WRANGLER : White Glue LP/CD MemeTune

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WRANGLER : White Glue     LP/CD MemeTune

Stephen Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire), Phil Winter (Tunng) and Benge (John Foxx & The Maths), return with their second studio album after the impressive ‘LA Spark’; one of those hidden gems that blew me away, the day it arrived through the door to review.

As with their debut, this latest offering is a hotbed of analogue synths and peculiar vocalisations that teeter on the edge of darkness.  This time however, the trio have concentrated on the more quirky elements that they only just touched on with previous output; and the end result draws more on funk and is ever so more playful for it.

‘White Glue’ is even more minimal than its predecessor and that is somewhat surprising, considering just how sparse an affair that opus was.  This time out though, the clear space feels somewhat warmer than before, with ‘Stop’, ‘Dirty’ and ‘Stupid’ presenting an element of a band having a lot of fun.

Luckily, things do get darker on tracks such as ‘Days’; and this is a welcome change back to form within an album that appears just a little too happy for its own good.  Once again, Mallinder, Winter and Benge have produced a quality LP of worth.  But for me, I like my music that touch darker; and thankfully the latter half feeds my personal preferences.

With time I am sure ‘White Glue’ will get its claws under my skin; but for now it is just a quality release that doesn’t quite hit the highs of its older sibling.

8/10

BY THE WATERHOLE: Two CD Playdate Records

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BY THE WATERHOLE: Two   CD Playdate Records

This is Eva Pfitzenmaier’s second full-length album under this banner and is a peculiar one at that.  Crossing a variety of sounds pulled from Jazz, Pop and Blues, she improvises these with loops with a surprising cohesiveness that just stops short of everything falling apart.

The key strength to Eva’s work is her vocal capabilities.  When she sits down on her work, her voice is uniquely sublime, working at its best over piano.  With a sound that occasionally flirts with dance (through appropriately different instrumentation, of course), you never know just where the album is going; but this is the plus that keeps the listener on their toes.

I do struggle with a lot of improvised music, because for the most part, it is usually a tremendous waste of time in the listening stakes; and I often find it really aggravating.  By The Waterhole as a project though, rarely step over the line of irritation; and this saw me get through the album with relative ease.

‘Two’ is one of those oddities that should appeal to a fair few people, with enough madness to satiate the arty installation pipe smoking corduroy wearers, to people who genuinely love a great singer.  Not exactly to my tastes, but I do appreciate the effort and talent that went into this.

7.5/10

OFF WORLD: 1 LP/CD Constellation Records

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OFF WORLD: 1       LP/CD Constellation Records

Throwing in a banjo, a viola, violins, a piano and harpsichord amongst a bed of electronics and drum machines is most likely easy for only a small few to envisage.  If anything the outcome for me was not a surprise; with the sound sounding mainly improvised.

The press release hints at real world accents that flow through a human display of alien electronics; and in some ways they’re not that far off the mark.  Occasionally there are some flirtations with sound that border on the Dark Ambient scale; and this of course is what I appreciated most.

However, as much as the music fits well with the bands name, this really was a little too far out for me; and so exploratory, that I felt it lost direction with each musician meandering off down their own paths.

Eccentric and somewhat daring in part I admit; but as a whole this feels just too self-absorbed, where you can’t help but feel these guys appreciate themselves just a little too much.

7/10

PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT: Manchester Apollo – 16th September 2016.

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PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT: Manchester Apollo – 16th September 2016.

Set List:

Murder / Procession / Cries & Whispers / Ceremony / Everything’s Gone Green / Temptation / Blue Monday / Confusion / Thieves Like Us / The Perfect Kiss / Subculture / Shellshock / State of the Nation / Bizarre Love Triangle / True Faith / 1963

No Love Lost / Glass / From Safety to Where…? / Komakino / These Days / Warsaw / Leaders of Men / Digital / Autosuggestion / Transmission / She’s Lost Control / Incubation / Dead Souls / Atmosphere / Love Will Tear Us Apart

So, it’s just over 37 years and one month since Joy Division supported the Buzzcocks at this very venue; and therefore somewhat fitting that Hooky and his partners in crime, grace this homecoming stage for what is night two of their ‘Substance’ albums tour.

After an hour that involved buying a shirt, drinking beer and generally chatting to friends, it is time for the DJ to stop and Hooky and co to enter the stage.  I wasn’t too fussed at this being 15 minutes later than scheduled, due to the amount of catching up with folks; and gigs for me are about the social aspect as well as the music.

As suspected from reading the Glasgow set list from the night before, we are treated to Hooky’s interpretation of New Order’s ‘Substance compilation first, re-arranged to make a better fit live.  Everyone is in great spirits tonight and this is just the start of a nostalgia trip that kept on giving right through to the very end.  Personal favourites for set one were ‘Ceremony’, ‘Temptation’ and ‘True Faith’, which were duly aided by the assistance of the crowd bouncing and singing along no less.  Fantastic stuff.

A short intermission enabled myself and others to get a much needed toilet break (someone really needs to sort the loo’s out in the Apollo, as they have had long enough to do so); and get some more overpriced beers before set two commenced.

I will admit, that whilst I adore the works of New Order, I have always been a Joy Division fan first and foremost.  This inevitably means that whatever tracks in whichever order is fine by me.  Also, this set seems to stir the crowd up just that touch more; which I suspect is down to the historical aspect to the event, which I touched upon earlier.  I could cast no real favourite tonight as far as tracks go, because it all seemed just so perfect.  Ending the show on a particularly emotional ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, really tugged the heartstrings and rallied the audience into full voice; and as the final notes played out, I really felt I was witnessing something special tonight.

Heading off into the night for our long journey home, I couldn’t help feel a spark of magic in the air that has been missing from many of the shows I have attended over the years.  This isn’t the first time I have seen Hooky and the lads outperform Sumner and co and it certainly won’t be the last; but this band, in this venue, on this night, will always sit long in my memory as a special one.

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INFEST: University of Bradford UK – 26/27/28 August 2016.

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INFEST: University of Bradford UK – 26/27/28 August 2016.

Since its inception in 1998, sparked by three University students; the UK’s premier alternative music festival has grown from strength to strength, much in part from the later involvement and takeover of Mark Guy’s Terminal Productions.  Indeed this annual festival has weathered many a storm, battling through poor worldwide financial climates and the threats of other promoters trying their hands at possible rival shows.  With only one year of absence (due to the venue requiring much needed refurbishment), it’s testament to the promoters, staff and fans that this event is still going strong today.

I have attended every single Infest; and regardless of line up, always finding something to my liking.  This year I was more than excited at the prospect of an event that didn’t include an old faithful to draw in the crowd; relying on artists who had never attended the event before, with a great variation in style for good measure.  In all honesty, I never get to see all the bands, due to the internal wreckage I regularly cause myself the night before; but for me, the event is more than just music, it is as much about socialising.  There is a distinct lack of photographs here, because I simply didn’t take many whilst watching the bands, or those I did came out rather shaky (due to reliably strong beer).

Friday 26th: Pop Will Eat Itself– Dead When I Found Her – Me The Tiger – Massive Ego

Turning up early to catch up with folks I criminally only see once a year, coupled with others I have not hung out with in years; gave me time to customarily get a few beers and look through the expansive store brought by sponsors Storming The Base.  Also due to a few issues surrounding late equipment arrivals, bands this year were a little behind schedule and would be appearing late on stage, which meant more time for conversation and drink.  The plus side to this for Massive Ego was that they managed to open up to a full audience.  Regardless of this being a solid sounding set and visual effort on stage, their blend of rock-tinged synthpop did little to endear me to them personally.

With possibly one of the worst band names I have encountered in ages, a lot has been said about Me The Tiger.  I took time before this weekend to check these guys out; and luckily they are a lot better live than they are on record.  Whilst still not pressing all the right buttons for me, they certainly seemed to have the appreciation of the audience; popularity sealed with a lot of the crowd singing along.

Dead When I Found Her are another act where their blend of old school Industrial charm has been making waves of late.  I stayed for the first few tracks, which highlighted a couple of songs each from from their first two albums; and whilst I still appreciate the style, I must admit I get more out of listening to the older generation that built the genre, rather than newer outfits.

Suitably oiled with alcohol, there was only one band I really came to see on Friday.  Harking back to my days dossing around, pretending to do some form of higher education, my nostalgia was primed for stalwarts Pop Will Eat Itself.  Shaking off their Clint Mansell past and forging their own way, the poppies are intelligent and graceful enough to recognise that fans want the hits; regardless of how good their newer material may be. Much to my enjoyment, we got ‘Wise Up! Sucker’, ‘Ich Bin Ein Auslander’ and a whole host of other memorable slabs of past glories and a riotous time was had by all.  The indie edge that PWEI brought to the festival also shows just how far Infest has come; and all in all this left me in great spirits to the end of the night when it was time to go home.

Band of the day: Pop Will Eat Itself.

Saturday 27th: Atari Teenage Riot – Velvet Acid Christ – Grausame Töchter – Hysteresis – Monica Jeffries – Tapewyrm

This as normal is the first day proper for me; unfortunately though, it always starts the same.  Due to the damage I caused myself the night before, the only energy I could muster was relying on the hair of the dog, to drag myself back to normal in the company of great people.  This meant that by the time I was ready to watch anything, I had already missed Tapewyrm and Monica Jeffries, both of which I may add, I heard good reports about, so apologies to them both.

I have mixed emotions when it comes to Hysteresis; and this is mainly down to their albums in general (of which you can find reviews of a couple on this site).  However, they were more than enjoyable to watch live; and when they concentrated less on the dance side of their set, they really got me in the mood as the noisier elements started flowing.

I am guessing the majority of people watching Grausame Töchter were not doing so because they love their German blend of Industrial tinged rock (hey I may be wrong right?); and I lasted just a few tracks before heading off to the bar.  I will give them full marks for providing an actual ‘show’, which leant on nudity, sexuality; and urinating on stage.  However, as I am 42, I have seen and indeed touched naked ladies before, so that kind of gimmickry was never going to wash with me, nor make up for their rather average songs.

I was looking forward to seeing Velvet Acid Christ; another act that stirred up some nostalgic moments from my past when they were confirmed for the bill.  Indeed Brian pulled out a few classics such as ‘Dial8’ and it was good to see them live finally.  I was stood with a good friend watching this and we discussed in great length how we used to listen to this band with near Industrial legend status.  It’s at that point when you realise just how much your tastes evolve and move on over the years; and with no disrespect to VAC, they became just another act ticked off the list from a long distant memory.

Big things were expected of Atari Teenage Riot,  so I watched with an open mind.  Tonight however, they suffered with a flat sound; where beats hit an invisible wall just in front of stage, as opposed to punching a hole through your chest.  The edge the band used to carry with them as a weapon has all but fizzled out these days it would appear; and shouting “fuck!” a lot and stage diving doesn’t evoke enough of the ATR attitude of old.  Once again I took to looking at stalls, hanging out with friends and visiting other areas of the compound.

Band of the day: Hysteresis.

Sunday 28th: 3TEETH – Leæther Strip – Displacer – RRoyce – Vigilante – Johnny Normal

After getting Formula 1 out of the way (customary viewing on Infest weekend), my throng and I got our way over to Bradford as soon as possible.  As usual, the bar comes first and a few chats with friends along the way; inevitably meaning I missed Johnny Normal (of which I heard mixed reports) and I managed to catch the last track of what appeared to be a invigorating set from Vigilante (apologies to both).

As is customary, Infest always place a synthpop act on Sunday.  This year it was the turn of RRoyce, who brought an excellent vision of big chorus’ and clinically executed sounds.  Somewhat reminding me of elements of Xymox and Propaganda, I thoroughly enjoyed the set from start to finish; which is great considering I had never heard them before.  They’re utterly pleasant chaps to talk to too.

Next up was the act I came here to see.  I don’t tell any lies here and Mike is a friend; but I am honest and not afraid to criticise if needed.  However, Displacer stole the show today (and quite possibly the weekend), joined on stage by occasional collaborator Keef Baker (in more of a Nimon-esque guise) on ambient guitar.  The duo only practiced once this weekend before the show and were on amazing form. Covering a few bases of his musical career we were treated to elements from Michael Morton’s new ‘Curse of the Black Vinyl’ opus alongside touches of ‘The Witching Hour’ and ‘Foundation’ amongst others. The upbeat pace, alongside mellow yet intricate electronics massaged the senses for many of the listeners; and appeared to be just the tonic they needed on a Sunday evening. Coupled with an excellent sound and appropriately complex lighting, there was nothing more anyone could have asked for.

Then onto Leæther Strip; yet again another act I can’t quite believe haven’t graced the stage at Infest before. Blasting through a whole host of classics such as ‘Fit For Flogging’ and ‘Civil Disobedience’ tearing the audience up in fine fashion, this is the nostalgic side of Industrial electronics that have learned to stay relevant and with purpose. You know what you are getting with Claus Larsen’s baby and he has never failed to impress when I have seen him live, with his no bullshit approach to commanding the stage. Amazing people too.

Now, I am all for bands getting the acclaim they deserve. However, co-headlining or not; selling a lot of one album and playing with some large bands out of the scene does not warrant a band such as 3TEETH closing the show above Leæther Strip in my opinion. Some may disagree, but it just feels a tad disrespectful in my book. I guess it may be what the kids wanted, but I can’t get my head around it. Either way I went to give them a chance; and not withstanding rumours of just how ‘live’ they actually are aside, they gave a solid account of themselves, from the excellent ‘Nihil’ right through to ‘Master of Decay’. When their debut came out, I really enjoyed it, as I hadn’t heard anyone take this approach in a while; but it did burn out rather quickly in the listening stakes (even if it is a good album). This inevitably led me to not being as energised or enthused by their set as I possibly should have been. Good show nonetheless.

Band of the day: Displacer (followed close second by Leæther Strip).

So, another year, another Infest and another amazing weekend that is worth shelling out for and travelling to if you haven’t before. It’s a great place to catch up with old friends and share an experience and create memories together, regardless of musical preferences. My thanks go out to the promoters, volunteers and bands that go out of their way to make this event special, each and every year.  Long may it continue.

Yes, I took just two pictures (both of Displacer).

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WOLFRAM: X CD Monotype Records

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WOLFRAM: X     CD   Monotype Records

It’s been 11 years since Wolfram created an actual ‘new’ album as such; other pieces of work that have been released have been older tracks used for movies and theatre etc.  Either way, ‘X’ is a more than suitable return.

Opener, ‘W:Xswarm’ is a noisy affair that rises into a raging slab of hive activity, fizzling out into a serene ‘Introspektiv’; that teeters on the edges of Dark Ambient, but most likely owes more to movie soundtracks than anything else.

With a seamless flow, track two glides into ‘Exploded View’.  A wiry ambient number that plays on scratching glitch as it progresses into the lighter ambient leanings of ‘N:xizhe’; that throws in a background heart beat to give the essence of pace.

‘X’ finishes on a combination of sounds that represent the album as a whole.  Machine-like in its approach it draws on touches of Industrial; and is a fitting end to the release.

Overall, this is a sold and fine return to making music.  It won’t set the world alight with brilliance, but everything Wolfram has done here, does well as an all-rounder.  The CD has some nice laser etching on the playable side too.

8.5/10

JOHN CHANTLER: Which Way to Leave LP ROOM40

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JOHN CHANTLER: Which Way to Leave   LP   ROOM40

The ninth instalment from Stockholm’s John Chantler, charges into life somewhat erratically with an array of scattered computer electronics that become all too irritating, all too quickly.  Followed up with the treated field recordings of ‘Two and Four’ and the non directional bleeps of ‘Clearing’, and you start to just wonder whether the rest of the album is worth listening to at all.

Luckily, the guitar ambient that surfaces in ‘Fixation Pulse’ went some way into clawing back my attention; just as my final thread of patience became frayed.  Along with ‘First December’ and its partner ‘Second December’, these are without doubt the best tracks on this latest piece of work, but would have worked best overall as an EP of some sort.

The rest of ‘Which Way to Leave’ is a nonsensical mess of pointless drivel; and it would take the casual listener a small age to derive anything of value, with the better tracks hidden far beyond the realms of sanity it takes to find them.

6.5/10