Saturday, March 29, 2008

Motionless - The Windmill

Artist: Motionless
Album: The Windmill
Label: Ericrock
Year: 2006

01. Politics Of Resignation
02. United States Of Amnesia
03. Please Keep War Stories To A Minimum
04. The Windmill


For such a young band, Motionless has seen its share of hard knocks. Since its inception in 2001, the band has cycled through several members, experimented with varied instrumentation, and morphed through a wide range of styles. In its current and most stable incarnation, Motionless is an instrumental band consisting of four core members and occasional guest instrumentation. While most easily corralled into the post rock or prog genres, Motionless (as is the case with most bands who fall under an umbrella label) don't confine themselves to any prescribed sound, and are most easily understood just by listening. Integrating a vintage Fender Rhodes electric piano, brooding guitar melodies and effects with steady consistent drumming, the band continues to discover ways to make their art new and exciting.

Motionless' debut, entitled "The Windmill" is an impressive effort. With a deceptively short tracklist (at only 4 songs), this long-player EP clocks in just shy of 40 minutes. While taking a nod from the sonic scapes of The Appleseed Cast and Explosions In The Sky, Motionless adds a new element to the sound in Jay Penman's growling fender rhodes - almost tranparent at times, but most crucial to the overall sound. As each mini epic unfolds, the band uses their time productively - to experiment an array of effects, dynamics, and moods. Don't be mistaken: even with a seemingly stripped down instrumentation, the members of Motionless are able to weave complex and chaptered narratives without speaking a word - just as effectively (and perhaps moreso) than traditional lyrical rock bands. This is the mark of a truly successful instrumental group.-by Claudia Hinz (

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You.May.Die.In.The.Desert /Gifts From Enola - Harmonic Motion Volume 1

Artist: You.May.Die.In.The.Desert /Gifts From Enola
Album: Harmonic Motion Volume 1
Label: Differential Records
Year: 2008

01. The Sound Of Titans
02. In Case I Should Die...
03. Mitchell vs. Rowesdower
04. Seagulls = Sea Eagles
05. Let's Have Sarcasm For Breakfast
06. The Sun's Condolences
07. Still Walks The Streets
08. 10/7
09. The Vision Of Ruby Turpin
10. Dusk Swallowed Dawn

Download part 2


Gifts from Enola’s Loyal Eyes Betrayed the Mind and You.May.Die.In.The.Desert’s Bears in the Yukon were each promising efforts, but in vastly different ways.Loyal Eyes offered dense layers of near-heavy metal, adding occasional inflections of jazz and progressive rock. Each track was distinguished by a single, easily-identifiable element or passage: the ascending scale in “Early Morning Ambulance,” the stutter-stops of “Behind Curtains Closing,” the doom-metal sledge driven through “Miles of White.” But while each track was solid, none was transcendent; all too frequently, the non-dominant guitar was buried in the mix. Bears, on the other hand, might not have worked as well as a whole, but it offered one absolutely killer cut: the ever-morphing title track, replete with memorable riffs and a welcome lack of varnish that gave it the appeal of a live take rather than that of a clinical studio rendition. “Can I Get Some Steel in My Monitor” would have been the highlight of any other album, but in this context it could only serve as bridesmaid.
Two years later, we find the bands teaming up to face the dreaded sophomore slump (the GFE lads took a unique approach to this superstitious matter, releasing their last album as college freshmen and this one as juniors). All too often, we have seen the anticipation of a second effort quickly dissipate like the foam of a forgotten cappuccino. In this case, the odds were stacked against both bands making progress, which makes the double-achievement of Harmonic Motion Volume 1 all the more remarkable.
You.May.Die.In.The.Desert is the first to bat, and they begin with an absolute blinder of a cut, the nearly twelve-minute “The Sound of Titans.” In Greek mythology, titans were gigantic, godlike creatures who controlled the forces of nature; in this piece, the listener can imagine them again walking the earth, striding over redwoods and leaving ponds in their footprints. The song begins innocently enough, with polite electronics laying down a carpet for the guitars to tread on. The drums don’t make their appearance for two minutes, and when they enter, they do so with gentle confidence. Guitar and bass begin a tentative interplay, and once their relationship is solidified, the drums begin to wreak havoc in the background. A calming interlude momentarily silences the percussion, and a host of new themes are introduced. At this point, the listener is already wondering, what happened to YMDITD? Perhaps the Japanese tour had an impact on the young band’s psyche, because the level of confidence displayed here is astounding. At 6:31, the bass takes the lead, then slowly retreats, apologetic, only to return a short while later. Each time the bass is spotlighted, we can better appreciate its contribution to the mix. The construction of this piece is akin to what we might expect in the classical realm, but the interplay is more like that found in jazz. With their first song, YMDITD have surpassed every track on Bears of the Yukon.
“In Case I Should Die” should win over any skeptics who have up to this point considered the perfect 3-minute post-rock tune to be unattainable. The piece begins with drum rolls and takes only twelve seconds to introduce a triumphant riff which one might normally expect to appear after twelve minutes. This riff gives way, in turn, to a host of other, equally appealing passages, which rotate approximately every 32 bars. All of this leads me to ask: could a post-rock song ever become a crossover hit? If so, this could be the template for the genre’s movement into the mainstream.
The remaining three tracks clock in at approximately 5 minutes apiece. “Mitchell vs. Rowedower” gets its name and sense of fun from Mystery Science Theatre. A mid-piece siesta is the track’s defining moment. This track is not as impressive as the opening pair, if only because its riffs paled in comparison to those on surrounding songs. The next track, “Seagulls = Sea Eagles,” is the most overtly accessible of the YMDITD tracks. This piece features a repeating guitar chorus which is first commented upon, then taken up by the bass. Just when the track seems to be falling into predictability, a toy xylophone enters the mix, politely exiting after only 30 seconds so that some heavy bass tones may drop. Bizarrely, this not only works, but makes the track. A brief drum solo draws the piece to a pleasingly percussive end. The quick tempo continues with YMDITD’s closing track, “Let’s Have Sarcasm for Breakfast.” Again, the central themes are introduced upfront, and this time the group decides to ditch the loud-quiet-loud format for a multiple-metered piece that trots from beginning to end at constant timbre. While tracks two through five never quite match the ferocity of the opener, they don’t have to; the band has already proven itself.
This leaves Gifts from Enola to take the helm, and opener “The Sun’s Condolences” lays down the gauntlet. The track is altogether more accomplished than anything on Loyal Eyes - the haze of feedback is thick, and the riffs are huge enough to rock a stadium. Midway through the piece, we are treated to a cacophony of hurricane drums and reverberating guitars, which persists until the final bars. This savage, propulsive cut is the finest piece GFE has recorded to date.
“Still Walks the Streets” follows with a 54-second percussive introduction that suddenly topples into a mass of swirling guitars and electronics - all of which disappears just as suddenly after only a minute. A forlorn guitar takes the reins, which holds off the sounds of random conversation until the other instruments come to its rescue. This is an extremely dramatic piece, one that would work well on a movie trailer. The two-minute “10/7” glides us gently into “The Vision of Ruby Turpin” on a wash of synthesized strings, but might just as easily have been incorporated into the latter piece or left out altogether. “Ruby” offers a clever synthesis of electronic stereo effects and traditional rock instrumentation, and should sound amazing on a quality headset; but because of its brevity, it serves as a mere appetizer for the album’s closer, “Dusk Swallowed Dawn.”
GFE’s final contribution begins with a solo guitar passage vaguely reminiscent of “Stairway to Heaven.” Soon afterwards, a Spanish guitar enters the picture, proving that GFE are still young enough to learn new tricks. At 2:12 a swiftly-rising electronic rush propels the piece forward into the more traditional post-rock section, which ebbs back into solo guitar, threatens to end at the four-minute mark, then confidently builds once again in volume and momentum, peaking at the six-minute mark, momentarily dipping, then ending in an all-out assault.
Harmonic Motion Volume 1 is an album of many surprises, all of them good. Both bands have grown by leaps and bounds since 2006, so much so that their current work is at times unrecognizable when compared to their former work. The two bands remain distinctive, and yet still make sense together. Most importantly, this album is stuffed with highlights and sounds great straight through. While many veteran acts have disappointed in recent months with lackluster efforts, it is extremely encouraging to see two young acts delivering on their initial promise. Congratulations to both groups on a phenomenal release. -by Richard Allen (

Official site
You.May.Die.In.The.Desert / Gifts From Enola
You.May.Die.In.The.Desert / Gifts From Enola
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Pg.lost - Yes I Am

Artist: Pg.lost
Album: Yes I Am
Label: Pid
Year: 2007

01. Yes I Am
02. Kardusen
03. Fartyget
04. ...
05. The Kind Heart of Lanigon


Since the infamous Slater sister revelation in Eastenders in 2001, the phrase "Yes I Am" has been synonymous with the closing moments of the show in which Kat tells Zoe she's actually her mother, not her sister. From now on though, it will be connected to the altogether more pleasant experience of PG Lost's melodic and atmospheric EP, Yes I Am.

The overall effect is astonishingly dynamic and emotional and it contains myriad references to the most epic moments of The Cure, Feeder, The Early November, Delerious and many, many more. Both 'Kardusen' and 'Fartyget' are incomparably good tracks, reaching out and connecting with the senses with a rare power.

For anyone out there planning an instrumental record, listen to this first to hear just how good you need to be to keep someone's attention without any lyrics. This EP is exceptional. -by Saur (

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I Hear Sirens - I Hear Sirens EP

Artist: I Hear Sirens
Album: I Hear Sirens EP
Label: Self Released
Year: 2007

01. This Is the Last Time I'll Say Goodbye
02. Like a Leaf From a Tree in It's Dying Season
03. September Isn't Too Far and I'm Not Sure I'll Return
04. Everything Was Black and White Except the City Lights
05. Ashes Fall Like Snowflakes, Burning the Sea


Any sensible music critic realizes that while it may benefit his or her analysis of a given album to situate its achievement within the history of a particular genre, it does the band a disservice to emphasize its context rather than personal identity. This is assuming, of course, that the artist’s record demonstrates some commitment to innovation and doesn’t use a certain “sound” as a crutch.
However abstract this opening is, it feels like a necessary disclaimer when reviewing a post-rock record, arguably one of the hardest genres or modes of rock music for a band to garner recognition. It seems counterintuitive that even sans the relatively limited capabilities of the human voice, contemporary and independent instrumental rock music has proven somewhat formulaic, though that’s not to say not enjoyable or effective. With their self-titled debut EP, Salt Lake City, Utah’s I Hear Sirens demonstrates that an artist can remain consistent to its default genre, be unsigned, have relatively cliché song titles… and still write excellent songs — ones which balance atmospherics and hooks better than many of the band’s peers.
Post-rock aside, I Hear Sirens is what bands like Mineral or Penfold would sound like without the distinctively emo vocals (I use the term in the sense also labeled “post-emo indie rock” according to the reputable Fourfa). To my knowledge, little criticism has been written about what constitutes emo music. Why does emo only refer to bands with vocalists? Why is a separate genre (post-rock) needed to designate its vocal-less counterpart? But here I go not heeding my own pontifications in the opening paragraph. The point is that, damn the pejorative connotations of the word, largely due to ignorant mainstream media, I Hear Sirens purveys glorious yet perfectly restrained emo, divested of out-of-tune (though no less brilliant ) vocalists. The fact that one of the record’s songs, “September Isn’t Too Far and I’m Not Sure I’ll Return,” takes its name from a track by former D.C. neo-emo act Fairweather evinces I Hears Sirens’ influences.
I Hear Sirens demonstrates the reasons for and benefits to an EP: cohesiveness and brevity. Every song belongs here and works here. There is no extraneous material, no pointless buildups or anticlimactic crescendos. This is a record too successful as a whole to be dissected by track-by-track critique, but a few elements deserve mention. There’s the distorted guitar/synth synergy in opener “This Is the Last Time I’ll Say Goodbye”; the relaxed, assured beauty of “Like a Leaf from a Tree in Its Dying Season,” which truly is one of the best instrumental tracks I’ve heard, a veritable symphony; the ghostly piano opening of interlude-esque “September”, previously mentioned, in which vocals do briefly appear; the simplistic yet driving piano line in second best track “Everything Was Black and White Except the City Lights”; and the fact that “Ashes Fall Like Snowflakes, Burning the Sea” expertly conjures the sea without even needing the track name. Their reference to Mineral in this final song, whether intentional or not, is so subtle and seamless that I grin upon hearing it rather than experiencing the violent nausea of Norma Jean aping Botch.
If you’re a fan of abbreviated post-rock done well (think Signal Hill) check out I Hear Sirens. With a label budget and its concomitant production capabilities, this talented foursome could easily craft a full length worthy of five stars. -Stephen Chamberlain(

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tracer AMC - Flux & Form

Artist: Tracer AMC
Album: Flux & Form
Label: Errol
Year: 2004

01. Some Electric
02. Flux and Form
03. Catherine Holly
04. The Understudy
05. Charles Street
06. Blue Thread
07. Sleep Trick
08. Anvil Point
09. Copenhagen
10. Tycho
11. Nineteen

Download part 2

Tracer AMC’s excellent 7″ on Errol Records a while ago, marked the Belfast band out as one to watch. And seldom has a band matured from EP to album so successfully. It’s a tour de force and yet on occasions Flux and Form is also incredibly understated. Catherine Holly, Copenhagen and Nineteen are all stunning guitar epics that push Tracer AMC’s talent beyond the ten minute mark. Faced with such a mammoth canvas, Jonny Ashe and Michael Kinloch shape their guitars from peak to trough, from fast to slow, and from loud to quiet, creating an expansive ocean of gushing emotion.

But shorter pieces like The Understudy, Charles Street and Anvil Point work just as magnificently; offering a slower-paced breathing space between the intensity of the aforementioned tracks. Blue Thread is beautifully melodic, yet at the same time shifts and swerves itself through a handful of different atmospheres and textures, while the perfectly uncluttered intro of Sleep Trick makes way for some percussion par excellence from Keith Winter. Indeed the inventiveness imbued in Flux and Form is often jaw-droppingly surprising.

Even though Flux and Form clocks in at a rather weighty sixty minutes plus, never once does the listener’s attention wane from the soundscapes and backgrounds that Tracer AMC have sculpted, which is no small feat for a post- rock record made with only a handful of different instruments. Flux and Form brings the old ‘music is the soundtrack to your life’ adage to an entirely new level. -by Michelle Dalton (

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ufomammut - Idolum

Artist: Ufomammut
Album: Idolum
Label: Supernaturalcat
Year: 2008

01. Stigma
02. Stardog
03. Hellectric
04. Ammonia
05. Nero
06. Destroyer
07. Void/Elephantom


Formed in 1999, Italian avant-rockers UFOmammut are a psychedelic sludge band with influences ranging from Neurosis, Kyuss, Pink Floyd and early Sabbath. Consisting of core trio Poia (Guitars, Synths), Urlo (Bass, Vocals, Synths, Fx) and Vita (Drums), they invite Lorenzer of ‘Lent0’ and vocalist Rose Kemp to add their magic to two tracks. With an evil running time of 66minutes and 6 seconds, the Italian trio deliver 7 hard-hitting tracks which range from 5-10 minutes, the exception being the half hour monolith ‘Void/Elephantom’ which closes proceedings. The sound of UFOmammut is a unique combination of crushing post-metal fused with elements of stoner rock and space-rock. Occupying a similarly rough and unpolished aesthetic as early Isis, their sound simmers with an apocalyptic power which is inset with spacey undercurrents.
There are many metal bands doing the whole post-rock dynamic thing, attempting to stretch their downtuned riffs towards infinity and slopping ambient dronescapes into the back-ground. UFOmammut are a different proposition altogether and exude a classiness that is missing from all but the league leaders (namely Isis and Pelican). Although these aforementioned bands provide a reference point, UFOmammut take those post-metal aesthetics to new and uncharted heights, carving out a propulsive and constantly engaging soundscape. As befits their genre, they produce linear-ish sound-structures but instead of treading formulaic territories, their sound is always focused and is committed to creating the most explosive and energetic soundscapes possible through cleverly arranged arrangements and a masterful grasp of tempo manipulations. Building on the experience of their warmly-received ‘Lucifer Songs’, ‘Snailking’ and ‘Godlike Snake’ albums, they constantly raise the intensity of their sound in each track, with cyclical guitar, bass and drum clusters that crawl steadily along an alien landscape like a psychotic freight-train crunching through all that gets in its way whilst eerie fx spiral in and out of focus. Urlo’s rasping vocals appear intermittently, sounding tortured and muffled like they have been recorded in the studio’s basement. This submerged quality makes them sound like another instrument and remind one slightly of Electric Wizard’s Jus Oborn.
Refrehsingly ‘Idolum’ is not just one constantly pounding barrage of riffage and its variety allows its heavier dynamics to be accentuated and made more tangible. On ‘Ammonia’ for example the listener is greeted with spacey atmospherics and Rose Kemp’s angelic vocal murmurs which combine with the downtuned riffage and stoner-rock percussion to create a highly cinematic experience that pitches light against dark. Elsewhere, the 8 minute ‘Nero’ initiates with a particularly nasty, early Isis-esque downtuned guitar and barraging percussion cluster that meanders hypnotically over a soundscape of wafting drones and out-of-scope vocal sample snippets. The force of the guitar and percussion rise to the fore with military prowess before being joined by Urlo’s rasping vocals. The aptly named ‘Destroyer’ shifts along with crunching momentum before slipping into a spaced out ‘Tarantula Hawk-ey’ psyche-metal finale. The closer eptimises UFOmammut’s now polished spacey post-metal sound, commencing with bubbling psychedelic guitar, bass and synth excursions over which Urlo’s raw vocals are barely audible. Almost techno-like in its progression, each element starts to gather momentum until it explodes in a crunch of metal-y goodness. There is a real palpable sense of molten energy released with each motorik cluster of downtuned riffs and Lorenzo’s powerful sonic waves give the track its crushingly psychedelic identity. An extended foray into frequency-manipulating ambient drone territory acts as the lull before the storm as after several minutes, melodically oscillating space-rock melodies spark into action to indicate the gathering of storm-clouds before the crushing finale.
With ‘Idolum’, UFOmammut have carved out their most satisfying, raw-to-the-bone piece of apocalyptica yet. Thoroughly engaging, refreshingly varied and performed with real conviction, it scores a soundtrack to ones ‘twisted super-hero’ inspired dreams. (KS)

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maserati - Inventions For The New Season

Artist: Maserati
Album: Inventions For The New Season
Label: Modern
Year: 2007

01. Inventions
02. 12/16
03. Kalimera
04. Synchronicity IV
05. This Is A Sight We Had One Day From The High Mountain
06. Show Me The Season
07. Kalinichta
08. The World Outside


On Inventions for the New Season, Maserati move simultaneously forward and backward away from their clear associations with the modern post-rock of groups like Tortoise and the Mercury Project and seemingly back in time to the progenitors of prog rock (King Crimson, early Rush) and especially Krautrock (Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream). Their nearest contemporaries may be the prolific yet obscure Finnish outfit Circle, especially their tendencies toward driving guitar/keyboard workouts in the motorik vein, as would befit a band named after the finest of Italian sports cars. These songs hurtle forward at an ever-increasing pace, which they rely on to build intensity rather than the standard quiet-to-loud dynamics of the post-rock genre. Actually, they're not alone in mining this realm of instrumental rock -- they also share with peers the Turing Machine and Ostinato the ability to sound elaborate without actually playing complicated music -- most of the riffs are built on simple, clean guitar figures augmented with chiming and echoing effects and building and expanding in their relentless repetition. Every track here is a stunner, especially the opening "Inventions" and the bass-driven Floyd-ian barnburner "Show Me the Season," culminating in a peak with the tongue-in-cheek nod to the Police's brief foray into progressive rock, knowingly titled "Synchronicity IV." -by Brian Way(

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Daturah - Reverie

Artist: Daturah
Album: Reverie
Label: Graveface
Year: 2008

01. Ghost Track
02. Hybrisma
03. 9
04. Deep B Flat
05. Vertex


I remember first hearing the trance-inducing debut from Germany’s Daturah a mere three years ago, and it being a turning point in my musical appreciation. I tried punk in my youth, turned to grunge, dabbled in grindcore, withstood drone, and finally settled on the mellow sounds of instrumental music. Through all this appreciation though, there was a thin sediment remaining from each (however brief) encounter. I like post-rock of course, but when it segues into the outer reaches of the predefined genre, that is when it becomes something different. A surprising amount of bands nowadays are sticking to the exact same formula that has earned earlier artists mass praise. What was different about Daturah's self-titled debut was that it was a heady and invigorating mix of traditional post-rock with a subtle but highly effective dash o’ drone. The difference in their second album, Reverie is that they now display but a fraction of that which made the first listen so appealing, opting instead to travel the dusty, overcrowded route of post-metal. I may be oversimplifying their sounds somewhat, but this is what struck me immediately.
After just under two minutes of strange sampled dialogue on opener "Ghost Track," a crushing guitar enters the mix and continues to pummel the listener, letting up only briefly for a few well placed Isis-like guitar delay/reverb moments before returning to aggressive form. While it is indeed a well crafted ambience, it does continue for twelve and a half minutes and even the best of bands can struggle to maintain interest after the first three or four repetitions of such a cycle. What becomes apparent after several listens is that the same fate that befell the first track is repeated throughout every piece on this album: quiet-loud gone mad!
Now for the flipside, I mean, yes it is formulaic and somewhat predictable, but then Mogwai have been doing the same thing for thirteen years now, and they still manage to avoid the rather cumbersome ‘boring’ tag. What Daturah have done here is to use their exceptional musicianship and compositional skill to make something rather clichéd into something rather impressive. The sheer textural intensity and finish on some of the melodies belie the simplistic formula followed to such an extent that it becomes almost negligible. "9" for instance sculpts such a beautiful landscape throughout that listening to it in full never feels like a chore, much like listening to the album in its entirety is nothing but rewarding. It’s always hard for me to rate an album that I only enjoy because it feels good at the time, but this is one of those. Has it been done before? Yes. Several times. Has it been done as well? Yes, both Isis and Pelican have been doing it for some time rather competently, in fact (with only a few exceptions). The thing is that it is still good despite its familiarity, and that’s what really makes this release for me. A triumph, of sorts.
-by Barry Smethurst(

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gifts From Enola - Loyal Eyes Betrayed The Mind

Artist: Gifts From Enola
Album: Loyal Eyes Betrayed The Mind
Label: Self Released
Year: 2006

01. Behind Curtains Closing
02. Early Morning Ambulance
03. City Lights Scraped The Sky
04. In The Company Of Others
05. With the Tides In Hindsight
06. Miles Of White
07. We Watched Them Lose Our Minds
08. Screaming At Anything That Moved
09. Memoranda


Gifts From Enola, a four piece from Virginia in the United States, are a really refreshing band. You can see this from their MySpace (at the time of this review they have no website). There’s no fancy layout, no flash images, no HTML, just the music and a little bit of dialogue. They’ve let their music do the talking, and what a good idea that turns out to be. It’s heavier than your average post-rock, very much metal inspired, and for Gifts From Enola, the standard quiet-loud dynamic seems to have changed into a loud-even louder dynamic. This is a good thing.
With no website to feast my journalistic eyes upon, I’m left with a very sparse MySpace to inform myself about the band. Well…a couple of them are 20, the others two are 19, something that is incredible given the music they make, and it can be safe to say that Gifts From Enola might not go down too well in Japan. The Enola Gay was the name of the plane that brought gifts to Japan in the form of atomic bombs. This might all be a mighty coincidence, but Gifts From Enola have a picture depicting something similar to this on one of their show flyers. Anyway, I’m sure the band isn’t praising this, and for the record, I like the name.
Loyal Eyes Betrayed The Mind opens with "Behind Curtains Closing," which starts with a lulling guitar before exploding into a crashing riff, not a million miles away from "Greet Death" by Explosions in the Sky, before, at 3 minutes and 23 seconds, something magical happens. Out of seemingly nowhere, this fast, heavy, and complicated guitar riff appears, changing the whole tempo and feel of song, taking it on to the next level. Gifs From Enola have certainly followed the old cliché "put your best foot forward," unleashing the best song on the album first. But the rest of the album is in no way a let down, it just highlights how strong the opening track is. "Early Morning Ambulance" follows on nicely, with heavy riffage added with a high pitched guitar, before it all comes to a crashing rhythmical finale, and sounds not dissimilar to Russian Circles. "City Lights Scraped The Sky" contains one of the best breakdowns you’re likely to hear, with two guitars duelling with each other to create a gorgeous little melody, before exploding into some more heavy riffage. "In The Company Of Others" kicks off with some jazz inspired bass line, and then becomes even more frantic with the introduction of a distortion pedal and guitar tapping solos.
One of the many great things about Loyal Eyes Betrayed The Mind is that no two tracks sound the same, and over the course of forty seven minutes you’re treated to many delights, with no song making me reach for the fast-forward button. It’s heavy in all the right places, but never too heavy, and Gifts From Enola mix moments of ambience really well, especially at the start of "Miles Of White" and "Memoranda." And when I say the album is heavy, it never ventures down the route of endless chugging riffs a la Isis and Pelican (two clear influences of the band), but instead Gifts From Enola develop intricate riffs, layered over a lead melody, to create something enjoyable each time. Gifts From Enola will fall under the umbrella of post-rock, but they are in no way confined to this genre, as they seem so adept at bringing others into the mix. There’s metal, rock, math-rock, jazz, and ambience all thrown together here, and it alludes to something quite wonderful. When the end of year polls come around, this album will feature highly in my list, and if there are any albums better than this, I can’t wait to hear them. Loyal Eyes Betrayed The Mind truly is a gift for all. -by James Ould(

Official site not available
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You.May.Die.In.The.Desert - Bears In The Yukon

Artist: You.May.Die.In.The.Desert
Album: Bears In The Yukon
Label: Self Released
Year: 2006

01. Oceanfloor Hijinks
02. Can I Get More Steel In My Monitors
03. The Writer's Audience Is Fiction
04. Interlude
05. Monorails
06. Bears In The Yukon


Formed in early 2005, Seattle-based You.May.Die.In.The.Desert started life as Ice To The West, the side-project of Fires To The East members Brandon Salter and Brian Woods. In true post-rock style, they started out using a 4-track tape recorder in the bedroom, with drum machine, bass, guitar and a few effects pedals. They initially gained some recognition through the medium of MySpace, and, following a tour of the USA supporting Strangers Die Every Day, recruited a third band member in the form of drummer Michael Clark. Bears In The Yukon represents the band's second self-released EP.
Listening to the EP, it seems hard to believe that You.May.Die.In.The.Desert are only a three-piece, such is the chaotic nature of their music. Focusing on the use of elaborate fretwork and delay effects rather than adopting a typical 'quiet-loud' approach, at times they sound almost like a less depressive, more frenetic This Is Your Captain Speaking. With such intricacy, you might query the ability of You.May.Die.In.The.Desert to perform the tracks live - however, a grainy video posted on Google Video demonstrates their technical adroitness, testifying that the seemingly implausible is actually possible. Like Jaga Jazzist and The Samuel Jackson Five, You.May.Die.In.The.Desert successfully blur the boundaries between post-rock and jazz, although stylistically their sound is far removed from either of their better-known counterparts.
None of the songs on the EP could be described as brilliant; at times, there is a tendency for the elaborate guitar lines to sound just a bit too complicated. However, perhaps more importantly, there are no poor tracks - with Bears In The Yukon, You.May.Die.In.The.Desert have recorded a solid, consistent release. Choosing the best track is a difficult task, although for me, the title track (which is also the longest song at just under 8 minutes) has a slight edge. A typically uplifting, vivacious intro gives way to insistent guitar lines and regimented drums highly reminiscent of Explosions In The Sky's 'The Moon Is Down.' The jazziness soon returns, with the song - and with it, the EP - finishing with an animated mix of electro-drum machine and slurring guitar. Most of the songs on the EP are played in a similar fashion, the only notable exception being 'Interlude.' A much more downbeat, atmospheric affair - think Sweek, or perhaps even Sigur Ros - frenzied fingerwork takes a back seat to allow the haunting melody to take centre stage.
Perhaps fittingly, You.May.Die.In.The.Desert took their name from a book about the struggle faced by migrants trying to cross the U.S.A/Mexico border. With an ever-growing number of instrumental rock bands clamouring for our attention, You.May.Die.In.The.Desert are a group whose efforts should pay off, and whose unique brand of jazz-inspired music deserves a much greater audience. -by Richard White(

Official site
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Signal Hill - Signal Hill EP

Artist: Signal Hill
Album: Signal Hill EP
Label: Self Released
Year: 2007

01. Standby, Sir
02. Los Federales
03. Celadon
04. A Series Of Trills
05. This New Year's Absence
06. California Is Too Long


In a recent review of Solaire's Explosives To My Body on this site, our very own Mac Nguyen noted that Explosions in the Sky were one of "this decade's most influential groups of the guitar driven post-rock aesthetic," and less than a week later I find myself reviewing an album by yet another band who owe a third-world country sized debt to the aforementioned apocalypse-predicting Texans.
The first thing one notices when spinning Signal Hill's debut self-titled EP, is that the echoing, reverb-laden and spacious guitar sound would sit right at home on The Earth is Not A Cold Dead Place; the second is that the band has the ability to write some very lovely hooks indeed. Second track "Los Federales," for example, revolves around an extremely simple three note melody that lingers in the mind long after the track fades away, while "This New Years Absence" is built on a simple descending riff which the other instruments slowly bolster and swell around in a nice example of the staple quiet/loud aesthetic of much modern post-rock. This simplicity of purpose repeats across most of the EP as a whole, and is both a blessing and a curse; many of the melodies are infuriatingly catchy, yet across the course of six songs, they have a tendency to blur into one-another.
In some areas of the instrumental scene, there has recently been something of a backlash against songs that constantly veer into double-digit track lengths, with bands no longer feeling the need to reach these lengths in order to achieve a feeling of the expansive and epic, and the closing track "California is Too Long" is a good example of this more focused approach. Split into two sections by a brief sample, the guitars begin by creeping over one-other, before one cribs (in part) the lead melody from Angelo Badalamenti'sTwin Peaks Theme and a few sweeps of a synth are heard. Following the brief spoken word sample, the track leads off and upwards with some tight, disciplined drumming, a few notes on a piano, and guitars that chime and ring in that melancholic yet uplifting manner that has seduced so many instrumental bands in the last few years. It's affecting stuff and, like most of the music found here, is proof that Signal Hill have the raw talent to write some great material.
It is this obvious potential and talent that also makes the EP a somewhat frustrating listen; no matter how much one enjoys the sweetness of the melodies and effectiveness of the hooks, the songs simply cannot escape the shadow cast by Explosions in the Sky. We can but hope that by their next release Signal Hill will have begun to spread their wings a little wider and allowed some of their own identity to seep through, but until that happens this will ultimately have to be viewed as an inferior version of one of the genre's most beloved, and widely copied, bands. -by Kris Ilic (

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If These Trees Could Talk - If These Trees Could Talk

Artist: If These Trees Could Talk
Album: If These Trees Could Talk
Label: Procedure Records
Year: 2006

01. Malabar Front
02. Smoke Stacks
03. The Friscalating Dusklight
04. Signal Tree
05. The Death Of Paradigm
06. 41° 4' 23'' N, -81° 31' 4'' W


Beginning with "Malabar Front," the CD launches into an 8 minute trip of simultaneous melancholia and riffage that is tailor-made for headphones. (Actually, the whole CD is perfect for headphones, but I'd say that it's the best track of the six included songs for the "experience.")
Akron, Ohio's If These Trees Could Talk are probably the biggest musical surprise I've come across this year. Their self-titled, self-released EP provides an almost trance-inducing collection of metallic-tinged instrumentals that might induce an out-of-body experience if listened to under the right conditions.

The band is powered by three guitarists who provide some incredibly nuanced playing. For a completely instrumental release, the CD is pleasantly devoid of needless guitar wanking. Each song is comprised of obviously technical playing but it's done in a way that benefits the song at hand rather than existing to self-promote the ability of any one musician.
The production on If These Trees Could Talk is amazing for a self-recorded, self-released disc. If a major label were to release a disc of this quality, production-wise, no one would guess it was done by the band themselves.
The only real problem with the album, as a whole, is that the songs tend to blend directly into one another a bit too much and, after a few listens, begin to sound a bit too similar. If the songs and performances weren't as strong as they are, that would really hamper the enjoyment. Thankfully, taken individually, each song is mammothly powerful and expressive even without vocals or lyrics. For a young band on its first release, that's an enormous achievement.
If you're a fan of Tool's instrumental jams, I highly recommend If These Trees Could Talk. In all honesty, I'm enjoying it more than 10,000 Days. - (

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fractal Pattern - No Hope But Mt. Hope

Artist: Fractal Pattern
Album: No Hope But Mt. Hope
Label: Method
Year: 2004

01. Faute De Mieux
02. Aphelion-Perephelion
03. There's Hope For Everyone On The Internet
04. Binary Consequence
05. Ad Infinitum
06. Interior Of A Turkish Caffinet
07. So It Goes, But Not So Much


These shoe-gazers from Edmonton whip up a brooding brew of textual instrumentals which linger, palpitate, serenade and carry you over the course of the 7 song disc: No Hope But Mt. Hope. This quintet must not have all that much to be happy about (after all, they do live in King Ralph’s province), but they have managed to channel the sobering reality of where there geography into a truly beautiful sounding Canadian meditation. The music on this recording sounds hopeless and it aches and patters along at a dis-heartening, honest pace. The album’s artwork is adorned with sombre monochrome landscapes of skies and mountains, murky song titles such as “faute de mieux” and “there’s hope for everyone on the internet” and the inside of this release notes that “fractal pattern is commited to compassionate living”. The music documented on No Hope but Mt. Hope sounds like the band has made some pretty impressive steps towards bringing their beliefs on life and music into somewhat harmony.

Sound clashes, feedback and whimpering moments of solitude, space resound repeatedly all throughout the course of this recording. Speckled influences of Slint-like climax/anti-climax arrangements, Constellation-bands, the Surface of Ecyeon and punk are all echo’d and filtered through a shoe-gazer’s gaze. Fractal Pattern create a unique sound through the timbre of the instruments that they have chosen to mix-up on this recording. The classic rock band configuration is highlighted by the swaying wind-y sounds of horn, bow, trombone and harmonica. As the tension builds and releases in their songs, Fractal Pattern weave a tapestry of unstable and uncertain sounds that seem to know exactly where they are headed. There is an incredible balancing act being waged here by the musicians of Fractal Pattern. This is one of those recordings that you put on and then forget is playing, but then remember that its playing
because it catches you attention from out of nowhere, only to loose you again, but then pick you up again. - L. Pounds (

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Kinski - Down Below It's Chaos

Artist: Kinski
Album: Down Below It's Chaos
Label: Sub Pop
Year: 2007

01. Crybaby Blowout
02. Passwords & Alcohol
03. Dayroom At Narita Int'l
04. Boy, Was I Mad!
05. Argentina Turner
06. Child Had To Catch A Train
07. Plan, Steal, Drive
08. Punching Goodbye Out Front
09. Silent Biker Type


Kinski's relentless drive to the next level -- via being louder than everything on the planet on the one hand, and on the other having a rigorous structure to their efforts that practically compels listeners -- takes an interesting turn on Down Below It's Chaos for a variety of reasons. First, having always sounded very futuristic just by being clean and hot-wired, the album is as close to a tribute to early-'70s fuzz worshipers as the quartet's yet made since its very earliest days -- Chris Martin's initial guitar invocation on "Crybaby Blowout" just needed a leather-clad greasy biker to go with it and all of a sudden it's Death Valley 1970. (Not for nothing is the album's final song called "Silent Biker Type.") The feeling is maintained throughout the album, with the help of production guru Randall Dunn, and while it's a bit surprising on first blush it's also no surprise that Kinski rock it out brilliantly, with tight stop-start moments showing their precise eye for dynamics remains key, as songs like "...Boy, Was I Mad!" and "Child Had to Catch a Train" -- which even adds in a note-perfect garagey keyboard part -- show. The second twist is actually even more surprising in context: Martin sings! On three songs his rather Thurston Moore-ish vocals take a bow, and if the comparisons to Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth are a touch too easy to make at points, it all still sounds enjoyable enough. Meanwhile, for all the overdrive the side of Kinski that appreciates a good ambient meander has hardly disappeared either -- "Passwords & Alcohol" is a semi-shoegaze amble towards its start while the evolving flow of "Plan, Steal, Drive" makes for gently cascading zone grace, a chance to appreciate a rising sun before hitting the highway once more at full speed. -by Ned Raggett (

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Eaststrikewest - Rosa

Artist: Eaststrikewest
Album: Rosa
Label: Self Released
Year: 2008

01. Rosa
02. Oceans


Eaststrikewest are a band from London, England. They formed in 2007 after the breakup of former outfit threemovements, by ex-members: Liam Davis (guitars), James Saddington (guitars, keyboards), Ian Smith (drums) and Joseph Smyth (bass). After numerous line-up changes, the band only started to develop after the addition of Craig Bourne (keyboards, guitars), Thomas Clark (vocals) and Luc Lamude (guitars) - whom have all been long term friends and collaborators in past projects.

Eaststrikewest as we hear them today, is the sound of brilliant potential fully realised; with a broader range of input and ideas, the band can only now fully experiment in fine-tuning both their recording and live sound to something truly unique.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV (Halo 26)

Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Album: Ghosts I-IV (Halo 26)
Label: The Null Production - Halo 26
Year: 2008


Ghosts I
01. 1
02. 2
03. 3
04. 4
05. 5
06. 6
07. 7
08. 8
09. 9

Ghosts II
01. 10
02. 11
03. 12
04. 13
05. 14
06. 15
07. 16
08. 17
09. 18

Ghosts III
01. 19
02. 20
03. 21
04. 22
05. 23
06. 24
07. 25
08. 26
09. 27

Ghosts IV
01. 28
02. 29
03. 30
04. 31
05. 32
06. 33
07. 34
08. 35
09. 36

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Don’t deny it-Trent Reznor loves controversy and attention. He’s tried to act like a seedy recluse with a bad chip on his shoulder throughout his career, but somehow, the public eye has stayed consistently focused on him. When Pretty Hate Machine broke into the mainstream and all that mess with TVT was publicly displayed, guess what? Reznor was practically begging for all the public attention he could muster. When The Fragile hit and he openly spoke out about how he was unhappy with the final product, he caught plenty of attention. When Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor butted heads, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Only Trent Reznor would go off on a tangent about how “the record executives are ripping the fans off. So you know what that means? Steal, steal, steal my music. Go steal it, and steal some more!” Things like this seem to always turn the public eye keen to Trent Reznor and often get him in hot water.
And throughout all the controversy over Year Zero, the Nine Inch Nails mastermind has stayed fairly quiet, going into hiding, yet again. However, this time, the infamous recluse didn’t stay quiet for nearly four years like before; he waited about half a year. All the while, Trent Reznor was secretly wasting away at the keyboards and synthesizers as the Nine Inch Nails fans prepared to settle in for another four to five year absence, messages on the Nine Inch Nails website blog began reading "We’ve been doing secret things. We’ll begin to tell you about them soon." On March 2nd, a simple message on the blog read "2 hours." Wasting no time, in two hours, a new website design was up with a download link. Despite the online server meltdown, Trent kept to his word and offered the album online in a variety of downloadable ways (one offering the first Ghosts edition for free), and one offering a $10 double-disk digipak shipped on April 8th. The album's release was so well planned and it's tactic of catching people off-guard may very well be the best planned album release in near history.
The best part is that this is a 36-track instrumental album that nobody expected. Maybe its too early, or the shock factor is still there, but Ghosts is truly amazing. Trent has compiled a wide variety of unorthodox instruments, electronic tools, distorted guitars, lush soundscapes, and eerie sounds into this collection of Explosions in the Sky influenced Nine Inch Nails. On the online booklet, a picture is shown of one of the guys, during recording, rubbing aluminum foil on strings. That is what you can expect from the album-unorthodox sounds coming from unorthodox instruments and playing styles. You can still distinctly hear the Nails sound throughout the album, but the wide variety of instruments, the soundscapes, and the unusual guitar riffs make a strange post-rock influenced ambience.
The initial response when I realized that Ghosts was a massive 36-track instrumental package was immediate excitement, but it then faded away. I imagined a boring album with 36 low-key instrumental tracks. But when I actually got Ghosts the feelings of being let-down left my body. The melancholic opening piano track sets such a dull, depressing feeling inside of you, and the same goes for the second track. But just as you begin to think this isn’t quite Nine Inch Nails, this is more Sigur Ros than NIN, you quickly discover you’re wrong. Very, very wrong. Because when you think you've figured out this is a piano-led album, songs like 3 (which is a lot like The Becoming) show up, or track 19 which wouldn't be out of place on a Skinny Puppy album, with all of it's heavy industrial beats. Basically, if you expected Ghosts to lull you with pianos, almost something in the vein of Still, you are quite wrong. Some of the stuff is heavy, loud, and aggressive, if not some of the loudest Nails music; 31 is like Hyperpower!’s aborted brother. Newcomer Brian Vigilone lays down a cymbal-heavy drum pattern and distorted guitars overpower the mix into a headbanger. And just as it gets loud, it ends abruptly.
The album has no issue with flow, either. Despite being 36 tracks that span a wide variety of genres and phases in NIN’s career, the songs seep into one another, and the four Ghosts editions have four distinctive feels. Ghosts I has a melancholic edge, seemingly painting the picture for a cold, rainy day. Ghosts II has an upbeat, foreign edge that reminds me a lot of The Fragile, and Ghosts III comes off as an industrial powerhouse. Ghosts IV is electronic, funky, and danceable. The tracks are all distinctive, original, and grandly epic. You can’t confuse a track with another, they all stand-out. Some of the tracks are clear throwbacks to various areas in Nine Inch Nails’ career, while some offer new sounds and vibrations. However, Ghosts IV definitely the stand-out. It’s like a more fun, less repetitive, and danceable Year Zero. So it’s not like the album is droningly monotone with no separate areas and sounds, each Ghosts volume presents a new sound and aura to the mix. But what’s the best, most surprising about the album is how atmospheric it is. Every track creates a new sound, a new feeling you get lost in. The tracks won’t lull you to sleep, but they send you to another place, another place Trent Reznor and co. have perfectly handcrafted. But what else stands out on the album is the fact that Trent doesn't seem to be catering to the teenagers and what's popular anymore. The last two NIN albums seemed to be what the public wanted, not what Reznor wanted. At age 42, it was time for Trent to stop catering to what the public wants and to start making what he wants to make; no more overused angst, screaming, and profanity. This is proof that Trent Reznor has finally grown out of the teenage angst.
But it wasn’t pure shock factor and surprise that runs this album. The originality, inventiveness, variety, and the emotional soundscapes could have carried this album without the marketing scheme. It’s so dreamy, and atmospheric that you can’t not enjoy it, no matter what type of music you listen to. It doesn’t bore at all, it keeps you interested and going, for two hours straight. As I sat outside in the cold, pelting freezing rain this morning, the sky was bleak and dull, I had Ghosts playing in my ears, and thought to myself "this is how Trent Reznor meant this album to be listened to." Complete creativity and inventiveness at its core, Ghosts I-IV proves that Trent Reznor is one of the most vital artists in music today.(-by Porter W. Richards,

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Flies Are Spies From Hell - Mountain Language

Artist: Flies Are Spies From Hell
Album: Mountain Language
Label: Self Released
Year: 2007

01. Mountain language
King sly
03. Next hour


When the term instrumental music gets batted about, the same bands seem to get mentioned again and again and this has maybe resulted in the conception that the tracks are a little bit longer than music by other artists of different genres. However Flies Are Spies From Hell show you can make one hell of an instrumental track whether it be three and a half minutes or fifteen minutes long; it’s the content and the journey that track takes you on and the skill in which they do it that’s the important thing. At points you wish the tracks and EP were longer but only because it’s so damn good. The band eloquently mix together the use of the piano and the rest of the instruments together seamlessly. Flies Are Spies From Hell are phenomenal in the music they make and the way it’s compressed into their tracks for me makes this band a perfect introduction if one were thinking of looking into the broader spectrums of instrumental music.
-Antony McSweeney (

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Caspian - The Four Trees

Artist: Caspian
Album: The Four Trees
Label: Dopamine
Year: 2007

01. Moksha
02. Some Are White Light
03. Sea Lawn
04. Crawlspace
05. Book IX
06. The Dropsonde
07. Brombie
08. Our Breath In Winter
09. The Dove
10. Asa

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After blowing up in the local underground with their highly acclaimed 2005 release of You Are the Conductor, the boys of Caspian have been hard at work maintaining their reputation as one of Boston’s greatest singer-less bands. Through constant touring and internet promotion during the past year, Caspian quickly gained recognition among tight-knit indie and “post-rock” communities across the globe. Now, the band has completed their first full-length album, The Four Trees, and is prepared to unleash it on the world. Harmonizing an intellectually rich atmosphere with an assertive rock n’ roll attitude, Caspian has crafted a refreshing angle on instrumental music that is definitely worth paying attention to.

In contrast to their debut EP You Are the Conductor, which showed the band more or less experimenting with techniques and getting the hang of things, The Four Trees is definitely a well-polished and complete work. Taking on a similar tone and style as their previous effort, this new album offers a comfortable return to Caspian’s classic sound while taking more time to fully develop and explore emotional extremes. The band lets delicate, ambient melodies linger and build slowly, often taking up entire tracks to do so. At the same time, the album’s climaxes are able to reach soaring new heights of intensity, erupting in waves of distorted riffs and pounding percussion that are somewhat surprising but also very effective. In addition, the album as a whole takes on a deliberately cyclical path, starting out with the gentle and uplifting “Moksha,” building up to exceptionally aggressive tracks like “Crawlspace” and “Brombie” and then slowing descending back into the serene “Reprise.” All of these elements combine to make The Four Trees an especially passionate collection of tracks, setting the stage for a spellbinding journey of highs and lows.

With the completion of this first full album, Caspian have undoubtedly attained a secure foothold in the modern instrumental scene. Past complaints about the band having excessive similarities to other instrumental acts such as Explosions in the Sky may still be somewhat valid, but The Four Trees clearly helps to diminish this notion. While they do implement a fair share of trendy techniques and playing habits (massive amounts of effects, delay pedals, repetitious playing, etc.), it’s carried out with a certain artistic edge that clearly doesn’t detract from their sound. Furthermore, The Four Trees shows the band venturing into much more aggressive territories than most of their genre-buddies would ever dare go, and this says a lot about their drive for originality. Although they may have originated from the midst of a modern underground trend, Caspian have proved that they certainly aren’t just following the crowd anymore.
- Sean Butze (

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Do Make Say Think - You, You're a History in Rust

Artist: Do Make Say Think
Album: You, You're A History In Rust
Label: Constellation
Year: 2007

01. Bound to be that way
A with living
03. The universe
04. A tender history in rust
05. Herstory of glory
06. You you're awesome
07. Executioner blues
08. In mind


The fifth full-length from Do Make Say Think begins with a brief, minor-key modal piano and jazzy snare and cymbals intro that sounds an awful lot like an homage to Talk Talk's atmospheric masterpiece, Laughing Stock. You, You're a History in the Rust quickly veers from that intro into more familiar DMST terrain, but Mark Hollis and company's seminal record is an apropos touchstone for this Toronto collective's songs, which are built with similar emphasis on mood, texture, and dramatic ebb and flow. Like its excellent predecessor, Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn, Rust was recorded in DMST's favored remote haunts, and the old barns and cottages provide sympathetic ambience for the band's increasingly organic sound. Many of the themes seem plucked -- quite literally on the John Fahey-like "A Tender History in Rust" -- from the air, furtive patterns that appear like flickering shadows before they're given weight by the band's elegant horns, electric guitars, and two-drummer attack.... (Read full article)
-John Schacht (

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