We’re three months in 2020 already and a lot of crazy stuff has happened. Dealing with all the craziness of being an election year, Coronavirus, natural disasters (Puerto Rico had hundreds of earthquakes for the whole month of January), and a bunch of other strange situations seem to keep happening every day. But the question coming in the year was: “are the music releases going to keep coming as solid as they did in 2019?” and I believe that Intronaut’s Fluid Existential Inversions (Metal Blade Records) assure us that the year will still be as solid as the previous ones where we’ve been getting real quality music from bands that are consistent. Intronaut gives us a very interesting album that proves the musical dexterity of each one of the members of this Los Angeles band. Adding the services from drummer Alex Rudinger (ex-The Haarp Machine/ex-The Faceless) gives this record a major boost in the percussive side and makes the overall musical experience a very enjoyable one. Continue reading
Ghost Cult’s tagline is “exploring the boundaries of music”. Luckily Raw Power Festival in at The Dome in London is providing a weekend of weird, wondering and noisy experimental music.
Metal and any sort of identifiable guitar riffs are largely absent from night one, as was anything so commonplace as a chorus. Opening proceedings is Graham Dunning’s Mechanical Techno, a one-man DJ set with the aesthetic of a garden shed. Dunning uses layers of vinyls in towers to create minimalist beats, but the steampunk-like spectacle includes ping-pong balls and quartz crystals to create an odd light and sound show. Worth seeing for sure, even if the music was a notch above “interesting enough.”
Teeth of a Sea seem to approach music with a kitchen sink approach. Guitars, trumpets, synths, programmed beats; every member of the band plays at least two instruments, usually switching back and forth during each piece of music. There’s a lot going on, each piece builds an intensely layered piece of alluring if incomprehensible nose.
The sheer aggression displayed by London’s own veteran industrialists Test Dept: Redux is a great exercise in catharsis. The band are known for their use of “found” percussion instruments, and don’t disappoint; there’s sheet metal, metallic windmills, steel pipes, spring coils, plus two drummers and a host of abstract industrial noises. Primal, aggressive punk done right.
Much of day two strays into even more unusual territory. Opener Agathe Max only comes to the stage armed with an electrified violin and some loop pedals, but creates a dense mess of Nosie and feedback. It’s chaotic and a good way to wake up from the fug of the night before.
Bonnnacons of Doom’s short but trippy set feature’s mirror masks, and a banshee-like front woman wearing a witch’s cape and hood. Selvhenter redefine the kind of racket you can make with a saxophone, violin and trombone, and make the kind of jazzy droning distortion most bands couldn’t dream of. The Cult of Dom Keller’s hazy psych rock is perfectly pleasant (and would probably go down well with the likes of NME if it was in a guitar music phase) but compared to most of the band’s on today’s bill they lack any real amount of energy or personality.
Slabdragger and Sly & The Family Drone are the two bands from today that GC readers are probably most familiar with. Croydon’s Slabdragger provide an education in proper riff worship – Sleep’s influences are particularly audible – providing a set as heavy as their name suggests. Despite the crushing riffs, the band have an abundance of energy and get a suitably welcome reception from the crowd. Probably the least weird band of the day, but that’s no bad thing when you can crush it.
Eschewing the stage to instead set up in a ring on the audience floor, Sly & The Family Drone gather the crowd around before covering them in beer and Clingfilm and throwing paper plates at them. It would be easy to believe not a note of the band’s set is pre-planned or rehearsed, the band describe themselves aptly as “a primal orchestra of drum rhythms, radiophonic oscillator noise and electronically-abstracted vocals”. There’s no cohesion, no sense to be found, but it’s chaotic fun and rare to be so close to a band when they play.
With the exception of Baby Metal (and make of those what you will) and Boris, Japanese rock and metal doesn’t get a whole lot of coverage on our fair shores. Props then to Raw Power for putting on three wildly different but very hugely entertaining bands from the Land of the Rising Sun. Qujaku (formerly known as the Piqnic) combine both the quiet and droning extremes of Boris melded together with the ability to lock in to a Queens of The Stone Age-like groove. During the band’s quieter moments, the band’s waif-like vocalist Shyuya Onuki floats about the stage before transforming like a man possessed when the chaos cuts loose. Confusing but compelling to watch.
Pikacyu-Makoto a two-piece consisting of Acid Mother Temple’s Kawabata Makoto and Afrirampo’s Pikacyu are far more messy, but no less entertaining. Throughout the set, the drum and guitar combo always treading border between genius and a complete mess. Great when it works, but doesn’t always stay on the right set and occasionally just becomes a bit unlistenable.
Melt Banana, however, are nothing short of excellent, and deliver the set of the weekend. Where there’s been a lot of “weird”, the music Yasuko Onuki and Ichirou Agata make is mental. The combination of punk riffs and grinding drums makes for a crushing set, and Onuuki’s use of motion controlled handset means the bass and drum beats are changed on her cue. Combines brutally heavy with the kind of fun you get from good punk. You’ll rarely see a band like Melt Banana.
Sunday is mostly dedicated to punk and the heavier side of things with a few outliers thrown in to catch you off guard. Opening act Ill make music to fit their name; rough, grungy punk with a snotty sardonic sneer. Occasionally remind of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds at their most abrasive. Lower Slaughter, meanwhile, might be the angriest band on show. The Brighton four-piece are packed with dirty riffs and in front woman Sinead have a ball of lyrical vitriolic rage with a surprisingly throaty growl.
Italian trio Stearica are an instrumental band with personality. They crack jokes between sets, show their humour on stage and the drummer at one point jumps of stage to start eking out a beat on the bar. The Baroness-like riffs help too. All I have in my notes for Mugstar is “riffs upon riffs upon riffs.” The Scouse instrumental quartet know how to make good, driving music with a purpose.
The noisy stoner punk of Workin’ Man Noise Unit is good fun, while Follakzoid are probably the worst band of the weekend. Where the former are all energy, the latter make slow, lazy and uninteresting music. Follakzoid might strut around the stage, but their stage presence doesn’t make up for the lack of interesting music. You should listen to more Workin’ Man Noise Unit instead.
Considering some of the oddities seen over the weekend, Part Chimp are an oddly straight-laced choice of Sunday headliner. A proper heavy stoner band, the London five piece can jump from more groove-laden to full on crushing at a moment’s notice, but it’s all inhumanely loud and bruising. One of the more unusual festival’s I’ve been to, but no less fun or heavy.
One of the more unique and intriguing festivals of the summer is this weekend’s 4th annual Raw Power Festival at The Dome in Tufnel Park London. Hosted annually by Baba Yaga’s Hut, purveyors of the finest underground live performances and must know acts; this years fest pulls together the best from the work of psychedelic rock, eclectic electronic acts and avant-garde visionaries. Headlined by the sublime and crazy Melt Banana, they are joined by a bevy of killer bands such as Test Dept: Redux, Picacyu-Makoto, Follakzoid, Teeth of the Sea, Taman Shud, Housewives, Bonnacons of Doom, Mechanical Techno, Part Chimp, Selvhenter, Cult of Dom Keller, Mugstar, Anonymous Bash, Sly & the Family Drone, Orchestre for Spheres, Orlando, ILL, Workin’ Man Noise Unit, Woven Skull, Melting Hands, Lower Slaughter, The Picniq, Stearica, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Slabdragger, and many more. If you don’t have these bands in your collection, you have some research and hours of listening to do.
The program also includes DJ’s, merch, food and drink options and of course, cool people watching. Be part of something truly special and not the typical fest expeirence. Tickets are stil lavailable for the weekend at this link:
Ghost Cult is proud to kick-off the new week by partnering up with the fine folks at the Robotic Empire label to bring our friends the g-g-g-g-roovy sounds of Terminal Fuzz Terror’s new tripped out track, ‘Cycles’. The track is a pure slab of psychedelic rock, inspired by the masters of the genre, blotter acid firmly between tongue and cheek. ‘Cycles’ comes from TFT’s new opus Vol 0: In The Shadow Of The Mountain which drops on March 3rd. Pre-Sales for limited-editon vinyl (300 pieces only) and digital are live (iTunes) now. Vol 0:.. was recorded at Witch Ape Studio, engineered and mixed by Tad Doyle (TAD) and mastered by James Plotkin.
The Melvins new album starts off with a rather ominous question: “What was that shit you sold me?”, from the song the ‘Bride of Crankenstein’. Indeed, it is the question every fan of the long running act can ask freely. Those who love their music heavy, heady, obtuse and downright confounding for over over 30 years can attest that every new album from this band brings different flavors to table. They have never made the same album, or song twice. Buzz Osborne and his first officer on the Federation Starship Melvins NCC 1701-X, Dale Crover have influenced many more bands than admit it. They have evolved from the creative outliers of a budding scene (Seattle, in the 80s), into the elder statesmen of sorts for bands of their ilk. No wonder Hold It In comes from Ipecac Records, a label full of like-minded, talented crazies. Joining Buzz and Dale for this outing are Paul Leary and JD Pinkus from Butthole Surfers. The pairs of musicians are a match in every conceivable way chemistry-wise, creating some unsettling and special tunes.
As you would imagine when these guys get together to create, things get weird, and in a good way. Odd riffs, whimsical songcraft and brave arrangements dot the tracks. From the dismal heaviness and driving riffage of ‘Bride…’, to the bright garage pop of ‘You Can Make Me Wait’, the trippy-proggy ‘Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit’, to the twangy stomp of ‘I Get Along (Hollow Moon)’; the inventiveness of each band is heard. It is definitely a sound and a feel of a Melvins album, with contributions from Paul and JD. You can discern a “Paul riff” here and “a Buzz lick” there and imagine the energy in the room when these four came together. Some of the touchstones here are sick amounts of feed-backing amp fuzz, phantom interludes, a few amazeballs solos traded, Floyd-ian space-rock tone-poems, and a rhythm section like a terrifying monstrous beast at times. All the propensity for weird-assed lyrics, and bizarro vocal deliveries (including ungodly shrieks from JD) all come to the fore as well. A little bit of something for everyone.
When it aims to be heavy, this is one of the heavier albums the band has put out of late, which says a lot considering the Big Business collaborations. ‘Onions Make The Milk Taste Bad’ and ‘Sesame Street Meat’ (two of the better titles this year) are gnarly as hell; true rockers. Another great cut, ‘Piss Pistoferson’ reeks of glam rock greatness, way down to the production value. They are getting their classic Kiss jones out, and frankly a Kiss song hasn’t been this good since 1991 anyway. The angular album closer ‘House of Gasoline’ sounds like it was more fun than should be legally allowed to have when it was birthed. A jam among jams.
The only shame is Leary’s distaste for the road means this lineup will only tour as a trio with Buzz, Dale and JD. Still, in reference to the opening line of the album, whatever shit they were sold, I want to buy some right now and I suspect you will too.