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