Liberez All Tense Now Lax Label: Night School
by Benjamin Bland July, 2015
It has become increasingly rare, in recent years, to hear 'industrial' records that fully merit the name. Like most experimental musical terms, it is a descriptor that has become useful only in small doses: usually in reference to artists utilising mechanical and oppressive sonic textures. This usage, however, only conveys a part of what industrial music was originally about. The great early industrial bands manipulated sound in such a way that it retained the flawed feel of human direction whilst simultaneously building a shrine to the electronic. Listening to the finest Throbbing Gristle records, for example, one is overcome by an atmosphere that is almost entirely alien and discomforting precisely because of its human element; something that even the most applause-worthy of (largely digitally based) industrial artists of today are incapable of quite accomplishing.
This, perhaps, is what makes a vaguely 'industrial' outfit like Liberez such an enticing proposition. A group that blends the electronic with the acoustic, and works on foundations provided more by improvisation than by the meticulous organisation of much contemporary experimentalism, Liberez have been stalwarts of the deepest depths of the murky UK underground for some years now, rightly eschewing genre terms in favour of constant reinvention and re-articulation of their musical aims. All Tense Now Lax, however, sees Liberez reach new heights (or lows, depending on the way you want to perceive music so undeniably gloomy) in their apparent quest to capture the beautiful in the most disjointedly unnervingly fashion possible.
Liberez’s determination to manufacture contrast is impressive from the album’s opening seconds. Intro track ‘
Of Milk’ fades in with eerie piano and ends with concrete drone, fading into the slow building tumult of ‘_Захвална породица’, complete with some mid-period Skullflower guitar wailing and clanking percussion. This is a pattern that continues throughout, with sections of fragile sound collage – rendered particularly effective by the regular presence of moaning violin – being presented along spiralling channels of paranoid distortion.
At its most overblown and overwrought All Tense Now Lax is less disturbing and more genuinely frightening. ‘How Much for Your Brother?’ is a gross exhortation of primal malevolence, retching through its four minutes with the subtlety of a sledgehammer and the abrasiveness of a sandpaper razor. At the other end of the scale, ‘Stop Your Breathing’, the following track, mutters and groans through disembodied fragments of noise, which eventually (and briefly) end up coalescing into a faintly beautiful climax. The combination of these two styles alongside one another is exhausting but powerful, like a stripped down Godspeed You! Black Emperor at most minimalistic and effective best.
All Tense Now Lax, then, is brilliant precisely because of the way it flits disconcertingly between the two extremes presented in its title, between the constant and unrestrained tension of technological progress and the contrasting looseness of our day to day existence alongside it. The overall result is an enormously adept capturing of the conundrum of the 'industrial' in a post-industrial landscape.
Liberez – All Tense Now Lax(Night School)
by Sam Shepherd | JulY 2015
Fusing the organic with the industrial is not a new idea, but few have done it as convincingly as Liberez. Pieced together in composer John Hannon’s studio, this fusion of found sounds, programmed drums and deliberately terrifying orchestration for strings is intriguing, dense and frankly, scary. With collaborators Nina Bosnic (“vocals”) and percussionist Pete Wilkins, Hannon plots out an album that, much like The Haxan Cloak‘s Excavation, has the semblance of a plot, that moves the listener from one state of distress to another with considerable aplomb.
A delicate piano motif opens the album on Of Milk only to be cowed into submission by threatening string interjections. This leads into 3AXBAAHA NOPOANUA’s loose beats and squalls which swamp Bosnic’s utterances entirely as the violins scream as if trapped in a feedback loop.
419 Chop Your S is the sound of a musical box suffering with with severe interference. Here the spoken word passages bear a resemblance to Throbbing Gristle‘s Hamburger Lady (in tone if not subject matter), which is disturbing enough, but when the track opens out into a curious pagan folk dance it becomes truly ominous. Bosnic’s invokation “let’s twist again” is delivered in such a way that it is clear there is not option but to join her in this skronking dance of death. How Much For Your Brother is deeply unsettling, with a persistent noise that sounds a little like a gurgling baby constantly whining like something from Eraserhead over tribal drums and fizzing electronics. Yet as disturbing as the track is, there is still a danceable element here, a repeated motif that insists on movement and abandonment.
Some respite appears during the opening section of Grease The Axles, which gallops along in a reasonably understated manner. Just as the track is swinging towards lax however, thundering drums make an appearance and pull the song back onto a high tension line. There are moments of genuine tranquillity though, most notably on the title track, which whilst still rather melancholic, offers a haven from stabbing violins and over violence. Once again, it’s the piano that offers a port in the storm, as barely audible voices drift along with delicate synth lines and gently undulating drums. There are slight washes of industrial noise that lurk around the edges, but they remain on the periphery. It’s only the swells of strings that begin to creep in as the track reaches its climax that threaten to puncture the relative safety of the track, but for once, they pass without incident. The cavernous tribal pulses of Stop Your Breathing also offer a little reprieve, but even here there are random stabs in the gloom and a creeping undercurrent of menace that never quite allows for restful sanctuary.
Closing the album is Of Blood, which is possibly the most focused and direct track here, and serves as a form of light at the end of the tunnel. All the elements that make the album such a harrowing listen are here, but somehow, this searing jig makes everything seem ok. There’s not much in the way of lax to be found here, Liberez are for the time being, geared towards building tension continuously without ever letting go. Of Blood releases some of that pressure, but really, when an album is as effective as this, it’s best to get swept along with it.
Liberez: All Tense Now Lax – album review
Written by Joshua Hart17 July, 2015
We’re big fans of Night School Recordings at Louder Than War, and the latest release on said label, by Liberez, which features field recordings, industrial patterns and unusual instrumentation does nothing to change us of that opinion.
With All Tense Now Lax, Liberez have failed to make an album, a work that listeners will remember. But fuck it, All Tense Now Lax is great precisely because of how much it deviates from the tropes of experimental music.
Instead of harsh noise or ambient music, Liberez have made a record of sparse, short, classically-tinged pieces that actually manage to avoid the obnoxious, psuedo-intellectual quality that so many “noise” artists perpetuate. It’s refreshing.
By doing this, Liberez have harnessed the true soul power of experimental music, its ability to conjure wildly different images in its listeners in a way that neither traditional music nor the harsher forms of noise can do.
The sketches, I refuse to use the word songs, are exceptionally etheral and somehow cruel, like a ballet dancer trying to finish a routine with a bullet in her stomach.
Picking a track at random to illustrate: Of Milk is an exploration of hushed piano with some cut-up and pedal noise.
I realized half way through that, because of the way that this kind of music is played and recorded, some of the sounds on display might not be intentional. I think that’s pretty charming.
The title track uses sounds from what appears to be a house upstairs’s party and mixes them with something that sounds like Trent Reznor’s film scores. It’s got a little bit of an Astro Boy’s retro-futurist synth sound in it too.
Grease The Axles is a favorite of mine. It moves along with a sweating, menacing, Burroughs in Tangier beat, only really stopping for bursts of distorted violin.
What I’m getting at is, you should buy this record and you should play it at night when you are vulnerable. Maybe light some candles. I don’t know. Just be sure not to listen to this as you would a Strokes album. That’d a disservice to you and an even bigger disservice to Liberez.
Well, which is it? Tense or Lax? Judging by the impending percussion and escarpments of noise currently ushering my ears to an early grave, I’d say the former is where this resides. Southend-on-Sea must be a horrible place to live if it inspires these abrasive emotions, but thank you for being so shit and birthing this into the world. Now go hide behind your Pier.
The silence between each track is filled with the sweet, pastoral tones of The Declining Winter’s latest, putting this album and the grand weirdness of Norman Records’ stock into perspective. Primordial rhythms lumber forward like a ramshackle construct of man and machine, emerging from a dense, sludgy mist of assorted electronics that alternate between a hover and an assault. The patterns are irregular, the textures rough-hewn - industrial drum circles for the dark-hearted.
You hear familiar, comfortable things like violins make an appearance, only to be consumed by harsh distortion as in ‘Grease the Axles’, just when you thought you were safe. ‘How Much For Your Brother’ is a middle eastern/north african groove pretty much embodying family disloyalty. If you’re into things like Blanck Mass, Shit & Shine or Akatombo and want to destroy yourself a little more, get this. If you want a rest from it all, listen to the dulcet tones of Richard Vincent Adams instead.
DUSTED IN EXile
Liberez’s John Hannon, bolstered here by Nina Bosnic on vocals and percussionist Pete Wilkins, embodies the hoary old cliché of “turning the studio into an instrument”, using his recording space in ways that utterly transform the way instruments and vocals sound. After two very impressive albums on Helm, aka Luke Younger’s Alter label, Hannon has with All Tense Now Lax elevated his experimental form of studio-birthed anti-rock to truly unexpected levels of claustrophobic power. In an age when so much rock music is bland, fearful and conforming, such hyperbole is surely deserved.
After the brief interval “—Of Milk” (all the track titles are oblique in the extreme), All Tense Now Lax kicks into gear with the grinding doom-laden stomp of “_Захвална породица” (see?) on which Bosnic’s muttered, inchoate vocalisations are swallowed and then spat out by a whirlpool of searing, saturated guitar feedback, caustic white noise and Wilkins’ crashing industrial drums. The song’s structure vaguely echoes the hippy raga forms of Pärson Sound if they were performed by Sightings or Yellow Swans. The compulsive, or rather convulsive, surges of “_Захвална породица” are picked up and taken even further on the more destructured “419 Chop Your $”, which advances in fits and stops, the guitars choking on their own riffs and they slide around minimalist percussion, contorted violin drones and Bosnic and Hannon’s repeated mantra of “It’s just a game.” The trio seem at the mercy of the music rather than its producers, the pace picking up or slacking off at the whims of Hannon’s mania behind the production console.
Indeed, the entire album betrays, nay celebrates, the Liberez main man’s engineering obsessions. Every track is dominated by compression and intense equalisation, meaning instruments seem to see-saw across the ears in ways both sickly and overpowering, transforming basic rock structures, not to mention the sensory overload of the layers upon layers of textures and tones, into heaving masses of sound. The effect is disorientating as the senses grapple to stabilise what is emerging into a recognisable whole, and even the low-key title track, with its dark ambient piano and whispering voices, gradually becomes a dark morass of competing sounds, grinding its way towards a blaring clarion-call finale. “Grease the Axels” returns to the distorted rock convulsions of “419 Chop Your $” and “_Захвална породица,” with Wilkins in particular shining with his martial, post-rock drumming, whilst Hannon deploys violins in ever-thickening coats of belligerent musical paint. Imagine Godspeed You! Black Emperor with all the power and none of the cosy, doe-eyed pretension, and you’ll still be miles away but hopefully in a more challenging space, which is the beautifully nightmarish realm Liberez occupy.
I don’t know if “Subotica” was inspired by, or written in, the Serbian city of the same name, but the reference infers a certain Eastern European textures to some of the song structures and use of violins on All Tense Now Lax, but equally the album cannot help but evoke in its grim austerity and sensual overload the landscapes around Essex (that’s a county east of London, for non-Brits) where it was recorded. It’s a landscape of wildly diverse cultures, motorways, service stations, industrial enclaves and wide coastal vistas, and has also at times been the frontline of political upheaval in austerity Britain. And it’s hard not to have the turmoil of recent years — not to mention the bleak beauty of British landscapes where urbanity crosses into wilderness in the rain — in mind when listening to tracks like “How Much For Your Brother?” Sort-of closer “Stop Your Breathing” (it’s followed by a response to “—Of Milk” called “—Of Blood”, but both feel more like bookends than actual parts of the album), condenses most of what went before into six haunting minutes of crackle and drone, the tension never breaking (despite the album’s title) as it seethes away, obfuscating a breaking point that actually never arrives. All Tense Now Lax at times evokes luminaries like Coil or early Current 93, but ultimately exists as its own beast, one that is never predictable, always challenging and achieves that oh-so-rare feat in rock music now: it turns the genre inside out and pulls the remains into a brave new form of noise.
Liberez ~ All Tense Now Lax
By postrockcafe / July, 2015
How good is Liberez‘ third album? So good that we requested to review it, instead of the other way around ~ a rare occurrence for our site.
Liberez is the brainchild of John Hannon, but he’s not alone in this endeavor, as he’s accompanied by Nina Bosnic (Paper Dollhouse) on vocals and Pete Wilkins on percussion. But it’s not that simple. The vocals are never direct; at times they are fragmented, at times looped, at times obscured. The percussion is similarly unpredictable; the drums range from elusive to tribal. Behind their contributions is Hannon’s sound design, which has always been abstract, but now offers new shards of accessibility.
On The Letter and Sane Men Surround, one had to wait for the dynamic payoff. The sonic peaks of “Atheist Rabble” and “What’s Mine Is Mine” are nestled in the center of their respective albums; but on All Tense Now Lax, no time is wasted. The 1:28 overture “Of Milk” (answered at album’s end with the longer “Of Blood”) is immediately followed by the violin and guitar storm of “_Захвална породица (“Grateful Family”), which is as tense as the album title implies. “419 Chop Your $” sets handclaps and bells against low spoken word and crunchy electronics, folded into a Bosnic loop: it’s just a game. The tonal clash works to the track’s advantage, keeping the listener off-balance. The final minute of the title track raises the pulse in preparation for “Grease the Axles”, a propulsion-driven beast of a lead single that would make a fine score for a high speed car crash. The whole band shines on this track, but it’s a showcase for Wilkins’ powerful percussion.
Each of the prior albums has included a track that can best be described as bizarre: “-Gag” on The Letter and “My Madness Offends” on Sane Men Surround. That duty falls here to “How Much For Your Brother”, which stomps around in heavy boots and demands recompense. Marked by distortion and squall, it’s a sign that Hannon refuses to compromise. Still, it’s the least abstract of the three, a dark cave with a welcome sign. Not everyone will want to enter, but at least it’s not closed.
As the album draws to a close, the tension eases, again reflecting the title; but here, lax does not meanrelaxed as much as it means loose: ready to head in any direction it desires. The tonal shift seems to represent the sound artist himself, whose decision to crack the blinds a bit on the new album has resulted in a gorgeous refraction of light. (Richard Allen)
Liberez, "All Tense Now Lax"
August 2015 Anthony D'Amico
John Hannon is truly a man after my own heart, as his Liberez project recaptures an urgency, adventurousness, mystery, and revolutionary spirit that has been largely missing from underground music for a very long time. In some respects, All Tense Now Lax picks up right where 2013's stellar Sane Men Surround left off, bringing back both vocalist Nina Bosnic and an unholy mélange of bludgeoning junkyard percussion and Greek/Eastern European violins. In other ways, however, All Tense is quite different, largely abandoning any quietier moments of ethnographic forgery in favor of a heavier, pricklier, more anarchic, and more collage-damaged assault.
The beauty of Liberez is that it is studio project devoted to one man’s distinct vision and that that man (Hannon) has the time, patience, gear, and ability to bring it to full fruition. As a result, Hannon and his small group of collaborators sound like an impossibly good band sometimes, throwing together juxtapositions, unusual ideas, and unexpected variables in a way that no ordinary band could. Well, maybe they could, but it would likely not sound nearly as explosive, visceral, and off-the-rails as Liberez. One piece that highlights those traits beautifully is "Grateful Family," as Pete Wilkins' half-tribal/half-industrial metallic percussion and Bosnic’s phlegmatic spoken-word vocals are blasted by strangled, gnarled, distorted violins and plunging bass, somehow escalating to a violent cacophony without losing any of the quieter bits. The following "419 Chop Your $" takes things even further, spicing the broth with locked-groove female vocals; distorted and inhuman male vocals; electronic crackles and disruptions; and what seems like an entire Greek traditional music ensemble.
Remarkably, that same trio are also responsible for the title piece, which marries a melancholy piano theme to something that sounds like a singing bowl or glass armonica. Those unlikely instruments are further augmented by some smoky, dub-damaged horns later in the piece, but the real beauty of "All Tense Now Lax" lies in how discreetly warped and soft-focus it all is: the percussion and piano remain clear throughout, yet a host of indistinct field recordings and sundry other sounds flutter around the periphery. Also, Bosnic’s half-heard vocals seem to emerge from unexpected places at unexpected times, overlapping and oddly panning while never quite being fully intelligible. The overall effect is masterfully hallucinatory without ever being conspicuously so–it somehow just feels organically smeared and woozy. That is a hugely difficult illusion to pull off.
That said, the single most striking aspect of the All Tense Now Lax is simply how skillfully it harnesses controlled chaos into a bulldozing display of power and how Hannon's production talents enable just a few people to sound downright apocalyptic. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the pummeling "Grease The Axles," which somehow sounds like Crash Worship jamming with an extremely angry incarnation of The Mekons: a speaker-shredding firestorm of brutally pounding drums and furiously sawing violins. "How Much For Your Brother?" is similarly bludgeoning, resembling a folk dance crashed by early Einstürzende Neubauten and a very insistent elephant wielding a megaphone and a distortion pedal. I do not think that I can reasonably ask for more than that.
If All Tense Now Lax can be said to have a fault, it is solely that Hannon does not seem terribly concerned with writing hooks or actual songs. Or maybe he is, but is even more concerned with destroying them: when melodies appear, they are quickly ravaged; when vocals appear, I always feel like I am half-asleep and just catching mysterious snatches of dialogue from the other side of a wall. I am perfectly fine with that though, as Hannon absolutely excels at mood, texture, power, and artfully nuanced mindfuckery. Also, Liberez truly sounds like no one else. I may not remember individual songs after the album has stopped playing, but that does not make it any less of a bracing and compellingly innovative listening experience when it is playing.
A Statement of Intent – Liberez, All Tense Now LaxDENIS BROWNE AUGUST, 2015
Impending dread is an emotion like no other and definitely not one you’re likely to invite upon yourself. But when your fear turns out to be unfounded, was the exhilaration from the moments of terror not worth it?
This exhilarating dread is the power behind Liberez, All Tense Now Lax. Creepy, unnerving and challenging, this difficult record is at war with one’s own boundaries. About a minute into Grateful Family the bombardment begins. Sometimes it’s the all-out assault of industrial noise, other times it’s the sliver of electro beats that can send a shiver down your spine.
There is melody, but it’s never singular. When something serene is offered, like the soft drum on 419 Chop Your $, an irregular violin rhythm arrives to unsettle you again. The feeling of an alien communication is constant, but is it trying to warn or mock? Being told over and over again that it’s just a game makes you feel like you are being prepped for horror.
Some say Industrial music is at its most potent when listened to through headphones, and this is certainly true for All Tense Now Lax . The solo listening experience allows the startlingly unnerving vibe brought on by the manic typing at the start of Grease the Axies to flood your mind. When you add to this a bubble-wrap popping beat which morph seamlessly into tribal drums later in the same track you can feel the full impact of this sound. This type of internalised soundscape can hermetically seal you off from the world.
The scale of power applied in music sometimes can change your own preconceived notions about what you like. How Much for Your Brother is a screamer. There is a beast shouting at you on it, but after all the teasing of the previous tracks it’s refreshing to just be intimidated rather than creeped out. A minstrel band of Romani violin players accompanies the darkness on your trail. Their lunatic melodies would not be out of place in an asylum.
What’s refreshing about Liberez’s sound is its all-encompassing nature. The noises the record spews forth are so strong that it precludes multi-tasking whilst listening. This is a good thing. Music is an abused art because it’s so adaptable to our surroundings, so it feels right to bring this uncompromising guest into your stereo.
All Tense Now Lax sometimes sounds like a lover whispering sweet nothings into your ear whilst pulling your toenails off with a plyers. Any more of this kind of stuff and we might start getting serious about music again.