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Einstürzende Neubauten – Perpetuum Mobile

Silence does indeed play a plentiful part in Perpetuum Mobile; coupled with its raving mad use of metallic resonance and more recognizable influences of bass, guitars and drums, the album is an experience on its own.

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As a separate entity, noise is nothing more than a clanging of unpleasant sounds. In most cases we tend to view these sequences as mere objects in a certain place coming together to create an audio effect. The sound of interweaving conversations, the trundle of a thousand pedestrians on a crowded street; they are for the most part incoherent and tend to be left tuned out in the background. Yet as many musicians have demonstrated, the creative manipulation of noise can result in a fairly competent listening experience that if not enjoyable to some, is compelling at the very least. Since the early eighties, German noisemakers Einstürzende Neubauten have pioneered the notion that noise arranged within certain ideas and concepts can result in a convincing body of work.

The height of their racket came during the mid-to-late eighties when their trio of Thirsty Ear recorded discs, coupled with their destructive live set, brought new meaning to “noise as music,” culminating in 1989’s Haus der Luege. While the album was short in length, it proved to be just as potent as anything they had released to that date. Perhaps more straightforward than the previous efforts, the mostly industrial setting was littered with the sort of messy experimentation the group is known for, including the album’s grand title track. It was however, followed by several mediocre albums – Die HamletmaschineTabula RasaFaustmusik – and eventually the group ended, albeit temporarily. After brief disbandment, they reformed and resurfaced on Trent Reznor’s Nothing label and released a collection of work recorded from 94-96; yet Ende Neu was anything but spectacular.

2000 saw the group’s return with their deconstructive triumph Silence Is Sexy, proving once again that unconventional thinking and adept collective talent can result in music’s most able form. Many of the underlining concepts and investigative paths they traced in 2000 has seen a greater reworking in Perpetuum Mobile. Adapting great spaces of silence and low volume ambience (“Selbsportrait Mit Kater”, “Boreas” and “Ein Seltener Vogel” all boast lengthy periods with little to no sound) while in many instances integrating instrumental noise effects and pounding metal (as in alloy, not the genre) percussion while making excellent use of Blixa Bargeld’s hallowed voice. They make do with plenty of sound reverberation and echo as well; in fact, the track “Ozean und Brandung” is almost in its entirety, composed from such qualities (save for the whooshing wind and rain noises).

It is undeniably interesting just how they are able to create such striking compositions from extremely minimal ideas – triangle twinkles, the rustling of what sounds like metal sheets, the clashing of steel objects – done to incredible success in the album’s title offering. “Perpetuum Mobile”, which speaks of endless travel (in airplanes, elevators, escalators and trains) flows like the very different modes it speaks of. One moment the aura will be distinctly sullen, with nothing more than soft chimes and brief time nodes, and then the next it will erupt in a clatter of sound, noise, effects and rhythm; all while coming together in distinct and clear understanding. It is a truly compelling arrangement – perfect in its exposition, development and execution (all the while coiled around a singular theme). 

As the presence of sound becomes less and less tangible, the qualities of its aural opposite become much more expansive. Silence does indeed play a plentiful part in Perpetuum Mobile; coupled with its raving mad use of metallic resonance and more recognizable influences of bass, guitars and drums, the album is an experience on its own. It certainly goes a long way to show that not all acceptable forms of sound have to be something you hear.

(Mute Records)

Reviews

Tennis System – Lovesick

This is furious noise

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Tennis System Lovesick

It is impossible to read music that taps into the shoegaze lineage without finding mention of My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain. While the aforementioned bands are certainly the epicentre of the genre, bands like Los Angeles’ Tennis System aren’t all too interested in being just another page in the Kevin Shields songbook. Unlike the genre’s progenitors, Tennis System only graze the often plodding, overly moribund nature of shoegaze, and instead find more inspiration from uptempo punk urgency. Lovesick, their third album, is a culmination of what the band call their “putting it all on the line” mentality, wrapped in fuzzed-out, loud guitars, breezy percussion work and that ‘let’s go’ punk attitude.

Songs like “Alone” and “Esoteric” come cut from the same mold that crafted early emo band Cap N’ Jazz; manic, loud, frenzied, while opener “Shelf Life” digs deep into the fuzzy, distorted heaven of Jawbox meets Burning Airlines. The song itself feverish sudden changes, one that mimics what vocalist/guitarist Matty Taylor told Flood Magazine about the song’s “journey of realization, denial, and finally acting upon things”. It’s true then that songs on Lovesick owe more to J. Robbins than Kevin Shields, but it is not to say the album is not without its more shoegaze moments. It’s the moodier soundscapes of “Cologne” and almost whispering “Fall” that paint from that brush.

The album’s strongest outing is the terrific “Turn”. It is a song that is a well constructed effort combining early emo and elements of shoegaze with the furious noise of guitar powered alternative/punk, packing together all the best qualities of the band in alluring freneticism.

As the title track closes proceedings, the listener is left with a sense of aural delight that came with albums like Loveless, or Trail of Dead’s brilliant Source Tags & Codes. It doesn’t mean to say Lovesick is a trailblazing record, but what it does mean is that the album’s tightly wound energy and furiousness explodes in euphoric delight- even if it is temporary. In the song “Lovesick”, Taylor sings, “please don’t let me burn out”… and perhaps, with this much aural euphoria, it is inevitable. But as the saying goes, “it’s better to burn out…”

(Graveface Records)

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Pom Pom Squad – Ow EP

The latest EP by this Brooklyn four-piece is beautiful vulnerability

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Pom Pom Squad

Brooklyn “quiet grrl” band Pom Pom Squad may have a cute moniker and description of their sound, but like their riot grrl brethren that it comes from, it’s anything but tame. Pom Pom Squad is a four-piece led by vocalist and songwriter Mia Berrin, who on their second EP, have taken the twinkly sounds of Rilo Kiley and Mitski and injected it with the grungy, manic energy of Hole and Bif Naked and the distorted, punk urgency of Bratmobile.

Ow stands out from the opening “Ow (Intro)”, a song of delicate heartbreak that is both pensive and biting. It’s mostly just Berrin and her guitar, sparkling in a glow of Midwestern emo-esque strings and her voice. The song is beautifully wistful when it sings “he says he wants what’s best for me” and biting when it comes back and says “they all say they want what’s best for me / but they never try to be the best for me”. It’s from this you hear the strength of the EP; that when it gets a little brooding, melancholy, pained, it’s also gorgeous, vulnerable and definitely unafraid to show the listener honesty and character.

In songs like “Heavy Heavy” and “Honeysuckle”, Pom Pom Squad get a little dirtier, a little grungier, amping up the distortion and sludgier percussion work. The hazy bellowing of “Heavy Heavy” adds to the angry introspection of the song; its lines of “It’s getting heavy heavy / Telling everybody that I’m fine / I’m feeling heavy heavy does it mean / I wanna fucking die?” painted by lusciously loud guitar work that would make Steve Albini smile. “Honeysuckle” takes on a similar pained look inside the mind but with a more fuzzed-out, alternative-rock veneer. Berrin’s lyrics come across as vividly as she sings “If I’m nothing without you am I anything at all?” It’s songs like these, with words like these, that hint of comparisons between Pom Pom Squad’s captivating allure with that of Courtney Love and Babes in Toyland during their heydey.

“Cherry Blossom” taps into that beautiful sorrow again, plugging into the aura that is painted when it is just Berrin and her guitar again. It’s almost hypnotic at times, and just as quickly as the tension and the magnetism builds, it ends. The anger of the album works because unlike angst, it’s calculated and targeted, leaving Ow as much of a substantial outing as it is growth from their 2018 EP Hate It Here. The only real downside to Ow are some moments like on the closing notes of “Cut My Hair”- a song that builds up to its crescendo with more dazzling vulnerability but ends a little quicker than it ought to. In truth, that’s the only real con of the EP, that when the orchestral fade-out of “Owtro” howls away, you’re left searching for more, with only repeated listens as your respite. But in the end, what could be better for an artist you’ve recently discovered than to get under your skin and leave you wanting more?

(self-released)

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