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!