Kieron Smart is from Dundee in Scotland, and has been playing his guitar around the bars of the city of Dundee for the last 10 years. Playing covers for all these years was starting to become repetitive, so Smart started writing his own songs, which brought his love for music back. After a spell at college learning audio engineering he decided to use the skills and tricks of the trade to record his own material. His first EP The Space Between is an acoustic-based guitar-driven album inspired by everything from the early Beatles to modern Coldplay. The EP shows off his distinctive voice and great use of melody making. This a great start of what is hopefully the first of many records to come. Not unlike Coldplay or Wilco, Smart has a knack for songwriting and it doesn’t hurt that the EP shines cause of the pristine production
The album kicks things off with “Stepping stone” which has an infectious vocal melody as well as some great guitar work. The song is simple but the songwriting is so good! Every part is meticulously placed and properly executed. The next song “Daydream Holiday” is just as sharp as the opener. This one being a little bit more somber at least until the chorus kicks in and really starts to soar. La-las and crashing drums make a great chorus that could easily be something you hear on the radio. “The Space Between” which in my opinion is another hit continues to excel with excellent songwriting, meaningful lyrics that are nostalgic yet optimistic at the same time. The EP closes with “New York” which maybe the best song of the five. Overall, this is an excellently crafted and polished EP that displays that Kieron Smart is a proficient songwriter who is skilled beyond his years.
Since its March 1st release, The Vanderbuilts second album entitled What We Forget has only grown. You may want to take a listen to see how they created a sequence of well-weaved together musicianship. Whether you go for the whole or focus on the softer elements in comparison that feature an authentic approach to writing each instrumental and lyric with clean-cut love, this LP can take you further on down the road where with worldly intention, visions arise in a beauty that can only be set in stone.
Take a break from the usual ear splitting catastrophes we admire and bring to light the fact that lead singer/guitarist Sam Kogon, Dave Riddell (multi-instrumentalist), Max Newland (bassist), Aya Yamamoto (violinist) and Greennan Milliken (drummer) have possibly formed the perfect equation. The touch of having a violinist can change the routine of a usual number of arrangements. Because let’s face it when you hear a violin, many people think of classical music. But if you can use a violin in dark electronica band, you can certainly reap the rewards for converging bass and drums. I hardly talk about cover art but this one caught my eye. As a simple admirer of off the wall sketches, this cover, with its prehistoric animals that tend to look a bit unreal and yet exactly what you’d think you see in the night, comes across as brilliance. Not only does this album deliver but also as you progress through it, each song becomes a bit longer than the first. They somehow capture an exact amount of space in-between the doors and windows that play on our existence every waking moment. The Vanderbuilts have not only received wonderful praise, but in return they have achieved wonderful, as well as a philosophical genre.
Introspectacles is not party music, that much is clear within the first few seconds of Las Vegas-based Past Forms' EP. The excitement and energy of a party, however, is present throughout the four tracks of ambient pop. There is light from the muted halo of city lights on a foggy evening, not the erratic flashes of color in the club. There is intelligent discussion, not the anxious ramblings of a drunken group of pals. It is finely crafted energy that has all the robustness of a night on the town. It's the perfect soundtrack to a day when you find out you may never change the world, and that's ok (Past Forms released the EP, perhaps fittingly, right before the new year). It's the music of an artist learning to trust his abilities, and that's the best kind to listen to.
The songs share the same theme of modulation, punctuated with short but descriptive beats. Rather than confined by the idea, the music is surprisingly muscular with its rhythm patterns, displaying the same willingness to explore soundscapes in pop music shared by Canadian veterans Boards of Canada. This is best demonstrated on the final track "Real Life". The murmurs of synthesizers and the melancholy keyboard do a great service to the musician's creativity. There isn't a lot of variety regarding the songs' sonic pallet, but the consistency, like any good downbeat electronic album, is the greatest strength the artist has. Providing a comfortable atmosphere with proficient use of sound sculpting, Past Forms' Introspectacles is an album to be checked out by audiophiles and casual listeners alike.
Prior to Muchacho, Matthew Houck aka Phosphorescent specialized in creating country-folk Americana that always hinted towards his desire to explore his palette further. His new album "Muchacho" is his most diverse and has therefore incorporated for the first time electronica in a big way into his songs and packed them full of undulating synthesizer arpeggios and warm tones. "Muchacho" is an exceptional album with thoughtful, haunting and intelligent songs, beautifully arranged and - in their idiosyncratic way - very well sung. The music is a rich, electronic and often times nostalgic. There is a mixture of the mournful and the hopeful here, and a mixture of styles, too, held together by the slightly cracked, mixed-back and multi-tracked vocals which I found very expressive and affecting.
The opening song "Sun Arise" might sound like something you would hear if you put fleet foxes and four yet in a blender. The gorgeous harmonized vocals work well against against the electronic elements. The first song is stellar but the highlight of the album is the second song "Song For Zula" which combines Houck's reedy voice and slabs of synth to combine in a great song underpinned by soaring pedal steel. Everything is in its right place on this track and it should be in immediate contention for song of the year. Other songs like "Muchacho's Tune" and "Terror in the Canyons" are a return to form and use organic instrumentation and rely less on the electronic elements. This is a fantastically diverse album that doesn't fail to remember that songwriting is still the most important part of any song.
Eric Barros is a 20 year old who seems a couple of years ahead of his time when it comes to musical production. Located in Dallas, Texas he started Small Topography after his band fell apart and he decided to invest his time into a more producer-based electronic project. His first effort entitled Siphoned Moments is an impressive debut that contains everything from reverb-drenched guitar, to unique electronic drumbeats and vocals that may draw comparisons at times to The Postal Service. The music itself doesn’t stay static for long. There are lots of changes within a song and enough elements to keep you occupied. I really enjoyed the beats he was making, as they were not unlike Aphex Twin Even though some of the themes he visits on the album are about loss and resentment he is able to create a dichotomy between these emotions and the mostly upbeat music.
The album kicks off with “Inconvenience” which contains some warm synths, great drum programming and excellent use of vocal samples as well. The song has a nice warmth to that I really enjoyed, relaxing yet it wasn’t putting me to sleep. “Folded Tight” continues with a similar feel however there are more synths present this time around replacing the vocal samples. I have to admit I was a bit thrown off when I heard “Siphoned Moments.” I wasn’t expecting to hear a minimal song only containing guitar and vocals. It was actually well placed in the album. The next two songs “Between Our Lungs” and “Doctored Surgeon” revisit the upbeat production of the first two tracks before another acoustic number is introduced. The album ends with an instrumental entitled “Portables” which was the darkest track on the album. Overall, I was really impressed with the diversity on this album and can’t wait to see what’s next for Small Topography.
Language of the Ancients by S1gnsOfL1fe adds true form to ambient music. As broadcasted, it leads in with intention and grace. Breaking the mold of what time breaks should be allowed and includes a kaleidoscope of affection, as each song sinks into the next batch. With a total time of over 50 minutes, you stop counting which track is which; you don’t even become bothered about it. Because in the symmetrical ambient world, it’s about how long you can keep your mind trance, breathing into the sounds and beats that play along as this music gives you ethereal visions. Maybe it’s not as much as a surprise from Chris Bryant because coming from the Bay Area in California, he was born with ease in his veins. As Bryant recently signed to Arecibo Records, he also works the ambient website ambientonline.org along with creating various projects in the ambient atmosphere.
To go even deeper, the explanation Bryant has given out for this album is the give or take of natural substance and ecosystem development—society based on ourselves and the consumption of what we should admire—giving biology, chemical response and a harmonic astronomy to the existence we call ‘living every day.’ Alone that takes the stronghold of the music so much further, as you listen and delve deeper into the soundscape that presents the ideas into your subconscious, how much further can we plan to escape? This is a very real interruption of motion in progress, so take the time to settle down and listen.
Australia boasts an impressive list of rock and roll alumni, from legendary AC/DC to modern garage heroes like Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Now a squad of rascals from Sydney aim to take their place alongside their forebears. The Fixators' debut EP Wide Awake introduces listeners to six songs dealing with classic rock and roll themes of love, loneliness and loss although not necessarily in that order. Fair enough, but how does it sound?
The Fixators play guitar-focused rock music with a glam edge. The songs rarely exceed mid-tempo speeds, allowing time for the hooks, real The Strokes and Bloc Party inspired stuff, to sink in. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Matthew Lidbetter lends his street corner singing to songs that'd be appropriate outside a bar during rush hour. It's easy to hear the excitement from the band, and easy to see why; making music is an adventure in itself. But to be this good, to have composition this tight and know it, is even better. "San Francisco" drips with a confidence that isn't heard anywhere else on the album, from the sleazy guitar riffs to the angry drumming. The rest of the EP is solid, but that's the problem: the music is far from boring, but doesn't approach any new territory, either. I wouldn't mind, except "San Francisco" betrays the innate musicality The Fixators possess. In the future, I want these guys to build on the foundation of their influences such as Bloc Party, The Bravery and Franz Ferdinand, The Fixators have the chops to exceed these guys. Wide Awake is proof of that.
Gregg Flaherty and Zakk Vorodi make up the group called Phaedos, an instrumental rock group that exists somewhere between post-rock and folk music. The tracks on their new full length entitled Invisible Consciousness are acoustic and sometimes made me wonder why they decided not to add any singing. The songs are melancholy, lo-fi and contain some decent guitar work, some rare piano and dry drums.There are some cool ideas on this album however I have to admit I would have liked to hear what this may have sounded like if there was a bit more polish.
The first track “Chloe’s Song” starts with a simple drumbeat and two acoustic guitars. Nothing too crazy here, just a nice song with a strong melody that lets the listener know what they are going to be in for the duration of the album. One of the highlights “Invisible Motion” is a diverse song that despite its melancholy feel has a subdued optimism not unlike something you might hear from a band like Mogwai. It isn’t until the interlude that the drums are dismissed and we hear a folky guitar progression and a very soft synth you may not hear unless you pay attention. There are other highlights on the album such as “Freedom” which conjures up a little of a Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” feel. Sometimes there's nothing that works better than a lo-fi, simple approach to recording music, when the style is supposed to be more about the feeling then about the form itself. Sometimes a good melody and the motivation behind it is way more powerful than any studio wizardry you might come to have at your disposal as an artist. This is definitely the case of Phaedos’ musical project led by songwriter and performer Zakk Vorodi. This is a solid, consistent album that although it could have benefitted from better production has some worthwhile moments that will have me intrigued to check out their future material.
Nebraska is known for two things: corn and corn. The mascot for the University of Nebraska is called Herbie the Husker. I worked with a man from Nebraska. He was cool. So are these four gentlemen who call Lincoln their home. Strawberry Burns (you can't go wrong with a name like that) are fairly prolific, releasing four albums–Pitch Purple, the subject of this music review being their most recent–and only–EP in the last decade. I don't think the man from Nebraska knew these guys, either personally or musically, but thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can. You may even be the man from Nebraska!
The music is pretty enjoyable. It's sort of folksy, nerdy, and cool at the same time. Strawberry Burns manages the difficulty of cultivating an album with the same flavor throughout but without any song sounding the same. "Long Gone,” a wistful pop song with fractured pop structure gives way to "Maybe, Maybe,” which shows that the band can get quite spacey. This sort of variety, when in the hands of able musicians, almost guarantees that no track can be seen as a weak track. This is one of the highest compliments any critic can pay as it implies that the object of scrutiny is not boring. And Pitch Purple is not boring. The album shifts from mellow, to happy, to melancholy in between ranges of other emotions. As a final note, the band does make ample use of psychedelic effects, making this album cross into psychedelic pop and rock territory.
Divide and Conquer is dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We review a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
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