Look at the album cover. Look at it. A vaguely psychedelic blonde with an afro that has hearts rising in patterns while she coyly looks at someone off-cover. And why are there three coffee cups when she's the only one? And why are there musical notes coming out of that one cup? This is the sort of album you buy despite knowing nothing about the music contained within, no questions asked. Thankfully, this is some of the coolest bring-you-to-your-knees female-voiced folk rock from 1969 that wasn't recorded in 1969.
Swedish-born but London-based Kristina Bill cuts 12 tracks for your listening pleasure. Flaming Heart is the third in her Heart series, which explores themes of love, loss, and longing. She's been compared to Kate Bush, Beth Gibbons (Portishead) and Annie Lennox, which are all well and good, but her voice reminds me more of prog-rock queens Catherine Ribeiro and Anna Meek (Catapilla). She even gets into some vocal jazz territory every now and then. It's tough, even brutish, but carries with it a gentle sexuality as well. On "I Like to Swing," she proclaims, over a baroque horn arrangement, that she likes them " young, even a little dumb/I like them rude, full of tattoos/I like some size, oh baby, that's real nice." If that doesn't get your loins heated then wait until she hits glass-cracking notes when she delivers the track's eponymous line.
But the music isn't as dangerous as the first couple tracks would appear. "Raindrops" is a flute-focused, delicately arranged number that sounds like it could be a bonus track on the legendary Parallelograms album. "Kom," sung partly in Swedish, uses the harp, cello, and acoustic guitar to create poetry that, like frost on the window, melts as soon as Bill lets loose her warm vocals.
Bill, besides writing all songs but one on here, also plays the guitar and piano AND helped program this wondrous work. She is backed by several talented musicians who help her weave her tales through the cloth of ethereal folk music. Celloist Jonathan Williams deserves special mention, as his mournful tones give Bill the leverage her voice needs to launch her music into the next big thing.
It’s a gorgeous and dazzling album. Forget Miley Cyrus and Amanda Bynes or whoever, ladies like Kristina Bill are the women people need to be paying attention to.
Glitch-happy electronic compositions from North Carolina. I'm down.
Gabriel Godwin, aka Rana Vasa, began playing music at a young age, living by his own motto, "Give me an instrument and I will write some music eventually." Rad. He composed Early Attempts at Flight using the Korg DS-10 software for the Nintendo DS. I'll do my usual bit of copy and pasting when I do not understand the recording process but feel it bears special mentioning. Hey, if it were a requirement for critics to know what they're talking about, how much do you think would really get reviewed?
"DS-10 is an emulation of the 70's Korg monosynth with the addition of Kaoss pad capabilities and a 4-channel drum sequencer. From there the not so easy task of multi-tracking audio went into Pro-Tools for additional tracking, mixing and mastering. The Nintendo DS has only a stereo headphone jack so each track had to be played alone, recorded etc. then all of the individual tracks must then be re-synced inside PT. A very time consuming task. I was responsible for every step of the process and it was all done in my own home studio."
Sounds like a pain, but to my ears the payoff is worth it.
The compositions combined elements of glitch, techno, synth rock and pop (yes, there's a difference) to create an album that undulates in measured feeling. "Heavy Equipment" captures the monotony of mechanic autonomy with its clanking rhythm and static beats. "Ice Temple" recalls the glory days of 2-D adventure games (Zelda, most obviously) with its soft tinkers, frosty breaks and low-key synth hooks. "Laughing Bear," a personal favorite, keeps the synth line oscillating while a hand clapping-like samples fill in the space as higher and higher frequencies enter the pop attempt.
Many of the songs carry personal meaning for Godwin. "Chase Scene," for example, captures the intensity of car chase scenes, albeit far more adorably than M83. "Requiem for Phobos," and I quote, "was inspired by the fact that Mars' moon Phobos is in a state of orbit decay and it is unknown if the moon will impact with the planet or if it will be ripped apart by gravitational forces as its orbit decays and thus become a ring of debris much like one of the rings around Saturn." Damn, this kid has his act together, and you can tell how much feeling he puts into his efforts. Rarely do the tracks stray into senselessly long numbers, and each sound fulfills a function in the song. There are missteps of course, but nothing to really complain about. Perhaps I'm not in the mood for adventurous electronic music or maybe a particular beat pattern rubbed me the wrong way.
The album closes with "Early Reflections," the best track on the album and most mature. It sounds like a mid-tempo, chip tune take on a Beach House song but damn is it good. Funky rhythms and baroque synth hooks fill the song and create its militant beat, giving it a more pressurized feel than any other track on the album. It's a stunner of a closer, and makes me curious to see what else Godwin has to offer.
First off, props for using the word “than” correctly.
Second off, Less Than a Billion People is a Spanish twee-pop group that cuts its teeth with this EP, Carousel; six songs about sugary relationships that don't really work out, unless they do. Pedro Chazarra has a sexy, sort of controlled yelp. It totally works on songs like "The Storyteller" when he's backed by buoyant instrumentation and attempting to sing his own backup melodies. But then they do the exact same thing on "Carousel" and it's not as cool. Which is a bummer because the opener "Strange D-ay" is cool and funny as hell, an infectious semi-spoken word piece about bad luck. The second song combines some beautiful string work (violins I believe) with a cute lead female vocal. Her voice reminded me a bit of Mirah at points and was one of the highlights of the album. "The Storyteller" isn't their best song but does have it moments. The light hearted background vocals work providing a loose vibe to song while the string work adds a nice touch.
This is a weird EP to me; I can't tell if my wavering interest is due to the music or my mood swings. At points this is exactly what I need, especially when Chazarra throws his accent into the subdued "Don't Go and Burn Your Bridges." The closer, "What I Know (Pt. II)" basically rehashes the entire EP.
Indie fans will eat this up. The music even sounds attractive, like that guy in the back of the classroom who never talks but you know he's a nice guy? That's what this music is to me.
Alaskan Knight akaTim Commandeur (I want that name) creates danceable, sample-worthy synth-rock songs that harken to the beginning days of indie electronic music. It's almost a perfect combination of house music and the sensibilities some of us enjoy when listening to a band like the Postal Service. Some of the music sounds like it would fit comfortably on a Saint Etienne record as the the the kick drum hits hard and lays down a steady foundation to the songs. The programming as well as the song structure here is top-notch as every song has inspired sounds ranging from fat lead synths you might expect on a Cut Copy record to a breakdown where where sounds are mutuating through some kind of filter or envelope.
The opener "Mine" on his EP, Cabin Fever, uses Thompson Twins sensibilities to create a track that calls out spurned lovers everywhere. Commandeur's voice lends itself well to this sort of music. He talk-sings through rapid synth changes, bounce-house like patterns and dark electronics. His voice is heavily processed but sounding spot on for the type of music he is producing. The atmosphere the album constructs is one of relaxation. It's great music to play en route to the next party. "Cabin Fever" may be a bit ironically titled, is a jumpy number that alternates between moments of spellbinding silence and a seductive beat pattern.
There's no point in avoiding it: Commandeur can't sing very well. He tries to channel Ben Gibbard but comes off as uninspiring at times. He picks himself up a bit on "Say It Like You Mean It" using a fun, basic 4/4 timing but otherwise everything sounds generic. Despite that it's not a bad effort. "Be As One" is also an inspired song that seems to hit all the right notes. The song is catchy, has a memorable vocal line and is just a really easy song to enjoy. It's unpretentious attitude seems like it's destined to have people playing this one before they go out for a drink on friday night.
Its hard to deny that the songs on this album sound good even if you aren't into the fusion on indie rock and house music.
If you are into bands like Cut Copy and Hot Chip you need to check this out.
The year was 2003 and ITunes had just been released and we just finished watching “Finding Nemo” and at the same time Phil Wilson and Marc Joy met that summer when Phil approached Marc to master an album he had completed. A long story short they had similar musical tastes including My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Jesus and Mary Chain and found they were also compatible when working on music together. Ten years later and four albums deep they are still making music with their latest EP called To The End Of The World” The duo makes polished shoegaze with pop sensibilities that people who aren't fans of the genre will be able to enjoy.
For instance, the opening track “To The End Of The World” begins with only a few instruments including acoustic guitar, vocals and other worldly cosmic-sounding synths. The vocal melody carries a catchy tune that is easy to latch onto. Even when the band explodes halfway (sounding more like Asobi Seksu than My Bloody Valentine) through the lead synth parts are bright and extremely appealing to even the most cynical of music fans.
The second song, “Cross To Bare,” gets down to business right away with all the instruments in full force. Everything from the distorted, delayed guitar to the vocals sound pristine - making for an even more rewarding experience if you are listening to it on a nice pair of headphones or speakers. While not my favorite song I have to say the lead guitar solo sounded more apt for a hard rock song than the style they were bringing to the table here. “Isabel” was the standout on this four-song EP for me. It feels more anchored in the genre as the vocals were a bit lower in the mix and dosed in a fair amount of reverb. The trudging bass line is only accentuated by the drum work during the verse. The song starts to soar at the end, as it became a blur of bright sounds. The EP ends with “A Little Help” which had the most inventive sounds on the album such as the drum beat which consisted of a lot of intriguing tom work. As well as being inventive it is arguably also the catchiest.
This short EP has a lot of fine moments mixed in with some that are just ok. Ultimately, Wilson and Joy will appeal to fans who like an eclectic variety of music.
Daniel Lofredo Rota, aka Untide has made an exceptional album. If you have any interest in innovative, cinematic compositions that fuse together different genres to create an almost cathartic type of experience keep reading. Rota released a self-titled album Untide that fans of Max Richter and Philip Glass will more than appreciate. It contains music that seems destined for film in some sense. Whether it’s a movie with a narrative or just a collage of images, the music seems to conjure pictures in your mind. The music is filled with an ample amount of sounds but doesn't ever feel like there are too many elements to keep track of. Everything from bells, to reverse fluctuations to barely recognizable vocals seem to be in the mix. Each song brings a variety of soundscapes while still sounding recognizable as an album.
Things start off with “Turquoise,” which sounds like a sweet combination of glitch, massive attack and classical music. Lofredo isn't afraid to sound dark and mysterious as the music swells like waves of various emotions. After the three- minute accomplishment I buckled in and was ready for the rest of the ride. Luckily I wasn't disappointed. The Second song “Richter Doesn’t Live Here” has a steady kick drum that subdues the surrounding bells that occupy the frequency spectrum. One of his best pieces of work is “Strange Rendezvous” which sounds like straight up IDM. Its a dark song that reminded me of early Dentel. He utilizes some vocal samples that you wouldn't think would work but absolutely do. I was digging the vibe on “Bellringer” which had this interesting Persian vibe but not as interesting as the way he implements vocals. They aren’t upfront in the mix. Instead they seem to be manipulated with a couple of different types of filter that give the vocals a type of telephone effect. The album closes with the mesmerizing “Not Too Long, But Close Enough” which felt like I made it to the finish line. It has this optimistic but nostalgic vibe as if I was looking upon my past life in a ghostly form. The song changes quite a bit but the feeling stays the same as it approaches its end.
I encourage any fan of music to take a listen to this album. It showcases sound in an attractive way that can stir up such a visceral reaction that it becomes visual.
Initially forming in 2007 out of Sudermania, Sweden, ioseb is a post-rock band that recently released agartha. One of the things that separate this album from a lot of other post-rock albums is how they chose to use their time. The longest track on this album is just over five minutes, which for a typical post-rock band is a basic intro. Instead of extending sections out they decide to get right to the point. There isn’t any filler on this album as each song wastes little time getting to the most exciting parts.
Another thing that should be noted is how the album feels like it was made in the middle of a blizzard. From the sounds of wind, to the crystallized synth the album feels like the band was playing in Superman’s crystal cave. I absolutely enjoyed it, as there is a consistent theme that the album reinforces to make you feel more engrossed within the music. Additionally the production is stellar. Everything from the piano to the guitars sounds professional and just as good as anything within post-rock right now.
The album starts with “det röda tornet,” which starts off as a loose ambient piece that plays with cold winds and piano. They twirl around each other making a whirlwind of sound before the storm. Army-type snare rolls make themselves known that something is peering ahead. Halfway through the song the storm that has been brewing finally hits. Distorted guitars and walking bass lines carry the song as it simmers down a bit. I was impressed by the end of the song which takes an unexpected turn. A number of singers harmonize and seem to be doing a type of chant. Ioseb hit so many great moments on the first track and all under six minutes.
“at blott i tviflets spår til sanningarne vandra” doesn't waste any time and starts right off with the whole band in full effect. A great song all around but again what I really enjoyed was the unexpected moment. I thoroughly appreciated the subdued singing that only lasts briefly but really adds a lot to the song. Their ambient pieces are quite beautiful as well. While both revolve around the arctic tundra “agartha” contains guitar while “ack Värmeland du sköna” contains piano. They close the album with “o swedenborate! o rosencreutzare!” which channels a bit of Sigur Rós. The song reaches great heights and was a good choice to end this album.
Agartha is an album that condenses some of the best parts of post-rock and puts them in any easy-to- digest package. I highly recommend you check out this music.
Forming a year ago Valens is a three-piece outfit consisting of Jeff Perales (vocals/guitar), Victor Mills (bass/vocals) and Raul Benavides (drums) out of Houston, Texas who write pop songs that fans of The Promise Ring and Hey Mercedes will be attracted to. They recently released an album called Songs about Sleep. The songs are short and to the point. Each song starts fast and doesn’t slow down much until it’s over. What's nice about this formula is that they are like little shots of adrenaline that give you a little burst of energy.
The production is better than average but sometimes lacks the punch of a professional-sounding album. I often find that production plays a big factor with three-piece power pop acts and it’s a bit harder to get away with an even slight lo-fi type of sound. I love a song that starts with feedback as it is usually a strong indicator it is about to rock out. No exception with “Coffee Talk” which is the first song on the album as well as one of the highlights. The song seems destined to attract a flock of teenage girls as it has a standard emo vibe that younger generations seem to notice. It’s on this song that even if you aren't a fan of the music you can appreciate the ability to sound like a concise unit who individually have a lot of talent when it comes to their respective instruments (especially the drummer who shined on a lot of the songs). “Most Nights” has some of the best guitars riffs on the album. The guitar player hits his chords abrasively as well as knows when to simmer things down and let the bass player do his thing.
Perhaps Songs about Sleep biggest strength as well as its weakness is that a lot of the songs feel interchangeable. If you like one song on this album there is very little chance you will not dig the rest of the album. However if you don't like the first song, there won't be any songs that will change your mind.
Being someone who listens to an ample amount of new music a week it may take a bit more for me to perk up my ears and take notice. One of the first things I listen for is originality and when I was listened to the self-titled album Broken Switches by Broken Switches this was the first thing I noticed. Broken Switches uses feedback, live electronics and also uses guitar and organic drums to make his music. The music is dark and often sounds like you are listening to it in another room. It’s almost as if it is completely disconnected with the listener at points. Take for instance the opening track “GUHJ” which is 11 minutes long. The drums sound distant as if played at the end of a hallway as dark ominous tones swirl in a concoction of sounds. Sometimes the drums drop out suddenly and it throws you for a loop before starting again without notice. It is often the subtleties that give the song a sense of progression. The finely tuned synths can make all the difference in making the song not feel stagnant. There are some vocals here but they are minimal and are so buried that they are negligible.
The second song “Us” is the shortest of the three songs lasting over five minutes. It loops a rhythmically complex drum pattern that creates the only backbone the song has. The other components nestle against one each other creating a fog of dark textures. There is change in this song however it is all about the subtleties. It is the microevolution of the fog as it slowly mutates from one state to another and mimics the characteristics of a virus that adapts to its surroundings. The last song “Outside Interference” is the most cohesive and the least dark of the three songs. It feels like a band is playing as you have distinct parts for the drums, bass and guitars. The main start is still the live electronics and feedback but it was nice to end the album with a bit more structure.
This is an experimental album but also an original one that made me thankful that people are still trying to push the limits and explore new boundaries.
It's often difficult to define the music you would expect a modern composer to write. In the past, composers wrote for orchestras and brass bands. Now, that territory seems to exist solely in the world of film and television. In the case of musician Adrian K. Yee, that role has been one of writing works for his school’s symphonic orchestra to perform. It also means playing in bands and performing in and around his home of Vancouver. He's currently at university studying philosophy and is soon going to begin studying mathematics and physics.
I make a point of mentioning that detail because his educational pursuits have obviously had an impact on his writing. Yee is a very talented multi-instrumentalist who tackles not only the usual assortment of instruments someone with that title would play (guitar, bass, drums), but also orchestral instruments. In that sense, he reminds me a lot of Jeremy Larson, though Yee's music doesn't feel like cinema. It feels like a wave.
His album entitled Tribute To Cinematographer Christopher Doyle is a remarkably ambient album that focuses much more on texture than melody while still holding the listener's interest. "So Long Sibelius,” the opening track, is both the longest and the creepiest piece on the album. A haunting piano melody rings throughout and you find yourself in a darker place than you were before you started listening. Much of the unique sound that Yee was able to create was a result of processing the instruments through guitar pedals instead of software effects. This allows much more control of the sounds and processes the signals in a completely different way. The second track, "Linklater,” is quite incoherent. For the most part, it's oscillating white noise mixed with guitars that have been distorted beyond recognition. While it makes for an interesting sound, I found myself confused about what I was hearing about half way through.
"Weightless" is the most song-like of the four tracks. It features distinct parts as well as an incredible display of piano playing. The rhythm keeps you on your toes wondering where it's going to go next while staying completely under control. Clarinets and strings close out the final song, "Saprophyte.” It's a beautiful track that plays around with dynamics and huge percussive rumbles that lead into the closing sounds and the sleep that Yee was in search of as he wrote and recorded this album.
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