Friday, November 28, 2008

Guapo - Elixirs

Artist: Guapo
Album: Elixirs
Label: Neurot Recordings
Year: 2008

01. Jeweled Turtle
02. Arthur, Elsie And Frances
03. Twisted Stems The Heliotrope
04. Twisted Stems The Selenotrope
05. The Planks
06. King Lindorm


Guapo are very deep. Their press release is chock full of words I don't understand relating to and hinting at themes I am not familiar with. While psychadelic music is known to me, never have I heard anything quite like Elixirs.

Instrumental Pink Floyd, disturbing horror movie soundtracks, Mogwai gone's hard to pin down the sounds on this album. "Jeweled Turtle" quite literally scares me, it's foreboding and restless strings melding into a sort of funeral dirge for someone who never comes back from an LSD trip. It mellows out towards the last-half (track is 13 minutes) and eventually starts to sound like something from a similar group, Secret Chiefs 3; something middle-eastern and rootsy, while retaining that undercurrent of dread. "Arthur, Elsie and Frances" sounds like carnival music gone completely wrong; a sect of drugie clown nihilists who come across a room full of musical equipment on Halloween night after getting wasted on absinthe and mescal. Totally fucking bonkers, but also totally enjoyable. The two "Twisted Stems" tracks are somewhat more subdued, mellow and feature some vocal work. Probably the closest things to typical songs on Elixirs. "The Planks" is just badass, a quick rhythmic shot of adrenaline before the closer "King Lindorm" manages to pull all of these sounds together into one last, concise and deliberate dose of "what the fuck".

You'll notice over there on the "Try if you like" list, one of them says "Scary ass shit!". This is more or less what I got from Elixirs, beyond the obvious masterful musicianship, myriad of enjoyable little musical moments and an overall atmosphere that chokes you as much as embraces you. Guapo are deep, but not to the point where you need to do any digging. They've made the hole for you; just jump in. But don't play this one in the dark, with no one around...who knows what your feeble imagination might conjure up... (

Official site
Buy it

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Aidan Baker & Tim Hecker - Fantasma Parastasie

Artist: Aidan Baker & Tim Hecker
Album: Fantasma Parastasie
Label: alien8
Year: 2008


01. Phantom On A Pedestal
02. Hymn To The Idea Of Night
03. Auditory Spirits
04. Skeleton Dance
05. Gallery Of The Invisible Woman
06. Dream Of The Nightmare
07. Fantasma Parastasie


Aidan Baker, guitarist of a thousand releases and the megalithic drone-metal project Nadja, and Tim Hecker, preeminent lord of the ambient landscape, have come together to record an album. Methought it was an odd pairing at first, but it works perfectly - Nadja's brand of metallurgy frequently hovers into ambience, and Hecker has always been at the noisier end of the ambient spectrum. The resulting amalgamation is Fantasma Parastasie, and it bucks the trend with most side-projects, in that it holds up well next to anything either artist has released on his own.

It's notoriously different to write evaluatively about ambient music, owing partly to Brian Eno's dictum that the music "must be as ignorable as it is interesting." Fantasma Parastasie isn't strictly "ambient" music as Eno envisioned it, nor is it entirely ignorable. It does have that quality, however, of being beautiful in a way that allows it to fade into the background, while being detailed enough to reward those moments when it surges to the fore. In other words, I can get work done to it, but still feel like I listened to it when it's over.

The balance of sound on the album is pretty remarkable. Hecker's fondness for incorporating jagged shards of electric guitar into his own compositions is part of the source of confusion, but, really, the two musicians compliment each other perfectly. "Phantom on a Pedestal" begins with an imposing sheet of guitar feedback that's met by an equally-imposing wall of electronic sound and - somehow - the result is beauty, even as it's cacophony. Hecker's synths sound like they're emanating from the same wall of amps that Baker uses, wrapping the entire song in a warm cocoon of static cling. The rest of the pieces follow suit: "Auditory Spirits" has that distant, ringing sound that defined so many Flying Saucer Attack songs; waves of ethereal guitar feedback are slowly shifted into gentle electronic drones and back again in "Gallery of the Invisible Woman"; the subdued title track relies on gentle, low electronic tones, with guitar squall occasionally flitting to the surface. It's all of a piece and, if you're not paying attention to the progression, it's easy to miss when tracks change.

None of this communicates why the album is good. All you really need to know is this sounds like an album from the same thought-patterns that birthed Labradford and Flying Saucer Attack. It doesn't sound like those bands, but the principles are the same - shoegaze-worthy guitar roar turned into blissful stretches of soundscape, in this case with Hecker's nebulous electronics alternately modulating and subsumed into the noise. It's the sound of entropy decreasing into order, or fixed patterns bleeding into chaos. Noise and silence, power and fragility are not so much juxtaposed as they are intermingled to the point where distinguishing them from each other is impossible - an impressive display of alchemy from two masters. by Lucas Kane (

Official site

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Voyager - Voyager

Artist: Voyager
Album: Voyager
Label: Forgotten Records
Year: 2008

01. Crushing Winds
02. Static Pulse
03. Drifter
04. Avulsion
05. Surfacing


Voyager’s debut EP sees the Boston quintet taking on the sound of former sounds of Isis and introducing some depressive doom ala My Dying Bride in the mix. For one, the production is cleaner than most records put out by Isis and the imitators they spawned. Most notable is vocalist D. Toye’s prominence in the mix. He sounds like what would result if Aaron Turner took lessons from some of Florida’s finest death metal vocalists. If you complained about Panopticon’s submerged vocals, this EP is for you.

While most “post-metal” bands have slight tinges of the post-hardcore that they evolved from, Voyager have no such influence. Though they do indulge in slower, dreamier sections, they focus more of doomy riffs and melancholic melodies upfront. “Crushing Winds” morphs from a Celestial style track to a Crowbar wind-down jam. “Drifter” features some interesting guitar improv, but it is only a prelude to the EP’s second half. “Surfacing” is a monster of a track, building up and crashing down again and again. The final minutes of the song even bear some resemblance to Celestia before drifting off into noise. However, the cutsey chime in “Static Pulse” ruins the mood.

I would recommend this EP if you like the genre. However, it won’t get you into it if you’re not already a fan. These guys have potential. (

Buy it (Sold Out)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Maybeshewill - Not For Want Of Trying

Artist: Maybeshewill
Album: Not For Want Of Trying
Label: Field (UK & EU) / XTAL (JP) / Robot Needs Home
Year: 2008


01. Ixnay On The Autoplay
02. Seraphim & Cherubim
03. The Paris Hilton Sex Tape
04. I'm In Awe, Amadeus!
05. We Called For An Ambulance But A Fire Engine Came
06. Heartflusters
07. C.N.T.R.C.K.T
08. He Films The Clouds Pt. 2
09. Not For Want Of Trying
10. Takotsubo


“Maybeshewill like the way it sounds, not the meaning of its constituent parts. If you're looking for meaning, you won't find any here.”

As many may have noticed recently the genre of post-rock has been in something of a decline. With many (too many) bands attempting unsuccessfully to imitate heavyweights like Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky, an area of music that was once a bustling market place of creativity has started to grow, well, stale. Leicester lads Maybeshewill have obviously noticed this. While their debut EP ‘Japanese Spy Transcript’ was a proficient exercise in the quiet-loud dynamic that has been employed by countless of nearly identical bands, this, their debut album, is different. The aforementioned quotation from the band themselves alone, “…you won’t find any (meaning) here…”, distances them from the congested post-rock herd. Post-rock is a genre that many, this reviewer included, closely associate with great displays of emotion. However, there is none of that here – at all. In some ways it is refreshing, in others it is somewhat disappointing; at the very least it is interesting.

In case you haven’t guessed yet Maybeshewill are not, I repeat not a post-rock band –at least not in the traditional sense. They have more in common with a band like Biffy Clyro, especially on the quirkily titled ‘The Paris Hilton Sex Tape’ which basically sounds like a song from the Ayrshire trio only without vocals, and a lot more interesting musically. In its three-and-a-half minute running time it moves between soaring guitars, dirty-sounding bass riffs, pretty-sounding piano riffs and spiky riffs. As with all the songs here, there is plenty of variation yet it all makes sense and doesn’t seem out of place. This is never more true than on the schizophrenic ‘We Called For An Ambulance But A Fire Engine Came’ which changes dramatically halfway through from a riff-heavy metal section to a string and piano section. From here it segues into a mild industrial electronica outro.

The use of electronics is vital to Maybeshewill’s sound as they employ it very well indeed. Whereas Texan post-rock outfit This Will Destroy You decided to overuse it on their self titled debut, Maybeshewill make subtle use of their synths and drum machines on songs such as ‘Seraphim & Cherubim’ really enhance the quality of the song. Though the song would work just as well without them they make it feel more complete and generally more enjoyable. Only on ‘Heartflusters’ do the electronics take a more central stage. The song has a much thinner texture than others and so, in this respect, offers variation. Though more noticeable is the inclusion of vocals as it is one of only two (three if you include samples) tracks that does this. Though the vocals here aren’t of the best quality as the midlands accent and general delivery isn’t too audibly pleasing, they have a sort of endearing quality which makes the track worthwhile. The only other song that includes live vocals on the album is the somewhat pretentiously titled ‘He Films The Clouds Pt. 2’. The use of a cyclic piano pattern and sparsely notated guitars is soothing and is one of the best moments on the album. It builds texturally throwing drum machines, synths and drums into the mix before eventually changing tone slightly. As the texture thins unexpectedly a choir-like gang vocal refrain enters. The warm tone of the voices is strangely reassuring and is well worth the wait, given the near seven minute running time – the longest on the album. The title track also employs vocals, well…kind of. There is a lengthy sample of Howard Beale complaining about social decline in the film ‘Network’ before telling the listeners “I want you to get mad!” as the song explodes from tense piano-riffing into an EitS ‘Those Who Tell The Truth…’ era heavy section which is possibly the most dramatic and well constructed part of the whole album.

With post-rock bands running out of fresh and original ideas Maybeshewill are a breath of fresh air. They have turned their backs on their past and really, it is for the better. ‘Not For Want Of Trying’ is a colourful, and above all, an interesting listen – one that is far more accessible than most instrumental music these days. The albums accessibility is both a positive thing and a negative. It is a good thing because obviously, it doesn’t require much effort to listen to it and enjoy it. However, ultimately it is far less rewarding as too often textures stay constant throughout and, though motifs change a lot, there is not enough noticeable variability. It is admirable that Maybeshewill have tried to make a unique album, and even more admirable that they have made such a dramatic change from their debut EP but as it turns out they have changed perhaps a little too much. However, for a debut album this is very, very good indeed and seems to indicate that Maybeshewill are capable of great things.
-by Richard Craig (

Official site

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ovum - Microcosmos

Artist: Ovum
Album: Microcosmos
Label: XTAL Records
Year: 2008

01. Brilliant Lies
02. Lost in Addiction
03. Zero
04. No Where Now Here
05. Reflection
06. Snowflake Butterfly
07. Astral


At one point or another, most people who are drawn to the increasingly large selection of genres known as “post-rock” will sit down and ask themselves: what exactly is it that constitutes a post-rock band, anyway? The most immediate response will usually be a lack of vocals, but that doesn’t quite fit – many post-rock stalwarts, from Canadian A Silver Mt. Zion to Swedish Ef have a vocal presence that is critically important to their sound. Then maybe it’s the length of the songs; after all, Godspeed You! Black Emperor never wrote anything shorter than ten minutes, and most of the best Explosions in the Sky songs have lengths soaring towards the double digits. But this isn’t quite correct either: 65daysofstatic keep most of their songs under five minutes, and even long-form post-rock veterans Mogwai featured a stunning brevity on their latest effort, Mr. Beast.
No, these are not the critical elements of post-rock. The defining feature, rather, is structural innovation, and it is this which fuels the more readily observable traits of the genre. Structural innovation, among other things, means altering, morphing, or even just plain destroying the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure which so thoroughly dominates just about everything you hear on the radio. Many of these innovations are good; some are fantastic; but some leave much to be desired. It is in this unfortunate last category that the majority of Microcosmos finds itself.
Microcosmos is the debut LP by Japanese post-rock outfit OVUM. Now, writing “Japanese” and “post-rock” into the same sentence has the tendenency to send up flares amongst some readers, so I’ll go ahead and douse them right now: OVUM bares only the slightest similarity to Mono, Te’, and most other guitar-based instrumental acts from the Land of the Rising Sun with which we have become so inundated over the years. As a matter of fact, their sound is fresh and rather invigorating. Much of this is due to the band’s extremely tight rhythm section: while the guitars do sometimes grow a little stagnant, the bass and drums constantly drive the songs forward with complex and pleasing lines and grooves. Additionally, I must credit the production of this album: all of the instruments come in very clearly, and it is easy to both listen to the music as a whole and to listen to just one instrument – certainly, this is no easy task for the engineer to achieve.
But unfortunately, almost the entire album is marred by structural choices which prevent any sort of cohesion for the songs. The structure can be summed up thusly: play a rather cool little bit for about thirty to sixty seconds, then transition immediately and abruptly into another rather cool little bit, and repeat until the song decides to end. Taken individually, these song fragment are extremely enjoyable, but there is nothing that links them together. It’s not as though Ovum are leaping frantically from genre to genre á la Between the Buried and Me - rather, all of these fragments are composed in a very similar style. The thought seems to have been that since the style of the fragments is the same, they would naturally work together into one cohesive whole. Unfortunately, they do not. To be honest, the problem is so pronounced that if you were to fall asleep while listening to this record, and then wake up about fifteen minutes later, you would have no idea whether you were listening to the same track or not. Ironically enough, sharp brakes in style would actually have created more cohesion than what we are given for the majority of this album.
On the last track, however, we begin to see a glimmer of hope. “Astral” clocks in a little bit too long for it’s own good at eleven and a half minutes, but this is very forgivable in the context of the cohesion that has finally arrived. Apparently OVUM remembered to take their Adderall while the were writing this, for they manage to draw out the introduction to the song to almost four minutes, and the result is quite stunning. Moreover, all of the other sections of the song are actually connected to each other! Because of this remarkable restraint and proclivity towards exploration, “Astral” achieves what all the other tracks on Microcosmos failed to do: it can be legitimately called a true song.
The importance of structural innovation in post-rock cannot be understated. This crucial element is the lifeblood of the genre, and kudos must be given to OVUM for being willing to try something new. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. If the segments of the tracks were connected to each other, they would be brilliant. On the other side, if they were separated by abrupt changes in style, the resulting schizophrenia could be also be hammered into a sense of cohesion. Unfortunately, the songs instead find themselves languishing in a tepid middle ground between a heightened structure and the complete abandonment thereof. “Astral” shows what OVUM is truly capable of, but the only way to enjoy the rest of them, as irony would have it, is microcosmically. (

Official site
Buy it

Sunday, November 2, 2008

God Is An Astronaut - God Is An Astronaut

Artist: God Is An Astronaut
Album: God Is An Astronaut
Label: Revive Records
Year: 2008


01. Shadows
02. Post Mortem
03. Echoes
04. Snowfall
05. First Day Of Sun
06. No Return
07. Zodiac
08. Remaining Light
09. Shores Of Orion
10. Loss


Just attended the Athens show together with JaM at "An Live Club" and bought the new CD! Show was awesome, hope to see "God Is An Astronaut" again next year...
BUY the CD when it is out (7.11.2008), it is GREAT!

Official site
Buy (
Web Release Exclusive (CD Only) 7.11.08 - General Release Jan 2009)