Looking for Satellites is an electronic duo act from Spain comprised of Mario del Castillo and Pedro Puentes. They recently released a five-song EP entitled Zero which contains songs from 2000-2009. According to the duo the songs “show part of the evolution of the electronic sound concept that the band experienced during those years.”
Up first is “Trance” which is the highlight. The song does sound a little dated but not in a bad way. I was reminded of a couple of my personal favorite acts including Primal Scream, NIN and The Chemical Brothers. The song is four minutes long without an ounce of fat on it. There is a familiarly to the sounds but I thought the juxtaposition of elements worked.
“Bezalel” was where I thought the NIN vibe was especially strong. I think it was that trudging forward lead synth. “Pinkerzap” puts the meaty industrial synth in front with the percussion playing a more supportive role. It’s a hypnotic, atmospheric track. “B Dance” is more conducive for the dance floor. The beat hits heavy and dark and you could argue has some similarities to Burial. They close with “Xscape” which felt like an MDMA fueled club burner.
The whole EP goes by fast. I was listening for their “evolution” and I can’t say it was easy to spot. That's not meant in a pejorative way but the songs sound like they were weaved from a similar strain, even a similar time period.
Overall, this is a solid electronic album. There is some inventive ear candy along with strong hooks to make it worth your while. Recommended.
Frill is a solo artist with her second EP entitled I'm In Heaven I'm In Hell. The EP contains six tracks that revolve around guitar and her vocals. This is her best release yet.
It opens with “animal” where she combines an array of white noise from her guitar with subtle vocal harmonies. There are some beautiful moments especially during the verse where she lets the guitar strings ring out. The lyrics are a little hard to distinguish but I enjoyed the delivery.
Her vocals on “better off dead” are more prominent and she takes the distortion off her guitars. I was reminded of PJ Harvey here and had a greater appreciation for her vocals. Frill goes back to the shoegaze type fuzz on “does it look like I’m here” which felt more like an interlude.
The title track also goes by in a flash which felt more like a vignette. As for “creepy shit” you could say it's all in the title. The song is haunting and very atmospheric. “We already have” is an extension of that vibe and recalls a sound I would associate with Julian Barwick. The EP closes with “outro bye bye” which is a fuzz infested sendoff.
While there is no doubt Frill is coming into her own there are still aspects such as production which could be taken to the next level. There is absolutely nothing wrong with bedroom projects but it's hard not to appreciate what a knowledgeable producer can pull off. I’d say the production seemed about the same as her first effort entitled Touch Me, I'm Sick.
I don't want her to underplay her vocals. “Better off dead” gave me a good sense of the tone and texture of her voice. That's the number one weapon in her arsenal right now and she shouldn't be afraid to put it upfront in the mix.
With this release Frill continues to lay her emotions bare for all to see. Recommended.
Rough and Regal is a duo based in Toledo, Ohio consisting of Mike Santry and Ryan Brink. This particular project started earlier this year and they already managed to release a five-song EP entitled Getting Our Feet Wet. As you can see they paint this picture literally on their album cover but I surmise it’s a reference to making their first EP as well.
The duo makes fun, light, indie rock. They reminded me of a now defunct band called The Unicorns because of the catchy hooks and the playfulness you can hear within the music. Great band and I recommend Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?.
The production is lo-fi and there are aspects on this end which can certainly be improved in the future. For example utilizing a compressor properly on the vocals would have helped out and the general drum sound needs work. The other thing to point out is the overall difference of volume on certain tracks that was noticeable. “Gravy Train” is about 2 - 3 dbs louder than “Air Buds.” This is an aspect that is handled in the mastering stage. Basic knowledge of how to utilize a limiter could help rectify this issue. Overall, I still give them kudos for doing a good job with what they had and the songwriting does shine through.
The duo opens with “Air Buds” which is one of the highlights. The vocal melody is really catchy. There is a bit of slop as far as timing goes but it for the most part works. The vocalist makes references to a couple of movies like “IT”, “Beetlejuice” and “Misery.” I laughed when I heard about Stephen King being on drugs.
Up next is “Cuts” which is another song that worked quite well. As I was listening to the song another band came to mind - Pavement. I wouldn’t say Terror Twilight era Pavement - more like Slanted and Enchanted era.
“Slight Chatter” was my personal favorite track on the EP mostly because of the energy they brought to the table. It would probably translate really well live and has an infectious nature about it. “Don't Know Anything” is subdued, lacks percussion and is the most contemplative and thought provoking of the songs. “Gravy Train” tells a full on story. I have mixed thoughts about this song.
Overall, I think the band has a lot of potential and should keep at it. You can tell they are at the embryonic stage of their development but they have an ear for catchy melodies and that's a good start. I hope to hear more in the not too distant future.
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Kim Imber is a songwriter from Australia who has been performing and writing songs for about twenty years. His latest album is called Imberesque which contains ten songs and to my ears is a mix of rock, pop and folk.
His style is pretty straightforward all things considered. Imber sticks to mostly major and minor scales and writes palatable melodies which are easily digestible. Up first is “Dance Upon The Moon” which is a catchy and festive song.
I have to admit it took me a little while to get used to his vocal style which didn't jump out at me. Lyrically, there was a mystical almost Door-esque quality. He sings, “When you dance upon the moon it’s like, sweet music in tune you can wing it, you can swing it, you can, booty too when you dance, upon the moon.”
The next song that stuck out to me was “Freedom For Everyone” which felt motivational and positive both in terms of the music and the lyrics. He sings, “hold on to that dream stay strong we sing your song freedom for everyone.” “You'll Be In My Dreams” contains a captivating drum beat while “With Song” has a sing along type quality to it.
“Empty Man” was a little more melancholy than the other songs on the album was a nice change of emotional pace. The last two songs however “Somebody To Hold” and “Nothing's Gonna Trouble Me Today” ended the album on a more positive vibe. You get the sense that Imber is a spiritually minded guy after spending some time with the album. It comes across in the music and it feels authentic.
Imberesque is a DIY effort. The production was solid for DIY but I can’t say it has all of the polish and sheen you get with a professional studio recording.
Overall, Imberesque certainly has some inspired moments. It didn't always hit for me but I appreciated Imber’s raw talent and message.
Space is a never-ending font of inspiration for artists of all kinds. So few people have experienced it, but the concept of an infinite silent expanse evokes such a broad slate of emotion that it seems almost universal. It can be peaceful or terrifying, embodying the wonder of the unknown or the fear of complete isolation.
Flat Moon, a Brooklyn group, has joined the ranks of so many musicians that explore the thematic territory of space with the release of their record Luminary. An instrumental concept album concerning the Apollo moon missions, in particular the code for the Apollo Guidance Computer and the team that wrote the code, Luminary is nonetheless instrumental with tonal synths and guitar suggesting the electronic equipment on the craft. The band also generates a rich, staticky backdrop and long drones to demonstrate the depth of space it traverses.
“Fresh Start / Restart” opens the record. It's a beautiful droning piece with acoustic guitar and vast textures, setting the stage for the rest of the record. Interestingly, it seems to lead directly into the second track “Controlled Constants,” which recontextualizes the guitar into a more somber electric piece with very barebones drumming. This opening suite establishes the way in which Flat Moon moves between organic instruments and synths. The fact that the band chose to avoid virtual instruments is really evident, as the ebb and flow of the parts never seems jumpy or canned.
“Burn Baby Burn” has a nice character, moving from thrumming 16th note bass to a cavernous sound that breaks into jammy territory. The record doesn't get too close to traditional rock music, but this track is probably the nearest it comes—the minimal groove sits nicely alongside the more esoteric moments.
“The Lunar Landing” is also a major standout for me. It’s got a post-rock vibe with a huge shoegaze wall of sound. The broad and hopeful chords drop away for emotionally immediate clean guitars and a light snare pattern, then returning to the huge waves of fuzz. Playing with rich guitar texture suits the band well, underpinning the melodic movements with depths of sound.
Once “Time of Free Fall” rolls around, Luminary is ready to untether itself from the norm. Droning strings emulate the endless movement of zero-g, though these drones slowly and softly become tonal. It’s similar to the glacial effect of Sigur Rös, taking a vast ambient soundscape and pivoting into more traditional melodic territory. After minutes, reverbed acoustic plucks from guitar add a rhythmic element, and it all fades to nothing but room noise. It's a fitting way to close the record, making the journey seem to extend beyond the boundaries of its running time.
Ultimately, Flat Moon has delivered an interesting album in Luminary, straddling ambient and melodic sounds to evocative effect. Though their specific concept does not come through as clearly as I would like, they truly understand how to convey the complexity of space, which makes the project unquestionably successful. Hopefully this is not the last trip they will take.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Golden Teacher No Luscious Life 3.8
Jame Murray Heavenly waters 3.8
Izzard Alone Together 3.7
The Shorelines Somewhere In Time 3.5
Corrington Wheeler Seeking Light 3.6
Catchlight Live With It 3.7
When your record is called CABBAGE and bears on its cover a head of green cabbage against a black background you better either be joking around or know damn sure what the hell you’re doing. James Cox a singer/songwriter who has lived in many rural places during his life, including Rocky Mountains, the Great Pacific Northwest and the Southeastern United States and currently resides in the Mississippi Delta, and the main man behind CABBAGE, is luckily the latter.
He cites among his musical influences Elliott Smith, Radiohead and Jeff Buckley, and one can hear each of these artists in some way, shape or form on this record, from its hushed and radiant beauty to its precisely wielded instrumentation.
After the title opener, a short and sweet episode of found sounds and knocking around, comes the sweet slow burn of “All the Beautiful Things” which is haunting and beautiful at the same time. The song opens slowly like a flower in the phase of blooming. Cox’s melody unfolds like petals. He is a patient vocalist, a la Buckley; the words are spoken plainly and then kissed out into the air with an eerie sweetness.
Next on “At the Altar” Cox starts out with an alt country soundscape that is upbeat and forceful. But this track is seven-minutes long and this is only the first of a folio of spaces this song will inhabit, as it reaches a powerful peak and then slowly becomes shrouded in a hazy mist of jazz drums and stand-up bass, interlaced with howling fiddle, and some sonic treatments that turn the song into something completely different.
Later on “The Gardener” Cox opts for a more direct approach of heavy rock guitars and sooth-saying vocal repetition “A reminder of what is coming.” As it progresses the song becomes a fugue of rock a la Radiohead’s Ok Computer, and it sounds as though actual sparks may be coming from the shredding guitars. This then transitions to the relatively ‘80s Britpop sounds of “Under Cover of a Bald Shining Night,” which also serves to show the many sides of Cox’s abilities to create rock n’ roll in all its different forms. And for the closer “Winter Crop” Cox takes it on solo-acoustic and howls it out like he means every word.
Like I said earlier if your record is called CABBAGE there better be something significant behind it. In this case there certainly is. James Cox is not being hokey anywhere on this record, and those who are willing to sit down and listen will be greatly rewarded for it.
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Richard Dart is a musician from Australia who has been releasing music since 2016. Since then he has been prolific and generated a good amount of music. On his ambient album Day it's evident he’s growing as an artist.
“When does the day begin?” is the opener which moves is slow waves. He utilizes very sparse guitar that likes to ring out with minor fluctuations. It’s certified headphone music that sets the stage. Up next is the most dynamic song entitled “Svalbard” if simply for the drum programming. I would argue the song might be a little more experimental than ambient. Dart utilizes what sounds like a vocal transformer, a resonant filter and a doubler on his vocals.
Brian Eno released an exceptional album that you may have missed called The Ship. I was somewhat reminded of that album on “Solarhringur” which was the highlight. It’s sometimes hard to know what works and why it works on an ambient album but you know it when you hear it. That's how I felt when listening to “Solarhringur.”
“People” felt like a pervading mist. It’s a long, foreboding atmosphere that makes subtle shifts from dissonance to harmony. The field recording provides some more emotional depth as well as alien disconnect. “Superdark highway (in the middle of nowhere)” no pun intended is a bit more of a journey while “Tagnokto” is more bright and ethereal.
I think Dart indeed has made some improvements since the last time I heard him and he will continue to improve. On that note he still has a little work ahead of him to compete with pioneers in the field like Brian Eno, Stars Of The Lid and Fennesz.
Overall, this was a very impressive ambient album that wasn’t afraid to utilize some kinetic elements. Fans of the genre will surely want to check this out.
I have mixed thoughts about cover songs for many reasons. Although there are some covers that have blown away the original so much so that the cover has became much more popular and well known. I thought Gregg Stewart had a great idea. On top of releasing an album full of originals he also released an album entitled TwentySixteen which is dedicated to musical artists that passed in 2016 by covering one of their songs. The lineup on this album taking on this task consists of Gregg Stewart (vocals/guitars), Carl Byron (keys), Kurtis Keber (bass) and Kevin Jarvis (drums/percussion).
Stewart really does these songs justice. He puts his own spin on them and you can tell there was a lot of attention to detail. I have to admit that I skipped around a lot because there were some songs I couldn't wait to hear. “Leaving The Table” was one of my favorites songs of 2016 so I had to hear what was happening with Stewart’s interpretation.
The original version is absolutely beautiful and the melancholy in Cohen’s deep voice is mesmerizing. Stewart’s version felt warm, nostalgic and like it would work at the end of a coming of age film. At the very least I give Stewart a tip of the hat for even attempting to cover a Leonard Cohen song.
I was really impressed by “You Spin Me Round” by Peter Burns which I’m sure you have heard before. Stewart really hits the right tone here. The hook sounds great and his vocals style fits like an old shoe.
I’ll admit I wasn’t familiar with every song that he chose. That made it a little more interesting going back and listening to the original. There were a number of songs that stuck out including “Daisies,” “If I Could Fly” and “I Found Somebody.”
The last thing I have to give some credit to Stewart for is making the album sound connected. That's no easy task given the source material is so disparate.
Overall, this is a solid effort which I can wholeheartedly recommend.
As a person gets older, friendships become harder things to keep hold of. People change, people move on, things happen in their lives that take time away of what could once have been spent sitting around and drinking a few beers and jawing about this or that. It’s unfortunate in a sense, though it is also part of life and growing as a person. But sometimes friends go away for a while and then they somehow come back. And when they’re back things become like they once were and everyone can go back to rocking again. Well in the case of four-piece Seattle bred garage-grunge outfit Pistil Whipped Project, you can go back to rocking again, which is just what they do on their very personal four-song EP Lost & Found.
They waste no time getting started as the opening track “Rite to Possess” opens a bit grittily almost like a dirty ‘60s-era psych-wail, which rises and falls in dark waves of gritty guitar bits and heavy slabs of bass and drums, and then slowly but surely mixes in the maximum efforts of metal and rock which forms their signature sounds. This sound continues on the slap-happy drum and bass-driven “Mindmaze” a song that reminded me of equal parts craft and darkness of Black Sabbath.
They tone down the darkness a bit on “Whispers” but definitely not the technique. Here music aficionados will have a chance to revel in the sheer mastery of craft that these four guys have obviously been working on for a long time. One hears the slow burn of classic rock in the pacing and solos; every instrument working to do its part and adding depth to the larger whole.
When the band finally decides to add some lyrics to their tunes, as they do on the final track “Lost and Found” it made me wish in a sense there were more vocals on this record, if only because of the rough-tinged CB radio styled vocals which the band uses.
Lost & Found is a record that possibly never would have been made had four friends not become reunited and rocked out. Fans of balls out rock n’ roll with soul will definitely be glad that the stars aligned for Pistil Whipped Project.
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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