Friday, 14 June 2019

Windows96 "One Hundred Mornings" (2018)


I've always maintained a key interest in Vapourwave, the Internet's own truly international and border-less music scene. The unfortunate problem is quality. This is a genre plagued by low effort releases, often hinged around pitch shifted and time stretched re-sampling. It makes discovery hard but luckily Ive found this Brazilian musician who operates under the Windows96 pseudonym. They have the theming and aesthetics down and I'm happy to report the music is there too!

One Hundred Mornings gets off to a reasonable start with slightly off kilt drum arrangements and quirky synth tones taking up most of the focus. It builds atmosphere and steadily lures one into its particular vibe, a mesh of nostalgia tones and childish wonder. Its kitsch snippets of obscure cartoon sounds bouncing of the multiple layers of resonant synths has it start with its magic muffled somewhat.

As the song Visions I kicks in, the samples draw back and a lead instrument whirls around, dancing in the winds above its clunky drum groove and blocky baseline. Its here that the record gets into a stride, unleashing inspiring melodies and swelling with emotions. Its wobbly keyboards and murky low fidelity tricks find a warm cohesion where the aesthetic and music really start to compliment one another.

The pivot feels somewhat inspired by 80s Synthpop, the chord arrangements and notations of Bliss seeming almost like a Tears For Fears song re imagined through a new set of sounds. Its a very enjoyable record, warm uplifting mellow moods through the lens of nostalgia play, acting as if it resides in a infatuated past. The off kilt and sample oriented components don't hit home as hard but when the real musical composition comes through it shines bright in these lovely surges of swooning melody.

Favorite Tracks: Visions I, Bliss, Rituals
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Hunt The Dinosaur "Dankosaurus" (2019)


Ive been anticipating this one and boy has it delivered! My recent discovery of this comical Extreme Metal outfit through youtube led me to their reasonable self titled EP. Five years on the group flourish on their promise with a refined approach to the music that is both fun, brutal, ridiculous and absurd. Their sound is a monstrosity in itself, a post-Deathcore Djent hybrid focused on unhinged and unconventional grooves, subverting expectations and further abstracting already outlandish ideas.

Its utterly ridiculous lyricism extends into the music as many Djent riffing styles and Deathcore Breakdowns are blown out of proportion to an amusing degree of delight. Its a well produced album with utterly slamming low end guitar texture and crisp punching drums that rock ear bleeding riffs alongside the mammoth screams and guttural howls. Its ultra slick union signifies a real intent to push these ideas further down the gutter and its fair to say they pull it off with an absolute roaring flair.

Vocalist Hunter Madison's raspy scream raps are an utter delight, totally deranged and unique, he sounds dangerously manic, unleashing throaty raps that hurl themselves at the listener. Its a textural treat of aesthetic and rapid flow but lyrically its a bankrupt self indulgence of excesses expressed through blunt and filthy language that has me thinking he may just be deadly serious at time. The record kicks off holding back the rap aspect and as the songs roll on we get more and more of it.

The instrumentals don't budge from the brutal formula. Sporadic use of screeching guitar noise and jarring electronics keep it flavorful and exciting but Hunter's rhymes seem to come across more and more like a mumble rapper words. Simplistic lyricism and excessive vulgarity, drug abuse and misogyny dominate the songs in the back end. As a comical parody they are amusing but as a serious earnest expression its somewhat foul. Despite that one hiccup based on my personal preference this is a solid debut from a band who are backing attention grabbing ideas with solid music.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 10 June 2019

Arkhtinn "最初の災害" (2018)


Putting an end to their sequential roman numeral releases seems fitting as the French artist Arkhtinn dispels composition issues that often stunted the flow of the last few records. Its quite the feat to create fluid songs at twenty minutes of length and with this release we are treated to two full Metal tracks, the ambient half being ditched which is probably for the best given their mediocrity. The Japanese title translates "First Disaster" of which the two tracks are first and second. Its another plunge into the depths of darkness, hurtling through the nothingness on a roller coaster of intensity.

Once again the production advances with a crisper tone but one that is notably sharp and angular. I never felt like I quite adjusted to it and the muddiness that emerges in the wall of sound. It is however perfectly capable of birthing the cold astral void the music roars from beyond. Its main vocal component is a wretched howling shriek mixed slightly above the over instruments. Its cutting, a little grating, just two things that jerk the ears in an otherwise excellent musical experience. Both songs tend to elongate the process, where VI blitzed through its riffs and arrangements these two tracks stretch them out and pace the progression leading to many satisfying out bursts of conclusion after the intense pummeling. It should be said though this works far better as background music. When giving it your soul focus the cycling of sections can go on for minutes and the intense blast beats and guitar shredding feels like a drone.

That is mostly true of the first song though. On the second I only recall two moments of the Darkspace chug guitars stomping into the fold. It actually feels rather welcome after twenty five minutes of relentless fire. Its this song that has more experimental wonder to it. The glistening astral synths get to peak through a little more and some "evil riff" guitar work reminds me fondly of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia in places as it breaks up the blast beats and give the song some dynamism to its flow. The song has a greater range of peaks and really goes out on a high with its ascending cascading chord progressions in the final quarter. It is really this song along the makes the record special, the first pales in comparison. Can't wait to see whats next!

Favorite Track: 二番
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Radiant Mind & Steve Roach "HelioSphere" (2019)


In need of indulgent ambiences and meditative music I turned to Steve Roach again, who has an large and extensive collection of records under his belt at now 64 years of age. Dreamtime Return had, excuse the pun, returned to my consciousness, setting a spiritual atmosphere for my yoga practice. Looking for a new flavor I picked out this collaboration with Radiant Mind. Eight tracks and sixty four minutes of calm and soothing, gentle streams of sound to evoke peace and reflection. Its all steady and linear, temporal music stripped of event and urgency. All chapters offer different pallets and arrangements of synths and reverberation conjuring safe and warm atmospheres that also feel a fraction of mystery as an astral component blesses the music. One can feel the stars graciously drifting by in the stillness it masters with its layers of yawning, hazy sound drifting in and out of focus, just a grasp away.

The seventh track takes a slight and welcome detour from this construct. Ironically similar to Yagya, who's new Stormur release I recently covered, it has a pulse from start to end, a subdued dub beat gently droning its monotone pulse through the spine of the song. It adds a little pace and movement to the track as a key instrument lingers around the attention it draws, coming in and out of focus like the breath. Like the other songs there is little progression to the sound design yet the beat gives it a sense of presences the others don't have. It stands in contrast but works in the overall run time which is less about a bigger picture and more about minutes in which to loose your thoughts to the persuasive calmness. Its a simple and effective formula executed well enough to reach that space and feeling of inner peace.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Old Tower "Finsterströmung" (2019)


From disappointment to delight, today we have a release Id been anticipating for some time. In the few days since its released Ive binged and enjoyed every moment of the mysterious and esoteric experience. It is the first new project from Old Tower this year and the second of the "grim alchemy trilogy"... Ill admit that made me chuckle for some time. The first chapter was Drachenblut and like it, three dark and meditative tracks are assembled for a short plunge into a conspiratorial loneliness of abandoned hallways and crumbling ruins where mischief lurks beyond the shadows.

There is a clearer sense of voicing than I remember, as the artist moves further away from the core styling of Dungeon Synth. Once again choral synths are woven in with deep reverberations and atmospheric vibrations. In the mix a monk like voice sounds lost in between layers of foggy sound on Saturn's Essence. It has a menacing pace as strikes of drums echoing from the deep create an unsettling presence lurking in the beyond, keeping one on edge. The following title track is my favorite, the construct is similar but a lighter tone dominates as bells and star like synth glisten with a dark magical energy. Given the trilogy name, it is this track I can most envision some musky robed magician hunched over a messy workbench of chemicals and jars of animal parts. Its not a striking image but it would suit the musics pallet.

Moonchamber sees out the short project on the most minimal of tracks. It builds slowly to the mid point where more voicing come into play as the monk returns. They are now cries from the depth lingering on a collapse into the darkness. The ambiguity here plays a fantastic roll in capturing a moment not fully immeresed in darkness and that is what I like most about Old Tower. How the evil in the music isn't overplayed, its used to explore a wider sense of mystery in darkness. This progression more towards Dark Ambient is fantastic and these three new songs are too, can't wait for the final chapter now!

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 7 June 2019

Yagya "Stormur" (2019)


Excitement and exception falls flat on its face as I rush to pick up a record without a pause to hear it first. Yagya has been a frequent "go to" for a particular mood, the steady pacing, ambient energy and dreamy atmospheres are blissful in the right setting, even calming. This time around the formula has changed, a pivot back towards roots in Dub, Techno and IDM music leaves us with a record more alike a Tangerine Dream album than Brian Eno. The opening couple of tracks have the distinctive soft and airy synths, cushioning the monotone beat and slowly melting into a dreamy atmosphere. It takes off where Sleepygirl left but not for long.

With each track the layer of warm and tranquil synths seem to slip out of focus as the underlying drive of Dub beats seem to become the main narrative. With an unhealthy amount of repetition the musics elongated moments seems to ploy around the microscopic details of the beat and its synths that latch closely. Inflection, tone and volume morphs and transmutes with the occasional kick removal offering up the only variety. Its at this point the songs drone on with that Tangerine Dream quality of winding meandering synths. Its dull, the record may possesses degrees of composure but its long strolls through winding beat manipulation suck out any magic it musters in brief moments. A real disappointment, not my cup of tea that is for sure.

Rating: 2/10

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Violet Cold "Magic Night" (2016)


Hailing from Azerbaijan and claiming to be an "AI simulated music project", this beautifully bleak and tranquil take on Atmospheric Black Metal doesn't gain any special quality from its claimed origins. The aesthetic no doubt is a work of human ear. The shrill tremolo guitar, gently cushioned by reverb, is mixed sweetly alongside deeply uplifting choral synths of awe and wonder. The drums push blast beats on occasion but mostly fall back on half paces with lots of pedal work, holding down a driving tempo for the synths and guitars to create a wash of astral, serene noise to indulge in. Accompanying pianos and glossy synthetic instruments cut through wall of buffering sound to add lead melodies and thematic progressions through rather minimal use of melody as the songs repeat many sections over and over.

Despite its highly repetitive nature and a lack of vocals to shape up passageways, its aesthetic construct is so luscious and intoxicating one will simply drift into the blissful existential beauty. Where does the AI come into this? I suspect that many melodies and drum patterns may have been generated through music tools and stitched together where appropriate. At its core this is very simple and repetitive music but its keen aesthetic design and concepts, like breaking up its wall of sound with piano, interludes keep the music interesting as that uplifting state is returned to after respites. For Amelie may be an exception, a classical piano piece reminding me of VNV Nation melodies and a hint of Chopin too, its hard to think of this song as composed by AI.

The record sustains this blissful construct throughout. Despite a lack of diversity in progression, its shifts in synth tone and varying assembly of the same formula work. The question for me now is how long does this hold up? And where do I find more? This has a similar tone to Saor and Kauan, it could even signal a sub-sub genre within Post-Black Metal. Superb record, almost meditative at times, toning back the aggression from the drums would probably serve it wells as its best passing moments are always on the half beats when the music mellows out and cruises along.

Favorite Tracks: Everything You Can Imagine Is Real, Sea, Silver Moon, Last Day On Earth
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Alice In Chains "Alice In Chains" (1995)


With a distinct shift in style from the likes of Dirt and Facelift, American Grunge and Metal outfit Alice In Chains throw a lot at the wall but little sticks. This self titled release has a clear artistic intention to not repeat themselves, however most of the differing ideas still feel experimental and without cohesion. Most of the music slips into a sludgier, gritty tone with a slow Doom Metal like tempo and atmosphere dominating the vibe. Its on these tracks like the opening Grind we hear a stylistic template that would stay with them to this day. The other half of songs unfortunately fall folly to this lack of glue in the experimentation as some ideas don't gel well.

Its Staley's last studio album with the band and he is somewhat subdued with a lack of those roaring hooks that would soar and sink into you like an infection. His voice is strong and capable but mostly matches the tone of these droning tracks. There are some clear experiments to reach new avenues with his singing, trying different inflections, Nothin' Song being a clear example of both lyric and execution feeling far from the grain. This also extends to Cantrell's riffing style too, mostly its temperate, slowed and washed out grooves creating slow sludgy grooves but these inflections of Country tang and Blues Rock feel off beat when they cut in suddenly.

There is a lot of good, slow moving and moody music here but the chemistry isn't ripe. If this were by another band I may have enjoyed it more however the bar had been set so high. There is also this linger feeling in the music that the band later nailed these sludgy concepts after finding DuVall. Its context given the year may yield it more significance in terms of originality but as we reach the end of this little revivalist journey I am left a little disappointed. It has its moments but at sixty five minutes you have to wade through lengthy songs winding around the main theme to find them.

Favorite Tracks: Brush Away, Head Creeps, God Am
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 2 June 2019

My Friday At All Points East Festival

 It was Scarlord and Run The Jewels that lured me to Victoria Park for another day at a London Festival. Little did I know what an amazing day of music was awaiting for me among a handful of bands, mostly from the UK, that Id barely heard of before! Good weather and decent festival food made for a good outing that will have me picking up more records than I can listen to as per usual!
 

Scarlxrd
Arriving a little late for the opening act the day kicked off with a booming performance. Scarlxrd and his DJ have a crazy amount of energy on stage. The two went bonkers on stage, exhausting every drop of their youthful energy with wild antics. The DJ makes no mask of the fact he is simply hitting the play button most the time, leaving the decks to rock out with comical expression and a self aware humor that was enduring. Scar's scream raps were electrifying and the whole show felt like a bomb had gone off! I knew it would be special and it was.


Employed To Serve
 Tight UK Hardcore with a hint of Deathcore in the mix. These guys turned up and rocked out hard counter grooves, throw downs and slams with a fair degree of individuality. Not something to sweep you off your feet but they certainly put together a great show and kept the music rolling strong. Their new song Force Fed was killer!


Alice Glass
 With a brief listen on Youtube I thought I wouln't enjoy this so much but something about live music makes it easier to digest. Alice had a timid and lonely presence on stage that made mountains of sense to the tone of Her esoteric and ethereal take on noise, glitch and electronica. It had an engrossing atmosphere held firmly together by the driving beats of the drummer. Great show.


Yonaka
My engagement was a little subdued by chowing down on some hot food but standing at a distance I could really appreciate her voice. What initially seemed like fluffy Pop Rock turned out to have some subtlety diverse influences and quality composition that made for very enjoyable and inviting music with her voice being the main pull.


IDLES
 Arriving a little late and looking for a spot in the shade to sit It didn't take long for IDLES to suck me in. Lead vocalist Joe Talbot grabs attention with his plain spoken style, deadpan sense of humor that sticks to his liberal political views that dominate crowd interaction between songs. As the songs delve into marching repetitions of percussion led Industrial Rock and Post-Punk grooves, he again brings forth thought and commentary that aligns with a somewhat frustrated overtone.


Sleeping With Sirens
Not exactly my cup of tea but live most things sound decent and this Pop Rock group were alright. From a distance I watched as they burned through bright and glossy rock songs with a tinge of Metal attitude in places. Lots of pretty melodic overtones akin to Metalcore too, was a good listen.


Nothing By Thieves
Possibly the most impressive show from the bands I knew not of. Brooding music, building its momentum to climactic outbursts resonated through the incredible voice of Conor Mason. You could really see the feeling in his performance, strong and emotional Rock music with an experimental edge in their slightly disjointed rhythm guitars. Great set.


While She Sleeps
As the sun came out in full force I found myself hanging back in the shades. Reasonable timing since I knew what I was in for, a banging Hardcore, Metalcore, Deathcore hybrid with strong melodic overtones. I'd seen them before and I wasn't pulled in any closer despite them having some strong moments in the set, it didn't appeal to me all that much.


Run The Jewels
I had waited all day for Run The Jewels, this would of been the forth time seeing them. The sound was garbage right at the front so I dropped back and the Hip Hop duo were phenomenal once again. Their music translates wonderfully live. I love how the set transitions from hard bangers into the deeper, moving and meaningful songs. They put a message to their performance and it went by in a flash. Best of the day by far!


Architects
 Chowing down on some hot Paella De Veduras I lurked at the back and once again Architects blew me away with an amazing live show. I still don't know how I'm yet to pick up a record of theirs, Ive seen them many times now and its always a fantastic performance. Really solid, booming Metalcore with plenty of blow away riffs. They sounded sharp as ever and really put on a show.


Bring Me The Horizon
Its probably a matter of time before the once hated, dirty Deathcore goons Bring Me The Horizon will headline Download Festival. Promoting new record Amo in front of a smaller crowd they proved themselves good for a headline show with adequate set design and costumes to match. They perhaps took a bit to much time between songs and with intervals but the crowd enjoyed the interactions from front man Oli Sykes with his crazy colored eye lenses. He brought out Danni Filth in full makeup too for a brief appearance and it was great to see such a strong response for their old music as Pray For Plagues fired up mosh pits. The new music sounds great too and I was a bit gutted to leave early, walking hastily out as the music went on. Great show and I am amazed how I never realized what " Your full of sugar, honey, ice and tea" meant till its anagram was plastered on the big screen.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Beastmaker "Eye Of The Storm" (2019)


It feels like there may be a trend emerging in Metal, one of quality too. Since Ghost have risen to prominence, inklings of classic Metal ideas are resurfacing in the likes of Puppy, Green Lung & Baroness, the latter bearing a strong influence on this group. Beastmaker are a three piece outfit from California who off the back of two full lengths spent 2018 banging out ten four track EPs. That's a prolific output and this new four track is their first of the year, its also my introduction to the group. I'd also like to compliment the group on their awsum record artwork aesthetics, a sharpened revival of 60s satanic horror defined by high contrast and bold use of selected de-saturated colors. Its fantastic and a really alluring, eye grabbing style that brought me to them.

The bands music is a hybrid of "traditional" and Doom Metal. A raw, gristly distortion lays down temperate, forward moving chunks of rhythm and melody over equally gritty and fuzzing baselines. The two link up at times like a pair of rhythm guitars, gnarly in the deep end and smoothing out into the higher notes. It allows them to sound like a four piece when the solos light up like a rocket. They have all the makings of classic styles, taking off with an eruption to capture your attention and swoon with their colorful presence. The music also deploys timely bells and synth elements, not over played, sounding very natural. Its a little ugly with its power chords but as classic Iron Maiden like leads come to fruition it finds a magic driving through with its melody licks.

As said before its mainly on the singing style that Baroness have a influence on singer Church. Something about the inflections, timing of delivery and strains on his voice feels strikingly alike to Baizley. The trio have a vibe and with creepy, Horror and Occult inspired lyricism. It brews a fun, expressive stage of theatrics, very much contained within the musics setting. These songs play out with strong fundamentals. A good ear for riffs and linking them together in solid structures that often play into melodic breaks that evolve into solos or climaxes. Its pure Metal and they rock their niche well. I will have to have a poke around through their now extensive collection of records for something else of interest as I do very much enjoy this classic, revivalist sound!

Favorite Tracks: Eye Of The Storm, My Only Wish
Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Tyler The Creator "Igor" (2019)


There is no doubt that Tyler is in an evolutionary stride as an artist. Two years off the back of the widely acclaimed Scum Fuck Flower Boy he returns with a similar tone and sense of theater that's channeled into a vulnerable, personal space. Its bold musical fun, flourishing with feeling, flowing with creativity and taking inspiration from classic Soul and R&B, the likes you might hear on Motown. These are just some specific moments though, it all comes through the filter of Tyler's quirky, synthetic world. Playful melodies and jiving percussive lines of intentional groove are a constant pleasure as we stroll into his oddball dreamworld of emotional pains.

The albums lyrical theme is bold and dominating. Relationships, breakups and the hardships of his love life surface through wording that feels fractions away from classic love songs. Its always shaded by these quirky compositions that imbued a playful, innocent, off-color harmony heard through its colorful instrumentation and singing. Sung wordings, talked raps or pitch shifted voices, Tyler vents his frustrations and heart aches with a raw authenticity, illuminating his organic and vivid backing tracks. The two just melt together effortlessly and make for a distinct experience.

This record does has two flavors to it. Many of the tracks play with bold, almost cheesy synths that lay bare strong melodies, often getting mini tangents, solos and plenty of expressive outlets to pull apart the repetitive nature of Hip Hop and let the music ooze. Deeper into the album we find more sample oriented songs with 70s Soul and R&B vibes. A Boy Is A Gun, Puppet & Gone Gone pivot on these oldskool vibes with the latter reminding me of a Jackson Five chorus. When Tyler pulls it together with vocals it finds its cohesion, more so when the bold synths drop in.

These vocal approaches are a point to talk on. Many half hit notes, lackadaisical singing and off key notes exploit this place quirky, playful place where it manifests as authenticity. It plays wonderfully into this highly stylish record that feels very rooted in reality. Its a bright and gleaming light of artistic creativity and expression flowing effortlessly. He is certainly excelling as a music producer and composer, Igor has magic moments in droves. Its not all golden but its a hard record to knock down. Every time Ive spun it, I found myself completely locked into its direction.

Favorite Tracks: Igor's Theme, New Magic Wand, What's Good, I Don't Love You Anymore
Rating: 8/10