Originally released as an extremely limited LP on Savoury Days and recently reissued by Luke Younger's Alter imprint, this Southeast England band's second album was one of 2013's most criminally overlooked releases. Combining post-punk deconstructionism, heavy industrial textures, and a strong bent for collage/improvisation, this enigmatic ensemble is a welcome addition to the beloved pantheon of hard-to-define, fringe-dwelling British weirdos like Zoviet France, Throbbing Gristle, and This Heat.
This is an atypically difficult album to describe, as there are all kinds of disparate strains colliding at once and they often come together in a rather uncategorizable way. Although the participants are uncredited, one of the group's founding members is recording engineer John Hannon, which explains a key part of the band's aesthetic: these pieces are clearly rooted in noise and improvisation but the end products sound deliberate, heavy, and hallucinatory in a way that indicates that someone with a distinct vision spent an enormous amount of time in the studio sculpting the raw material into something far better. Some other probable participants are recent Andrew Chalk collaborator Tom James Scott and vocalist Nina Bosnic, though only Bosnic's contributions are distinctly identifiable. There are other members too, but most of their contributions have been cannibalized for texture and atmosphere, though some melancholy violin melodies seem to have made it through the editing process intact.
There are two distinct types of "songs" that Liberez do brilliantly: heavy, quasi-industrial soundscapes and pieces that I would call "ethnographic forgeries," for lack of a better term. The album's clear highlight, "A Warning," falls into the former category, combining a deep rumbling hum with Bosnic's disjointed "distressed answering machine message" vocals and a gathering storm of distorted, detuned bass; crackling noise; and swooping feedback. Nina's vocals are even more prominent on the similarly excellent "Nema Te," endlessly intoning a sad, ravaged melody amidst a haunting miasma of hiss and eerily looping and chirping field recordings. It only lasts for a minute and a half, but it is pure disturbing, surreal genius. If I had heard it totally out of context, its mystery would probably haunt me for months or years, as it sounds far more like a creepy communique from the spirit world than anything resembling a song by a band of living humans.
"Nema Te, Pt. 2," on the other hand, is the finest of Liberez's ethnic/ritualistic "folk" excursions, an area where they share some common ground with folks like Natural Snow Buildings and Big Blood. Though it initially begins with clanging metallic thump and a reprise of the forlorn melody from the first part, the piece gradually morphs into an echo-heavy vocal chant amidst snarling, anguished violins. The violins make another strong appearance in the buzzing, ominous thrum of "Unhomely," embellishing Bosnic's clipped, looping vocals with a scraping, whining minor key melody that sounds both timeless and vaguely satanic.
The rest of the album is a mixed bag, but it is mostly a successful one. Several pieces are quite atmospheric or incidental in nature and exist primary to further Sane Men's prevailing mood of disquiet and simmering menace. Of the remaining pieces, the lengthy "My Madness Offends" is another album highlight, marrying eerily distant angelic vocals to an escalating rumble and frequent jarring slashes of static. Another extended piece is the brutally cacophonous "What's Mine is Mine," which I am still very much on the fence about. It kind of sounds like a crust punk band playing a drum kit made entirely of amplified garbage cans and oil drums most of the time, but unexpectedly segues into an interlude that sounds like a gnarled string collage culled from a The One Ensemble album. Neat trick.
The fact that even my least favorite song on the album is totally striking, visceral, and unique is quite telling: this is an absolutely killer band. While not all of Liberez's experiments are unqualified successes, they just about tear my head off when they get things just right and they do that with an impressive frequency. Of course, I recognize that plenty of other fine bands have mined early industrial influences in the past, but these guys are different: Liberez is of the first acts that I have heard who feel like an genuine continuation of the UK's early '80s experimental music heyday rather than just a mere pastiche of very cool bands that they like. And, if I am being completely honest, they are actually a lot better than quite a few of their influences. I have not been this excited about a new band in a long time
THE PROGRESS REPORT
With the aesthetics of a precious little treasure box accidentally ended up on a landfill, waiting to tell its story to whoever finds it and is willing to listen. Liberez’ second full length release starts where their first, The Letter, ended. With the release of the Letter, Liberez created mainly confusion and the questions posed will not get straightforward answers on this one either. Instead the quartet from South East England digs deeper, exploring dark black voids in time & space, developing a sound of their own, which is steeped in industrial exotica and depressing schizophrenia.
The music is again a collection of exquisite gems, here framed as ready-made pills for self help, inducing empathy and evoking almost Victorian nostalgia. A lot of passages on Sane Men Surround have dark and extraordinary eighties stuff shimmering through, and it is through this hypnagogia that some answers can be found. Tragic rhythm’s, mourning violins and up-tempo gothic harassment together with an often a distracted sounding Nina Bosnic are the main ingredients framing this as a soundtrack for a devastating war ; moments of pre-war happiness whereas most tracks paint a postwar landscape, desolate, sad and full of regret. Pain is never far away, and the violins makes sure wounds will not heal easily. Sane Men Surround is also more focusing on telling the story in different sceneries in faded colors and is less about experiment compared to its predecessor.
The CD release of Sane Men Surround (it has been released before in a tiny edition on vinyl) comes with a cover that shows a strange scene with a key person missing. The contrast created by this is creating a focus on the absent, on the missing and that is metaphorically speaking also what this album is doing. At first it sounds superficial, but during subsequent listens the more intriguing things get. I like what these folks are doing as Sane Men Surround shows pathways to recycle drama combined with the views of a new generation. A cerebral monument for end times and maybe a glimpse into the future as well.
UK unit with an interesting blend of This Heat meets Crescent. Yeah I hate those DNA-tracer examples too, sorry and even that was meant as a high form of praise. This project is its own beast, slouching towards the industrial hearts and jaded ears of many a KFJC listener. Pure noise, impure rock, airport paging vocals, spiky violin. Just tremendous, especially in sitting through it whole, (as opposed to us radio types isolating tracks) the sequencing is stellar. The leadoff track “Nema Te” has a muffled/maxxed out sing-song from Nina Bostic, the lullabye gets delayed and then displaced into a musique concrete parking garage. Better than EVP since it’s real. That triggers “A Warning” where a synth siren oscillates in the space left by Bostic, and deep thrumblings and a hint of strings set the stage for more “vocals” (really a chant, or pre-recorded alarm message) as the sound stirs up, gunfire percussion has a party in the re-militarized zone. But John Hannon is smart enough to let a drone float in and thru, dynamics are a key throughout the album. Evidently he’s a recording engineer, but here is a great example of the mixer as instrument. Rounding out the quartet are Peter Wilkins, a longtime collaborator and also guitarist and other-items-ist Tom James Scott. Guess he’s the violin that flecks in (rides the crushing star of “What’s Mine is Mine” for example). Plenty of challenging moments (“My Madness Offends” cycles staccato static bursts, Scott pizzicato prances underneath it) but even more rewarding moments. Good news this is their *second* release, better news if there is plenty more to come. From the very first till now, this remains an exciting sound escape. -Thurston Hunger
Se repararmos bem, uma fotografia de afectos, com uma parte dela cortada, apresenta uma sugestividade bastante diferente de qualquer outra rasgada em duas ou quatro, de maneira mais ou menos aleatória. Enquanto a fotografia cortada revela a intenção de excluir algo, de modo a poder ainda assim ser aproveitada, a sua semelhante feita em bocados indica que alguém preferiu desenvencilhar-se por completo de qualquer coisa que, no futuro, lhe poderia trazer mágoa ou levantar suspeitas. Por tudo o que tem de cirúrgico e premeditado, a fotografia que deixa de fora uma pessoa, fazendo passar a tesoura à sua volta, é um objecto bastante assustador. Por mais incrível que pareça, pegando numa dessas, a figura excluída torna-se muitas vezes na parte mais significante da foto (o que é e o que foi), nem que seja pela forma como faz acelerar a imaginação, com a incógnita que impõe.
Depois de uma edição limitada em LP, na Savoury Days, Sane Men Surround, o segundo álbum do misterioso colectivo britânico Liberez, chega à Alter numa edição remasterizada em CD. Olhamos para a capa do disco e lá está uma fotografia registada noutros tempos, com a forma de um homem de cigarro entre os dedos delineada para lembrar que ele esteve ali. Mas será que esteve realmente? Só quem tem a fotografia original na mão saberá ao certo, porque pode estar ali a forma e não ter estado lá homem nenhum (embora haja um cinzeiro por perto da sua mão direita).
O mesmo passa-se com Sane Men Surround: o seu conteúdo é o mais importante ou esse papel pertence ao que deixou de fora? Os Liberez baralham-nos as ideias com ruídos inclassificáveis e ratoeiras sónicas preparadas em estúdio, mas depressa tornam bem claro que Sane Men Surround é um jogo de inquietantes elipses, em que a mente fica obrigada a uma participação activa para preencher os silêncios e assim encontrar as canções, onde agora só existem os rastos deixados por essas. Logo na primeira faixa, há uma voz feminina (a de Nina Bosnic) a cantar uma lenga-lenga que nos faz lembrar a canção de Rosemary’s Baby, ainda que esteja completamente deformada. Tudo o resto, em Sane Men Surround, consegue ser igualmente fascinante e capaz de me fazer acreditar que aqui está um dos mais essenciais discos de música experimental do último ano.