Wanton Miscellany #1

Episode one – in which our hero contends with this image and valiantly attempts not to curl up and cry in a corner:

rsz_tobacco-615x393

Finding new music is hard.

Actually, that’s not even remotely true – if the internet were a field you could throw a rock and knock out several ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ bands with your eyes closed. If you could find a couple of free square feet to lift your throwing arm that is. Which you couldn’t.

Let me start again.

Finding good and worthwhile new music is hard. If you were crazy enough to go out of your way to listen to every record released worldwide this month in the hopes of finding something that might intrigue or excite you then you’d probably still be at it come 2015; try to listen to every album released in 2014 and you’ll be passing a bunch of links and comments on to your grandchildren on your deathbed, begging them to complete your legacy. It’s both a glorious and utterly baffling time to be alive. It makes my head spin, the number of hours I find myself trawling through blogs and websites and podcasts and radio shows in search of…whatever it is I’m searching for. After a I’ve gone through my usual cycle on reliable sources and moved onto my b-list every post about a new band starts to read like this:

“For years now <band you’ve never heard of> have been creating stunning <nebulous made up sounding genre> amidst the hurly burly of the <cool sounding place you’ve never been> scene. Now they’re ready to release their <you’ve no idea who this is> assisted debut on <dear good how are there so many record labels, I thought the industry was supposed to be dying?>. We have an exclusive stream in <streaming section of website stacked with similarly alien sounding albums by similarly alien sounding bands.> You’ll want to listen to this, as it’s bound to feature on our best of <futuristic sounding year DEAR GOD WHERE DOES TIME GO?> list!”

I swear someone has developed a way of madlibbing press releases into each respective music website’s house style template and posting the resulting text autonomously. If they have I really should get on that – this place would then be updated with some kind of regularity at least. Sadly I insist on maintaining at least a modicum of integrity (read: general technologically duncery) for whatever reason, so instead I’ve collated a bunch of stuff that I found noteworthy but not quite post-worthy this year so far for your delectation. Think of me as a pearl diver scouring the fetid waters of the internet for something remotely valuable, and Wanton Miscellany as me crawling coughing and spluttering onto the shore, with the things that looked least like turds for you to peruse. No need to thank me.

(You can find the videos compiled into a youtube playlist here.)

Conan – Foehammer

Released back in February, Conan made a strong early effort in  the most ludicrous video of the year competition with Foehammer – people are going to have to go some lengths to beat this. Brief synopsis: a weird cult summons a giant creepy crawling eldricht horror which then stalks the earth absorbing matter until it becomes bigger than the world, slices the moon in half with one of it’s galaxy spanning tentacles (because if you’re suddenly sat astride the earth with nothing but your own terrifying insect like limbs for company what else could you do to entertain yourself?) and is then attacked by a fleet of oddly naval looking spaceships.  Fin. It’s quite something.

I’m not quite sold on Conan- despite hailing from the North of England (and therefore being inherently magnificent), and having a bass sound that could cause the loosening of bowels for entire counties if rigged up to the wrong amp stack, they sound to me a bit too much like a best of Matt Pike tribute band. They’re either doing lengthy mogadon-doom numbers a la Sleep or, like on Foehammer, ramping things up to High on Fire style low-end riff based bowel sieges. It’s a mighty sound, sure, but it’s a touch too derivative for my own tastes. On the other hand their t-shirts proudly bear the legend ‘CAVEMAN BATTLE DOOM’ on them, which is as fantastic a three word combo as you could ever want, and one I must admit they pretty much live up to. And whilst I have my reservations about them on record I bet they sound  utterly terrifying live.

Salem’s Pot – Nothing Hill

God damn it doom bands. Why must you taunt me with your embarassingly terrible names? If you aren’t naming your band via the old ‘Bong<random word>’ blueprint  you’re inflicting god awful puns on the world. To be fair to Salem’s Pot it could be worse – I’m not sure where Windhand came from but its still the high water mark for recent fuckawful doom band names (I’ve been thinking of petitioning them to rename the band Fart Thrower and be done with it). Which wouldn’t be a problem they’re last offering, Soma, wasn’t so damn good. But is is. And so if anyone asks for a heavy doom recommendation I’ve got to say, “Windhand” out loud and they’ll probably make a mental note never listen to me again. And now I’ve got to deal with Salem’s Pot? Sweet jesus. You’re killing me guys.

It’s a bad enough name to make me want to avoid them entirely – but then they go and do something as ludicrous as the video for Nothing Hill and force me to pay attention. It’s not hard to figure out where they’re taking their cues from – the only way they could be more Electric Wizard was if they all made themselves star covered cloaks and hats out of heated blankets (do you see what I did there?) They’ve gone the whole hog on the doomsploitation aesthetic – the Nothing Hill video is a smorgasbord of explicit clips from horror and sci fi flicks amidst grainy slow motion band footage and generally trippy psychedelic visuals. It’s that old tried and tested formula: the unholy trinity of hippy, horror and porn. But it has no right to be as enjoyable as it is here. And nor does …Lurar ut dig på prärien, the band’s debut album, which Nothing Hill is taken from. Their slow, monstrous guitars and heavily distorted vocals are nothing you haven’t heard a million times before, but though they’re hitting so many well worn beats they’re doing it so annoyingly well. Theirs is a wonderfully filthy guitar sound,  and unusually for doom the fuzzed out vocals are actually discernable and even memorable. They might just have released the best trad-doom album of the year, and with such a ludicrous number of blood splattered breasts have a they may well beat Conan’s effort for the most ridiculous doom video of 2014 competition already. Impressive.

Sleep Lady – Central Valley

I rarely buy digital music. I realise it’s something of an atavistic notion in 2014 to be tied to the idea of expecting physical objects in return for my cash, especially when I’ve gone all in on a Steam games catalogue and do most of my music listening via spotify. It’s a conflicted position, sure. Anyway, there was something about Central Valley, Sleep Lady’s one track 19 minute long single/ep/mini-album/who knows, that had me ponying up half way through it’s runtime for an mp3. It’s not that anything they did was particularly startling; I guess you’d have to class it as post-rock, even if that phrase is about as cool as prog-skiffle these days. The programmed beats and mournful guitar noodling giving way to cruchy chords is a little reminiscent of early 65DaysofStatic – they have a similar uneasy marriage of the digital and organic and a propensity to take us on a bit of a musical walkabout that the Sheffield crew carrved out a niche with. There’s more going on than that though; Central Valley  is it’s own beast, patient and exact. Through several distinct phases it takes you on an exploration of melancholy and anxiety, longing and dread. In many ways the one track ep is the perfect medium for this kind of thing. I’m not sure why more post-whatever bands don’t do this, instead feeling the need to make several shorter tracks to pad out a record. One short-movie length soundtrack piece, one musical journey at a time is often all that’s needed. Sure, it’s going to be crap for last.fm scrobbles, but it feels precisely as long as it needs to be. And Sleep Lady seem to be all about precision – you get the feeling every beat, every keyboard melody, every soaring guitar line has been placed lovingly and for maximum impact. And yet it doesn’t sound clinical, or like a musical exercise. It so much more than that. I’m keeping an eye on their band camp page they might wring a few more quid out of me if they keep writing music this good. Though a vinyl copy would be better. Just sayin’..

(Sadly Sleep Lady are now on ‘indefinite hiatus’ so I’m not getting my hopes up).

Akvma – Ingolstadt

Not only did this come out in 2013, thus breaking the rules I’ve only just set in place for my first ever Wanton Miscellany post, it’s also a terrible video and probably doesn’t deserve to be posted here. It’s just the band looking entirely board while they run through the song. If you don’t have the cash for a proper video guys that’s fine – but if you’re gonna make one regardless you could at least put a bit of effort in. Anyway, I only include it here in the hope that someone, somewhere will listen to it and agree with me as to how good it is. That shredding, those drums…if the guitar part at 2:10 were made into some kind of consumable foodstuff I could probably live off it for the rest of my life. The album Ingolstadt was taken from, For the Beloved Bones, was really quite patchy, rarely grabbing the attention in the was this does – but with highs quite so lofty as they most certainly caught my attention, and deserve to have done so with a few more folks as well.

Henry Blacker

Henry Blacker probably deserve their own post – their album Hungry Dogs will eat Dirty Puddings is easily as good as half the stuff I’ve reviewed so far this year. They’ve got 2 members of Hey Colossus amongst their ranks and sound a bit like they do in the rare moments when they threaten to go straight forward rock n’ roll. As Henry Blacker they commit to that and bust out one note piano solos, choruses, straight up rock riffs and remove almost all of the psych loftiness of Hey Colossus. What they do have in common with their dayjob band is that they’ve got one eye kept on the gutter at all times, as if it’s where they’ve just come from and anticipate they’ll be heading back to at any moment. It sounds a little bit like Queens of the Stone Age in an alternate universe where Nick Oliveri was the band leader and instead of being kicked out for being a drugged up loon he led us all into his own depraved world like some pied piper of endless filth. They’re a disturbing bunch, content to roll around in the psychic mud and beckon at you with twisted shit-eating grins, and I suppose I can see why that might not appear inviting to some. They’re missing out though. This is horrible, sure. But this is brilliant.

Destrage – Purania

Oh man. Dreadlocked drummers! Live videos in needlessly dingy spaces! Poor attempts at clever camera tricks! Nonsensical cartoon story! It’s 2001 all over again – I had to double check my hair hadn’t grown back and that my jeans hadn’t suddenly parachuted out to maximum bagginess. It turns out my wallet isn’t even on a chain these days – clearly that’s a recipe for disaster. Italy’s Destrage have a bit of a throwback feel to them, reminding me of a time when metal was still nu and throwing half baked attempts at drum n’ bass into the mix was somehow revolutionary. They even do that here – and several times more on their oddly titled latest record, “Are You Kidding Me? No.” The rest of the time they sound quite a lot like Sikth, complete with the weird barked overlapping vocals and twisting song structures. If Sikth formed now they’d probably throw in the same pseudo-djent breakdowns that Destrange attempt on Purania as well. And yet they throw themselves into it with such abandon and glee it’s hard not to get swept up in it all. And personally I’m a sucker for a Mr Bungle-esque sudden rugged-pulled-from-under-you light jazz interlude moment like they the one they wheel out at 2:09. It’s almost deleriously infectious enough to make a boy consider repiercing his lip and see who’s on at Ozzfe..Download.

*Clicks on the Download website*

Oh. Oh dear..

Karm to Burn – 53

Continuing their long running theme of numbered songs Karma to Burn are back with yet another portion of riffery with 53, from their split with Sons of Alpha Centauri. The thing is, if you don’t like the simple, farily derivative sounds of pure stoner rock, you won’t like Karma to Burn. And if you do then of course you already love Karma to Burn. So who am I talking to here? What is the point of this? Before I have full on existential meltdown let me just say it’s premium grade KtB and leave it at that.

The Skull Defekts – The Known Unknown

I wanted to love Dances in Dreams of the Known Uknown as much as I loved the Skull Defect’s last record Peer Amid. But sadly it doesn’t quite live up to the standard of that record. The blame for that lies mostly with seemingly permanent guest vocalist Daniel Higgs – no matter how many times I look at the evidence on the web I still can’t believe that this the same Daniel Higgs of Lungfish fame who fronted the band on Peer Amid. The nasal, deranged shamen who rambled his way through No More Always and Fragrant Nimbus sounds nothing like the vocalist taking the reigns on Dances.. He sounds much more restrained, which allows the repetition of the post-punk-krautrock mechanics of The Skull Defeks sound a little tired. It needs him at his wild-eyed best to elevate it. The closest we get to that happening is on The Known Unknown. The video is pretty odd – looking like a series of decayed images from malfunctioning visual technologies of the recent past ;VHS, old style satellite broadcasts etc. It kinda works. But their incessant groove doesn’t sound nearly as unhinged and instant as it did on Peer Amid. Oh, it’s good, let’s be fair – but it does sound frustratingly hinged.

Tobacco – Streaker

Holy moly. Tobacco’s day job, when he gets around to working it, is twisted joy in the form of Black Moth Super Rainbow – the psych-bubblegum pop crazies that sound a bit like GLaDOS embarking on a pop career. Whereas when gets off work and becomes plain ol’ Tobacco…well that’s when things get straight up twisted. And never more so than on Streaker – I’d describe the video but that would spoil the surprise. It’s something of a mini-horror thing – but as nightmarishly deranged as anything I think I’ve ever seen in a music video. And if you minimise the window and just listen to the song – well, it doesn’t get any less horrifying. It sounds several brillant songs have collided together and mutated into something, unspeakably wrong. In the best way possible. I think.

Either way it’s gonna haunt my dreams.

There’s nowhere to go from Streaker really, apart from to whatever kind of therapy you think would help with recurring pig-faced based nightmares. Tune in to another Wanton Miscellany sometime soon.

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