Bristol’s Sonance are a band impossible to define. Dwelling in that bodiless space between genres, their back catalogue attests to a band who refuse to compromise vision, and contains some of the strongest releases UK underground music has seen in the last decade. Latest addition Blister The Maw continues in this pulsating, black vein, expanding on their usage of shifting dynamics, unsettling effects and samples, and mutation through repetition.
Sprawling opener ‘That’s What It’s Like’ is a labyrinthine audio Jackson Pollock piece made of gristle, tendon and sinew. Creeping noise is joined by breathy whispers of the songs title. Slow, listlessly plucked guitar meshes with rising cymbals and rumbles of bass, frustrated promises of “you know it’s not real” coming as cold comfort with their snakelike, sibilant S’s hissing among rising feedback. It moves in tar-like waves, fading to be replaced by others, swelling and thickening. “Step through the smoke/It’s always dark there” the whispers intone, only for you to find it’s all true. A dense drone rises, joined by a maddening, looping whine and skittering cymbals, before the tide ebbs out into throbbing noise and more whispers/screams of the tracks title, proving it was all a cyclical, torturous trap.
‘Cherry’ is an almost complete reversal – bright, lilting guitar harmonics like a soothing lullaby, gentle strings and layered spoken-word vocals acting as a respite, but one that is all too brief.
‘Oldest Harm’ goes for the throat with an atonal guitar vamp and bruising drum loop, before opening out into a sanity-scraping drive, backed by thumping, tom heavy drumwork. Scalded, ragged vocals propel the track into the depths of fear and rage, every time the main riff does another blistering sweep past it clads itself in another layer of jagged ire, before ending abruptly.
The elephantine bass opens up into a tectonically shifting main riff that’s truly massive.
‘Destroy And Dismember’ kicks in with whining feedback and a slow, easy drum groove before ramping up into a towering edifice of riff. Bellowing vocals pan to the right, while a more ragged, almost exhausted line holds the center ground. Les Makepeace’s delivery is a strident bark, guttural, intimidating. A brighter guitar line pierces thro
‘Staggered’ lives up to its’ title immediately, a ‘standard’ strummed bass pattern giving way to groaning, lowing bass and stabs of atonal guitar, like the sonic equivalent of being drunk to the point of nausea or reeling after a blow to the head. The elephantine bass opens up into a tectonically shifting main riff that’s truly massive. ‘Capitulation’ is like infernal machinery, hollow echoes, chittering, unsettling noise, rising into lush, Godspeed!-esque string layering, a mournful, beautiful lament that fades out slowly.
Blister The Maw bows out too soon, leaving a keen sense of absence. A confrontational, visceral release, it adds another solid, unapologetic slab of jagged riffs, caustic noise and raw emotive power to a back catalogue already swollen with plenty of both. “Step through the smoke/It’s always dark there”.