Black Needle Noise is the new moniker under which famed and acclaimed underground producer John Fryer tweaks and creates. It’s a new kind of heightened ambient/experimental project that holds nothing back while traversing for adventure in the darkest realms of electronic and dream pop music. While it’s refreshing and original, one can’t help but hear the signature touch of the legendary producer in every corner of every track, as pounding drums mix with several bouts of 80’s sounding music. For those who don’t know of John Fryer, his retrospective production chronology reads like a trip through the alternative underground of the 80’s and 90’s; having produced or had some part in releases from a wide array of bands and artists from the post-punk era. And for those of you who do know him, you will recognize him and his signature sound as one half of 4AD legends This Mortal Coil, a band who are comfortably considered one of the most influential and acclaimed British alternative acts of the past century. Black Needle Noise borrows some of Mortal Coils gothic flavours, along with a heavy and deep electronic sound that adds a modern feel to each song. Fryer has been releasing singles from Black Needle Noise’s debut album one by one, which will eventually amount to a full album release; featuring a guest list of some of the most brilliant and talented musicians from across the world alternative music scene.
‘Heaven’ is a warped, percussive and dark musical journey; guided through the depths of darkness by the thrum of a bass guitar and the heavy, sludge like weight of the backing drums. Throughout the song, Fryer introduces a plethora of brilliant production techniques; one of which is the way the instruments mix together to create what can only be described as an intriguingly confusing piece of music making. And although the experimental instrumentation and production sound like a giant stomping, Fryer adds a neat and tricky piece of This Mortal Coil’s gothic edge to the song by featuring a dazzlingly swaying choir like string section deep at the back of the song. The vocal performance, by the ever-talented Jennie Vee, hits every note beautifully; crafting another dimension to the song in the fantastic context of contrast. Fryer followed ‘Heaven’ by releasing the much more ambient and electronic influenced ‘She Stands On A Storm’, which is a powerful electronic standard that features a synthpop/industrial chorus. In a similar vein to ‘Heaven’ it mixes this electronic instrumentation and programming with a myriad of sounds and noises that land somewhere between samples and FX heavy feedback loops and tricks; that walk around freely in the background of the song. Fryer again utilizes a fantastic vocalist to sing amidst the tenebrosity and darkly dispersed sounds of his musical structures; this time it is the harmonious pipes of Andrea Kerr, who comes across as more subdued to Vee, but in a way that does wonders for the song.
Perhaps the best lead single that Black Needle Noise has released is the atmospheric, soaring, dream pop/ethereal wave oscillating of ‘Swimming Through Dreams’, with a wondrous vocal track from Mimi Page, who presents the case for how voice can be used as an instrument just as a guitar may. It’s three minutes of Fryer layering choir synth upon choir synth upon string arrangements to create a song that sounds like the musical equivalent of glowing. But even though he does everything right in a production sense, it is Page’s hypnotic vocals that serves as the most interesting layer of them all. ‘Teeth to Grey’ is another symphonic piece of dark electronic pop music, this time with the added element of a trap-influenced drum machine program within the song. If one single showed how brilliant of a producer Fryer was, it would be this; where noises, instruments and sounds rattle around the song to create a confusing and engaging listening experience. Things are panned around, and then they’re not, and then other sounds seep in while your concentrating on another thing, all the while you hear the tiny micro-cogs of a greater machine churning out something memorable and heavily influenced by a darker form of 80’s ethereal wave pop. For ‘Teeth to Grey’ he calls upon the skill and talent of the vocalist from experimental/trip hop project Omniflux, whose voice is again greatly different in mood to those featured on other tracks. Vocals here are much more hushed and whispered, keeping in key with the intricate and net-like music. The much more dream pop influenced ‘Treasured Lies’ sees the combination of electro-pop and the soaring kind of shoegaze that’s made less with guitars than it is with walls of light and bright sounds. The vocal performance of Zialand is a good fit for the producers more experimental tendencies, which at the songs beginning takes the form of lo-fi feedback and frequencies.
These collective singles showcase the genius of Fryer’s production and song writing techniques, harking back to his older projects and musical explorations in the ‘good ol’ days’ of alternative music. If there is one thing that is definitely different from his earlier This Mortal Coil releases it is that every single released by Black Needle Noise sounds clean and polished, even when a cacophony of noise screeches and whizzes away in the background. Much like fellow producer Dean Garcia, the technological advancements in music production, mixing and recording seemed to have allowed Fryer to create a more fluid and smooth sound; all the while creating beats and dense gothic sounds that still hold their intent through the ‘fresh’ production style. Praise should be given to every vocalist who Fryer has enlisted for this project; each containing their own distinctive vocal styles that suit their chosen songs with an air of beauty and mystery. These Black Needle Noise songs showcase a producer at the top of his game, through his skills and talents in mixing, song writing and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.