Monday, 9 December 2019

Aurora "Running With The Wolves" (2015)

Its has begun to dawn on me that some of the most enchanting feminine voices Ive heard in recent memory are mostly Scandinavian! Hailing from snowy Norway, Aurora Aksnes is a young singer with a simply beautiful temperament of voice, balancing strength and harmony in a striking tone you'll know as hers. She has a soaring grace and toying playfulness, so often bursting from words to melodies with a knack for infection as her tunes swiftly soak up your subconscious and dig in deep. Her performances are sublime, emanating with emotion and meaning, her soaring moments may take your attention but the soft spoken wording between the surges of power are mesmerizing too, she moves between the two with true direction. This her debut record, a short EP but one Ive adored.

Behind her, soft and spacious instrumentals flirt with electronic melodies, atmospheric synths and a percussion that broods in anticipation and unleashes momentous drive in tandem with Aurora. It swells and calms with precision, melodies never overpower and despite being mostly poppy, uplifting and welcoming their is a little bit of that northern chill breezing through. It is mainly felt in the drums. Despite being electronic in timbre, they rattle of tribal grooves in bursts of energy that feel ancestral and rooted. These are four wonderfully crafted songs, all unique, painting an authentic spiritual warmness in the places they take you to. I'm certain I will enjoy the next few records!

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Can't Swim "Foreign Language" (2019)

Released as a short twelve minute EP, the emotive Post-Hardcore group Can't Swim of Kansas Missouri take a break in stride from their albums and vent frustrations with this loud and angry outlet of channeled frustrations. It hosts an array of guests, singers who you'd presume are friends of the band, brought on to throw a little spice into this mini project. Ultimately its lyrical themes feel a bit force fed, anger led, a spewing of emotions that don't particularly add to conversational depth but certainly enforce the aggressive tone felt on the instrumentals. Police brutality, wealth inequality, evil and corruption are some of the themes delved into at the surface level.

Their melodic song writing and knack for hooks that I grew so fond of on Fail You Again tend to be the fall back in breaks from intensity. Each song has a angle that tends to push the music towards Crossover Thrash territory. Spews of gang shouts come thick and fast, reminding me fondly of Iron Reagan. A couple of ridiculous break downs play up the fun between the onslaught of thrashing guitars. As a whole it blitzes by fast with a hurtling energy as these short songs burst at the seems in aggressive mania. It does lack depth and feels somewhat novel in the shadow of a sound they execute far better but as a side projects its fun and maybe not to be taken seriously.

Favorite Track: Shoot
Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Alcest "Spiritual Instinct" (2019)

Years on from the serine glory of Les Voyages De L'Âme, I find myself poised in a spot many bands put me in when they stick with an established sound. Spiritual Instinct is French Black Metal band Alcest's sixth full length album and it predictably retains its harmony between hazy, atmospheric Black Metal and melodic Shoegazing. It sways between the darkness of cold metallic aggression and upheavals of sunny relief to birth magic in the union of previously juxtaposed musical ideas.

Its the band at their best however the now established sound fails to dig in deep, many of its songs birth the same settings and moods that have graced us before. If anything is to be said of this latest installment it is perhaps the meanest at times with guitar distortions a touch more textured and gritty. There are also a handful of plunges into the shadows as the shrill howling screams come around with more frequency between the more common middle ground of opposing styles in unison.

Sapphire and the closing title tracks do hinge into lighter territories with Post-Metal guitars loosening up the intensity for the vulnerable melodic singing to muster spurs of lush and delicate emotional movements. Protection stands out as its mid section has a fantastic building of intensity. Maniacal string swell in the background, driving the music to its highest crescendo. Perhaps the one defining moment of the whole record because otherwise it is wholly enjoyable but lacks a challenge or shift.

Favorite Track: Protection
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Fief "V" (2019)

Chapters I, II, III, IV didn't break stride with theme, timbre or temperament and V predictably continues in the same vein. Twenty eight minutes of lush, indulgent immersion in fantastical themes of medieval nostalgia, majestic magics and natural beauty. Once again an identical pallet of keyed virtual instruments programs layers of melodies on a variety of stringed instruments and airy synths. Its underpinned by a soft a subtle pace keeping bell or tambourine offering little rhythmic value or variation. Its a dull element once you pick up on it, the precise nature of these instruments already holds the tempo perfectly in their electronically perfected execution.

Its a small qualm mainly focused on because I simply have little to say I haven't already. The song titles indicate the common themes with Citadels, Mages, Dragons and Bards so there is nowhere to look for something new. The songs are beautiful and luscious, purely pleasurable for transforming an atmosphere to a positive and magical one. It simply slips right into the discography as it's songs play with the same structures. Layers build up, unravel a little and build up again with nothing unusual or progressive taking place. Whenever I want these vibrations I simple put the artist Fief on shuffle. I think next time I'd really enjoy a change in tone or direction as otherwise it will be simply more of the same, which is not a bad thing of course!

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Queen "The Works" (1984)

Far from the glory of their enigmatic origins, Queen keep stylistically challenging themselves with each project. Despite being on a dip in form, these records still throw up a classic song or two. I never thought I'd be radiating in the tone of Radio Ga Ga again. It's a childhood song now heard through adult ears with a birthed appreciation for its spacey keys, subtly Industrial drum beat and robotic baselines. The coldness between its gently simmering synths and Freddie's stunning voice when they drop out hits the reset button on its atmosphere perfectly each time, such a unique song.

It sets a mechanical undertone for whats to come in a small dose. Tear It Up retains the bold crashing drums of Arena Rock yet executed with a Industrial rigidity that will reoccur however its a moment where Brian May's roaring electric guitar riffs find unison with this mechanized experimental theme the band seem to be leaning into. Once again however, its only fully realized on Machines, a track with gittery synths and digital electronic tones in the vein of a Kraftwork b-side. The reset of the record tends to fall into the typical established styles that Queen like to dabble with.

Man On The Prowl simply sounds like a glossy piano led version of Rockabily track Crazy Little Thing Called Love. To be fair though these other songs bring the energy, Hammer To Fall resurrects the classic Queen sound with a touch of class as once again Brian May's electricity just lands well with his band mates, unlike on Hot Space. It seems that something was brewing among the drumming and robotic use of electronics on this album but it falls into the eclecticism of styles the band hinge on, leaving it short of something defining. It feels routine, despite being really enjoyable.

Favorite Tracks: Radio Ga Ga, Tear It Up, Keep Passing The Open Window, Hammer To Fall
Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Logic "Young Broke Infamous" (2010)

My mind has been blown... It's actually been over a year since our last Logic album here on the blog. How time flies. Having felt the itch for more Logic and to get back on track with the journey through his discography, we arrive at what I thought was his first mixtape, however the lyrical content and affirmations held within make it clear this is not his introduction to the world. With a little research I've found that took place under the name Psychological, a name you hear on the opening track.

With so many hours of his sound digested already its rather difficult to distinguish what makes these records stand apart from one another. The reality is they don't, it's become a blur. These early mixtapes recycle his common lyrical, emotional themes and instrumental approaches, especially with the straight rapping over classic beats, something he pulls off with an endearing flavor. Lord Finesse's Hip To The Game, Outkast's ATLiens and even Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. Like before, these tend to be my favorite tracks but he saves his best rhymes for them I sware.

Logic's production does however throw together a reasonable ensemble of beats. They incorporate some electronic synth tones of the times and also throw back to the 90s with unoriginal beats. They are mostly tone setters, little leaps off the page other than his words. At 20 his vocal talent is still undeniable but his output a little unfiltered, lacking curation. Some immature and obvious rhymes crop up on occasion but its mostly in a good vein. My problem is simply over saturation of his sound. I'm sure had I gone through these records in the other direction the progression to his current greatness would be more obvious. His album are miles ahead from here.

Rating: 5/10
Favorite Tracks: Nothing But A Hero, Young Sinatra, Backpack, Wordplay, Back And Forth

Monday, 25 November 2019

Fairyland "Score To A New Beginning" (2009)

Concluding our journey through the French Power Metal band's original trilogy of records, this final chapter remedies the vocal horrors of The Fall Of An Empire with a new approach to personal. Guest vocalists arrive in droves to color the music in a tapestry of voices. Theatric, occasionally operatic and frequently choral, male and effeminate singing lavishes this record with neither Elise Martin from Of Wars In Osyhria or Maxime Leclercq returning. The result is a pleasant one, an enjoyable variety of approaches typical to the genre, theatrical and empirical within its fantasy story telling setting which plays out in tales of war, exploration and adventure.

All Ive said before applies again, this record straddles the line between its previous two approaches yet didn't spark quite the magic I first heard on their debut. Gleaming triumphant music glistens again with uplifts and swells of glory and might as the music constantly ascends in a pursuit of epic it lands fairly well. Its a bit slow to get going but around A Soldier's Letter and Godsent it finds a stride. Its lavish and its symphonic component is usually the main propellant of its momentum through the record.

All the elements are there. The recording is gorgeous and instruments beaming with energy and color. Haven given it many spins I am not sure why it didn't stick. Perhaps the impact of a new sound has worn off, or maybe the songwriting wasn't quite there, despite seemingly like brilliant executions of fantasy driven Symphonic Power Metal with progressive structures. Score To A New Beginning ends up being one of those albums I can't criticize but just didn't quite click with as a whole experience, there are undoubtedly favorites in the track listing though.

Rating: 6/10
Favorite Tracks: Assult On The Shores, A Soldier's Letter, Godsent

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Queen "Hot Space" (1982)

Quirky, camp and kooky, Hot Space flips the deck as legends Queen make a hard pivot away from their roots in Rock, embracing Pop, Funk, Disco and Electronic music with a stern boldness. The Andy Warhol aesthetic is a perfect fit and I can't help but feel this wouldn't of been well received at the time. Retrospectively I wonder what sort of influence it had on acts at the time. Michael Jackson often sighted Queen and Freddy as a big influence are on this record we hear Queen approach the crisp, sharp instruments at hand similar to how MJ would on records like Bad and Dangerous.

All the instruments, drum included, are snappy and swift. Its all about bold punchy tones, rigid mechanical timings and simple arrangements drawing on the stark aesthetic style. One can hear all elements clear and divisible, the music is boiled down to a simple form. Brian May's guitar licks then haphazardly cringe and collide with these clean and slick sounds, often crashing in, amidst an attempt to elevate the moment. Mercury tends to suffer the stylistic approach as his muted singing repeats dull phrases the themes hinge on however his high pitch singing on the caribbean laid back track Cool Cat is simply sublime. The track before it isn't half bad too, Las Palabras De Amor, however it feels like a rehashing of Teo Torriatte. Maybe its just the foreign language selling that angle.

The track Back Chat reminds me heavily of a Daft Punk song. Just had to say that. As the record draws on the group find their natural ecclesiastic breaking free as their diverse set of styles come back around, fusing with the new approach and offering up their typical set of alternatives. It leaves the album meandering its way towards the Under Pressure hit with David Bowie, a timeless collaboration. Its a diamond in the rough. Hot Space is terrible because its just not good enough. Queen overreach and produce something that doesn't sit right with them. It would be a tolerable album if they stuck to the plan but its when their prior sound leaks in that the music suffers.

Favorite Tracks: Cool Cat, Under Pressure
Rating: 3/10

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Kanye West "Jesus Is King" (2019)

Always one to have a spectacle made of his life, Kanye has transcended from the madness of his own statements and pressures of the media questioning his mental health to this point in time. Reverence of God, solace in Christianity, he has indoctrinated himself for a salvation that's manifested into his music. This transition, theme and worship splits the record in two. The lyrical and conceptual side is an incoherent reactionary ramble, seemingly an emotional response to the mounting pressures of the bright limelight aimed on him at all times. Many of the themes and words seem lacking in depth and the bluntness of him appraising God for the reasoning behind his extraordinarily expensive merchandise has him scraping the barrel of substance, even is his cadence and singing is warming, digging into his words often has little to offer beyond atypical themes and words of worship, however the influence of church music to his instrumentals is strongly enjoyable.

On the other hand of production, we have Kanye creating amazing songs again. They come together like fractured pieces, a collage of musical ideas that resonate remarkably on the individual level. As an album in tends to jump all over the place but loaded with what he does best, I can't complain. Kanye has always had a knack for vocalization in the harmony of his music. Now with elements of Gospel and Psychedelic production armed, he produces swells of swooning voices. Manipulation and synthetic tonal instruments runs us through a gauntlet of indulgent music of praise with a Hip Hop flavor. That in itself often drops out as sparse use of beats becomes noticeable in the last few songs of the record. The vocals alone carry the music from start to end. Hands On in particular has a backbone of trippy vocal inflections.

At twenty seven minutes in continues the trend of short and sweet. This time its fractured nature, the issues and delays leading up to its release, gives the impression of an unfinished project. Even in this form his genius shines through these gorgeous organic compositions of inspired singing. Kanye to getting in on the act, letting his voice break on God Is was an endearing touch but again the hallow feeling of his fleeting to religion for consolation leaves the power of his performance purely in his own court. Its not something I can relate too yet the musical experience is wonderful. A very polarizing album, I'm glad I gave it plenty of time because it tends to give more the deeper you get into it. After many spins I still want more!

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Queen "Flash Gordon" (1980)

Its been a while since I covered the last Queen record, reality is Id only given this a handful of spins. Its been rather unappealing. Of the rare occasions I have indulged, I would find myself bored by its shifts and sudden turns if it were not for the mere spectacle of a band pinned into a creative corner. I don't know much of the backstory here, or how the music relates to the movie itself. I'd prefer to keep that a mystery as it plays like a band attempting to be drastically different but constants leave them unable to flesh out experimental ideas and directions.

The theme song for Flash is a classic, no doubt. Ive heard it many times but it makes a poor jump off point for the record as it never returns to that intensity and thematic richness until the very last songs. The biggest stirs of energy often spark from the themes erroneous rehashing back into future songs. Sporadic bursts of synthesizer zaps and symphonic upheavals reign out between lines of dialog that feel disconnected and bizarre in nature. Its hard to envision it being the direct soundtrack, more of a project trying to use the movie for an isolated soundtrack experience, either way its pretty disastrous.

So far I've been harsh and of the nice things I can say they are mostly little musical moments that occur on occasion yet do next to nothing in making the whole thing work. Brian May's metallic guitar stirs some rocking riotous energy on Football Fight, they command direction over the racing beat lined with gaudy synths. The audio samples in this case build up a tension but the song just dissipates without any conclusion and lapses back into a lull as seemingly unconnected spacey astral synths take over. It could of evolved into something but these songs lack progression.

The synths remind me of In The Space Capsule where the those nebulous synth tones provoke quite the mystique atmosphere. Once again though, its all to disconnected as the music meanders with sudden shfts. From here, many of its one to two minute compositions have interesting aesthetics and quirky sparks of chemistry but its all littered between sharp turns in tone and audio snippets that it becomes hard to follow along with. Battle Theme would be a great example of the band doing what they do best however the song is hampered by sticky laser zaps and ear grating synths that rub against the slick guitars.

It is perhaps possible to love this record for all its quirkiness, shifts in direction and musical experiments. For me I couldn't escape how its attempt to be some form of soundtrack was hindering the flow of ideas. Things were rarely fleshed out and when the music was calling out for some progressive story telling and journeying of the sounds, it felt forced and hurried along, as if sticking to a strict schedule. Poor record, It hasn't convinced me to see the movie although I am morbidly curious now as to how the two are related.

Favorite Tracks: Flash's Theme, Football Fight, The Hero
Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Front Line Assembly "Wake Up The Coma" (2019)

Having enjoyed the Canadian Electro-Industrial pioneer's recent Warmech soundtrack, I thought I'd tune in for a regular record. Right off the bat I have to say their is a lot of mediocrity at play, a passable record as background music but not mustering up much excitement in the forefront bar a few good compositions. Ive given it many listens over the months since its release but its failed to grab me, I can't be to critical though, its not terrible, just all too average to make itself known.

Far from the jolty, harsh and rigid machinations of their origins, FLA's slick production gives a modern aesthetic touch. Tight synth arrangements and punchy drum machines have a competent amount of variety and detail to bolster up the core components that build dystopian, mechanical atmospheres. Voices take on a mix of whispered cries soaked in echos and alien distortions, all playing into the altered human persona much of its charisma resides within. There are many breaks in flow, often using the textural tones of synths and clattering drum sounds to orchestrate physical, Industrial movements but its rarely exciting in anyway.

Most the songs tend to circle a theme. Progression don't amount to much and most of the tracks start where they end in terms of tone and setting. That's why I think its failed to get a grip on me. It does run into a few gaudy moments, the lyrical pondering of making love to an alien on Living A Lie is mostly an amusing line for a hook. Nick Holmes turns it around in the next track, lending his voice for a fantastic chorus on the title track. That's about all I have to say, its all a bit too routine, lacking spice.

Favorite Track: Wake Up The Coma
Rating: 4/10