Concentration

Heads on Sticks 2020

What can one say about this year that isn’t stating the blindin’ obvious and centred in every end-of-year appraisal across every blog and publication out there? The COVID pandemic has dominated all spheres of life in such a profound way that even the cast-iron doctrines of unbridled capitalism screeched to a halt, the free-market fanatics themselves enforcing half the nation’s workforce to pause their labour extraction. After years of Brexit bludgeoning and its resulting social division, the Coronavirus was an oddly unifying experience, cutting through the dichotomies of Leavers and Remainers and inadvertently ushering a feeling of collective experience and responsibility, a shared duty to each other long felt dormant after decades of Thatcherite atomisation. Everyone’s lives have been struck with deep uncertainty, many stung by the painful losses of loved ones and near-unanimous despair at the political ineptitude causing further chaos.

Spending months in your own company, or trapped in problematic living environments, demonstrated just how vital a lifeline music is. The arts, long been neglected in the austerity wasteland and held with contempt from a grey and joyless, right-wing faction who abhor the empathy and imagination it fosters, was suddenly held up as the indispensable joy it always was, the deep, human need for creative expression and escapism breaking through the hollow priorities of a society dictated by unbridled capital. The sudden absence of live music and events wrought some urgent perspective on the preciousness of our creative spaces and independent venues, and did make one ask the question: had we taken it all for granted?

Late-stage capitalism rarely affords the time to stop and think, and the lockdown, so alien to our daily routines and established orthodoxies, unleashed a major space for deep contemplation. The cultural reckoning against racial injustice spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement inspiring direct action against authority on a scale unseen since the civil rights era, but to be vigilant against clumsily wading into ineffectual social media campaigns that solve nothing (Heads on Sticks was guilty of this). The grim stats on streaming revenues for artists in light of the Spotify Wrapped rush have raised much-needed awareness as to how we can responsibly consume music that the artists we love spent time and money on, and to keep an eye on the venues who missed out on Arts funding and staying afloat on Crowdfunders. The systemic failure that enabled Trump his ascendency, and an emboldened Far-Right in the U.K., cannot be considered put to bed now that Biden is the president-elect, to quote Ocasio-Cortez, “you’re not going back to brunch”.

When artists have been the soundtrack to such a tumultuous year, the relationship one has with their work takes on an even deeper significance. The songs collated are the hopelessly personal, utterly subjective. Not some hierarchal ‘best-of’ or exclusive document of heavy rotation, but simply the 25 tracks which rattled around The Head’s static ridden box. I hope you enjoy as much I did!

Here’s to a fortunate 2021, and thanks for the music!

Tom (a fan)

Check the Heads on Sticks 2020 list here!

Concentration ‘I’m Not What I Was’

Testosterone hangs in the air with such clammy fetor you taste it on your lips. America teetering on the edge of war with Iran over desperate displays of military virility, a victim of gang rape is convicted of ‘causing public mischief’ as the alleged attackers sing ”the Brit is a whore” after being released without charge, and the grim figures of femicide continue to climb in cartel-ravaged Mexico. The more masculinity is dissected and scrutinised whether through art, academia or activism, the greater the ferocity of the agents of patriarchy is in violently silencing any such discourse, and the world is more dangerous for it.

Building a reputation as the Bristolian vanguard of cutting edge underground music, sonic agitators Avon Terror Corps (an amalgamation of musical misfits including Schwet, Bokeh Versions, Bad Tracking among a host of others) have extended their slimy tentacles beyond the South West with new label subsidiary Global Terror Corps in a mission to deliver uncompromising, genre-defying acts from the dankest corners of planet Earth. The first release under this moniker is EP I’m Not What I Was by Aussie/German trio Concentration, a visceral powerhouse act of industrial smut comprised of artists Zachariah Kupferminc, Matt Sativa and Thrush twisting heads clean off with their live sets of hellish volatility.

The scraping electro-punk as heard on prior album Premature still grinds unmercifully but with greater ephemeral potency across four tracks of distilled fury. EP opener ‘Circumcision’ is a squealing vomit of naked runtish neuroticism impotently wailing against the rabbi’s knife amid crushing pummeling drums coming close to the power electronics of Whitehouse were it not for the steady hypnotic tempo of the percussion. The stream of consciousness lyrics revealing the layers of pent-up Jewish dysmorphia take terrifying turns, sexual humiliation congeals to trans-generational Holocaust trauma with tortured confusion, yet Zupferminc’s nasal whine, references to ‘fucking Guardian articles’ and skewed klezmer pieces trigger a nervous hilarity to the nightmare.

Stuttering glitchy beats palpitate on ‘Jihadi Dole Bludger’, a cavernous momentum drives the track around points of eerie terse quiet and warped vocals, before the synth heavy ‘Spiderfuck’ pierces with Wax Trax! throb, arpeggios and drum machines creating a subtle groove beneath the noxious miasma. Last track ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’ honours the scathing defiance against male entitlement and sludgy-grunge delivery of 7 Year Bitch’s original but adds further layers of haunted discord and collages of reverb drenched suffering.

The testosterone that clung stubbornly on your lips is replaced with blood, pre-cum, and testicular viscera. I’m Not What I Was is a horribly fascinating putrid dry-retch of disgust against poisonous machismo, as powerful as a sledgehammer to your face but revealing the deeply insecure and fearful heart of toxic masculinity with surgical precision.