Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NEWS// Exlovers: Starlight, Starlight MP3

Exlovers. A London-based quintet. Four guys, one gal and just some seriously blissed out bedroom pop, lathered in shoegaze sensibilities, sweeping symphonies and humbling lo-fi charm. I was emailed 'Starlight Starlight' by two separate people, and I wasn't dissapointed with what I found! The first track from their debut album, it's currently being given away for absolutely nothing at all, so it's a delightfully easy reccomendation for me to make. Kicking off with some furiously summery drums, riddled with mellow vibes and bathing in that pool of satisfaction we all wish to find, Exlover's singing slowly emerges. The combination of the male and female vocals is a technique not unknown to the indie-pop outfit, but it seems on 'Starlight Starlight' that such a harmony has been perfected, and an edge refined. Muffled by our minds ability to make nostalgic events better than they probably were, this track is a catchy one. It sticks in your head, which in turn moulds it into something incredible. It's the basis of a pop classic, and one I'm not likely to forget. I think I'm in love with Exlovers! Grab the track here, and then look out for their forthcoming LP 'Moth' sometime next year!

VIDEO// Gabriel Bruce: Sleep Paralysis

I know absolutely nothing when it comes to Gabriel Bruce other than that he records some simply stunning post-punk numbers, with one of the more recent being 'Sleep Paralysis'. A four minute muse pondering the actuality of his very being ("I've got this feeling that we're dead"), it's a track that's all the more powerful because of Bruce's despondent, saddening tone. These vocals bring the sound of The National to mind, and it soon becomes evident that they've played a modest part in Gabriel's inspiration. A melodic groove hiding in the steady drum beat seeps in through his passion, driving the track with an eager sincerity in toe. It's a style not unfamiliar to those fans of The National, but for me, the lacking hope in 'Sleep Paralysis' grabs at your heartstrings with a tighter, more unrelenting grasp. When such a great track is paired with an amazing video my day is made, so stream it up above!

NEWS// Grimes: Oblivion MP3

This new tune from Grimes is pretty inspiring. Backed by a deep unwavering beat, chunky and confident and subtly melodic, the vocals retain a completely different aesthetic. They feel delicate and soft, contrasting their support as they float under an innocent suggestion of a lisp. It's a fine balance, but one that reaps many a reward when the equilibrium is met. Grimes has created something that gets me excited from the off, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she pulls out of the bag for her next full-length record! With all of its haunting presence and underlying tension, elevated by truly beautiful singing, 'Oblivion' is glorious.

Monday, November 28, 2011

VIDEO// Fleet Foxes: The Shrine / An Argument

Fleet Foxes dropped this fantastic video a few days ago, and there are truly no words with which to describe it. The animations match the music perfectly, swelling and receding with each beautiful note. The combination of two songs from the band's latest album make the magnificent journey glorious, exploring hurt and longing like barren wastelands. Reds and oranges reign supreme, sweltering and oppressive in their infernal angst. Soft water, in its cool, murky, ignorant bliss contrasts this, the calm shattered like ice by a monster's wrath. I love this video, so stream it up above and have a gander at my Fleet Foxes review here!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

REVIEW// Vinyl Williams: Lemniscate

     I've polished off the last of my email requests, so its time to return to the rather daunting backlog of music I never got round to covering. 'Lemniscate' is the debut album from Vinyl Williams, an experimental pop group fronted by Lionel Williams and hailing from the fair city of Los Angeles. It's a nine-track effort that arrived way back in August and is available from the Bandcamp for no cost whatsoever, which is reason enough to grab it! A surreal and mesmerisingly abstract LP, 'Lemniscate' explores a kaleidoscopic spectrum of sound, brimming with orchestral scope and subtle sonic complexities, all beautifully realised through layers of attenuated texture. In coming to the album I expected something incredibly hard to 'get', but what I found was a record that was incredibly accessible. Take away the noise and the experimentation and you're left with a pretty solid melody and beat behind most numbers, grounding the tracks and creating something very easy to sit back and just take in. There is a fascinating and rewarding intelligence within 'Lemniscate', blissed out and oozing calm vibrations. It lulls and swells and pulsates under waves of pure serenity, lapping the shore of a remote island, caverns echoing back the distant tide. A content sincerity weaves its way throughout each track in turn, though not in an ignorant way. Instead, it's more of a suggestive blithe elation, reflective and profound and infinitely charming, and I just love it!
     Opening with 'Tokyo -> Sumatra', a flurry of percussion explodes into your ears, softly spoken synths softening the edges and pushing them to the back of the music. The vocal talents of Lionel reverberate over sonic hills and vast, incomprehensible plains, hypnotic in their unwavering, steady tone. Closing with a cosmic epiphany of sorts, it makes your problems feel small, insignificant against the backdrop of the universe. 'Higher Worlds' is an apt follower, pounding under a film of nostalgic crackle and building with unanticipated benevolence. The throbbing rhythm is crystal clear, with a comfortable melody in toe. A tangible and strangely ethereal tone to the track marks it out as one of my favourites, surpassing both the muffled quirks of 'Stellarscope' and the psychedelic shoe-gaze ethos portrayed in 'Who Are You?'. 'Grassy's tribal beat and wind instruments rustle amongst the reeds of a magnificent river. Decidedly more ambient than the other tracks, things are slowed down, yet still retain that refreshing energy I've come to expect from Vinyl Williams. A glittering finish leads into the passionate vocals of 'Object Of The Source', a powerful, more serious creation from John Williams talented grandson. The drums and guitar flow as one, backing a 'post-punk meets dream-pop' sensibility. 'Inner Space' hits off with an immediately easy-going groove, natural and simple and oh so soothing. 'Open Your Mind' is the penultimate song off of 'Lemniscate', delicate singing bouncing off cloud as the walls of your mind melt away. The words during these five minutes, and indeed throughout the album are the most distinguishable, but that's not what the music is about. It is the layering of notes and sound and texture to achieve something much more. Spiritual or not, it massages an aching, uptight mentality, allowing thoughts and notions to seep in. It's more of an experience rather than simply a collection of songs, and one well worth baring.
     The final number, 'Follow Your Dreams', is a seven minute epic, but it's not until about half way through that you can begin to see the finish line, emerging from the noise. Synth and string and bell accumulate into a surprisingly tension fuelled ending. 'Lemniscate' was merely a dream you come to understand. An escape from the madness and ravaged land that is your dreaded reality. As the dream draws to a close, you can sense something it wrong. A tonal change, ever so subtle, causes your brow to furrow and your fingers to clench. Bullets rip through the seams holding your Utopia together, a terrifying black dust clogging your lungs and obscuring your beautiful vision. It's a compelling conclusion to a captivating record. Stream 'Higher Worlds' above, then I urge you to download this album!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NEWS// Of Montreal: Wintered Debts MP3

I've always been a fan of Georgian rock octet Of Montreal, and 'Wintered Debts' has got a certain charm about it that doesn't disappoint. I'll admit the outfit's last two releases didn't click with me, especially after the magnificent 'Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?', but my confidence in them has been suitably restored with this latest epic of a track. Running for seven and a half minutes and taken from their forthcoming effort 'Paralytic Stalks' it's a number that reaches out to grasp for past glories, the concluding strings and piano rising to a level of instrumentation I've never heard but always anticipated from the group. The opening vocals are melancholy in their wintry delicacy, wrapped warm in a subtle melody. A drum phrase introduces a marked change in tone as Of Montreal seem to slowly break down, but it's a vulnerability and passion that matches the undeniably determined attitude they have to get every song they record as perfect as it can be. Even on albums that didn't sound as good, you can tell they tried their hardest, which is an element I've always admired. Eventually that orchestral interlude leads into the stunning conclusion, to a track so beautifully refined you can't help sighing with affection. Stream 'Wintered Debts' above.

Friday, November 25, 2011

NEWS// Frost: The Woods MP3

Frost is the musical moniker for Norwegian duo Aggie Peterson and Per Martinsen, a pair who have already put out two records under the icy pseudonym. 'The Woods' is the latest teaser from their forthcoming third effort 'Radiomagnetic, an album set to stun when it falls early next year. During these four minutes however, we're served a wondrously well-baked slice of electro-pop, delicious in its delicacy and lathered in warm, pulsating synths. It's an understated gem, trickling under Aggie's haunting vocals, dripping in subtle reverberation and yet still managing to retain a crystal clear aesthetic, euphoric yet melancholic over the beautifully refined and attenuated melody. Drum phrases pan between channels, an alien light dappling the track's base in mystery and intrigue. A song of contrast, Frost unify the sounds, bringing them together under just one, truly magnificent namesake: 'The Woods'.

NEWS// La Shark: Magazine Cover MP3

Eccentric South London sextet La Shark are all set to launch their latest single, a frenzied and beautifully unconventional smattering of pop perfection next Monday night. 'Magazine Cover' somehow feels dated, an element to their music more often than not attributed to a certain lead singer's vocals. Rather than a hindrance however, this quirky and individual sound, when matched with the off-kilter instrumentation, pacey interludes and fantastically catchy choruses, makes for a captivating and curiously unique aesthetic that we at Music Dissection love. An electronic whirring, beeping and laser-shooting dominates the beat, a rhythm that supports lyrics evocative in both their tragic and smile-inducing notions. The group prophesise their own downfall, a forlorn and quietly saddening affair brought about by ego and fame and the temptations available to those with money. Each member of La Shark dies, the coverage of which appears on a "magazine cover". During the second half of the track, we pause for a while and slow down. It's here that we can really appreciate La Sharks ability to take words and twist them into something stunningly powerful. The faster phrases are truly incredible, and as the song draws to a close, you can finally breath. The urge to replay ultimately takes over, yet the impulse to sing along is stronger. It may not be for everyone, but for me 'Magazine Cover' is the apex of pop perfection. Hear it above!

NEWS// Death Rattle: The Dig MP3

This new track, 'The Dig', is London-based duo Death Rattle's debut single. Composed of Helen and Chris Hamilton, formerly of lo-fi three-piece That Mouth, 'The Dig' highlights a rather radical shift in sound. They've thrown out a list of influences via the Facebook, and believe me when I say that the inspirations play a big part in terms of how the song plays out. The main difference however, is the notable increase in production value. The darker tone of the track throbs and swirls menacingly under stark electronic ice. Fever Rays truly experimental ethos materialises itself under the pounding Depeche Mode synths and Nine Inch Nail aggression, all layered in immaculate production and a refined recording quality. Helen's vocals are dominant, smothered in reverberating, foreboding disquiet. The hook is incredible, burrowing itself deep into your conscious with every tangible, unfaltering shovel fall. It's an amazing debut song from the duo, and well worth a free download here!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

VIDEO// Kapowski: Section 8

A while back, I posted one of The Perez Brothers directorial masterpieces, a charming film for French Cassettes and their song 'Radley'. Almost three months later, and here we are, with another solid gold act from the Californian brothers, a duo who effortlessly inject their visualisation of sound with all the eeriness and individuality that the music deserves. Their soundtrack this time is 'Section 8', a subtle and terrifying look into a technologically reliant future. Its a world that seems perfectly normal and domesticated on the surface, but reeks of a lacking human warmth upon digging deeper. Off-kilter drums and an innately hypnotic piano melody are at one time both eccentric and strangely natural, like the discovery of a fossil that while looking alien, must have lived on our planet since creation began. Taken from Kapowski's forthcoming album, Hart and Devon Perez have me suitably excited for it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

REVIEW// Song of Return: Trajectory EP

     Glasgow quintet Song of Return and their latest EP 'Trajectory' were dropped into my inbox a few of weeks ago, and so I apologise for the lateness of this review. The band actually consists of the disbanded members of alt-rock outfit Union of Knives, reassembled under a new line-up with a debut record already hanging from their belts. 'Trajectory's title track was taken from said album and joins three other songs looking forward to a December 12th release date. Now, possibly the most intriguing label that Song of Return have stuck to both these efforts is that of 'post-rock'. As one of my favourite musical genres, this evaluation is one that came with the heavy weight of expectation and which unfortunately, left teased. When you think of post-rock, epic and subtle complexities come to mind, driven to explore apocalyptic worlds and the ugly, twisted nature of human mortality. Compelled to seek out the very basic, almost primal nature of life, void of restraint and limited only to the ability of the group who venture forth into these captivating, mesmerising and often enlightening lands. Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor emerged unscathed, but for me, Song of Return simply don't deliver on this perhaps arrogant interpretation of their sound. That being said, their obvious labours bear some fruit, just not in the form I was expecting. With a dark rock aesthetic, there is a fascinating and pleasing level of experimentation within the four tracks, though only two of them shine out as being truly superb and sensational!
     Opening with the title track, 'Trajectory' isn't actually the best number on here. There is a pretty nice, subtle build throughout the three minutes, but the drum beat is basic and in the end the layered sound ends up sounding less epic and huge and instead swamps the vocals and feel a little too noisy for my liking. The second track, 'Entwined' utilises this same musique concrète, but makes it work with the ever dominant and powerful singing. Climactic tonal changes within these vocals are executed perfectly, standing out amongst the industrial whirring, reverb and deep, throbbing energy that bursts out near the end. On 'Entwined', Song of Return seem to take a rather heavy Muse influence, incorporating a strong, ordered melody into the chaos, yet it works exceptionally well. 'Heavenly Bodies' follows a similar but somewhat softer ethos, but is ultimately overshadowed by the final number, 'Momentum'. A simply magnificent track, the band's Scottish accent comes to the forefront of the music, building wonderfully to a spine tingling anti-climax. Just as you go to tense for that one, awe-inspiring moment, you're dealt a hauntingly beautiful alternative.
     Overall, this EP went two ways for me. On one hand there is some excellent technique, but on the other this is just some fairly average rock. Two towns split by an uncomfortable middle-ground, uncertain and shaky and lacking in the consistency to get the most out of what is some incredible potential. Stream 'Momentum' below, then find the rest over here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

VIDEO// Being There: Back to the Future

If you'll care to scroll down the page, you'll find a pretty positive review of Being There and their latest single 'The Radio'. 'Back to the Future' is the second track off of the release, a two track effort from the London quartet, and I fell in love with it from the start. Shot during their tour with Noah and the Whale, which is an achievement in itself, the video has been filmed with an apt degree of humour as we follow Being There. It echoes that same blissed out vibe as the song itself, and makes for an inspiring couple of minutes. Stream it above!

Monday, November 21, 2011

REVIEW// Being There: The Radio

     London quartet Being There seem to have made a fairly substantial name for themselves while flying just under this blogs new music radar. They've supported Noah and the Whale during their first tour for a start, and their latest split single dropped only today! A fab double A side consisting of 'The Radio' and 'Back to the Future', it's available to purchase from the Young and Lost Club, a label that has turned out a number of hits, the most recent of which being Little Racer's fairly stunning debut. I fear we're straying from the topic at hand, but then maybe that's what Being There want! They live to recreate those innocent childhood summers, filled with laughter and blurred by the glare of a magnificent sun. The outfit is already there, as the name suggests, but their simple form of indie-pop lets us join them for a few glorious minutes. Your mind wanders as you reminisce long afternoons and collapsing into the soft, welcoming sheets of your bed after them. Their single 'Tomorrow', which dropped back at the start of the summer, seems to reflect this aesthetic, but it's this latest effort which does more for me. It's one thing to record a summery track in summer, but a different thing entirely to release one in winter to the same effect. This single is truly fantastic. A nostalgia-fuelled adventure, it effortlessly warms your chilly November bones with it's reverb and guitar and aching drums. It's a dream, limited only to your imagination.
     The first track from this dual-powered collection is 'The Radio', a number that swims in the afore-mentioned lake of glittering reverb. There is a subtly lo-fi quality to the sound in these couple of minutes, echoing at the back of your head as the lyrics weave in out out of a melody as light and airy as a midsummer breeze. It's a danceable tune, but one that retains enough sincerity and wistful longing to be thoughtful as well. The lead vocals are pleasantly delicate, floating atop a bed of cheery drum phrases, but in my opinion the next track here, 'Back to the Future' trumps 'The Radio' every time. Emerging from fluctuating radio waves, you can immediately identify a more powerful, confident rhythm. While there is a deeper tone to the backing, the singing remains almost the same, bubbling under that same film of suggestive vibration. A smile-inducing build offers a tantalising glimpse into a future together with the person you love, before being snatched away by the ultimate and oh so beautiful drum beat. Stream 'The Radio' below, and check out the single over here!

REVIEW// Frid: Serving Time EP

     There have been a whole load of fantastic artists to come out of Yorkshire, from bands like The Beautiful South and the Arctic Monkeys to performers like Tony Christie. Never before however, have I heard a rapper who hails from the great city of York, until now. The latest hip hop experimentalist to emerge from the underground rap scene, Frid released his debut EP, a nine-track effort, upon the public earlier this month. An introspective and passion-fuelled lyrical conquest, Frid has created with 'Serving Time' some incredibly strong foundations, solid in their resolve and yet itching to support what is sure to be a fantastic musical career. We're dealt the perfect amount of experimentation, matched with inspiring production and Frid's mesmerising northern accent. It's the basis for an underground hip hop release set to blow all opposition this year out of the water. Autobiographical in part, it is wondrously easy to fall into Frid's groove, laden with humour, humanity and lyricism that you can truly connect to. Opening with the 'Terms and Conditions' of the EP, a disclaimer of sorts, you get that sense of tingling anticipation run down your spine. A cinematic, anthemic build backs an echoey, nostalgic muse, deep and thoughtful in tone. It highlights Frid's accent, and goes on to deter those easily offended from the content within. By now I was suitably intrigued, and as the next track began, I that knew there was no going back!
     Said number, 'Set it Off', is carried by a confident beat, dusted in aged crackle and an ominous, hold-no-prisoners attitude. The vocals explode onto the scene, and just in case you missed that initial warning, Frid's statement that "Playtime's over forever" reinstates it. It's an awesome track, and one that paves the way for the rest of the record. 'Learning the Trade' follows, and focuses on Frid's strong ideas regarding modern, mainstream hip hop. He acknowledges his underground status with lines such as "Why should I be shy of dying / I'm already underground", and as such expresses an annoyance with popular artists who should "start putting a bit of work in". It's an indignation that I share, so it's satisfying to hear someone comment on the issue with such passion and talent for words. Mary Jayne, with her beautiful rendition of 'Feeling Good', features on the next track 'How I Feel', her flawless, flowing vocals contrasting with Frid's sharp and hard-hitting mic work. The fifth number on the EP is definitely one of my favourites, because Frid's no-nonsense lyricism and songwriting skill really come to a peak. Homer Simpson, the Joker and Kurt Cobain are just some of the popular culture references that pop up, introduced by one terrifying sample and gangster-esque melody. Track six follows, with guest vocals from the amazing Afrika Fuentes. At first, the softer, inspirational tone didn't click with me, especially after all the tough aesthetic we were given previously, but after a while it grew on me. A short but somewhat hypnotic interlude leads into 'Dear Daddy', a quietly saddening, yearning five minutes. Backed by the rain shower that hung over Frid's fatherless childhood, a stunning hook and powerful lyrics make it my personal favourite, just as the EP draws to a finish.
     'Serving Time' closes with the title track, a song backed by a bewitchingly despondent piano melody and captivating guest vocals from Ellsie. From the hard ethos portrayed at the beginning of the EP, that sharp edge has slowly been worn away. By the end, we are being handed quite touching, heart-rending numbers, and it's this structure which makes the EP feel so superbly refined. This is quite possibly the greatest underground hip hop release I've had the pleasure of reviewing this year, and well worth the download price. I'm running out of words to express my pleasure in this, so I'll repeat myself. 'Serving Time' is 'an introspective and passion-fuelled lyrical conquest'. An essential listen for fans of rap, hip hop and just downright great music, download it from Wenlock Music here and stream the title track below. I'm going to keep a close eye on Frid and I suggest you do the same!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekly Classics: Pink Floyd: Goodbye Blue Sky

'Goodbye Blue Sky' is one of my favourite Pink Floyd numbers, from their 1979 effort 'The Wall'. It was an album that went on to become one of the greatest records of all time. Upon listening to the rest of the progressive rock group's discography you discover that it's also one of their darkest, and 'Goodbye Blue Sky' demonstrates this perfectly. With stunningly well-crafted animations from Gerald Scarfe, the video begins with a live action sequence. As you watch, the cheery melody and innocent dove provide suitable warmth during these chilly November afternoons, however all that changes with a tonal change as sudden as the flicking of a switch. The dove explodes. Torn from inside by a Nazi eagle and the panic of the Blitz. I do believe the song goes on for about half a minute more than the video, but the animations are so beautiful and full of symbolism I think it needs to be shared. Watch it above, and have a listen to what is an undeniable classic, from a simply timeless record!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NEWS// The Opiates: Anatomy of a Plastic Girl MP3

Billy Ray Martin, the woman behind The Opiates, is one of the more well-known alternative soul singers. Famous mostly for her single 'Your Loving Arms', which peaked in 1995, Billy doesn't seem to have stopped. 'Hollywood Under the Knife' is the debut record from the German songstress' collaboration with Robert Solheim, and it's been coloured a decidedly darker tone of electro synth-pop. The fourth number from the album, 'Anatomy of a Plastic Girl', is the story of an aspiring actress who decided to have plastic surgery to try and up her chances of success. A slip of the knife however, left this girl scarred and miserable, both inside and out. Taking this song on its own, with all of its sadness and ruined dreams, the deep, emotionless vocals seem apt, musing over what could have been. The synths are strong, detailing the cityscape with cold lights and taunting, self-important sneers. It is an incredible number, but could I listen to it for a whole album? I can imagine Martin's voice becoming a little detached, and lacking in a relatable human warmth if the intonation persists. If you're someone who listens to a record intermittently though. it shouldn't be an issue. Stream 'Anatomy of a Plastic Girl', then acquire the album if you like what you hear!

Friday, November 18, 2011

REVIEW// Uniform Motion: One Frame Per Second

     Uniform Motion is a trio, but one that records a very special brand of 'illustrated' folk-pop. Based in the city of Toulouse in southern France, this musical triplet is a comfortably well-established one, with 'One Frame Per Second' their third studio album since Andy Richards and Renaud Forestie's formation many months ago. Third member and talented percussionist Oliver Piotte only actually joined the group during the last gasps of 2010, but his induction has been handled excellently, and this record feels all the more wonderful because of it. Uniform Motion are not all about the music however. A main and perhaps even crucial element to their live performances is Forestie's ability to incorporate his visual art style into the spectacle, his fervent imagination nourished by Andy and Piotte's acoustic sound. Watching videos of the French outfit do just this is captivating. You find yourself staring with a furrowed brow, trying to decipher the flowing lines and soft edges as they're drawn, and when that 'eureaka' moment finally arrives, it does so with an amazing, child-like thrill. 
     However, this sensation cannot be experienced as well when the two ingredients of sound and style are split. On an album lacking in the latter, Uniform Motion need to make up the difference, and do so with story. 'One Frame Per Second' is a concept album first and foremost, detailing the tale of a little knight, whose princess has been stolen by a giant. In plucking up the courage to fight this mythical being, our hero loses, but valiantly promises to continue in the good fight, to save both his love and an island community from the beasts decidedly intimidating grasp. His bravely sparks a form of worship amongst the native people, the pressure from which leads our protagonist to sell his soul to the devil, in return for the strength to fell the giant. Upon his return however, the people have found their own strength, in him. They have captured the giant, but not before the princess has been set adrift at sea, or before the agreement with Satan confirmed. There is a saddening charm about these nine tracks. A fairytale innocence, wide-eyed and full of dreams. It's a picture that plays, twisting and turning and compensating for the absence of imagery provided live by Forestie's artistic flair. At first, the little knight is musing about his lost love and whether to set out and sweep her off her feet. That's where we should begin.
     'One Frame Per Second' opens with 'The Victory Of Buckets And Doors', a melancholy nostalgia dripping from the simple instrumentation and lonely, yearning vocals. "How I longed to hold her hand, how I longed to touch her face, how I longed to hear a sound" are words sang with such emotion and passion and trembling heartbreak it's impossible not to fall in love with them. A teary-eyed, sigh ridden climax, building as the vocals build and finishing as the cold, lonely walls of reality fall back upon you. 'Our Hearts Have Been Misplaced In A Secret Location' follows along the same lines, the acoustic reminiscence a perfect remedy to those long winter nights. An upbeat ending, dappled in splendid harmonies leads into the next number, 'I Was Crushed By A Forty-Foot Man'. It's a strange journey down our winding path. As you listen, you realise that the giant isn't a nasty creature at all. Instead, he is simply misunderstood. For all his bulk and destruction, a moment arrives when you suddenly catch on. With his height, this giant is probably sad, alone in the clouds with nobody to talk to. Our little knight is crushed, but the giant's singing makes you not angry, but quite somber and sorry and rather touched instead.
     And that's the emotion expressed throughout the rest of these tracks. This thought-provoking and sentimental folk-pop that seems to have everything. The spine tingling build and climax of 'We're Hauling Land Through The Air'. The introspective allure of a giant's blissful unawareness of worldly worries. A comforting love story, and a tale of disquiet and despair. 'One Frame Per Second' is beautifully refined, and grabs onto your heartstrings with no intent of letting go. It brings you to the brink of tears, which you choke back with a brave smile and the memory of our little knight, valiant and gallant and every inch the hero. Andy's vocals are stunningly stirring. Wistful and tender and somewhat inspiring. Stream the opening song below and then I urge you to buy the album over here!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

REVIEW// PET: Middle Child Syndrome

    First off I have no idea whether this is a single or an EP, but what matters is that it's awesome right? Right. I do have a sneaking suspicion that it is the Edinburgh based outfit's second single however, but don't hold me to that. A quintet composed of four guys and a girl, PET dropped 'Middle Child Syndrome' little over seven days ago, and since then I've been rather in awe of it's no-nonsense attitude to experimentation. Three tracks that sound completely different, and yet are linked by something more than simply vocals or instrumentation. It's almost a sensibility or ethos the band has that ties the songs together, and it works so, so well. On the surface, a vocal strain and lo-fi top-coat suggest similar rough production, but delve deeper and there is a level of delicacy and refinement and care that makes this single. Every layer has been scrutinised, but there is still that sense of immediacy and that compelling in-the-moment spontaneity that is somehow necessary. It's a fine balance, but one that PET manage to pull off brilliantly. It's available for whatever you want to pay here.
     The opening number is, as you may have guessed, also the title track. A piano melody is met by some guitar, drums, a little experimental syncopation and eventually, the vocals. I fell in love with them from the off. Their speed and energy. Their subtly melodic tone. In the first song we're handed both, at some points lathered in reverb and echo, and at other parts not. The builds within verses are sang with playful, half-serious aggression, and all things considered, it's just a plain fantastic song. Lo-fi? Rock? Pop? Who cares when the accumulation of all three can turn out so wonderfully? The next track 'Love Buzz' is a slower, decidedly more tripped out number, full of muffled bleeps and affected wails and a simple drum beat. Was that an alien laser thrown in at 0:43? It's not a particularly frightening five minutes, and I suppose I like its adventurous, mischievous charm. It's a track that slowly draws you into its deep, mesmerising sensuality if you like, and all that experimentation with samples only goes to enhance the experience. The final song here finishes the EP on a similar note. Affected electronic voices crawl and limp across tribal drums, following its captivating beat at a slow by terrifyingly steady pace. It's just stunning!
     Let's go over 'Middle Child Syndrome' again then. Three unique tracks that have been recorded with a passion and ability that far exceeds PET's previous effort. It's a fully formed vision that is both spontaneous and well thought out. Refined and yet beautifully rough. An epitome that proves experimental music doesn't have to be hard to 'get'. It's an easy recommendation to make, so stream the opener and then grab the single up above!

REVIEW// Sekuoia: Trips EP

     Sekuoia is the moniker for Danish producer Patrick, a nineteen year old with a debut EP set to drop on the 9th of December. I was forwarded 'Trips' by the small label Fødselsdagsbarnets Pladeselska, a name that is almost impossible to pronounce, but which roughly translates into 'The Birthday Childs Label'. Upon diving into these four tracks, I discovered something that split my opinion. On the one hand, Sekuoia's perfect ability to craft stunning soundscapes is abundant, but, as the art seems to forshadow, this exploration lacks purpose. Individually, each of the four numbers here runs for around five minutes, and separately, that's fine. When you're listening through them as one unit however, there isn't enough substance behind the music to keep your attention for any prolonged period of time. Maybe it's the repeated vocal harmonies and electronic phrases, but for me, while there is subtle variation from track to track, this is an EP you listen to while doing something else. What makes it worse however, is the fact that the better tracks are thrown your way later in the EP, by which time your focus is well and truly faltering. As a debut effort, there is a heck of a lot of potential within these twenty minutes, but it's potential that is not yet fully realised. Patrick has recorded four excellent songs here, rather than one outstanding EP.
     For the sake of this review, I'm going to cover each track independent of one other, as I think my thoughts regarding their amalgamation have been made pretty clear. Opening the EP is 'Can't be Loved', five and a half minutes of scope and scale and despondent deliberation. The winds blow through a strangely sinister melody that emerges from the purple horizon. Melancholy electro beats begin to hum and click, reverberating off the dappled sky and running like water over rippling, glittering dunes. It's a long track, and one that overstays its welcome just a little. 'Nothing' follows, and pushes the clouds of stress to one side. A wonderfully abstract vocal phrase is repeated throughout, soaring upon sunlight, a blissed out melody and subtle trickling details. Synths and uplifting drones are utilised exceptionally well, and lead into 'Something We Lost' brilliantly. There is a noticeably more structured approach to this track, which is nice. A clean, nostalgic crackle dusts the melody, the beats gracefully layered in over time. As the song draws to a close, ethereal singing floats down from the sky, stunning everything into eventual silence and ultimately, the final five minutes. 'Evenings' is my favourite track here, simply because it does the most. The beats are confident, and the echoey vocals are transfixing. They are twisted and sculpted to become part of the backing track, supporting a melody lathered in reverb. As the song progresses, we're dealt a hand of even more affected vocals, sang from far away and from afar. This depth is fantastic, but the build through the middle is even better. It throbs, pulsates and breaths, and makes the whole EP worthwhile.
     Like I said at the start, these four tracks are one of the rare occasions when individual songs work, but when put together just don't. These numbers are drawn out to lengths that require more than what Sekuoia delivered. It's a frustrating ultimatum, but in my opinion, Patrick needs to sacrifice length, or do more with what he wants to release. Other than that, this is a solid debut performance. It showcases Sekuoia's abundance of raw talent, even if that talent needs to be tenderised a tad more. Stream 'Nothing' down below.

Monday, November 14, 2011

NEWS// Nihiti: The Orchids (Psychic TV cover) MP3

'The Orchids', which appeared on Psychic TV's 1983 album 'Dreams Less Sweet', isn't the most well-known number from the London outfit. Nihiti are one of the few groups to throw a version out into the blogosphere, but boy have they done it justice. The original track is so swamped in reverb and aged crackle that the beautiful lyricism becomes almost lost in a dusty, lo-fi catacomb. Nihiti serve to pull misplaced gem from forgotten maze, and lend it a new lease of life. The vocals are layered up twice and reverberate around the room with a melancholic echo, clarifying the words with a tender, delicate touch. Violins, guitars and even a cello(?) are brought in, and wrap 'The Orchids' in a blanket of perfection, soothing and calming and quietly saddening. Free to download, there's no reason not to grab this!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NEWS// Mirror Lady: Shapes (Spiderwoman) MP3

Mirror Lady dropped 'Shapes' onto my SoundCloud a couple of days ago, without even a message to explain its impromptu arrival. Upon an inquiring listen however, I realised they didn't have to. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, this is simple lo-fi guitar pop at its very best. The unmistakable male vocals relay a message of warning against the opposite sex, backed by confident harmonies and supported by truly interest-grabbing percussion work. It's a straightforward indie pop gem, with some engrossing lyrical metaphors thrown in to balance that out: "In nothing but your t-shirt / she holds you to the wall / and wraps her web till you can't move at all". Stream 'Shapes' above and download it for free over here!

REVIEW// Little Racer: Split for the Coast

    Little Racer are a three-piece outfit hailing from New York's Brooklyn borough, and are all set to drop their debut double-A side single on December 5th. A two track set composed of 'Split for the Coast' and 'The Town', these three guys record some pretty awesome surf-pop, laden with off-kilter drums and nostalgic guitar, all swimming in the lake of reminiscent reverb. What sets Little Racer aside from the multitude of other lo-fi bands however, is their ability to effortlessly incorporate a dream-pop aesthetic within their sound. It's a carefully weighted balance, but a harmony that Little Racer have perfected. One one hand, heartbreak and yearning, offset by a hopeful, care-free mentality that sets mind firmly towards the future. It's a thoroughly charming effort that takes you back to a time of innocent summers, the horizon rippling in the midday heat. Available to pre-order from the Young and Lost Club label here, you can actually download a free self-titled track from the Bandcamp if you need some reassurance regarding Little Racer's outstanding ability. It's a song that takes inspiration from Brooklyn's garage rock scene, beautiful in its muffled vocals, glittering melody and energetic builds. It should stoke the fire of anticipation for this single into something resembling a bonfire, and if it doesn't, well, this just isn't for you.
     The title track opens this split single, kicking off immediately with a fantastic melody that rides atop a cheerful drum beat. The vocals drip with equally summery vibes, and reach a section that never fail to make me smile. At 1:55 Little Racer trade all that energy and reverb and replace it with a subtle interlude of sorts. It's old-fashioned, akin to the sound of street performers serenading in the last ebbing rays of evening light, but it adds a whole new layer of charm to 'Split for the Coast'. It shows up again at the end of the track, and ties everything together to form four minutes that are truly captivating. The second, and indeed ultimate number 'The Town' follows, and strikes an instantly altered tone. An air of soul and RnB seeps into Little Racer's dream-pop sensibility, and while the reverb and energy seems to be diluted, it still resonates in the same way. It's a slower track, but one that again grooves and laughs and strolls along with all the wide-eyed amazement you'd expect from a child. Summer vacation in an unknown town. Blue skies. Cloudless nights. Catching the eye of a dazzling girl. Holding it for a few, glorious seconds.
     The single draws to a close, but you somehow have to listen again and again and again. For this review, I must have played through each track at least twenty times, and I've never been more mesmerised. Little Racer are disconcertingly good at what they do, and render me enthralled. Stream the title track below then for goodness sake, pre-order!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


    I don't know what it is about people using symbols in their monikers, but ::M∆DE:IN:HEIGHTS:: seem to have pulled it off pretty well, with some stunning album art to match. 'APORIA: IN THESE §TREETS' is an eleven track EP, consisting of six songs and then instrumental versions of five of them. The brainchild of producer Sabzi, of hip hop duo Blue Scholars fame, and New York vocalist Kelsey Bulkin, this collection of 'mythical filth pop' is the outfit's second effort. The first dropped way back last December, entitled 'Winter Pigeons', and wasn't executed half as well as this. The majority of tracks were either remixes of well-known numbers or instrumentals, and the original songs danced an uncertain medley of styles. It was a debut that highlighted the duo's search for a sound that truly suited them, and on 'IN THESE §TREETS', I think they've found it. They've carved a nice little niche into the wall of modern pop, combining dreamy ethereal vocals with trip hop beats to form something dark and relaxing and downright blissed out. Sure, the singing isn't the most individual thing in the world, but paired with Sabzi, it works like no other voice could.
     The EP opens with 'Wildflowers (Exhale Efreet)', and Sabzi's electronic trickery is present from the very start. He transforms Kelsey's words into beats, warping them to fit the rhythm he has so carefully laid out. There is a subtly to the music throughout this EP, and this track is no different. A bike bell contrasts with deep, affected guest vocals, and the harmonised backing flow with the soft, delicate singing. Tinkles and airy, breezy sensibilities may suggest a minimalistic ethos, but MIH have simply layered their lush sounds in a way that gives the listener space to breath. The result is something that retains all the confidence and busyness and detail, but manages to recall an ethereal elegance and fragility with perfect ease. 'Viices' follows, an eerie beauty expressed through the music box melody that weaves in and out throughout the four minutes. The uptempo experimentation through 'Amaranthine', a track almost completely void of voice, works well, but it's the next number that makes the EP for me. 'Marguerite' is the flawless amalgamation of fantastic lyricism, and vocals that sing them with equal brilliance. "It feels like the weight of the world, suspended into hemispheres" goes one line, delivered in a manner that yearns to be free of the burden it describes. The velvet softness of Bulkin's voice on 'Chatoyant' is similarly passionate, offset by the contrasting summery percussion. I know I'm focusing a lot on the singing in this review, but that really is what makes this EP. There are glimpses of an undeniable innocence, smudged by the reality of life. Underlying tension and dark brooding thoughts throb underneath a clear conscience, and Samzi's production strives to protect that alluring beauty within 'IN THESE §TREETS'.
     The ultimate number 'Holla Mears' marks the return of the affected vocals, but heck, it sounds stunning with or without them. It's an apt end to an EP that succeeds in everything it sets out to do. It reanimates the imagination of a mind worn down by the stresses of everyday life. It sets a tone that warms the heart during a cold November afternoon, and it soothes. It brings a relaxation that expels dark thoughts out into the frosty air, and I love it. It doesn't aim to be the most unique thing in the world, and it really isn't, but what it does do it does magnificently. Stream 'Marguerite', then grab the EP from the Bandcamp here!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly Classics: Dire Straits: Brothers in Arms MP3

Today is the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year of the millennium. This day won't bless our lifes with its presence ever again. It's a cruel reminder, but a reminder all the same; that every day we must grasp with both hands the life that is so fast flying by. Time waits for no man, but unlike the 35 million casualties of World War 1, let us hope that we will be able to live out our final years in relative peace. Let us pray that our time on earth isn't cut short, like it was for the brave men and women of the Great War, and let us remember their actions in securing our freedom to do just that. Let the deaths of World War 2 remain ever present in our hearts, and let us hope that this day inspires the solutions to modern conflict around the globe. After the silence at eleven o'clock this morning, I offer up one of my all time favourite songs, from the Dire Straits, as this week's classic. It truly brings a tear to my eye, because it's simply a stunningly beautiful number.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


     Izabella Sawicka, hailing from Poland, dropped this pretty sweet EP under the moniker Izes about a week ago. A three-track compilation, I'm pretty sure most people won't understand the eerily experimental edge she's sharpened her debut effort into, and I'll be the first to agree that I'm not in love with every moment either. Yet, with that covered, the singer-songwriter has managed to craft something amazingly unique, a feat that is well worth listening to for the mere experience, if nothing else. The EP is title-less, which is apt considering the mysterious, haunting atmosphere of the tracks contained within it. They whisper and wail in eternal lament, throbbing in the darkness without body or face to behold. Their writhing thoughts creep up on you with unexpected ardency, an intimacy only hinted at through the tired, conceding delicacy expressed on the EPs stunning cover.
     The first panel to this ominous triptych arrives under the name 'Purgatory's Gate', a title that drags behind it uneasy, somewhat mythological connotations. A song composed almost entirely of spoken word, the singing is saddening in its noticeable pain. The scene is set, high atop a mountain, barraged on all sides by the frustrations of many an angry God. The oracle sits, her white skin glistening under an eternal storm. Exposed to the elements and to the whims of her masters, this young woman screams a scream that ricochets off of your heart. It vibrates within your very being, and yearns to be free of mortal chains. To all those who have done her wrong, a menacing, sinister plea leaves her lips: "Let me see how your soul looks like". From the prolonged notes to the reverberating bass, a subtle drum beat races like a heartbeat, pulsing and steady and subtly almighty. During the final seconds of the track, this rhythm departs however, leaving you alone with all the ambiance and the upset and the fear. It's a truly beautiful number given the time, and I love it. Improvised drums and a perfectly embedded trumpet are the highlight of the next track, 'No Future'. Izabella's vocals are pitched wonderfully in their whispering aesthetic, though are ultimately drowned out by the song's beautifully chaotic climax. Up to now, I've been totally mesmerised by the EP, but it's the final number 'Blood' which stops it being a must-have. The other two songs have been 'out there', but 'Blood' has drifted off-course in its effort to go further. The instrumentation is fine, as is the exceptional ending, but the vocals didn't click for me. They reach a ridiculously high pitch at parts (0.55), which, in my opinion don't work at all. They're almost laughable when you consider the serious, thoughtful nature of the other tracks, which is slightly disappointing.
     Nevertheless, this humbly untitled effort is unlike anything you've heard before, and is well worth the non-existent price tag required for a download. Grab all three songs over at the Bandcamp here, and keep your eye on Izes. If this is what she can create for her debut, I am all for keeping my ears firmly pricked in her direction. Stream the opening track 'Purgatory's Gate' below, and ready yourself for the dive into experimental dystopia:

Monday, November 7, 2011

NEWS// Blank Spaces: Hold Fast MP3

I was actually sent this new single from Blank Spaces little under a week ago, and I admit that I put off listening to it. When I did however, I couldn't understand why I hadn't done so a lot sooner! The band are based in London, and dropped 'Hold Fast' ahead of their debut EP 'Start', which will arrive at our ears during the January of next year. A moody and thought-provoking pop gem, something about the tone of the track reminds me of 'War of the Worlds'. An immediately strong melody and rhythm is established as soon as the song starts, but it's those melancholic moments at the end of lines that really hit home. Like the infantryman from the afore-mentioned musical, the vocalist here seems to have witnessed some painful things, suppressed through the quietly saddening, nostalgic sound of 'Hold Fast'. The quality of the singing only goes to highlight this subtly old-fashioned feel, broken by soothing piano interludes and amplified by epic, harmonious choruses. Blank Spaces don't do anything revolutionary, but there is a humble, honest charm within their sound. More so than even the fantastic lyricism, this lonely, yearning tone, when matched with classic guitars and crucially understated drums, makes for some terrific music. Available for free download here, stream 'Hold Fast' above, and prepare to be enthralled!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

REVIEW// Mastodon: The Hunter

     Mastodon. A name positively throbbing with power, yet heavy with the weight of expectation. As you know from my review of 'Leviathon', I am a huge fan of this Altantan prog-metal quartet, and when the teaser for 'The Hunter' dropped back in August, my anticipation was noticeably amplified. The problem with this however is whether or not the final product will deliver on your confident presumption that it will. During Mastodon's dozen year career, they have often been defined as recording metal for people who aren't metal-heads. For the most part, this is because the group break a lot of the stereotypes surrounding metal music, especially on their later releases. The guitars take a heavier rock sensibility, and play a lot of super-melodic tunes over bright, accessible production. And those really are the words for Mastodon. Accessible sludge metal. Sure, those ten letters may form a word that might drive a lot of people away, but these four guys have managed to stay very much progressive becoming just that. In my opinion, this is absolutely fine, except when progressing takes you somewhere you don't want to be, and that is exactly what's happened here. Mastodon have taken their accessibility to a whole other level, and some of that intense energy has been lost on the way up. Let's just say, 'Curl the Burl' is one of the poppiest sludge metal tracks I've ever heard, and I don't like it.
     That being said, some of the tracks here do stay true to Mastodon's previous sound, such as the opening number, 'Black Tongue'. Sinister riffs pound over interesting drum phrases, before the incredible “I burned out my eyes / I cut off my tongue” introduces the enjoyably intense lyricism. The drums start to grate after a while, but it's still a track that makes me remember why I love Mastodon so much. The epic scope of 'Stargasm' also hits the spot, building and building up to that one powerful, prevailing, roaring note. One thing that is used throughout 'The Hunter' is this reverb effect over the vocals, which is usually either off or on. It's used on 'Black Tongue' to good effect. It's used on 'Stargasm' to good effect. When we get to 'The Octopus has no Friends', Mastodon decides not to get rid of it, or even tone it down. They decide to replace it with this kitchy robotic mess. The title of that particular song also suggests the Atlantan quartet aren't really taking themselves that seriously, which is reflected in the laziness of the number. 'The Creature Lives' is right below 'Curl the Burl' in this respect. A mesmerising, interesting build leads into what? A half-baked melody that sounds as though it took Mastodon all of five minutes to come up with? Compared with past tracks like 'Joseph Merrick', which is similarly soft, these four minutes are an absolute joke. This, 'The Octopus has no Friends' and 'Curl the Burl' highlight everything bad about this album, and make me cringe every. Single Time.
     That being said, nearly every other song on 'The Hunter' is reasonably okay, given numerous listens. But I'm not looking for 'okay'. I know that Mastodon can, and have come up with so, so much better, and that just makes this latest effort a bit of a disappointment. It lacks that edginess. It lacks that hit. That bite and urgency and edge-of-you-seat intensity of albums like 'Leviathon'. I do love some tracks, but I detest others. Overall, I'm underwhelmed, and probably won't touch these twelve songs ever again. 'The Hunter' hasn't managed to capture me, even despite my desperate willingness to be so. Stream 'Black Tongue' below, 'cos it is the best you are going to get out of Mastodon's fifth record.

REVIEW// Colin Stetson: Those Who Didn't Run EP

     A renowned Canadian saxophonist, Colin Stetson was actually born in Michigan, but then moved to Montreal, where he currently resides. Whether to pursue his dreams or not, he's most certainly made a name for himself, working as a session musician with the likes of Arcade Fire, The National and Tom Waits. His skill and experimentation has even caught the eye of Bon Iver, and after the release of 'Those Who Didn't Run', Stetson is set to embark on a year-long tour with the folk-rock connoisseur's prestigious live band. Being a great musician however, is a long stretch from writing and recording your own music, and the critics among you may question Stetson's stability absent friendly support. Rest assured, loyal readers. Colin's solo work is equally, if not more impressive than his many guest appearances, a claim endorsed by the praise dealt his sophomore album 'New History Warfare: Judges II' earlier this year. Upon lending my ears to said record, my previous thoughts regarding the saxophone were thoroughly and undeniably dismissed.
     Stetson handles this instrument like a war horn. Abrasive sounds roar from within as Colin unleashes the primal nature of the sax, previously suffocated by the limitations of classical jazz. Looped phrases are created not through electronic trickery, but through perfected circular breathing. The beat and rhythm isn't of an outside influence. It is part of the beast, panting and breathing as Stetson plays the valves like one might play the drums. You may think that yes, while destroying boundaries regarding technique is admirable, surely each section was simply recorded individually and layered on top of each other. Wrong. Each song was recorded in just one take. One man, one instrument, and one take. Everything you hear is coming from Stetson's saxophone, and you really have to hear that in order to believe it. I would go as far as to say, Colin is a revolutionary.
     The two ten-minute tracks expand on Stetson's album however, moving away from a more compositional focus to concentrate on a memorising, almost trance-like aesthetic. Taking its name from 'A Dream of Water', a piece presided over by Laurie Andereson, 'Those Who Didn't Run' is carved from the same solid rock face. It works, because the songs draw you into the music, daring to reveal to you a sound that seems more post-rock than avant-garde jazz. Of the two, the title track initially reaps more rewards, with counterpointing used to great effect. Through the rough, tired march of the beat, softer, haunting, ghost-like wails prevail, leading to the most fantastic section at 4:10. It's here that the rhythm really comes into its own. Pulsating and unwavering, an underlying paranoia clamours, deafening in its fear. It almost hides, lost and alone and absent human thoughts. Like the title suggests, an apocalyptic dawn has risen, shedding light on everyone left behind. A refusal to leave the planet they loved has coaxed forth a cold, ruthless degeneration in conscious reason. 'The End of Your Suffering' initially seems lacking, in some way or another. The warmth is immediately less so than before, simmering amid a soundscape of snow and ice. Keep listening however, and your persistence will prevail. Subtle wars are fought within the music, creating a narrative that arches as conflict finds solution, and this highlights the greatest thing about Stetson. Amongst the chaos, and on the brink of overwhelming noise, he manages to pull you from the edge with a whisper. A humane delicacy that stares with beautiful eyes far beyond the song's technical horizons. The tracks contain within themselves that tender, soothing touch, and only a lull in the throbbing cataclysmic potential of a dying world really reveals that. It's a balance as striking as the cover art for 'Those Who Didn't Run', yet is fragile to the touch. This EP requires all of your attention, because its the most inspiring thing I've heard for a long, long while. Colin Steston is the mouthpiece for the laments of man, and nothing more. The songs have been around for a lot longer than him, hidden away within our darkest thoughts, refusing to be dismissed and yet glimmering with man's eternal ability to dream. Stream the title track below, and grab the EP from Constellation Records!

Friday, November 4, 2011

NEWS// Strangers: EP3

New, aptly named third EP here from London outfit Strangers, which, despite having some perhaps unimpressive pop sensibilities, is well worthy of mention. Initially, I too was put off by the slighty predictable song structure, laced through with glittery synths, but upon another listen, you realise you've been handed something incredible. Certain notes make your hairs stand on end, vibrating with a dark, emotional intelligence. The lyrics reflect the image of a night-time epiphany, watched over by a lone street-light and shot through with the trickle of uncertain rain. With another listen, and another, you forget all about those previous flaws. 'EP3' isn't the most experimental thing ever, and barely nudges any musical boundaries, never mind push them, yet something just clicks. The scope of the synths prevail in New Romanticism-esque grandeur, racing over confident beats and supporting those magical, awe-inspiring notes. The opening track, 'Promises', which you can stream above, deals with exactly that, and features the wonderful Lara Smiles. Epic choruses highlight both vocals, yet it's the other two out of these three tracks that do it for me. The throbbing bombast of 'insecure' at 0:27 just hits the spot on 'Because I'm Human', but when the ultimate number 'Sweet Nothing' comes up, you feel as though everything has just been leading up to it. All I have to say is, the sound and feeling and passion of that one word, 'hear' is stunningly beautiful. The lyricism, "silently deafen me" is another highlight, but it really is that one note that makes everything worth listening to. An EP that grows with time, 'EP3' finishes so, so spectacularly that you have to listen through the whole thing again, just to get that same feeling. Playing that one song over and over again wouldn't work. You need that build. That subtle growth within the music that accumulates and climaxes in this breathtakingly epitaph of dark, touching pop. I always try to find albums, EPs and tracks that strive to do something different and unique and all their own, and while for the most part, Strangers record some comfortable pop, they throw some moments in there that do all of the above and more. If every second was like those notes, I don't think it would have turned out quite as well as it did, and with a smile-inducing thought, I conclude that Strangers did everything on purpose. The majority of the songs are there to offset those few spine-tingling words, and I just love all three. Out on the 28th of November, stream the whole EP here and then visit Strangers' website!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

VIDEO// Colours: Lost in a Sea

If you'll care to remember back, almost a week ago I reviewed Colours' eponymous EP, an effort well deserving of the praise it was served. With an upcoming maths exam heavy on my mind, waking up to find a new track and video from the Australian artist was more than a delight. Taken from the A-side of 2011's Hartzine/Beko compilation, 'Lost in a Sea' thunders and throbs with the same hazy, summery nostalgia I've come to love from his work. That very same yearning settles from the start, jumping with the warm bass and vibrating with the quietly sad melody. Wavering lo-fi ripples once again fall between you and the music, obscuring your view but amplifying the passion of the moment to a level close to overwhelming. The contrastingly steady beat carries the sound like a river, watching with tired eyes as you become slowly and helplessly memorised. Falling gracefully through the spectrum of clips, stitched together and deliberately, beautifully ambiguous, you realise what it is to be truly, undeniably sad. This underlying tension pulls the track taut, yet still that dream-like abstraction fluctuates through your very being. 'Lost in a Sea' throws you into an ocean of delicate delusions, and I adore it. Stream up above!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

REVIEW// Ladytron: Gravity the Seducer

     'Gravity the Seducer' is the fifth studio album from Ladytron, the Liverpudlian electro-pop quartet who have made quite a name for themselves since their formation in the final rasping breaths of the twentieth century. Their dozen year career has offered them the chance to settle into a comfortable stylistic rut, but alas, the unwavering wheels of change seem to be ones the band are more than eager to ride. 2002's 'Light and Magic' refined an edge cut by their debut record, while 'The Witching Hour' crept along with haunting shoegaze-infected synths. The group's masterpiece 'Velocifero' took a heavy step in yet another direction, coaxed by guest Alessandro Cortini, of Nine Inch Nails fame, and while he returns to assist on this effort, his influence is much subtler. The point I'm coming to is that 'Gravity the Seducer' opts for another shift in sound, and one I fear a tad off-target. While Ladytron seem to have incorporated all the grounded, murky creepiness of 'The Witching Hour', their new airy and atmospheric exploration holds little reward. The two different styles clash. Warm songs and icy ambient numbers tip the scales like a seesaw, forming an unbalance within the album that bothers me. That's not to say it's a bad collection of tracks, because it's most definitely not. Individually, nearly every one of these twelve songs shine, but when placed side by side the colours just refuse to blend. For me, Ladytron are in a purgatory of sorts. A transitional period that could, given a polish, reap a crop that could surpass even the harvest that 'Velocifero' bore. But, as of now, an uncertainly rears its ugly head and detracts from the album's beautiful potential.
     All that being said, there are some tracks here that prove Ladytron's longevity. 'White Elephant' opens the album, a song so much warmer than expected, swaying with a melody that simply works and stunning with notes that touch the soul. That ethereal, thought-provoking lyricism we've come to love has still managed to find its way through the clutter of sonic change, sang with an undeniable yet ultimately misplaced passion. The vocals really were, and still are one of the few things I can never dislike about a Ladytron album. Here in particular, the singing is embedded so far into the music. The synths intertwine over the top, wriggling their unfaltering way through the very fabric of the record. It's true that during four of the twelve tracks vocals are done away with all together, but this neither takes away nor adds anything much to 'Gravity the Seducer', in my mind at least.
     'White Gold' follows after 'Mirage' as an absolute classic. Staying true to their older sounds, these few minutes are brimming with unnerving, menacing vocals, layered atop a bed of glitched beats and vast, epic synths. Both 'Ace of Hz' and 'Moon Palace' attempt to do the same, but end up lacking in heart. Something about them feels a little tired, almost as though Ladytron were simply conforming to the sensibilities of a past track that went down okay. While taking inspiration from past work is acceptable, blatant redistribution is not. The melody of '90 Degrees' is eerily recognisable, before research reveals 'All the Way...', a track from 'The Witching Hour' that progresses with suspicious similarity. 'Ambulances' however, as the echoing, drum-ridden ballad it is, highlights the fantastic lyricism once again, pulling the album back from the brink to become my favourite number here. The wailing, emotional scope of the song lifts it to the heavens and yet threatens to drop it back down to earth. It's a sheer, beautiful wall of sound, delicate to the touch and yet so very inspirational. Still, in it's brilliance, the other songs appear that little bit more dissapointing. You realise what amazing music Ladytron can imagine, and it's frustrating...
     The last few minutes draw the album to an apt conclusion, but I'm afraid I don't feel the immediate urge to listen again. As you may know, I like to listen to an record in its entirety, from front to back, as the artist intended. In the age of buying single tracks and shuffling, this habit may be devoid of followers, yet the facts remain. Ladytron have crafted something that glitters with a certain brilliance; flashing in the darkness every once in a while to reveal potential breath-taking in its size. An uncertain, uneven balance however causes that light to falter. With time, the new dirt path that Ladytron have decided to follow may eventually get paved in stone, but until then, I fear I will lend my ears to 'Gravity the Seducer' on very rare an occasion. If you wish, buy the album here after streaming 'White Elephant' below. Also, go and check out the record cover above, 'cos it really is a wonder!