Full Upon Her Burning Lips

2019 seems to be a year where rock rears it’s head again and gains some ascendancy in a busy musical landscape.

The masters of sensuous guitar led music are back, and, with their latest album “Full Upon Her Burning Lips”, Earth forego the additional instrumentation that embellished some of their previous records and reduce the team to the core duo of Dylan Carlson on guitar and bass and Adrienne Davies on drums and percussion.

Matters commence with  “Datura’s Crimson Veils”, a twelve-minute opus that reflects Earth’s new approach with Carlson’s sepia-toned Bakersfield Sound guitars lurching across a barren landscape while Davies punctuates the melodies with intent and a particularly effective cymbal roll adds an alien sound to the mix. Indeed her cymbal work throughout the album is exemplary.

The approach on this release in some part looks back to the riff-constructed approach of their “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light” albums, but stripped of their ornateness….

“It was definitely a very organically developed record,” Carlson says of the process. “I limited the number of effects I used. I always like the limiting of materials to force oneself to employ them more creatively. Previous Earth records were quite lush sounding, and I wanted a more upfront and drier sound, using very few studio effects.”

The stripped down approach had another advantage. “I really wanted the drums to be present,” Carlson says. “I felt with previous Earth records that other instrumentation took up so much of the sonic space that the drums were kind of pushed to the side.”

This methodology highlights Davies’ ability to elevate the drum kit beyond its rhythmic functions and allows it to serve as an expressive, nuanced, and tonally rich component to Earth’s sound without reverting to bombast.

Less is more.

 “In the past I’ve usually had a strong framework for an album,” Carlson says. “This one developed over the course of writing and recording. It just felt like ‘Earth’—like just the two players doing their best work at playing, serving the music.”

The absence of a pre-existing narrative guiding the compositions results in songs were more open and intuitive, often resulting in musical vignettes like “Exaltation of Larks” or  “Maidens Catafalque”.

“I wanted this to be a ‘sexy’ record, a record acknowledging the ‘witchy’ and ‘sensual’ aspects in the music… sort of a ‘witch’s garden’ kind of theme, with references to mind altering plants and animals that people have always held superstitious beliefs towards. A conjuror or root doctor’s herbarium of songs, as it were.”

The ten tracks on Full Upon Her Burning Lips came together in bits and pieces. Songs like “Cats on the Briar” and “Mandrake’s Hymn” emerged from a handful of musical phrases and repeating patterns concocted in moments of downtime during their 2017 tour schedule. The delightful “Descending Belladonna” came from a live soundtrack project. Other songs came from rehearsals in the months leading up to recording or in moments of inspiration in the studio.

The record was engineered, mixed, and mastered by longtime associate Mell Dettmer at Studio Soli. Knowing their process and their sound, Dettmer helped harness, shape, and document the songs in a manner that highlights the depth of Earth’s sparse components. For the patient listener, the cyclical nature of the songs “She Rides an Air of Malevolence” or “An Unnatural Carousel” reveal new elements with repeated listens, with the subtle variations between passes creating a kaleidoscope of sounds.

“I feel like this is the fullest expression and purest distillation of what Earth does since I re-started the band,” Carlson says in reflection of Full Upon Her Burning Lips.

As a long time Earth fan I found the new approach refreshing, there is a tendency in some rock circles to “over-egg the mix” in the search of something memorable, whereas this band manage to achieve that goal by simplifying their approach. Both restrained and adventurous in equal measure, this is instrumental music of the highest quality and a primer for how to use the guitar without fret worrying shredding, and the drums as more than mere percussion. I have to agree with Carlson, this is their best work to date and it immediately goes on the albums of the year list for 2019.

Sargent House releases the album to the world on May 24th, 2019 on 2xLP / CD / digital formats.

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Life Metal

It has been four years since the last Sunn O))) album, their eighth studio full length “Life Metal” emerged in April (the discography is incredibly complex – see below).  Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have brought on board Steve Albini for this release and whilst the core style of the duo is not lost there are some additions to the sound.

There are four lengthy tracks which are characterised by the usual deep and sonorous chord/riff/drone sequences, chamber metal if you will, that typify the Sunn O))) experience. However there are subtle changes to the soundscape through a combination of Albini’s engineering/mixing and the addition of several “guests” into the party.

Hildur Guðnadóttir renowned film music composer, and former member of the bands Múm, Pan Sonic and Angel, brings a unique contribution through vocals and electric cello, and the “new” instrument, the cello like haldorophone, to the proceedings. The main contribution comes via the albums mammoth closing composition/concerto “Novæ”.

Tim Midyett, a close friend of Greg and Stephen since the Seattle days of the early 90s, (and member of Silkworm, Bottomless Pit and Mint Mile) plays aluminium neck bass and baritone guitars.

New music composer Anthony Pateras arranged and recorded  pipe organ for track two “Troubled Air” (titled after an essay by author Aliza Shvarts, who also penned the liner notes for last release Kannon).

Impossibly long slow notes, sustain, feedback, and intensity are the key elements and you shouldn’t expect anything radically new.  However the analogue direct to tape/vinyl techniques appear to have added a more dense and visceral feel to the recording. The middle two tracks add to the canon without too much refinement. However the opening and closing tracks, the latter reaching a mind numbing 25 minutes, take on a sort of imperious in your face attitude that compels listening. Both break from the tradition of just riffs and chords with some “lighter” moments.

This is not music for people who like the conventions of a nice melody, a beginning, a middle and an end. It is brutal for the most part, and strips back the genre to it’s basics, you could argue they are the L.S. Lowry of heavy metal, reducing forms and processes to fundamentals of riff and noise. There is no percussion, just layers of guitars at maximum gain with other instruments occasionally fighting their way to the forefront. I find it fascinating, I don’t know why I like it, but it gets to me. I find the simplicity quite cathartic.

A second album recorded at the same sessions is due later in the year. A tour is underway also

The discography is something like this…..in reverse order

  • Life Metal (CD 2xLP 2019)
  • Downtown LA Rehearsal / Rifftape March 1998 (LP, 2018)
  • Нежить (Live in Moscow 3xLP, 2016)
  • ⻘青⽊木ヶ原 // 樹海海 (packaged with initial copies of Kannon album, flexi 7″, 2015)
  • Kannon (CD & LP 2015)
  • LA Reh 012 (LP, 2014)
  • Soused (collaboration with Scott Walker, CD & 2xLP 2014)
  • Terrestrials (collaboration with Ulver, CD & LP 2014)
  • Rehearsal Demo Nov 11 2011 (LP, 2012)
  • The Iron Soul of Nothing (collaboration with Nurse With Wound, 2xLP 2011)
  • Agharthi Live 09-10 (Live in Europe LP + 7″ 2011)
  • Monoliths & Dimensions (CD & 2xLP 2009)
  • GrimmRobes Live 101008 (Cassette 2009)
  • Che (with Pan Sonic) (10″ 2009)
  • O))) Presents… Pentemple (LP & CD 2008)
  • Dømkirke (live in Bergen 2xLP 2008)
  • Oracle (12″ 2007)
  • Altar (collaboration with Boris, 3xLP & CD 2006)
  • WHITEbox (4xLP Box 2006)
  • La Mort Noir dans Esch/Alzette (CD 2006)
  • AngelComa (split with Earth, LP 2006)
  • Black One (CD 2005, 2xLP 2006)
  • Solstitium Fulminate (packaged with initial copies of Back One album, CD 2005)
  • Cro-Monolithic Remixes for an Iron Age (12″ 2004)
  • Candlewolf of the Golden Chalice (12″ 2005)
  • White2 (CD & 2xLP 2004, remaster 2xLP 2018)
  • Live White (live 2xCD 2004)
  • Live Action Sampler (promotional mix 2xCD 2004)
  • The Libations of Samhain (live CD 2003)
  • Veils It White (12″ 2003)
  • White1 (CD & 2xLP 2003, remaster 2xLP 2018)
  • Flight of the Behemoth (CD & 2xLP 2002)
  • The Grimmrobe Demos (demo 1998, CD 2000, 2xPLP 2003, 2xLP 2004, 3xPLP 2008)
  • ØØ Void (CD 2000, 2xLP 2003, CD & 2LP 2011)

 

 

 

Payola

Attempts to finally get to see the reformed Vee VV this year have failed miserably. A combination of factors including guitarists with poorly hands and other matters have left me wondering what they could be like live after all this time. Never mind  I can console myself with the remastered CD collection/compilation of their work called “Payola” released by Edils Recording in a marvellously eco friendly digipac (cork and paper). 19 tracks from across their career involves four different line-ups.

The bulk of their recordings are included and the collection provides a rich history of post punk North West UK in the 1980s. Bass and riff driven in the most part with a combination of that early 80s guitar tremor/flange/phase/jangle and incisive vocals with politically astute words. The music provides an impressive bridge between what bands like The Fall and The Moodists were doing at this time, and the emerging pre-goth epic sound that would start with The Birthday Party, get captured by Bauhaus and Killing Joke, and then get lost in it’s own eyeliner. Comparisons with Gang of Four have been made elsewhere, I guess there’s some read over but Vee VV feel less mannered and more organic. There’s a relentless hypnotic feel to the music.  It wipes the floor with most of the current insipid indie crap that gets forced into my in-box on a daily basis.

You get 67 minutes of marvellous music – if you want to know what was happening on the Fylde coast in the 80s this is a good place to go, if you want a primer in exciting music creation then this is the one to check. With contemporaries The Membranes about to release a remarkable album this feels like a good time for the Blackpool sound to be back and challenging the music scene to up its game.

I’ll be featuring tracks on the Aural Delights show during May and June. I hope I get to see them soon.

The return of The Parish Church Fire

The Parish Church Fire are an Alternative Rock band from Manchester, UK fronted by Sam Smith. As loud as they are soft, the band have carved a unique dynamic with elements of heavy metal, trip hop, punk, jazz and blues. Comparable to Afghan Whigs, Radiohead & Pearl Jam. They have a new single out on May 10th called “Hunger” followed by two high profile gigs at Strummercamp and The Eagle, Salford in May and June.

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Here is a recent interview with band front man Sam Smith……..  

Hi Sam, can you give us a brief history of The Parish Church Fire?

I put together the band in July 2014 after the disbanding my previous outfit ‘Sam Smith & Company’. Although The Parish Church Fire has solely been a studio project for the last 5 years an original live band was assembled upon formation but were only together for just 21 days. The line-up was myself, Chris Gilman & Rick Jarvis (and also Dave Wooley, Jack Farnworth and Peter Toner briefly). In that time Chris, Rick and I rehearsed relentlessly almost every day to get the wealth of material I had written up to standard for a busy gig schedule which had been booked for autumn of 2014. We had even managed to complete a studio session, recording 5 songs. Unfortunately, shortly after the sessions, the band split very abruptly due to the sudden departure of Rick Jarvis and my own ongoing health problems.

What have you been up to since 2014?

In 2015, I signed to German Shepherd Records and adopted the moniker ‘Franco Bandini’ as a result of increasing discomfort using my birth name due to the global rise of Universal Music Group artist Sam Smith. I released a solo EP as Bandini, entitled  ‘2014 Was a Bad Year’ and supported Australian rock legend Dave Graney at The Eagle Inn, Salford. I also did a radio session with Stephen Doyle at Salford City Radio and that was also released by German Shepherd. The ‘The Parish Church Fire EP’ which contained 3 of the 5 songs recorded with the original Parish Church Fire line up was self released at around the same time.

You pursued your vision of the Parish Church Fire band though?

The idea of assembling a band of musicians to represent the vision of The Parish Church Fire and also the desire to perform the songs written specifically for that band never went away. Whilst continuing to work as Franco Bandini, I met drummer Joe Roberts when we both rehearsed with a metal band which sadly never quite got off the ground. We stayed in touch after that band disbanded and we would occasionally meet to discuss the downfall of Manchester United, brewing methods and music production whilst sometimes exchanging demos via email. In 2016, we released the first Parish Church Fire single ‘Locamente’ on German Shepherd Records which was largely well received and we discussed putting together a live band, however as a result of personal circumstances for both of us getting in the way, this would not happen for another 2 and a half years.


Things picked up a little in 2017 though?

Yes! I returned to using my birth name in early 2017, releasing two singles and a live album along the way whilst performing live as a solo artist across the UK with just a guitar and piano. However I always felt that the Parish Church Fire band would come together as a live entity when the time was right. I was booked to appear at Strummercamp Festival in 2019 on the strength of my solo material and the time seemed right to assemble a band.  I contacted former Sam Smith & Company bassist John Bardsley, who is currently one of the key forces behind The Ombudsmen, and asked him if he would be interested in joining the band in its early stages of rebirth. Joe contacted friend and former Confucius Saint guitarist Timothy Hughes to see if he was interested and an initial rehearsal was soon set up.

So where are we up to now?

From the get go, due to various difficulties each of the four of us was dealing with in our personal lives, the rehearsals took place on the provision that they would always remain light hearted, humour would be at the forefront, and ,that a large amount of beer would be drank during each session!  Building on this foundation, a bond was carved between the four of us and despite the alcohol, professionalism ensued and a set of new material I had written was soon ready to perform, leading to a second gig being added for summer 2019 at The Eagle Inn in Salford.

On Initial listening to the new release I found a newly reborn Sam Smith, an artist with the potential I always knew was there, bursting through  With this new band drawing on the strengths of each individual member whilst always respecting the composition of Sam’s songs, there is a unique dynamic sound, emerging through this rebirth, which can be as heavy as it can be soft.  I took the view that there was a perfect marriage of the rock and punk ethos, exciting! A video of the lead song is due soon and will be incorporated in this review.

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The Free Territory

Cardinal Fuzz (UK) and Feeding Tube Records (USA) release Dead Sea Apes – ‘The Free Territory’ on May 17th as vinyl only via 500 Pressing – presented in a 350gsm Card Sleeve with download code.

It has been a genre hopping roller coaster of a ride for Manchester’s finest purveyors of epic guitar music recently. The last three albums the dub-inspired ‘Sixth Side Of The Pentagon’, the  retrospective ‘Recondite’ and the stunning Adam Stone collaboration ‘Warheads’ were all unique in their own way and demonstrated the bands’ capacity for variety and also a willingness to explore new areas.

This new album is described as follows-

“their darkest, moodiest work to date, their characteristic unfolding instrumentals now cast in lonesome drones and haunted atmospherics”. 

“The Free Territory” is Dead Sea Apes’ in more experimental territory characterised by more introspective/darker feel. Repetition is the key word, with loops, evolving textures and improvisation developing over lengthy pieces.  The usual line-up of  guitar, bass and drums is not the focal point, there are side steps to more laminal synthesized passages. Early Cabaret Voltaire, german electronica and something close to frippertronics, can be heard in some of the tracks. Conversely nods to Earth, notably Dylan Carlson’s solo work, and Sunn 0))) seep through the walls of sound in others. At the heart though is the trade mark DSA mix of riff based music, hypnotic and meditative in parts, and progressive in others, this is a welcome addition of to an already impressive canon of work.

The new release also represents a transitional phase for the group, having been partly recorded with departing bassist Nick Harris.  Nik Rayne of The Myrrors dropped in on a winter visit to the UK, not only guesting on two tracks but also creating the beautifully detailed copier collage sleeve art.

 

Highly recommended.

Suggested parallel listening

  • Cabaret Voltaire – Mix-Up and The Voice of America
  • Miles Davis – Black Beauty
  • Spirit – Future Games : A Magical Kahauna Dream
  • Tangerine Dream – Zeit
  • Robert Fripp – Exposure
  • Earth – Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars
  • Dylan Carlson – Conquistador

A Gaze Among Them

The two year gap between the last three BIG | BRAVE albums is profoundly frustrating. Their music is compelling and there needs to be more of it, and more often. The latest, “A Gaze Among Them”, is released on Southern Lord on May 10th.

Since their formation in 2012, BIG|BRAVE have explored varying aspects of experimental rock with a focus on repetition, an epic sound, and an unrelenting delivery. Those elements are in full effect on this new album, released on Southern Lord.

The band includes Robin Wattie (vocals, electric guitar, guitar amp, bass amp), Mathieu Ball (electric guitar, guitar amps) and Loel Campbell (drums) with guest album appearances from Thierry Amar (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt Zion) on Contrabass and Seth Manchester’s synth overdubs. The album was recorded with Seth Manchester at Machine with Magnets in Pawtucket Rhode Island.

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With the exception of the relatively short “The Deafening Verity” the remaining four tracks vary between 7 and 10 minutes in length allowing enough space to develop a sound palette in which Wattie’s feral/anguished vocals persist over intense riffing and churning atmospherics. There is little modulation as the band pursue one note or one chord to create a hypnotic drone of noise rock.  An almost ecstatic and cathartic wall of sound emerges as guitars are brutalised and percussion creates a supporting bed  . Elements of religious and middle eastern music hover at the edge of the sound evoking a range of emotional responses not usually associated with this genre.

This is their fourth full length and their best work to date.

The album will be featured on Aural Delights Show 336 on May 9th.

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Antipodean Delights

A veritable deluge of high quality Australian Music has been released recently which I feel I ought to bring to your attention. All of these have been or will be played on the Aural Delights Radio Show of late so you can catch them in the context of those shows or sample them via the Bandcamp links below.

I have already reviewed the new Dave Graney and the MistLY album so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say you need to check it out.

So in terms of other delights of an aural nature first up we have On Diamond with an eponymous debut. This is a band who I first caught last year on Dave Graney’s radio show on RRR Melbourne via the single “How”. Led by the incredibly talented Lisa Salvo this band manages to do something rare these days which is to create/craft a unique sound. Salvo’s exceptional voice and melodic song writing dominate proceedings but she also has a band which provides a perfect vehicle for her work. This is a heady marriage of delicate experimental music which requires repeat listening to appreciate the multiple layers of intricate interlacing elements. If you want some pointers then it can be described as Murray Street era Sonic Youth in terms of avant rock guitar elements combined with Sandy Denny like vocalese, and in respect of contemporary Aussie music the nearest comparison would be Tropical Fuck Storm, or that bands predecessors The Drones. If you are short of time check out the exceptional “How” or fellow previous single release “The Light” both of which will entrance you and get you hooked.

On Diamond
On Diamond

You should also check out Lisa Salvo’s solo release from 2014 which is just as good. It’s more in a dream pop/folk mould but just as valid in respect of breaking barriers and delivering quality.

Lisa co-runs the East Mint label which seems to operate with the same principles as the German Shepherd label with which I am of course involved. Another band on East Mint, as recommended to me by the erstwhile Mr Graney, is the utterly unique Cold Hands Warm Heart who deliver beautiful music with a dream like quality. Their 2016 album, also self-titled, utilises lever harp, soft synths, recorders, with what is described as “textural guitar, bass and a drum kit incorporating found objects”. The group’s ethereal sound is fashioned around the songs of Genevieve Fry (Grand Salvo, Prudence Rees-Lees, Four Larks Theatre) who, like Salvo, has a delightful, hypnotic voice with a capacity for engaging and memorable melodies. Imagine a less scary version of Comus with nods towards Henry Cow, Chris Cutler etc. Sublime in places and avant in others this is a fascinating set.

Continuing the female led theme next up is the new album from the highly talented Jess Ribeiro. I may as well as copy over the liner notes, with a few additions, as they perfectly encapsulate the story so far. Jess is described as a shape-shifting musical enigma. The  quality of her recorded output is astonishingly consistent and the wait for new music is always worthwhile. Ribeiro’s 2012 debut album My Little River was an award-winning folk-country masterpiece while her second album, 2015’s Kill It Yourself, produced by Mick Harvey, was a slow-burning indie-noire masterpiece which left reviewers scrambling for superlatives, contained several stand out moments, and was heavily featured on my radio shows. Now, with new album LOVE HATE, Ribeiro has kissed the swampy humidity of the Australian Music Prize-nominated Kill It Yourself goodbye, and embraced the precise down-strokes and valve-amp hum of a very New York lineage, from the Velvets through to Blondie and Talking Heads. Produced by Ben Edwards (Aldous Harding/Marlon Williams), it’s capped by those lethally cool vocals for which Ribeiro is revered. Insanely moreish this melody soaked pop masterpiece has been on constant repeat on my Walkman.

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Jess Ribeiro (the clue is on the bag)

I was entranced by Shifting Sands 2015 album “Beach Coma” when it was brought to my attention last year by the ever reliable Mr Graney. Their new one “Crystal Cuts” features the dual attack of the gravel voiced Geoff Corbett and the angelic pipes of Anna Clifford, who are both in exceptional form. This album is in the mould of that particular brand of Australian music which captures elements of country music but does so in the context of a unique southern hemisphere vibe which is unique to that continent. Corbett has the world weary vibe of Cash, Dowd or Nelson, with an endearing Capstan Full Strength growl, coupled with the melodic endeavours of the Snarski Brothers. Simply put this is a beautiful album with strong messages throughout. The epic “The Terror of Love” is stunning.

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Shifting Sands

Going back to last year and earlier this year, but soon to be distributed to a wider audience via German Shepherd, I draw to your attention the talented duo sycloner who are Daniel Cunnington and Peter Greasley. They describe themselves as indie-pop which I think to some extent sells them short. When I sent the tracks over to my colleague Mr Moss to establish whether we would work with them his response was “Classy”, which is spot on. They have two EPs to date which are both remarkably good and I am somewhat chuffed they have decided to work with us. We will release both on May 25th (providing I get my act together and get them off to the distributors) but the band will retain their Bandcamp page so you can check them out now. Both provide neat little packages of quality music and the development of the song craft in the short time between the two releases is remarkable. Of the two the most recent “Lost and Found” is superb and bears comparison with The Go-Betweens and The Blackeyed Susans. If you don’t immediately fall in love with the exceptional opener  “We’ve Run Out Of Time” which echoes Jeff Lynne at the height of his powers, then you need your ears syringed. It’s not all about pop smarts though, the high octane power of “Metaphor” will get your disco slippers twitching.

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Peter and Daniel of sycloner

And finally, in this little peroration, back to January for an album which fits well, in quality and context terms, with all of the above, and brings us back to the “rock” context of the Graney album. Graney and Moore have been associated with The Sand Pebbles (another band I need to acquaint you with) in the past and two of that band, Andrew Tanner and Leroy Cope, are in the excellent The Woodland Hunters. They are a guitar band from Melbourne and so far they have released an EP “So Far to Travel, So Far to Go” in 2015, their debut album “Let’s Fall Apart” in 2016 and launched their latest album “The Thoughts of Chairman Jim” in early 2019. A lot of the album is unashamed blues power rock best describes a band that clearly knows what they are about. Those who know me might be somewhat surprised about my love for this album as it might be described as a bit too mainstream rock for my usual tastes. What sets this apart from the usual rock stuff is Andrew Tanner’s engaging vocals, anyone who mentions Alice Coltrane in a rock tune gets my vote, and the bands capacity for melody beyond the usual rock tropes.  When the band slow it down, with “House of Lost Things” for example, they demonstrate they are more than just a four to the floor outfit and can embrace that Aussie country rock vibe. The Beatlesque “Boom Times” is a good place to start and starts the closing half of the album which improves as it proceeds. An engaging album and well worth a listen.