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