Sunday, 3 July 2022

Malcolm Horne "Mending" (2022)


Shedding the antiquities of Jazz Hop's established union of styles, this third stroke rids itself of percussive burdens. No longer hinged on crunking snare kick grooves and subtle boom bap rhythms, Mending arrives at the source of inspiration. An orchestra of instruments croon. Luscious, resonate and gently woven they harmonize at a place of healing. Soft airy reverbs and atmosphere indulge as soothing calm sweeps over every track. Minimal, spacious percussive lines subtly hold tempo, an evolution felt between Infinity & Volume II. With Mending, a conclusion of that trajectory is met. Malcolm accomplishes inspired moods free from shackles of the genres tropes.

The delicacy of performance is a delight. We are spoiled to baselines hinged on texture and feel, over power and force. Many instruments follow suit, perusing, swaying with persuasion. Capturing the essence, a symphony of minimalist parts amassing a serine outcome. Mending's warm calm is evening sunlight, the yawning death of a beautiful day. Cool airs breeze by, so welcoming in its gentle demeanor. This outing is an inspired refinement on the instrumental magic heard twice before.

Nothing is perfect and for all the praises, Mending does serve its conventions to sooth and relax with formulas. On inspection, the looped nature of compositions emerged, highlighted by instrumental drop ins and outs, a key song structure utilized. Lead instruments are often absent, leaving space in the music for a voice to shine through.

The moments where a guitar solo steps up are grooving, variation aids its purpose. Like before though, they cropped up before fade outs. Grander directions would be very welcome but perhaps not as suited as one might imagine. Lastly, the Synthwave and 80s Synthpop influences are amiss. Constellations treats us to this charm again but its brief stay perhaps signals the style no longer has a place. Quite a shame as I enjoyed this take greatly yet its absence makes sense given what Mending is, a cohesive record of introspective healing. This is definitely my favorite of the three.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Tamaryn "Cranekiss" (2015)


It took but one listen of Cranekiss's euphoric Shoegazing title track to win me over. Spotify's algorithm has figured me out! Serving up a slice of the finest Dream Pop, I felt the warm fuzzy charms of Cocteau Twins alongside an effeminate apparition resonating an eerie similarity to Erin of Autumn's Grey Solace. Those heavenly fragile breathy voicings, ascending over top the bustling baselines and stiff drum machine grooves gave me chills. The song is awash with shimmering reverbs its melodies get lost in. Best of all, the song comes in hard with dense bendy effect drenched guitars, a fond reminder of ideas introduced with My Bloody Valentine's influential Loveless.

Cranekiss is an 80s love letter. Its aesthetics rears the nostalgia with a lean grip. The brilliant song writing captures all the charms of Art Pop and modern conventions. On its venture, the crevasses of influences part. Post-Punk, Ethereal, Synth Pop and all others mentioned so far unravel on catchy songs ripe with stark punchy melodies woven through a dreamy web of ever shifting reverberated sounds. The wonderfully indulged singing makes for many a memorable chorus on the Cranekiss journey.

 With a strong Electronic maturity in composition and execution, Tamaryn reaches into the past for inspirations, shedding her music of any cheese and dates ideas. Although it lacks originality at every turn, the nostalgia dance is a beautiful one. Its vague and shapeless rumblings create a mask for potent percussive grooves and dazzling instruments to punch through, best of all her voice sits central to all the wonder.

Its emotions are powerful, a curious love, often emanating a contagious warmth yet peering off into ambiguous moods of unsettled footing. As the album plays its deviations and themes keep the tone flowing with fantastic cuts Softcore and Sugarfix to be found towards its conclusion. The last of which has an uncanny resemblance to Elizabeth Fraser's wordless musings, followed by a lush, smothering choral hook.

I've sung Cranekiss's praises. That's because all its avenues of sound touch on my favorite ideas within these overlapping genres. It has a handful of songs a grade above the rest but not every track needs to be a hit when the mood flows so slick. It may lack surprises but the main show is the excellence in which ideas from a few decades back are executed. For me, this will be a great record to return too.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Kalandra "Beneath The Breaking Waves" (2017)


Seeking more of The Line's immense serine soundscapes has led me here. Beneath The Breaking Waves is lacking its keen persuasion. After many spins, the scent ruminates like a "warmup" EP, a group finding their footing. Released three years prior to their debut, the magic is either sequestered of lacking entirely. Don't get me wrong, this folksy six track charmer cruises in a parallel lane but the chemistry is yet to be arrived upon. Each musician brings beautiful sounds, textures and craft to their parts.

Lacking the drive to swell and croon together like a symphony, much of the music lays its ideas bare. Padded by interludes and gentle atmosphere building, the feistier surges and potent melodies are brief sparks in fields swept by the drab calms that simmer in their own quietness. Unlike the experience of encroaching growth that came with each listen on The Line, these tracks tired quickly. It seems the components are in place but missing an inspiration to bring Kalandra to life, I'm glad they found it.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 27 June 2022

Tiamat "Clouds" (1992)


My metallic ventures of late have leaned towards nostalgia. This path however, id not previously indulged with. Uncovering this European scene of melodic Gothic Doom and gloom, unearthed parallels capture much of my attention as the tapestry of influence enriches. Yet to devise the matured atmospheres of Wildhoney, Clouds builds on the heals of Thrash Metal. Its weaker songs burdened by the tempo and intensity of the 80s scene, a hangover needing a cure. The dusky keys and tuneful melancholy struggles with reflexive sways into choppy aggro and sluggish groove.

Magic emerges when its macabre themes blossom. Funeral synths and grievous melodies paint its Gothic graveyard blues vividly. The record finds stride with songs like The Sleeping Beauty as its distortion guitars lean into the lurching terror Doom Metal. In other chapters the spell is broken by pivoting guitar solos. They wail dazzling flushes of theatric on the gallop of thrashing riffs and doubled drumming tempos.

To my ears, Clouds suffers its influences. Aching from within beautiful, inspired song writing emerging stiffly in its calm and dark temperaments. Stitched together through tropes not quite suited this vision, my ears can't help but linger on the disparities. One of which is Edlund's wretched poetic "cleanish vocal" readings and lightweight guttural growls, the latter of which surprisingly suited the dreary cumbersome tone.

In brief glimpses, its keys yawn similar to a favorite of mine, Always... I especially loved the arrangements utilizing cheap and effect Casio keyboard tones for its Gothic cast. I wouldn't consider Clouds great but It seems fitting that adoration can be bestowed if discovered in the right time. For me, that probably would of been in my youth when reveling over Cradle Of Filth's starkly Gothic take on Extreme Metal.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Steve Roach "Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces" (2003)

As of late, I've needed focus and calm. With Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces, I've found that, a spiritual soothing far from hurried. In search of temporal meditations to aid the mind, Steve Roach's daunting discography has gems to be unearthed. Its knowing where to look that's tricky. With apt research into online discussion, the record popped up alongside his classics on occasion. As a massive 150 minute experience, it serves as a majestic ethereal tone setter, devoid of any sense of structure.

Each track dissolves into the next as its array of dense soundscapes are explored, carved apart with the notable aesthetic shifts. Melody and rhythm are absent, this is all about texture explored through temporal organics as its existence sways to the whims of winds, the invisible hand. Every moment is singular and unmovable, yet in a constant state of shimmering change. Sure, a few eventful transitions and animated passages are wedged in sporadically but for the most part, its mesmerizing demeanor hinges on the deep reverberations that birth these shapeless musical forms.

 Its first half is superior, a select cut of lengthy sessions, each reveling in their particular flavor. The second half plays more like a jam session, split into parts as tones are transformed on the fly. Its leads to shorter cuts that don't quite fit the meditative format. Whats remarkable is how masterfully Steve constructs these sounds. Despite being somewhat predictable in nature, they still conjure and evoke a stillness in the mind of this listener. Oracle was the track that did that best for me.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 24 June 2022

Carpenter Brut "Leather Terror" (2022)


Its gritty and grisly, a leather clad clenched fist, the blood stained blade and lack of face to identify this anonymous gruesome demeanor... An apt fit for the nightly wailing music that awaits. Sticking firmly by an established, yet darker Synthwave aesthetic, Leather Terror gets pulled on the dusky, nefarious path as sinister symphonic themes and bouts of pounding aggression permeate the overarching mood on this outing.

I'll admit, engagement dwindled. Quite often is cruise control engaged. Sharp pulsing kick snare grooves crusade over devilish synths that hit hard with intense tones and gruesome half melodies hinged on deep groaning textures. They recycle and strike on a similar vein. This string of songs sways between a dread driven demeanor, then contrasted with typical 80s, upbeat Synthpop. Sometimes its thematic transition are jarring, if not for instrumental consistency but the writing reveals itself.

This record is a notably more collaborative project. Ulver returns again for another sublime union on lofty moment of calm. Gunship, Greg Puciato, Persha and Sylvaine led their vocal chords too. Unlike previous mixed results, they all gel well with the song writing vision. The musics power gets by on instrumentals alone but Leather Terror has its harmonious voices in the balance. Interestingly, its conclusive track goes Metal with Jonka bringing both terrifying ghoulish screams and full on metallic drumming to the mix. Its an interesting genre crossroads. Haunting organs fuse the two in a fiery contentious conclusion, by an artist inching closer towards infernal damnation.

 Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Kalandra "The Line" (2020)


This gem almost went amiss. Its subtleties slithered to a silence, a withdrawn instrumental softness letting this listener go by. Lacking gusto, bite or immediacy, only the striking resemblance to fellow Nordic queen Aurora held me in. If not another charmed, utterly gorgeous voice, the likeness would border plagiarism. Timbre, temperament, flow and inflections all swoon like a deja-vu. Its why I stuck around. With each listen I felt further from the words I initially wanted to share in this space.

The Line is a record of awe inducing landscapes, the resonance of which expressed aptly through its album art. Crimson skies lurch, whispering clouds part, the sunlight aches in to bless the primal earth beneath. We experience tits wonders as heathen inhabitants, devoid of technology and gods alike. Clearly a part of the growing Nordic Folk movement, Kalandra's strings pull on an endearing warmness. Unlike fellow contemporaries Wardruna and Heilung, they peer not into the northern darkness.

One could pen them as Soft Prog, gentle foragers of atmospheres with felicitous moments of Post Rock swelling and Etheral dreaminess. Tranquil, soothing and calm in nature, its rare flashes of hurried pacing, harmless brooding and climactic roars seem perfectly architectured, as if a force of nature. On its weathered journey outpacing the storm, occasions of rest incur with folkish tunes and tales. It all speaks to the ancestral human, married to mother earth, one that rumbles deep within us all.

And so with every passing listen, my initial foolishness, a deluded disappointment, fortunately grew distant. Somehow I was rustled by these "over indulged" instruments. Keen for vibrant melodies, a punchy baseline or tribal percussive groove, I was aloof to the atmospheric magic unfolding. Quiet is a strength, one that passed me by. The instrumental craft, a careful curation. Licks, grooves, riffs are subtly snug, every inch of aesthetic measured, fit together under a masterplan where nothing overpowers.

There are no particulars that leap of the page. Every song is a journey blossoming from a perpetual mellow flow. The record thus becomes river. Drop in, let its coolness wash over you and chill out. With at least a bakers dozen of spins under the belt now, it still grows on me. No doubts here, this could be honey that sticks for time to come.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 20 June 2022

Warpaint "Heads Up" (2016)


Reflecting on the fractured minutia of details between Warpaint and Radiate Like this, this record between has been striking. With every project, this Los Angeles quartet of Post-Punk women reorient their sound slightly. Of course, most bands bring a flavor to each record. So whats peculiar? The vibrancy falters when just a few dials are turned. Heads Up is marginally rawer, a little grit and glumness in its moody garage aesthetic has tits allure evaporate on the solemn road in treads, both aesthetic and in spirit.

New Song, The Stall & So Good sit early in the lineup. Together, and with a gloss of colorful reverb, parts of these songs steer into luminous strides of warmth backed by groove and attitude. Despite this streak, the rest of the record is bleak and moody. The dreamy singing of Kokal often drifts into this pale. Bass lines become deep dreary murmurs, lacking a feisty punch. Guitars shimmer impressionable noises alongside fractions of riffs. It amounts to this self indulged soundscape of unassailable blues.

For this listener, the record just didn't click. Its shadowy tone wasn't resonate, passions were dulled and its chromatic aesthetic didn't sparkle. In the aforementioned songs, an upbeat stride, a touch of smiley warmth gave it momentary gusto. Otherwise these songs mostly reveled in their own identity, unable to amplify the expression. With unhurried pacing and reveling in its bleakness, this was a tire on most listens. Perhaps more enjoyable with less attentive focus when in the background. Quite disappointing.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 17 June 2022

Post Malone "Twelve Carat Toothache" (2022)


Its all to easy to over-analyze, dissect and buy into ones own critical thought. As one of popular musics most illuminated figures, Post Malone's music arrives through a lens of impact and relevance. This initially soured my experience. With a lack of obvious growth, new dimension or creative streak to latch onto, it seemed Twelve Carat Toothache was a firm disappointment. Post's unique vocal manipulation, now fine tuned to a peak, the day-dreaming instrumental glow and trendy hi-hat shuffling Trap inspired beats routine to a fault. It all seemed like a safe bet at first glance.

I'm glad I stuck with it. Some records just take a few extra spins to get going, ya know? I've now found the soundtrack to my summer. Its lyrical struggles deal with the double edged sword of fame, the ills of alcohol and mental health battles with his musical creativity. Despite this, glossy overtones and breezy reverbs stream a wealth of warm, thick melodies, track after track. Whenever an attentive glance gives thought to his embattled words, a darker tone is felt. Only on a couple of instrumentals do they manifest through tension and soft dreariness in mood. Otherwise, a sunny record.

The poor response from journalists seems warranted. A flawed record, forged in a thickle moment for Post. Despite this, its presence holds. This string of songs has an ambience, it holds its slick smoothness gracefully, the brightest of hooks bursting out between plenty of interlude paced moments. He still has his knack, its just used sparingly. Not a jam packed set of songs but its pacing works in a casual way.

Nestled right at the end is an absolute banger. The Weeknd once again features and brings the 80s Synthwave inspired aesthetic along for the ride. He frequently provides great songs to other artists and must be killing it with this approach of on-boarding listeners to your sound through features. Anyways, final thoughts? Its a mixed record in terms of what lands. Its percussion-less songs often a weaker cut yet its glossy tone and warm dreamy mood lets it drift by with an ease I can get onboard with.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Snoop Dogg "Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told" (1998)


In my youth, this one caught my attention with its overt, unabashed use of 90s Photoshop aesthetics. The then trendy Pen & Pixel Graphics covers are certainly eye catching. At the time, I cared little for the music but since learning of Master P and No Limit Record, my interest is renewed. Snoop was keen to exit Death Row Records, as many of its artists were. He found home and friendship down south, No Limit records taking him in with a warm embrace. The result? Essentially a creative low point for the legend as he is rotated into the album production line at the peak of cultural relevance before a sharp decline in the years to come. Despite going double platinum, this ain't one to be remembered but within a couple notes of interest make themselves known.

No surprises, features from the No Limit crew are in abundance churning out the raps. Produced by Beats by the Pound, the aesthetic, tone and No Limit cliches dominate the narrative. I'm fond of the occasional beat but for the most part, this is ruggedly rushed, now dated and simplistic music, lacking sparks beyond a routine music creation system. A couple tracks try to recreate classic G-Funk grooves. Gin And Juice II & Still A G Thing whimper from the shadows of game changing anthems yet do have a compelling knack to them, mostly driven by Snoop's persona.

 Snoop is a raw adaptation with this crew, his often near spoken word, snide flows and crude lyrics rarely bloom beyond shallow showboating. His identity as slick and cool as ever yet the gangster oriented stance affirming and general vulgarities become a tire quickly. The hooks and chorus are all too casual to get in deep across a massive twenty one songs on a typically bloated, 80 minute CD filling project, the No Limit way!

There is one blemished jewel to be found however. DP Gangster has Snoop and C-Murder resurrecting an N.W.A classic, reinterpretating the beats and flows of Gangster Gangster. Its essentially a cover, a re-imagination, something that seems to be a no-no in Hip Hop, yet I thought it was a delight. I'd love to hear more artists taking on old tracks, giving them a different spin! Anyways, I knew this was going to be disappointing but with curiosity leading the way, I had a bit of fun!

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Suspended Memories "Earth Island" (1994)


Reuniting to follow up on the entrancing dusky spells of Forgotten Gods, the trio tread lukewarm waters, unable to spark the temporal magic that sung before. Failing to find fresh distinctions, their worldly disjointed percussive lines and ancient cultural chants rub up against airy atmospheric synths in a mediocre affair. With soft keyboard driven ambiences, its smooth, cloudy synthetic chemistry resides in a lofty yet unassuming place. Danger and mystique or awe and wonder rarely engulf quite like before.

Hinted strongly in naming and presentation, the album cover, Earth Island yearns for a cosmic perspective, yet even the brief chatters of astronaut communications nestled in doesn't sharpen this vision. Melting World offered immersion, a grade above the rest, but it also marked a shift. The initial human link between stars and stones shatters as a darkly brooding unease encroaches before the final two songs break pace again.

These ambient works often feel subjected to mood and fatigue more so than other genres. So i'd take my words lightly. One can hear the trio trying to move the Aztec inspired soundscape out of its shadowy realm, turning to an uplift, brighter in spirit, yet earthly and deep. The two ideal either don't gel, or lacks execution. Subsequently, the gravity that came before is illusive despite the mild meditative calm it conjures.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 13 June 2022

Kirk Hammett "Portals" (2022)


If your as surprised as I am to hear of a Kirk Hammett solo record, then you're probably keenly aware that Metallica have had a strong no side projects policy. This attitude of total commitment played its part in the rift with then bassist Jason Newstead, leading to his departure. Times change and so do people. Unaware of any official policy chance, I think its fair to assume that in their age, attitudes have subsided. The result? The unleashing of a talent only previously heard through the Metallica lens. Kirk going solo is a delightful difference where Metal meets Classical for a cinematic experiences, four short portals into the realms of imagination.

As one might expect, you can hear the echo's of Metallica in its steely riffs and blazing guitar solos rocking Hammett's distinct style, the latter being quite a treat at times. Its not what stuns me about these songs tho. The instrumentation between metallic stints, strings, violin, horns etc. Its all orchestrated with vision, painting vivid dramatic scenes that emote, brood and evolve alongside Kirk's licks. How much of this classical composition is his own genius? A curiosity to wonder upon as it is quite adept.

 Much of this is said with Maiden And The Monster in mind. The whole composition is fantastically dynamic, gently building to climax with big chunky riffs, icy guitar solos, all built with chilling acoustics shimmering of The Call of Ktulu. The Jinn continues on trajectory but midway into the song, sketchy riffs on a brittle guitar tone disconnects from the subtleties of its cinema with an unfavorable Death Magnetic flavor.

High Plains Drifter reclaims glory, a Western piece echoing The Ecstasy Of Gold. Truly wonderful and immersive but then The Incantation leans on classic Sabbath vibes without success. Its an attempt at something broody and devilish that only Hammett's remarkable, epic solos can elevate. To be fair, its the main riff that leaves a sour taste. The rest of this exquisite instrumentation is again both remarkable and fascinating. Ironically Portals shows their is much more to Kirk than just a lead guitarist but its not rhythm that is his game. The unique blend with orchestration is class. His "big" metallic riffs play stiff and sadly muddy the waters, but its brief at least.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Suspended Memories "Forgotten Gods" (1993)

Fancying another foray into the works of Steve Roach, a musician with too many records to count, I couldn't help but notice its popularity on Spotify alongside the pivotal works of Structures From Silence and Dreamtime Return. The latter leaves its legacy on Forgotten Gods with the consistent jabber of worldly, cultural and ancient percussive sounds. The construct, like before, is beautifully disjointed, deconstructed and abstract from the norms of groove and rhythm found in western music. Although in any moment its strikes and hits seem free and sporadic, its arch find a meditative pace, holding the atmosphere together with a steady, easy temperament.

Suspended Memories is the name for Roach's collaboration with fellow ambient artists Jorge Reyes of Mexico and Suso Saiz of Spain. A cultural tie to the Aztecs feels beyond relevant. With distant native chants and baking dusty echos, the musical pieces delve into the shamanic mystique the mysteries of lost civilizations can conjure. Both warm yet nightly, one can envision the blistering heat of desert sands, secrets laying in wait under weathered tombs. Equally, its drafty tone and dreamy presence has the cautious calm of night. Dangers lurk in the shadows yet the listener is always safe within the ambience. These contrasts co-exist, allowing one to hear their own adventure within the music. It may not be intentional but has been remarkable.

As the title Forgotten Gods hints, its theme evoke celestial wonders lost to the decay of time. As expected the record explores a variety of temperaments. Snake Song and Mutual Tribes appealed strongly to desert vibes I initially thought of as Egyptian but on further study, the inspiration was likely a historical middle American. Ritual Noise was the darkest track on offer, a lone song where a nefarious presence gets a little to close for comfort. Despite its devilishness, all the music is beautifully soothing and meditative. I've heard these sounds encroached on prior, yet the trio handle it so masterfully. This is absolutely another favorite for the ambient collection.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 10 June 2022

Wu-Tang Clan "Iron Flag" (2001)


Picking up a fever, delving into the leaked Demo Tape & ODB's Return To The 36 Chambers, I thought id wrap up my cravings with Iron Flag. Released hot of the heels of The W, its commercial decline gave it a dire reputation at the time. Subsequently, I'd never given it a fair go and maybe I should of left it that way. The talent of these rappers is not in question, however the Wu mastermind RZA himself might be.

Iron Flag's instrumental tone is a frequent bore. The production of these beats hinge on short repetitive loops from front to back. With little in the way of variations and nothing to offer with song structures, the record is a grind. RZA turns to tighter constructs with clearer samples, often 70s Soul, crisp drums and synthetic instruments. Its a departure from the gritty, low fidelity musk that once defined them. Radioactive manages to capture that spirit but its a lone track among many.

A few others put their hands on beat creation but Mathematics and other guests simply fall inline with RZA's vision. Its one of hard hitting percussion with moody sampling housing brief, stabbing melodies on loop. With a tone that lacked any excitement, it was tough to get into the rhymes. Despite competent flows, the topicality felt like a group on auto pilot pumping out another record that lacked depth.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Doja Cat "Planet Her" (2021)


With slick easy vibes, smooth breezy aesthetics and sweet yet spicy persona, Doja Cat lends her sharp harmonious chords, breathy voicings and quirky raps too a dreamy psychedelic Trap and R&B experience. With a team of over ten plus producers, a surprisingly cohesive mood emerges across the record. Led by the cutting percussive presence of shuffling hi-hats, snappy claps and crunky snares, deep bass hits punch and rumble below. It leaves space for tinges of Ethereal and Dream Pop instrumentation to usher a spin on the trendy popular sounds of the times. The contrast between rhythm section and everything else is surprisingly inviting.

Planet Her plays with a sense of depth as Doja is central in shaping her songs with hooks, choruses and raps over the deliberately underwhelming roll of traditional melodies. Her personality manifests, at times highly sexual and literal far beyond suggestive, into a variety of topics, often dealing with fame, prominence and perception. Her performances felt like thee endearing factor. Especially so when her voice shifts up pitch. Navel, quirky, swift, the cadence, creative inflections and self assured attitude reigns over lyrical content, although the value of words is a common pitfall for this listener who feels the melody and aesthetic far more so.

Speaking on aesthetics, the housing of her various voices, through reverberation, panning and placing, is a constant delight. So often does the handling of her singing seem to elevate what she expresses. Its as if their is a great understanding between artist and producers. Some highlights include the anthemic opening Woman and a great feature from The Weeknd. Wherever he goes, his take on the Synthwave genre seems to follow. The tone fits well into the variety of temperaments offered, leaning into aggressive Trap rap grooves and opposite the fiesty, hints of R&B, Soul and Dream Pop grace the modern Pop music sound with a gentler touch. All in all Planet Her is a fantastic record from a young artist with style and persona in abundance.

Rating: 7/10