Re-sized

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Pre-ordered my copy of Vennart‘s debut album week before last. Pretty excited. For those unfamiliar (no pun…) Mike Vennart achieved artistic, if not financial longevity as singer/songwriter/guitarist with indie-rockers, Oceansize. Negotiating a scarcely-categorizable line between Post Rock, Nu Prog and Art Metal, this sadly-short-lived, Manchester-based crew infiltrated the hitherto-unimagined no-man’s land between Elbow and Mastodon, jamming to fondly-remembered tales of Cardiacs, Faith No More, Tool and Radiohead; refreshed by lashings of mushroom tea. Heady brew? Fuck yeah! And a finely-balanced one too: heaviosity aplenty for die-hard metalheads and cool for the too-cool Guardian fashionistas.

The best rock band to come out of Manchester for a decade.

A year to the day following that band’s dissolution, Vennart and fellow Oceansize cohort, Richard ‘Gambler’ Ingram launched British Theatre: a canny proposition, streamlining the distorted, glitchy and lush atmospherics of the former, whilst substituting a full backing band for laptop dancing. Not a million miles from Radiohead‘s Kid Amnesiac days, albeit grimier, more louche, sordid.

Ingram, and former Oceansize guitarist, Steve Durose both contribute to the new record, The Demon Joke, but to all intents and purposes it’s a one man show now. He launched the new tracks – or some of them at least – at a gig downstairs in Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar here in Brighton last week and I’m not ashamed to say that I couldn’t make head or tail of them. I felt the same way the first time I heard Effloresce (much like Trout Mask Replica, Angel Dust, Second Toughest In The Infants and Spirit Of Eden: sometimes brilliance takes time to absorb and process, even when it’s presence is instantly recognizeable).

In interview, Vennart references (second Oceansize LP) Everyone Into Position, both musically and personally, suggesting ‘I’ve not believed in a record as much since…’ which is good news for me, since EIP is my favourite ‘Size album, though follow-up Frames comes bloody close, and Trail Of Fire (from Frames) is not only my fave Oceansize track but perhaps my favourite song of all time. They didn’t play that at the gig, though they did pull a few classics out of the bag, including Music For A Nurse, Ornament (The Last Wrongs) ‘really long and fuckin’ hard to play’ and Part Cardiac. Even the deceptively-basic, Sabbath-y grind of the latter – from Oceansize swansong, the uneven, Self-Preserved While The Bodies Float Up – conveyed more emotional depth than their support act, Lithuania’s Mutiny On The Bounty, whose selection of sub-Depeche  Mode b-side material merely served to confirm the futility of industrial, post-rock instrumentalism. The wank dripping from a sea of dumbly-nodding post-hipster beards. The ‘Size stood out from the crowd and one has a feeling that Vennart‘s new collection – written whilst on the road as Biffy Clyro‘s live utility guy, studio-enhanced and mixed by Gambler and Durose will too, thanks to a lifetime of musical geekality absorbed from Maiden to Radiohead. The live presentation was augmented bt Durose on guitar and b/vox, Gambler on bass and keys and newkid

Can’t wait, chaps ;)

Another track, Infatuate is also available upon preordering here

You know you want to…

Cremin of the crop

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Mere months after his return to album action, Musician and producer, Paul Mex is back again with a new release, Guilty Fist, that he describes as ‘the first record … since 1989 that (he’s) reasonably happy with‘. Personally, I was more than happy with Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde; and whilst much of what appealed to me about that record is present and correct here, this is a release with more layers and richer texture, both musically and lyrically.

Performance poet, Bernadette Cremin, who also contributed vocals to …Jekyll… had taken the driving seat this time around, enlisting Mex to complement a collection of mostly spoken word pieces with individual soundtracks. It’s a collaboration along the lines of Steve Hogarth and Richard Barbieri’s Not The Weapon But The Hand, a lyrical/musical split that hinges on a personal and musical sympathy.

For argument’s sake one might discern three intertwining threads amongst the nine tracks on offer: the album begins and ends with purely-instrumental pieces, created by Mex. High Ceiling has a somewhat perfunctory intro feel: affecting in and of of itself, albeit lacking any obvious connection to the following track….

….Mosaic Revisited sounds as though it was conceived during the …Jekyll… sessions: a swaggering, guitar and drums-driven number, over which Cremin lays a smokey drawl. It has an improvised, stream of consciousness feel that my head just nods along to unbidden, in a cool way. Along with Beat and the title track, it’s the most ‘rock’ sounding thing; though the aforememtioned are respectively lighter and more funk-flavoured; and slower with a grungy feel. Mex’s long-term friend and ex-Porcupine Tree player, Colon Edwin guests on Beat, and it’s a compliment when I say he leaves his personality behind in service to the track, contributing only groove (by contrast to a long-ago Liane Caroll gig which her bassist husband nearly ruined by wanking all over it).

Growing Pains and Fruit for Rumours foreground (Cremin‘s) words more overtly. The music accentuates meter and bolsters the narrative without getting in the way. Exactly.

(Closer) Sad on the other hand (another Mex instrumental) is both affecting and effective, with subtle musical and emotional sophistication: it picks up on the sombre mood of preceding track Poetry (my favourite song on the album, synth-sax and all…) and ruminates unto sleep.

Having recently reviewed, and to a point, enjoyed, Steven Wilson‘s latest; I couldn’t help but be minded at times of that album, trailer single Perfect Life in particular. Superficially, the similarity is pronounced – a woman narrating aspects of her life over moody, electro-rock soundscapes – and there’s more than a passing resemblance between Cremin‘s vocal and Katherine Jenkins‘, a similar casual affectation belying emotive, subject matter. What slightly disappointed me about that album is showcased somewhat more effectively here, however: a sense of an authentic female voice. Wilson is a sensitive, imaginative man; but a man, nonetheless. And though the musical accompaniment is more rigid, less syncopated and ethereal, my second point of reference is Ursula Rucker: there’s a similar understated passion and grit in Cremin‘s delivery. Whether Guilty Fist is a ‘concept album’ per-se I’m not sure, but as Sad winds to a close, I’m left with a sense of catharsis, of a chapter (in her life’s) ghosts laid to rest.

Poigant and elegiac, and powerful stuff.

And the Wilson track, by way of comparison:

Colin Edwin Interview

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Interview with sesssion basssist Colin Edwin, discussing his ongoing relationships with singer/songwriter Steven Wilson and also Eraldo Bernocchi. Album review (of his latest work with producer, Paul Mex and performance poet, Bernadette Cremin) to follow.

Liberal = incontinent

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(access to) pornography has changed the landscape of adolescence beyond all recognition

I don’t quite buy that. The (intellectual) stumbling block I’ve always found with critics – mainstream critics, that is – of porn is the notion that it depraves and corrupts. I’ve read/viewed enough porn over my (near) 42 years to realise that it fairly represents my sexuality. Nonetheless, I’ve never felt license to violate human bodies to the extent that the GP in the above article describes. And what is this thing with anal sex anyway…

‘…in-vaginal ejaculation is so novel it occupies its own, minority-interest ‘kink’ category (‘creampie‘, if you’re interested): the converse ubiquity of ejaculation on faces and/or breasts (as far as possible from the vagina, note) and anal sex‘.

Male sexuality is a very simple thing. We find an opening; we insert; we thrust unto orgasm. That’s pretty much the definition of male. Which is not to say we’re not capable of more, or different, simply that this underlies more and different: fires it, motivates it. We simply have to choose better: to choose ways of expressing our sexuality that are less damaging; or not damaging at all.We need to reject the – currently trending – mode of liberalism that promotes ‘anything goes'; that damages both our bodies and our partners’ bodies; our minds and theirs.

Please share this post, or the above article. When we’re hurting others, and diminishing ourselves just to feel/be ‘normal something’s gone badly awry.

We need to choose better, because we can…

Anthropomorphukupzthanyoucanshakealadystickat

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What my cat taught me about gender… (from medium.com)

Little if anything, it seems… Hee hee.

‘Lolita, my 16 year-old female cat, emerged from her kitty litter box with a penis.’ On the basis of which you assign her male?

Your cat has a penis ∴ your cat is male. ARRGH! Fucking bigot! How do you know this? Have you not stopped to entertain the possibility that this is the fabled lady-penis? Later in your article you clain to have learned that ‘…gender (is) experienced from within — it’s not something you can (or should) identify from the outside…’ And surely you’re aware most MtF trans folks have intact male genitals? Party line says this is a class issue, that the surgery is prohibitively expensive for most. It is a class issue as it happens; more in the sense that the penis is both symbol and instrument of class oppression (and more fun than a stress ball to knead in times of dysphoria, boredom, horniness…).

Hell, you even go on to say ‘Mr. Lolita, as far as we know, doesn’t have a gender identity. He just has a sex: male.’ As far as you know? You’ve not bothered to take evening classes in cat tongue that you might be able to have the conversation? He/She/Zie/Hir/Miaow might identify as a dog, a wombat or a Russian space station for all you know! Good Lord!

‘Others that met Lolita, would use words like “diva” and “bitch” to describe his personality (“bitch” seems harsh, but he could get a bit hissy with strangers; especially female strangers, if that means anything)…’

Yep, it means they’re (and you’re) sexist. Cos only females get ‘hissy’ with females, right? Never males, no Siree. Male divas? What a ridiculous idea. Jeremy Clarkson, Rob Downey Jr and the drum tutor in Whiplash would be falling over themselves to be the first to scoff at such a suggestion. And you realise a bitch is a female DOG, right? How d’you think Lolita feels about being mis-specied? (assuming that he/she/zie/hir/Lord/Lady/Dr/Pope/Emperor does in fact identify as a cat; and let’s not even get started on race: looks kinda like a long-haired Burmese, but that doesn’t mean a thing: might be thinking in Siamese or Sphynx). How damned inconsiderate of his former owners not to dye his fur blue and teach him to carry an identity card…

And you don’t own him. He owns you. If you’d taken that evening class you’d understand ‘Fuck you! Just feed me! And none of that fucking Iams sawdust! No? Iams it is. Another fucking eviscerated, half-dead mouse on your pillow tomorrow morning, sonny boy.’ when you heard it.

And ‘Lolita‘. Lolita?! ‘Nuff said.

Oh, and the barista thing…

‘…Not only was this formerly female classmate of mine now a male, but — by all appearances — he was a gay male working at a gay coffee shop. (I would later see him out with other gay male friends at a gay bar.)…’ So you assumed he was gay because he appeared gay. Like you assumed your cat was female cos ‘her‘ name was ‘princess‘; and now assume he’s male cos he has a penis? Sheesh! Aand a gay coffee shop? WTF does that even mean? That they only serve super-skinny caramel lattes with rainbow sprinkles? Be sure to wipe the seat before you sit down, then; wouldn’t want you to catch anything nasty, now.

And you know, ‘formerly female’ but now a male? Either he was always male (wrong body yada yada, unlike the 99% of cis-sy folks who just love their perfect physiques) or is still (biologically) female but has busted out of the prison of ‘assignment’ in a cloud of rainbow-coloured confetti) and now identifies as male. Even the most batshit crazy MRA transjacktivist types seem to grasp that a person can’t actually change sex. Though to be fair, any kind of concensus amongst professionals and lobbyists looks to be a ways off.

You got one thing right, though; about gender and sexuality being socially constructed. Who knew?

Close, but no (Have A) Cigar

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This is my first encounter with Andy Jackson as a musical artist in his own right, though I’m previously familiar with his work as sound engineer with latterday Pink Floyd and on one of my favourite albums of all time, Fields of the Nephilim’s Elizium. As recordist and de-facto sound designer on the latter, he realised the – progressive – potential of a band whose originality and seriousness of purpose is too often sidelined beside ‘Goth’ clichés revolving around liberal application of flour and swathes of dry ice. Frankly, it’s a fuckin’ masterpiece.

Signal To Noise isn’t that. It’s very much of a piece with Jackson‘s work with latterday Floyd and, to an extent, Fields of the Nephilim, albeit significantly different to either.

Jackson plays all the instruments and sings. His vocal style perhaps most resembles Richard Wright when he takes the lead on Floyd cuts such as Wearing The Inside Out (from The Division Bell) and the latter’s solo album Broken China. Musically, he’s more than competent – sometimes very good. What’s missing is the character, the yearning, tortured depth of a Gilmour or a McCoy.

Much like The Verve‘s Richard Ashcroft, or Johnny Marr, one is left with the impression that his best work is to be found within collaborations – his real skill, with due respect to his day job, is embellishing (or teasing the best from) the ideas of others. STN is good – a propulsive, atmospheric, reverb-drenched thrum that draws the listener in – but it’s not great. What it shares with TER – in contrast to Elizium – is it’s unrelenting, mid paced, monochrome tone. Sure, there are ebbs ond flows; but no gnarls: nothing explosive or grating, such as …At The Gates of Silent Memory… or Submission to shock us out of easy-listening torpor.

There’s surely an element of pastiche/homage which, whilst it perhaps suffers by comparison to the best of Floyd‘s work, acquits itself somewhat favourably next to the warmed-over ramblings of The Endless River. That Jackson conceived these tracks as songs rather than mere instrumental atmospheres is the key factor here. There is a focus that TER lacks, and his voice is possessed of a certain grit that neither Gilmour nor Wright can (could) manage.

As much as I enjoy the album I can’t but help feel that a certain something is missing, if only by a hair.

But therein lies the separation between talent and genius…

 

 

 

Ali Bee: “New World’s Dawning”

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Guls:

Ha ha! Oh no that’s awful – kill her!! Ha ha!!! Damn, am I allowed to laugh at this? Kaveney, please give me a sign…

Bllleurrrghthhmmmthgrrtg. My brain just melted, please find me a soft cell (with others who share my gender identity, of course)…

Originally posted on GenderTrender:

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