Music Reviews

nTTx: Of Beauty and Chaos – EP review

nTTx Of-Beauty-and-Chaos-300x293

Of Beauty and Chaos (WTII Records)

Out Now

08/10

nTTX release their latest EP. Is it Beauty or Chaos? 

nTTx combine industrial, trance, dance and synth-pop into an alluring mix of beats. This latest EP clearly showcases how successfully the elements are fused into a musical whole.

The EP opens with Move Dark. It has a pounding, frenzied beat. Imagine a dark club with stroboscopes disrupting the vision and turning everything into monochrome. Arms flailing at the sky, as the music takes on a shamanic quality, stripping the dancers of their inhibitions. Prey has an industrial beat, with simple structures disguising an interesting beat that yields itself to repeated plays. There is a dark melody to it.

True has a trance like sound, a modern edge to an older form of music. The lyrics state: it might not mean anything, but it’s the truth. A perfect statement for all art that comes with honesty from the artist. A slower beat introduces Earth. Drums beat like machines which are overlaid with a more intensely melancholic vocal. There is a sultry feel to it, like warm rain falling into an abandoned factory. It’s a gorgeous song. Falls Beautiful has discordant sounds, building up to a release of emotions. The final track on the EP is a cover of Survivors’ Eye of the Tiger. Now I remember when this was released and I hated it but this is a fun synth-pop version that even had me nodding my head along.

nTTx have produced a thrilling EP with an overall theme of liberation though the beauty and chaos of music. Shed your repressions and social mores and give it a spin.

 

You can find nTTx on line here, and are on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Thus review first appeared on Louder Than War

 

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Music Reviews

Di Auger: Drinking Songs For The Dead – album review

Di Auger a2164758865_10-350x350

Drinking Songs For The Dead (Self Released)

CD/DL

Out 31 July, 2017

08/10

Di Auger’s fourth album keeps Toronto’s Goth/Industrial flame burning. Mark Ray reviews for Louder Than War.

Di Auger hail out of Toronto, a city that has a long tradition of a Goth/Industrial scene that has seen a rejuvenation over recent years. This is Di Auger’s fourth full release and shows a growing confidence and a (dark) maturity. Mastered at Ontario’s Metal Work Studios by Chris Crerar it has a cohesiveness and a pounding urgency with enough interesting, nuanced sounds scattered throughout the tracks to reward repeat plays.

It opens with Nightmare Burning. This is a crazed ring-master, welcoming you to a dark cabaret. Imagine a Victorian side-show interspersed with heavy industrial doom as, in the background, the industrial revolution eats up the country. Circle of Sin has a brooding rhythm, alleviated by coruscating notes across the beat that pounds away like a slave-ship beat. It beats you into submission, hypnotic, a symphony for the apocalypse. Die Anger starts with a staccato guitar, a white noise spreading across a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic landscape.

Lange Regan opens with a piano and the iconic words of Sound Of Silence before Di Auger brings in the heavy beat and his own lyrics. Lifting such iconic words to start your own song could have been a disaster – after all, how do you match Paul Simon’s words – but it’s turned into a beautiful song of isolation and despair by Di Auger. Drinking For The Dead is a fun barroom shanty like song. Things get political on America (The Fire Still Burns) with its ominous opening taking you through broken down cities and out into the rust belt and bible belt where fences of hate are being built. Laydown could be used for a horror movie or game soundtrack. Red Moth Bleeding has background vocals from Alia Synesthesia and the two voices add deep layers over the dark tune. Alia is all keening, operatic, grandiose, adding depth and sub-text to Di Auger’s vocals. There’s an ominous staccato. Images of an abandoned house under a bleak, limpid moon night with the dawn bringing no relief. This Is Real is industrial grind against chanting lyrics. It’s a statement of intent that bookends the album with Nightmare Burning.

An album, and an artist, definitely worth checking out.

You can find Di Auger on line here, and are on Facebook and Twitter.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War

Music Reviews

NICK LOWE: 80s album period re-issued

NICK THE KNIFE/THE ABOMINABLE SHOWMAN/…AND HIS COWBOY OUTFIT/THE ROSE OF ENGLAND/PINKER & PROUDER THAN PREVIOUS/PARTY OF ONE
YEP ROC
Nick Lowe’s 80s albums re-released.
8/10, 7/10, 8/10, 8/10, 9/10, 9/10

Yep Roc re-release Nick Lowe’s albums from 1982’s Nick the Knife to 1990’s Party Of One. It’s a period for Lowe that bridges the gap between his ground breaking work of the 70s (which included harnessing the energy of punk as Stiff’s in-house producer) to his later, much acclaimed, mature work. It’s a period often overlooked, which is a shame because beneath some of the slick 80’s production, there are real gems, including: Stick it Where the Sun Don’t Shine, Indoor Fireworks, Crying In My Sleep, Who Was That Man, and the heart wrenching classic, The Rose of England. These records remind us that Lowe is a consummate songwriter and the quiet genius of English rock.

This review first appeared in Louder Than War magazine, issue 11 August-September 2017

 

Music Reviews

The Fall: New Facts Emerge album review

THE FALLNew-Facts-Emerge-Cover
NEW FACTS EMERGE
Cherry Red
Thirty-Second Studio Release for The Fall
9/10

On the opening track of New Facts Emerge, there is the sound of an aging man uttering guttural, incoherent noises, whilst banging percussion. The man is Mark E. Smith, who has been The Fall since 1976, hiring and firing band members and releasing records with more veracity than Dylan Thomas knocked back pints. Smith clearly still has something to say, though at times what he’s saying is lost in angry, incoherent, surreal vocals.

The music, as on Fol De Rol and the title track, is often traditional rock, with a driving, energetic razor-sharp beat. There is a touch of Indie on Brillo de Facto and O! ZZTRRK Man. There is rockabilly on Groundsboy, with Smith sounding like an Elvis from hell, and the rock ‘n’ roller Second House Now, with Smith mimicking a drunken, crooning Jerry Lee. Gibbus Gibson is much lighter, almost jaunty, with Smith sounding youthful and coherent. Couples vs Jobless Mid 30’s is the albums epic. It has a psychedelic opening, with crazy southern-gothic noises like a Texas chainsaw massacre house. Then it segues into industrial noise. There are vocals about torture, and some demonic chanting in the background, before it moves into a rock out ending. Is this what it’s like being in the head of Mark E. Smith? The songs, though tight, often sound improvised. There are hints of PIL, though Lydon is too self-aware of his own image, whilst Smith has no boundaries between his stage persona and his own reality. He is a high priest performing an exorcism on himself, spewing forth his inner demons to infect a pristine, antiseptic, virtual world. A man well before his time, channelling a groove that he’s made his own; a sullen prophet who brooks no dissent; a cranky old man railing at a ridiculous world. Often a loner can, over time, become so self-absorbed that outside influences become irrelevant and there is nobody to put a check on them as they slide into egomania. What saves Smith is that he’s so damn listenable to. Genius or piss-taker? Probably partly both. So, a genius piss taker who’s been ranting in the wilderness since 1976. One day the world will listen, and Smith won’t give a fuck.

The last song is called Nine Out Of Ten, now that’s what I call prophecy.

This review first appeared in Louder Than War magazine, issue 11 August-September 2017

Music Reviews

Banditos: Visionland – album review

Banditos BS253_Cover_1800_0

Visionland (Bloodshot)

CD/Vinyl/DL

Released 23 June, 2017

8/10

Nashville rockers sophomore album hits the highs.

They look like they’ve just fallen out of some highway hugging bar that’s dripping with decay and menace and sound like the misbegotten bastard child of Janis Joplin and The Flamin’ Groovies. Banditos are a six piece Birmingham/Nashville based band who released their critically acclaimed eponymous debut album in 2015. They have a sound that effortlessly straddles the years between 60s and the present to create music that is both modern and timeless. Opener Fine Fine Day is a great bar room rocker, like Dr Feelgood played by the Velvets, that gets the toe-a-tapping and the head-a-nodding. Strange Heart is a beautiful song with a 60s West Coat psychedelic tinge, think of the Doors and 13th Floor elevators, with singer Mary Beth Richardson channelling Janis Joplin in all her raw beauty.

The vocals are shared on the album between Richardson, Corey Parsons and Steve Pierce and, in a larger sense, this sounds like a real band with all group members stepping up to the plate.

The title track Visionland concerns the building of a theme park of the same name in the 90s near the home town of a couple of the band members. It offered hope of employment and better days but closed after only 5 years. The song uses this as a metaphor for our times of lost dreams with a country-psychedelia soundtrack. Thick and Thin and Fun All Night have a Flamin’ Groovies honky-tonk blues groove. Healin’ Slow is a sultry country-blues song that drips with desire and Southern heat. Whilst many of the songs are infused with a Stones sensibility, Lonely Boy is a wonderful Beatles Merseybeat era pop tune. When It Rains is a superbly crafted rock/pop number that, back in the day when people still bought this type of record, would have been a top ten smash. Still and Quiet is soulful psychedelia which has an epic feel that had me in mind of a James Bond song. It’s all wrapped up with the country-rock of DDT with possibly the coolest banjo playing, courtesy of Steve Pierce, that I’ve ever heard.

Banditos may not bring anything new to the rock table but, with a hint of gumbo about it, this is rock food for the soul and a ten-course meal that will want you coming back for more.

Banditos is on Facebook and Twitter.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War.

 

Music Reviews

Saint Etienne: Home Counties album review

SAINT ETIENNE61Jc1iyNZLL._SX355_
HOME COUNTIES
HEAVENLY RECORDINGS
Home counties concept album
7/10

The Home Counties have always been viewed with a mix of ridicule and sepia-tinged nostalgia; a vision of England that never was. Saint Etienne, themselves residents, take on the stereotypes with a concept album of sorts, reminiscent of The Kinks Village Green. It’s a train trip around the satellites of London. It opens, perfectly, with a Radio 4 announcer and we’re off, calling at Something New about a teenage girl creeping in past midnight, Whyteleafe which imagines a David Jones who never became David Bowie in a boring office job, the wonderful Train Drivers In Eyeliner and the epic Sweet Arcadia which is a lament for the lost dream of the Essex Plotland settlers. Saint Etienne have always had a clean sound, creating ambience and dance rhythms for a train journey well worth jumping on board for.

This review first appeared in Louder Than War magazine, issue 10, June/July 2017

Music Reviews

GORILLAZ: HUMANZ ALBUM REVIEW

GORILLAZgorillaz-humanz
HUMANZ
PARLOPHONE
Virtual band return in cartoon times
8/10

The world’s most successful virtual band return with their first album in six years. What prompted Gorillaz to return after all these years – according to mentor Damon Albarn – was the election of a cartoon President. Reality and unreality, truth and untruth are mixed up on Humanz, as in the world we now inhabit. As usual with a Gorillaz album there is a mix of rap, hip-hop, dub and soul, with stellar guests.

It opens with Ascension, an apocalyptic rap through the darkness of a world where the sky is falling. We then embark on a journey of twenty songs: partying whilst Rome burns, with dark reflection, and hope. It’s a schizophrenic symphony blaring out across a world gone insane. It’s that weird feeling we got waking up to President Trump and thinking shit, that must have been some party we were at.

Highlights include the dub heavy Saturnz Barz, the industrial Momentz, beating out a rhythm to the tune of the work clock, the beautiful post-party feel of Busted & Blue, and the distractions of pleasure on Carnival. There is a psychotic, edgy undercurrent to the songs, representing the seismic shifts of recent times. Hallelujah Money is the most overtly anti-Trump song, with its preacher like vocals extolling isolationism. The album ends with a glimmer of hope on We Got The Power; a call to love each other. Will we be human, or humanz? The choice is yours.

This review appeared in Louder Than War magazine, issue 10 June/July 2017