Album Review - Soft Issues - S/T - Opal Tapes  

There has been a fresh wave of electronic experimentation in Yorkshire recently. Venues such as Wharf Chambers in Leeds, The Fulford Arms in York and The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge are diversifying their schedules with the outer limits of the improvised and contemporary music worlds. 

Leeds based duo Soft Issues leave the listener in no doubt as to the nature of their intentions on this self-tiled cassette. Barely decipherable screams stun the listener, followed by an aggressive torrent of electronic noise. Violent pulses throb over tormented screams like electricity punishing every cell of a death row victim. 

The  pulsations continue on Pelt. Static interjections come and go like a weak signal battling through bad weather. The underlying electronic blanket seems to increase in intensity bringing a sense of intense claustrophobia. On Bate, high pitched electronica and slowed down spoken word bookmark each end of the sonic spectrum. A tinnitus inducing frequency persists throughout. 

Free flowing rhythms open Personal Sewer...more analogue than digital. Imagine children banging the lids of antique trash cans. This is followed by a wave of punishing noise which covers the middle and upper frequencies. Vocals are present but buried, trying to escape from beneath the layers of audible rubble. 

Pallid Mass has the most repetitive rhythm so far. The pummelling signal is like a beast that refuses to stop visiting a disconcerted dreamer. Bleak Magic cuts through the ear drum like a futuristic chainsaw. The vocals generate distorted effects that appear and vanish at unpredictable intervals. 

The first appearance of systemised tonality appears on The World Of with a 4 note minor melody creating a sombre mood. The vocals becomes less aggressive but all the more punishing. You can imagine somebody trapped in a office cubicle while pleasant background chatter penetrates their existence, making them all the more disturbed. 

Short and sharp noisecore bullets fly out of the speakers on Grave Whip. The insistent beat of a bass drum gives Hart Let Update a danceable quality although it is far removed from anything you might hear on a city centre night out. The vocal delivery is more deliberate and is executed with a hardcore punk intensity. 

Ruin The White Walls moves like a train rolling in to a station, reminding the listener of the noise of everyday existence. Many of the soundscapes presented by Soft Issues have an everyday quality but it is a daily routine which is oppressive in its overbearing insistence. 

Soft Issue have created a fascinating aural picture of a digitally dominated world where people are becoming hypnotised by the repetitive nature of the ordinary. 

John Marley.

Album Review - Disen Gage - Nature 

Russian prog-rockers Disen Gage have taken a step away from their usual brand of sonic experimentation to create an immersive and exploratory representation of three distinctive worlds. Nature, released in 2018 on the Addicted Label, is split into three extended tracks. 

The first of these entitled Planets, sucks the listener straight into a swirling vortex of sound. Distant electronic beeps can be heard through the radioactive wasteland. There is a rhythmically hypnotic rumble which becomes increasingly terrifying as it engulfs all in its path. As it disappears to nothing, airy wind sounds play obscure melodies over an almost subconscious drone. Chiming bells sound like a melancholic reminder of human life on a devastated planet. 

As more sounds enter the piece, there is a cross over of rhythms which brings movement and a feeling of propulsion. These rhythms cleverly develop into a foundation for funk sax that emerges from a different dimension. They are fragments of human music heard amongst a spiders web of radio signals. 

Trains begins with the familiar screaming of steel tracks barely coping with the stress of heavy industry. The melodies within these industrial screams act as a reminder of the musical qualities inherent in all situations and environments. Tones are stacked in layers, producing harmonies that don’t conform to any western tradition. Although there is a blackened atmosphere on this track, the distant sound of conversation has a meditative and comforting quality. 

Animals begins with an electronic pulse which may represent a living subject. Sounds of breathing and water act as counter rhythms to the throbbing centrepiece. The intensity of these rhythms creates an edgy atmosphere as though an animal is desperately on the hunt for food. 

As the soundscape takes on a lighter quality, electronic sounds whistle and chirp like a futuristic simulation of avian life. Wolves howl relentlessly in the distance, reminding us of the ever present threat posed by nature. Disen Gage make a brief return to familiar prog-rock territory as shimmering guitar chords enter the track. Rising like the sun, the guitar brings light to the darkened landscape but moves menacingly towards a conclusion of distorted riffing. 

Many regard noise and industrial music as a challenging listen. However, if it is well constructed then it is like an audible story. An all consuming tale which grabs the listener and doesn’t let go. That is what Disen Gage have achieved on Nature

John Marley

https://noname666.bandcamp.com/album/nature

 

Album Review - ElectroBattlingDroids - Wonkystuff #10 

There has been a noticeable increase in the amount of experimental, improvised and left field music being created in York. This surge of contemporary creativity has been spearheaded by the creation of two adventurous live music promotions Spread and Wonkystuff. The latter is led by Ash Sagar and John Tuffen who also perform under the rather descriptive moniker ElectroBattlingDroids

As well as organising live events, Wonkystuff release music online and on that favoured format of niche market genres, the cassette. Wonkystuff #10 features one piece by ElectroBattlingDroids which begins with a distant bleeping, evoking images of hospital equipment heard from a shallow sleep. As understated drones creep across you and slither in to your ears, electronic percussion forms a hypnotic rhythm, sounding like a futuristic tennis game played on a desolate planet. 

When the development of a soundscape is intentionally slow, subtle change can prick the ears. Emerging from the bass heavy landscape, electronic hi-hats contain a world of audible colour. Vicious sound waves begin to swipe at one another, cutting through the crisp electronic ether. As the dominant sound wave breaks in to two parts, it develops a conversational quality. Slight variations in wave tones begin to overlap. The two voices cut in on each other’s abruptly made points. 

Subtle beats form a steady foundation for the hurried movement taking place above ground, like a sturdy bridge which traffic shoots across in all directions. ElectroBattlingDroids deliver you to new sound worlds with the efficiency of a Japanese train. The journey is so smooth that you’re not aware that you are moving at all. 

The pieces of the musical jigsaw are not all cragged and challenging to place. Moments of grooving electronica show an awareness of mainstream dance music which the duo are not afraid to incorporate. A particularly engaging shuffle rhythm is interrupted by an alarm sound which reduces the burning groove to a flickering electronic ember. As the flame slowly smokes its way in to oblivion, the journey is complete. It has been a journey through the baron landscapes of the countryside and the frantic bustle of the city, all enjoyed from the comfort of first class travel. 

John Marley