Now That’s What I Call 2017!

It’s been one hell of a year, not just for music, but in general. Christ it was tough going, but from this burlap sack shit came some golden discoveries, shared here because I discovered them this year, though they may have come out earlier, because that’s how music works.

Slowly Building Weapons – Sunbirds (Art As Catharsis)

This is hardly surprising as I did the write-up on it for Astral Noize magazine’s Top 20 of this year, but I was only able to do that because it was a truly staggering piece of work. Legions ahead of their 11 year old debut Nausicaa, Sunbirds was amazing partly because it got made at all, its imposing shadow writ gargantuan across my sonic earscape. An essential record for any number of reasons, if you don’t check this out you are a donkey.

OmAdvaitic Songs (Drag City)

Yes, it’s from 2012, but I didn’t spend any time with this masterpiece until this year, and it became the record I listened to the most without exception. From beginning to end, the spirit of Advaitic Songs fed directly into my bloodstream and fed my very being, its total dedication to what it was being majestically inspiring in itself. This is a tremendous example of one of those records that’s extremely easy to listen to but very hard to play, due in no small part to the perfect rhythmic presence of Emil Amos of Grails on drums. Transcendent.

Probably NotThe Same Pain (Circle House)

I caught this band at the Cavern in Exeter by accident, as I was there to see Dead Ground, who were also very good, but Probably Not were incredible. No banter, supremely intense and honest and with the songs to back up not facing the crowd, The Same Pain was a true joy to experience. The fact that they’d only been a band for 5 months by the time this record was made gave me hope; hope that bands like this could still form and make records. Honestly brilliant, and I can’t wait for more out of them.

Piss VortexFuture Cancer (Indisciplanarian)

A band that I listened to because of their ace/terrible name while trawling through videos from Obscene Extreme, this Danish quartet broke my face. Of the records I’ve heard, Future Cancer was a hair ahead of their other material, which is all excellent. A worryingly thrilling sound that owes as much to the likes of Breach as it does to crust, Coalesce and breakneck grind, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough to fans of extreme music if this was the only extreme band in existence. Staggering.

Kikagaku MoyoHouse In The Tall Grass (GuruGuru Brain)

Floating out of Japan with the grace of a muslin curtain, I discovered this fabulous team of throwbacks when I started getting back into Bandcamp again. There’s loads of top stuff on this label, but I spun House In The Tall Grass every day for a fortnight upon hearing it at first, and revisited it for the remainder of the year. Completely devoid of brutality in any form, this encapsulated everything I wanted from old psych, right down the production. If you’ve got a drive to take somewhere and you need to feel peace and excitement at once, this is the record for you. Great.

 

Convulsing/Siberian Hell SoundsSplit (Art As Catharsis)

The second entry from the Australian label in this list (who also put out Hashashin’s magnificent opus this year), this split was fucking outrageous. Listening to Convulsing’s Engraved Upon Bleached Bone first was like undergoing major surgery while getting a serious kicking, and I was genuinely concerned that this would be a one horse race, but Siberian Hell Sounds’ The Breath Of The Beast was equally enthralling and fierce, the 40 minute run time felt like about 60 seconds. 60 seconds in a burning building, but 60 seconds all the same. Colossal.

BeastwarsThe Death Of All Things (Destroy)

Directly responsible for restoring my faith in sludge and doom after a good couple of years chasing those musical dragons, the New Zealand quartet’s third record was an oddly elegant effort, with no dead wood and a welcome, likeable character. Broad of sound and with proper songsThe Death Of All Things reminded me of how I felt when I discovered Ahab’s game-changing The Divinity Of Oceans. A tremendous record to listen to when doing just about anything, the news of their singers’ ailing health and a subsequent Instagram post showing that they were back playing together was one of the best moments of the year. Super.

Hobo MagicThe World Today

This Australian trio delivered a massive shot in the arm despite their awful name. From the initial seconds of Follow The Holy Riff, this album delivered at least two trucks of The Goods, devoting its every moment to being as meatily rewarding as possible. Even I felt proud of this record and I had nothing to do with it. Resplendent in its hulking size, The World Today is pair of open arms hugging you into The Riff, not just the in melodic terms but in spirit. Giant.

DiocletianGesundrian

One of the most compelling listens I’ve had all year came to light in the last few days, a direct result of delving into the New Zealand scene through gig posters, blog posts and internet radio recommendations. Gesundrian is a monstrously oppressive sounding album, the fourth from these deathly kings. Blasting like cannon across a bloodied, muddy battlefield, Diocletian seem intent on demonstrating how it feels to be trampled by rampant horses through sound alone. Where many have tried and failed, Diocletian sound like heavy sword combat without a shred of irony but plenty of iron. Unyielding.

Hopefully you enjoyed my list, though it’s unlikely you would if you like Waylon Jennings or Lil Pump, but if that’s your jam, hey, you go.

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Review: The Dropper’s Neck – Second Coming

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Drawing comparisons to the Stooges and Queens Of The Stone Age, Essex-born quintet The Dropper’s Neck have delivered their debut record, Second Coming. Recorded with Paul Tipler, who has Placebo, Idlewild and Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster on his rap sheet, it hits the streets firmly on the 29th of July.

Blessed with a guitar sound like rusty saws and a bass made of crumbling masonry, Second Coming’s title track kicks off with its legs apart, sweating and grunting away. Touchstones like early Danzig and eternal goth-rodders the 69 Eyes bury themselves deeply into the material, emerging from the mire as a whole entity. The spoken word section, however, is agonising, and genuinely difficult to listen to for it’s sheer awkwardness. No Kerouac diatribes here, just timid, counted-in vocals.

An early highlight comes in the shape of recent video “Darker Waters”, which has a truly solid chorus, the band battering away quite happily. The old-school garage vibe, highlighted so extensively in their online blurb and press, is blended with from-the-gutter stargazing, creating a halfway-house of adroit production and scuzzy, foaming guitar.

However, all the urgency in the world can’t detract from the vocals and appalling, inarticulate lyrics. Lloyd Matthews is a car-crash amalgam of Danzig, Homme and Ricky Wilson, but with screaming; screaming which, on “Sir Sibilance”, is both utterly shocking and woeful. “My Lime Tree‘s” ‘that’ll-do’ lyricism had me reaching for the bleach, in the hope that drinking it through my eyes would improve the words somehow.

There are a few tracks on this record that deserve a listen;  the aforementioned “Darker WatersI Am The Law” and closing track “Save Me From Myself” are full of merit, but in order to get to them the listener has to wade through a great deal of extremely samey rock. The dark, dangerous spirit made so much of by the rest of the world refuses to present itself, though perhaps this was due to me watching the bands’ almost motionless live footage first, and seeing those who had made the record standing around nonchalantly while their awesome tones punish the audience.

Taking the record as a whole, Second Coming sounds like a band one record away from being good. Even including some Shakespeare( ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’), The Dropper’s Neck just aren’t gelling properly, and despite that awesome guitar sound(and some on-the-edge soloing), they stop short of the volatile, swivel-eyed rawk they portend to be. Having only existed since 2011, more time is required to get the most from this cocktail.

Alright, but with plenty of room to improve.

Live Review: Plant Plants at the Sebright Arms, London

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Neatly ordered clusters of immaculately attired, moustache encumbered young men and distant, cool young women greet this writer upon arrival at the Sebright Arms. A healthy step from the tube but pleasingly tidy, the venues robust, aged, upstairs décor is a splendid contrast to the dark, well-appointed, subterranean stage. With a sound system potent enough to powder the skeleton, the environment seems ideal to see Plant Plants.

An unlikely duo comprised of Stu’s ultra-deep, blood-thirsty beats and Howard’s clean guitar and sound proclamations, Plant Plants set up facing each other across tables groaning with effects. Opener “Break Softly” sets things out nicely, the pair settling into their stride. Tonight, the boys pull out a selection of material from their as-yet untitled album, due out next year (look out for a video release in the near future), and initial signs are extremely encouraging.

In all honesty, coming out just for the riff from “E.B” would have been worth it. Furrowed brows are teamed with broad grins as the groove unfolds, deliberate and precise in its shadowy grind. The colossal beats of “No Smiling” and fight-or-flight triggering bass massiveness of “Sick Bay” pulse with knowing, living humanity.

If one thing was to make a lasting impression, it’s that Plant Plants are a great deal more than an engaging two piece. The temptation in the modern age is to see electronic musicians as laptop-dwelling cop-outs, piggy-backing from one expensive plugin to the next. Here, nothing could be further from the truth-the music is being made, the sounds created, and not a Macbook in sight.

Howard sings these opaquely-worded modern hymns from the very bottom of his well. Hints of The Cure’s Robert Smith and the inimitable Mr. Curtis (Joy Division) slope through the crowd like a light-less wave; the true details of the dark events being recounted would cause unyielding sorrow. It is hard to imagine what has befallen the creators of these songs that would lead to such a grim countenance, but, interwoven with the edge-riding rhythms and the prickling energy of their performance, it seems the horror was worth it.

The crowd seem uncertain when to applaud, saving their rapturous response for the finale of set-closer “One To Adore”, which follows a particularly aggressive reading of instrumental bounce-factory “Bells”. To whit, save for the uncertain response of those in attendance, this was a brooding, emotive show.

Ace.