Archive for April, 2013


This review was published in the brand new issue of “ROCK-A-ROLLA” magazine (#43), and this album is already my choice for album of the year:

Aleister X: “Half Speed Mastered” (Nod and Smile Records/Steev Mike)

This tripped out litany of gonzo hip hop and mutant pop forms is the work of the extraordinary Aleister X, a Lakers gear-sporting artist who might just be the new guitar anti-hero of the 21st century. He regales us with vignettes from an ultra libidinous contemporary California, a paradise of bong-huffing babes, Hollywood wannabes, and paranoid outsiders that coalesce into a culture saturated population. Aleister’s lascivious attention deficit lyrical attack and deadly guitar histrionics coalesce into some truly mind-boggling aural shapes. The result is one of the weirdest and consequently one of the best albums of 2013.



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It has been four years since the Dalston destroyer duo Comanechi released a full-length album; a follow-up to their explosive debut “Crime of Love” is more than eagerly awaited. With their line-up broadened to a three piece (Charlie Heaton having joined on drums in 2012); “You Owe Me Nothing but Love” boasts a similarly expanded sensibility. The fundamentals of Akiko Matsuura’s rock-solid backbeat and Simon Petrovich’s super powered riffs are wedded to a compositional maturity, bearing testimony to the years  the band have spent plying their trade as a ferocious live outfit. The glamorama stomp of “Love Is The Cure” opens the album proper with a bang, a streamlined anthem in the making with Akiko’s vocal totally to the fore. Her strengths as a front woman are maximized by a set of lust-driven narratives splayed across heart-bursting rock dynamics. “Die For” is a panicked punk thrash of sexual adoration, “24 hr Boyfriend” a hysterically funny kiss-off to a casual sex hook-up. The lipstick-smeared allure of Akiko’s “Keex” persona is at times so overpowering that she alone seems to personify the lyrics of the ageless Flipper classic “Sex Bomb”. (Relative) newcomer Charlie Heaton makes his presence felt on “Patsy”, a drowning, dirge-like epic with more than a hint of early Hole era intensity at its core. Its desperate cries of sex abuse, castration and family dysfunction make for a genuinely disturbing listen. Elsewhere, the gnawing accessibility of the material displays another of the band’s finest attributes. The garage pop shimmer of “Major Move” and “Dream of Love” are proof that Comanechi are one of the best singles bands of the 21st century. Their direct, groove-laden attitude is as refreshing as it is seductive, with addictive choruses that deserve to be roared in stadiums. A collection of their A and non album B-sides sometime in the future would constitute one of the all-time greatest singles comps, if it were ever assembled. The subterranean quake of “Death Threat” brings matters to a brilliantly doomy conclusion – their adoration of the legendary Electric Wizard happily hasn’t quite worn off yet. A fireball of fuzzed out sonics and erotomania, “You Bring Me Nothing But Love” is one of the best releases of the year so far.

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This interview was published in issue four of “SALT” which was published in 2002. It was a significant issue in that the contents reflected a radical departure in my listening habits, tending towards more experimental and extreme musics. Alongside this interview with Burmese drummer Mark Schaffer were interviews with Japanese sludge/drone trio Boris, English avant garde guitarist Gary Smith and the first ever published interview with the mysterious UK avant rock/experimental noise collective Aufgehoben No Process. What comes across from this particular interview is just how overwhelmed I was by Burmese’s uncompromising music, and how inexperienced I was at knowing how ask the relevant questions of a group whose influences were not immediately apparent to me. It was I that ‘had no precedent’ for Burmese’s music, and Schaffer was completely right to call me on the innate ridiculousness of my question. Not for the first time, my inexperience was displayed in full view. Mark Schaffer left Burmese in 2004, and despite the vast number of musicians that have passed through its ranks, Mike Glenn and Mike Glenn continue to lead Burmese. Their music remains as ferocious as that devastating debut that so impressed me over a decade ago.

Burmese are a group who create fear with every thought and action. Their music is a primal force, their live shows capturing three wolverines covered in blood – others as well as their own. Two basses. One drummer. The spastic ferocity found on their debut album from the mighty tUMULt label epitomizes a confrontational and extreme vision that is hard to reckon with. Its effect is bludgeoning, a massacre borne from pure instinct. Their songs are burdened with a searing, unflinching gaze into the death of the world, the environment, humanity. A power trio who will smash you down – their rage is manifest.

When and where did Burmese start life?

Mark Schaffer (drums): Burmese was formed by Mike (Green bass/voice) and Mike (Glenn, bass/voice) in the Midwestern United States in 1997. They relocated to Oakland CA in 1999. The band has experienced numerous changes in drumming personnel.

Why did you choose the name Burmese?

“Burmese” was selected because of the multiple connotations of a dual nature associated with name. Gentle cat/crushing viper. Paradise/junta.

How has your twin bass/one drummer attack developed during the lifespan of the band?

In the beginning the sound was energetic throbbing metal performed on a stage. This sound began to evolve into a more hardcore/speed metal/grindcore attack. When Mike and Mike conducted the move to California, they became a two-piece, alternating on drums and dual bass noise assaults. It was during this time that the performance came down from the stage and began interacting with the audience aggressively. After adding John once the move was complete, the sound took on a grindcore/noise attack that continued to terrorize the crowds. Mark became the drummer in late 2000. Recently our songs have taken on more elements of black metal and the extreme noise of groups like Whitehouse. Some of the newest material features no drums, just two basses, voice, and piercing electronic noise.

As all of you are listed as ‘voice’, ‘throat’ and ‘mouth’, how do you decide which of you will take vocal duties on a track?

Originally, both Mikes provided vocal tracks ranging from high shrieks to growls. These days however, Mike is the primary voice. He has expanded his vocal range to include ultra-high pitched squeals that are eerily reminiscent of a terrified little girl.

Your lyrics have a definite political, incisive edge, taking on issues from like the desensitized TV view of modern war, ignorance of foreign conflicts (‘Kosovolvo’) and the ethics of the US military. Are you actively anti-military? Do you campaign on these issues?

Well, we’re certainly anti-military, but we don’t attend protests or campaign against anything. The plan was always to provide terribly brutal lyrics to accompany brutal music. War-themed lyrics seemed the most likely subject matter because one could so easily paint a horrifying picture that could connect with anyone up on current events. Lately however, the lyrical content has moved from the political to the personal. Where old songs would describe horrifying war crimes, the new material focuses on the “one attacker/one victim” dynamic, sexual violence and domination.

In the light of recent Italian police brutality at the G8 summit in Genoa, your song “Night-stick” appears very prescient. What are your views on the rising anti-capitalist protests and the attempts to thwart it?

Although we aren’t actively involved in the protest, we’d gladly offer our support to those rallying against capitalist ideals. There has been a violent capitalist/anti-capitalist clash dating back as far as the Industrial Revolution. Granted, the violence has waxed and waned, but the struggle has always been just as it has in the past.

Do you think that there is a precedent for the type of visceral chaos you unleash on your debut album?

I don’t think we understand what exactly you’re saying here. Are you trying to get us to grab our cocks and say that there’s never been brutal music before us? That’s completely absurd. We’ve been influenced by all things evil, which can only lead us to believe that we’ve hardly set some kind of precedent. Our music comes from two things… one part obsession with brutal music, one part simian instinct.

How much of your music is created through improvisation, be it live or in rehearsal time?

The songs are rarely pure improvisation. Probably less than 5% of what happened IS improve, but within structure. What happens during that 5% is typically dictated by the reactions of the victims at our shows.

The stories that have filtered across the Atlantic about your live shows are pretty blood-curdling: full of serious violence, injury, wreckage of bodies and equipment – ahead of the sonic destruction of your sets! How do you prepare for such an intense atmosphere each time, and how do you recover?

There is no real preparation for shows, except perhaps a bit of substance abuse. We intentionally let our anxious energy build up until it’s time to go on, it’s such an overwhelming release that we all experience blackouts. Later we have to reassemble the events of the performance from conversations we have with the witnesses. Recovery is mostly monetary. Destroyed gear must be replaced/repaired. Other than that, there’s typically blood, bruises and exhaustion.

 Your sleeve art features the famous shot by Yevgeny Khaldei of the Russian flag raised above the Reichstag in 1945. Why did you choose this image?

The image symbolizes one entity’s power over another. Tank rolls over flower. Aggressor vs. victim. Dominant vs. submissive.

Do you have a committed fanbase across the States?

We have a committed base of victims everywhere we’ve played. We’re fairly certain, however, that at every show we create a 3:1 ratio of enemies to fans.

You present man in a very dystopian way on your debut album, locked in a battle of extinction. The cover image of the dead elephant is a very powerful one. Do you see your hopes for the preservation of the environment fading with George W Bush’s contempt for the Kyoto agreement?

There is no hope for the preservation of the environment as long as there is a US President in office. This can be argued by those who support different and theoretically more liberal parties, but the truth is that there is no hope, regardless of who is at the wheel.

What do Burmese wish to achieve as a group in the future?

We just want to continue doing what we do with more fervor. More violence, more intensity, more danger, more power, more rock and roll.

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