RELEASE: Wide Shot EP
RELEASE DATE: 16th September 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
Post-rock is almost always at its best when it is subtle, delicate, free-form and bordering on ambient music. It should also be noted that other styles are fantastic, but I feel post-rock and ambient music to be kind of next door neighbours. And so when they invite each other over for a barbeque, beautiful and majestic soundscapes and musical textures are made together; harmoniously, slight but somehow always so clever that it remains interesting. On 'Wide Shot', an EP full of such sounds, French based post-rock outfit Tölva deliver refreshing and earnestly beautiful post-rock/ambient songs that are spiced up by a more progressive sound than your normal instrumental outfit. Wide Shot lands beautifully between post-rock art music and the heavier and louder post-metal genre, offering a neat cross breed of genres and sounds.
Wide Shot by Tölva
'Wide Shot' opens with ‘Poveglia’, which uses fade in to a wild degree before introducing the dense yet fine instrumentation on the track. Much like subtle undercurrents of Berlin School of Electronic Music, the band use a light soundscape to introduce the first plucking of a guitar with bright sounds stationed behind and the neat introduction of the bass guitar. By the time the drums enter the mix, a beautiful yet simple guitar chord progression brings the music together. On ‘Poveglia’ the drums tie everything together in one package, allowing tiny blemishes of ambient guitar textures to sneak into the ear space of the listener. ‘Renton’ follows with a much more progressive rock/post-metal sound, built again around the steady yet full percussion of the drums. The guitars sound much heavier, as does the bass guitar, but even over the crunch of prog-instrumentation there is the rhythmic guitar playing that echoes the bands post-rock core. At around the four minute mark the band leans back toward a more ambient sound and then in a way, step-by-step, they crescendo back to the fuller, heavier sound of the beginning of the song.
‘Puzzle’ begins as an interlude of sorts; soundscapes float while tiny bells are plucked in the background of the mix. The trance-like guitars on ‘Puzzle’ allow Wide Shot to sound much like the soundtrack to a wintery, French or Icelandic film score. The EP’s title track ‘Wide Shot’ seeps in with a very distant fade in (much the same as opener ‘Poveglia’) but introduces a more ambient style sound before breaking into a post-metal wave of energy. ‘Wide Shot’ is by far the most epic track on the EP; soaring guitars and melodic soundscapes all conjoin to form a tight and heavier sound. At around the half way point however, the band slide back into their textured, subtle and beautiful form of a more quiet sound. This time, however, the undercurrents of metal run rampart through the slower and quieter parts of the track. The outro, which begins just past the half way point, connects every trick the band have pulled over the course of the EP and throws it at the listener in a fantastic, vast and satisfying way.
Tölva weave enough magic on Wide Shot to make the listener wish it was an entire album; and that’s pretty much one of the only flaws with this EP… The songs on the EP, while lengthy, seem to set up a wider scope for more potential material that could lead into an album that would showcase a fuller and more structural element of the band. For example, the beautiful and engaging interlude type track ‘Puzzle’ seems as if it’s asking to be noticed more. Similarly the first track ‘Poveglia’ seems like an album intro, with its heavy and fading instrumentation, but feels tight and frustrated in the context of the EP. Also while those who enjoy post-rock, progressive rock, ambient music and different types of heavy instrumental music will find this tremendously enjoyable, some listeners may find it too basic or simple for complete appreciation and praise. But, for those willing, this EP is a brilliant, simple and subtle listen. Each track stands on its own comfortably (even the interlude type track of ‘Puzzle’) and reinforces the bands skill and talent throughout. The performances and mixing are solid, fantastic and engaging; the production is clean enough to be appreciated by post-rock fans and heavy enough to be loved by metal listeners alike. Even the album art is impressive, and links back into the core stylistic elements of post-rock, ambient, textured and dense music. It’s fun and full; enjoyable for its production, performances and sound.
'Wide Shot' is available to buy/download right now from tolvaband.bandcamp.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
by Primal Music
ARTIST: Total Gaze
RELEASE: We Need More Condos
RELEASE DATE: September 13 2016
The intelligently and humorously named We Need More Condos is the debut album from Minnesota’s own Total Gaze, a band who sport the term post-shoegaze… Which is interesting both ways; whether you believe it to be a genre or not… But it’s getting off topic to debate genres and sub-genres and how many pedals you need to qualify as a specific type of band; the album evokes a lot of different genres however, including post-punk, shoegaze, ambient and dream rock, just to name a few. Total Gaze juggle these sounds into an impressive and tightly knit type of musical odyssey that sounds a lot let less clean than the average ‘modern shoegaze’ album; bordering on what some would call ‘garage’ and touching on the realms of the whimsically dirty musical genre known as ‘lo-fi’.
We Need More Condos by Total Gaze
We Need More Condos begins with ‘Solid Gold’ which embodies more of the bands gutter sound than its core shoegaze sound. Noisy, unfiltered guitars are coupled with percussive-heavy drums and a low-key bass tone to create a neat, albeit slight, garage rock tune. The influence of shoegaze and post-punk seeps in on the second half of the track, with the song maintaining its garage undertones while embracing an alternative style of guitar riff. An interlude (one of three on the album) features some nice cricket noises but serves no true purpose. One of the greatest tracks on the album is the lo-fi, amazing ‘Don’t Ask’ which remains brilliant in its simplicity. The song utilizes the bands previous garage guitar sound with a fantastically downbeat shoegaze inspired tune. The chorus, in particular, should be praised for its simple breakdown style of song writing and drumming; drawing a fantastic and easily accessible line in the sand between the sounds of shoegaze and the rough, crunchy punk sound. ‘Facing Inward’ plays out in a similar fashion; this time the band sound more up tempo with shaking maraca percussion and brighter guitar sounds. The vocals display influence from no-wave New York yelling and screaming, purposefully distanced from the rest of the mix in a way that does nothing but favours for the type of music the band strut.
‘Interlude 2’ sits warmly between ‘Facing Inward’ and the genius ‘On Fire’, which furthers the band sound. One particular fantastic piece of song writing and vocal delivery is the ‘oh wo, oh wo, oh, wo wo!’ which leads into easily the best chorus and outro on the entire album. This tight sound is perhaps the closest the band get too what you would call ‘post-shoegaze’ with its obvious sound blending at a very downtempo point. Couple this with the sketchy, murmured lyrics and vocals that are still stationed underneath the distorted guitars and rattling drums. Halfway through the song I thought the band had turned the direction of the sound around against themselves, but this interlude style passage of music that sits before one of the chorus’s suits the entire song with a few more listens. ‘Interlude 3’ plays out as an airy-FX filled conversation with a voice drowned in reverb and radio static. It is probably the only Interlude that really and truly alters the context of the album when listened to it in its entirety. A post-punk anthem ‘Sauna Sweet’ follows in a cleaner, much more modern sounding way. While this song may not be quite as compelling as others, it showcases some fantastic performances and features a neat guitar solo/ riff in the second half of the song. Similarly the vocals reach a shaky/louder style that seemed more drowned out by instruments on previous tracks. ‘Television’ opens with an indie style pattern of guitar riff followed by drum beats; this is however drowned out by a fully-fledged piece of shoegaze instrumentation. While it sets up some nice instrumentation and a perhaps more colourful sound than some of the previous ‘heavier’ tracks, ‘Television’ never really fully showcases the band’s sound and song writing skill to its full extent as many of the other tracks do. And while it is not a bad song by any means it’s position on the album and its contextual weight (comparing it to the bands other songs) means that ‘Television’ doesn’t shape up to the heights of the majority of the album.
We Need More Condos is refreshing without seeming avant-garde, fun without seeming childish and intellectual without ever coming across as pretentious. Ultimately there are a couple of ways to listen to the album. One, you can listen to it without any context; instead just for pure listening and interest. This way is rewarding and ultimately shows off and flaunts the bands greatest strengths while simultaneously travelling from track to track. The second, perhaps deeper, way of listening to We Need More Condos is the contextual and conceptual way. This entails asking what ‘modern’ style shoegaze sounds like; the answer being quite different to that of the sound of Total Gaze. And while this album is by no means the most experimentally-history advancing piece of shoegaze music to present itself for a modern audience, it is one that should be appreciated and applauded. So with the clean crisp sound of shoegaze adding to the contextual side of We Need More Condos, the album can be easily listened to as a step away from clichés and distant, echoed sounds that at times borderline completely on ambient music for other bands. Of course, We Need More Condos will not be for all audiences, and with the aforementioned ‘second way’ of listening to consider, it also will not be for all shoegaze lovers. At times the desperate and distanced style of vocals will sound too punk-ish and garage for some listeners, while the guitars and musical arrangements may be enough for others to steer away from the band.
We Need More Condos is, however (albeit not for all) a recommended listen. The sounds and songs fit well together and pan out from the pure alt-rock/garage sound of ‘Solid Gold’ to the sheer post-punk and dream style tones of songs like ‘On Fire’. The band present a wild and tightly garage blend of the alternative, ‘high’ side of town, and the dreamy gutter; drawing an elegant and talented musical line in the sand. They achieve so through the avenues of performance, production and sound.
ARTIST: Archipelago Swell
RELEASE: Archipelago Swell EP
RELEASE DATE: 14th September 2016
There are support groups for drug users, there are support groups for alcoholics; where is the support group for fans of post-rock? Much like the aforementioned substances post-rock is addictive, translucent and a trip of sorts for the listener; for those addicted, we must always go searching for the next ambient, picturesque sound of swirling guitars and pounding drums. On this search it is clear to see just how popular the genre has become and fully displays the kind of culture (or aesthetic) its fans sport and love. But, as is with every genre, there are both masterpieces and… I don’t know, less than masterpieces? Where does Scottish post-rock/post-metal/instrumental band Archipelago Swell’s self-titled EP land on that spectrum? Well, somewhere in the middle, I suppose…
Archipelago Swell by Archipelago Swell
Archipelago Swell begins with ‘Terraforms’ a dark, heavy piece of post-metal underpinned with a touch of psychedelia for good measure. Impressively, the guitars switch between the tones of a heavy metal band to that of beautiful touching post-rock soundscapes; the drums do a similar dance but not as obvious or perhaps entrancing. In fact, the drums and percussion stay heavy and airy for most of the EP, something that always brings the band back to its post-rock roots; in a good way. As with most songs on the EP, the guitars eventually launch into a much, much heavier sound that rickets through your speakers with all the makings of Viking metal, backed nicely to sound heavier by the drums and the neat but at times inaudible bass. For the most part ‘Terraforms’ takes the shape of almost an intro track; the beginning shuffles around minimally (for the most part) before evolving into a heavier/metal-infused track of an epic scale. And that’s where things get a little bit awkward. After some beautifully intricate guitar playing and soft-dream like backing and textures, Archipelago Swell begin to turn up the metal-scale, and do so to their advantage; things still seem neat and instrumentally interesting. And then after the three minute mark there is a cringe-worthy tempo and riff alteration that weaves itself into some slightly embarrassing drum pieces and boring-as-paint-drying guitar *sexually explicit word*. For the small portion of what could be considered an outro the band regain some of the magic that was withheld at ‘Terraforms’ playful beginning, but all in all the bizarre attempt at ‘experimental’ rock is enough to make the listener take a step back and assesse what the band was trying to do.
‘Terraforms’ is followed by ‘The Overview Effect’ a much wider, epic track in which the band majestically bounce back and showcase their true talent. A sweet, colourfully intellectual piece of music, filled with everything the band are good at; blending instruments, writing cohesive and enjoyable riffs and walking the preverbal line between post-rock and post-metal in a greatly pleasing way. The song builds around a sweet, sketched out guitar line that sweeps and plays around the pounding but delicate drums and churning bass guitar. Epic in scale but never pretentious, the band dabble with a touch of math rock in the outro; which is where some of the greatest slices of music on the track are stationed. This track functions as a full leap into the core of the sort of sound that features on the EP and a step beyond the basic functions of ‘Terraforms’.
What follows is ‘Olympus Mons’ which is... Not that flash actually. What starts as a semi-interesting guitar riff just goes on and on, full of meaty-ness or whatever you want to call it… Occasionally there is a noise in the background that’s supposed to make us all go ‘what a post-rock song this is’ but isn’t really fooling anybody. Wait, I’ll do a cover for you: *Chug-Chug-Chug-Chug* *drum roll* and so on and so forth. Congratulations to the bass player who wrote and played interestingly enough to keep the band slightly above water. This isn’t offensive or meant to be abusive because I still think the previous track is absolutely brilliant, and that elements of ‘Terraforms’ are also beautiful and genius pieces of song writing; but I really don’t know about ‘Olympus Mons’. So here goes; the song has way too much reverb, the opening sounds like an interlude; the riff is uninspiring, generic and bland… And then there is the mixing and the production… Which leaves a lot to be desired. The levels of the guitar on the second half of the song are just so all over the place it literally transcends making an effort. It’s like somebody spilt alcohol on the mixing desk and the levels just started doing the can-can all over the place. And what in all musical sanity made the band put galloping guitars in… Like what are they doing in the song? Is this to try and see-saw the song between credible but bland music and humour? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I didn’t want to make it sound like this, but this is the PG version of what could be written about this; I apologise, but I just can’t put it any smoother. That’s just ‘Olympus Mons’ and how it sounds, how it’s mixed and how it’s heard.
‘Olympus Mons’ leads into ‘Accretion’ which seems somewhat refreshing, albeit nowhere near the pleasing heights of the EPs opposing half. There is more chugging at the songs opening, reminiscent and following on from ‘Olympus Mons’, but this gesture soon seeps into a soft and pleasing outro. Said outro presents a beautiful and majestic piece of post-rock guitar playing. The drums and bass ease back and the whole song sounds like a gentle and atmospheric sigh of relief; like a return to form for the band who use the outro to showcase their talent at simple and dreamy song writing. Eventually the softness of the outro blends into a more heavy and guitar orientated piece of music. I feel like this part of the song is what ‘Olympus Mons’ was trying to or could have been; a nice and enjoyable but epic piece of music.
Okay, okay, okay; a few things you should know. It may sound like in this review that I’m spitting on post-metal… I’m not. I actually love post-metal and the sort of sound and instrumentation a band or artist can play around with while under the moniker of its name. This band has some fantastic pieces of music that are definitely worth listening to. And ultimately, I think both post-rock and post-metal are difficult genres to sound refreshing or original within. But Archipelago Swell at times just try to transcend this difficulty… You’re probably saying ‘well they aren’t pro so…’ but one would only have to look as far as how absolutely mesmerizing unsigned post-rock can be by listening to 'Vinter' by the majestic and very talented 'Star of Heaven' from Stockholm. And while there are certainly many beautiful and fantastic pieces of music and songs on Archipelago Swell, I just can’t help but wonder what they were doing on some songs. At times it’s awkward, at times it’s cringey and at times I wondered whether the band had re-listened to the songs before releasing them. Anyway… I did enjoy some of it, and those pieces of enjoyment were enough to perhaps recommend the EP around, but ultimately I just guess that the listener can decide for themselves. If you enjoy post-metal, if you enjoy post-rock then you might appreciate this. If you are looking for some instrumental songs to chuck on in the background without looking too closely at them, this is for you. If you’re a stickler for production, assessing song writing structures and neatly looking ‘into’ the mixing and the songs meaning, then this is not for you. Credit, however, to the band for their performances, which throughout shine and make things interestingly swift and engaging. Shout out to the bassist for keeping things always interesting throughout the EP (that’s not a joke). You should know that within this EP there is some fantastic and engaging music from a band whose talent sometimes drift, but when it’s practiced; it’s a rewarding listen. Within this talent the band impress through blending, performance and sound.
Archipelago Swell is available to buy/download right now from archipelagoswell.bandcamp.com
ARTIST: Jenny Besetzt
RELEASE: Tender Madness
RELEASE DATE: 15th July 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Friends Records
Tender Madness is a full length album by North Carolina’s Jenny Besetzt, a group who uses fast tempo in contrast with dark sounds to create deep and vast post-punk that sounds as if it was conceived at the beginning of the post-punk era, but was recorded much, much later. Over the course of eight tracks the band do little to confront the listener; an intelligent and crafty move… Instead they pull their music back from distinct definition and throw very few punches. You’re probably thinking that’s an insult, but it’s very much the opposite. Modern post-punk bands try so very hard for sounds and songs to be noticed… They throw soundscape after soundscape, turn instruments up louder, sing the lyrics in Japanese, play with their guitars not plugged into an amp and what not just so the audience, or the reviewer, says something like ‘this album is really in your face’ or ‘there is a lot going on in this album’. Sure they may be compliments, but when so many bands do it, it’s refreshing to hear a post-punk outfit sketch out songs and play them as they are… You know, without a million different guitar lines that all sound muted because the kick drum is turned up so loud.
Tender Madness by Jenny Besetzt
Tender Madness opens with ‘Authorless Speech’ a fantastically dark and shoegaze-inspired song that starts with slow and neat dream pop guitar after which fantastic double tap drums enter, but only distantly, in the background of the music. Through this brilliant piece of song writing, Jenny Besetzt begin to display the kind of musical colouring they fluently practice possess; firstly with the magnificent post-punk sound and then with the heavy, deep and baritone vocals, which brings the song onto a whole other level. Black As The Night purrs on a beautiful vocal, it's the albums entire vocal section that really holds everything together fantastically, especially the instrumental riffs and the beautiful underpinned synths. Such amazing synth tone may be heard on ‘Dorothy Everything’s Fine’, one of the albums true highlights; inspired by darkwave dance tracks and slow, classic post-punk guitar with bass that is drowned out by the aforementioned synth sounds during the chorus. Soft spoken, murmuring, deep vocals float heavily within the mix and the whole thing sounds like a true reflection of a style of sound that so many bands have tried to reach for but just end up sounding generic within. An average interlude follows, entitled ‘Kanizsa Triangle’ which is built predominantly around a choir like synth piece that plays softly with a few samples chipping in the background.
‘Lunar Talks’ opens with what sounds like a heavy metal riff, but eventually seeps back into a dream pop style tune. Over the course of the song, the band build up an alternative, dream like riff before splintering back into heavy, industrial sounds of the beginning giving the song a wild and spinning feeling. Perhaps the greatest song on the album is the playful, dreamy and utterly beautiful title track; its beginning is that of a loose, pictorial dream sketch, utilized through soaring synths and guitars. This song is the closest the band get to what some may refer to as ‘nostalgia’ and they do so with a kind of elegance and grace that never broaches textured simplicity. Eventually the song gets more downtempo and situates itself back in the light of the bands previous sound, but all the while it never exceeds its trance-like beauty and swift, easy appearance. Both Tender Madness & ‘The Rabbit’ acts as a sense of ease and ambience to the dark and heavy post-punk songs that preceded them. The Rabbit features lighter vocals, a brighter and more melodic sound courtesy of the indie-inspired guitar plucking and the pulsating soundscape of synth under the mix. One should also listen closely to the enthralling instrumental outro to the song, which crescendos into a fantastic math/post-rock inspired piece of guitar and drum playing. This tiny piece of music, enough to only fill a small portion of the song, is symbolism of absolute musical genius; subtle, engaging, alternative and absolutely captivating in its presentation.
And that’s that. But before you go and enjoy these songs on all their post-punk merit and dark but sweet musical textures, there is something more to be perceived about this album. Go out and find a modern post-punk album and I am sure that the band will go deeper and darker as the album goes on. Either that or they will chuck a lengthy, epic, synth and soundscape filled piece on the tail end of the release. Well, Jenny Besetzt have done neither of these. They’ve instead started with the dark and substantial alternative musings and drawn out the ending to something else, to something more; something that sounds more illuminated. With this in mind (and what was written before about how the band have presented the songs as they are) this album beats out on being another generic post-punk revival album; offering a neat conceptual reward for the listener by showcasing lighter songs on the end of the album. All in all the production and mixing are good and the performances are brilliant, but the real crux of the pleasures of this album are held within the band’s song writing ability, which at times sounds as though it is throwing a swift middle finger up to all the clichéd alternative bands out there. Where others would try too hard, they have not… And this shows itself simply and neatly through performance, concept and sound.
Tender Madness is available to buy/download right now from jennybesetzt.bandcamp.com
ARTIST: New Horror
RELEASE: Fruitless Search
RELEASE DATE: 27th August 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Soft Verse
Dirty, wild, echoing and beautiful… These are all words one would use to describe the EP Fruitless Search by lo-fi post-punk band New Horror. Their sound is one of untamed uniqueness, nestled somewhere near the punk-violence/garage sound of a band like 'Pigeon Religion' and the warped but dazzlingly emotive riffs of a band like 'Codeine' (but louder). Indeed, Fruitless Search will not be everybody’s cup of tea but, perhaps, this is an indication of the kind of alternative brilliance that can be heard on this EP. Slowcore, garage rock, noise, lo-fi, post-punk, dream rock and alternative rock are just SOME of the genres that get tossed around, from song to song and sound to sound. Funnily enough, most will mute the noise frequency of the band, complain about how distanced the vocals are or beg to know why the guitars are so *expletive word* loud; But honestly these songs and sounds are refreshing… In a technological age where everybody thinks their sound and image are their own, a band like this don’t even try to mount the task of being ‘original’, rather they stick to what they know, churn out rattling song after song after song and defy genres in the process.
Fruitless Search by New Horror
The ghostly, dark and garage infused post-punk song ‘Like a Child’ opens the EP with the bands noise-riddled guitars and drumming reminiscent of classic 80’s style post-punk. The vocals echo heavily in the distance; they sit at such a volume that many can hardly hear them amidst the churning fuzz of the guitar. But before you jump to the conclusion that it’s just a pile of wild fuzz proclaimed to be ‘noise music’ the band showcase their song writing abilities to the absolute maximum when they include an emotive guitar riff over the top of the aforementioned noise. This allows the song to rise from pure noise rock into the realms of dense lo-fi post-punk, with touches of the French orientated Coldwave and other dream rock elements thrown in for good measure. Up next, 'In The Night' growls into earshot with driving guitars, throbbing bass and a repetitious drum pattern before ‘Everything Feels Like a Stab in the Heart’ ambles into frame featuring what sounds like an authentic eighties drum machine keeping the tempo high and fast, as the band show off a more alternative rock related sound. The song still yields post-punk elements underneath the wall of noise and guitars; rising higher than previous tracks, the vocals on ‘Everything Feels Like a Stab in the Heart’ sound more accessible, albeit still in a deeply alternative way.
While these two fantastically well-written songs sound as though the band have put their best foot forward first, this is all thrown out the window when ‘Through You’ begins to play. An absolutely brilliant, first class, downtrodden song of shoegaze proportions, the noisy but dreamy ‘Through You’ showcases an almost slowcore style of sound that the band present to the listener, wrapped in a second hand, dirty, style of wrapping paper. ‘Through You’ runs for six minutes and is built around the slow but intelligent drums that keep the tempo rolling and dreamy; over the top sit the bands noisy and humming guitars… But the added feature that ties the whole song together majestically is a dark and loud synth which sounds like the good-looking cousin of a train engine. Praise should also be given wholly to the fantastic bass riff that’s featured on ‘Through You’, which at times may be hard to hear, but is in fact the musical backbone of the song. Together the instruments manage to bring across a totally wild but completely exalted piece of music; fantastic.
‘White Walls’, a type of interlude, follows on and features a nice, toned down and less noise based sound. The song actually features acoustic guitar, strummed along to a dreamy bass tone and backed eerily with noise-filtered but distanced guitar and a bright soundscape. As the song picks and strums away, it leads into the bands ultimate beast; a ten minute epic called ‘Mirror’. ‘Mirror’ is a monstrous track of immensely beautiful sounds, all melded together and once again stationed around the reverb and hard sound of drums in the background that, beside the occasional fill, maintains the same pounding rhythm for the whole song. The song, in all its musical layering, is actually perhaps more upbeat than most others on the EP. What begins as the bands core (guitars, bass, drums, voice and a few other bits and pieces) playing along eventually exceeds into many sounds, instruments and soundscapes, flooding the listeners ears. ‘Mirror’ is hard to define and outline, but it stands as a brilliant piece of music recorded and presented by a group of song writing virtuosos. Much like all diverse and epic songs, I can’t really do ‘Mirror’ any justice with simple, bland and rhetorical words. You might have to just listen to it.
And there it is, Fruitless Search, an EP heavy and soft, deep but surfaced and loud but almost always beautiful. The production and mixing reflects the sounds that are evident on the release; scratchy and loud, but maintained and done so with a degree of professionalism that appears too simple to be successful. With this very thought in mind, the entire EP, the entire aesthetic of the group may be completely evident on the EPs cover; featuring a bland, awkward photograph of somebody simply standing there. This photo defies the songs that feature no real conceptual basis (in a good way) and the entire sound of the band; simple but deeply brilliant. As mentioned before the song writing is of a majestic and utterly talented quality, as are the performances and the additional sounds and synths that feature throughout.
Fruitless Search is kind of a reinforcement of the idea that there are still warriors out there producing almost completely original music; borrowed and influenced by others but always reshaped and restyled to be their own. And what, I quietly hear you ask, is that supposed to mean? All I’m saying is that many bands throw albums and EP's out, tell you how amazingly original they are and how they smell like critical acclaim when in actual fact they are bland, boring, un-educated and incorrectly referential to the music they supposedly play and are influenced by. Here, with Fruitless Search, the concept of originality in non-professional bands appears and reminds us all what can be achieved when you are actually talented. So I suppose you should probably listen to this EP… As I stated before though, this may not be for everybody, and not everybody may understand it or even try to understand it… And if you don’t, please feel free to *expletive word* off and listen to some self-proclaimed geniuses generic music. This EP is for those who appreciate song writing, context and quality of performance and sound.
Fruitless Search is available to buy/download right now on various formats from softverse.bigcartel.com & newhorror.bandcamp.com respectively.
ARTIST: The Battles Of Winter
RELEASE: At Once With Tattered Sails
RELEASE DATE: 23 September 2016
Post-Rock, Post-Punk with a bit of Alt-Rock and Indie thrown in you say? Well, 'The Battles of Winter' reply swiftly and smartly with their brand new album 'At Once With Tattered Sails'. In what could be the most well produced album I’ve heard from a non-major label in quite a while, the band weave through many sounds to create a dark and atmospheric post-punk album; helped substantially by the amazingly deep and heavy vocals of the album.
'At Once With Tattered Sails' begins with ‘Falcons’ an eerie, post-punk laden track with an intro that uses a slower tempo styled post-punk beat that eventually leads into a hypnotically dark coldwave inspired chorus. ‘Falcons’ sounds like a twisted indie song, full of elements that you could imagine being bright and colourful, turned into a cynical, industrialised landscape. This morphed indie track suits the band profusely though, and a song like ‘Falcons’ does nothing but display the bands most talented tendencies. ‘Hale Seizer’ (see what they did there?) goes even deeper into a perverse darkness, this time with much more minimalist instrumentation, until the rollicking noise rock inspired chorus. This track begins to showcase the deep and thought provoking lyrics, which would not be so out of place if they were read as poetry. The rattle, twangy guitars at the tracks second half maintain a distinctive 80’s coldwave feel, connecting the band back with its musical and artistic roots. The brilliant, two minute punky song ‘Wrong Port’ shows the listener that the band are not solely tied to slow, downtempo, strumming… Rather they show their talent in pulling off what seems to be a much darker, sped up version of an Opera Multi Steel song.
‘Hare Hunter Field’ could be the best song on the album, its slow, quiet beginning seeps into an almost slowcore ballad… The vocals hover spectrally in the mix, as the slow tap of the drum slowly shift, the guitars echo slowly with a reverb style distant in the mix and the track shifts into a heavy, noise ridden track. Everything is highlighted further through the mature and brilliant production and mixing on the album, and occasionally the band show touches of post-rock that make them sound even better with 'Death in a Lemon Grove Part I & II' & 'Shot Down Over Tokyo' being prime examples. ‘Slow Burning Country’ turns the albums sound almost completely alternative rock, but occasionally the band mix this in together with post-punk elements, especially the vocals, which maintain the same profound delivery throughout the entire album. This track highlights the fantastic capabilities of the drums as well; the heavy beat punctuating into the mix, coupling fantastically with the heavy rock of the guitars. Towards the tracks end, the vocals transcend into a higher and impressive registry that gives the music a wild element of ‘surround sound’ quality. ‘Love’s White Thread’ holds back again on instrumentation and instead uses the vocals as the forefront of the sound and the song morphs around it. Although it may appeal to some listeners, ‘Love’s White Thread’ seems less fluent than previous tracks. It also doesn’t show as much of the bands brilliant song writing skills of as other tracks. But, anyway…
‘Sainted Galleries’ is also a contender for the albums greatest song, especially in its magnificent instrumental section in its centre, which slowly and surely brings vocals into the mix. The song brings together sounds touched upon earlier in the album (coldwave and alternative rock especially) and ties it together with the rat-a-tat beat of classic 80’s post-punk, the vocals maintaining their value for the entire entrancing song. 'At Once with Tattered Sails' is not so much an album about performance (although the performances are all brilliant) rather it is an album about sounds. For the listener, the band has conjoined and crafted all sorts of majestic and dark sounds together; thus the sounds on the album come across as truly great, but it is the band who have melded them together so very well to make them even better. Nothing but praise should be handed onto the production and mixing on 'At Once with Tattered Sails', which feels empty, open and echoed all at the same time. Similarly, the vocals are genius; a reminder that post-punk and coldwave music doesn’t have to have distant and low volume yelling to be fantastic. The vocals on the album fit well with the lyrics, displaying a tasteful throwback to the eighties alternative music scene.
While some may feel the album reuses itself too much, I feel that partially that is part of the appeal of the music. For example, pop music vocal deliveries vary from song to song so the average listener thinks each song itself is completely different because of the vocals (that’s pretty much mainstream pop summarised for you). But 'Battles of Winter' maintain the same, deep and echoing voice on nearly every track, which I genuinely feel makes the music ever more powerful. The album showcases everything that should be done in the genre, and how a band should go about producing and mixing an album; achieved cleverly through performance and sound.
ARTIST: Lazy Legs
RELEASE DATE: 15/07/16
RECORD COMPANY: Wild Patterns Records
Noisy, fuzzy electric shoegaze is brilliant when it’s pulled off properly, so here’s a band that skips the non-brilliant and stays brilliant. Make sense? Maybe? Anyway, Lazy Legs, a fine trio of musicians, have exerted all their musical knowledge and song writing skills on their latest full length LP to bring you some brilliant noisy, fuzzy electric shoegaze; it’s called VISIONDEATH and its central sounds are built around the dirty, the dreamy and the intelligent.
VISIONDEATH by Lazy Legs
The LP begins with the distortion heavy intro track, ‘Rapid Eyes’ a nice, melding intro of all sorts of both pointed and beautiful sound mixed together. This leads into the next track, ‘Open’, which features a more garage rock sound than other songs, so much so that it evolves into a post-punk-esque storm, which layers and layers until a distant hum entrenches the background sound; fantastic. ‘Blister’ is much more drenched and heavy, maintaining only the tap of the drums to keep its tempo from swaying at a slowcore pace. The chorus showcases the bands noise pop tendency, taking the music and vocals a note or two higher than the gutter verses (using the word gutter in a good way that is) and blending together beautiful and conceptual sounds. ‘Deep Breath’ sounds almost like a dream pop song compared to the previous few tracks, with a deep, shoegaze inspired chorus that slots swiftly between the crunchy, less violent fuzz of the song.
Songs like ‘Sparks’ and 'Deathvisions' again pull the layer blending off, but only in the bands favour, who crunch out brilliant performance after brilliant performance. The songs at this point sound like a mix between noise rock, noise pop, garage, post-punk shoegaze with majestic slowcore, airy and distant vocals thrown in for good measure. The vocals are on a different wavelength altogether with bizarre, echoed, low volume singing that purposefully can’t be fully heard in the battleground built by the band; full of noise and sludge, with the occasional soundscape and ambient piece of genius thrown in for good measure. ‘Snaketeeth’ is a prime example of this and of perhaps the most shoegaze of all the songs on the album, period. The songs outro is close to one of the most ambient, beautiful and downtempo pieces of music on the entire album.
‘Beholder’ turns the game back around, however, with its crunchy and loud intro; full of filthy and dirty bass and guitars. Eventually though, the song captures the mood and style of almost the entire album; that is a mixture of loud, confronting noises coupled in harmony and blended with serene, dreamy vocals, soundscapes and instrumentation. ‘Beholder’ rises with a mix of winter and sweaty and dirty spaces; who would have thought of that? The albums closer, 'Wide Awake', plays on a much slower beat, eventually displaying everything shoegaze that the band have been toying with over the course of the entire album. This album is whether or not the band think so, very very conceptual. It’s so much so that it’s bordering on a concept album… But, I hear you so patiently ask, what’s the concept? Well… It’s not a conceptual story; Lazy Legs don’t sing about the medieval period or how a girl learned to dance, rather the concept is blending. Every sound on the album is blended with each other, on a theoretical level, ideas (of how a sound should be heard, whether it is loud or soft) are also heavily blended. This theory is backed up even more so by the abstract, digital art on the albums cover… A piece of art built upon blending. The good part of all of this is that Lazy Legs are actually extremely talented in the art of musical and sonic blending, of joining and building a relationship between sounds and instrumentation, which in turn reinforces the albums concept and makes the listening experience all the more enjoyable.
For some, the album will be perhaps too alternative. These same some may ask why the vocals are so distant and become bored with the same fuzz, distortion and ambience that features so heavily on the album. But for those who enjoy truly alternative and original music, the listening experience will be the exact opposite of that. So listen and enjoy the noise, and appreciate the texture and blending, achieved through performance, production and sound.
RELEASE: Somewhere Away
RELEASE DATE: 19/08/16
RECORD COMPANY: Vipchoyo Sound Factory
This is how a conversation about modern dream/trip-hop inspired electronics music sounds: ‘blah, blah, blah, blah, blah’. Why does it sound like that? Cause once upon a time a group of musicians got together and churned out a massive arsenal of absolute 5/5 albums; think Tricky, Smith and Mighty and Mazzy Star. They layered, they edited, they sampled, they sung, they mixed and they scored hit after hit off and on the mainstream. These musicians pioneered a genre of music that has literally being trampled upon since the late 80’s/early 90’s with copycat, boring, unintelligent rehashes that involve pushing some buttons on a drum machine, putting some interesting but generic female vocals over the top of the mix and being ‘atmospheric’. Those technical wizards who do everything blandly digitally believe wholly that trip-hop/electronic music should be released as it is, without experimentation, without huge inspiration, influence or genre-bending. So it is refreshing and somewhat soothing to listen to Somewhere Away; the new LP by electronic three piece Vibrissae, an album that experiments, practices fantastic song writing and is just enjoyable. And that really, is that. If 'Somewhere Away' spoke anything through the speakers in its conceptual and musical language it is that ultimately if a sound is enjoyable, if it mesmerizes in its quality and is a pleasing experience, then what else is there that needs to be pondered?
READ ON -
Somewhere Away by Vibrissae
'Somewhere Away' begins with a short intro track (Whiskers) that sets the mood subtlety by never directly tackling any of the sounds on the album but simultaneously teasing small sounds on the electronic palette of the genre. ‘Never Again’ begins the album with a jangling distorted guitar and pulsating beats that sound reminiscent of trance music; these sounds are all complimented with the hushing vocals, rocketing bass and shoegaze inspired synth and keyboards. The song has flashes of Eurobeat in its musical structure, but returns to a more synth pop orientated field with the chorus and the catchy, danceable riff that follows it. The song balances itself between dance anthem and alternative sonic soundscape just enough to create an intricate and energetic track; one that the listener may enjoy either way. For those searching for evidence of musical experimentation and genre bending/melding, one should look no further than ‘Incident Report’, which starts as a pulsating industrial track, layered with metallic percussion and the sound of a darkwave tracks opening few bars, only to evolve intelligently into a trip-hop song and delve straight back into darkwave inspired sounds coupled with post-punk style drums on the chorus. The song morphs and jumps neatly from one genre to another, while all the while holding its electronic basics and placing the vocals in a backseat position enough that the music and the vocals seep into each other; a rewarding listening experience.
‘Bulan’ nestles itself in calmly as another beautiful instrumental interlude, showing off all the bands tricks in a much smaller scale whilst 'Not Forever' is an ethereal feast of beautifully constructed guitars and glorious vocals. The metallic ringing from the previous tracks is brought into a stellar techno-inspired instrumental ‘Crooked Stripe’ which is then followed up with ‘Crooked Smile’ a four minute bass heavy dance/darkwave track. 'Vibrissae' show off their skill with the bass guitar, which forms a thick and tasty riff around the central beats and soundscapes. Eventually the track goes full darkwave and reinforces a heavy laden alternative dance beat, all packed together with the slick sounds of keyboard. Although the whole thing stands together intelligently, the song eventually becomes slightly boring, especially in contrast with other tracks on the EP. ‘Need’ is a heavy post-punk style song built around the opening guitar riff and the funk-inspired bass. The vocals fit magnificently in the mix as the song touches on indie rock and the intricate singing style of folk rock all the while returning to the opening post-punk riff; a brilliant and enjoyably diverse listen. The LP concludes with the epic title track, a ten minute adventure through what begins as a slow, alternative rock style riff which builds into an echoing electronic listening experience. The track itself feels like a journey, like sounds are guiding the way through a landscape that Vibrissae has built for the sole purpose of allowing the listener to roam around in, rather than just sitting and listening.
Overall the LP feels too ‘thrown together’. The longer weightier, well written and thorough tracks are surrounded by varying degrees of instrumental track, as if the band thought they didn’t have enough material and chucked together a few filler instrumentals. The LP is also greatly temperamental in its vocals; some tracks feature great amounts of vocals before two instrumentals in a row feature none, and then they return. I am not directly critiquing the songs themselves per say, rather their standing in the whole LP. But as I stated before-hand in the introduction, the pure enjoyment one gets from listening overrides simple things like track placement and the album does itself justice wholly and solely in that area. And that’s what makes 'Somewhere Away' great, it’s not a utopian album, but it’s a reminder that the pure enjoyment factor of a sound should ultimately shine through and inform our opinion in the greater sense. With that in mind, I thought this album was, in most of its parts, enjoyable and refreshing to the genre, a testament to the skill of the band and their sound.
'Somewhere Away' is available to buy/download right now from: vibrissae.bandcamp.com
RELEASE: Songs From The Woods
RELEASE DATE: 26/05/16
What do you get when you mix smooth soundscapes with rock’n’roll, hush with loudness or hypnosis with high flying vocals? 'Songs from the Woods' is what you get. This mini album/EP from dream rock duo The Maheekats seeks to remind the listener of the past, while evoking originality and something altogether interesting… And it does so over the course of six dream inspired, folk-impinged rock and pop tracks.
Songs from the Woods by maheekats
The EP begins with the song ‘Lady in Space’, that begins with ethereal alternative guitars and the comfortable tap of the drums in the background, until the fantastic and hypnotic vocals enter the mix, giving the song a distant folk sound that mixes in brilliantly with the dream rock fused bass, thick and heavy. The song seeps 'The Stone Roses', in lyrical quality (see ‘Waterfall’) and with a similar production technique (except Maheekats production sounds much fuller). The chorus, which backs off on the instrumentation to allow for the catchy lyrics, is a warm and enjoyable creation. However, with the immense lyrical quality of some songs, ‘Lady in Space’ wavers between interesting and boring each listen. Its chorus and simple instrumentation (beside the fantastic bass) don’t allow it to stand out from 90’s alternative rock radio hits with the exact same style of writing, and ultimately the song sounds timid and tiresome. This song is followed by the refreshing and dreamy ‘Shotgun’ which sounds influenced by the Kate Bush styled art-pop that Maheekats blend together with greater and more experimental instrumentation. The vocals featured in the chorus are phenomenal, especially when they reach and grab the trance-evoking high notes that are underpinned with a brilliant array of horns. The song then introduces a breezy, shoegaze filtered synth line which finally mixes into the songs brilliant collage of horns, vocals, drum, bass, guitar, keyboards and more. ‘Shotgun’ displays all the greatest elements of Maheekats diverse and layered song writing skills, along with lyrics and a denser production style that allow the song to project itself beautifully.
‘Starry Ocean’ is a fantastic post-rock, piano centred interlude… Simple, soothing, imagery evoking brilliance. The genius touches of smaller sounds (pads, strings) allow the piano to serve as both a background and foreground instrument for the listener, rather than an average and stock standard interlude or instrumental album fillers. The Pretenders influenced ‘Without Horizons’ acts as the EP’s biggest step into straight-forward alternative rock, not that’s a bad thing. The riffs featured on the song once again highlight the wide and talented vocals of Maheekats and the quality of the production (and mixing) are of a fantastic quality. The greatest element of ‘Without Horizons’ is that it features some of the EP’s most well-written lyrics. These lyrics read as poetry and arise as the songs ultimate feature after each listen. Musically it sounds like a seventies inspired heavy rock song but practices a subtle hint of nineties era alternative/garage musical expansion which propels it to be greater after reading (or in this case listening) into it.
The epic ‘Eureka’ follows, constructed at around seven minutes and featuring all the musical adventures that the band has embarked on across 'Songs from the Woods'. ‘Eureka’ begins entrancingly intelligent, with soft sung vocals and basic instrumentation that feeds the listener the dreamy, poetic lyrics on a golden plate. The song then eases into a bizarre exercise in drum bashing and the lyrics roll out into ‘The weight of the world is in hand’ sung over and over… The brilliant guitars follow, but the lyrics don’t… Instead turning into a tongue in cheek Celtic influenced folk-dance underpinned with… Um, animal noises? Or something? I don’t know. Then the song continues with an interesting bassline which is slowly drowned out with cymbal rape (is there a reason we can only hear cymbals?) before the guitars and other instruments return to evolve the song into an interesting and engaging piece of music. The outro to ‘Eureka’ finally does the entrancing vocals justice, and uses them as an instrument rather than another mere feature. In fact, on the outro to the song, the Maheekats manage to mix all the instruments together to create a soothing and interesting piece of music, reminiscent but much more epic than on ‘Shotgun’ which saves the song and reminds the listener of the high quality of song writing they are listening to.
After listening to 'Songs from the Woods' I was confused, with what opinion? On one hand, elements of the EP shone through brilliantly and tied everything together to create a musical beast worth listening to over and over. But on the other hand I wondered, sincerely, about a few features on the album. For one, ‘Lady in Space’ became more and more generic after listening to the EPs other tracks, displaying the professional and engaging level of song writing on the other tracks but in turn doing the band (and ‘Lady in Space’) no favours. The instrumental interlude ‘Starry Ocean’ was fantastic… So fantastic that it was more enjoyable than ‘Without Horizons’ (which has its own merits), which somehow (while being enjoyable in its own right) bought the level of song writing back to near the same area as ‘Lady in Space’. And while ‘Eureka’ eventually highlighted and presented an extravagant piece of song writing and music, the middle section was completely baffling with its instrumentation, mixing and interpretation.
Let’s get one thing straight… 'Songs from the Woods' features next to no post-punk, dream pop, shoegaze or hugely experimental music and at times the EP even seems far from the bands self-dubbed dream rock status. There is nothing wrong with that, however listeners seeking out these things should instead know that 'Songs from the Woods' is fluent with art pop, folk rock and even underpinned with large amounts of Celtic and Irish music in some songs. Altogether the band resemble Kate Bush more than any other artist; occasionally they dabble their toes in heavier rock, but ultimately the vocals direct the music into a style most reminiscent of Bush’s. And much like (but superior to) Kate Bush’s bizarre 00’s albums, 'Songs from the Woods' seems like a representation of a band obtusely seeking effort and thus creating something unchallenging, in patches greatly uninteresting and generic.
But this mini album is also greatly enjoyable, features brilliant performances and production and ultimately attributes top quality song writing within. On tracks like the outro to ‘Eureka’, ‘Shotgun’, the post-rock inspired ‘Starry Ocean’ and the riffs on ‘Without Horizons’ the band highlight beautiful and engaging soundscapes and construction, achieved through mixing, production, performance and sound.
3.5 / 5