Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thursday & Envy - Split

Artist: Thursday & Envy
Album: Split
Label: Temporary Residence
Year: 2008

01. Thursday - As He Climbed The Dark Mountain
02. Thursday - In Silence
03. Thursday - An Absurd And Unrealistic Dream Of Peace
04. Thursday - Appeared And Was Gone
05. Envy - An Umbrella Fallen Into Fiction
06. Envy - Isolation Of A Light Source
07. Envy - Pure Birth And Loneliness

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

To say that I’d been waiting for this with baited breath would be an understatement: Envy are simply brilliant and Thursday have always held some favour with me, even through the rocky A City By The Light Divided years. Spine-chilling album artwork and a seven-track listing of names far too long to be functional led me to a glorious conclusion: this was to be, on paper if nothing else, something new for Thursday and something typical of Envy.

As He Climbed the Dark Mountain confirms any thoughts of a new outlook on the part of Thursday: faced-paced, technical riffing intertwined with expeditious drumming makes Rickly’s trademark rasp stand out more than ever. It’s raspy again: it seems that they’ve left behind the post-production excesses of their most recent work and it really is better for it. Track two of Thursday’s four is the somewhat more experimental In Silence. With an introduction smacking of the likes of Jesu with its synthesiser-meets-droning-ambiance-of-guitars dynamic. This is like no other Thursday song released before: it’s fully instrumental and borders upon the definition of musically ‘epic’. It wondrously leads from the aforementioned droning amidst synthesisers into a piano chord-bashing exercise, only to rise again to the heights of a tremulous soundscape almost aping the work of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. An Absurd and Unrealistic Dream of Peace begins hauntingly: barely audible piano and guitars raise hairs which are only to be flattened seconds later by the violent progression of distorted guitar chords to come. Once again fast and technical, the instrumental work here is beyond simply ‘impressive’, it’s standard-setting for bands within Thursday’s peer group. Appeared and Was Gone is another instrumental song, this time with piano leading a march into the deepest of electronic noise experimentation: we climax with nothing short of sonic cataclysm. This is not typical Thursday: this is an evolved, matured Thursday; somewhat ironically looking back to their earlier works of Waiting and Full Collapse for inspiration.

Envy’s half of the split is just as impressive. An Umbrella Fallen into Fiction is as progressive as anything by Envy: a four-minute, low-key introduction mixing electronic and ‘real’ instrumentation with the soft-spoken monologue of Tetsuya Fukagawa leading to a passionate explosion of screams amidst a background of swirling guitars. And it still works. It’s still surprising. That guttural, visceral exhalation is still as passionate as it was on Breathing and Dying in this Place. Isolation of a Light Source is more direct: the pretext of an introduction is done away with and immediacy takes its place. Divine riffs cross with incomprehensibly quick drumming to form a whole which embodies the spirit of the band’s music: technical, whilst not devoid of feeling; the anguish in Fukagawa’s voice is truly discernible. Pure Birth and Loneliness takes a step back in terms of tempo, whilst providing the same softly-spoken and tremolo picked delights of Japanese rock, as well as the throat-exercises so resplendently executed. Nothing is an excess: it’s all essential, from the scream-talk dichotomy to the soft-hard ascensions of instrumentation.

This split is the best that I have heard all year, no mistake to be made about it. Through this collaboration, Thursday really have gone back to their better days, and Envy remain as consistent as they always have been. It’s thirty-three minutes of stylistic exploration by both parties, and it really shows: it’s something different from both bands’ back catalogue, and a will to play around with ideas surely only has positive connotations for the futures of both of these bands. (adistortedreality.com)

Official site - Thursday
Official site - Envy
MySpace - Thursday
MySpace - Envy
Buy it

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Conifer - Crown Fire

Artist: Conifer
Album: Crown Fire
Label: Important Records
Year: 2008

01. Surface Fire
02. Cruciform Empennage
03. History Of Disappointment
04. Song For Krom
05. Breathe Hold
06. Into The Gauntlet
07. Crown Fire

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

Confier play psychedelic sludge metal in the same vein as Pelican and The Russian Circles, pushing heavy, wiry instrumentals to stratospheric heights. Making Crown Fire stand out, aside from its stellar musicianship, is its organic flow and Eastern-tinged flourishes. Its spiraling riffs and cyclical percussion roll on hypnotically, creating a immersing, stoner-friendly torrent of sound. Its more expansive pieces are set beside dense jams like "Song for Krom" which blends deep bass attacks a la Kyuss with celestial release.

There’s really nothing wrong with this record - its focused, intense, well produced and a fine thing to trip out to. Conifer do however sound very similar to their many rivals in the the sludge/doom metal genre, making their natural and fluid sound seem more constrained than it should. There are some attempts at experimentation, including some spacey post-rock noodling ("History of Disappointment") and even some oddball vocals towards the end of the record, but these brief moments seem somewhat forced compared to their more refined and confident performances.

While Crown Fire may not be breaking any new ground (I know, its an unreasonable expectation for this young band), its still a great piece of work that matches the tremendous energy of Isis, Pelican, Cult of Luna or whoever else is leading the post-metal pack these days. If you are already immersed in this exploding underground scene, then you should certainty check out Conifer. They are, as their name implies, one of the most organic sounding metal bands around. (therockblogger.com)

Buy it

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

North - What You Were

Artist: North
Album: What You Were
Label: Cavity Records
Year: 2008

01. Possibilities
02. Ghosts among us
03. I am become death
04. Falling in perpetuum
05. Intentions
06. Eidolon
07. What you were
08. Perspectives
09. Veiled in light
10. Reflections

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

Having heard North described as post-rock in the vein of Pelican and Isis, I was not prepared for what I heard when I first gave their latest album, "What You Were," its first spin. Where Pelican could be described as more melodic and spacey with heavy undertones, North's latest release is very much the opposite - heavy with melodic undertones. Musically, "What You Were" does remind me very much of Pelican's recent "City Of Echoes" at times, only a little heavier with lots of added distortion and heavy, reverberating bass lines. By all accounts, the differences might have stopped there, but this instrumental band decided to feature vocals throughout the album, courtesy of Kyle Hardy and guest vocals by Rob Smith of HeavyHeavyLowLow. After adding these guttural growls of despair as vocals, the end result is considerably heavier than their previously mentioned post-rock contemporaries, however.

The shock I felt came shortly into the second track, "Ghosts Among Us," following a brief, spacey intro. "Ghosts Among Us" starts out innocently enough, with a clean guitar intro for nearly a minute before the heaviness kicks in with added guitar distortion and the vocals, which could be roughly described as a distorted growl.

Most of the album follows suit, continuing with heavy, distorted mid-paced songs, with a couple of clean, spacey tracks to break up the monotony. Unlike many other mid-paced, heavy albums, "What You Were" does not seem to tire. The droning pace is perfect for the style of music, and while some of the songs tend to blend together, the band throws in just enough tempo changes, clean guitars, and vocal variations to keep things interesting.

"Falling In Perpetuum" stands out as one of the better tracks. In addition to the heavy distortion and growls, this song manages at times to perfectly juxtapose an uplifting melodic tune with even more disparaging wails. Somehow, it works.

"Eidolon" is an interesting song, opening with a calm, somber yet optimistic tune before transitioning to a heavier, distorted riff once again. Yet the song keeps the melodic undertones of the previous tune throughout. "Eidolon" breaks from the heavier distortion several times, reverting to the calmer clean guitar parts, doing a great job of keeping the listener's attention.

Still remaining mid-paced, the album's title track sounds somewhat more aggressive and angry than those that preceded it. "Perspectives" follows - another short calming interlude - before the final behemoth of a near-instrumental song, "Veiled In Light." Clocking in at over seven and a half minutes long, "Veiled In Light" comes across as the album's epic song, switching often between heavier and clean, up-tempo parts. From the mid-point, the growling vocals are introduced, and the song starts a gradual build up of intensity, leaving the clean guitars behind entirely. The intensity seems to climax a couple of minutes before the song's end, only to restart and climax once more just before the end.

The album is finally rounded out by "Reflections" - a somber piece that would seem a peaceful ending if it weren't for the wailing, far off in the background.

I really enjoy well-executed instrumental post-rock, and Pelican has become a recent favorite of mine. However, one cannot not fault North's "What You Were" at all for having vocals. The vocals fit perfectly and give the album an entirely different feel. The end result is better than I could possibly have imagined and I look forward to North's future efforts, with or without vocals.

Highs: The entire concept of interesting melodies overlayed with heaviness, distortion and growling

Lows: As a largely mid-paced affair, some of the songs tend to blend together

Bottom line: If you are a fan of post-rock or heavy, atmospheric music, this is a must-have album (metalunderground.com)

Official site
Buy it

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Seven Nautical Miles - Every Ocean Reversed

Artist: Seven Nautical Miles
Album: Every Ocean Reversed
Label: Sound Devastation
Year: 2008

01. Crane
02. Hide Away The Sun
03. Landscapes
04. Thieves
05. Our Eyes
06. Take Me Away

Download part 2
pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

"Every Ocean Reversed is a highly mature piece of work from a relatively young band. Featuring six songs and clocking in just under an hour in length the album traverses a lot of ground; journeying between crushing waves of heavy, iconic riffs to gorgeous tremolo sections that are breathtakingly beautiful and strangely anthemic.

Every Ocean Reversed is a stunning album, with a much more diverse sound than many oft-criticised 'epic' metal bands. The heavier moments are incredibly dense with a doom/sludge tinged feel to them; the lighter moments move and interact with the rest of the music with a grace most bands are rarely blessed with."

The album was mixed by Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna).
Artwork was done by Pierre Johansson (Breach).
The album comes packaged in a 6-panel digipak with a matte finish. (sonicfrontiers.net)

Buy it

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Red Paper Dragon - Songs Of Innocence

Artist: Red Paper Dragon
Album: Songs Of Innocence
Label: Sound Devastation
Year: 2007


01. Polar Bear
02. If Not Now, When
03. Fear Of Falling
04. ...Happens For A Reason
05. Tidal

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

Red Paper Dragon are a tricky one to review. Their debut EP, Songs of Innocence, has been released by the unarguably hip label that is Sound Devastation Records, and they are associates of The Pirate Ship Quintet. Let’s face it, even their EP name adds to this culmination of post-rock chic and eloquence that is currently bubbling around the UK. Songs of Innocence is an evocative debut and as usual, means Sound Devastation becomes portrayed as some idyllic, utopic realm of creativity but more importantly, bloody good debut records.

Songs of Innocence is a rather thrilling listen. Opening track "Polar Bear" is a stellar example of the band's dedication to this record, incorporating distorted, dystopic guitar to great effect. A brief dissemination of "Polar Bear" leaves a lot of material to work through -- rallying vocals free from the criticism that has been previously prescribed to The Strange Death of Liberal England. The all-favourite binary oppositions of ‘clean’ vs. ‘distorted,’ oddly free from cliché, apparently rather unlike Forward March, which evoked I’ll admit, eloquently and logical ‘rage’ in one TSB reviewer.

Moving on, there’s the rhythm switches in later efforts such as "If Not Now, When?" Indeed, there is an obvious sense of urgency to the record, but it is not that of "socio-political commentary," it is much, much more than this. Red Paper Dragon have released a debut EP on a record label that is full of interesting debut efforts. Of course, when parting with your hard-earned coin, it may seem reasonable to suggest "I’ve got The Pirate Ship Quintet, do I really need this?" Yes, you do. Red Paper Dragon will not be disappearing into obscurity any time soon and Songs of Innocence is proof of this. With such a wide array of material already expressed on in this brief venture into the studio, Red Paper Dragon obviously have a lot to offer. You may ask "If they have not done it now, then when will they?" I suggest you should stick around to find out, as I can assure you, it will be soon. (by Holly Joy Emblem -thesilentballet.com)

Official Site

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sunn O))) - Dømkirke

Artist: Sunn O)))
Album: Dømkirke
Label: Southern Lord
Year: 2008


01. Why Dost Thou Hide Thyself In Clouds?
02. Cannon
03. Cymatics
04. Masks The Ætmospheres

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

Last year sunn 0))) was invivted to perform at a ancient cathedral in Bergen Norway . The performance was captured via 24 track mobile recording and the resuluts were pressed onto double 180 gram vinyl. This recording will be available exclusively on vinyl only. There will not be a digital release (cd or downloads). Pure analog! The 0))) lineup for this performance includes Attila Csihar (Mayhem) on vocals, Steve Moore (Earth, Ascend) on the churchs' legendary pipe organ and Norwegian native Lasse Marhaug on electronics.

The packaging for "Dømkirke" was designed with the utmost attention to detail and quality that perfectly compliments the audio content. Each 180 gram vinyl comes in a heavy stock, full color inner sleeve that features stunning photographs from the performance. The cover of the gatefold jackets feature exclusive art by Tanya Stene (Burzum, Ulver, Darkthrone).

The jackets themselves are ultra-durable extra thick cardboard stock with thick, luxurious lamination. These were modeled after the Impulse! labels' LP jackets from the '60s. This package is durable, built to last and serves as the perfect shelter for this archival release.

Behold the glory!

Nicholas Mollerhaug, the festival curator, wrote these liner notes for the album:

"Our idea behind this concert was to commission a piece of music from Sunn O))) referring to the gothic gregorian hymns of the Late Middle Ages. Hymns that flourished Bergen Cathedral in its earliest years: The age of the Great Famine and The Black Plague. The gregorian hymns of this time reflected the despair, the terrors and darkness of the world. Musically the hymns consisted of long slow lines of unison melodies. The unisonity, the dark mood and the slow melodic development are all elements that also can be traced back to Sunn O)))'s musical universe. These parallells between Sunn O))) and the medieval times gave birth to this commission - premiered at the grand final of Borealis Festival 2007.

The Bergen Domkirke is dedicated to the Norwegian king and patron saint Olav (995-1030). The church was built around 1150. In the 1240s it was given to Fransiscan beggar munks. After fires in 1248 and 1270 the building was extended. With the financial help of king Magnus Lagabøte (1263-1280) the church got its present form and was finished in 1301. The very same king is buried in the chansel of the church. After the reformation the church became the cathedral of Bergen. It was then again struck by fire in 1463 and 1702. A cannon ball in the the church tower is a reminisence of the Battle of Bergen Bay in 1665.

This record documents what happens when aesthetic openness and lack of prejudice rules in a medieval cathedral.

Without these values inhabited in the legendary kantor of Bergen Cathedral- Magnar Mangersnes - this concert would never have been possible.

- Nicholas Mollerhaug"

Official Site

Monday, October 13, 2008

Grief - Come To Grief

Artist: Grief
Album: Come To Grief
Label: Century Media
Year: 1994


01. Earthworm
02. Hate Grows Stronger
03. World Of Hurt
04. I Hate You
05. Ruined
06. Fed Up
07. Stricken
08. Come To Grief

Download part 2
pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

Grief are not a happy band. On this, their second release, they continue their own brand of world hating doom begun on their debut 'Dismal', reaching into the very core of emotions such as hatred and anguish, wrenching them into the world for all to see. They not only hate the world, they also hate themselves: "I slither in the dirt and mud, because that's where I belong".

Grief have long been compared to such "sludge" greats as Crowbar and Eyehategod. The truth is, they are like no others. They sound only like themselves, and the disgust they emit with every passing, languid note, has yet to be replicated by any other band. Think of all the pain and hatred you have ever experienced in your life, and then multiply that by 100. You will be near the emotional state of this band.

Musically, Grief are a very "harsh" sounding doom band. The production on this release is certainly worthy of the music, but don't expect the slick nature of more romantic doom metal bands. Grief are dirty, they really are in the mud, and the sound takes you down there with them, into their world of worms. There are no stand out tracks, the album flows from one song to the next, a seemingly endless stream of suffering, and abject hatred for all of humanity.

Grief is certainly not for everyone, in fact they are probably for very few, but if you enjoy the harsher side of doom, then pick up 'Come to Grief'. You too will then know the pain of these tortured souls - some of it at least.

Official Site
Buy (out of print)
Preorder (2X12 LP, Throne Records Re-release)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grails - Doomsdayer's Holiday

Artist: Grails
Album: Doomsdayer's Holiday
Label: Temporary Residence
Year: 2008

01. Doomsdayer's Holiday
02. Reincarnation Blues
03. The Natural Man
04. Immediate Mate
05. Predestination Blues
06. X-Contaminators
07. Acid Rain

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

Touted as Grails' darkest and heaviest album to date, Doomsdayer's Holiday begins with a slow fade-in of banshee-like howl before a wall of drums clatters in. The guitars instantly arrange themselves into a formation reminiscent of a classic, slow riffing Earth record (in fact Randall Dunn is on hand as an engineer), harmonising in a variety of classic sludge metal patterns up until the more exploratory 'Reincarnation Blues' fires up, taking on a more diverse range of instruments for a psychedelic and deeply atmospheric slice of retro fuzz-rock. Once again the riffing is pretty darn majestic. Things get more peculiar still by the time we arrive at 'The Natural Man', which employs a creepy dulcimer line to evoke '70s soundtrack vibes, a theme continued by the smooth, bluesy basslines of 'Immediate' before it all spills into an orgy of free drumming and spluttering noise. Showing up for vocal duties on 'Predestination Blues' is Sun City Girl Alan Bishop, who adds to the atmosphere of droning, modal prog without making too deep an impact on the instrumental backbone of the piece. The final two tracks 'X-Contaminations' and 'Acid Rain' stray yet further from the world of metal - especially the latter, which confusingly borders on lounge-bound easy listening jazz for the most part. If this song were a pair of trousers they'd be made from brown corduroy. A confusing endpoint that only exacerbates the web of psychedelic intrigue surrounding the album. Recommended. (boomkat.com)

Official site
Buy it

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Orthodox - Amancer En Puerta Oscura

Artist: Orthodox
Album: Amanecer En Puerta Oscura
Label: Southern Lord Records
Year: 2007

01. Con sangre de quien te ofenda
02. Mesto, rigido e ceremoniale
03. Solemne Triduo
04. Amancer en Puerta Oscura
05. Puerta Osario
06. Templos
07. Parte II. Apogeum

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

Orthodox is a drone/doom band hailing from Spain. Their 2006 release Gran Poder was a throbbing, droning juggernaut of a doom album that was more than reminiscent of Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine's Rampton album mixed with YOB's heaviest moments. On Amanecer En Puerta Oscura, Orthodox drops the pulsating doom of Gran Poder in favor of a more striking blend of styles and instrumentation. This makes Amanecer... a thoroughly entertaining listen that has as much to offer as anything essential released in this somewhat saturated genre.

The first thing to note, and to the detriment of the album in some ways, is the album cover's likeness to Earth. This is made even more apparent on the first track, "Con Sangre De Quien Te Ofenda", as it has droning clean guitars and some dissonant out of tune horns (I'm guessing a trumpet and possibly a saxophone). The drums are not as "reverbed" as they were on Gran Poder and the upright bass cuts right through the mix while the overall mix maintains all resonance and warmth without sounding over-produced.

Yet what makes Amanecer... such an entertaining album is the distinctly different vibe on each song. "Mesto, Rigido E Cermoniale" has a Pelican vibe and "Solemne Triduo" is a stock doom/stoner song but is the only song on the album that has vocals. Meanwhile, the 15 minute "Templos" is a very blatant hats off to 70's prog and would not be out of place on any 70s era King Crimson or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer albums. The song isn't especially technical or jammy but the noises and atmospheric drone present are so Crimson it hurts. Listen to Crimson's Lark's Tongue in Aspic sometime if you find it too hard to believe.

The instruments on this album are especially eclectic. Mouth harp, horns, pianos, organs, nylon string guitars, and I'm sure something else is buried in the mix. The bandmembers themselves are of the highest caliber for this type of music and they make their presence known. Moreso here than on Gran Poder.

Overall, if you like Pelican, Neurosis, SunnO))), Isis, Earth etc. then there's really nothing holding you back from enjoying Orthodox. What the band lacks, seemingly, in originality, they more than make up for in genuine musical enthusiasm as this album will take you on a solid 48 minute trip through why this genre continues to deliver the occasional homerun (which Amanecer... is). If I would have gotten to this album sooner it would have likely cracked my top ten for 2007. Highly recommended and thoroughly intriguing release. Mix with THC for optimal results.

Official site
Buy it

Monday, October 6, 2008

Since (Time) - Entropiate

Artist: Since (Time)
Album: Entropiate
Label: Venerate Industries
Year: 2008


01. Introverse
02. Two Questiones And Three Complaints
03. 3am_1000 thoughts_min
04. Please Light, Clarify Yourself For Me
05. Through That Dark Cloud Came Our Redemption
06. Horizon's Exode

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

It takes certain bands quite some time to settle, not only in regards to their line-up, but also their sound, and more importantly, their possibilities of making an album. Greece’s Since (Time) started off in 2003, recorded a short demo in 2005, and have finally released a full debut album, which is the subject of this review. Even if I’m glad to say that they’ve made a quality recording, the band’s still got a relatively long road to travel in order to become much more than what they are now.

Entropiate is, in that sense, a jumpstart, a step in a direction which may prove good for both band and listeners. “Introverse” greets us with a dark, delicate ambience that opens up the gates of this self-contained universe and plunges our minds into the passive (as in lack of physical movement) act of experiencing a thoughtful solitude, akin to that of losing oneself at the fringes of consciousness deep at night. “Two Questions and Three Complaints” continues on in this vein -- a vein that sounds like a less explosive version of any of Gifts From Enola’s debut tracks -- crafting a meditative mood which seems, at times, immersed in a kind of decadence; the complaints outnumber the questions, the deconstructive is greater than the constructive even if both could aim for the same things, and we’re burdened into static, cyclic, almost obsessive thinking because of it. “3 AM: 1000 thoughts / min” bursts forward in a very “City Lights Scraped The Sky” style which breaks the cycle, only for it to start anew. The mood remains the same, although the track develops a series of short riffs that in the end don’t do much but change the pace, and not the structure or the form in general.

“Please Light, Clarify Yourself For Me” is like the natural continuation of the last track, with its slightly more dynamic build-up and a sound that actually evokes movement, our thoughts -- at last -- going somewhere and culminating with the anguished, dramatic explosion of “Through That Dark Cloud Came Our Redemption.” This is still our “introverse,” and therefore, there’s no cloud but that which we’ve constructed in our mind: it cracks open and releases a great amount of energy in a heaviness reminiscent of Red Sparowes sans the epic feeling and overpowering distortions, making it sound more “sincere.” “Horizon’s Exode” (“exode” being the catastrophe or conclusion of a play in Greek Drama) finally brings it all down in a violently expressive display of guitar-work that ends with what everything ends: silence. A sixteen minute silence. “Exode” is too, after all, a satirical piece added after the end of a play in Roman Drama. The satire is, I imagine, an overextended silence that however we interpret it is still just the absence of sound: the band is gone and has left us alone to hear it.

As Entropiate stops playing, I’m left with a certain sense of disappointment. The first few minutes of “Horizon’s Exode,” as well as “Introverse,” and some parts of “3 AM” insinuate an emotional evocativeness so far only achieved in post-rock by the aforementioned Gifts From Enola. Unfortunately the effort goes only so far and remains in the realm of insinuation, dragged down by the band’s insistence on an ambient feeling which is not developed well enough and dwells in borderline repetitiveness. The music then sounds almost uninspired; even the heavier parts suffer from not sounding heavy enough, although that is possibly a problem with the album’s production, and not so much the band. The ideas put forward through the song names, which are pretty cool, find only a weak manifestation in the pieces themselves, and lose their strength completely by the time each song ends. “Horizon’s Exode” is the best example of this strength. What do we do with sixteen minutes of pure silence which, albeit a part of the album, are relegated to the very end, when we can expect nothing more and are ready to press the stop button? What do we do with this kind of experiment in an album that isn’t experimental at any given time? Whatever symbolic meaning this exode might have, it just feels out of place. It also feels like an afterthought, in which case it actually honors its name and concept, but even then, it just amounts to a small-time curious addition. Entropiate is, sadly, an average foray into a territory which already has very strong representatives. If Since (Time) wants to compete, they’ll have to push harder, but given the bright moments this album has, I’m sure they’re capable of it. I guess it’s just a matter of time. -by David Murrieta (thesilentballet.com)

Official Site

Deerhunter - Microcastle

Artist: Deerhunter
Album: Microcastle
Label: Kranky
Year: 2008


01. Intro
02. Agoraphobia
03. Never Stops
04. Little Kids
05. Microcastle
06. Calvary Scars
07. Green Jacket
08. Activa
09. Nothing Ever Happened
10. Saved By Old Times
11. These Hands
12. Twilight At Carbon Lake

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

One might expect this would be a good time for Bradford Cox to firmly establish a line of demarcation between Deerhunter with his Atlas Sound solo project – perhaps steer the band back towards the messy art-punk of the Atlanta, Georgians’ self-titled debut (alternately entitled Turn It Up, Faggot – a reference to insults hurled at the gangly Cox during live performances). Of course, it’s something of a moot point as there was little separating the two entities all along.

While the musical building blocks in their arsenal do not lend themselves to a mainstream crossover attempt, Microcastle is sure to win over non-believers with its pop flourishes. From the outset, the record takes an understated approach. Rough edges have been sanded down into a far more digestible format. Psychedelic leanings which have threatened to spiral out of control remain, but now with its bittersweet underpinnings pushed to the surface. Where short attention spans may have been frustrated with Cryptograms’ drone, an ever-lurking ataxia of guitars sidesteps any monotony.

A whitewash of sound is woven over an insouciant melody on ‘Never Stops’, the song picking up where Ian McCulloch’s similarly urgent refrain left off all these years ago. The guitar lead on ‘Agorophobia’ mirrors the vocal cadence giving the song symmetry not ordinarily associated with Deerhunter. When Cox sings, “I had a dream / no longer to be free,” it is not immediately apparent he’s talking about the price of fame. But the teenage angst prevalent in early recordings is no longer much visible and it’s difficult to imagine Cox onstage wearing a dress performing it. And despite claims of “nothing left to say,” Cox is indebted to his manic condition, resulting in an uncharacteristically expansive lyrical content.

Whether or not Cox’s health issues are the primary basis for themes doting upon death and desperation isn’t necessarily important. The band’s emotional range gallops ahead with the confidence bred from the nearly flawless Fluorescent Grey EP, giving a netherworld depth to sentiments which may otherwise have come across as callused or detached. ‘Little Kids’ (an almost slow-motion version of ‘Like New’) climaxes with its “to get older still” refrain, marking a strikingly hopeful posture relative to previous outings.

The near danceable percussion and bass blend seamlessly with down tempo tracks kicking off the second half of the album. A four-note piano arpeggio on ‘Green Jacket’ brilliantly sets up ‘Activa’ whom Deerhunter fanatics will remember from the Daytrotter.com sessions of last year. While this chopped down version loses the feedback, the song remains a beautifully painful endeavour. On the title track, in particular, Cox’s plaintive tenor carries sparse instrumentation until the midpoint at which time the roles are reversed. It is a songwriting tactic largely reserved for his main band, and honed to a fine-tooth comb here. Closer ‘Twilight at Carbon Lake’ brings this juxtaposition together – when Cox has finally had enough with words – the melancholy is broken open on the album’s final minute with an assault of blistering guitars and cymbal explosions in what can be imagined as some sort of cynical reproach of Ode to Joy.

With nary a duff track officially released and otherwise, it nevertheless seems improbable Cox’s latest incantations have undergone further improvements. He is, after all, merely a young man channelling his obsession of Velvet Underground, Brian Eno, Kevin Shields, and Pixies. Some will complain a noise reduction lessens the impact, but it is the softer side of Deerhunter which makes their music so compelling. There is elegance in the album’s simplicity, and by extrapolation provides proof the treated vocals and distorted guitars on Cryptograms weren’t masks to hide incompetence. Nirvana once dared to show the world their songs could be unplugged without forfeiting the band’s inherent raw energy, and the relaxed setting here demonstrates Deerhunter more than able to withstand similar scrutiny.

Where the split-personality of Cryptograms hinted as much, a cohesive effort on Microcastle delivers the goods in its entirety. In what amounts to a peek behind the curtain of reverb enveloping much of Deerhunter’s compositions thus far, the album justifies our expectations for greatness. It is a precarious algorithm of pedal guitars, drums, and bedroom experimentation few bands manage to attain. Curators of music history may yet remain unconvinced. In the meantime, there’s no harm taking the liberty of pencilling in Bradford Cox’s name for the next generation’s list of iconic influences. -by Bruce Porter (drownedinsound.com)

Official Site
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Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Pirate Ship Quintet - The Pirate Ship Quintet

Artist: The Pirate Ship Quintet
Album: The Pirate Ship Quintet
Label: Sound Devastation
Year: 2007

01. Lost Science
02. I Kina Spiser De Hund
03. Pirate Ship

pass: lateralnoise.blogspot.com

For a relatively small country, the United Kingdom has laid claim to some of the most significant contributions toward the "post-rock" scene, namely 65daysofstatic, Blueneck, and of course, Mogwai. Although newcomers in the instrumental world, The Pirate Ship Quintet already have some impressively prestigious associates. Producer Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna), upon hearing the EP was so enamoured with it, he decided to add his talents to the mastering.

This high production quality is certainly evident on the EP. The instruments all have a clearly defined space to roam around in, a quality which is absolutely vital in a genre that relies so heavily on the layering of instruments. The strings and trumpet soar gracefully above the guitars, which, in keeping with traditional post-rock psyche, do not stray into the forbidden territory of solos/lead parts, allowing the bass to execute some delicious fretwork underneath.

The fact that one of the members plays with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is not surprising given the band's song structures, which flow with a steady orchestral grace. This influence is certainly evident in the opening track, "Lost Science." The song begins slowly, and serving as an introduction, with the instruments gradually adding themselves, one after the other to the mix like a more graceful, artistic warrior-mech assembling. The song then builds to a crescendo, and while the guitars are excellent in the quieter sections of the EP, in these parts they sound washed out and thin, and thus the build-up is not as engaging as one would like.

The following track, "I Kina Spiser Der Hund", opens with a doomy, Isis-like riff, complemented by metalcore-style screams. Unfortunately, instead of opening up a new dimension to the band’s sound, it turns the song into a game of spot-the-influence, and the tremolo picking that follows sounds like it was lifted straight out of an Explosions in the Sky album. The song eventually progresses into the quieter, quasi-orchestral territory of its predecessor, before returning to the opening riff. Unlike the flow of the first song, this sounds slightly disjointed.

Fortunately, this is not the case on the final song, "Pirate Ship." After a delicate beginning, the song builds into a mighty overture, backed by a thundering guitar riff. The dynamics are much better executed on this track, and while the song is heavily repetition-based, the song is constantly being driven forward, until it breaks into a sombre outro.

Although The Pirate Ship Quintet don’t do anything radically different to distinguish themselves from many post-rock bands, this EP will probably serve as a means of calibrating their techniques, and by incorporating influences from various bands, will gradually evolve into a sound of their own.(sonicfrontiers.net)

Official site
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