ARTIST: Deer Park Ranger
RELEASE DATE: 17th august 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Fluttery Records
'Moderation' is the second EP by Oakland based post-rock/ambient project 'Deer Park Ranger'. It’s a neat little release that puts aside assumption and pretentious musicology while still being as interesting as a full length album. It's a warm and fuzzy six track that’s as enjoyable as it is simple, smart as it is showy. Across the track listing 'Deer Park Ranger' mixes a Radiohead-esque approach to electronic instrumentation and programming, while underpinning the sound with post-rock progressions that flesh the whole thing out in an audibly enjoyable way. While some may pertain it to be ‘slight’ or simply background music, I feel a comfort in 'Moderation' that seems to be somewhat absent from much music that comes around under the banner of post-rock… and it is both refreshing and absorbing for just those reasons. The album was officially released back on August 17th 2017 via the good people over at Fluttery Records and it is available to buy/download right now from both fluttery records.com and deer-park-ranger.bandcamp.com respectively.
Moderation by Deer Park Ranger
'Moderation' begins with ‘Shipwreck’ and a bellowing, rumbling wall-of-sound style strum that slowly introduces background guitar melding. Where many of the other songs on Moderation project a happier, more enjoyable and perhaps bright-minimalist sound, ‘Shipwreck’ opens things in a much more downtrodden way. Beautiful piano guides the song into its second half, while the beat of a drum and what sounds to be a synth play calmly in the background. This is melodic ambient music at its best. ‘Another World, Another Time’ delves more cinematically, albeit with the same stripped back sounds of ‘Shipwreck’. The inclusion of what sounds to be a layer of brass instrumentation also adds a deeper dimension to the sound and song as a whole: an EP highlight. Even the small interlude ‘Old City’ is an impressively simplistic track in terms of the EP, and functions as a well rounded song despite its length and standing on the EP.
‘Time And Distance’ is perhaps the most post-rock that Deer Park Ranger goes: the opening threads picking lines of guitar together to make fantastic soundscapes and ambient textures. The eventual guitar-based tricks that Deer Park Ranger use to build and conjure mood also come across beautifully, especially when contrasted with the backing piano. A shorter song (around the same length as ‘Old City’) utilizes a post-punk drum beat, skeletal but well layered guitars and piano to create another fantastic track that builds up before pandering off slowly and carefully. In terms of beauty: through texturing, colour and layers, there is no greater track on 'Moderation' than ‘Seeing All The Shelves’: it’s a crescendo of instruments and soundscapes into a mesmerizingly mini-epic sound. Again, the greatest element of this sound is the tinkering piano that guides along the other instruments with power and subtletly that makes it less of a slog than you’re average prog-rock song.
Usually when somebody releases a post-rock or progressive rock album, we all spend our time listening and then stepping back, having had enough of one giant slog through sound as it was. Funnily enough, I feel like when I finished listening to 'Moderation' that I only wanted more. Its been a while since I’ve listened to something so soothing yet simple, so smart yet so stripped back, and so comforting while being slightly challenging. The production, much like the mixing, is of a top quality standard and it a brilliant and relaxing accompaniment to the flow of the sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
by Primal Music
ARTIST: Ruins! Ruins!
RELEASE DATE: 10th August 2017
The rumbling sound of a deep but somewhat cinematic cello, backed by the rumbling march-beat of a drum and the occasional strum of a guitar opens up the wondrously bizarre carnival of music and sounds created by Russian natives Ruins! Ruins! A band who dwell somewhere in the Siberian forest. To accompany this contextual imagery of forests and the wild where the band reside is their own free form, dirty, heavy and dissonant brand of post-rock. I wish to clarify that when I say post-rock, I mean the furthest thing away from the ambient tinkerings and soundscape-backed light drone music that has come to represent the genre. Rather, Ruins! Ruins! project sludgy, progressive rock style ‘big’ riffs that are contrasted with passages of cello based, string music and playing of the utmost beauty. Together, these elements make their album Mammock a truly engaging deep dive into what can achieved in post-rock music with a bit of grit, distortion and experimentation.
Mammock by Ruin!Ruins!
‘Serene’ opens the album with the cello/drum/guitar sound that I begun the review with, operating as a neat intro to the heaviness and raw-rock sound of the album. ‘Hurricane’ captures the essence of the whole album: large, crunching and dirty, with several shifts in tempo and style to create balance along the way. Around the three minute mark, the music notably slows down to a fantastic chug of guitars and cello interlocked together before diving back into a wide scale of the songs origins. ‘Distress’ turns things even heavy and features some of the greatest textural blending on the whole release, especially towards the end of the song. ‘Grab’ opens with the feedback echo of a guitar and a drum beat that welcomes in a catchy bass line. Just as you think Ruins! Ruins! are going to turn it up again and go full on, crunch-down with their drums and guitars, they instead slow down and turn the song into a tight display of rhythm. ‘Arch’ sways on for over twelve minutes, and what first sounds interesting and appealing slowly turns into a slog through the preverbal mud. There are indeed interesting and perhaps even beautiful moments on the song, but its lengthy and overblown running time becomes exceptionally tiresome, especially with a middle section that is built around already explored territory. A brief dance with the china symbol just before the ten minute mark makes the last section the most enjoyably fascinating over the course of the entire song.
‘Kurta’ proves to be one of the albums highlights: its textural cresecendos are made all the more rewarding when the vast and wide prog breakdowns are backed by more ambient, sound scaped guitars. The drumming (as well as the other instruments) are of a strong and rewarding quality also. Chucking another over eleven minute song onto an already lengthy album is ridiculously game, but thankfully ‘Szorstki’ is a different beast altogether. Opening quietly and with a slow-burn progression into a much louder and more full sound, the song captures the essence of what fantastic progressive rock should be: tight, loose and a step-by-step journey into engaging sounds. ‘Collumns’ is the opposite: over six minutes of throughouly monotous down-strumming ‘hard’ rock. ‘Polynya’, however, is another fantastic track and definitely yet another album highlight. The border line black metal-esque opening receeds into long, slow, and downtrodden guitar scapes that build up again with the assistant of tight and melodic drumming.
'Mammock' is an interesting mixed bag of sounds. Sometimes its bordering on feats of alternative and prog-metal, other times it shows the listener nothing more than beautiful cello and tight yet simplistic drumming. The underlying genre of the whole release, however, is that chuggy-chug-chug-chug prog rock sound… Which becomes tedious as easily as it becomes interesting. The first half of this album is a fascinating exercise in dirty, open ended prog and post-rock musings, but by the time the second half of 'Mammock' rolls around, things start to feel a bit on the tiresome side. I completely have nothing against lengthy songs or lengthy albums, but where fantastically original bands such as WTCHS and My Invisible Friend triumph in their extended adventures through sound, Ruins! Ruins! don’t alter things quite enough to keep themselves in the ball game. Similiarly, they don’t keep it avant-garde or experimental enough to justify their song writing choices. Of course, there are redeeming features throughout the album: almost the entire first half is enjoyable and engaging and select songs thorugh the second half retain this neat and original flavour. Also the performances are of a fantastically strong quality, balancing the enjoyable production with a heavy yet melodic sound.
ARTIST: Artificial Waves
RELEASE: Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic.
RELEASE DATE: 18th May 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Fluttery Records
If you like everything icy, chilled, nice, polished and reflective in its purity, look no further than the post-rock/ambient textures of Artificial Waves. Their latest album, tongue-in-cheekily entitled 'Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic.', captures the mood and atmosphere of a period in the late nineties when post-rock seemed less interested in pushing the outer boundaries of contemporary music but more focused on dwelling upon a kind of conceptual structure acute to post-shoegaze; longer songs with downtrodden elements but larger and louder sections to bounce back to. But while 'Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic.' is definitely clean and polished, these facts only help in its intentions and presentations. For every guitar-based riff-centred track there appears the subtle sounds of violins and keyboards, synths and ambient soundscapes. It’s true; it is difficult to find a song on this album that doesn’t have layered sound behind it; whether this be another instrument or just the tone and FX on the guitar. An interesting and engaging listen for fans of post-rock, and those seeking something a little more sonically interesting than your generic instrumental rock release. The album was officially released back on the 18th May 2017 via Fluttery Records and is available to buy/download right now on various formats from artificial-waves.bandcamp.com
Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic. by Artificial Waves
‘From Blur to Sharp’ opens the album as a kind of intro; big, loud drums play over the top of ambience and a small keyboard sound; eventually the entire band appear and the song unfolds in a heavy, riff-orientated way. Was it a clever idea to include this song? Well, I’ll let you be the judge, but there seems to be something of a lesser-than quality on this opening track in comparison to other tracks. I found myself wondering whether the rest of the album was going to be the same atmospheric guitar-orientated ‘rock’ sound. And although it’s a simple intro song, it does little to capture the true essence of the album when one has listened to the other tracks. The almost seven minute ‘Blended Spirits’ follows with what borders on an alt-metal sound; chugging guitars, breakdowns and loud guitar backed music. As the song goes on it becomes more and more engaging, with the high point been around the middle section where a downtrodden guitar plays a shoegaze-like riff, accompanied by a beautiful melody and the thick bass/drum sound. One of the best tracks on the album ‘Living in A Recycled Space’ plays with dynamics and a more math inspired sound. The inclusion of samples and electronics alongside the heavy drums/bass/guitar passages on the song do wonders for the atmospheric/conceptual quality of the song. A programmed drum beat and piano carries the song beautifully also.
‘Rising Soul’, which served as a single for the album, provides a beautiful swathes of melodic post-rock; the entire band come together to produce a less dynamically alternative song but a much more linear sounding piece of ambience. Similarly, ‘Hush and Embrace’ is as equally as impressive, but much quieter. The song relies more on the quiet ambient passages and guitar laced soundscapes than any large pounding drums could muster. ‘Bored Shadows’ seems to be a mixture of the previous two tracks with its gentle start but seemingly heavy second half. The inclusion of what sounds to be either sampled or programmed drums also make things seem even more wavy and architecturally post-rock. The subtle influence of shoegaze also continually sneaks in on all three tracks to a point of interest and engagement. The airy and most atmospheric song on the second half of the album is the brilliant ‘Inspiring Insomnia’ which at the two minute mark features a chugging breakdown with subtle yet stylistically intricate keyboard sounds. A special acknowledgement goes to the drumming on this track; involved enough to be noticed but not arrogantly over the top as to alter the limelight from the other instruments. In the second half of the song, things return to the alt-metal style explored on the start of the track. A small interlude, entitled ‘Inception’, leads the way into ‘Feeling the Endless Flow’ which is the albums lengthiest song. In terms of other tracks on the album, it lacks their magic, charm and continuity; it’s perhaps the most linear in terms of genre and its one of the loudest songs on the release. That’s not too say it doesn’t have it’s strengths; the guitar playing is strong and impressive, as is the unified sound between the players and their instruments.
As far as instrumental albums (of any genre) go, there is one real question that impinges on the critical reaction and reception, as well as interest shown by audience, of the release. This question is whether, without vocals or lyrics, the band or artist can keep it interesting enough to hold attention for the whole release. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: think of those classic albums released throughout the 60’s and 70’s that are three tracks long (all of which go for 25 minutes) featuring lengthy guitar wanking and keyboard solos on and on. Or perhaps music generally classified as sound art, which generally may go on for hours without anything resembling a major chord progression. I am a fan of both these exceptions, but with these exceptions application to the question at hand, both classic albums and sound art/experimental pieces have one thing on their side: contextualisation. 'Heavy. Deep. Sad. Ironic.' has the task of maintaining interest on its own; without information or contextualisation to back it up in its decisions. This boils down to the question; does the album keep interest up for its entire duration; the short answer is not particularly, but the full answer is different altogether. The album, for the most part, remains interesting purely through its song writing; the softer and more ambient tracks stand out in this sense. As for the production and mixing; it is stellar… crisp, clean and sparkling in its recording and presentation. In regards to the aforementioned question; there are guitar-centric passages of songs that become over long and tiresome at times. The first half of the album more so than the second half features too many over long passages of ‘basic’ alt-rock. Although these sections of music are minor, and overall there is something wholly satisfying about the album; a kind of conceptual element that ties it all together, mainly through production, song writing and sound.
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