Tuesday, 3 April 2012

From Rusholme With Dub – Autonomads / Black Star Dub Collective

Manchester has consistently churned out an incredible array of punk and ska over the last few years, but it is safe to say that the Autonomads and Black Star Dub Collective have significantly raised the bar. At the beginning of April 2012 the two bands released From Rusholme With Dub on Pumpkin Records, an incredible ten track split CD that has completely blown me away.

It has been around 4 years since the Autonomads released their debut LP, No Man’s Land, back in 2008 and although the wait has been long, it has definitely been worth it. From Rusholme With Dub sees the band build a great deal on their original sound, mixing the hectic thrashing bouts of angry punk with gentler more melodic ska. A second guitar allows for some satisfying riffs and the chance to experiment with some interesting atmospheric dubby effects which add character to the tracks. I am glad to say the sax is particularly prevalent in this release and that it can be heard fluttering playfully amongst the upstrokes and amid the distortion. Robbie’s harsh gruff vocals are well complemented throughout the five tracks by Beanie’s softer female tones, adding a unique yet uncontrived element to the Autonomads’ overall sound. Politically conscious lyrics discuss the grim and hollow reality of ethical consumerism in “2000BP” while “Fight Dem Back” calls for intolerance of the intolerant and to confront the racism and fascism rife in the UK.

To really do justice to the Black Star Dub Collective’s share of the release, you need to get your hands on a subwoofer or, at the very least, some decent headphones capable of delivering a hefty amount of bass. BSDC’s impressive basslines are relentless and throb menacingly underneath each track while drums tickle the space above, steadying the beat. Lashings of reverb on the guitars add to the drifting dubby sound which is contrasted by periods of clean, punchy upstrokes. Each song features a host of different samples and effects which add great depth and individual character to the tracks. Mike’s distinctive vocals (instantly recognisable to anyone who’s heard the fantastic Harijan), lend themselves to the steady ambient dub. There is palpable anguish and outrage in his voice when addressing the state of the nation in “Dub Ina Ancoats Style” and when debating the riots in “Instant Injustice”. Sprinkles of intricate keys flicker here and there whilst sirens worm their way around the offbeat and the eerie ethereal trombone filtering through “Leviathan” is simply fantastic. BSDC’s sound is incredibly complex and thoroughly multilayered but at no point does it become disorientating or confusing. I’m generally a little uneasy if a band starts saturating a release with noises that wouldn’t make it out of the studio and onto the stage, but, having been lucky enough to see BSDC play, I’m very glad to say they can recreate pretty much everything in this record live.

The entire album is exceptionally well produced and while the two bands are, in some ways, quite different musically, the continuity in ethics and general dissident attitude means the release hangs together seamlessly. The CD is available to buy from Pumpkin Records for £5 as well as Active Distribution, Mass Prod, TNS Records, Rodent Popsicle and Antikoerper Export. From Rusholme With Dub is also available to buy on vinyl for £7. Both bands are fantastic live and well worth catching if you get the chance, so keep your eyes peeled for any upcoming dates.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Opposition Rising - Aftermathematics

Boston based Opposition Rising are one of the latest additions to the increasingly impressive roster of bands now calling Riot Ska Records home. Despite only forming in December 2010, the band are hardly strangers to the Boston DIY punk scene, featuring members from the legendary Toxic Narcotic and Mouth Sewn Shut, who have been bringing the noise in one form or another, for over twenty years. From the very first track of their debut LP Aftermathematics, its plain these punks haven’t mellowed or grown soft on the system. Gruff angry vocals are bellowed brutally at the mic whilst heavy distorted bass and guitar supply relentless hardcore with a satisfyingly metallic edge. The later songs “Debt Sentence”, which condemns the economic shackles of capitalism, and “Destination Apocalypse” which decries the eschatological farces we have grown so accustomed to in recent years, carry a strong offbeat beneath the heavy distortion and will no doubt be live favourites. The overall tone of the record is one of ruthless social commentary and the band are unafraid to tackle the bigger issues with intelligent lyrics, as well as catchy choruses and their own brand of thoroughly thrashable hardcore. With tours of the US and the UK planned for 2012, Opposition Rising are definitely ones to watch out for this year.

Aftermathematics is available to buy from Riot Ska Records on eerie Swamp Green Vinyl and can also be downloaded for free from the Opposition Rising website.

Their song “The Rich Are Killing The Poor” also recently featured on the recent 22 track Riot Ska compilation Aceh: 10 Days Strong Mixtape, released in support of the 64 punks of Aceh who were unjustly persecuted.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Inner Terrestrials - Tales of Terror

Back in 2009 the Inner Terrestrials whetted everyone’s appetites by releasing an excellent four song pre release EP to Tales of Terror. After 3 years of anticipatory salivating, the album is finally ready and it was definitely worth the wait. It’s hard to believe that their first LP iT! was released sixteen ago in 1996 but the Inner Terrestrials have remained impressively faithful to their original sound. Satisfyingly thick distortion sandwiches prickly ska on nearly every track and the album is peppered with welcome descents into the experimental realms of dub. Jay has a real knack for fiddling about with upstrokes, managing to squeeze in quirky flourishes and cheeky slides which keep chord sequences lively and interesting. Fran and Paco keep everything in check, providing solid bass and pounding drums throughout the album. Aside from “Battlefield” which features Jay’s haunting tin whistle and Cheggers’ bouzouki, the band’s folk influences are perhaps less overt than they were in iT! with “Free the Land” or X with “Mountain Of Led”. Tales of Terror does however maintain a fairly healthy balance between the more hardcore and the lighter songs. “Run Tings” is cheerful, despite its dour subject of social control, and is sprinkled with soundbytes, while the choppy distorted upstrokes of “Progress” are guaranteed to get any crowd skanking furiously. “Heaven’s Wrath” is possibly my favourite track which glides effortlessly between hardcore punk, dub and ska and is everything an Inner Terrestrials track should be: angry, dubby and thoroughly stompable.

I remember first hearing Jay’s distinctive vocals on Suicide Bid’sWhen Morning Comes”, crammed in between Babar Luck and Johnny One Lung, and they were the reason why I started to explore the Inner Terrestrials in the first place. Tales of Terror perfectly captures their unsettled, miserable quality which is as if Jay is singing through a sigh; accentuated by downtrodden harmonies in the fantastic “Law Dealers” and punctuated with contrasting gruff, angry snarls in “Dark Scar”. The lyrics are brimming with political disdain; passionately decrying outmoded laws, speaking out against the UK’s dubious foreign policy and rejecting aspects of society few have barely questioned. Environmentally conscious songs such as “Progress” reinforce the Inner Terrestrials’ deep concern regarding man’s relation to the land; an issue explored in earlier releases in tracks such as “Earth Must” and “Middle Oak”. Despite its bleak subject matter, Tales of Terror contains subtle messages of solidarity together with a rationale for change, encouraging people to stand up for themselves in order to make a difference. The Inner Terrestrials have well and truly delivered on their latest release; inspiring, triumphing and making you want to have a bloody good dance as well.

Tales of Terror is available to buy from the Inner Terrestrials online store for £8. Make sure you catch the Inner Terrestrials headlining the Relentless Garage on Saturday 21st April with support from The Filaments, Suicide Bid and Jakal. Best ticket prices I could find are available here.