ARTIST: SPC ECO
RELEASE: Under My Skin
RELEASE DATE: 10th February 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
From the mind of CURVE genius Dean Garcia comes the ridiculously good, cold air beauty of SPC ECO; a duo consisting of Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin, who are set to release the mesmerizing, slow yearning five track EP 'Under My Skin'. It’s honestly an EP I wasn’t exactly bending over backwards to hear as I wasn’t a huge fan of Garcia’s previous collaboration S T F U. But I revoke such reservations to conclude that 'Under My Skin' is in fact a 5/5 EP. It’s choir/orchestral like moods combined with the slow daze of trip hop and a touch of dark wave, helped along by the trance inducing-beauty of Berlin’s vocals make it a slow moving, heavy classic; showcasing the genius of Garcia’s as a producer and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist.
Under My Skin EP by SPC ECO
'Under My Skin' opens with the moving title track that establishes the sound of the project. Built around a slow dream pop inspired keyboard line and the utterly brilliant vocals of Berlin, the song moves into a sweeping orchestral key and remains heavy and drowned for the tracks entirety. The lyrics aren’t anything substantial, but coupled with the music, they make fantastic and meditative tones for the listener. ‘Meteor’ is the duos greatest streak at trip hop; the song builds around a similar group of sounds as the opener, albeit slightly more upbeat, though this time said sounds are reinforced by the slow hits of a drum machine, programmed slowly and swinging in time with the music and the soundscapes within the song. ‘Meteor’ sounds less cinematic than the opener, switching out the orchestra swell for a more synthetic sound; which does wonders for the song.
This beat/darkwave style of synthetic/programmed sound continues on 'Creep In The Shadows' which is perhaps the least significant track on the EP. That’s not to say, however, it doesn’t have its positives; the synthetic notion of the music is enhanced to include a neat reverbed bottle rattling sound in the background of the drum pattern that sits comfortably behind a confusingly auto-tuned/vocal FX enhanced Rose Berlin. And that’s exactly why I feel this track to be less significant than the others; because it is perhaps a little too comfortable. Thankfully Garcia and Berlin turn things in a different direction with the deep electronic track ‘Let It Be Always’; a song that revisits the projects earlier tinkering’s with dream pop but abstracts it using neat and intelligent experimental production techniques.
‘Found’ is the most meditative, dreamy and soothing song upon 'Under My Skin'. It’s truly beautiful stuff; slow and spacey, echoed and hovering vocals hang over the mix. The instrumentation and production turns minimalist while the lyrics suggest of gentle contemplation, of discussion and speech between Berlin and somebody or something that has lost its way. It’s a song about light that doesn’t actually hold much light within itself; ‘When you get lost and found/ And when you get lost for a noun/ Like I lead you there/I will lead you there’ sings Berlin, as she offers a kind of shimmering light to counteract the darkwave undertones of 'Under My Skin'. It’s intro and outro are as slight as each other, and when Berlin's vocals sway away, it’s as if the listeners been gently touched by the singers voice. A truly fantastic song.
Apparently 'SPC ECO' have had the title track featured on MTV’s popular show Teen Wolf, a show that I don’t watch. The main thing that I can deduce, however, from that decision is that for the most part the producers must have very good taste. So good of a taste in fact that I applaud them for featuring it on their show and hope that from doing so, more viewers and listeners out there go out searching for 'SPC ECO'. They definitely deserve it. For this EP deserves recognition; whether it’s for the stellar and professional production, the sweeping instrumentation, the stellar arrangements and instrumentation or if it’s for the breathtaking talent and stature of Rose Berlin’s vocal deliveries. After a few listens of the EP I can say that the father/daughter combination of music and vocals/instruments and lyrics is a 5/5 collaboration that highlights everything creative and interesting about dream pop, trip hop and a genre I generally don’t listen to much of - darkwave! This collaboration puts their strengths forward and creates an engaging and musing piece of music, achieved through top notch production, performance 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.
by Primal Music
RELEASE: You Are Here Now
RELEASE DATE: 21st January 2017
'You Are Here Now' is the debut album from Pennsylvania based atmospheric post-rock outfit 'Heron'. It’s an album that defies the genre in such a way that to describe it to you, the reader, would never do it justice. In fact, I feel that 'You Are Here Now' is one of the best pieces of post-rock music I’ve heard. Perhaps rivalled only by pro bands from Iceland or the fantastically minimalist hush of 'Star of Heaven' and their mini album/EP 'Vinter'. 'You Are Here Now' stands tall through mostly the intense and wild song writing, but has its advantages with the professional mixing and mastering, done so by pros from the Seattle music scene. This, coupled with the smooth and hypnotic performances, make 'You Are Here Now' one of the most refreshing and beautiful post-rock instrumental releases going around.
You Are Here Now by Heron
'You Are Here Now' opens with ‘Shores’, a sensational slow rolling track that may be the best on the entire album. Its simplicity and nostalgic feel give it a fantastic and dreamy quality that adds true emotion to the music. It’s not just a clever note or a chord progression that makes you go ‘aw’; it’s a truly emotive piece of music that begins to build around the three minute mark to encompass a more ‘fuller’ feel. After a few more passages of skilled guitar playing and a return to the original intro passage of music, the band build the song into a transcendent piece of music. Utterly fantastic. ‘Ender’ turns the music back into a more rock orientated sound and utilizes a fantastic and inventive drum and guitar resonance that travels through the undercurrent of the song. Just as ‘Shores’ travelled over the eight minute mark, ‘Ender’ brings in the music to a seven minute epic; dipping and diving with a slow, sweet bass driven section in the middle of the song.
‘Stillness’, another amazing song, begins with the lazy, rear view mirror brilliance that held ‘Shores’ up to a breathtaking point. Its beginning centres on a wavy guitar riff that eventuates into a deeper and more melodic guitar/drum/bass sound. And just like following an alluring circle, the song falls back into its reminiscent tone just in time to lead into another song ‘Drop’, that holds a similar, if not perhaps more minimalist intro. It then climbs higher and more ambitious; its outro seeping into a more intricate vision of its opening. The title track serves as a gentle, low key ambient interlude that still sounds better and more inventive than some regular tracks I’ve heard from other artists before. ‘Archives’ rivals the opener in that it could just well be the best song on the album. Unlike the more relaxed ‘Shores’ the crescendo like ‘Archives’ builds upon itself with several very impressive performances. Sonically, the music bellows out into a musique concrète discussion and noises; showcasing the bands more experimental qualities. ‘Before the War’ is an epic piece of instrumental phrases and passages that lends from the albums previous songs in a brilliant and larger scale pictorial piece of post-rock. The outro especially deserves special mention; its winding, trance like, soulful and heavy presentation makes the song sound even more epic in the context of the album. As a testament to the band, ‘Before the War’ fills all the right fantastic spaces.
After a few listens of 'You Are Here Now' I began to feel like each song on the album is representative of a place, a destination or a feeling. ‘Shores’ and ‘Stillness’ evoke a sunny, cool beach with yellow grained sand and deep blue ocean in a way that dream pop does with its great injection of nostalgia. ‘Archives’ sounds like it could accompany a whimsical train ride through the country side of a picturesque landscape. ‘Before The War’ seems like it somehow captures the mood of a place rather than a geographical place itself. Altogether the album strings these evocations into an almost movie like listening experience… And what a beautiful film it is; packed with things I can’t really write down or capture in mere words. All I can recommend you do is listen to it. And listen to it thoroughly, from the beginning. It’s not really music so much as an experience shining through a vast array of other musical mediocrity to sound cleaner and more pure than most others do. The production is some of the greatest I’ve heard in a while with special praise going to the mixing and mastering. The performances are also top notch, woven into one another to sound as grand and beautiful as post-rock music can. Blah blah blah, go listen to it! For its greatness is of another fantastic standard, achieved through production, playing and sound.
ARTIST: Well Being
RELEASE: Well Being
RELEASE DATE: 25th November 2016
Bright but dark, heavy but soft and alternative but approachable, the debut album of Toronto’s 'Well Being' turns the face of post-punk to look into an indie mirror to create some sort of wild and heavy piece of psych-rock. Each song shimmers in its own right, but the albums background is where the real reward lies; beautiful textured pieces of instrumentation and subtle but neat FX push the sound forward for the listener in a way that highlights everything smart about conventional (mostly) guitar lead music. However, the album scores clever points with the clean and crisp production, sounding at equals (or perhaps even better) than ‘pro’ bands. This point locks in with the aforementioned comment about Well Being’s power of musical textures. 'Well Being' is by no means a leap forward in the world of music; there is little genre or avant-garde experimentation, there’s no wildly obtuse production techniques, it’s just well-written and very well produced music by a band who clearly know what they are doing.
Well Being by Well Being
Well Being opens with ‘Fear, Love and Everything in Between’ and it showcases the albums clean and crisp production; the vocals hover easily over a slow and steady drum beat that floats away on a post-punk guitar line before rolling straight into the emotive psych-pop the band revisits and revisits over the course of the release. The outro morphs the song again, with the beautiful and intelligent guitar picking away in the background adding weight to the already heavy sound. ‘The Kuleshov Effect’ follows with a more conventional/indie sound and an utterly brilliant sounding chorus. As far as instrumentation goes, the sounds and textures presented on the song are definitely a highlight. This is followed by the rock-influenced ‘Hands Tied’, with its post-punk sounding guitar and passages of song built around a more psych-rock aesthetic. ‘Waterboarding’ may be the albums best track. Its claustrophobic, indie tongue in cheek guitar mix with the clean and precise vocals, proclaiming lyrics that sound like somebody trying to coax another into using heavy drugs… Or maybe getting water boarded. That was a joke. ‘Habitual’ follows this blueprint to a slower tempo. The drums tap along slowly while the guitars play a psych influenced post-punk riff; the vocals hover over in a squeaky clean fashion and the whole song ties itself together with the bands previously explored sound. ‘Jean Seberg’ is the point on the album when you turn around and say ‘hey, wait… Haven’t I heard this before?’ The point where the bands ultra clean sound begins to wear thin. And just to clarify, ‘Jean Seberg’ is a good and well written song… It’s just that it seems to be re-using an already re-used formula.
Thankfully, the engaging and energetic ‘I Walk Through Clouds’ follows on and adds another element to the band’s sound. ‘I Walk Through Clouds’ sees Well Being step into an alternative rock space that features an almost pop punk sound throughout the entire song. The outro screams ‘I don’t need you anymore, I don’t need you anymore’ make sure that the listener feels as if they are listening to a rock and guitar driven song. ‘Don’t Complicate It’ could have, or should have, been a B-side, or C-side for that matter. Enough said. ‘Girls of Kilimanjaro’ is a brilliant, deep track that almost saves the band in a way. It’s instrumental and dazzling lead in carves the way for an indie rock guitar based song that bounces around in the listeners face. The bands instruments sound dirtier, or perhaps less focused on sounding clean, giving a neat breeze of authenticity to the song and its placement within the context of the album.
While perhaps the band and those associated with the album would love to have it slated as a piece of post-punk or indie music, the honest and obvious truth is that this lands closer to a conventional rock album more than any of those genres. Even the moniker of ‘psych-pop’ doesn’t seem appropriate… Some of the album even sounds like crisp and clean ‘modern’ pop punk. And this in itself is enough for some listeners to walk away in a haze of disinterest and cringe. But the truth is that it’s a very well written album. The majority of songs show a maturity and sort of simple complexity in them, and the musical textures prove to be a rewarding experience in themselves. Sure, the production is very clean… But it’s done so as to avoid sounding artificial and that fact in itself should be applauded. Some won’t like it, some won’t even look at it; but I proclaim to listen closely and enjoy the bands neat song writing skills, showed through production, playing and sound.
RELEASE DATE: 13th January 2016
Ethereal and dreamy, from Austin Texas comes the low-key shimmer and shine of 'Tether'; the debut EP from dream pop quartet (comprised of two husband and wife pairs) 'Blushing'. On this release the band use all of their technological wizardry to offer a basic, by the books dream pop EP, albeit a greatly enjoyable and catchy one at that.
Tether by Blushing
The EP opens with the title track, whose gentle guitars leads the way into the well written melodic structure of the song, built around the slow tap of the drums, well mixed and comfortable bass and the noisy but ethereal influenced guitars. Special credit to the fantastic and memorable chorus, in which two soaring female vocals meld mesmerizingly with the instrumentation to create a beautiful and original type of sound. The band take que's from many other dream pop bands and include noise and feedback laden guitars in the songs outro; tying everything together into a neat and dreamy songs. The opener is followed by the much less engaging ‘Why Can’t We?’ which rolls along in a simple, almost generic form of pop music, culminating with a good outro and guitar sound before sliding back into its shell. Much like many pop musicians in the modern age 'Blushing' play it way too safe and straight forward with ‘Why Can’t We?’ making it look like the ultimate b-side on an otherwise very interesting debut EP.
The more slower and strung out ‘Mess’ stands out as one of the EPs most well-written tracks, helped graciously by the brilliant bluegrass/soft-rock style guitar strumming away in the background. The whole song shows the bands strongest points and puts on display their talents in the mixing and production area of things. The subtlety of the drum beats and fills can almost go unnoticed but I plead that one pay attention to this, as with the synth/soundscapes that meld away into the background (on purpose) making the whole song sound like a mixture of hipster paradise and palm tree-shoegaze styled aesthetics. The guitar shines through in the second half of the piece, in a breakdown styling that further compliments the song. ‘Protect You’ opens with a nice drone noisescape before the band show their previously explored, swinging jangle style sound backed up by a darker and heavier tone. As though the EP is a progression of the bands song writing, ‘Protect You’ stands as a few steps away from the EP’s beginning, with the band projecting a more well-rounded sound in an invigorating way. This very fact makes the EP even more enjoyable when you listen with the whole thing in context.
The more one listens to 'Tether', the more one notices how heavily the band’s sound is either reflected or influenced by indie and jangle pop bands. Though the EP projects a warm and fuzzy form of dream pop and ethereal rock, it is the songs undercurrents and foundations that owe much to indie and pop rock influence, mainly through the songs melodies and the style in which 'Tether' is produced. As previously stated, this EP is by no means avant-garde or extremely inventive in terms of stepping forward into new musical territory; it instead utilizes a well-rehearsed form of creating and writing dream pop and shoegaze music. Is this a bad thing? Well, no it’s not… It’s just that when you listen to it; make sure you listen for enjoyment completely. And before you ask, in no way was that some sort of stab at 'Blushing' or some kind of way of saying their music isn’t great. Their music is in fact great, but in a way that you may have already heard. The band should be congratulated however, on the beautiful and clear production and mixing on the EP, which highlights every little facet of their skills. Almost every chorus on the EP is brilliant and catchy; something that many dream pop acts generally forget about. And altogether, the performances are definitely worth a mention. This EP is a fantastic reminder of how dream pop can be just as brilliant as it’s ever been, channelled through production, mixing and sound.
ARTIST: Mirror Days
RELEASE: No Hope For Getting Better
RELEASE DATE: 31st October 2016
Soft, dreamy and influenced by a myriad of different sounds, LA based dream pop/shoegaze/soft rock recording project Mirror Days go into complete introspection and release a beautiful album which sounds like a kind of matured re-structuring of music featured on their EPs from the past. No Hope For Getting Better presents itself in a kind of meditative subtleness; never trying to sound too full or dense but instead creating a mesmerizing deep sound that resonates and plays out with a different kind of heaviness. Part- laid back beach inspired hipster dream, part introverted reconciliation, part directed self-expression, the album comes off as a kind of dazzling diamond of a piece of music; so beautiful and clean, but at times so shiny you can’t totally see into it… In a good way, of course.
No Hope For Getting Better by Mirror Days
The album opens with the breezy but aforementioned type of heavy ‘In Focus’ which is built around a calm and contemplative vocal FX and the slow roll of soft rock instrumentation, until the pounding drums enter into the background which turns the song into a more dream pop key. Lyrically the song takes the shape of the projects name as the vocals send their time questioning, wondering and humbly musing in a kind of reflective manner. The more shoegaze but utterly brilliant ‘Endless’ follows, featuring a more drowned vocal performance; adding a kind of post-punk element to the music. All the instruments join in an imaginative sound to step above vocals; making them sound heavier and deeper. The whole song, however, forms around the beautiful and rich instrumentation that makes it a step above what it could have been. ‘Left to Wander’ features more of a similar kind of instrumentation to previous tracks but adds another layer with a more poppy sound. It also seems to build upon the aforementioned dash of post-punk by incorporating more a coldwave sounding guitar and post-punk inspired bass riff. What makes it one of the albums highlights is again its tone and distinctive sound; the vocals and lyrics seem even more studious in content, again evoking the undercurrent and thematic elements of a more dream pop sound. This track is followed by ‘Time Won’t Heal You’, a shoegaze heavy song which begins with a shoegaze melody coupled with the dream pop aesthetic explored previously on the album. Impressive and well produced and mixed drumming holds the sound together while the guitars snake their way through the soundscape texture of the song. All the while the vocals extend into phrases that follow the instruments around and create interesting contrasts for the listener.
‘Low’ is an enjoyable and noteworthy interlude that features in just the right place for the album to flow and continue in the desired way. ‘Old Beginnings’ is a good, straightforward song but only continues the sound and tracks that have featured on the album before it, making it less impressive. That’s, of course, not to say it’s not a well written song, but it is definitely not one of the best on the album. Driving guitar opens the song ‘Spinning’. Its more melodic heavy sound gives it a hypnotising quality; couple this with the distant lyrics and moody air of the track and you have a song that is far away from the soft rock-beach aesthetic at the beginning of the album. ‘Spinning’ dives straight into the ocean, now dark and deep, to move away from its past while keeping one eye firmly in its preverbal rear-view mirror. ‘Rest Assured’ seems like the character or voice within the previous songs has finally made a decision of sorts. What kind of decision? What is the decision about? I have no idea. But as the most colourful and ‘least heavy’ song on the second side of the album it seems that the core tone has altered back into a more relaxed sound; slow and inward in a different form. These elements all join together to create a picture and ultimately to make the listener revaluate all the previous songs; to consider them in a different kind of light. No Hope For Getting Better thus presents itself together with this loose yet interesting concept involving regret and pondering of the past. And just as the album soothes with its opening chords and notes of a soft rock style sound, the complexion of the music swells into a whirl pool of darkness, depth and heaviness throughout the second half; ultimately culminating with the more considerate ‘Rest Assured’, bringing the entire album into a kind of full circle. A fantastic and engaging element of the music is that said content doesn’t only appear as a lyrical feature. In fact, the music and instrumentation pushes this kind of concept and emotive experience more so than the lyrics on a lot of moments on this album, and when it’s not just the music, it’s the music combining and contrasting the lyrics in a beautiful way.
Overall almost all the songs themselves remain enjoyable without featuring in between other songs on the album. Mirror Days talent of combining genres such as dream pop/shoegaze/soft rock/post-punk and alternative rock showcases the projects tight and impressive performance and song writing skills. It was mentioned in the PR kit for this release that the album features no electronic instruments; an extremely noteworthy feature as many bands program this and that to achieve sounds in a synthetic manner. Rather, like the music and the lyrics, the instruments come pure for the listening experience. An experience which is assisted with brilliant low key production and a type of mixing that saves the heavier drums from drowning out other instruments in a song. The projects actually talent with playing said instruments is also immensely impressive and can be heard through the magnificent production and sound.
ARTIST: In Light Of
RELEASE: Little Treasures
RELEASE DATE: 18th November 2016
Simple and easy… 5/5. And that is, really, that. You know, we could talk and jibber about this and that and the high and the low points; we could peer inside and try and examine what exactly is doing what and what makes the music interesting or engaging… But the best way to describe In Light Of’s new EP/Mini album is by the title they have given it; Little Treasures. A title fitting for a small collective group of songs that push the boundaries of post-rock into more experimental territory and that gives the name lo-fi a prettier looking face in a contextual sense. Landing somewhere between what is generally dubbed ‘ambient’ music and post-rock, the EP comfortably spreads it wings in a sometimes minimalist fashion to cross the path of art rock, dream pop and experimental music. Beautiful, mesmerizing, playfully introspective and kaleidoscopically bright, the band presents not only a well-rounded EP, but an interesting and engaging piece of musicality.
Little Treasures by In Light Of
The EP opens with ‘Bless Your Heart’, a song based around vivid and distant soundscapes that include dream pop sensibilities while introducing the soothing sounds of string instruments into the mix. Even though this is the opening song, the band’s mode of song writing and production are on full display to convey their idea of how post-rock music should sound. That idea is that a song is not a song. Instead, they present what is known as a song as a mesh of different colourful sounds that join together and blend to create a textured style of song writing. The listener doesn’t hear a song; they hear sounds. Sounds that join and form other sounds that lead onto different sounds that set up the music for a different sound and so on and so on. On ‘Bless Your Heart’ these sounds begin as a kind of representation of bright, lucid colours and dreaming; the sounds are all beautiful, slight and warm. On the other side of the song, the string section picks these sounds up and adds a different dimension to them entirely. The song eventually becomes swept up in the beat and sound of the drums which forms a kind of loose musical structure that the listener can follow along to. This is followed by the much more stripped back and acoustic laden ‘Cardinal Song’. Again, the band play with smaller and ‘lighter’ sounds that crescendo as the song continues, always holding the same attitude of sound. ‘Cardinal Song’ however, unlike the EP’s opening track, goes full song in a musical sense; beginning with an acoustic phrase that also appears later.
The title track melds the acoustic mood and the textured sound of the previous tracks together into a song that evokes imagery of bright and soft clouds and some kind of relaxing landscape. The soundscapes that the band are backed up by the slow and steady pace of a drum beat that sits at an extremely relaxing and comfortable volume in the mix. The bands use of piano shines heavily on this song, especially around the midway point where it chases the acoustic guitar around the bright patterns in the background of the music. The song sounds as though In Light Of have captured the albums cover art and set about writing a song that conveys that place and mood to the listener; beautiful. ‘Ascending’ introduces a more digital element to the album; opening with piano and synth like sounds that build up into patter-like drums or samples perhaps? All the while the band maintain their signature layering of noise and sound in the background. There may even be a DJ scratch in the music somewhere… Maybe, or is that something else? The middle of the song acts as a sort of contemplative ease which resonates with some kind of introspective tone; the slow drumming enters and the listener notices just how much is going on in the song and just how many instruments and sounds the band has layered therein. ‘Harmonica’ revisits a lot of the music that the band has explored and showcased through the EP and thus, while still greatly enjoyable, doesn’t present anything vastly different or alternative in the face of the other songs.
As previously stated, Little Treasures presents an alternate definition of the word song. There is little completely ‘traditional’ forms of song writing on this EP. Sure, there’s the occasional acoustic guitar riff or a section of notes and chords that link together for a while but overall much of the album relies on collages of soundscapes to tie themselves together over the top of a drum beat or noise. This is brilliant. And the whole thing is brilliant. It’s so beautiful to listen to; whether that be intently or as background music. It’s an indication of how post-rock can be manipulated into different forms and styles and because of this, Little Treasures could easily be labelled experimental above any other genres; but it is not wild experimentation with a million different guitars, feedback or a trillion different samples, it’s just the simple things; the stripped back elements that make you really look into a sound.
Apparently the making of Little Treasures was somewhat of an experiment within itself; each member of the two piece sent the other music that eventually was edited, composed and re-written into some coherent form of music. This practice puts a lo-fi like spin onto the music on the EP. But not in a grainy, screechy, scratching style but in a more uncovered, honest way that pushes the music forward and helps illuminate every tiny sound throughout the EP. Little Treasures is not an album for those seeking structural, tonal and verse-chorus formed music… But it is however a truly rewarding and intelligent piece of music making that emphasises the tiny cogs and gears that musicians generally coat up with heavy production and song writing techniques. Their music overall is helped greatly by their skills in editing, mixing, performance and sound.
RELEASE: Hello We're Not Enemies
RELEASE DATE: 17th June 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Seashell Records
Hello We’re Not Enemies is an album by Milan-based electronica outfit Novanta. On this release, over seven tracks of varying lengths and degrees, Novanta carve and pump out a wide range of beautiful and elegant alternative genres that paint a shimmering picture of a band who are fully pledged to their art form. And that is one compliment that must be instantly handed to Novanta and this album; it is a reflection of a band with a plan who have laid out seven diverse but fantastic tracks, in a great track listing, giving each song enough space to bounce off the one before. It is hard to explain, but after listening to the album over and over, it is its structure that (besides the music) is one of its strongest points. This coupled with its echoed Synthwave production and mixing, make for a refreshing, interesting and great listen.
Hello We're Not Enemies by Novanta
The album opens with the atmospheric intro-instrumental track, ‘Sonder’. With its humming and heavy synths, it seeks out to paint a picture in the listeners mind, and does so successfully. What is this picture? It is of a dark, empty highway that runs through a metropolis like city, perhaps in the 3000’s; and the band take the listener on a journey down this very highway, equipped with bouncing drum machines and an elegant and neon-bright soundscape. It is a piece of darkwave genius that leads straight into the belly of the beast; or in this case, the heart of the city. ‘Goðafoss’ follows on from the synth of ‘Sonder’ but adds a whole other dynamic at around the fifty second mark with a flood of soaring synth, drums and a neat background guitar to create an emotive and sophisticated coldwave sound, descending into the depths of post-punk. This is one of the albums greatest tracks, perhaps partly based on the fact that although it is sung in a language other than English, I can still (without understanding the lyrics) feel the vocalist’s sensitive and magnificent performance and know it is of a whole other stature; that it is a brilliant track. As the song pumps on in a post-punk/electro tone, it flows out into a beautiful final piece of keyboard contemplation and ceases at around the three minute mark, even though I could have listened to double its running time and still be immersed in the sound and music. ‘Mike’ begins with a kick drum-heavy eighties inspired drum machine, and seeps into a serene bass and keyboard hum, with great Cure-esque vocals that build the song up to its dark and glistening chorus, where climbing synths pulsate the background. If ‘Sonder’ was the trip toward metropolis and ‘Goðafoss’ was a metaphorical wander of its dark streets, then ‘Mike’ is the contemplative subplot of a character lost within the city labyrinth, rising in elevators, staring out the window as it climbs a massive building. ‘Mike’ is visiting the cold, rolling shoreline and gazing out as the wind blows in from a land beyond; utterly enthralling.
‘Tell A Story’ holds up the middle of the album with dream pop sensibilities and composure, but Novanta attempts to stuff the track full of different genres; an act that does not propel ‘Tell A Story’ to the monumental heights of the previous tracks. Instead, the song seems drawn out and jumps from sound to sound, with a reverbed and low-mixed dreampop/shoegaze vocal track in the background, coupled with the slow tap of a drum machine for a full and heavier sound. ‘Blue Lagoon’ stands at over seven minutes and utilizes a similar sound to the opening three tracks, although this song becomes less engaging at the beginning and flourishes as an intelligent and full sound toward the tracks closing. I feel like there is more potential in this track, as the band have demonstrated before how talented they are at choosing their sounds wisely; as it is used only minimally on ‘Blue Lagoon’. However, the three minute mark shines brightly another intelligent piece of music making from Novanta; who enhance the track to a tribal, dream like stature. ‘Melted Eyes’ closes the album with an eerie, dream evoked sound with a touch of darkwave that connects fantastically with the other tracks on the album. If the listener has been wandering the proverbial dark metropolis landscape for the album, then ‘Melted Eyes’ serves as a clever conclusion and a meditative beginning. The piano that touches quietly over the rumbling synth shines light into the heart of the darkwave resonance, and the listener emerges quietly from the labyrinth of coldwave into a whole other world full of light. At the same time, the distant tone of the vocals evokes a sense of contemplation deep within, coupled with a reflective power that allows ‘Melted Eyes’ its own beautiful place on Hello We’re Not Enemies.
The opening three tracks are the absolute highlight of the entire album; they spin with darkwave perspicacity that sooth and offer the listener the opportunity to reflect on the deep and post-punk influenced sounds of the album. Although this is not necessarily a concept album, I felt as though the first half was a fantastic construction of the aforementioned picture of a metropolis like city. With this in mind, I felt the middle few tracks fell out of this concept; so I examined them as songs in their own right and felt only moderate interest toward them. Novanta pull themselves together, however, and finish quite strongly on the last few tracks. Overall the album is great; but it could have been even greater, with a more direct and fleshed out sound. The production is good, the mixing is strong and the performances should be praised on all the tracks. With Hello We’re Not Enemies, Novanta meld together post-punk, electro, shoegaze, darkwave and synth stylings to create a fusion album of spectacular depth, a reflection of their skill with the art of sound.
‘Hello We’re Not Enemies’ was released on the 17th June 2016 via the Palermo based independent record label Seashell Records: seashellrecords.bandcamp.com
ARTIST: The History Of Colour TV
RELEASE: Something Like Eternity
RELEASE DATE: TBA
RECORD COMPANY: Cranes Records / Weird Books
On 'Something Like Eternity', the very crux of genres like post-punk, experimental music, dream-pop and shoegaze are brought to the forefront and laid bare in their characteristics by The History of Colour TV, a Berlin based experimental/alt-rock band. As they do this, they throw into the mix their own brand of indie and punk rock stylings (which have been explored on their previous two albums) to create something that all together sounds like an attempt to push alternative music in a different direction… To try and squeeze something more from sound, song writing and performance.
'Something Like Eternity' opens with the impressive ‘Granite Verge of Tears’ which sees the band utilising a more post-punk sound with some sort of garage stylings. Occasionally the songs ease back into simple guitar playing before jumping back into indie-stylised riffs. ‘Broken Trip’ acts as an extension of this; there is more of a jangle rock sound and the whole mood of the song seems lighter. Much as the opening track, the song dips deep back into a unrestrained dark section of music at places in the song, which gives it several different faces and ways of interpretation. The second half of the song features the crunch of background fuzz and noise; another wind back to the wild west of garage and noise rock. ‘Wreck’ seems slight in light of the previous tracks. Its guitar and drum play is enjoyable but it comes across as overly simple and never really reaches any substantial heights or points of engagement until a loud and wild section near the outro of the song. The lyrics become pointless because of the dry and relatively unimaginative style of the vocals, which sort of wander into the backing instrumentation and become too distant. Thankfully the band somewhat redeem themselves with the colourful and loud ‘Everything That Stood Still’, a track that plays around simple guitar plucking coupled with a drum pattern that leads into the loud and brilliant chorus riff. Credit should also be given to the fantastic outro on this song; a truly spacey and fantastic piece of music. While only meant to be some sort of interlude, ‘Overcast Half’ is a brilliant tiny piece of experimental feedback, mild distortion and FX filtered sounds. And it should be noted it fits very well in the scope of the entire album.
‘Even Rain’ has mesmerisingly beautiful slow passages of guitar picking which are then fluctuated by the banal passages of ‘emotive’ singing and louder instrumented sections. The band play upon more of an alt-rock style of music and this is complimented greatly by a small synth lead in the second half of the song; lending to a more post-punk style of sound. The lyrics again seem almost forced sometimes and I feel like I was concentrating on the music for the most part because of this.
The albums highlight is the alt-rock/noise infused ‘Wait’ which showcases the bands strongest points; the crunch of garage styling with noises and screeching in the background that make for fantastic song writing. The performances are at almost the highest point on the album for this song and the outro of feedback and noise is a complimented element that really wraps the song together for the listener. Another brilliant song follows; the echoed and quiet ballad like structured, ‘Flame’. This, like passages of other tracks is built upon the slow turn of a guitar riff and excellent playing by the band. On this track the vocals are highlighted and make for a quality part of the song, rather than being altogether bland. This song is followed by another riveting song entitled ‘Pattern’, which presents a fuller and more frontal side of the band with keyboards and a much lighter tone than the rest of the album. The songs greatest element is the chugging guitar riff that blends into the outro and into; you guessed it, more noise and feedback on the songs second side.
Across this entire effort, with a retrospective gaze into History Of Colour TV’s back catalogue, I feel this album to be some sort of drafted attempt at creating experimental or ‘different’ music. Sometimes it sounds like the band believe if they throw some feedback in then it will be considered experimental or somewhat avant-garde. Let’s hypothetically pretend there was no noise on the album… What do you have? A non-offensive alternative rock/indie/post-punk album with dark themes and some pretty impressive performances. For these songs act as post-punk, alt-rock tunes cooked down into simple draft structures with guitar, bass, drums, vocals and keyboard; no audio tricks, no mixing enhancements to make the songs sound deeper and darker and even perhaps more conceptually pleasing. As a result, the album drags and drags; yes there’s a song here and a song there that somewhat redeem the bands ‘signature’ sound but beside that the listener, at times, feels like yelling ‘we get it already!’ Also, past releases from the History of Colour TV compared with this material puts these songs into a whole other awkward light.
But that’s not to say the album doesn’t have highlights or well written and performed songs. The second half of the album saves its weaker points in many ways; showcasing a more alternative style of music than the opposing. The performances are impressive on the most part, especially the guitars and the drumming. The mixing shines in the more full production, but praise should be given to it for sections with just guitar and vocals where it shines. Altogether the band create an interesting album, through these avenues of production, mixing and sound.
'Something Like Eternity' gets it's full release in early 2017 via Cranes Records / Weird Books. The bands latest single 'Wreck' is out now and available to buy/download from: thehistoryofcolourtv.bandcamp.com
ARTIST: Daniel Land
RELEASE: In Love With A Ghost
RELEASE DATE: November 25th 2016
The well-travelled transition of lo-fi, simple and sloppy production and mixing into well-produced, fluent and full production is often one that tends to place song writing, musicality and instrumentation at the background of importance. Bands and artists bath senselessly in the pool of sounding and appearing magnificent and sort of forget to be magnificent. A man who has somehow jumped this very preverbal shark is Daniel Land. His albums were never lo-fi per say, but his latest album In Love With A Ghost is so well produced and neat sounding that he seems to have made that aforementioned transition, and he has done so with style and talent on full display. A gracious and stylized effort, In Love With A Ghost throws a crisp nu-pop sound, alternative rock undertones, shoegaze melodies and the fantastically solemn tinkering’s of downtown jazz into one collective effort; ultimately it’s an album that demands to be respected in its substance, content and dazzlingly appearance.
In Love With A Ghost by Daniel Land
In Love With A Ghost opens with the piano laden alternative pop tune ‘You & Me Against The Sky’ that showcases the spacy and impressive production that features on the entire album. The songs post-punk inspired double snare tap contrasts Lands soft voice which gives the song a beautifully dream pop aesthetic. This notion is reinforced with the synths that play throughout the chorus of the song and the piano that acts as the foundation of the song and instrumentation. The tracks greatest element is the saxophone that creeps in and plays in an appealingly whimsical style that eventually seeps into the outro; a beautiful and melodic piece of music. ‘Holes On the Dancefloor’ follows with a more electronic and soundscape tone similar to Lands previous recording efforts, but continues the pop sensibility expressed on the opening track by still incorporating the distant sound of piano. Land exercises his skill of writing catchy but alternative chorus lines and lyrics with the chorus on this very song; featuring a small but notable vocal performance that climbs in a reflective way to the instruments. ‘Everyone's Got A Guy Garvey Story’ continues the piano balladry style of the previous two tracks but in a more up tempo styling. The highlight of such a song is the clever lyrical content; featuring referential and introspective lines that dance along with the swinging, up tempo beat of the drums. While the following track, ‘The Sweetest Lover’ doesn’t quite connect the same way previous tracks do, one must admire what is actually going on in the song and the instrumentation. The swing style drum beats, the layers of guitar and perhaps most interestingly, again; Land’s skilful vocal delivery.
One of the highlights of the album is the fantastic, jazz inspired ‘New York Boogie-Woogie’ which melds Land’s instrumentation with a dreamy shoegaze styled soundscape in the background. The song plays along at its own pace; drawing a picture in your mind with Land’s lyrics and then the utterly skilled saxophone (in a tone reminiscent of the opening track) that joins the instruments in the outro. ‘Saints With His Mercy’ is the closest Land comes to complete and utter dream pop on the entire album; but this is a good thing. It offers a crossover of the musician’s pop aesthetic and the dream tones of keyboards and guitars that results in a dancehall style pop song… Yes, by dancehall I mean like borderline reggae; thus, the song sounds at times experimental in its wild mix of danceable drum patterns but husky and echoed elements of dream and shoegaze. The ultimate ballad, ‘Whistling Gypsy’ again displays Land’s mesmerizing vocal delivery, but this time offers a more minimalist backing; with distant, sliding guitars. Another top moment on the album is the outro to this song; beautiful, entrancing and somehow calming in its musicality.
The title track lends itself to a lengthy, shoegaze intro that melds into a swell drum machine pattern that crosses into the opening of ‘The Beautiful Room is Empty’; which rounds up all of the albums sound and song writing traits into one enthralling piece of music. Again, Land creates an outro that really one could not speak highly enough of if they tried.
In a way, this album is some kind of warped pop album, even an experimental pop album perhaps. And this very fact makes it an interesting listen… But let’s assume that it wasn’t so alternative; it would still be an engaging and greatly enjoyable listen. And this is where Land demands some kind of greater perspective or respect with this album; it is so *expletive word* difficult to make a pop album, whether that be pop rock, alt-pop, soft pop blah blah, that is different, fascinating and at least somewhat original that so many artists just end up drowning in clichés and step by step musical characteristics. Land’s album is obviously far from the delirious pop of the mainstream but it is a mostly pop orientated album whose songs centre on all things piano, drums and the art of the voice.
The production is top notch; clean, precise and echoed to compliment Lands vocals and the music’s distinct sound and style. Mixing is of a similar quality; every piece of string plucking, vocal chanting or murmuring and drum tapping can be heard in a polished and clean way; even when it is in the background of the song. Perhaps the greatest element of the album, beside the song writing itself, is the performances exhibited wherein. While all the instruments are truly brilliant, I feel Land himself delivers one of the best performances on the album vocally. This is a dreamy, original and somewhat experimental piece of pop music, built on the genius of performance, production, song writing and sound.
'In Love With A Ghost' gets it's full release on November 25th 2016 and is available to pre-order right now from: danielland.bandcamp.com
RELEASE DATE: November 18th 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Cleopatra Records
Programmed drums, dream pop guitars and the deep contextual influence of 80’s post-punk and ethereal wave combine with absolutely brilliant song writing on the debut album of Californian shoegaze/darkwave/post-punk band Echolust. 'Veldisa' is a sprawling, dark yet beautiful musical journey through moods and places, sounds and lyrics and contrastingly vivid soundscapes. Upon almost every track the band exercise some sort of gaze back into the past; but this act surpasses nostalgia and more offers commentary on thought and pondering. It’s beautiful and dream pop inspired guitar riffs support the slow and swinging music to fantastic degrees; expressing emotion through music with some wild sort of ease.
Veldisa by Echolust
‘1799’ opens the album with a dreamy guitar riff and a drum machine inspired by the double tap of the French coldwave and the early 80’s programmed beats of post-punk bands. Mixed within the song is the screech of a slow and winding synthesizer that seeps out when the soaring and wide chorus opens; offering a neat a song writing counterpoint to the language and sounds used within the verse of the song. The track retains a slow and winding quality which somehow never gets boring; an indication of a well written and instrumented song. ‘Cherry Dancer’ showcases the bands more shoegaze tendencies with its largely reverbed opening. The echoes of dream pop still linger however, so much so that ‘Cherry Dancer’ seems like a next door neighbour or companion piece to the more up tempo ‘1799’. From there the band leaps forward into a fantastically disco-darkwave inspired track titled ‘Dark Hair Girl’. The backing of the song sounds similar to an EDM/Dance style track; which contextually mixes well with the more alternative rock aspects that the song holds. The vocals remain deep and full of FX, which makes the singing sound like a direct instrument in the landscape of all of the instrumentation. ‘Dark Hair Girl’s best moments are when the vocals go higher and the band follow, showing off their talent of creating soaring style dream pop.
One of the greatest tracks on the entire album ‘Decor Blonde’ displays the band in full shoegaze swing; reverb drenched guitars and a slower and darker tempo. I believe it to be one of the greatest on the album simply for its fantastic wall of sound styled production; a form and style that adds a whole other dimension to shoegaze music. The lyrics also practice exactly what I mentioned before accompanied by the fantastic guitars and bass, they add an emotive element to the music and sound of the song. Praise also to the fantastic outro on the song, which takes on a whole brilliant sound of its own. ‘Doublespeak’ returns to a more post-punk formula but retains elements of the shoegaze sound explored on ‘Decor Blonde’. This song also takes the disco beats explored on ‘Dark Hair Girl’ a step further with a tight bass and drums section that sounds exactly like a R’n’B inspired track. ‘Doublespeak’ also relies more heavily upon the gradual tap of the programmed drums in the back of the mix. Perhaps the weakest song on the album is the darkwave heavy ‘Electric’; a lengthy and indulgent track with lyrics that seem like they were written by a completely different band than the previous tracks.
‘For Least Resistance’ brings things back into the bands sphere; featuring a synthwave drum and soundscape style of tone with the fancy shoegaze styles of the dream pop guitar. The track even features an experimental-trap influenced style drum machine beat throughout the song which melds into the music in an interesting and engaging way. The strange lo-fi/alt-rock genius of ‘This Blurry Kill’ shows another side of the bands talent of song-writing; tied off magically with the experimental soundscape stationed in the mix. The title track is another contender for the albums weakest song. It sounds somewhere between a B-side and a draft; featuring comedically confusing drum patterns and boring mid-tone vocals. Thankfully the band turn everything around with the fantastic ‘Velvet Holiday’ which rehashes all of the bands fantastic post-punk songs into a dark, more straight forward and heavy song. It’s almost as though Echolust wanted to connect the more synth and darkwave influenced side of their album with the more post-punk side and speaking of which, the atmospheric ‘Zombie Birds’ connects both sides together in sound with the dance influenced drum machine beats and the shoegaze styled bass, guitars and synth. Together this mixture creates something that sounds almost on the borderline of industrial music, something I suppose the band have constantly toyed with on the entire album. ‘Zombie Birds’ features a fantastic and mesmerizing intro that leads into the lyrically diverse verse and chorus in which the fantastic backing soundscapes and sneaky production sneak back into the song.
A few songs into Veldisa I wondered why the band wasn’t going pro; the songs were well-written, thoroughly beautiful, experimental and original pieces of brilliant music. After the opening few songs I was a little less mesmerized and by the second half I showed little-interest to the music, but the second half of the second half managed to turn it around and recapture some of the magic of the beginning. And that, in essence, is how Veldisa could be summed up. The album as a whole drags on and on and on (there are too many songs) and with less engaging songs in the middle, the listener just becomes more bored as the album plays through. In said mid-album area, the songs begin to sound more and more like clichéd and distant dance tracks thrown together to fill album space… But Veldisa doesn’t need album fillers. The band should have stuck to their guns and produced a more compact album with the same sharp and fantastic song writing skills displayed at the albums opening. For that reason Veldisa as a whole seems tiresome in structure, even when a lot of the songs are so well written.
The production is good, the mixing is great and the performances should also receive praise. Together these elements carry the album in its more paint-drying moments and prove that, although not throughout the total album, Echolust can produce a fantastic quality of song writing. I believe the opening few tracks are so good they almost carry the albums more weaker points and for that reason one should definitely listen intently to Echolust’s fantastic skills. These are achieved through mixing, production, performance and sound.