ARTIST: Ruins! Ruins!
RELEASE DATE: 10th August 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Fluttery Records
The rumbling sound of a deep but somewhat cinematic cello, backed by the rumbling march-beat of a drum and the occasional strum of a guitar opens up the wondrously bizarre carnival of music and sounds created by Russian natives Ruins! Ruins! A band who dwell somewhere in the Siberian forest. To accompany this contextual imagery of forests and the wild where the band reside is their own free form, dirty, heavy and dissonant brand of post-rock. I wish to clarify that when I say post-rock, I mean the furthest thing away from the ambient tinkerings and soundscape-backed light drone music that has come to represent the genre. Rather, Ruins! Ruins! project sludgy, progressive rock style ‘big’ riffs that are contrasted with passages of cello based, string music and playing of the utmost beauty. Together, these elements make their album Mammock a truly engaging deep dive into what can achieved in post-rock music with a bit of grit, distortion and experimentation.
Mammock by Ruin!Ruins!
‘Serene’ opens the album with the cello/drum/guitar sound that I begun the review with, operating as a neat intro to the heaviness and raw-rock sound of the album. ‘Hurricane’ captures the essence of the whole album: large, crunching and dirty, with several shifts in tempo and style to create balance along the way. Around the three minute mark, the music notably slows down to a fantastic chug of guitars and cello interlocked together before diving back into a wide scale of the songs origins. ‘Distress’ turns things even heavy and features some of the greatest textural blending on the whole release, especially towards the end of the song. ‘Grab’ opens with the feedback echo of a guitar and a drum beat that welcomes in a catchy bass line. Just as you think Ruins! Ruins! are going to turn it up again and go full on, crunch-down with their drums and guitars, they instead slow down and turn the song into a tight display of rhythm. ‘Arch’ sways on for over twelve minutes, and what first sounds interesting and appealing slowly turns into a slog through the preverbal mud. There are indeed interesting and perhaps even beautiful moments on the song, but its lengthy and overblown running time becomes exceptionally tiresome, especially with a middle section that is built around already explored territory. A brief dance with the china symbol just before the ten minute mark makes the last section the most enjoyably fascinating over the course of the entire song.
‘Kurta’ proves to be one of the albums highlights: its textural cresecendos are made all the more rewarding when the vast and wide prog breakdowns are backed by more ambient, sound scaped guitars. The drumming (as well as the other instruments) are of a strong and rewarding quality also. Chucking another over eleven minute song onto an already lengthy album is ridiculously game, but thankfully ‘Szorstki’ is a different beast altogether. Opening quietly and with a slow-burn progression into a much louder and more full sound, the song captures the essence of what fantastic progressive rock should be: tight, loose and a step-by-step journey into engaging sounds. ‘Collumns’ is the opposite: over six minutes of throughouly monotous down-strumming ‘hard’ rock. ‘Polynya’, however, is another fantastic track and definitely yet another album highlight. The border line black metal-esque opening receeds into long, slow, and downtrodden guitar scapes that build up again with the assistant of tight and melodic drumming.
'Mammock' is an interesting mixed bag of sounds. Sometimes its bordering on feats of alternative and prog-metal, other times it shows the listener nothing more than beautiful cello and tight yet simplistic drumming. The underlying genre of the whole release, however, is that chuggy-chug-chug-chug prog rock sound… Which becomes tedious as easily as it becomes interesting. The first half of this album is a fascinating exercise in dirty, open ended prog and post-rock musings, but by the time the second half of 'Mammock' rolls around, things start to feel a bit on the tiresome side. I completely have nothing against lengthy songs or lengthy albums, but where fantastically original bands such as WTCHS and My Invisible Friend triumph in their extended adventures through sound, Ruins! Ruins! don’t alter things quite enough to keep themselves in the ball game. Similiarly, they don’t keep it avant-garde or experimental enough to justify their song writing choices. Of course, there are redeeming features throughout the album: almost the entire first half is enjoyable and engaging and select songs thorugh the second half retain this neat and original flavour. Also the performances are of a fantastically strong quality, balancing the enjoyable production with a heavy yet melodic 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 Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
by Primal Music
ARTIST: Pastel Coast
RELEASE: Vague Noire
RELEASE DATE: 9th September 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Collective Noord Sfeer Records
Just only last year I began my stint with the ever-prestigious Primal Music blog, and with that stint begun revelling in the unearthing of many a brilliant band, musician, artist and producer. There is nothing more satisfying than receiving a CD from France, a thank you from the US or a recommendation from Brazil and announcing to your friends a list of reasons why they should listen to them, enjoy them and soak them up. At the end of last year, amongst the revelling and soaking process, I decided to construct a rough ‘Releases of the Year’ list and saw in my rear view mirror a grand appreciation and acclaim for two releases in particular. One was a return from the murky depths of the past by one of the most underrated bands in the history of popular music; US shoegaze/noise veterans 'The Veldt' appeared and drowned out their critics with a mesmerizingly beautiful five track EP that balanced shoegaze, trap music and noise pop with the contextual hymns of their past. The other release could not have been more different: from France I heard the lush, beautiful and unique sounds of 'Pastel Coast', a one man project that combined nostalgic overtures and dreamy tones with the guitar and synth lead production of indie pop. The EP, entitled 'Sense', was a melding of emotive guitar music and the kind of sun-drenched downtrodden attitudes of an evening spent on dirty beaches that made it so breathtakingly beautiful I could not stop talking to it and listening enough. So, when I heard that 'Pastel Coast' was to release a new EP, entitled 'Vague Noire', I turned my ears on again and awaited an opportunity to hear one of the worlds most interesting non-professional artists paint pictures with sounds, words and textures all over again. 'Vague Noire' was released back on the 9th September 2017 and is available to buy/download right now via pastelcoast.bandcamp.com
Vague Noire by Pastel Coast
‘Roses’ opens the EP, a guitar tinkering based track backed by a drum machine style beat. The vocals are deeper, perhaps a shade darker in texture than on 'Sense', but the music retains the playfully pop-infused jangle, interspersed with fantastic production and guitar tricks. Underneath the initial mix of guitars, bass and drums lies a neat soundscape-styled synth track that adds a more dreamy quality to the song. After the three minute mark 'Pastel Coast' showcases his fantastic guitar tricks with an intricate and ridiculously rewarding outro for the listener. ‘La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or’ follows with a similar musical structure: bouncing drums guide the guitars and bass through the outskirts of the song. However on ‘La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or’ the riffs and vocals take a more concentrated stance, sounding deeper and darker than on the EPs opening track. The fantastic guitar-orientated instrumental passages of ‘Roses’ appears even more prominently on ‘La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or’ especially on the second half of the track, making the song an easy EP highlight.
The lighthearted pop of ‘Malo Les Bains’ reaches an almost danceable level of bounce and tempo. The alluring French vocal offers a fantastically layered sketch of driving in the hills of ones hometown or dancing with friends long after the bar has closed: it is with these simple tricks that songs like ‘Malo Les Bains’ connect and resonate with the listener on a level of pure enjoyment and admiration. ‘Araginee’ sounds like it was a left over from 'Sense', its more reverb-centric guitar lead and keyboard backed sound allows it too come off (in a positive way) as like a sort of philosophised dance club track. Still in the backbone of the song (much like the others) is the core elements of indie pop music that make the song appear less experimental and, perhaps, more approachable as such. The title track appears as a cross between the dreamy, pop infused songs that have appeared throughout Vague Noire, and a more post-punk styled sound. While still light hearted, its chorus alters the landscape; carving out a more dark but entrancingly beautiful sound: another EP highlight.
Although a review of 'Vague Noire' is not an opportunity to balance its credibility upon a comparison between itself and 'Sense', it is important to note the transitions and influence that 'Pastel Coast' evokes from one to another. I’ll preface my thoughts on 'Vague Noire' by openly stating that I believe 'Sense' is a better EP, a fact that I thought would be integral to my opinions. Where 'Sense' relied heavily on thematic musical elements of what most would consider dream-pop and shoegaze music, 'Vague Noire' instead sees 'Pastel Coast' attend to a more pop influenced, indie rock type sound… And that is exactly wherein its brilliance lies. You see, its easy to ride off 'Vague Noire' as simply a bunch of indie pop songs that all retain a similar drum beat, but it is within each song that the true genius of 'Pastel Coast' shines. These tracks, gathered together with a unity of similar sounds and tones, are ridiculously well constructed indie pop songs: between the evidently neat guitar playing all the way to the background ambience, each song is a well built and oiled machine. Together, these tracks provide nothing but pure entertainment, joy and acclaim. Another thing: I can’t speak French (in fact I remember I spent all of my high school mandatory French lessons listening to music) so when you listen to an EP where the gentleman singing only does so in French, and it conjures up images, memories and dreams… Then there is something wholly fantastic and intelligent going on. Much like on 'Sense', 'Pastel Coasts' greatest connection with the listener is through the nostalgia-laced visions of parties, beaches and empty dance halls, except this time it is done less contemplatively and more subtle and somewhat initially appealing for some listeners. 'Vague Noire’s' beauty and love stands out against so much damn mediocrity that listening to it was like some kind of cleansing relief… An original and enjoyable piece of art, achieved through stellar production, intricate mixing and beautiful sound.
ARTIST: SPC ECO
RELEASE DATE: 22nd August 2107
RECORD COMPANY: ELaB Records
It seems like only yesterday I was sitting down to give a listen to the latest release by legendary producer Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin aka SPC ECO. The release in question was 'Under My Skin' and it was awarded a 5/5 by yours truly; a feat not so easy to come by. Garcia and Berlin had come together to create something as dark as it was beautiful: ethereal vocal performances were combined with shadow-filled synth passages and lyrics, all topped off neatly with drum programming and a crisp clean production. When I heard that the duo were releasing a follow up full length album (entitled Calm) I thought two things: one, it will great to see what SPC ECO have churned out this time, and two, could they keep together over the length of an album? There was only one way to find out, I guess?
Calm by SPC ECO
'Calm' opens with the MBV shoegaze-influenced fuzz of ‘Out of Sight’: its deep and rumbling walls of static back up Berlin's siren-like calls and humming. Behind the mix, Garcia twists knobs and presses buttons to give the music a focal point, hip-hop like beats guiding the rest of the instrumentation and music along slowly. Although it is a fantastic 90’s-ish track and perhaps even an album highlight, there is something blaringly obvious: this is going to be much denser, louder and wild than 'Under My Skin' (not that that is a bad thing). Somehow Berlin and Garcia follow an album highlight with yet another album highlight: the slower, but still as dense, ‘All the Voices’ utilizes a breathy performance by Berlin, backed up by a borderline industrial soundscape of the instruments behind. All the while as the track plays, brilliant ambiance and drone seeps in through the mix, making things heavier and more beautiful. ‘Rising Up’ stands as another absolutely fantastic track: the guitars again create a wall of technical fuzz and feedback, a drum beat again guides the music, but it's vocals are perhaps the most haunting found on the entire release. Things turn into some sort of wildly dark and exotically evocative dance party: equipped with songs you can dance to and songs you can have a neon-lit knife to at the same time.
‘All I Had’ captures a slower and a somewhat more sensual vocal performance by Berlin; meanwhile Garcia turns things down to a trip hop level, creating a mix of loud, noise filled dream pop-esque music. It's placement on the albums track list is also ace. Perhaps my favourite song on the entire album is the stellar ‘Pearls’ in which the vocals and instruments meet in a beautiful kind of harmonic pairing to create a downtrodden afterthought of dream pop. It’s an emotive mixture of contemplative ponderings and long winded passages of sun covered beaches with the texturally white backing of clouds amongst a blue sky. ‘Who Are You Now?’ is, however, much, much darker… Somewhat evil as well I guess. Its slow trip-hop inspired drum beat is accompanied with a creepy sample of bottles clanging together or something? Ambiance and atmospheric strings also add to the landscape even more thoroughly. ‘Ghosts’ is where things start to taste a little over-done: another slow tempo drum beat with breathy vocals make this song one of the more forgettable on 'Calm'. The more upbeat and soundscape inspired ‘When It Moves’ turns things back around, thankfully, injecting some of the elements that made previous tracks an invigorating , engaging and unique listening experience. ‘Get Lost’ is another album highlight, especially its massive, hi-hat trap inspired chorus, which underpins a sweep of ambiance and sampled noise over another brilliant vocal performance by Rose Berlin. Garcia truly turns up the ambiance on this track, weaving thin and slow instrumental sections with larger and more heavier passages of more colourful sounds.
‘Over’ seems to feature the most heavy percussion on the release: the programming with which the band uses is as thick and heavy as ever before. Behind the beats and vocals lies a bizarrely enjoyable sneaking sound of what could be the introductory music to a British detective series, full of rain, shadows and the occasional dash of neon lights. ‘Hours’ seeps all the atmospheric reverb, noise and ambiance into one melting pot of music; creating a dense and somewhat murky soundscape with which the song plays out. Berlin's voice fits well within the context of this kaleidoscopic tornado of sound, proving her graceful voice is a positive point of originality for SPC ECO.
While some elements of 'Under My Skin' (and perhaps SPC ECO themselves) are evident on 'Calm' (think the atmospheric and somewhat trance-inducing instrumentals, as well as the waveringly beautiful vocals), overall it seems the duo have created something somewhat noisier and denser than ever before. Where 'Under My Skin' relied on the atmosphere of each song (which it did very successfully) 'Calm' instead pulls down any filters that Garcia placed over the music previously; opening a flood gate of wall of sound type feedback, and more intricate and involved instrumentals throughout the album. Because of this, 'Calm' is at times more difficult a listen than 'Under My Skin', and while I champion noise, feedback and wall of sound song writing; I can understand why some listeners just may not connect with the album. Similarly, each tracks basic foundation (with some exceptions) is the same: a slow(ish) programmed drum beat plays over soundscapes while Rose Berlin smoothly dances between her upper register and mid-tone, spoken word style sensual vocal deliveries. Thankfully, I can acknowledge and see where the difference between tracks lies, and furthermore how much skill is required to write such music… I just assume some will not. Garcia and Berlin remain as beautifully beguile as ever: some tracks sound as though they should be on film soundtracks, some tracks sound like they should be played in the most warped and harrowing dance club in the world, others just sound completely and utterly mesmerizing in their beauty. Besides, it all really comes down to the artists and the music: a well seasoned and ridiculously talented producer doing what he does best, accompanied by some of his equally talented and interesting friends… And his daughter, who happens to have the kind of pipes that you can play at a demented carnival or a hypnotic lounge-type dinner party. Together they produce a strong, original and commendable album, achieved through programming, production and sound.
ARTIST: Close Encounter
RELEASE: First Light
RELEASE DATE:12th July 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Look Up Records
Smooth smooth smooth are the guitar tinkerings, strums and jazzy drums at the beginning of Seattle based dream-gaze band 'Close Encounter'. Their debut EP entitled 'First Light' is influenced and inspired by pysch-rock just as much as it is influenced and inspired by shoegaze, dream-pop and alt-rock. Across the EP, the band utilize the much more layed back and ‘soft-rock’ side of dream-pop and smooth trip-hop-esque soundscapes, equating to a relaxing and pleasant listening experience that is to often forfeited by other artists under the belief it tampers with ‘high artistry’. The band are made up of Bill Darksoft, Bobby Sydney, Cameron Lambert & Matt Conlen. 'First Light' is available to buy/download right now on various formats from closeencounterband.bandcamp.com
First Light by Close Encounter
'First Light' begins with ‘Lumina’, soft jazz-like drumming plays over the top of soothing guitar tinkering and the backing strum of another reverbed guitar. The vocals, when introduced, are as laidback as the music; creating a communal sense of freedom and loose-ness in the music. Altogether, it conjures into a beautiful and whimsically intelligent soft rock, dreamy ballad-ish tune… Only to be eclipsed by the track that follows it. That track is ‘Fade Away’ which instrumentally presents itself much more upbeat, and whose guitar passages are more weaving and involved than on ‘Lumina’. Lyrically, things seem as day-dreamy and soothing as ever, with a darker undertone of questioning the concept of wandering through things. It is too often easy for dream pop tracks to appear nostalgic and contemplative in their presentation of beauty and warmth, but 'Close Encounter' manages to capture that mood with a more interesting and engaging form of song writing. ‘See The Sun’ turns down the reverb and instead goes for a more alt-rock feel: while the drums pad away in the background, forming the structure of the song, a keyboard plays a fantastically catchy line of music before the band dive into a jangle pop inflused type of dream pop. Although there are exceptions, the lyrics on ‘See The Sun’ are somewhat weaker and sound more throw-away compared to on previous tracks. The second half of the track turns into more pysch-rock territory, maintaing the aforementioned upbeat feel.
Things stay as mellow ever on ‘Reappear’, an EP highlight complete with soaring vocals and melodic drumming. The song is also backed with what sounds like the ooze and breeze of a synthesizer, adding a whole other dimension to the track. If the previous tracks on First Light could be played at the beach while the sun set, ‘Reappear’ would be an applicable track to play on your way back from the beach; the cars roof recedes, the sun sets, hair flows; a kind of nostalgia-laced relief blows in the wind. ‘Tuff Time’ slows down things to a speed akin to the opener ‘Lumina’, drifting on the back of a neat bouncing cymbal performance by the drums and the distant strumminngs of the guitars. A small but extremely pleasurable solo sneaks its way into the song somehow as well. One of the only songs that sounds like a true album filler, or perhaps a B-Side kind of track, is the song ‘Halo’. While attempting to touch upon more slowed down psych elements explored previously on the EP, the band become background music in the most bland way, rendering the track less impressive than some of the other engaging yet relaxed gems on the EP. ‘Channels’ turns things more to an indie rock spectrum, and while crafting a nice and rhythmic tune, it sort of recedes into the background of the EP as a whole.
'First Light' has many beautiful and enjoyable qualities about it. And much in the same way as 'Pastel Coasts' music does, the thematic elements of deep and care-free yearning seem to loom around the bands music (in a good way.) There is an easy way to put it: this is beautiful music… And while the EPs second side becomes lacklustre at times in comparison to the first, it nevertheless shows a band that are well versed in crafting a tune, painting a picture and performing admirably together. These things are achieved swiftly through production, performance and sound.
ARTIST: Crash City Saints
RELEASE: Are You Free?
RELEASE DATE: 11th August 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Saint Marie Records
From the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan (apparently it’s across from Milwaukee, over Lake Michigan) comes 'Crash City Saints' and the interestingly bold and grand concept album they have created, entitled 'Are You Free?'. Released via the ever interesting 'Saint Marie Records' (whose back catalogue includes the impressive SPC ECO, Bloody Knives and The History of Colour TV), 'Are You Free?' tells the story of a boys attempts to mature and bloom in a small town in the 90’s when shoegaze was dense and on rotation in the mainstream and underground of the American music scene. 'Crash City Saints' have obviously utilized said music from the time and adopted it into a mix of shoegaze and alt-rock to tell a story over the course of twelve tracks that hails the significance of influence while also celebrating the freedom of originality in the context of modern music. 'Are You Free?' was released back on the 11th August 2017 and is available right now to buy/download on various formats via saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com
Are You Free? by Crash City Saints
The album opens with ‘Ice Cream’ a nice little jolt of pop-based alternative rock that highlights the hushed MBV style vocalisations and strumming acoustic guitar. There are several fantastic moments, including the churning-downtrodden shoegaze riffs that are touched upon at around the one minute thirty mark, as well as a tasteful string instrument in the background of the music. ‘Spring Lines’ owes more to a soft kind of neo-grunge rather than shoegaze, but nevertheless showcases the instrumentation and weave in-out aesthetic of the guitars. As it is on much of the album, the drumming is tight and impressive; highlighted sufficiently and smoothly in the mix. ‘Weirdos Need Love To’ fits in well as a kind of interlude between the narrative structure of the main songs whilst 'Use Once Then Dispose’ is an absolute album highlight; the post-punk double tap snare and 90’s inspired guitars meld fanatically together to create a rock-inspired atmosphere; the vocals hum away, touching on lyrically much darker themes than have been explored previously on the album. That’s not to say they are not well written, actually it’s quite the opposite. ‘Spirit Photography’ is a smooth, aesthetically enjoyable take on what sounds like 90’s era Brit-pop, while also (eventually) smothering the track in Shoegaze based guitar freak-outs. A very enjoyable experimental track, ‘Spirit Photography’ sheds the skin of the previous songs pop elements; making way for emotive and warped guitar based-psych passages of song writing. I assume ‘Act 2’ is named as such because it brings forth another stage of story and narrative; either way, as a song it feels one of little narrative importance (lyrics are drowned out in a vocal effects) while the whole song takes an almost lo-fi quality (not complaining).
‘Dawn of A Bright New Nothing’ introduces a fantastic Barrett-esque piano line into the mix, making the song one of the most purely enjoyable on the album. Yes, that’s right, this reviewer has significantly enjoyed a song because it sounds, is mixed and feels nice and relaxed. ‘Annabella’ returns to a much more alternative rock sound, the chord progression of the bass and guitar highlighting a progressive rock influence that played an integral role in the development of shoegaze music back in the 90’s. Its outro, featuring a guitar solo over the vocal chant/hum ‘you don’t know my name’ is particularly satisfying. Another interlude follows before one of the longest tracks of the album ‘The Hour Of The Wolf’ opens with a sequencer based EDM style sound. Although this aforementioned beat grows tiring after a while, this doesn’t cease the track from growing into a heavy, loud and colourful collection of sounds and noise, backed by the thrashing of the drums. The outro guitar picking is especially amazing and very much in-context of the seven minute long song. The following dream-pop based ‘Harbour Lights’ remains a sonic (but almost as equally lengthy) contrast to the previous wild melding’s of ‘The Hour Of The Wolf’. In fact, ‘Harbour Lights’ is an album highlight: the guitar tones and overall atmosphere of the song congregate into a dream pop/shoegaze breath of fresh air after the previous songs noise and drenched soundscapes.
Releasing a concept album of any type is a big and daring leap. Will people be able to detail the story (if the concept is narrative)? Will the story get in the way of the music? What about the other way around? 'Crash City Saints' have previously stated there is a narrative kind of concept behind the album, and at times while listening to 'Are You Free?' I was lost as to what (if anything) was actually going on, but then I realized that its concept lies beyond the realm of just a narrative. Over the course of the album the band swiftly (and at times intellectually subtly) incorporate and throw influence and nods to the American music underground of the nineties. There's grunge, dreampop, alt-rock, dance and electronica, shoegaze and many more… This album is a musical exploration in concept rather than a boring ‘he does this, then she does that’ kind of structure that tends to drag down and drown many ‘concept’ albums. The song writing is strong, although at times relies too heavily on formulas used on previous songs, even if it is a kind of throwback. The mixing and production (done so by Elliott Frazier of Ringo Deathstarr) is of course a brilliant, but also (if you listen to a lot of it) a well-rounded and respectful throwback to the music of the 90’s. Listen for an interesting story (accompianed and helped along by interesting lyrics), great instrumentation and playing, and a reminder of the brilliant and nostalgic music of a few decades ago, achieved through production, mixing and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
RELEASE: Distant Sea
RELEASE DATE: 28th July 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Fuzz Club
There are only so many things a chorus pedal can do. Those eleven meagre words could swiftly and perhaps eponymously give title to any article that a writer, a critic or blogger wishes to write about Mac Demarco. He’s the smelly, dirty looking hipster who popularized a kind of jangle pop that initially appears nostalgic and light-laced but eventually secedes into a kind of alcoholic- nicotine based adventure through adolescence that one can enjoy on a leisurely afternoon at the beach, or when they are traversing their inner past-histrionics. Either way, Demarco has used the chorus pedal to do two things (perhaps unintentionally), one is a kind of career suicide; he’s tied himself and crossed his own tracks so much so that he has transcended his own status into a type of figure that could be identified as post-celebrity (it was once trendy to listen to the guy, to wear his clothes and to smoke vile amounts of cigarettes, but since the polo-wearing normies of the world have discovered Mac, he just aint as cool). The second (and more important) is that Mac has put the preverbal knife through the gullet of any aspiring musician who wishes to touch on a similar style of music as his own. How many times do we hear music that we identify as ‘fake Mac Demarco’? A lot. It seems everybody who owned a shitty guitar and had a knack for overalls and dirty looking shoes has become a kind of Demarco-wannabe of sorts. This makes it hard for people like Saccades, who (funnily enough) is actually a hell of a lot more interesting than Mac. Saccades is proof that this genre slating, this assumption and veracious practician of overlooking should all be skipped over, and that nothing but the music should be analysed. Saccades 'Distant Sea' is testament to all of this, and is further proof that Fuzz Club Records know what they are doing. The album was released on the 28th July 2017 and is available to buy/download right now on various formats via fuzz club.com and saccadesmusic.bandcamp.com respectively.
Saccades by Saccades
Distant Sea opens with the title track; its warmly strummed guitar pop poses a beautiful contrast to the lo-fi type production quality of the album. This is where one first hears the quality of the song writing; its fantastic mixture of the nostalgic-dream baked feelings of summer and the breezy relaxation of the heat of the beach and days gone by. ‘Bleeding Colours’ continues on this path, but alters slightly to offer another take on the aforementioned sound again. This time, tempo is up and the guitars eager and dizzing strums give it a neat kind of post-punk feel. The tight, drum-lead feel of ‘Bleeding Colours’ is extenuated on ‘Elusive Dream’, sounding like it could have been a Coldwave-style track with a thicker bass tone and darker production qualities. All the while, the vocals remain slightly (in a well crafted way) drowned out in the mix of the music. ‘Crying Land’ echoes the orange-sun aesthetic of other lo-fi and experimental acts; reverb is heavy and things seem somewhat darker and more confined in a way. The song still retains the same feel and atmosphere as previous tracks however, making it a stray from the path that doesn’t lose track of itself completely.
‘In and Out’ is one of the closest songs Saccades gets to minimalism; its brilliant piano based rhythmic set up keeps things tight and coordinated through the entire song. Synths waver and fluctuate in the background… Everything seems like a trip down a dizzingly hallucinogenic river. ‘Know My Name’ stands as an album highlight; the song writing is of a neat kind of radio-friendly pop music, touched on the other side by the experimental aesthetic of lo-fi music. The lyrics are deep but playful; interesting while also being ingrained within the music as one whole piece of the puzzle. ‘Running Wild’ also sticks out as a memorable track, appearing more upbeat than the previous track. Saccades displays his knack for the act of layering and melody and enjoyably jangling styles on ‘Red’, which features a simple but impressive guitar line. Another album highlight is the danceable ‘Cigales’; collecting up the tricks that Saccades has explored formerly on ‘Distant Sea’ before pushing forward something new and impressive into the mix. ‘High Drift’ pushes for the production based-skill of atmosphere creation to help carve out a moody and beautifully simple track that seems much more downtrodden than their other releases.
You should know two things: (just to clarify) I don’t hate Mac Demarco; in fact, I feel quite the opposite about him. Also, Saccades 'Distant Sea' is one of the greatest examples of an artist wading through the depths of lo-fi music I’ve heard in a while. Between the well written and catchy songs lies a dedication to originality that can so obviously be overlooked by listeners. There is a genuine sense of concentrated and well-crafted song writing at play on Distant Sea, and this is helped further along by the tape-recording and mixing quality of the release. It is a lengthy album, featuring twelve songs… But unlike many artists in similar genres, the songs themselves maintain a level of originality between them that makes everything seem that bit more refreshing and alternative from the track before it. There is a level of nostalgia that comes with it all as well; the kind of sun-sets and cold sand that I could write an essay about… But I’ll refrain from that; I just thought it should be noted. Listen for an album projecting beauty against its desire to, and for an album a bit more interesting than those have forged namesakes on its basic reciepe; achieved through production, song writing and sound.
ARTIST: Artificial Waves
RELEASE: Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic.
RELEASE DATE: 18th May 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Fluttery Records
If you like everything icy, chilled, nice, polished and reflective in its purity, look no further than the post-rock/ambient textures of Artificial Waves. Their latest album, tongue-in-cheekily entitled 'Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic.', captures the mood and atmosphere of a period in the late nineties when post-rock seemed less interested in pushing the outer boundaries of contemporary music but more focused on dwelling upon a kind of conceptual structure acute to post-shoegaze; longer songs with downtrodden elements but larger and louder sections to bounce back to. But while 'Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic.' is definitely clean and polished, these facts only help in its intentions and presentations. For every guitar-based riff-centred track there appears the subtle sounds of violins and keyboards, synths and ambient soundscapes. It’s true; it is difficult to find a song on this album that doesn’t have layered sound behind it; whether this be another instrument or just the tone and FX on the guitar. An interesting and engaging listen for fans of post-rock, and those seeking something a little more sonically interesting than your generic instrumental rock release. The album was officially released back on the 18th May 2017 via Fluttery Records and is available to buy/download right now on various formats from artificial-waves.bandcamp.com
Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic. by Artificial Waves
‘From Blur to Sharp’ opens the album as a kind of intro; big, loud drums play over the top of ambience and a small keyboard sound; eventually the entire band appear and the song unfolds in a heavy, riff-orientated way. Was it a clever idea to include this song? Well, I’ll let you be the judge, but there seems to be something of a lesser-than quality on this opening track in comparison to other tracks. I found myself wondering whether the rest of the album was going to be the same atmospheric guitar-orientated ‘rock’ sound. And although it’s a simple intro song, it does little to capture the true essence of the album when one has listened to the other tracks. The almost seven minute ‘Blended Spirits’ follows with what borders on an alt-metal sound; chugging guitars, breakdowns and loud guitar backed music. As the song goes on it becomes more and more engaging, with the high point been around the middle section where a downtrodden guitar plays a shoegaze-like riff, accompanied by a beautiful melody and the thick bass/drum sound. One of the best tracks on the album ‘Living in A Recycled Space’ plays with dynamics and a more math inspired sound. The inclusion of samples and electronics alongside the heavy drums/bass/guitar passages on the song do wonders for the atmospheric/conceptual quality of the song. A programmed drum beat and piano carries the song beautifully also.
‘Rising Soul’, which served as a single for the album, provides a beautiful swathes of melodic post-rock; the entire band come together to produce a less dynamically alternative song but a much more linear sounding piece of ambience. Similarly, ‘Hush and Embrace’ is as equally as impressive, but much quieter. The song relies more on the quiet ambient passages and guitar laced soundscapes than any large pounding drums could muster. ‘Bored Shadows’ seems to be a mixture of the previous two tracks with its gentle start but seemingly heavy second half. The inclusion of what sounds to be either sampled or programmed drums also make things seem even more wavy and architecturally post-rock. The subtle influence of shoegaze also continually sneaks in on all three tracks to a point of interest and engagement. The airy and most atmospheric song on the second half of the album is the brilliant ‘Inspiring Insomnia’ which at the two minute mark features a chugging breakdown with subtle yet stylistically intricate keyboard sounds. A special acknowledgement goes to the drumming on this track; involved enough to be noticed but not arrogantly over the top as to alter the limelight from the other instruments. In the second half of the song, things return to the alt-metal style explored on the start of the track. A small interlude, entitled ‘Inception’, leads the way into ‘Feeling the Endless Flow’ which is the albums lengthiest song. In terms of other tracks on the album, it lacks their magic, charm and continuity; it’s perhaps the most linear in terms of genre and its one of the loudest songs on the release. That’s not too say it doesn’t have it’s strengths; the guitar playing is strong and impressive, as is the unified sound between the players and their instruments.
As far as instrumental albums (of any genre) go, there is one real question that impinges on the critical reaction and reception, as well as interest shown by audience, of the release. This question is whether, without vocals or lyrics, the band or artist can keep it interesting enough to hold attention for the whole release. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: think of those classic albums released throughout the 60’s and 70’s that are three tracks long (all of which go for 25 minutes) featuring lengthy guitar wanking and keyboard solos on and on. Or perhaps music generally classified as sound art, which generally may go on for hours without anything resembling a major chord progression. I am a fan of both these exceptions, but with these exceptions application to the question at hand, both classic albums and sound art/experimental pieces have one thing on their side: contextualisation. 'Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic.' has the task of maintaining interest on its own; without information or contextualisation to back it up in its decisions. This boils down to the question; does the album keep interest up for its entire duration; the short answer is not particularly, but the full answer is different altogether. The album, for the most part, remains interesting purely through its song writing; the softer and more ambient tracks stand out in this sense. As for the production and mixing; it is stellar… crisp, clean and sparkling in its recording and presentation. In regards to the aforementioned question; there are guitar-centric passages of songs that become over long and tiresome at times. The first half of the album more so than the second half features too many over long passages of ‘basic’ alt-rock. Although these sections of music are minor, and overall there is something wholly satisfying about the album; a kind of conceptual element that ties it all together, mainly through production, song writing and sound.
RELEASE: Impact Bliss
RELEASE DATE: 28th April 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Prairie State Records
'Impact Bliss' is a lengthy album by Wisconsin based shoegaze outfit Township; it’s an original and downtrodden piece of shoegaze with one defining feature to its arsenal: it’s deliciously refreshing. But how is it refreshing? It’s refreshing because it fully showcases the beauty and power of heavy and thick, drowned out shoegaze without cranking any reverb pedals up to 1 million. The songs all dance around quietly, touched upon perhaps most obviously by genres like slowcore and the darker side of alternative rock. In fact, on some of the songs, Township are more of a slowcore band than they are shoegaze or anything else. The songs are haunting, dark sketches of truly emotive music; structurally thin but ridiculously rich at the same time. Altogether, it is the purity and directness of the song writing that makes the band and their stylistic choices stand out so strongly against a crowd of blindfolded kids who think the greatest way to go about things is to possum stomp a reverb pedal and hide behind a Spector-style wall of sound. The album was released back on the 28th April 2017 through Chicago based independent record label Prairie State Records and it is available to buy/download right now on various formats via prairiestaterecords.bandcamp.com
Impact Bliss by Township
‘Turquoise Kiss’ opens the release, heavy and downtrodden with the subtle squeal of a very well written guitar riff. Following from this is the albums most signature element; slow and quiet dynamics; presenting an eerie layer of vocals. The songs chorus sounds positively alternative rock based, punctuated by a return to the opening guitar riff and the slower turn of the bands sound. ‘Yes & Yes’ opens with the same slowcore-elements briefly touched upon on ‘Turquoise Kiss’. This time however, most of the song centres around slow, plucking guitar rhythms and a meditatively dark vocal performance; perhaps summarizing the atmosphere that feels laced around the sound of the song. For most of its duration, the song remains slow and quiet; restraining itself against the desire to launch fully into a drowned out-feedback landscape. For this reason, there is a great sense of patience-centred admiration for ‘Yes & Yes’ and for Township themselves, for withholding and resisting the easy, simple and generic song writing strategies so many other bands love to love. ‘Be If Me’ stands out less than the former tracks, but its much more post-rock orientated sound highlights some elements of the bands song writing that remained unexplored on the opening tracks. The heavier and rock-ier chorus drowns out some of the emotional rawness of the previous tracks also. This is not to say it doesn’t deserve a place on the record as at least an interesting listen.
‘Catch a Wish’ offers one of the most stripped back portraits of the band on the entire release; most of the track centres around the hushed, claustrophobic vocals and the slow, noisy rumble of a background guitar. This combination of the tense and close, and the wild and far away proves to be beautifully poignant in terms of the impact of the song, while also distancing and adding conceptual context to the opposing heavy-guitar driven elements at the start of the release. ‘Impact’ is another slow and wavy piece of guitar based slowcore music, although the introduction of what sounds like a string section in the songs backing and small percussive xylophone opens a beautiful passage to the dreampop style riff that follows. Contemplative and somewhat meditative in its glowing, ‘Impact’ marks a full circle of sorts for the world of Impact Bliss; its full circle of skin shedding, and then re-applying, tastes all the more sweet as the brilliant song writing aesthetics do what they do (and do so neatly) on ‘Impact’. The weightier, weaving sound of ‘The Tunnel At The End of The Light’ follows; showcasing a tad more epic length than the other tracks on the album… Dabbling over the seven minute mark with smashing and pounding drums. Things turn somewhat prog-rock as the song twists and turns; built most predominantly around the bash of the cymbals of rolling of the drums. Things culminate into a shoegaze-heavy passage following the chorus; guitars an vocals bounce off into a kind of softness between the sounds.
'Impact Bliss' may not be one distinctive kind of music (it’s not a shoegaze album, just how its not a dream pop album, just as much as its not slowcore album), but this may be one of its most defining features. In a similar way, tracks and songs are not completely forgein from one another; a weaving conceptual form ties the songs together quite nicely across the board. It is hard to throw direct criticisms at Impact Bliss, why is that? You ask? Because it is so tightly and successfully wound and bound together from song to song that it does not leave much room for criticism. Almost every track is an interesting and engaging listening experience; supported by solid, thoughtful and refreshing song writing. The only fault one could place upon the entire release is the tone and presentation of the vocals, which sometimes sound borderline whingy across the album. But for most that won’t be a thought at all, rather, they’ll be concentrating on a thorough and strong album by a band whose distinctive charm is not one constructed of lazy clichés, but of effort, patience and relief; proposed, presented and played out through production, mixing and sound.
RECORD COMPANY: Grimoire Records
From Baltimore in the USA comes the deep humming roar of Alter, whose core sound consists of the delicate layering of everything cold and aesthetically pleasing: alt-rock, post-rock, ambient music, shoegaze and even some sort of wild and loud dream pop thrown in there for good measure. Pendulum consists of six dense and spacious tracks laced with reverberating echo and drowned out vocals; offering the sound of envelopment to listeners in the form of some kind of snow drenched village off in the middle of nowhere. For some it will be a sluggish slog through the at times thick and murky waters of alternatively loud guitar music that Alter push forth from their instruments; for others the flood of noise and the hushed echoes of the vocals will provide some kind of beauty through the snowstorm of sound; for your sakes I hope it’s the latter. 'Pendulum' was released via the Baltimore based independent record label 'Grimoire Records' back on the 28th April 2017 and it is available to buy/download right now from grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com
Pendulum by Alter
'Pendulum' opens with ‘False Mirror’ a brilliantly heavy track with subtle hints of post-punk in there for good measure. The beginning of the song makes one immediately think of the quiet, slight post-rock music that they’re about to hear; that is until the churning, loud guitars and cymbal heavy drums arrive into the mix. From there the most intriguing element of the song comes in; the vocals… sporting the aforementioned touch of post-punk. The vocals remain deeply layered under the walls of noise, but unlike the much rehashed shoegaze production technique that many of us are already familiar with, Alter’s vocals sit in a higher register; offering up an almost contrast to the music and the sound on the song. ‘False Mirror’ pans out into a cymbal lead breakdown before turning full circle back within itself. ‘Momentary’ offers up a similar slow beat that concluded ‘False Mirror’ except with a more obvious touch of post-rock evident in both the song writing and the mixing. The dynamics alter awkwardly throughout ‘Momentary’, especially the galloping drums on the second half of the track, but it seems to be the most 'by the book' that the band play it; although it still holds the same beauty as the other tracks around it.
Following on, the band turn in one of the EP’s best and most moving songs; its title track. The slow, drum and guitar combination roll slowly in the background of a fantastically harmonious vocal performances; even when the song moves back into borderline noise-gaze anthemic guitar, the catchy and dark alt-rock stlye chord progression stays along; forming the song into a complete package of heavy and emotive beauty. Special love and interest should be given to the songs second half, after the slight silent break, where the bands and instrumentation becomes even more extensive than before. ‘Inner Eclipse’, while at the start sounding like the heaviest the band will go, turns out actually to be a brilliantly weird, almost math rock based charge of cymbals and thick reverbed guitars. Bouncing back and forth between walls of sound lead by the bass and guitar, and the more groove orientated riffs that lead into the songs heavier sections, the vocals hold everything together again… Except this time they are much clearer. All these elements mix together to create a fantastic blend of post-rock/shoegaze amplification.
‘The Storm’ is also a definite EP highlight; its downtrodden and icy sound connects the sounds and styles of the title track with the previous and more formless ‘Inner Eclipse’ to create a piece more melodic and drawn out. Of all the heavy, weighty tracks on the EP, ‘Lost Instinct’ offers up the substantial size of feedback laden reverb and soundscapes for the listener to hear. It begins with borderline droning guitars and drums, backed up by the soundscaped noises of guitar feedback and, eventually, the wavering and floating vocals that have played such a pivotal role on other tracks throughout the EP. The wild, open feedback ridden landscapes of Pendulum make it difficult to say whether everybody would be a fan. But for those who appreciate the kind of melodic heaviness that can only really fit comfortably with post-rock and ambient texturings; then the EP is for you. Alter shine greatly when they display their strengths wisely; those being their attitude toward filling up the entire canvas with noise, the dynamics of sound in context with the instrumentation, the smart mixing and production, and perhaps most importantly; the vocals. Thankfully for almost the entire EP, the band do in fact display their strengths wisely offering a sonic piece of noise meditation, created through production, performance and sound.
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 Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog I Probably Hate Your Band.
RELEASE DATE: 26th May 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Fuzz Club Records
Post-punk combines with coldwave, darkwave, a bit of ethereal wave and perhaps, arguably, most importantly; experimental music on the self-titled debut release by Swedish project NONN (the solo moniker of The Orange Revival's Christian Eldefors). Drum machines and programmed beats guide the way through reams of both light and darkness; to create something akin to classic 80’s style post-punk, but with a little something extra. Experimental music has always been a next-door neighbour of the music commonly associated with punk music, but NONN have decided to push it further, applying it deeply to the music as well as the production and mixing. 'Nonn' gets it's full release on the 26th May 2016 via the ever reliable purveyors of sonic discourse Fuzz Club Records and it is available to pre-order right now from www.fuzzclub.com
The album opens with the brilliant ‘Walls’ which features one of the greatest elements of the album; the attentiveness and experimentation with the instrument of voice. The song opens with heavy, darkly ambient program beats and noises that form into a airy and wide ranging soundscape backing for the song. The reminisce of a bass guitar churns away in the background before the fantastically obscure vocals ooze into the song, sounding like the vocalist is singing with echo and reverbed drenched effects underwater. There is a fantastic synthetic feel to the instrumentation and the kind of murmuringly weird musical backing that compliments and adds another dimension to the album as you listen more closely each time. ‘Lost’ begins with a similar kind of programmed frequency (which remains in the background of the song for the whole time) that is then given a backseat to the drum machine-laden post punk beat of double-snare tapping. The vocals this time are more recognizable and the song itself sounds like a kind of darkwave tune; re-fitted into a post-punk context by the coldwave like guitar that enters the song just after the intro.
‘Stay’ omits a similar feeling and stylistically does not really leap from where ‘Lost’ left off, although it's significantly darker. The bass lines, thick and consuming, guide the robotic-vocals along to the beat of another post-punk drum beat that seems to be taken straight from the eighties. ‘Gone’ is a brilliant track that slows things down, returning to the programmed beats, wizzes and noises of the first few songs. The drum beat borders on trip hop while the whole structural elements of the song sound like the echoing sound of an 80’s synthesizer guiding a character a film along a dark highway. ‘Cold’ takes this even further, offering layers and layers of moody but somewhat danceable synth FX and the churning slow beat of programmed rums in the background. Up next, ‘Need’ injects more of the airy soundscapes of the albums earlier tracks, while maintaining a similar style drum track. The synth within the track steps in for what would have been the guitar; creating a wavering effect that truly pushes the tempo and rhythm of the song strongly. ‘Hills’ is a very similar track, but alters things with the inclusion of small passages of what could be samples held within the music; mostly in the form of background whizz and churn and the synthetic sounding hi-hat of the drums. The vocals feature more visibly within ‘Hills’ as well; differing from other tracks on the album. ‘Time’ borders on a time of warped disco; altering between the dance-induced rhythm of the drums and the even further warped vocals on the track. The song truly shines just after the half way mark; highlighting the engaging production properties of NONN’s music. ‘Fear’ is by far one of the most experimental tracks on the album; it acts as one big long crescendo, backed by an alternating tempo and a wild ringing in the background. The vocals, hushed and wild, fit well with the context; harkening back to the hey days of acid house and other forms of electronica music that relied heavily on the FX of the voice. ‘Wait’ concludes as a fuzzingly loud outro of sorts; a ringing synthesizer hums in the background of some keys being played slightly and softly.
NONN as an album is at times an uphill wander; several tracks sound similar to the one before and the general song structure of several tracks sound thrown together or still in draft form. Still, I believe there to be an interesting focal point to it all; washed somewhere deep within the influence and the context of the music’s background. Listening to the whole album is like a conceptual walkthrough of one lengthy devoted song, where the tempo alters and then resurfaces back within itself the music stays honest enough to keep the listener interested. The production is clear and does the instrumental and lyrical elements of the album many favours. Its an interesting listen, achieved through performance and design, but perhaps most obviously through sound.