Editor’s Note: This review first appeared May 13, 2011.

My knowledge of Nottingham, UK, extends to the Robin Hood movies I grew up watching as a kid courtesy of WGN Family Classics (featuring Douglas Fairbanks) and Disney (with a cartoon fox). I don’t know much of its music scene, yet I’ve been obsessing lately over instrumental recordings from a pair of bands that hail from there — Kogumaza and Souvaris.

With all the yap-yap and chatter by the talking pixels of the 24/7 cable news/internet, my brain needs a break. I don’t always have the attention span for listening to songs. What I particularly enjoy about a well done instrumental is the freedom it allows me to imagine. No whiny, sappy, heartbroken, political or obtuse lyrics to badly date an era. Just get right to the good stuff.

Kogumaza is a trio that create a dense, cinematic experience on their self-titled release that just came out this week. The two-track download plays like an LP (if you don’t actually buy the vinyl). Each side features a four-piece suite of ambient, hypnotically droning, reverberating guitars; fuzzed out bass and drums cleverly stitched together. The approach is simple and well-crafted, never proggy or flashy.

Side 1: Cosmonaut / Lowland Hundred / Bells / Tensor Tympani

Cosmonaut starts quietly with effected beats and clanks before exploding into a wash of distortion and swirling reverb with a heavy metal-like riff that builds to a crescendo before winding down into the spacey openness of Lowland Hundreds. Listening to this while staring at the cover art evoked images of the wasteland in the Forbidden Zone in the original version of The Planet of the Apes. The track transitions into Bells, a head-bobbing tune of repeating riffs alternating with a punch of overdrive that builds tempo and tension before the release of eery disemboweled vocals on Tensor Tympani. This is the sound of a mountain being formed.

Side 2: Swang / Concentric Spheres / Bruxist / Cosmist

Swang jumps right in with a stoner groove that breaks down into slashing, cycling guitars. Concentric Sphere features a sweet melody that transitions into the noisy loops of Bruxist. The final part is Cosmist, a hypnotic bath of pounding drums and pulsing guitars that winds to a satisfying close.

Kogumaza has a great flow to it. Droning riffs build and dissolve against a densely rich background in a sonic offering of ear candy. This is a timeless gem.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum is Clown Jazz, a split EP from the 5-piece Nottingham rock band Souvaris and the Bourdeaux, France, quartet Sincabeza that came out last fall, if my memory is correct.

Souvaris contributed the songs Great Scott! and Hello Antelope, two melodic joy rides that reflexively give me the jimmy legs. Great Scott! begins with a propulsive beat and spacious give-and-take between guitar, bass and keys. The build up of tension releases in a change of direction. Hooks build on hooks and come to a climactic stop then switch directions again before slowly dissolving. Hello Antelope is a textural number with scratchy guitars playing off flourishing bass lines over a bed of keys and pedal steel that builds to an abrupt stop before a piano interlude transitions into another building melody before gently settling to a close.

Sincabeza seems an apt name for an instrumental band. They contributed three songs — Bacalacola, Facile a Compter and Malalido — twitchy numbers dominated by swirl and staccato of punishing guitars, uptempo dance beats and punchy bass. Sadly, it appears they broke up before the record was released. C’est la vie.

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Both of these recordings are available through Bandcamp. If you are not already familiar with this site, it is a great place to purchase or stream recordings made by independent artists.

About the Author

Tom Long

Tom Long is one-third of the seldom heard Chicago band The Ethyl Mermen. The name Tom Long can be found in the dictionary, Baseball Encyclopedia and a pub in Ireland. Tom Long is not affiliated with any other Tom Long; he won the rights to use his own name after prevailing in a three-way game of Jan-ken-pon by choosing "dynamite!" No Toms were harmed in the making of this blog.

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