Saturday, June 30, 2012

MP3// Indian Wells: Wimbledon 1980

Topical music is a rarity here at Music Dissection, but with Wimbledon well underway it seems only right that we reminisce on what many consider to be the greatest tennis match of all time. The Borg-McEnroe tie-break in the fourth game of the 1980 final lasted twenty minutes and saw thirty-four points played. To offer comparison, a typical game often results in no more than ten contested points. It was a match that remains to this day one of the most famous in tennis history, and Indian Wells does it every justice. With commentator recording layered over every tangible hit of the ball and every fierce grunt of exertion, it's an incredible track that immortalises the match in sound. Snippets of cheers swell with the tension and the sheer will-power of Björn Borg and John McEnroe. Hear it above and find more at the SoundCloud here!

EP// Saitam: West - East

Ambient electronica is a genre I'm incredibly fond of. More often than not however, a sense of place is traded in for surrealism. Synth passages become winding, transcending endearment and making otherwise well-embedded samples appear lost and disconnected. This alien abstraction is appealing, offering us ethereal or frightening soundscapes, voices from the past lingering and echoing around the cavernous oblivion that is the imagination. Portugal's Saitam takes a different approach. World music is utilised, hand-claps and horns painting an inherently more recognisable picture. Taking the fourth track 'Rebellion', we find ourselves upon a busy road. Cars speed past, leading you to sweet melodies and the comfort of an evening breeze. The traffic is muffled, maintaining that surrealism but layering it upon the structure and monotony of reality. You can visualise hands clapping and water dripping. Walking under a road, vibrations shudder. Faster, tribal drums emerge, uneasy and repetitive and beautiful. The vocals Saitam records on other tracks is affected and gothic-styled, oriental shakers and the solace of grand temples perfectly balanced by symphonic builds and dreamy climaxes. Saitam takes classical ambient techniques and moulds them around physical sounds rather than synthetic ones. Real drums instead of computer-generated beats. It's this grounding in the absolute that makes 'West - East' great. Authenticity verses surrealism reveals the beauty of the everyday, changing your perception rather than offering a different view! Stream 'Encounters', then go download the whole EP from the Bandcamp here!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

MP3// Grizzly Bear: Sleeping Ute

Back in 2006 Brooklyn quartet Grizzly Bear dropped 'Yellow House', a naturally experimental record that danced complex and ambitious steps across the band's debut. Surreal and slow and emotional, Grizzly Bear threw plenty of sounds together. The unnerving folk sensibilities of Comus were sprinkled over an impressive symphony of acoustics and lush production. Dead Can Dance-esque gloom fleeted through the ten tracks, tying them together with threads of soft-rock sincerity. Three years later and 'Veckatimest' spread a layer of accessible (but far less complex) veneer across their sound, resulting in an album that lacked any replayability, for me at least. 'Sleeping Ute' is the latest single from Grizzly Bear, heralding the release of the band's fourth album on September 18th. Thankfully there's much to love. The combination of electric and acoustic sounds works well, bubbly synths playing off classic guitar lines and drums of a thundery persuasion. Daniel Rossen's lead singing holds a captivating bluesy tone, his guitar-plucked outro calming the track to an uneasy simmer. It's a belter of a song, rediscovering the complexities that I loved from 'Yellow House'! Stream it up above and then pre-order Grizzly Bear's new album from iTunes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

MP3// Wild Nothing: Shadow

Wild Nothing is a wonderful name. Loaded with whimsy and reminiscent of long summer days, Jack Tatum's brand of dreamy pop-rock fulfils every expectation. His is a genre bandied about perhaps a little too often, but the sound the musicians involved produce is far from ordinary. Evocative of bands like The Radio Dept, mellow strings and surreal drums offset Tatum's weary and heartfelt vocal delivery. Lyrically and sonically 'Shadow' stuns, paving the way for Wild Nothing's second LP 'Nocturne', out August 28th!

Friday, June 15, 2012

PREMIERE// Frid: Serving Time feat. Ellsie

First off, this is the first video Music Dissection has had the honour to premiere, and it accompanies an absolutely fantastic number. Taken from Frid's EP of the same name, which dropped back in November, 'Serving Time' features Ellsie and hits with an impressive emotional punch. Filmed almost entirely in grayscale, the odd bit of colour emphasises the retrospective nature of the lyricism. A brilliantly low and despairing piano melody is layered over a harrowing, claustrophobic throb, the beat perfectly balancing the composition. Frid's thought process evolves with the track, tears and suits and monotony leading to angry revelation. At his lyrical best, we see a real man with real problems come close to breaking point. Ellsie's contribution is incorporated perfectly into the video, her blonde hair a surreal highlight amongst the shadows, her soft singing offsetting Frid's verses with captivating charm. An outstanding song and a magnificent film accompaniment, we look forward to more of both from Wenlock Music and Wenlock TV! Stream the video above, find the whole EP here and then read my interview with Frid himself over here!

ALBUM// Lunova Labs: [shhht_13]

[Shhht_13] is four tracks, produced by the prolific Lunova Labs and published under interesting Belgium project Silenced, which has been aiding underground electronic artists for more than half a decade. The thirteenth net-release from the collective, [shhht_13] is a fascinating and experimental listen, inspired by transcendentalism, a philosophical movement devoted to intellectual independence and the merits of both man and nature. Lunova Labs matches synthesisers and vocal samples with field recordings and stunning ambient vistas, pairing man and nature and giving substance to the conceptual. 'paradise (to be) regained' is pure sampled bliss, the swell of the sea and distant trains vibrating across a gravelly shore. Seagulls cry and a mysterious voice ushers in water drips and ethereal echoes. Woodland is the following story's setting, sparse piano notes playing gleefully with nymphs and birds alike. Minimalism is key to these songs really working, on both an aesthetic and emotional level. On 'night & moonlight', a track that starts relatively abrasive, we see industrial repetition give way to a haunting classical piano. A beautiful sample on the final number relays some complex theorem, but again we descend into almost mesmerising and subtly despondent synth-work. [shhht_13] is simply brilliant. Described as 'future garage', I can only hope the concept catches on! Grab it for free over here and then visit Silenced here!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

VIDEO// Warm Weather: So Far / Vertigo

We love Warm Weather here at Music Dissection, the trio's latest EP 'Looking Through' cementing their name upon our musical radar. However, the video above accompanies a track from the group's fantastic 2011 debut. Featuring three enthusiastic dancers who treat the song with all the playful glee it deserves, these three minutes make summer seem tangibly close. Hand-claps and harmonies dapple the sun-drenched instrumentation, dancing across stress and weariness with admirable and unapologetic zest! Stream the video above, then grab both brilliant EPs for whatever price you want over at the Bandcamp!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

MP3// Kreator: Phantom Antichrist

Mille Petrozza's still got it! 'Phantom Antichrist' is the title track from Kreator's latest LP, which drops June 5th via Nuclear Blast Records. Classic German thrash, these four minutes don't disappoint. The double bass drums support riff after ruthless riff, brutal vocals ripping through searing verse and soaring hook! The refrain pounds, a certain Iron-Maiden theatricality smothered and muffled beneath savage winds. A catchy chorus is not unbeknown to Kreator, and 'Phantom Antichrist' manages to stay true to their sound while steering clear of the label 'formulaic'. Melodies change about and the drums are creative enough to warrant the banishment of any such underlying worry. I'm incredibly excited to hear the full album next month but until then hear the title track above and watch the more than awesome video after the break!

Monday, May 7, 2012

MP3// Animal Collective: Honeycomb / Gotham

New York experimentalists Animal Collective are streaming their latest single 'Honeycomb / Gotham', in anticipation for its physical release on June 26th. Pre-'Merriweather Post Pavilion', the two tracks remind me of the outfit's early, charmingly unpolished work. Energetic, and painted with rough impressionistic strokes, 'Honeycomb' is a progressive powerhouse. Electronic whizzes and skittish percussion play off the vocals to form a catchy and unbelievably memorable few minutes. 'Gotham' slows things down, the singing lathered in reverb and refracted by numerous abstract effects. Structured and passionate and in places simply breaking down, both numbers offset each other wonderfully! Listen to both after the break:

Friday, April 13, 2012

VIDEO// Spakkiano: Beringia

Back at the start of the year I chanced upon a refreshingly charming little track from producer Spakkiano, a rather elusive artist from Bologna. The song's film accompaniment was as quirky and emotionally wry as the track itself, drawing you in like some old-fashioned silent comedy. Three months later and I find, to my delight, 'Beringia' lying in my inbox, another perfectly nostalgic three minutes! The percussion and synth-work bounce and play and roll off each other wondrously, a certain amused intelligence prevailing beneath an intimate summer abstraction. It is an extraordinarily feeling to feel, a sense heightened by a sudden and unexpected finish. Like a stalled tape or interrupted record, the crashing fall to reality is just as fantastic as the soothing instrumental climb to the top. Hear and watch Spakkiano's 'Beringia' above!

REVIEW// Rob Johnson: Throw the Sun Into the Sea

It seems post-rock is a niche market in modern music, the preserve of bands like Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky. Epic and soaring, the sound is breath-taking in both its scope and execution, the soundtrack to a movie you have yet to see. Instrumental albums retain a certain mysterious allure absent vocals, the innate electronic intelligence of Brian Eno or Nicolas Jarr or even Mike Oldfield adding another branch to an already incomparably compelling genre. What Rob Johnson records in his sophomore LP 'Throw the Sun Into the Sea' is a combination of the two; a composite sub-genre all his own. Rock sensibilities are offset by gloriously subtle electronic soundscapes to form half an hour of brilliant instrumental ingenuity! There is a tangible wild west swagger, grooving and rolling into climactic post-rock revelations. There is the potential for the album, even with a run-time as short as this to fall into a predictable rut, but Johnson utilises tone and sampled texture to good effect, throwing in memorable guitar phrases more than once!

Opening with first single 'The Wasp And The Flame', Rob runs with attenuated synths along a plain that emulates perfectly the sense of gallantry and freedom that is inevitably evoked by any western. Plucking the strings of a battered guitar, you can almost visualise the heat waves vibrating in some synchronised dance, dust billowing and hooves thundering into the distance. 'Hurricane's sampled wind forms a great backdrop to the successive post-rock build and complex acoustics, 'The Beginning Of The End's initial horns a herald to something more ominous and moody than ultimately delivered. This unexpected drop is easily lifted however by 'Throw The Sun's texture. Alien groans and the whirs of a futuristic spaceship meet lush, warm synths and the cold drips that detail them! 'Monsters' similar feel works equally well, a set of abrasive synths and lighter guitar falling into place next to keyboard phrases that sound decidedly 'Tubular Bells'-esque. A possible nod to critics who hailed his debut as such, I tip my hat to Johnson.

Suggestive and profound, 'Anchors Hold On To Hope' throbs with an undeniable optimism, folk sounds shattering like a shot of uncontrolled emotion in a climactic finish. 'The Real's humble execution brings things down to earth before 'Into The Sea's up-draft of eccentric synths and idiosyncratic guitars lifts you back into the ethereal haze. Drawing 'Throw the Sun Into the Sea' to its conclusion is 'The Be All And The End All', an aptly named finisher to an incredible record. Light and delicately wrought, Johnson throws a multitude of sounds and tempos as the song progresses. The result is driven and heart-pounding and, as the final static crackles die down, beautifully introspective. The album isn't without its flaws, concious decisions regarding length and risky sounds sometimes clashing, but overall Rob Johnson's second release is fantastic. Out on the 16th, stream 'The Wasp And The Flame' and look out for the full LP here!

Friday, April 6, 2012

VIDEO// Death Rattle: Do As You Please

'Do As You Please' is the second single to fall from Chris and Helen Hamilton's golden touch, following their stunning November debut 'The Dig'. Their intrepid, experimental stance on electronic pop has been maintained, Helen's vocals lathered in that same reverb and those same foreboding synths. In contrast to 'The Dig', 'Do As You Please' is decidedly less abrasive, the singing softening the hard edges of their hand-clap infused percussion. A key element to Death Rattles' sound, these hard-hitting beats are of an intrinsic importance, carrying both power and potency like the thundercloud throbs so cleverly emulated throughout the track! The video is fantastic too, Chris and Helen sporting outfits in keeping with those of Fever Ray! Stream 'Do As You Please', then look out for the song when it drops on the 7th of next month.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

REVIEW// Anison: Memory Flashes

I've been meaning to review Anison's anticipated debut 'Memory Flashes' for a while, my lack of impetus a wholly embarrassing flaw. Nevertheless, the album has managed to stack up quite a number of plays in the time I've had it, which is reflective if not of its quality than of its instant accessibility. Bands like Bloc Party and Muse echo through the LP, hints of Radiohead bouncing off harder, indie-rock sensibilities. An undeniable technical ability reveals itself in the varied instrumentation too, piano and electronic sounds offsetting competent guitar and drum work. Superb synths are an unsurprising inclusion given producer Steve Lyon's work with Depeche Mode, though radiating a much lighter tone! With all my name-dropping however, do Anison fall foul to the swell of disappointment and unfulfilled anticipation? Thankfully, I don't think this quartet does. Instead, their influences provide both individuality and a comfortable familiarity.

Opening with 'Repeat The Process', Anison's flirtation with Muse is at its most prominent. Spacey whirls and subsequent harmonies usher in the lead vocals, wistfully prolonged notes layered over a balanced guitar-driven equilibrium. Pile on the drums and builds and soon the scales tip, falling into a bombastic and climactic chorus. Easily comparable to Matt Bellamy, the singing yearns, pushed forward by barely-controlled rage. 'Sail Back to Sleep' follows with much the same structure, forceful refrains highlighting the softer interludes with an admirable flourish. Closing with an impressive guitar, 'Spatial Awareness' immediately brings the drums to the forefront of the music. "Tell tales of liquid splendor" goes one line, an undulating, subtle despondency prevailing beneath the surface. The higher pitch and slow tempo of 'The Colour Red' mark an interesting departure from the preceding numbers, 'The Mariachi's European-sounding guitar and 'Pedestrian Thespian's compounding intensity launching the LP's second half well!

'Statuettes' acoustic flair is succeeded by 'Revert To Type's quietly sinister undertones. The guitar hums and the harmonies throb, the sound escalating quickly from solemn to explosive by way of a stark drum phrase. Anison at their best, the band manage to incorporate some relatively elaborate instrumentation into a song that succeeds in its almost primal, energetic pace. 'Fluidity' calms to a danceable lull, while the singing recalls Muse once again, semi-ethereal backing vocals well-implemented. 'Imaginary Lists' closes 'Memory Flashes' on a less potent note than initially expected, a certain predictability all too easy to pluck out. A static-fuelled ending brings the album to a definite conclusion however, which did coax a replay of the ten tracks on more than one occasion. In my conclusion, Anison are certainly worth a listen. Their lead singer doesn't have a strikingly unique voice, but the band have crafted a record that utilises instead both their ability to play and their ability to construct a heart-felt and memorable set of tracks. The album is released at the end of this month, so while you wait in eager anticipation, watch 'Fluidity' below!

Monday, April 2, 2012

MP3// Rob Johnson: The Wasp And The Flame

Fantastic single here from Rob Johnson to kick off April! Taken from his second album 'Throw The Sun Into The Sea', which drops later this month, 'The Wasp And The Flame' takes elements from all over the sonic spectrum. Acoustic and electric guitars deliver classic-sounding rock, refined by an oriental-styled electronic nous. Detailing a multi-layered composition, these experimental twangs are reminiscent of a wild western film, empowering and honourable and striding along with a swagger-like groove! Half-way through and you hit it. That moment of perfection. 'The Wasp And The Flame' powers onwards, broken only by interludes of balanced quiet. Ending as it began, Johnson strips the amalgamated sound back to its barest form, plucked notes and gentle strums diffusing into silence. The album drops on the 16th, so for now hear and enjoy 'The Wasp And The Flame' below and visit Rob Johnson's website over here!

Friday, March 30, 2012

INTERVIEW// Exlovers

Exlovers' album 'Moth' is due to drop in May, and Music Dissection is very excited for it! After covering and loving the London quintet's 'Starlight Starlight' and their cover of Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game', I jumped at the opportunity to send a few questions over for lead singer Pete to answer. Thanks to both the band and everyone at Young And Lost Club for making the interview possible! Exlovers have played dozens of live performances, been promoted by the BBC and look set to make a big impression this year. Read the interview below and swap your email address for the band's excellent single 'Starlight Starlight' here!

Music Dissection: First off, lets start with some standard questions! How did the five of you all meet, and what's behind the band name?

Pete: We all knew each other through mutual friends etc. Chris and I had both lived in St Ives, Cornwall. Laurel and I both studied at Goldsmiths university. There's not much of a story behind us choosing the name 'exlovers', it was just something that I thought of and we all felt that it was in keeping with the tone of the music.

MD: Who and what are your influences and inspirations both musically and lyrically?

Pete: It's good to make a distinction between the two. I grew up mainly listening to bands from the 90's like Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine etc and have been heavily influenced by them. Over the past few years I've been listening to a lot of classical music like Erik Satie and Phillip Glass. I'm just inspired by any music that makes me feel, that is also what inspires me to make music. It's more difficult for me to figure out how I'm influenced lyrically. I write about how I feel or I write words that make me feel something. A few of my favourite authors are Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Oscar Wilde.

MD: Your debut EP 'You Forget So Easily' was fantastic, inherently nostalgic and yet lyrically relevant. Are we going to hear an evolution in sound with your debut album?

Pete: Thank you! I hope so, we certainly feel that we've progressed since we released that EP and we were able to spend enough time on the album to create the sound we wanted for each and every song.

MD: Post-'Moth', are there any instruments or themes that you would like to explore more in the future?

Pete: Well I've really enjoyed playing and composing with the piano and violin recently so I imagine that this will start filtering into the songs I write for exlovers.

MD: The timeless cover art for 'You Forget So Easily' was incredibly dark. Given the reminiscent sound and light vocals on the EP, what was the reason behind the cover?

Pete:  It was a photo of the father of my girlfriend at the time. To be honest, I can't think of much that wasn't dark for me back then. Ha!

MD: Your music has subtle throwbacks to bands like The Cure, Elliot Smith, Pavement and even The Smiths. What do you make of these comparisons?

Pete: Well I can see the comparisons myself and it makes sense really as I've been a fan of all of the above at one time or another. The Cure and Elliott Smith had enormous importance to me when I was younger and I still enjoy listening to both of them.

MD: Take us through your song-writing process.

Pete: I write in bursts. I often end up with a bunch of ideas that are sometimes only half-formed and then I leave them and write another bunch of half-formed songs. Then I go back through them and some of them jump out at me and I'll try to arrange them into a song. When I have a few that are semi-complete as songs we start working on them as a band and try to figure out the best way to arrange them.

MD: You've managed to stack up quite a number of live performances, and as a result your fan-base has grown exponentially! What are your aspirations as a band?

Pete: Just to continue making music, to keep on progressing and learning as we go. I can only really speak for myself here. It becomes quite confusing for me if I start setting goals or wanting to achieve certain things. I'm quite happy just writing music and it's rewarding enough when just one person tells you that they like what you've done.

MD: Who are you all listening to at the moment?

Danny: The Pixies
Laurel: Cat Power
Brooke: Yuck
Chris: Bon iver
Pete: Chet Baker

MD: Finally, I know it's an over-asked question, but what are your favourite albums and why?

Pete: My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
It's just perfect from start to finish.

Deftones - White Pony
It reminds me of my youth, I think Deftones were responsible for me going off on a terrible tangent with what I was listening to, I started listening to some absolute crap after them. I can still listen to this album and love it though.

The Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas
I love the sound they got on this album. They have some pretty incredible melodies and arrangements too. Everything feels fine when I'm listening to this record.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

MP3// Otto Rollo: Chattanooga Sugarbabe

Experimental ambient sounds are always intriguing, so the little Chicago project that is Otto Rollo struck an immediately engaging chord. Originally by Johnny Cash, 'Chattanooga Sugarbabe' has been slowed down to a melancholic simmer, lyrically downhearted and yet moving with a soothing, contented calm. A subtle harmony is sandwiched between echo and absent-minded hum. Keep from falling into a dreamy sleep and you'll notice the percussion and effects here are striking, but integrated so brilliantly into the music you fall effortlessly into their groove. Drawing to an end, a Jaws-like throb and fading vocals usher in an ominous and interesting finale, singing turning into talking and happiness to despair. The cocaine mentioned in 'Chattanooga Sugarbabe' ultimately twists Otto Rollo, his sound warping and falling into a soundscape that is at once both joyous and quietly and quite beautifully, rather sad. Listen to more here!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

REVIEW// Matthewdavid: Jewellery EP

'Jewellery' is the new release from Matthewdavid, Matthew McQueen's boundary-pushing electronic beat project. The twenty minute long beat-tape is composed of eight remixes, or 'flips', but before now the Atlanta-born producer had never really excited me, his debut album 'Outmind' fantastically experimental, but let down by his overwhelming, sprawling desire for unnecessary complexity. The result was a record that lacked cohesion and left the listener with a headache rather than on an hallucinogenic high. Fuzzy and undefined album art defined McQueen's sound, which makes the cover to 'Jewellery' all the more exciting! Influential hip hop artist Rakim graces both 'Jewellery's sleeve and the music within it, his voice sampled for 'Locket (Chi Flip)'. This hip hop influence on the EP is undeniable, given close friend Flying Lotus' exploration of the genre. Thrown into the mix however is an eclectic combination of sensibilities, tied down with layers of texture to potentially wring an appealing abstraction from the unconscious mind.

It's impressive and intriguing on paper, but the flaw in its construction is still its structural composition. A little more direction might have detracted from the EP's unpredictable nature, but at the same time it may have given aim to the aimless and purpose to the purposeless. The balance between these two ideas is delicately wrought by Matthewdavid, improving on 'Outmind' but still a little way off capturing the perfect suggestive experience, dependent on the listener's complete and unparalleled absorption. McQueen is at his best when the song he 'flips' is at its most recognisable, sticking out of the track like a light in the dark. The EP opens in such a fashion, Mick Jagger's timeless 'Miss You' crooning its way amongst the looped vocals and tempo changes. Skipping past 'Rolex's uninteresting sample and 'Pendant's quelling of what might have been an engaging dance sound, we come back to substantial structure. Instead of a vocal clip, we're dealt a steady beat in 'Medallion', which pushes blood through this close-to-dire record.

As before, there are some good elements to 'Jewellery', an hypnotic throb to 'Diamond Ring' prevailing effortlessly to conclude the EP, and an interesting interview dissolving into the crackle and noise of age. Without integrated order however the sparse and spatial quickly becomes boring, and the dependence on texture for detail often precedes an obscure sonic muddle. If you're looking for a solely experimental effort, a label to which Matthewdavid stands up, then explore 'Jewellery' further. For me though, however boundary-pushing McQueen is trying to be, he fails to spread the decoration of this new room evenly. It's a free beat-tape so stream 'Gold Rope' below and if you wish, grab a free download of the EP over here!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

MP3// Exlovers: Wicked Game

Chris Issak's video for his 1989 track 'Wicked Game' became instantly famous for its black and white take on suggestive sexuality. His immeasurable adoration for this one woman is heartbreaking, because she doesn't love him back. The thin veneer between love and lust vibrates beneath Issak's soaring high notes, those deep blue eyes luring him to play their wicked game. London quintet Exlovers have dropped a cover of Chris Issak's classic as a prelude to their debut, released in May. Surrounded by that same nostalgic surrealism as the original, the vocals sing in a higher, but no less potent key. Instrumentally perfect from the off, if you weren't excited for Exlover's forthcoming album already, you should be after hearing 'Wicked Game'! Captivated? Grab a download and watch the original below!

Monday, March 12, 2012

REVIEW// Grimes: Visions

Claire Boucher's highly anticipated third album 'Visions' marks an undeniable progression from last year's sophomore release, 'Halfaxa'. Shorter and better produced, these thirteen tracks maintain that same experimental slant on synth-pop, dance and R&B sensibilities flowing over Bocuher's complex and multi-layered sound. I hoped without conviction that Grimes would return to the modest surrealism of 2010's debut 'Geidi Primes', but alas, my nostalgic whims were pushed aside by the cogs of fierce sonic revolution. Taking note of 90s IDM, Boucher's voice recalls that of Kylie Minogue and early Madonna, Little Dragon and even hints of Lykke Li emerging from the reverberated nous of Braids. Joining the ranks of Fever Ray, Zola Jesus and Julia Holter, Claire Boucher's 'Visions' are fascinating.

Singing in a constant falsetto, Boucher's voice is so lathered in reverb that occasionally I found it difficult to relate to. Ethereal and transcendent it may be, but there is definitely a distance here between artist and audience that could turn people off. The more you listen however, the more you appreciate Grimes and this refreshingly unnerving, and alienating aesthetic. The art for 'Visions' emulates better her exploration of witch-house sensibilities, forming an ambient inconsistency around the tracks that while perhaps not for everyone, certainly makes for an interesting and soothing and unique sound. There are a couple of moments on the album that don't work vocally though, the first being 'Eight's Alvin and the Chipmunks-esque pitch and the second being 'Vowels = space and time's strain. Boucher pushes her voice far too hard, losing that effortless, alluring intoxication present on album highlights 'Genesis' and 'Oblivion'.

Opening with 'Infinite Without Fulfilment', a darkly sensual and mysterious tone prevails, a spray-can shaking through the backing track's Squarepusher-inspired percussion. Drum machines meet autotuned vocals, combined with subtler, more natural, bouncy refrains. A moody finish leads straight into 'Genesis', 'Visions' lead single. Oriental and dreamy, there is a saddening innocence here, throbbing and pulsating beneath Boucher's airy singing and strikingly light electronic instrumentation. A synthesiser plays out a shockingly boring scale before 'Oblivion's contrasting synth work swirls in a hazy midnight ballet. More dark undertones are added to the mix, channel-hopping percussion bouncing between curved, warped walls. 'Circumambient's marriage of experimentation and perfect pop melody make it a stand-out song, echoes and a 4/4 loop danceable and spacey and catchy all at once!

'Visiting Statue's simple transition from stark to layered is presided over by an ambiguous and repeated verse, haunting in its purity and stifled distress. 'Be a Body' follows, putting the same exertion on the vocals as 'Vowels = space and time'. Broken by an indistinct and attenuated set of silvery verses, shimmering under reverb and a cavernous echo, 'Be a Body' precedes 'Colour Of Moonlight'. Featuring Doldrums, it switches between choir-like fragility and one provokingly ominous thought. The layered vocals and build are at their most subtle, 'Nightmusic's post-classical vibe a worthy successor to their nuanced charm. Concluding with 'Skin's beautifully sheepish suggestion of love, and then 'Know the Way's almost celestial elegance, 'Visions' retains your attention from beginning to exquisite end!

'Visions' instrumental ability isn't the best, but its gloriously rebellious experimentation and lack of conform means it might just be the most individual and daring pop record this year! One line from 'Skin' sums the album up perfectly; "You touch me within / And so I thought I could be human once again". A new era of electronic pop music has been ushered in by Grimes, a woman whose delight in the fantastical makes up for her every flaw. Focused in style and assured in production, Claire Boucher has, after two albums, hit her stride. Does she show any signs of slowing down? You can bet that she doesn't. Hear 'Genesis' below!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

REVIEW// Young Astronaut: Fawn

South England quartet Young Astronaut's debut album 'Fawn' is host to an intriguing slew of influences and inspirations. Lush acoustic compositions recall artists like Ben Howard, a dappled folk-rock tone drawing comparisons to both Frank Turner and Bon Iver, poignant and passionate in its execution. Mumford & Sons' fondness for aggressive fagility turns up more than once too, early Radiohead sensibilities seeping into the nuanced vocal strain. I am a fan of all of the above, so unsurprisingly, 'Fawn' clicked from the off. Keeping it on a constant rotation reveals a formulaic structure within the first five tracks, but there is more than enough instrumental and dynamic variation to make up for this flaw. Young Astronaut have recorded, in 'Fawn', an album that lives up to every expectation promised on paper!

Opener 'Hey Little Ghost' begins how the record means to go on. It's swelling keyboards a core around which the song revolves, things quickly amalgamate into a vast cosmological asteroid of a track. Layers of sound build, drums and chords pooling together, broken by interludes of guitar-driven rock and quiet orchestration. The twang of 'Broken Teeth' is an evocative one, hand-claps and retrospective lyricism following in 'Little Ghost's footsteps. Another mid-track break strips things back before the dam opens up and the sound crashes in. 'Dust's focus is on rock, fast verses and fast instrumentation lending everything a pace not easily forgotten. 'Triumph' succeeds this breathless energy well, bringing things back to a comfortable simmer. The swells and builds have lost the potency they had before, but it's a great number all the same. 'Harmony's vocals are notable, innately sad but resolute in their determination to not appear so.

'The Cloud Collector' follows 'Shadows' beautifully stark, personal guitar. A melodic piano falls into place, bubbling under surreal autumnal reverb. Perfectly pitched singing comes close to cracking, tears choked back and sobs stifled. "What is it for?" floats atop a void of uncontrollable grief, all that pain emptied into a period of flawless, innocent aggression. The switch between this and the image of a broken man is unnoticeable, and 'The Cloud Collector' sounds all the better for it. There is a warmly oriental feel about the penultimate number 'Sugar Is Sweeter Than Gold', an unnerving cello hum prevailing over strings and a low, throbbing voice. Ripples of still water distort stirring theatricality, both carnivals and princes running through the lyrics. It is the sensual refrain however that lifts the whole LP. The concluding notes and final, prolonged fluctuation lead into 'Death In The Foothills', an aptly memorable end to this debut. Epic and huge and fantastic, 'Fawn' finally fades away.

This isn't a faultless record. A couple of fillers intersect songs that for the most part follow a set structural pattern. The first half of 'Fawn' falls the most foul to this accusation, with a stunning second half pulling the album back from possible allegations, of being perhaps a little predictable. However, multi-layered sounds echo a multitude of influences, combining to create something curiously familiar and strikingly unique. 'Fawn' is being given away for free, and as such is certainly worth a download. Stream 'The Cloud Collector' below and grab a copy of 'Fawn' from Young Astronaut's website over here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

REVIEW// Flight Brigade: Shaw Court Sessions EP

Flight Brigade are a progressive-folk septet, composed interestingly of two families and an inherently close set of friends. Born astride Oliver Baines' marriage to Miriam Hughes, this seven-member collective boasts a certain intrinsic connection few bands can match, these six tracks emulating their innately beautiful togetherness. Humble vocals interject majestic instrumentals, guitars and drums lending the accordions and glockenspiels a sound more sublime than either could achieve absent the other. A violin and a classically-trained ear offer the 'Shaw Court Sessions' a level of regal orchestration too, ever-heartfelt and never self-indulgent. Finally, poignant lyricism and nuanced harmonies are added into the mix, a retrospective and subtly despondent tone emerging from their combination, laden with the sighs of missed opportunity. The 'Shaw Court Sessions' is, an undeniably magnificent EP.

Opening with 'Sirens', an intriguing vocal harmony plays off a quick, finger-plucked sound. A sombre mood takes hold, curiously mystifying and strangely provocative, recalling some fuzzy, far-off land, the shadows of childhood monsters causing your heart to beat faster. A pre-emptive drum falls into place, Oliver's soothing vocals spurring you on as you run. He talks of struggle, the sounds slowly layering and building. A female voice sits underneath the main vocal line, perfect in pitch. Subtle inclinations in notes make you shiver, climactic explosions of adrenaline rushing like lactic acid through your body. Lyrically we're treated to some stunning lines, trains and mountains adding to the vast, epic soundscape. 'The Hill' follows 'Sirens', a violin, delicate percussion and hand-claps backing vocals that swell effortlessly between registers. A piano instrumental splits verse and refrain, a cinematic finish leading into 'Children of Ohio's perfected nostalgia. Innocent and simple and all the more potent because of it, a hopeful sense of childhood memory prevailing like it never has before. Graceful in its construction and composition, this is retrospection at its best!

'Seven Seas' is the start of 'Shaw Court Sessions' second half, and it demands reference to Arcade Fire's 'Sprawl II'. After Oliver sings "stuck here instead", I half expected to hear Regine Chassegne sing her famous "mountains beyond mountains". Far from a bad thing, Flight Brigade emulate the same feeling, but execute it at a slower pace, comprehending the lyrics with admirable emotional attention. The 'Door That's Never Opened's high notes and the recognisable folk sounds of 'When the Water Whispers' close these thirty minutes as wonderfully as any. Lyrical genius and dark, lush instrumentals amalgamate into a final and triumphant parting of ways.

Stream 'Sirens' down below, then head over to Flight Brigade's site and grab a copy of all six tracks. You can download the whole EP for whatever price you deem appropriate, but after streaming all the songs you'll want to support the band in any way you can! All their effort for potentially no reward makes these seven musicians' brand of rock-infused folk a rather humbling one, big, orchestral and passionate, but also quietly and unashamedly profound. So, listen to 'Sirens' below and explore this fantastic EP in its entirety over here!

Monday, March 5, 2012

INTERVIEW// Being There

Enchanting quartet Being There is James Robinson, Nick Orlenshaw, Tom Rapanakis and lead singer Sam Lewis. After loving both the band's split single and their latest track '17', I jumped at the chance to send Lewis some questions. In the short interview below, we chat about his varied influences, style plans and even some possible future sounds! It reveals an artist and musician as humble and individual as his nostalgic music portrays. Read the interview below, then find my original review of Being There's split single 'The Radio' here! Thanks to everyone at Young and Lost Club and to Mr Lewis for answering the questions!

Music Dissection: How did you all meet, and what's behind the band's name?

Sam Lewis: We met at University, then moved down to London together and started taking playing music more seriously. As for the name, I wanted something that wasn't a 'The' or a 'And The' kind of name, and I just liked the phrase Being There.

MD: What are your influences and inspirations both musically and lyrically?

SL: Musically I love songwriters like Bradford Cox, Kurt Vile and Jeremy Earls, as well as bands like Duckatils, Yo La Tengo and Guided by Voices. Lyrically I like songwriters who have a slightly abstract approach, like Cox and Robert Pollard. Pollard especially has an amazing kind of collage approach to lyrics, with all these disparate images that amount to more than the sum of their parts. I love the honesty of Jeffrey Lewis and Jonathan Richman too. But my all time favourites are probably Bob Dylan and Arthur Russell.

MD: We loved your split single and track '17', so what are your plans album-wise?

SL: Thanks! Our debut record will come out on Young and Lost in late May. Exciting!

MD: Your brand of summer melancholia is distinctly nostalgic. Are we going to here an evolution from that style in the future?

SL: Hmm it's hard to say really...good question. I think nostalgia is a totally valid form of expression, and most of my favourite things are based on nostalgia - Woody Allen's films like Zelig, Annie Hall or Broadway Danny Rose. Bergman's Wild Strawberries. Gondry's Eternal Sunshine. Tolstoy's Ivan Illych and Flaubert's Sentimental Eductation...Sebald's books like The Rings of Saturn, and Nabakov's Speak, Memory. Tarkovsky even made a film called Nostalgia. And then there's the Ethiopian blues, which aren't called the blues but Tizita, which translates as memory or nostaliga. Some of the Tizita songs are so beautiful, like this one by Getachew Kassa, or this by Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou. These are all things I love. I think nostalgia has this amazing mixture of sadness and joy, sadness at the passing of time and the happiness of to answer your question, I think I'd find it hard to move away from it altogether.

MD: Are there any instruments or sounds you want to record with in the future?

SL: I'd like to have more electronica in our sound in the future, more computerised beats and samples and keyboards.

MD: Who are you all listening to at the moment?

SL: I've been enjoying the new Lambchop album, Atlas Sound's Bedroom Databank albums, The Clams Casino instrumental record, the last Tiny Vipers album and Jonathan Richman's poem about turning 60.

MD: You were recently selected as one of NME's bands to watch in 2012. First off, congratulations! Did you ever think Being There would get as big as it has?

SL: Thanks, but I think we're some way off being big yet! But being in NME is very cool.

MD: You also toured with Noah and the Whale, which must have been pretty amazing! What did you learn from your time with them, and has the experience made you more confident performing?

SL: I think playing in front of so many people every night can only make you more confident on stage, which is a good thing. As for what we learnt, I think the key is just to keep playing...they're always touring and on the road, so a good show for them is just second nature, they don't even think about it or get nervous, as far as I can tell anyway.

MD: Finally, what is your favorite album and why?

SL: Blood on the Tracks by Dylan. Its got everything for me, lyrics, music, songs? Perfect!

Thanks again to Sam Lewis for answering Music Dissection's questions, and to everyone at London's Young and Lost Club for arranging the interview. I'm certainly looking forward to hearing Being There's debut full-length in May, but until then I'm satisfied with their split single and the melancholic '17'! Find coverage of both by clicking the 'Being There' label below, then, when you have the time, check out The Young and Lost Club's website here!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

VIDEO// Colours: In The Summer

New track and accompanying video from Tom Crandles now. Back in October we reviewed his eponymous debut EP, the four tracks of which glistened with nostalgia. Layered with a beautifully hazy experimental noise, melodies and thoughts and colours splashed across their fast-moving sonic bodies. 'In The Summer' marks a subtle departure from the sound however, and instead recalls 'Lost At Sea', Crandle's contribution to Hartzine/Beko's 2011 compilation. 'In The Summer remains intoxicated with reverb, a slower sensibility taking a hold on the despondent, post-punk vocals. Guitars and unassuming drums lend the song a sense of almost unnoticeable hope, swirling and floating through Crandle's wistful moot of a lost love. Analogue pops and crackles match the videos kaleidoscopic implosions, an infrequent image of Tom emerging, ethereal, transcendent and beautifully insubstantial.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

REVIEW// Sisterland: Dirty White EP

Leicester based trio Sisterland dropped their EP 'Dirty White' late last month, a four track effort reminiscent of pre-nineties guitar pop. Fuzzy and lo-fi and inherently alternative, the three members refine the tracks on 'Dirty White' with an impressively experimental edge. A certain nostalgia and subtle rock sensibility emerge from waves of reverb, but the way in which they do so lends the release a pleasant individuality, and one I was a little surprised to find. All too often bands recall rather than reinvent, a flaw that should not be applied to Sisterland. There are elements that verge on the banal, but overall, and as an EP, 'Dirty White' is worthy of your attention, stumbling clear of being merely affectionately mundane!

The first number on side A acts as the title track, Pixies-esque drums carrying a hook that, despite the song's name, seems to be the most demure on the EP. Reviving said Pixies influence they may be, but Sisterland lose any of that potential immediacy. I get the sense that 'Dirty White' was composed and recorded with radio airplay in mind, and after getting that out the way, these three guys could explore and experiment freely. 'Bunny Ears' is an example of such, faster guitar, drum and bass contrasting wondrously with the high notes the lead singer executes so brilliantly. A smattering of shoegaze cements the two melodies together perfectly, resulting in two and a half minutes that catch your attention. Following them is their reprise, Sisterland warping the core sound into an incredibly spacey one. A drum matches your hearts every beat, infrequent verses broken by strange sirens and an entrancing shower of cosmic dust. The successive 'Milk & Honey' is everything you wished the opener has been. Fluctuating effects and heavy instrumentation and light vocals all compliment each other perfectly, making the first track seem worse but the EP as a whole undeniably better. And so, the thirteen minutes that make up 'Dirty White' draw to a close.

Sisterland's single 'Tomorrow' was backed by Mogwai, named as their single of the month last year, and 'Dirty White's determination to attract similar attention is admirable. This trio stray from the path a couple of times, but as the title of the EP suggests, the combination of pop nous and lo-fi passion makes for an intriguing listen. Stream 'Bunny Ears' below to sample Sisterland's delights, then purchase all four songs from Blessing Force over here!


As a bonus here's the pretty psychedelic and DIY music video for 'Bunny Ears'. Sisterland twirl guitars and rock about a bit, which confirms the song's enjoyable, carefree vibe. I am definitely looking forward to the trio's next release, but 'til then I'm satisfied with this video!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

MP3// Death Grips: Orange Military (Nasa Remixes)

Death Grips' 'Ex Military' was one of the first albums Music Dissection ever reviewed, their aggressive punk-rock hip hop sound a wondrously experimental one. Almost a year later and here we are, with remixes from Nasa, a producer whose name is a regular one upon our pages. The first track is 'Takyon', a number that retains all of its original abrasive and relentless charm. Apocalpytic drones stand resolute, throbbing and supporting this trio's equally cataclysmic and slightly unhinged vocals. The following song 'Guillotine' features a contribution from ADAM, layered over warped horns and effects and queer, nightmarish theatricality. Suspense builds and lends everything an excellently distorted horror, more so than the original release for sure. I don't know whether Nasa and ADAM's take on the two songs you can stream above surpasses the original, but they come undeniably close! The two tracks and complimentary instrumentals can be downloaded for free here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

VIDEO// Mirror Lady: For Good / You Left Me

Mirror Lady have been shown a lot of love on Music Dissection, and for very good reason! The Los Angeles band records a brand of New Wave inspired bedroom pop that seems to gleam under a diffused lo-fi light, distorting slightly as dream refracts reality. It's a brilliant thing indeed, and one that easily warrants this double-barreled post. We can thank Indie Ambassador for the first half, a stripped back session recording of an unreleased number 'For Good'. Four and a half minutes of electronic-infused guitar, it's a song that reveals a humble story of love and all its beautiful belmishes. Lost love is a reoccuring theme for an incredible amount of music, but Mirror Lady's unique tone and soft sincerity sticks in your head for the longest, gentle percussion recalling the swelling tide of "Silver Lake"...

The next number was released earlier this month and goes by the name 'You Left Me'. An equally melancholic song, bigger instumentation builds a wall of ever-flowing sound. A few prolonged notes send shivers down your spine, recalling one of my favourite songs from last year, Perfume Genius' 'All Waters'. Threatening to crack but forever standing firm, an unpretentious vulnerability seeps from somewhere deep within the very fabric of the track. Neither the technical ability nor the stunning lyricism let such passion through. It is, I think, the lead singer's ability to convey without effort, the subtlest, and most fragile of emotions.

MP3// Being There: 17

Being There has returned triumphantly, with the triumphantly understated '17'! As the title suggests, there is a smattering of teenage angst here, mooting with melancholic nostalgia the flawless image of a seventeen year old girl. Wailing guitars and emotional drums back lead vocals that stun. Breaking into whispers, they compliment beautifully the restrained nature of the lyricism, the instrumentation revealing in all its passionate scope and classic execution Being There's true feelings. For a song that runs for just two and a half minutes I have to admit I was captivated from the off. Brilliantly constructed and composed, stream the wonderfully unassuming '17' below, then just let the sound smother you in satisfaction!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

REVIEW// Warm Weather: Looking Through EP

Last year we were treated to the brilliant EP 'Dances', a five track debut from Los Angeles and its resident pop trio Warm Weather. Fast forward half a year and here we are with the band's sophomore release 'Looking Through', and you can be sure of a full review rather than the undeservedly short paragraph we dealt its predecessor! The EP is composed of four heart-warming songs, layered with Beach Boys harmonies and easy comparisons to both Grizzly Bear and the infallible Paul Simon. Folk instrumentation and certain pop nous prevail, dipped in a unique sugary eccentricity and undeniably restrained rock passion! A surprising amount of variety emerges, without ever busying the final product more than is necessary. Dynamically, there is a subtle progression from 'Dances', and Warm Weather most definitely wear it well. My desire for a full-length album has, after this, just rocketed!

The EP opens with the relatively short 'All My Life', the vocals fluctuating between low and high in a manner not theatrical, but reminiscent of that same musical musing. Backed by a set of beautiful harmonies and the plucking of a humble guitar, the lyricism is stunning in its sweetness, an aesthetic helped by shimmering percussion and a reverberated veneer! A climactic finish leads into 'Stay', the fastest number on 'Looking Through'. Indeed, it is from these three minutes the title of the EP was plucked. Guitars and drums support with almost Mediterranean zest the soothing vocals, the catchy refrain a stand-out feature. An incredibly thick musical interlude harks back to The Who, classic rock lent a folk sensibility rushing into your ears. 'Bull Run' follows, fast arrangements contrasting the slower singing perfectly. An penultimate gem, the harmonies truly come into their own and a completely unnecessary but completely wonderful finish marks the beginning of the end. 'A Promise' succeeds 'Bull Run' and pushes the boat out regarding individuality and those trademark layered vocals. It's final six seconds of nostalgic piano is a little odd, but something about its nonconforming, soft rebellion is both refreshing and immediately intriguing!

Available for whatever price you're willing to pay, 'Looking Through's mere eleven minutes are enough to sustain a lifetime love. Genre and influence-blending, Warm Weather are a band that execute such experimentation with the utmost sincerity and grace, which is one of many reasons why they are worth your attention! Stream 'All My Life' down below, then get a copy of both 'Looking Through' and 'Dances' from Warm Weathers Bandcamp here!

Monday, February 27, 2012

REVIEW// Gorgeous Bully: The Young Obese EP

   Plymouth's music scene is close to non-existent, but that hasn't stopped Gorgeous Bully from blooming. The man behind the moniker is Thomas Crang, and 'The Young Obese' is his fourth effort abaft of such a pseudonym. His first release on Art Is Hard records, these five tracks succeed three self-promoted EPs, and retain a certain lo-fi, grunge-pop charm! Shoegaze sensibilities meeting garage rock aggression meet a fervorously fun pop nous, and the amalgamation of sounds is executed well. My complaints are with the word charm. This EP doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but its that nostalgic and carefree attitude that stops my attention drifting. It doesn't drive me to captivation, but then doesn't repel any contemplation either. It is, in all its satisfying fuzz, quite unbelievably charming!

Opening with 'Never Cry', you can almost hear the seaside hidden in Crang's vocals. Phil Spector's wall of sound is built up around him, trapping you in a memory of summers past. A peppy guitar melody and beautifully dissonant drums back question after question, few answers emerging from ambiguous and child-like "Ba da dam"s. Its lack of a specific event means its easy to simply fall into and groove along with, and that's what makes it so great! 'Stamp' follows, an upbeat reminiscence offset by the refrain "I just want to tear it down". A sense of lost love prevails, a sad melody and toned down singing quietly despondent. The rocking nature of 'Who Do You Think You Are' jerks you back to life however, noise and a pounding drum beat supporting reverberated vocals that recall the Arctic Monkeys. There is a pop song in among the riffs, crushed into the mix with an abrasive hand yes, but there all the same. A Yuck influence and comparisons to both Bos Angeles and Art Is Hard label mates The Black Tambourines can be picked out from between its sheets, and ultimately, from the final two tracks as well.

The EP was released physically as a cassette in a handprinted cigarette-pack style case but it looks as though the small quantity has already sold out. While 'The Young Obese' is promising when it comes to full-length potential, its not for my repeated listen. Five tracks of charming lo-fi rock might be enough for some, but for me, the vague, hazy recollection made me squint, a little too much. Stream 'Never Cry' below, then explore the full EP here!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

MP3// Anne-Marie Sanderson: Endless Eyes

Cumbria's Anne-Marie Sanderson just has one of those voices. Her acoustic guitar pop is soothing, folk sensibilities seeping into the song's very fabric to form a track so beautifully unassuming and humble and uncomplicated you cannot find fault. Her vocals are perfect, intertwining with every unblemished guitar pluck and provoking with every surreal lyric and every dreamy thought a sense of complete satisfaction. Backed by the ethereal notes of a shy female voice most likely her own, Sanderson sings with unparalleled ability. Every one of the words here is relayed with meaning, flowing into the next and often prolonged in an innately mesmerising fashion. Slight, shudder-inducing changes in pitch recall voices like Norah Jones or Laura Veirs, though perhaps stronger. There are no breathy whispers on this track. Instead we're given a vocalist who is truly, undeniably comforting. The build that leads into the conclusion is executed without batting an eyelash and it's this that highlights what I love about Anne-Marie. It is without doubt, her effortless ability to make me feel. Go and stream 'Endless Eyes' above, then grab a free copy at Sanderson's Bandcamp page!

MP3// Cheerleader: Do What You Want

Where I am cold is not an oddity. After the winter blues and the siege of woollen garments that we've had to endure over the past month or so, todays sun and heat offered pleasant respite from the chill. And what better soundtrack to such delight than the ever-delightful duo Cheerleader. Donovan Rex and Max Friday's latest number 'Do What You Want' is an escapade of child-like proportions, whistles and handclaps remeniscent of a childhood on the shoulders of life, the hero of every adventure and the vanquisher of all and every evil! Looking back with a grin, these two guys have crafted a tune as memorable as any, subtle undertones throbbing with their trademark nostalgic longing. Perfectly executed and, with undeniable ease, perfectly uplifting! Stream 'Do What You Want', and let out that sigh!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REVIEW// Kapowski: Boy Detective

    We first caught wind of Kapowski back in November, when the Perez Brothers sent over their spectacular video for the track 'Section 8'. The first number to drop from the Oakland quartet's debut album 'Boy Detective', those four minutes retained a romantic individuality that refused to leave my head, off-kilter drums and an enticing keyboard melody harking back to a long-forgotten era. And yet I remained, eerily focused on the future in a manner quite unnerving. Staring out into an impenetrable fog only to make out grinding, hulking shapes ignorant of everything bar a goal I failed to acknowledge. Kapowski's utilisation of piano and drums and organ and bass makes for a varied listen, the absence of any guitar an intriguing exemption. Taking note of the band's influences, their vintage inspiration is both admirable and undeniable, reaching back into the early 90s to pull George Gershwin from his piano and set him alongside composer Harold Arlen and The Kink's Ray Davies!

The lead singer and lyricist Jesse Rimler's vocals are similarly fascinating, recalling artists like Conor Oberst and The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. It's quirks and lilts carry with ease the bands unique perception and smile-inducing indie-pop ambition, aching with an innate emotional anguish. While Rimler often sounds fun and carefree, as though at any moment some surprise might be sprung upon him, subdued tears seem to well up often too. That incredible contrast between happiness and despairing sentimentality is the equilibrium in which Kapowski exist. Its a place all their own, and one 'Boy Detective' lets you explore!

Preceded by 'Look Alive's beautifully warped piano warble, 'Section Eight's magnificently antiquarian percussion and spaced-out keyboard melody stun. Layered over vocals that become progressively entwined within the sound, breaks of cinematic suspense keep you forever on the edge of your seat. Musical theatre makes its influence known on the track 'Picture of Health', slow and yearning and backed by a humble big-band. A brilliant finish feels both personal and epic, the vocalise reverberated and truly, unbelievably wondrous! 'Late Last Night's darker, hypnotic theatricality emerges from its melodic beat. High notes and fluctuating horns and deep harmonies contrast perfectly. Come the midpoint however and the video stalls. The tape crackles before lurching back into life for another eccentric round. 'Errata's evening musings shiver behind a frosty window, street-lights an amiable warmth as they glow. A blues hum and slow jazz groove prevail, tender and poignant and a comfortable lead into 'Boy Detective's concluding numbers.

The drums and whistles of 'The Underling' float over keyboard phrases as classic as any we're heard so far. Backing singers hum to certain moments of the perfectly constructed track, a distorted scale bringing reality crashing around our ears. The lyrics take the form they've always taken, focused on story-telling and all the better for it! The jaunty 'Shut-In On the Go' continues with the style, faster percussion and avant-garde organ sections an unusual amalgamation. A slow mid-track interlude refracts the vocals, now bubbling below a layer of silky vibration. And so we come, sadly, to the final song. 'Reel to Reel' opens with a fantastical sonic swirling, a lone piano plucked out from its imagination. Moving and benevolent, its lyrics ponder the humorous but watch with sad eyes. A stunning trumpet concludes the song and indeed draws the entire album to its last blameless breath. 'Boy Detective' is superb, orchestral instrumentals humbled by Jesse Rimler's voice and the band's collective ability to transcend seemingly time itself. It goes without saying that you should stream 'Picture of Health' and buy the full record from Kapowski's Bandcamp here!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

REVIEW// Trailer Trash Tracys: Ester

  Trailer Trash Tracys first caught my ear in 2010 when I happened upon No Pain in Pop's compilation from the year before. Their track 'Strangling Good Guys' featured, and luckily did nothing of the sort to smear the fascination I had with what was an intriguing number. It was comfortably nostalgic, reminiscent of bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Still Corners, but also a herald to groups like the infallible Smith Westerns and Best Coast. A whole year later and we were handed 'Candy Girl', another stunning track. My anticipation for a full-length debut grew, Trailer Trash Tracys' vintage experimentation the seemingly perfect sound with which to push forward a musical career. A number of influences and an artistic sensibility emerge on 'Ester', but for me, the latter is the outfit's major shortcoming.

It is often cited that being accessible and being experimental are mutually exclusive values but in many cases the presumption is wrong. I've often highlighted Radiohead, but I'll do it again. 'Kid A' managed to do what many people though impossible. Throw something truly different out there and do so in such as way that people 'got' it. Trailer Trash Tracys fail to grasp this concept. Instrumentals following a 'solfeggio scale' are densely layered on the album, indulgent and pompous and refusing to recognise that having a structure does not detract from the uniqueness of a record. Throughout 'Ester' the band's tendency to overcomplicate a melody and over think a musical phrase makes such elements dry and dull and lacking in any sort of immediacy. Simply put, the LP sounds as though whatever potential the tracks had has been removed by constant alterations and the resulting holes patched by layers of lo-fi production and unnecessarily flatulent effects. It's disappointing.

Perhaps I'm being overly critical though. There are a few nice numbers on 'Ester', one of which is the re-recorded version of 'Candy Girl'. Just as infectious as it was when it was first dropped, the drum beat carries a consistent rhythm, the shoegaze guitar moody and subtle and forgiving. Susanne Aztoria's vocals swell and swoop, at their sweetest and at their most surreal. Evocative of Emily Kokal from Warpaint, there is a self-assurance here that appears lost in the majority of the tracks and their frustrating and indecisive nature. In the number 'You Wish You Were Red' there is a pleasant simplicity, the reverb not overly annoying as it softens a ballad-like lament. Strong guitar and bass allow the music to in many ways, simply breath, which is a formula I wish the band had followed a lot more.

While 'Candy Girl' survived its inclusion within the album, I fear 'Strangling Good Guys' did not. Sapped of its vigour by numerous futile revisions, the initially refreshing drums have been drowned in reverb, the guitar suffering a similar fate. The psychedelic 'Rolling Kiss the Universe' and its complexity brings a headache rather than an immersive and thought-provoking listen, the cluttered 'Dies in 55' offering no respite. The distractingly fast guitar on 'Engelhardt's Arizona' creates a nice contrast between vocals and instrumentation, but it's an accidental combination. The remaining few numbers did nothing for me. 'Starlatine' and 'Turkish Heights' brood pointlessly, indistinguishable lyricism musing their own warped sensibilities, and 'Black Hole's similar form lacks any relative variation.

All in all, 'Ester' is a bold opening statement for Trailer Trash Tracys to make. Whether or not they fail in relaying it, it is a bold statement. Sometimes their subtleties balance their complexities to form truly intriguing numbers, the instrumentation interesting and worthy of any listener's attention. Other times the band's need to constantly refine means some of the better elements are left on the cutting room floor, the resulting song flaccid and dreary in its execution. The fact that the album took two years to record reflects their indecision and makes you wonder. Is it worth waiting another couple of years for a sophomore LP? Stream 'Engelhardt's Arizona' below and grab the full album from the Tracys website here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

REVIEW// Mike Marlin: Man on the Ground

    Londoner Mike Marlin battled depression and alcoholism. An unpleasant fact, but a fact all the same. I cannot begin to fathom what life was like for Marlin, suffocating sadness an ever-present threat, but from the experience something wonderful has emerged. The wall of desperation stretched far, its abhorrent proportions a barrier to recovery. Marlin's new album 'Man on the Ground' is an acknowledgement of sorts, more so than even his debut. It admires the strange, twisting dimensions of depression's great hurdle, commending the sharp jutting contours of its vast, snarling façade. Through adulation of the immeasurable, the incomprehensible can be comprehended, and its this heartfelt recognition that life isn't always kind that makes 'Man on the Ground' so fantastic. Its intelligent combination of the somber and the sincere is offset by a gloriously hopeful sense of unparalleled euphoria, a mixture of the disappointingly realistic and its acceptance forming a refreshing blend.
Released twelve months after his debut album 'Nearly Man', 'Man on the Ground' shows a number of small imperfections. Rather than a negative however, sometimes I listen and an innate human quality seems to emerge. An infrequent repetition of certain sonic phrases lends both a monotony and a comforting consistency, rough moments a reflection of life's lows rather than a lack of flawless refinement. Marlin's lyricism is a key feature of the LP as well, so the occasional predictable rhyme and unusual line is easily overlooked. It is probably true that given time to mature, 'Man on the Ground' would have flown above any criticism, but in being on the ground the relation you can have with the music is multiplied ten-fold. There can be bad errors and there can be wonderfully human ones. Marlin has recorded eleven tracks that try and succeed in ensuring they limit themselves to the latter.

A multitude of influences reveal themselves within said eleven tracks. The National's post-rock aesthetic and use of piano is emulated. Johnny Cash's lyrical style and David Bowie's voice are all recognisable within each number, Elbow's love for orchestral instrumentation layered over both. Lou Reed, Badly Drawn Boy and a number of other inspirations seep into the music too, but surely this leaves little room for individuality? Marlin's management of his influences however is an intelligent one, the amalgamation of sounds mixed in such a way as to deter the label 'tribute act'. Instead, a unique authenticity emerges from these layers, the complexity of their combination providing a style and personality all their own!

The LP opens with 'The Magician' and its downbeat vibe. A ticking sound carries Marlin's vocals, gruff and despondent, yet eerily familiar. They warm, climbing and building into an incredible chorus, harmonious and somewhat smile-inducing. 'The Town's 80s-inspired synths back catchy lyricism, melancholia a wistful constant. Verses are broken by deep, evocative interludes, a reverberated sample drowning out the finish only to coax forth the next number 'Steve McQueen'. A tribute to the late and great American actor, something about the words hits home. A subtle, teary-eyed instrumental fluctuates between vocals as humbling as ever. The personification of death is wondrous, if nothing else. 'Lost And Found's overwhelming emotion and gut-wrenching builds are followed by 'Left Behind'. Its vintage guitar and wild west sense of loss and emptiness mark the end of 'Side A'.

The start of 'Side B' is 'Hymn To Disappointment', one of my favourite numbers on the LP. Contrary to its name, these three minutes are highlighted by their upbeat nature. Hopeful and reflective, the fast-paced build from 2:07 is fantastic, adding a great deal to the hook that follows it. The catchiest refrain on the album, it leads into 'Better', The National and their influence at its most noticeable. The 'Girl From Chelsea Bridge' succeeds 'Better' as the bitter-sweet reminiscence of a past relationship. Nostalgic and yet strangely content, the slow drum and soft piano of 'Heart Beat' are subtly different. A more immediate sound rests upon your ears, warm and relaxed instrumentation mooting a floundering romance. I think the next song 'Grand Central Station' is relatively formulaic, and therefore it washed over me. It isn't bad per say, but suffers from that spate of repetition I mentioned before.

The final track 'Travel The World' draws 'Man on the Ground' to a perfect conclusion. An illustrious and suitably gratifying number, Eleanor McEvoy swaps violin for vocals, forming a duet as heartbreaking as a hopeless fascination. Strings lament a loss, the lyrics telling of unwilling rebellion. It's a truly beautiful song, and a truly stunning finish to the album. It's a record that outdoes Marlin's debut in nearly every way, despite being just twelve months older. Varied in all its influences but consistently magnificent, hear a sample from 'Steve McQueen' below, then go and download 'Man on the Ground' from Marlin's website here!

You might have noticed that this is the first post after a short and completely unexpected hiatus. Life seemed simply get in the way. Nevertheless, I apologise for not replying to any emails, the pile of which is now inexplicably large. Thank you to everyone for not unliking the blog in my absence, and for your graceful patience! You can expect a lot of reviews!