Sunday, 28 February 2016

N.y.X - The News

Italian eclectic prog outfit N.y.X will rattle your jewellery and shake the dust off your ornaments with this splendid sprawling beast of an album, their second following on from their agitated debut, 2009's Down In The Shadows. Once again they have called on a stellar supporting cast to flesh out their already turbulent sound. Their sonic cup brims over, indeed!

As you may correctly surmise from the album and track titles, The News is a conceptual collection of songs transmitted via a fiery musical discourse, dissecting the everyday stresses of 21st century survival amid an unending stream of establishment control and media mainpulation. While a hardly unique premise, especially within the modern Progwelt, The News transmits edgy nervousness and twitchy paranoia with aplomb, both lyrically and musically. Groundhog Day... will intentionally set your teeth on edge before descending into exhausted calm in the denoument.

N.y.X display an obvious love of Crimsoid weirdness, a tune like A Sarcastic Portrait... ascending a particularly fine construction of light, but they soon leave those influences behind as their own unique brand of propulsive energy drives the pulsebeat ever onward. Indeed, A Sarcastic Portrait... eventually ends up in an entirely different universe to turn of the century Crim, that influence no doubt being more than a little down to the presence of former Crim front man Adrian Belew on guitar. He's fairly unobtrusive in the busy mix, but you can recognise that psychotic elephantine plank spanking anywhere, and one particularly fine assymetrical solo will have your kneecaps facing in opposite directions should you attempt to shimmy to it. This after all, music you can really only dance to in your head.

Discord (Domestic Policies) takes a deserved breather, whisking the sound away into a psychedelic swirl of soaring guitars and early Floydian spaciousness, with the languid cosmic vibe recalling British space explorers Census of Hallucinations. N.y.X appear to be sonic cousins of their similarly lysergically inclined countrymen Daal, and if anything are even more out on a limb. It's a fine and shapely looking peg, so I'll stay here if I may, musing on the alluring stocking seam enticingly disappearing into a mysterious but inviting dark warm world.

The sound mix, by band leader and chief writer Walt F. Nyx and his bandmate Danilo A. Pannico is superlative, and you can turn it up without fearing for your sanity or indeed your ears, as thankfully it now seems that the loudness wars are a thing of the past. The "quiet but loud" of the latter half of The Paper and the percussive detail of Oscillations... being fine examples of the warm and involving sonics.

If The News has one slight failing it is that the manic energy of the first half of the album cannot be maintained, and the latter half while still generating enough power to light my shed for a week does not quite hit those earlier giddy heights. The pacing of the album was no doubt intentional, and after repeated listens it all falls into place, so it seems I am looking for cracks in the pavement where there are none - the critic's curse, I guess.

Despite having an electronic opening ryhthm that reminds me of mid-80s synth pop, The Daily Dark Delirium soon wins me over by going Crimsoid again, this time courtesy of Warr Guitar supremo Trey Gunn. The song jumps around like an over excited puppy, and for me recalls early VdGG in its manic intensity, which is enough to get me past the slightly "sixth form poetry" declamations of the lyrics. I can forgive that as Mr Nyx is writing in a second language. And here we end, quite breathless and none the wiser as to where this unique band are coming from or indeed, going. That is a good thing.

Occasionally Bad Elephant Records pull a really odd looking rabbit out of the hat, and thus far this year the Bad Elephant Unseemly Carrot Award definitely goes to N.y.X, and The News is a must for any lover of the quirky end of the prog telescope, or of avant rock in general.

1. Restless Slumber (At The Break Of Dawn) (4:43)
2. Groundhog Day (Wakening, Dressing, Starting Up.) (7:09)
3. A Sarcastic Portrait (Editorial, Home and Foreign...) (6:14)
4. Discord (Domestic Policies) (7:20)
5. The Paper (Titles & Subtitles) (5:25)
6. Oscillations Du Chaos - Part III (3:23)
7. The Daily Dark Delirium (12:52)

Total running time 47:06

Line up:
Walt F. Nyx - lead vocals, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, synthesizers, electric piano, loops and devices
Danilo A. Pannico - electronic and acoustic drums & percussion, piano, synthesizers, typewriter

Kaos - harmonica, gold chain, Italian voice track 6, loops and devices
Klod - electric guitar, backing vocals, soundscapes and devices

Adrian Belew - electric guitar and soundscapes (track 3)
Ivan Bridon Napoles - piano and keyboards (track 6)
Marco Allocco - cello (track 2)
Trey Gunn - Warr Guitar and soundscapes (track 7)


N.y.X Bandcamp

N.y.X Facebook

Bad Elephant Music Bandcamp

Bad Elephant Music Facebook

Footnote: With a website that seems to be a dead link and with no YouTube videos, this band seem to like hiding in the dark. The News is all there on the Bandcamp link above, thankfully!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Warmer Welcome

Many thanks to Colin Robinson of Jumble Hole Clough infamy, via whom I am made aware of this rather fine 110 - yes, that's One Hundred And Ten! - track compilation lovingly and meticulously put together by the obviously publicity-shy "Ruby & Lamorna" in aid of the Refugees Welcome collective, who provide much needed support, sustenance and shelter for the embarrassingly few refugees our dreadful government allow on to this sceptered isle. For a mere five of your English or Scottish pounds sterling, or more if you're feeling munificent, you can download this one third day-long journey into every kind of music, radical or not, that you would care to wave your cleft stick at.

There be folk, there be reggae, there be funk, there be skewed pop, heck, there's even some rock of the "post", "avant" and "space" varieties, and of course bucketloads of general wigginess, but mostly there be beats a-plenty to shake one's booty at to one's heart's desireƩ, yessir!

Here it is, in all its splendiferousness, and if you think I'm providing a track listing....just enjoy!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The end of an ear...

In the words of Neil from The Young Ones "I don't wanna bring you down, guys, but..."

As pop music becomes more and more easily accessible and by extension worthless and disposable, not to mention ever more homogenised, truly challenging popular music, as epitomised by David Bowie will become increasingly marginal until, for all practical purposes, it disappears completely. Pop will indeed eat itself. Those of us born between the early 1940s and the early 1960s, or the Baby Boomer generation as it is known, have been lucky to have become teenagers at varying points between the mid 1950s and the 1970s when pop culture, its music and everything that went with it formed the most important part of our leisure time.

When our Baby Boomer generation that provided the bands and their audiences die off, as it will at an alarming rate over the coming couple of decades, the era of music as the main driver for popular culture, mainstream or otherwise will fade away with us, and the signs are already here. Whatever comes after us in popular music can never have the same impact and sense of wonder and exploration. There will never be another artist who can release something as out there and uncompromising as Bowie's Berlin trilogy, for example, yet still manage to shift hundreds of thousands of units of that same wonderful noise. 

Real progressive music will continue on the margins, but as a hobby for its participants, as no-one can now make a living from non-mainstream music. The current economic model of popular streaming sites will force out all but the already large-scale acts. Yes, pop will indeed eat itself...

Tied into this, the gig circuit over the last 10 years or so has shrunk dramatically, with only the larger urban centres able to sustain venues. If like me you are lucky enough to live within a reasonable distance of the capital, then there are still a fair few options gig-wise. However more recently the gentrification of London in particular, although I guess this no doubt applies to other UK cities as well, has seen the closure of small and mid-sized venues continue apace, driven by ludicrous property prices lighting up £ signs in venue owners' eyes as they envisage turning your local sound emporium into chicken coop apartments for the self-satisfied and smug who will then complain endlessly in their loud whiny voices at the very idea of hordes of plebs enjoying themselves in their vicinity, should there still remain a nearby fleapit or two.

Pop has now eaten itself and belched copiously, and by doing so has allowed bland corporatism to take over the means of production, distribution and consumption. I can only hope it gets severe indigestion. Perhaps we need a 21st century version of the punk rock revolution to tear it all down? The problem is the yoof of today are either too subsumed by enforced educational debt and worry, or are living a life on breadline wages in prospect-free employment to have the leisure time to care. As for the cowed general populace, addicted to their computer games and mind-numbing shite TV, their opinions moulded by a media with an increasingly right-wing agenda, they have been turned fat and lazy by convenience foods and couldn't give a shit...which they are incapable of anyway, as all that McD can only make you constipated.

Now, where's that bottle of JD, barman? Wotcha mean, I drank it already?...

This has been your Warr Correspondent Roger McNasty, 56 and counting...

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