Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Caldera - Mist Through Your Consciousness

Artist: Caldera
Album: Mist Through Your Consciousness
Label: Radar Swarm Records / Atropine Records
Year: 2008

Coast Redwood
02. Juniper
03. Wollemia
04. F.I.R.
05. White Pine
06. Alerce
07. Kareh
08. Dawn Redwood


It appears that post-doom metal French band Caldera has come full circle. Originally an instrumental group, they experimented with vocalists a few years ago, only to return to the instrumental format for their new disc, Mist Through Your Consciousness.

The album name and song titles (named after tree species) may cause you to fear that you’re in for some mushy hippie nonsense, but Caldera provides enough mean riffage to dispel all thoughts of brown rice and Birkenstocks. The album cover art is a claustrophobic vision of some sinister woodland of Weir, which is a lot closer to the record’s spirit. The fact is, Caldera follows their muse wherever it takes them, and damn the consequences. This music is epic, melodic, flowing, layered, and tight as hell. Acoustic sits beside electric while light flows into dark, by turns as quiet as a woodland sprite whispering in your ear or huge and slamming as an army of angry Ents, all interconnected in a series of colorful instrumental dreams.

Although the group is clearly a natural as an instrumental outfit, there were times when I felt the lack of vocals, that they might have improved things here and there. Also, this release might have best been presented as an EP, with four or five tunes engaging the listener and leaving them begging for more. The fundamental challenge of all instrumental music is that the chops have to be perfect and the compositions engaging in order to compensate for the lack of the usual focus of the listener’s attention: the vocals. Caldera has proven that they’re more than equal to the task.-Kevin McHugh(

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ef - Give Me Beauty Or Give Me Death

Artist: Ef
Album: Give Me Beauty Or Give Me Death
Label: And the sound
Year: 2006

01. Ett
02. Hello Scotland
03. Final Touch Hidden Agenda
04. He Came He Stayed He Fell
05. Tomorrow My Friend...
06. Well Meet In The End
07. Misinform The Uninformed (bonus track)


This quintet hailing from Gothenbourg, Sweden, offers a soothing, atmospheric, and dense form of post-rock, comparable to bands like Mono or Yndi Halda. With six tracks clocking in at 55 minutes, this release is certainly not bad; it offers tracks which are relaxing, rhythmic, interesting, and dynamic, but ultimately, remain unmemorable. I’m not quite ready to condemn the band to death, however, as it does seem to meet its stated objective. The album does tend to grow on the listener after repeat listens, and it is a rewarding experience to come to appreciate the delicateness of these melodies, as they are quite subtle. It is a solid debut, but still nothing completely earth shattering, although I would recommend Give me Beauty... as a good album to chill out to (possibly while indulging in some stereotypical, late night, illegal inhalations.) The tones, textures, rhythms, and arrangements are not entirely original and will not leave you aching for the next opportunity to listen again. Sonically, Ef offers a pleasant mix of ambient noise, guitar tremolo, and sparkling dynamism all underlain with slow, tribal drums and strings.

Ef may be at their best when they make use of the addition of duel male/female vox, which are unfortunately used sparingly, and seem rather out of place when one considers them in context of the whole composition. The epic, 12:17 long track, "Hello Scotland", reaches several grand climaxes, but suffers from weak transitions. In the equally epic "Final Touch / Hidden Agenda", the band comes together in the perfect synergy of lulling ambience, rocking beats, gentle guitars, duel vocals, a hint of melodica, (or perhaps accordion, either way, Swedes always tend to use these instruments well) and convincing, appropriate climaxes.

I don’t intend for this to come off too negative, for there is truly a lot on this album to enjoy. It seems, however, to be representative of the kind of run-of-the-mill, mediocre output that we are presently witnessing coming out in the ‘post-rock’ genre. Although the music is listenable, and the musicians proficient, the creativity and groundbreaking originality I associate with genre defining artists (such as GY!BE, EITS, ASMZ, Mogwai, etc.) is no longer present in 90% of the albums currently coming out. As the output of bands under the umbrella of post-rock expands exponentially, the ubiquity of such mediocre releases strikes me as worrisome for a genre that is, hopefully, in its infancy.

This is a solid debut release, however, and I will look forward to the next release by Ef. I think that this band has a lot of potential, and hopefully will further explore the use of vocals, perhaps going in a direction akin to Jeniferever, using vocals less sparingly and allowing for them to become more integral parts of their compositions. I am reminded of KC Accidental or early Broken Social Scene, (although not sonically) as a group whose instrumental songs where given sorely needed direction once vocals were added. Without the cinematic intuition of acts like EITS or GY!BE to grant their instrumental tunes direction, vocals can possibly transform this mediocre outfit into something spectacular. -Joseph Sannicandro (

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Junius - Junius

Artist: Junius
Album: Junius
Label: Radar
Year: 2007

01. Elan vital
02. Hiding knives
03. From the isle of the blessed
04. Elan fatale (Inaudible secrets)
05. Forcing out the silence
06. The annunciation
07. Blood is bright
08. A word could kill her
09. In the hearts of titans
10. At the age of decay


It is always refreshing to come across a particular album that can be played for days on end. With their self-titled album Boston quartet Junius, are likely to make the top of your playlist, and stay there for awhile. From the very first track, your ears will be encompassed by sound that is warm and comforting, yet dark and dramatic. It latches onto your mood and emotions, and spins them around until numbness ensues. Junius has created an album solid enough to rock out to, yet comforting enough to play while relaxing.

While the album borders on being heavy, it purposefully stops short, reflecting their style of balancing aggressive elements with more soothing, melodic tones. Like the work of A Perfect Circle and Dredg, Junius’ style has intensity capable of changing the ambiance in a room. Lead singer Joseph Martinez brings a diverse style to the album, texturing the tracks and making each one of them sound a bit different from the last.

The most memorable tracks are “Hiding Knives,” “Blood is Bright” and “At the Age of Decay,” since they showcase the band’s intensity, dramatic lyrics, and unique sound. Boston has good reason to be proud of Junius. They represent a new wave of progressive rock with an incredibly original style. - Dan Gotleib (

Official site
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Friday, April 4, 2008

Sleeping People - Growing

Artist: Sleeping People
Album: Growing
Label: Temporary Residence
Year: 2007

01. Centipede's Dream
02. James Spader
03. Yellow Guy Pink Eye
04. Mouth Breeder
05. ...Out Dream
06. Three Things
07. Grow Worm
08. Underland
09. It's Heart Loves Open
10. People Staying Awake


2007 might as well be the Age of Math Rock. Battles broke the seal months ago yet the shtick is already growing thin, with traditional 4/4 a thing of the past (pre-Mirrored). Leave that ordinary music to Mom and Pop, this is the New World Order, only dudes with mega-testosterone and hairy chests allowed. It is a pretty awesome lifestyle and Sleeping People want in. But even this chaotic genre needs a coherent song structure. Time signatures and complexity play out heavy-handedly throughout and unpredictability remains deliberate. In other words, the randomness is planned. So its (initially) refreshing to hear dudes play intricately without the need to show off. By keeping their hands on the wheel the album stays comprehensible, without the muddy confusion of Don Caballero.
“James Spader” kick starts Growing, after a brief “Centipede’s Dream,” with brisk drumming and simmering guitars plowing towards false crescendos with each measure then backing down into a steady groove—rinse and repeat several times. But “James Spader” isn’t a snoozer in the least and features the first great surprise of Growing: just before three minutes a glorious slice of metal heaven erupts with cyclical guitars weaving throughout urgent drums. It is a moment that personifies the Hollywood yuppie of our youth, a douchebag with feathered hair and a shit-eating grin letting us know that “This is pure cashmere and, oh right, I just cooked up one of the best guitar riffs of the year, ciao.” The rest of the track devolves into a satisfyingly hectic barrage of blastbeats and breakdowns, making up for the guilty pleasure of astral guitars. The variety of ranges make this the show-off track, from prog to math to metal. In writing, this sounds terrible, but a lack of pretense gives Sleeping People the benefit of the doubt.
Yet this is the main gripe with the album, covering up technically proficient moments with tough-guy bravado. Growing’s best moments occur when Sleeping People reach for the stars rather than playing it safe. “Yellow Guy Pink Eye” lets the drummer shine, juxtaposing a bombardment of blastbeats with light, airy guitars that ripen into hypnotic loops. “Three Things” is back to basics after the missteps of “Mouth Breeder” (which finds new levels of spiritless energy, losing all momentum from the previous tracks and devolving into a soundscape of flat ambient drone) and “Out Dream.” The guitars give the record a welcome shot of adrenaline, with guitar peaks like jackals cornering their prey before the kill. With “Three Things,” the most post-rock influenced song on Growing, shit is bound to pop off amidst the technical guitar swells. At four minutes we have liftoff and the track mushrooms into the crowning moment of Sleeping People’s career; there has to be some sort of pixie riff-making factory they visit, this is otherworldly stuff and proves loudness is not necessary to affect the listener or make a crowd perk up.
Growing’s audience divides after “Three Things.” If intricate drumming and Television synchronized guitars interest you, check out the first half of the album and stop reading here. Otherwise, the last half of Growing in a sentence: Goblin influenced ambient score with Pinback singer on vox.
Stretching themselves over several genres, Sleeping People’s cohesiveness and credibility suffers in the transition. This is intro to math rock: erratic but not chaotic, complexity rears its head in the form of tightly weaved instruments, compared to the unraveling of time signatures and symmetry.
For an album titled Growing, Sleeping People don’t make any advances in the genre—and there are so many here to pick from. Audiences looking for a cacophony of noise or instrumental freak outs will disregard Growing, casting it off as totally safe and accessible, the station wagon of math rock, which is fine; Sleeping People have released a consistently tight album with stellar moments for plenty of genre sycophant. Ultimately though, I want a band with some personality and extreme character flaws rather than none at all, or a focused precision rather than thin-stretched noodling. Sometimes I just need to hear Brian Chippendale bang on trash cans while wearing a sock over his head.

Official site
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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Caspian / Constants - Split 7''

Artist: Caspian / Constants
Album: Split 7''
Label: Radar Recordings
Year: 2008

01. La Cerva
02. ...Passage


As my live review of Caspian and Constants attests, I’m in awe of these nonpareil post-rock outfits that hail from Massachusetts. Part of what made the show I attended so special was the chance to experience music from the band’s respective upcoming full-lengths in its inchoate yet thrilling stages.

To whet the proverbial appetite for tuneage from two of post-rock’s most exciting acts, Radar Recordings — the label co-owned by Constants frontman Will Benoit — released a 7’’ split containing one track from each band’s forthcoming release. Both tracks are bangers in no need of mash, the effort from Caspian particularly engaging because the band’s decision to “just let it rip and let it stay as dirty as possible.” Constants’ contribution marks their first recording with new drummer Rob Motes (ex Coma Recovery); replacing the off-kilter creativity and power of Ducan Rich being no easy task.

Drowning the Post

Caspian’s “La Cerva” commences the record, and despite the portentous aura of its initial tremolo, the listener doesn’t anticipate the track’s trajectory… or the way, unlike most post-rock staples, this number belies a trajectory by just going about its business, grooving, ripping, kickin’ ass; it’s like an extended version of You Are the Conductor’s opener “Quovis.” After some research, I’m still unsure what “cerva” means, but the mood of the song is definitely marine, and the consistent pace conveys the sensation of being bobbed amongst and by billows, spume enlacing the eyes and ears. Despite the minor key befitting the setting, there’s also a sense of jubilation at the freedom exuded by the track; the autonomy of submission perhaps to the sea’s command and the need to jettison the mandates of post-rock and just… rock.

Layne Staley Fronts Isis

Beginning predictably beautifully enough with production from Will Benoit, Constants’ “…Passage” is also interesting in the way it departs slightly from the post/space-rock the band purveys: when Jon Hassel's vocals enter, one is somehow reminded of Layne Staley. Musically Constants has always echoed the lumbering, exhausted feel of Isis, while managing to conjoin this to the dexterity of Maserati and on The Murder of Tom Fitzgerril Benoit’s singing was analogous to Aaron Turner’s buried screams on Panopticon. Here, however, Hassel's delivery has more of a presence, and, while a bit unexpected, it certainly is a welcome change. So now that Layne Staley has returned from the dead to supplant Turner, we have quite the amazing composition: the track is easily the most canorous of the band’s career and the main instrumental theme has to be heard to believe. Towards the end of the second verse when aforesaid theme concludes, there’s a transition from hulking mass to transcendent thrashing that makes me go apeshit every time. Finally, following a ghostly lull, an absolutely crushing riff surfaces somehow beneath the weight of itself and bleeds the track to its last.

Bottom line: I guarantee any fan of Caspian or post-rock in general will love “La Cerva”, an excellent track that makes me hunger for more blazing Caspian. Still, it’s perhaps the subtler “…Passage” with its grunge vocals that should sway any casual fan or non record player owner — like me — into purchasing this 7’’. Not only do you get the mp3s, you can’t afford to wait for the full-lengths to experience these gems, and the artwork is gorgeous.-Stephen Chamberlain (

Official site
Caspian / Constants
Caspian / Constants
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kids Return - Tongue Tied

Artist: Kids Return
Album: Tongue Tied
Label: Tower Of Power Records
Year: 2007

01. The World Is Burning And I'm Playing Video Games
02. Untitled
03. This Island
04. On Shelves, On Looking
05. In The Dead Of Night
06. The Sea, The Sky, The Trees
07. Ben Folds Was Right
08. Communication


It is traditional that every year I "pen" a review that contains a sentence that says "it is traditional that every...", hang on, this isn't going to work... Ok, every year we get one or two emo records that are worth adding to the pantheon of the genre. This year, both of those LPs have been released by UK bands. One of them is Kids Return. When I put this LP on last night for the first time, my jaw dropped and I played air guitar in the kitchen instead of washing up to the spiralling climax of "The World Is Burning...". It was spot on, it was the best kind of music. The music which takes over my dis-coordinated body and makes it move in some kind of rhythm, clapping my hands and not really looking like I am quite with it.
Kids Return offer up 8 songs of intense, melodic emo. It's all about the driving guitars that play off each other, working in the twinkles, the sing/speak/shout/sob vocals, and all the other elements that this sound is known for, albeit so sporadically in the waning years of the first decade of the twenty first century. The vocals are a particular stand-out for me, I am struggling to think of a way to phrase it without sounding horribly technical, which would be so far removed from the music, so I won't bother.
There are all sorts of bands that this compares well to, chiefly it brings to mind Life at these Speeds first LP, but also the REDS LP, and with touches of Yaphet Kotto and September. It's not a direct imitation of any of those, nor any of the many other mid 90s forebears, but the band brings together each component to create a fine, fine album.
It would be amiss of me to neglect to mention the attention to detail in the packaging, this has been lovingly crafted and proves that the people in this band are up to their necks in it. With so few bands going the extra mile these days, it's impossible to dismiss it as cynical or bandwagon hopping as it may have been back when every emo 7" came in an envelope with 100 screen printed pictures of broken, rusting cars.
Be sure to spend a few moments with the lyric booklet too, for it contains observations and feelings that will strike a chord with most if not all. Who knew emo lyrics didn't have to be about lost love or so contrived that they were lost on all but the writer?
And so. 2007 draws to an end, and we get that emo record that a few of us crave, to keep the music ticking over. Wonderful. -by Andy Malcolm(

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Jakob - Subsets Of Sets

Artist: Jakob
Album: Subsets Of Sets
Label: Midium
Year: 2001

01. Drive here and then
02. I'm on your side
03. Nice day for an earthquake
04. Ageena
05. A moment from different angles
06. Aural
07. Calmrock
08. Overseen
09. Sainnes
10. Ryan
11. The collar sets well
12. Some summer


The third release in 2001 from Midium [following the Meterman and Day One albums], is one of the one of the lushest and expansive bands playing in New Zealand, with their debut album, “Subsets Of Sets”.

With bomb-like sereneness, ‘Subset of Sets’ flows from ocean deep lulls to ferocious peaks that threaten the longevity of ones listening device. Recorded by David Holmes, at the Venn Production studios in Napier, Jacob have been able to capture both the pin-drop quietness of the most subtle spacious harmonic as well as the dense wall of sound that is so powerful in their live shows.

Having been nominated four times at the b-Net music awards including best new artist and best album, and playing live at the 2001 awards as well, they now open out with their new album and fresh distribution throughout New Zealand by Zomba. We hope you enjoy this fine stereo recording as other previewed listeners have, and embellish the fluctuating sonic troughs, that is: Jakob.

Turns of phrase… the sound of the underwater mainstream symphonic resonant landscapes, valleys of complex harmonics never cynical always moody often dark always uplifting laid-back and mellow no vocalist – but still has a hook – a listener hears melodies rising up in their ears – resonating with the music driving syncopated beats moving through hip-hop, drum n bass to jazz lush layers of melodic guitar over sonorous bass and oscillating grooves guitar and bass are the string section… the elemental forces like wind and fire while the drums drive underneath with a rhythmical shock treatment which stops the mass from resonating into a cloud of molecules.-(

Official site
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