ALBUM REVIEW | Wozniak - Courage Reels (Morningside Young Team Records)

ARTIST: Wozniak

RELEASE: Courage Reels 

RELEASE DATE: 21st April 2017

RECORD COMPANY: Morningside Young Team Records

Following on from a handful of well-executed, tight and impressively written EP’s and singles that explored a wide array of genres including traditional shoegaze and much louder feedback ridden noise rock, is the debut full length album 'Courage Reels' from Edinburgh based four piece Wozniak. It’s a heavy, noisy and progressive listen, and one on which the band decides to take full advantage of their instruments, creating several lengthy songs with two or three lines of vocals in it amid riff after riff of sonic noise and what sounds at times to be well-captured jam sessions. Many songs take on this structure; and through it 'Courage Reels' at times sounds anywhere from stoner/sludge metal, progressive rockshoegaze, dream pop, alt-rock, then throw in a bit of alt-metal and a weird kind of krautrock for good measure and tie them all together in layers of noisy feedback and what you get are tall sprawling arrangements that make Wozniak sound like a ten piece. 'Courage Reels' gets it's full release on April 21st 2017 via 'Morningside Young Team Records' and it is available to pre-order right now in various formats from wozniak.bandcamp.com  

'Courage Reels' opens with the instrumental ‘Shader’ that morphs itself around a heavy stoner metal riff and the gentle tapping of the drums in the background. However, after this introductory riff, the band launch into what sounds more like a traditional shoegaze due to the tone of their guitars and the musical melding between the guitar and the drums. ‘Shader’ takes this form for almost the entire song; jumping from a stoner metal riff into more airy shoegaze passages, all the while masking a background of feedback that compliments the music immensely. Much slower and distant is the shoegaze track ‘Ghosting’ whose form takes the shape of ‘Shader’ in that it jumps from heavy fuzzing back to its mellow origins; coming off as less heavy than ‘Shader’ but more intricate. The slowed, winding parts of the song are soothingly beautiful, masking mood and sound over a distinct form of song writing. ‘Ghosting’ also happens to contain vocals; all five lines of them, so drowned out you can hardly hear them, which actually fits in well with the context of the song. ‘Super Panther’ ties both previous songs together and revisits the more shoegaze sides of the bands sound, implementing fuzz bass and a fantastic drum track over the top of the winding and shimmering guitars that play a demented kind of indie rock. This song also sounds strongly influenced by alt-rock, with its more linear structure and ‘traditional’ riff centred form of song writing on display.

Back in March 2017 the band released the first single from 'Courage Reels', and that single was ‘Perihelion’ which crops up as one of the best tracks on the entire release. It’s a beautiful, trance inducing mix of down-trodden guitar strumming that harkens back strongly to the classic shoegaze sound with swirls of a darker kind of dream pop. The vocal performance here is also fantastic and an album highlight, as well as the instrumentation and backing noise to which the song takes it cues and creations from. Although the song goes for several minutes, the band condense the vocal, quieter and more accessible section of the song to its beginning and then launch into a wild and commendable instrumental section that winds out the second half of the song strongly and passionately. In a similar way is ‘Scottish Dancer’ which blows past the eight minute mark in its form, which is distinctly reminiscent of cold shoegaze, to again show the bands strength in song writing. Scottish Dancer’s beginning, featuring another well produced vocal section, sounds better than ‘Perihelion’ in terms of every aspect of the song fitting swiftly together. Another amazing instrumental outro leads the songs second half, in which background feedback is used as a soundscape style to greatly enhance the songs sound. ‘Natsuko’ returns to a more conventional length and sounds more akin to post-punk than anything else the band touch on 'Courage Reels'. Although its beautiful and holds some impressive moments, I did wonder what its significance in context of the album was, and upon a second listen parts of it tended to sound more like an album filler than anything else.

‘Erebus’ is another true album highlight, perhaps due to fantastic contextual balancing by Wozniak in terms of the track listing on the album. After a few lengthy, heavy and layered songs, the band turns things back to the simple and the minimal, placing the listener’s perceptions upon simple guitar based strumming that goes further to highlight a mesmerizing undercurrent of dream pop-like guitar tones and textures in the mix. ‘Crush’ features the best drumming performance on the album, but unlike the few previous tracks avoids stronger shoegaze elements instead focusing upon a kind of alt-rock type sound, driven by a distant but interesting vocal performance. ‘Death Suit’ turns things back up to the lengthy heights of ‘Scottish Dancer’ and ‘Perihelion’ but with much less conviction. It starts strong, with a neat little guitar intro, but seeps into uneven sections of music that seem to be so far removed from the other that it becomes more of a slog than a listen. However, the six to eight minute section is absolutely masterful and deserves praise for being one of the greatest passages of music on the release.

I must fully admit that I’m a fan of Wozniak, whose style and experimentations in guitar-orientated music have shone through in a fantastic and interesting way through past releases. I especially love the song ‘El Maresme’ which is quite an old song from their fantastic EP Pikes Peak. I say all of this simply because 80% of the music on 'Courage Reels' is less like the bands previous studio EPs and singles; the engaging single 'Harker' remains firmly an alternative shoegaze/dream pop song, so does 'Auster' and its more guitar driven sound. For 'Courage Reels' to feature lengthy, heavy, more straight forward rock arrangements that you could almost always classify as alternative-rock, rather than the hazy dream pop or shoegaze-based musings of their previous efforts is somewhat of a challenge for the listener. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, and we must all congratulate and encourage bands to transform, progress stylistically and traverse new terrain over song writing and performance, but I wonder if 'Courage Reels' is in fact the right kind of progression. It is a fantastic album (as noted by the rating) but ultimately it sounds like a band who are carrying only fragments of their previous skin after shredding it. Personally, as a fan and a listener, I would have loved to have heard more vocals on this instrumentally generous album. Also for some out there, a cover to cover listen would be just too much; the songs are lengthy affairs, the transitions within the songs are at times slightly awkward and the piling of lengthy songs after lengthy songs makes the album feel longer than it is. All of this probably sounds like mad criticism, but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, for all of the criticisms of the music I have, there is equal acclaim and admiration for 'Courage Reels'. It is exquisitely well produced and mixed, and the band shines through on every track to display a commitment and a wild sincerity to the well written songs featured on it. These elements amount to a well rounded and impressive album, bundled up fluently in commitment and sound.

4/5

LINKS:

wozniak.bandcamp.com

twitter.com/band_wozniak

facebook.com/wozniakofficial

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.


ALBUM REVIEW | Heron - You Are Here Now

ARTIST: Heron

RELEASE: You Are Here Now

RELEASE DATE: 21st January 2017

RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned

'You Are Here Now' is the debut album from Pennsylvania based atmospheric post-rock outfit 'Heron'. It’s an album that defies the genre in such a way that to describe it to you, the reader, would never do it justice. In fact, I feel that 'You Are Here Now' is one of the best pieces of post-rock music I’ve heard. Perhaps rivalled only by pro bands from Iceland or the fantastically minimalist hush of 'Star of Heaven' and their mini album/EP 'Vinter'. 'You Are Here Now' stands tall through mostly the intense and wild song writing, but has its advantages with the professional mixing and mastering, done so by pros from the Seattle music scene. This, coupled with the smooth and hypnotic performances, make 'You Are Here Now' one of the most refreshing and beautiful post-rock instrumental releases going around.

'You Are Here Now' opens with ‘Shores’, a sensational slow rolling track that may be the best on the entire album. Its simplicity and nostalgic feel give it a fantastic and dreamy quality that adds true emotion to the music. It’s not just a clever note or a chord progression that makes you go ‘aw’; it’s a truly emotive piece of music that begins to build around the three minute mark to encompass a more ‘fuller’ feel. After a few more passages of skilled guitar playing and a return to the original intro passage of music, the band build the song into a transcendent piece of music. Utterly fantastic. ‘Ender’ turns the music back into a more rock orientated sound and utilizes a fantastic and inventive drum and guitar resonance that travels through the undercurrent of the song. Just as ‘Shores’ travelled over the eight minute mark, ‘Ender’ brings in the music to a seven minute epic; dipping and diving with a slow, sweet bass driven section in the middle of the song.

‘Stillness’, another amazing song, begins with the lazy, rear view mirror brilliance that held ‘Shores’ up to a breathtaking point. Its beginning centres on a wavy guitar riff that eventuates into a deeper and more melodic guitar/drum/bass sound. And just like following an alluring circle, the song falls back into its reminiscent tone just in time to lead into another song ‘Drop’, that holds a similar, if not perhaps more minimalist intro. It then climbs higher and more ambitious; its outro seeping into a more intricate vision of its opening. The title track serves as a gentle, low key ambient interlude that still sounds better and more inventive than some regular tracks I’ve heard from other artists before. ‘Archives’ rivals the opener in that it could just well be the best song on the album. Unlike the more relaxed ‘Shores’ the crescendo like ‘Archives’ builds upon itself with several very impressive performances. Sonically, the music bellows out into a musique concrète discussion and noises; showcasing the bands more experimental qualities. ‘Before the War’ is an epic piece of instrumental phrases and passages that lends from the albums previous songs in a brilliant and larger scale pictorial piece of post-rock. The outro especially deserves special mention; its winding, trance like, soulful and heavy presentation makes the song sound even more epic in the context of the album. As a testament to the band, ‘Before the War’ fills all the right fantastic spaces.

After a few listens of 'You Are Here Now' I began to feel like each song on the album is representative of a place, a destination or a feeling. ‘Shores’ and ‘Stillness’ evoke a sunny, cool beach with yellow grained sand and deep blue ocean in a way that dream pop does with its great injection of nostalgia. ‘Archives’ sounds like it could accompany a whimsical train ride through the country side of a picturesque landscape. ‘Before The War’ seems like it somehow captures the mood of a place rather than a geographical place itself. Altogether the album strings these evocations into an almost movie like listening experience… And what a beautiful film it is; packed with things I can’t really write down or capture in mere words. All I can recommend you do is listen to it. And listen to it thoroughly, from the beginning. It’s not really music so much as an experience shining through a vast array of other musical mediocrity to sound cleaner and more pure than most others do. The production is some of the greatest I’ve heard in a while with special praise going to the mixing and mastering. The performances are also top notch, woven into one another to sound as grand and beautiful as post-rock music can. Blah blah blah, go listen to it! For its greatness is of another fantastic standard, achieved through production, playing and sound.

5/5

LINKS: 

heronband.bandcamp.com

heronband.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.


EP REVIEW | Dead Sea Apes - SOY DIOS

a3288375533_16ARTIST: Dead Sea Apes

RELEASE: SOY DIOS

RELEASE DATE: 5th September 2016

RECORD COMPANY: SKY LANTERN RECORDS / CARDINAL FUZZ

Manchester based underground psych experimentalists 'Dead Sea Apes' have had their stunning debut single 'SOY DIOS' repackaged and re-released on vinyl via Cardinal Fuzz (Sky Lantern Records in the US). It contains a reworking of the original track, released back in 2010 on a then run of 100 CDR's. 'Dead Sea Apes' create massive sonic soundscapes and have the ability to switch from wonderfully picturesque sun-scorched psychedelia to dust laden desert rock and on into hypnotically charged & motorik driven drone rock improvisation with marvellous aplomb! The album is available to buy/download on various formats from cful.bandcamp.com & skylanternrecords.bandcamp.com. You can also purchase the vinyl right now from cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com

The opening salvo's of 'Soy Dios I' are hauntingly good. Aggravated fret noise and spacious atmospherics open proceedings as 'Dead Sea Apes' bring their post-rock credentials to the fore. Melodious guitar progressions add tension as sparse percussive hits enter the fray and we push off on a magical journey of sonic experimentation, stepping into a world of expansive musical understanding and distorted sonic hallucinations. Its not long before a swell of explosive instrumentation takes over and the metronomic swing of the drum pattern brings on a giddying state of hypnotic abandonment. Guitar lines meander menacingly throughout the piece, every so often allowed to soar into the ether as if chasing some unknown prey, before arriving back to terra firma and slotting into its assigned progression to continue on with its pre-designed course. Truly magical in its entirety!

If 'Soy Dios I' was the doorway into the world of 'Dead Sea Apes' then Part II  is the hallway ....  a wide expansive room filled with oppressive atmosphere, droning swells and spiralling guitar squall. 'Soy Dios II' is a pleasure craft bobbing up and down in a dark tremulous ink like sea, constantly being hit by a wave after wave of shuddering reverberation. The percussion builds as throbbing bass lines hold court before the track lurches forward and explodes into a cacophony of wonderful noise and warbling repetitious progressions.

'Soy Dios III' achingly drones into existence, its burgeoning weight swirling & snarling as it enters earshot, shattering the perilous ideology of the previous soundscape as it circumnavigates its own self. It builds in momentum allowing it to plough a deep furrow into the sonic template, eagerly trying to gain enough updraft to lift itself into the ether. Intermittent fret noise doused in reverb adds atmosphere to the piece as the arrival of much welcomed guitar squall builds intensity ....  and we're up and soaring into the ether on waves of golden frequencies inlayed with swathes of reverberation. 'Soy Dios III' is a true masterpiece of modern day psychedelic exploration.

The closing piece on the momentous release brushes aside the previous three tracks from the off. 'Soy Dios IV' is the stunning finale to an expansive collection of experimental musicianship. The culmination of a trip through massive passages of sonic floatation and distorted but oppressive melody driven hallucinations, into a gargantuan cyclonic whirlwind. 'Dead Sea Apes' bring the curtain down completely on this impressive release riding a maelstrom of senses pummelling distorted noise. A fitting end to a marvellous sonic journey. Recommended listening!

4/5

LINKS:

facebook.com/deadseaapes

skylanternrecords.bandcamp.com

cful.bandcamp.com

twitter.com/deadseaapes

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Del Chaney has spent the last four years not only fronting popular experimental Irish Electronic duo Analogue Wave but also dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, post punk, post rock & 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. His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has hepled 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.