Black Needle Noise: Before the Tears Come (Self Release, 2016)

Black Needle Noise: Before the Tears Come (Self Release, 2016)

by Jason

Black Needle Noise is the brainchild of John Fryer who has shaped many artists’ sound and cultivated genres that have been influential on many current bands we cover here at Somewherecold. He has worked with the likes of Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins, Love and Rockets, Jesus Jones, and many others. He was also one of only two consistent members of This Mortal Coil over the life of the group as well as a member of The Hope Blister. Black Needle Noise continues in the This Mortal Coil vein, with genre bending tracks that are infused with Fryer’s signature melancholy, dreamy, and full-throated creativity. Before the Tears Come is Fryer collaborating with a cavalcade of singers who provide vocals over Fryer’s sometimes blistering, sometimes ethereal backdrops.

“Wild Side” kicks off Before the Tears Come with tinny guitar and horror movie style synths. These break out into horns, aggressive guitar tones, and a careful plodding tempo. Zia provides gorgeous vocals moving from dark lounge vocals that evoke film noir to soaring falsetto. The lyrics are suggestive and the vocals sultry over Fryer’s bass thumping undergirding doomscape. Along with synths and bright guitars to compliment Zia, there are these incredibly deep touches that make for a creepy underbelly like creaking sounds and fuzzy edges. “Vexation” begins with dreamy synth and pops and crackles but instantly turns to a hip-hop beat and spoken words. This then melds with darker vocals, synth, and guitar. Jarboe  provides vocals here as she moves from epic, lower register moments to a vibrotic goth style.  The lyrics match the dark tone as Jarboe sings,

Look into the mirror
When you aim your anger
Look into the mirror
When you point your finger
Look into the mirror
When you aim your anger
Look into the mirror
As you pull the trigger

As the music fads, Jarboe says in an echoing voice “Shame, the liars”. It’s a brilliant dark track with deep, thundering tones and unnerving textures throughout.

“3 Steps Backwards” has a music-box style synth and various sound effects panning right and left over the soundscapes. The vocals are provided by Ledfoot and are deeply melancholy. It clearly seems that the protagonist in the song is trying to convince himself that everything is going to be ok despite a morose experience. It’s a track that is unsettling and uncomfortably familiar for anyone who has those internal moments fighting personal demons. “Mourning Morning” has a deep drone with popping noises bouncing about in the mix. A larger drone joins in while Andreas Elven joins with a gothic vocal. Strings begin to play long, drawn out, pensive notes. The quieter moments have a breezy tone to them. Cellos and a fuller set of strings become introduced as the piece moves forward. The drones in this track are formless, swirling, and swell and fall while textures vary throughout. There are a few moments where the drones are quieter and popping noise fill the spaces, giving it an electric, almost urgent feel.

“Queen of Dust” begins with a guitar that has a slight twang in it with fuzzy textures around the edges. Then fuzzed out guitars, bass, and sci-fi synths burst into the speakers. Antic Clay provides a deep, bass timbered vocal that flows with Fryer’s bass work. There is a swagger in this darkness as Clay sings,

Girl, you’re the promise of light
Emancipating the night
From a course of dark dereliction, girl
If it’s true that you lived then the devil is fiction
Still your eyes eclipse and lips collapse to sorrow

The lyrical imagery is dark and Fryer’s instrumentation even more so as it bleeds a confident bluster. “Human” is more ethereal with Jarboe back on vocals singing in a high register. Her vocals are ghostlike and hypnotic over glowering synth and subtle percussion. The guitars warble as they swell and pitch back and forth as they pan through the speakers. A creak, like one from a door, dots the landscape at intervals and almost watering ripples emanate from some of the percussion. On “Human” Jarboe explores the frailty of human existence mentioning schizophrenia, ptsd, narcissism, and so forth. Here, humanity is exposed as raw and open, exposed for all to see. The creaking mentioned before clearly reflects these sorts of perceived imperfections and the pain associated with being trapped in such minds.

“Messages by Dreams” is most certainly dreamy, like an updated drone piece produced in a smoky 1920’s lounge. Attasalina’s vocals are sultry and hypnotic. When the chorus arrives, Fryer’s keys erupt in a fuzzed-out wall of sound, deep and dense. Synths soar with Attasalina’s vocals and sparse percussion plays out beneath the tumult. The quiet verse moments are punctuated with rumbling bass, piano phrasings, and electric-shock sounds like from a Tesla tower. This is a cinematic, epic anthem that spreads rays of light in the midst of a darker, gloomier storyline. Elena Alice Fossi helms a Nine Inch Nailesque piece with thumping bass, fuzzy synths, and moody, long form choruses. This is industrial at its finest, with almost metallic tones around the edges of the synth tones and soaring synth waves. At 2:44, the dense walls of sound peel back and bass and percussion really get the head bobbing as Fossi casts a spell over the listener.

“Dead Star” begins with a sci-fi synth and Mediterranean sounding guitar line. Betsy Martin joins the heaving synths and at about 1:45, a trip-hop beat changes things up, providing more depth to a sparser track. In spite of the otherworldly feel, the song has an intimate feel, drawing the listener into bright guitar lines and enveloping walls of sound. “Naughty Girl” returns to that NIN industrial feel as the track starts off with swirling synths and then hits a wall of pounding, industrial beats. The bass growls under spacey synths and Spectra Paris’ entrancing vocals as she sings,

For all the lies I used to tell,
All the sunrises I’ve seen coming home.
For all the forbidden cakes I ate with hungry desire
I smile with while strolling on the beach,
Wearing a tiny black bikini.
I’ve been a naughty girl.

The track is primal and potent, being an industrial tour de force. “I Face the Wall” is the only track that Fryer does both the instrumentation and the vocals.  This track is dreamy, droney and boarders on the edge of synthgaze. Walls of sparkling sound move through the speakers as a guitar, fuzzed with a bass imitating it, thumps in the speakers. Synths create spectral flows amid the beating drums. Fryer’s vocals are reverbed out and are deep into the mix. These are coupled with whispers that are actually more up front in the mix as he says “I’ve faced the wall”. The wall of sound and electronic bleeps envelop his vocals while they float along, moving the track forward. It’s an incredibly cinematic finale to this ambitious album.

Before the Tears Came moves from evoking the smoke-filled clubs found in film noir to industrial plants with smoke rising from their plumes. The album explores the deepest, darkest parts of human existence alongside possible rays of hope. John Fryer, with all his storied experience, does not play it safe here and that is what makes Before the Tears Came a must listen. While comparisons have been made to This Mortal Coil, there is something new and fresh in what Fryer does in his synthscapes and epic walls of sound as he allows for experimentation and genre-bending. Playing with ambience, industrial synths, various sampled textures, blistering swells, and quiet, pensive guitar, Fryer creates moments that will both set the listener on edge as well as lull them in with hypnotic ease.



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