12 October 2014
Alexia Avina - Kind Forest EP
This review is really long overdue, so sorry about that.
Alexia Avina is a Montreal based dream pop artist whose debut EP Kind Forest came out in July of this year (like I said, long overdue). While dream pop can definitely be a daunting genre, with plenty of imitators and copycats out there, I'm pleased to say that Alexia is a unique voice amongst the crowd. The 4 tracks on Kind Forest show a great deal of maturity that I feel a lot of dream pop lacks: perfectly layered but not obnoxious or burdensome instrumentation, heavenly and unique vocals, intriguing and well written lyrics, and a very clean overall production. Now, I'll be honest and say I'm not a huge fan of EP's. Well, correction: I like them when they're done right. Sometimes EP's just feel like lazy buildups to an LP, in which case I'm always left wondering "why not just release these songs on the LP?". But Avina makes Kind Forest a rare EP that doesn't feel like it sacrifices anything despite it's short running time. She made the music and the songs she wanted to make, and I really really enjoy it. I'd definitely recommend keeping an eye on her in the future.
28 September 2014
Merlin - Christ Killer
Something wicked this way comes.
Merlin is a band I've been following for an awfully long time. I picked up one of their very first hand made CD's at Love Garden Sounds, and I faithfully followed them through their gradual progression into becoming one of my favorite bands. Through releases like their frightening Nachtamar and their intense and wild live shows, Merlin was permanently infused deep in my head. And while their last self titled album was not my favorite of theirs (mostly do to some recording flaws and weaker tracks), it still has some of my favorite songs and riffs from the band. However, in 2014 the band brings us yet another piece of their creation, the ever blasphemous Christ Killer. And holy crap. This album blew me away.
While Merlin felt like a much more home recorded album in the DIY style of their past effort, Christ Killer feels like a studio quality recording. Right off the bat it has this wonderfully full sound that wasn't present on past records. To me, this album is Merlin's full realized potential. Everything I knew they could become, and even more. From the first notes of impending doom on the intro "Overture," I felt this sense of fear and dread over what was to come next. The band just lets this song build and build with instrumentation, pulling you into the world as they see it. And this song is barely over 2 and a half minutes (far and away the shortest track Merlin offers on the record). From there, the band jumps into the very southern rock infused "Execution." This track is easily one of the catchiest things I've heard Merlin put together, and I love every second of it. It's just straight up blood pumping, and has killer riffs coming from the bands two guitarists. The bass is thick and fuzzy, and the drums are just recorded and played perfectly. And the little breakdown/transition the band throws in during the songs final 40 seconds is incredible. After this is the 8 and a half minute "Deal With The Devil," a slowly building and evolving metal track that feels like it could be something written back during the genre's heyday. It lets itself develop and grow into an incredible, relentless beast of musical power that I really really enjoy. Speaking of gradually developing tracks, Christ Killer's final two tracks are the masters of mounting musical tension. The first of these two, "Lucifer's Revenge," mutates and builds almost like one of the more groove heavy tracks from a recent Swans record. And god is it fantastic (no pun intended). The album comes to a very impressive end with "The Christkiller." This track transports you into a scene straight out of a western and it keeps you there for the entire running time. With the slow building introduction with swirling airy noises, twangy acoustic guitar, and bongos, it just slowly burns a hole right into your head. It's beautiful and haunting at the same time. It's over 6 and half minutes into the track that the track seems to break into a southern metal jam that shakes you to the core. It's not blood pumping, or even exciting. It's almost terrifying. You feel like Merlin is just billowing into the earth, going deeper and deeper to find hell, and they're taking you with them. As you hear some guitar feedback, it seems to signal the end of your journey.
In summary, Christ Killer is Merlin at their very best. Every single musician who worked on this record really put in their maximum effort, and god did it pay off. This is the record that I knew Merlin had in them since their beginnings, and I'm so happy that they finally have all the resources to take their music into another freaking dimension. I love this record, and I'll be amazed to see how Merlin tops this one. Check it out as soon as possible.
27 September 2014
Lake Mary - There Are Always Second Chances In The Mountains
Ah man. Albums this good make me happy, guys.
Lake Mary is a Colorado based ambient folk artist. I found out about him through the lovely people at Planted Tapes, a unique limited release tape label also based in Colorado. I listened to the sample provided by Planted Tapes as a teaser for There Are Always Second Chances In The Mountains, and I was stunned by what I heard. Thick, dense monolithic drones mixed with folk-based instrumentation throughout, providing the listener with massive layers of sound that simply surround and bury you. These songs that Lake Mary has recorded are absolute masterpieces, exploring the landscapes around him and translating them into carefully layered and constantly developing drone pieces. I see a lot of comparisons musically to Helios and Lost Trail, who are two of my favorite ambient artists. And just like those bands, Lake Mary isn't just a musician. He's a sound artist. He paints incredibly vivid pictures of mountains and forests through sound. While Lost Trail paints pictures of ghost towns, abandoned industrial buildings and failing machinery (which is a bit more of an aesthetic I relate to), Lake Mary finds his muse in the natural Colorado landscape around him. Both these artists pull me into their sonic worlds and totally engross me in them. These are the kind of albums that make me love ambient and drone music. When you can pick apart a record and just feel like you're in a different place and time while listening, that's truly an incredible experience. Lost Trail is one of the only other acts who done this, and now Lake Mary is right up next to him. I'm really really really loving this one. I'm going to waiting with anticipation for whatever he does next.
(also note: sorry that I spent a lot of time ranting and comparing Lake Mary to Lost Trail. Both of these guys are amazing artists that I love and have the pleasure to know through the world wide web. These reviews are usually a stream of consciousness style of writing, so it happens sometimes. I recommend both of them highly)
회사AUTO - Neon Beige
A few years ago, when the genre of vaporwave was becoming an internet phenomenon, one of the first artists I was introduced to, along with people like Luxury Elite and Saint Pepsi, was 회사AUTO (who I'm just going to refer to as AUTO for the remainder of this review). He seemed to have a bit of an off beat style and seemed to experiment a bit more. I always found his albums very appealing, particularly albums like Dream.Boxx and America (both titles have many more exclamations and symbols then I care to add in). Over the last year or so, as the hype around vaporwave seemed to slow down, the aftermath resulted in something that in my opinion was just as good or even better. Many artists who had forefronted Vaporwave's beginnings continued developing their style; molding and transforming it into much more hi-fi explorations of electronic music. These progressions have been seen very clearly in artists like Saint Pepsi and Spazzkid, and AUTO as well has proven to me he's still right up at this movement's forefront with Neon Beige. This massive 30 track album is very bright and colorful trip through dance and electronic music featuring plenty of guests along the way. Despite the length that Neon Beige has, I don't think it feels as long as it actually is. Each track is filled to the brim with head turning samples, catchy hooks, bright synthesizers and booming beats. There are a lot of tracks that surprisingly go into shoegaze/dream pop territory, with very hazy mixes and thick layers of vivid sounds. I'm really loving it. I can definitely see the massive amounts of effort put in from AUTO himself and everyone else who was involved. I highly recommend this one. Enjoy!
17 August 2014
Sneaky Creeps - Negative Space
I'm a bit late to the party here, but better late than never. Kansas City post punk band Sneaky Creeps' new record Negative Space is probably their best one to date. I was a big fan of their previous album Bell St. Radio and the EP Thin Man Wigs Out, and the band continues to push even further into new ground with Negative Space. Through the ferocious vocals of guitarist/loop master Andy Erdrich and drummer Max Crutcher plus bassist Isaac Ahloe, Sneaky Creeps make these 11 tracks into a ferocious post punk triumph. The tracks can very from very sparkly and pretty ("Hypnotist Convention") to pretty harsh and brutal ("Splitting Hairs"), but usually it's somewhere in between. And that's fine by me, cause it's a style of music that Sneaky Creeps is exceptionally good at. It feels like a combination of older Modest Mouse and a brutal rock band like Muscle Worship. I recommend you give it a listen if want your mind blown out by some really wild rock music. Enjoy!
07 August 2014
Max Uhlich - Hakiko
Alberta based musician Max Uhlich has released his debut album Hakiko, and I definitely think it's worth writing a review of. The 14 songs on this record are truly some of the strangest singer/songwriter tracks I've heard in quite a while. Most of them are very minimally composed, relying on nothing more than Max's unique voice and lyrics and some keyboard and guitar. Occasionally you'll hear some percussion (drums or drum machine) and some field recordings, but for the most part, Hakiko is very reliant on Max's one of a kind lyrics and voice. Each track has incredibly in-depth and well written lyrics, the amount of effort put into them definitely noticeable. And because of Max's use of very minimal instrumentation, his unique voice and lyrics are at the forefront of this Hakiko. And I'm most definitely ok with that, because they're both excellent features. While I do think the album runs a bit long (14 tracks and just over an hour), I definitely think Max Uhlich's first album is a very solid release that you should check out. Enjoy!
05 August 2014
B L A C K I E... All Caps, With Spaces - IMAGINE YOUR SELF IN A FREE AND NATURAL WORLD
Houston-based experimental rap artist B L A C K I E has been delivering his intense brand of industrious and noisy hip hop crossed with hardcore punk since all the way back in 2005. On his (I believe) 5th LP, B L A C K I E challenges listeners with perhaps some of the most abrasive and brutal music he's ever released. IMAGINE YOURSELF IN A FREE AND NATURAL WORLD is truly B L A C K I E's best work, the full realized potential of a man who's already earned my respect after years of solid releases. Michael Lacour uses IMAGINE YOUR SELF as a full exploration of sonic possibilities, using dense and distorted layers of synthesizers, bass guitar, wall rattling drums, mind numbing clarinet wailing, and of course, his signature abrasive vocals. Lacour just takes full reign of sound and noise on this album, unleashing horrifically strange sonic chaos upon whoever is brave enough to listen. I highly recommend that you listen to and buy this album as soon as possible. I think this is one of those albums you should experience. Enjoy!
31 July 2014
Little Whales - Demo
Coming in all the way from Mumbai, India, is the debut demo from the one man band of Vrishank Menon, Little Whales. While this demo is only three tracks and barely runs for 5 minutes, Little Whales make a great first impression in the little time this demo has. The short and sweet 52 second intro track "When I Was A Child, I'd Use My Dad's Jacket As A Blanket (The Jacket Won't Even Fit Me Now)" provides some very nice swells of drums and sparkling guitar leads that I find quite enjoyable. I do wish that if any of the tracks would've been developed a little more, it definitely should've been this one. There just could've been so much done with it from an instrumental standpoint. But hey, that's the whole point of a demo. The next track "Lucid Dreams" offers some more nicely placed guitar arrangements over our first real taste of Vrishank's voice, and it's not half bad. It's not perfect, but for the music he's playing, it definitely works. It blends into the mix very well and it shows a lot of potential. The last track, "I Even Learnt How To Spell Massachusetts", is probably my least favorite track on here, just because the mixing was a little weak here. The guitars really overshadowed the vocals quite a bit and the vocals just felt smooshed under the rest of the instruments. But other than that, I don't have many complaints on this demo. Little Whales definitely made a good demo, and I'll be really anticipating a full length album or EP from him in the future.
Dor - grey, north carolina
The most recent album from North Carolina collaboration project Dor, grey, north carolina, is a pretty wonderful and haunting trip through ambient IDM music. Typically (but not all the time), ambient music that has a very dense and wonderful sound to it is ruined once it brings beats and drum machines into the picture. It just takes away more than it adds for me, I don't know. But Dor does a very good job at mixing in these subtle but powerful beats into their droning soundscapes. Every single track on grey manages to keep a heavy hand on atmosphere and makes you feel like you're being transported wherever Dor feels you need to be to fully experience their music. The duo has the ability to shift between quick and fast paced to very disorienting and calm in very quick bursts. After listening to the album several times, I can honestly say that it's an album worth experiencing. Dor's incredibly solid grasp on tone and mood through dense and shoegazy soundscapes mixed with overall powerful and creative musicianship is incredible, and it helps elevate grey, north carolina to a status of high achievement. Well done, Dor. Well done. I recommend you check this out as soon as possible.
24 July 2014
Chapa Mamba - S/T
This self titled album from Brazilian garage rock two piece (I believe they're a two piece) Chapa Mamba is pretty freaking awesome. I might go as far as saying it's my favorite rock record of the year so far. The band just does so many things right on this album, and I just can't help but enjoy it. Chapa Mamba mixes the constant structural changes of a band like Tame Impala but replaces all the extra synths and phased out guitars with Nirvana-esque distortion sounding like it's being played on a warped record. Throughout the record, Chapa Mamba doesn't really give me a sense of emotion, but however it does give me something different. That rare feeling of listening to a rock record that makes me feel uneasy and intrigued. While the feeling isn't as intense as it is when I listen to Women's Public Strain or Many Moods Of Dad's The Consequence Of Trying, I would still put this album in a category with those albums. Chapa Mamba just puts forward some sort of recorded aesthetic that makes it feel unique amongst all the albums I've heard so far this year. But while I also get unique vibes from this album, it's also an incredibly catchy and fun listen that will appeal to almost everyone. I would recommend you check out this record as soon as possible. Also, the whole record is in Portuguese. This is the first time I've heard garage rock sung in Portuguese, but I freaking love it. Check it out!