Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vainaja: "Kadotetut"



This album had a lot to live up to as I kept hearing it was the heaviest thing ever. It does have some heft to it's deathly doom, there have been some rather lofty claims made. One good ting about this Finnish band is they tend to remind me of Celtic Frost. They bring plenty of melody along with the rumble of the low tuned guitar lines.Like most albums of this ilk the heaviness , leaves you too impressed to argue with the opener.

This is pretty dark, so that gets another approving smile in my book.The stomp of the second second , says they have no intention on letting up from here, however one thing that leans in their favor is most death metal relies solely on aggression these guys have a broader emotional breadth their sound encompasses. It must come from their more doomy influences as their is more melancholy and despair rather than trying to shove double bass drums down your throat. There riffs just happen to have a lot of balls to them. For a three piece they manage to capture a pretty massive sound.

A song like "Valon lapse" ( featured below) shows that these guys don't need a sprawling five minutes to collect their thoughts before they bring the good as they are rather to the point but still managed to neatly arrange a lot into those three minutes dynamically. They do build into more of a death metal tempo, but manage to avoid that straight snare beat that reminds me too much of punk rock.

"Henkikaste" does linger on atmospherics and is more of an interlude than a song, so I suppose they could have made it the intro to the following song and thus broken the getting down to business rule ,but its not how the album feels., nor did I kept these interludes on my iPod so my impression listening to it in my chosen manner of consumptions, is that that guys throw the riffs in your face almost all the time with now pause "Verinen lahde" gives the impression it will be the most straightforward on the album and then it backs off into an almost black metal end section.The have a heavy hand for chugging that carries some of these riffs further than the composition

The drummer doesn't make much of an impression on me until the tom rolling tribal feel of the fifth song. Sonically these guys do occupy a similar cemetery plot as Disma does, though they lean more toward the doom side of the grave.The production is not as nasty as the Disma album.The guitars can get down and grind as needed , but are also more capable of atmosphere and melody. Though the singer's roars is not as demonic as Disma's.

The not wasting anytime to rock you streak is broken on "Viimeinen tuomio" as they lead in with two minutes of creaks on moans before the bass comes in. The guitar tone that surfaces in this intro is pretty cool and keeps this song on my iPod, and it's not to say that the pay off doesn't rock, it does just meanders to get there a little more than what they had lead me to believe they were about. The outro to the album sounds like something Agalloch would do so not sure how it held the heaviest album of the year banner up for these guys, but this album is good and I enjoy it so I'll give them a 9 as it is more than just  pretty solid shit.




4   

Mayhem:"Esoteric Warfare"




A band that need no introduction as the are the un-godly fathers of the second wave of black metal. It's been a minute since they have been in the studio and  Necrobutcher , Hellhammer, Attila  as on board as well as the addition of new comer  Teloch from Nidingr on guitars. He has been playing with the band since 2011 , but this is his first studio appearance. The latter helped keep the band's sound intact, as he had been playing their earlier material so know how to blend it on the new stuff. This doesn't mean the song remains the same here as the album opens with a moodier and more detailed number than I remember the band engaging in, its mature like Enslaved , but without wanting to be Opeth.

The lead single off the album "Pys-war" is the need for speed blasting, similar to how Hell Hammer's drumming propelled Dimmu, fast and blasting , but with precision.The symphonic elements that ring out in the back ground are also very Dimmu to me. So it's kinda like in the 90's when Sabbath tried sounding like Alice in Chains, sometimes you had to take it on a song by song basis and I think it works here.

"Trinity" finds the blast taking a almost industrial stiffness, there is a very militant feel here. The vocals are well produced and this album sounds great so any one wanting the old kvlt sound should know it's not happening, so get over it . Attila shows a wide range of growls that makes his voice unique in black metal. You have to be in the mood for fast for sure on this one.

The herky jerky snap action of "Pandaemon" obscures what sounds to be a cool riff hidden in the chaos, but these guys some how manage to pull it off.You can see where Behemoth pulled some of their inspiration from on moments like these. The drumming is beyond insane and the Ministry vibe I am getting keeps haunting the chapel here. Things slow down into more of a creep on "Milab" . It's what I needed as an album of just blasting would have worn me out and proves these guys know a thing or 666 about dynamics and their importance in songwriting. At times it even grooves.

Things stay to this darker direction on "V.I.Sec". Attila squawks and shrieks like a harpy in torment. The use of space in this song creates weird empty gaps , which was the intention, and it works in a more doom like fashion.This is not to say they are able to avoid the need to blast at all times even here. The electronic grime coating the intro to "Throne of Time". The winks at industrial are fine with me. The weirdness surrounding that sort of experimentation is evident in this song , which is not industrial but is a very different take on black metal not unlike what Blut Aus Nord does. This kind of dissonant darkness rings out further into the album. I am not sure how this unorthodox approach is going to translate over to your average metal head, but it works for me. By the time we get to "Post Human" the dissonance has dripped all over you and if you are looking to sink your teeth into more meat and potatoes black metal them it might be wearing on you. The album album does begin to take a on a drone , though some of the clever tension in the guitar seeps out sideways midway through this one. This more experimental than most of you are going to have bargaining for , but if it was DeathSpell Omaga, no one would blink. When things come of a close on "Aion Suntelia" you are ready for the very Voi Vod like use of double bass to hit you. Voi Vod might be more of an influence on black metal than I have really considered. It does take you back to those days of Celtic Frost and Voi Vod , more than Sodom or death metal like the album hints at earlier. I think it's important that Mayhem released this album rather than revisiting classic ground they have already tread, the more droning sections will wear on me so I am going to go ahead and give this one a 10.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Damian Wilde:"Nouveau Noir"




Indie rock is getting darker. Maybe this coincides with a generation growing up so self aware of the precarious nature of their mental health. This is evident in the opening moments of Cape Town's Damian Wilde , who drips with a dreary desperation right from the onset of the album. The way the beat falls behind the piano riff of "the Umbrella Co. " it reminds me of Gorillaz. There is enough mope here to make fans of darkwave and post- punk happy without using the big G word here.

The electronic elements don't come in until the second song "Tempestous". The guitar fills in the gaps around his melody in such a way that I don't consider his approach minimalist. There is not an empty sound to these songs. Sure the arrangements might ebb and flow, but this is more like a more depressive take on the same sort of pop guys like Gotye create.

The sense of sparseness doesn't creep in until the "Green Mile" . The lyrics sound like the might be telling the story of a serial killer.  Wilde's voice knows it's limits. Rather than showcasing his pipes , this music is more about showcasing the emotional context of the songs.

While I like the darker croon on "Disco Shit" it was not what I expected from the title.This song comes closer to being goth in the choice of synth sounds and the vocal effects than anything previous brought to the table on this album. But they don't dance around the bat cave, there is still a pop smart sense of hooks in the vocal arrangements.

The guitar line to "Alive" has more in common with the Doors than the Cure on first listen, the line is very fine.  His voice is coated in a more subdued whisper. The transition into the chorus is more Love and Rockets  to me than anything indie rock by today's standards. This is not part of the goth revival, but it does havea depressed darkness to it fans of such will find resonating with them. I am intrested in seeing what direction Wilde would go on a full length.    

Christina Rubino : (A)Live From the Scrapheap


All music has it's season. I tend to listen to heavier stuff more in the fall and winter months.This album by Christina Rubino seems perfect for sweating under the summer sun. With harmonica line that brings early Dylan to mind, Brooklyn would not be my first guess as to where this artist hails from.The organic warmth of the album, sounds like it was recorded  out on a farm in the Mid West or South of Kentucky. There is the hopeful folk hints of the Indigo Girls in the way Rubino's melodies coast over the celebratory strum of the acoustic guitars.

Here alto reaches for notes with assurance. Some of the tonal quality to here voice reminds me of Sinead O Conner, who in her own right has covered such a breadth of genres, such comparisons must be my ears picking up a European sense of melodies that stray from  the conventions of western pop music. This albums doesn't go into the country tinged or blues soaked place the current Americana train predictably wanders. A song  like " Nothing to Gain"  has more in common with the Cowboy Junkies than hipster folk.



An almost gospel elements haunts the metaphoric lyrics like a holy ghost.Though it more of a soul searching than any religious connection. This sometimes dips into a melancholy lament on a song like "Tidal", which looks back on some of the drug addled shadows of the past. Her lyrics shed the self loathing in their introspection and tell a story of someone picking up the pieces rather than being overwhelmed by them."Tidal" carries an emotional depth and rawness I haven't heard in this sort of thing since Ani Difranco's "Dilate" album.


Christina has a sound vision of who she is musically. While very easy on the eyes, sex is not a predominate element to her music. This is not to say there is not a sometimes pleading sensuality that her voice adds a pleading sensual element to the social commentary of  "Little Bee D", but the emphasis is her asking the universe for direction.The lyrics are open to enough interpretation that if you want "Seems" to be a love song it could be.

Midway in the album takes on a more thoughtful ballad like quality. There are varied levels of desperation with "Waiting to Break" more brooding than "Stix and Stones", that breaks into a more upbeat path with a banjo dancing underneath the chorus. Regret coats the charged "Break Out" , as she cries "don't leave me / at a comfortable distance" . The the albums goes out on a easier tone with "Billy's Song".

Overall for a newcomer Rubino is ahead of the curve when it comes to songwriting. It's clear she isn't aiming for a commercial market as she doesn't feel the need to dumb her art down for the masses.While this isn't as dark as our fare here, it has an emotional honesty that is heavy in it's own right. If you are looking for something mellower for the summer this album is worth checking out as I think fans of Concrete Blonde and Ani can appreciate what she is doing here. Check it out below.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Interview : Paul from Black Anvil




Managed to get a few words in with Paul of Black Anvil in regards to their newest release "Hail Death" and it went something like this.

Wil - The New Album "Hail Death is Great" it's a huge step with a lot of growth for you guys. I was surprised to learn J Robbins of Jawbox produced what was it like working with him? 

Paul - He is a great guy and a genius at his craft . I have done something with him before in the past and originally we had planned to record with Devo from Marduk. We were going to go over to Sweden, so it would have been in a different country and totally different experience , but  it fell through. So this came into being. What was cool about this is he had done nothing like this before, but after listening to the demos he totally understood.He was able to hear what we did on the demos and translate it to a bigger arena.

Wil- Do you think working with him brought out more of your hardcore roots ?

Paul - No, I think this is slightly different. I mean possibly from the powerchord chord riffing you could hear that but even Metallica does that. I think we strayed further from that. There is more of a rock n roll element. In the production I think there is a live raw sounds that is big but still punishes.I heave read stuff on the Internet and I  should know better and stay off there, but I read some review brings that up in the first line. There are gang vocals , but there are gang vocals on some Dissection albums. It is more like a million soldiers. A bold army, not done with any intent to follow a curriculum or tough guys in cargo shorts.

Wil - I heard this album tells a story. What are the thematic elements of that story?

Paul - I was going though some shit. Sometimes life gets in the way and you can choose to either be crushed or  rise to the occasion and crush it .That is what I choose to do. The end result is all that matters. I chose to separate my self. I became somewhat of a hermit and dove into all the arranging.  I withdrew , but in a fully functioning sort of way.  I chose to stay in close. It gave me than chance to look at it from the fans spect . If I was a fan what would I want to hear, but in a calculated way. It was natural. I mean if I put a bullet in my head today , I would be going out on a high note. I an the proudest of this more than any other thing in my life.The lyrics do tell a story maybe not in a linear manner , but it's about life and death and our journey where death is the ultimate reality.

Wil- Speaking of thematic albums, you guys to chose to cover a song off of Kiss' music from the Elder album, what brought about that? it's a fan album when it comes to Kiss.

Paul -There is an infinite list of songs we would cover. It would look like the opening sequence from Star Wars scrolling up the screen. I liked that entire record, growing up I got it at a time when I didn't know any better, I had to get it as an import , and thought it was cool because it was so hard to find. Its stood the test of time. Last tour we had it on playing in the van and one of the guys said we should cover it and bam it was a done deal. It one of those cases where a standard might not work, the songs kinda pertains to the vibe of the album.

Wil -What are your plans in regard to touring in support of this one ? 

Paul - We are going to do a record release show in New York. We decided to wait until July to do it because the album is a lot to digest, so we are going to play the album front to back in it's entirety . It makes the most sense to to it that way. In the fall we were supposed to play a tour with Mayhem and Inquisition, but now we are looking to go on a tour with Skeleton Witch and Ghoul in September, which should be cool , but who knows we might prove to be the odd band out on that one , that always sort of is the case.  

Wil -What is it about New York that makes its so conducive for all this killer black metal to come out of it ? 

Paul- We don't pay attention to any of that. We don't really do any scene sort of thing , and I don't mean that in a smoothie asshole sort of way , though I suppose by saying it it makes me a smoothie asshole. But we have allies . We are friend's with Mike Hills from Tombs and others , but we don't think of ourselves in that regard.
  .  

   


Young and In the Way: " When Life Comes to Death"



Have these guys always been this black metal? The dissonance as well as the hateful rasp of the vocals find these guys more blackened than hardcore, with very little in terms of break downs to be found. Just when you think they are going back into their old hardcore way they throw some type of creepy melody in. Sure Converge comes from a similar place when it comes to playing dark hard core, in fact dark hard core has become somewhat of a thing in recent years, so the lines in which how dark does hardcore have to get before it becomes black metal find  themselves crossed more often than not here, if not completely burned away.

The album carries it's momentum with me well enough having a firm grasp of their own sound until "Be My Blood" which falls back into the kind of hardcore meets metal clichés bands like Nails have utilized to death in recent years. Sure it's heavy and mean, but I want to hear the songwriting these guys have just shown me they are capable of. It might be I just prefer the more black metal side of the band as "Self Inflicted" charges in a hits with an almost d-beat gallop that satisfies me. It also has a clean and creepy interlude to provide a wider sense of dynamics.

Sometimes the hardcore thing plays to their favor, when it is more metallic in its intent that the stiff punk beat."We Are Nothing" is a good case in point. The guitars stay dark and ugly with a creepy dissonance that rings out, even though I would not call the riff black metal, though it is not something that would seem out of place on an Inquisition album. They are better at churning than trying to out race themselves, like what they do on "Final Dose", which fast for the sake of fast bores me, no matter the genre. It is like one of those fast forward spastic classics that Converge launches into from time to time.

Toward the middle of the album the tug of war between the hardcore straight forward approach and the more sonic black metals is waged. In the stomping gallop of  "Weep in My Dust" it seems the black metal side is going to win out despite some of the furious Converge like riffage.  The mean streak in "Take My Hand" makes the song work as it comes from a much more sinister place that they need to dig more from.

Some times the delicate balance of what I want from these guys is oddly tempered. The slow strum of "Shadow of Murder" almost feels more like an interlude as it drones on than a song. There is a very Planesmistakenforstars thing about it, though I never though of Planes as black anything. They take us out with the blast heavy "Embrace Extinction". It cinches onto the the drone of white noise static blast beats creates and hold you there for a minute and a half . If you just heard this song you would not think of them as anything other than black metal , the sluggish break down and all. This one won me over half way through, where some songs were a harder sell.

There

This album is still wearing on me so I am going to give it an 8.5. It is getting a lot of praise, and I not it flies in the face of all that is hip to say different, But I prefer the more black metal elements to the more neanderthal hardcore sections, but it is brutal and if you like dark and heavy hardcore this is for you .

Marla Mase:"Half Life"



Holding up to the True Groove Label's crusade to bring new music to 2014 on a monthly basis, Marla Mase is followis up her "Speak Deluxe" album with "Half Life". Since this is an ep, Mase doesn't waste time. She opens up with a driven punk number that caries the ambiance of Kim Gordon fronted Sonic Youth. The song brings to mind some of the more accessible moments from "Goo", laced with a PCP like hit of the Stooges.

Like her previous album their is no shortage of dynamics in the color spectrum of musical diversity that characterizes True Groove's Global Soul vision statement. The title track embraces elements of funk set against a Sade like simmer, while not forsaking Mase's alt-rock leanings. Her lyrics take a more introspective and personal turn this go around.She muses her idiosyncrasies with a sax backing the beat.

Mental health is tackled in her social dissection in "Things That Scare Me". The quirk in the melodies bring the B-52's to mind. Although this is a club mix is still rides the new wave line between dance and rock the Talking Heads once waltzed over. The distorted guitars keep a rock glaze over the song.

Bill Laswell pops up laying down the bass line to an almost Tom Waits inspired brooding number called "the Heart Beats". The lyrics ponder the universal truths music inspires, that is a familiar concept on True Groove projects. This is followed by the Rolling Stones like shuffle of "Gaping Hole".More lyrically self aware than Jagger's apologies for being a beast of burden, Mase instead questions the gaping hole the masses seek to fill with relationships as much as they do drugs of any flavor.

The reprise of "Drown in Blue" resembles the opener very little, instead taking a more intimate blues approach.Another True Groove alumni Charlie Funk contributes backing vocals to the blues rock of "Bitch in Heat" that finds Mase holding fast to her more subdued vocal approach while the groove winds around her. There is a pretty ripping guitar solo, I assume to be courtesy of Doncker , whose band once again backs Mase for this album.

The ballad "Hold Fast Your Dreams" is inspired by the Louise Driscoll poem of the same name. This goes back to the type of 1920's lounge , but with the air of indie rock to it, not unlike something you might hear in a more cheerful moment of a David Lynch film or even the Velvet Underground's Nico comes to mind.

This is more to the point than "Speak Deluxe" due to the abbreviated nature of the medium she chose to present these songs in, but sometimes less is more and this works for Mase as a more concise portrait of where she is . She continues to carry on True Groove's vision and does it in a very thought provoking manner. If you are in New York on June 12th , make sure to catch her at the Cutting Room and see how these songs translate live.
    

Report to the Dance Floor :Julian Rhine's " No God Flow"



When you take a listen to the new single "No God Flow" it will be clear that is different abut this song, despite all of the elements  from different decades coming together here before being spit out by Julian Rhine, who excels at blending the more classic era of 90's hip hop with current sounds. The female vocals in the song's hook avoids clichés and further emphasize how Rhine stands apart from the pack.

This Brooklyn born artist who relocated to the East Village , has enough radio sensibility , that the less musically savvy fans of mainstream  pop will still find  some familiar sounds like the auto tuned electronic melodies to latch onto . These are just used for effect and musicianship is not being compensated for here.He is aided by Jae Mi who contributes her vocals to this song, has some pipes on her without over singing in a diva like manner. She serves the song and doesn't have your stereotypical pop r&b voice.

Rather than having bitches and bling as his rap platform, he instead is about his gang ward with God, taking a stance to fly the colors of atheism . He is quoted as saying.

"We are taking such great strides to finally exist in a United States that practices what it preaches: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Still, persecution for "alternative" religious beliefs - including atheism, secularism and all forms of spirituality - is rampant and we cannot allow this. We need this freedom. We will take this freedom." 

Rhine puts his lyrics where his mouth is and backs up his beliefs on the mic with  lyrics straying from your typical urban tales. Considering how most rapper's  grand parents grew up going to church , it's no surprise  none have really dared be a bold as to state  "Rappers ain't hard if they fear god" . Making this song the hip hop version of the Bill Maher film "Religious".


His ability to demonstrate song writing chops has been displayed on the harder flow of "New York City" which also carries the same pop smarts of "No God Flow" but with out coming across as being soft or selling out. The synth sound shifts into a darker groove over the otherwise old school b-boy beat.Saying Julian Rhine is a rapper is oversimplifying it. I can see what he does going over the head of your average hip-hop fan and appealing more to fans of bands like the Gorillaz as some of his material such as the song "Stunning" is more alternative than not, despite the vocal approach, which is rapping but not unlike what 311 does.

"No God Flow" is a bold new move to reignite thinking in hip-hop and is something I can get behind. This says lot considering how little of the art form has moved me in recent years. His new single is a must to check out if you have any interest in the genre.
    

Juliette Jules - Black Crow EP




You would never guess that Juliette was releasing this ep to celebrate her 16th birthday,  if you were only judging by the sound of her voice. I normally pay little regard to the child prodigies. They often gather hype due to the novelty of their age then wind up as alcoholics in the where are they now file. Jules has a certain maturity to her voice and approach to composition that is as competent as her role models and I can hear her sliding into more of a Norah Jones role.

While the claim she has been performing on the street of Paris since they age of fourteen might not hold weight here since she recorded this at the age of fifteen, it is evident she care more abut capturing a timelessness in the organic warmth of what she does. However, if she was an American , she would have been pushed into pop and tarted up like a Lolita so her days on the streets of Paris gave her a chance to find her self in a more less marketed fashion, giving some hope to the next generation of song writers.



The first two tracks are reserved, yet honest balladry.  Its not until "the Game" that the album takes a more upbeat turn. She has great command of her voice. She knows how she wants to sound and doesn't stray from what works for her. I think her vocal talents are best displayed when she harmonizes with herself. This at times recalls Mazzy Star or the Sundays, though her aim is more in the direction of indie folk.Sure there is a slight suspension of disbelief in a 15 year old  asking "Why did you break my heart in this game", but the execution makes it at least easy on the ears.

She takes on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" , which is not going to make you forget Jeff Buckley's more compelling take  but gets an e for effort.You could ask how fair is it to compare a 15 year old to Jeff Buckley, well it's not, but she clearly wants to play on the stages of the big boys.

Her breathy young alto takes command of "To the Mountains" . It stays in a similar range and dynamic as the rest of the album with "the Game" the only song that wanders far from the subdued formula Jules works off of . She has found her sound and I think the rest of her career will be about growing it from this point but she is off to a great start. If you like mellow female  folks singers , who aren't peddling pop , but are  nowhere near as dark as say Chelsea Wolfe , then this is worth your time.
 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Griefloss : "Ruiner"



Deafheaven are the Metallica of this genre now. Not the first or the best to do it , but the band that brought it too the masses so all will be measured by their standard.The only similarity is the fact these guys uses harsh black metal vocals over sweeping sonic passages that sometime descend into a storm of blast beats. So if we are going to count straw here we are talking about early Deafheaven. This band from Washington, D.C. is onto something when it comes the the sonic spectrum they are tapping into here.

The clean guitar on "Void" sound great and this album is head and shoulders over most bands attempting this sort of thing these days. This goes far with me because the beautiful nature of the shoegaze, begs for clarity in the sonic murk. The vocalist does more with his voice than the dude from Deafheaven, who only has one scream he does really well, these screams carry more depression and anguish to them. They are vocal scrapings , long drawn out howls sustained with pain."Void" is longer than the title track and gives the band more room to explore this journey they are on. Deafheaven has an ounce of hopeful rage in what they do , but that might just come from living in California , where these guys have no such light at the end of their tunnel.

The first glimpse into a more post-rock direction is on the song titled with a hash tag and features the guitarist singing clean. He carry more melody and tenderness in his vocal than your average post- rock slacker monotone.It builds in a almost commercial manner like something the Deftones might do and the melody even makes me think of the more tasteful moments of melody the kid from Linkin Park use to use, but with much less cheese, Hum could also be a reference point as would Placebo.

They bring things down  a notch as "Chindi" opens with ambiance, but waste little time before they rock out. I love the way the vocals come in here. One of the rare occasions where I might prefer the harsh vocals over the clean singing. I am glad this album has both.They build in this song is pretty transcendent , but doesn't offer much more hope than someone might feel when they first jump out of the window.The guitar tone on this album is pretty flawless in either mode they switch into.

The two vocal styles team up on "Mouth of God". The half time feel of the song brings back that nu metal Deftones memory. This nu metal ghost that haunts them in times like these, is not a deal breaker. The songs still work and these guys aren't aiming for the Warp Tour , so I can live with this.Some of the accents hint these guys might also have a background in the more emo infused style of hardcore that came out of the late 90's , bands like Poison the Well. The guitar playing is pretty enthralling , the solo they hint at is very tasteful and these guys prove they have a mastery of their instruments, at least in the manner they have chosen to pursue it.

They close with the 12 minute "Charon". It drones on itself with the vocals doing something that sounds like the same grumbling noises Linda Blair use to make when ever a priest entered the room. At the four minute mark this builds into an actual song. It takes off like one of Agalloch more upbeat moments, but with the howl of depression chasing it .This is the best use of harsh vocals set against prettier music in recent memory. It brings back the sense of excitement of  when I first found depressive black metal and said finally something for me. The echo of  screams is a great way for the album to come to a close , as they fake you out and make you wait for blast beat that don't come.Overall I would say these guys have more in common with the depressive suicidal genre of black metal than the post -rock thing Deafheaven does.I have no problem giving this album a 10 as it's excels from every angle.

St. Vincent : s/t




Annie Clark earned her place on her by contributing vocals on the new Swans album, but she has also collaborated with Talking Heads front man David Byrne, so she runs in some illustrious Manhattan circles. This electro pop weirdness on this album is not unlike that from Bowie's "Scary Monsters" album. This is her 4th solo album, she got her start with Polyphonic Spree, though there is hardly a trace of their happy hippy pop.

The first single "Birth In Reverse" an ode to her bi-polar disorder, is poppy enough for the hooks to do their job, but not screaming sell out by any means.John Congleton of the Paper Chase produced this album. Clark calls it a part album you could play at a funeral, and I don't here this until the 80's synth ballad "Prince Johnny". It reminds me at times of Cindy Lauper. Despite having the talents of the drummers from Midlake and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings on the album, most of the percussive elements are programmed.

Though I would not call his album goth or dark wave as it's in the same sphere as maybe Imogen Heap, it still has the depressive undercoating to off set the more manic dance tendencies. The close to acid jazz "Huey Newton" might not carry the despair of Portishead, but expresses similar emotions. Normally electronic based music has a more plastic coating , but this album still manages to evoke a broad scope of emotions.

If you caught her performance on Saturday Night Live then you heard the very Prince influenced "Digital Witness". This vocal lines are also Sinead O Connor in the way the fuse quirky solemn phrasing with pop gloss.  "I Prefer Your Love" has kind of a "Nothing Compares 2 U" feel , but it is not as well crafted and is the first song that doesn't hit me on first listen.Lyrically I appreciate it. Her melodies are still better than whats on the radio today, but is the first awkward moment of the album.

Redemption comes in "Regret" a pop song of sorts that carries more punch, though her trademark seems to be to float out of  the groove in a more airy vocal line. It is some of her best guitar playing on this album. The song is arranged as a call and response. The song that resonates most with me on first listen is the often
acapella "Bring Me Your Loves" it has a dose of funk in space, that coils around her vocal acrobatics.

For the songs to be called "Pyschopath" it is very happy. The pulse of it is is cheerfully tense. The lyrics convey a similar state of mind, though bi-polar in they dynamic in way the chorus of this song juxtaposes it self against the pulse.The song works though it's not my favorite on this album but works better for me than "I Prefer Your Love". It's sense of movement keeps it going and compliments the often upbeat feel of the album. But she is upbeat in a similar manner to Xiu Xiu's more song oriented efforts.

The groove to "Every Tear Disappears" is pretty decent, but after you have delivered some pretty stunning moments, I think pretty decent isn't maintain your stride and falls more towards filler. I think the fact the vocal lines don't have the same attention to detail given in their construction is what keeps this song from soaring. The Sinead O Conner vibe returns on the slower paced "Severed Crossed Fingers" . As far as the albums slower moments go this song is stronger than "I Prefer Your Love".The melody is more defined and the music kinda floats behind it forcing her vocals to do most of the heavy lifting, but in this case it works.

I will give this one a 9.5 . I might grow on me, the songs I was lukewarm on were still good, they just didn't contribute to what I felt to be the album's momentum. The more amazing moments balanced things out and make this a pretty fun listen overall ,



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Doom:Vs - "Earthless"




Sweden is not the first place that comes to mind  when I think of doom,  but Johan Ericson from Draconian proves to be a one man machine, impressively proving as adept at tracking drums as he is capturing some of these chilling guitars. I have a ravenous hunger for more funeral doom and it doesn't come out with the regularity I would like, but the albums are always meticulously crafted so they normally prove to be worth the wait.

The title track that opens the album is paced like a Mournful Congregation song, butt he vocals are more forceful and the song gets to moving at a more aggressive pace than the  Mournful Congregates do. There is an Evoken like beauty to the sailing beginning of "A Quietly Forming Collapse". The low gurgled vocals are just like I want them from this sort of thing, they are broken up by spoken passages. After a time the spoken parts remind me of Paradise Lost.

The deliberate pacing is a slow droning rumble, it doesn't linger over the snare as crawlingly as some, the songs retain a sense of movement and break down into beautiful atmospheric sections that do not cost the overcast clouds that cloak the music. If there was going to be a single , I suppose it would be "White Coffins" as it adheres closer to a metal format than some of the sprawling tapestries of sonic gloom on this album. The vocals are accented in a way that sounds like the growls are keeping time rather than just bile churning.

This album is heavy as fuck but also trance inducing, I can just put it on and let it float away with me. There is almost a more shoegaze or post rock element to some of the guitar that twinkles in the background of  "the Dead Swan of the Woods" , though the song it's self is metal splendor. The guitar melodies are pretty catchy, which in some ways is a Swedish trademark, though they are not being played here in fast layered harmonies like a methed out Iron Maiden like At the Gates, but in the same manner a David Gilmore solo sits with you.

"Oceans of Despair" floats out carrying on a similar cadence as the previous song until the clean vocals lift it up and hand the song over to the grunts of a more Celtic Frost like passage . The break down is pretty dramatic here, but the clean vocals smooth it out and make sense of things. the album closes with "the Slow Ascent' that has a tense guitar lead in that brings the song into the gray area between being depressive black metal and funeral doom,with the vocals the main element that makes the distinction . The tremolo picked guitar wells up out of a very delicate break down and further questions how distant of a cousin are the two sub genres.

Its an easy decision to give this album a ten , it sounds great and is well written what more do you want, if you like funeral doom or looking for an entry point into the genre this is a fine way to start.  





Enthroned: "Sovereigns"



If you don't know anything about Enthroned then we are learning together. As the bits an pieces I heard in the past I liked, but I sat down to digest their newest album "Sovereigns" with no preconceived notions as to what a full album would entail. The Belgium band has been around since 1993 and this is their tenth album, so it is safe to say they know what they are doing.  It starts of in a very dark straightforward pummel, not unlike say Dark Funeral. The album is varied, the band delves into a similar level of the abyss that Watain walks upon with "Of  Feathers and Flames"  Not afraid to blast into it, they also temper this with dynamics and varied tempos which goes a long ways in my book.

 They hit their stride in the stomped gallop "Lamp of Invisible Lights" builds into. I can say there is more ambiance lining the edges of their songs than I expected , though they are a pretty straight forward machine.
They are pretty damn good when it comes to delivering the type of crushing pay off metal heads not only want but expect.They are coming from a similar place as Behemoth , but I think this album works better than the underwhelming Satanist as it is a denser and darker creature.

At three and a half minutes they get to the point while still churning up some dark epic hellishness on " The Edge of Agony". They don't let up on the punishment, giving you room only to admire the beauty before the beating like any good sadist. This sadistic streak is further indulged on the rapid paced" Divine Coagulation" . This song however the band doesn't take on their fine ear for dynamics and let this one go by in a blur with a little bit of a gallop allowed to surface towards the end.

They reprise more of their death metal leanings on the ultra aggressive "Baal al -Maut" . The first two minutes are a pretty good break neck pounding, but they smartly change pace pace to avoid becoming white noise. This doesn't abandon the aggression , but rather adds a melodic layer to it that was needed, to make this a song rather than occultic venting.

They take you out on a blast with "Nerxiarxin Mahathallah" It's pretty single in purpose and the sound that some people only accept as black metal, the layered vocals sound really mean on it, so mission accomplished. As far a first dates go, my heels aren't up in the air, but I can see myself hanging with these guys again, they are very skilled at what they do and the dark density of their sound helps to win me over , as well as they fact they are skilled songwriters, so this one get a 9.  

Lovesick Saints: War Story/Dia De Los Muertos"



This Arizona band carries their influences on the slightly darker side of pop punk, it has a more Social Distortion angle to it, but without all the things I dislike about Social Distortion which is namely Mike Ness' voice.From a songwriting perspective Face to Face would be an apt comparison, as they give a finer eye to detail in the songwriting that is not just one to three go.

From the bag pipes at the beginning of "War Story" you might expect them to go all Dropkick Murphy's on your ass, but instead they stick to their slick hook filled style that continues to fall some where in between Social Distortion and the sneer of Green Day that surfaces in the vocal delivery Their strength seem to be the thoughtfully layered guitars , that carry melodies just as infectious as the vocals and sometimes even more so. They have a good guitar tone, that carries enough sonic scope to give the melodies more depth.


The palm muted chug at the beginning of "This ain't It " sets the songs up to become my favorite on this album, and it is dark enough that fans of Beastmilk might have something to latch their fangs into. I am pretty picky when it comes to punk rock and generally go for it when it meets the blurred line of goth, bands like the Damned, Samhain, T.S.O.L among others who took a turn for the darker once they learned how to play their instruments. the Saints here come close enough, though not moody enough to be post-punk, nor are they going for that. The darkest moment comes via " Empty". The guitar is picked out in a way that reminds me a little of the Dead Boys, though not a sleazy or drugged out. This song also has the most thoughtful and honest lyrics .

 They play their instruments well, so might lose cred for not being raw enough for some and giving a damn about their song writing rather than the two part formula most take on. All six songs do clock in at 21 minutes so they aren't being indulgent and keep things to the point. We can go round and round for hours about how punk this is or isn't , but like many of the sub-genres of metal you just have to say for the sake of sanity this is punk or it isn't. If you think Social D is punk then this is punk. It is after all just a label and one the band is not a slave too when constructing their sound. The title track burns with enough get up and go to convince most, though there is some rock n roll to these guys as well.

These guys are polished at what they do, it's good west coast flavored punk, I would be interested in hearing where these guys might go on a full length because there is a fair amount of variety on this ep. So if you are looking for new punk with a melodic edge check these guys out.



 

Up From the Underground : Keith Alan Mitchell's "This Clumsy World".


San Francisco's Keith Alan Mitchell has just released"This Clumsy World". While The album was mastered  by Brian Lucey of the Black Keys and Shins fame Mitchell's endeavor is not really in the vein of either artist.There is a warm almost Americana sound to what his does, that comes as a surprise if you consider San Francisco's hippie past.

 The boozey haze of the aptly titled "Swaying" reminds me slightly of across between Elliot Smith and James Taylor. Lyrically Mitchell is no where near as a despondent as Smith. It's almost like comparing a normal guy who can enjoy a few drinks to an alcoholic. In fact to Keith's own admission the songs are much more hopeful as he has said "All the songs have to do with breaking free in some way; escaping, moving on, even disappearing. That can be a good thing, like breaking out of old patterns or old disagreements, but it can also mean people moving away from each other, being adrift and not grounded."



I can hear the breaking free as there is a similar cheer to when my dog finds she is allowed to break into a sprint in the yard. His voice stay's rather neutral emotionally. He knows how to use the old chords, flipping into his head register, for yodel like skip on "You Just Disappear". Like Ryan Adams is brand of folk rides the line between  country and blues. He employs a similar sense of melody as Adams. With mandolins and organs adding ambiance to otherwise straightforward arrangements.

Some of his strongest moments come in the manner he layers harmonies. Not sure how this transitions over in a live setting as it sounds Mitchell is more at home with just his guitar, the backing band on his album does an admirable job of supporting the songs.But stripped down they still hold their own. The opening strum of "What it Means to Soar" brought to mind Guns N Roses', "One in a Million".

While I know there is a huge market for this indie folk thing brought on ruefully by Mumford and Sons, what Mitchell does can't fit neatly onto that bandwagon. The slacker apathy that colors indie rock is not an element here, as he cares and celebrates his music. Sometimes he even gets more upbeat than what is in my normal sphere of interest as "Tavern Angeline"  has a Jimmy Buffet cadence to it. Not a beach friendly or as heavy handed in that direction as the Zac Brown band.

"The Feud" which was written in response to a band break up, is more deliberate in its strum than the other songs, but doesn't carry the same spark of resent you might expect from it. The bass groove in this song makes it stand out more to me, it falls into a similar sonic territory as the Damnwells, but without the rasp of anger entering into Mitchell's voice, who stays level headed in his delivery

The songs are smooth, but not in the thin way Jack Johnson is smooth. Mitchell is writing afternoon drinking songs rather than songs to take a nap to at the beach. Mitchell is generally a consistent song writer "Every Every" didn't come across as being as strong as the rest album, but still carries a strong sense of hooks in it's construction. I think a songs like "the Low Way" and "Diamond Blues" could cross over into country which more inflection in a phrase or two and a little tweaking in production. It almost feels like Mitchell would be more at home in Nashville, than San Francisco, but then again Nashville is almost mafia like in it's inner circle and Mitchell's work stands out more in San Francisco.

"In Our Eyes' closes the manner that doesn't dispel the Nashville bound leanings, despite the chance in vocal approach Mitchell takes on here, with a softer tenor. If you like country tinged Americana along the lines of Wilco , the Damnwell and Ryan Adams, have faith as it is not a lost art to linger from the 90's Mitchell does it pretty well and it's worth a listen.

Up From the Underground: Matt Townsend and the Wonder of the World


Sure indie folk is springing up everywhere, however Matt Townsend gets it right as he knows his history and where it came from as there is a strong Dylan influence. I can also others like Country Joe and the Fish, so it's more Woodstock here than Coachella. But really isn't that what most festivals today are trying to imitate?

 Townsend is not a limited in his vocal delivery as Dylans choosing the more nasal inflections as more of a stylistic element. He can carry a tune,using a much duller tone when he sustains the note in the chorus of "Carry On". There is strong social commentary in the lyrics starting with "Hollow City". This contrasts  most of the new wave of folk that  lacks  something to say. Originally folk music came out of the beat culture so like rap of today it was poetry set to music. It might be the more complacent social climate of today against the more progressive thoughts of the 60's, but Townsend gets it.



"Wind Without Rain" is the first dip into more of a country ballad feel in it's more subdued introspection. Bright Eye's stab at country in the early 2000's comes to mind here, as does the song "Ripple" by the Greatful Dead. The strings that coat the background are particularly effect in establishing the mood and further setting this part from the music of today.

There is a more conventional strum to "Takin' a Moment" that wouldn't sound out of place on a Decemberists album. The drumming goes into more of a rock place as well. The chorus on this strong drops the Dylan vibe and establishes a really hooky melody.  He does take on a more Dylan like approach to a
ballad on "Desire Like a Lion" . The Dylan comparison cements itself when the harmonica on "The Garden Where the Grass Forever Grows" . Townsend smartly takes a more subdued vocal approach rather than the more nasal tone.

This reminds me of a Keith Richards quote in regards to songwriting, that it is better to steal rather than to barrow , because if you barrow you have to give it back. While the Dylan influence is very much in your face, Townsend knows when to bring himself to the party and still has a sense of  where he begins and his influences end.                                        

I respect Bob Dylan, but can't say that I have really ever been into him, he is more of my step-dad's bag. With that being said it is all the more impressive Townsend was able to win me over on this.There are enough moments that stray from the Dylan tributes like the Procol Harem swing to "Love Coming Home". Overall if you need something mellow and folky, that doesn't call itself that for the sake of the bandwagon but firmly rooted in the early 60's sound then pack up the bong cause this one is worth checking out.
  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Eyehategod : S/t



No fools when it comes to the current climate of music todays these guys know the time is right to claim their place as the forefathers of the kind of grindy sludge coming out today. Back in the late 80's these guys were ahead of their time and today the kids have caught up to speed. The opener is quick paced and punk driven. They do sway into the more sludge sound that I think of when they come to mind. Not new ground at all for these guys.

Working closely with Housecore Records, these veterans know how to make what they do sound good. There is kind of abrasion you would expect. The first thing that sounds like a change is the groove to "Cracking the Hard Dollar" , its catchy enough to hook me in. Mike Williams' vocals are more understanble and less harsh now years later than they seemed like the were back in 1989, when I first found these guys. There isn't as much scathing in the gurgle of the once tortured vocal chors. He is by no means crooning or betraying what the band is about.

By the third song it's obvious the band has perfected the art of riff writing. In someways this is not unlike Phil Anselmo's last solo album maybe more organic and blues inflected, but the New Orleans sound is firmly in place with all the Sabbath worship that comes with it. "Quitter's Offensive" has a mix of boogie and drugged lethargy in it's chug.It almost like a more punk Down album. The guitars are perhaps not as dense even when they lock in on the heavier chugs, but they are no less effective.

Savy songwriting abounds to the point it could be argued this album is better written and more thought out than the classic material. It does perhaps not have the same level of youthful venom, but being an older wiser bands hasn't slowed these guys down too much."Nobody Told Me" that similar accents as "Lord of This World"  and a somewhat stoner feel lingers over some of the songs that follow along with touches of southern rock on tracks like "Worthless Rescue" which is probably about post -Katrina life.

These guys started off embracing more of a punk thing and those roots are stage dived into on " Framed to the Wall" which has some good punches to it. It's very raw and doesn't just stay in the power-chords , but lets itself grow into a more sludgey rumble. "Robitussin and Rejection" has an angular punch drunk stagger to the lumbering riff. It eventually finds it chug and comes together.

They get more doom tinged and pass the seven minute mark with "Flags and Cities Bound" where Williams couples his more punk scowling howl with spoken word. This is a cool effect and makes this stand out. It also reminds me of the Corrections House stuff he did last year.When the riff kicks in it is pretty powerful and this is one of the albums high points. They stay dialed into this slower more powerful riffage on "Medicine Noose". The pace picks up a minute in, and finds them taking a more Black Flag pace than Black Sabbath.

The album closes with the deliberate gutter stomp of " The Age of Bootcamp".The lyrics are discernible on this one and pretty cool.The feedback squeals out of every accent.This album sounds great and if you are a fan then it will hold up to your expectations in regards to it's ability to stand up next to the rest of their material. I wasn't really in the mood for this sort of thing when I was listening to it , but I know it accomplishes what they set out to do so I round it up to an 8.  
    

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Agalloch:"The Serpent and the Sphere"



At one time these guys were one of my favorite bands, until they gave me that 20 minute "Faustian Echoes" when I wanted a new album. So here we are with "the Serpent and the Sphere " and it's ten minute opener that's pretty impressive. Agalloch have not totally veered off from their sound, it carries more of a doom sound than black metal. Though they were on the fringe of black metal with "Marrow of the Spirit".

They return to littering the album with folk interludes . Little sideways passages of acoustic guitar are a staple. "The Astral Dialogue" grabs me more than the opener. At five minutes it's pretty to the point for these guys, more mid pace, I'm fine with no blasting as it's still pretty heavy. It makes up for what it lacks in raw fury by being pretty dark. These guys always excel in their guitar playing and this song pulls out some pretty tasteful yet dexterous lines.

For Agalloch "Dark Matter Gods" is a bit straight forward . The drums coast on a more post-rock beat, though the song builds in a more Enslaved manner, or even something as moody as Katatonia could be referenced here. It's original and I can see this song growing on me. I tend to not like his whispery growl as much , which is what dominated "Marrow of the Spirit" , but this one is bravely constructed and has all the dynamic punches required to sell me on it .

There is more of a triumphant stomp similar to what newer Enslaved falls into on " Celestial Effigy" . This is not vastly different from past Agalloch, namely "Ashes Against the Grain". The vocals stick to the whispery growl and as a whole this album is very sparse on the clean vocals in fact they really only appear layered in the background of the first song. This song delivers for what they do so it is hard to argue against it as they are staying fairly consistent with what they do. They even pull out the blasties for a few minutes. The song moves you to head band with ease, but I can't help but think they are playing it a little safe.

"Vales Beyond Dimension" took a fair amount of listens to grow on me, it has a more melancholy feel to it , but the way it's arranged it kinda drifts by. But the dark melodic elements that construct it really make it one of the album's best songs when it finally clicks for you. The use of primarily harsh vocals as the focal point does make many of the songs sound the same in some ways, the guitar lines are creative enough to stand out when you really listen to them, but it you leave this album playing in the back ground it blends like one long song. Which brings us to the 12 minute instrumental that closes this album out.It sounds like they want to go into a more Russian Circles direction, with this though those elements are sprinkled throughout the album, in a similar fashion to how An Autumn For Crippled Children made the transition. The instrumental isn't a bad song , its well played and put together it just feels like it's the crescendo to another song rather than standing on it's own,

I will give this album a 9.5 as the lack of clean vocals, which I though was their strong point are absent. The folk elements are also relegated to the acoustic guitar interludes, but the arrangements are strong and the guys are good enough guitar players to make this album excel on that alone. The drumming has also stepped up a notch, so these guys are still killing it just growing away from some of the elements I once liked most about them, but growth comes in unexpected ways.



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Report to the Dance Floor : The Devine Xperience





Back in the day when I consumed vast amounts if drugs and stumbled around raves in search of more I used to like D.J. Keoki. his songs were just that songs and not just random beats assembled with little thought. So the fact Keoki is producing this release for his label, makes me want to take notice. This album is a collaboration between Robert Jaro AKA Robert Devine and singer& creative director Vanessa Garic.  

The thing that catches my ear about the opener " In A Dream" is how dark it is . It reminds me of some of the stuff that came out of the Witch House movement 4 years ago. The beats wobble and drop in a dub-step enough manner to entice fans of modern dance music."Completely In a Trance" lives up to it's name and weaves aa more mesmerizing web, it's not as dark as the opener , but the synths are shadowy enough to keep me happy and I think fans of darkwave looking to branch out in more current clubby stuff will find something to sink their fangs into.

At the onset of " Strange Mutation" something reminds me of a Lords of Acid's first album. It is a little grittier than anything from "Lust" and has a more underground feel, but fans of even My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult's more experimental and dancey moments can dig this. "Your Mind" even recalls Deee-Lite if that had been strung out on heroin. The way the synths are layered on this song draw you into the chill beats that creep in the black hole of this surreal landscape. Some of the phrasing and arrangement makes it clear these guys go back to the golden age of house from the 90's as their is almost a Rave Til Dawn feel to some of the synth lines. 

I don't feel like the vocals are used in a way that live up to their potential until "Alien Love Truth". They form more of the song structure rather than being used more like samples. The alien theme continues down te dark X-files road with "Alien Dust". This songs holds less form and more wobble, falling along the lines of  atmospheric dub-step. 

"The Answer" blends dub-step and breaks with a glitched out take on the more occult themed days of early Thrill Kill Kult. "Touch the Sky" wraps up the first half of the album as the second is a collection of remixes by Jackal of Jackal & Hyde and previously of Dynamix 2 , along with Decoding Jesus, the Duke and Kaiser , and DJ D-Xtreme. 

The first remix that is Decoding Jesus vs Duke and Kaiser takes a more upbeat approach to "In a Dream". It mixes the dark feel out if and adds a more conventional groove like something Daft Punk might have employed on the Tron soundtrack. DJ D-Xtreme's re-mix of "Completely In a Trance" gives it a hard edged groove while still retaining a sense of ambiance around the edges.Jackal & Hyde tackle "the Answer" and bring a more exotic Euro vibe to it. The pace is picked up on all the re-mixes making them more dancey with out the narcotic gloss of the originals.

Overall I enjoy the atmosphere this album creates and recommend it to any one dabbling in dance of a darker shade. For a debut it's pretty impressive and I would like to hear where this project continues to progress into in the future as they have already taken a great stride here to distance themselves from their peers.    

Report to the Dance Floor : Bossiie



British rap is head and shoulders over the commercial garbage being put out in America these days. The beats and lyrics of "Hero" or both introspective. The initial impression she creates on the ep's opener is that Bossiie  is not the greatest urban poet if we are going to but here against Lil Kim or the more social metaphors M.I.A uses, but her lyrics get the job done.She is not relying completely on rapping here as she can sing her own hooks. She does create more of a lyrical command on "TIP" which follows.

The  beginning  beat to TIP takes a darker feel along the lines of Death Grips or Dizze Rascal, before taking a trip into the Dirty South. The lyrical flow still retains more in common with M.I.A , than say female booty shakers in the U.S.

Tjovitjo she does take on a very Missy Elliot influence cadence to her voice. I guess you could say Nicki Minaj is an influence on something of the quirky hooks she skips into .But it doesn't fee like she is shaking breast implants in your face to distract you from the music. The sexual element which with the hyper objectified take on females in the hip-hop is not as  prevalent. The image is projects in this regard is almost more along the lines of Die Antwoord's Yolandi Visser. While she has a ghetto background behind her in the video for this song ( see below) she has her face heavily preceded and more of a punk hair cut . giving more edge to her persona despite rapping in a sports bra.

Why are we talking about image, instead of just focusing on the music here? Well it is part and parcel to hip-hop as a whole, unless you are Outkast or Public Enemy you are selling the whole brand you have created for yourself ,as hip hop is one half street poetry one half playing a role. While Bossiie is less in your face with the sexual element than Yolandi, who seethes with the Lolita vibe, she is very much in control of it in a similar fashion. The lyrics "we are on that model diet/ anything we do/ we do so violent" hint towards this fact.She does have a bit of the androgynous sneer that Missy Elliot carries , but being younger and attractive sex can be the elephant in the room that she doesn't dangle before you , but uses her lyrics to dance around.

If you like experimental hip-hop that is not like everything else you hear on the radio, then she is worth checking out as within the span of  the three songs on this EP she covers a lot of ground. I am interested to see which of these three paths she takes, as she is certainly as talented as the Nicki Minaj's with out resorting to the t/a.

   

Report to the Dance Floor: Tachyon




I am surprised this project hails from New York as it has a much more sunny California vibe to it and is more pop inflected that experimental. These guys are no strangers to the industry having paid their rent as horn players backing up and  arranging for such music titans as Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, and Jon  Bon Jovi.  

There is chill laid back vibe, with smooth male vocals that glide over the bounce of the beats. The song builds in a very upbeat and pop manner , which if taken in context is tolerable as the commercial elements are not being shunned as this project has signed a licensing contract with Nickelodeon, and opened for Wu Tang Clan's  Cappadonna. There is vibe that makes me imagine this is what it would sound like if Ben Folds sang for Everything But the Girl. However the 90's feel isn't present in the production which takes a very modern approach with a sheen of auto tune plastic wrapping the vocals.

There is a more rock element to "Made Dreams". The vocals go up into a lilted falsetto and the chorus breaks away from the power chord in the bridge to an almost 80's thing that feels like Men At Work to me. The harpsichord skips along in the songs second half to give a more Sgt Peppers parade feel to it. 



"Aliens" has some pretty clever lyrics to the lazy beat that coasts underneath it . The smile etched on the vocal phrasing still reminds me of Ben Folds, though the music has a more experimental edge , it is put together in the same fashion that Danger Mouse crafts his projects with.The chorus is catchy without trying to be. The horns that chime in in the songs b section give a more organic warmth to the other wise cold and stiff beat that echoes under the melody. 

The piano riff to "Why Did I Leave You" gives it a similar sense of movement that Jamiroquai songs use to carry. The way the song grooves makes me think of "Bringing Sexy Back". This is much more quirky than anything Justin Timberlake would touch this side of Lonely Island. Their back ground as horn players makes sense in the way some of the song are accented in the same staccato pattern a horn section would follow.  

The nerdy Ben Folds feeling of "Time Machine" busts into a disco groove , with swirling synths and horns creating a dancing pop tornado. The arrangements are much smarter than any pop you would hear on American radio. I think with these guys industry connections and ability to fit their blend of songwriting into the current market of pop music , these guys could be getting heavy rotation on the air waves. If you have a happy side and want some pop music that doesn't dumb things down then these guys are worth your time. This might not appeal to  many of our readers , but  could easily become a guilty pleasure for others.    

Report to the Dance Floor: Dark Model




Here is something very unique and I think will appeal to many of those among us who might normally shun anything that could be given the term dance music and in this case it is at the fringe of the term being more classical than dance at times. It's not until the second song that I would even call this dance. 

The song writing chops are finely tuned here as this guy has collaborated and remixed James Brown, Diana Ross, Chic, Simon LeBon, Ron Sexsmith, Serge Gainsbourg, Hotei, Puffy, Digikid84, Yoshihide Otomo, Radiopilot, Dune. What this project is brings back memories of the old Hooked on Classics album that came out in the 70's .The soundtrack vibe is heavy here so it should come as no surprised some of his music was used in the first promo reel for Elysium. There is something inherently epic about this so sci-fi and fantsy flick would benefit from this type of backing. 

"Close to Infinty" the classical elements tend to dominate though the songs works dynamically work like the build of a dance tack where you are waiting for the beat to drop. "Broken Arrows" drops down into a piano piece the strings come in with an almost Nightwish sense of drama to them. So fans of orchestral metal will appreciate this album. To be honest any one who just likes music will dig this. If you play epic MMO's then you need this as your soundtrack.

The more electronic elements re-surface on "Onibi". It has a very Matrix type techno throb to it , though the string hits accent the song and aid the sense of movement it carries . Of course songs like this that have a darker element to them are the ones on this album I tend to connect to more. "Hope is Never Gone" does posses this , though its moodier than most of the songs up to this point ,especially when the songs breaks down into the piano section. The song ebbs and flows from more uplifting sections though there is a tension throughout. 

The ambiance of "Candle in the Desert " comes across more like an interlude in this otherwise uptempo pounding album. '' Ran" has the blares of harsh sense that seem to be in every trailer for an end of the world type film. The dub step elements lurk on the edges of the other Omen like dramatics of the score. There is more industrial undercoating to " Double Cross" carries a bit of a Liabach feel to it , though with more groove than the more militant and stiff feel industrial carries.It strays from the darker feel as the song progresses into a more dub step tinged espionage sort of thing. 

Themes are more of an influence with Dark Model than other composers. Sure there are familiar sounds being integrated to ensure a modern market, despite the heavy use of strings, The Eastern vibe of "Prayer for the New Moon" is very different than the more Hollywood sounds on this album. Fans of Dead Can Dance would dig this as it is very dark but with a lot of ethereal atmosphere. 

The album's fastest moment comes in "Moment of Truth" that races against a break beat.This creates a hug dynamic shift when "Judgement Day" follows, as that song is more string driven, almost having a more chamber music cadence.When juxtaposed against the harsher throb of the dub step elements that come in midway, it's a pretty powerful moment. The song builds even further with added layers of strings and piano, before it's allow to collapse into the sob of the piano line. 

The dark ballad like pacing of "Abandoned" returns the album to a more brooding pace.While the album is well balanced it is a monumental listen that overloads you if you sit down and just listen to it on headphones as I did. It serves much better as a back ground piece, even though with "Abandoned" there is a more rock like melody to sink into. Until "Oath" the other songs towards the albums final act following "Abandoned" stay in variation on the epic themes of Hollywood. "Oath is much more a straight up dub-step song , which given the nature of the rest of the album is odd, but works . The piano part that surfaces helps tie it back into the more classical build that the song leans into. 

If you want to feel like you are in a movie this is the album for you. It's dark enough that the classical edge might appeal to goths  and more educated rave kids , digest as you can as it is a lot to swallow , but worth the digestion process.  

         
     

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Woman is The Earth : Depths



Another amazing step forward in USBM is a South Dakota band , who if you let the atmospheric black metal label fool you then you will be as taken by surprise by the hammering intensity they open the little three song album with.There is a layer of atmosphere to what they do , but it only provides a thin buffer to the beating your ear drums will get from this one .

These guys are a three piece , two of the members are brothers and they conjure a pretty big sound for a three piece.It seems live volume is their secret, though the songs do find and ebb and flow. Midway into the first song acoustic guitars break out only for a breif reprieve. I like these guys are very dark and very heavy. I had gotten turned off by atmospheric black metal because if the production on the thin keyboards don't sound weird there wasn't enough meat. Each modulation hits the same kind of mourful sweet spot that funeral doom does.

The second song "Lifted" almost feels like an interlude sandwiched in-between the two heavy juggernauts. The guitar playing is pretty cool, so it makes it worth a listen, even if you would normally think of it as blues noodling fir for Opeth. I do wish this had been a full song rather than just breathing room for a solo, no matter how well composed it was.

"Child of Sky" is the second actual song at over nine minutes so there is about twenty minutes of songs and five of a solo piece making this fall closer to an EP. Reign in Blood sets the standard for shortest album before its an EP at 28 minutes. This one takes it time getting warmed up into with lots of chanting before they stomp into battle like Moonsorrow, with double bass blaring.It is weird how in the final four minutes the song stops and launches back into a more sonci riff which is cool but a awkward transition. Still these guys are great at what they do just want to hear more of it. They do tend to revert into the blasting when all else fails , so curious to see if they break that bad habit on a longer effort, still this is good stuff and I will give it a 8.5, as I like it but think they brought the goods so hard on the first song they are capable of even better.  

2.5