Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Fief "II" (2016)

Not much more can be said about this record than previously mentioned in yesterdays post "I". Unsurprisingly, "II" is the second record from the Utah based musician, released just a month ago. Its another transformative piece of music for meditation as one is enveloped by the simplistic beauty and melodies that conjure ages of old. The album cover is far more suggestive of the setting than its predecessor, images of caves, forests, nature and magical beasts match the gentle music which will take you on a stroll through the pleasantries of your imagination.

Musical differences are hard to come by, aesthetically the instruments feel unchanged and produced with the same level of crisp clarity. In composition "II" is sparse in many places with less instruments layering up around one another. This is especially notable in a handful of tracks which clearly set out to work with less. As a result this may be a longer listen but Its a step behind the density of "I" which was an engrossing quality, a busying of sound which doesn't charm in the same way when its mellowed down. Its still fantastic, magical music but mostly resides in the realm of expectation.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Fief "I" (2016)

With a finger on the pulse of a fantasy realm, Fief captures a friendly, uplifting tone of familiarity within the lands of imagination. With soft, quaint plucked instruments and gentle pianos working in tandem, the mood is inviting and conjures images of medieval charm, a world of magic and wonder without the grit and grime of technology-less society. Its a realm of simplicity and majesty where battles between good and evil come without collateral damage. Fable is the game I am reminded of however its been years since I touched it. "I" is the perfect soundtrack to a fantasy RPG, one that is without a darker side of its reality and It could so easily work with such a game however its powerful enough to stand on its own feet.

At twenty minutes its a short but sweet affair of lush compositions as harmonious instruments dance around one another with an endless string of melodies and chords to vibe from. Its without a rhythm section or vocals, however an occasional low key plucking can keep a steady tempo for the other instruments to work around. Flutes, harpsichords, the chiming of bells and the like make for a soothing set of sounds that are without anything experimental or obtuse. Its direct, well executed and my only complaint is the short nature of the record which could command a mood for far longer!

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Conflict "Its Time To See Whos Who" (1983)

After enjoying a dip into Crass's first few record's I decided to seek out some more Anarcho Punk since the sound really appealed to me. Steve Ignorant of Crass actually joined the band after this, their debut record, released in 83 around what seems to be the peak of popularity for this rebellious sound. Many similar musical ideas are deployed although the record opens with a misleading track, "Young Parasites" sounds very much like The Clash with its prominent colorful baseline and generally tuneful, toned down aggression. Poorly performed guitar leads make a mockery of themselves as a shout cuts the track short to start over again.

The mood is flipped upside down with the real record as "Kings & Punks" kicks in with a crash of fast, lively drumming, temperate guitar riffs and an angry Colin Jerwood shouting with fury over a crunching baseline. At just a minute it sets the tone for fast and to the point music where songs rarely span further than the two minute mark. These tempo driven quick cuts make for an energetic atmosphere were nothing stays settled for to long as anger and frustration comes to fruition in dissent.

With an anarchy mindset, the lyrics take on progressive issues of anti-war, meat as murder and anti-establishment values with an exasperated grit of irritation. Jerwood keeps the heated resentment flowing but the accompanying music leans from its dissonant rebellious accent into catchy melodies and rocking riffs that despite being enjoyable, finds itself distancing from the core idea. A few songs here drift from the path and in these moments the consistency dips noticably.

When all elements are on the same page the soundtrack is set and the resolute attitude becomes engrossing. The records production is reasonable, guitar tone a little brittle and plastic, at times it doesn't quite have the aesthetic vitality to match its anger and the same might be said of the drums which despite being rather lively and rampant, find themselves getting buried in the mix. I also love the way the records end with some sort of improvised jam where the tempo keeps increasing and they keep going for it over and over. Chaos! Great album, potential to be great but falls short it too many places.

Favorite Tracks: 1824 Overture, One Nation Under The Bomb, Blind Attack, Blood Morons, Crazy Governments
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Izioq "Hello! I'm An Album" (2017)

I had to look it up to confirm, the first release we covered in 2016 was Izioq's "New Songs For Old Kids" and fittingly so is it this years first record we cover on this blog! Its the French composers fifth full length and one that's self aware. The album name and track titles like "I Can't Make An Album Without A Song About My Cat" and "Nice To Meet You I'm The First Track" make playful fun of the childlike and innocent aspirations for the music. Its no departure or major progression but another selection of tracks in the established style totaling fifty one minutes to make it the longest yet!

With that length and self aware persona comes an unfiltered variety that's loaded with sounds reminiscent of previous records as well as new vibes too. The most pleasing aspect for me where dreamy tracks full of quirky daydream melodies dressed up with lush reverbs and playful drum beats that played homage to the innocence of imagination. On a couple of tracks with more fleshed out beats it started to lean in a Downtempo direction with slow repetitive snare kick grooves which were quite engrossing.

Those more progressive styles where found between tracks with similar formats and templates to previous Izioq songs which weighed the experience down for me. It can be hard to get excited for the same ideas done over, the album opener sounds much like "Retro Life"s opener. The sixth track breaks to Izioq whistling the tune of the songs melody, which Ive heard before and so between some very pleasing tracks are throwbacks and homages that I didn't feel brought more to the table.

 The best moments came from the more cautious and cinematic instrumentation that broke away from the conventional quirky melodies and playful upbeat character. The last songs of the record drifted into a reflective and moody state which yielded the fantastic " Joyeuses Vagues", translated "happy waves", which brings a moving sense of departure and farewell in a serene setting, a really warming composition. "Hello! I'm An Album" is a mixed bag of treats, some old, some new and all things in between.

Favorite Tracks: Doodoon Song, Izioqism, A Nifflas Lecture, Joyeuses Vagues, See You Soon
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Fightstar "Behind The Devil's Back" (2015)

Fronted by Charlie Simpson, English Metal outfit Fightstar have a bit if stigma about them in they eyes of some, mainly Metal elitists. This is due to Simpson's origins in the Pop-Rock boy band Busted, who he supposedly used to gather the resources to pursue his real ambitions. Its never been much of a bother to me but may explain why this band gets overlooked. I picked up "Behind The Devil's Back" based on chatter that they had outdone Deftones at their own game. It has to be said there are sublime moments where dense tonal guitars wage in rhythmical grooves against the offset of Simpsons voice, screamed or sung in a very Moreno style. Its as good as Deftones do it themselves, however the record is diverse and its hardly the main focal point.

That diversity is the records strength as its Alternative Metal persona is steered in contrasting directions, from crunchy, snappy metallic grooves to colorful melodic singing with pop sensibilities. These songs are pulled side to side, often elasticating back and forth between harmonizations and aggressive guitar grooves. It is performed in a way that the contrasting sides compliment each other without compromise and yet sound as if they could be detached and run alone as two very different records. The best moment's come from when their balance is sweetly struck and we get the best of both worlds harmonizing for a very energetic, animated and harmonious sound.

With a selection of gratifying melodies and potent guitar riffs the album comes together under a gorgeous production, lit up by Simpsons voice, who in his clean singing really strikes a nerve and harmony with the surrounding instruments. The distortion guitars are dense, weighty and rounded, a great tone that gets across a heavy feeling without force. The acoustic tones are luminous, the drums sharp and punchy and the use of light synthesizers seems to patch up particular moments with an extra layer of chemistry, if you listen keenly you can often hear it creeping in to quiet corners.

With one song I think the band to pull hard in different directions as "Overdrive" feels a bit stitched together as it shifts drastically from its metallic grooves to poppy melodies. It does however culminate nicely with a brief but substantial dose of synthesizers that lead into an epic pop melody. Otherwise its a really fantastic set of songs that after a good set of listens are still delivering the feels. Its a strong, bold and creative effort that really has no weak points and short comings, overall its rather fantastic and loaded with really a depth of inspiration.
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 9 January 2017

Echo And The Bunnymen "Porcupine" (1983)

Echo & The Bunnymen, based in Liverpool, are fast becoming a favorite of mine. "Porcupine" is the bands third and an infectious record rampant with dense songs from start to end. Their sound has transformed a little since "Heaven Up Here", a strong psychedelic vibe is present, through melodies, guitar effects and the drums which seem a lot busier with additional percussive sounds around the core drum beats. Its a richer experience, every instrument contributes to a constant wash of dense music that is expanded on a couple of tracks where strings, pianos and bells join in effortlessly.

Opening with "The Cutter" the band deliver one of their catchiest tunes yet and the knack for a good chorus really comes to fruition. Singer McCulloch gives another dazzling performance with heavy, emotional inflections into his sung words. Lyrically he seems rather pessimistic, cynical and morose with many negative statements and suggestions on positive attributions. Its most likely metaphorical statements for personal experiences, yet it comes across as a bit hollow, words that don't carry weight. Even so its easy to sing along to given his lively performance and timely delivery of melodic singing.

Behind him a dense instrumentation whirls with thought for all sorts of nuances and details that give it detail and depth, after many listens you'll still be picking out little quirks in the background. There is also a fluid sense of creativity where each song manages to make a break from the norm of its song structure for interludes and breaks that spice up the music, which is already rather rich and spicy given the fast bustling guitars that constantly layer up with other instruments and sounds.

The records production has a lot of weight on the music, much of the vibes and atmospheres these songs yield are felt in the tones and reverbs the instruments are captured with. "Clay" for example has a tinge of darkness about it, its guitars and vocals has far more echo and they bounce of one another for a sense of subtle disconnect. This use of reverb and sound design can be felt on the less thick songs the record has, it also plays a lot into the psychedelic vibe present.

Its a great record, probably best heard than described as its the sort of music that alludes me of the words to express it. That's a compliment though, if easily described perhaps it is more formulaic and predictable. Even though its songs are structured and follow norms it's the rich density of sound this album has that yields its charm. An engrossing listen, looking forward to the next one now.

Favorite Songs: The Cutter, The Back Of Love, Clay
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Dead Can Dance "Garden Of The Arcane Delights" (1984)

Released later in the year of their self titled debut record, Australian duo Dead Can Dance make an important distinction of ideas, moving away from their Post-Punk, Gothic Rock roots on two of these four tracks. Its with singer Gerrad that the leap is made to rid themselves of imposed restrictions and follow inspiration. Her voice is primed with character, ethnicity and mysticism as ancient cultural vibes are conjured through her vibrant singing. She leads the way as the percussive instrumentation weaves itself between different instruments, a continual beating of tribal, human drums and plucking of dense melodies.

In the other two songs Perry sings along to numbers that still have echos of the Post-Punk baselines and dreary gothic guitars heard before. More so "The Arcane" sounds like a left over from the debut, very much in the same vein as most of the music on that record. Production is a little clearer but with four tracks there isn't much to marvel, however with the two we hear the important steps towards their greatness first taken, and it should be said they are no primitive inceptions but rather bright, shining embers of spirit and imagination.

Favorite Tracks: Carnival Of Light, Flowers Of The Sea
Rating: 4/10

Friday, 6 January 2017

Ubiquity Is The Answer "Infinite Number of Elements" (2007)

Side project of French musician Cheney from Void Thru Materialism, "Ubiquity Is The Answer" is a similar beast of mathematical Djent Metal with touches of Thrash, Groove and Extreme Metal. It sounds like an outtake record, the guitar tone is almost identical and its only the style and abrasive approach that separates its identity from VTM. "Infinite Number of Elements" is a harsh rhythmic assault that strips back harmonization and melodies in favor of hard crunching metallic grooves which delve into polyrhythms and mathematic time signatures within the context of the overall 4/4.

Its drum machine is especially raw, snare rolls sound like machine gun fire and its volume in the mix is overbearing. That and Cheney's whispered scream style turns a quite fruitful musical experiment into a dizzying onslaught as the magic in the guitars is constantly weighed down by ugly drum kit sounds and over compensating vocals that lack a proper scream. The guitar tone on the other hand is spot on, big bold, tonal and performed to perfection for a range of tricky note fretting.

Behind its ugly facade an unstructured riff fest emerges where elastic grooves, temporal chugging and tribal antics are set free to explore themselves on the open field. Mostly its one to the next as the guitar leads the music in a linear fashion through each idea. The best moments come when the guitars double up because its mostly a singular riff at the fore front, when a lead guitar or alternative rhythm guitar joins in there are sparks of magic. "One To Six" being one of the record harshest songs find a moment of charm smothered by aggressive drums where an alien hammer on lead opens a dimension of sound along side the main guitar.

"Anonmaly Number Five" has a flash of things to come as the song abruptly breaks to a moment of jazzy Metal and follows it up with textural Djent's much in the style of Animals As Leaders. Aside from that their isn't much else that tells a tale of things to come. Cheney is very much focusing on the mathematics and odd time signatures that Meshuggah had brought to prominence. Its very much a record of experiments and outtakes, weighed down by a lack of polish in production and a tech demo vibe that comes across in the riff lead progression. It is however enjoyable but not something to come back to.

Favorite Track: Organic Texture
Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Dead Can Dance "Dead Can Dance" (1984)

Going back to the roots of Australian duo Dead Can Dance, we find an interesting debut record that makes much sense of their future linage, yet is firmly rooted within a Post-Punk sound. It has come to be one of the most interesting genres for me in recent years, although a broad term it captures the creative freedom and artistic diversity that came after the DIY Punk scene changed the rules for popular music. On the record we hear hints of whats to come, however it is masked by a rather gloomy Gothic Rock overtone and an Ethereal touch that makes it easy to indulge in.

Mood, tone, atmosphere, very much the charisma of this record without being overt or overly ambitious, its mid tempo, calming, indulgent and far from a lull but without any big, memorable moments it can pass you by. The dissonant guitars murmur through tonal riffs, steadily droning in the background with a fuzzy tone that never lets the life it has really jump out or create much of an impact. Often they dial it down to a more acoustic tone but even then it feels so subdued.

These are typical Post-Punk ideas, provided we are talking about the same niche, guitar riffs that focus on tone and mood rather than rhythm and melody. Bouncy baselines rumble underneath and the drumming is simple, repetitive, Industrial in some cases. The drums are the first noticeable instance of their future direction to come. The opening track "The Fatal Impact" and "Frontier" have tribal sounding drum patterns, hinting at Medieval or historical themes.

These ideas are yet to flourish and the two's singing voices are barely dissimilar from future trajectory. Its obviously is a big thinking point for me with this music and maybe being blind to it, something different could of emerged but the reality is its a reasonable record, enjoyable but not riveting. It has one burst of light with "A Passage In Time" however the repetitions in song structure really unwind the power of the music given the rather quiet, meek and passable production that makes for quite a bland sound where the music itself is clearly more deserving.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Run The Jewels "Run The Jewels 3" (2016)

The dynamic duo Killer Mike and El-P are back with their finest dose of RTJ yet! Clocking in at fifty two minutes its significantly longer than the previous two installments, both of which I enjoyed ever so much but as time goes the first "RTJ" has not yielded a lot of replay value for me. That being said I really appreciate what the two are doing together and I feel like this record finds a more appealing balance with its production style as Mike and El-P dropping the playful, fun, creative raps and hooks over carefully constructed beats.

Atmosphere and mood runs thick, a tone is set without obnoxious beats like the fantastic "Oh My" with its dirty rumbling baseline. RTJ3 actually uses a lot deep baselines too, best heard with a sub woofer but its an undercurrent for the wild layers of obscure sampling and odd sounds that reside on top. Dissonant sounds are rhythmically arranged between snippets of voices and the occasional "melody" or tune drops in between the layers which on mostly shuffle between a selection of tricks, making a less repetitive backdrop for the duo's rhymes. The drums are programmed spaciously, lots of fast shuffling hi hats are subtly mixed in with sharp snares punching through and base kicks that loose themselves in the base lines. Far from bombastic it keeps tempo, leaving most of the identity to the sampling, which has the measure to be exciting, interesting and unusual without blowing of hot steam or being "over the top".

Mike and El-P are very entertaining, many a laugh to be had "Doing push ups naked on a cliff" and plenty of jaw dropping flows like "Legend has it" when the bells drops in and Mike goes of on a murderous flow. The two have a witty sense for wordplay which keeps on going track to track with no weak links. Its mostly braggadocios and rhyme skill bravado but the two do it in such good taste. In the last tracks the mood shifts to more meaningful substance and "Thursday In The Danger Room" gets deep in the feels with El-P rapping out the hardship of watching a friend die slowly. Very coherent and moving, a great track that shows the duo can do much more than boast. RTJ3 is the record I wanted, the balance feels just right for my taste and doesn't yet feel like the apex of what the two could accomplish together.

Favorite Tracks: Legends Has It, Panther Like A Panther, Thursday In The Danger Room, Kill Your Masters
Rating: 8/10