Monday, 29 October 2007

RIP Stylus Magazine: 2002

Sad news today as possibly the best online music magazine shuts up shop with no new posts as of the 31st October. As much as I like to think they are faking their own death and will reemerge the other side of the year meaner, tighter, sharper than ever I have a harrowing feeling that this really is the end.

The magazine? Stylus.

For those of you that don't know it, and those of you that do they have posted a Bluffers Guide To Stylus Magazine: 2002 - 2007

Being in a mild state of shock and a far inferior writer to errr..most? (haha) of the Stylus guys and gals I'll let you read about it all yourselves in their words. Seriously, some of the writing on this site has been as inspirational as anything I have ever read, coming from some of the most informed, passionate and measured music journalists around. I have no idea why Pitchfork is ever indulged more publicity than Stylus. One of the things most attractive about it is that there was never any ivory-tower attitude with it being one the very few sites with the balls to allow comments underneath all the reviews and features opening discourses in which writers were harried as much as they were congratulated. The range of music the site covered, the depth of features, occasional bouts of lunacy which affected it from time to time, the knowingly reader-baiting articles and both the authority the writing commanded and the antagonism it provoked were all second to none - an immense achievement.

Anyway, enough from me.

RIP Stylus. You will be sorely missed.

The Freedom To Fire Those Freedom Rockets

Monsters Build Mean Robots
Monsters Build Mean Robots
Nice Weather For Airstrikes!

Subtleties make violence poignant, otherwise it’s just brute and unsexy.

Late one night, or early one morning, it was around that indefinable time – the comedowning hour - two friends played Grand Theft Auto with the sound off and this album playing at a perfect volume over the top. There were no noises of gunfire or tyres screeching; the mood was of affectingly merciful numbing slaughter, the victims sank slowly to the ground, hugging the floor in grateful complicity. As the avatar solemly paced the streets, the electronic paranoia hummed about us in one of those druggy moments of sheer coherence, sonic effervescence fluttering around our peripheral consciousness, the soft patter of failing beats like the hearts on screen, sinking into oblivion, washed over with a dusky reverie, a half light encroaching from outside echoed the eerie sounds crawling from the speakers into our slowly numbing headspace.

Sometimes We Sit And Stare At Passing Tanks

Nobody is writing any protest songs any more. Or rather, nobody writes any good ones. Nobody is writing songs about the war. Or rather, nobody writes any good ones. Radiohead are the most mainstream act to have come close, but their oblique strike missed its mark, coming wrapped not in a conical steel skin or sharpened blade that the masses could relate to but in obtuse ambience, hanging it’s sombre shoulders under the weight of others guilt. Monsters Build Mean Robots sound brings much of what made Amnesiac and Kid A such controversially engrossing experimental listens to the fore and submerges the guitars into rhythmic currents that flow underneath, supporting the body of the machine as it clicks whirrs and rumbles inexorably onwards

The muted pneumatics of the opening Do Uncles Dream Of Electric Kids? crumble into the softly crunching beats of Stroll Into Flames To Find Self and slowly the guitars begin to reveal themselves like analogue rays slicing through digital mist, slow-motion solar flares engulfing the shadows, shuffling beats flitting past causing eddies to suck in their wake; a dynamic exemplified in Chimes Breakthrough Light To Reach Us which sounds like a less tangible Errors or much of the Leaf Label, they release themselves, breathing in long, heaving rhythms, reverb drenched vocals ushering in a climax of ringing tones that gradually shimmer into aching view. The Freedom To Fire Those Freedom Rockets employs similar ambience to Mogwai’s Come On Die Young, delicate strands of guitars gracefully moving through a liquid darkness, delayed ring modulation pealing off in ripples from the core. The trippingly clipped Will I Avenge Or Revenge? recalls 65 Days Of Static at their most pensive and restrained, but this never bursts into such cacophonous territories as they do, it’s contemplative nature occupying a region neither of the aforementioned post-rock pioneers have quite broached as effectively as Monsters Build Mean Robots.

How politicised can a mostly instrumental album be? The track titles convey enough of a sense of the incensed that the setting against music of such serene composure imparts the greater horror of being thoroughly chastised by someone remaining totally calm – far more intimidating than an enraged castigation. The final track asks Shall I Fill With Air? To which the reply must question: Is it to unleash the most withering of frustrated screams, or is it to float away into the pre-umbral ether of oblivion?


Caged Faced Weirdos

Robot Ninja Dinosaur Bastards – Subhumanoid Meltdown
Wrong Music

It’s been a long time coming and it’s only available on CD and download rather than 12” vinyl as expected but the full length album from Brighton’s Robot Ninja Dinosaur Bastards has arrived, and it has two intros! The first details the formation of mutant reptilian killing machines through a splicing of Terminator, Robocop and Killer Klowns From Outer Space samples (I think); the second, like an intermission to all the sordid gut churning B-movie sci-fi films that spawned this beast, is the trademark live show intro with cut up Jurassic Park audio and the theme tune that is slowly enveloped by The Demonsaur TECH 2001’s (Yeah, you read right) metal guitar version, electronics and beats coming in over the top before it’s totally consumed by the Bastard template of jittery cheapo gabba and speed metal riffing. I said template – they deviate from their own as much as they deviate from the rest of us and because they play by no rules the only thing they’re likely to break will be your legs. In fact, they have a song about it. Called Break His Legs. But don’t let that distract you; There’s some well produced hi-fidelity crunching, thumping and dexterous sound manipulation going on in here too courtesy of E. ROBOT 209, which, by virtue of their more than capable glitch-core, is how they came to be subsumed into the Wrong Music canon sitting alongside the haphazard and dangerous noises created by label boss Shitmat and the likes of DJ Scotch Egg, Ebola, Ladyscraper and Nailbomb Cults. Lyrically, there are few more debased that this band; Cyborgosaurus T-1999 tells of high speed disemboweling, decapitation, filling cavities with vomit and bodily waste, animal mutilation and drug abuse in a manic fever of hysterical shrieking – no, not shrieking, it’s something much more worrying than that, hell even the dude from Candlemass doesn’t have lungs this tight and no way does he spit this fast with as much wide-eyed insanity. Grind bands like Cannibal Corpse and Gorerotted plough their visceral furrow of horror-flick style violence through a purely intense heavy death/thrash formula whereas the Robo Ninjas straddle metal and gabba techno without settling into any kind of genre groove for too long. It’s like 3 technologically savvy apes infected with a Namco patented Rage virus. Come And Get Demented With The Dino Bastards starts with a filtered warehouse air-horn sound that pans about in stunted blasts before the beats drill through the centre of it. For all of 10 seconds it congeals into something danceable. You’ve got to be quick if you want to throw some dignified shapes to this. E-Robotika brings things down to a melodic level and it’s actually quite pretty in places but the scattershot effects and clipped beats don’t keep it that way for long.

They reckon it all sounds like “That bit in Robocop 2 when the little kid saws all his limbs off”, but I’m not so sure. To me it’s more like the bit in Terminator 2 when Sarah Connor dreams she’s at a kids’ playground and gets her flesh blasted off by an atomic bomb. Yeah. That’s exactly what it’s like.