Saturday, 31 December 2011

Serious Beak - Huxwhukw

Described by their record label as "psychedelic-progressive discordant metal", when Sydney based Serious Beak landed their talons on my 'pooter I was wondering if I would like this, as endless crushing bludgeon riffola is not what my Sound Doctor normally prescribes. And I happen to have a cold coming on, so the idea of trying to extract the nuances from 41 minutes of probable headache inducing noise did not fill me with glee. 

Firstly I have to say the cover artwork really deserves a mention, as Caitlin Hackett has provided the band with something quite stunning...just take a look at this:

"Huxwhukw is the supernatural long-beaked cannibal bird and servant to Baxwbakwalnuksiwé, the "Cannibal at the North end of the world" in Kwakwaka’wakw mythology. Huxwhukw uses his long, snapping beak to crack open the skulls of men to eat their brains and pluck out their eyeballs.
All hail Huxwkwux and the Crooked Beak of Heaven." Just in case you didn't know!

Now, the music. No vocals here, it's all instrumental, so at least I'm spared my personal bane, the Cookie Monster cometh! There are parts of this that pin you to the wall and attempt to stomp you down, Tuī / Tuō for example, but within those crushing riffs are interludes of eerie weirdness. Opener Baxwbakwalanuksiwé being a case in point, setting the scene with a slow cyclical guitar figure that puts me in mind of early Felt, about as far from metal as you can get.

This from their brief biog on Bandcamp - ""Huxwhukw" is an eccentric amalgamation of mind-melting, toe-tapping, psychedelic, progressive and poly-rhythmic discordant music, sure to please fans of Meshuggah, Mastodon, Botch, The Mars Volta and King Crimson." All these bases and more are covered on Han, as the poly-rhythmic and metal riffing comes out of the woodwork slowly which in parts reminds me of Opeth without the growling. The figure from the opening track is repeated after the brief riffing start, building to a passage of straight rock with a Crimsoid bent. On Swagger we are treated to some violent speed metal, but even here the rhythm chops and changes all over the shop to keep ones interest. The song ends with more very slow drawn out notes that lead into the following track Gödel !Xun, which then morphs into some fine acid rock. Actually the more one listens to this the more you will find behind the what at first listen appears to be the dominance of metal stylings. Is Anhrefn a tribute to the Welsh punks of that name? Well, given that Anhrefn translates from Welsh as disorder, and given the structured chaos of its two and a half minutes, it very possibly is. The fact that an Australian avant-metal band can reference an obscure Welsh punk act just goes to show their diverse influences. I've since been told by the band that they do not know of the Welsh punkers, but that one of them has Welsh ancestors...oh well, can't be right all the time!

Probably the most avant thing here is Sporãs which charges around all over the shop, occasionally stopping to pick up a detuned guitar on the way, along with some spooky math atmospherics. Madness writ large! Fljóta (Icelandic for float) gives us a welcome break from the syncopated insanity of the previous two tracks, with heavily reverbed chanting adding to the eerie atmospherics.

More math-metal pervades closer Taheu Nadryvy, Taheu! (sorry, no idea!) bringing Primus to mind, and leaves us with a challenging listen, a must for all avant-metal fans, but not really my cup of tea. Now, where's that cold remedy?

1. Baxwbakwalanuksiwé 02:23
2. Han 08:17
3. Swagger 05:11
4. Gödel !Xun 02:40
5. Tuī / Tuō 07:23
6. Anhrefn 02:29
7. Sporãs 02:43
8. Lähendama 02:17
9. Fljóta 03:44
10. Taheu Nadryvy, Taheu! 04:33

Line up:
Gene White - drums
Tim Brown - telecaster
Lachlan R. Dale - les paul
Andrew Mortensen - bass

Get this at Bandcamp

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2011 - A year in review

Firstly a big Thank You to anyone who actually reads my nonsense. I'd still do it if no-one came, but sloppy kisses to ya anyway...xxxxxxxxxxxx!

2011 was a wonderful year for new progressive music, and almost totally crap in every other respect, but hey, let's not dwell on that!

2011 was also a year in which my amateur music scribbling pastime took off exponentially, and was a year in which I discovered, well confirmed actually, as I had always suspected as much, that "prog" is rarely the same as "progressive", and if you've followed any of my wibble then you'll already know my feelings on the subject, and you don't want me going off on one here, do you? Well...I might, a bit, somewhere nearer the end.

Presented below are my music year highlights (and some lowlights)...all completely subjective of course. It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to, or summat...

Albums of the year
In the order they were retrieved from my fog-shrouded brain, the majority of these came out in 2011. There are a few that were released in 2010, but they only crossed my radar in 2011, so that's good enough for me! Whatever, these albums are all worthy of your attention. I have not indicated which I thought was the best, as that changes every week, but those in bold vie for top place in rotation. No compilations or reissues allowed, and links go to reviews. Some of those without reviews will no doubt appear either here or over on DPRP later, as the Yuletide alcoholic fug clears, so watch this space(rock)! 

Amplifier - The Octopus
Memories Of Machines - Warm Winter
Jo Hamilton - Gown
Van Der Graaf Generator - A Grounding In Numbers
Herd Of Instinct - Herd Of Instinct
Jakszyk Fripp Collins - A Scarcity Of Miracles
Grails - Deep Politics
Gosta Berlings Saga - Glue Works
Sleepin Pillow - Superman's Blues
North Sea Radio Orchestra - I a Moon
No Man's Land - Drowning Desert
Serena Maneesh - No. 2: Abyss in B Minor 
Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning
Magazine - No Thyself
Abrete Gandul - Enjambre Sismico 
Kalutaliksuak - Snow Melts Black
Levin Torn White - Levin Torn White
Dave Willey & Friends - Immeasurable Currents
Øresund Space Collective - Sleeping With The Sunworm
Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow
Pythagoras - The Correlated A, B, C
Knitting By Twilight - Weathering 
Moraine - Metamorphic Rock
Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know

True to form, only two of these featured on Andy Read's DPRP writers' top 15 of 2011 radio show, Amplifier (no.11) and Steven Wilson (no.2), which just goes to show I'm off on a Tangent (arfarf)!

Cover of the year
Pythagoras - The Correlated A, B, C

A triple fold-out sleeve that contains a seven inch single (Part A), a ten inch LP (Part B), a twelve inch LP (Part C), two CDs which contain all the tracks from the three pieces of vinyl plus a bonus track, and finally but not least, four art prints!

This is art
...and so is this

Gig of the year
Burning Shed 10th Anniversary Celebration - Leamington Spa Assembly, starring no-man, Theo Travis, Pineapple Thief redux, Giancarlo Erra, Resonance Association. An evening of true art.

Runner-up Cressida at Camden Underworld - A truly magical evening by a band who hadn't played together in 40 years. 

The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz Award
Could only be given to one Steven Wilson. In between a touring a new Blackfield album, remixing two Crimson albums, remixing for Caravan and Jethro Tull, twiddling knobs for Opeth and Memories of Machines, appearing with no-man, recording and releasing his marvy solo album and then touring it, Mr Wilson still found the time to redecorate his studio in a fetching shade of black. He put some shelves up too, and maybe creosoted the fence. Does this man ever sleep?

This is all far too cheery, so, let's get acerbic!...

The "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before" award
Jointly won by Glass Hammer and Wobbler who both seem to desire to be Yes circa 1973 when they have more than enough talent to create their own sounds, and all while their heroes are still making new music. If Yes were defunct I could almost understand it, but what they feel about these copyists must be a mixture of pride, bemusement and annoyance. Sorry, but I just don't get it.

Oxymoron of the year
Goes to the Head of Music at BBC Radio One, one George Ergatoudis, who captained the Sheffield Uni team on the Xmas series of graduate University Challenge. He not only failed to guess Nashville from the clue "Grand Ol' Opry", but also didn't recognise the fab Wake Up Boo by The Boo Radleys. Obviously his job title is an oxymoron, or maybe it's because Radio One now plays wall-to-wall crap and wouldn't recognise proper pop culture or a decent tune if it was bit on its collective testicles by Sir Paul McCartney? Me, I couldn't possibly comment.

That's all folks! See you all in 2012, have a great New Year's Eve....right, it's off down the shops now to stock up on booze and the ingredients for a turkey curry.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Radio For The Daydreamers - Praying For The Be(a)st

So, back in the wonderful and frightening world of experimental post-rockers Radio For The Daydreamers we are gifted with the second part of the triptych Praying For The Be(a)st with the album of the same name. Our hero, having delved into the depths of his dark psyche on Mother Superior And Her Fields Of Migraines now attempts to come to terms with his inner turmoils by further withdrawal into the self, questioning every aspect of his existence. If that does not sound healthy, it probably isn't, and lines like "No more stab wounds in my arms. He will give me drugs to keep, He will give me nights to sleep." from the opening song We Are Only Safe Before Sunrise only serve to confirm it.

Musically the minimalism of the Mother Superior is continued, and more deliberately off tuned guitar sleepwalks through Wasted Faces In Secret Places. The following song Don't Give Up On Me Yet, Dad is actually almost symphonic and uplifting, as a shred of humanity is still there in the protagonist's soul. Bloodlights (Oh I Sleep) sees a very scary and goosebump inducing narration of a man in the depths of downer induced sleep-like-molasses  nightmares..."through empty skies, that weep and bloody lights, you hide" slurs our hero to a backdrop of This Mortal Coil meets Faust (a very appropriate reference point, even if in name only) at their most Gothic played at one-third speed. Don't play this song in the dark!

Prog Jazz (All musicians are freaks) lifts things up with some club jazz meets Aphex Twin beats and is, dare I say it, sprightly! Of course it was too good to last, and we're back in the Slough of Despond with When You Die, which has a very odd rhythm track, and more very slightly de-tuned and reverbed guitars. Unlike the previous album this de-tuning malarkey seems to work and is not simply irritating, maybe because of the increased production values evident on this album. To Rid The Be(a)st is a hellish vaudeville alt-country number from the Seventh Ring, continuing the horror movie soundscapes. Necrosis Stupor is not the torpid affair you might have expected from the title and returns to the jazz vibe....mmmm...nice.

Piano features heavily throughout the album and the player's jazz style contrasts nicely with the pervading air of menace, particularly on Curl Up, Time To Die (When Jazz Ate My Soul), which has a bass line right out of the Jah Wobble textbook. No-one Comes Here But Me goes all Sigur Ros and dreamy and is a welcome calm and beautiful interlude. The strange voices at the beginning of Freelance Dream Killing Machine remind me of the café scene from The Faust Tapes, but this is soon eclipsed by more woozy off kilter guitar chords, chiming like gargantuan bells from Mordor. Very strange.

The final three tracks of this sprawling be(a)st of an album, all 72 minutes of it, are entertaining enough, but seem like an afterthought, and the album would have been more concise with them left off in my opinion, and it would have been somehow fitting to have ended on the abject terror of We, The Howling Damned.

Is this whole triptych a story of suffering through depression, possibly drawn from experience? If it is then fair play to the band for taking on such a grim subject and expressing it so well. On the other hand if one ignores the somewhat pretentious statements that accompany this band (and I'll bet they would hate to be called "prog") and just take the album as a musical experience you will find a bewildering variety of styles to get lost in. An altered state trawl through the dusty cobweb strewn nooks and crannies of the psyche that are best left alone, this album sometimes feels like a mushroom trip with its rollercoaster ride up to blissful heights one minute, plunging to the pits of skin-crawling terror the next. Just don't play it if your feeling a bit desperate, that's all!

1. We Are Only Safe Before Sunrise (5:01)
2. Wasted Faces In Secret Places (3:05)
3. Don't Give Up On Me Yet, Dad  (3:30)
4. Glowing Like Angels, You Are On Fire (1:55)
5. Ghosts Keep Me Safe, While You Are Gone (3:07)
6. Neither Of Us Will Live On (4:22)
7. Bloodlights (Oh I Sleep) (5:22)
8. Hours Of The Night (1:24)
9. Prog Jazz (All musicians are freaks) (2:56)
10. When You Die (4:32)
11. To Rid The Be(a)st (5:32)
12. Necrosis Stupor (2:13)
13. Curl Up, Time To Die (When Jazz Ate My Soul) (4:10)
14. No One Ever Comes Here, But Me (4:36)
15. Freelance Dream Killing Machine (4:42)
16. We, The Howling Damned (1:55)
17. Treacherous (4:44)
18. 30 Pieces Of Silver (4:03)
19. Knife Party (4:40)

Line up:
Again, the mystery is maintained...I've still not a clue...

No more marking!!!

2019, the insanity grows...

Odd title for an annual music review, but them's the times. With these words I aim to provide you with an escape from the creeping madne...