Posts Tagged ‘Condition’

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Articulate as Spectres may be, but the word ‘compromise’ doesn’t enter into their vocabulary. Which is just as well. Because when it comes to pushing the boundaries of sonic resistance they’re one of the most confrontational acts on the planet right now.

Not just by way of their music, which isn’t just an uneasy listen, but often an unsettling one too. But also their ability to question the conventional norm and upset the mainstream applecart on more than one occasion.

Which is just as well because Spectres wouldn’t have it any other way. Having been an integral part of Bristol’s vibrant underground scene for the past five years – not to mention 50 percent of the band being responsible for creating revered independent Howling Owl Records , Spectres‘ status as innovators in one of the most creative regions on these shores is all but assured.

Their debut, 2015’s “Dying” , proved to be a coarse exercise in experimental noise rock that made anyone who’d previously mistaken them as shoegaze revivalists eat their own words in the process. Intense, brutal and relentless in equal measures, it served as a kick up the backside to many of the band’s peers who’d spent a lifetime resting on their laurels.

So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that their latest album “Condition” takes that template – if one ever existed then bleeds it to death before prodding at its decomposed remains from every angle. It’s hard to envisage what goes through Joe Hatt and his three accomplices’ minds when arriving at songs with such desolate titles as ‘The Beginning Of An End’, ‘End Waltz’ or ‘Coping Mechanism’ but it sure as hell isn’t pretty.

Harsh swathes of mechanical noise greet the listener from the outset. Opener ‘The Beginning Is An End’ is as uncompromising as we’ve come to expect from the West Country’s finest exponents of sonic terrorism. ‘Rubber Plant’ takes an even more abrasive stance where guitar strings have the life scraped out of them while Andy Came’s percussive interludes run the death march through its soul. Lead single ‘Dissolve’, already the most aggressively disturbing eight minutes of music set to tape in 2017, acts as an early centre point for the album. Menacingly executed, its slow building musical arrangement reminiscent of a prisoner being led to a torture chamber while metallic objects clang unceremoniously in the foreground.

If you’re Spectres and going to write a song called ‘Neck’ chances are it won’t be a simple lesson in human biology. Instead it’s a vitriolic slab of brutal noise that doesn’t hold back for the entire duration. “Sometimes I wonder…” declares Hatt on ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, possibly the first song to ever be named after the John Cleese movie. That it has little to do with the script shouldn’t come as a shock. Delivered with a brooding intensity that’s become Spectres‘ forte, it serves as an exercise in controlled intimidation via the medium of sound.

‘Welcoming The Flowers’ and ‘End Waltz’ continue Condition’s relentless desire to bludgeon the senses, while ‘Colour Me Out’ and closer ‘Coping Mechanism’ both reveal themselves as epic maelstroms of sonic bliss. The former acting as the deceptive calm before the latter’s incendiary storm brings the record to a sedentary end.

Condition should come with a label on the front advising “Approach With Caution”. However, its creators’ intransigent desire to confound and confront should be applauded. Spectres: simply are one of a kind.

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Spectres‘ second album, “Condition”, is said to be louder and more abrasive than their loud and abrasive debut “Dying”. What it actually is, is astonishing.

Over nine tracks, Joe Hatt, Adrian Dutt, Darren Frost and Andy Came are just brilliant at everything. I list them by name because this record works so well because they work so well. Dutt and Hatt are the guitar torturers. Their parts often clash with each other (as on opening track The Beginning Of An End) but they can also slam into all-out attack together (Rubber Plant). Like Sonic Youth, they can do harsh noise and ambient noise. Their guitars can sound like drills, power tools, elephants, anything. As well as Sonic Youth they also remind me of William Reid on the more insane parts of Honey’s Dead and Keith Dobson of World Domination Enterprises.

However, the unsung heroes of the show are Darren Frost on bass and Andy Came on drums. As with Loop, it is really the rhythm section that lifts the band above their contemporaries. They are particularly good on Dissolve and Coping Mechanism, where they start out Motorik and end up slamming away at an insane waltz that then abruptly stops. And when an all-out guitar assault breaks out during Neck, the rhythm section keep it all together. Hatt and Frost’s vocals are interesting throughout and stop Condition from just being a noise album, there are songs here and arrangements. Hatt and Frost often sing totally unrelated lines at the same time or break into call-and-response.

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When The Telescopes’ Hidden Fields came out in 2015, I felt that I had been waiting decades for someone to make that album. I have only had to wait about 18 months for the next album that made me feel the same way. Finally there is a band that has taken what Sonic Youth did with guitars and run with it. Not only that, as with Sonic Youth and Loop, they also have the kind of rhythm section that really lifts a band. Excuse my language, but Condition is an absolute motherfucker of an album. Anyone who still believes that new sounds can be drawn out of guitars and that loving noise doesn’t mean hating melody or structure should be all over this like a hungry octopus.

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Spectres release their second album ‘Condition’ via Sonic Cathedral on March 10th. The follow-up to their acclaimed 2015 debut, ‘Dying’, it was recorded by Dominic Mitchison in the band’s adopted home city of Bristol and mastered by Frank Arkwright (Mogwai, 65daysofstatic) at Abbey Road Studios in London.

‘Condition’ is louder and more abrasive than their debut, but also a real progression. It sounds huge and adds a genuinely innovative and confrontational edge, partly inspired by last year’s remix album, ‘Dead’, which saw everyone from Factory Floor to Richard Fearless instructed to “kill” the songs from ‘Dying’.

“There were discussions about experimenting with electronics, but the idea soon petered out when we realised we still wanted to experiment with guitars,” reveals singer and guitarist Joe Hatt. It’s true that a track such as ‘End Waltz’ has a relentlessly pounding, almost techno structure, in contrast to the kinetosis inducing dirge of ‘Dissolve’ – the first single from the album which appeared as an edible tablet download with a suitably stomach-churning video to match late last year. Elsewhere the almost restrained (by Spectres’ standards) white noise and wordplay of ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ and the sprawling ‘Colour Me Out’ are counterbalanced by brutal assaults such as ‘Neck’ and ‘Welcoming The Flowers’, which keeps threatening to drown itself in its own roiling diamond sea.

“On this album we became even less interested in actually playing guitar,” explains Hatt, “which meant that we got more into experimenting with the sounds we could get out of them when brutalising them and letting the feedback do the talking.”

‘Dissolve’ is the first single from Spectres’ new album, ‘Condition’, due out on March 10th, 2017

Spectres were formed in Barnstaple, North Devon in 2011. After moving to Bristol a couple years later they self-released a few EPs and singles on their own Howling Owl label, before joining forces with Sonic Cathedral for 2015’s ‘Dying’, their incendiary debut that they promised would “snap people out of their comfort zones. We want our noise to smack the spoon out of their mouths that is feeding them the warm diarrhoea that is served by start-up PR companies”. With the resulting largely positive coverage everywhere, The Times and The Guardian to BBC Radio 1 – not to mention people fleeing their gigs, hands pressed tightly over bleeding ears – would suggest they went some way to achieving this aim.

“We’ve managed to get way further than we ever should have considering the music – and enemies – we make,” admits singer and guitarist Joe Hatt, “so now it’s just a question of enjoying things until the van finally breaks down and we can’t afford to get it fixed again. We’ve all somehow still got the same jobs as two years ago, we still rehearse and record in the same spaces, we write music in the exact same way, so even though things have grown in terms of gigs and our audience, we are still the same horrible lot. Lack of success will never change us.”

(Please note: we have sold out of our allocation of limited-edition cream vinyl already, but it might still be available from Rough Trade, Piccadilly, Norman, Resident, Drift, South, Recordstore.co.uk, Rise and other independent retailers)