Sunday, December 10, 2023

Bell Witch “Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate” & North American Tour: Oct 17 - Dec 16

The lowest descent into abyssal sound within the burgeoning global post-black metal world can be found in the newest strain of what is being called funeral doom. Foremost among them, Bell Witch in their new lineup with Aerial Ruin's Erik Moggridge, have descended deeper, and for longer, than most. Born of the death of drummer Adrian Guerra, their previous sprawling work, 2017's magisterial "Mirror Reaper" encompassed an auditory journey through the Hermetic axiom "As Above, So Below", as a conceptual traversing of the dichotomy of life and death. Bridging recordings from their previous incarnation, and unused vocal tracks from that period with work of the new lineup, this "Loving Tribute to Former Drummer Adrian Guerra", acts as a looming, Brobdingnagian titan spanning the two. As a pathway of entry into this musical world, Brad Sanders' essential overview, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World", compliments the curation from this sphere that can be found in the past decade of excellent selections in The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus. The above resources sound the expanse of releases dominantly sourced from labels like, Hydrahead, Neurot, Ipecac, Deathwish, 20 Buck Spin, Dark Descent, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, The Flenser, and Relapse. Since the release of Guerra's final work with the band, Bell Witch have undertaken an even more tectonic series of works for the Profound Lore label. The first of these was a collaborative album with Aerial Ruin in 2020's, "Stygian Bough Volume 1", and earlier this year issuing the first of an epic trilogy, titled, “Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate”. Their lengthy trajectory touring North America with the album comes to a terminus in mid-December, with the final of their west coast dates at Neumos in their Northwest hometown. The Quietus spoke with the band on the eve of Clandestine Gate's release, bridging such concepts as about the cyclical nature of existence and taking their time with process and creation, such as the first entry in their new triptych of albums, "Same as it Ever Was: Bell Witch Interviewed". It is this premise, that of the Eternal Return, which informs the themes of Future's Shadow, as stated by bassist and vocalist, Dylan Desmond; "This of course is perhaps the most horrifying aspect to the eternal return - even if you were living a happy, fulfilled and productive life that you’d be proud to experience again, would living it over and over again eternally rob it of any meaning or purpose you may have found in it? There’s a recurring theme of ghosts in Bell Witch’s work, and in this light, it’s easy to see how the eternal return fits into this theme: being stuck in an endless loop with no definitive end in sight would surely make ghosts of us all."

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Codeine's lost album "Dessau" & West Coast Tour: Dec 4 - Dec 9

From the early to mid-1990s a distinct subset of bands formed a continuance of related sounds which were branded as slowcore by the independent music press. Where their approach and instrumentation differed in some cases, their unifying qualities all shared a focus on a minimalist compositional density, hushed vocals, and an anticlimactic progression of build and release through an attuned attention to dynamics. This music of subtraction that would define the genre could be most clearly identified in the earliest releases by Low, Bedhead, Codeine, Idaho, and the highest profile of these outfits, the Mark Kozelek-led band from Atlanta Georgia, Red House Painters. The latter would be signed to Ivo Watts-Russell's highly influential underground label, 4AD, and release four singularly spare albums spanning 1992 to 1995. It was these albums, alongside the eminence of Low and their signing to Chicago's then tastemaking label Kranky, which brought the sound of slowcore to a growing audience within the wildly expansive flurry of mid-1990s independent rock. The sound of this cloistered subgenre did not originate from a void, the groundwork of their inspiration can be undeniably traced back to the decade before, with stylistic threads clearly connecting to American Music Club, Galaxie 500, and Opal's follow-up band, Mazzy Star. While the genre subset itself remained a narrow set of bands, their influence could be heard in other independent and post-rock contemporaries of the 1990s which ranged as widely as Slint, Tortoise, Duster, Spain, Sofa, Arab Strap, Rex, Windsor for the Derby, Bowery Electric, Labradford, Ida, Jason Molina's Songs:Ohia, and Acetone.

Of the central body of artists that comprised the slowcore sound, there was probably no band that did so as comprehensively and precisely, as singer and bassist Stephen Immerwahr, percussionist Chris Brokaw, and guitarist John Engle. Codeine's original tone, characterized by an extreme asceticism, which would often erupt into post-rock percussion passages or ascendant noise eruptions that often were truncated, or unpredictably cut short by dynamic breakdowns was singular within the subgenre, and marked them as more experimental than their contemporaries. Immerwahr's subdued and introverted vocals, the traversing of expanses ranging from absolute silence to explosive impacts by Brokaw, and Engle's ringing Telecaster, a sound characterized by The Quietus as, "Codeine: A New Kind of Stillness", remained solidly consistent during their career. Codeine seemingly arrived fully-formed and cemented on their 1990 release, "Frigid Stars", nominally fine-tuned through 1992's "Barely Real" EP, and further refined on the culminative 1994 album, "The White Birch". This five year trajectory would describe the totality of the band's initial incarnation, with Codeine only reforming as recently as 2012 at the request of British post-rock band Mogwai, through curating that year's edition of All Tomorrow's Parties. A domestic tour followed the UK festival date of what the New York Times called, "Grunge’s Estranged, Desolate Cousins". Now a decade later, they embark on a second US tour with a night at Seattle's Barboza, in support of the comprehensive discography reissue series and box set "When I See the Sun", from Numero Group. This series of releases is most notable for its further inclusion of "Dessau", an eight song mini-LP originally recorded in 1992, which was intended to become their second album, and withheld at the time due to conflicts over its production. As NPR suggests, hearing this album now decades after the era of its intended release, "Codeine's Lost Album 'Dessau' Feels Like a Ghost".

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Hania Rani "Ghosts" & North American Tour: Nov 22 - Dec 10

While sharing company with modern neo-jazz chamber ensembles like Portico Quartet and GoGo Penguin, trumpeter and bandleader, Matthew Halsall, and other Gondwana Records modern classical, jazz and electronics artists, Polish composer Hania Rani has built up a considerable audience for her solo piano miniatures. Her latest for the label, "Ghosts", moves into an adjacent, aqueous abstract pop territory, with a few select tracks exploring muted vocals and diffuse song structures. The album itself mirrors the two concurrent courses of the progression of her career; she has released an album of duets for the seminal German classical label Deutsche Grammophon, composed a spare score for a documentary about Swiss sculptor, Alberto Giacometti, and issued a series of releases exploring her own brand of hush electronic chamber music. This dynamic interplay is explored in her BBC Radio 4 Profile, and while Rani has a singular fluid sound, she considers her work very much an ongoing progression, “I think I am still looking for my own voice." She says; "I started to learn from the masters, to mix what I know from classical music, from other things I listened to, and from one of my first inspirations Nils Frahm". It is this later, current neoclassical world to which her albums belong, which is cemented by the participation on her most recent recordings of Erased Tapes staples like Ólafur Arnalds, Portico Quartet's Duncan Bellamy, and indie rock artist, Patrick Watson. For all of these associations with an inward-looking brand of neoclassical chamber music, her current North American tour alongside bassist Ziemowit Klimek will be hosted in rock clubs and venues. "Just because of my classical background, I am fascinated with these a little bit more rock venues." Rani continues; "Also, there is something about a standing show that I admire. Sometimes I feel a little bit of embarrassment if people are just sitting and watching me from this very relaxed position. I know that some listeners would rather sit comfortably, but as a performer, it gives me so much energy and gives me more focus.” And while the instrumental soundscapes and tangential ballads on "Ghosts" are delicate, Rani says that's not true of her live sets; “The show is quite loud,” she notes. “We start with these extremely intense synthesizer sounds. And then I can go play the piano solo, really quietly. I need these kinds of extremes.”. Indeed, as posited by The Washington Post for her east coast dates, "Polish Musician Hania Rani’s Album is Delicate. Her Live Show Won’t Be", and the following Chicago show, "The Atmosphere was Just Right for Hania Rani’s Mesmerizing, Sold-Out Concert", we can expect more of the same from Seattle's performance next week at The Neptune Theatre.