Friday, December 27, 2013

Three Pop Albums I have Enjoyed in 2013

Have you ever watched one of those major network New Year's Eve shows where millions of people gather in the streets of New York to listen to some old fart talk about the news and scream at pop singers who grow more and more ridiculous with each passing year?  I know, that was a long sentence, but try to follow me here.  I'm the only one?  No, I'm not, because I don't watch them.  I have better things to do. 

If you are a regular reader here, you know that we don't cover much pop music.  Mainstream pop is a particular genre where singers try to outdo each other at ridiculousness.  They have to do that, because that's the only way to keep people talking about them so people will buy their records so they can pay off concert bookers, PR people, agents, and dancers.  This is, of course, in my own biased view.  I'm not a big fan of pop music.  But sometimes an artist releases an album that really grabs me.  Three such albums were released this year.

1. Black City Lights-Another Life
These New Zealanders impressed with their debut EP a couple of years ago.  In 2013 they released their debut full-length album.  Surprisingly, this album contains all new tracks, carrying nothing over from the EP.  This is as good as dream-pop gets.  The vocals are must impressive, as are the underlying atmospheric synths.  Simply put, they don't make pop albums like this anymore.   Here's why.

2. Sarah Brightman-Dreamchaser
Our regular readers had to know this was coming.  Easily the most anticipated 2013 pop release in my view, this album didn't quite live up to its predecessors.  Sarah Brightman continues to pit operatic singing with undertones of symphonic music against pop hooks.  The first disappointment was that none of the tracks are original pieces.  All of them are cover songs and some are better than others.  The other disappointment to me was that this material crosses too far into mainstream pop territory than I care to venture.  Still, there are some exceptional vocal melodies, as Brightman is the world's best operatic vocalist.  That is a bold statement, but it is in they ear of the listener, after all.  That's why I'm sharing it here.


3. Io Echo-Ministry of Love
Southern California's Io Echo impressed with their debut album, Ministry of Love.  This was a surprising listen, as it borders between dream pop and shoegaze tones.  I categorize it on the pop side due to the strong poppy hooks that permeate much of the music.  The singer may not be the best pop singer in the world, but the vocals are far from bad.  This music is just weird enough for me to enjoy.  Check out a track from the album below.


Because I don't believe there were enough good pop releases in 2013 to warrant a top of the year list, there will also be no honorable mentions. 

As always, thanks for listening and enjoy! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Top 5 Electronic Albums of 2013

Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, one and all!  Or if you don't celebrate anything this time of year, Happy Antipathy Month! 

It has been a good year for all genres of music.  Perhaps less so with electronica, but there were still several solid releases.  Since electronics seem to be the only holiday gift that matters, I present to you our top 5 electronic albums of 20013.  This list is varied between the different schools of electronic music.  You won't find house or EDM in this list.  What you will find is some other great stuff.  Here they are:

1. Trentemoller-Lost
Before the later year release of this album, it would have been difficult to predict Trentemoller even making this list, let alone coming in at number one.  That's because we didn't know this Danish composer was working on new material until late August.  It would have been even more difficult to predict what kind of flavors were on order with this album.  Unlike his previous album, Lost incorporates a wide variety of vocals from a number of gifted singers.  Instead of breaking away from tradition, however, Trentemoller simply seeks new musical territory.  The result is nothing sort of astounding.  The deep pulses and electronic rhythms against a sea of blurry undercurrent still remain, as do the heavily distorted guitar lines.  What is new sounds almost like dreamy pop, delivered in spectacular doomy fashion.  This album grabs you from the first track and does not relent.  Speaking of which, here is that first track.


M83-Oblivion (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Normally, soundtracks do not count for album of the year awards.  Unless said soundtrack is a collection of compositions by one artist.  This doesn't happen extremely often.  When you think of electronic artists making movie soundtracks, you immediately think of Daft Punk's excellent work for Tron: Legacy.  In that same vein is the new work for Oblivion, which stars Tom Cruise.  This is a major departure in sound for M83, a French nu-gaze artist with some excellent talent.  With Oblivion, M83 trades in the guitars and pedals for an entirely symphonic electronic production.  In this album every sound you hear is being produced synthetically.  The album's closer is probably closer in style to normal M83 work, and it is the only track on the album with vocals.  You need to hear both.


3. Ulrich Schnauss-A Long Way to Fall
The first solo work released by Ulrich Schnauss in quite a long while is as good as any of the work he's done.  His latest works have been his collaborations with Jonas Munk and Mark Peters.  That should give an idea of what Ulrich Schauss sounds like.  What you hear is a deep, chill-wave style of music with some random infusions of jazz over long, soaring synths.  This album sounds darker than his previous work.  It is a very solid release.  You can listen to some of it here.


4. The Luna Sequence-The Day the Curse Grew Stronger
If you are in the market for some good old-fashioned electronic synth rock, this album should be right up your alley.  The Luna Sequence unveiled their debut album two years ago.  That was a very good effort.  This release lays down razor sharp, computer-enhanced guitar lines to create a metallic frenzy of rock and electronic.  This is a somewhat odd style, less mainstream than Celldweller, less metallic than Blue Stahli, and less industrial than I Will Never be the Same.  Also of note: There are no vocals, which really allows the music to shine.  Jump into some of the chaos here.


5. Klaus Schulze-Shadowlands
How often do you come across a double album that contains only five tracks?  That is just what German composer Klaus Shulze has done with his airy, ambient electronic new album.  As you would imagine, the tracks are very long, so this is not music for short attention-spans.  It works best as background music for when you are playing solitaire or...um, writing a music blog.  This music is dreamy, atmospheric, and beautiful.  One of track on this album is a shade under 42 minutes long, while another falls just short of an hour, a hefty 55 minutes.  The track you will hear below is the shortest track on the album. 


Of course, this list would not be complete without some honorable mentions.  Here they are in no particular order.
Cosmo's Midnight-Surge
Public Transport-Dark Days
Boards of Canada-Tomorrow's Harvest
Daft Punk-Random Access Memories
The Knife-Shaking the Habitual
Logos-Cold Mission

As always, thanks for reading, and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The top 5 rock albums of 2013

Rock music, contrary to popular belief, is not dead.  The world is changing and that extends to music as well.  Old rock conventions and standards that have been rehashed since the 90s will not be so interesting in this era.  Rock music--especially rock--has to change and adapt with the times. 

That is why mainstream is out, out in my opinion.  Though some mainstream acts have pushed out solid releases this year, it is the underground scene that has really stolen the show.  Our five best albums span between shoegaze (the best being considered nu-gaze), post-rock, and alternative/indie. 

Thankfully, 2013 has given us quite a few good to great albums from those subgenres.  So, without further ado, I present to you our list of the five best rock albums from 2013.

1. The Joy Formidable-Wolf's Law
This Welsh rock group has only released two full-length albums.  Their first was impressive in its own right.  With Wolf's Law, the band takes their sound to new heights and, by so doing, blow the doors off everything they have done in the past.  This is a rock album chock-full of catchy choruses and bridges tinged with deep echoes.  There is literally so much to this album that posting one track can hardly do it justice.  Check out a couple of great tracks below.

2. The History of Colour TV- Emerald Cures Chic Ills
Pure shoegaze is an art that dates back to the early 1990s.  Over time, bands have adapted that concept.  In addition to electronic and guitar loops, this German band incorporates dark, spaced-out melodies and a certain metal-like flair for noise.  This may sound like a lot to handle, but the package is masterfully put together.  This is a great album and every track has its place.  Check out the first single from Emerald Cures Chic Ills here.


3. Sigur Ros-Kveikur
Sigur Ros is one of those post rock bands that can't put out a sub-par release.  They have been doing it a long time and remain one of the best in the genre.  Kveikur represents a somewhat darker approach, which is more akin to what post-rock is believed to be: stretched out, apocalyptic song structures with dreary melodies and no vocals.  Although Sigur Ros does use vocals, the music remains very much post-rock.  This album is being hailed by many publications as one of the best albums of the year and it is no mystery why.  They are perhaps the best band in Iceland. Check out a great track below.

4. Spc-Eco-Sirens and Satellites
Nu-gaze music blended successfully with electronic sounds and crystal-clear vocals is a rare treat.  This British group puts it all together on Sirens and Satellites.  The band's signature sound of looped, reverb-laden guitars melded with electronic grooves is on full display here.  The best element may be the vocals.  Spc-Eco have certainly stepped up their game in that department.  Check out an outstanding track from their latest album here.


5. Monochromie-Enlighten Yourself While You Sleep
Ambient post-rock with crunching waves of static seem to the be the theme on French band Monochromie's new album.  This is a slight departure from their excellent debut.  Everything the debut album presented remains present on this album, while the quality is kicked up yet another notch.  This is outstanding production occasionally disguised as lo-fi buzz rock.  The most important qualifier I can mention is ambient.  Though the album is very much a post-rock release, its ambient grace elevates it above the crowd.  Check out a track below.


The list of great rock releases goes far beyond the top 5.  In no particular order, here are our 2013 honorable mentions:
Apricot Rail-Quarrels
David Bowie-The Next Day
The Cherry Wave-Blush
Edweena-Solar Days and Lunar Nights
Elara-Soundtrack for a Quiet Place
Funeral for a Friend-Conduit
Gargle & Bosques de mi Miente-Absence
Gespenst-The Bloodline
Kigo-So Lost Now, Chance, Closer (Hear My Voice), Guilt, and Some Other Place
Russian Circles-Memorial
SiJ-Daguerose
Sleeping Bear-Sleeping Bear
Sleepstream-A Waltz with the Seventh Crane
Syahmi Rawi-Odyssey
Venera 4-Deaf Hearts
Weekend-Jinx
Whatfunlifewas-Stumbling Towards Purgatory

As always, thanks for listening and Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Top 5 Ambient Albums of 2013

Good evening, readers!  Another year has come and gone.  Per tradition, we like to break down what we feel are the top album releases of the year. 

In December of 2012 we published a list of the top 12 overall albums.  There were some great albums that year, and limiting the list to only 12 releases proved to be difficult.  The year 2013 has been even busier.  So many new albums and EPs were released this year that we decided to make a simple top 5 for each genre we cover.

I have been increasingly enthralled with ambient music, and 2013 has given us at least a dozen masterful releases.  We have five spots and some honorable mention awards to hand out.

1. Olekksii-Iris
This Kiev, Ukraine composer put together a very impressive album early this year.  Iris presents to us a classy mixture of lovely, minimal synths and modern classical-styled compositions set against electronic elements to add further texture.  The result is a real treat.  Listen for yourself below.


2. A Veil of Water-Reminder
Norway may be home to numerous metal bands, but sometimes a more somber, beautiful type of music emerges from the chaos.  Reminder is a remarkable album that renders thoughtful, airy piano work into a breathtaking work of art.  Not many pianists can do what Rune Trelvik has done.  Trelvik is a self-taught musician of piano, drums, guitar, and bass.  This album is almost entirely piano melodies interspersed with some lightweight ambient guitar textures.  Listen to some of this incredible work below.


3. Endless Melancholy-Epilogue
We have raved about Endless Melancholy here before, and with the sheer number of quality releases Oleksiy Sakevych has put out this year alone, it should come as no surprise that his debut full-length album makes our list,  Like A Veil of Water, Endless Melancholy's works appear on the Hidden Vibes record label.  And, like said band, Endless Melancholy deliver sensational piano tunes interspersed with electronic ambient music.  Sakevych is also a self-taught pianist.  Listen to the title track from Epilogue here.


4. Olafur Arnalds-For Now I am Winter
Olafur Arnalds is an Icelandic composer we have talked about here before.  This year he released a spectacular album that is as much about varying styles as it is peaceful melodies.  Several tracks on this album feature vocals from a variety of artists.  This style of music is easy to enjoy.  You just sit back and lose yourself in the waves of layered sounds. A featured track is available here.


5. Gamardah Fungus-Night Walk With Me
This Ukrainian band's music is slow, meditative, and, at times, dark.  This may be as close to drone as I can realistically enjoy, but the band incorporates a plethora of other sounds from a variety of instruments, all juxtaposed against a backdrop of sweeping, atmospheric synths.  Night Walk With Me was largely inspired by a 1992 prequel to the movie Twin Peaks, starring David Bowie.  While no Bowie-esque music makes its way into this release, it has plenty of other things going on.  It is more than good enough for a top five ranking.  Check it out here.


One of the better aspects of these brilliant pieces of work is that most of them are available as name-your-price downloads from the respective bandcamp pages. 

If you liked what you heard above, check out these honorable mentions from 2013:
Berserker Children Club-Someday (EP)
Endless Melancholy-Five Songs, Autumn Outtakes, and November
Equal Stones-To Erase a Lifetime
Linear Bells-For Your Eyes Only
Myosotis-Too Little Too Late
Ulver-Messe I.X-VI.X

As always, thanks for reading and enjoy these wonderful tunes!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Black City Lights-Another Life review


New artists can be interesting sometimes.  Some people have a hard time taking new artists seriously, even if their debut record is released by a big-name label.  Black City Lights, a pop artist from Wellington, New Zealand is no different.  Their previous EP, "Parallels" was an interesting release through which the group showed a lot of promise.  That EP was good but not great.  Since "Parallels" Black City Lights have released several singles.

The year 2013 has finally given us a debut full-length album from the band.  Where "Parallels" was good, "Another Life" is fantastic.  The artist has deepened their sound and have much improved in the vocal department. 

Black City Lights is most described as a dream-pop outfit, though the band seems to shy away from that label.  The problem with such a genre-specific label is that adhering to it only served to inhibit the musical artistry.  I think a more apt description of the music would be ambient synth pop with a very chill wave vibe running through it's veins (holy vernacular, that's a lot of 'v's, Batman!" 

If I were to compare artists, :Papercutz, whose latest album we raved about, would be at the top of the list.  Though the vocals are still not quite as strong as those from the aforementioned band, the cold, dreamy synths behind the vocals more than make up for it.  Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying the vocals are bad.  They are quite good as a matter of fact, just not quite as prolific as :Papercutz. 

The music in this release is deep and moving, packed with grandiose synths that paint the musical landscape with beautiful, ambient brushstrokes.  Standard electronic pop beats akin to chill wave music float to the surface in stunning fashion.  Another term I would use to describe the music would be dark cold wave.  This record emits a chilling darkness that is both beautiful and eerie.

Most of the tracks on this album are brand new.  One is a previously released single and at least one other track comes off of "Parallels".  If you are into pop music that doesn't meet the rigid qualifications for heavy air-play, you will most likely enjoy this disc.  This music remains interesting and beautiful throughout the short 45-or-so-minute run time. 

It is surprising just how good this album is.  I can fully recommend listening to this.  As it turns out, the band is offering a free stream of the album through their bandcamp page.  We have embedded that player here.  Thanks and, as always, enjoy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Q&A session with Brad Mathews


As we have noted here several times in the last few months I am working on a new sequel to the acclaimed Era Sinistra.  This is an exciting era in the evolution of Brad Mathews.  As I can attest, promotion of said work has been difficult.  If you have not yet had a chance to check out the original Era Sinistra, you can view the product and read about it here

Now I have come to this: As a service to those of you who enjoy a good mystery by an author you are familiar with, I have decided to answer questions regarding the new Era Sinistra installment from you, the fans and readers.  It is something to keep you interested and something to get you licking your chops for the final chapter of the saga.

Without further ado, here are the questions and answers:

Q: Where and what time frame do the characters live in?  --Alik

BM: One of the challenges of writing a sequel that takes place 11 years after the conclusion of the original story line is finding a way to tell the story in a way that illustrates the passage of time.  Era Sinistra takes place in the present time, so 11 years later would be in the future.  Telling the story from the perspective of 11 years in the future is a balancing act between showing future technology without getting too sci-fi-ish.  Most of the story takes place in the mountainous back country of Western Idaho.  It is a very scenic, out-of-the way location in which the main characters seem somewhat 'out of their element.'

Q: How do you choose human characteristics for the characters in your books? --Allison

BM: Believe it or not, I compose most characters off of what I believe to be enduring characteristics normal, every day people.  For instance, I try not to write from the point of view of law-enforcement officials too much.  I need the characters to come off more human and more relatable than your typical crime and police-procedural characters.  I keep physical characteristics to a minimum unless those traits are central to the plot.  The most common method I use to flesh out characters is to just write what comes to me.  Human attributes such as personality and emotional presence evolve, just like in real life.

Q: Is this a continuation of another saga? --James

BM:  In a way it is.  What I call it is a separate story built on the events and characters of a previous episode.  In layman's terms, a sequel.

Q: What is the release date of your new book?  --August

BM: That remains to be seen.  As opposed to the film and music industries, book industries rarely publicize 'release' dates unless the book is heavily anticipated in the media.  Also interesting to note is that books are never released on a prescribed date.  They are released whenever they come off the presses.  This book should 'come off the presses' a few months after completion.  As of now, I am just over halfway through the story, so realistically, we are talking about winter or spring of 2014.

Q: What is the sequel's title? --Marion

BM: This has been a difficult story to assign a working title to.  Early on in the process, I was simply referring to it as Era Sinistra 2.  I tossed around several names in my head for quite a while.  Of these various names, Days Without Rain seemed really interesting.  That, however, doesn't quite fit the story perfectly and too closely resembles the title of an Enya album.  I believe I have finally settled on this: Era Sinistra: The Shadow.  This is both a play off of a common character's perception of the story's main antagonist and a notation about the years following a noted time period--the shadow of an era, if you will.

Q: How do you choose the setting for your books? --Makiah

BM:  This is a difficult question to answer.  The easiest answer I have is that the story simply takes place where I visualize it in my mind.  Rain Dance was easy, since the concept of the book came from a dream I had where I was sailing in the waters of he Puget Sound in the dark.  For Era Sinistra I had to build the scenario because all I had to go from was a brief news story.  It was definitely going to take place in the woods, but where? 

Q: What made you decide to write a sequel? --Sandy

BM:  A while after reading Era Sinistra again I realized that the previous book intentionally left some loose ends.  So, naturally I began to ask myself what would happen next?  As I thought about it, the basic plot just came to me. 

Q: Do you think paperbacks are a dying medium?  -Steven

BM: Everyone knows that the hot medium right now is the e-book.  Traditional trade paperbacks, as a result are seeing a decline in popularity.  Still, not all people own e-readers and many people prefer real, bound books. There is no doubt that such books feel more substantial.  Still, it would be foolish not to capitalize on the latest trend in the publishing industry.  I'd say most people own some sort of device that can display e-book text. 

Q:  In what forms are you going to print this book?  -Liz

BM: Although the future may hold a paperback version of this book, my plan is to self-release it as an e-book only format.  The advantage is that e-books can be priced much, much lower than traditional paperbacks and will last longer.  The decision to go this route stems both from a desire to reward my readers and the need to emerge from beneath the oppressive hand of the traditional publishing industry.  My frustration with PublishAmerica is well-documented by now.  Simply put, I will never let that sham of a publisher make another penny off a new book I write.  The book will likely sell for about $2.99 USD, but there will definitely be promotions which will allow readers to download the books for discounts or FREE for a limited time.

Q: Do you have plans for another novel?  --Mike


BM:  I do have one outline that seems quite interesting to me.  It is sort of a military-type story that presents an interesting battle and its mysterious underpinnings.  I also have a concept to a sequel to The Thousand Branches, but I'm not sure if real plans for that will ever materialize.  Right now, I'm putting all of my writing focus on The Shadow.

BM: Thank you all for your questions.  Hopefully my answers have given some insight on what is behind the new book.  Also, thanks for stopping by.  Your readership is the main engine behind this blog staying up and running.  We normally talk about music, so please come again! 

-brad

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Syahmi Rawi-The Odyssey


If you paid attention to our last installment here, you will know who the subject of today's edition is.  Syahmi Rawi is the brother of Zuhair Rawi.  Together they form Malaysian post-rock duo Gespenst.  A few months ago I found a new solo EP called "The Odyssey."  Fluttery Records more than mentioned the Gespenst connection, after my initial listen to "The Odyssey" I decided I needed to check out Gespenst.

When talking about artists who are part of other bands, it is almost unavoidable making comparisons to said group, so I apologize in advance if this rubs any of you the wrong way.

In contrast to the richly instrumental-driven Gespenst sound, Syahmi Rawi uses a more earthly sound constructed mostly of pianos and string arrangements.  As such, it is a completely different style of post rock.  I would even hesitate to call it post rock, as it is much more in line with Endless Melancholy or Olekksii. 

For an EP it is often difficult to say much about the music.  There are still layered undertones of atmosphere present, but these influences are subtler and so, do not dominate the music.  The album starts off with some heavy breathing set against a somber prelude of keyboard before the other instrumentals kicks in.  This sound seems a little too bland for my tastes, but the intensity picks up when the labored breathing fades.  This results in a more sonically pleasing sound.  From there, the EP gets better and better.  The minimalist string sections create an interesting juxtaposition with the soft and simple pianos.

Rawi is a masterful musician.  In contrast to Gespenst, there are very few electronic interruptions to the music.  If I had to categorize "The Odyssey" with an established genre, I would label this as instrumental ambient music. 

As I have stated, this album is an EP which is composed of six short tracks.  You can listen to the album stream below.  If the breathing bothers you, you can always skip to the next track.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gespenst-The Bloodline


Pay close attention, readers.  Today we are featuring a year-plus old album that qualifies as another undiscovered gem.   How I found out about today's record was via a recent release from Fluttery Records, which we will feature on the next installment.  Today's post is an apt lead-in to what we will be talking about next.

It can be difficult to come across great music from the East, but this definitely qualifies. 

Gespenst was founded in Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia by brothers Syahmi and Zuhair Rawi.  This is the first Malaysian group of any genre music I have found, which makes this record unique in a different way.

As it turns out, there is plenty unique about this disc.  This is not your standard-fare post-rock sound.  While it does feature loads of stretching atmospherics, generous helpings of keyboards and pianos, it also offers huge, chunks of guitar riffing and plenty of tasty leads.  This disc also features sparse vocals, and by sparse, I mean rarer than those found on your average Sigur Ros disc. 

What I love about this album is that, in addition to stretched melodies and eerie ambiance, it features rock beats that you can nod your head to.  Gespenst puts the rock back in post-rock.  Some bands are doing this nowadays--think recent releases by If These Trees Could Talk and Exxasens.  This is a somewhat new development in post-rock which is actually more of a nod to the old-school styles of post rock from stalwart bands such as Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. 

Although this is a short album, clocking in with seven tracks averaging around five and half minutes in length, it is something I am really digging.  I'm glad I found out about the subject of our next installment, because it led me right to Gespenst.  This is a fantastic record that I can recommend again and again, even if you are not a fan of post-rock.  Thanks to Gespenst's bandcamp page, we've got the full album stream ready for you to feast your ears on.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ulrich Schnauss-A Long Way to Fall review


It is no secret that I am a fan of tastefully conceived electronic music.  As a matter of fact, I have previously proclaimed Ulrich Schnauss to be one of the best electronica artists in the world.  Think for a moment what it must take to be considered one of the best.  In this day and age, electronica could very well be the second-most recorded style of music, just behind pop.  To be noted as one of the best, you have to be really, really good.

Ulrich Schnauss is really, really good.  With "A Long Way to Fall", Schnauss has adapted his style of music and even further diversified his sound.  His previous releases with Mark Peters and Jonas Munk were shining examples of well-paced electro-gaze music that incorporated some elements of nu-jazz.  Both were very good records.

His new solo release taps styles from pop to electro-gaze to 80s-influenced synth.  "A Long Way to Fall" illustrates why there is still plenty of room to rise.  Layers upon layers of atmospheric bliss join forces with some extra-groovy electronic beats and industrialized samples to create a listening experience that is both fun and challenging. 

Also new is the incorporation of some understated, distorted vocals that seem filled with sorrow, but falling just short of all-out creepy.  Many of the tracks on this disc are upbeat, while others are filled with downtrodden, sullen melodies. 

Electronic music is often criticized as lacking true depth or emotion.  Schnauss delivers up a tasty platter of both while keeping the heavy grooves and layered textures of ambiance and looped reverb.  This is quite an exciting listen, especially if played at a high volume.  Check out the full YouTube stream of the album below.  As always, thanks and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

In Vain-Aenigma review


Metal has a strange trend going on right now in regards to album titles.  It has become baffling normal for a metal, especially one from overseas to use this Latin-themed character as the first letter of an album title: Æ.

I'm not sure why this is.  Maybe it makes the album title seem more metal.  I find it weird and difficult to type in using a normal keyboard without finding the character online, copying, and pasting.

In Vain is a lesser known metal band from Norway, whose music is really well-constructed.  In terms of metallic style, one could realistically categorize In Vain's music as progressive metal, black metal, or even melodeath.  I would call it a creative amalgam of all three styles.  This album contains sections of full-on thrashing shred, progressive guitar leads, and blackened viciousness.

Make no mistake that this album is extreme metal.  "Ænigma" shows the band taking their sound to a whole new level and improving on both technicality and production.  This is a heavy disc, but it still sounds very progressive.  Production values are very crisp, which allows the guitar leads and acoustic sections to shine. 

Vocals are even more chaotic than they were on the band's previous album, "Mantra."  However, there is a fair amount of clean singing on this album, which I find to be welcome.  In Vain used this vocal style on "Mantra," but more sparingly.  "Mantra" was a masterful record and incredibly well-written.  By contrast, "Ænigma" sounds more mature and more polished.  While few of the songs are instantly memorable, the album as a whole carries and unmistakable vibe.  After a couple of listens, I can attest that this album is every bit as good as "Mantra" was. 

If you have not heard any of this band's previous work, you definitely should check it out.  I have attached the whole album stream via YouTube below for your listening pleasure.  As always, thanks for listening and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sigur Ros-Kveikur review


I didn't really take Sigur Ros seriously until sometime in 2012 after their previous album "Valtari" was released.  I'm not really sure why.  Perhaps the band's name didn't resonate with me.  But after I really took some time to listen to that record, I came to like the band's sound a lot more. 

Since "Valtari," Sigur Ros has been hard at work, quickly releasing another album.  This one didn't really have time to make it to the highly anticipated category because it was announced and released in a very short time span. 

If you have browsed a record store lately, you might have seen the new album, "Kveikur" gracing shelves.  The cover art is simple, yet attention grabbing. 

With this new album, Sigur Ros have adapted and enhanced their experimental approach to accessible post rock.  "Kveikur" sees the band incorporating more ominous textures, and darker, deeper sounds.  With enough distortion to keep true to the post-rock values the band is known for, accessible pop sensibilities and broken bits of alternative styled sounds peek through the haze of atmospheric grandeur.  This results in a sweeping, majestic sound that is quite impressive, even for seasoned fans of this Icelandic post-rock group.

There is plenty to enjoy on this disc.  The opener, Brenninstein immediately leaves its mark and sets a tone for the remainder of the release.  Most of the tracks continue with similar workmanship.  This album has enough distortion to keep hard core post-rock fans interested, yet enough pop styling to attract new listeners.  As good as "Valtari" proved to be, "Kveikur" is even better.  This is a fantastic release that should earn its way into the libraries of many listeners. 

Sigur Ros is known as a standard of post-rock and is referenced alongside many mentions of post-rock.  This is notable, because the collection of well-known post-rock bands is sparse.  Instead of simply adhering to post-rock standards, however, this band experiments and truly pushes the boundary limitations of the genre.  Listen to Brenninstein below.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Monolith Deathcult-Tetragrammaton review


If you are a regular reader here, you know that we cover extreme music sometimes.  Although I generally not a fan of music this extreme, it goes without saying that I am a big fan of The Monolith Deathcult (TMDC).

This Dutch extreme Avant-Garde metal band is exciting to listen to.  Each album they have released has been markedly better than the last.  That TMDC takes up to five years to conceive, write, and record their music should tell you something about the quality of the recordings.  This is a band that is as much educational as it is entertaining.  They don't just reference historical events and cultures in their music; such themes embody and even dominate the music.

At times oddly cheesy, the band is nothing if not creative.  "Tetragrammaton" takes the creativity and unusual song structures and multiplies them by introducing symphonic and industrial elements to provide atmosphere.  TMDC has also shown that they don't shy away from including samples from various sources of media.  For instance, the first track, God Among Insects, opens with Bill Pullman asking "Can there be a peace between us?"  The alien then answers ,"No peace."  Independence Day seems to be the basis of the song.  As it closes, we hear Pullman asking the alien what it is they want us to do.  And the alien answers. 

This opening track also features TMDC's lead singer narrating a quote from the 1979 movie Caligula.  The following track includes a repeated sample from Rules of Engagement.  Yet another track references Martin Luther King's famous 'I have a dream' speech.

Now that we have some references and background out of the way, let me talk about the music, which is why you are reading in the first place.  "Tetragrammaton" is an intense record.  In addition to the aforementioned elements, the band incorporates razor-sharp riffing, a furnace of blast beats, infectious melodies, and blistering guitar solos.  The vocals are at times hair-raising, ranging from crisp howls to sickeningly guttural growls. 

This music is not metal for the faint of heart, but it is very good.  As anticipated as this album was, I find it difficult to keep off the 'top metal of 2013' list.  Check out God Among Insects below.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

FREE music-Myosotis-Too Little Too Late


Admittedly, ambient music is a genre that takes patience and an open mind to become interested in.  Believe it or not, I used to be one of those closed-minded metalheads that assumes anything not metal is bad.  Over the last several years, however, I have broadened my horizons.  One of the best thing's I've ever done, as I have discovered countless artists who create beautiful, passionate music that energizes and transforms one's outlook on life.

I realize that I run the risk of over dramatizing musical listening pleasure by describing music the way I just did, but the fact remains.  When I'm in a sour mood, I can relax and just chill to some amazing music.

Lately I have stumbled across an album from a Dutch duo who go by the name Myosotis.  Released by Hidden Vibes--the label that brought us masterpieces from Endless Melancholy and A Veil of Water--"Too Little Too Late" is an album chock-full of seemingly boundless soundscapes.  This music sounds something like what the cover illustrates.  Picture yourself gliding across sweeping green fields and immersed in cool sunlight as the music takes you to far flung places of the imagination.  This music provides that sensation.

Contrary to what some may believe, I am very selective about what ambient artists I can listen to.  For example, the ambient drone music to me sounds flat and uninspiring.  Others try to get too cute with electro-pop elements that somehow lose the vibe of ambient brilliance.

Myosotis has released an album that sticks with you.  It is the kind of music that somehow wraps around your senses, but does not strangle the listener.  It is memorable in that it does not embed itself into your conscience.  This is a feat that is difficult to accomplish, especially by ambient artists. 

Take a listen to the album below.  This is a FREE download so if you like it, you have nothing to lose.  Warning: Be patient and allow it to grow.  With extended time listening, you begin to like and appreciate it more.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Leprous-Coal review


For the second straight day we have a new music review for you!  Today we're going to look at some music decidedly different than what we heard yesterday. 

Inside Out Music recently released the new album from Norwegian prog-rockers Leprous.  Inside Out is who brought us the latest Devin Townsend album, as well as Geoff Tate's latest, so they already had an impressive pedigree.

As the saying goes, this ain't Leprous' first rodeo.  "Coal" sees them improved dramatically over their last effort.  I'm not always a big fan of progressive rock and metal, so when I hear something I like it is notable.  Leprous is not your average, run-of-the-mill prog band.  As a matter of fact, they are described as Avant-Garde more often than pure prog.  While the two subgenres do have a lot in common, Avant-Garde metal uses more experimental sounds and song structures.  Leprous are quite adept at experimentation.  They use unconventional grooves and soundscapes in repetition with standard metallic riffs to create a very interesting sound.

"Coal" came completely out of left field this year, and many metal bloggers are already placing it in year-end lists.  That should say something about how impressive this music is.

Hooky rhythms combine here with somber melodies and grandiose flourishes of atmosphere.  Few bands manage to pull off this feat with such aplomb, which should earn Leprous more credit. 
If I were to compare Leprous to more-established bands, Queensryche and Dream Theater would be at the top of the list. 

In short, get this disc.  It is a very, very good listen.  Check out the lead single, Chronic, below.  As always, thanks and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Monochromie-Enlighten Yourself...review


Greetings, all!

As I mentioned last week, life has been busy and other priorities have gotten in the way of us updating the blog.  I promised an album review for this week, so here it is.

Today we take a look at the new Monochromie album, "Enlighten Yourself While You Sleep." 

Monochromie is the musical project of French artist Wilson Trouve.  This disc has proven to be a worthy follow-up to the always spectacular "Angels and Demons."  Naturally, when news broke earlier this year about the brand new album, I was stoked.  I patiently waited until the day of release and then purchased it without having heard a single track.  "Angels and Demons" had that big an impact on me.

Continuing with the overall concept of dreamy, ambient post-rock, the new disc introduces a plethora of sounds, including light bells, distorted buzzing, and atmospheric swells of ambient keyboards.  The distortion on this disc is astounding, but Trouve is careful to not lean on it too much.  Instead of coming across overbearing or plain noisy, it serves its purpose to enhance the exceptional musical quality on display.

Fans of post-rock heavy hitters Mono and Hammock can not go wrong with this release. 

In terms of mood, "Enlighten Yourself..." displays a more somber, reflective attitude, dwelling more in the darker aspects of the post-rock sound.  The aura of sadness this album conveys, however, is not uninterrupted.  Instead, uplifting melodies stroll through the darkened landscape like sparks on live electrical cables.  Explosions of introverted silence and sweeping atmospheres pace the record. 

Overall, this was a very enjoyable listen.  It is up to par with "Angels and Demons" and even surpasses it on some fronts. 

As a side note, Monochromie's label, Fluttery Records, has been kind enough to post a snippet of my raving review of "Angels and Demons" to help promote "Enlighten Yourself..."  Check out a couple of standout tracks here.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!!
P.S. Sorry for the poor image quality.  The software wasn't uploading the larger image.



Thursday, July 11, 2013

An update on musical happenings etc

Hello, all!

We realize we have not updated this blog in ages.  There are actually some valid reasons and some not so valid reasons for this.  First, life has been extraordinarily busy these last few months.  Balancing overtime at the day job with travel and preparing for father (and mother) hood is a difficult chore for anyone to handle.  But the biggest reason is this:

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

Yours Truly is hard at work on a brand new novel.  The new novel, currently untitled is a sequel to Era Sinistra, which we have mentioned a time or two on this blog.  This time the journey is more personal for Reggie St. Clair.  Eleven years ago, the man responsible for the height of Reggie's turmoil escaped.  Now 17 years old, his daughter has turned up missing.  The villain Art Rassine quickly emerges as the prime suspect.  Now Reggie must risk everything to find Rassine and rescue his daughter before it's too late!

With all that having been said, exactly what are we up to in the music world?  I have been listening to lots of new music.  I have at least a dozen new albums ready to review.  Hopefully I will get one posted next week.

I have also been compiling a best-of-2013 so far list of the many albums I have enjoyed so far this year.  There are some fantastic albums on that list.  We have talked about a few of these albums already.  I have not yet decided if I will publicly announce this list, as it is ever-changing with new releases.

Lastly, there are a few highly anticipated albums to be released in the near future.  Here are some we are most looking forward to: Deadlock, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Within Temptation.  Hopefully there will be many more. 

Alas, I am out of words.  But we will see you here next week with a brand new album review!  As always, huge thanks for reading and enjoying what we have to say. 

-brad

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Persefone-Spiritual Migration review


Bands who name themselves after mythological gods can sometimes come off as pompous and a little bit insincere.  Several metal bands named for gods are out there today, and I only truly enjoy one of them.  Persefone is an Andorran progressive metal band that dares to dabble in many different styles.  Their approach to modern extreme metal is admirable.

If You don't know much about Andorra, who can blame you.  It is a small country located in the Pyrenees Mountains sandwiched between Spain and France.  The entire population of the country is 85,000.  For comparison's sake, Meridian, Idaho, the city in which we live, has 81,380 people.  Thus, it is interesting that any metal band comes from that nation.

As for style of music, the concept is almost purely metal.  The band's previous album, "Shin-Ken" had an oriental feel to it, where approximately half the album was raging extreme metal, while the other half was quiet, reflective ambient instrumental music.  This offered a bit of confusion, but after listening to the album several times over, I began to get a feel for the intended flow of the record and thus, appreciated it more. 

A few weeks ago I was listening to a song from "Shin-Ken" and found myself wondering if they had any new music coming out soon.  As it happened, the release of a brand new opus was taking shape.  "Spiritual Migration" takes off right where "Shin-Ken" left off, but added several refreshing new elements to the music. 

The Orchestral backing on several of the tracks was a welcome addition.  This is added to the fury of metallic riffing with ultra-quick, razor-sharp drumming, which creates an almost surreal effect, like glimmers of light pierced a darkened void.  The string sections then subsided for a few tracks, giving way to serpentine guitar leads and voracious grunted and howled vocals.  This sound is what Persefone has become known for. 

Later on the album, the orchestration returns.  Moody ambiance permeates a track or two, and some funky electronic concoction even shows up in one track.  My first impression was that this record was so incredibly varied that it could be seen as obtrusive and distracting.  I enjoyed everything I heard.  Since "Shin-Ken " Persefone have certainly honed their craft and tightened their sound.  "Spiritual Migration" is dazzling album.  There is something for every fan of metal music here.  The band has three main vocal styles, going between loud bellows to blackened shrieks to soulful, clean-sung melodies. 
We are streaming the album below, courtesy of Persefone's bandcamp page.  Be sure to listen beyond the first track to get a full taste of what this album has to offer.  As always, thanks for listening and enjoy!

Monday, March 25, 2013

New music from Sigur Ros & Public Transport

Yes, we got new music to share today!  This post is going to just be a brief introduction to the music, after which we will let the tunes speak for themselves.  We love to find new and exiting artists around here, but sometimes familiar artists release new music that you just have to hear, so we like to share that with you as well.  Today you are in for a treat because we have the best of both worlds!

Sigur Ros-I have known about this Icelandic post-rock band for quite a while.  My first real experience with them was their latest album, "Valtari", released way back in 2012.  "Valtari was a good album with gobs of memorable piano melodies spaced across minimal, ambient tones.  In short, I found the music to be beautifully appealing.  If there is one thing Sigur Ros seem to excel at, it is surprise.  This band has another new full-length album to be released in June.  After hearing the new track they just uploaded, I'm really excited to get my hands upon the album.  With this song, Sigur Ros, take their music in a fresh direction, adding a harder, darker edge to it.  What results is a most satisfying ambient post rock tune with a dreary, buzzing low-end bass register that is all kinds of tasty.  Check out the new track here:


Public Transport-This is the new artist we are featuring today.  Just recently this instrumental artist released a fantastic track that spans between dream pop and melodic post rock.  The production value on this music is more basic and not drowned in synthetic noises, reverb, or overt distortion.  This is just simple, honest instrumental music.  They create a beautiful atmosphere with this track.  I can't say much more than was I already have said.  Check out the track here and be sure to visit Public Transport's bandcamp page for a name-your-price download of the new EP, plus more great tunes.  As always, thanks for listening and enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2013

David Bowie-The Next Day review


I admit I am jumping on this one a little late, but I just heard about it.  After a 10-year wait, David Bowie has finally released a brand new album.

I enjoyed "Heathen" a ton, and even though this style of music isn't at the top of my list, I listen to it fairly often.  What impressed me with "Heathen" was how dynamic Bowie sounded.  Having to wait ten years between albums from your favorite artists can feel like torture, but the excitement when the new album does come is genuine.

Whereas "Heathen" offered a more alternative mainstream style of pop sound, "The Next Day" should turn out to be an instant classic in the genre of rock.  As is usual with Bowie, the music is filled with unusual twists and sounds that are both surprising and pleasing.  The new album is a real rocker, leaving nothing to be desired.  What makes Bowie so famous, of course, is his style of singing. 

Needless to say, I took time out to listen to the new Bowie album and it definitely lived up to its billing.  If you are a big Bowie fan, you probably already own this.  If not, you are perhaps wondering what all the fuss is about.  I mean, can't dinosaur rock finally go the way of the dinosaur? 

In a genre filled to the brim with classless rip-offs, and rock musicians simply interested in selling, Bowie is a breath of fresh air.  He has truly stood out as one of the best.  One thing that comes to mind while listening to this album is that it does not include any remixes or covers.  Each of the albums' 13 tracks are original David Bowie material.

"The Next Day" has a big, full sound with impressive range.  The instrumentation is nearly perfect this go-around and contains a steady diet of differing styles, from eerie, grandiose reverb to subtle plucked harmonies to full-on dark ambiance all while keeping its cool rocking.

This is a good album and will be a great addition to nearly any music collection.  Enjoy the full album stream, via YouTube below.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Neaera-Ours is the Storm review


Two straight metal album reviews.  I know, we don't like metal that much here, but it so happened that three bands we do like released new albums on the same day.  And there is a bunch more metal in the pipeline, though most of it won't be released for a while. 

Today's review is the third most anticipated music release from March 5, 2013: The new album from Germany's Neaera.  Like Soilwork yesterday, Neaera is a band with their own established identity, however much less known than Soilwork.  This band actually plays a somewhat similar style of metal to Soilwork, but nastier and more extreme. 

Neaera's forte is a bruising gallop of chugging riffs, pummelling drums, and guitar leads swirling beneath the surface.  Neaera are certainly masters of crafting songs that make listeners want to throw up their horns and bang their heads.  The riffs and drums are punchy and create an impressive and crunchy groove that makes heads spin.  Bubbling beneath the considerably heavy surface in most songs are snaky guitar leads that lend atmosphere and melody to the meat.  Most bands resort to keyboards to achieve this end, but Neaera is different from the rest.

What sets this band apart is the vocal style.  One second the singer emits throat-shredding shrieks, while the next he bursts forth with impressive belows that fall somewhere below the bass register.  He switches back and forth from these styles effortlessly while also mixing in higher-range old school metal screams.  Very rarely does this band give in to using clean singing, and even when they do, its is more like an Iron Maiden-esque array of falsetto singing.  On "Ours is the Storm" this style of singing appears on just one track. 

From start to finish this is a very heavy record.  There are no interludes or preludes or intros or outros or lead-in tracks or filler material.  Just thirteen pummelling melodeath tracks that are easy to nod your head to.  On this disc, Neaera offer nothing flashy--nothing that calls attention to itself.  Like Soilwork's new album, the band sees little need to bring anything new to the table besides a bunch of killer tracks.  That said, "Ours is the Storm" is a good album, just not a great one.  If you are in the mood for some insane headbanging metal, you can't go wrong here.  Check out a couple of the tracks below.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Soilwork-The Living Infinte review



If you have been following us regularly, you might have noticed the couple of times in the last few months we have posted brand new songs from this Swedish metal band.

Soilwork has put together an impressive career spanning now nine full-length albums since 1995.  Over the years, the band's style has morphed and changed but this is still one of the most consistent Swedish metal bands of the era (meaning late 1980s-1990s Swedish melodeath).  Though the band has adapted styles a little bit by incorporating further and more varied use of clean-sung vocals, Soilwork is still very much an extreme metal band.

"The Living Infinite," released today, most certainly carries the mark of a Soilwork album.  The band's previous albums, "Sworn to a Great Divide" and "The Panic Broadcast" were seen as slight letdowns for hardcore Soilwork fans.  Instead of offering a 'return to form' Soilwork include bits of style spanning their entire discography.  Bjorn "Speed" Strid's vocals are much improved this time around, showing better range with both clean singing and extreme vocals. 

As on "The Panic Broadcast," the metallic riffs are fast, thick, and smooth. Soilwork's drumming has never been tighter, and many of the tracks here scorch us with blistering leads and solos, which have been largely missing over the last few albums.

With "The Living Infinite," Soilwork doesn't break any new ground, but they don't have to.  By now their sound is well-established and their practice well-polished.  With that being said, there are no mind-blowing moments.  The album is content with what it does and does it well. 

Not much more can be said of this album.  It is as good an album as Soilwork has ever released.  It doesn't break any new ground.  Instead, the consistency on display is notable.  If you are in the mood for some torrential extreme metal with memorable melodies (ah, alliteration attack), you need to check this album out.  One thing to note is that this is a double album.  The CD version contains two discs and 20 tracks.  Feast on a few of the released tracks below.  As always, thanks for reading and ejoy!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Veil of Water-Reminder review


This past week I received an interesting email from Hidden Vibes, a small record label of out Kiev, Ukraine.  This email was touting their latest release, a piano-based instrumental record from A Veil of Water. 

"Reminder" is A Veil of Water's first release.  Hailing from Norway, this is a one-man musical project by Rune Tralvik.  Originally revolving around a solo piano and then evolving to more, this artist is an impressive self-taught musician and player of multiple instruments. 

From the very first track it is evident that "Reminder" will be mostly a modern classical piano masterwork, and thus it truly is.  Without sacrificing tone, clarity, and melody, this artist weaves post-rock and ambient flavors to create a deep and moving listening experience.

In the past I have raved about artists such as Heinali and Endless Melancholy.  A Veil of water manages to match them both.  I have high respect for people who can play musical instruments, and more so when they can play multiple instruments.  I have also noted more than once that there is no such thing as bad classical music, and that is a mantra I naturally extend to film music, trailer music, and neoclassical studio projects.

In listening to "Reminder," we are presented with numerous melodic textures, each carrying their own weight and contributing greatly to the whole.  This is a classic album to which listeners just have to sit back and relax.  This music is beautiful and provocative.  For using the piano as the centerpiece,
Tralvik creates deep and energetic pieces as well as slow, melancholic burners, each of which carve a comfortable niche in the lucky listener and remain memorable for days on end. 

If you enjoy tasteful piano and instrumental music, you will absolutely love A Veil of Water.  "Reminder" is available for purchase at the artist's bandcamp page, from whom we owe thanks for the full album stream.  Thanks for reading and, as always, enjoy!

Friday, March 1, 2013

:Papercutz-The Blur Between Us (2012)


A while back we talked about a series of free download compilation albums from Future Sequence.  These discs are loaded with great finds.  Among the golden, I discovered a Portuguese artist called :Papercutz.  I didn't discover this album until late, or it might have made our year-end list.

"The Blur Between Us" has a diverse array of sounds on display throughout the record.  Perhaps the defining characteristics are the brooding ambient undercurrents interspersed with electronic beats and flourishes of modern classical harmonics and percussion.  These elements show an impressive depth that you simply can't get from any similar artist (if there is such a thing).

With a Cranberries-meets-Enya vocal style, the singing is what really sets this album apart as a can't-miss.  The vocals are varied, but repetitive enough to maintain a distinct pop vibe.   Not quite to the realm of electrogaze, the vocal stylings dwell mostly between dream pop and new world music. This is perhaps the area in which :Papercutz shines the most.

By that last line, I of course meant the figurative sense, because most of the music in this album is indeed cinematic and dark.  The undertones of drone ambiance mixed with modern classical instrumentation lends the music an eerie feel.  If this is not your thing, please be advised that this quality is not overt, nor is it an attempt to make the music a statement of what it is not.  This is simply creative, emotional genius.  "The Blur Between Us" is much more accessible than I have so far made it out to be.  Do not underestimate the dream pop effects present in this album. 

I normally don't enjoy much pop music; I'm not a musical purist.  Therefore I enjoy a broad spectrum of styles that defy classification.  Thus, :Papercutz has turned out to be right up my alley. 

Get this album.  It is perhaps the best album you didn't hear in 2012.  Another thing to note is that if you order through the artist's bandcamp page, you get a bonus track which is a rather incredible cover of The Cure's Disintegration. Speaking of the :Papercutz bandcamp page, below you will find the full album stream.  Just push play and let the music become you...or something like that.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Apricot Rail-Quarrels review


Some time ago we posted a quick review of a new single by a post-rock band from Perth, Australia called Apricot Rail.  The Australian release date has hit and we have a full album to review!  For one reason or another, this hasn't hit US shores yet, but thankfully, Apricot Rail has a fully armed and operational bandcamp page to peruse.  (Props to those who just picked up on my blatant Star Wars reference...what a NERD!)

I would almost hesitate to call this new release post-rock.  Post-rock music in its purest form is highly processed and heavily distorted instrumental rock music that more often than not hints at a coming apocalypse.  Apricot Rail has crafted an interesting release in instrumental music that eschews the heavy distortion for more organic instrumental melodies with just enough feedback to provide a sweeping atmospheric texture.

Vocals, while sparse, only serve to accentuate certain melodies without playing an integral part in the sound as a whole.  This is immediately evident from the opening bars of the very first track.  Another thing that stands out with this release is that this band is not afraid to experiment with lullaby-style electronic harmonies or unconventional instrumentation.  More than one track includes strings and several feature full-on horn sections.  This creates yet another interesting dynamic in the music.  During Cicadas...Part II, a horn section almost had me convinced that I was listening to an odd rendering of The Beatles' Strawberry Fields.  This was a rather astute observation considering that I'm not a Beatles fan.

This album almost literally renders me speechless.  It is that good.  There is something in this music for everyone.  I can't find a single beef with the flow of this album.  "Quarrels" is certainly an early candidate to make our year-end list.  This is extremely impressive music from a relatively unknown band.  The music beautiful and uplifting in ways that most post-rock fails or does not care to attempt.  If you like instrumental music of any kind, you MUST check this out.  You can stream the entire album below.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Free Downloads in triplicate!


You know how they say bad luck comes in threes?  Well today I am happy to announce that good luck also comes in threes.  You have to have yin to your yang don't you? 

The other day I stumbled across two artists whose music grabbed me and wouldn't let me go until the song was over.  As it turns out both of these items were available as name-your-price downloads from the bands' respective bandcamp pages, so I promptly downloaded them.  Upon doing so, I found that one of the bands had recommended another artist that sounded interesting.  I happened to enjoy that one as well.

Three new artists in a day?  Pretty good luck.  Let's start with the first.

Kigo-For some reason i didn't get into this group much when I first heard of them a couple weeks ago.  A blog I frequently read had posted about their new EP and I liked the cover art, but i didn't find the music impressive enough to download.  Or course that changed when I listened to a second track from the EP posted about later in the same blog.  I was floored.  Kigo is one Australian dude who plays dynamic electro-gaze tunes.  We all know about Spc-Eco and M83, but Kigo is entirely different.  He combines fuzzy, distorted guitar instrumentation with pedal effects and massive underpinning of dazzling electronic reverb.  If you like shoegaze or alternative rock, you will love Kigo.  Check out their EP here.

Germany Germany-Who wouldn't half-expect this artist to be from Germany? That's what I thought.  I like German artists on average much more than I like Canadian artists.  Germany Germany is actually from Canada.  The style of music here is down tempo, spatial ambient music with tinges of dream pop to give it a more urgent feel.  Those two styles wouldn't seem to mesh well, but Germany Germany pulls it off with such aplomb that it is difficult to not be impressed.  This was much better than average.  Take a listen to their newest album below.

Arrange-I have known about this Portland-based musician for quite some time, but I never really gave much thought to listening to his music.  His latest album came to me on a recommendation from Germany Germany.  It seemed unlikely that I would enjoy it, but I listened anyway.  His new album, "Plantation" blew me away.  Complete with emotional, understated vocals and a sterile world of eerie ambiance, this record was a fantastic listen.  The genre classification here would be best suited as ambient pop, but the pop stylings are very subtle.  Instead of being bouncy, this album takes on a surreal feeling of melancholy and anger.  Such depressing tunes can be maddening to listen to for a long time, but the tracks are short and varied enough to retain interest throughout.  Check out "Plantation" below.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Omnium Gatherum-Beyond review


Let me apologize for the lull in activity here at ThinkMuzik.  The last weeks have been very dull in terms of new music.  We haven't been receiving any updates we feel to be noteworthy.  Rest assured, however, there is some good stuff coming so stay tuned.

One great update we did receive today: Omnium Gatherum is now streaming their upcoming album "Beyond" in full.  You can listen to the music here.

"Beyond" feels much less like a follow-up to "New World Shadows" than anticipated.  By all means, "New World Shadows" was a fantastic album, further exploring ideas and sounds hinted at in "The Red Shift".  The result was a more polished, fuller sounding record that was, in my opinion, the best album to date in the Omnium Gatherum discography.  Now that I have had a chance to listen to "Beyond", I can say that the new release is just as good as, if not better than its predecessor.

This album starts out with an atmospheric guitar intro that steadily builds in intensity towards the end.  This leads perfectly into the explosion of metallic riffing and growling vocals that are featured prominently in the second track.  These songs manage to keep the Omnium Gatherum vibe I have come to love over the years even while ratcheting up the atmospheric keyboard and synth qualities yet another notch.  This illustrates why the band has so quickly become one of my favorite metal bands. 

"Beyond" reaches near perfect marks from me, but for a perceived misstep or two near the end of the album.  Two of the final five tracks seemed like a regression of sorts, hearkening back to the "Red Shift" era which, to be honest, included some great tunes.  This late-album change of pace seems to subtly undermine the charging tempo of doom-laden keyboard melodies and memorable guitar leads present throughout most of the album.  This is only a very slight gripe.  Whatever tenacity was lost with those few stripped-down efforts, Omnium Gatherum make up for in the over ten-minute epic closer that is Omnium Gatherum at their very best.

The vocals on this album are diverse enough to be entertaining.  Some low-register spoken word sections enhance the foreboding atmosphere present within the music.  Could Say is the only track to incorporate clean vocals like those found sparingly during "New World Shadows".  The cleans make up the majority of the verses, while beastly growls return to prominence during chorus and bridge sections.  This is one of the best songs on the album.

As on "New World Shadows", Don Swano is behind the production here.  Swano is in my opinion the best metal producer in Europe.  In this album, it quickly becomes evident that his skill has only increased.

A lot of Finnish bands create great melodic metal music and Omnium Gatherum has risen to the very top of an already rich crop, which includes masters Amorphis and Insomnium.  "Beyond" is an epic album, and perhaps the best yet in Omnium Gatherum's six LPs and one EP.  Check out the damage here and be sure to listen to Could Say.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Olekksii-Iris review


When I first stumbled across Olekksii on the Fluttery Records website, I thought the name sounded familiar.  Indeed, this is the last name of a Ukrainian artist known as Endless Melancholy, only his last name is spelled with a single 'k'. 

The artist Olekksii is Alexey Krolevets.  Like Endless Melancholy, he is from Kiev, Ukraine.  Olekksii specializes in electronica, but his music can appeal to fans more diverse than the typical electronic music lover.  His new full-length album, "Iris" is an abbreviated eight-track album rich in classic electronic beats, smooth, atmospheric reverb, and piano.

This music is multi-layered.  While ambiance plays a crucial role in developing the dreary aspects of these tunes, it is sole focal point.  Olekksii builds upon that template with recognizable electronic beats, which provide tempo and depth the music.  Another key element of the mix is the piano.  Simple, catchy piano melodies play a thoughtful juxtaposition with the electronic beats, while various string arrangements cast rays of beauty into the mix.

"Iris" would be a strong modern classical performance without the electronics.  With those beats mixed in, it reflects on some latter film pieces.  These arrangements of multiple cellos and violins instead call to mind true classical music.  These arrangements are deep enough to sound cutting-edge and modern, but paced more like contemporary. 

The length of tracks does often matter to me.  As I said in yesterday's post about Funeral for a Friend's new disc, short tracks can lead to less variety in musical sound.  This is not the case with "Iris."  Though the average track length is nearly identical to the new FFAF album, the music is strikingly diverse.  This perhaps owes to the absence of vocals and the insistence of contemporary musicians need to create music devoid of catchy hooks or other sounds of repetitive nature.  Indeed, these eight tracks seem to stretch much further. 

This album is still short and I do feel that Olekksii would have been served well by including just one or two additional songs, but this is but a minor complaint. 

Fluttery records claims that this music is for people impressed with works by Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, and several other lesser-known artists.  Having read this bio before I listened to a single note of the music, they had me at Olafur Arnalds.  Olekksii is indeed similar to Arnalds, and believe me that is a major plus.

I fully recommend purchasing "Iris".  This is a fantastic listen and an inexpensive download.  Check out the full stream, courtesy of the Olekksii bandcamp page below.  Thanks for listening and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Funeral for a Friend-Conduit review


Recently I have been working with an electrician who is designing electrical conduit for a food processing facility.  There is a ton of conduit in this building, so finding out where each line is routing is time-consuming and complex.

Funeral for a Friend's latest album, on the other hand, is neither complex nor is it a time-consuming listening experience.  In some ways the band picks up where they left off with on the not-so-overwhelmingly received "Welcome Home Armageddon".  My own opinion of the previous album notwithstanding, "Conduit" is a good FFAF album, just not the best.

We are huge fans of FFAF here.  We own either CD or digital copies of every single full-length album they have released.  "Conduit" is every bit as good as "Welcome Home Armageddon," but not quite up to the standard set with "Hours" and "Memory and Humanity."  We believe this band to be bar-none the best Welsh rock band out there.  Granted, there are not that many heavy-hitters from the Kingdom of Wales, but FFAF is the best.

Whereas the previous albums were harmonic rockers, "Conduit" shows us a different aspect the band has been trying to incorporate more and more through the last two albums.  Listeners of metal, straight-up hardcore, and punk will identify with the subject matter and delivery of this album.  FFAF is still very much a rock band and indeed graces listeners with numerous harmonic hooks, but what "Conduit" truly is, is a post-hardcore release.  This is perhaps most similar to the earlier tracks from "Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation." 

My only problem with this release is indeed a fairly major one, and complex at that.  The structures evident in the 11 tracks are the simplest melodies and riffs FFAF have ever constructed.  These 11 tracks more often than not render themselves so simple that the simplicity detracts from the creativity in the song-writing.  The tracks on this album average under three minutes apiece, with the longest just 3:39.  The shortness of the tracks leaves no room for extended vocal melodies, guitar leads, or solos.  These items have been FFAF staples for years, so having none of these to chew on leaves plenty to be desired.

"Conduit" is still a solid release that should appeal to both true fans and casual listeners.  The album is simply too short in my opinion.  Check out the title track and Spine below.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!