Monday, April 29, 2013

Controlled Collapse: Winters in Osaka Make Noise for Music's Sake

From one dude manipulating tape tones in his basement to the Voltronic intercontinental octet of anti-musical miscreants today, Winters in Osaka have reveled in carefully orchestrated chaos. Carving musical monuments out of found sounds and FX box noise, they expertly demolish their own constructions under unrelenting waves of white noise, turning their songs into harbingers of personal and social collapse.
Making chaotic sounding noisescapes takes a lot more planning and concentration than you may expect, especially if you want all of that confusion to actually take listeners somewhere. Despite the logistical nightmare of making space for eight different members and a who's who of grind and power violence royalty who jump in as time and space allows, band founder Adam Jennings said the song writing process remains remarkably simple.
"The song writing process is very loose to say the least," he said. "Lately, Andy Lippoldt and Jim Haras will send the base of what the track will be. From there, I usually add my layers to the songs, then send it off to the other guys. Some songs only have two or three of us on it, and some tracks feature all eight of us. I don't want the songs to suffocate the listener with all of us on the song. I like for the songs to come naturally, even though to a listener who might think all noise is the same, they might wonder [why] I give a shit as to who is on which track since it's all noise anyways. While we are a noise band, I feel that in the past year or two we have become a structured and focused unit, knowing how we want our songs to sound and what sort of feelings we want to invoke in the listener. We are a chaotic sounding band, yet the twists and turns and frequencies you hear are very deliberate."
While Winters in Osaka will never condescend to something resembling traditional song structure, the octet's most recent efforts have found them at their most focused. For all the noise and chaos, there are actual emotions at play behind the FX box abuse and the band is intent on conjuring a genuine response from listeners. Jennings points to their recent collaboration album with Japanese noise sculptor Astro as a significant turning point in Winters in Osaka's musical development.
"That release will be one I and other WIO fans will go to when documenting the progression from our earlier works to the newer, more focused sound," he said. "Our list of releases lately have gone down since we want to focus all efforts on releasing a tape or CD or vinyl that will keep everyone, including ourselves, interested. Too many people drop in and out of the noise scene because they burn out and then fade away without having tried new things on their own or with others."

Friday, April 12, 2013

G&P Review: The Riot Peddlers

The Riot Peddlers

I think it's kind of amusing that India, a country that nonviolently overturned British colonialism, celebrates its Independence Day, Aug. 15, with a 21 gun salute.  The Riot Peddlers decided to stir up the party last Independence Day last year by dropping a six pack of punk ragers.
The snotty, sarcastic punk doesn't wander too far off the trail that NOFX and their more straight-faced  '80s hardcore contemporaries have already blazed (except for the near-hip hop cadence to some vocals that I could do without), so the hook here is the trio is speaking to their unique experiences in India, [wow, I completely misinterpreted like half of these songs; ignore me and see the comment below for more.] taking swipes at Bollywood musicals ("Bollywood Songs"), police brutality ("United We Stand") and corruption ("Chai Paani"). Those songs show a verve that makes The Riot Peddlers' more conventional punk fare ("Platform  No. 3's" ode to getting hammered) sound tame and derivative.  It just can't stand against "Sau Rupiya's" nearly d-beat stomp as they rave India's border disputes with Pakistan.
If you've ever heard a punk album at any point in the last 30 years, don't expect to  bowled over by The Riot Peddler's originality. This is strictly by the numbers punk that hits it and quits it in 11 minutes, but it stakes a claim for largely unheard corner of the musical world. And The Riot Peddlers are at their best when they speak from their unique subcontinental perspective. If they'd ditch the punk playbook and bring something new to the table they could probably go far.

 [Full disclosure: the band sent me a download.]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

G&P Review: Flayed

Sapiens Sapiens

Flayed’s guitar has a bumble bee buzz about it the likes of which you probably haven’t heard since Unseen Terror’s apian tone a good three decades ago. It’s a reedy, warbling insistent tone that sacrifices low end glower for an upper register bite. The funny thing is, it all kinda works. Between the buzzing sound, the choice artwork and the name, Flayed has a bit of the old cat o’ nine tails about it The eight songs sound like a faster and more concise version of Fate of Icarus (back when Joe Hovarth of Circle of Dead Children was their mic-man), blurring circular saws of guitar noise, programmed drums and a maniac flinging spittle all over your face.
What Flayed do with that tone is unleash a hiveful of songs that just never stop buzzing about you. Everything about Sapiens Sapiens is tense and angled forward, constantly in motion and never resting for a little more than six sweaty minutes.  “I.IV,” the slowest track of the bunch (keeping in mind that’s a very relative measure) is all pointed skronks like the business end of an angry, chrome-plated ground wasp. Meanwhile, “I.VII” is more uplifting, with a positive, triumphal midsection that recalls Liberteer’s horn parts reinterpreted for guitar.
It’s really interesting to see Flayed take something that could have been passed off as the result of low budget recording and actually bend it into a strength. Whether the buzzing tone was a deliberate choice, I don’t really know (follow up Ape Must Not Eat Ape also flies straight from the hive but it has more traditional guitar heft and depth). What I do know is that it works pretty damn well in context.

[Full disclosure: the band sent me a download.]

Monday, April 8, 2013

G&P Review: False Light

False Light
False Light
Dead Chemists

False Light seethes with the fetid humidity of basement shows and stifling rehearsal space angst, roiling up a savage ruckus that's noisy and close enough to raise welts.
False Light sound nothing like Priapus (and they are from the other Carolina), but there's a definite kinship. They have that same sui generis sound, that same sense of focus and composure as they rip through grind and wallow in soggy bog sludge, often the space of the same 90 seconds. Every second of this six song EP is coherent and purposeful enough that I'm willing to forgive them for ending on a slow song. It all just sounds so considered and thoroughly crafted that closing with a six minute detour through the gutters of misery is just as essential as the 78 second blitzkrieg of "Rotting Teeth," which lights the EP's fuse.
This South Carolina quartet has an impressive command of dynamics and musical tension both within and between songs. Opener "Rotting Teeth" gives way with a pit-winding breakdown that stomps straight into the foot race of "Almighty Thief." And False Light litter their EP will small, brilliantly conceived moments and transitions like that which make their effort an invigorating, engaging listening experience whether it's the strangling guitar noise of "Lung" or the way the whole affair ends with the sound of cables being yanked out of guitar jacks. And that's all before I get to the rabble rousing vocals which exhort everyone to start storming the ramparts of ignorance and misery.
This is the Diogenes of grind, turning a klieg light on every human failing and foible, burning away the foul until only honesty remains.

[Full disclosure: Dead Chemists sent me a download.]

Friday, April 5, 2013

G&P Review: Guilty as Sin

Guilty as Sin
Future History
Self Released

Guilty of Sin prove the old adage (old in that I just made it up and I'm old) that drinking deep of Voivodian weirdness is never a bad career move. Eleventy albums in, this space cadet Massachusetts trio is still metal thrashing mad and better than ever; they've finally got a handle on the extraneous world music elements that felt so disjointed in some past efforts. Now the freaky horn jazz that rears like the faux-Gundam on the album corner feels integrated into the music rather than "hey, we took a world music class last semester and are totally broadminded now."
But like a lot of Guilty as Sin albums, Future History suffers from a bit of a split personality. When they're on an instrumental run, Guilty as Sin are invigorating and compelling. The way the skipping, playful Pink Floyd riff that opens "Midnight Hammer" slams into its later Mastodon crush catches me every time, even when I know it's coming. But Future History's crowning jewel is "Magical Papyri of the Tetragrammaton," which rides a twisty, arabesque Nile-ish lead guitar like it's a magic carpet. Even the super-80s keyboard cheese at the end just works for reasons I'm not sure I understand several listens later.
So that's the good, and when Guilty as Sin are on their game, there's a lot to love. But my standard complaint with the band still stands: the vocals blow. Musically, Guilty as Sin shoot for the stars (sometimes literally given their scifi proclivities), but the charisma-less hardcore grunt drags the whole affair down into something far more quotidian. If Guilty as Sin insist on having a frontman, they need to find somebody who has something to say and knows how to convey it because endlessly grunting out "oblivion" on opener "One-Way Ticket to Oblivion" is a tough hurdle for newcomers to get over.

[Full disclosure: Guilty as Sin sent me a review copy.]

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

G&P Review: Nashgul/Malpractice Insurance

Nashgul/Malpractice Insurance
To Live a Lie

Gore grind has pretty much been denuded of any lingering shock value by 25 years of bands happy to ape Carcass and swipe polysyllabic synonyms for death, decay and destruction from whatever medical dictionary their local library happens to stock. So just when I'm about to write off the whole movement, along comes Los Angeles duo Malpractice Insurance who cleverly twist around that paradigm by playing sly with the language of surgical mistakes, insurance forms and indemnity for doctors  by cranking out five tunes that focus less on the breakdown of the human form (though they have done plenty of that too) and more about the legalities that some from surgical slip ups.
That they pair that lyrical legerdemain with some smoking grind that draws from the same musical well as splitmates Nashgul only makes this 7-inch that much more awesome. In particular, guitarist and vocalist Ivo's delivery is worthy of being singled out for praise; his raspy Jeff Walker screech is wonderfully expressive and shapes the songs' contours where too many grind vocalists are content to play follow the leader and chase the music.
Considered alongside their recent split with P.L.F., Nashgul continue to impress me with their choice selection of musical associates. Meanwhile, the Spaniards' three songs deliver everything you've come to expect: zombified romps through Carcass and Repulsion that revel in gorehound cinema and B-movie action flicks. Faced with the limitation of half a 7-inch, Nashgul make the intriguing choice to go long with their three songs (long in this case being defined as approximately two minutes each). While only three songs feels a bit insubstantial, it's also always good to leave your audience wanting more and I've got to say the awesome chug-a-lug of "Estigma" and the way the middle passage of "Estimociver" nods back to Bolt Thrower's "World Easter" certainly had me digging out my other Nashgul albums. Mission accomplished.

[Full disclosure: Nashgul sent me a download.]

Monday, April 1, 2013

Blast(beat) From the Past: Kalibas

Eyes Forever Red
Howling Bull

One of the themes I tried to develop in Lifetime of Gray Skies is that Anodyne, based on the sheer awesomeness of the bands that were birthed from it, should be regarded as a retroactive supergroup. I think you could slap the same made up monicker on one of Anodyne's contemporaries as well, Kalibas. Grok a lineup that includes Jody Roberts (Kill the Client) and Erik Burke (Lethargy, Nuclear Assault, Sulaco, Brutal Truth) who made the jump to drums. The star power would only get amped up on subsequent albums after they jumped to Willowtip, establishing the lablel's technically proficient death metal aesthetic in the process, and added Aaron Nichols (Defeatist) to the kill crew. How's that for one of the finest bands of musical miscreants you're ever likely to come across?
And Kalibas, for my money, were never tighter or grindier than on their four song debut 7-inch Eyes Forever Red.  With only four songs in the offing, Kalibas nevertheless flashed a wide array of attacks that teased what would be  coming on subsequent albums. They dropped probably my favorite Kalibas song right at the start with "Masticate." It buzzes and swarms, swirling and stinging from every direction at once in unrelenting waves of pointed guitars and strangled screams. The false respite of its stick in the mud middle passage just sets you up for another savage beating. Kalibas just layer on the torture from there with the thistle-shaped pinched harmonics of "Semantic Insanity" and the intergalactic goofballery of "All of Japa's" tech death opening, which serves as Silver Surfer to PSUDOKU's world eating Galactus insanity.
Kalibas were one of those bands loaded for grizzly from the outset and they only upgraded their armory with every subsequent release. A lot of these songs would get another working over on their debut full length Product of Hard Living, but I think I prefer these earlier versions. Nobody ever accused Kalibas of succumbing to the allure of sheeny shiny production, but there's a wonderful low budget grit to this four-pack of songs that introduced a very cool band that flew under too many radars.