Monday, April 30, 2012

Cerebral Bore "Horrendous Acts Of Iniquity" (Earache): Alcest "Autre Temps" (Prophecy): Killing Joke "In Cythera" (Spinefarm): Ministry "Double Tap" (AFM): Chulo / Gripe "Hombre Vs. Tombo" / "Man Vs. Cop" (Grindcore Karaoke): Roc Marciano "Emeralds" (Decon Records): Cormega "MARS" (Legal Hustle): N.O.R.E. "Google That" (Militainment / The Conglomerate): Sven Wittekind "The Twirl" (Sick Weird Rough)

The pull of fleeting moments is ever-evanescent, but the power of them is uniquely effervescent. That's why singles still tend to own albums; that and what we last said five years ago, um:

"singles must be kept alive, in any way possible. for both band and for fan (and we "write" always as fans), they are the flag that a 3 minute pop song, or an 8 minute techno 12", or a hip-hop white label or a grime download or whatever is intended to transcend the wadeable sludge of the 40-minute album or the 80-minute mixtape or the 400-minute audiophile wet dream that is the box set and to be instead a perfect or imperfect statement of intent, of the desire of the moment, of one-off communication, of trying to distil the ESSENCE OF BAND into a solitary take."

So whereas the scabrousness of Cerebral Bore's gnarled and fitful post-millennial death metal was a little diluted over the eight tracks of their "Maniacal Miscreation" début, as a standalone single "Horrendous Acts Of Iniquity" acts as honest broker, entreating you to spare just three minutes of your time with their mazy, math-caressed careerings. While the lyrics are dependably hatstand, there's a serious two-chord dropped groove, Simone's vocals sound like Cerberus howling in anguish (perhaps he stubbed a paw on the gate), and you may well find yourself humming one of the spiralling, Scythian riffs next time you're doing a spot of ironing. Alongside Sufferinfuck and fellow Glaswegians Strawberry WhiplashCerebral Bore are fronting a fine new wave north-of-the-border just now.

As for Alcest, straight outta Bagnols-sur-Cèze, who are somewhat laughably fêted by some as high priests of gothic black metal, their *actual* folk vs. shoegaze sound (which we feel honour-bound to christen "sandalgaze") is as charmant as ever: Neige's winsome voice is carried by Alcest's walls of ethereal noise, each chorus a crashing instrumental wave, each verse a piquant voyage of calm. Alcest certainly do not lack a certain gothic splendour, but like la Sagrada Familia, it's a gothic splendour which remains a work in progress.

In contrast, Killing Joke have already written the book on gothic splendour, and probably the TV spin-off, too. Their appeal across many audiences - indie, punk, goth and metal - is testament not only to their undersold songwriting abilities but also to their sheer refusal to give in (after abortively decamping to Iceland for end times, after the death of Raven, even after Mötley Crüe-gate). "In Cythera" is the lead single from new LP "MMXII", the second from the reformed original line-up, and it's classic KJ. There's driving bass from the off, guitars and keyboards that recreate the circling pomp of their '80s prime, and high-in-mix vocals from Jaz that pay eloquent and rather tender tribute to a past friendship, never forgotten. While our resident Joke expert, Simon, informed us gravely in (our new favourite City pub) the Cock & Woolpack that the album itself doesn't match the fair thunderous power of its predecessor, "Absolute Dissent", "In Cythera" should still appeal to anyone who harbours a residual fondness for the less riotous, but ever-serene "Adorations" et al.

One of the first people I got talking to at college was a lovely girl who it transpired had played violin on Simon Goalpost's "Off Shopping Trolley" single, which needless to say impressed me hugely (Si was a mainstay of the mighty Thrilled Skinny and also, therefore, of their hugely underrated Hunchback Lunchpack spin-off band, Engagement Party). Indeed, my fellow student was *so* cool that just at the time I was falling in serious, fawning, love with each new Sarah 7", she told me that she reckoned Sarah was slipping somewhat, citing the Wake single as evidence of this (had I been sitting on a chair, I'd have fallen off it). In this connection - a bit like the bloke at Revolver in Bristol who kept entreating me to listen to Gallon Drunk instead - she was keen to demonstrate that there was more to life than winsome proto-whimsy, and so kindly lent me her Ministry tapes, which it is fair to say sounded deeply unlike anything on Sarah (or, for that matter, Thrilled Skinny). So when I think of Ministry I think of her.

Unsurprisingly, over 20 years later Ministry don't have the hungry, unsettling effect that hearing "Stigmata" then had on my callow teenage soul. Moreover, with the wisdom of advanced age it's plainer than ever to me that however invigorating they were in short blasts, Ministry never actually came up with something as strong as "Carbrain". Nevertheless, "Double Tap" is solid and rip-roaring fun (yes, prime Ministry) with the older, richer Al Jourgensen marshalling a new line-up including Tommy Victor (Prong) as they do a recognisable tribute to Ministry as a younger band, a raga-tinged metallic industro-thrash rant about the legalised assassination of bin Laden which sounds like Johnny Violent doing a Morbid Angel remix. We'd much prefer to be bringing you news of a Simon Goalpost single, mind.

Briefer, but 2000% ace, is a sub-one minute split from Gripe of Athens, Georgia and Colombian lo-fi grinders Chulo, via the ever-dependable Grindcore Karaoke. Armed with a quote from Timothy Leary - "Think For Yourself, Question Authority" - and rather brilliantly receiving its physical release on a 3.5" floppy disk (thanks to DIY Noise), this is (thankfully) no ordinary split single. Chulo slap down a tune that is marginally easier on the ear than their braincrushing and unproduced "Odio a Primera Vista" set, but which still manages to boast majorly demented vocal bark and bass guitar that could be "Evolved As One" played through a fuzzbox in a lift shaft. When the drums come in, it sounds like someone is attacking the studio ceiling with iron bars. Gripe then holler back with violently dilating blastbeats and high-speed chordage brimming with enough mordant freshness to make you wish they'd appeared on that Nasum tribute. A single that's essential in every way, obviously.

As you know by now, we'll rep rap's magic realist Roc around the clock, and just like the Mobb he only goes and drops a gem on 'em with "Emeralds", on which he props Hempstead, chews glass, spits sawdust and sprinkles stardust over trebly, Wu-shaped, violin-draped beats provided by the Arch Druids. It might start unprepossessingly ("I got Lamborghini dreams / Nissan nightmares" - hey, who hasn't ?) but once he's running with the mic ("pass the Mack-10 to my apprentice / while I get a pen and pad to print this") it's just so assured: while the familiar symbolic devices of New York hip-hop are comfortingly present and correct (the streets, the weapons, the cars, the labels, the whores) Roc brings a real flair to the trappings. A typical verse is laced with observation ("you a by-product / of guys that grind and buy Prada"), flips straight to simile ("black cars glide like flying carpets, the 40 lay you out like a starfish", perfectly conjuring up woozy kerbside visions) and without drawing breath, returns to his Rakim-ish mission statement: "I'm doing God's work in the booth / this was Allah's wish". This is no modest hillock of sweetness: it's a big Roc candy mountain (sorry).

Then there's Cormega's surprisingly good "MARS". The title spells out the initials not of assorted members of AR Kane or Colourbox, but of native New Yorkers 'Mega himself and his comrades Action Bronson (the chef who teamed up with the Chef on "Lethal Weapons"), Roc Marciano (yes, him again, on another guest tip) and self-proclaimed "new Public Enemy" (no pressure there, then), Saigon. Helpfully, they rap in that order, else this could have ended up being called "MRSA". The fifth member of this supergroup, not to be overlooked, is the beat-furnishing Large Professor. Refreshingly and not a little startlingly, Cormega begins proceedings by playing it conscious, invoking the Creator for strength and finishing his verse with a plaintive enough "people say I'm calmer / I consider it evolving / I'm sick of facing charges / and my mental game is stronger". The Action man is having none of this, instead throwing out rhymes that exalt diamonds, weaponry and Porsche in the time-honoured fashion, but without being able to resist some severe culinary wordplay, of which "never catch a statutory, eating cacciatore" is perhaps the toast. Next, Roc as expected plucks down the gold medal for verbal dexterity, rolling in to boast that "I mastermind, craft rhymes made of heroin / head nod, lines on a higher echelon", but of course reminding us later that cash still rules: "I be out for green like a vegan". Saigon completes the quartet by re-injecting some naked aggression ("when I put the pronouns and them adjectives to work, niggas get merked"). The result - as we're sure Cormega intended - is four neatly contrasting verses: the common thread is that they're all delivered with style and skill.

Now not long ago we noted that there were about half-a-dozen great US rap singles every year. Before you raid your piggy-box, however, we should add that despite the caché of appearing in our singles round-up, N.O.R.E.'s "Google That" is probably *not* one of them. On the other hand, a more than serviceable, crunching beat from DJ Fricktion, illiberally laced with videogame bleeps (basically, it's the music the kids on your bus listen to: I know, why don't they listen to the Pastels on the way to school. like we did...) sees Noreaga cheerily unburden himself with "shiftee / lowdown gritty / and grimy / like Fredro / fuck it, I got the bread though", an Onyx reference which made us chuckle, at least. N.O.R.E.'s verse isn't really matched by Styles P's wanton won-ton misogyny, though, while normal showstopper (or show-starter, if you take the last Wu-Tang outing's lead track literally) Raekwon delivers a strangely subdued guest spot. 

So let's conclude on a (sugar) high, with the second single from this clutch to share its name with a bar of chocolate. "The Twirl" is the latest bullet-train of exquisitely rendered IDM from doughty "fighter for techno" and arch purveyor of underground Medecin, Sven Wittekind, on his redoubtable Sick Weird Rough label. Somewhat excitingly, it is also the preview single for a new solo album, "Broken Mirrors". What we like about Sven is that however far he pushes the boat out in terms of song length or minimalist tendencies, he never loses sight of the politics of *dancing*, and snippets of this princely new single even recall his guilty past in trance music, while the bassline carries echoes of last year's excellent (and, to be fair, still slightly more rewarding) "Disturbed". "The Twirl" is where chocaholic tech-whirl meets Teutonic dance swirl, and as such you can almost taste the 'floor.

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