Thursday, 25 April 2013

Ensemble Pearl- Ensemble Pearl

In an age where one only needs to log into Twitter to find out what their favourite band had for dinner and a celebrity wearing a dress they've worn before constitutes news, it's nice to see that some people still like to keep a little mystique. A supergroup of sorts, though one would presume they'd reject such a tag, ENSEMBLE PEARL is a quartet consisting of Stephen O'Malley (SUNN O))), KTL, BURNING WITCH etc.), Atsuo and Michio Kurihara (both of BORIS) and William Herzog joined, this time around, by Eyvind Kang and Timba Harris. Information like this, though, is secondary to the music, a breathtaking mixture of ambient and drone with influences ranging from "Hex"-era EARTH to early TANGERINE DREAM via LINK WRAY. Originally composed for the play "This Is How You Will Dissapear", the six tracks that comprise "Ensemble Pearl" have grown into something much grander than just a soundtrack on record.

Foreboding mantras slowly build up with minimal atmospheres in place of the oppressive feedback of SUNN O))). Also amongst the droning riffs, one can discern a world music influence similar to the transcendental doom of latter-day OM and lush ambient passages. "Ghost Parade" opens proceedings with a three chord drone subtly metamorphosing over time while a myriad of other effects float across the sound spectrum. Following this, "Painting On A Corpse" twins a CULT OF LUNA-esque mantra with more swirling effects underpinned by a constant, insistent drum pattern before climaxing with searing noise and sonic experimentation that MERZBOW would be proud of. All the while though, that same guitar and drum drone continues, occasionally speeding up, seemingly getting closer and closer before fading away. Sweet respite. Next comes the gentle rise and fall of "Wray" with beautiful evocative keys and strings unaccompanied by guitar or percussion before "Island Epiphany" reintroduces the drones, noise and drumming. A tangible sense of dread cuts through the beauty of the strings and keys but even at its densest, everything feels like it has its own space. Rather than rushing to the finishing line, parts are given full opportunity to develop to their natural conclusions, running the gamut from beauty to horror and from thrill to melancholy to fear. "Giant" takes ENSEMBLE PEARL's knack for creating an emotional rollercoaster over the course of one track even further with one sustained note forming the centrepiece for the most part while the constantly shifting backdrop radically alters the overall mood of the piece. Proceedings conclude with the 20 minutes of "Sexy Angle" complete with dub vibes and angular, off-kilter violin.

Put simply, "Ensemble Pearl" is an earth-shattering collaboration between geniuses unrivalled in the field of drone and their debut album as ENSEMBLE PEARL is another stunning high point in their respective careers. (9/10)

"Ensemble Pearl" is out now through Drag City

Friday, 19 April 2013

Ghostface Killah- Twelve Reasons To Die

Anyone who's familiar with GHOSTFACE KILLAH's discography, be it solo, collaborations or as part of WU-TANG CLAN, will know that he's not a man to compromise his artistic vision. Unfortunately, though, in recent years his output's been a little hit and miss. At his best, he's just as powerful as he was when WU-TANG CLAN first took the hip-hop world by storm with "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" but sometimes he falls victim to the unoriginal cliches passed of by lesser rappers. However, last year's  WU BLOCK collaboration saw him reinvigorated with his acidic flow back to its best. It's with the momentum from that release that he's delivered his most adventurous album yet.

The musical accompaniment to an eponymous graphic novel, "Twelve Reasons To Die" is a concept album which sees GHOSTFACE KILLAH facing off against 12 rival drug lords in a stylish mixture of neo-noir and the classic Marvel and DC comics that Ghostface so obviously loves. To fit in with the narrative weaved through "Twelve Reasons To Die", the entire album is produced by ADRIAN YOUNGE creating a more coherent listening experience for the album as an entire product rather than just a collection of tracks. In a nutshell, the storyline finds GHOSTFACE KILLAH (under his TONY STARKS alter ego) as an infamous drugs baron in 1960s Italy. After his assassination by a rival, he is melted down into a record which, when played, unleashes GHOSTFACE KILLAH to reap revenge on the country's twelve most dangerous drug lords. Despite the rather involved story, "Twelve Reasons To Die" is surprisingly good fun which does well to wrap things up quickly, never overstaying its welcome.

While the narrative is set in the 60s, the music is very much influenced by the 70s. From the warning to "Beware of the stare of the Ghostface Killah" ("Beware The Stare") onwards, we're deeply routed in symphonic soul and bombastic production accompanying Ghostface's distinctive flow which, while the storyline's constraints don't allow his usual train of thought style, is on top form. As always, there are plenty of guest appearances from friends and fellow Wu-Tang alumni with KILLA SIN and MASTA KILLA lending a hand on "Revenge Is Sweet" and "Murder Spree", CAPPADONNA on "The Center Of Attraction" and U-GOD on "Blood On The Cobblestones" and "Murder Spree". MASTA KILLA appears again on "I Declare War" and INSPECTAH DECK helps out on "Blood On The Cobblestones", "An Unexpected Call (The Set Up)" and "Murder Spree" but it's THE DELFONICS' William Hart who steals the show with his sung vocals providing the perfect contrast to GHOSTFACE KILLAH's rapping on album highlight, "Enemies All Around Me". Overall, "Twelve Reasons To Die" is an innovative take on the hip-hop genre which sounds almost as vital as the first time you heard "Protect Ya Neck". GHOSTFACE KILLAH is back to his best. (8/10)

"Twelve Reasons To Die" is out now through Soul Temple Music

Black Sabbath unleash new single- "God Is Dead?"

Doom legends, BLACK SABBATH yesterday released this nine minute monolith, the first single to be taken from their upcoming album, "13". It's also available as a free download for itunes preorders of the album here:
"13" is released June 10th. BLACK SABBATH tour Europe in November/ December:
Nov 20: Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, Finland
Nov 22: Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden
Nov 24: Telenor Arena, Oslo, Norway
Nov 26: Forum, Denmark, Copenhagen
Nov 28: Ziggo Dome, Holland, Amsterdam
Nov 30: Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany
Dec 2: Bercy, Paris, France
Dec 5: Fiera Arena, Milan, Italy
Dec 7: 02 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
Dec 10: 02 Arena, London, UK
Dec 12: Odyssey Arena, Belfast, Ireland
Dec 14: Arena, Sheffield, UK
Dec 16: Hydro, Glasgow, UK
Dec 18: Arena, Manchester, UK
Dec 20: LG Arena, Birmingham, UK
Dec 22: LG Arena, Birmingham, UK

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Physics House Band- Horizons/ Rapture

THE PHYSICS HOUSE BAND first gained attention through their inclusion on One Inch Badge's "Sea Monsters 2" compilation last year bringing together the best music in the Brighton scene with the likes of NEGATIVE PEGASUS and TALL SHIPS also featuring. However, where TALL SHIPS play math-rock, THE PHYSICS HOUSE BAND bend the genre to its limits creating something completely different, physics-rock if you like. Since then, they've inked a contract with Blood and Biscuits, home to the aforementioned TALL SHIPS as well as THREE TRAPPED TIGERSGALLOPS and a whole host of other math-rock champions, with "Horizons/ Rapture" being the first fruit of their record deal.

In the nicest possible way, "Horizons/ Rapture" is a veritable headfuck; KING CRIMSON prog freakouts meer frenetic free jazz drumming and ROLO TOMASSI style synths keeping you constantly wondering what direction it's going to veer off into next. Then, just as you think you've got it figured out, they throw the delicate piano of "The Spectral Beyond" at you. Across the six tracks that make up THE PHYSICS HOUSE BAND's debut EP, there are more twists and turns than many bands manage across an entire career and each subsequent listen reveals further hidden depths . it's rare for such a fledgling band to carve out their own distinct niche and, if they're already producing music of this calibre, their future could be very bright indeed! (9/10)

"Horisons/ Rapture" is out now through Blood And Biscuits

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Computers- Love Triangles Hate Squares

Making their name through an explosive mix of hardcore and rock n' roll which has seen the band supporting the likes of GAY FOR JOHNNY DEPP and PULLED APART BY HORSES, "Love Triangles Hate Squares" represents one hell of a curve-ball in the career progression of THE COMPUTERS. Almost completely leaving their punk n' roll roots behind, the band's sophomore album sees them peddling a sound more indebted to ELVIS COSTELLO and soul music than it is to BLACK FLAG. For the most part, clean vocals take the fore with the man formerly known as Screamin' Al Kershaw crooning "I'm bored of screaming like I've got no soul" ("Love Triangles Hate Squares") which provides the perfect insight into their fairly drastic shift in sounds. The more aggressive tracks here are imbued with the same punk rock sensibility as THE BRONX or THE JIM JONES REVUE while, for the most part, this album could easily rival anything in the charts in terms of pop hooks and catchiness.

Opening track, "Bring Me the Head Of A Hipster" (aside from being brilliantly named) provides the perfect balance between the shout-along simplicity of old and the more mature sound they now embrace before title track "Love Triangles Hate Squares" injects a genuinely anthemic quality into proceedings. After this, "Mr Saturday Night" and "Nothing To Say" continue in a similar vein followed by the utterly sacharine but undeniably catchy "C.R.U.E.L". Somewhat misleadingly, the next track, "Disco Sucks" was released as the advanced single for the album but is completely different in tone. Older fans will welcome this brief return to their old THE GHOST OF A THOUSAND-esque sound but it may bemuse anyone less familiar with their back-catalogue. However, rather than interrupting the album's flow as it would in less able hands, it provides a look at a different side of THE COMPUTERS for any newcomers. After this, it's back to softer material for the remainder of the album with the themes of love (or lack there-of) and lust running strongly through the lyrics.

Where THE COMPUTERS' previous output seemed purpose made for basement hardcore gigs, "Love Triangles Hate Squares" is a real step up in terms of a wider appeal and in a fairer world it would see the band stepping up from basements to arenas. They've successfully managed to make rock n' roll relevant in the 21st Century and, while it's by no means perfect- to be so would only take character from it, it's anybody's guess what shape they twist punk, soul or rock n' roll into next time around. Rather than being some cynical move to sell more records, you can tell THE COMPUTERS are still playing with absolute conviction. This is the sound of a band growing up. (7/10)

"Love Triangles Hate Squares" is out April 29th through One Little Indian

At The Drive-In- Acrobatic Tenement/ Relationship Of Command (Reissues)

Following on from a brief (unsuccessful) reunion last year as well as reissues of "Vaya" and "In/ Casino/ Out" comes the re-release of two more seminal albums from post-hardcore pioneers, AT THE DRIVE-IN. This time around of their hard to find debut, "Acrobatic Tenement", and their swansong, "Relationship Of Command". For those of you who are unfamiliar with the band, they were one of the most forward thinking post-hardcore bands of the 90s and are talked about with the same reverence as the likes of HOT SNAKES, FUGAZI and REFUSED. You will probably also be familiar with the core of the band, Omar Rodríguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, who went on to form prog trailblazers THE MARS VOLTA as well as a whole host of other projects. All this history, though, would count for nothing if the music was no good but luckily both "Acrobatic Tenement" and "Relationship Of Command" are molten slabs of post-hardcore genius.

While "Acrobatic Tenement" lacks the refinement and production values of "Relationship Of Command", the album still has plenty of evidence of their wildly inventive approach to songwriting. "Acrobatic Tenement" has always been underappreciated in preference of their later releases (of the 11 tracks here only "Initiation" was featured on their "This Staion Is Non-Operational" career retrospective) but it's still an essential musical history lesson. Along with their distinctive mix of '90s hardcore  and off-kilter riffing, on their debut album they also take a punt at pop-punk providing a sheer contrast to the frenetic pace of their heavier tracks. Overall, it isn't the highlight of their career but it more than hints at the great things to come and for any fan it's still an essential purchase. (8/10)

Widely regarded as their masterpiece, "Relationship Of Command" was At The Drive-In's final album and has provided an inspiration for countless post-hardcore bands over the 12 years since its original release. Featuring guest vocals from IGGY POP ("Rolodex Propoganda") and an arsenal of surefire punk rock hits with all the ingenuity and charm you'll have since come to expect from Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-Lopez, the album saw ATD-I continuing their transition to genuine underground icons poised at the brink of stardom. It's since been well documented in the reasoning behind their split how ATD-I lost interest in the post-hardcore scene but it bears pointing out that the band never allowed themselves to be restricted by genre anyway. With production from the godfather of nu-metal, Ross Robinson, "Relationships Of Command" flew in the face of expectations while still retaining the band's unique sound. Over a decade later, it still sounds as vital as it ever did. (9/10)

These reissue provide two classic snapshots of genre shaping post-hardcore albums and, while (with the exception of "Catacombs" on "Relationship Of Command") they don't come with any bonus material, are essential additions to any record collection that hasn't already found them a home.

"Acrobatic Tenement" and "Relationship Of Command" are both out now through Transgressive