With the Art of Time Ensemble – let’s hope a DVD is released of this!
“The Lake, Part One” is an ambience piece that I’m assuming is the life going on around the lake we’re at as it gives way to “Are You Listening” which is a warming piano, organ and vocal track. Alex’s vocal’s are delicate and clean. The song itself then starts to build with percussion and all kinds of motif trickery slowly seeping into the track as it grows and develops into something quite rousing with all the vocal collages and the simple song structure being given room to breathe. “Never Look Back” sees things growing again with its childlike verses and freeforming choruses. Again there is a certain warming feeling to everything and it’s like a Christmas song without all the jingles. There’s some lovely crisp production throughout and here’s a place where it really shines.
“Oceanside” which features Ximena Sarinaña is the lead single and takes things to melancholy guitar front with its absolutely heartbreaking melody. By using a lot of little noises and percussive edges or open strings the audio palette is filled to the brim without every overcoming the emotion of the main melody. It’s a certain gift that A City On A Lake has throughout and its somewhat of his trademark. “Twenty Faces” is an interesting pop rock track with a tripping beat and an affinity for going for different chords so as to not be normal. Coupled with Alex’s quiet vocals and lots of xylophone love, it’s a cutely understated track.
“The Lake, Part Two” is a very short harmonium track like a demo which falls away to “We Will Surrender” which is by far the most uptempo track on the album so far and its also one of the most sparse. The piano only chimes the chords and its left to the vocals and token keyboard synth waves to carry the track. It’s an unusual juxtaposition that then bursts into a big middle eight before the final run through but again, it’s these production choices that hallmark the album all the way through. “The Fighter” again is a simple song that is given unusual production values. The drums are muted to a single clash and there’s a lot of warped twinkling flurries of keyboards. It’s as if the goal of the song is to change where each instrument would normally sit on the audio spectrum. I love it when artists play with things like that.
“Always Something Better” is more traditional with catchy hooks and is a fantastic place to start withif you’re new to A City On A Lake. Its delicate but dramatic and showcases all the sides of the album and artist in one track. “Patiently” is an acoustic guitar and vocal led track for the most part and is again understated in its beauty and almost warm to the touch. Alex’s simple vocals suit this type of music best and finishes things off nicely before the bizarre “Album Credits” where Alex basically reads the linear notes over background ambience of a fair. A unique idea!
A City On A Lake is a clever album from a clever artist. While the songs themselves are very simple, the production behind them is anything but. It raises the entire thing up a level and suddenly you have a really special album that you want to take time investigating and working its craft on you. Very highly recommended.
Beautifully understated. Copperfox.
Sometimes I just need a bit of clean, fresh, simplicity in my music. Not often it must be said – but sometimes I really do. Enter Andrew Osenga who reminds me very much of David Gray but softer and with no shouting required. Andrew’s single from his latest album “Leonard The Lonely Astronaut” is called “Ever and Always”. HPM will be reviewing the album next week.
Dikta hail from the musical genius country that is Iceland. An alternative rock band whom are gaining fame in their own country, Dikta are now looking to breakout elsewhere and with such strong rhythms, vocals and guitar embellishments I really hope they make it! Here’s the heartwrenching video to “What Are You Waiting For?”
We’ll be hoping to bring you a lot more of Dikta.
“Flight of Angels – Splice OST” is a very regal and relaxing soundtrack to the not very relaxing puzzle game Splice. However part of what makes anatomy strain making so enjoyable is the piano soundtrack tinkling away behind the scenes. Each of the seven tracks, all named aptly after angels are wonderfully flowing and effortlessly show off composer Dain Saint’s pianist chops. “Barachiel” is regal, “Ariel” has an endless flow to it that just seeps out beauty while “Gabriel” is a little more dramatic with lower end arcs and minimal heart monitor like bleeps in the background. “Fanuel” is more melodic and actually could easily have a songwriters vocals laid over the top. “Eremiel” returns to a more classical vibe as the soft midi piano does its best to caress the ear with its muted tones. “Darda’il” feels like the previous tracks’ slightly more sinister twin before “Cassiel” rounds of the soundtrack with the most dynamic and dramatic piece of the lot.
An acquired taste then perhaps, the Splice OST, but twenty minutes of sumptuous piano work is certainly worth dipping a toe into the water for as this one is like an eternal pool of dreams (ivory ones!)
Jana Fisher is a NYC folk pop singer/songwriter whose just about to release her first EP entitled Ideals and Deals. Here’s the lead track from it entitled “30k” which is spunky, upbeat and good to foot tap to. What we wouldn’t do for that eh Jana?
Zen Albatross’ two track single Masada Gestalt is a particularly abstract way of dealing with chiptune music. The title track is fully fleshed at five and half minutes of obscure building up, insane twisting chords and keys and then your reprieving anthemic finales. It took me three listens to appreciate the sheer awesomeness of the track and now I’m ready to tell the word that throbbing minor keys in a chiptune is where it’s meant to be!
The b-side is “The Absent Flesh” which appears to be a six minute freakout with some intense rising chords building you up for the impending battle or doom you face. Zen Albatross has a knack of building up a track to a huge crescendo even if that peak isn’t always there – it may come a few minutes later instead!
A great introduction to Zen Albatross’ work this free single should hopefully pave the way for an intriguing full album soon.
Chipzel has made a great little chiptune EP for the mobile game Super-Hexagon which has hit the stores recently. Sounding very similar to a cleaned up ZX Spectrum in all its glory each of the three tracks are stonking!
“Courtesy” has that Spectrum vibrato it the high notes and the track certainly goes through certain phases of heightened drama and it makes excellent use of white noiz for a percussive bass. “Otis” steps things up a bit with a much more chiselled main synth cutting through the speakers and its sparse use of stereo sound for just one of the chipsets really gives the track a more fuller feel than it has a right to be. The riffs keep coming with the track changing every 16 bars at least. It’s more like a tense medley than a single track. “Focus” initially sounds like its on a more modern chipset but then it descends into a frenzy of old skool sound effects and rising arpeggios and you’re suddenly into a blood rush again.
Chipzel’s Super Hexagon EP is short at 9 minutes, but there’s whole lot crammed in. Chiptune enthusiasts will enjoy this one!
Iamamiwhoami wouldn’t be possible in many ways without the wonder of the internet. I for one am in debt to it – all this wonderful music I discover daily! “Kin” is the first full release from the lady who has yet to put any clothes on since her début collection of singles.
Opening with “Sever” the album starts off with a sinister tone with airy electronica bleeding around echoed vocals and soft clasping beats. It’s a great opener to set the tone for the rest of the upcoming album which soon descends to a waving trance with the manic “Drops” which relies on heavy arpeggios, thumping beats that have been faded by the sun and some wonderfully obscure lyrics as ever. The chords chosen throughout the album are ones that are so close to being a massive tune but are often minor keyed or twisted. You’re always listening for the strange cue from something. This is what I love about Kin and Iamamiwhoami as a whole.
“Good Worker” is a breakdown in low-fi electronica and harks back more towards the previous set of works. The heavily processed vocals pierce through the depressed run down trance keyboards and pressed beats to give a very oppressive feel – one that shrouds the album overall. “Play” has an awesome bending note melody and a very catchy bridge. It again has this “I’m falling apart” feel to it as a track and it absolutely makes the track so lethargically elating – it’s a strange way to describe it but it’s how the song makes me feel. It is superb though.
“In Due Order” goes for the grizzly bass discord to drive a wedge in your brain as the vocals start in tune and slowly drift off on their own. It’s effective especially when the instruments switch on and off quickly at their own intervals. “Idle Talk” is the 80′s spangling track of the album with all the downtrodden excellence and heavily processed arpeggios breezing over your ears. It’s as melancholy as it is melodic. “Rascal” is a buzzing low-fi number that wallows in its ethereal ways.
“Kill” sounds exactly like how I’d imagine a collaboration with Royksopp working! Fun bass, cute drums, darkened minor key littered melodies. What more could anyone really need? Also props to the great tempo change at the end. The closing track “Goods” also sounds like someone writing an 80′s pop song with a broken 2012 DAW! It’s got the main rhythm and melody but everything is tweaked just that little bit to detuned so even though this is easily the most straight forward track on the album, it’s still surreal and slightly abstract.
“Kin” is a complete success. If you are fortunate to get the CD+DVD version, the videos just add to mystery as big furry creatures chase Iamamiwhoami around and about. The album just works perfectly as a broken down collapsing heap of everything you’ve ever worked for falling through your fingers in glorious synth pop heaven.
JAM is a music game that tries its absolute best to avoid doing anything similar to other music games in the genre. As a result its become very much a purists music game but also one that if it takes you, you’ll be spending a lot of time playing.
JAM is made for the Rock Band / Guitar Hero guitar peripheral in mind. You have five coloured notes on the guitar (you can also use a PS3 controller too). On screen you those five coloured notes transposed into five different instrument boxes – inside which the five colours again are assigned to different loops or riffs. By strumming the guitar or pressing up on the D-Pad with the instrument buttons pressed you turn these instruments on for you to the then strum down again to set off individual riffs and loops in time with the beat. As the loops are on, you’ll see them spin around in their own time signature. To start with everything runs for say 4, 8 or 16 bars of music. Later on as more songs are unlocked you’ll get one hit moves that only take up one bar while everything continues on, some aren’t for repeated riffing, some are but take half the time. JAM has a steep learning curve if you are not musically minded.
To help aid this the songs, most of which are from lesser known artists but actually are all pretty much spectacular, are divided into groups which you unlock in a DJ mode where you can remix the songs anyway you want as you get used to the controls. Do that enough and you’ll unlock the Arcade mode where the commands fly up the screen and you’ve got to perfect each change as the remix requires. Each wrong move means your hit marks move closer to the bottom of screen, eventually meaning game over when it hits where the notes arrive at the bottom of the screen. Arcade mode is very hard with a PS3 controller and still hard with a guitar controller. Do not expect 100%’s or gold medals first time out.
From a musician stand point, the DJ remixing stuff is actually quite ingenious. All the riffs and one shot effects can really make a decent remix and later on in the game you switch between banksets which can give you up to 75 samples for those songs to mess with. You can do an awful lot with that if you’ve the imagination and patience to get it right. Once you’ve made a track you can save it to listen back to or you can then send it to a friend as an Arcade JAM so they can try and copy your moves for points.
~Genuinely hard to master
~Some unique game mechanics for remixing tracks as you go
~New use for your guitar controllers
~Steep learning curve will put some off
JAM goes out of its way to be different and that essentially makes it a unique purchase for music genre fans looking for something to sink their teeth into. What it also does is make it difficult to get into for the more casual audience. There’s a lot of fun to be had here – you just have to have the patience to scratch beneath the surface.
Tekken 6 felt unrealised for me. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Tekken series but number six was my second least favourite only beating four. I’m so pleased to announce things are very much back to the top of their game with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – possibly my new favourite fighter of this generation!
TTT2′s roster is massive. Pretty much every main character ever in a Tekken game is there and as alluded to by the bizarre opening CGI made up only by them, there’s more free characters on the way that were initially unlocked if you bought the game at certain stores. Free DLC is the way to do it. Well done Namco.
The beauty in TTT2 is in the balancing of its roster and the fluidity of the moves. Take Asuka and Jun. Two very similar fighters. They can string together a wonderfully complex collection of hits effortlessly. Law however can do tons of quick low power jabs and knock them flat. Then you’ve got Jack power sitting on your face. Slow, cumbersome – but oh so powerful. This isn’t anything new to fighters as its what the good ones do so well – it’s just with the massive 50+ character base, you’ve got such a choice to set your team up with. You can just play 1 on 1 if you want to but the tag mechanic is fantastic. You can use throws to get in a cheeky tag move and cause some major damage in. The controls are expertly responsive and the inclusion of breakable walls and floors in some stages also throws up some new ways to cause carnage. It’s been a pleasure finding out how I can be beaten up.
Juggling takes a real centre stage in this edition – more so than usual. Being able to keep your opponent in the air is paramount to your success. The tutorials in the form of the tongue in cheek Combot mode where you’re programming moves into the character really helps you out. You can then take the lessons learnt into Arcade mode to unlock each characters ending, survival mode to see how long you last, team battle with up an 8v8 on each team or go online.
Online features easily the most lag free fighting I’ve experienced. The net code is tighter than Tiger’s afro. You play in a VR mode while it pairs you up with an opponent, you have a very quick sync up before each round that lasts about 2 seconds and then its perfect for the bout – even when people are rated 3/5 for connection. I just wish I could win!
From what I’ve found so far, I’m utterly rubbish at this game. The AI kicks my butt. Everyone online kicks it too. Winning helps improve your online rank and there’s tons of stats per character for you to work out whom your best playing with. You also constantly earn coins to buy clothing and you can customise your characters constantly to the point where they barely look like themselves. During time attack/arcade modes you’ll battle other peoples online creations. Some of them are very comical!
~Fluid responsive controls that are second to none
~An absolutely massive roster
~Best lag free fighting I’ve had online in a game
~I’m not winning as much as I’d like!!!
When you suck at a game and still absolutely love it, salute it, recommend it and shout about it from the houses – you know you’ve found a classic winner. If this game doesn’t go down as one of the top 3 brawlers of the current generation then there’s been a mis-justice in the world.
Huski’s latest album is by lore, the album they originally started making last time round and they ended up getting the magnificent “Strangelove”. “H” however strips out all the guitar in this bouncy pop rock duo and places the emphasis firmly on dance pop.
Opener “Sleeps Over” starts strongly with lots of keyboard gadgetry and Melanie’s smooth vocals hushing over the very “phat” bass lines and the very 90′s piano that pulsate and vibrate throughout. “Senseless” returns in a massive seven minute low-fi club mix too with dirty bass lines, vocal looping and lots of elongating of the original track. I wouldn’t say its better than the original though – it lacks a certain step up that the original has although it certainly has its moments. “Something Real” is a new track and it has a playful main melody of electronic marimbas that really give the track a unique touch in its understated euphoria. A standout.
“First Light” turns the rock anthem into a late night plinkathon with an interesting off beat percussion loop and the guitars replaced by smooth keyboard synths. Even Melanie’s voice is synthed. The chorus is completely reworked and is vastly understated and lacks the originals punch. “Pandora Smiles” is another new track that certainly utilises the keyboard well as the track is ethereal and hushed and so each gentle tinkle sparkles more.
“Make Up” is a wonderfully silly song and this gets the epic trance treatment with lots of vocal cuts and big bass lines. Here the remix treatment works perfectly as a viable alternative to the original. “Dont Look Away” slows things back down again with a swirling number that again shows a lot of technical wizardry but doesn’t push a song out that immediately sticks in your head. Repeated listens help it get there but it just didn’t stick with me. “Strange Love” now becomes a club mix using the original synths as a good template. This version is more meaty and beatastic but again – I feel like a broken record. Huski have already made a great rock/synth track from it before and now it feels like a pre going out clubbing track.
“Close to the Edge” reminds me of Niki and the Dove. It’s certainly a real hark back to the glamour of brightness of 1990 with its big hair pop synths buzzing out and it certainly gives this version a completely different feel to the original. Closer “Red Bird” is previously unreleased and is a wonderful piano led ballad. With this one track suddenly its like the previous Huski burst back into the room and remembered that actually they are a kick-ass dancing riff rock emotional explosion of talent.
Somewhere during what appears to be a merge of a remix album and a vent for some new tracks in a disco light, that talent is washed about with too much cheap bass, vocal ooh/aahs on repeat and a lack of punch that is stamped over the duo’s previous works. I guess remix projects will always divide people. I’ll take guitar rock Huski any day,
Creating a game for such a split market is no easy task and you have to feel for Codemasters – they’ll be slammed for making an ingenious genre defining sim , they’ll be slammed for making an arcade gem. F1 2012, like the previous outings falls firmly in the middle, although it does feel this time round things have moved slightly towards the sim end more than 2011′s version.
The first biggest change is the vastly improved graphics and smoother frame rate. This was my biggest problem with last year and its happily far better this time round. The graphics top 2010′s glossiness too. Also improved are the fibres, damage pieces and general grubbiness throughout. It really does enhance the experience ten fold when you’ve not got to think “those buildings are moving slower than my eye can notice”.
The second big change is the handling. Unlike previous versions, here I’m finding set ups and trigger button pressures really matter more than ever now. If you’re used to flooring the accelerator you’ll be spinning off at the first turn. The emphasis, as shown in the new New Drivers Test day (a tutorial of sorts), is now on smoothness of the steering and pedals. This then in turn brings set up to the fore a bit more. I found this was where the tutorial was really lacking. Maybe for future updates if this stays it’d be great to show exactly what each function does in a side-by-side comparison. Quick set up’s normally gear you towards a lower downforce set up to keep up with the AI down the straights. I found leaving the set up as default would see me up to 2 seconds off the pace on Legend difficulty yet moving it up the scale just one notch suddenly had me on the pace.
The third change is the extra modes for the single player. Champions mode is a six event scenario mode to challenge each champion in increasingly difficult missions. This is a nice extra to sit alongside time trials and single lap leader boards. Also here is season challenge which targets you to pick off rivals and move to their seats over an arcade style championship base. It harks right the way back to Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP in its set up and is a very welcome addition. It also forces a one-shot qualifying system like F1 had in 2003-5. Of course the 5 year career mode is still there with some minor tweaks.
As a whole the single player mode is massively improved. The AI is much better this time round, having their own accidents, the occasional engine blow up and the tyre simulations mean you’ll often find yourself on a real balancing act as everyone strategy comes alive. This is exactly what we want. Props too for the new weather mechanics that really do shake races up.
So what on earth has happened currently to the online events? It’s here currently where F1 2012 absolutely falls down. When building a custom race as soon as more than 8 players have joined, the game freezes upon entry. When the host leaves or the players drop to 8 or below, the race kicks off. This doesn’t happen on quick race strangely. The AI also suddenly reverts back to an old style of driving through you and causing stupid incidents online too – yet works wonderfully offline. I’ve also had several occasions where races start with drivers getting penalties, the game getting stuck in the pitstop and a lot of crashes in the in game menu system. Everything but the latter is online only. Hopefully a patch can sort out the issues but until then a custom race, or custom online championship is utterly out of the question. If you follow the predetermined modes, be prepared for penalties galore as I’ve yet to find a decent set of racers by picking random’s that doesn’t include someone driving like its destruction derby all over again. The game will disqualify repeat offenders but its unavoidable that you’ll probably get a penalty for being whacked in the process.
It’s a shame as you can clearly see a lot of labour has gone firmly into this version and it really shows but the online section at the moment is half broken.
~Vastly improved frame rate and graphics
~Single player modes now make it a joy to play on your own
~Much more grounded driving experience
~Custom online modes are currently broken (as of version 1.01)
Best of the three F1 games by far but the online modes require some serious patches, as does the general front end of the game too. There’s no use making an absolutely stonking single player experience if the game likes to crash when you invite your mates along.