Look, it’s as cold as a witch’s tit, and I’m not talking about the variety that likes PVC. With that in mind, here are seven attempts by the underground Metal scene to raise the temperature. As it were. (Come on, give me that one. I have an A-Level in English, and everything).Continue reading →
Shining’s striking breakthrough album Blackjazz was routinely namechecked by people who know about these sorts of things as one of the records of 2010. Its follow up, the more industrial soaked inventiveness of One by One (both Indie), suggested a band with a considerable musical aesthetic and the talent to pull off its panoply of rich and varied textures. This, their seventh record overall, on first listen, gives an (ultimately false) impression of taking the best bit of the last two records, stitching together a composite of unrelenting shape creation. That it stands as a distinct and satisfying record in its own right, with a resonance and intelligence, both in terms of its influence and execution, is testimony to the band’s blistering collective talent.
International Black Jazz Society (Spinefarm) is both wilfully difficult yet, paradoxically, the most approachable record that Shining have created. Much of this is down to an approach to song-writing that lets the songs breathe and get under your skin like fresh tattoos. This is important because the music here is intense, often challenging, but the band’s genius in letting the obtuse sounds and textures envelop the listener is respectful and welcome.
There is a focus to International Black Jazz Society that is admirable. Rather like the proverbial Olympic athlete, there is not an ounce of fat on this record; there is no padding and no superfluousness: it is nine tracks of determined aural assault and is all the better for it. The industrial rock of ‘Last Day’ is probably the most immediate of the songs here but listen intently to the unhinged ‘Thousand Eyes’ which has a rock sensibility nailed into its DNA for a song of equal, if not better, quality. The free jazz madness of ‘House of Warship’ will not be to the average listener’s taste but one suspects that this isn’t the constituency that Shining are aiming for; it’s a creative step forward and a successful one at that. Sat in the tracklisting next to its contrasting cousin, the dark and brooding House of Control is clearly deliberate and, as a showcase of the band’s diversity and talent it’s a formidable ten minutes. Elsewhere, the striking coda of ‘Need’ with its intense, end of the world is nigh sensibility gives the record an exhilarating, energetic sign off.
International Black Jazz Society will give you no silver bullet in your search for what blackjazz actually means but that might be part of the fun that Jørgen Munkeby is having with us and his band. The brilliance of Shining’s music is that, within a highly architectured approach to music composition, there is often a sense of being utterly unhinged; a sense of the wild within a formal structure. Songs veer, dive bomb and u-turn at will, giving a dynamism and energy: organised musical chaos, if you will. This is thrilling stuff, particularly when band leader Munkeby brings his signature alto saxophone into play.
International Black Jazz Society works for three reasons: it’s thrilling entertainment, it has the ability to merge free jazz and headbanging metal and challenge you to see the join and, above all, it creates a world that, however mad and maddening, you can’t help but want to be a part of.
Ten years into its uncompromising career Toby Driver has led Kayo Dot boldly through albums of intense complexity, raw aggression mixed with a delicate fragility which only heightens their ability to carve menacing abstract compositions that challenge attention span yet contain moments of jaw dropping high quality.
Urgent brass accompanied by tense fretwork and Driver’s deranged ranting makes discordant parts of ‘Vision Adjustment to Another Wavelength’ a harrowing cacophonous experience. The music is wantonly complex and overtly technical yet it is its ability to through curveball each time which makes you press on. The sweet flute playing of Daniel Meads gives the aforementioned number an elegance and grace many purveyors of extremity sorely lack.
Driver’s death grunt over opener ‘The Black Stone’ feels far too intense for the music it accompanies yet Kayo Dot’s arrangements flow very naturally for the most part. No mean feat considering the ninety plus minutes of chaos this meticulously crafted leviathan drags you through while referencing everyone from Gorguts to Talk Talk.
The sheer unpredictability of it all is a joy to revel in. With songs averaging a minimum of eight minutes, this is a dense and challenging journey into art-house macabre but there are moments of transcendent beauty like ‘The Second Operation (Lunar Water)’ which shatter that mould.
Desolate saxophone accompanies angelic voices and the eerie narrative of Driver. Shifting from crushing technicality to blissful indie rock within a blink of an eye isn’t easy. Recalling the hazy jazz escapades of latter day Radiohead before ‘Floodgate’ pummels your brain with Keith Abrams visceral blasts and layer upon layer of vocal histrionics.
Always eclectic Kayo Dot succeeds in seamlessly blending the terrifying with the tranquil in a manner which almost defies description. The free jazz technicality prog rock ambience, fragile tenderness and vehement blasts of impenetrable art noise all flow throughout this often magnificent double album. There are moments of utter pretentiousness but it’s this resistance to conform which marks Kayo Dot out as a true maverick act who have finally produced a defining statement of their art.