Saturday, 30 March 2019

Living Colour "Vivid" (1988)

The magic of shuffle kicks off another journey as a track other than Cult Of Personality plays and captivates my attention. Its the perfect spark to lure me in and over the past couple of weeks Ive grown to adore this record! When first digging the mood and vibes I thought about how much I loved nineties music, of course this record was a couple years before that decade but Its shades of Alternative and Funk Metal now sound like a precursor to what would blow up in the coming years. You could even trace back Groove Metal back to some of the stomping riffs that appear on this record too. Its been a revelation in some ways, another piece in the puzzle, a key one too.

The group formed in New York a few years prior to this debut album and they arrive on the scene with a really powerful and well formed sound that fuses elements of the aforementioned genres with a Hard Rock baseline, some flavors of Funk and periodic upbeat inflections of cheesy eighties Pop vibes. They pull it off well and roar out the gates with the timeless Cult Of Personality, beyond it an impressive set of songs bring a diversity of well executed ideas thanks to a solid rhythm department. Its led by slamming drum beats that have a little Hip Hop sway to them and alongside punchy baselines that get a couple of songs to step up and flex phenomenal bass playing.

Singer Glover has a fantastic range and pulls off some immense high pitched notes at key moments, he is a well rounded voice at the forefront, lively and emotionally invested. The guitar work is sublime, a range of styles even spanning as far as a Country tang give the songs there tone. The lead playing lines many of them with electric guitar solos that erupt and roar, bursting to life with electricity, showing off technical prowess and slick inspiration. They also drop in with hard hitting riffs and grooves that will have you slamming your head back and forth on many an occasion.

To me, the record walks on many paths and feels like a journey round the world as it explores many ideas, tones and temperaments. The lyrical content and theming also hits a diverse collection of thoughts and problems having personal perspectives, strong feelings and a outlook towards social situations and political problems. The two aspects gel together fantastically and make for a record I can't help think may be somewhat lost to time. I wouldn't say its a classic but it really has a pivotal feel to it, a stepping stone towards the immense music I adore from the early nineties.

Favorite Tracks: Cult Of Personality, Desperate People, Open Letter, Broken Hearts
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Puppy "Puppy" (2015)

Fondly reminded of teenage obsessions with music, I have found myself in adoration of Puppy's latest album The Goat. I went back and gave it a ten, as I simply cannot get enough of the record. I also remembered that they had another EP before Vol II, somehow I forgot about it! Another four tracks of their glorious and inspired mash of Alternative, Metal and Rock tones that this time around show the particulars of their heritage with some guitar styling drawing obvious parallels to other artists.

The four songs are a sweet fit for their sound, another exchange of monstrous guitar grooves, sunny yet sombre emotional intersections and beautiful singing with the occasional peaking harmonization. The songs hum an energy within simple structures as the intensity ebbs and flows, often led by the gorgeous guitar tones. I can't help but hear strong echos of Iron Maiden within their Heavy Metal alike melodic riffs. In the vulnerable sung sections backed by hazy distortion guitars its Weezer I can feel.

Like with all their music, the links are keen and its hard to not feel the presence of these other bands yet it comes together in the most gratifying of ways, inspired and far from intimation. They sound more so like a logical successor and that is considering this is their first record. The Great Beyond will probably grab your attention as the flag song for the EP with its main riff shaking the ground each time it rolls around. I really enjoyed this considering how I want nothing but more from this band right now!

Favorite Track: The Great Beyond
Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Pale Waves "My Mind Makes Noises" (2018)

My Mind Makes Noises is a frankly disappointing debut record from this youthful eighties revival band. Its a rather different experience from their promising four track, All The Things I Never Said. The excitement of a young new act and nostalgic vibes stirred quite hype but its weak points, mainly lyrics, never stood out as much as it does on the fifty minutes one has to endure here. Singer Baron-Gracie has the clean cut voice perfect for simple pop songs but the lyrical simplicity is almost painful. Her use of plain observational language, a lack of creative lyricism and heavy repetition cycles through the same bleak teenage relationship topics over and over again. Insecurities, envy, jealous, infatuation and raging youthful emotion froth to the boil on every song. Its just not my cup of tea unfortunately.

Behind her words glossy, squeaky clean instrumentals pump out eighties melodies in dead simple song structures for fourteen songs with little in the way of variety. Its a tolerable experience with gleaming melodies glistening over steady beats and sturdy foundational baselines. They come repackaged again and again with varying degrees of tone but ultimately the same formula. Its little distraction from the self indulgent, aggrandizing lyrics that elevate surface emotions over self reflection or introspection.

Its quite frankly immature and that is fine, Its clearly for a younger audience and I could totally see a young me digging it. The music is tolerable but the lyrics were like an ear worm. I don't think the EP's words were less formed in this direction and thus got away with one but at this point I am not terribly excited about where they go from here. I will probably pick up the next album if its singles show signs of development. Seems unlikely but would be nice to hear this sound go to new places.

Rating: 2/10

Friday, 22 March 2019

Fen "Stone And Sea" (2019)

Years have passed since Dustwalker and Carrion Skies, two records I was keen to check out but felt far from the magic of their debut The Malediction Fields. Apparently I have been oblivious to their fifth full length entitled Winter, released a couple years back. This short, three track EP was just the right dose of music for my tasting. To no surprise Fen's sound is rooted in the period where Black Metal first diverged from its second wave and with earthly tones and naturalistic inspiration the trio conjure three tracks that play with a familiar theme of light and darkness, swaying between the two.

The mostly darkened avenues the music walks is rough and raspy, throaty howls yell over loose blast beats and gritty distortions that feel earthly and muddy in the mix. The production is raw with its crunchy guitars and muddy noise, the clashing cymbals cut sharply through but with a creek of chemistry to tie it all together. Its got a sloppy sound but that is the charm to some extent. Its earthly, human and perhaps mystical.

It has its heavy moments that conjure the atmosphere of natural wonder in the darkness of a moon lit night setting over forests and moors but the light upheavals mostly emanate from the peaking melodies that transcend the gritty foundations. The music builds to an eruption of triumphant lead guitar queued by clean and humbly imperfect vocal lines that break up the screams and howls, bringing in that uplift of light from an overwhelmingly darker and dusty sound across its span.

Its rises of the light are brief and infrequent but the overall structure makes for a charming midsection of acoustic guitars that usher in cultural roots. It should be pointed out that the EP is essentially one big twenty minute song. The opening 8 minutes blister through shrill and windswept bustling furies of energy and its mid section acts as an calm between storms. The third act infuses chunkier elements of groove and a bigger emphasis on the lead guitar that brings the song to its climax, one that is drawn out to the end. Its quite the epic piece of music and one I have fondly enjoyed! This more focused Fen is more to my liking.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Swallow The Sun "When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light" (2019)

Finish Doom Metal band Swallow The Sun have been around for many a year, however this is the first time I have heard of them. Its their seventh full length release as the group approach a second decade of existence. That experience shows in these classy compositions and my initial listen to this record was like a revelation. A seemingly "new" take on Doom Metal and the gothic, sorrow soaked dynamics of shifting between the bleak black and melodic melancholy was initially mesmerizing. It led to my binging of the eight songs and ultimately transitioning to a more neutral position as the freshness wore off and its construct and genre tropes became clearer.

When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light is a deceptively brilliant approach to the age old formula of grandiose, symphonic, Death Doom hybrids. Its a genre I am not well versed on but reminds me fondly of a gem by Desire, once plundered when dipping my toes into the musical history of Doom. Its as if all the components have been pulled apart, given a polish and put back together again, the final result feeling different, yet objectively similar. There is plenty of sorrowful, emotional melodies bled slowly alongside gothic lyricism and the occasional use of contrasting heavies. Deep guttural groans of darkness make an appearance with other typical stylings. I think what separates it at the surface is the vocals which more often than not bring howl more akin to Black Metal and plenty of palatable clean singing approaches, both male, effeminate and occasionally esoteric.

The music itself is wonderful, a pristine fusion of sounds. In its darkly avenues ripping distortion guitars and throaty howls can suck the listener in. When suspended in the dreary states of limbo, rising synths, sparing stringed instruments and clean plucked notes on glossy guitars carry the suspense as foray of vocal styles mourn in human sorrow. Its propelled onward by punchy drums, a driving, slow, powerful momentum that solidifies the sense of scale. Over the fifty two minutes it finds many sweet overlaps and progressions that dial the various elements in, usually finding its way to climactic moments within the thematic setting. Clouds On Your Side does this best in its mid section where it feels like all elements collide and climax.

For all the obvious glory, I think I may have binged this one a little too hard. Its been utterly riveting and some distance will make it a fond arrival whenever the magic of shuffle blesses some absent minded listening. This record has convinced me more than other that there is more to be found in the Doom Metal genre, however over my experience I also became all too aware of its tropes and common practices which I apriacient and enjoy with a little more distance than that of other Metal counterparts. Great record, well worth a listen if your a fan of heavy music.

Favorite Tracks: The Crimson Crown, Clouds On Your Side
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Tool "Lateralus" (2001)

My journey through the records of Progressive Metal behemoth Tool hits an elongated fumble as we arrive at one of their most talked about records. Its been over a month since Ænima and with that time Ive sunk my teeth into this meaty eighty minutes of progressive epics many times. I have found myself at the same conclusion many times, Lateralus is slow to get going and its best moments are spun from lengthy build ups that dispel the tension and immediacy yet its best stirrings of musical gusto lurk from these meanderings like a switch that changes nothing. My favorite moments seem to stem from apex of these unending tangents as a final piece of the puzzle falls into place. Its been a fascinating listening experience but as I turn my thoughts into words, the semblance of their meanings feels like a key starting to turn the lock.

Dissecting the musics continual unwinding, one can see the markings of mathematics and music theory manifesting in its song structures and riffs. A lot of the guitar works repeats with obvious cycled counts and poly measures. Its song structures play out linear paths of slow methodical builds in atmosphere and intensity. The guitars often play out pivoting on this principle as slabs of slicing distortions grind through the timely measures with a repetition that always deceives itself, a niche touch. Danny Carey and his presence on the drums are as powerful as ever. He finds himself with one heck of a task to take that big and busying drumming style and play it out through unending passageways. His ability to hold the music together through massive segments should not be understated, its an essential performance.

Lateralus as a whole encapsulates the tone Tool built so far but channels it rather directly into these deeper atmospheric tunnelings that take out the raw emotions. Maybe it is to be found in Keenan's words but with most of that passing me by his performance plays more like another instrument with occasional outbursts of raw screams and energy in the musics peaking moments. The record really gets going with Parabola, a song that perhaps most sounds akin to their previous work. It opens with a groovy crowd bouncing riff that flows into big, engulfing lead guitar notes in the upper range, immediately gratifying. It mostly manages to avoid the number shuffling riffs and compositions while still sounding keenly progressive.

After this track it feels like almost every song is illuminated in its crowning moments with riveting moments of electricity. With that in mind the meandering in between is far more enjoyable as its droning quality suddenly swallows you whole in these moments of brilliance. Lateralus, at eighty minutes, seems to be a deep cut but even after a whole month of devouring it I came to a point where I felt as if the album was too big for itself. Then in the listens leading up to writing this post its as if the magic finally started to click. Its almost like I am only now just starting to actually hear it. Although 10,000 Days is next I will undoubtedly keep this one spinning from time to time.

Favorite Tracks: Parabola, Ticks & Leaches, Reflection
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Tesseract "Sonder" (2018)

The British Progressive Metal outfit Tesseract have been on my radar since their very inception way back when in the the early naughties. I've caught many a live show over the years and heard plenty of their songs. Its only based on a recommendation from a friend that I gave this new record a proper try and I am disappointed to say I walk away with the same lukewarm feeling I've always had for them. Sonder is their fourth full length but a direct record at a shorter thirty six minutes which made it much easier to pick up and spin.

The band toy with the dynamics of heavy and light. On one hand a glistening wash of beauty, haplessly sways above with clean guitars and subtle airy synths. Its mostly led by the clean, soft and vulnerable singing of original front man Daniel Tompkins. Its counterpart is expressed through mathematic manipulations of groove, chunks of sonic sound pronounced through the bolstered Djent tone. It can be somewhat self indulgent at times when its riffs get a little lost in the counter measure of expectation. Mostly though both elements are dynamic and sway in accordance with one another.

Its formula is laid bare from the get go and a couple of strong opening tracks create quite the excitement as an atmosphere of possibility is mustered in the wake of its balancing act between the beauty and chaos. Dark, guzzling passageways of meaty, moments riffs can drop seamlessly into blissful rest with soft pianos, distant rumblings of mechanical thunder and a cloudy choir chiming in the words draw together. This chemistry plays out in various measures before the record hits a snag.

It seems to start around Beneath My Skin but as the album progresses it feels like the best of this dynamic is behind us and little new is offered up. Throughout it all the singing is gorgeous, bordering effeminate as Tompkins finds a passionate expression in his range. The rest of the music doesn't quite follow and I find myself losing interest as the music meanders in itself with the same ideas drawn out to a disappointing close. Its certainly got a great aesthetic and musical construct but as an album it runs out of ideas far to fast. Even at thirty six minutes its best is less than half.

Favorite Track: King, Juno
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Daryl Donald "Behold The Spirit" (2019)

Seeing a new release from Scottish producer Daryl Donald put a smile on my face. I knew Id be in the mood for more indulgent, mellow Hip Hop instrumentals. With this sophomore record he really hits home with the DJ Shadow vibes, one of the first artists to make craft and elevate the instrumental side of Hip Hop music. Behold The Spirit is a collection of short beats and tidbits, roughly two minutes each, that establish meditative vibes fit for mellowing, soaking in the sun and enjoying a soft breeze.

Its got summery vibes that aren't overtly pronounced, everything is a craft of soft measures and subtle sample inclusion that form a bigger picture. Its percussive lines are sharp and snappy but with just the right tempo to feel at ease and slightly lethargic. A couple arrangements may give an impression of a stripped back boom bap groove however the keen kicks and snares are always softened by the surrounding samples, often layering ambiguous airy synth without distinct melodies. Many vocal snippets are deployed ambiguously with helpings of dreamy reverberation, furthering the soothing vibes that feed into its distinct atmosphere.

The albums structure is a bit lack luster in its linear design. Some beats have build ups but mostly the songs fades in to existence and after its repetitions, fade out again. Its held together like glue by the consistency of tone, each beat is unique but they all hone in on the same urban summer vibrations. The track Banquet has a vocal pitch shifting sample that borders on Vapourwave akin to Macintosh Plus. However Its an isolated moment that borders overlap, would be interesting to hear it explored further.

Its after this track vocal samples become more prominent. The following Like A Brother has the voice of a man with a tone similar to AZ speaking thoughtful wisdom. The last three tracks bring a strong audible presence to the record as at closes out with the title track. It has a stunning speech on the power of meditation. A fitting end to a short collection of beats that all bring with them a consistent mellowing quality fit for reflection and thought, or the lack of it. Another strong record, looking forward to more!

Favorite Track: Behold The Spirit
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 11 March 2019

Queen "A Night At The Opera" (1975)

With the magic of the recent Bohemian Rhapsody movie lingering in mind, Ive been reminded again of how often the thought passes that as much as enjoy Queen's music, its really the hits I know and of course they have a lot of them. Curious about their deeper cuts and this record that played a big part in the movies progression, I decided to start here with what was the most expensive recording to date at the time of its release. Home to their best know song and You're My Best Friend, most of its contents were unknown to me and so I have had an absolute blast getting stuck in.

A Night At The Opera is an eclectic journey, a marvel of sorts, squeezing in a helping of styles and cultural echos that defy being packaged. One can hear inklings of Heavy Metal in the lean guitar licks, its unconventional song structures and experimental nature may label it Progressive Rock too but the songs are all their own beast. Like a wild roller coaster the music flows sweetly from its polar ends, Sweet Lady crafts its weighty guitar riffs for a first pumping Hard Rock tune that's close to being anthemic. After blazing the trail with a fiery guitar solo at the end of the song, we are of course swept in to the next number, Seaside Rendezvous, with bright pianos for a pantomime piece full of audio gags and sound effects. The music animates the an image of the stage and its actors.

Its emblematic of the musicians instinct to follow their gut as they breeze through a diverse set of sounds without a hitch. Its experimental side blossoms on The Prophets Song as the music gives way to a mid section of imaginative singing, the instruments fade out and Freddie and his band mates sing and swoon off layers of panned echos and reverberations. It starts off simple with repetitions of words but quickly builds up its gusto and erupts into a foray of vocal melody to delight upon. Making your way through the music one can pick out its anchoring songs as they rotate the theatrics and pantomime with infectious Hard Rock guitar grooves. It all comes to conclusion on the track that incorporates it all in one song, the mighty Bohemian Rhapsody.

Freddie's voice is fantastic throughout to no ones surprise but this record showcases his band mates too, Brian May has one heck of a talent both with his keen rhythm playing and the lightning guitar leads that occasionally erupt into the limelight, dazzling all. Drummer Roger Taylor puts together on a finely crafted song that seems almost ironically casual in its naming, I'm In Love With My Car. This is one heck of a deep record that you can binge over and over. All its flamboyance and diversity is true, giving back over and over again with each spin. Its really fired me up to get into more of their records. What a great band, how many years have a squandered the opertunity to get into one of the all time greats! This was a great decision.

Favorite Tracks: Death On Two Legs, I'm In Love With My Car, You're My Best Friend, The Prophet's Song, Bohemian Rhapsody
Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Jean Michel Jarre "Equinoxe" (1978)

In the mood for more of this nostalgic, imaginative yet primal electronic music, I picked up French composer Jean Michel Jarre's following record from the classic Oxygene. In the two years elapsed since, the music has advanced with a subtle refinement in composure and the evolution of bold and sharp, chirpy synths. In the brightest appearances they become reminiscent of Chiptune and 8-Bit tones in passing. The records use of environmental sound, wind, waves and the like are far more complimentary and overall the visions conjured resist any detraction from the quirkiness off these experimental noises, although blurbs, beeps, blips and barbs talk like an alien voice on Part 4 inbetween the sounds of limbs slashing through air like hasty karate chops.

It seems that in its beginning Equinoxe leans more so into the dark, paranoid and dystopian realm. With decades of music between this and now, what once may have been quite the shock now sounds more ambiguous and open to interpretation in the wake of progressively evil music. It has its upbeat and cheerful tunes too, Part 5 being a particularly playful, the soundtrack to an interplanetary cosmic fairground. These adventurous, chirpy melodies continue into the next part and then the record slowly finds its way to a darker setting before the roar of thunder and patter of rain leads us to the present with the sounds of French fairground music panning the stereo. It ushers in a contrasting conclusion to the record with more spacey, galactic wonder.

Equinoxe is seemingly a step up in production but it mostly spins similar ideas to its predecessor, which has quite the impact on first listen. Its an enjoyable record, the atmosphere and adventure is ripe and vivid but also novelty too. I can't help but feel I'll enjoy each record less as the wonder of a fresh stylistic pallet subsides. I spend a fair amount of time with these records, maybe ten or more spins before I write these blogs and Its music like this I'm sure you can form strong bonds with if it fills a gap in your musical experience or arrives at the right time. For all my listenss little has stuck with me in terms of its key melodies, they mostly fall back into the tapestry of instruments that make up its atmosphere.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Pale Waves "All The Things I Never Said" (2018)

This young band have emerged with much attention for their distinct revival of 80s New Wave, Synthpop and Goth Pop sounds. Echoes of The Cure, Tears For Fears and Dream Pop unite with no particular distinction of something original beyond modern and glossy production. Singer Heather Baron-Gracie has strong, warm singing voice with an approachable range. Her lyrics are some what vanilla with direct language to convey her thoughts and feelings. The simplicity lacks a spark but within the squeaky clean and polished sound it suffices over the dreamy instrumentals.

Big cruising bass lines lay down warm, bold foundations for simple drum patterns to craft snappy grooves behind the attention grabbing glossy guitars and reverb soaked synths that churn out nostalgic melodies. Its held together in a sweetly warm balance of fun and youthful innocence with tinge of sadness and sorrow lurking that never surpasses the bright, uplifting gleam of glossy sounds channeled over engulfing airy synths that fill the spaces between its popping, chirpy melodies.

The records four cuts circle the same waters, making an appetizing listen if you enjoy the first track. Its accolades are to be found in reviving the spirit of and old sound and giving it a modern touch but beyond that their is little remarkable. They execute a musical concept that still works with a bit of love and care. It will be interesting to see where they go from here as this EP is a solid introduction and hopefully a foundation to grow as a band and take this sublime sound to new places!

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Saor "Forgotten Paths" (2019)

My introduction to Saor was a breath of fresh air beginning with their sophomore record Aura. Out from the now decades old genre of Black Metal that so routinely falls into its own established tropes, Saor introduced a soaring gleam of bright, triumphant, heathen melody to counteract its dark underbelly of blast beats, tremolo guitars and burly, gaunt screams. It may not have been an original twist on the sound but its execution was sublime and deeply inspired by Marshall's Scottish heritage and countryside. The following Guardians record was more of the same and had less of an impact on me. It may be the absence, or more likely the music but this new release has been a very fond listen for me these past two weeks.

The luscious and melodic side of the music feels expanded upon, a beautiful piano interlude middle of the opening title track and a entire song, Exile, dedicated to nostalgic folk sounds half a step away from Fief in the best of ways. This obvious expansion resonates in the lead guitars that gleam and glow, leading every song forward like a light carving the path through the pale on its epic journeys. Soaring with reverb and inflecting glorious melodies it rises high above the fury of beastly screams and pummeling drums, making its most abrasive sections feel bright and inspiring.

Through the loud and obvious instruments, pagan violins and glossy pianos shape tone and mood with a dose of folk and heritage that never leaves the music. Its a constant delight that makes the sound engulfing. Even in their quiet parts the lead guitar once again soaks you in the dazzle of its glimmering light. With three lengthy ten minute plus songs the music can hold this sense of constant beauty and epic without faultering. Bron is the darkest of the three and even it can find this stunning flicker of light in the black as its cultural elements blossom along the songs epic progression. Things really came together on this album and I can't recommend it enough.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Janis Joplin "I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!" (1969)

Kozmic Blues is a long overdue listen, Pearl was such a fantastic treasure of the Woodstock generation and a wonderful introduction to the raw charisma of Janis's voice. I had to hear more and turning to this, her debut as a solo artist, one can hear a timely shift in tone and slightly different musical energy at work with slimmer influences of Blues, Psychedelia and a touch of Jazz Rock in its breathy instruments. It could be a comment on the posthumous nature of Pearl but being new to her music they both stand tall as great records. This one however has peaks that go unmatched in its other songs. What captivates me about it are the jam sections. Lively instrumentals of busying instruments bustling away find a couple of extended interludes to come forth in continuously memorizing walls of sound fronted by big trumpets and the like.

And then Janis arrives, her voice impactful returning from absence, seemingly catching one of guard. The eight tracks come in different intensities and measures of style and so does Janis's singing, yet even in her softest breath does she ever seem to be one word away from unleashing her compassion as her voice strains and strays into what may of probably been seen as yelling or screaming back then. With one of its calmer instrumentals boasting big and bold trumpets in its key melody in the build up to her arrival, Janis soars over soft, moody organs with an unforgettable performance to give you goosebumps. Her voice cruises high and low through her range, led by pure feeling on my favorite track Maybe. Its a timeless song.

Its easy to focus on her voice. Behind her the music resonates wonderfully. As mentioned before they often come forth in her absence as their is such great cohesion between the performers. The lead guitar comes to fruition on One Good Man with a tropical, psychedelic solo that's blisteringly electric. The best of this does find itself in the first half as the album broods with dialed down tracks that make her voice more intimate as a result. Work Me Lord creeps up on you from its smokey beginnings with a big theme that gets a little stiff in finding a conclusion and lets Janis lead out the record alone. Overall its a wonderful album but perhaps my familiarity to her curbed the surprise of the stunning singing in store, and there is a lot of it!

Favorite Tracks: Maybe, One Good Man, Work Me Lord
Rating: 8/10