Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Brutality Will Prevail - Root of All Evil


Release Date: October 4th
Purchase: Holy Roar Records

South Wales breeds hardcore. I no longer have to imagine the Welsh punk rock-rooted counter culture scene as a massive glittery concussion of post- hardcore contraventions such as The Blackout or Kids In Glass Houses. When I think of Cardiff City, I don’t think of the Bay or the Millennium Stadium, I think of Crossbreaker, I think of Ironclad. The combined efforts of fellow Welsh bruisers Harbour, Wiretap, and the newly formed Wardogs have incontestably expunged any passing notion of Cardiff being unable to hold it's own against the raging south of England or the coal fired brutishness of the North.

Brutality Will Prevail are known, to some, as the cohesive centre of rigidity within that scene. If not fully acknowledged as 'CCHC's' lynchpin of hardcore, then at least as a major supporting pillar - surely the endless touring, the unswayable live performances and steadfast conviction prime them as deserved candidates for such a title?

Their previous release 'Forgotten Soul' set the agenda as the group's beat down tendencies - apparent from earlier efforts - somewhat transmutated into an uglier, more carnal sound, with layers of Crowbar-esque density stitched into the fold alongside the band's explicit intention not to turn their backs on hardcore. Fast forward to 2010, fresh from signing to Holy Roar Records and after a recalibration of the line-up, Brutality Will Prevail entered the studio to record their first full length record 'Root of All Evil.' A few weeks ago they posted a two minute promo video on '' - a video that looked like a clandestine meeting of a Sunn O))) brotherhood, yet it bled with mystery and blackened ideas, further stoking widespread interest in Brutality Will Prevail's new seemingly occult direction.

The record first broaches the eardrums with 'Trapped Doors Moving Walls', a Machiavellian opener of sorts, carrying the flag into battle with a minutes worth of rolling guitar subtlety before a dramatic howl of 'Look into my eyes!' chain links with a down tuned bass, puncturing the seams of all that came before it. Second track, 'Illusions' is an impressive foray into the art of the instrumental. A plummeting drum rhythm drags with it the sound of a murmuring bass, until with time, two persistently flaring guitars cross streams - swan necking into a tower of groove and an echoed, harrowing din.

‘Root of All Evil’ anchors the band’s instruments to a cathartic sound of gravel-pit sludge, yet one of their virtues is how capable they are of retaining a hardcore punk edge. The bass is tuned six feet under, the drumming is consistent - either cripplingly intense or shadowed & well placed - and the guitars are there to embellish the aural anticipation instead of dazzling with all sorts of unnecessary fretboard histrionics. Tracks such as ‘Life’ and ‘Early Grave’ sound like flash floods of bad omens, spilling a gut of Noothgrush style riffing as vocalist Ajay reigns it all in with a noose of His Hero Is Gone style hardcore vocals.

Track seven ‘Rot Away’ pitches a curveball I don’t think anyone will have seen coming. Cloistered between ‘Reprisal’ and ‘Secrets of The Truth’, two tracks of chasmic depth that sound like Torche without the amphetamine spiral of flamboyancy and guitar stagecraft, ‘Rot Away’ ushers in an aura of delicacy in a way thats not to be found anywhere else on this record. Many will listen to it’s acoustic meandering and deem it an out of step attempt at meaningfulness, despite eventual subterranean rumblings fleshing out the soundscape around three quarters of the way through. This track will no doubt be a talking point, a grey area of sorts for a lot of listeners.

All angles taken into consideration, this is a ruggedly built record of sludgy hardcore hooks and lumbering crush, as swampy and viscous at times as it is egg shell thin at others. The hugely impressive sound of a less riff focused Kylesa – had they grown up worshipping Straight Ahead and not Melvins – is powerful enough in itself. I think the path is still there for Brutality Will Prevail to tread, with more to be experimented with and much more for us as listeners to expect. In short, CCHC has a lot to shout about this year.


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Bastions - Island Living EP


The Isle of Anglesey hides a dark secret in amongst it's torrent of natural history and arable lands. A dark, sonic secret that renders you incapable of doing anything other than beating your chest red as the fragility of everything around you suddenly becomes all the more noticeable. The sound that Bastions produce conjures up all sorts of well-oiled, cognitive, mechanical connotations - yet there is a distinctly unfettered fleshiness to everything they do. Almost as if some great bionic entity found it's passion for hardcore, and in particular Converge, then took it upon itself to write music intended to level mankind.

This latest opus 'Island Living' is the band's fourth installment of tectonic hardcore. It opens with the title track, an instantly rewarding mesh of acid and squall, as a shuddering force of bass, which I can only assume has been tuned down to the ground, constructs a framework for Jamie Burne's cauterizing vocals to attach to. Bastions' compound of hardcore liveliness and brazen metallic undertones kicks and screams with all the might you can possibly infer from such a description - meld together if you can, a bastardised portrait of Throats covering early American Nightmare, add a little gravel and you wont be far off the mark. Each track is well thought out, with keen eyes covering the areas that need the attention.

Second track 'Soar' staggers on relentless. It progresses with a partnership of consistently rapid drumming and a burning vocal tirade, a continued war of attrition that fells you as a listener, leaving you in submission at this audacious slab of metallic hardcore weightiness. You can hear stabs of Hope Conspiracy peppered throughout this release, the vocals in particular ring true to that comparison. The virulence of Island Living's closer, 'The Great Unwashed, is perhaps not as immediate as one might predict. It takes almost a minute for the slow burning drum whispers and guitar nuance to work themselves up into a fury, only to dip into a trough of distant vocals and timely, effective instrumental clatterings before lumbering eerily to a finale like a dead man searching for his grave.

Bastions work with vigour to achieve this sound, and I believe they'll continue to grow multi-dimensionally. Their inclusion of breakdowns could have backfired had they been slapdash attempts at merely bolstering their attack, yet the delivery is pin point, a fact which if anything, leans them more towards metal than hardcore, however enough abrasion and rough sided treatment plants them firmly within the same league as other contemporary British acts such as Throats or Brutality Will Prevail, lines of symmetry could even be drawn with Greece's Ruined Families. Needless to say this is a band doing great things, who deserve more attention.

Check out their Myspace or

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Dana Lauren Goldstein - While You Were Sleeping

Dana Goldstein has been one of my favourite photographers for quite a while, at such a tender age she's already received a good deal of exposure not only through her own website and blog but through exhibitions most notably at the Pulse Art Fair by way of the Saatchi gallery. She was born in Louisville, Kentucky yet spent a large proportion of her youth travelling around and living in different areas. Dana currently lives in downtown Manhattan, after completing her BFA in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2007. During the intermission between achieving her degree and the present date Dana has worked alongside fashion photographer Kenneth Cappello, assisting him for a year, learning all the while.


I feel like theres such a cool vibe buzzing around New York City at the moment, definitely in terms of photographic artistic output and I see Dana as being a mainstay within that buzz for years to come. Speaking louder than my words are the those of the magazines that Dana has had work published with. Dazed Digital have put out some of her work online, Dazed & Confused have printed her photos within recent years, she's had a great deal of interest and works published by Hamburger Eyes, QVest, Intersection, i-D magazine, even Vice have handed Dana double page spread after double page spread - her feature 'Jailbait-core' graced the pages of Vice's photo issue - an inclusion which initially stoked my interest in her. An interesting side note, it was only a few weeks ago that Nan Goldin was purported to have seen Goldstein's latest Vice cover shot, only to remark that the covers 'were getting better' - an overwhelmed Goldstein posted the conversation on her blog. This set me to thinking, to what degree is Dana Goldstein an extension of Nan Goldin for this decade's not so suited and booted, fun loving downtown Baudelaire's? I can't really come to a just conclusion without either over-vaulting Goldstein, who at such a young age would probably agree herself that she's not taken her best photos yet, to a height that she's not quite reached yet, or trivialising Goldin's staggering catalogue of work which continues to impress even today.

I think, perhaps, that intersections in their work are no doubt going to surface when fancy takes it, the smoke and mirrors of Goldin's anti-beauty photos have been impressed firmly into the static-electric thought process that sparks a great deal of Dana's work. I see nuances of Terry Richardson's encouragement sporadically appearing on every roll of film Dana shoots. Look over the 'commercial' work of Dana's and you'll see a fair few shots of subjects given the freedom to express themselves as blatantly as possible against a no mercy white backboard. Terry Richardson often opts for this candid approach to shooting commercial photos, a formula which he's done well by, it gives him an opportunity to present the subject in all manner of ways without any interference or misinterpretation.


Nearly all of Golstein's work interests me, in particular I want to select a series of photos she took documenting the Punk kids around her. Some are her friends, some are transient teenagers making their way through town, staying, leaving, causing trouble and pissing off the cops. The Jailbait-Core pictures she took for Vice magazine instilled a great deal of excitement in me, I had never seen such a successful combination of punks flying their colours in front of the camera whilst communicating a blend of amiability and close partnership with the photographer. Nick Knight's Skins series took a very observational, third hand look at the Punk pathos and as renowned as that series is, I can't help but yearn for a closer, inner-bubble perspective when flicking through those shots. Goldstein came from within the family when taking these photos, giving her an almost warranted viewpoint from inside the chaos whereas other photographers have merely caught flashes of leather and glimpses of stud through the keyhole.


One such picture, of a sleeveless shirted punk kid of the day, grabbed me outright. I love the sheer laid back nature to this image, I love how seemingly at ease the subject is - smoking his cigarette as a Suicidal Tendencies cap reaches for attention from somewhere above two searching bright eyes. For me, I see this and think how cool that kid must have felt having his photo taken as if he had fronted The Germs or something, I'm almost fully sure 'Man is the Bastard' was pumping through his neurons as Dana snapped away at him. There must be a relationship here, however spoken or unspoken, between the photographer and the subject, this kid is so relaxed in front of the lens as if this was taken midway through a casual meet-up in the park between friends. Looking at the rest of that series it's apparent that a lot of the shots were taken inside, within familiar surroundings. I guess that's an intrinsic factor in achieving the state of comfortability that Dana searches for. The documentary aesthetic to many of her shots almost rely on a known environment of familiarity, Dana draws out whatever she wants from the scene shes taking pictures in, It takes a confident and capable photographer to find the tipping point between overly worked portrait photography and lazy, often discredited snapshot photography.

I want to look at more of Goldstein's portraiture, this is the work which appeals to me most. The photos she takes often steer clear of any theatrics, instead Dana is more comfortable capturing the faces of those around her as they sleep, smoke, daydream, or simply gaze down the lens of the camera. Each photo is like a snapshot release of affection towards whoever she is shooting. Nothing is to detract from the visage of those she wants to capture on film, at the end of the day you're left with an unbridled impression of who these people are without any defilement or poisoning of the well. I'm a huge fan of the Pumpkin Head series she did, whereby she and her friends created a succession of oversized pumpkin heads from Papier-mâché and went to shoot in a graveyard. The results were fantastic, such strength was to be found in pinning this amalgamation of searing orange pumpkin heads and flame against a pitch black backdrop of nothing. I guess another idea she took into consideration was the fact that the pumpkin heads serve to promote the nudity as unidentifiable, however that clearly went out the window when all of her subjects started to take their masks off while Dana continued shooting.


I'm really excited to see what Dana Lauren Goldstein is going to do next, photographers of the same ilk don't quite hold the torch as high as Dana does, at least for me - with exceptions being made for Nina Hartmann, Jimmy Limit, Nicole Lesser, Laura-Lynn Petrick and a few others. I also see a relative kinship between some of the photos Goldstein takes and the ones Hartmann takes, each women takes a sensitive, unique look at her friends and loved ones in ways that other photographers would be unable to do so given the situations. Many of the photographers I'm looking at are still learning themselves I'm sure they'll admit, which is precisely what attracts me to their work. There is a lot of appreciation to be found in trial and error, there's always beauty in the mistake or the error.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Nina Hartmann - Damned For All Time

Nina Hartmann is a talented young photographer from Chicago, Illinois, irrepressibly taking photos of the seething punk underground she calls her home. She is still a student, working hard towards her BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Nina's persona is as much shrouded in a thick layer of the underground as many of the hardcore bands she associates with and photographs. To me her work takes shape as half a projection of her own inner workings and cognitive thought process and half a reaction to her cultural surroundings. Those surroundings offer Nina a staggering ammount of opportunities, she often photographs her friends and loved ones in usually unremarkable situations - exacting a love for banal photography and a keen eye for the vernacular. Nina's music taste is more often than not fiercely reflected in her images, at her core she is a self confessed punk rocker. She's also a big fan of shoegaze, in particular British dream pop band 'Slowdive' - all I've been listening to for the past few days is their 'Souvlaki' record, released in 1993. Pick that up if and when you can.

Hartmann is part of 'Young Healers', a publishing venture very much about displaying young photographer's work through printed zines, they have been know to publish monthly in accordance with gallery launches for each corresponding issue. Daniel Pellisier, founder of Young Healers impressed the idea that DIY aesthetics and printed zines are an important artistic medium, which should serve to provide support for young artists and their respective 'themes and ideals'. Learn more about Young Healers here.


Nina has shot photos that have gone on to grace the covers of various record sleeves, including Divorce Money's 7". She lays claim to what she can only describe as an 'undying restlessness' which prompts her to travel around, taking photographs and meeting a whole catalogue of weird and wonderful people. She sees documentation as the main emphasis of her photography, stating that she is unable to see herself as taking photos in any other capacity, which in effect is one of the main considerations as to why I value her work so much. The crux of her work for me at least, is about appreciating her life through her lens, and not in any other way. I'd love to be at the shows she's taken pictures of, to see Sex Vid commanding a sea of unruly punk rockers, I'd love to be kicking back with her and her circle of friends as everyone parades round in their Saccharine Trust denim jackets and Cult Ritual shirts, leaving Hartmann to document the lazy encounters, not producing them or creating them, but recording them in the capacity in which they undulate.


A lot of her works are a showcase of a jaded perspective, In many photos I can almost feel a pulse of apathy in the faces of her subjects, yet others brandish vivacity through doses of colour and common relationship. Nina explains that even the photos she's gone to lengths to set up appeal to her primarily as documentary photography, she believes that these photos come from real ideas, almost a 'materialisation of feelings.' Hartmann is quick off the mark to recognise the key role her friends have in her photography, as a lot of them, she says, are themselves working on artistic endeavours of some kind and as a result are keen to help out whenever the opportunity arises.

Her work often reminds me of Ryan McGinley's earlier series', with many of Hartmann's photos operating by a 'simplicity means everything' template, a great deal of her photos depict lone figures, enveloped in smooth or unnoticeable backgrounds. Such shots expose the subject in a powerful way, no escape, no hiding, just candid reflections of facial features and bone structure. Other works suggest a total flipping of the coin in terms of composition, she has taken a vast number of pictures which convey the frantic hub-bub of clustered people, shuffling and speaking as they ingratiate with each other - almost as if the intrigued eye of Hartmann behind her lens is a mere speckle in the sun.


Nina's work continues to impress me, there is a certain shot of hers showing a male companion dressed all in white, white shoes, white jeans, white minor threat top, spread out across a patch of grass, stroking an equally shocking white cat. The sheer eye catching capability of this image is partly what makes it so great. There is almost no escaping the dramatic distinction between brilliant white and luscious green. I see purity in this photo, coming from both the plain clad subject - with white being a symbol of candidacy and openness, served up on a stark platter of surrounding grass, by the presidency of nature and it's wholesome qualities. I've got to give a mention to the Minor Threat shirt worn by the subject, I can't avoid it really, that would be sacrilege or something, needless to say it gave me a little kick. I'm always keen to include parts of my own personality and taste within my photography, a trait Nina herself could attest to.


One of my most treasured shots of Nina's concerns her sitting besides a steel container, against a backdrop of foliage and open countryside. On first instance it was the soft beauty which ate up all of my attention. Glaringly good looking, 'bonny' facial features and naturally wavy hair, yet her dress sense and pose seperate her from that stillwater air of conformity. Sat with one leg bent across a steel grid; she shows the camera the least ammount of attention. This photo sends me into something of a whirlpool of general unaimed angst, angst probably at myself for not knowing this girl, I'd love to talk to her just to find out what her favourite Void release is .. does she prefer Condensed Flesh or Potion For Bad Dreams? That's the selling point for me, personally, the fact that I can be lured into this. This picture is sold to me under the pretence that I can appreciate not only the traditional good looks on offer, but the subtle references to a counter culture cherished by a select few - precisely the reason I find myself head over heels in awe of this women, this is not a photo that was taken for everyone, it's for those who can take one hundred percent of whats on offer away with them. Hardcore for Hardcore, what the fuck else?

I find myself looking at Nina Hartmann's work almost every day, I wind up coming back to it time and time again, I end up rolling back to it after searching for someone equally as raw, equally keen on taking photos of lo-fi black metal playing Indie Kids - but let me tell you, there simply isn't anyone out there quite as good as of this minute. Please let me know if you find that person. I just can't shake the feeling that some of these photos are what Ryan McGinley might have taken had he been heavily into hardcore punk and listened to My Bloody Valentine on the odd occasion.

Check out Nina's blog at

Ross Farrar - This Life Is Spent Standing Close To The Edge.

In-between issuing forced lines of unimaginable angst and relaying a stream of poetic social consciousness, Ross Farrar of Ceremony takes some unreal photos, photos that are almost magnetic to the eye. I bought a printed collection of his black and white photos last October, needless to say he has some skill with a camera, a skill which supersedes ordinary lens pointing, allowing him to showcase his keen eye for interesting, vernacular photography.

I am in no doubt that Ross Farrar is one of the main inspirations in my creative development aswell as my fully scoped outlook on living. His band Ceremony are one of my favourite, if not outright most cherished band of at least the last ten years, if not all modern time. Seeing them play live was a millstone for me, the fast paced bludgeoning of the hardcore melee thrashing about behind him coupled with his subversive, eye opening lyrics practically raised me off the ground in euphoria. As a frontman for a hardcore punk band hes gifted the opportunity to impress his lyrics upon crowds night after night, crowds willing and able to soak every syllable up like a rough sponge with a black flag patch pinned to one side. Ross sees himself as a creative writer just as much as he see's himself as a poet, and is currently reading a creative writing course at Santa Rosa Junior College.


I've sat night after blinding night, listening and reading into everything this man has to offer lyrically, banging my head against the wall to 'Ruined', 'Violence Violence', 'Scared People', 'He-God Has Favoured Our Undertakings', 'Still Nothing Moves You', 'The Sick Ep', 'Rohnert Park' and the 2004 Demo, nodding along, eyes closed.

'Pack your fists full of hate

take a swing at the world
these kids stick to themselves
carry angst in their words.

Where we'll never be apart
of this cursed fucking town,

where we stand amongst ourselves
watch it burn to the

- Ceremony - Kersed

Many of Ceremony's releases have had Ross' photography adorning the covers, in fact fellow Californian Hardcore Punk act Trash Talk have had Ross shoot the back cover for their latest release 'Eyes & Nines.' Ross' work reminds me in parts of the late Dash Snow's work, specifically the portraiture which on occassion seems to me to be merely a Californian take on Snow or McGinley's intrusive look at living life in New York City. Farrar shoots exclusively on film, and has been quoted to say that if and when film becomes extinct he will merely cease to shoot anymore. His interest in photography sparked at a young age, as his father gave him his first camera - a Nikon F1 sometime during early teenagehood. Farrar had a show this February in the Gallery Obscura on the Ocean Campus, called “Portraits from the North Bay.” This collection of photos documents the subculture lifestyle he finds himself swallowed up by, drawing a lineage with one of Farrar's earliest inspirations - Larry Clarke.


His book 'Society Verse' is a pastiche of not so forgotten memories, of reinventing long felt heart ache with smatterings of rhythm and intelligent photos. Tales of the band's inception and quips regarding all sorts of violent or non violent encounters litter the 128 pages of lyrics and heart string poetry. The reverse cover depicts a skateboarder holding up a deck as to masquerade his identity. The skateboard reads 'Bridge Nine' - Ceremony's current record label, and above the font is an image of the Washington DC Senators Office being struck by a bolt of lightning, for anyone even remotely interested in hardcore punk, this is a homage to the Bad Brains cover of the same image, know throughout the hardcore world almost as the flag we carry into battle.

Ross shoots in black & white as well as colour, often his photos will include but one subject or focal point allowing him to pin point where he wants your attention to rest. It's through simplsitic ideologies such as these that Ross' photography speaks out to me, he jettisons any notions of histrionics, trusting himself only to honest photography.

I've spoken to Ross on one occassion, it was October 18th 2009, in Leeds, at a small venue called The Well. He was walking past in shorts and a plain shirt - flagrantly disregarding the late autumn chill outside, I collared him and introduced myself, unloaded a quick line of my love for the band onto him and begged him to play Dead Moon California later that night. They opened with it and I lost my mind somewhere withn that four minutes and four seconds, never to be found again.

'Back in 84'
I nearly choked on the U-cord
until my dad came and cut me loose
he said, 'the pain you felt today, it will never go away'
and 'the best way out is always through.'

He said,
watch out for the world trying to shape you
living here
you got to know the truth'
twenty five years later
everything is the same,
a civilization gone deaf-mute.

- Ceremony - Back in '84

Of 'Back in '84' Ross writes this in Society Verse, 'When I was born my umbilical cord was wrapped around my throat and I almost suffocated to death. Luckily, my father stepped in and cut the rope, giving me my first breath of air. The line, 'The best way out is always through' is a Robert Frost quote, which I forgot to reference in the insert. This is one of my favourite quotes of all time, and thank you to Sarah Bingham for introducing it to me.'

One of my favourite Ross Farrar photos is a colour image, concerning a man bearing his two palms to the camera (See previous post). In his left hand is a vividly coloured red leaf and in his right a small fish which may or may not be alive. I am powerless to describe this photo as nothing other than magnetic, there is something oddly stirring about the intensity of the leaf, hapless in one hand. Perhaps a comparison or contrast is pleading to be made between the fish and it's leaf counterpart - that they are or were both living things? That they now hold an importance somewhere between minute and insignificant? Or maybe it's just a foray into what can be dredged up from local streams, beautiful or not, ugly or realistic. The contrast between the shockingly bright upturned palms and the out of focus water of the background gives this image a sharpness or austerity which marrys so keenly with the off kiltered symmetry between limbs. This picture fascinates me in unidentifiable ways, I wish I had taken it, I could intrude upon it for hours, no detail avoiding me.


Another colour image favourite from Ross Farrar's collection is the shot he took of a cinema advertising board raised high upon a roof. The focus, candidly, is the text upon the board which in no way is escapable as it reads 'Macho Men 3, Super Fag, My Pee Pee Balls' down the left column and 'Aunt Lily Eats Cunt, God Over Vagina, Little Man Big Penis' along the right. Typically vernacular photography from Ross, noticing the interesting, the obtuse, the wayward and the wrong within the society he finds himself in.

In actuality, I could not be more at ease trying to nail down what it is about Ross' artistic expression which I take most inspiration from, It's more a careful balance between his poetry and love for the written word, his part in making Ceremony the force that they are and his own highly personal photography. All together, like one creative brain-stew. I look at his work with eager eyes.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Local Natives


'Local Natives', a quintet from Los Angeles whose rousing pastiche of rustic vocals and enchanting harmonies warmed the crowds assembled inside the NME tent at this years Leeds & Reading festivals - taking no prisoners as they fueled the festival vibe, inside a tent packed quite generously, with their own O...range County brand of almost Grizzly Bear-esque composition and compatibility.

Local Natives are a burgeoning rock and roll group at heart, yet their lofty tri-way crooning, the keen penchant for melody and perhaps most notably the open armed accessibility of their debut record 'Gorilla Manor' has vaulted them into the same ranks as Seattle's favourite baroque-pop folk botherers Fleet Foxes, and, rather irrepressibly, the same comparisons are being made with festival headliners Arcade Fire. A personal favourite from a weekend saturated with great new music and old favourites alike.

Check out their single 'Sun Hands' live on KEXP, ultimately beautiful.