EP REVIEW | Seventeen Years - 2004 (Spirit Goth Records)

ARTIST: Seventeen Years 

RELEASE: 2004

RELEASE DATE: 14th February 2017

RECORD COMPANY: Spirit Goth Records

What do you get when you cross the ethos and contextual background and instrumentation of old school post-punk with a fresh, modern form of dream pop? Well it’s something like 2004 by Kansas based Seventeen Years, an EP that appears not in waves of noise or walls of sounds, but in a slight, dreamy way… With a tinge of punk thrown in for a wild flavour. At times the release can be so subtle that the vocals fade into the music; creating one big pool of sounds, thoughts and noises that form a song. 2004 is by no means a step forward in the genre; nor is it wildly different, it’s just a simple little EP… With a bit of this, and a bit of that. The album was released back on the 14th February 2017 via the ever prolific 'Spirit Goth Records' and you can buy/download it right now from spiritgothrecords.bandcamp.com

2004 opens with ‘Strain’ . It features a clean, crisp FX guitar sound and the churn of a tight bass guitar riff that sounds like it could have come straight out of a 1980’s coldwave/post-punk song. In a similar way, the drums smash away in a double tap snare mentality that accompanies the bass guitar smoothly; creating a tight, well performed and well produced rhythm section. However, of all the songs instrumental and production elements, it is the skilfully drowned out vocals that give the song a radiant, almost slowcore, dark mentality. After a few listens, one can really appreciate ‘Strain’ for what it is; and that is a dark, wallowing piece of contemplation. Where many dream pop artists turn to the bright, sparkling cliffs of blue oceans and shorelines for metaphors and onamattapea to create a warm feeling of nostalgia or hazy coloured contemplation, Seventeen Years turn the opposite direction and carve up something different altogether, while at the same time maintaining that aforementioned air of nostalgia or yearning. ‘Worthless’ begins with the same guitar picking as on ‘Strain’ and dives further into the musical style explored on the opening track. The vocals remain drowned; a major highlight of the song is a passage where the vocal performance and guitar interlock in a solo section where one tries to dampen out the other: brilliant. Although the greatest moment in the song is the fantastic guitar solo/outro in the second half of the song; speaking so many words without singing any of them.

‘VGS’ begins with a programmed beat before introducing guitar and then a few bright soundscape pieces of noise that link back into themes associated with rear-view mirror gazing. It may be the EP’s best song, fit with an obtuse kind of artificial sound in the drum machine that is contrasted with a heartfelt vocal and guitar performance, all the while underpinned by the bright sounds and samples that dance around in the mix. ‘Bury’ turns the mood into a lighter, brighter feeling. Credit to the fantastic riffs explored on the song that really highlight the bands skill and talent. A song that sounds different again is the follower ‘Moonhome’, which seems to see the music shining brighter while the lyrics going the opposite direction. There is further exploration made with the guitar, and a great sense of musical blending and textualizing with the bass and guitar sounds. Toward the second half of the song, the band enter into a dreamy, hazy, jam like section of music that sounds truly marvellous, underpinned by the upper fret pickings of a FX’d guitar. ‘Ascend’ begins with a warm wavering pad of soundscaped pop synth that progresses all the way through the song; eventually accompanied by percussive electronics and some buzzing and whizzing noises that sound like a computer being started up or something like that. ‘Ascend’, in context with the EP, is like some sort of outro or later album interlude; providing beautifully dreamy instrumental sounds.

Funnily enough, 2004 sounds like some sort of concept album when you think about it. It’s concept being the sound and instrumentation of the music; beginning in a dark and hushed way before slowly turning light as the EP goes on. Perhaps Seventeen Years meant to do this, maybe they did not, either way 2004 is a great piece of music that really makes use of the things it has. There isn’t eighty million synths all humming away in a cacophony of sound, there’s no ethereal samples or tricky sequencing; it’s just a band, a few tricks here and there and then some added sounds and noises that add to the whole thing and ties it together nicely. As mentioned before, the performances highlight what the undercurrent of dream pop practice really concerns… That is the belief that music can morph into imagery, and that imagery can be as emotive as the music itself. Seventeen Years accomplish that here, through mixing, performance, production and sounds.

4/5

LINKS:

spiritgothrecords.bandcamp.com

facebook.com/Seventeenyears

seventeenyears.bandcamp.com

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.


EP REVIEW | By Night With Spear - Seeing In The Dark

ARTIST: By Night With Spear

RELEASE: Seeing In The Dark

RELEASE DATE: 13th January 2017

RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned

Just as its cover art, the musical contents of 'Seeing In The Dark' by New York based shoegaze/dream pop band 'By Night With Spear' is vividly beautiful and colorful in a contemplative and distant style. Spread over the course of an album, 'By Night With Spear' explore every corner of dream pop and shoegaze music; generally guided by the beautiful and talented vocal performances and singing that adds another dimension to the sound in context with the genre. In a weird way its almost a light version of blackgaze; where guitars and drums remain steadfast in creating wall of sounds for the vocals to hover over. However, in this case, the guitars are less heavy and the drums never break into a blast beat; but the music remains strong and full frontal, creating a wall of sound of melody and musical colors that deserve both praise and recognition.

‘Starlight’ opens with the surge of light, fluffy, dream pop inspired guitars and the slow rattle and roll of the drumming. The vocals slowly seep into the mix; high and wavering in a pitch a kin to musical warmth and brightness. It displays a beautiful, well-written chorus that’s an album highlight. ‘Starlight’ follows into 'Twenty Nights’ that slows things down slightly and introduces more shoegaze elements into the bands sound with feedback inspired guitar backings and heavier/pounding drums in the back of the mix. The outro section, where the vocals rise even higher, adds more emphasis on the musical blending that occurs through the production. ‘Blue Rider’ is another slow, sensual and emotive piece of music making. Perhaps more so than previous tracks, it showcases By Night With Spear’s ability to create music of pure beauty and adoration. Between the rolling drums that set the scene, to the blue-sky feel of the guitars, the song captures a moment of complete bliss and categorizers the band as one whose music conjures images of beaches, of the cool, colorful sand and water as the sun dips to the horizon; it’s something only truly fantastic dream pop bands can do. Impressive.

‘Moving Projections’ turns the mood post-punk with double tap snare and a heavier atmosphere. The guitars take a step deeper and the whole song turns somewhat darker than the previous tracks. Meanwhile, the vocals remain at their great heights; creating a mesmerizing and interesting counterpoint to the tone of the music and instrumentation of the song. The album highlight, in my opinion, is ‘Martyr’, which builds upon the aforementioned powers and elements of ‘Blue Rider’ to create a visionary piece of dreamy shoegaze music that attends to all the essential things that dream pop music should make you feel: contemplative, wandering and a deep sense of yearning for the past. ‘Given’ combines the elements of alternative dream pop music with the darker touch of ‘Moving Projections’ style post-punk, and rounds it off with a flavor akin to indie pop music. The drums bounce around, while the guitars play in accompaniment to the once-again beautiful vocals. The instrument and vocal performances are outstanding, especially the vocals, as is the production and the overall mixing.

Dream pop is a difficult genre to get right in the modern age of the Internet and connectivity. In it’s humble origins of the 80’s, many bands were praised for their unique musical style and techniques within the genre. With the emergence of the Internet and a worldwide musical grand interest in dream pop music, so many bands try hard to create something unique or interesting to step out from the crowd of mediocrity. By Night With Spear, much like the fantastically reflective guitar tones of Pastel Coast, succeed in this leap from the crowd; creating a kind of dream pop album that utilizes beauty and reminiscence in place of fancy FX and wild production techniques that amount to boredom and self-indulgence. But simultaneously, 'Seeing In The Dark' is far from being over-intellectualized or avant-garde in the contextual elements of its genre, and it could easily be an introduction to dream pop and a more refined shoegaze for a listener who hasn’t been listening to it all the while. It’s an engaging listen, primarily created through the grand avenues of performance, mixing, production and sound.

4/5

LINKS:

bynightwithspear.bandcamp.com

facebook.com/ByNightWithSpear

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.