On October 13 (Friday the 13th in certain places) Gizeh Records releases the second album from Belgium based Double Bassist/Electronic musician Otto Lindholm. Lindholm’s self titled debut came out on Icarus Records /Vynila Vinyls in 2015 and gained critical appraisal from the likes of Fact Magazine and influential broadcaster Mary Anne Hobbs.
Lindholm had this to say about the album’s genesis “My original idea was to work on the melody and the play of the arco (ed note: Arco being the returning to playing bowed after pizzicato), looking for expressive music from this combination. To do it, I first decided to work on ‘modes’ and their specific color. With these modes I could work on tensions, frictions and color shading. Working on the melody aspect, I was looking to go beyond the romantic, easy listening or sentimentalizing, trying to suggest more than an expression of concrete emotions.“
The album contains four tracks with a consistent length with times ranging from just over eight minutes up to ten and a half minutes. The record comes in a vinyl edition of five hundred copies on 180g vinyl with download code and bonus 12″ x 12″ print if purchased via the labels store. It was mastered by Lawrence English of the Room40 label.
“Fauve” (a Fauve is a type of artist from the Fauvism movement that featured the “radical use of unnatural colors that separated color from its usual representative and realistic role, giving new emotional meaning to colors”). On this track slow bowed strings and monolithic bass swells are the first thing you hear, pulsing and throbbing. There is a deep dark sound to the track, but also room for melodic touches. Layers of double bass come in an out with low-level electronics and manipulated bass sounds. The more the track moves on, the more elements are added with the electronics mimicking the bass swells, but also being off rhythm to them. The tracks fluidity enables it to cover the genres of modern classical and certain elements of post rock. With the use of tones and manipulated organic and electronic sounds you could state the Lindholm has started he aim for the album straight off with the opening track.
“Lehena” (which in African names means one who refuses) arcs of bass vibrate across with a swarm like sound underneath that build up before a violin like section takes the focus before an electronic section of pulsing loops, ambience and squelchy beats provides a counterpoint to the organic sounds created by the double bass. The electronics threaten to take over the track and lead it in a more dance/electronica based vein, but while they lead the track to its finish they remain as one of the elements of the sound palate.
“Alyscamps” a deep dark drone is joined by ghostly electronics and glacial ambience. The drones intertwine with the electronics combing the acoustic with the electronic. Flickering sections lead to the feeling of a broken transmission from a deserted outpost. The flickering remains a constant while scattershot sounds with haunting presence form like a storm which is subdued just before the end for some distinct double bass. The “Alyscamps” is a Roman section in Arles, France and was the burial ground for nearly 1,500 years. The haunting music could be easily influenced by this landmark.
“Heliotrope” a Heliotrope is a popular flowering plant that happens to be a toxic plant. On this particular track the double bass recordings are deep and are used under a bed of higher at times bordering on screeching drones. While tracks like “Alyscamps” utilized the electronics in a different way, “Heliotrope” relies more on the ambient and drone elements that can be coaxed from the double bass. There are effects in the piece with juddering sounds, sounds that cut in an out, degradation of sounds, etc…. which gives it a more experimental / cut up feel.
On “Alter” Lindholm expands on what he started with on his self titled debut, but comes across more as focusing on the qualities of his chosen instrument than the electronic component of his debut. Don’t get me wrong, the electronics are still there but appear to be more of a tool of his experimentalism than as a feature. For those who checked out the recently reviewed Alder & Ash should also check out this album.
The latest release from Gizeh Records is a collaborative release from French quartet Astrïd and American pianist and former member of Rachel’s, Rachel Grimes. Grimes’ music I am familiar with when she was with Rachel’s, but I haven’t kept up to date with her releases on the likes of Temporary Residence, etc… Astrïd is a group I was familiar only in name with Cyril Secq having a collaborative release with Orla Wren on Dronarivm and three of the members being joined by Sylvain Chauveau as Butterfly in the Snowfall on Home Normal (as well as appearing on the “Elements” series of compilations as Astrïd). Astrïd have previously appeared on the Arbouse Recordings, Monotype and Rune Grammofon labels. They comprise of Vanina Andréani : violin, kalimba, metallophone, Yvan Ros : drums, percussions, Cyril Secq : guitars, harmonium, Juno, Rhodes, bass and Guillaume Wickel : clarinet, bass clarinet, Juno.
The album is the result of mail and email exchange that led to two lots of songwriting in France. Astrïd invited Rachel to come for a residency to make music together and play shows in France. They gathered for a few days, here and there, in 2012 and 2013 to write songs in Cyril and Vanina’s home studio in the countryside.
Gizeh Records describe the record as “The compositions found on Through the Sparkle glow with a unique, connected energy and a pure, instinctive musical understanding. Considered contributions from all sides allow the pieces to unfurl naturally. Each note and phrase feels like it simply couldn’t be placed anywhere else in the album. Charming, gentle and cinematic sounds are found here in abundance. Melodies circle and reveal themselves without force, allowing the listener to focus and explore the depths of what is on offer. Musically, Through the Sparkle is an expansive and evocative album.”
“The Herald en Masse” – Grimes’ piano is the first thing you hear before Violin, Brushed Percussion, Clarinet and other instruments combine to create a track that has elements of the almost Folky / Post Rock sea inspired music of Rachel’s “The Sea and the Bells” and the meandering feel of The Dirty Three (Ros’ brushed percussion also brings to mind Jim White). The elements build up nicely with each occupying their own space giving a feel of an orchestral recording rather than that of five musicians. The piano anchors the track while other elements like guitar and clarinet are able to color the sound and come screeching in or providing more depth.
“M5” – Secq’s tremelo guitar opens the track with long spindly chords that spread outwards before being joined by minimal piano lines and string based drones for the first half of the track with the guitar setting the dark mood. This all changes with briskly played piano with an urgent sound is joined by brushed percussion, kalimba, clarinet and guitar (which has changed from darker mood to a more melodic tone). The Clarinet builds up the melody in mirror like form to the guitar with the percussion keeping the pace with the piano. It is a track where the instruments are in sync with each other.
“The Theme” – Haunting Clarinet and chiming tremelo guitar combine with kalimba, piano, brushed percussion and violin in an almost improv style with the elements colliding at times while at others occupying their own space. It all comes together in the last minute of the track largely led by sparse drums which give the track a direction to go in.
“Mossgrove & Seaweed” – is a track that is purely about building tension between the instruments. What sounds like layering of piano and Rhodes keys hammered that build up on intensity with harmonium coming through and string drones. The instruments keep building to a crescendo where the strings and harmonium alongside the cymbals take over the track before it is paired back to the elements of the start and brings it all back to where it started.
“Hollis” – is the track featured on both Soundcloud and Spotify and it is easy to see why. It starts with a barely audible drone that piano is then added to before swinging jazz-style drumming comes in supported by bass, clarinet, metallophone and kalimba and has a jazz meets post rock and almost trip hop feel. There is a swing to the playing that is under pinned by the great drumming which drives the track along as well as the piano does in the start. The other elements add different textures and color to the track, with the clarinet adding a melodic is slightly melancholic feel.
“M1” – Secq’s prepared sounding guitar opens the track with a melody underneath it presumably from the Juno. The feeling of the guitar is almost Western in sound. As it unfurls the bass clarinet comes into sound and slowly other elements are added like percussion, Rhodes, Piano and the guitar drops out. It builds up after the Rhodes and Piano to become fully formed alt folk piece where the strings take the place that guitar once held and work well in tandem with the clarinet gives two different types of sound – the higher sound of the violin meets the bass tones of clarinet.
“Le Petit Salon” – is a stunning piece of cinematic music with mournful violin strings cutting above piano with a haunting feeling that would be well placed in a period movie about loss. Other instruments start to fill out the sound like bass clarinet and harmonium, prepared guitar playing screeches and off kilter urgent ramshackle drumming careens around. The extra instruments give the piece weight but don’t over power the two main instruments and the overall theme of the track.
The playing and compositions of this album give you the feeling of a long-standing band, not a band and a collaborator. The way Astrïd and Grimes fuse together is so seamless with each others influences forming together to create something their own. Elements of Grimes’ sounds developed in Rachel’s come through and fit nicely within the Astrïd framework to provide an enjoyable and cohesive piece of work. The label describes it perfectly : “Through the Sparkle is a record of miniature symphonies, of elegant restraint. A gracious and generous offering from a group of musicians at one with each other and at the top of their game.”
Gizeh Records is an English label that has the motto of “The Noise of Harmony and the Harmony of Noise”. This perfectly describes their music from the sublime in Chantal Acda through to the noisier tones of Nadja, the experimental electronica of Shield Patterns through to recent doom signings Hundred Year Old Man. Label boss Richard Knox (Shield Patterns, Glissando, A-Sun Amissa, etc…) kindly answered my questions.
Please introduce yourself and the origins of the label? Was it formed to release your own music and then others later on? How many people are involved?
The label started up in a very basic form in 2002. The first Glissando recordings were finished and we had booked a few shows so it made sense to put a label name on the CD to make it look more professional than it was. There was absolutely no long term plan or even a short term plan but we made friends with a band called 30 Day Hex around the same time and they had a bunch of songs recorded and we played some shows together. It seemed to make sense to do the same thing with those guys – simply having something to sell at shows.
I had no idea how to run a label or what it even involved but as we played more shows we got to know more bands and the ideas kept coming and it basically grew very, very slowly from that point. I felt like it was something I wanted to do and something that I could do so I taught myself how to do it. It’s always be a huge learning curve and kind of still is in a way. It’s always been a purely DIY endeavour, every step of the way.
For a long time I just worked on it on evenings whilst doing a full time job and then over the years reduced my ‘job’ hours and increased the label hours until the thing switched places and since 2013 I’ve been able to be fully self-employed. We’ve never had any funding, at all. It’s just grown organically and I would say now the label is in the best position it’s ever been in. It’s always mostly just been myself but I’ve had help down the years here and there. The problem, of course, is always finances and to be able to pay someone else to be involved is really difficult as the money just isn’t there, even if the workload is. The fact that it’s all self-sustaining and I can pay myself is, in my opinion, a success in itself. My wife Claire, who is also part of Shield Patterns and A-Sun Amissa is coming on board a bit more these days as the release schedule is pretty healthy and we’ve started branching out into selling stuff from other labels which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.
How important is identity (musical or visual) to the label ? Genre wise it’s difficult to pigeon hole the label. Was the intention not to be thought of as a ‘insert genre’ label?
I hate the idea of being a ‘genre-based’ label – I can’t think of anything more boring. The label is simply an extension of my personal musical tastes, which are pretty broad and the label reflects that. The only thing I’m concerned about is; are the people involved nice and is the music good? That’s it. No one is really making any significant money here so if you have to spend your time dealing with managers or artists that are dicks then it’s a complete waste of time and energy. I’m just not interested in that side of things. We’ve never done a contract and I don’t ever plan on doing that – operating on good faith is just fine. I want to work with artists who are making something interesting and have a real passion for what they are doing. I mean, it has to be a joint effort otherwise it becomes very hard.
Selling records these days isn’t easy so everyone has to do their bit in the process. It’s a team effort. For sure we’ve suffered in some ways because we don’t fit in a particular scene or whatever but that stuff is usually short-term or fashionable anyway so who cares? I don’t see another way to do this and the artists for the most part are very supportive in it, in fact I think it’s what attracts people to want to join the label as it’s an opportunity to reach a different audience or play with different types of bands and keep the whole thing a bit more interesting for everyone involved.
I mean, look at labels like Thrill Jockey or Sargent House or Ipecac – those guys release all sorts of stuff but you know for the most part it’s going to be of a high standard, even if you might not end up liking it or whatever. It keeps you on your toes. That to me is far more inventive and interesting than some ambient label where every release sounds the same. If that’s your thing then that’s ok, there’s nothing wrong with it at all, it’s just not for me.
The label has been around since 2004. A lot has changed in the last 13 years with the way music has been received and manufactured (eg: hand made, deluxe editions, surge in vinyl). How is this affected the label? Has there been times you’ve thought of stopping?
2004 was when the first ‘proper’ release came out which was Detwiije’s ‘Would You Rather Be Followed By Forty Ducks For The Rest Of Your Life?’. That was the first record that had any kind of distro and it was then when I started to take the label more seriously. A lot has changed for sure but you just have to stay on your toes and navigate around things as best you can. It’s obvious to everyone that there has been a steady decline in physical sales. At the end of the day you don’t have any say in how any of this works, you just have to be aware enough to adapt to how people want to buy or listen to the music and find the best way to present it.
If only 200 people want a vinyl of a specific release and everyone else is happy to stream it then that’s ok, I can’t do a single thing about that, I just need to make sure I don’t press 1000 vinyls. I think there’s definitely more pressure now on getting the numbers right in terms of pressing. It can be a tricky thing to call but the difference now is that if a record goes out of print it’s still possible for people to hear it either via download or stream which was never the case before.
There are a few releases that I’d love to repress on vinyl but while I know we could sell a bunch I don’t think we can shift 300 units – especially if the band isn’t touring or particularly active. Personally I like vinyl but shops are charging way too much now for it, £25? It’s crazy. Who can afford that? It’s simple economics though and everyone is just trying to survive but the very nature of pressing less copies means the unit price is more and that transfers all the way down the line which results in the products being too expensive.
In the end it will be the shops and distros that will suffer the most because if you sell direct to fans it means you cut out two parts of the chain and then it’s affordable to them and you make more money as an artist or label. For the record I am pro-distro and pro-shops, just to be clear. I’d like it if everyone could make a bit of money each and all survive but it’s clear that it’s becoming harder for that model to work.
Looking back over the years I don’t really think it’s affected us too badly, we never really sold loads of records anyway so nothing much has changed, it’s always been about managing each release and you just have to figure it out. It’s your job to do that and find a way to make it work. That’s not to say it isn’t a challenge but it’s not too different from any other job in that regard. I’ve never thought about stopping the label – for more than a few hours anyway!
I enjoy it and to be honest I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life, I wouldn’t change it. I get the opportunity to work with incredible artists every day and to keep learning and growing all the things I’m involved in – it’s great. It means I can manage my time as I need, whether that’s making music or working on the label or printing or whatever it might be.
How important is it to keeping the label’s works in house and be self sufficient? I am thinking of Smiling Paper Ghosts and Death Rattle Press. Do you offer these services to others and if so how do interested people get in contact?
It’s absolutely crucial to survival and I don’t see another way of doing it. My DIY attitude means that I’m sure I can learn how to do something if I’m interested in it and doing things like press and screen-printing is just an extension of the label and it means that things can happen without having to pay other people to do it. Not that there is anything wrong with that but when you are operating on a shoestring it’s important to seek out where you can save money. I’ve never been scared of working really hard at what I’m doing and I’d much rather live cheaply, work long days and earn not so much money than do a full-time job that I hate every day.
There are times when the workload is pretty severe but I’m fine with working 14 hour days if I need to, it’s not a problem. It just comes with the territory. Luckily I don’t really do down time so I’m almost constantly working, I find it very difficult to sit still for any length of time. We do offer both screen-printing and press services to others, a simple search will reveal all.
What releases on the catalog stand out especially to you? What is the hidden gem of the catalog that people should check out?
My favourite releases change all the time so it’s quite impossible to answer that. People can find their own gems in there – it’ll be different for everyone.
Please tell us plans for the future. How far ahead do you plan?
Right now we’re planned up into the middle of 2018. We have one more release to announce for this year and then there is a Hundred Year Old Man EP coming in January and an album in April. A new Tomorrow We Sail record, a new Shield Patterns record and a few new signings we are yet to announce. We are also working on the very first Gizehfest which is pretty exciting.
Manchester’s Gizeh Records is not afraid of mixing up their catalog. From the sublime Chantal Acda through to A-Sun Amissa and Nadja, their catalog, to use their quote is that of “the noise of harmony and the harmony of noise“. Their latest signing Hundred Year Old Man is quite possibly their heaviest yet.
Hundred Year Old Man is a six-piece collective based in Leeds, UK, that focuses on the parameters of post-metal, doom and heavy music. Formed in 2015, the band have spent the past year touring and playing shows with the likes of Deafheaven, Ohhms, Moloken, Employed To Serve, Conjurer, Fen, Opium Lord, Canvas and Wren. Terrorizer magazine has stated about the band that “Despite only forming in 2015, Hundred Year Old Man’s deep, heavy sound already sounds remarkably well-realised and immersive, as the ten minute video for ‘Black Fire’ ably demonstrates.”
“Black Fire” is the title track of a 3 track CD that is released on August 25 . Housed in a double-panel, hand-screen-printed card sleeve with a card insert designed by in-house team SmilingPaperGhosts. The other two tracks are “Welcome to the Machine ” and “Disconnect (Demo)”. The band features Owen Pegg who has already appeared on the label under the moniker Æmaeth and as part of A-Sun Amissa.
“Black Fire” fuses Doom and Post Metal with an experimental edge with the use of Keys/Samples that remind me of “Vae Solis” era Scorn. There are trade mark Doom sounds with the slow down tuned guitars and screamo styled deep vocals, but mixed up with the more melodic, but still heavy , post metal guitar sounds and prog – like progressions.
Feedback with distortion and crushing beats open the track with alternating guitar riffs that join together once the vocals start. The vocals are largely indecipherable (although I am picking up an anti-war vibe) and are kept level in the mix just above the guitars. The first break in the track occurs around the first minute and a half with the vocals, bass and drums drop out to give space to the guitars which have a more post rock tone and are accompanied with organ sounds before the downtuned guitars, vocals and drums return in the style of the intro. Vocals (possibly by guitarist/vocalist Pegg) or samples (probably the latter) enter the mix and the music veers from chugging guitar riffs to post metal sections. The way the guitars veer between the traditional doom sounds to the post metal gives texture and colour to the track and flows smoothly not clunky.
A second breakdown section starts just before the six-minute mark and features samples of an elderly man talking about his memories followed by a repeated section of vocals with the phrase “Can’t Follow Me”, before the guitars start sweeping bringing about another musically thematic change, which changes several times again as the track builds up in its intensity to its climatic distortion fade out.
There is a lot of variation in the ten and a half minutes of the track, with twists and turns that, just when you’ve thought you know where it is heading, it has changed. This gives the listener something much more interesting than a stock standard track. Next year will see the release of a 12″ ep also on Gizeh.