So, after a busy days work, I come home tired and depressed, and what is there waiting for me? Only my most anticipated album of the year, which doesn’t even come out until July. Christmas has truly come.
First of all I want to express how stunning the record looks itself: designed by Stephen O’Malley, responsible for other beautiful records such as the previous Haino / Ambarchi / O’Rourke power trio releases, it cannot be enjoyed fully from just pictures. The artwork itself is something to be admired, but then just the little things like the layout of the track titles on the back, and the “なぞらない” (Nazoranai) glossed transparently on the front cover (invisible from the picture) just shows the effort he has gone to make the record a special entity.
From the start the listener gets the feel of the incredible musicianship and their ability to really play off each other, the first track builds and builds, but remains suitable calm for its entirety. Throughout it there is the overwhelming understanding of quiet and tranquility, and completely contrasted with Haino‘s screeched and wails, but works perfectly. The mastering on this seems to me to have stepped up from the previous “power trio” releases, and the substitution of O’Malley stepping in for O’Rourke is a vast improvement in my opinion – although I really enjoy the LP’s he features playing bass on, O’Malley really is a master of this style, this maybe because it is alot more audible but he does a fantastic job. Because of him the whole record is so much more heavier, and he really brings it – most notable in the second track, where the bass plays this really doom-metal oriented riff alongside the drums and it just makes me think “YES, this is what this trio needed”.
Haino’s guitar playing remains the same, with harsh and discordant sections making the rhythm section really sink into its groove, and grind perfectly abrasively by giving order through destruction, as it really sounds like he is laying waste to his guitar. It’s hard to believe that the whole performance is improvised, of course there are free sections and similar tell-tale signs, but the tracks themselves stand together incredibly strongly. Definitely the most prominent thing during the performance is the synchronization between O’Malley and Ambarchi: Keiji in all of his releases keeps to doing his own thing (although he does a superb job of inter-locking it with the other musicians) but here the connection among the rhythm section is just remarkable. I would honestly recommend this album to anyone who plays a musical instrument, as it demonstrates perfectly the great ability of playing “as one” with various different people as this LP is a prime example by all accounts. Another thing that they bring to the table in this release is the harmonized vocals, I might be wrong but I can’t recall any on previous releases, used on the final track. These are one of the many things that make this record superior to any previous effort, as they pile up mystical sounds and atmosphere to the picture that they have already created in the over-an-hour set. Unintelligible but fascinating, with post-rock-esque guitar work by Haino in the finale – really simple and unusually clean for him, and eerie. The final track really is something else.
This LP is already one of my favorites of the year so far – instantly grabbing, interesting for any musician, and pushing the boundaries of the power trio even further forward. Nazoranai officially comes out on July 2nd, on Ideologic Organ (a sub-label of Editions Mego, owned by Stephen O’Malley himself), and I cannot recommend picking up a copy enough, especially as it will sell-out fast and you might receive it early like I did - http://editionsmego.com/release/SOMA009
Finally, “The Money Store” leaked. Definitely as good as, if not better than, Exmilitary – “Hacker” is probably one of the best songs they have ever recorded. Might do a proper review of this after a couple more listens, but enjoy it before the link gets taken down
Little Kid (aka Ken Boothby) brings one of the most memorable albums of 2011 direct from his bedroom, using only a 4-track tape recorder. The sheer atmosphere conjured up by him is something to be admired; his vulnerable and shy voice which fit perfectly amidst the lo-fi fuzz and clean guitar (sometimes even inaudible above the guitar), the constant buzz of the 4-track throughout the LP and the field recordings which appear at regular intervals throughout the album. The sentimental feel of this recording and the value of its DIY message is inspiring, the 30 cassette run of handmade covers sold out rapidly, which were designed out of cuttings from a book from “The Salvation Army” about railways, and this reoccurring theme runs alongside the music as I have never been so captivated by the sound of a train as in the final track. Religious and Christian references are abundant in the lyrics, but one should not be put off by this simply for its values, in the song “Let There Be Light”, Boothby seems to explain that he has been wounded on account his faith, and the rest of the record follows on a similar sombre note – especially “Bearably Sad”. Captivatingly emotional from start to finish, and it proclaims that musical genius can come out of nowhere.
Free from his bandcamp, I could not recommend this more highly to all fans of music.
Witch Cult are a powerviolence band from the South Coast of England, and they themselves have begun a SCxPV movement and are one of the best around. Their slogan is “Fast.Slow” which summarises their music perfectly as they switch between heavy doom riffs, the likes of Electric Wizard and Sleep, to bursts of aggression. The great riffs never out stay their welcome, and after the long grooving slow sections die down the fast riffs never stay the same for more than a couple of seconds. Highly Recommended if you are into any kind of punk music or if you want to hear one of the angriest albums from this year.
For the moment I will just recap the albums which have stood out to me from this year in music, I will launch different things come 2012 after I have got used to this.
One of the most interesting records of this year, which I am lucky enough to own on vinyl, is the sophomore live release by the trio of Oren Ambarchi, Jim O’Rourke and Keiji Haino. Composed of 4 “Free Improvisation” tracks it brings about chaos with the thundering wails of Haino’s Guitar and the frantic jazz styled drumming of Ambarchi. The eerie atmospheres are also enhanced by Haino’s unintelligible moans and groans, in places making the listener feel most uneasy, but that is part of its charm. This album is and incredible voyage into experimentation and is one of my personal favourites this year. I am not going to do a rating but I highly recommend listening to this if you would like to expand your musical tastes. (Picture is linked to a flac version as my audio format of choice).