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CASTROVALVA – “Thug Poetry” (CD single, Brew Records)

Posted: October 19th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Seems like it was only 5 minutes ago that Leeds-based bass ‘n’ drums duo Castrovalva released their debut mini-album, but here they are, back with not only a new single, but a new sound! Well, kind of. Having apparently bolstered their ranks with a vocalist by the name of Leemun Smith, their addled-Lightning-Bolt noise rock has become more structured and generally poppy than ever. Not only that, but Leemun seems to have affected them all with a gansta rap obsession. Nice.

So anyway, how does this new combination work then? Well, the first song “Thuglife” begins with a good minute of rubbish samples and gun loading sounds before kicking into a fairly standard hyper-rockin’ riff, which sounds predictably great. And then the squeaky vocals start, with all sorts of whoopin’ and hollerin’ backing them up. The song then breaks into a half-time beatdown section, which carries on until the music fades out underneath the vocodered vocal line “my ghetto love song”. Weird.

Second song “Outlawz” starts off as another party anthem, spoiled by more bratty vocals. It soon devolves into a load of screaming and some cool bellowed vocals, but it all seems a bit half-cocked. Before you know it, there’s a final bout of riffery before the song grounds to a halt, and barely 6 minutes in the single has finished.

Castrovalva’s list of influences once consisted of Lightning Bolt, Hella, Death from Above 1979 and Oxes; now they include N.W.A., Notorious B.I.G. and Prince – you can definitely count on the latter for the vocals, and presumable B.I.G. for the half-arsed song construction. It’s an interesting attempt at doing something ‘new’ with a few disparate sounds, but I’m not convinced this isn’t much more than a novelty exercise at the moment. If this brief treat was a 7″ flexi-disc or something suitably natty I’d be convinced of its merits as a pit-stop on the way to something bold and new for Castrovalva. As it stands, the ‘ghetto’ aping/satirising/celebrating image they’ve gone for barely works for me, and I hope it serves merely as a pratfall they took 5 minutes out to get out of their system. Time will tell.

“Thug Poetry” by Castrovalva will be released in an edition of 500 CD singles and as digital download “from all major stores”. Coinciding with the release will be a series of free downloads for people who buy the single (let’s hope they’re a bit better).

http://www.myspace.com/castrovalvamusic

http://www.brewrecords.net

CHICKENHAWK – A. Or Not? (CD single, Brew Records)

Posted: September 6th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

You gotta respect a band named after the heart-searing autobiography of a Vietnam veteran helicopter pilot. I assume that’s what they’re named after anyway, as any self-respecting band should be. Unless they’re Fucky Disease. Or Bathtub Shitter. I digress.

Chickenhawk are now 4 chaps, having been just 3 for their releases since their formation four years ago. Another Leeds band seemingly destined for great things, they specialise in making a terrific riff-tastic racket that now sounds nicely filled out with another guitar added to the mix. Another band who have the chops and aren’t afraid to show it, their songs veer all over the place between rhythms, tempos and timbres, generally with a lot of shouting and hollering over the top. I haven’t got a clue what they’re singing about on any of the 3 songs on offer here, but who cares?

First up is “I hate this, so you like it?”, 5 minutes of frantic rock madness that starts with some manic guitar shredding before evolving into a series of riffs and passages so complex that no man would dare write them down. Actually, it’s almost dancey during the verses, but the choruses do the half-time breakdown like all your favourite classic hardcore tracks. It’s a shame that the middle-eight suddenly devolves into that incredibly boring ner-ner, ner-ner, ner-ner, ner-ner cliche riff that all boring rock bands resort to when they can’t think of anything more interesting to do, because everything else adds up to a pretty sweet track.

Middle track “Son of Cern” has a similar mix of prog-tastic chops and changes, all the while retaining a totally rockin’ vibe throughout. I wonder if all Chickenhawk start going a bit batshit during the middle eight so that¬† any discernable song structure goes out of the window, as this one does stuff similar to the first one. It’s still great though, with some usefully horrible FX’d guitar “solos” thrown in for good measure.

Last track “NASA vs ESA”, seemingly about dreaming about being an astronaut but not knowing which space agency to go for, finishes up proceeds with some more dance-friendly riff-frenzies that veer about all over the shop in a very exciting manner indeed. Drumming in this band must be exhausting with all the rolls and cymbal work involve, let alone memorising all the changes, stops, starts and whatnot. Impressive stuff.

I’m told that Chickenhawk will be touring and playing one-off gigs all over the country between now and the end of the year and I’d definitely recommend checking them out if they’re playing anywhere near you – check out their October tourdates on their Myspace page below.

The ‘A. Or Not?’ EP is released on Wednesday 9th September 2009! Chickenhawk: Decent chops. Total rock mayhem. Oh, and here’s a zombie-themed music video for your delectation:

www.myspace.com/chickenhawk

www.brewrecords.com

CASTROVALVA – s/t (CD/Download, Brew Records)

Posted: April 30th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Castrovalva. What’s that name all about? I don’t know. They’re a new band from Leeds, a duo who play totally ripped bass through loads of effects and hammering drums. Yeah yeah, just another band that worships at the feet of Lightning Bolt. Aren’t they about (at least) 3 years late? That’s a bit harsh, to be fair. How long have Magma been throwing out brain-frying bass/drums mayhem?

Castrovalva have been together since mid-2007 and this is their first “proper” release, a short 8 track mini-album. Despite the total LB-aping¬† totally-distorting-bass-hits-pounding-drums sound, they’ve got more in the closet than you might think. Mashing up the usual low end throbbing attack with hints of disco influence, classic rock riffs, blast beats, a generally twisted sense of humour and even a bizarre guest vocal on one song, this duo manage to display a fair range in the 20-odd minutes of music in this release.

The sound on this recording is pretty dandy too. Producer Ross Halden has done an exceptional job of capturing a punishing low end from the bass whilst retaining real punch and dynamics from the drums, all of which serves extremely well to show off the tightness and interplay between the two musicians. Castrovalva are a tight outfit and their chops are not to be sneezed at. Thankfully, neither are a lot of their riffs and melodies, which stay just the right sides of inventiveness and head-banging familiarity. One weak note is the ambient track “London Kills Me” – a welcome change of pace it may be, but it doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose and is pretty irritating to be honest. Apart from that, it’s a bracing and entertaining listen overall.

Castrovalva – s/t is released on Tuesday 4th May 2009.

Castrovalva myspace

Brew Records