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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).



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:



KONG – Snake Magnet (CD/DVD, Brew Records/White Drugs)

Posted: June 30th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

So, those kerrazy sick rock fucks KONG are back with a full-length debut album. Featuring the previous singles Blood of a Dove and Leather Penny, if you’ve already heard them you’ll know what to expect: twisted, brutal early-’90s Chicago-style punk rock with a Manchester accent. There’s no denying that the twin influences of The Jesus Lizard and Shellac reign high in their list of favourite bands, but Kong revel in showing their full range of sick spastic chops  over the space of these 45-odd minutes.

Getting both the old a-side single tracks out of the way in reverse order, Kong immediately stop mucking about and start ripping any idea of a definition of a standard verse-chorus-verse song format with third track ‘Wet Your Knives’, primarily by aping the rhythmic interplay/pissing about that Shellac occasionally enjoy employing on occasion, with the bass and guitars playing in different meters, before evolving into a fully-fledged recognisable ‘song’ for a bit, only to then integrate the earlier rhythmic workout into the song proper.

‘Gwant’ follows, and is a special pleasure – especially the final minute or so, which is mostly just an incomprehensible phrase spat out time and time and again whilst the same riff hammers out as accompaniment. Unfortunately, this then segues into the album’s weakest track ‘Good Graphics’, which is obviously designed to give a break from the ‘standard’ rock songs by offering some pseudo-jammed drums and bass workout alongside manipulation of keyboards/electronics, but it’s pretty boring to be honest. Still, it probably beats having an acoustic track. Just.

The second half of the album kicks off with ‘Nih’, which doesn’t feature any knights, but does feature some good ol’ kick-ass riffing and shouting based around the classic diminished-third power chord (check ‘Black Sabbath‘ by Black Sabbath if you havent’ a clue what I’m talking about). ‘Sport’ continues in a similar vein, though features some guitar chords that made me wish they were going to break into This Heat’s ‘Makeshift Swahili‘ (one of the greatest, most upsetting songs ever written). Unfortunately they don’t, which is a damn shame, but the rest of Kong’s song is suitably brutal and intense anyway. Old b-side ‘Hint of a Rennit Innit’ follows, which you probably won’t recall was described as “exploring some atonal scale runs and off-kilter rhythmic changes” when I reviewed it last year. It still does, and is probably really fucking annoying if you’re not in the mood.  By this point, if Kong have completely got you in the mood, you might as well give up, because this song, possibly more than any other, revels in its complete and utter BASTARDNESS.

Two long songs run out the album: ‘Count To Nine’ starts with some distorted old recording of some people pissing about before kicking in with yet another rockin’ riff that Duane Denison would be proud of, before the whole thing becomes so slathered in distortion that everything just seems to get broken up and descend into feedback and random drum patters. It’s almost proudly shambolic and illustrates quite how effectively Kong can veer between tight technical workouts and total chaos within a few seconds. This segues into closer ‘K(l)ong’, which immediates winds everything down to a quiet guitar riff that repeats itself interminably against some restrained percussion for over 5 minutes with very little variation before everything suddenly kicks in for the last 3 minutes and Kong make one final attempt at ripping your head off. Yes, it’s like a low-rent mostly instrumental version of Shellac’s notorious marathon ‘Didn’t We Deserve a Look at You the Way You Really Are‘, but at least it’s got a slightly better payoff. Nasty.

A DVD featuring one hour of documented madness and a bunch of coverage of live shows will accompany the music CD of the album, but I can’t tell you anything about this because I haven’t seen it. With 3 hours of extra footage/music though, it seems like a bargain is to be had.

“Snake Magnet” will be released on Monday 13th July 2009.

Kong at Myspace

Preorder the album

Brew Records / White Drugs

Forthcoming live dates to promote said album:

15th Jul 2009 Mad Ferret Preston
16 Jul 2009 The Ruby Lounge Manchester
17 Jul 2009 Buffalo Bar Cardiff
18 Jul 2009 The Macbeth (Hoxton) London
19 Jul 2009 Freebutt Brighton
22 Jul 2009 The Flapper Birmingham
23 Jul 2009 Chameleon Cafe Bar Nottingham
24 Jul 2009 Brudenell Social Club Leeds
25 Jul 2009 The Tunnels Aberdeen
26 Jul 2009 Nice and Sleazy Glasgow
5 Sep 2009 Off The Cuff Festival Birmingham
10 Sep 2009 Artrocker New Blood tour! Fistful of Fandango NEW BLOOD ROOM @ 229 London
11 Sep 2009 Artrocker New Blood tour! Fistful NEW BLOOD Tour @ The Cavern Exeter

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

KONG – Leather Penny (CD, Brew Records)

Posted: December 9th, 2008, by Dave Stockwell

Manchester-based misanthropes Kong return with their second single, this time on CD and everything. “Leather Penny” is another track from a forthcoming-in-2009 debut album called ‘Snake Magnet’ and is backed by two versions of a song called “Count Too Nine” featuring special guest vocalists from bands The Bronx and Future of the Left that I can’t tell you about because there’s just the one track on my promo copy.

So then, first single “Blood of a Dove” showcased a band weaned on the sharp edges and heavy weight of early ’90s Chicago-based rock bands such as The Jesus Lizard and Shellac (I know, both are still going in one manner or another…), with an admirable feeling of dread looming over the disjointed riffs and malformed chords. It sounded pretty great too.

“Leather Penny” continues in much the same vein of skullfuckery, featuring another killer riff that hooks itself to your brain and refuses to budge, despite the song lurching all over the place rhythmically. The bass and guitar woomph and screech appropriately, whilst the drums do the inevitable pounding on your cortex. Dramatic pauses to emphasise the weight of the band’s attack mean the vocals take a full minute to come in, and it’s no bad thing because they’re spat out in a manner so venemous it would make Johnny Rotten proud (and, hopefully, ashamed of hawking butter on television). Frankly, I really don’t like the sound of the guy’s voice much, but that’s almost a boon to this type of music.

I haven’t got a clue what the fuck the lyrics are about because I couldn’t understand a word of them. It’s not really an issue because what Kong are all about is SOUND. Sheer fucking brutality of juddering rock ballast slamming against your earlobes SOUND. Running a blunt knife down the back of your knife and boxing your ears for a laugh SOUND. The vocals are just another part of the arsenal they employ to onslaught your ears. They’d be a great band to see live.

Just two singles into their life, Kong are still a young band, even if their members have apparently been around the musical block once or twice. Their sound is pretty great and they have cool riffs seemingly coming out of their ears. At this stage, originality isn’t their strongest suit, but I, for one, will be watching with interest to see where they go next.

Kong Myspace page

Brew Records website

“Leather Penny” official video

“Leather Penny” live video on YouTube

KONG – Blood of a Dove (Brew Records, 7″)

Posted: August 3rd, 2008, by Dave Stockwell

Shit. This’ll be the third time I try to review this record. Let’s hope I don’t scratch the CD any more or my crappy computer doesn’t crash from overheating again before I reach the end. Anyway:

This record came out on Monday 28th July. It’s in a limited edition of 500 in translucent red, which is cool because everyone knows that coloured 7″s are totally down with the kids now. And translucent red is always the best colour to have your vinyl. You can buy it here: www.myspace.com/brewrecords.

This review is pretty redundant. Not only because it’s late, but because you can listen to both sides of it here: www.myspace.com/kongdom.

But whatever. Maybe you want to read a little whilst you listen. So who are Kong? A power trio (guitar, bass, drums) from Manchester, I heard they contain members of Oceansize (who released their debut 7″ on Diskant-related label Errol back in about ’99) and Amplifier (who I have a demo CD by that must have come out in about 2000 and are apparently still going). There are a bunch of videos of them on Youtube, the most pertinent of which is probably this:


From this video you can make out a penchant for clown masks; that their guitarist manages to make a Fender Stratocaster sound really nasty for the first time I can remember in years; that their bassist seems to wish he was Andy from That Fucking Tank:

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