Friday, 22 October 2021

Humanoid "Remembering Universe" (2008)

Reaching out from years gone by, my music archive now has many callings, records that carve their own niche and frequent the mind of this explorer. How I found Remembering Universe is a mystery to me now but I fondly remember the fascination with its cold and sombre astral temperament. As a Metal adjacent project, this acoustic guitar performance and its reverb soaked atmospheres glide from grace into tangles of abrasive complexity not far from metallic onslaught. With flourishes of cosmic sound design wedged in between its blooms of warm color feel chained to the shivering tone of its steel acoustic strings. Despite the name, it feels all so impersonal and inhuman, like an alien observation of wonders found through the universe.

The music is an indulgence of stringed instrumentation. With the textured bends and moody slides of a fretless base guitar accompanying this twelve string acoustic and "synth guitar", the Canadian musician operating under the name Humanoid pulls a warm range of texture and style from a small collection of instruments. Its style and atmospheric execution always felt so distinct to me yet with analytic ears I now hear similarities to the dexterous fretwork of Animals As Leaders & Gru. However this predates both of those, suggesting deeper origins in the Progressive Metal scene.

That is, however, just a footnote on this meandering journey of exotic, Jazzy instrumentation exploring ambiguous melody and distant moods through sways between simplicity and complexity. Its musical arrangements wander aimlessly, perusing its own passing by. Its most structured songs arrive in the four part Passages. It brings onboard distortion guitars for texture and an artsy, expressive drumming performance, devoid of simple beats to rock with, they groan and moan with surges of energy and moments of quite that lull between.

All in all, Remembering Universe is a very distinct project that's hard to put a finger on. Similar to some yet oddly alien, cosmic and cold. Although I have never been too overwhelmed by its company, the inhuman beauty and flushes of atmospheric winds have always called back to me. Its spell is calming and clambers into the background when one is preoccupied. The flow is sporadic, unstructured and its best moments are sprinkled throughout, however they have always warmed me.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 8 October 2021

Old Tower "The Old King Of Witches" (2021)


Embarking with a renewed spirit and refined aesthetics, The Old King Of Witches is both familiar and surprising. Having established a niche within the confines of Dungeon Synth, this ten track release of three to five minute spells has Old Tower side stepping their current conventions mastered on The Last Eidolon. Now we have what feels like the background ambience to a Horror movie, an impression marked by its ghastly jump scare conclusion on the opening track Wych Totem. At its conclusion a harrowing, tormented scream lunges out of the dark as the song then fades to black.

The following Night's Spell gifts us an astral respite, a contemplative soundscape not adrift from the likes of Steve Roach. From here, the plunge begins as ambiguous atmospheric ambiences and mischievous eerie sound design conspire. Brief reprisals of that astral charm can be heard infrequently but otherwise is lost between its dark, lonely voyages through shadowy caverns and hallowed grounds. It takes on a burdensome delusional experience, as flourishes of unsettled synth drones briefly add disorientation with a psychedelic quality, akin to a tiresome paranoid mental trip. Although the horrors of the opening track are never quite as vivid again, this spooky journey does end with a warmer note as closing track, Temple Of The Blue Sun, brings about a little of that cosmic charm again with its final passing cry.

Reflecting on Old Tower's previous sound design, the difference here is staggering. The temperament of its esoteric suggestions and the brooding ambiences of emotional unease are ripe for the imagination to run wild. The balance is charming and satisfying, feeling complete as a collection of songs. I'd also bring praise to the album art too. Corpse paint is a tired tradition but paired with the creepy skeletal fingers and candid nature of the photo, its suggestion of stumbling across a beast in a cave is fantastic and really ties up what this record is about. You can picture that cursed creature lurking around for eight of these ten songs. The Old King Of Witches is a very well inspired and executed concept.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 7 October 2021

The Alan Parsons Project "Tales Of Mystery And Imagination" (1976)


Having sat with this debut album for some time now, Its easy to see why I Robot, Pyr△mid & Eve were recommended as Alan Parsons best work. Tales Of Mystery And Imagination would of been impressive for the times but experienced from its predecessors shadows, the classy songwriting pulling on a broad range of 70s styles sadly fumbles out of the gates. Its hallowed poetry recital intro leading onto dated robotic voices feels a little awkward in its infancy however flashes of genius are heard often too, The Raven, The Cask Of Amontillado and To One In Paradise, all are fantastic songs. In fact much of the record has the Alan Parsons sound intact but its fumbling moments seem to exacerbate the difference between it and the following.

Where the cracks appear is on its lengthy The Fall Of The House Usher. Its five parts represent many ideas that Alan would go on to compose again. Stitched together as one unified thing, it lumps along awkwardly from tense and brash Classical orchestrations of terror and tragedy, into psychedelic thunderstorms led by hypnotic synths. The music passes through a string of Pink Floyd akin guitar inflections back into distressing string sections promoting unease and brittle tensions. It then sways back into a Progressive styling with exotic instruments and colorful melodic arrangements, only to be dissipated back into a nightmare cacophony of claustrophobic strings and demonic drum strikes that ends all too abruptly.

The two sounds contrast each other and break up half the record with a sense of confusion. It does however skimmer with brilliance but in attempting to meld such bold ideas, the consequences are vast. Tthe musics spell feels so disrupted by this rude awakening of hellish Classical instrumentation. It had become a large focus that diminished the album experience and illuminated its other blemishes. That being said, at the core Alan's brilliant songwriting delivers similar ideas heard later. They however have a less vibrant production to bolster the beautiful compositions and thus the whole record just feels inferior. Had I started here, my opinion may be all too different.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Chevelle "The North Corridor" (2016)

 Impressed by this years Niratias, I thought I'd step back five years to give the Illinois Rock outfit another try. The North Corridor is their eighth and lacking the context of their evolution, it really comes of like a plagiarist execution of Tool in their prime. Aggressive grooves, atmospheric incursions and psychedelic echos of Lateralus and 10,000 Days dominate just about every song here. Enjoyable, if its your cup of tea.

With every spin it passes me by, a competent set of songs yet lacking a sparkle, mainly as every break out moment lingers in the shadow that other band. Getting past this lack of originality, the influences are interesting. Obviously the Progressive and Alternative Metal flavors run strong but the record is rife with harsh syncopated grooves. Bludgeons of chromatic palm mute chugging, backed by its dense, warbling baselines fire inline with pounding drum strikes frequent many a song with these simplistic slabs of primordial dance. Often it serves as a jump of point for the rest of the music to evolve, delving into bursts of psychedelic, reverb soaked lead guitars to wail into the distance alongside other progressive tangents.

Pete Loeffler's presence upfront is massive, a tug of war between emotive spoken inflections and throat wrenching screams that strain and shout with quite an impressive intensity. He punctuates the music well, often orchestrating the musical shifts with his conduction. It is of course a performance treading in the foot steps of Maynard Keenan. Practically every idea executed feels complimentary to the Tool back catalog, on one track where he deviates, Punchline, singing like Trent Reznor.

In all its similarities, Chevelle execute with classic, making engaging music with much to offer. Riotous yet contained landscapes of aggression and frustration. My issue with The North Corridor is its dull production. Everything feels distinctly grayscale. The guitar tone seems brittle and rough, the bass warble is massive but lacking charm, it feels a little brute force. The drums are decent but on some tracks seems a little out of balance in the mix. Ultimately, all its elements are present but just seem to teeter on the demo quality edge with its rough aesthetic and dull tone.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Spellling "The Turning Wheel" (2021)


In search of new sounds and experiences, I've found a record strung out with familiarity yet blindingly powerful in its execution of inspiration. It works for me, something I could swiftly get into and mull over these last few weeks. Chrystia Cabral, the brains behind the Spellling name, lends her immaculate voice to a timely orchestration of genre influences adjacent to the world of popular music. She is a powerhouse of breathy expression, rooted in classic soulful stylings. Her range is wide, diving with a masculine low on Magic Act and sailing to a childish, playful resonance on Little Deer. With each of these arrangements offering up a different temperament, she is the beacon that shines and guides us through these twelve offerings as they grow increasingly atmospheric, occasionally peering into a brittle darkness.

I could easily rattle off lists at this point. With a backbone of warm baselines, Organs, Pianos, String, Horns and strong vocal harmonization parade upfront in a variety of compositions that usher in many vibes. Pop music of the 60s, Soul, R&B, a little Jazz, Chamber Pop and Lounge too. There are subtle electronic influences worming there way in too. Always sounds more like an 80s Synth-pop ballad and after the slow brewing Awaken, aligned strongly with Classical ideas, the album starts to open up. Emperor With An Egg accrues various waveform instruments alongside its Classical instrumentation and the following Boys At School at school hints at Synthwave vibes which blossoms on Queen Of Wands, a track akin to Chelsea Wolfe's Pain Is Beauty. Its use of wobbly, eerie, spooky Horror synths a sensibility here that resurfaces, seemingly at odds with the mood of Sweet Talk. Little moments like this are littered throughout, sounds that seem out of context but work wonderfully.

I could go on but essentially we have bright and clear instrumentation arranged wonderfully with beautiful aesthetics and expressive instrumentation that despite showing its influences, feels entirely distinct as the web of influences weave together. The record sets out feeling more Soul and Baroque pop oriented but swells of instrumentation gives it a Progressive edge that blossoms as the songs continuously explore, bringing in more instruments, sounds and aesthetics as it goes on. Its melodies too often feel interchanged between these style, ushering in just the strangest sense of ideas in action. One can almost see the blueprint yet its outcome feels completely inspired and magical, without any design.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 4 October 2021

John Carpenter "Ghosts Of Mars" (2001)

From the eternal memories of youth still calls a siren. Blistering through the noise of a late night binge, after crashing in front of the television for early hours entertainment, the music caught me off guard. Initially impressed by the presence of Ice Cube, it wasn't long before my inebriated self was memorized by its mechanized Industrial Metal soundtrack. Within a few songs I realized I was here for the music, as it was clear the zombie Sci-Fi Horror show set on mars was one heck of a flawed beast.

Not John Carpenter's finest moment with the pen or camera but this was my introduction to his accompanying instrumentation. Legendary to all in the cinematic world but this is one rarely mentioned. Since I saved up to get my hands on the CD soundtrack, its called me back to every now and then. Today was one of those days and with the opportunity to ponder on what words I would share here, it became clear that the nostalgia of childhood games and Frank Klepacki's timeless soundtracks to Command & Conquer share an aesthetic and spiritual overlap in patches.

As the complimenting mood setter to a bizarre and dystopian movie, it has to frequently switch temperaments, from action sequence to calms for dialog. This means its 90s Industrial percussive pallet swings into passages of ambiguous, noisy instrumentation and sound design between the barrages of Metal guitar. It does kick off with a bang however! The title track, Love Siege and Fight Train providing thrilling fast paced action and romping guitars fit for the onscreen voilent zombie onslaught.

Its the variety that births some really unusual ideas with Carpenter's collaborators Scott Ian of Anthrax, Steve Vai and even Buckethead! Somehow a little classy cheesed up Saxophone playing is worked in too via Bruce Robb as his playing and lead guitar licks often act as a voice above the brooding bass guitars and rattling drums that make up the hostile landscape. It sways between band performances and electronic arrangements, forging a disjointed soundtrack to a bizarre movie.

I find Scott Ian's contributions to be the best. Big noisy slabs of meaty distortion riffs having the Thrasher work a little out of his comfort zone to birth a couple booming syncopated riffs at the apt time. Its often what everything leads too as we pass through barren landscapes of mechanized percussion and ambiguous synth arrangements. Steve and Buckethead are like ghosts in the wind, alien voices drifting in and out on the way to the next action sequence, where Ian arrives, hitting hard.

As much as I love the experience, I have to be critical, the record is odd and jarring, things sound a little stiff and forced at times as its lead instruments try to meld that classic shred guitar flavor on top of its unearthly electro-industrial fusion. Many of the tracks lack structure and just serve as texture of the on screen tension. For some reason though, none of this bothers me. I think it slipped right into a space of curiosity in my musical journey at a time when I was ready to hear more of a sound I've now explored deeper. I also love the movie, its an odd one that tries to be tongue in cheek. A young Jason Statham is present doing his thing and a then legendary Pam Grier too! This movie tried to be a lot and It didn't resonate with many people. I'm glad to have stumbled onto, its another oddity in my collection that I'm happy to share!

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Lil Nas X "Montero" (2021)


With the monumental success of the chart topping, record breaking Old Town Road, the Georgian rapper Lil Nas X has had the musical worlds attention thrust his direction for some time now. Typically critical voices cry the loudest, claiming him a one hit wonder but this record certainly proves that wrong. Now we can joke he is a one album wonder for now, as Montero is simply fantastic, a vibrant album experience, strong from front to back with a very accessible Pop Rap aesthetic brightening up a wealth of self expression and topicality to deepen its warm, welcoming vibes.

In general, these songs are short and snappy, getting to the point swiftly, wrapping themes up with catchy hooks. Production wise, the music never leans to hard into anything but goes all over the place, softly diversifying. Dead Right Now and Industry Baby steer into Trap territory, addressing relations with his father and following it up with a self affirming track bolstering his ambitions. His Country Rap infusion returns on That's What I Want with a bright chirpy chorus delivering an infectious hook over soft sunny chorals. Not exactly the most original composition but he does the idea justice.

From here the songs increasingly ramp up my personal interest, Scoop swoops in simple melodies and jiving percussion giving light to the quirky ad-libs. This track gave me some serious Rodeo vibes with that Travis Scott style production. Quite the fun and creative stint before One Of Me drives hope a fantastic hook with the plain faced "I like this, I don't like that" lines. Such a simple way to illuminate the ridicule of voiced opinions that whirl around individuals thrust into the limelight. Lost In The Citadel ushers in uplifting, poppy Alt Rock guitars as the record starts to pivot to more guitar oriented aesthetics. Paired with tight percussion and deep baselines in straddles Hip Hop from a distance as the lines blur wonderfully.

Then with void we hear Lil Nas X depart from that entirely on an epic sung song, expressing pains and vulnerability while some how working the "Hodo hodo" ear worm in. As his voice opens up the dark and brooding instrumental behind him starts to build slithers of light as the soft drive of muted drums and pounding bass lead to a wonderful sense of revealing the beauty in his singing that was always present. Stunning song. Don't Want It oddly gets away with shifting back to a Trap flavor for Life After Salem to deliver the albums broodiest track. Led by a gristly acoustic guitar it routinely sails into the darkness with swells of Post-Rock guitar and subtle stabs of sinister Gangster's Paradise strings nestled, lurking in the backdrop briefly.

Between the likable Pop and Trap tracks, that bring their own identity, the team producing the instrumentals work in some fantastic music quite distance from that formulae. Its exciting, interesting and very expressive with Lil Nas X singing and rapping with a lot of substance to embrace. It all amalgamates to a stunning conclusion as Miley Cyrus hops on to lend her powerful voice to the albums epic closer, Am I Dreaming. The way the two individually step onto the track in their verses hits like waves, as tension builds up with the duo weaving their voices in a dramatic conclusion, crying "Never forget me". Goosebumps.

Its hard not to be bull about this record. Its arrangement is fascinating, steering from the accessible into expressive songs pulling from areas not often associated with Hip Hop. This might be one of the most enjoyable experiences this year. I'm left with thoughts of wondering if its magic might diminish with time? I think one or two songs could suffer that fate but there is so much brilliance on display. Whats best is a feeling of optimism moving forward. This wasn't just a collection of well crafted appeals but inspired songs moving in new directions. Lil Nas X has the diversity here to really open up and surprise in the future, in my opinion at least.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Between The Buried And Me "Colors II" (2021)


Once a fresh and exciting band on the rise in my youth, Between The Buried And Me now have two decades to name. To my ears, their identity settled around the landmark record Colors. Since then its been a string of familiar and fun romps, blasting a Progressive Metal brandished by their particular flavor. With a recent personal desire to branch out I wanted to skip this one by, feeling that Between had become a little predictable with ambitious by design music. Then again, this is the sequel to the album with Prequel To The Sequel! Colors II! Surely something special is at play?

Either by exhaustion, saturation or my mood, sadly my enjoyment cannot say this is worthy of the title. Beyond that, the music has played out like a sporadic array of twisting aggression, sudden pivots and crowded complications has the instruments often cramming in a lot of unnecessary texture and notation that its songs end up like disorienting river rapids. Some arrangements, riffs and moments have power, intrigue and excitement but mostly it drones on as its mammoth eighty minutes grind away.

 I can't help but feel that Tommy's harsh, snarling shouts added to this grinding feeling. The album is interspersed with beautiful clean singing and non metallic instrumentation which often amounted to my favorite moments when the unrelenting subsides. That's when themes flourish and melodies lead the way but some of them too get a little to self indulged too. Progressive music like this is a tightrope to walk. In this case I felt as if it came of with more thought than feeling. Too much of the record is unnecessarily complicated and overloaded, amounting to an overly busy set of songs with some moments of fun and grooves sprinkled throughout.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 23 September 2021

AZ "Doe Or Die II" (2021)

Twenty six years later, New York rapper AZ releases a sequel to his Mafioso Rap gem Doe Or Die. In the world of Hip Hop there isn't a great track record for artists reviving classics further down the road. That's why I almost passed this one up but a quick check in had me impressed. Now approaching fifty, AZ's voice sounds barely aged, a little rough at the edges but his slick flow and youthful tone is well intact. Most surprising of all, hes got expression in abundance, riffing bars from start to end without an inch of nonsense to be found. This is quite the exception for an aging generation of rappers.

With his timeless flow intact, the tightly stacked rhymes flow again. Grooving off his effortless cadence the lyrics weave between wisdom and observation as AZ drops knowledge and intelligence into his tales. Reflecting on the angels and devils of lifestyle and environment, he paints a path out the dangers of street life with a keen maturity that oozes with confidence. The Mafioso flavor creeps in here and there with his poetic word choices painting lavish pictures however its often withdraws from the violence as his words wave weary warnings to the dangers of such lifestyles.

Its a total pleasure, AZ shines with every verse of this record. Its strangely his guests who spoil the flow. Variety is important and Lil Wayne brings an interesting approach for his feature but every other rapper here just doesn't fit with the vibe. They mostly work in the shadow of AZ, trying to deploy a similar style. English actor Idris Elba also lends his voice for the intro too, however it again doesn't feel like the right fit for an album opening monologue. I think I could of just listened to AZ from front to back. This leads me to another observation, the absence of Nas. With both being active its a shame they didn't hook up again. AZ was a special part of Illmatic, arguably the greatest Hip Hop record of the 90s. Who would of thought these two would still be on top their games all these years later? With them on such good form, hearing him here would of been sublime, I'm sure!

With such an abundance of great rhymes, sadly the beats that struggle a little here. Mostly they conjure moods adjacent to the 90s style. Sample oriented and using oldskool break loops they provide a firm footing but lack a cutting edge. Often toned down, they give space for AZ to occupy clearly, not being overly ambitious or overbearing. On one hand they've essentially crafted beats within the 90s time machine. On the other that doesn't give it much in the way of freshness but I've got to give props to the craft, of all the artists trying to relive that era, this probably came closest. The closing bonus song however throws most that out the window for a more modern sound with some Kanye inspired vocal inclusion with the hook.
 Doe Or Die II is an anomaly, a sequel mostly worthy of the name. It can't replace the original but it compliments it wonderfully. My only qualm is a sense of its impressive stature being more analytical than emotional? This is a common problem when observation intersects the nature of mood and inspiration. Is it me or the music? I feel like I could love this more and as I often say, into the collection it goes ready for shuffle to find me again later down the road. I'm sure then these songs will be more than a welcome surprise.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Carcass "Torn Arteries" (2021)


Its been eight years since the legendary Grindcore *and* Melodic Death Metal pioneers Carcass returned to the scene with their mighty Surgical Steel record. My excitement for this new album was stirred greatly by the EP Despicable released as a holdover comprised of outtakes during the pandemic. Its strange but what mustered my interest seems missing on many of the new songs here, mostly in its aggressive arrangements. Perhaps the music falls into the routine and expectant as Bill Steer and Jeff Walker write this collection of new songs from safe space creatively.

Torn Arteries is another power house of Melodic Death Metal, executed with a clean, approachable tone and embellishing production to give the aggressive snarling shouts and blast beats a softer edge. It illuminates the web of melody and cushioned groove woven between its harsher elements. Chugging guitars drift into melodic inflections as bright luminous lead guitars turn a lick into a solo. It all sounds gorgeous with a notable easing up from drummer Daniel Wilding who's kick and snare grooves come with space at easier tempos to give room for digestion of the entangled guitars.

 In its opening phases the temperament is all a little too contained and unadventurous, at least in terms of finding new ground. I can't put my finger on quite why but its not until In God We Trust that I get any goosebumps. I'd say at the mid point with The Devil Rides Out, the pace picks up as bigger riffs and more exciting stints of aggression come into play. I adore this sound and style but Carcass stick so closely to it. Perhaps that's what I liked about the cuts that didn't make this record? In not being up to snuff, they had a little difference I found exciting.

One thing that rocks throughout is Bill's lyrical hooks. His snarling shouts are often a bit much to decipher but he gets the catchiest lines out with a knack for creating ear worms. The way he barks "Whats the joke?" or spewing wordings like PVC and Skullduggery. He has a knack, obviously, for that twisted medical savagery they embellish their identity with. "As the serpent rises from a maternity ward" being a favorite as it paints an utterly bizarre image of genetic experimentation gone wrong.

I've sat on this one for a while now, spinning it over and over, hoping that some much needed adrenaline would flow, like other Carcass records do for me... but still its not quite there yet. I can't critique much here at all, I think its a fantastic set of songs with a great sounding production. Its probably the lack of novelty or originality that is missing for me. At a time where I am starting to think I need some new musical adventure, this was just all too routine? Either way, I can't knock Torn Arteries, it will go in the collection for rotation and hopefully the surprise of shuffle will reconnect me with these songs in the future.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Little Simz "Sometimes I Might Be Introvert" (2021)


I have been dying to hear this album ever since its second single Woman with Cleo Soul dropped. What a stunning track! Perfectly blurring the lines of R&B and Hip Hop, its a mover. Warm, bold and audacious, its lush instrumentation is led by a grooving baseline as Little Simz delivers a fine perspective on female empowerment to compliment. Much of this tracks charm is what the record as a whole is about. A brilliant production has its percussive beats and raps anchored in a classy setting that sways in and out of its own theatrical pantomime. Developing an overarching theme of perception, reflection and ambition grounded in reality, Simz navigates the present moment on a mission of affirmation and intent that is this record.

 With a blinding string of opening tracks, we go on an emotional journey. Riveting, bold and poetic, Simz walks us through so many personal struggles and perspectives on an effortless stride. Lyrically the flow and cadence is so smooth and concise, yet her words resonate so deeply. Reflecting on how she was stabbed and yet sees the perpetrator as a victim of the same circumstances she endured shows so much maturity. It blesses this record with much wisdom interwoven in her raps, as well as a lot of candid talks on family issues. Either reflecting on past woes, commentating on present problems or thinking positively ahead, almost every topic here is illuminated. Not only working through intimate and personal issues of abuse and struggle does she also dissect broader societal concepts and ills into the meaning of all shes going through. Its some of the finest lyricism I've heard in a while.

Where the foot comes off the gas is in the records runtime. At sixty five minutes the bulk of material fits closely to this dynamic union of theater and theme. As the record rolls on a few songs break up the mood, which can often be a good addition of variety. Speed does this well with its stiff baseline toying with simple groove and zany synth melodies. Simz switches up the flow and topicality with a fun boisterous stance. It works but in its reflection Rollin Stone arrives abruptly like a trend chaser. With a dark and gritty street vibe it contrasts the rest of the record. Half way through, Its beat switch and slyly sung lyrics feel so aimless and the track ends with a lone use of auto tune sounding like a half baked hook left way out of place.

Fortunately it pivots into Protect My Energy offering up some energetic 80s vibes with its snappy, hasty percussion and punchy melodies. Quite the song, seemingly out of step yet acts as a tribute to her introversion that pops up throughout the record as she comes to grip with it. Point And Kill and Fear No Man bring a little Caribbean flavor to the record but again, feels off point from the main theme and thus drags on despite being equally interesting tracks. Its the vibe shake up that looses its way on the path to the last three songs which wrap things up on a wonderful stride of introspection.

 Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a stunning expression of an artists life. A slice in time that flirts with the genres classics as its own identity strides for greatness at every turn. Strangely, the criticism is a common one, bloat. With exception to one song, its mainly a case of solid, interesting songs detouring of the path walked by the greater contributes. To pull four of five tracks would have me completely hanging on her every word - I feel as if no respite from this stunning stride was needed.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Yagya "Always Maybe Tomorrow" (2021)


With little in the way of a stylistic divergence to be found, Always Maybe Tomorrow is the sort of release I prefer from an artist who I enjoy, yet may not find something new as they remain in their lane. This is a straight forward four track EP of droning dreamy cuts with the typical Yagya sound. Its synths, percussive pallet and ambiguous noises seemingly recycled tones from past projects but in this brief format its a welcome place to revisit. So much so that I'd fail not to repeat myself in describing it.

Each song is a deployment of rich textural aesthetics. Its perpetual deep bass pounding a soothing rhythmic backbone for a one way drive through the varying temperaments of its various instruments. Dense with atmosphere and calming in nature its quite the meditative experience for focus with no human voices to provide any distraction from the entrancing experience of these dreamy drones.

Perhaps I could remark on Standing Still In A River for a more prominent synth melody that repeats on itself endlessly, upfront in the tracks limelight. Beyond that excursion I find myself with little to comment on. This is a very typical set of tracks from Yagya, great to enjoy but not to much in the way of breaking new ground, which I doubt was ever the intent.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 10 September 2021

Jinjer "Wallflowers" (2021)


Is the world of modern Metal is one in decline? A lack of freshness and new ideas has left the genre stuck with innovations now twenty years old. At a "mainstream" level, the prevailing trends seem to still be Meshuggah's Djent guitar tones and the repackaging of Hybrid Theory song writing. As a band with an "underground" buzz, Jinjer don't delve in either of these directions specifically, bar the modern guitar tone. Most of what I hear still feels like a reformation of ideas explored before in the world of Metal. I would label them "Post Metalcore", with the general framework feeling closely aligned. However these songs frequently morph into a Progressive beasts loaded with challenging entangled riff work hinged around some non 4/4 time signatures.

As a listener I feel somewhat torn, these songs feel chromatic, downtrodden and gloomy, bustled along by bursts of anger. Never do they seem particularly appealing to me, perhaps mirroring the Nu Metal perils of negativity without resolution. Yet upon spinning the record do I find myself frequently pulled into the mania as dizzying, brooding discordant guitar works bounce from wall to wall, playing of Tatiana Shmailyuk's gristly shouts and harmonious, yet grounded clean voicings. Its a mean affair, exploring the darker topics with little in the way of upbeat hooks or metallic gimmicks to give you a cheap reward or burst of adrenaline.

The broad topicality of Wallflowers catches my ear for the self portrait of trauma, abuse, a struggle with introversion in the face of social pressures and once again, the teachers! From their EP Micro, Teachers caught my attention with its plain and frank language for story telling. The recurring sentiment signals a deep grievance it would seem... and that words says a lot about this band. Grievance, these songs frequent a mood of dealing with grievances in the metallic context, using the aggressive instruments for struggle and pains rather than bombast and momentum. Of course they do load in the occasional "phat riff" or mosh moment, best heard at the end of of Vortex or a little Deathcore charm in the closing of Dead Hands Feel No Pain.

For me, this Ukrainian outfit remain to be a morbid curiosity. I'm never enamored or moved to goosebumps yet there is something undeniably "them" at play. The more I listen, the more I think its a focus on the uncomfortable and unease. Expressing pains and dark emotions, it culminates through Tatiana's words, her vocal style ferocious when roaring and oddly pristine yet lacking a typically effeminate charm in her clean voice. Wallflowers will have me tuning back in for the next one. If their evolution will lead to places I really vibe with remains to be seen.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Erang "Prisonnier Du Rêve" (2021)


Its album number nineteen for Erang! A release that arrives with a drastic stylistic shift, the first to truly shed the Dungeon Synth and Fantasy origins. Heading for a new adventure in the realms of electronic nostalgia, the pallet of instruments migrates to buzz saws, sine waves and all manor of oscillating synths to house a familiar sense of composition and melody. Initially starting out with a chirpy and upbeat vibes of childhood wonder, Machine Humanoïde reels the mood in towards familiar darkly Synthwave vibes of Anti Future and Songs Of Scars for just a few tracks. Its presentation and promotion, all conducted in native French, plays into the albums narration, a mischievous voice narrating the twists and turns that come about with each song. Of course as linguistic illiterate, this is just my interpretation.

With a more familiar middle, its start and end sections jostle melodies in such a predictable way that I almost want to abstain from opinion. The shift in pallet doesn't drift far enough for a surprise. Being this deep into the French musicians discography, there is little that of the chord progressions, arpeggios and general notation that feels fresh or unexpected. The production style also leaves little out of focus. With all its instruments and percussion crisp and clear, the textures of big bustling old-school synth waves overpower the focus and rather quickly does it overstay its welcome. Its a nostalgic affair for old school synth and early electronic music with spacey overtones. It doesn't always click when dealing with and aesthetic heard many times before.

That being said, Erang always has vision and intent. Emotion is ripe and present as one feels the realm they carve out for themselves. For me, C'était Demain and Demain Les Mondes ride the basics a little to hard on bare bones compositions where as L'avenir Et La Mer and Passage land the ending well scenic and soundscape alike compositions weaving between the melody led strides. Ultimately I've enjoyed Prisonnier Du Rêve for being what I like about this musician but the artistic stride for something new and different feels only knee deep this time around.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Deafheaven "Infinite Granite" (2021)


With a dramatic withdrawal of extremity, Deafheaven emerge from a cocoon reborn in a new form both drastically different and strangely similar. With one fell swoop the band land on a thing of beauty with Infinite Granite. The deeper instincts of their inspirations blossom as they distance themselves from the Black Metal, or Blackgaze they are associated with. Dialing in closer towards traditional Shoegaze, an invigorating, textured wall of sound ebbs and flows with intensity, swaying through calm breezes and emotive storms with an effortless grace that feels so right.

It is singer George Clarke who illuminates and makes sense of this shift in tone. Finding a new voice, he swoons with purity, navigating the shimmering ethereal nightly mood his band mates conjure. As an anchoring force, his gentle and sincere presence adds so much meaning and grace, especially when dreamily drifting with a softness through the instrumental turbulence, riding out the storms. The particular style is one I can't quite put my finger on. Its a little Morrisy perhaps but there is some 80s voices I'm sure he holds a candle to with this remarkable performance.

All the beauty converges with these remarkably busied and bustling instrumentals. The drums shuffle and rattle ceaselessly. The bass guitar works a dense underbelly for the shimmering guitars to sway back and forth between dark glossy acoustic chord plucking and rapturous build ups of swelling guitar distortion. It all ebbs and flows together as one cohesive force, the songs rolling of one and into another. Between it all subtle electronic keyboard tones weave in and out of focus and making itself known with the misty ambiguous instrumental piece Neptune Raining Diamonds.

The initial, noteable thing of remark is the departure from Black Metal, however these intensities with screaming and surges of instrumental force are found here and there as wretched crescendos push whats beautiful in this dark realm to its absolute limits. Although it feels more like traditional Shoegazing, the dense wall of sound and depth of texture is quite the meaty affair. It seems melodic and emotive yet its laid on heavy. Its seemingly a big change but more so a smart re-arrangement of select pieces on the chessboard, to break it down from a more technical perspective.

Infinite Granite will be one of my favorites this year and not a moment of it turns me off. Will its spark dull with time? I hope not, I adore this engrossing experience. It feels like one to be enjoyed as a whole, ending with the remarkable epic Mombasa! If anything written here sparked your interest, give it a listen! Surely it wont disappoint!

Rating: 9/10