Saturday, March 17, 2007

the worth of waiting.

extreme noise terror [untitled split lp with driller killer] (osmose 10" / CD): the orchids "good to be a stranger" (siesta, cd album)


ok hold tight right now. guess who's back, and we mean BACK. yep, 3 years after we last saw them live, and - gosh - 6 years since their last record, the "being and nothing" album on candlelight, extreme noise terror have resurfaced on a split cd with sweden's driller killer, on a label from beaurainville, france, and their five tracks on it are bliss.

whereas "being and nothing" mixed the triple vocal onslaught with quite a lot of muddier metal riffs, as well as out and out thrash, the new e.n.t. have gone right back to basics. we kid you not, if we didn't know better we'd guess this had been recorded somewhere between their earliest peel sessions and the "phonophobia" set on vinyl japan (you know, when them and doom were labelmates to the fat tulips). it's as if, in the sad absence of nasum, who they supported in highbury last, they've decided it's them who need to step up to the plate and just blast the extremely old-school peelcore.

it starts with "religion is fear", one of those songs that says, that frankly just oozes, 'we're back with a vengeance', that demands you listen as it feverishly intercuts hints of "another nail in the coffin" and "retreat to nowhere" into a turbulent bobsleigh of discharge-y guitars, drums clattering nearly as much as on the last boyracer album, and nearly as fast. admittedly the lyrics are marginally sub-slayer, but then the lyrics on the last slayer album were substantially sub-slayer.

no matter. a mini-whirlpool of drumming and feedback sucks you in to more old-skool chord progressions and vocal yelling courtesy of "human waste", which also features a storming mid-song break recalling classic line-up napalm; then, on "short fuse", the instrumental section slows briefly to an obituary-style growled breakdown, more akin to "being and nothing"'s occasional ambling moshes (we note with consternation, if little surprise, that e.n.t. appear to be playing live this year in virtually every country except the uk, including festivals accompanying both napalm and obituary). anwyay, the growl is swiftly punctured by more feedback and spinning drums - there is then a mercifully short guitar solo (just under 5 seconds) before the assault resumes.

track four, "branded" is a beatniks-style rant about our cycle of dumbed-down consumerism ("addicted to shallow trends... a culture of the self obsessed") but is sonically more of the merry same, peaking with a call and response between thundering solo bass a la "bullshit propaganda", and visceral "phonophobia" guitars. "nothing no more" rounds off the event - this time there's lyrically a certain sadness ("tasting tears of pain... lost and incomplete") but don't worry, the soundtrack remains vibrant, fast and feedback-flecked. and then, with one last cookie monster howl, they're done.

waiting six years for new product only to get 8 minutes' worth of tunes may not seem the best of returns, but it still allows us to clutch to our bosom and hug so fiercely for a thousandth time the mantra that in this music game it's all about quality - bobbins to width.

and each of these songs is manic, feral, untouched, untainted, with the vocals dovetailing in and out of each other, and in and out of different registers, in the grand tradition of this fine band. and that is all that we require.

the orchids' comeback record - this time a gap of 13 years! - is a little more sober (perhaps literally) but it's actually a really strong set. it's strange to think that it this their first proper record which isn't on sarah, but although "good to be a stranger" is a fairly refined beast, we're not sure we agree with other assessments that it this somehow represents a new-found maturity: even listening back to their early singles, the orchs were hardly the poppyheads or christine's cat, but were always striving beyond the alleged ambitions of their label, whether by experimentation ("yawn", "thaumaturgy") or simply by creating dustbowl epics like "something for the longing", elegantly-constructed torch songs that didn't shamble for a second.

and yes this record does indeed lay to rest their experimental side, which peaked / troughed depending on your point of view with that ultimate sarah fan-divider "a living ken and barbie". but it's the focus on the basics instead that assists them in taking a few steps closer to their once-avowed aim of lazy perfection.

this album, largely previewed in kilburn on that torrential friday not so long ago (and how well the new songs swam into that set), is a smooth collage of indisputably precious melodies and simple, overwhelmingly romantic lyrical notions, all given a sympathetic, almost timid production that somehow helps the songs to hang in the air around you (like, er, butterflies of love), for the most part only intruding gently into your consciousness, but - once there - refusing to let go.

there are plenty of tracks here - breezy, wistful, thoughtful moon lullabies all - that brim with the delicate beauty the windmills achieved on "now is then", say ("down to the ocean", "take my hand"), and then there's "another saturday night" which has rapidly become a new orchids favourite (well, with us) as it stretches the template a little with its rushes of energy and tumbling hope, heralding the stronger second side of the record.

in other news, "do it for yourself" makes us think of robert forster, and "feel the magic" of well, the orchids. the soft trumpet of "i need you to believe in me" works a treat, too - the only place where we probably do draw the line is at the flute that intervenes on "last thing", one of the few tracks that dallies a little more closely with the dark forces of m.o.r.

and. the piece de resistance is undoubtedly the closing "you could do something to me", from the word go a song which would happily fit any time, any place, and which melds the crystal trills of the bardots' "sad anne" with the top-drawer aching-vista tunesmithery of the go-betweens: but the whole album - with hackett's voice, even after all these years, still full of, well, yearning - is as much a record to cherish as ever.

you know they're fine.

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