Recommended to me by the similar artists tab on Amazon (oh you have a lot to answer for cries my bank balance) comes the dreamy Rachel Zeffira. “The Deserters” is primarily an album about atmosphere and emotion over direct hooks. The hooks and melodies are there but its like the album takes place under a morning haze. Everything feels blurred and milky, like it’s slowly sloshing into itself.
Opener “The Deserters” showcases this well with rolling piano, pulsing tub beatings and sublime woodwind all in a mixing pool. It sounds ethereal but like it wants to break out into something more edgy – like it’s the swoop before the attack. “Here On In” then reveals a rockier side to Rachel as drums and electric guitar hide behind the mask of an intricate string arrangement. The interplay is gorgeous when the marimba’s give added warmth. It feels like a laid back psychedelia trance. “Letters From Tokyo (Sayonara)” they flits back to the more organic keyboard/piano/synth side with Rachel’s soft airy vocals really shining. It reminds me of a more haunting version of Emmy Rossum. I love how there’s a real driving force to the track but it’s never pushed to the fore as it makes the track feel more dramatic than it ever lets on it is. “Front Door” is a sweet piano/vocal ballad with some warming subtle strings. It really is time to pause in the album and is also the most conventional track so far.
“Break The Spell” then gives us orchestral rock with a rocking drum beat, some background synths and a speedy string arrangement to push the track forward. I would describe the track as if you were taking flight in the lightest plane alive. “Silver City Days” then goes virtually classical with the clever used of arpeggios on the piano that sound like they are going at a maddening speed whilst the vocals are slowly delivered. It sounds like time was paused for three minutes. “Star” is a sumptuously warm track that is five minutes of slowly evolving melodies and lyrics. It’s spacious and milky with just the right amount of reverb and echo to make things feel otherworldly. “To Here Who Knows” is more synth-string based with a cute flute providing some great touches. The second half of the track repeats the same phrase over and over as it goes up the chords and expands – it’s a really touching moment in the album that certainly feels like an emotional peak.
“Waiting for Sylvia” turns to the harp and bells for breathy delivery before the organ heavy “Goodbye Devine” closes out the album with a complete lack of bass throughout most of the song. I’ve said it before but a lack of bass in a song always makes for a more emotive delivery if pulled off well and it is here.
Rachel Zeffira’s album is a strange beast. She’s so multi-instrumental that her rock side and her classical side go at odds with each other. She has managed to manage them both so well and created an album that’s like a space microcosm. I think you’ll need to hear samples to decide if its your thing or not but it’s frankly a beautiful work of art and I hope people “get” it.
Heima return with a new album next month – and a new name too! Renamed to “Bellstop” the duo’s new album will be called Karma. Bellstop have such a great indie folk rock sound and the Icelandic duo look set to rock out in June. Here’s the lead single “Trouble”. Watch out for the scary Ronald McDonald-esque mask!
Bioshock has always had a grandiose soundscape and with the third iteration “Bioshock Infinite” things become even more taut and creepy as the string arrangements are maxed to eleven. Garry Schyman has help throughout the soundtrack but he is generally the mainstay and considering he made the music for the first two, you can hear where all his influences lie.
After the short scene setting conversation of “Introduction” a singular taut string quiver opens “Welcome to Columbia” before honky-tonk piano lightly breezes through. The fact that the honky-tonk is always a bit detuned adds to the atmosphere. We then break to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” as a choral arrangement. Built by Ada Ruth Habershon & Charles Hutchinson Gabriel, we will get several versions of the track but this is the warmest and most beautiful. It has a rich gospel warmth to it.
“Lighter Than Air” then sets us off in the string tracks and you can hear the previous tracks motif broken down throughout the track. “Lutece” initially reminds me of Monkey Island with its French piratey accordion and clumsy bass string booms. It’s mischievous, slinky and purposeful as it evolves into something you’d expect from the Medieval game. Genuinely fun and b-movie creepy too.
There are five “Battle For Columbia” tracks and although they spread themselves out over the album I’ll review them collectively. The initial section is very percussive and metallic which gives way to a more heartbeat war drum for the second section. It pulses away before the strings go absolutely wild for the second half. It’s like a thousand mice are let loose on a violin at the same time! The third iteration is slightly more melodic but no less dramatic as the strings turn into stabs as the march out the beat which has quickened from its deep pulse. The fourth revels in the reverse reverb treating one set of instruments to spear off one way whilst and panting string section murder one chord to death the other. The results are surprisingly fantastic. The fifth and final of these turns the echo up on the drums and lets everyone play screech the high note on the strings. Its fraught and frightening.
Outside of that quintet the Bioshock score goes for eerie elegance often. “The Girl in the Tower” and “Elizabeth” work perfectly together as the unmasking of a sinister beauty in such a sad context. “Unintended Consequences” too leaves the bass behind for a short but emotive segment. “Family Reunion” and “Let Go” have such a large-scale feel to it despite only being waves of notes – but it carries a weight that the soundtrack is burdened with throughout. It’s a beautiful burden to listen to. “The Songbird” however goes for percussive shrill to create atmosphere. ”Lions Walk With Lions”, “Back in the Boat”, “Smothered” and “The Girls For The Debt” goes for Gollum undertones for dark chords and pizzicato string arrangements. “Doors” and “AD” are wonderfully complex with the voice section of the strings refusing to sit still for long. The result is something that feels like an unfurling of long hair – beautiful – especially the latter. “Baptism” draws the strings to a close still with a real heavy heart. The actual soundtrack closes with a beautiful acoustic guitar and vocal rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. The guitar version appears earlier in the soundtrack but here its the perfect downbeat and sober end to the musical parade.
Now I’ve missed some tracks out and that’s because they are tracks that break up the drama. Samuel Lover gives a fantastic celtic pub rendition of “Rosy O’More/Saddle The Horse” which sounds utterly like a breath of life in a soundtrack so claustrophobic. Jim Bonney, who helps out Garry in many of the string tracks, also has “The Readiness Is All” which is given a grammar-phone effect which transfers this chirpy 1950′s sounding delight into something slightly unnerving. The same can be said for “Solace” by Scott Joplin with its warped piano.
Overall this is my favourite Bioshock soundtrack to date. It has all the hallmarks of the previous two but with more time to get your blood flowing and more recurring motifs to invest in. Garry has done the trio proud.
Sumthing Else have long been publishing some amazing game soundtracks however they are usually the huge symphonic top dollar explosive soundtracks. You could almost call them film soundtracks something in the way they are put together. However Sumthing Else has taken a great step to partner with Wadjet Eye Games to publish some indie game soundtracks. Names included are Resonance, Proteus, The Shivah & various Blackwell games. I’m so pleased as usually these kinds of soundtracks would appear on Bandcamp if at all. One step forward for VGM!
Marla Mase is a rock crossover artist whom has piqued my interest with her latest release entitled “Speak”. “Speak” has since gone on the road to become a multimedia live show incorporating spoken word, visual cues, dance and imagery along with of course a live rock band. The whole thing is designed to help portray women and their world. She will be appearing at SummerStage 2013. Take a look at the video for “Piece of Peace” below.
On a complete side note, she looks a spitting image of one of my bosses at work!
Linda Draper has a new album arising on the 21st of May entitled “Edgewise” and by all accounts it will be acoustic finger guitar bliss. Linda is a new artist to me but I’ve been hooked in when I heard to quiet intensity of the lead single when I found it online. You can listen to and download “Hollow” below. Wonderful production – so warm.
Now there’s no secret I love myself some angry music here on HigherPlainMusic and EndAnd certainly have me covered! A three piece from NYC, they have plenty of shout about and do so in their noisy grungy punk rocking way. I love the little flairs and embellishments throughout the track “Commando” and HPM will be reviewing their latest release very soon.
The quite bizarre soundscape artist that is Rick Senley released an album in 2011 under the pseudonym of “I Am A Man With A St Tropez Tan”. The album called “Just A Ghost” is almost like an audio painting of the world seen around you.
Opening with the short distorted introduction of “In France You Can’t Call your Pig Napoleon” you’re given quick flashes of what will be coming up before the electronica heavy “Please Be Careful What You Do With Yourself” bleeds onto the speaker. Encompassing sirens, barely audible humming bass and phased to the heavens keyboard stabs the track goes out of its way to be as in-cohesive as possible, almost to disorient you. It sounds like a musical beat heart factory churning in the centre of London. “Breaking” doesn’t cut any slack either mumbling twisted announcements and breathes warp around empty phone beeps and whaling guitars. It reminds me of something from Akira Yamaoka’s earlier Silent Hill soundtracks and from the Demento Soundtrack. Eerie and devilish – especially at the end when everything pitch bends downwards. ”Just A Ghost” the title track is the first track to resemble something of a normal song structure with a guitar riff and some intermittent drums and the guitar is seriously rocking out – even though it’s mostly the only instrument playing! Rick’s monologues in the middle again aren’t singing, they spoken thoughts and feelings. You know that when this is the closest to an entry point for someone, you’ve got a completely experimental album!
“Tea For Me” reminds me of Bjork’s “Drawing Restraint 9″ soundtrack in that its a pulsating speedy bell led track that gradually grows and grows into a furious frenzy. It really squeezes every drop of note spectrum out as it rises and distorts yet builds its tension and anticipation for a huge climax that doesn’t come. It is by far my favourite piece on the album and is a massive stand out. Melodic heaven.
“Southend” follows. It’s wet. It’s full of lapping water samples and crowd noise as it lays the foundations for the more celestial “Knives of Death” that runs some beautiful synths against a churning buzzing shaker. It’s not quite beautiful enough to feel at piece. It’s certainly not prickly enough to feel discomforted. It hits a really strange balance of the two which is fascinating. “Matt, Matt, Matt” the sheds the beauty and turns into an industrial pulse of static and low-fi explosives. It pulses away before some twisted evil screams, cries and noises are thrown in to confuse you. “Does Anyone Know What’s Going On” has a singular hum that fades in and out whilst various sample clips and loops burst in and out. Some are haunting. Some are confusing. Some are damn right creepy. In a similar fashion “There Is No Death” follows sample and vibrating guitars and harsh drum loops It’s like you’re flying through the white light into a tunnel that goes ever onwards.
“Just A Ghost” is as experimental and Avant Garde as you can find. Rarely do I find it difficult to recommend or describe something but this album is like taking a spiritual journey on a broken sound stage. Everything has gone to pot and you’ve just got to ride it out. There’s moments of beauty, craze, insight and skin crawl. You just have to open minded enough to give it a go.
Aside from having a pretty cool name, Monks of Mellonwah have a crisp and slick rock edge and high production values. They fall into the category of tidy rock for me, where each riff has its place perfected into the music, ala Chilli Peppers but with a bit more grunt.
Here’s the great video for “Neverending Spirit” which should help them break out of Australia. We will be reviewing their 2012 EP shortly in anticipation for their new record coming out on Bandcamp soon.
Hello? I’m Marc Almond’s Long Lost Brother! Welcome to “I Synthesist”, whose just released his third album “Somewhere and Everywhere” last week. He has a retro-future synth pop vibe that is dark, dank and soaked in sweat but in a slightly menacing way instead of the cheesy pop way. It heavily reminds me of any Soft Cell work after their first album and that can only be a good thing! Here’s “Hello Virginia”
Jim Guthrie, of Sound Shapes fame among others has released his latest solo album and it’s a beauty. HPM will be reviewing it quite soon but until then I suggest you swim in the serenity that is Bring on the Night:
My Woshin Mashin (great name) are a wonderfully eccentric band from Russia and Germany that resemble The Knife possibly as their closest ancestors but they are quite unique because the bounce from genre to genre at the drop of a beat.
Here’s a darkly delicious cover of Joan Osbourne’s “One of Us” showing their quieter side, but they more often than not go into a ferocious mess instead! Their second album came out last week and is called “Evil Must Die”
Cloudi Lewis are a warm and luscious band from the UK and have just released an EP which frankly – has an awesome title.
Aside from that, the music is rather good too. Opener “Rambling” starts off their acoustic folksy rock with some big bass drums and happy claps as the initially country-style guitar subdues into a more spacial folk music. The way the instruments are mixed makes the choruses and bridges feel warm and inviting and they sound evenly split so nothing pushes forward. That way the music envelopes you instead of punches you. The female lead singer has some real chops on her too! “Like This” is more whimsy and reflective than its preprocessor and is daring enough to actually leave silence in its chorus. It’s a sign of a band that’s confident and sure of their sound. The track itself is beautifully put together and is a camp fire starlet in waiting.
“The Woods” takes things down to very slow 6 step waltzing verse before the choruses step up the tempo and the beat kicks into a more usual 4/4. I love that there is such a marked shift in sound, pace and feel between the two.”Ego” too has a wonderfully loose beat to it as the rage comes and slithers away from the track itself. It’s as if the entire band is connected on a trail of string because as soon as the vocals or guitar break from their pretty-in-the-breakdown sound the bass and cymbals saw into your ears too. It’s subtle but it’s so very good. The closing track is “White Dress” which is a live track. It has some absolutely sublime guitar finger work which wraps itself around the equally beautiful and delicate vocal delivery of Cloudi Lewis.
Put simply, this is a wonderful way to introduce you to a new band whom I hope go places and do marvellous things. Higher Plain Music will certainly be cheering them on! Welcome to Cloudy Lewis.
Mortar and Pestle have been on my radar since earlier this year and their latest single “Pristine Dream” confirms I’m excited for their new EP which comes out next Tuesday (7th May). You can listen to the lead single from the six track EP below:
There has been an ongoing competition regarding Dead Can Dance’s latest video “Children of the Sun” and the winner was announced today. Jeronimo Albornoz won the prize with a fantastic video but I must say that every single entry is a masterclass of videography and they are all beautiful.
Occasionally a musical artist will come along from such a left field angle it catches you off guard and makes you appreciate music as an artform. Music For Voyeurs is one of several names Rick Senley gives himself over his musical career and with 2011 album “The Long Sleep” he barrels in with a stunningly ethereal yet abstract album.
Opener “This Will End” is a gentle blissful harp, flute, bells and whistles entry with a heavily Eastern accented monologue that peacefully and gently settles you down into what is an album that’s best heard in an entire cycle so you get its full effect. “Probably Time To Go Now” is repeating guitar loop that remixes forward and reverse reverb beautifully and the occasional honking car horn. It’s so ethereal that each pluck of a guitar string feels like a cloud of cuddles coming in for an embrace. This idea moves forward with “September” that includes sound snippets from various animals and clips from what sounds like a terrible chat show! There is a solemn distorted guitar that feels so empty and lonely over the top and it mixed up of it all is beautifully introverted.
We switch to a piano for “Broomstick Night Electric” which aside from being an awesome name for a track, reminds me of something from Brandish Piano Collection which crafted a beautiful melody with the space and time to deliver it. It’s a really sad and melancholic solo piece with just a quiet string sample for most of the track. “It Will Have To Be The Last Time” trades piano for sumptuous guitar and bass for a warming instrumental. “Jane” follows which is a strange piano and synth track with Rick reciting a poem in spoken word over the top. It reminds me of Nobuo Uematsu’s Phantasmagoria album and although I’m not a fan of this type of music, it’s as effective as it can be for me.
“The Work of the Gospel” returns to the heavily reverberated guitars and pianos as they create a misty swirling haze of music around occasional phone beeps and dial tones before a sample of a someone talking about The Gospel is played almost as if we’ve phoned God! “Tonight Will Be My Birthday” continues with the abstract avante garde noises and hypnotic guitars and for the first time all album a drum loop kicks in. Heavily phased and like it’s coming from miles away it pulsates around the guitars and keyboards but never overtakes them. Making more of an impact is the bass guitar led “I Wonder If Things Are Changing” which is a beautiful looping riff.
It paves the way for “Waiting for Everything to Explode” which plays its namesake well because the piano sounds like it’s from the 1930′s whilst for the first time all album the guitars and feedback effects take on a more sinister tone instead of playful and inviting. Whilst the track doesn’t explode it beams down into “Someone Else’s Life” which is another meandering piano driven track that uses a crying baby sample and then adds some noise damaging effects to it so it sounds almost like an electric guitar. That and the slightly scary laughter samples almost tell a story without words and that’s a very clever thing to do. The album closes with “Song For Marta” which becomes a more climactic combination of everything that came before as it swirls from ear to ear in full bleeding stereo along with purring moans and creaking breathes.
“The Long Sleep” is an album that is unapologetically its own. It doesn’t half scrimp on its theme or sound and whilst spoken word samples doesn’t usually appeal to me, nine times out of ten Music For Voyeurs hits the nail on the head. Expressive, meditative and journey-like. A pretty much unique.
Given to me as a recommendation I went into Feeding People utterly cold without hearing so much of a chord. How did I leave the album at the end? Cosy and warm!
Feeding People’s album Island Universe opens with “Mountain Song” and it introduces you to two things that distinguish them. Firstly you’ll hear that the guitar and the flow of the drums have a fluidity to them that makes it feel more milky than a lot of other rock bands. Secondly the vocals have a real meshing of reverbs over them that brings the music further into the realms of psychedelia. This is further enhanced by the orgasmic “Uranium Sea” that has a wonderful bridge that explodes into a manic finale and has plenty of draw organs freaking out over a rock band clearly intent on moshing their-selves into the darkness. ”Insane” decides to mix up the tempos whilst the lead vocals become almost PJ Harvey-esque as the drowning reverb is taken away and we have a powerful voice unveiled. By the end of the track I wanted to have a multicoloured swirling circle before my eyes to be hypnotised under. Fantastic!
“Cat Song” is the first breath the album takes for a wonderfully irrelevant four minutes of acoustic guitar, flute and ad-libs before “Inside Voices” brings us back to tempo changing, discordant guitar mashing. “Silent Violent” literally takes the song title and transcribes it to noise. The verses are beautiful guitar piques and angelic tinkle only for it to explode into heavy chugging and tom drums for the choruses. While the songs are mini anthems in a way they straddle an unusual line of half hooks / half smashing up the stage.
“Big Mother” is a short rock track and is about as standard as the album gets before “Desert Song” takes a simple Arabian inspired riff and turns it into a slinky snake of a rock track. Again, this is probably the most radio friendly track on the album so newbies start here! “Red Queen” reminds me so much of T-Rex. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the production and the way the guitar rhythm sits on the track to push it forward. It certainly gets you going.
Title track “Island Universe” is completely different to the rest of the album. The guitar playfully makes a Hawaiian styled riff that slowly is added to whilst the vocals chirp to the clumsy drums and organs. It feels like a party wrap. However we’ve still two to go. “Each His Own” puts the guitar through a really cool synthesizer that makes a metallic buzzing and phasing sound. It gives the song a sound of its own and transforms a simple riff into something bigger than its parts. The closing track is funnily enough called “Closer” and its a real lighter swayer (or mobile light swayer).
So “Island Universe” is an album that harks way back to the early 70′s in many ways. There’s some really interesting care free moments and some genius decisions. I’m impressed and certainly will be looking out for more.
“Sugarbread” is the three track single that rounds off for Anna Plaschg the “Narrow” section of her music. Seemingly not fitting on the short album, these three tracks make their own morbid dance on the soul.
The title track “Sugarbread” showcases Anna at her demonic best. Warped string and brass sections march out a beat over heavily reverberated percussion smashes and kick drums. Anna’s backing vocals are duelling and screaming over her own calm yet venomous main vocal whilst the occasional choir bursts in for a holy burst of evil. It’s suitable screwed to the nth degree and that’s why I love it. “Me and the Devil” is a cover yet you’d never guess it as the strings and drums march and soldier on whilst Anna gets more angry and shouty on this track. Although there’s not much progression in the overall sound it holds a mechanical marching space that certainly enraptures your mind. “Pray” rounds off the single with a short, almost abstract piano led track which starts off very similar to her début as word after word jelly rolls out purposefully.
Essential for all Soap&Skin fans, it rounds off this period of Anna’s music perfectly. What will she bring next?
Jordan Reyne returns next month with her latest album “The Annihilation Sequence” and HPM is a huge fan. Jordan popped up a preview track showing some of the songs and well… I’m chomping at the bit. Her unique blend of Industrial Rock and Celtic folk always draws me in.