No Sister – The Second Floor

[Self released; 2017]

With the Second Floor, NS continue to hone their MO while forking out into some new territory.

 

Despite a minor lineup change, No Sister seem as in sync as ever, advancing the same ultra-tense motorik that makes their live act so electric – waxing in banshee howls of droning dissonance and waning to the staccato of razor wire harmonics and any other ungodly sounds they can hammer out from beyond the fretboard.

 

Yet within this vocabulary the band have broadened their ambit.  ‘Vow of Chastity’ offers fresh pasture in terms of narrative, dropping into a low-slung groove when your intuition is reaching for a clamorous climax.   The muscle rock chug of ‘You Know the Feeling’, meanwhile, could pass for a Killing Joke tune without skipping a beat in the album’s intensity and ‘Satellite Power’ features some of the band’s most abstract  fretwork to date (they sure know how to make a guitar sound nothing like a guitar).

 

For a band where dynamics are critical, the newfound restraint hollows out greater scope for the upswing.  Cuts of more marketable length – “Eulogy for the Eucalypt”, “Romantic Notion” – break up the album with more linear bursts of energy, but its clear the band’s greatest strength still rests in the monolithic prog-punk epics.  On “Always Already”, “Vow of Chastity” and closer “Just Another (Turning Point)” dual guitarists Peric and Miekus eke their acerbic tones over extended grooves, allowing you to absorb the hypnotic power of the band in it’s full glory.

 

But the biggest anomaly has to be the conspicuously downtempo ‘Non-contest’, with its haunted house Slint guitar plucks and a breakbeat that bears more than a passing resemblance to that song playing when Neo first walks down the streets of a futuristic dystopia (Sydney).  In other words, an album highlight.  The tune displays a more melodic side to the band as well, with a genuinely lovely vintage 4AD guitar outro to lull us all into a false sense of security before the album’s high octane denouement.

 

While the earlier jams hinge on a familiar krautrock axis, No Sister have become more adventurous with the rhythmic canvasses.  Running the gambit between groove metal and trip hop, the band continue to update their tool belt at a ravenous pace.  They have gone from being one of the more prolific acts on the scene, both live and recorded, to a fixture – with little indication of slowing down.

 

Moe Chee – Be it Hot, Humid or Ghostly Cold

 

[Shame File Music; 2018]

The ever-prolific Clinton Green and Chun-liang Liu return to their collaboration Moe Chee to further their unique brand of aural storytelling on Be it Hot, Humid or Ghostly Cold. 

Where the project last staked out the high density chatter of the State Library with Testament of the Trinity, Ghostly Cold relocates to Taipei (with the distinctly busier live audience sampler Friction Cassette as the only exception).   The change in scenery lends a comparatively serene ambience to these vignettes, with the clutter of metropolitan life reduced to the faint quotidian of life in the sub-tropics. 

Clearly the pair have managed to find some sanctuary from the heave of the bustling economy as each recording seems to have been situated in either a place or time of relative calm.  One where the senses are piqued by the the plump, humid air; a weight that can be felt in the lazy dial of sprinklers and the slap of thonged feat on wet stone.  The tactility of these native objects is highlighted in the ASMR excursions of ‘Courtyard’ and ‘Beer Can Performance’.  Meanwhile, the only allusion to the din of post-industrial clustering can be heard on”The Theatre of the Oppressed”, with agitated voices thronging over a rising choral crescendo.  

The languor is pervasive amongst the conversation as well, with topics ranging from  from distinctly ocker boasts of being able to pick accents from a mile away to tall tales of outback terror, to impromptu renditions of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.  Like the documentaries of Frederick Wiseman, the candour of Moe Chee’s subjects is unmolested by the invisible scrutiny of the recorder and any need to project a ‘TV-worthy’ narrative.  

Without paying too much lip service to my Communications minor, the medium is very much the message here.  In their omnipresent capacity, Moe Chee present these vignettes as snapshots of a broader exploration of the musicality inherent in everyday life, and how incidental, living sound is inextricably linked with composition.

By intermingling a vibrant earthly soundscape with the ancient art of storytelling, Moe Chee document the ever-evolving features of human/natural communication while underscoring its permanence as a natural phenomenon.  Always different, always the same.