Sunday, December 20, 2009

Building Rome - Nightmare

The first track off this album immediately soars to my top 20 tracks of all time. Epic in scope and majestic in realisation, it's flat out a hit. Perfect production, absolutely flawless execution of riffs, vocals and rhythms, a politically driven message, and an absolutely outstanding breakdown makes you want to play it over and over again. It's spine-tingling stuff.

Unfortunately the whole album, whilst passionately created and something I myself would be extremely proud of, doesn't hold the same power as the opening track. There is a sense of commercialism about this album that just doesn't quite click with me, but, for woe, will with the masses.

It feels that they followed a formula. Heavy rock track followed by upbeat pop track followed by ballad, have a bowl of cornflakes and repeat. The lyrics could be produced by a computer that had listened to lots of Britney. The riffs are extremely catchy, they know exactly what they're doing but sorry guys, it's just a bit naff. There is nothing spontaneous, raw or exciting about this album.

Except the first track!

It's almost as if they wrote and recorded that track and thought "Holy shit this is amazing, let's quickly write some more stuff and get it recorded and sell an album!"

But perhaps part of me is just jealous of the absolute precision with which these guys have velcroed together their target audience and their music. This will be a popular album and it will make them lots of money, and hey good on 'em because a lot of time and effort has gone into this and it really shows. But at the same time it's sad, because it makes me realise we're still in the era of boy bands and girl power pop, except in the approaching new decade it's clear that "Indie Rock" has taken the reigns from the RnB and Pop guys.

This is future of commercial music, and it's pretty banal.

Except the first track!

!

!!

So... have a listen and buy the tunes for a very reasonable price at iTunes or by going to buildingrome.bigcartel.com

If you're a fan of "Story of the Year" / "Fallout Boy" sort of stuff you'll love the whole album, and if you think like me you'll cringe. But seriously, that first song: wow. Alone in it's incandescent brilliance it outweighs the naffness of the rest of the album. For that I doff my hat to Building Rome, who have shiny roads of success ahead of them. Well done guys.

-Building Rome's MySpace-.
-Their Website-

Sunday, December 6, 2009

PIXSID - Atoms Apart

"Atoms Apart" by PIXSID is a project that has been a year in the making; being the combination of the extraordinary talents of San Francisco based producer DJ Sid-The Apocalypze and Australian vocalist Marie Craven aka. Pixieguts. Despite the vast leagues of physical distance seperating the two, and the timespan spent producing the album, the overall sound is of something much, much more close and intimate. It is as if the two locked themselves in a studio for a few weeks surviving on stale bread and water, accompanied only by the burning passion for making music that would drive them either to insanity, or to produce a gem of an album.

The intimacy comes neither solely from Sid's lush, velvety rhythms and textures - complete with gorgeous vinyl crackle, brass sections, sounds found in nature, jazzy drums, and bass like slipping into a warm bath - nor solely from Marie's universally-acknowledged crystal clear, enchanting and seductive voice, but rather from a unique blend of the two. To me it is akin to a salad dressing of oil and vinegar. Both are good ingredients on their own with distinct uses, yet as part of the dressing you couldn't imagine one without the other.

The style they have chosen is trip-hop, or rather, the style seems to have chosen them. The album is very natural and flowing, indicating a very smooth sense of spontaneous improvisation, again as if they just walked into a studio together and music flowed forth, not heeding any rules; as if it just became what it is of its own accord. Yet in the year-long production and taking into account professional mastering by Canada's Crimson Death, every single beat and phrase sits absolutely perfectly in the mix. Constant variation and evolution keeps the listener engaged whilst retaining a strong sense of continuity. It is the attention to detail in this ever-changing scenery that elevates the album into equal steading with trip-hop legends such as Portishead and Massive Attack.

Simply put, if you want to get someone into bed put this album on. Not only for its veneer of sexy, smooth, and silky atmospherics, but for its ability to alter your mood, no matter how ratshit or anxious you feel, into warmth and comfort.

Soulful music made by masters of their craft. Intimate and close. Pure sex.

Available in physical form from cdbaby.
High-quality downloads from Bandcamp.
And preview the album here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Corrientes - Breathe/Respira

I was in a chatroom with Ivette Torres aka. EV, singer, multi-instrumentalist and sound engineer of Corrientes fame - the chat room is part of a weekly show called Neon Beatz where you can listen to a stream of independent music and chat to the listeners, who are often artists themselves - a song of theirs came on and someone said that EV had a "smiley voice". I think this is the perfect way to describe her voice. It is just so unbelievably uplifting, fun and beaming.

EV sings in both Spanish and English, and this latest album is a lot more Spanish-orientated, which seems to lend itself naturally to "smiley voices". The syllables roll off her tongue like crystal clear water in a fountain, exuberant and bubbly, accompanied for the first time (on a recording) by a full live band. I understand they went through a few drummers before settling on the current one, and he’s a good choice - a cowbell here and there, just the right amount of hi-hat and snare, very jazzy and upbeat - altogether very suited to the whole "Latin feel" of the band. Also a first for a recorded album of this amazing New York City band is electric lead guitar, playing Santana-esque lines sporadically yet appropriately. The whole feel of this album is of delicacy and subtlety. The bass sits low in the mix yet moves around, you can forget it’s there if you stop listening to it yet it is the cornerstone of the chord progressions, strummed on a bright guitar by the lovely EV herself.

Mixing a project like this is a hard task: lots of drum mic-ing and many different frequencies competing for space. Yet in the hands of EV, who has mixed and produced all of Corrientes’ albums at her home studio, it sounds absolutely mint.

There have always been two aspects to Corrientes: their live performances, featuring less instrumentation and more intimate, acoustic sort of stuff, and their studio albums which have often involved a hefty electronic element to it. Breathe/Respira manages to combine the crystal clarity of professional digital mixing with that intimate live feel to produce a very pleasant album. I had never heard much Spanish/Latin music until I heard Corrientes, and was immediately delighted. It’s unfamiliar territory for an Australian but I understand it’s quite prevalent in America. Whether you’re a newcomer to the soulful upbeat sounds of Latin American music or are sick to death of hearing it, I would recommend this album either way. It’s top notch, refreshing and joyous.

I can be quoted regarding Corrientes’ January ’09 album "Underlying Truth" that "I don’t need to hear anything else in 2009 to say that this is the best album of the year." And it still holds true. There are no electronics in Breathe/Respira and it’s something that seems missing, making "Underlying Truth", complete with luscious synthy elements, a better album in my opinion (full review of that one coming up); but it’s a new approach for the band, they’ve found members that they like and are sticking with, that form a cohesive "live entity", and it is also the first time that they’ve decided to branch out and sell their music.

For a band that has consistently delivered professional, excellently produced, highly creative, and inspiring material for free, they deserve a quick visit to the online store for this album.

EV has also provided some more tasty information regarding the mixing of the album, as well as lyrics:

You can see the info about the recording here.

Lyrics here.

And you can listen to EV speaking about the recording on Mixposure’s Center Stage Presentation here.

Smiley music to make you smile. Get it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nervous Existence - Reparations

This may not mean anything to most of you out there, but the riff that opens up the first track of this EP, "Terminus" is in a Phrygian Major mode. Musically, it is the equivalent of Peking Duck. Exquisite, exotic, and soooo soooo tasty. It is in fact my favourite mode in the plethora of ways that you can connect notes together. Its Eastern-tinged sense of melody immediately evokes a sense wonderment and awe. And then, about 8 bars in, they throw in a diminished-fifth chord, the penultimate metal-god’s tool of destruction, discord and delight. ORGASM! This guitar was played with The Devil’s fingers. And I love The Devil.

Pretty soon the voice kicks in, suitably demonic in tonality, and it holds its own with any other awesome death-metal voice I’ve heard, independent or commercial. There’s nothing astonishing about it yet I know from trying to do the demon voice myself it’s quite a gift to simply possess it and be able to deliver it.

These guys are certainly gifted in both the songwriting and playing department. Their sense of structure is engaging and thought-provoking, and the music shifts and changes in all the right places to create a beautiful sense of tension and resolution. The dual-guitar riffing never ceases to twist and turn in a multitude of interesting ways, heavy and intriguing, and occasionally breaking out in solos with the beauty of instrumentality that has been truly mastered. All whilst keeping solidly clicked with the rhythm section - the drums and bass - that are great at what I believe they’re supposed to be great at in metal music: keeping time, staying back in the mix, and supporting the more hyperactive attack and counter-attack of the vocals and guitar.

Their sound on this 5-track EP could have been captured better: more bass on the vocals, better drum mic-ing and a bit more compression to give the mix some breathing space, yet there is something beautiful about the slight muddiness of the recording. It takes me back to the days of listening to Darkthrone et. al. who sound like they were recorded with a single mic hanging from the garage ceiling. If not quite that lo-fi, the recording at least captures the essence of that sort of music: immediate and raw.

Great music is always born deep underground, and I feel like the incredible songcraft, musicianship, and attitude of Nervous Existence has just poked its head through the soil, and is looking verdant and healthy. They haven’t flowered yet, but they will, and when they do they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Check out their very professional Myspace page to grab the EP "Reparations". Excellent stuff. If you like Opeth, Lamb of God, or Meshuggah you will love Nervous Existence. And if you haven’t heard of those bands, then it will be a great introduction to truly good metal.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nezumi - The principle of relative constancy in metamorphoses

The true meaning of ambient is not “elevator music”, which unfortunately it has come to mean, and even more unfortunately is what a lot of its purveyors continue to flavour their music as. The dictionary definition, from dictionary.com, is:

ambient

[am-bee-uh nt]

–adjective

1. of the surrounding area or environment.
2. completely surrounding; encompassing.

This music envelopes you. If you close your eyes it takes you to another place, a place fabricated from the tonality and texture of the pieces, that are “of the surrounding area or environment”. Yet it is a surreal environment, a place that doesn’t exist in the “normal world”. This is true ambience, yet there are no chirping birds or wind through bamboo to be found here. The music takes your hand, quite gently at first, and leads you to a door to another plane. If you resist it grabs you more firmly and pushes you through.

Haunting, disquieting, the ghost-like atmosphere of this compelling album is made up from a variety of only vaguely familiar sounds, like the dropping of water in a deep cavern, yet not quite. Like two discordant notes played on a sitar, yet not quite. And the whole time, there is an emptiness that conveys vast reaches of uninhabited space. Merely the Universal Hum of something borne of chaos. With swirling dynamics and disparate textures this powerful album comes at you from all sides. It is often quite scary, feeling as if everything is closing in on you, yet that is part of its magick.

Nezumi is a lover of the metaphysical, the mystical and the unknown. His attempt at creating soundscapes that depict the multitude of parallel universes and dimensions, so far away from normality yet always deep within our souls, is realised quite incredibly on his latest album.

When I first listened to a release of his in late ’07, it sounded like a kid toying with midi for the first time. Although I could tell there was so much he wanted to convey, the instrumentality was primitive and thus did not do his imagery justice. A few years and two releases later (that I’ve heard, there are more), I’m amazed at how he has progressed as an artist.

This music is truly the definition of ambient, “completely surrounding; encompassing”. And of course, I wouldn’t be raving about it so much if it weren’t my favourite sort of music: Dark. Very, very Dark.

Set to release in early 2010, this album is now available as a pre-release from sendspace.

(that link will expire so get it quick)

The Ambience has spoken, and it demands you take a trip through another dimension...

http://www.sendspace.com/file/j7nbif

Nezumi's artist page at LastFM

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

HealeyIsland - Not Afternoon, But Evening

Utilising tones that are at the same time familiar yet veer towards an alien, otherwordly sound, the highly evocative imagery of this album is beautifully rendered in instrumental delight; describing scenes, places and moods with just a title and the music. When you listen to such tracks as "Red Car Crossing A Dimly Lit Bridge", a 1930's-style moving picture plays in your head, complete with glorious scratchings upon warm amber-hued film.

A bizzare mixture of textures and beats combine to create a copmplex tapestry of genre-defying music. A rich barotone voice floats in and out, sitting back in the mix as if it's lounging in a deliciously comfortable armchair, making the lyrics hard to fathom. Yet lyrics are unneccesary for music that carries with it such an incredible ability to conjure concepts, themes and emotions from a purely instrumental perspective. The warm bass, at times squelching and playful, at other times deep and resounding, remind me of heavy, tired footsteps on the pavement at night. The jazzy, light piano is reminiscent of a warm streetlamp, pushing away the darkness, providing solace, yet the whole time aware of the empty blackness only meters away. Link these elements with extra-dimensional soundscapes, and both insanity and bliss are constantly within arms reach.

There is an edginess about this music that, when resolved in fleeting moments of sheer harmony, send shivers down the spine. The edginess comes from the strange tonality that is prevalent throughout the whole album: notes that sit next to each other that don't quite fit (deliberately so), jostling for position in the forefront, arguing with each other. Despite the general first impression of a lax, drifting attitude, the album can be quite aggressive at times due to this discord. Yet tension and resolution are the keystones of great music, and the album manages to keep the tension just long enough that you feel uneasy; and then, with perfect timeliness and inclination, segues into harmonic resolution.

Described as "Light Music meets Dark Electronica", HealeyIsland's latest album "Not Afternoon, But Evening", is suitably titled, the whole thing feeling like the fading daylight leading into encroaching night; where shapes and figures are blurred, silhouetted, undefined, and the air holds an essence of change, of limbo, purgatory: twilight.

It's not afternoon, and something is lurking in the shadows, yet the familiar lull of downtempo shuffling tricks you into thinking this is gonna be a smooth ride. You could pay to see some blockbuster movie that tries and fails to keep you on the edge of your seat, or you could buy this album and feel the chilling, haunting vibes strangely coupled with moments of calm, beauty and peacefullness; and feel the imagery of your dreams, nightmares and fantasies become reality. A must have for those who understand that normality is banal, and strangeness: Divine.

Out now through White Label Music.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dr. Slaggleberry - The Slagg Factory

I was trying to think of a way to describe this music, not being a fan of genres and tags, but recognising that people want to know what to expect before they listen to something. The best tag I could think of was “stoner-rock-tech-doom-metal”, but then I read the accompanying press-release that the lads from Dr. Slaggleberry kindly supplied me with the CD. They describe their music as math-rock. Of course! It all makes sense now. I’m a bit of a noob when it comes to genres, or more specifically I prefer to ignore them, but I know what math-rock is and it is very becoming of this album. Math – these guys like numbers! I cannot even begin to imagine the practice time required to nail this type of music. Just trying to keep track of the tempo-changes and modal shifting is a head-spin, and in the end this music is just so damn calculated, so precise, so intricate, that it’s almost overwhelming.

Furthermore, the first thing that comes across when you listen to this is that it is fuckin’ HEAVY! The powertude of their riffage is unrivalled by anything I’ve heard this year. And they don’t even have a bassist! With just two guitars and drums, this outstanding three-piece manage to fill the frequency spectrum with growling low-end subwoofer delight and high-end free-wheeling lead breaks, cemented solidly by the meat in the middle. It sounds like at least a 4 piece band, but there is no layering. It’s just guitar vs. guitar vs. drums. I say ‘versus’ very appropriately, as the whole album sounds like a battle between the different instruments. Math rock evolved from the fusion of technical jazz and rock. Where listening to a jazz CD conjures up images of the musicians dancing together, listening to something as heavy as this brings forth a different sort of image, a different sort of dance: that of gladiators in the ring, circling, striking, parrying; the dance of Death.

All the while there is still that sense of “calculation”. It’s so intricate it seems that if you got out a pen and paper and dissected this music, you would discover some secret about the nature of the universe. But that is not the intended effect. It is so complex that you just can’t follow the sharp twists and turns, and thus ends up sounding like pure, raw, Chaos. I’m a lover of Chaos Theory, fractals and the like, and as I listen various thoughts propel themselves to the forefront from my subconscious: from chaos comes order (for example, the branches and leaves of a tree spring out randomly, yet the tree is ultimately symmetrical), yet this music reveals that from order comes chaos. There is no doubt that these guys have arranged the music precisely, they know exactly where each note is gonna land and when. Yet, it does sound like something from another plane of existence; otherworldly, all over the place, from somewhere so chaotic it’s almost too much.

This brings me to my final point: unfortunately I feel it is a bit too much. No sooner do you grasp an awesome hook than it falls through your fingers to be replaced by something else. The moment you start head-banging to a solid 4/4 beat it is replaced by 13/8 time. It’s the reason why a lot of people don’t like jazz. Too much change, not so much “songs”, as “shifting patterns”. I feel, however, that the more I listen to this album the more familiar it will become, and although I may never be able to fathom the mysteries written in the bizarre numerology of this music, it’s heaviness will always make it a great wake-up album and these amazing musicians will always be held in high esteem through my eyes.

The Slagg Factory by Dr. Slaggleberry is out now through Crash Records, and is highly recommended for anyone who likes something different.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

polarOPPOSITEbear - p014r0pp05it3b34r

Yea. Really, yea. Like, a lot.

My last review of these guys ended on the high note of wanting “to watch their future releases with intrigue”, having picked apart both their flaws and better attributes. This 4-track EP is one of those future, now present, releases.

I think the title of the album is a good place to start: it’s something a person hurled forward in a time machine from even as recent as the 80s would just say “WHAT?!”, but we’re all tech-savvy net-linguists these days and we know exactly how to pronounce the name. Say it with me together guys, “p014r0pp05it3b34r”, because chances are, if the winds are favourable, you’ll be hearing it around. The title reflects the music: youthful embracement of a new era, cutting edge stuff that only the select few of us, that are still quite comfortably weathering net-waves and web-squalls, will understand. An age where you don’t need to understand the lyrics because immediacy is more important than longevity. The guy has a really nice voice and it compliments the music: immediate reaction equals happy face. No I’m not gonna rush out and buy a physical copy of the EP for the precious liner notes with lyrics, but nonetheless there has been communication.

The communication comes mostly through the delightfully playful interaction of bass and guitar, with a simple message that says, “I am alive”, uplifting yet heavy at the same time. My review of their previous release, “The Cre EP”, noted the bass as being outstanding whilst the guitar was “exceptionally well played, even if monotonously composed”. In this release not only does the guitar appear to have considerably more thought put into its execution of riffage, but is layered with (itself? another guitar?) in a subtle, intriguing and progressive way, and together with the bass craft a familiar yet nonetheless utterly pleasurable soundscape from the solidest rock there is, that being: Rock!

Admiring the well-hewn rock from afar, one notices etchings of “progress”, the noun that appears in the adjective “progressive”, that is thrown around nilly-willy in the contemporary music scene. Yet what does “progressive” really mean? It means it evolves. The song writing on this release is about 450% better than their last release. Each song builds and builds, morphing and twisting, the melodies and root notes summoning wreathes of charisma about their undulating forms to hit your brain at the exact same time as the final part of this manifold creation: the drums; and hit it does.

The drumming on this release is about 875.6% better than their last release, and also highlights the winning factor for me: production. To a sound engineer’s ears this EP is heaven. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard an underground rock drum kit captured so well. Props to the engineer of this EP.

And massive props to the band for delivering on their promise that the next EP would be much, much better. I’m very impressed.

Say it with me, guys, “p014r0pp05it3b34r!!!!”. Yea. No, really: YEA!

Available for free from POB's MySpace

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Muse - The Resistance

I’ve never been a fan of people who decide whether music is good or not based on popularity. On one end of the spectrum there are those that simply don’t know that any music but commercial popcrap exists, but even worse in my opinion are those who immediately cast a shadow of doubt on music just because it’s popular. Now I’m not talking about the genre “pop”, we all know that top-40 stuff sucks, but it’s just insane to say, as I have heard many times, that an amazing alternative rock band like Muse are “too popular”. That has nothing to do with the fact that their latest release, “The Resistance”, is amazing; popularity and quality are mutually exclusive. Sure it’s not as good as some of their other albums, namely “Absolution” or “Origin of Symmetry”, but it pains me to see people get so caught up in haughty arrogance and independent elitism that they would actually claim that this album sucks.

Frontman Matt Bellamy’s voice is pure heaven. I once asked a friend if he liked Muse and he said “No, because the guy sings in falsetto.” Well… W. T. F. That would be like saying you don’t like Van Gogh because he used a wide paint-brush, or the Eiffel Tower is ugly because of what metal it’s made out of. It’s a style of singing, and not only is it perfectly warranted as a part of Muse’s overall sound, it augments it. He has the ability to bridge the gap between the higher register and the lower seamlessly, something that takes a lot of practice and dedication to the art of singing. And it doesn’t stop with his voice; anyone who has seen them live can attest that his piano and guitar skills are ludicrously good, and on their studio albums the layering of these elements is nothing short of divine.

But hang on, aren’t there more members in the band? Yes, and they are, too, incredibly talented. I especially like Chris Wolstenholme’s bass and always-in-the-background yet never unnoticed backing vocals, and drummer Dominic Howard is simply outstanding. Yet Bellamy’s voice will always be the defining thing about Muse, and on this album it delivers, with soothing, uplifting and soaring timbre, the usual message of love and regret, themes of world unification, disestablishmentarianism (I’m sorry I couldn’t think of a better word), and conspiracy theories.

The album holds together very well, a thoroughly enjoying experience from start to finish, and you wouldn’t expect anything less. I think where some people get their dislike of this album from is that they don’t realise Muse are not a “heavy rock” band. They have always shone on softer tracks like “Falling Down”, “Screenager”, and who could forget “Unintended”. This softness is interwoven very deep in the fabric of the album, probably off-putting newbie Muse fans who expected the slightly harder-edged nature of their previous release, “Black Holes and Revelations”, yet it is done in a gorgeous way, utilising string sections, sweeping pads and lush vocal layering. This is particularly evident in the three-part magnum opus of the album, “Exogenesis Symphony”. Symphony is definitely the right word to use here, although Muse has been known to label their music rather strangely (Bellamy has been cited calling “Supermassive Black Hole” an RnB track).

All in all it’s another Muse album and another winner, simple as that. People will look back on the 00’s and remember Muse as legendary, and fans the world over, myself included, sincerely hope they continue making great music like the luscious, scintillating, operatic and 5 star album that is “The Resistance”.

muse.mu

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Red Friday - Nothing Is Free

I get very excited about great music, and often my reviews are hyperactively praising, but this time there’s really just not enough I can say to justify this album. I am blown away. I wish I could go back in time and tone down the enthusiasm of some of my earlier reviews to give this album the relative standing it deserves. VAST’s self-titled album was amazing. “Nothing Shocking” by Jane’s Addiction was more amazing. “Mer de Noms” by A Perfect Circle: exquisite. But holy fuck, Red Friday’s debut release, “Nothing Is Free”, is better than all three combined.

Those three names came to mind as I listened again, and again, and again; not just comparing the production values and composition of this jewel to those classic albums, but also because of what the sonic scope incorporates: warm yet heavy guitars, a voice that expresses, soothes and provokes; that is raw yet clean - segueing easily between different styles - carrying lyrics of hefty weight and emotion whilst still somehow retaining a hauntingly cold distance; drums that punch straight through the mix and combine with a positively droolifying bass to get that spinal action happening; and the light, albeit perfect amount of, electronic elements.

It’s a special sort of sound that a lot of bands aim for and miss, and that a rare few like the ones I’ve mentioned nail, yet at 25 minutes long, this 8 track album manages to compress all those juicy elements into the sweetest fruit possible. All killer, no filler, engaging for every single second, superbly produced, and an album you simply cannot live without. So it’s a good thing this album can be downloaded in its entirety from their website (free), for without it life would just be… less.

www.redfridayband.com
Red Army (Red Friday's fan site)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Aether Tree - The Children's War

I have put off reviewing this album for a long time, because there is so much I want to say about it, yet so little at the same time; more than anything I want you to merely listen to it. For this guy pours his heart and soul into his music; but rather than sieving it, kneading it and cookie-cutting it into a perfectly produced popcrap album, it spills over the edges, it gets smudged with dirt, its raw emotion shows through like bone in a deep wound. And this is exactly what makes it so beautiful. An artist’s toil is the pursuit of a perfection that can never be attained, and nothing is more admirable in a work of art like this album than what I call “beautiful imperfection”. His voice is rough and out of tune, his timing is off, the lyrical themes are disjointed and the guitar and piano playing is sloppy. But I beg of you, do not take this as a bad thing, for beneath the unpolished surface is a core that shimmers like a sapphire. The lyrics are absolutely gorgeous because they’re disjointed, the guitar is loose and freewheeling as the piano is whimsical and expressive because they’re sloppy; and his voice, oh his voice - such bittersweet poignancy will never grace the lips of any commercial singer - beauty in imperfection. On top of this there are glimpses of elements like soothing pads, saxophone, and found-sounds, plus a killer rhythm section, that all work together to produce something truly unique and beautiful. I hold this album very close to my heart, something about it touched me and moved me in a very deep way, and all I can say is “Listen”. Listen.

The Aether Tree has a cosy little homepage.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gravity Euphonic - [Self-Titled]

There’s nothing spectacular about this music but it got me turning it up to 11 and rocking the fuck out. Industrial music can often carry with it a swathe of petty goth-core imagery and try-hard darkness, yet apart from slightly clichéd lyrics these guys are solidly awesome without any pretence. The guy’s voice works well with this style of music and the production is simply astounding. Hard hitting bass and synth lines and heavy guitar backed up by perfect drums. I often write reviews of albums then leave them on the shelf, but I feel like this one will stay in rotation for a fair while. I’m normally very verbose and flowery with my language but I think the simplicity of this music warrants a succinct statement: “Fuck yea, Rock! Get it.”

Gravity Euphonic homepage.

Titee - Natural Kangaroo

Listening to Titee’s music, one gets the feeling that he is a man so advanced in wisdom that he has learned how to be a child again. His approach to melody, tone and rhythm is that of a wide-eyed, innocent child, exploring and playing make-believe. Going to and fro and in and out of blast-beats and arpeggios, smooth pads and deep bass, and the occasional (yet perfectly placed) vocal, the music defies normality vehemently and evokes pure, youthful imagination. Yet behind this curtain of playfulness is a dark undercurrent that reveals the intense and mad ramblings of an insane genius, and makes it something effervescent, something cosmic. There are moments of pure terror such as the monstrous rumbling of “Panntha Tooth”, and moments of delight as in the fantastically upbeat “Loosy”.

“Natural Kangaroo” is an appropriate title to describe the bouncing nature of this album. It hops and hops and hops, sometimes in a smooth, adventurous way, and other times in a startled leap as if the high beams have been suddenly flashed at the music. Natural is another word that becomes this album very well; one can imagine the furious chopped melodies and beats physically attached to Titee’s hands, being spun and woven effortlessly, the arms and fingers sweeping and swaying in a flurry of energy. Often fast paced yet very appropriately mellow at times (especially the brilliant closer track “Relax and Spin”), this album is the essence of an artist who lives in a colourful, enchanting and magickal world, a beautiful mind and soul that he allows a rare glimpse of with this gem of an album.

Outstanding work.

Free download: http://www.last.fm/music/Titee/Natural+Kangaroo

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Yalla Yallas - Act Of Defiance

It's been done before, but it's so damn good, it demands to be heard: punk rock demands fresh young blood. Generations after Joe Strummer at the same time belted out his anti-establishment, anti-racist, anti-military message whilst also feeling jaded at catapulting the genre into the mainstream, he would have been happy to hear that there is still truly underground punk rock n roll happening, and they share his message: Keep it real, fuck the system, put your faith in the kids, don't hate each other.

The Yalla Yallas manage to stay faithful to the ever-present punk scene, "burning the city streets tonight", yet colour their adoption of the style with a modern take on things. A fierce rejection of drugs and the hippie culture was a strong point for The Clash, yet in these modern times punks think slightly differently. "I never was an addict, I can take it or leave it." is a lyric from the second song that stands out in my mind and highlights how the punk scene has morphed. In general, it has morphed towards more acceptance of things, which I think is positive. Yet another path broke off from the Clash / Sex Pistols Era, warping the original message into the sort of narrow mindedness that allowed ugly things to work their way into the punk scene, namely Neo-Nazism.

The lyrics of this album are all up-beat "Can we do it again?" / "I've never seen a girl like you before", etc. Certainly disestablishmentarian at times (after all, the album is called "Act Of Defiance"), yet it's more about good, fun times and music, and never about hating. I think this positive message is exactly what seperates a truly good modern punk rock band like The Yalla Yallas from bands who still cling onto skewed notions of pure anarchy and hatred.

Anarchy will never reign; as a message it is pointless, and racism is just stupidity. Yet music will always be there, and as long as bands like The Yalla Yallas continue to attach a positive message to their music, and stay underground, even genres as old as punk rock will remain fresh and bright-eyed, and change with the times, towards a better future for all.

Good, fun, rock n roll. Get into it.

Available from The Yalla-Yallas homepage.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Hi-Nobles - Shake

Music doesn’t have to be original to be good, particularly in the case of bluesy rock. In this age where synthesiser and software technology is getting sharper by the minute, it’s very refreshing to hear a 12 bar blues progression, and to hear it done faithfully, and with passion. The 12 bar blues, the pentatonic riff, that perfect amount of guitar distortion: these things will never die.

The Hi-Nobles carry off their highly polished blues rock sound with more than just finesse, it has an amazing sense of soul, mainly highlighted by the singer’s fantastic, up front, slightly gravely, and simply irresistibly bluesy voice. Wow I just used three adjectives in front of the word “voice”. This band, and this album, deserve many positive adjectives, so I’m just gonna throw them into the melting pot: energetic, fun, rockin’, rollin’, rambunctious, paced, tight, shakin’, uplifting, intelligent, and last but not least, musical.

I choose that last adjective as the most important because being musical, and more specifically; naturally, effortlessly musical, is something that some bands just don’t have. The Hi-Nobles know exactly where a chord should go and how the bass and organ should drive it, the singer knows exactly what notes he’s hitting and how they should be intoned and the drummer knows where to add a flair or a fill. Throughout the whole album they never once falter. This ease of musicality is what makes this album so damn fun to listen to. Just listening to the roaring solos, the driving organ, the rolling toms and crashes, you can almost see the smiles on the musician’s faces as they play. These guys breathe, drink and eat music for breakfast, you can just tell they’ve been doing it a long time and it pours so effortlessly from their fingers.

It rocks, it rolls, it bluesifies. It is the essence of good music in a bottle. Drink it up.

The Hi-Nobles at MySpace

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Love Like This - [Self-Titled EP]

The bane of good music's existence, the dreaded "pop", rears its ugly head, turns towards you with a smile, and says "Don't hate this until you rate this, it is actually really good."

Despite being obviously "pop", these guys do something with their structure that I always love: rather than going A B A B C A, the tried-and-true method, they go "Fuck it we're gonna chuck an X in there... Yea, A B X C Z B A". It's the mark of musicians that are completely confident with their sounds and where they want to push them.

"Love Like This" are one of the best pop acts I've heard recently, despite being so instantly recognisable as "radio fodder". I guess when you break down pop into its constituent parts you get: the hook, the thing that immediately gets you nodding your head; the production, the thing that blows your mind if you have surround sound, and the simplicity. Love Like This manage not only to warp the simplicity into something more intensely original, but also bypass the dreaded 4th aspect of pop that I shudder to even have to type: commercialisation. These guys are underground, yet it's not "indie", it's not "vegetarian grindcore", it's just simply "pop"; I can only hope they don't land a major record label, selling their souls for bling and sequins, and end up taking the road of mediocrity. What they have at the moment is good.

Highly recommended EP.

Available for FREE from SimpleStereo.com

Baskyl - Monochrome Rainbow Snorters

My first review of Germany's electroid Baskyl was drooling with praise over his lush soundscapism, incredible sense of melody and rhythm, and amazing ability to morph and evolve.

In doing my second review of this artist, the tantalising journey that is "Monochrome Rainbow Snorters", I would be repeating myself if I merely heaped praise on him. Let it be known he is an incredible composer and musician, and we shall move forward from there.

But how shall we move forward? Well, I hate to be a wanker, but I am, so I'm gonna start talking about red wine...

The previous album I reviewed, "Far Beyond Home", is a merlot. Often scoffed at by intellectuals who consider their taste refined, the merlot is nonetheless a delicious grape that yields a seductively sweet, full-bodied wine that hits the palate in all the right areas. It is my favourite grape, and like opening a bottle of expensive merlot I relished in the delights of sound akin to whirling tastebud sensations as I listened to Far Beyond Home. I know it is the sort of sound that some people will indeed consider flat and boring, just as the poor merlot grape is so often labelled. Yet it is in the simultaneous simplicity and power of these sounds that I found beauty and intense enjoyment.

Now as I crack open Baskyl's "Monochrome Rainbow Snorters" I find myself comparing it to a shiraz. From the get-go it hits you in the front of the palate, close to the nose, sending you reeling from the force of it's effervescents, yet behind this initial contact is a deep and soothing aftertaste that lingers in the senses like, well... a bloody good bottle of shiraz.

Baskyl has evolved in complexity and originality a great deal since I first reviewed him last year, yet on a very subtle level. Any newcomer to electronic music is like a newcomer to red wine: they will not know the difference between a merlot and a shiraz, yet I consider myself rather seasoned in my music taste and can say with certainty that this album has been pieced together with much more emphasis on the subtle things that make great electronic music great: "How loud should this snare hit be?" ... "What attack time do I set my compressor to?" ... "If an ant is crawling westwards on a knife on a train heading eastwards..."

It's a strange paradox that the subtle complexities of the composition and the mix are scientific and technological yet the overall effect is that of something organic, something that breathes. And, like "Far Beyond Home", "Monochrome" breathes, evolves, adapts, lives; like, and I'll say it again: a bloody good bottle of wine. Some people don't like red wine and some people don't like electronic music, but if I were to pick one underground example of this rather broad genre I couldn't think of anything better to recommend than this album.

Available for free at www.last.fm/music/baskyl/monochrome+rainbow+snorters

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Telemachus - Only On Earth

In a field like technical death-metal, it’s very rare to find truly underground, little known music, churning out sharp, cutting-edge riffage that you would expect from the giants of metal. Yet so blissful was said riffage to my ears that I held off reviewing this EP for some time, knowing I would need to summon all of my inner powers in praise of the beauty found on this recording.

These guys are almost good enough to be held in accolade alongside modern day legends such as Arch Enemy, In Flames or Amon Amarth. The riffs are original and raw, driven by amazing double-kick and churning bass. The singer has one hell of a growl too. I’m pretty much at a loss for words to describe how awesome this music is. They find a way to take all the clichéd bits that metal has churned out over the decades and breathe new life into it. It sounds modern, yet you can feel the weight of behemoths like Lamb of God and Death behind each guitar stab and kick. This is heavy, gut-wrenching stuff that kicks you in the soul and makes you want to start a band just to be able to play and feel the force of one perfectly timed guitar/bass/drum triplet.

I think the only reason they’re not famous is a mere few things: the singer is mono-tonal, it would be great if the pitch of his voice moved around a bit with the guitars. The drumming is slightly “lazy”. One thing that makes an incredible band incredible is when you don’t notice the drummer - because they don’t make mistakes and keep perfectly in time - but unfortunately this guy just stays slightly off pace, and although they’ve obviously been playing together long enough for the guitarists and bass to allow for this, and at first it sounds tight, repeated listens reveal that there are some timing issues here.

The main factor, though, contributing to their apparent lack of success would have to be their “packaging”, and no I’m not talking about what’s in their pants. I mean their overall “sheen”. They have on their MySpace a free download of this EP, but clicking on the link takes you to a Rapidshare download, where you will find a .zip of the 7 tracks, poorly tagged, and 2 Ableton Live documents which appear to have been added accidentally. This coupled with a slightly “sloppy” online presence seems unprofessional. I would suggest www.archive.org as a good place to offer free downloads, and I strongly advise releasing under a Creative Commons license if you want it to be free but still want basic rights like attribution and non-commercial use. Also, getting the tagging consistent would just make things seem a bit more professional.

Having said that, I feel that the amateurishness of this band contributes to making it so good. They’re fresh, invigorating, and we are assured on their MySpace page that “the best is yet to come”. I look forward to that immensely. Underground death metal is alive and kicking, it appears, and kicking hard.

http://www.myspace.com/telemachusmusic

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sic & Mad - Songs for the Revolution

There are two things that spring to mind immediately when I listen to this recording:
1) This stuff would be so much better live.
2) No one over 19 listens to this stuff.

Keeping these things in mind, I listen to the lyrically-driven ska stomping of syllable upon
syllable and the plonk, plonk, plonk of the guitar, bass and drums, and try and find some enjoyment in this music. But although the frontman Michael "Happy" Weininger delivers his message with a certain sense of zeal, the two things above can immediately be applied to his voice and lyrics: the latter is immature, not as much of a social and political commentary as I think Happy believes it is (rather a pubescent, awkward dribbling), and the former is just so not captured properly on this recording.

To further that notion, I can tell this band absolutely goes off at a crowded punk bar with plenty
of booze: they are pure energy. I love that sort of shit, so it is with great sadness that I find
myself cringing at more than every second song because there must have been a vampire-energy-sucker lurking outside the studio; they just sound FLAT. Really really flat, often in pitch but more importantly in energy levels. The drummer is hitting those skins as hard as he can, the bass is driving, the guitar chops, and the vocals pump, but somehow the collective oomph of the band just dissapated into the atmosphere.

Furthermore the songs just aren't that great. If the lyrics were mind blowing, or there was
something different or original about the songs, rather than just - ska. ska. ska. plonk. plonk.
plonk - it could save this record from mediocrity, but unfortunately these things are not to be. To
conclude I return to my original thoughts on the recording: teenage ska kids will love this stuff,
because the lyrical intelligence is on par with their c-grade English essays, and if you're a bit
older and the band is playing near you I urge you to go see them live and get wasted with them.

However, do not bother with this rushed, awkward, backyard studio job of an album, unless you're looking for something to bore you or are interested in sound engineering and want to know how NOT to capture the essence of a band.

Buy the CD

Their MySpace

Thursday, April 30, 2009

polarOPPOSITEbear - The Cre EP

This is a good album. Good like the warm water between fire and ice, quite suitable for a band called polarOPPOSITEbear, and I use this analogy because this album does indeed contain polar opposites: those of win and those of fail. As many outstanding shining, burning elements there are in this EP, there is an equal amount of shit, both woven together to produce the satisfactorily simple “good”.

To get it out of the way, let’s talk about the shit first. These guys don’t know how to write a song. They know nothing about tension and resolution. Each song save the last one (we’ll get to that) sounds almost deliberately lifeless, as chord changes fail to bring out any resonance in what little melody there is in the foreground, and the background drums just repeat, and repeat, and repeat, yet they end each song with an epic “guitar stab wind down” as if something awesome has happened, when it hasn’t really.

Now for the outstanding parts. Bass. Fuck. Yes. Both the sound of this bass guitar and the guy who plays it are incredible. ‘Nuff said. The guitar too is exceptionally well played, even if monotonously composed, yet it’s master must pay attention to vocals as well (I do my research) so there’s props to that. These guys do post-punk indie rock stuff, which can be hard to capture in a studio environment as it always resonates with a live crowd better (and this style of music was born from the live scene), but the production on this is a whole step (like, a big step, like on one of those pyramids) above most of “those” bands, producing the overall quality of an effervescent, shimmering jewel amongst the drudgery of indie rock out there.

Last but not least, and to end with a positive note, the last track on the album shows that these guys perhaps can actually write a really good song, or at least magically or accidentally pull it off once, for the 5th and final track, “5100 and One Hundred and 3” is flawless in all it’s structural, emotional and soundscapanal majesty. I will be watching their future releases with intrigue on account of this one perfect piece of polar pie.

POB at MySpace

Monday, April 27, 2009

Drugzone - Digital Screams

My first reactions:

"Yes yes, yes!"

"Wait, what? Don't wuss out on me now with the vocals..."

(Still on first track: "Welcome to Sin City")

"...Eugh I know I'm welcome in Sin City but you're not, lead singer..."

"...I really wish this was either purely instrumental or death-metal growled."

Moving further into the album, I applaud the lyrics, which are intelligent, and I empathise deeply with this guy wanting to present his message in his own voice. But that's just the problem- this is a band, and the lead singer successfully detracts all the attention away from the awesome beats, bass, blips and bizarre guitar.

Things start to make more sense as I realise that the singer is, in fact, female. Nothing against female singers but it just doesn't suit this style of music. It reminds me of Evanescence, and that's a bad thing.

After it becomes clear that the awesome bass blips etc. is what they do for every song, I strain to find anything exhilirating in this album.

Having said that, there are some good moments that fall fairly shy of spine-tingling, sort of like lower-vertabrae wiggling. When she really lets her voice go she gets a great gravelly sound out of it that, rather than grabbing attention, sits nicely in the mix, and there are those nice gothic piano moments essential to counteract the wall-of-sound production that prevails the rest of the time.

And some of these tracks have a "fun evil" sense about them. I like bands that look at things from more than one angle, and "fun" is a good way to look at evil. But that means that overall, taking these guys too seriously is a mistake, and not just because that could lead someone to mass murder
with tracks like "I Hate Humans" and "Make Me Kill", but because the whoopy whirls and soaring synths sort of demand light-heartedness (*whispers* I don't think that's what the band is going for though).

As the album draws to a close and I actually look forward to not having to play these guys again, having endured some rather banal tracks, I decide to do some research, and stumble across some photos. They're dressed in typical black, they all have black hair, the girl is, of course, covered in goth makeup to excess (so she stands out from the others who are only wearing a standard amount of goth makeup), one guy has one of "those" (black) beards and one guy is actually deliberately looking away from the camera like Southpark so awesomely sent up in that one episode. Sorry, guys, but Automatic Fail.

If the music was at all gripping, intense, and awesome you could forgive their image, but in the end, they're just trying too hard sonically as well as visually. The only track that I would recommend is "Rose Petal", an interesting gothic take on blues, that falls just before the closing track, being an only-ok remix of an earlier track. I would listen to "Rose Petal" again, but apart from that, not recommended at all.

Drugzone at VampireFreaks.com (it's the first page that crops up with a Google search, go figure)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Max Brody - Passout EP

As much as I love two things that are often prevalent in music, there is no concept or story to this EP. But the EP as a thing, that emerged out of necessity for cheaper record production (but then evolved into its own statement) has always had its own special aura about it. When records were actual records there was the LP and the EP, and the artist that knew what they were doing delved deep into concept and theme on LPs, and EPs were a way of saying "Here's a taste of what we're capable of. Want some more?" With the difference in running length meaning zilch in today's digital world the EP has become even more a sort of "taster", yet it has come to mean more specifically "This is the tastiest of what we're capable of. You don't need any more." Radiohead are a prime example of this. Their EPs are incredible and stand out far more than their albums. They're juicy, they're thick. They're covered in Worcestershire. But hey we're not talking about Radiohead we're talking about Max Brody.

But we are talking about steak... so if we compare this selection of songs - and I realise I haven't said it yet, so I'll say it now: it's a DAMN fine collection of songs - if we compare this selection to a steak it's an eye fillet. Now that happens to be my favourite cut yet there are so many ways it can be buggered up when it comes to the cooking process. In terms of song structure, soundscaping, instrumentation and what I'm gonna refer to (since this is a steak analogy) as grain, grit, or gristle (the "oomph", the momentum, the wackedness), the cut is better than one I would buy at my world-class local butcher. But the production side of things, where the delicate mix of natural fats, muscle and oils (the "raw sound") mingle with touches of seasoning (EQ, compression, dynamics) and most importantly: convert that grainy, gritty, gristly stuff into "omg I'm fully licking this stuff off my fingers" residue... in the end it's all just a few minutes away from being a perfect steak. It's hard to say whether it's over-cooked or undercooked, but it's more like some other ingredient accidentally got thrown into the cooking process.

Having said that, an eye fillet is a fuckin' eye fillet man, and they taste delicious. But if Max Brody had a good producer behind him this shit would be "cooked" perfectly and I wouldn't have much to say in this review except "zomg steak drool", which I often do when I come across a really, really good collection of songs. So in the end it's missing something, mostly on the production side, to make it amazing, but is nevertheless very very tasty. 4/5 stars.

Max Brody's MySpace

Friday, February 27, 2009

King Django - A Single Thread

Wow. It's at exactly 4 tracks in to "A Single Thread", the title track, that you have to do three things, 1: turn it up 2: take a step back to say "holy wowfuck" and 3: start listening even more intently (as if you weren't gripped excited and laughing for joy from the very beginning). As the album progresses, words fail. This is unclassifyable, ineffable. I therefore shall talk about the imprint of the album on my memory rather than the album itself, for to feel like I'm talking about the sounds alone is like trying to describe water. We all know it's the most amazing thing on the earth, but you can never do it justice, you just drink it, encourage others to drink it, and feel it doing amazing things to you. So, the imprint: I feel cleansed. I have taken a journey. I have discovered one of my new favourite artists. I feel an incredible zest for life. I feel like life has given me a gift. Sorry this isn't much of an objective review, but holy wowfuck. Just fuckin' get this album. King Django - A Single Thread. Ok I'll throw words at you but it's not gonna do the sounds justice... Sparkle magic glowstick usurped by tribal midgets cute and funny laughing at the sky ploughing fields on temperate days surrounded by palms glorious sunshine amazing lyrics don't even feel the need to have sex. Complete. Joy. No moment of reflection, churning flutes and shakers through a monkey-grinder's organ being played by a cat, dog and rat who love each other with the intellect of stephen hawking the pride of a lion the savannah hosting a party sword fighting on a pirate ship the carribean is a myth compared to the reality that exists inside your head when you listen to this album. I'm not even on drugs. I still don't feel the need to have sex, maybe not ever again. Joy. Complete. Amazing. Listen. Then listen again. Holy wowfuck.

You can buy this album here. King Django also has a fancy homepage with gig listings etc.

Predator Dub Assassins - The Hardest

There's something about reggae dub that fascinates me: it gets you up, by "getting down". This works in a metaphorical sense as well as a strict musical sense. The bass and kick drum falls on the down beats, dragging with them, as they sink, the chords and snare/rim shots (that sit on the upbeats), into a sort of lull, a spiral, that makes you casually nod your head in a downwards motion, traveling through your spine until, if you're standing, you find yourself swaying, and if you're sitting, you tap your foot and bounce around on the chair. The overall feeling is that of being pulled towards the earth, of being grounded, and the mood of this sort of music, by directly engaging with your body, makes your soul soar: you can't help but smile. That's the overall metaphysics of dub in general and as an album made up entirely of dub, "The Hardest" hits those vertebrae just right. But is there anything original going on here? No. It's the kind of stuff that is constantly verging on being great - often due to the incredible rasta flow of the vocals, and the smooth production - but never gets there; and in terms of song structure, well, I find it hard telling one track from another. Frankly, the album is saved from the drudgery of repitition by only a few things: the amazing guitar lead and piano that both remain distinctly behind the scenes, yet shine when they take the stage, the occasional interesting instrumentation ie. harmonica and saxophone, and the chilled and very smooth voice coupled with down-to-earth, cosy lyrics, that are uplifting and inspiring ("You'll never know until you try" is floating around in my head). In the end, it's not the sort of music you would pay for an album's worth, but would turn up if you heard one song on the radio, and would absolutely love if it were played live in front of you, especially if you were high. Having said that though, I've got a massive smile on my face now and never felt the urge to skip a track. Breezy, easy, flow: getting you up by getting down, but just not great album material unless you're a hardcore reggae dub fanatic, in which case you'll love it.

Available for purchase at CDBaby

Bomb Town - ?!INTERROBANG?!

When I receive a new album, I rarely play it immediately. I'm either afraid I'll hate it, or love it so much I will listen to nothing else for weeks until I get sick of it. Unfortunately, the infectious mix of awesome bass that immediately grabs you from the word go, "punk to the floor + dub to the step drums" that follow swift tempo changes to the letter, incredibly slick vocals, bright horn sections and absolutely droolable keys, combined with just outstanding songwriting and production, means that alas, I will indeed be listening to nothing else but this album for some time. With this release Bomb Town manage to at the same time completely chill you out with their reggae approach - which manages to thread its way into even the hardest, punkiest songs, and maintains a prevalent presence throughout the album, thus giving it a distinct "upbeat" flavour - and yet maintain a certain funevilness that is engaging, and even at times confronting. I love that shit, and it's the thing that will make sure I don't get sick of it. The left-hook of sinister lurking beneath the tangy, rich, positive flavoured jabs. I'm not sure quite how to describe it, but the music is groovy and yet daggy at the same time, life-affirming yet destructive at the same time (destructive in a very subtle way, as if taking apart a molecule piece by piece for scientific investigation rather than out of recklessness), and there's a feel of basically "hard rock plus reggae equals more than the sum of genres, a step above anything you'll hear from either of the aforementioned". The CD came with a .pdf that I was wary of at first: utilising military inuendos to propogate imagery of "hitting a town with a shell of music"; I thought the music would be a lot angrier, yet it's unmistakeable that the destructiveness of this album is more about breaking down barriers and destroying egos, than numb "kill that fucker" stuff. The ultimate message, again carried through the reggae-ness that is always there, is of peace. Peace, fun times, chillin' out, yet slapping you on the head with that evil every now and then to make sure you're still riding the wave, and testing your ability to stand upright in a sea of punk. Brilliant stuff, highly recommended.

Available to purchase at CDBaby

Friday, January 30, 2009

Baskyl - Far Beyond Home

Let's talk about The Journey. It may be a cliche to say this, but it is more important than the destination. Having just finished a deep contemplative listen to "Far Beyond Home" in surround sound I sit, flabbergasted, in silence, and let me tell you, silence just ain't cutting it. I just want more. I want to hear these amazing sounds again, and again, and again. Having said that, I'm restarting the album right now while I continue to type...

...ah that's my fuckin' fix right there...

Now, some journeys are arduous, some are mild, others are wild and many are boring. But "Far Beyond Home" is an apt title for the journey you go on when you listen to this album. Instant teleportation has arrived my friends, and its name is Baskyl. From the word go this album transports you to the glowstick-neon-laser-fueled nights of Germany's club scene, to the most intense rave you've ever been to, takes a left turn to downtempo paradise, lifts you up into deep brooding bass heaven, then whacks your head into "FUCK YES!" nod-mode and your feet into "THEY'RE DOING IT ON THEIR OWN!" shuffling, takes another meandering side-road into Chilltown and then drops you into a veritable bottomless abyss of "HOLY SHIT I WANT MORE!" four-to-the-floor; all the while completely trancing your pants off. I rarely use capitals like that but you have to remember I am listening as I type and by the power of the Almighty Glowstick I feel it. Shit yeah, I feel it.

Not only is this album hard hitting and "fuck-yeah", but it is extremely musically intelligent. Baskyl's real name is Wolfgang, and after listening intently to this album I believe he deserves the extra title of "Amadeus". One thing I've always liked about Mozart's, I mean Baskyl's, music is the way it evolves. His melodies and bassline grooves metamorphose as if sentient, growing twisting and curving, and have a beautiful lush, organic nature to them that is still reminiscent of classic techno square-wave and acid riffs that we all know and love. His beats are solid and catchy whilst remaining intuitive and original, at times strapping you in for a rollercoaster ride and sometimes just throwing you off a cliff in the most orgasmic way possible.

Germany's Wolgang Amadeus Baskyl, or "Wolfy" as I like to call him, regularly sends me tracks on Last.FM which I thoroughly enjoy for the ride; and now having the pleasure of listening to an entire album that maintains this incredible evolutionary morphing feeling is pure bliss. The tracks seemlessly flow from 1/16th note arpeggios to deep house bass to psy and hardstyle flings within their own timeframe, yet on top of that they merge together to create a highly cohesive album. The cruising chillgrooove tracks act as the perfect breather before your next slam-dunk into fuck-yeah, and the whole time the trance never lets go of your pants. Screw Armin Van Buuren and his monotonous tones, "Far Beyond Home" is the true meaning of trance, a Journey.

DJs, Rave Organisers, Night Club Owners the world over, I beseech thee: Grab this album and spin it till your decks are smoking. There can never be too much of great electronic music like this.

All of Baskyl's music can be downloaded for free at his site at LastFM

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reconsiderate - Niche Work

Juxtaposition, division, conflict; tools often utilised by the skilled artist to create a piece of work that directly challenges the observer. This album cannot be listened to casually. It is a challenge. I knew it would be from the moment I opened up the cover of this CD and read the words on the inside cover: "Dear subconscious..."

The album is a challenge to figure out, a challenge to listen to and an even greater challenge to like; but I enjoy challenges, and it's what's kept me coming back to listen to this album time and time again until I felt comfortable enough to like it (let alone write about it!). In the end it is a piece of art, as perfect as a piece of art (being the pursuit of a perfection that will never be attained) can be. It is complete. Here's why:

Reconsiderate has addressed this album to his subconscious, and we can thus assume that the addresser is his consciousness. This is evident in the poetry of the lyrics and the structure of the songs and melodies, all of which are highly intellectualised and thus come from the conceptual, conscious foreground of the mind. Yet, the way in which the content is delivered: vocals that surge up and are then swallowed by the surrounding textures, start-stop rhythms that bang you around, and bowel-churning beats, all appeal to the subconscious, to something inheritly tribal and non-conceptual.

This is where the division comes into play. Whilst Reconsiderate states both on the inside cover blurb and in the lyrics, that his subconscious is "not his friend", the relationship between these two parts of the mind work together, in a fantastically poetic way, by opposing each other. This happens on both a lyrical and musical sense.

In some ways, you could say this juxtaposition is music vs. lyrics, but having listened to this album many times I can see that even in the lyrics, there is evidence of subconsciousness, of spontanaeity and instinct, as much as consciousness, conceptualisation, intellectualisation. When the desperate surging voice cries out "What where you thinking?" or "You need me!" it leaves the listener wondering exactly which part of the brain it is carrying these words. But in all cases, the harsh, often angry sounding, vox is definitely directed at it's polar opposite.

Musically, the fragments of major-key melodies sit side by side with rumbling minor-key bass, they swirl around each other, circling and engaging as if they too are part of the inner conflict.

So how is this album complete, how does it achieve near-perfection whilst being seemingly so conflicted? Simply put, the lyric, "I guess you're just not god enough."

Here, as I see it, the two halves of reconsiderate's mind sing this in unison. Both subconscious and unconscious agree, that whatever they are and whatever shortcomings both have, all of which are explored throughout this album, they are both part of a human being. In a letter accompanying this CD Recon stated that the album was about one's "life's work", and it is this striving for perfection, the thing that keeps any artist going; the accute feeling of "trying to keep it together" both in a conceptual yin and yang (subconscious and conscious) way, and in an emotional, immediate way, that screams humanity; ultimately, it opens a window into the private world of Reconsiderate.

That's just my perception of it, although what makes a great piece of art great is the ability to spawn many different ideas and vantage points depending on the observer's previous experiences, thoughts and feelings. If you want to be challenged and learn something about yourself I couldn't recommend a piece of work more.

Thank you Recon for making what I'm sure people will look back on as they did on Van Gogh and say, "Shit, this guy was good."

Available to purchase (and lots of free tracks) from reconsiderate.com