Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Tool "Lateralus" (2001)

My journey through the records of Progressive Metal behemoth Tool hits an elongated fumble as we arrive at one of their most talked about records. Its been over a month since Ænima and with that time Ive sunk my teeth into this meaty eighty minutes of progressive epics many times. I have found myself at the same conclusion many times, Lateralus is slow to get going and its best moments are spun from lengthy build ups that dispel the tension and immediacy yet its best stirrings of musical gusto lurk from these meanderings like a switch that changes nothing. My favorite moments seem to stem from apex of these unending tangents as a final piece of the puzzle falls into place. Its been a fascinating listening experience but as I turn my thoughts into words, the semblance of their meanings feels like a key starting to turn the lock.

Dissecting the musics continual unwinding, one can see the markings of mathematics and music theory manifesting in its song structures and riffs. A lot of the guitar works repeats with obvious cycled counts and poly measures. Its song structures play out linear paths of slow methodical builds in atmosphere and intensity. The guitars often play out pivoting on this principle as slabs of slicing distortions grind through the timely measures with a repetition that always deceives itself, a niche touch. Danny Carey and his presence on the drums are as powerful as ever. He finds himself with one heck of a task to take that big and busying drumming style and play it out through unending passageways. His ability to hold the music together through massive segments should not be understated, its an essential performance.

Lateralus as a whole encapsulates the tone Tool built so far but channels it rather directly into these deeper atmospheric tunnelings that take out the raw emotions. Maybe it is to be found in Keenan's words but with most of that passing me by his performance plays more like another instrument with occasional outbursts of raw screams and energy in the musics peaking moments. The record really gets going with Parabola, a song that perhaps most sounds akin to their previous work. It opens with a groovy crowd bouncing riff that flows into big, engulfing lead guitar notes in the upper range, immediately gratifying. It mostly manages to avoid the number shuffling riffs and compositions while still sounding keenly progressive.

After this track it feels like almost every song is illuminated in its crowning moments with riveting moments of electricity. With that in mind the meandering in between is far more enjoyable as its droning quality suddenly swallows you whole in these moments of brilliance. Lateralus, at eighty minutes, seems to be a deep cut but even after a whole month of devouring it I came to a point where I felt as if the album was too big for itself. Then in the listens leading up to writing this post its as if the magic finally started to click. Its almost like I am only now just starting to actually hear it. Although 10,000 Days is next I will undoubtedly keep this one spinning from time to time.

Favorite Tracks: Parabola, Ticks & Leaches, Reflection
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Tesseract "Sonder" (2018)

The British Progressive Metal outfit Tesseract have been on my radar since their very inception way back when in the the early naughties. I've caught many a live show over the years and heard plenty of their songs. Its only based on a recommendation from a friend that I gave this new record a proper try and I am disappointed to say I walk away with the same lukewarm feeling I've always had for them. Sonder is their fourth full length but a direct record at a shorter thirty six minutes which made it much easier to pick up and spin.

The band toy with the dynamics of heavy and light. On one hand a glistening wash of beauty, haplessly sways above with clean guitars and subtle airy synths. Its mostly led by the clean, soft and vulnerable singing of original front man Daniel Tompkins. Its counterpart is expressed through mathematic manipulations of groove, chunks of sonic sound pronounced through the bolstered Djent tone. It can be somewhat self indulgent at times when its riffs get a little lost in the counter measure of expectation. Mostly though both elements are dynamic and sway in accordance with one another.

Its formula is laid bare from the get go and a couple of strong opening tracks create quite the excitement as an atmosphere of possibility is mustered in the wake of its balancing act between the beauty and chaos. Dark, guzzling passageways of meaty, moments riffs can drop seamlessly into blissful rest with soft pianos, distant rumblings of mechanical thunder and a cloudy choir chiming in the words draw together. This chemistry plays out in various measures before the record hits a snag.

It seems to start around Beneath My Skin but as the album progresses it feels like the best of this dynamic is behind us and little new is offered up. Throughout it all the singing is gorgeous, bordering effeminate as Tompkins finds a passionate expression in his range. The rest of the music doesn't quite follow and I find myself losing interest as the music meanders in itself with the same ideas drawn out to a disappointing close. Its certainly got a great aesthetic and musical construct but as an album it runs out of ideas far to fast. Even at thirty six minutes its best is less than half.

Favorite Track: King, Juno
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Daryl Donald "Behold The Spirit" (2019)

Seeing a new release from Scottish producer Daryl Donald put a smile on my face. I knew Id be in the mood for more indulgent, mellow Hip Hop instrumentals. With this sophomore record he really hits home with the DJ Shadow vibes, one of the first artists to make craft and elevate the instrumental side of Hip Hop music. Behold The Spirit is a collection of short beats and tidbits, roughly two minutes each, that establish meditative vibes fit for mellowing, soaking in the sun and enjoying a soft breeze.

Its got summery vibes that aren't overtly pronounced, everything is a craft of soft measures and subtle sample inclusion that form a bigger picture. Its percussive lines are sharp and snappy but with just the right tempo to feel at ease and slightly lethargic. A couple arrangements may give an impression of a stripped back boom bap groove however the keen kicks and snares are always softened by the surrounding samples, often layering ambiguous airy synth without distinct melodies. Many vocal snippets are deployed ambiguously with helpings of dreamy reverberation, furthering the soothing vibes that feed into its distinct atmosphere.

The albums structure is a bit lack luster in its linear design. Some beats have build ups but mostly the songs fades in to existence and after its repetitions, fade out again. Its held together like glue by the consistency of tone, each beat is unique but they all hone in on the same urban summer vibrations. The track Banquet has a vocal pitch shifting sample that borders on Vapourwave akin to Macintosh Plus. However Its an isolated moment that borders overlap, would be interesting to hear it explored further.

Its after this track vocal samples become more prominent. The following Like A Brother has the voice of a man with a tone similar to AZ speaking thoughtful wisdom. The last three tracks bring a strong audible presence to the record as at closes out with the title track. It has a stunning speech on the power of meditation. A fitting end to a short collection of beats that all bring with them a consistent mellowing quality fit for reflection and thought, or the lack of it. Another strong record, looking forward to more!

Favorite Track: Behold The Spirit
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 11 March 2019

Queen "A Night At The Opera" (1975)

With the magic of the recent Bohemian Rhapsody movie lingering in mind, Ive been reminded again of how often the thought passes that as much as enjoy Queen's music, its really the hits I know and of course they have a lot of them. Curious about their deeper cuts and this record that played a big part in the movies progression, I decided to start here with what was the most expensive recording to date at the time of its release. Home to their best know song and You're My Best Friend, most of its contents were unknown to me and so I have had an absolute blast getting stuck in.

A Night At The Opera is an eclectic journey, a marvel of sorts, squeezing in a helping of styles and cultural echos that defy being packaged. One can hear inklings of Heavy Metal in the lean guitar licks, its unconventional song structures and experimental nature may label it Progressive Rock too but the songs are all their own beast. Like a wild roller coaster the music flows sweetly from its polar ends, Sweet Lady crafts its weighty guitar riffs for a first pumping Hard Rock tune that's close to being anthemic. After blazing the trail with a fiery guitar solo at the end of the song, we are of course swept in to the next number, Seaside Rendezvous, with bright pianos for a pantomime piece full of audio gags and sound effects. The music animates the an image of the stage and its actors.

Its emblematic of the musicians instinct to follow their gut as they breeze through a diverse set of sounds without a hitch. Its experimental side blossoms on The Prophets Song as the music gives way to a mid section of imaginative singing, the instruments fade out and Freddie and his band mates sing and swoon off layers of panned echos and reverberations. It starts off simple with repetitions of words but quickly builds up its gusto and erupts into a foray of vocal melody to delight upon. Making your way through the music one can pick out its anchoring songs as they rotate the theatrics and pantomime with infectious Hard Rock guitar grooves. It all comes to conclusion on the track that incorporates it all in one song, the mighty Bohemian Rhapsody.

Freddie's voice is fantastic throughout to no ones surprise but this record showcases his band mates too, Brian May has one heck of a talent both with his keen rhythm playing and the lightning guitar leads that occasionally erupt into the limelight, dazzling all. Drummer Roger Taylor puts together on a finely crafted song that seems almost ironically casual in its naming, I'm In Love With My Car. This is one heck of a deep record that you can binge over and over. All its flamboyance and diversity is true, giving back over and over again with each spin. Its really fired me up to get into more of their records. What a great band, how many years have a squandered the opertunity to get into one of the all time greats! This was a great decision.

Favorite Tracks: Death On Two Legs, I'm In Love With My Car, You're My Best Friend, The Prophet's Song, Bohemian Rhapsody
Rating: 9/10

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Jean Michel Jarre "Equinoxe" (1978)

In the mood for more of this nostalgic, imaginative yet primal electronic music, I picked up French composer Jean Michel Jarre's following record from the classic Oxygene. In the two years elapsed since, the music has advanced with a subtle refinement in composure and the evolution of bold and sharp, chirpy synths. In the brightest appearances they become reminiscent of Chiptune and 8-Bit tones in passing. The records use of environmental sound, wind, waves and the like are far more complimentary and overall the visions conjured resist any detraction from the quirkiness off these experimental noises, although blurbs, beeps, blips and barbs talk like an alien voice on Part 4 inbetween the sounds of limbs slashing through air like hasty karate chops.

It seems that in its beginning Equinoxe leans more so into the dark, paranoid and dystopian realm. With decades of music between this and now, what once may have been quite the shock now sounds more ambiguous and open to interpretation in the wake of progressively evil music. It has its upbeat and cheerful tunes too, Part 5 being a particularly playful, the soundtrack to an interplanetary cosmic fairground. These adventurous, chirpy melodies continue into the next part and then the record slowly finds its way to a darker setting before the roar of thunder and patter of rain leads us to the present with the sounds of French fairground music panning the stereo. It ushers in a contrasting conclusion to the record with more spacey, galactic wonder.

Equinoxe is seemingly a step up in production but it mostly spins similar ideas to its predecessor, which has quite the impact on first listen. Its an enjoyable record, the atmosphere and adventure is ripe and vivid but also novelty too. I can't help but feel I'll enjoy each record less as the wonder of a fresh stylistic pallet subsides. I spend a fair amount of time with these records, maybe ten or more spins before I write these blogs and Its music like this I'm sure you can form strong bonds with if it fills a gap in your musical experience or arrives at the right time. For all my listenss little has stuck with me in terms of its key melodies, they mostly fall back into the tapestry of instruments that make up its atmosphere.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Pale Waves "All The Things I Never Said" (2018)

This young band have emerged with much attention for their distinct revival of 80s New Wave, Synthpop and Goth Pop sounds. Echoes of The Cure, Tears For Fears and Dream Pop unite with no particular distinction of something original beyond modern and glossy production. Singer Heather Baron-Gracie has strong, warm singing voice with an approachable range. Her lyrics are some what vanilla with direct language to convey her thoughts and feelings. The simplicity lacks a spark but within the squeaky clean and polished sound it suffices over the dreamy instrumentals.

Big cruising bass lines lay down warm, bold foundations for simple drum patterns to craft snappy grooves behind the attention grabbing glossy guitars and reverb soaked synths that churn out nostalgic melodies. Its held together in a sweetly warm balance of fun and youthful innocence with tinge of sadness and sorrow lurking that never surpasses the bright, uplifting gleam of glossy sounds channeled over engulfing airy synths that fill the spaces between its popping, chirpy melodies.

The records four cuts circle the same waters, making an appetizing listen if you enjoy the first track. Its accolades are to be found in reviving the spirit of and old sound and giving it a modern touch but beyond that their is little remarkable. They execute a musical concept that still works with a bit of love and care. It will be interesting to see where they go from here as this EP is a solid introduction and hopefully a foundation to grow as a band and take this sublime sound to new places!

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Saor "Forgotten Paths" (2019)

My introduction to Saor was a breath of fresh air beginning with their sophomore record Aura. Out from the now decades old genre of Black Metal that so routinely falls into its own established tropes, Saor introduced a soaring gleam of bright, triumphant, heathen melody to counteract its dark underbelly of blast beats, tremolo guitars and burly, gaunt screams. It may not have been an original twist on the sound but its execution was sublime and deeply inspired by Marshall's Scottish heritage and countryside. The following Guardians record was more of the same and had less of an impact on me. It may be the absence, or more likely the music but this new release has been a very fond listen for me these past two weeks.

The luscious and melodic side of the music feels expanded upon, a beautiful piano interlude middle of the opening title track and a entire song, Exile, dedicated to nostalgic folk sounds half a step away from Fief in the best of ways. This obvious expansion resonates in the lead guitars that gleam and glow, leading every song forward like a light carving the path through the pale on its epic journeys. Soaring with reverb and inflecting glorious melodies it rises high above the fury of beastly screams and pummeling drums, making its most abrasive sections feel bright and inspiring.

Through the loud and obvious instruments, pagan violins and glossy pianos shape tone and mood with a dose of folk and heritage that never leaves the music. Its a constant delight that makes the sound engulfing. Even in their quiet parts the lead guitar once again soaks you in the dazzle of its glimmering light. With three lengthy ten minute plus songs the music can hold this sense of constant beauty and epic without faultering. Bron is the darkest of the three and even it can find this stunning flicker of light in the black as its cultural elements blossom along the songs epic progression. Things really came together on this album and I can't recommend it enough.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Janis Joplin "I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!" (1969)

Kozmic Blues is a long overdue listen, Pearl was such a fantastic treasure of the Woodstock generation and a wonderful introduction to the raw charisma of Janis's voice. I had to hear more and turning to this, her debut as a solo artist, one can hear a timely shift in tone and slightly different musical energy at work with slimmer influences of Blues, Psychedelia and a touch of Jazz Rock in its breathy instruments. It could be a comment on the posthumous nature of Pearl but being new to her music they both stand tall as great records. This one however has peaks that go unmatched in its other songs. What captivates me about it are the jam sections. Lively instrumentals of busying instruments bustling away find a couple of extended interludes to come forth in continuously memorizing walls of sound fronted by big trumpets and the like.

And then Janis arrives, her voice impactful returning from absence, seemingly catching one of guard. The eight tracks come in different intensities and measures of style and so does Janis's singing, yet even in her softest breath does she ever seem to be one word away from unleashing her compassion as her voice strains and strays into what may of probably been seen as yelling or screaming back then. With one of its calmer instrumentals boasting big and bold trumpets in its key melody in the build up to her arrival, Janis soars over soft, moody organs with an unforgettable performance to give you goosebumps. Her voice cruises high and low through her range, led by pure feeling on my favorite track Maybe. Its a timeless song.

Its easy to focus on her voice. Behind her the music resonates wonderfully. As mentioned before they often come forth in her absence as their is such great cohesion between the performers. The lead guitar comes to fruition on One Good Man with a tropical, psychedelic solo that's blisteringly electric. The best of this does find itself in the first half as the album broods with dialed down tracks that make her voice more intimate as a result. Work Me Lord creeps up on you from its smokey beginnings with a big theme that gets a little stiff in finding a conclusion and lets Janis lead out the record alone. Overall its a wonderful album but perhaps my familiarity to her curbed the surprise of the stunning singing in store, and there is a lot of it!

Favorite Tracks: Maybe, One Good Man, Work Me Lord
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Jean Michel Jarre "Oxygene" (1976)

Early synthesizer music has always fascinated me, the likes of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream have been a pleasure for years so its always a delight to stumble onto some of these old records where electronic music sounded vastly different from today. Retro synth tones and soundscape ideals, an embracing of ambience and the imagination make these records starkly different from what else was available at the time, Its a true fascination to hear these early artists and their emerging visions. French composer Jean Michel Jarre certainly had a finger on the pulse and this forty minute classic is a delightful work that still holds up well to this day.

Its six songs flow like a river. The whirl of layered looped synth cycles buzz out entrancing and repetitive indulgences that subtly expand and contract as its various elements slowly shift over the songs. The droning constructs give way to lead tones that play out like a guitar solo on a couple of particularly engaging passageways. Its percussive edge is varied from track to track. A range of synthesized emulations, hi hats, kicks and snares, sit softly in the background holding tempo and for large parts of the record drops down to a construct of two or three hits as it ebbs and flows into its different degrees of intensity, complimenting the mood and tone of his synths.

What sticks out like a soar thumb but certainly works is its use of rampant, rolling laser zap sounds and other "gimmicky" synthesized noises that are hashed in. The chirps of birds, calls of dolphins and husky whispering electronic waves wash into the music with a firm boldness that add to the atmosphere despite being clunky in nature. Its the underlying melodies that rise up from a repetitive foundation that make the music transformative, giving it sparks. Within the lure of chilled out, indulgent atmospheres, mysterious, new age synth tones played with curiosity, always emerges a lead instrument, sometime two in tandem, to follow and make sense of the scenic sounds.

Its a marvelous listening experience that visits six distinct chapters, of which four was immediately recognizable. It dives straight into a memorable lead melody that was very familiar. I couldn't find any movie soundtracks I suspected I might know it from but it did feature in the GTA IV soundtrack so perhaps that is where the familiarity extends from. All in all its just a fantastic gem of a record that any lover of electronic, retro or ambient music should take the time to check it. Its entrancing, indulging and full of vivid imagination birthed through sound.

Favorite Track: Part IV, Part V
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Toska "Fire By The Silos" (2018)

It should be said that Toska are worth far more than the time and words I put into their records. With the fifteen or more spins I have enjoyed of this sophomore record, there is far more to be unearthed in this organic experience of metallic aggression that straddles the lines of conventional grooving riffs with expansive atmospheres. Much like their debut Ode To The Author its another journey through progressive song structures and Post-Metal soundscapes that stir emotions in quite passageways and erupt with momentous grooves of burly guitars masquerading a sonic prowess.

Its instrumental nature provokes thought and reflection, an album for introspection broken up by surges of head banging goodness. Its play on words, open and closing tracks, hint at a greater theme. For an instrumental record its concepts arise with the title track as vocal samples enter the fold. A mans voice lays out themes of societal and personal struggles, alike a 1984 state, his frustrations are laid bare in abandon.

The theme is resurgent again with its ten minute closer of dark ambience from inside the machine. The flickering of electricity, the hum of mind control, backwards voices and a propagandist message read over the speaker phone. Its a remarkably vivid song full of whispers and conspiracy, a sensory experience and great way to close the record. Ataraxy before it is another piece isolated from the norm, a gorgeously sombre, stunning piano piece to send chills down the spine.

Overall, Fire By The Silos is a fantastic record with a dark commentary of humanity, somehow reaching out through its instrumental scenery, although perhaps not on first listen. Having set a high bar, it leaps into the upper regions with its two tracks that break the norm and end the record with a remarkable imprint to remember it by.

Favorite Tracks: Fire By The Silos, Ataraxy, The Heard
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Tool "Salival" (2000)

I decided that our dive into the world of Tool would be a complete one, at that means covering this live album cobbled together with a couple of "outtakes" from the Ænima sessions. Taken from different shows, the live performances show the band are truly capable of illuminating their music on a stage for an audience. Picking the lengthiest of jams, four of these songs alone make up a blistering forty seven minutes as they jam out the psychedelic sections with a sprinkle of elongated atmospheric magic.

Part Of Me from the 72826 demo is explosive, a three minute romp of unleashed, immediate energy and anger, a highlight but a total contrast to the dense atmospheric tracks that it runs against. You Lied is another highlight as a big, stomping, sludgy guitar riff hurls itself from the shadows with strong Melvins and Sabbath vibes, a great riff to stick in the mind. Beside the strength of the live music, the extras seem dull, not even in comparison, just a one minute interlude parallel to that heard on Ænima.

The Led Zepplin cover is a fascinating one tho, they do manage to transform the track into a Tool alike beast but its final experiment of harsh Industrial pounding and helpline recorded messages just grinds out the listening experience. Its a halfway album but I really think they could of ditched the bonus material and stuck to a traditional live album and that would of been fantastic, the other stuff feels like a distraction. This record has however got me very excited to the prospect of seeing them live!

Rating: 5/10