Saturday, 25 February 2017

Brian Case: Tense Nature.

Photo by Zoran Orlic .
In a 2015 interview Brian Case, the frontman of Disappears, commented in response to a question about the band's last album Irreal, 'Yeah, that's something we really focus on - stripping away as much fat as we can and having this direct hit...'.That philosophy has carried on into his first solo album which, while very different from Disappears musically, has that same sense of pushing at boundaries. Brian's album Tense Nature was created by reordering and reworking guitar samples and small drum loops and is an unsettling listen, its twelve tracks closer to sound sculpture than traditional ideas of music. It is also an album that amply rewards the attention and time needed from the listener to access its intelligent sophistication.
Brian kindly agreed to an interview to discuss this work.

How long has the gestation period been internally for Tense Nature, is it a realisation of something that you've been thinking about a long time?

It's was about a year or two maybe? The first set of material I was playing solo ended up becoming another project I am involved in called Bambi Kino Duo with EVI player Justin Walter. That group of music needed something and was based more on live performance, it needed to react with another person and instrument. But I still wanted to do something by myself so I started sampling my guitar and editing those samples in random ways. From there it was a matter of figuring out how to make those samples interesting, figure out how to add some other elements to them.

Were there any people or bands that helped give you a sense of what you were trying to create?

Structurally I wanted to group things like Music For Films or some of the Moebius soundtracks, small pieces making a larger whole. There's also this Will Sergeant soundtrack called Theme's for "Grind" that works a lot like that. 

You have been in several bands and obviously that involves collaboration and,I guess, negotiation. What was it like working solo?

It's cool to have a vision and see it through, but I really love the collaboration in a group setting. It's exciting to think you know what's going to happen with a song or idea and have it come out completely different. This was a little more about trusting that these small pieces were going to form some kind of whole picture, so it had it's own twists I wasn't expecting. The two processes are really different from each other.

It sounds like an extremely complex album, was it difficult to realise technically?

Not so much. I guess you have to be able to edit yourself which is the hard part, but I've gotten pretty good about that in recent years. I mean, when something isn't working I feel like it's really obvious. I think the harder part is not giving up on something that you know has a place somewhere, even if you can't see it in front of you.

Is Tense Nature a realised vision, did you know what you creating from the start or was it more evolutionary than that?

It all came from hating playing solo, I hate it still. But I thought it was important to do something like that, to get uncomfortable and see what happens. I want to have the ability to do music on my own and these songs are the beginnings of that. They evolved from some pretty terrible shows!

In 2015 Disappears toured and released an interpretation of Bowie's 'Low'-I wondered whether covering 'Side 2' of Low was helpful in any way-such a musical shift for Bowie-did it encourage you?

Maybe inadvertently - I think everything you're processing, studying, creating gets into you in some way. But I think I'd started down this road a bit before then - I've been trying to play solo for years and I think it just pushed it's own way out.

Have you any plans to perform the album live-where would be most suitable, art gallery or club?

Good question - it'd definitely be better in a space where people can focus on the subtle nature of it, maybe that's not a rock club with a bar and a huge stage with a guy pushing buttons on a box. But sonically it requires something that can push some really low sub frequencies and that's usually not how galleries are set up. I'm still figuring it out....I'm doing some shows in Europe in the fall (2016) and they'll be opening for a band so it will be more rock situations for now. 

This is your debut album, can we hope for any more to come?

I've got some new stuff I'm working on and I've changed my set up a bit so that always leads to new music. I'm hoping to have some sort of release planned for early 2017.

Thanks to Brian for his time and words. Tense Nature is out on Hands in The Dark Records.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Loud Women Volume One.

There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about the imbalance of Festival lineups where female musicians are almost noticeable by their absence and unless you’re a particularly unaware straight white male it’s obvious-as the Guerilla Girls and others have repeatedly pointed out-that western society/culture/art is shaped by sexist, racist, heteronormative attitudes. Enter Loud Women, a DIY collective that started in late 2015 to champion women in music primarily through putting on gigs around London. Last September they hosted the first Loud Women Festival at T. Chances, I went down because Petrol Girls were playing and expected my usual Fest experience, you know, a couple of other bands that are really good and loads of bands that are fine but not really your thing. I was completely wrong! This was wall to wall quality punk/garage/rock, with a smattering of acoustic sets.
So, 2017 and along with the gigs and another Fest later in the year Loud Women have come up with a compilation album, LOUD WOMEN Vol. 1, twenty one tracks by female fronted bands and female musicians. The predominant style is punkish which reflects LW’s ethos and makes for an exciting, energetic aural experience.
Now the tricky bit, how do you review 21 tracks without skimming over them or boring people who can’t actually hear what they are reading about..OK, I will pick out my particular favourites which will in no way imply that these tracks are actually better than the rest and in fact when you buy this excellent album you’ll wonder how I missed out…(insert your favourite).
Oddly three of the first four tracks are by bands I know and like already, ‘DIY’ by Dream Nails is catchy pop punk (positive) about female capability and personal development, Petrol Girls track ‘Touch Me Again’ is melodic hardcore dealing with sexual harassment and assault, ‘Audrey’ by DOLLS is psych garage about something (possibly) vaguely dark. All three tracks are excellent along with Bratakus’ ‘Pollution Evolution’ which is catchy, raw immediate garage punk. The Empty Page is a change of tack into quality 90s type alt/indie rock and it’s excellent; lyrically incisive and intelligent.
Yeah I know that is all of the first five tracks listed as highlights but whoever decided on the track ordering got it off to a very good start!
‘Poor Liam’ by The Ethical Debating Society is good Undertones style punk, next up is Gladiators Are You Ready, drastic tempo changes around a great riff-sounds like it’s held together with sellotape and chewing gum, I like it. Next up is ‘Out Of My System’ by Deux Furieuses which strangely reminded me at times of The Foo Fighters but despite that is really very good. Fight Rosa Fight; great pissed off punk-they were great at LW Fest and this track does them justice.
GUTTFULL, Little Fists, The Potentials are all good, the first includes sax, always a plus. The Nervous Twitch track ‘Something Wrong With Me’ stands out with a catchy 60s garage vocal/keyboard thing going on, but the next track that really does it for me is IDestroy’s epic rock, this is air guitar music at its best!
Where are we up to? Track 15. Madame So, ‘Black Is Beautiful’, this is really very good indeed! Multi layered pop rock, great languid vocals, chiming guitar, inventive, captivating.

Fightmilk, Bugeye, Argonaut are again all good indie/punk with some insightful, intelligent lyrics, they’re followed by The Wimmins’ Institutes’ ‘Nando’s’, which reminded me of ‘Toast’ by Streetband for some (unknown) reason, but much, much better!
The penultimate track is ‘Riot’ by Lilith Ai, I caught her live last year and this song is as good as I remembered it being.
Last up is a spoken word track ‘Real Rape’ by Janine Booth which explores the issues also confronted by War on Women in ‘Say It’, the contradictory, excusing, victim blaming attitudes held by parts of society towards rape.
Dream Nails, Bratakus, Petrol Girls, DOLLS, The Empty Page, IDestroy, Madame So...21 tracks that are varied, intelligent, feminist. Every track on this album is at least good and evidence that grassroots rock is in a very healthy state. If you read ‘Girls To The Front’ by Sara Marcus and wondered what happened subsequently or just like garage and punk do yourself a favour and get this