ARTIST: Psychic Lemon
RELEASE: Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay
RELEASE DATE: January 12th 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Tonzonen Records
London based psych aficionados 'Psychic Lemon' inject swirling space rock, well drilled prog rock and motorik krautrock into their overall sound that is both hypnotic and addictive all at once. This impressive three piece (previously a quartet) have been ploughing a deep sonic furrow into the underground psych collective since the release of their self-titled debut album back in 2016 but I have to admit that I hadn't heard of the band up until receiving the press release for their brand new album. I've since rectified that issue. Entitled 'Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay', this immense collection of five tracks is explosive, exquisite and quite possibly one of the best albums that I've heard in some time. At times sonically transcending, 'Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay' breathes new life into a collective of genres that have been very much diluted beyond hope over the past few years. 'Psychic Lemon' strip these genres back to their base components before collectively reimagining them into a huge singular sonic entity. 'Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay' gets it's official release on January 12th 2018 via tonzonen records and is available to buy/download on various formats including lovely vinyl from psychiclemon.bandcamp.com
Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay by Psychic Lemon
The swing of African themed drums pulls humming bass frequencies into audible range as ‘Exit To The Death Lane’ winds itself into a coiled sonic behemoth and prepares to strike. Swirling guitars ride turbulent waves of reverberation enveloping an impressively mantra like vocal line thus adding hypnotic circumventions to the piece as it manipulates sound waves and bends notes at will before erupting into a massive wall of fuzzed out psych induced melody. This is something altogether mesmerising. It’s a mix of space rock, modern psych and fucked up rock and roll all packed up into a huge opening salvo to whet the sonic appetite with. Up next ‘Psychic Lemon’ unleash their garage-psych side as ‘Hey Droog!’ explodes into pulsating percussive assault accompanied by throbbing bass lines and the swirling sounds of organ delectably drenched in sullen reverberation. Wailing lead guitar deploys a raging wah-wah pedal that meanders in and out of tempo driven drum patterns, unleashing a holy sonic war of attrition and laying waste to all before it. It's another massive assault on the cranium and bloody masterful in its approach. ‘You’re No good’ tumbles into the ether riding a krautrock like percussive pattern as it's repetitive nature keeps metronomic time allowing addictive lead lines to permeate the mix, sitting precariously on top of gravity defying bass patterns. The musicianship on this track is impressive and it’s vocal lines although sparse are very effective. Listen out for that magnificent break half way through and the brilliant introduction of saxophone. It will suck you into a mesmerising world of psychedelically charged experimentation.
The highlight of the album for me and it’s penultimate track comes in the guise of ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star’ and it does exactly as it says on the tin. A raging wall of turbulent instrumentation rides a pounding wall of percussive noise collectively enveloping an absolutely magnificent marauding bass line whilst lead guitar lines whip the entire track to within an inch of its life. ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star’ is a fuzzed out white knuckle sonic ride straight to heart of the sun and it’s explosive ending will blow your fucking mind. The album closes out with ‘Satori Disco’, a melody infused spaced out gem that sits on a bed rock of rolling drums and the consistent throb of bass frequencies. Angry strummed guitars hold court here as lead lines dipped in reverb meander in and out of the piece pulling hypnotic Saxophone and wailing wah-wah with it as it rides it's turbulent pre-destined sonic course. This is a bloody impressive track and a fabulous ending to what is for me a masterpiece of an album. Seriously recommended.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Del Chaney has spent the last five years dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, post punk & modern psych rock from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He is also a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion (Now On Hiatus). His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has helped him in actively promoting a genre of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.
by Primal Music
ARTIST: Stupid Cosmonaut
RELEASE DATE: 5th January 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Drone Rock Records
Back in March 2017 UK based sonic experimentalists 'Stupid Cosmonaut' wowed us lot here at Primal Music by unleashing the dark and brooding ambient psych beast that was 'Algol', their first full release on the brilliant 'Drone Rock Records' and one of their most impressive albums to date. Now the band have returned with a six track second outing on the aforementioned label. The totally immersive 'Digitalis' leans heavily into an ambient lunar world filled with hazy electronics, swirling drones, meticulous sequencing and massive swathes of reverberation to bring us something altogether immense. 'Digitalis' gets it's official release on January 5th 2018 with vinyl copies available right now via dronerockrecords.com and digital downloads available from stupidcosmonaut.bandcamp.com
Digitalis by Stupid Cosmonaut
Deep pulsating bass notes, exquisitely sequenced and overlaid with cascading rock fall electronics announce ‘Field Trip’, the albums immense opening salvo. Swirling reverberations cradle huge sprawls of synth that collectively surf ambient atmospherics effortlessly allowing soft percussive patterns to balance precariously atop repetitive claps, tingling lines of keyboard and the consistent surge of blissed out sonic abandonment as we’re swept along on a wave of intimate sonic bliss. Up next, ‘Rephlex’ bounces into audible range tumbling along brilliantly with a thinned out electronic pulse that holds this track together allowing swirling synth swells caught in massive patches of reverb to float and eddy freely. ‘Rephlex’ has martian like atmospherics that hang in suspended animation deftly tied to a beautifully ambient sonic construction. At thirteen minutes long it’s a magical sonic journey, reminiscent of that masterful ambient electronic wizard ‘Vangelis’ and definitely one for the headphones. ‘Offline’ permeates the ether on a melancholic wave of synth and creeping percussion. Off timed drum hits add intense atmosphere as the track builds, introducing deep penetrating waves of breakbeat drenched in reverberating electronic theatrics and dancing lines of warbling synth. It’s a well thought out track that loops and arcs brilliantly through waves of ambient psych.
‘Post Human’ screams 60’s sci-fi as it unfurls shimmering lines of addictive synth drenched in atmosphere. Sequenced percussion runs the gauntlet as instrumentally we move skywards through rings of sonic enrichment, attached to a bouncing bass line and swirling swells of reverb that coalesce as one sentient being before massive chord changes add a kind of ethereal hue to proceedings. This is a majestic track and a firm favourite of mine on the album. Up next the albums penultimate piece enters the sonic arena. ‘Digitalis’ is a fuzzy brute that in it’s opening bars rides a punchy drum pattern drenched in a kind of post-punk hue. Busy sequenced synth lines add turbulent windswept atmospherics just below the mix as those twinkling lines of piano dance and skirt atop deep stabs of synth and fizzing electronics. The album closes out with ‘Sadness And Euphoria’. Melancholic guitar lines meander effortlessly through hazy sonic channels filled with shimmering synth and catchy chord changes as the track builds ever so slowly, adding intense atmosphere with every added musical layer. ‘Sadness And Euphoria’ is deeply ambient and is underscored at times with subtle hints of post-rock and brilliantly executed electronic psychedelia that raises it’s head at precise moments and catches the ear before melding back brilliantly into the mix. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable ending to marvellously executed release.
ARTIST: The Cabin Fever
RELEASE: Exercise The Demon
RELEASE DATE: 23rd January 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
Los Angeles based experimental dark gazing trio ‘The Cabin Fever’ have just announced their brand new sophomore release brilliantly titled 'Exercise The Demon'. This brand new eight track EP gets it's full release on January 23rd 2018 and it follows on from their 2016 debut album ‘Enjoy Yourself’. The band are made up of Sean Moriarty (vocals/guitar), Joel Bedolla (guitar) and Tripp Beam (drums) and 'Exercise The Demon' is available to pre-order right now via thecabinfever.bandcamp.com
Exercise the demon EP by The Cabin Fever
The tumble of slow paced percussion announces the arrival of track one ‘B-L-S-H’ and it’s soon accompanied by the melodic pull of heady bass frequencies and fuzzy guitar squall. There’s a deeply melancholic vibe coursing through the The Cabin Fever’s overall sound that’s inherently captivating and the arrival of those sublime vocalisations adds weight to that statement. They instantly suck you in and initiate a snapshot of modern times and the many pit-falls that lie beneath the blank facade of everyday life. They float effortlessly in amongst melody strewn lanes filled with catchy chord changes, undulating lead lines and the sweet pull of violin. An impressive opening salvo. Up next, ‘Simon Says’ shimmers on a trembling wave of tambourine and almost droning instrumentation that rises and falls through sullen verse parts that envelope another great vocal track and build brilliantly into driving chorus progressions filled with soaring lead lines and busy percussion.
‘Trucrime’ chugs into existence strapped to a crawling guitar progression and a slow processional snare hit that ricochets atop a pinging delay. It’s vocal track meanders brilliantly through 80’s themed synth lines and layers of hazy reverberation, cruising through catchy hook laden highs and dipping below the ether into addictively dark post-shoegaze atmospherics. ‘His People’ pulses and weaves a repetitive sonic web filled with off beat drum patterns and crawling guitar progressions underpinned with streamlined synth and layered production theatrics whilst ‘Exercise The Demon’ is dark and atmospheric. It moves extremely slow attached to the pull of intense guitars, it’s underlying strings and the melancholic tone of it’s lead vocals that keep the listener focusing intently on their every move. This track builds brilliantly. In fact, it has a subtle movie soundtrack quality and introduces it’s layered instrumentation as each verse progression passes adding colour when needed and slowing down at times to highlight lyrical narrative.
The Cabin Fever included a fantastic bonus track on this EP entitled ‘Tony’s Song’ that swirls into audible range on 60’s sci-fi synth swells and plodding bass progressions riding an almost metronomic percussive pattern. It explodes into a melting pot of sounds including resolute hand claps, cascading synth, hazy shoegaze hued layers of resonating guitars and the outright addictiveness of those sublime vocalisations. The EP closes out with two alternate mixes of both ‘B-L-S-H’ and ‘Exercise The Demon’. If that kind of thing floats your boat then these are for you. However if like me you don’t see the point in including them, then the EP finished up on that brilliant bonus track. All being said, ‘Exercise The Demon’ is an impressive collection of tracks loaded with layers of atmosphere and impressive melancholic abandonment.
ARTIST: The Telescopes
RELEASE: Stone Tape
RELEASE DATE: 20th November 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Yardpress
Seminal UK based sound manipulators 'The Telescopes' have returned with a stunning follow up to their ninth album, the July 2017 released 'As Light Returns'. Over the past thirty years and under the direction of experimental psychedelic explorer, founder & sole remaining member Stephen Lawrie, 'The Telescopes' have ploughed a steady experimental furrow into the sonic ether, changing perceptions and influencing many bands along the way. Now Lawrie has joined forces with the Rome based independent record label 'Yardpress' to release a six track concept album that goes way beyond the conventional standard of sound. 'Stone Tape' is a lysergic tinged spiritual journey spinning primarily around a experimental central cortex of instrumental drone, sparse percussion and eastern esoteric psych that reflects the inner most workings of an artists mind. It is inspired by the 'Stone Tape Theory', theorized by Thomas Charles Lethbridge back in 1961. The archaeologist, parapsychologist and explorer developed the idea that inanimate materials can absorb energy from living beings, and that this mental electrical energy, released during emotional or traumatic events, could somehow be stored in such materials and reproduced under certain conditions. 'Stone Tape' is a completely immersive sonic experience, deserved of praise and one of the best collection of tracks that I've heard this year so far. It gets it's full release on the 20th November 2017 on various formats via yardpress.com and thetelescopes.bandcamp.com respectively.
Stone Tape by the telescopes
A swirling repetitive instrumental drone accompanied by the almost metronomic splash of tambourine announces the arrival of ‘Become The Sun’, the opening salvo on this stunning collection of tracks. There’s a sense of hushed atmospherics as those whispered vocalisations merge effortlessly with eastern tinged esoteric tones to collectively wash over you in undulating waves whilst at the same time submerging you into a lysergic dream like world of meandering instrumentation. It’s highly addictive and a marvellous opening track indeed. Up next, ‘The Speaking Stones’ unfurls it’s malevolent outer layers and creeps into audible range like a stalking predator on the hunt. It’s percussion free sonic tendrils swirl brilliantly around another sustained harmonic drone permeated at different stages by sullen vocal lines awash with polyphonic textures and steeped in deeply experimental reverberations.
Deeply melodic and wonderfully addictive, ‘The Desert In Your Heart’ is a definite highlight on this release. There’s a sublime tonality swirling deep within this piece that balances it’s poetic but sullen vocal lines with the duel functionality of a repetitive drone and the atmospheric steps of the organ that dramatically enhance both harmony and dissonance as they meander deftly along a predestined course. It sucks you in and holds you in a kind of psychedelic stasis as it’s sonic vibrations and fizzing frequencies invade your inner psyche. It’s a masterpiece, thoroughly addictive and my favourite track on the entire release. Up next, ‘Everything Must Be’ growls and fizzes into existence held fast in a electrically charged, feedback laden haze. The constant stab of bass notes and or the twang of guitar adds a malign kind of atmosphere that builds and builds into a whirlwind of dark energy before petering out, allowing apparitional vocal lines to ride tempestuous frequency laden waves of feedback and the odd plonk of piano before screaming back into life in an unwavering instrumental drone. ‘Everything Must Be’ is a sublimely experimental, totally immersive eight minute long sonic journey an it underlines for me just how brilliant the musical mind of Stephen Lawrie actually is.
The albums penultimate piece entitled ‘Silent Water’ jangles into earshot on a shimmering wave of acoustic frequencies deftly underscored by twisting shakers and repetitive electronics. Reverb hued vocal lines intertwine with subtle organ swells to throw a lamenting air over proceedings as Lawrie takes a brief sojourn away from the experimental to bring us something altogether peaceful before ‘Dead Inside’, the albums closing track, skips into the ether and crashes headlong into a world of repetitive acoustic frequencies, mantra like vocalisations and monstrously dark feedback laden electronics to bring us a horror strewn soundscape, deliciously filled with stunning sonic escapism. It’s a fitting end to a wonderfully experimental outing by a band who continuously amaze.
ARTIST: The Virgance
RELEASE: Worship The Moon
RELEASE DATE: 31st October 2017
RECORD COMPANY: El Vals del Conejo
Stepping away from a tried and trusted sonic format in the name of experimentation is a tricky and sometimes perilous undertaking. Continued advancements in music recording technology feed the mind of the modern musician and the lure for change is a relentless beast regardless of the all encompassing perils and pitfalls that surround a massive change in any artists collective sound. Taking all of that into consideration, I've just reviewed the latest release entitled 'Worship The Moon' from UK based 'The Virgance' and it marks a significant shift in direction in terms of composition, arrangement and incredibly instrumentation thus turning this artists recognised sound on it's head and dumping it firmly in the 'Experimental' category of music for me. 'The Virgance' is the solo project of Nathan Smith, previously of seminal 90's band Ripley & 00's electro noise merchants 'Loveless'. 'Worship The Moon' is his forth album to be released on the brilliant independent net label 'El Vals del Conejo' and it follow's on from both of his 2015 release's, the immense 'Hiko Shrine' and 'Paradigm 3' and his 2014 debut 'Lost Continent'. The album was released on October 31st 2017 and is available to buy/download via thevirgance.bandcamp.com
Worship The Moon by The Virgance
In a cascade of synth and sequenced electronics the opening salvos of ‘Country Of The Past’ begin bombarding the senses with deep sonic vibrations. Dark malevolent bass frequencies merge effortlessly with soaring lines of keyboard, deftly riding wave after wave of entrancing melody and underscored at times with sparse percussion or the occasional drum fill. What is evident from the off is that this is a total step away from what we usually expect from ‘The Virgance’. Yes the wide scoped lunar themed soundscapes are there but usually by now they are awash with layers of hazy guitar and oodles of reverb. Instead these usually addictive sounds have been substituted with swathes of atmospheric synth and their well crafted although progressively electronic accompaniments. It’s almost as if Nathan has channelled the inner mind of Greek composer Vangelis or German based sonic genius Hans Zimmer. Not that I’m complaining at all, in fact, it’s a totally refreshing sound, one that I can personally relate to and a credit to his song writing and production skills. Up next, the deeply experimental but totally entrancing ‘Terrorforming’ floats into the ether on a wave of promulgating synth and warbling keyboard stabs. Ethereal voices glide and shimmer on beautiful pads of Jazz orientated percussion as the listener is immersed in a kaleidoscope of sonic vibrations and massive swathes of intense melancholic atmosphere. ‘Terrorforming’ is absorbingly immense and possibly my favourite track on the entire release.
‘Curious Case’ swirls into audible range caught in the wurlitzing swells of organ with glitchy but explosive drum patterns underfoot. Uplifting instrumental progressions follow a lysergic cycle of circus chic, adding a malevolent theme to proceedings as the collective instrumentation meanders and undulates along a rickety pre-ordained course. It’s impressive but a tad boring after a while and I’m wondering when Harrison Ford will appear with a speaking part. There’s an ambient hue wafting into the ether as the ten minute long ‘Dream Feed’ does exactly as it says on the tin. Twinkling keys and sampled bird calls add atmosphere as ‘The Virgance’ take an experimental sojourn away from their usual cinematic themed fair and drop headlong into an acid blotched world of psychedelic abandonment. It’s all too much for me I’m afraid as it gets a bit freaky half way through, morphing itself into mix match collection of breakbeats, eastern esoteric percussion and swirling reverberations.
The albums penultimate piece entitled ‘Lunar Power’ pulses into life harassed by a cyclonic instrumental drone and soaring swells of atmospheric synth. They collectively rise and fall through layers of reverb and delayed fluctuations, leaving sonic wakes in their path that plough deep dark furrows into the psyche before cascading into almost ethereal like instrumental flourishes. This is encroaching into sci-fi movie soundtrack territory now and it’s not long before the final piece of the puzzle falls into place with the arrival of the closing track aptly named ‘Out Of The Woods’. This track is deeply experimental, a bit too much some might say, and it swerves through passages of modern psych and ambient electronica on a whim with massive walls of reverb, hazy guitars and swooning synths all topped off with some impressive production. It’s a fitting end to what is at times a very confusing album and I don’t mean that in a bad way. ‘Worship the Moon’ has some fascinating moments throughout but is at times way too experimental for my tastes and it overburdens itself with it’s movie soundtrack leanings that can also get a tad monotonous after a while. There are redeeming features throughout with the songwriting, sonic sculpturing and production deserved of serious plaudits. I do however recommend that you listen to it via headphones at first for that all encompassing sonic thrill ride.
Ghost by Holy Monitor
Hailing from the sunbaked Mediterranean shores of Greece, experimental neo-psych/krautrock space rockers ‘Holy Monitor’ have unleashed a stunning new single back in September entitled 'Ghost', a ten minute plus journey filled to it's psychedelic brim with magical incantational sonic energy. The band are made up of Stefanos Mitsis - guitars, Alex Bolpasis - bass, Vangelis Mitsis - synths/organs and George Nikas - drums/guitars/vocals and this latest single follows on from their absolutely stunning self-titled album released back in February 2017. The single is available to buy/download right now from holymonitor.bandcamp.com
'Ghost' shuffles into audible range on a glistening instrumental drone accompanied by the throb of synth and the fizz of effected electronics. It builds meticulously into a pulsating organism with the arrival of humming bass frequencies before tumbling headlong into a metronomic percussive beast. Plinking synth lines and waves of reverberation arrive adding lysergic atmosphere to the mix with every single chord change, allowing magnificent guitar progressions to lick and harass the piece to within an inch of it's life. Organ lines howl pulling clandestine vocalisations with them as they meander through layers of reverberation collectively merging with every other piece of the sonic jigsaw to bring us a mesmerising ten minutes of music.
ARTIST: Pia Fraus
RELEASE: Field Ceremony
RELEASE DATE: 16th October 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Seksound Records (EU) Shelflife (US) Vinyl Junkie (JPN)
Estonian dream-poppers 'Pia Fraus' formed in 1998 and released four studio albums and a handful of EP's on various record labels worldwide. Their collective sound is a sublime mixture of dream-pop, subtle shoegaze and beautiful electronica all topped off blissfully with shimmering layered vocalisations. The band are made up of Eve Komp - vocals/synths/metallophone, Kärt Ojavee - synths, Rein Fuks - guitars/vocals/percussion, Reijo Tagapere - bass and Margus Voolpriit - drums and after a ten year hiatus they have returned with a brand new album entitled 'Field Ceremony', to be released on October 16th 2017 via Seksound Records (EU) Shelflife (US) & Vinyl Junkie (JPN) with former member Kristel Eplik returning to record backing vocals and former drummer Joosep Volk also returning to direct the video for 'That’s Not All'. The full album is available to pre-order right now on various formats from the aforementioned record companies.
Field Ceremony by Pia Fraus
Entrancing sound waves swirl and meld effortlessly with the uplifting sweep of fizzing synth and woozy pull of reverberating guitars as ‘It’s Over Now’ unfurls it’s sonic tendrils and wraps itself around steady percussion and the throb of luscious bass frequencies. The repetitive vocal line floats effortlessly alongside sweeping electronics and the buzz of fret noise that steadily builds into a majestic crescendo of noise accompanied by the ghostly refrain of undulating reverb. ‘Never Again Land’ moves brilliantly through catchy chord changes and hazy instrumentation as a busy percussive pattern pulses through a pre-ordained flight path. The glorious duel vocal attack is simply mesmerising and it glides on waves of swirling synth, the hum of bass and those resonating guitar lines before collectively pausing for breath, held fast in a sticky lysergic hued instrumental break anxiously awaiting ejection into a grand finale. Up next, ‘Autumn Winds’ howls into audible range heckled by a screaming synth line before exploding into a colourful cacophony of sound. It charges headlong into a catchy melody driven fog filled with swirling almost incantational reverberations. Steady percussion, soaring synth and pulsing bass lines allow addictive guitar progressions to wrap themselves around another impressive vocal performance that loops and arcs brilliantly throughout the sonic ether.
‘Mountain Trip Guide’ rattles into existence on a lazy drum pattern as pulsating bass frequencies, fizzing electronics and surging synth swells glide in close proximity. Beautiful vocalisations swirl through catchy hook laden guitar progressions whipped by reverberating lead lines and addictiveness of effected slide guitar. ‘No Filters’ floats effortlessly on the up draft of impressive synth swells, the metronomic thud of percussion and the swirl of reverb as ‘Pia Fraus’ deploy a modern dream-pop gem. Shimmering guitars accompanied by the whirl of organ push the tempo on as the track builds momentarily before pulling back and gently descending to a final stop whilst ‘Endless Clouds’ lurches into a organ filled whirlwind peppered by the thrill of tremulous guitars and explosive drum patterns. Intense melody accompanies those gorgeous vocalisations as pulsating bass progressions wind their way through cascading synth and the pull of luscious reverb. Up next, the opening bars of 'Sugar High Of The Year' erupt into an fuzzy sonic behemoth filled with explosive percussion, raging guitars and soaring synth swells. The track echoes through quieter moments of instrumentation allowing the vocals to move through those impressive verse patterns before exploding into a mesmerising display of blissed out noise.
‘Don’t Tell Me How’ is simply divine and it shimmers and glides through undulating waves of instrumentation that glisten with graceful lustre, drenching melancholic vocalisations in scintillating reverberation that echoes and lingers with every single note, chord change or plucked string. It’s deeply infectious and beautifully constructed making it an album highlight for me. The albums penultimate piece entitled ‘Brutal Truth Of The World’ opens up pulsing atmospherically through massive walls of hazy reverb hued guitars. Slow moving percussion, circumnavigated by the constant sweep of synth and the undulating rumble of bass accompany another impressive duel vocal performance laced with stunning melody that collectively leads the listener through pretty impressive instrumental passages of sonic light and shade right up until its finale. The album closes out with ‘That’s Not All’, a turbulent sonic whirlwind filled with woozy guitars, charging drum patterns, the plink of synth and the throb of bass frequencies all wrapped around those stunning melody driven vocalisations. A fitting ending to an absolutely marvellous album.
RELEASE: From Void To Matter Volume 2
RELEASE DATE: 29th September 2017
RECORD COMPANY: VÅRØ Records
Hailing from the wind swept isle of Öland in Sweden, Calle Thor and Oskar Karlström aka 'Bolywool' have been fascinating us lot here at Primal Music for quite some time with their shimmering, cinematic, frost laden soundscapes filled to the brim with flourishes of atmospheric post-rock and scintillating shoegaze collectively underscored by stunning electronic progressions. Their collective sound has the ability to bring listeners on a melancholic journey into their world, a world that twists and turns through epic snapshots of life, death and an inherent love for their homeland. Back in May 2017 the band released the first of a planned trilogy of EP's entitled 'From Void To Matter' via VÅRØ Records and now they have returned with their second thrilling instalment, boldly continuing on a journey of sonic enlightenment and once again blowing our minds. 'From Void To Matter Volume 2' was released back on the 29th September 2017 and is available to buy/download right now via varorecords.bandcamp.com
From Void to Matter Volume 2 by Bolywool
The soft thud of sequenced percussion accompanied by pulsing bass frequencies and cascading synth lines permeate the ether as ‘The Dial (Revisited)’ glides into audible range punctuated by reverb laden guitars and impressive production values. Otherworldly vocalisations add to the seemingly peaceful atmospheric hubris that tumbles wilfully throughout the piece but that ethereal feeling is short lived as we’re pushed headlong into a raging whirlwind of sound that surrounds an immense chorus progression that seems to build and build brilliantly into a undulating sonic behemoth. ‘Bolywool’ continuously amaze me. They are experts at changing the mood of a track at will and it’s well documented here as the track bounces quickly from a melancholic fuelled slice of atmospheric post-rock into a lurching lysergic tinged monster, amalgamating serene vocalisations with churning percussion, fuzzed out guitars and swirling lead lines to create something altogether magical. Not only is ‘The Dial(Revisited)’ my favourite track on this release but it’s possibly Bolywool’s best track to date and it ranks as one of my favourite tracks of this year by far.
Up next, ‘Mirror Sky’ rumbles on a repetitive back beat as reverb laced guitars tremble and shimmer through icy atmospherics, the hum of bass and sullen synth swells. Stunning vocals float effortlessly atop of the collective instrumentation guiding the listener into a deeply atmospheric break filled with blissed out sonic reflections and the collective twinkle of instrumentation before exploding into a huge wall of hazy guitars and that soaring maleficent howl. The EP closes out with ‘Blues For Stornoway (Pts 1,2,3 & 4) and if ever a piece of music deserved to appear on a movie soundtrack it has to be this track. Beautifully melancholic opening vibes meander and intertwine with delay and reverb, enveloping themselves around a ghostly vocal line and the woozy flourishes of synth and rumbling percussion. It loops and arcs through shimmering electronics and wavering instrumental progressions before opening up into an almost industrial feel, metronomic in it’s tempo but majestic in it’s approach before finishing up caught in a brilliant atmospheric cloud of samples and synth that rise and fall into it’s stunning finale. A blistering end to another marvellous collection of tracks.
ARTIST: SPC ECO
RELEASE DATE: 22nd August 2107
RECORD COMPANY: ELaB Records
It seems like only yesterday I was sitting down to give a listen to the latest release by legendary producer Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin aka SPC ECO. The release in question was 'Under My Skin' and it was awarded a 5/5 by yours truly; a feat not so easy to come by. Garcia and Berlin had come together to create something as dark as it was beautiful: ethereal vocal performances were combined with shadow-filled synth passages and lyrics, all topped off neatly with drum programming and a crisp clean production. When I heard that the duo were releasing a follow up full length album (entitled Calm) I thought two things: one, it will great to see what SPC ECO have churned out this time, and two, could they keep together over the length of an album? There was only one way to find out, I guess?
Calm by SPC ECO
'Calm' opens with the MBV shoegaze-influenced fuzz of ‘Out of Sight’: its deep and rumbling walls of static back up Berlin's siren-like calls and humming. Behind the mix, Garcia twists knobs and presses buttons to give the music a focal point, hip-hop like beats guiding the rest of the instrumentation and music along slowly. Although it is a fantastic 90’s-ish track and perhaps even an album highlight, there is something blaringly obvious: this is going to be much denser, louder and wild than 'Under My Skin' (not that that is a bad thing). Somehow Berlin and Garcia follow an album highlight with yet another album highlight: the slower, but still as dense, ‘All the Voices’ utilizes a breathy performance by Berlin, backed up by a borderline industrial soundscape of the instruments behind. All the while as the track plays, brilliant ambiance and drone seeps in through the mix, making things heavier and more beautiful. ‘Rising Up’ stands as another absolutely fantastic track: the guitars again create a wall of technical fuzz and feedback, a drum beat again guides the music, but it's vocals are perhaps the most haunting found on the entire release. Things turn into some sort of wildly dark and exotically evocative dance party: equipped with songs you can dance to and songs you can have a neon-lit knife to at the same time.
‘All I Had’ captures a slower and a somewhat more sensual vocal performance by Berlin; meanwhile Garcia turns things down to a trip hop level, creating a mix of loud, noise filled dream pop-esque music. It's placement on the albums track list is also ace. Perhaps my favourite song on the entire album is the stellar ‘Pearls’ in which the vocals and instruments meet in a beautiful kind of harmonic pairing to create a downtrodden afterthought of dream pop. It’s an emotive mixture of contemplative ponderings and long winded passages of sun covered beaches with the texturally white backing of clouds amongst a blue sky. ‘Who Are You Now?’ is, however, much, much darker… Somewhat evil as well I guess. Its slow trip-hop inspired drum beat is accompanied with a creepy sample of bottles clanging together or something? Ambiance and atmospheric strings also add to the landscape even more thoroughly. ‘Ghosts’ is where things start to taste a little over-done: another slow tempo drum beat with breathy vocals make this song one of the more forgettable on 'Calm'. The more upbeat and soundscape inspired ‘When It Moves’ turns things back around, thankfully, injecting some of the elements that made previous tracks an invigorating , engaging and unique listening experience. ‘Get Lost’ is another album highlight, especially its massive, hi-hat trap inspired chorus, which underpins a sweep of ambiance and sampled noise over another brilliant vocal performance by Rose Berlin. Garcia truly turns up the ambiance on this track, weaving thin and slow instrumental sections with larger and more heavier passages of more colourful sounds.
‘Over’ seems to feature the most heavy percussion on the release: the programming with which the band uses is as thick and heavy as ever before. Behind the beats and vocals lies a bizarrely enjoyable sneaking sound of what could be the introductory music to a British detective series, full of rain, shadows and the occasional dash of neon lights. ‘Hours’ seeps all the atmospheric reverb, noise and ambiance into one melting pot of music; creating a dense and somewhat murky soundscape with which the song plays out. Berlin's voice fits well within the context of this kaleidoscopic tornado of sound, proving her graceful voice is a positive point of originality for SPC ECO.
While some elements of 'Under My Skin' (and perhaps SPC ECO themselves) are evident on 'Calm' (think the atmospheric and somewhat trance-inducing instrumentals, as well as the waveringly beautiful vocals), overall it seems the duo have created something somewhat noisier and denser than ever before. Where 'Under My Skin' relied on the atmosphere of each song (which it did very successfully) 'Calm' instead pulls down any filters that Garcia placed over the music previously; opening a flood gate of wall of sound type feedback, and more intricate and involved instrumentals throughout the album. Because of this, 'Calm' is at times more difficult a listen than 'Under My Skin', and while I champion noise, feedback and wall of sound song writing; I can understand why some listeners just may not connect with the album. Similarly, each tracks basic foundation (with some exceptions) is the same: a slow(ish) programmed drum beat plays over soundscapes while Rose Berlin smoothly dances between her upper register and mid-tone, spoken word style sensual vocal deliveries. Thankfully, I can acknowledge and see where the difference between tracks lies, and furthermore how much skill is required to write such music… I just assume some will not. Garcia and Berlin remain as beautifully beguile as ever: some tracks sound as though they should be on film soundtracks, some tracks sound like they should be played in the most warped and harrowing dance club in the world, others just sound completely and utterly mesmerizing in their beauty. Besides, it all really comes down to the artists and the music: a well seasoned and ridiculously talented producer doing what he does best, accompanied by some of his equally talented and interesting friends… And his daughter, who happens to have the kind of pipes that you can play at a demented carnival or a hypnotic lounge-type dinner party. Together they produce a strong, original and commendable album, achieved through programming, production and sound.
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
ARTIST: Crash City Saints
RELEASE: Are You Free?
RELEASE DATE: 11th August 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Saint Marie Records
From the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan (apparently it’s across from Milwaukee, over Lake Michigan) comes 'Crash City Saints' and the interestingly bold and grand concept album they have created, entitled 'Are You Free?'. Released via the ever interesting 'Saint Marie Records' (whose back catalogue includes the impressive SPC ECO, Bloody Knives and The History of Colour TV), 'Are You Free?' tells the story of a boys attempts to mature and bloom in a small town in the 90’s when shoegaze was dense and on rotation in the mainstream and underground of the American music scene. 'Crash City Saints' have obviously utilized said music from the time and adopted it into a mix of shoegaze and alt-rock to tell a story over the course of twelve tracks that hails the significance of influence while also celebrating the freedom of originality in the context of modern music. 'Are You Free?' was released back on the 11th August 2017 and is available right now to buy/download on various formats via saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com
Are You Free? by Crash City Saints
The album opens with ‘Ice Cream’ a nice little jolt of pop-based alternative rock that highlights the hushed MBV style vocalisations and strumming acoustic guitar. There are several fantastic moments, including the churning-downtrodden shoegaze riffs that are touched upon at around the one minute thirty mark, as well as a tasteful string instrument in the background of the music. ‘Spring Lines’ owes more to a soft kind of neo-grunge rather than shoegaze, but nevertheless showcases the instrumentation and weave in-out aesthetic of the guitars. As it is on much of the album, the drumming is tight and impressive; highlighted sufficiently and smoothly in the mix. ‘Weirdos Need Love To’ fits in well as a kind of interlude between the narrative structure of the main songs whilst 'Use Once Then Dispose’ is an absolute album highlight; the post-punk double tap snare and 90’s inspired guitars meld fanatically together to create a rock-inspired atmosphere; the vocals hum away, touching on lyrically much darker themes than have been explored previously on the album. That’s not to say they are not well written, actually it’s quite the opposite. ‘Spirit Photography’ is a smooth, aesthetically enjoyable take on what sounds like 90’s era Brit-pop, while also (eventually) smothering the track in Shoegaze based guitar freak-outs. A very enjoyable experimental track, ‘Spirit Photography’ sheds the skin of the previous songs pop elements; making way for emotive and warped guitar based-psych passages of song writing. I assume ‘Act 2’ is named as such because it brings forth another stage of story and narrative; either way, as a song it feels one of little narrative importance (lyrics are drowned out in a vocal effects) while the whole song takes an almost lo-fi quality (not complaining).
‘Dawn of A Bright New Nothing’ introduces a fantastic Barrett-esque piano line into the mix, making the song one of the most purely enjoyable on the album. Yes, that’s right, this reviewer has significantly enjoyed a song because it sounds, is mixed and feels nice and relaxed. ‘Annabella’ returns to a much more alternative rock sound, the chord progression of the bass and guitar highlighting a progressive rock influence that played an integral role in the development of shoegaze music back in the 90’s. Its outro, featuring a guitar solo over the vocal chant/hum ‘you don’t know my name’ is particularly satisfying. Another interlude follows before one of the longest tracks of the album ‘The Hour Of The Wolf’ opens with a sequencer based EDM style sound. Although this aforementioned beat grows tiring after a while, this doesn’t cease the track from growing into a heavy, loud and colourful collection of sounds and noise, backed by the thrashing of the drums. The outro guitar picking is especially amazing and very much in-context of the seven minute long song. The following dream-pop based ‘Harbour Lights’ remains a sonic (but almost as equally lengthy) contrast to the previous wild melding’s of ‘The Hour Of The Wolf’. In fact, ‘Harbour Lights’ is an album highlight: the guitar tones and overall atmosphere of the song congregate into a dream pop/shoegaze breath of fresh air after the previous songs noise and drenched soundscapes.
Releasing a concept album of any type is a big and daring leap. Will people be able to detail the story (if the concept is narrative)? Will the story get in the way of the music? What about the other way around? 'Crash City Saints' have previously stated there is a narrative kind of concept behind the album, and at times while listening to 'Are You Free?' I was lost as to what (if anything) was actually going on, but then I realized that its concept lies beyond the realm of just a narrative. Over the course of the album the band swiftly (and at times intellectually subtly) incorporate and throw influence and nods to the American music underground of the nineties. There's grunge, dreampop, alt-rock, dance and electronica, shoegaze and many more… This album is a musical exploration in concept rather than a boring ‘he does this, then she does that’ kind of structure that tends to drag down and drown many ‘concept’ albums. The song writing is strong, although at times relies too heavily on formulas used on previous songs, even if it is a kind of throwback. The mixing and production (done so by Elliott Frazier of Ringo Deathstarr) is of course a brilliant, but also (if you listen to a lot of it) a well-rounded and respectful throwback to the music of the 90’s. Listen for an interesting story (accompianed and helped along by interesting lyrics), great instrumentation and playing, and a reminder of the brilliant and nostalgic music of a few decades ago, achieved through production, mixing and sound.
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