Monday, April 12, 2010

Hox Vox - Mjöllnir

Structureless chaos that is yet coherent and comprehensive.

Hox Vox is an artist whose roots are in DaDa-ism, yet consistently pumps out the antithesis of DaDa: The Concept Album. He is a strange one to pin down and describe, not least because his music is absolutely and completely, irrevocably, inaccessible. Yet he doesn't care. With an intellect rarely found he composes vast works of epic proportions that are meticulously sculpted to instil the most severe sense of unease in the listener. And yet, it is thoroughly enjoyable.

In this latest instalment of the bizarre series of works that is Hox's discography, we journey through several intriguing portraits of Norse Gods, and eventually find ourselves on the battlefields of Ragnarök. Having been dealt an onslaught of arpeggiated midi notes, barrages of drum fills, ever shifting keys, innumerable time changes and mind-boggling blitzkriegs of unintelligible sounds, we arrive at the end and say “What the fuck just happened?”

A work with such power is a diamond in the rough.

Mjöllnir comes with a .pdf booklet, a gorgeous treasure with breathtaking artwork and liner notes with information about each track. For a concept album without lyrics this is a convenient way of portraying the portraits and storyline. Had I have been listening without reading this booklet I would be lost amidst the swirling notes and complete lack of consistency in tonal and modal qualities. As I said, it is inaccessible. Yet it is the combination of the booklet and the music that creates coherence, and makes for a compelling, engaging experience. This is not surprising from an artist who is also an extremely competent video producer. His whole schtick is multi-media in the true sense of the word “multi”. His art aims to immerse as many of the listener's senses as possible in imagery to convey his message.

But what is his message? Well here we get back to his DaDa roots. DaDa was the art that defied art, and I have always felt whilst listening to Hox Vox's music that it is a product of entropy - a breaking down of preconceptions of what art should be, whilst at the same time raising the stakes of what is expected of a listener and their engagement with the work. I say entropy because in the end we have two polar opposites – breaking down perceptions and building up imagery – that meet comfortably in the middle, at a point of stasis. Whilst the sounds coming from this album are like a tornado, the eye at its centre is the solid, unwavering conclusion of “lofty ideal meets pragmatic delivery”.

In case you can't tell, this music gives me a lot to think about. I have often thought as I listen to Hox Vox's albums that they are dissecting me more than I am them. If you want to know what the fuck I'm talking about, download this album, completely free, from Jamendo. It can also be legally bit-torrented, which is a fantastic way of getting the music out there (yes people are seeding it, I got it in 30 minutes).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Northcape - Captured From Static

I lie down and listen. I listen intently and critically, and I soak up the vibe. Time passes, and I feel If I didn't have my lava lamp to look at, I would get bored very quickly. Yet that is part of this album's charm. It teleports you to the whole “lava lamp era” of sitting on suede couches smoking joints, where not only was everything in Skye and Rainchild's apartment visually oriented to make you zone out, sounds were too. S&R would casually spin Tubular Bells whilst making a pot of coffee, and you would lie on their black and white swirly rug and stare at their colour-shifting array of ceiling lights. Just, zoning out.

At least, that's where the album takes me, and I didn't even grow up in that era. I think, however, this is a testament to the depth of the vibes coming from this album, its ability to conjure scenarios in the head of the listener that are externally sourced. The sounds do more than just stimulate memory or imagination, they add to the mind's repertoire of imagery. Northcape has always described his music as depicting and reflecting nature, and I think this is the essence of it: it's music that depicts the world we live in, from those psychedelic loungerooms to the moors of Scotland, a quiet urban street at midnight to a backyard pergola and a windchime in Autumn. All of it is part of nature, part of our world, our collective consciousness, that we can thus associate with.

The deep, mellow, and layered sounds strike a chord with the part of the soul that is in tune with nature, with the earth, and is perhaps just the medicine required in today's pacey world where people like me get bored without a lava lamp to look at. 4 stars.

Freshly released today, available from Sun Sea Sky Productions. Enjoy.