Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: March 2007

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Glasgow Barrowlands

I have always maintained, that Glasgow's Barrowlands Ballroom is the best venue on the planet. I have witnessed countless gigs in that venue and it seems to bring something special out of each band who performs there. It seems I am not the only one who shares these sentiments, in a recent interview with Pitchfork, LCD Soundsystem's, James Murphy, revealed why he loves the ancient venue so much:

"It fits about 2,000 people, but it's completely square and the audience there is so amazing. The only thing I can compare it to, if you played a big festival or you played a huge arena rock show, and you're a band who's just getting to be that size, so the audience is still really down, and there's about 2,000 people in this square right in front of the stage losing their marbles, it's basically like the pit of a big show, and if you just got rid of everybody else, that's the Glasgow Barrowland. Literally, from the front to the back it's people totally paying attention. It's a suspended floor, so when people jump up and down it bounces, it gives, it's like a big roller rink. It's amazing, and Glasgow's the best place on the planet to play a rock show, period."

I'm not going to argue, I now cannot wait for the recently announced Slint show at this venue. Read this review from Arcade Fire's recent performance there.

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Grinderman Vs Zane Lowe



Following on from the MTV post below, here is their golden-boy presenter in action, interviewing Nick Cave and his Grinderman collective. Some of Zane Lowe's questions and observations are ridiculous, talk about completely missing the point. The band look completely embarrassed. It's time to get Rob Da Bank on TV.

Best quote: "I hear a bit of Ziggy Stardust on this record". Where exactly?.

On another note, I should have a review of Grinderman soon.

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120 Minutes

Before last night, I can't remember the last time I sat down to watch MTV. Gone are the glory days of shows like Ray Cokes, Alternative Nation and Headbangers Ball. Instead, we are lumped with Zane Lowe and his annoying accent (and questions) and NME charts. Even the institution that is 120 Minutes has shunted to the small hours of the morning on MTV2. Easily the best show MTV has to offer, last night's viewing offered songs by Minotaur Shock, Juana Molina, M83 and Schneider TM. Not exactly media-freindly music, but far more interesting nontheless. A couple of videos caught my attention and are definitely worth checking out.

Kling Klang : "Heavydale" (Rock Action Records)



First up, is Liverpool based 'future rockers', Kling Klang. Signed to the Mogwai owned Rock Action Records, I love this mix of Black Sabbath guitars and psychedelic Kraftwerk synths. I always remember Mogwai saying they would only sign bands that didn't sound like them, well Kling Klang sound like no-one else. I'll be checking them out during the Triptych Festival.


Cornelius : "Fit Song" (Warner)



I've actually heard better from Japanese virtuoso, Cornelius, than "The Fit Song", especially on his colourful 2001 album "Point". But the promo video for this is tremendous and definitely the product of having a major label budget at his disposal.


Kings Of Leon : "On Call" (RCA)



You may find this is a surprising inclusion, considering what I normally listen to. But, you can't beat a bit of classic, melodic rock'n roll, especially when it is done in such a perfect way. This Kings of Leon track reminds me slightly of The Pixies, especially that thumping bassline and is taken from their new album "Because Of The Times"

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Engine 7 : Songs For Children Mix

It seems with the nice change in weather has brought about more than sunshine, as it appears to be the mix season as well. Engine7 has sent the first of three exclusive guest mixes for Boring Machines and it's entitled, "Songs For Children". This ties in nicely with the theme of his forthcoming album, "Me, But Perfect", and also serves as an insight into the music that has inspired him of late.

Tracklisting

1. Wake Up Wake Up - Lullatone
2. Window - The Album Leaf
3. Ba Ba - Sigur Rós
4. Silent Park - Yasushi Yoshida
5. Nightly Cares - Múm
6. Goodnight, I Love You - Engine7


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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ben Frost : "Theory of Machines" (Bedroom Community Label)

Icelandic music seems to be taking over my life at the moment. Ok, Ben Frost was born in Melbourne so isn't technically Icelandic. He has, however, lived in Reykjavik for over two years now and some of that Scandinavian magic must have rubbed off in him. It was in Iceland's capital that he met "Theory of Machines" collaborator Valgeir Sigurðsson. Coming to prominence through the severely limited "Steel Wound" LP, and thrust into the limelight via remixing duties for Björk, Frost has created "Theory of Machines" and it is a jaw-dropping effort that ambigiously mixes noise-rock, dirty and distorted electronica and apocalyptic synths. Released on the close-knit Bedroom Community label, Boomkat recently hailed "Theory of Machines" as 'the future of electronic music'. For once believe the hype, Frost is the real deal.

The 10 minute title track sets the tone immediately, summoning Aphex Twin's non-conformist spirit as slow drones drip from your sound system, they are over-lapped with cascading string arrangements. Layers upon layers of distortion are heaped into the mix, like the sound of a million machines about to wage war on all mankind. We get our first taste of Frost's fragmented programming abilities around the 5 minute mark with some immense hazardous, broken beat work. "Stomp", meanwhile, comes across like Autechre on anti-deperessants. Its all clicks and cuts and dynamic basslines. Some Thurston Moore style lo-fi guitar work edges its way in with those fragmented beats, before subsiding. Leaving us with an ominous sounding build-up of synths that evokes images of barren wastelands.

The stunning "We Love You Michael Gira", a tribute to the Young God Records owner (and former Swans member), follows and displays Frost's arbitary approach to making music. The rule book is completely torn-up and shredded during this pioneering track. Ill-boding synths slowly unfurl as obscured noises and bleeps float around them. A lonely piano note can be heard in the distance as ear-shredding static scratches across the mix. Those scratches develop into crashing waves of ruptured beatwork and interference, like the sounds of ghosts trying to break free from your sound system.

The noise-rock interlude of "Coda" offers only a brief respite, as "Forgetting You Is Like Breathing Water" throws the listener straight back in, head first. Returning to the dark and epic terrains of previous tracks, it comes across like a more subdued version of that collaboration between Japan's Mono and World's End Girlfriend. The brass section towards the end provides a fitting climax to this spectacular album.

In the early 90's Autechre redefined the boundaries of electronica, through "Incunabula". With "Theory of Machines", Frost has smashed those boundaries into a million little pieces.

Rating - 93%

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Textura Returns

After a short period on the sidelines, the wonderful Textura monthly webzine has returned with a fanatastic issue featuring in-depth label profiles of the wonderful Dynamophone and the equally superb, Hidden Shoal. Furthermore, there are a number of reveiws that have featured here. As well as an extensive look at the latest Dynamophone releases, reviews of Explosions In The Sky, Tobias Lilja, Arc Lab, SubtractiveLAD and Ölvis can be found there.

But of particualr interest here, is the colourful descriptions and mp3's of Wes Willenbring, Slow Dancing Society and Sankt Otten from the Hidden Shoal catalogue. All three albums are strong contenders for my end of year list and are most definitely worth checking out. The following paragraphs and mp3's can be found at the excellent Textura, along with some samples from the likes of A Lily, Pornopop, Stars of the Lid and Pole:

Sankt Otten (Textura Review)

Sankt Otten's "Wir koennen ja Freunde bleiben" emerges from its dark opening moments, casts its gaze upon the open plains and ponders the surrounding expanse as guitars both sing a soft lullaby and build into slow-burning swells.

Sankt Otten: "Wir koennen ja Freunde bleiben"


Slow Dancing Society (Textura Review)

In "The Delicate Sound of Silence," Drew Sullivan coaxes a fragile and stately beauty from a modest collection of whistling tones, voice samples, and guitar flutter. Sullivan masterfully shapes the material into a captivating ambient setting that comes as close as possible to translating a most peaceful sleep state into aural form.

Slow Dancing Society: "The Delicate Sound of Silence"


Wes Willenbring (Textura Reveiw)

The San Francisco-based Willenbring generates alluring vignettes from a base palette of piano and guitars, blurring the lines between them until the reverberant product of their union drifts like a slow-motion plume of smoke through the quietude of an empty cathedral

Wes Willenbring: "Sometimes"

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Boring Machines Mix #2

Tonight, I was occupied watching Italy outclass Scotland during their European Championship qualifier. For those of you that care, Italy, as expected, won without breaking sweat really. While I was watching this game, I uploaded a little mix I made a while ago. Where as last months featured a lot of orchestral and cinematic sounds, this one is geared more to the more synthetic aspects music. This mix is also designed to get more euphoric as it progresses.

1. "I Am To You" - A Lily (Dynamophone)
2. "Center" - Pornopop (Dynamophone)
3. "DEA" - The American Dollar (Self-Released)
4. "Glass Shattering Under Water" - Seven Ark (Neo Ouija)
5. "Water House" - Zerova (Herb Recordings)
6. "Shake Down The Stars" - D_rradio (Static Caravan)
7. "Fukkaj'o" - Zerova (Herb Recordings)
8. "Panik" - Lope (Self-Released)
9. "How Life Was Meant To Be Lived" - Slow Dancing Society (Hidden Shoal)
10."Traces" - Philipp Weigl (Legoego)
11."May" - Bit|Bin (Herb Recordings)
12."Glass Rod" - Solipsism (Herb Recordings)
13."Tempertantrum" - Engine7 (Herb Recordings)
14."Bum and Kiran" - Sensiva (Sensotech)

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ölvis : "Bravado" (Resonant)

While his Icelandic counterparts Sigur Ros and Prince Valium are keen to explore the more glacial aspects of music, Örlygur Þór Örlygsson prefers to make music that is a little more out of this world. "Bravado", his third album as Ölvis (pronounced Elvis) is littered with mantra-like vocals and showered in dense and sparkling instrumentation. Over the course of the album, Örlygsson provides some hypnotic and and alluring melodies throughout the 14 instrumentals and vocal tracks.

Following on form the critically-acclaimed, "Blue Sound", "Bravado" reads like a 'who's who' of contemporary Icelandic music with members of Amina, Sigur Ros and The Apparat Organ Quartet cropping up throughout as guest musicians. "Dream On" is a grandiose track that evokes images of vast, starlit skies. Touching into the neo-psychedelic region occupied by Mercury Rev, it is a majestic instrumental.

"Go Ape" follows and particulalrly highlights Orlygsson's rich, booming baritone. Which is, in turn, soundtracked by playful percussion and reverbed-drenched instrumentation. Lyrically. "Bravado" is said to touch on his disillusionment with global capitalism and the USA's attempts to control everything. Although for most listeners it would be hard to tell, as 95% of this album is sung in his native Icelandic. Meanwhile, song titles such as "Vincent Price", "War Chant" and "Song For Love" don't give too much away either. I'm not sure how much of an influence, if any, San Francisco-based dream-rockers Bethany Curve were during the recording process, but on "Wake Up Now" the gothic tinged vocals, slowly unfolding melody and echo-drenched sounds recall some of their finest moments.

Stand-out tracks?, there are many, this album is consistently strong. Although there are some fine moments at the start, the best tracks seem to be clustered towards the end. "Fight The Power" is notable for the Richard Ashcroft style vocals, albeit an Icelandic version. But it is Örlygsson ability to marry a simplisitc, but pleasing, melody with mechanical percussion that makes this one so appealing. Special mention must also be given to the sprawling album closer, "Merge With The Infinite". A spectacular ending that veers between an immense cinematic soundscape and some prog-rock influenced percussion.

Over the course of 14 tracks (or just over 45 minutes), Ölvis constructs dense and colourful music on "Bravado" that glides through several genres. Dream pop, psychedelia, space-rock and even hints of electronica and post-rock are all touched on, yet there is something remarkably distinctive about his sound. Easily one of the most listenable albums so far this year. If Sigur Ros are everyone's favourite Icelandic friend, then Ölvis is their slightly weird, spaced-out cousin.

Rating = 88%

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Hauschka

Look in your record collection and it is more than likely that you will own at least one album from the Fat Cat catalogue. The UK label has an oustanding reputation for releasing some of the most innovative and emotive music over the last decade or so. From Animal Collective, through Mum and to Sigur Ros, Fat Cat has an illustrious history.

Hauschka is one of their latest signings and is the work of German composer, Volker Bertelmann. Much like his labelmate, Max Richter, Bertelmann's music involves the exploration of the piano in and around a classical structure. However, where as Richter creates lush, expansive soundscapes, Bertelmann prefers to 'manipulate' his instrument in a variety of unique ways.

Unique sounds are created by employing techniques such as wedging the piano strings with leather, felt and rubber or placing corks on the strings. Bertelmann stetches out notes and tones by preparing the piano hammers with aluminium foil and 'weaving guitar strings around the piano's guts'.

Such innovation led to "Room To Expand", released on February 19th 2007, through Fat Cat. A rare experiment in modern music, expanding on the template of classical piano, melding it with cutting edge sound manipulation. This release was also given album of the week over at Boomkat.

"Lipstick Race" mp3 - Hauschka

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Portishead : "Wandering Star" (live)

Pitchfork reported this a couple of weeks ago. But here is some incredible footage of Portishead performing a stripped down version of "Wandering Star" in their local!

Amazing video

now all we need is that promised third album!


And just because Beth Gibbons is one of the most incredible female vocalists of all time. Here she is performing "Mysteries", from here under-rated solo album, "Out of Season".

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Helios : "Inherit The Wind"

Inherit the Wind

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Helios (aka Keith Keniff), whose music is currently released through the wonderful Type Records, has ab Ep release planned for the Summer. Details are very tentative at the moment, with no tracklisting or release date as of yet. Although, it is not known if the video above will feature on this Ep, it may hint at Keniff's fututre direction.

Furthermore, you can stream a new composition, entitled "Soft Collared Neck", which experiments with some hushed vocals.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Yellow6 - "Realisation"

The kind folk at Resonant have sent through a copy of Yellow6's forthcoming "Painted Sky", from which "Realisation" is taken from.

2 years in the making, "Painted Sky" is said to 'strip away the many layers of previous outings, resulting in a collection of melodic, organic guitar and piano soundscapes backed with subtle percussion'.

On first listen this one will appeal to fans of Labradford and wintry feeling ambient passages. Opuszine has already beaten me to it, read their review of "Painted Sky" here.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Tallest Man on Earth - "It will Follow the Rain"

What a cool video, this Swedish-based musician was "The Second Tallest Man on Earth until that REALLY tall guy died".

Influenced by Bob Dylan, Nick Drake and Crocodile Dundee, this is rather excellent.

Check his myspace.

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Beautiful Lunar Landscape : "Alone In This Dark Romantic Night" Ep (Self-Released)

Right from the opening strains of this Ep, it is clear that there is something special about French collective Beautiful Lunar Landscape. Recalling the start of King Crimson's "21st Century Schiziod Man", eerie drones and organ sounds drfit from speaker to speaker during the intro of the incredibly titled opening track, "Projected In This Beautiful Lunar Landscape Imagining This Glorious Chaos As A Ghost Of Myself". It soon morphs into a sprawling, interplanetery guitar experiment. The frenzied percussion and spookish theremin sounds launch this track into another dimension. As the band slowly lessen the pace and gradually move into an ambient passage, you are left wondering, did that really just happen?.

But then, further investigation into the Bordeaux-based band reveals that BLL are an immensely talented bunch. It is difficult to pinpoint their sound, there is so much going on throughout the four mini-epic's on this Ep. For a start there is the gargantuan waves of distorted guitar work, that nods to Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, which literally can rattle your speakers, while there is a disitinctive Portishead influence which weaves it's way throughout the whole Ep. Then there is the appreciation of the dynamics of all those great shoegazer bands, while swirling mellotron sounds recall 70's prog rock bands, you know the one's it is supposedly not cool to like anymore.

Have you ever wanted to hear what Portishead would sound like melded with a shoegazer aesthetic?. Well listen to the title track of this ep and wait the whole five and a half minutes to hear some of the most incredible double kick-drum percussion this side of Slayer's Dave Lombardo.

It is not just the instrumentation that points to a progressive influence, though. Song titles such as "Crystalised, Facing This Empty Screen I Wish The Film Couls Never End", suggests more than one band memeber has a fondness for Yes albums or those wonderful kaleidoscopic double gatefold sleeve LP's from the 70's. The track itself, is a slow and brooding effort, that soon cuts to some male/female vocal parts and then to a mystical sounding spoken word part. It all soon subsides with some Greenwood inspired guitar chops and then falls into a monolithic assault of ear-shredding distortion and powerful percussion. It is absolutely, spell-bindingly brilliant.

Final track, "Tomorrow, I'll Be Born Inside An Eternal Beginning", changes tact relying on mournful synths and tentative guitar work to start with. When the drums do kick in, along with a space station style countdown sample, you are left mesmerised by the expansive and wide-reaching nature of the sounds BLL can create.

At 25 minutes long and spanning just 4 tracks, Beautiful Lunar Landscape have created some breath-taking moments. In fact some bands have had 10 year long careers and still not came close to hitting some of these heights. It is a travesty that a band this talented and creative are unsigned because music this good deserves to be propelled skywards and beyond.

Rating = 84%

Also, a quick thanks to Sean, at I Work At Initech, who pointed this great band out to me

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Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid

"Tongues" is the latest collaboration between electronica whizzkid, Kieran Hebden, and legendary jazz percussionist, Steve Reid. Their third album for Domino Records and their fourth collaboration altogether, "Tongues" is a much more accesible and structured album than the previous "Exchange Sessions" volumes.

The aesthetics remain the same and there is still that wonderful improvisational edge. But this album flows better, with a series of shorter, more dynamic tracks. A result of extensive touring and performing to a wide range of audiences, Reid has a telepahtic understanding with his "new found musical soulmate", Hebden.

Hebden, of course, is held in high esteem for his work as Four Tet and through his band, Fridge. Steve Reid is a little more mysterious to us younger folk. He has honed his dazzling drumming skills over the last 40+ years, performing with greats such as Sun Ra, James Brown and Miles Davis.

Thankfully, "Tongues" still encompasses those first-take, instant experiemtns form previous efforts. But it is more channelled, more explosive and a little less exploratory. Perhaps Reid & Hebden have arrived at their perfrct sound. Reid's dazzling percussion is perfectly complimented by the colourful notes, tones, noises, bleeps and effects from Hebden's distinctive palette. It is the sound of two influential musicians ,from their respective generations, coming together to create music that is compelling and inspirational.

"The Sun Never Sets" mp3 - Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mew - "She Came Home For Christmas"

I've never known what to make of Denmark's Mew, I absolutely loved these tracks when I first heard them, but other songs sounded quite bland to me. However, both of the tracks in the vidoes below gave me thr same feeling I get when listening Radiohead and Sigur Ros. Anyway, Elastic Heart has some new live mp3's from Mew's performance at SXSW.

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Mew - "Am I Wry? No"

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fridge

Fridge are one of those bands that helped shape my own musical journey while growing up. Releasing the, quite frankly, amazing 2001 album "Happiness" in my late teens certainly helped develop my taste for experiments between the rock and electronic worlds. I regard that record as highly as Radiohead's "Kid A" or Labradford's "Praizion". Each of those records have influenced me in some way or another throughout the years and are responsible for what I now consider some of my favourite music of all time.

But to the band themselves, they are probably better known in some circles, for their side-projects, than their ground-breaking main project. A 6 year hiatus has made sure of that. One member, Adem Ilhan, spent most of that time recording in the electronic/folk field, including the critically acclaimed "Homesongs", while Kieran Hebden is more famously recognised as Four Tet. If my memory serves me correctly, the remaining member, Sam Jeffers, took some time out to concentrate on his photography studies.

The good news, though, is Fridge will be returning with 5th album, "The Sun", through Temporary Residence in May/June. Thanks to Elastic Heart, who have the finger on the pulse, they have an mp3 available to download. From a personal viewpoint, this is a highly anticipated record and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.

So Fridge are due to return and by the sounds of this mp3 have significantly moved the goalposts again. Eschewing the cut-up guitar, piano and percussion experiments of "Happiness", "Eyelids" is a thundering slice of discordant instrumental rock, with some electronic production flourishes, courtesy of Hebden no doubt. It's more Fugazi than Funkstörung and a tad unexpected. But then Fridge have always been able to confound the critics and baffle their fans. By the time we catch up, they will be off on a completely different tangent.

Head over to Elastic Heart for that mp3

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Arcade Fire : "Neon Bible" (Merge Records)

How does a band follow up one of the the best and widely acclaimed debut LP's of all time?. If the band in question is Montreal's Arcade Fire, then they would draft in an army of musicians (including a Hungarian orchestra) and an arsenal of weird and wonderful instruments to record the expansive and ambitious "Neon Bible". Released to near mass hysteria worldwide, a debate rages on. Is "Neon Bible" as good as "Funeral", their jaw-dropping debut?. I'm not so sure, but the Canadian collective have given it their best shot, in any case.

Whether you like this album or not, whatever camp you sit in, you cannot deny quirky opener "Black Mirror", complete with Phil Spector style wall of sound production techniques, is a brilliant slice of euphoric rock. Featuring, the soon to be immortal line, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, show me where them bombs will fall", imagine tens of thousands of fans chanting this along with Win Butler on a muddy festival field. Sounding like an amalgamation of David Byrne, John Lydon and Elvis, the beanpole frontman has the charisma to be one of the great rock n'roll stars.

"Keep The Car Running" was a terrific set opener at Glasgow's Barrowlands last week and is worth mentioning for the use of a hurdy gurdy alone . Such cool instrumentation can be found throughout "Neon Bible", and on this occasion it complements the incessant rythmns that soon give way to a hugely infectious chorus. "Intervention", meanwhile, kicks off with a dramatic blast of church organ, as wailing guitars, twinkling glockenspiel and incredible percussion drives this track along. The line "working for the church, when your family dies.." is sure to raise a few eyebrows in bible belt USA.

"Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" is another sensational moment here and initially recalls some sort of dark 80's synth pop track. Trading French and English lyrics, "Black Wave.." soon unfolds into a breathtaking mass of female and male vocal harmonies. Right now, there is no band on the planet that can match music this heavenly.

"Neon Bible" maybe lacks the instant nature of "Funeral", but tracks such as the Hawaiin-tinged "Ocean of Noise" shows the band have tried to vary their sound. In this case it works a treat, with Reggae influenced guitar picking colliding with Summery synths and rolling waves of percussion. It soon developes into a dazzling chorus that transports you to the ocean front, before ending with glorious sounding Mexican horn sounds courtesy of Calexico's Martin Wenk.

However, the reason why "Neon Bible" doesn't quite top "Funeral" for me, is that some of the songs fall flat on their face. The rather dull title track, for example, seems oddly out of place near the start of the record. While "(Antichrist Television Blues)" veers a little too close to Springsteen AOR territory for my liking. Although, if you can get past that horrible comparison, then I suppose it's not so bad.

Thankfully, this is only a minor issue on "Neon Bible" and tracks like "No Cars Go" are utterly sublime. A reworking of the track which was initially found on their self-released ep from a few years ago, this is undoubtedly the album's best moment. With jagged percussion and a driving bassline, the male/female vocal duelling combines brilliantly with lush string and brass arrangements. It seems to encompass everything that makes Arcade Fire so great. Just after the 4 minute mark, the Montreal collective will send you into sheer ecstasy, with possibly the greatest, singalong chant ever put to record. It is half marching band, half stadium rock and potentially song of the year. You cannot help but join in.

Ending with the massive-sounding, soul influenced "My Body Is A Cage", "Neon Bible" is an ambitious attempt by Arcade Fire. Much more varied than "Funeral", the sheer volume of ideas occasionally lessens the impact of certain tracks. But then, it is one of those records that seemS to get better with every listen and soon turns out to be equally as rewarding as their debut. The early 90's belonged to Nirvana, Radiohead soundtracked the millenium and beyond. Perhaps it will be the job of Arcade Fire to take over the mantle as the world's next important band.

Rating - 85%

Alternative Review (1)
Alternative Review (2)
Alternative Review (3)
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"Black Mirror" mp3 - Arcade Fire

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Bury The Sound : "Autumn Magnets" Ep (Self-Released)

Since starting this site, nearly a year ago, several young bands have been kind enough to forward some of their material to me for review purposes. There is nothing more exciting than recieving a CD in the post from an undiscovered band. It is a joy to research these bands and I am pleased to say that, more often than not, the music tends to be of high quality. You may remember the Romance of Young Tigers review from December, I still take great pleasure in recommending that wonderful, but genrally undiscovered band, to anybody who will listen.

Melbourne quartet, Bury The Sound, are another band currently on the lookout for a new label and judging by their 3-track Ep, "Autumn Magnets", they won't be waiting too long. Operating in the stratosphere somewhere between early Mogwai and the unpredictable space rock genre, "Autumn Magnets" provides some wonderfully dynamic slabs of instrumental rock. Rich guitar melodies mesh with thundering bass work, while keyboard washes provide a nice psychedelic element throughout. It is all held together by some interesting percussion that recalls the more complex nature of a few post-rock artists.

Although there is nothing particlarly ground-breaking about Bury The Sound's music, it shouldn't matter. Especially when tracks like the powerful opener "What Would One Become" rock harder than Lemmy, Ozzy and Jimmy Page together on a 72-hour Jack Daniels bender. The guitar work here is so thick with melody that it almost floods through your speakers. Using an array of effects, guitarist Tim Clarke has developed a vibrant style. The creamy guitar notes around the 4 minute mark, for example, is testament to this. Building purposefully, with some nice Mogwai style guitar interplay, this track erupts skyward with a massive wall of spacey distortion.

Guitar notes intertwine with some psychedlic synths to open next track "Saratoga", with each note deliberately and delicately urging the band forward. However, rather than go for the predicatable post-rock explosion/crescendo route, the band instead opt to let the track drift out with a space-rock jam that features a gorgeous bass melody that recalls "Ten Rapid"-era Mogwai.

Rounding things off with the Floyd-tinged stylings of "Gemini Unbound", dreamy, reverbed guitars can be heard in the distance while a subdued piano line takes the lead. Once the listener is lulled into a false sense of security, the full band kick into action, proving that Bury The Sound are as tight a unit as they come. The instrumentation, particularly towards the end during those rockier moments, is executed expertly.

All in all, it is impressive stuff from the Australians, encompassing a myriad of their influences, but over the course of the 25 minutes they manage to stamp their own authority over the sound. Their expansive guitar-driven soundscapes shows some real potential, so here's hoping a few record labels sit up and take notice.

Rating - 73%

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Efterklang - Jojo (live)

Here is a video of "Jojo" another track from Efterklang's promising "Under Giant Trees" Ep (due out on April 2nd). This one is instantly brilliant and this video taken from a performance in Stockholm in November 2005, is truly compelling stuff.

I am hoping there will be some UK live dates later this year, going by this amazing video Efterklang are not to be missed.

I particulary like the hushed vocals and the twinkling sounds and this track seems to encompass some folk traditions.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

All of A Sudden, I Can't Wait To See EITS

I love this description of Explosions In The Sky....

"Explosions in the Sky is a quartet from Austin, TX making what they call cathartic mini-symphonies. Known for wildly intense live performances, their songs are sprawling, epic pieces that build and evolve, often over a span of ten or more minutes a track. Though decidedly non-commercial, Explosions in the Sky has built a large and loyal following for layering beautifully orchestrated melodies against passionate sonic chaos."

It makes me very impatient to see them again and for the first time since 2003. I missed their show a couple of years ago when they played alongside Four Tet during the Triptych Festival. I still can't get Arcade Fire's jaw-dropping performance from last week out of my head, I am hoping Munaf and co. can match it at next month's gig at the ABC, they have certainly got it in them. If anybody has caught EITS live on thsi tour please let me know how it's going.

In the meantime you can stream performances by Explosions In The Sky and Eluvium in Washington thanks to NPR.

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Efterklang

When I bought Efterklang's 2004 debut album "Tripper", I at first thought Denmark had found an answer to Iceland's Sigur Ros. Further investigation of the CD revealed, this septet had little in common with them, apart from sharing the same continent. The sounds of "Tripper" were more experimental, less calculated, a little more free in other words. There was no record label pressure, such as Geffen urging Sigur Ros to record the poppy "Takk". "Tripper" featured no fewer than 34 musicians, and provided a sound that no other band has come close to matching.

2007 will be even more productive with an ep due out, which will then be followed by a full-length album. Mark April 2nd in your diaries (or PDA's), it will see the release of a limited (4500 cd's, 1200 vinyl) ep entitled "Under Giant Trees". Available through Leaf and the band's own label, Rumraket, this ep looks set to explore and expand on the musical themes of "Tripper". There's a certain amount of buzz around Efterklang, with several blogs posting about them. So you may have already came across the mp3 of the lead track of the ep. But if you haven't, "Towards The Bare Hill" is well worth a listen. Starting nt unlike labelmate Colleen, almost tribal sounding percussion pushes its way across the mix with some electronic production trickery. Authentic chanting in their native language soon veers this track into unchartered territory. Along with some accordian and brass brand instrumentation, it resembles a Scandinavian version of A Hawk and a Hacksaw.

I will say it is difficult to make sense of it after just a few listens. However, some of my favourite songs have panned out this way. Give this a chance, I am completely hooked. The artwork above, by Nan Na Hvass, is equally impressive.

"Towards The Bare Hill" mp3 - Efterklang

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

All Angels Gone : "Others As Mirrors"

Others as a mirror

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Why these guys aren;t massive is beyond me, read this earlier post.

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Thee More Shallows

I have been anticipating what San Francsico three-piece Thee More Shallows would do next after a friend passed me some copies of their two previous albums , "More Deep Cuts" and "A History of Sport Fishing", a couple of years ago. Now signed to the ultra-cool Anticon label (13 & God, Themselves, Bracken, SJ Esau etc.) "Book of Bad Breaks is due out on April 24th and is supported by an extensive tour, which will again miss my town of Glasgow!.

Thee More Shallows sound has been described as dark, sinsiter and brooding, but it could also be described as atmospheric and beautiful, such is the quality of their sound. Hushed vocals mingle with melancholic chord chnages and some indie quirkiness that only American bands know how to do. They have the potential to fill the huge void left by Grandaddy and Pavement. Below is a cover of The Temptations "I Can't Get Next To You" from their stop-gap "Monkey Vs Shark" Ep.

"I Can't Get Next To You" mp3 - Thee More Shallows

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Who Needs SXSW?

When you can witness.....

The Second Coming of christ. tonight at the 13th Note for tronic (preview from Miso)

christ. - initially involved in the hexagon sun project with michael sandison and marcus eoin (Boards of Canada), christopher horne has moved on to produce music under the moniker christ. (easily offended christians please note its short for christopher, not the son of god). producing the 'pylonesque ep' in 2002 and following this up with the superb metamorphic reproduction miracle album the next year, christ. made a massive impact on the electronic scene both in scotland and on the international stage. taking his live set as far a-field as japan, switzerland, france, finland and the sonar festival (barcelona, spain). christ has also been one of the select group of artists to play for john peel at maida vale (twice due to mr peels rare request for an encore). playing out his material from his new album (blue shift emissions) at tronic, you will hear electronica straight out the top drawer this march. mr horne will be taking the stage at approx. 10:00 pm and if you see anyone this month at tronic, this is the act.



edge of the map - an electronic artist that was surrounded in mystery, when he took to the stage, for the tronic album launch last year. a talented musician, who swapped guitar strings for that of synth strings, had never played live under the name 'eotm' before and really stunned everyone that witnessed his live set that night. instantly you can't help being drawn to the warm, deep ambience he creates and driving layered beats, keep his sound flowing, mapping out synthscapes and beautiful musical patterns. influences from the likes of steve reich to underworld are apparent in this electronic wizard's style, thus being the perfect opening act on a great night of electronic music.



keser - have recently had their debut album 'esoteric escape' released by edinburgh based label 'alex tronic records', to which many good things have been said. "there is something rarefied about this ambitious beauty" comparisons made to 'boards of canada' and 'mogwai' are justified, as keser's sound has a beautiful, ethereal depth to it, taking the listener on a hypnotic flight through their utopian world. the escapism starts with delicate ambient strings washed over faint vocals and samples. when live, keser have a dynamic energy full of distorted guitar and crunchy beats backed by some imposing visuals, in all promising to be the perfect support to christ. proving yet again, what exceptional eletronica is out there in scotland waiting to be heard.



dee mond - works under his own label 'pyrate music' and has been at the forefront of the techno/electro scene in edinburgh for many years. an influential dj, normally mixing and mashing up all various styles of dance music - forming his own unique blend of elektrotech. dee mond has fine tuned all musical knowledge and production skills into his music and energetic live sets. having also previously released two albums and just recently his new 12" ep 'dee mond', this electronic producer will undoubtedly get the exposure he deserves.
dee mond will end the night, quite fittingly we feel as this electronic demon is sure to leave his mark on the tronic scene

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Malajube - "Montreal -40°C

This band have been hailed as a better alternative to Arcade Fire. I like the fact they sing in French, but going by this video Malajube seem a little pop-orientated for my tastes

Múm : "Green Grass Of Tunnel"

In reference to the Zerova review below. I too love the sounds of Iceland's Múm. This is my favourite track of theirs

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Zerova : "I Think We've Lost" (Herb Recordings)

Zerova, a Polish quartet, relocated from the pressures of city life to the more rural surroundings of the Polish countryside in Bialystock to record this rather tremendous album. Formed after seeing Mum perform in 2003, Zerova create music much like their Icelandic heroes, but also bring their own unique Eastern European flavour. Laid-back guitar work, pitter patter beats, hazy vocals and glacial keyboard tones combine to make music that sounds like it has been created by little furry creatures, rather than human beings.

I have to be honest here and mention the fact that I could not get past opener "Fukka'jo" the first time I heard this album. It is so infectious that I must have hit the repeat button at least 50 times and this one is easily the most played track on my Itunes. Thae large wave of distorted guitar around the 3 minute mark is magical and works brilliantly with the spluttering beats.

Touching on genres such as post-rock, glitch, electronica and ambient music "I Think We've Lost" is an imaginative and compelling release. There is a certain innocence about the way "Drift" unfolds with understated beats and sweet clarinet notes. Elsewhere, "Unnamed Place" makes use of hazy Khonnor-esque vocals and beats that are so delicate, that they sound like milk bottles clinking together. In fact, the programming throughout is particularly innovative and it is merged with soft electronic notes to give a remarkably polished, but lo-fi sound.

It's difficult to pick a stand-out track, all ten are of the same quality. It might be the inventive bubble-beats of "Today I've Passed The Barn" that catches your attention or the driving Indietronica of "You Won't". But each track is almost irresistable and the result is this exuberant little album. I could easily go on about other tracks such as the beautiful "Crickets" or the chirpy "Water House", but in keeping with the tone of the music of "I Think We've Lost", I'll keep it short and sweet. Just order this album.

Rating - 90%

"Fukka'jo" mp3 - Zerova

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Arcade Fire Live @ Glasgow Barrowlands 12/03/07

My head is still spinning from a truly outstanding performance by possibly the most talented band out there right now. Every man and his dog knows Arcade Fire these days, but what they might not know is how amazing they are live. No fewer than 10 musicians crammed onto the decent sized Barrowlands stage and performed an absolutely jaw-dropping set that featured the majority of new album "Neon Bible" and all of the great moments from "Funeral". There has been a bit of indifference towards "Neon Bible" in some circles, the general consensus is it's not as good as their excellent 2004 debut "Funeral". But, having seen these songs performed live I would have to argue. The new songs were euphoric, anthemic and utterly spell-binding. Having witnessed A Silver Mt Zion huddled together on stage at the low-key ABC 2 last year, Mogwai's face-shattering volume at Edinburgh's Usher Hall, Radiohead during the OK Computer tour or even Sigur Ros 5 years ago on the very same Barrowlands stage, Arcade Fire more than matched these wonderful gigs with a near legendary performance.

With an unbelieveable amount extra of instrumentation (mandolin, french horns, spine-tingling violins, megaphones, hurdy gurdy and just about everything they could get their hands on) songs like opener "Keep The Car Running" sound far more dynamic in a live setting. The instrument swapping between members was impeccable. The drummer on the opening song would later find himself on guitar during the encore of "Wake Up", having already laid his hand to keyboard duties earlier. Every single musician in Arcade Fire makes a telling contribution at every oppurtunity. It might be one member's attempt to generate feedback sounds from a megaphone or frontman Win Butler's powerful vocals, but every note, tone, drone and chord combines and results in one big massive anthemic wall of sound.

Of the new tracks, "Black Mirror", the dramatic "Intervention", the Hawaiin-flavoured "The Well and The Lighthouse" and the vocal harmonies during "Black Wave/Black Vibrations" all sounded fantastic. Only the album title track, "Neon Bible" was a slight letdown.

But then the best performances were saved for the "Funeral"-era songs. An excellent rendition of "Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)", which brought back all the great memories of my stay in Canada a couple of years ago, was followed by the epic "Rebellion (Lies)", complete with that subtle, but delightful chord change in the chorus. A raucous version of "Neighbourhood #3(Power Out)" easily got the longest and loudest response from the crowd that I have ever witnessed in the Barrowlands. It was near hysteria, but this band deserve every ounce of the applause, trust me.

But the best was, undoubtedly, saved for last. With frontman Win Butler soaked in sweat, he somehow summoned extra energy to lead his collective through a magificent version of "Wake Up" for the encore. He was so caught up in the delirium that he lauched his large frame into the crowd, before careering down to the bottom of the venue, in the process being engulfed by hundreds of frenzied Glasweigens. Amidst the pandemonium, its not known if he made it out alive.

All I can say is, Arcade Fire put in easily one of the best performances I have ever had the pleasure of being involved in . Involved is the correct term beause you cannot help but be swept away by those euphoric choruses and incessant, driving beats. There is so much happening onstage that it is impossible to look everywhere. Anybody who does not like this band basically has no soul, in my opinion. Arcade Fire could quite rightly claim to being the best in the business right now, they are certainly a very special band. I paid over the odds to a ticket tout to get into this gig, but in truth Arcade Fire are worth selling your arms and legs to witness. Miss this band at your peril!.

If you want to see Win Butler dive into the crowd, view this video.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Arcade Fire

Just back from what is one of the most sensational gigs I have ever been too. I can quite easily say that Arcade Fire's performance at the Barrowlands was one of the best I have ever witnessed. I must recollect my thoughts before the reivew tomorrow

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Herb News


Here's a couple of points from Herb Recordings latest mailing list update:








Rubens

The U.S release date for the Rubens CD is the 13th April 2007. Fans in the U.S can pre-order the CD now for $14.96 from

www.ear-rational.com

As from next week the Rubens (Review) CD will also be available from Norman Records for £7.95

www.normanrecords.com

~ism from Rubens has also released his "Surface Life" Ep which you can get for free here.


Engine7

The fantastic debut album release by Glasgow's Engine7 is imminent. This album will be released in digital format first and then on CD shortly afterwards. We'll keep you updated with the progress on both formats.



Solipsism "Free Ep" & "No Entry Ep"

Both of these are free downloads that Solipsism have kindly made available. The Free EP is a collection of 4 ambient tracks that were recorded during the "Electricity Flows In Squares" (Review) sessions and the No Entry EP is basically just a collection of 7 tracks that they've recorded over the past two years and not used in any other projects. Please feel free to download and share these out. You can download both eps including artwork here.


Kingbastard

Kingbastard has released a free ep under his "myheadisaballoon" alias. The ep is titled "Hello-Fi" and can be downloaded for free from his artist page at the herb site.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Beautiful Lunar Landscape :"Eternal Beginnings"



I recieved the new Ep by French quintet, Beautiful Lunar Landscape, in the post earlier today and on first listen its epic, spacey nature sounds promising. I particuarly like the massive waves of dramatic distorted guitar, which is evidnet in the live performance of "Eternal Beginnings" above.

Surprisingly unsigned, this band incorporate elements of shoegaze, electronica and indie into their swirling, expansive sound. This is how they describe their own sound:

"The rhythm and intensity of M83 with the emotions of Portishead and the Smashing Pumpkins around the time of Adore. The guitars soar around spacious mid-90's British effects whilst the rhythm section harness the power of something altogether a lot darker. The vocals take their influences from anything that the 20th century managed to concoct, taking guidance from folk, rock and blues."

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Port-Royal Album Details


Resonant have posted a tentative release date for Port-Royal's forthcoming "Afraid To Dance" album. It is due in May 2007. From what I have heard this album sounds absolutely superb and is in line to match the brilliance of their debut "Flares".





Here is the full-tracklisting:

1. Bahnhof Zoo
2. Pauline Bokour
3. Anya: Sehnsucht
4. German Bigflies
5. Deca-Dance
6. Roliga Timmen (Longing Machines)
7. Internet Love
8. Leitmotiv/Glasnost
9. Putin Vs Valery
10. Attorney Very Bad (aka The Worst)

Most Royals fans will have heard "Internet Love" on their myspace page, but you may not be aware that "German Bigflies" can be streamed an Resonant's page, while "Banhoff Zoo" can be heard here.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

The American Dollar

The American Dollar, a New York-based project, was first recommended to me by Last Days' Graham Richardson a couple of months ago. I found their instrumental sound to be both dynamic and refreshing and earmarked their album "The Technicolour Sleep" for purchase. However, a delay in the release of the album, meant I completely forgot about this band.

The Silent Ballet recently reawakened my interest by including "DEA" (taken from the album) in their last free compilation. Starting off with twinkling glockenspiel notes not unlike Helios' "Velius" track and adding strong, synthetic beats, this song soon lauches into post-rock euphoria. However, it is far from being derivative and represents the cleaner, more pretty side of the instrumental genre.

You can stream some excerpts of the album here.

"DEA" mp3 - The American Dollar

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Shamanic Technology : "Doorways" (Herb Recordings)

Having described the music of Shamanic Technolgy on these pages as "brilliant anthemic and euphoric electronic music", "Doorways" is an album that I have been anticipating for some time now. A mix up of some sorts at the Herb HQ meant it was delayed for a good few months. But it is now out there and the overall signs are good, it has been worth the wait.

For the uninitiated, Shamanic Technology is the work of Bournemouth based producer Chris Hare and the project was designed to allow him to break free from the shackles of dj'ing in the UK club scene. "Doorways" is his answer to those rigid club rules and is an album in a similar head-nodding vein to labelmates Rubens, only it is presented in a much darker manner.

The crystal clear production and crips beatwork immediately sets this album apart and is testament to the 2 years it took Hare to write and record. Recording as Shamanic Technology has allowed Hare to breathe and develop a largely distinctive sound. Of course, everyone has their influences and "Doorways" vaguely recalls the likes of Plaid, Boards of Canada and even a bit of Amon Tobin.

There is a sense that a lot of thought has went into this album in terms of making a unique sound, with Hare expanding on the template outlined by the aforementioned artists. Psychedlic melodies collide with broken (but clear) beatwork and frequent spoken word samples that gives this album a dynamic aura. More often than not, "Doorways" sounds fantastic.

Last December Herb Recordings donated an mp3 of "Electronic Therapy" to this site for people to sample the mood of the album. It was an excellent choice because it is indicative of Shamanic Technology's overall sound. One of the more accesible numbers, back in December I described it as a track full of "satisfying and snappy beats and urgent synths" and I stand by this statement. It also reinforces the anthemic quality of Hare's music.

"Pathseeker" shows Shamanic Technology in a different light and is more playful in nature. Basing the track around a hazy, floating melody, the meticulous programming provides a perfect backdrop. The crackling beatwork of "mIrRoRs" further enhances Hare's reputation of adept producer, while listening through headphones reveals several subtle enhancements that may go unnoticed on first listen. "Toy Vision", meanwhile, features a twisted toybox melody that soon mutates into a segment of synth bubble melodies and elastic beats. The simple but full-bodied sound quality helps to propel this ambitious number forward.

"Doorways" is a distinctive statement form Shamanic Technology. Amid the gifted production style, clear-cut beats, interesting vocal samples and darkened melodies, a huge amount of ideas are bursting to get out. At times it's playful, elsewhere it's trippy and others it's downright evil sounding. But the overall ambition ensures that "Doorways" remains an eventful experience and it serves to stretch electronica into some uncharted territories.

Rating - 80%

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"Toy Vision" mp3 - Shamanic Technology

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Albums of the Year (So Far)

This is a completely pointless exercise, other than to determine what my favourite album of 2007 is thus far. However, with just over 2 months down and with a staggering amount of influential artists said to be releasing new material this year, this top 10 will undoubtedly change come the end of December. I have decided to include records that have been reviewed here only, mainly because I haven't managed to catch up with some releases as of yet, most notably Do Make Say Think and Arcade Fire.

1. Tobias Lilja : "Time Is On My Side" (n5md)

2. Slow Dancing Society : "The Sound of Lights When Dim" (Hidden Shoal Recordings)

3. Romance of Young Tigers : Self-titled Ep (Self-Released)

4. Solipsism : "Electricity Flows In Squares" (Herb Recordings)

5. Explosions In The Sky : "All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone" (Temporary Residence)

6. Wes Willenbring : "Somewhere Someone Else" (Hidden Shoal Recordings)

7. SubtractiveLAD : "No Man's Land" (n5md)

8. Sankt Otten : "Wir Koennen ja Freunde Bleiben" (Hidden Shoal Recordings)

9. ((Konntinet)) : "... If Anything Should Happen" (Self-Released)

10. Rubens : "Carnivalesque" (Herb Recordings)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Prince Valium : "Andlaus" (Resonant)

Thanks to Sigur Ros and their tremendous recorded output, anything that has even a vague link to Iceland has me producing my credit card to online distributors without even stopping think about it. So you can imagine my disappointment when I wasn't overly impressed by this effort, by the Icelandic Prince Valium, when it arrived. I bought this album in the first week of January and was completely indifferent to it after the first few listens. For a start, every track seemed to follow the same structure of glacial atmospherics, dark e-bowed guitar and some less than inventive beat programming. In short, I initially found it a tad monotonous For the best part of January and most of February, this sat on my desk gathering dust until I decided to give it one last chance. It was then that it all began to click into place.

Prince Valium is the work of Þorsteinn Konráð Ólafsson, who is also one half of ambient/electronica duo sk/um. Under his Prince Valium guise, Ólafsson creates music that is reminscent of Sigur Ros' polar e-bowed guitar soundscapes and marries it with nostalgic beat work. The overall sound of "Andlaus" is deceptively massive, the echoic atmosphere is such that it sounds as if it was recorded in a large cave of ice.

The first two or three tracks, although pleasant enough slices of post-rock/electronica, glide past without leaving much of an impression. It isn't until the fourth placed "Afsal", that Prince Valium's potential starts to shine through. Melting away the glacial exterior, there is something heart-warming about the shimmering reverbed guitar melody. Combined with soft, synthetic drums, this is "Andlaus'" first moment of real beauty.

Much like Sigur Ros', the music here is expansive and epic. It must be a national requirement for the natives of Iceland to learn how to e-bow a guitar. It seems all Icelandic musicians are at it, but it does seem complement how I imagine the Icelandic landscape. "Tómleikar", a brooding, icy ambient passage contains some of this slow-moving, guitar work, as does "Redecorations In Four Dimensions". Only the latter, adds a touch of melancholy creating a wintry and soothing soundscape.

Having initially labelled "Andlaus" repetitive and boring, it is a pleasure to announce that I have been completely won over by this album and "Burning My B.A" is one of the tracks that turned it. It sounds as if it was recorded deep somewhere in the Arctic, the stuttering beatwork, wind sounds and booming melody soon envelopes you in frosty blanket of sound. "Guð Blessi Þig", the final track on the album, makes a mockery of my attempts to brand this album as repetitive. Completely changing tact, swirling mellotron sounds soon develop into an eerie circus style melody, the beats are a throwback from sometime around the mid-80's, recalling some of Vangelis' work. It is a sinister end to "Andlaus", but ultimately a brilliant one.

You have two choices with "Andlaus": Firstly, you can be initially pretentious like me and brand this album as poor man's post-rock/electronica, without giving it a proper chance. Or you can let the music unfurl at its intended glacial pace and embrace its ice-cool charms, crystalised melodies and some of the finest e-bowed guitar work this side of "Takk".

Rating - 73%

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Monday, March 05, 2007

4 of a Kind - March

This post was initially meant to be a monthly event, but I kind of got side-tracked with end of year lists and album reviews. However, I have decided it is time for it to resurface and have collected together exclusive (and legal) mp3's from four very talented artists who, in their respective fields, are producing some excellent music. There is one common thread between these artists though, they all operate with the same degree of emotion.

Talkingmakesnosense

A member of Scotland's Benbecula collective, Talkingmakesnosense is the work of Dom Dixon. Influenced by the likes of Labradford, Mogwai and the Constellation bands, he creates sounds that are instantly compelling and highly emotive. These "experiments" are based around sounds generated from computers, analogue tape and a number of acoustic and electronic instruments. Loose reference points include the organic sounds of n5md's SubtractiveLAD. The mp3 below is taken from his limited edition CD-R, "Surroundings" which has been described as a "warm flowing album with plenty of emotive qualities". Dixon is also a member of Genaro and is currently recording a debut for Benbecula Records under this guise, as well as recording a follow up to "Surroundings".

"Subtract The Sky" mp3 - Talkingmakesnosense.



GP~00

The strangely named GP~00 hails from the United Kingdom and his minimalist approach to making music ensures that it is an intriguing listen. Taking his cues from the likes of Earth, JK Broadrick and The Tribes of Neurot, the artist also known as Adam W. Flynn, merges his slow-burning sound with some melancholic guitar work reminiscent of Radiohead's later work. He also has a novel approach to recording and perfecting the right sound, in some cases using strong fans to oscilate the strings of several guitars (which are equipped with different guages). This in turn creates a "mini 3-piece guitar orchestra" that complement the brooding drones and hypnotic soundscapes. Flynn has now completely abandoned synths and computer based programmes, in favour of manipulating instruments and experimenting with sounds. Around the 3 minute mark of "Trains" (mp3 below) it will all become clear, this is one talented individual. His forthcoming album, entitled "i" is expected to contain minimalist guitar driven pieces that range from light to very dark. For more information see his record label Forgotten Empire.

"Trains" mp3 - GP~00


Innocent Civilian

Possibly named after that infamous fake Radiohead track that surfaced on the web a couple of years ago, Innocent Civilian is the solo project of Eerie Days' Espen Ludvisgen. Based in Oslo, Norway, "Flown" grabbed my attention immediately upon hearing it on myspace. Ludvigsen's vocals recall Thom Yorke both in tone and production. Listen to the way the different harmonies float together and merge to create this calm, reflective track. Claiming to be influenced equally by the Norweigen landscape, the aurora borealis and "world leaders playing with their toys", Innocent Civilian will appeal to fans of Radiohead, Stars of the Lid and The White Birch.

"Flown" mp3 - Innocent Civilian

Engine7

Regular readers here will know I have been a fan of Engine7 for a while now, his "Hope Street" ep was one of the first reviews I attempted for this site, while I have tried to get along to as many of his live shows as possible. Having developed his dark and gritty style of organic electronica by cutting his teeth at netlabel level (12rec and Legogo), late last year the ever-impressive Herb Recordings saw his potential. The result is "Me, But Perfect", two years in the making and with each beat and each chiming tone strategically placed, this album deserves to propel Engine7 into the limelight. Encompassing shoegaze, ambient, downtempo and electronica the amount of variety on the album is staggering. Minor issues aside (artwork etc) Herb are almost ready to release this little gem. In the meantime, Engine7 hasn't forgotten his roots and has contributed this exclusive remix of, 12rec contemporary, Crepusculum's "Anachronism".

"Anachronism" (Engine7 Twilight Mix)mp3 - Engine7/Crepusculum

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Wes Willenbring : "Somewhere Someone Else" (Hidden Shoal Recordings)

Walking to the train station one chilly Saturday afternoon, the previous night's excess ensured that my head felt as if it had been trampled on by an elephant. Such was my hangover, music was the last thing that I needed. However, the walk to the station is quite boring, so I decided to load Wes Willenbring's "Somewhere Someone Else" onto my Ipod and with seconds of album opener "Aperture" the pain in my head seemed to subside. It didn't matter that ferocious looking rain clouds were forming overhead, everything at that moment made perfect sense.

Wes Willenbring recently moved to San Francisco where he has created this gentle and multi-textured album of atmospheric piano and guitar based pieces. Percussive elements are completely eschewed in favour of soft piano tones, warm drones and beautiful guitar work. Bringing to mind artists such as The Dead Texan, Labradford and Eluvium, Willenbring has managed to add something new to this genre.

The music here slowly unfurls, while layers of differing melodies are carefully added. The shimmering beauty of "As You Fade Away" is a prime example of this, two or three drone-melodies float together while softly plucked guitar notes intertwine. It's an intriguing combination that seems to take its cues from the wall-of-sound approach of bands like My Bloody Valentine. "Small Reminders" helps to fill the gaping hole left by the absent Labradford. Dripping with melancholic guitar work, each note and tone is deliberately placed. You don't notice the lack of precussion, the hypnotic instrumentation ensures that.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly what places one ambient album over the next, but with "Somewhere Someone Else" you can make no mistake. The vast, luxuriant soundscapes transport you to another world. "Reverie", for example, starts with reverbed guitar work that soon meshes with unearthly drones. Within seconds you become immersed in its thick, liquid sounds. It becomes apparent that the only way to experience this album properly, is through your headphones and at full volume.

It's hard to pick a favourite track here, such is the quality of each composition. Every single track provides an alluring listen and Willenbring's meticulous attention to detail catapults this album ahead of its peers. At a push, I would pick penultimate track "Lost Illusions" as my favourite. It is four minutes of pure ambient joy. This cerebral effort features some of the nicest guitar plucking I have heard so far this year, it's brooding and nocturnal again recalling Labradford. It moves at almost glacial pace.

Hidden Shoal are fast carving out a niche for themselves in the ambient/electronica market. Following on from Slow Dancing Society's "The Sound of Lights When Dim", Willenbring's "Somewhere Someone Else" is a tremendous affair of restrained, multi-layered and hypnotic soundscapes.

Rating - 87%

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Not Suitable For A Saturday Hangover...

T.F.J.L.I.D.

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Hers's a video of Take A Worm For A Walk Week, taken from their self-titled 13 minute, 15 track album.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Arc Lab : "No Spectre" (n5md)

Toronto is a city that has a place in my heart. Having spent several months there in 2005. immersed in its cultural diversity, laid-back atmosphere and friendly people, I returned for a visit late last year. It was during this brief holiday I first came across Torontonian down-tempo electronica producer Arc Lab, aka Medard Fischer. I stumbled across a rather cool record shop, Penguin Music, whose sole reason for existence, it seemed, was to cater for my tastes. It had a wall for recommended releases and I left with several shiny new cd's. One of those cd's was Arc Lab's "Nineteen Floors" and although the album wasn't particulalrly ground-breaking, it certainly piqued my interest.

Fast forward to 2007 and Arc Lab has had his new record "No Spectre" released by n5md. Firstly, I would like to nominate this album for having the best cover of the year so far. It marginally beats Tobias Lilja's evil raven eye cover, with remarkable close-up of obscured tree leaves that seem to emit more shades of green than I thought was possible. It hints at an organic sound on "No Spectre", but nothing could be further from the truth.

The press release for this states that n5md have returned to their roots with "No Spectre" and it is a predominantly machine made release, save for the occasional female vocals which crop up now and again. It is a fairly consistent effort from Fischer and he has developed some very well-honed programming skills. The production and beatwork are crisp and precise here, while the fresh synth textures and chiming melodies provide some nice flourishes. But, there is a nagging feeling that this is a lab-based production and it lacks the emotional depth of (previous n5md releases) SubtractiveLAD's "No Man's Land" or Last Days "Sea". At over an hour long it feels cloned and repetitive in places, treading over well worn paths.

But then, an album doesn't have to be ground-breaking to be enjoyable. Opener, "I'm All Vectors" is a refreshing slice of downtempo electronica statting with a couple of minutes of oriental sounding chimes, that build with static sounds before floating beats emerge in the mix. However, a number of tracks employ this strategy and the lack of variety soon detracts from Fischer's obvious production skills.

As a stand alone release, some of the songs on "No Spectre" could turn a few heads. "Versions" features cool robotic programming and chiming bell melodies, that are wrapped around with guazy synths. The muffled sample of people chatting at some bar is a nice touch before those crisp beats come back into the fray. "So Much For No Surprises", meanwhile, offers a respite from the chimes and lightweight beats. It has a rougher edge to it, even bordering on the sinister sounding. The beats are more forceful and particularly inventive and the harpsichord style melody towards the end is gorgeous.

Things pick up a little towards the end and tracks like "Plays Tim Arndt" falls into an excellent segment of uptempo beatwork, throbbing basslines and twinkling synths. While, "The Past" features some alluring female vocals, that gives the album a much-needed human touch.

"No Spectre" is by no means a poor release, any fan of the likes of Arovane, Donato Wharton or Autechre will undoubtedly enjoy this. But, given the quality of previous n5md albums, something doesn't quite click into place. It lacks the emotional impact we have come to expect from the innovative label and while it is carefully constructed and expertly produced, it is a liitle too synthetic for my tastes.

Rating - 65%

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