Bristle and Drone [BAIs50]
21 June 2013
The 50th post, eh? Huh. Well, I only have the usually offering - a pair of artists that share very little, if anything, in common. Both fantastic, of course.
Banque Allemande - Why do we love noisy rock? I know why I do – because I’m tired of groomed perfection, of the arena rock formulas that win over the masses, of safe and predictable music. I want to be assaulted, battered, and ripped apart – I want to feel, not just hear. Violence is vitality – and when music assails you as a living entity, you also feel the surge of being alive. This is Banque Allemande, and this is what they do – searing, heavy-handed, bristling, smack-in-the-face post-punk. Guitars rip through the tunes, scattering shards of broken glass over thick yet nimble bass lines. Imagine the outward aggression of Chrome, streamlined through the exuberance of Pink Flag-era Wire, Swell Maps, and other more literate punks that flourished in the late 70s.
“Suchmaschine” is one helluva opener. After a briefly ponderous intro, the tune smashes through your windscreen, overflowing with electric riffing and driven by a rapid-fire bass line. You will not ask why this bruiser must be 9 minutes long; the length feels right, for the violence feels great. “Scwarz Vor Schwarzer Wand” is more urgent and focused, though the track does break down into chaos at the conclusion; it’s also catchier, with its glorious howl of a chorus.
After those two long stretches, we encounter a few bursts of energy. “Nicht Viel Nur Einsi Tausend” is even more adrenaline-fuelled than its predecessors, and arguably more punkish (arguably, I say, because I haven’t a clue about the lyrics). Then we stumble into the delightfully spiky bass line for “Warmes Wasser”, with its scathing guitars and hysterical vocals – if Banque Allemande were ones to release “singles”, they’d be well-advised to stake out this ‘un.
In the last leg of the album, we return to full assault mode. “Schlaf An Einem Tag” is MASSIVE, a balls-out snarl of beastly bass shambling on a stomping one-two beat, that nevertheless marches to a rather endearing chorus. All the while, though, the guitar assails the listener with a miasma of discord – particularly in the outro, a solid minute of screeching, warbling feedback. “Hundert Jahre Berlin”, on the other hand, might be the most stirring tracks on the album – the verses remind one, for just a moment, of a more sensitive band, like perhaps The Wedding Present; the angular chorus, though, quickly jerks the track into a more sinister direction.
In summary – a more seasoned and adept music commentator might be able to pin down at least four or five of Banque Allemande’s influences, but I honestly don’t care. What I’m hearing is stunning, searing noise, channeled acutely into distinct song structures that are as affecting as they are euphoric. They’ve released another LP prior to this one, and I don’t doubt I’ll be buying that one, too, by the year’s end. You can find both of ‘em, from S-s Records, on Midheaven.
isvisible – Remember that Spoilt Victorian Child album I raved about a while back? Well, that seasoned electronic engineer, Simon Pott, has returned with his new solo project isvisible – and, this year alone, he’s spun three LPs of loud, sprawling, buzzing compositions. The first two, marked by monochrome covers, contain more droning, experimental pieces; the third, with its colored design, contains somewhat more melodic numbers.
Between the first two albums, I’d say start with ii – it's somewhat more varied, and inevitably easier to dig into. “nine”, the opener, clicks off on an even clip and hums along on a razor-edged bass, as a jagged drone hovers menacingly over the entire track and creeps in and out of head-numbing levels of volume. The more austere “ten” is a more proper analog drone, that crackles with electricity and hums in confident antiquity; “eleven”, however, is infinitely more chilling, a series of sinister synthesized snarls transmitted into an echoing void.
“twelve” has far less room to develop, but develop it does, from an isolated analog sustain to a pulsating piece marked out by what sounds like an off-kilter metronome. More intrigue and atmosphere haunts “thirteen”, as chirpy, futuristic sounds jump and blip around the hollow, reverberating drone. ii’s longest track, “fourteen”, is actually one of the most rhythmic, if one could count the bleeping motif in the center as a “beat”. But it does drone – on and on, for a solid 18 minutes or so, sliding and morphing through subtle variations, and gradually descending into darker, more barren soundscapes.
Iii is certainly more “melodic” than isvisible’s previous two LPs, but only in a relative sense, as one can hear on “fifteen” – though we now hear a trickling tune over the humming analog, the track is still sublimely subdued and cyclical; indeed, the repetition of this pattern is quite serene, even against the moaning sounds swirling around it. “sixteen”, however, assumes a more lively groove, incorporating a splashy, punchy drum machine into the main synth line that chugs along. This track builds up rather handsomely, too, as other electric details, including wobbly celestial accompaniment, slip into the groove. Another curious jam, “seventeen”, pairs an ethereal mix of sounds with a seedy drum machine – and though this main section doesn’t waver much, the contrary nature of its components never ceases to baffle and intrigue.
Elsewhere, “eighteen” brings back the visceral pulse of the analog, goaded on by a slick blipping motif and a tight, steady beat; it’s perhaps my favorite from iii, namely for its hypnotic rhythm. “nineteen”, however, disposes of the groove for a more minimal number that could’ve easily fit onto ii – over a faint whooshing of wind, a synth progresses slowly and shakily, as if edging across a narrow window sill; as the tune advance, the wind whips more audibly, enhancing the nerve-wracking atmosphere behind the synth’s slow crawl, until it bubbles into a swarm of spastic electric sound.
Little else, however, can compare to the hallowed otherworldliness of the closer, “twenty-one”. From a quiet mumbling of echoing blooms a great ray of light, that awakens a chorus of divine sirens from their abandoned shrine to sing within the empty, forlorn chambers. The ultimate effect is so sublime, so sincerely beautiful, that it’s simply awe-inspiring. I’m reminded of OMD’s “Sealand” and its graceful mystique – but “twenty-one” is even purer than that, a simple piece of quiet, yet devout contemplation.
Essentially, anyone with even a passing fascinating with archaic electronica should investivgate isvisible’s discography; a degree of patience, however, is necessary, even for iii, to fully appreciate the craft behind these albums. This is music for meditation, and solitary meditation at that, for either renewing focus to the task at hand or inviting sleep after a long and tiresome day. All of Simon’s work under the isvisible moniker is available on his Bandcamp page.