Archive for July, 2013

Anger Management: Deafheaven

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

We check in with all things heavy on RTRFM’s Critical Mass show.

US black metal seems to be in a period of incredible growth. Fantastic albums by bands such as Agalloch, Krallice, Liturgy and Wolves In The Throne Room have cast a spotlight on the scene. But with that extra attention comes an element of backlash from fans and critics.

New releases seem to be (lazily) cast into the category of ‘hipster/pretentious’ (see Liturgy) or ‘sounding like Wolves In The Throne Room’. San Franciso’s Deafheaven are all too quickly categorised into both these descriptions, but neither are accurate.

Sounding closer to French Black metal/Shoegaze outfit Alcest, Sunbather is a lush and warm sounding album, whilst still being quite fierce. Leadoff track ‘Dream House’ speeds out of the gates with blasting drums and slows towards then end with some great melodic guitar. Vocally is sounds like Emperor circa ’93 and it works. There are 4 (8+ minute) black metal tracks complemented by 3 ambient interludes (Irresistable being something of a coda to Dream House).

Forget the hype, the image or lack thereof. The cover or the bands haircuts aren’t important. This album will be an important one come time for the ‘best of 2013 polls’.

Two Minutes With ZOND

Friday, July 26th, 2013

We spend two minute with ZOND ahead of their gig supporting Barn Owl in Melbourne on August 10 and find out what’s what…

What’s going on in the world of ZOND?
Planning to record album number 2.

What motivates you to make music?
Life and living… to annoy and/or pleasure others and ourselves.

What have been the high and low points of your musical experiences so far?
Jamming with Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson at the Sydney Opera house was quite good.
Low points… equipment, mind and toilet failures.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
Total Control, Lakes, Alberich, Jeff Mills, Nekrasov, Swans, Keiji Haino, Matthew Brown, 1919, Kate Bush, The Aesthetics, Steely Dan, Brainbombs, Container, Jimi Hendrix, Felt, Exhaustion, Prince, Xasthur, Rudimentary Peni, Dire Straits, Public Enemy, Disclose, The Cure, Trepaneringsritualen, ZZ Top, Prurient, Killing Joke, Dead Boomers, Ryoji Ikeda, Transvision Vamp…

If you were stranded on a desert island, which member of the band would get eaten first?
Band equipment and the pilot’s torso we found washed up on the beach.

Here’s an opportunity to bitch about something, whether music related or not. What really pisses you off?
Groups that lack intensity in any form and raisins/sultanas/currants.

You’re putting together your perfect gig featuring Australian artists? Who would you get to play and where? Feel free to include acts/DJs/bands/venues that no longer exist.
SPK, Sea Scouts, Slugfuckers, The New Season, Solids, Icehouse, Venom P Stinger, Max Q, Thug, Collapsed Toilet Vietnam… at the MCG.

Interview: Barn Owl

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

The new Barn Owl record, V is influenced by dub, musique concrete, library music, and minimal techno, and sees the duo leaning heavily on analogue synths and post-production to create sounds.

Ahead of their first Australian tour, Jack Midalia caught up with Jon Porras and spoke about the process of creating V, synths, and what Australian audiences can expect live.

Barn OwlThere’s a very large electronic element on this record, there’s a lot of synths that are very prominent. Was that a conscious decision when you started making the record or did that happen naturally?
This was a very conscious move on our part. In the last few years Even and I have been really excited about analogue synthesis. It really opens a tonne of new doors as far as sound design. We’re able to create much deeper low end, much more intense, textured high end, and it’s those new sound design elements that we wanted to incorporate on this new record. So yeah, it was a very conscious decision.

One of the things I noticed was that it’s often difficult to work out what’s actually making the sound. It’s hard to tell whether it’s a really processed guitar or a synth — I think that creates a really interesting effect. Was there a lot of post-production happening?
Absolutely. WIth analogue synthesis and that added ability for sound design, if you have a sound in your imagination and you want to create it, you can. And I think guitar is very limited as far as frequency range, and it can only occupy a very specific space tonally. So using electronics and using analogue synthesis, we’re able to open up our palette and create textures and atmospheres that are richer than what we’ve done in the past.

There’s a very strong rhythmic element to the record, even through there’s not really a lot of overt rhythm — there’s not really strong drum tracks — but there’s still that rhythmic feel to a lot of the record…
That is also something that Evan and I were consciously trying to bring into this new record. We didn’t want to make it explicit, we wanted to create rhythms with delay settings and with our loop pedals so the rhythms themselves are organic and a little bit more off the grid and unconventional.

So you had click tracks or guide tracks that you took out?
No, no click tracks or guide tracks or anything like that. We were creating rhythms in real time in the studio with different tools. There was a tonne of post-production on the new record. That was something we also consciously did. It was an idea we borrowed from all the dub music we’d been listening to. In the dub world, the lines are sort of blurred between producer and musician, and artist, that kind of becomes one role in the dub world. Evan and I wanted to try to experiment with those ideas and take the live recordings that we tracked in the studio, bring them to our home studio, chop them up, process them and edit them and create this new artefact.

Obviously a lot of thought and effort went into the sound design element of the record. Your music is very meditative, even hypnotic. What sort of a state are you in when you’re actually playing it? Are you very conscious of what you’re doing from a technical point of view, or do you just get in the zone and almost meditate?
I think it’s a balance. My performative psychology is a balance between letting yourself go and letting your imagination flow between your technical skill and your creative skill. And kind of abandoning the ego and letting yourself go with it. That’s an integral part of improv, but it has to be balanced with self-awareness. I want to be very aware of where I’m at, what I’m playing, the notes I’m playing, how it sounds, how what I’m playing reacts to what Evan’s playing. So it’s this balance between letting yourself know and giving in to the hypnotic states that the music induces, but also being incredibly focussed and self-aware. That’s what I love and I don’t really get that sensation from anything else besides music, and I think that’s what continues to pull me towards making more music and performing live is being fulfilled by that balance between precision and giving in to a creative power outside of myself.

While Barn Owl can be enjoyed at low to moderate volumes, I’m assuming you don’t really hold back when you’re playing live?
Volume is a huge part of our live set. It’s important that our music has that physical element — that you’re actually feeling the tones as they’re being played. I think that there’s something really powerful about that synesthesia and it’s something that we absolutely will bring to our Australian shows.

What’s your live setup like now? Do you even bring guitars on tour now?
The tour we just did in Europe was all synthesisers — Evan and I were both playing analogue synths. I think we’re going to do something similar for our Australian shows. We’re still in the process of rehearsing and piecing together our set, but it is going to be focussed on analogue synths.

This is your first time in Australia — any expectations?
You know, I’m trying to greet Australia with as little expectations as possible. I’m very excited — I’ve heard a lot of graet things about Australia — the people are friendly, the weather is beautiful, the countryside is beautiful, and I’m so thrilled that we could make this happen. It all happened so quickly that I can hardly believe that it’s actually happening. I have no idea how we’re going to be received — how the audience will receive our music, but I’m looking forward to it.

And then once the tour’s done, have you got plans for then?
Yeah, we’re doing another tour of Europe in September. We’re going to do some Eastern European dates and some Scandinavian dates.

Another record?
So the set we’ll be playing in Australia features about 60% new material. So that new material hasn’t been recorded yet, but it will be some time between now and the end of the year.

Anger Management: Carcass

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

We check in with all things heavy on RTRFM’s Critical Mass show.

The grandfathers of grind are back with a new lineup and a new album, their first in 17 years. Leading single “Captive Bolt Pistol” from the new album Surgical Steel indicates a band still relevant, still fresh and eager to tear shreds off the competition when the album is unleashed in September. The single is less death ‘n’ roll and more melodic death metal and would fit nicely on Heartwork or Necroticism

In the years following their last (as the name suggests) studio album Swansong, most band members continued their musical careers. Bill Steer (guitar) joined stoner rock band Firebird, Jeff Walker (bass, vocals) and Ken Owen (drums) formed the short-lived Blackstar. In 1999, Ken Owen suffered a brain hemorrhage and remained in a coma for 10 months. He has since recovered, though has not been able to play at his former capacity.

Mike Amott (guitar) continued as guitarist with Spiritual Beggars and also went on to form Arch Enemy, whose success has led them on to release 11 studio albums, their latest being Khaos Legions in 2011.

In 2007 the band reunited for some ball-tearing live shows featuring Daniel Erlandsson (Arch Enemy) on drums. When the band announced it would make a full-time return, Amott and Erlandsson bowed out to avoid any conflicts with Arch Enemy. Although their spots were hard to fill, Ben Ash (Pig Iron) and Daniel Wilding (Order of Apollyon) stepped up to round out the roster.

2013 has exciting things ahead for this legendary outfit. Keep on Rotting!

Aarom With A View: The Bomber

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

How a popular, promising magazine was failed by its public, fell into radical criticism and became a monster.

Stories (over 260,000,000) addressing the Rolling Stone Magazine’s decision to feature Dzhokhar ‘The Bomber’ Tsarnaev on its front cover for the August edition are proliferating faster than the My Little Pony-inspired Awkward Raver video footage. In fact, any media worth their spray of hipster slag projectiles have been spitting scorched judgments wildly, not to mention the permanently frowning mainstream media, forgetting to mention New York Times’ cover had already featured the same photo without criticism. In fact, many big players like Time Magazine, News Weekly and — cover me in crazy juice — even Rolling Stone have also featured killers on their front covers in the past. Just not Islamic ones… Sidestepping the despicable roles that xenophobia, racism and religious intolerance have played in the extremely persecutory responses, a large problem with the tidal waves of commentary is that the media has generally lacked the expulsive power (aka balls) to explode a few bombs of their own. Rather, most have taken the all-too-predictable route of ‘Oh how dare they make it cool for others to idolize violence, make him a martyr, glorify terrorism etc,’ and other critique variants that occasionally flaunt edginess yet ultimately play it safe. Here we are though, placed firmly in the opinion gutter of Aarom With A View, so let’s put on the gloves and throw the questioning uppercut; Why does western society give such a fuck about some dude that only killed a few people?

Before fists are clenched so tight you might hurt yourself, let’s use one small example to provide a little context. If you’ve been playing the Try/Sly/Gin&Dry/Lie July game then I’m betting you drank booze the last few weekends. Or you likely drove. You may even have driven after consuming more than the legal limit of silly juice – something your friends didn’t seem to care about because, well, Northbridge was just a bitch to get a taxi. If you answered yes to the latter question then you’re engaging in practices that have resulted in enough fatalities over the last 15 years to trump any acts of terrorism by one zillion percent. You’re just another bloody idiot if you have a few too many (risking accidentally driving into innocents, babies etc), but if you explode bombs then you’re terrorist. And if you’ve been living under a rock this past decade or so, being called a terrorist is like being called a ‘murderous cunt’ times 1,000. News flash: if you drink and drive then you’re risking being as deadly as a bloody terrorist.

Now, back at the rumble ranch, it’s easy for this line of argument to get sidetracked and responses to veer off into the wrong gutters. On track again, and there are clearly a number of points in this Rolling Bomber incident that aren’t debatable. The most important:

1. Rolling Stone will indeed effectively encourage many to idolize violence and legitimize ‘terrorism’ by putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, aided by the fact that a) kids ? selfies and b) the dude is better looking than your usual local ‘terrorist’.

2. It was tasteless and disrespectful to those injured by the blasts.

3. The editorial decision was no doubt spurred by falling magazine circulation figures and profits – the more controversial, the more free exposure (bad press is good press, right?).

Trick is, the same days that America and much of western civilization spent much of their time getting up in arms over three people being killed and 264 being injured in Boston, Pakistan and Iran experienced an earthquake that caused at least 10 times more fatalities and left upwards of 26,000 people without shelter; dozens were killed in an industrial explosion in Waco, Texas; Ghana saw at least 17 illegal miners die when their mine collapsed; and let’s not even started on the facts that approx 5,000 were killed in the Syrian conflict, 712 civilians and security personnel died as bloodshed escalated in Iraq and 1,127 people lost their lives in a building collapse in Bangladesh just in that same month of April. Of course the external horror stories go on and on and on…yet did these make the news that month? Only very brief mentions in comparison, if at all. Instead most ‘news’ consumers were glued to their screens, their anger united and focused during April at these young terrorists’ actions (it should be noted they were described as terrorists right from the beginning), forgetting about all the ongoing world problems that consistently result in greater mass fatalities of innocent people. Poverty, disease, religion, homelessness…there are so many alarming global woes that need to be addressed and given aid to, yet instead much of the world is too busy spending billions and billions on counter-terrorism, to the point where the US is secretly spying on their allies (how quick that story faded).

So, as preposterously unethical and stupefying as this decision by Rolling Stone was, the lack of the media’s ability to make more meaningful criticisms needs also to be severely spanked. Most of the media, from tabloid tale-tellers to progressive persecutors, too oft only follow up on what’s deemed to be the most hit-worthy angles on the news, sharing the sorts of opinions that they know their target audience will respond to in a positive way. Many are still making valid points, but they’re wasting their potential to actually engage with such commentary in far more socially, politically and culturally substantial and consequential ways.

In that way, they deserve to share a greater load of the guilt than what Rolling Stone is now baring. What’s also scary is most have criticized the cover without having even read the story. Rolling Stone was one of the great journalistic innovators, it’s long length, in-depth feature writing revealing more about not only music, but life, culture and politics than most magazines in its heyday. As Rolling Stone stated as they dropped ‘The Bomber’, “The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.” Yet the magazine has become victim to a changing shift in consumers’ attention spans — a new generation of meme-moochers, yolo-yelpers, hashtag-heroes and shorts-slurpers, all demanding their quick and quaffable fix of superficial news. Chances are, you didn’t even get to the end of this opinion piece – it’s too long for the average internet attention span (apologies).

The cover was judged furiously before the feature’s content had even been revealed. It could actually be a rather insightful and thought-provoking piece, yet its potential messages were immediately crushed. They say never to judge a book by its cover, and we should all fear the lugubrious looking picture being painted by consumers abusing this age-old adage. From memes to memos, the public wants to slurp the most outrageous news as quickly as possible, and react instantly, reflecting a disturbingly diminished amount of thoughtful engagement. Shit, even Playboy’s articles decades ago provided more cerebral opportunities than a day’s worth of world Facebook status updates.

Sure, it didn’t help that Rolling Stone editor Christian Hoard tweeted, “I guess we should have drawn a dick on Dzhokhar’s face or something?”, yet this tweet was born from his obvious frustration at the changing state of media consumption where the majority of society would rather read about a terrible rapper and a clueless bimbo giving their baby a stupid name than actually having to use their brains when reading a powerful story. Furthermore, Rolling Stone putting The Bomber on its front cover is still receiving more meaningful criticism from far too many media trendsetters than Rudd’s new policy to send asylum seekers to a country where even our own government warns Australian travellers to “Exercise a high degree of caution” – and a move likely to lead to 1,000s of times more deaths and tragedies than ‘The Bomber’ ever caused. Yes, it truly is a grim state of affairs, and we too have ourselves to blame.

In response, here’s a quick letter to send, post on social media or rally those with short attention spans:

Dear media and leading opinion makers,

Please take your privileged positions more seriously and play your part in creating real change in the world, rather than just pandering to your own audience’s likelihood of ‘Like’ing your weak, easy spins on the ‘news’. Otherwise we’re all fucked. And not in a Kim, Kanye and North West kinda way. #trulybrainfucked  In return, I promise to follow, share, subscribe or buy your views, and to think about them. #letsdothis2gether

With grave sincerity,

The Future


Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

PelicanPost metal Chicago four-piece Pelican are set to release their first LP since 2009 in the form of Forever Becoming on October 15.

“Immutable Dusk” is typically crunchy, loud and awesome. Forever Becoming will be released on Southern Lord.

Take a listen to “Immutable Dusk”, below.

Teho Teardo and Blixa Bargeld

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Teho Teardo Blixa BargeldStill Smiling sees Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten) team up with Italian composer Teho Teardo.

The track “What If” is a highlight, and is about as dark and creepy as you’d expect from a song about a suicide bomber with self-doubt (“it’s all just a mistake / a mistake in the translation”).

Listen to the track below.