Welcome, friends, to the first installment of the new look Notepad, a shadowed corner of the world wide web that has long served as our personal treasure trove for glorious new music. But, as with all else, we must adapt. So, gone is the sluggish filter-based AJAX grid of Bandcamp players, and in its place is a scrapbook of ideas, extended thoughts and humble recommendations from regular staff and contributors. We think you’ll like it just the same.
With regards to what you can expect to see crop up each month – we aim to publish this a few weeks after our regular editions – then that’s very much fluid and open for debate. We’d like to run the rule over some of the stuff we read without extending it into a feature length; think of it more like reading ten tweets in one go on the same topic. Speaking of which, editor Isaac Powell will be doing just that on the topic of double-standards in the music industry. Right here, today.
If you’d like to contribute to future editions of the Notepad, then please give us a bing on contact [at] notedmusic.co.uk and we’d be happy to hear what you have to say.
Woe is me for having to write about Deafheaven a few weeks late, but I must put down in writing that I found the release of From the Kettle Onto the Coil an ordeal, not even because of the track – I’ve only played it once and I thought it was alright, jack – but because I found it impossible, again, to ignore the sardonic, holier-than-thou sniping that follows this fucking band around like flies to shit. I thought the world had suffered enough pointless back-and-forth after Sunbather, which by all accounts was a really solid record, but alas, out comes the blackened yard stick once more.
I think I had a point to this, and I think it’s that the hive mentality is really suited to the slightly obscure genres. As in, Deafheaven are one of those bands that occupy the dangerous middle-ground of being liked by a decent amount of metal purists yet are still accessible enough to turn up on a frat boy’s summer mix CD alongside Kendrick Lamar and Third Eye Blind. Or, as Jim Lahey would say, bands that sit right in the middle of a shit blizzard. These are the bands and artists that are the real lightning rods of passing opinion in the open market of Twitter posts and forum spam, swaying in the breeze, slowly losing their artistic validity in a tug-of-war over what belongs.
Nobody is gonna call NAILS shit, after all. – Isaac Powell.
Album trailers. Eh?
Full disclosure, I listened to Foals’ 11-minute teaser from their forthcoming album all the way through. Then I questioned why, and then I got mad about it. Why would you put out a bunch of contextless snippets – tidbits of tracks which will almost certainly require the context of the surrounding music to be any good – a few weeks out from general release? Obviously to generate hype, but are we so thirsty that’d we’d willingly digest some 20%+ of it and come out feeling good? I found it a curious, cynical move. Do you think it was the band’s idea or their label’s? As much as track premieres and even full pre-streaming have become a core part of marketing in the non-physical meta, this really feels like it belongs in the trailers for trailers category.
That being said, Foals are one of my favourite studio indie bands, so I’m still going to listen to it as intended when it was being written; as a fully-formed album. How novel. – Isaac Powell
As important as the stories we publish on Noted are to us, we’re still dedicated to that initial reason for our existence – to publicise great new music. Over the years we’ve really focused on shining a light on some perhaps lesser-known stuff (quote unquote), and whilst that’s still going to play a major role in our recommendations in the coming months, we’re also not afraid to throw in a few of the big hitters in for variety. So, take a sit back and read what Ashley Collins, Rob Rubsam, Craig Hayes and guest writer Jesse James have for your Minidisc player this month.
Majical Cloudz – Silver Car Crash
I watched through a windowpane, these two men clustered around a microphone and an ironing board, as they bared themselves whole to a chilly Hudson night. The singer stared directly at an audience grouped on the floor or sitting on risers, and he projected as if he might reach not only them but every possible listener. This was last year at the Basilica Soundscape festival, the band playing to a side-room of the old rail foundry it was held in. Of all the performances that night – noise warriors Swans, black metal pariahs Deafheaven – theirs is the only one I remember. It pierced my fragility and laid me bare, and now, listening to Silver Car Crash, I feel as if something has been brought full-circle. “I am in perfect love with you” is the only lyric of 2015 I will be singing for months to come, the only one that, so far, has stuck with me. This is everything Impersonator was but without a single frill or pretension to divide audience from performer. This is all, everything, and you will be sure to remember it. – Robert Rubsam
Disguise – Electric Pollution
If the idea of listening to dissonant and disagreeable noise doesn’t sound instantly appealing, then it’s best you look away now. “Electric Pollution” is taken from DIY Irish punk band Disguise’s second album, Signs of the Future, and it’s a skull-fracturing and d-beaten track that leans heavily on feedbacking filth à la the Scandinavian and Japanese schools of bleeding-raw hardcore. Every single song on the wonderfully grotesque Signs of the Future features the exact same monstrous mix of quarrelsome and uber-harsh hardcore. (As does every song on Disguise’s equally deafening and similarly excellent debut, System Shock.) Signs of the Future is all about strident guitars, battering percussion, and rancorous, indecipherable roars. Hence, tracks like “Electric Pollution” are absolutely perfect for firing up that snotty scumbag troublemaker that (hopefully) still resides in all of us. – Craig Hayes
Kamasi Washington – The Magnificent Seven
I don’t know if there is a better live performer working in America than Kamasi Washington. Last week I saw his band tear a small theater to shreds, focused and intense but showing by their smiles that they enjoyed every moment of it as much as we did. “Magnificent 7” was their big drum number, Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner, Jr. trading solos as wildly splashy as they were tight and virtuosic. Bruner showed the effort, hands flying across the kit while Austin, his senior, kept the work internal. They both put to shame any other drummer I have ever seen. If you tore your eyes away as they went back and forth you’d see Washington, off to stage left with a huge grin on his face. Holy shit, he was saying, can you believe this, in as total awe on his umpteenth set as we were on seeing our first. – Robert Rubsam
Winter Villains – Empire
Once there were sparks… shares the crisp minimalism of a snow-laden hillside, immaculate and untouched. It’s not quite empty, though, nor lifeless. Each element sits thoughtfully like a dense fog, filling all available space without necessarily cramming it. Piano notes chime quietly like dripping stalactites, and percussion snaps permeate the thickness the same way a stiff breeze drenches a vulnerable human body. Then there are the often dual vocals, accentuated by their being sung in octaves, airy and wispy and not completely present. Lines like “the empire for our unborn kings is fallen” with their weighty words are alleviated in their cold delivery, not quite to the point of instilling warmth per se, but they turn the chill from biting to bearable. – Ashley Collins
AJMW – Touch
When faced with the term “easy listening” one might imagine the royalty-free shit-platter of bargain store radio that could easily double up as a sadistic form of torture, however AJMW’s Touch from Insight more than glams up this unattractive term. Its varying timbre and textures act as a muscle and mind relaxant, rendering you to a mere puddle, at the same time as overloading the senses the same way Harrods at Christmas would a small child. With the beats being as laid-back as they are, there is plenty of space for the mind to amble and react to all of the minuscule morsels, waxy enough to be globally applicable – more-so than the skin-crawl of outlet centre tepidity. – Jesse James
Iskra – Predator Drone MQ
Canadian punks Iskra make a noise that’s somewhat akin to injecting the bile of Darkthrone and Hellhammer into the bite of Amebix and Discharge. Indeed, Iskra put blackened crust punk––or contemporary anarchist metal, take your pick––on the map back in 2002 by combining black metal’s ice-cold sonic sting with the fury of the anarchist underground. The result sounds misanthropic as hell, but Iskra have always dealt in lyrical themes criticising modes of capitalist power/control while highlighting diverse social justice issues. Iskra have released a number of splits, demos, and full-lengths over the years, and their latest, 2015’s Ruins, is one of their best yet. Taken from that album, “Predator Drone MQ-1” is ferocious six minute onslaught of frenzied riffing and wrathful vocals, featuring an on-point and enraged condemnation of modern day warfare. A perfect match, right there. – Craig Hayes