, you see something...that gets your mind going, you get a little catch phrase to hang it on, you start thinking ‘What does it mean?’ It’s funny songwriting, I don’t think any songwriter knows how to write a song, you just do it, y’know.
I was very interested in the video for the single ‘Hook In You’, because it cut from yourself playing guitar to footage and it seemed to be exploring themes of power and sexual exploitation and masculinity. I was wondering what gave you..
G: That song is my kind of tribute to Screamin Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put a Spell on You’, there is a great line in that song “I don’t care if you don’t want me. I’m yours”, not in a nasty way but ‘I’m not going to give up’ basically, and sometimes people have a mutual attraction that is predestined somehow. I don’t think it (Hook In You) was a chauvinistic thing and if it comes across as that that’s the last thing I want. But I really don’t think it is. It’s not what I meant and nobody else has picked up on that.
What about the clips of Soho and the reference to...?
G: It’s a bluesy kind of dance...it’s a blues club, and there’s sexuality and it’s not all flowers and boxes of chocolates.
I  was reading an interview you gave a year or so ago, I think to the Guardian, and you were saying that you’d grown up in a family with a sense of class identity, you weren’t particularly well off, your Dad voted Labour (4)-which I guess you expressed, to a degree, in the Sex Pistols-you seem to have maintained a sense of connection to ordinary people-not felt the need to develop a dramatic persona in any obvious way..
G: No. I’m a regularish kind of a bloke considering what I’ve done, I’ve still got my feet on the ground. Lots of people in the punk movement were against the Phil Collins types who probably made many millions...and became divorced from what’s going on around them. And I don’t think that the punks...ever will really...maybe it’s to do with the degrees of success they’re having, the punks who are doing really, really well have become a little bit divorced from things, but I think you could count them on one hand with a finger or two missing!...I’ve been an art student I like to check things out...last week I was in Mumbai, I’ve been in Korea, I played at the Peace Train Festival...near the border...they appreciated me going over to show a bit of solidarity with them, I’m not living in some ivory tower somewhere at all,and I enjoy it, I don’t think I’d enjoy being in an ivory tower watching daytime TV!
And you’re off to Sweden in September, aren’t you?
G: Yeah I’m touring over there, and I’ve (got a gig at 100 Club) on the 31 August, Earl Slick’s coming over and he is going to be playing with Chris and Jim Lowe who plays bass on (the new album).
You seem happy to have a go at new things and step outside your comfort zone-I read somewhere that you’ve been DJing for a while and have done some music teaching in a college (5), how did the teaching thing come about?
G: Somebody asked me to do it! You’re sort of passing on the baton a little bit…
And as a co-writer of some of the most effective songs of the 20th Century, why do you think early punk has had the longevity it has had?
G: Because it’s an important alternative to the main stream, and because it’s the voice of dissatisfaction...its the voice of reading between the lines, and it seems to have struck a chord all around the world to this day.
In the book Lipstick Traces (6) it talks about Dada and the Situationists and punk as art movements that really did change the world, that were disruptive and critiquing of society, do you think there will ever be another equally significant art movement in our lives?
G: I think a lot of the problem we have these days is everything’s been done a little bit and it’s very hard to do (something) new. There is a shop called ‘Topshop’ where the whole world seems to get their clothes from these days. It’s just a mish mash of different styles and that applies to music and lots of things really. People think that by putting of bunch of old things together they’ll make something new but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. So that’s why I’m deliberately a bit more classic really. Records by Elvis Presley-early ones- and say Gene Vincent sound as fresh and vital today as when they first came out. So I’m trying to capture a bit of that.
What bands and writers have you been enjoying lately-who should we be checking out?
G: Don’t ask me! But there is a whole wealth of older stuff that people haven’t even heard of these days, I still like Mose Allison, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band...Scott Walker, in fact I even cover a Scott Walker song on the album, ‘Montague Terrace (In Blue)’, I like the words in that song, kinda of pushing the envelope a little bit...  
You’ve had a really varied musical life, you’ve played with Iggy Pop, The Faces, Primal Scream (1). You’ve had your own band…
G: All those people, they’re all kinda pretty left field in a way, I’m not playing in a Chinn and Chapman kind of band (they made some good records).I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve got to play with people that came prior to punk and people after who we’d influenced. I’ve (done) lots of different things but I only really do one thing and play my kind of brand of music.
And all these collaborations must have kept you stimulated, stretched, learning-have they been part of your evolution both as a musician and a person?
G: Well. I don’t know if I’ve evolved that much but ‘Yeah’. I think when people get to a certain stage of playing they tend to play like what their personality is, and their personality adds something to the rich broth of what you’re trying to do, hopefully. But you’ve got your influences and you’ve got somebody like Earl who has played with so many different people and they’ve all influenced him and that all comes out in his playing somehow.

Thanks to Glen for time and words.  



Bibliography.
(1)Glen Matlock https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Matlock
(2)Rich Kids https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rich_Kids
(3)Singleton, P. (2018) ‘Glen Matlock Interview and Album review Good To Go Track by Track’’ http://www.philjens.plus.com/rattle/GoodToGo_trackbytrack.html
(4)Padman, T. (2017) ‘Interview. Glen Matlock: ‘My Mum Got Called Mrs Sex Pistols, Which Really Upset Her’ https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/16/glen-matlock-my-mum-got-called-mrs-sex-pistols-which-really-upset-her
(5)Glen Matlock EPK http://yellowbrickmusic.com/glen-matlock-epk/
(6)Marcus, G. (2011) 'Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century', Faber and Faber, London.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Monstrous Machines by Night Kayakers Kill Again.


Wow! So many good bands around putting out so much good stuff. If anyone ever tries to point you to some golden age of music (normally when they were young), you know that 'back in the day' type stuff, don't believe them! There is an extraordinary amount of great music being made at any point, including now!
A while ago someone sent me a copy of Prepare Yourself for an Emergency a split CD of eight tracks; two each from The Fleas, Geezapunx, Brash Bullets and Le Snags. The two tracks by Le Snags (who seemed to have (had) some connection to The Snuggle Bugs) were excellent all distorted vocals over fuzzy guitar, slightly psyched out stuff, with a vaguely Hawkwindish vibe. Changing their name again to Night Kayakers Kill Again and with a new album Work Hard, Be A Good Citizen coming out next year, the band have picked 10 tracks from the back catalogue of Le Snags' stuff putting it out under the new band name, thus both creating a sense of continuity and marking the end of a chapter simultaneously. Clever.
So what is Monstrous Machines like? Initially confusing, especially in summer, as it starts off with the sound of one of those really loud, annoying flies that won't shut up! First track containing human sounds is 'We are the Enemy', which gets the album off to a flyer (see what I did there...), big drums with half heard vocals down in the mix, "You are the enemy, we are the enemy" before edgy guitar comes in, vocals exploring the mutually hostile class interests inherent in capitalism and the corrupting effects of living in a society based around competition, alienation and violence.
Next track 'Big Money' is all big chunky guitar sound and rapid fire vocals, Track 4 is 'Oi! Wot I Said', I remember this from Prepare Yourself for an Emergency and it sounds ace! Distorted vocals and a noticeable change of style, exploring feelings of social/political disempowerment and being ignored (as a means of control?)

"You're up there shoutin' down at me 
I'm down here but you can't hear me 
You took away our voice 
You took away our voice 
It's not like you left us no choice we ain't free 
I wanna know have you heard a word that I said 
I want you to tell me have you listened to a word I said".

A fuzzed out gem but some where in there is a pop song musicality, reminded me a bit of The Fleas in that way.
Track 5 is 'Hard Stop', the sound of a wild night encounter with the cops, intense. Great thing about Le Snags/Night Kayakers Kill Again, and a retrospective makes this clearer, is the sense of a band that can't quite stay still, that are too interested to stay in one place for long, which keeps them interesting!
'Assassins' slows things down a bit before 'Carpathian Warlord Pt.2/Enemy', I absolutely love the first part of this before it segues into 'Enemy', they need to rerecord this track and make 'Carpathian Warlord Pt.2' at least three times longer! Megaphone vocals come at you over fuzzed up guitar and sonic attack bursts, Bob Calvert would have loved this!
'Parliament Ltd' is an incisive analysis of career politicians, of the establishment. " dirty, crooked...you're in it for the money...lord it up with your OBE...look after each other...oh what a show"
'Last Refuge For A Scoundrel' is, I guess, a reference to the Samuel Johnson comment about patriotism (1).

"You tell me I'm the problem 
You tell me I'm to blame 
Saw you talkin' to me neighbour 'n' you were tellin' him the same 
Now I hate everyone 
And everyone hates me 
But some people get hated more there's no equality 
Lets blame the weak 
Lets hunt the weak"

Last track up is 'Nuclear Device (Bleak Outlook)', a concern newly relevant in the opinion of Noam Chomsky, 

"Surrounded by hypocrisy 
To you we're pawns to abuse 
The situation's out of hand 
It's a vicious circle it just goes round and round 
Are you gonna press the button 
For your own self destruction"


If you like your punk angry and psych tinged this would be well worth a try, I think they're selling the CD at gigs, but I guess they would send you a copy out. However if you are living in the South somewhere Night Kayakers Kill Again are hooking up with The White Skull Death Snakes of Death for a couple of gigs soon, definitely worth getting along to! Although how big is the poster going to have to be to get both those bands' names on?!

(1)http://www.samueljohnson.com/refuge.html
Lyrics courtesy of https://thesnags.bandcamp.com

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

'We Might Not Make Tomorrow' Video by Girls In Synthesis.

Photo by Bea Dewhurst.
Sometimes the unexpected happens and a band that you can't imagine getting any better manages to raise the bar even higher! When Girls In Synthesis released their four track EP We Might Not Make Tomorrow in May this year it seemed like the perfect realisation of the band at this point; intense, abrasive, confrontational, original yet somehow containing half caught glimpses of incendiary half remembered songs that helped bring you to musical life, formed the origins of your musical cosmos. 
In a time when we are encouraged to 'Calm Down and Carry On' and mainstream culture is often the soporific result of market forces Girls In Synthesis remind us of what art and music should be, should do! Listening to them is like grabbing hold of a live cable, like a mains jolt-WAKE UP- a dissident soundtrack to the urgent intensity of urban Britain in 2018. 
With the 'Fan The Flames' UK tour coming up in October/November they have now released an accompanying video to the EP title track, 'We Might Not Make Tomorrow', which manages to brilliantly compliment the feel of the song upping the ante through an art sensibility that shows what can be accomplished with intelligence, creativity and a DIY ethos. 
Here it is!! Oh yeah..make sure you are sitting down!!

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Know Your Place...? by Truth Equals Treason; Intelligent, Ferocious, Inspiring!

Courtesy of T=T.
Lincoln based Truth Equals Treason, whose name was inspired by whistle blowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, formed in 2015 releasing their first 5 track mini album It’s Got A Photo Of Thatcher, It Must Be As Punk As Fuck in early 2017a collection of hard core political punk diatribes that engaged with the corrosive effects of mainstream media, working class experience in 21st Century industrial capitalism (‘Lives are spent, live like drones-hand to mouth and payday loans’) and the plight of refugees and the West’s military involvements that so often lie behind their flight. It was a great debut album from a band on a mission, as guitarist Jam said in an interview for Echoes and Dust It’s Got A Photo Of Thatcher, It Must Be As Punk As Fuck is ‘Essentially modern life in microcosm, sadly. The title might also be a little dig at lazy ‘dad-punk’ that sometimes appears to think that wearing a pair of bondage trousers, surrounding yourself with the tired iconography of 35-40 years ago, and singing about puking your guts up after 20 pints and a kebab is all that punk’s about… I mean, I’m a fully-paid-up old fart myself, and we all wallow in nostalgia at times, but c’mon – punk used to shake the foundations of society for fuck’s sake! There are still plenty of battles to be fought here and now to try to make the world a slightly better place, so let’s have it!’ (1)
The rest of 2017 saw Truth Equals Treason release the Fifty Shades of Pain single and ‘Through The Cracks’ a benefit track with all monies made going to Punk 4 The Homeless; a band who put their money where their mouth is.
Fast forward to June 2018 (via a couple of compilations) and T=T have released their second mini album Know Your Place…? Now in rock mythology there is the idea of the ‘difficult ‘second album so it’s always interesting to see what a band comes up with once they’ve used up all their best, tried and tested material in their first release, does Know Your Place…? manage to build on It’s Got A Photo Of Thatcher, It Must Be As Punk As Fuck or is it IGAPOTIMBAPAF Part II?
Good news is T=T have managed to raise the bar in every way with Know Your Place…? It’s a cleverer, sharper, slightly more sophisticated, more variously textured album while keeping the anger, the compassion, the power of their first outing.
With Know Your Place…? Truth Equals Treason don’t even let you get the CD in the player before they’re having a go, making you think, challenging you about your own complicity in the militarised, neoliberal plutocracy that is the UK 2018. On the cover a group of six marionettes stand heads bowed with a seventh out front standing tall with cut strings and a pair of scissors in hand. Thoughts occur, ‘Where am I in that picture?’...’The lead marionette is wielding the scissors, no one has cut the strings for her/him...what resources do the scissors represent?
For those of you into such things you’ll be pleased to know it just keep getting better when you slide the CD out, it looks like an old school vinyl single! Nice touch! Plus lyric sheet. A lot of thought and love has obviously gone into this.
Know Your Place…? starts with a sampled speech ‘Today the top tenth of 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90%’ then the music starts while another voice dismantles trickle down economics. Brooding, ominous, setting the scene, the lull before the storm...then it hits! Think G.L.O.S.S., think Glamour, think your favourite old school hard core band, great riffs, great drums and incisive lyrics delivered with barely contained fury-Glen gives the impression that if he wasn’t singing ‘Crumbs from the Table’ he’d be in danger of spontaneous combustion
‘Sit up and fight - your blood it should boil!
Or lay down and suffer a lifetime of toil.
The system's a farce, you’ve got nobody fooled;
if you close our eyes, then they’ll always rule.
Aspiration to lies - all power is guarded;
they gave us nothing - why should the advantaged?
Sold an illusion - told we are free;
dangled a carrot - social mobility.

If you’re willing and able; you’ll get the crumbs from the table.
If you’re strong and you’re stable; and believe in their fables.’

Honestly punk doesn’t get better than this, great start!

Track 2 ‘Progress’ has an extended ferocious Intro before the vocals come in as more of a recitation than a song.
‘More people in the west now die as a consequence of our way of life, our standard of living, and our affluence, than are killed by natural disease. We slaughter them in road accidents; we kill them with fast food, smoking, and through alcohol abuse; we addict them to drugs and chemicals. A vacuous media diminishes their feeling of self-worth to the point where they kill themselves because they’re convinced that they’re too fat, too thin, too short, tall, or flawed in some other way. We drive them to think only of success and convince them that personal achievement overrides the needs or rights of others.
Does that sound like progress to you?’
Truth Equals Treason collective response? ‘FUCK OFF!’ before somehow Jam and Alan raise the intensity even more while Glen roars ‘Does that sound like progress to you?’ Brilliant!

‘Born Again Atheist’ takes aim at the dark side of religion, right wing Christians-isn’t that an oxymoron?- TV Evangelists fleecing the vulnerable, religious intolerance, religion as the co-opted priesthood of the status quo. Understandably T=T are a little put off by this litany of abuses and power plays, by religion as a means of social control, but cleverly, while stating their atheist position, they don’t take aim at the spirituality of the poor or the use of faith as a resource in the struggle for freedom (eg Liberation theology). Clever, nuanced song. This is no adolescent shock stuff, well thought out.

‘And the Bombs Keep Falling…’ is as hard core as you like, furious musically and lyrically if this doesn’t make you cerebrally/emotionally angry and physically excited then you probably need to take your pulse, you may be comatose.
‘A charred corpse kneels in supplication,
arms raised to shield against the fire.
‘Assets deployed’ to defend the nation;
piling fuel on the world’s funeral pyre.

Bad men’s bodies strewn amongst babies’ toys;
Predator’s feel no parent’s concern.
‘Collateral damage’ means more girls and boys.
Hellfire rains down and the bodies burn.

A father kneels and holds his lifeless child.
But death came not from terror’s hand.
Tries to remember his baby’s smile,
as her blood seeps away into the sand.

And the bombs, they just keep falling…’

All over h/c riffs that perfectly compliment the subject matter!

Track 5 ‘Blame Thy Neighbour’ is even better!! It starts with xenophobe Katie Hopkins arrogant twaddle before T=T’s riposte to the new mainstreamed, smartened up, media savvy alt right. Musically it starts off at a slightly slower pace before Glen's vocals/roar kicks in and the whole thing becomes an anthemic masterpiece! Are three people allowed to make this much noise?
‘Confront them on your doorstep; far too close to home.
Fuck the fascist, fuck the racist, sexist homophobes.
I see you on my doorstep; we’ll have it, toe-to-toe.
Fuck you fascist, fuck you racist, sexist homophobes.

Daily war from the street to the shop-floor.
Everyday war; we can’t afford to ignore.
Explain away all inequality;
blame thy neighbour, not those in authority.
Shut ‘em down; nothing but trouble.
Anti-fascist war; it’s an everyday struggle.
Vigilance: be eyes, be ears.
Dogs they prey on the slightest fears.’

Towards the end the sound of chanting ‘Alerta! Alerta! Antifacista!’ comes in, this is punk at it’s best! T=T manage to encapsulate all that makes punk important-intelligent, engaged, angry, compassionate. This album is the distillation of hours of reading, thinking, discussing, acting. I’ve just read Reminiscences of RAR this band carry on that struggle.

Last track up is ‘Four Million Watching’ on surveillance. Great way to end the album, musicality, lyrical intelligence, engagement with the Panopticon society, self policing, 1984, who watches the watcher?

Look I’ve pretty much run out of words to describe this album. It’s an exhilarating, exciting reminder of the world we live in, our responsibility to make it a better place and what made you love punk initially. My partner asked me to review Know Your Place…? while she was out as she knew it would involve loud, repeated playing but when I put it on for a reconnaissance listen she was dancing excitedly around in the next room! Buy It!! Go and see this band!

By the way if you're offended by swearing don’t buy this album, but if you're offended by injustice, inequality and oppression then buy it now!
  



Bibliography.  

(1)https://www.echoesanddust.com/2017/11/truth-equals-treason-punk-cannot-afford-to-stagnate-our-message-should-not-be-diluted/  

Sunday, 17 June 2018

The Worst Show On Earth: Evil Blizzard.

Photo courtesy of Division Promotions.
OK so where do I start! I’ve seen the name Evil Blizzard for a while now, especially in Psych Rock circles but to be honest never got round to checking them out so when someone sent me a link to their latest album I came to it pretty ignorant. A bit of reading up on them and, first surprise, found them listed on the Rebellion Festival line up for this August! Second surprise, they’ve played there several times before. So I fished them out of the Psych drawer and decided that maybe I should give writing a review of their new album a go.
Practicing the Situationist method of appropriation and detournement Evil Blizzard have taken a critic’s description of one of their gigs (1) and called their new album The Worst Show on Earth-and any review is going to start off inevitably with the cover, a disturbing photo montage which to be honest put me off them initially. It’s like an abject art take on Moby’s 18, the one where Moby is standing in front of a bright blue sky, astronauts helmet under his left arm. Evil Blizzard’s cover is like a shock rock equivalent, similar blue sky, similar sandy terrain but in this artwork a sinister clown stares down at you, horse head tucked under his arm. This is a band who understand the power of the visual so I’m sure they won’t mind that it had the predictable effect of making me a little wary of them, was this going to be some tedious Slipknot/Alice Cooper retread trading in horror shtick? However onwards-’You can’t judge an album by the cover’ as they say, and any band who have opened for Ruts DC, Sleaford Mods and Bo Ningen (2) deserve a listen in my eyes/ears.
The Worst Show on Earth is composed of 8 diverse tracks-if you can imagine falling into a post modern cement mixer with Hawkwind, PIL, Gnod and bizarrely early Genesis (but that might be the masks), miscellaneous heavy riffing and more bass guitarists than you can shake a stick at then you may be near to the general feel of this album, although it is not without it’s subtle, more nuanced moments as well. Apparently they went into the studio with a couple of road tested tracks and then just went for it (1), so I guess this is a fair indicator of their live show.
First track ‘Hello’ starts off with a keyboard intro reminding a bit of ‘Tron’ by Gnod before it gradually evolves into a full on rocker, ‘Who are we, we are we. Who are you, you are you?’ Great riffs, headbangers could well end up in hospital-be warned!
Second track ‘Fast Forward Rewind’ is almost like ‘Hello’ Part II in tempo and feel, a continuation of the full out assault on your musical senses-excellent!
‘Unleash The Misery’ changes the feel, drums, keyboard, Tom Waits style vocals, completely different rhythms going on before the guitars kick in, nice change of textures. No one trick pony. Really like this musically.
‘Those You Left Behind’ is another heads down rocker with echoes of glam swirling around in there somewhere!
‘Like A God’ is next up and another slight change of feel, probably the best start so far for me, brooding, building-you know something is coming...very Doremi Farsol Latido, then it shifts again, really great, interesting track, loads of Hawkwindish stuff going on here. Back into tense...on a very good album this stands out.
A bit like ‘Fast Forward Rewind’ kept the ‘Hello’ vibe going ‘Tell Me’, keeps the energy of ‘Like A God’ going, maintaining that slightly edgy feel, good stuff.
Just when you think you’ve got The Worst Show on Earth sussed it metamorphosizes, changes direction again and becomes a far more moody piece of work, and I’d say they’ve perfectly timed it. Glimpses of early Bowie are half caught out of the corner of your eye as the penultimate track progresses with a child’s voice reciting in the background that all (original) artistic expression has happened, that we have found our truths to be lies (I think). Self deprecating, self aware comment? Commentary on the cultural state of late capitalism?
Final track ‘The Worst Show on Earth’ revisits and redeploys the Intro from ‘Hello’, with the voice of German poet Arne Wald over keyboard (1) before the track builds atmospherically into something truly magnificent. Great work.     
Evil Blizzard seemed to have managed to synthesise early metal riffs, punk and psych (and a touch of Prog?) into a very coherent, satisfying whole, with for me the most interesting tracks coming at the end-great album. Really interesting to see a flow going on between the psych and the punk scene, it will make both richer. Gnod and The Oscillation playing Rebellion next year?! The Ruts DC and Truth Equals Treason at Raw Power?!

John Lydon has never made any secret of his pre punk appreciation of Hawkwind and with PIL playing Rebellion this year keep an eye out for him in the queue to see Evil Blizzard!.

(1)Little, A. (2018) ’Review:Evil Blizzard-The Worst Show on Earth’ https://www.echoesanddust.com/2018/06/evil-blizzard-the-worst-show-on-earth/

(2)http://www.evilblizzard.com/unleash.html

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Reification Blues by White Skull Death Snakes of Death, " intense, mesmeric, wholly original"

Courtesy of WSDSoD/Artwork Anthony Thomas.
Every now and then you see/hear a band that you struggle to pigeonhole, Forward Russia, Gnod, bands that seem to have synthesised the component parts of rock in ways that are new to you or are constructing their art using slightly different resources. Somewhere near Housewives but with off kilter bits of phrasing and structure in the vocals that occasionally echoes Talking Heads Nottingham based White Skull Death Snakes of Death are not, as their name may suggest, some obscure overblown 70s metal group but a 21st Century reimagining, reconstructing of punk! Drawing on punk sensibilities but pointing it in a slightly different direction they’ve been compared to The Fall and Christian Lunch. while their vocalist Anthony Thomas cites Jello Biafra, early Black Flag, Steve Albini, Iggy Pop and Birthday Party era Nick Cave as influences.
Formed in the summer of 2013 when Anthony (vocals) and Mat (bass) Thomas joined a pre existing duo of Gareth 'Winty' Winterman (guitar) and Dom Goodbarn (drums) White Skull Death Snakes of Death had their first gig in December of the same year. It was late last year when I first came across them at a punk benefit gig when their set was an intense, mesmeric, wholly original shock to the system! So have they managed to reproduce that on this album?
The brief answer is 'Completely!!' Trying to stay as close to the live show as possible they recorded Reification Blues live with Phil Booth at JT Soar, an ex-warehouse now DIY and music space in Nottingham (1), with Mat the bassist mixing the album and Tiago Queiroz mastering it. The result is superb!
Reification Blues is a blistering album of complex angular punk that doesn’t compromise, if a successful artist is one that manages to bring into being that that they imagined-transposing the imagined into reality-then White Skull Death Snakes of Death are a successful band, this 8 track album perfectly captures them in multifaceted full flow!
The album kicks off with ‘Children of Edith’ which lyrically came about as a response to the Charlie Hebdo attack in France. It’s 4 minutes of relentless rock/punk with Anthony’s vocals demanding your attention as they become increasingly intense. If you use music as a comfort blanket don’t buy this album!
Next track ‘Gravity’s Pull’ ups the tempo and the intensity! Not sure how they managed that really! Pulverising can be a bit overused but not in this context! But it isn’t that old school bludgeoning ‘Turn it all up to 11’ type power, this is music made by a band who know exactly how to achieve the effect they are after and don’t have to rely on upping the decibels. Although I’m sure they would be very happy to do that as well!
‘Shaking Hands and Kissing Babies’ savages the manipulative and dangerous machinations of some contemporary politicians as they up the nationalist ante. I’m not sure if the comment at the end ‘Another glorious mess’ is an initial frustrated response to the recording or a reference to current right wing politics-I like to think the latter!
‘The Sweet Smell of Excess’ and ‘Dream of Mo’ maintain the quality, in an alternative dance universe the latter is a huge hit!
Track 6 is ‘Housewives Favourite’, distilled musical fury while Ant takes a swipe at old school, often middle aged, lotharios.
Penultimate track is ‘On Demand’, great riff, great chorus! Just great, full stop.
‘Max’ is a song worthy of the honour of being the signing off track-it has everything that I’ve mentioned earlier, clever lyrics-about the motivations and mindset of a lone bomber-Anthony’s delivery is dramatic without ever being melodramatic, the sound perfectly complimenting the vocals. Thunderous drums-did I mention the thunderous drums earlier? Sinewy guitar snaking its way through the tumultuous, brilliantly organised highly sophisticated racket.
Think Gang of Four meets Idles, intelligence, musical nous and power.

You probably haven’t heard of White Skull Death Snakes of Death, you’re confused by their name, it’s got two ‘Death’s in it for one thing but you are seriously missing out if you don’t give this album a listen. And when you have I’ll see you down the front at one of their gigs in the near future.

https://whiteskulldeathsnakesofdeath.bandcamp.com/releases



Bibliography.
(1)https://www.alttickets.com/venue/nottingham/jt-soars