BIG|BRAVE | A Gaze Among Them | ALBUM REVIEW

BIG|BRAVE | A Gaze Among Them | ALBUM REVIEW

Big|Brave – A Gaze Among Them | Album review

Review by: Graeme J Baty

There is something special about Big|Brave that I can’t quite put my finger on. I’ve indulged in their new album A Gaze Among Them for a few weeks now, regularly dipping back into it. It holds my attention far more than other records in this genre. Slow doom-laden songs, whilst sounding utterly awesome on first play they tend to lose my attention with the long meandering slow-paced songs that have little traction. This is definitely not the case with Big|Brave.

Opening with the strong Muted Shifting of Space, an epic piece of work at 8 minutes and 41 seconds. The diversity of the seemingly simple sound captivates and engages.

The vocal style is something quite refreshing and maybe a little bit jarring at first listen. I think the typical incomprehensible guttural wails of this genre of music is perhaps a little over saturated these days. This is where Robin Wattie separates Big|Brave from the pack and excels. Her voice sitting perfectly juxtaposed to the music with elements of Bjork in there, traditional Celtic folk and I was also reminded of the female-fronted Brutus who are also making interesting fresh use of well-tread sounds. The combination of music and vocal style creates a unique soundscape.

Holding Pattern demonstrates Big | Brave’s masterful ability to craft songs with dramatic dynamics. Building from a slow start and gripping you tight by the throat until it finally dissipates. Proving a strong highlight of the album.

The midsection of the record finds the pace slowing with Body Individual leading into the first sub-five-minute song This Deafening Verity. This builds tension and anticipation which Sibling brings with its deep whale song guitar tones and throbbing bass.

While quite a short record at only five songs in 39 minutes. It’s fully evolved, well paced and each play brings the depth of the songwriting to light. It’s a gem of a slow burner. The more I listen to the record the more I adore it. Out on Southern Lord Records on 10th May 2019.

I think this music will be utterly devastating in a live setting and you’d be wise to check them out on the upcoming UK/Europe tour which includes a stop in Newcastle!

BIG|BRAVE Live dates:

16/05 DE Nurnberg Musikverein

17/05 DE Berlin Urban Spree

18/05 PL Poznan LAS

19/05 CZ Prague TBA

21/05 NL Haarlem Patronaat

22/05 BE Antwerp Kavka

23/05 FR Lille La Bulle Café

24/05 UK Bristol Rough Trade

25/05 UK London Raw Power

27/05 UK Newcastle The Cluny

29/05 FR Paris Instants Chavirés

30/05 FR Brussels Magasin 4

01/06 CH Winterthur Gaswerk

03/06 DE Wurzburg Cairo

04/06 DE Hamburg Schute

 

NINE INCH NAILS  | 25 Years of The Downward Spiral | FEATURE

NINE INCH NAILS | 25 Years of The Downward Spiral | FEATURE

25 Years of The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails | Feature

Feature and photos by Jimmy Hutchinson

It starts with a brutal blow; then another, and another. 23 seconds in, everything explodes: ‘I am the voice inside your head (and I control you)’. Welcome to the world of The Downward Spiral.

Brian Eno described the experience of listening to Iggy Pop’s 1977 album The Idiot as ‘like having your head encased in concrete’. ‘Mr. Self Destruct’ borrows that approach and then builds a factory over the top. But it’s not all sonic chaos – there is a brief but dramatic shift in dynamics halfway through the song, and after four and a half minutes it collapses to pave the way for the comparatively melodic ‘Piggy’.

It’s the constantly changing moods and dynamics of this album that keep it entertaining – and still surprising – after 25 years. As aggressive as some pieces can be (‘Big Man with a Gun’), The Downward Spiral has plenty of quiet (‘A Warm Place’), fragile (‘Hurt’) and downright weird (‘March of the Pigs’) moments that make it a compelling experience.

Inspired by the emerging industrial scene, Trent Reznor founded Nine Inch Nails in Ohio in 1988, and later assembled a live band to tour debut album Pretty Hate Machine. Subsequent E.P. Broken marked a significant change in direction, intended to reflect the band’s live aggression (and also Reznor’s frustration with original label TVT). The band’s second full-length release is a concept album about ‘someone who sheds everything around them to a potential nothingness’, gradually abandoning their ‘career, religion, relationship, belief and so on’.

Musically, The Downward Spiral continues Broken’s use of layers of distorted guitars and synthesizers, but also features more traditional instruments such as acoustic guitar and piano, and heavy use of sampling and computer editing. As such, its principal ‘instrument’ is the recording studio, and there are plenty of unusual compositional touches.

As dense as the instrumentation and as manic as the time signatures on ‘March of the Pigs’, it abruptly dissolves into a gentle piano coda – twice. The programmed synths and beats of ‘Ruiner’ give way to wind sound effects and a raucous guitar solo from guest Adrian Belew. And infamous hit single ‘Closer’ is such a masterpiece of multitrack mixing that it’s almost easy to forget its ‘controversial’ chorus and promotional video.

Reznor’s wide palette of sounds is complemented by his varied approach to vocals: sometimes a hysterical scream, sometimes a barely audible whisper. The album is also incredibly well structured: each track segues into the next – at times jarringly, and at others with immense subtlety. It’s impossible to imagine the melancholic final notes of ‘A Warm Place’ (which borrows liberally from Bowie’s ‘Crystal Japan’) without the gradual intrusion of the hissing reeds that introduce ‘Eraser’.

Apple Music is currently describing the album as a ‘bold, no-look dive into the abyss’ – but for all its abrasive textures, The Downward Spiral is not short on melodies or hooks. ‘Piggy’ is driven by a walking bass that anchors the song, despite the occasional bursts of noise and an enjoyably chaotic drum solo (played by Reznor himself). ‘Hurt’ has gained fame outside of the album, but the cover versions usually remove its dissonant tritone – the most unique element of the song. The 14 album tracks were fertile enough ground for multiple remix releases, including the March of the Pigs and Closer to God singles, and two international variants of the Further Down the Spiral album.

The Downward Spiral was a colossal success, in an era when the mainstream was ‘salivating over melodramatic angst’. It sold nearly 119,000 copies in its first week, and ultimately over four million copies worldwide. The band stole the show at Woodstock ’94, covered head to foot in mud, and even won themselves a mention in the ‘Homperpalooza’ episode of The Simpsons. With success came pressure to tour and record a follow-up. It took Trent Reznor five years to release The Fragile – but that’s another story.

The ‘Definitive Edition’ of The Downward Spiral was released on 180-gram vinyl in 2016 (pictured). It includes an essay by John Doran. You can still order a copy on nin.com.

LIGHT CONDUCTOR | Sequence One | ALBUM REVIEW

LIGHT CONDUCTOR | Sequence One | ALBUM REVIEW

Light Conductor | Sequence One | Album review

Light Conductor - Sequence One album

Review by: Graeme J. Baty

Light conductor consists of a duo of accomplished musicians; Stephen Ramsay (Young Galaxy) and Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes). Sequence One is their first album and I was intrigued to hear more.

I’ve been leading quite a stressful and hectic life thus far in 2019, this album has been on my iPod for a couple of months and it’s been a lovely soothing retreat from the world. I’ve struggled to put into writing exactly what this album means to me. Perhaps it’s more for a feeling than a thought. That is the magical thing about music, maybe it doesn’t need to be explained but just allowed to wash over you and embrace your very being. It’s mentally soothing and pleasant. Light Conductor is mood music, soundscapes of simple composition that feel like a journey to some unknown star light years away.

A Bright Resemblance starts the record with a simple theme, repeated ad nauseam until you forget the loop and get drawn into other parts of the drone, lost in sound until you remember it’s there and you start to enjoy it again. Chapel of the Snows finds the loop twisting into a darker tone, I’m fully immersed now and the theme is embedded within my mind. The variations become quite engaging and curious, where will it go next?

Far From the Warming sun starts the second half of the album and allows for a brief readjustment and new theme to evolve before it fully appears. The second half is an entirely more oppressive and darker tone but I love this. Title track Light Conductor closes the album with the only vocals on the record, a kraut/pop rock anthem that acts of the album’s crescendo and comes as a pleasant and unexpected twist.

As stated I have struggled to put this one into words. Forgive me for the brief review. I don’t feel I can really do this experience justice with mere words alone. A remarkable instrumental piece that will teleport you beyond our universe.

Out on 8th March 2019. You can order it from their Bandcamp page

BLACK TO COMM | Seven Horses for Seven Kings | ALBUM REVIEW

BLACK TO COMM | Seven Horses for Seven Kings | ALBUM REVIEW

Black to Comm | Seven Horses for Seven Kings | Album review

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

With a whir of oscillating brass, Seven Horses for Seven Kings roars to life. Brief opener ‘Asphodel Mansions’ sets an ominous tone, which gradually shifts into full-blown horror on the nightmarish ‘A Miracle No/ Mother Child at Your Breast’.

Black to Comm is the solo project of German musician Marc Richter, whose albums are generally constructed from distorted samples, looped and layered to create a disquieting ambient field. This latest album features additional rhythmic elements – tribal-sounding drums, which add an occasional urgent feel to these recordings. Richter has described a growing fondness for playing live shows, which perhaps accounts for a greater sense of immediacy.

Some of the more affecting passages on the album are the more unexpected – the squawking Berlin-era Bowie-esque sax sounds on ‘Licking the Fig Tree’, for example, or the sudden atonal voices on ‘If Not, Not’ which are reminiscent of Ligeti’s avant-garde compositions.  Proceedings seem to reach something of a culminating point on the relatively calm ‘Angel Investor’, which features layers of distorted mellotron, and leads the listener to the lengthy final track’s mournful -sounding collage of loops, distorted noises and speech samples.

Black to Comm has created an interesting and atmospheric piece of work, which is more accessible on subsequent listens (although it isn’t quite as dense and absorbing as Svarte Greiner’s ‘Kappe’, for instance). However, the longer pieces in particular create a palpable sense of dread, and the album is recommended for dark ambient and noise fans.

Seven Horses for Seven Kings is available in digital and physical formats from ThrillJockey, including a limited vinyl pressing.

MARKERS | Heaven in the Dark Earth | ALBUM REVIEW

MARKERS | Heaven in the Dark Earth | ALBUM REVIEW

Markers | Heaven in the Dark Earth | Album review

Review by: Graeme J. Baty

Heaven In The Dark Earth

I’m finding 2019 to be a very interesting year for instrumental music, already some amazing releases; Steve Strong, Teeth of the Sea and Rosetta. Markers popped up on my radar and having heard lead track Marine Parlance I was quite intrigued to hear more.

The band consists of London based math-rock veterans Jason Carty and Jodie Cox. Associated with such acts as Bullet Union, Exes, Narrows, Earth, Sex Swing, Foe, Art of Burning Water, which is quite an impressive list!

The album starts out with Fountain; a sparse soundscape with beautiful reverb drenched crashes. Providing the perfect mood setting for what is to come.

In Amber follows and sets the tone for the rest of the record. Beautifully bare minimum guitar tones, a smidge of reverb and a very clean guitar tone. A kind of ‘less is more’ approach which works strikingly well. As I find myself lulled into a pleasant meditation. The album continues this pace with a brief interlude for Haar. Before the crowning peace Muisca closes the record.

The minimal instrumentation is actually quite refreshing, I often enjoy densely layered music which requires repeated listens and heavy perseverance to fully engage and understand. Here the musicians let the music do the talking, bare minimum instrumentation and tone, juxtaposed with highly crafted compositions. It’s really lovely just to sit back, close my eyes and allow the guitars to wash over you. Delightfully serene record. It feels like a narrative piece, a soundtrack to a movie in my mind, just close your eyes and let your imagination run wild.

Heaven in the Dark Earth is out on God Unknown on 22nd February 2019. You can also order some nice looking limited colour vinyl versions from their Bandcamp page

ROSETTA | Sower of Wind | EP REVIEW

ROSETTA | Sower of Wind | EP REVIEW

Rosetta | Sower of Wind | EP review

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

Rosetta – Sower of Wind

Formed in Philadelphia in 2003, Rosetta has released six full-length albums to date (and the band has made its more recent work available via Bandcamp). Their latest release is an exploration of some of the soundscapes that they developed while creating their 2017 concept album, Utopioid, which featured gradually building dynamics and complex time signatures. However, this release should not be viewed as a re-tread of the earlier album. Devoid of distorted guitars, vocals, drums and crescendos, Sower of Wind is comprised of four pieces named after the points of a compass. Each track consists of a delicate wash of minimalist piano, slowly building synths and sound effects. While each track incorporates similar elements, the melodies and atmospheres created are unique. Other layers, such as fragile acoustic guitars and barely audible speech samples, gradually appear in some of the pieces, only to be submerged in the mix once again.

An interesting departure for fans of their previous album, or for fans of atmospheric, ambient-flavoured music in general, Sower of Wind is a subtly constructed record. While regular followers of the band may miss the more aggressive elements, Rosetta may well find themselves a new audience with this release.

Sower of Wind has been available on Bandcamp for pay-what-you-wish download since 4th January 2019:

It will be available on vinyl from 22nd February: pelagic-records.com/product/rosetta-sower-of-wind-12-ep

THE TWILIGHT SAD | It Won/t Be Like This All The Time | ALBUM REVIEW

THE TWILIGHT SAD | It Won/t Be Like This All The Time | ALBUM REVIEW

The Twilight Sad | It Won/t Be Like This All The Time | Album reaction

Review and photos by: Graeme J. Baty

 

‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ has been a long time coming and marks The Twilight Sad’s first album since 2014. That’s quite a remarkable thought, how time flies?! That album became an instant classic, they set themselves a high benchmark. Although it’s taken a long time to release a follow-up, they’ve certainly not been slacking, endless touring and notable side projects have kept them busy. They’ve emerged as one of Scotland’s most revered and respected bands. It’s been a pleasure to watch them rise in recent years. 2019 sees them make another gigantic step towards the big time.

Their fifth album brings some changes; new personnel, record label and a maturing of their sound. It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is a fearless leap into the unknown, yet it retains the key characteristics that we love. Much like labelmates Mogwai, TTS seem unable to release a duff record, constantly innovating and ensuring their lasting legacy as one of Scotland’s best bands.

The big question is… does it live up to their previous efforts?

Today I picked up my very own indies only blue edition from the canny folk at Reflex in Newcastle. I’ve tried to resist the temptation to obtain review copies and or to listen to the streamed songs before the release. It’s been a long long time since I’ve been excited about a record and I wanted to make a bit of effort for it.

Although I’ve been lucky enough to have heard some of the songs live. Here I go for the first proper play and I’ll give my reaction track by track! This won’t be a very insightful deep probe into the record, just an honest reaction to the songs as I play them.

Side A

[10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs]

This is weird, slow and droney, the vocals start. Wait a minute! It’s 45 RPM, wow! I pick up the needle and hit the 45rpm toggle. Instantly impressed, as they kickoff the record with graceful but rousing song. A Krautrock loop sounds delightful as James sings “We’re hanging on by a thread”, I’m on the edge of my seat taking this in. It ends on “Why can’t you remember me?” as feedback bubbles underneath and I’m pretty stunned. This is classic Twilight Sad and an incredible opener.

The 45 RPM speed is a nice touch! Hard to compare it to a 33 1/3 record, as I don’t have one! However, the sound quality on the pressing is immaculate, so I can assume it’s a positive.

Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting

What a title! This one I distinctly remember from the Brudenell show. The bassline grabs you, a real Docherty stomper, leaving me with a sore neck! The record version doesn’t disappoint, surely an album highlight. Vocally it conjures very violent imagery. I need to come back to this song and play it some more.

The Arbor

The third song; The Arbor channels eighties guitar arpeggios with a sickly sweet chorus effect. I remember this was another Brudenell highlight. Sorry, I can sense this playback bringing recalling many fond memories, it was my favourite gig of 2018 after all! Back to the music, this is probably the softest tone to a TTS song to date. Touring relentlessly with The Cure would influence any band and the characteristics have made their way into the soul of the new material by way of osmosis. Although they’ve always been fans of The Cure, perhaps now it’s more noticeable. The synths take centre stage, mixed higher and more prominent on the record, more so than even on NOCEK, albeit with a less gothic/industrial twist and a more unapologetic 80s sound. This record is Brendan Smith’s time to shine.

Side B

VTr

Instantly recognisable! Easily a setlist highlight from the gigs I’ve seen in 2018. The track finds them knocking up the power with some absolutely incredible percussion. Bringing a level of speed (note: that’s speed coupled with precision) that was not present on previous records. The precision and velocity driving the track. Gone are the slow and steady beats. The percussion really shines on the record so far.

“There’s no Love Too Small” VTr is an anthemic stadium-filling masterpiece and I bloody love it!

Sunday Day13

This is the first real breather on the album. A slow number, more traditional TTS type ‘death ballad’ for want of a better term. It brings disc 1 to a close, it wouldn’t feel out of place on Forget The Night Ahead. I really like this one.

Side C

I/m Not Here [missing face]

The smash hit I’m Not Here. Damn, I played this on loop when it came out. Goosebumps still come over me in a wave when I heard the drone of the guitar during the opening. Another broken relationship singalong anthem.  James sings quite openly, I can’t help but wonder who this song is about, but I also like the fact that it can be translated to your own experiences, so maybe I’m happy not knowing. Another classic.

Auge/Maschine

This is not letting up, here comes another stormer. Andy’s guitar riff is a thing of pure beauty, great tone! It takes the song to the next level.

This one will need a few more plays just for sheer indulgence, but I’ll continue and come back to this! Ending on Andy’s trademark feedback, the hairs on my neck stand up. Definitely a song for us guitar nerds.

Keep It All To Me

The third side is coming to a close and the album seems to be settling into a groove with a bitter synth led track.

Side D

Girl Chewing Gum

Yes! Andy is back! Andy’s guitar playing was the key thing I remember from the first time I saw TTS, this is a flashback to those face melting Marshall stack bludgeons.

“Put me in the ground!” James cries. I think I have a new favourite TTS song!

Let/s Get Lost

Ooooh an 80s power ballad? I’m not sure where this one is going judging by the opening bars. By the time James comes in for the verse and power ballad expectations are dispelled “I’m losing, losing you every day”. As the song finds its feet and power.

Again the percussion is incredible, it’s definitely a drummers record.

Videograms

This is the one song I wasn’t sure about when I first heard it, going against popular opinion. Reception has been really warm. I recall people singing along to it word for word at the Leeds Academy gig with Mogwai. I’m still not 100% sold on it, sorry! It does, however, make much more sense (soundwise) in context to the record. It was perhaps a bit too The Cure by numbers for me. I’m not the biggest Cure fan in all honesty, my tastes tend to lean towards heavier sounds. There’s a lack of the ‘wall of sound’ guitar noise that I adore so much (although there is a taster of it low in the mix and at the end), so I think that’s where my prejudice comes in. The thing is, I refuse to judge TTS albums or songs on one listen, they just don’t work like that. So I left this one on the back burner and I am now I’m warming to it. I think the main reason I adore TTS is the songs and the dense layers. There’s so much going on, you have to comeback for repeated listens. They reward the patient listener, the more you listen the more you love the music.

Summary

Eleven songs in 47 minutes, over four sides, it’s over a bit too fast after such a long wait, but I’ll be going back for a second helping in a bit. It’s a rich album of diverse sounds and perfectly compliments their incredible back catalogue, as always they are fearless when it comes to pushing their sound and I think it’s paid off. There are songs on here to keep everyone happy.

I must comment on the impressive package, I’m actually now debating buying the normal black vinyl edition to compliment it. This indies only version features a lovely pale blue colour swap to the pink/red colour tone of the standard version. A nice touch! Double gatefold with some heavy uppercase typeset lyric sheets on the inner cover, perfect for dissecting James Graham’s fascinating lyrics. This is is what to expect when you sign to Rock Action, they make immaculate releases, crafted for the music lover and collector. They’ve done a sterling job on this!

This record must have some of the most accessible and instantly impressive songs in their history. That’s not to say they aren’t as densely layered or are easier on the ears, just through hard work and relentless touring TTS are at their unequivocal finest, they’ve masterfully evolved their sound with each record, fine-tuning and delivering constantly. There’s a linear progress that can be traced all the way back to their early recordings and this record feels like a culmination of that work.

The secret is out now. The time is right for world domination.

It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is out today (18th Jan 2019) on Rock Action Records

STEVE STRONG | Turbo Island | ALBUM REVIEW

STEVE STRONG | Turbo Island | ALBUM REVIEW

Steve Strong | Turbo Island | Album review

Review by: Graeme J. Baty

Steve-Strong Turbo-Island

Let’s get 2019 off to a Strong start, sorry had to! Joking aside the new feature-length album from Steve Strong is anything but weak. A tour de force of musical prowess and creativity. Highly accomplished, multi-instrumentalist Steve Strong releases his new album Turbo Island.

This might be the first review I’ve done based purely on reputation, I must admit I’ve not heard his music before. Hearing nothing but praise for his live performances and his record labels past history, I instantly said yes! For those (like me) who are unfamiliar; Steve is a one-man band, and although in Steve’s case that term is possibly a red herring. The term conjures images of a stereotypical gnarly bearded guitar and kickdrum situation, which is understating plethora of equipment Steve Strong nestles behind during his live performances.

Ten tracks of sublime mellow instrumental goodness. Lovely clean guitar tones reminiscent of Toe (the Japanese band) lend themselves to some nice early morning chill vibes. It’s been my morning commuting soundtrack, a delightful air of calm emanating from my iPod, while the world rushes around me.

I absolutely adore the song titles, Deline Cion, Life After Post Rock and Sensible Skeletons all bring a smile to this curmudgeons face. Intro track Gravel Gardner also amuses and proves to be a highlight of the album with some very accomplished percussion.

From the start, I’m fully engrossed. I’ve had the record on repeat for an most of the week. 2019 is shaping up to have some rather special records, Teeth of the Sea record actually fits quite nicely side by side and there’s certainly a cross over for audiences there.

Full credit to his creative process, the songs sound like full band compositions. The amount of coordination and dexterity to perform these pieces as a solo act is nothing short of miraculous. This is his second full-length album and is certainly his strongest release to date. Turbo Island is an album of overwhelming compositions and creativity. A math-rock masterpiece.

Out tomorrow (18th Jan 2019) on Durham based Sapien Records, home to many diverse and talented acts including our much loved We Are Knuckle Dragger and Shitwife (aka Big Lad). Out! Head over to his Bandcamp page for some rather awesome looking records

TEETH OF THE SEA | Wraith | ALBUM REVIEW

TEETH OF THE SEA | Wraith | ALBUM REVIEW

Teeth of the Sea | Wraith | Album review

Review by: Graeme J Baty

Teeth of the Sea | Wraith

A new Teeth of the Sea album is a tantalising prospect under normal circumstances. This time around they’re pushing their creativity and refusing to be stuck in any pigeonholes with new album ‘Wraith’. Wraith is the follow up to 2015’s Highly Deadly Black Tarantula album, which in itself is a high benchmark, I was curious to find out if they could match that masterpiece or if they’d branch out on a tangent.

Wraith finds Teeth of the Sea exploring brass instrumentation, as briefly flirted with on their previous recordings. This time as a core part of the sound and the compositions are quite remarkable. The muted trumpet on lead track Hiraeth sounds both sleazy and gorgeous, reminiscent of early Tom Waits records. As a result, they manage to sound like a filthy 65daysofstatic. The brass accompanies and often leads the songs, it’s brilliantly done.

Visitor is a densely layered song, building over 8 minutes and sounds reminiscent of their previous record. Track 8 the delightfully titled; ‘Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World’ has this lovely John Carpenter-esque keyboard motif which loops soothingly to a climax and is for me an album highlight. Gladiators Ready, which brings the album to a close is an unexpected oddball Josh Wink party piece. Just when you’re expecting a quiet winddown to the record they hit you with a sucker punch!

Nine songs in 47 minutes. It’s an album of restless talent and creativity. It expands their sound and complements their back catalogue. A delightful album with electronic and industrial aspects it conjures visions of a colossal soundscape, feeling like a soundtrack to an imaginary dystopian movie. Wraith proves a great step forward for the talented trio. It may prove a step too far for some fans of their earlier work, but that’s their loss.

Wraith is out on 22nd February 2019 on Rocket Records. If (like me) you’re a sucker for a nice physical release they have some stunning colour vinyl versions available via their Bandcamp page! Featuring some equally delightful photography/artwork.

Teeth of the Sea | Wraith

CASPAR BRÖTZMANN MASSAKER | The Tribe and Black Axis Reissues | ALBUM REVIEWS

CASPAR BRÖTZMANN MASSAKER | The Tribe and Black Axis Reissues | ALBUM REVIEWS

Caspar Brötzmann Massaker – The Tribe and Black Axis (2019 re-issues)

Review by: Graeme J Baty

I make an effort to check out everything that comes in, I love hearing new music, even if it’s stuff that I probably won’t like. On some occasions, something comes in and I’m left wondering why the hell have I not heard this before? Those moments are golden! The first two albums by Caspar Brötzmann Massaker arrived and that golden moment happened. This immediately stood out and sounded fantastic to my ears. A few days later I’ve had the albums on repeat for some time.

Southern Lord Recordings are adding to their hugely impressive catalogue with reissues of the first album; The Tribe 1987 and second album Black Axis 1989. Southern Lord seem incapable of releasing a duff record. So I decided to give this a shot. Certainly ahead of their time in the 80s, perhaps the time is finally right for CBM to find a wider audience.

Title track The Tribe brings with it Birthday Party/Grinderman type vibes and some admirably outrageous riffs. Grinderman style noise meets a more restrained and focused Sonic Youth SYR noise. There’s real live performance sound to the mix, played at the appropriate volume it sounds like you’re in the room with the band.

The guitar sound sits quite high up in the mix, eclipsing the vocals. Instrumental but never minimal, the guitar takes the lead role. It shouldn’t work but it does and it does really well on Blechton. Caspar’s vocals channel sounds not to dissimilar to John Cale in tone, delivering simple vocal lines perfectly executed to accompany the music, yet not overshadow it.

Primal chants of Massaker juxtapose the seemingly untamed guitar wail. Clocking in at over 9 minutes, it takes a primitive Krautrock like rhythm and pummels you with it for the entire duration. Unlike the standard Krautrock, it doesn’t subdue or bore you with endless repetition, I find myself on the edge of my seat for the entire song enthralled in the noise. Quite an exciting journey.

Black Axis sees the band move into more avant-garde direction. Songs elongate into Swans like compositions clocking in at up to 16 minutes. Hunter sounds like the sonic equivalent of an anxiety attack with its finger tapping drilling into your skull.

The albums are enthralling and sometimes challenging. The Tribe acts as the perfect soft landing introduction to the music of Caspar. The avant-garde approach ramping up for the follow-up album Black Axis which is a trend that continues into following work. Two remarkable albums from a band that deserve much greater recognition than they have experienced.

The reissues are out now on Southern Lord Recordings.