Close Panel

14

Dec

2015

Review: City of Brides by En

By David Smith. Posted in Ambient, Drone, Electronic, Reviews | No Comments »
City of Brides by En

City of Brides by En

En’s last album, Already Gone, (review here) was notable both for its distinctive palette of sounds and for its cohesion. It offered a succession of tracks of increasing length, culminating and resolving in a 20-minute meditation on Elysium, the mythical Greek isle of the blessed. City of Brides (the title of the new double LP and of its closing track – another eschatological tinge, I wonder?) is less linear. Indeed it thrives on a restless exploration of shifting and contrasting sounds, skipping from noise to clarity, from stasis to rippling motion, from soft to abrasive as we wander from moment to moment and from track to track. And yet there remains a sense of deep unity, as if the various tracks are somehow probing the same question, prodding at the same possibility.

Read more »

 
Inscriptions by Wil Bolton

Inscriptions by Wil Bolton

I didn’t plan to write a review tonight. But the CD was playing and it caught me up and carried me away and I had to write…

Wil Bolton’s music is part of the texture of my world. I always enjoy his releases to one degree or another, but a handful of them have risen from “this is nice” to “this is one of my favorite things”. The expressive chimes of Time Lapse and Chimes for a Wall Drawing call forth wonder and remain in my listening rotation years after their release.

Read more »

 
Arovane - dwell_tevvel_structure

dwell_tevvel_structure by Arovane

Germany’s Arovane has been putting out some striking ambient material of late, including the recent dwell_tevvel_structure on the UK label …txt recordings. I have no idea what a tevvel is, and neither does Google; it’s an anagram of velvet and bears a passing resemblance to the Dutch teviel (“too much”), but who knows if that is relevant. Dwelling, in the sense of settling down and taking time, and structure, here in the form of careful layers of sound, are both terms that illuminate the music on this album. The album consists of four long sound pieces (ranging from 14 to 20 minutes), each with its own distinct character yet tied together sonically in an arc that suggests four movements of a whole. The first opens with a gently undulating drift and fluttering patters of brightness – perhaps it’s the cover art, but I find it hard not to think of sunlight sparkling on waves.

Read more »

 

Titus Andronicus - The Most Lamentable TragedyTitus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a double, concept album focusing on a protagonist dealing (like Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles) with mental illness.  Stickles has been actively working on TMLT for about the last 4 years, but in many ways the album has been foreshadowed (both thematically and musically) for the band’s entire existence.

Lyrically, TMLT is dark and beautiful, despairing and hopeful, and will move many to tears.  Divided into 5 parts, the lyrics follow the unnamed person through all the ups and downs of manic depression: Breakdown, treatment, prescriptions, the highs and lows that still affect everything you do, and how to connect with your loved ones who, despite their best efforts, can’t begin to understand what you’re going through.  Mostly, though, the album is about the internal war between a person and himself, and this war does not have a happy ending.

Read more »

 

Omar Souleyman - Bahdeni NamiOmar Souleyman – Bahdeni Nami

The best known Syrian dabke wedding singer, now based in Turkey due to the Syrian civil war, is back with his second studio recording following 147,692 (number approximate) tape releases in his native country.  Souleyman, who uses electronics and his soulful voice to craft fun, incredibly danceable tunes, again worked with Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden on Bahdeni Nami and the album does not disappoint.  Souleyman’s lyrics are, of course, in Arabic, so very few native English speakers will be able to understand them, but the sound of his voice blends so well the music’s high pitched keyboard sounds that their meaning is really irrelevant.  All that matters is the music irresistibly makes hips shake and heads bob.

Read more »

 

Tame Impala - CurrentsTame Impala – Currents

Prior to his third album as frontman of Tame Impala, Kevin Parker collaborated with Mark Ronson on his mega hit Uptown Special (including singing lead on that album’s actual best song “Daffodils”), and it appears he learned a few things from Ronson.  Currents is still very much a Tame Impala record, but where InnerSpeaker and Lonerism were insular psychedelic rock made for putting on headphones and shutting out the world, Currents takes the band’s sound in a dancey new direction that begs to be played at high volume at BBQs and on beaches.  Whether it’s the sprawling jam of “Let it Happen”, the earworm hook of “‘Cause I’m a Man”, or the pure beauty of “Eventually”, Currents is, quite simply, the perfect summer album.

Read more »

 

Vince Staples - Summertime '06Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

Summertime ’06 starts with intro track “Ramona Park Legend Pt. 1”, 35 seconds of idyllic southern California beach sounds mixed with a light beat.  There are waves crashing, a baby cooing, and a lone seagull.  The 36th second is the sound of a gunshot.  From there Summertime ’06, Staples’ debut full length (double album actually), opens up into a 13-year old Staples’ world trying to navigate growing up on the streets in the title season.  Staples has an easy flow, has no trouble sitting in the pocket of a beat, and even when a guest appears he never really turns the album over to anyone else.  This is without a doubt Staples’ memory of coming of age in a gangsta world.  Unlike YG’s My Krazy Life, which thrived in the gangsta life, or Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city that chaffed against it, though, Summertime ’06 simply tries to survive within its world.  Like those albums, however, Summertime ’06 seems destined for the West Coast rap pantheon.

Read more »

 

Desaparacidos - PayolaDesaparecidos – Payola

Conor Oberst is a busy man.  He has his solo work, he’s the frontman of Bright Eyes, a member of Monsters of Folk, a founder of Saddle Creek Records, etc. etc. etc.  His hardest hitting job, though, is as the front man of punk band Desaparecidos.  The band was originally formed in 2001 and released Read Music/Speak Spanish the following year before disbanding.  In 2010, the band reformed and started releasing occasional singles, which have been compiled (and added to) on Payola, an album of 14 2-3 minute bursts of pure punk rock.  A listener who goes into Payola expecting the gentle sounds and confessional lyrics of most Oberst projects will be taken aback by the distorted guitars and political ideas, but Oberst isn’t posing here.  He commits fully to the punk ethos and creates a record with depth, breadth, and a whole lot of fun.

Read more »

 

Fucked Up - Year of the Hare

Fucked Up – Year of the Hare

Toronto hardcore punks Fucked Up have a tradition of an annual EP release based on the Chinese Zodiac.  Interestingly, despite being a hardcore band, each of the Zodiac EPs sees the band try out long, sprawling tracks and Year of the Hare is no exception.  Stretching to a mammoth 21 and a half minutes, the title track opens with nearly 7 minutes of guitar picking/strums and gentle piano before the band and Pink Eyes’ vocals enter in.  Even when they do, it is not a hardcore thrash (although Pink Eyes still sounds as guttural as ever until he drops out in favor of guest vocalist Isla Craig), but a fairly traditional rock song until about the 17 minute mark when the guitars ramp up, cut out completely at about 18:30, roar back with a vengeance, and then end the track the way it began.  It’s a fascinating listen, as is b-side “California Cold”, which features…flutes?  And drones?  This band is the best.

Read more »

 

Jenny Hval - Apocalypse, girlJenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl

Norwegian Jenny Hval makes experimental music made up of gentle, often ethereal, synths and uncompromising lyrics focusing on sex, gender, aging, religion, and other deep personal subjects (the word “cunt” is startlingly used on multiple tracks).  This combination of the otherworldly and fully human creates an unsettling, fascinating whole.  Apocalypse, girl, Hval’s third release under her own name, she previously recorded as Rockettothesky and along with Håvard Volden as Nude on Sand, is her best work to date.  In fact, much of Apocalypse, girl merges all the above topics into one massive exploration of the female condition.  This is not music for idle listening, but requires time and focus.  That time and focus are rewarded, however, with one of the most lyrically interesting albums of the year thus far.

Read more »