As a founding member and lead guitarist with Kasabian as they rose to fame Chris Karloff describes leaving the band as a ‘kick in the bollocks’ back in 2006. In the aftermath he ditched England and headed to New York where his disconnect from home, as well as the inspiration found in a new place, unleashed a whole new set of influences and moving his songwriting on.
That creative path – taking in influences from Parisian house, krautrock and trance – has led to Black Onassis, his duo with Nick Forde and a carousel of guest singers including Ben Gautrey (The Cooper Temple Clause), Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit and Morgan Kibby of M83.
The debut, Desensitized, is released on their own label Minus Man Records later this month and is a mix of psych guitar riffs and electronica.
“Electronic music to me is surprisingly soulful, there is a warmth that comes from the simplicity of sounds, something inconspicuously expressive and emotional”, Chris says.
“Growing up it was everywhere. Artists like Vangelis, Kraftwerk, The Prodigy and Tangerine Dream were massive influences on the songs I wrote with Kasabian, and even more so now. But rock music has always played a massive role as well, and I’m inspired by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Primal Scream and Nirvana. I try to fuse these two worlds to create the kind of music I want to listen to”.
Clearly his influences run wide and deep but Chris always has an ear out for new music too. And it’s these more recent releases that he runs down his top ten of for Louder Than War today.
Chris Karloff – top 10 new albums
Cliff Martinez- God Only Forgives Soundtrack
“After hearing the great soundtrack Martinez did for “Drive” I really had to check this one out. I find a lot of modern soundtracks can be a little soulless and lack character but the “God Only Forgives” soundtrack really touched me with its beauty and interesting dynamic.
“The warmth of sounds are unbelievable with the building synth sequences and atmospheric sounds. The “wanna fight” scene music really shows this with the simple warm synth loop and massive pipe organ sound.
“This soundtrack sounds just as good without the moving images, a good massage for the imagination.”
Favourite track – Wanna Fight
NIN- Hesitation Marks
“Out of all the new releases “Hesitation Marks” is without the doubt the one I am the most excited about. NIN have been a massive influence on me for a long time now.
“Copy of A is an amazing track, it contains everything I love about NIN- from the simple industrial beats to Reznor’s great lyrics. Came Back Haunted is another definite favourite, it sounds like classic NIN with a modern twist.
“Their new live show looks unbelievable and is top of my to-see list. They really raised the bar all round on this one. I cannot wait until it is released.”
Favourite track- Copy of A
Jon Hopkins – Immunity
“Recently this album has been playing nonstop in my house.
“Immunity is an incredibly infectious set of tunes that really get into your head. We Disappear is a beautiful piece of music worthy of any cinematic landscape.
“There is a very sentimental sounding thread in these tracks that really keeps you listening and feeling everything.”
Favourite track- We Disappear
Kanye West – Yeezus
“Living in New York, the hip hop capital of the world, I do find myself listening to hip hop a lot on the radio – and sometimes I find it more enjoyable than alternative music.
“Right from the moment the scuzzed up synths start blaring in “On Sight” I was instantly hooked. Whether you like Kanye or not he gets your attention and doesn’t give a fuck, which is entertaining and encouraging.
I saw his performance of Black Skinhead on Saturday Night Live which was amazing, he is really pushing the envelope for modern hip hop music while maintaining the fine art of using decent samples.
“Major stand out moments on this album are On Sight, Black Skinhead, and I’m In It.”
Favourite track- On Sight
Savages – Silence Yourself
“I had the pleasure of seeing Savages play in NYC a few months back. As soon as I got into the venue it was awesome – there was loads of smoke and this weird bit crushed droney backing track playing that kinda made the whole room feel like a haunted house. The anticipation was immense then out of nowhere from the smokey darkness the band kicked in. The singer came out like a demonic pixie playing the air tambourine and completely had everyone captivated.
“The album got my attention quickly both vocally and musically. The simple, raw bass-lines are something close to my heart and drives so many of the songs. Jehnny Beth’s voice is the most interesting female voice I’ve heard in a number of years. Even though she sounds a lot like Siouxie Sioux at times, she definitely has her own thing going on too. A real punk poet.”
Favourite track- I am here
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
“Daft Punk are one of my favourite acts. The first song I heard was Get Lucky and I was massively confused. I thought it sounded like something that would be playing at my parents wedding in 1973.
“But like with all the Daft Punk albums, the first listen is always the strangest. And like jumping into a cold swimming pool, once the initial shock wears off, you really start to enjoy it.
“The most exciting thing was to hear that Giorgio Moroder would be featured on the album. That track, titled Giorgio, by Moroder is amazing. It’s cool that he’s talking on it and telling us his story whilst being backed by some nice, pleasant disco music.
“The album is very retro and a complete throwback. But the really important thing is that it’s fucking good and that’s all that really matters with music. And there’s no one around who uses the vocoder better them.
“Love the songs Doin’ it right and The game of love- both as pervy as fuck.”
Favourite track – Doin’ It Right
Forest Swords – Engraving
“This is the first Forest Swords album I’ve heard and my initial thought was – this is fucking weird. But weird in a good way.
“There are these scratchy tape loop sounds that are prominent in their sound that build this really cool atmosphere. Some definite nods to trip-hop acts of the past.
“Ljoss is a track that is interesting, the vocal sample is really cool and unexpected – which is typical of a lot of the songs on this album.
“Many little surprises keep popping up that keep your interest, like in the track Gathering. That tune is mental. Really enjoyed this album, to me it sounds like a bunch of broken sounds put together – in the most composed, amazing way possible.”
Favourite song – Friend, You Will Never Learn
Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
“Fuck Buttons are a band that have had my interest for a time now. Very much like Boards of Canada, they are masters of repetition and getting the most out of very few sounds, something many people try and fail at.
“I was really excited to hear Slow Focus. One of the most important things to me is first impressions, and Brain-freeze is quite a first impression! After listening to it for the first time I repeated it again about 5 times over. The beat felt massive and the noise and chaos swirling around made all the sense in the world to me in that moment.
“Princes Prize spoke loudly too, there’s something about their rich, DIY sounding beat patterns that make their simple ideas pop right out at you. The songs progress in a really organic way, like Stalker. This song completely hypnotized me for ten minutes and ten seconds, and after it finished I had to wash my face. It took a minute to tune back onto the world again.
“From beginning to end it’s a sonically fascinating album that really needs to listened to and not explained.”
Favourite song – Stalker
The Orwells – Other Voices EP
“This is a great EP from a new band that I saw play in NYC a few months ago. They blew me away from the start with their gritty, honest, garageband sound.
“In an over-saturated musical market, trying to focus on a good song can be like trying to appreciate a rain drop in a tropical storm. This band has my full attention.
“The singer is weird and slightly dark (in the best way you could possibly be) and is surrounded by a close, tight knit unit of great players.
“The track Other Voices is a massive standout on this EP. The simplicity and rawness reminds me of everything I love about American guitar bands.
“HEAD is dirty and amazing, and I fucking love the use of the wah pedal on this song. These guys are ones to watch out for I am looking forward to an album.”
Favourite song – Other Voices
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
“I have been a big fan of BOC for some time now. Everything they do completely transports you somewhere else. Their latest release, Tomorrow’s Harvest, is no different. With it’s signature warmth, pitch bent drones, and ethereal strings, Tomorrow’s Harvest follows the thread of a long line of great BOC albums. The thing that draws me to them is that you can hear one of their tunes playing anywhere and you know within in seconds that it’s them.
“From the very start there are many amazing moments in Tomorrow’s Harvest. Gemini opens with a Vangelisesque intro followed by pulsing hypnotic sequences that ease you into what’s to come. The track Collapse really struck me. The warmth of the sounds are so comforting, yet disorientating. The flow of this album is very much the same as their previous efforts, but it works every time, and it’s a beautiful journey from beginning to end.”
Desensitized, the debut album from Black Onassis is released on Minus Man Records on 23 September.
Image by Davey Wilson.