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

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Earl Sweatshirt "Some Rap Songs" (2018)

I've avoided Mr. Sweatshirt in the past, his appearances in Odd Future and with Tyler The Creator turned me off from his style. Earl raps with a very spoken element, his slightly deep voice and walking pace on the mic sound so casual its like lyrical loitering. I'm not trying to hate, just expressing where I couldn't connect with what this guy is doing. However his newest release, Some Rap Songs, gained a lot of clout and made it to several tops lists of the year. Unfortunately it just didn't work for me.

This record can definitely be described as Avant-garde, or given merit for its experimentalism. Every track can be split into two elements that lay its concepts bare. On the lyrical front we have Earl sleepwalking his words through loose strings of free association and train of thought expressions that in brief moments muster visions, insights or food for thought. Mostly it comes off as lethargic and sleepy, his energy is mute, very civilian and little of his rhymes stir an emotional response. Each track just drones on by with the same tone. After a fair few spins even familiarity doesn't tip the scale for Earl as an MC, I fail to find what the appeal is in this approach.

The other half is the instrumentals that mostly revolve around oddly timed cuts, reversing loops, dropping the expectant complimentary drum beats and shifting the sample source into odd frequency ranges. Its the better half for sure, quite a few of the tracks have something to offer but what is on display is quickly saturated by a lack of depth as many of these sounds are looped to death with short snippets consisting of seconds repeated with little variation for the duration of the songs. Overall it is worth a spin for each of its unique sampling setups but beyond that... It just dulls.

Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Sigh "Heir To Despair" (2018)

Many years on from the epic of Imaginary Sonicscape, Japanese band Sigh still can't seem to find a footing and direction that is entirely concrete. This year around they echo some hall marks of their classic record with morphed voices and unusual fusions of cultural roots but the collision of ideas under a Black Metal flag is all to haphazard. The album puts its foot in mouth with the second track, a possible tribute that plays like a blatant Iron Maiden rip off in its intro and outro. Although the track is mostly composed of furious riffing and blazing guitars, its stiff jump to the Ace's High riff just sets an odd tone for a record that lacks focus.

Its a guitar oriented record, the fretwork constantly winding with grooves, pinch harmonics and chugs all with a distinct distortion tone. The musics motion generally pivots on its energy, which Mirai Kawashima electrifies with his shrill, snarly and raspy shouts. Not always a welcoming presences, his narrow range is often stretched, sounding thin and weak. Its aggressive elements play up against native sounds, the Taishogoto, flute, piccolo, other woodwind instruments chime in meekly. Its even got a few unorthodox percussive sounds for a Metal band. They all seem to arrive out of turn, a complimenting addition often overpowered by the drums and guitars. The opening track however finds a balance, giving much light to its unusual side.

Three part track Heresy revives their electronic experimental ideas from the aforementioned Imaginary Sonicscape but not to much avail. It opens with its best and goes off on a tangent of unfinished ideas and noise oddities. The last song, clocking in over ten minutes, has great flow and scale but once again hails back to their classic, resurrecting a section from Requiem Nostalgia that should of just stayed there. Its been enjoyable to hear Sigh's sound again but there is little direction or focus here, just another hash of ideas that relys on their tropes and unique fusion of sounds.

Rating: 4/10
Favorite Tracks: Aletheia, Heir To Despair

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Tool "Ænima" (1996)

Three years on from their burly debut Undertow, American outfit Tool make dynamic strides forward. In scale, atmosphere and dynamism Ænima goes further inwards and beyond their horizons, helping us to all seventy eight minutes available to CD format of that time. These lengthy songs takes their time, meandering in a madness that lays beyond. After its first three songs, each track is broken up with some form of interlude, a few of which are rather fascinating. So far I have found Tool to be a strange band to decipher, its a slow process but that strangeness is now starting to seem like whats to be embraced. Its all so obvious now, as the analytic mind turn on, the signs light up.

More so than before do these songs unfold like abstract emotional journeys. Playing with loud-quiet dynamics, the group craft songs with a keen ear for atmospheres which can stir the mood and dip toes into psychedelic realms before they so often erupt with groove and aggression. Once again its Keenan's shouts and groans that seem to resonate most with these outbursts as his words reach their pinnacle at the crux of the musical momentum. It is perhaps the brittle and stale, buzzing guitar tone that withdraws what should be obvious. Riffs crafted with precision and cohesion that's just unlike other bands of the time... or anything Ive heard. They just have an edge in that department that feels blunted by a grisly and chromatic production style.

 When the temperament is calmer, with an often unsettling demeanor, these guitar bends do resonate sweetly but that is just a personal preference. The drums play straight in heavy sections but conjure its share of atmosphere, guiding the direction exquisitely. Keenan gives a lot of emotional clout to the music, his frustrations and musings delineates much of the upheaval and unrest the compositions hold in their peering to the darkness that lurks in the shadows of every song. Even in its boldest of scenic passings does the mood not feel far from a strange madness, even the unleashing of roaring intensity does not go all the way in to that which stirs beyond.

This darkly bizarre side of this record lays itself bare on a handful of its many interlude tracks. Experiments in noise from the electric zaps and interstellar storms of Ions, to a babies needing cries, drowned out by alien buzzing and flickering voices on Cesaro Summability. Die Eier Von Satan stands stark apart from anything else at work as a commanding, domineering German voice recites a recipe for baking cookies as if at a Nuremberg rally. Its a fine piece of paranoid Martial Industial but feels more like a cheap trick more so than any true insight into historical prejudices, the song is of course fantastically string, as well as a haunting reminder of the perils of man.

The record comes to a close with a snippet of the then recently deceased Bill Hicks to tie noisy synth experiments into a lengthy epic closer of psychedelic exploration that ends with the alarming cries of "prying open my third eye" over and over. The bands ability to hold and progress a moment really shines and ends the record on one hell of a bang. I still feel like there is deeper to go with this record but I can firmly see the excellence and praise music fans heap on this band is showing. It will take longer for me but I am enjoying the process and eagerly awaiting Lateralus.

Favorite Tracks: Stinkfist, H, Forty Six & 2, Jimmy, Die Eier Von Satan, Third Eye
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Bring Me The Horizon "Amo" (2019)

Ive been highly anticipating Bring Me The Horizon's return since their monumental That's The Spirit, a modern day Hybrid Theory. Its unsurprising to hear the band further move into the Pop realm, the continual direction shift is fruitful and exciting. Inviting larger synth elements of EDM and Electropop in to subtly tune out their distortion guitars in places, they manage to retain an intensity and heaviness associated with the band. Its the songwriting that triumphs once again as infectious catchy hooks take hold center stage in much of the music. Oli is a huge component to its achievement, taking his voice to many harmonious places with many infectious lyrics. Amo is a logical move forward but perhaps not quite at the same grade.

BMTH certainly have a finger on the pulse of current music and an uncanny ability to evolve their sound and infuse these fresh Electronic and Pop ideas. The transition is utterly seamless and its broadened pallet of sounds gives a depth to the experience as key songs stick out with a defining character. Title track Amo and Mother Tounge pulls in 90s Dance pianos and punchy strings for a Pop epics that spans the decades. Mantra, Wonderful Life and Sugar Honey Ice & Tea, bring in sonic seven string guitar groves in the choruses offset by lighter overdrives between. Interlude pieces Fresh Bruises and Ouch dive into some flavored Glitch Hop passageways and only Nihilist Blues sounds behind the curb with a synth sound reminiscent of 009 Sound System.

Its mostly dense and detailed music, cramming many instruments and complimenting electronic tones into the available space, scaling its richness with the ebb and flow of the music which graces between its fluffy, light pop and crunching grooves, both between songs and within them too. Its A dynamic record with a depth of variety and detail for the ears but with many listens the edge is taken off its less focused and atmospheric leaning compositions that slow the stream. Amo is ultimately a great transition for the group, a strong strive forward but moving from one peak to another they loose a little in the quantity of killer tunes. That's The Spirit was a riot from start to end and Amo drifts of on differen't avenues, intensities and styles that breaks up its magic for periods. The variety is great but not each approach is triumphed.

Favorite Tracks: Mantra, Sugar Honey Ice & Tea
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 8 February 2019

Warpaint "Warpaint" (2014)

It took not but a few songs to be overcome with the feeling of adoration. I knew that this record would be enjoyed immensely and serve as a "go too" for a mood alteration, much like a Fever Ray or Feel It Break. Now that I make those comparisons I realize how much Dream and Art Pop vibes are on display. Initially I felt Post-Punk moods from the warm pulsing baselines that patrol and measured drum patterns. Those moments arise in due time but a lot of the record goes into a luscious Ethereal tangent. Either way its stirring up my favorite ingredients in the musical pot.

Warpaint are a four piece outfit from Los Angeles who I had not encountered before a recommendation for this self titled record, which is their second. Its a scenic collection of tracks with calm, soothing indulgences of the dreamy and slightly psychedelic variety that shuffle into bursts of hurried and pushed temperaments that create a slight tension and unease, mainly enforced by pulsing, filling baselines and drums with a sharp edge to cut through. The contrast does much for the records flow as it mostly musters its way through different measures of a similar medium.

With everyone pitching in vocals, the music is constantly graced by soft effeminate singing, layered and harmonious. Both are complimentary and crucial too the dreamy persuasions the music sways through. Its key melodies are often bare but illusive, drifting into the wash of sounds and occasionaly jumping up front to great effect like at the beginning of Biggy. With attentive ears one can dress down the foggy, reverberated sounds and hear quite a keen and straight forward arrangements of looping melodies that may have not been as charming without this merging setting.

Although I have really enjoyed the record, it is mostly its tone, mood and setting that I adore, a sign of becoming more at home with these Dream Pop and Ethereal styles. Its charm is more so with my want for this sound. It is undoubtedly a strong, consistent record but all its songs are suspended between good and great, never quite leaping off the page so to speak. It has many fond, engrossing passageways but none that quite peak the senses. Either way I have enjoyed it and will seek out more!

Favorite Tracks: Love Is To Die, Biggy, Disco
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Cane Hill "Kill The Sun" (2019)

The year is off to a fantastic start as we follow up on Puppy's The Goat with an alarmingly different and brilliant EP from the Deathcore and Nu Metal inspired Cane Hill. A change in direction? Or a one off? Either way there is no doubting the exuberant experience that awaits as the band bring out Americana tones and influences to fuse traditional song writing with modern electronic aesthetics for emotionally charged sound that stands mightily tall. Only a single song musters distortion guitar for a brief period, bar the enigmatic use of lead guitars. This total shift in style lands the rockers in an strange place, echoing the glory of the 90s Alternative music scene, while pacing forward with an engulfing dreamy overtone.

Serine acoustic guitars with a country tang find themselves plucking smooth licks accompanied by slow, electronic, reverb soaked percussive lines. Its indulgent, degrees of synthesized details wage in the distant spaces. Save Me gets a beautiful inclusion of pianos alongside the acoustic foray. It is singer Elijah Witt who illuminates the already gleaming instrumentals with a performance to roll back the years and give reminiscence to many great singers of that era. Acid Rain in particular has strong Layne Staley vibe, the lyrics too as they dive into drug reliance. It is no disservice, his singing is charming, inviting and resonating with emotions, a peak on the summit.

Another fond aspect of the music its its swaying into briefly esoteric and Ethereal vibes that its steady and measured drum loops build structure for. The use of compounding reverbs and subtle synths organically weave in between traditional components with a fulfilling chemistry. The last track gets particularly into these experiments with a lively drum performance leading the music into darkly, ambiguous electronic madness. It closes the record as the sound rolls and rumbles into a cacophony of crazy. Its intense and that intensity Metal heads have is found elsewhere in climatic moments that take the gentle tunes and raise the tension with drums and guitar leads chiming in to expand the depth.

I can't flaw a thing with this project other than wondering why this is just six tracks? As a full album I believe it could contend for accolades and a place in the hearts of music fans for years to come. It really is striking just how natural and matured this sound is for them. It might be a side project but could easily be a main focus for them. I'm aware of many bands making heavy music but not so many with an edge like this! I hope I get to see this live at some time, I imagine it will be magic!

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Future "Future" (2017)

This post may be brief since I never intended on covering this record. I simply have to comment on what a quintessential example of Trap this is, for both the good and the bad. Future is an Atlanta rapper, once part of the Dungeon Family collective associated with southern legends Outkast. I've heard him mentioned with the roots and origins of the now massively popular Trap sound of Rap music. This album is the first of his Ive heard, at first mistaking a track for the Migos. It banged hard tho, for all that is formulaic, routine and factory about the music, through it the hypnotic inducing vibes resonate. In one mood its illuminating and in another can be utterly tedious.

Its seventeen tracks have nothing between them that elevates the formula at work. Its a production line to churn out tracks with all the hallmarks of the trendy sound, tight shuffling Trap beats with all the typical hi hat tones and snaps. The deep bass hits bang under an assembly of instruments playing short melodies on loop. They conjure a mood for Future to Mumble Rap his way to heaven with the common flows and quirks like "skeet skeet" and other goofy noises between the lines. His voice and back up tracks become another layer of sound, the inflections and auto tune constantly swaying. His verses a blur of recycled rhymes that require attention to decipher.

When focusing on those lyrics little of interest bar a reference to Southern legend Master P arose to me. Much of the content is materialistic and embodying the worst stereotypes. At times excessive use of tropes makes one wonder how much of this record is self aware? Some of the skits are utterly hilarious and for the most part this record bangs and rumbles the Trap vibes but as said above it becomes easily dissect-able when you've had enough of the groove. Future does sneak some great hooks in there but its the rhythm that wins me over as his words are just too slurred. Its a love hate record but I don't take it that seriously. If I'm in the mood for mumbling and trap beats it absolutely bangs with crazy dark and esoteric vibes.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 1 February 2019

Lil Peep "Come Over When You’re Sober Pt. 2" (2018)

I was very keen to get into this record after enjoying Pt. 1. Ive grown rather fond of Lil Peep and his "Emo Rap". He reminds me fondly of youthful attitudes, his angle of expression is an inevitability of obvious influences converging in a modern era of connectivity. From what I can tell, this record was assembled posthumously. With lots of unfinished material left behind, producers Smokeasac and IIVI put together another album of the same tone, feeling and theme however its twice in length with thirteen cuts.

Both producers worked with him on the first project however this one is a notably sharper product. The song structures are rooted in a popular format, the beats are tidy and everything feels well formulated. Its another collection of shuffling trap percussive arrangements and emotive, melancholic guitars to create stiring, dark, introspective atmospheres. The temperament is very much an extension of the first record, tightly tuned with no artistic progression given the situation. Part two is a fitting title.

Unsurprisingly Lil Peep is again a lonely and troubled figure on this record. His plain language shapes up with sharper poetry in some of the hooks. His lyrics are mostly direct, flavored by profanity and fueled by his pains, giving a intimate window into his life at times. Each song has its seasoning and his approach to the memorable Life Is Beautiful as sadly entrenched with sarcasm. Its dark, depressing but the expression is wonderful as his bitter sweet is birthed into musical art.

The whole project flows with a very steady consistency that does let any favorites leap out. The last few tracks always seem to leap out at me though. The darkly, esoteric strummed guitar tune in the backdrop reminds me fondly of the sort of acoustic break you might hear on a Metal record. In fact the guitars are a continual source of pleasure. Great record, notably more "pop" and loses out on the impact of the first album but ends on a very high note with its best numbers.

Favorite Tracks: White Girl, Falling Down, Sunlight On Your Skin
Rating: 7/10