“Bloom” is an excellent obscure EP for ISUM. I can’t even remember how I came across it initially! One things for sure though – I’m glad I did and now anyone who enjoys things like Atra Aeterna, strange ambience or downplayed misery in a song – get this now.
“Essence of What’s Left” opens the five track EP with a weird guitar warping, sounding like it’s getting stuck and sounding like a ring tone. The whole song is perfectly detuned and its like a chillout Akira Yamaoka. “Restless” expands on the theory by adding drums scarcely and changing the tone throughout. There’s melodies to be found throughout but they don’t stay for long and fade off into other areas. It’s like the song too is restless and when in the final section an electric guitar and drumkit are slowly faded into the mix its done in such a way you don’t notice that suddenly everything is being consumed by it. It’s so cleverly done – hats off!
“Telarea” gets more busy with clicks, twists and momentary spasms of electronic percussion. It’s soon joined by some sublime acoustic guitar that has a Spanish flavour and that too is joined by some wonderfully warped electric guitars. They sound like a funky ringing bell from Tibet. The track is very complex and change happens constantly. Nothing sits still with ISUM. “Del Luna” takes things quieter initially with hushed guitars and wispy spoken dialogue that’s distorted into vocoder. The result when you have muted electronic guitar dripping away in the background is one of eerie beauty. The final track is “Acomodata” which is as close to a proper track as ISUM gets and that’s because he follows a chord structure with this one and it has drums, piano and guitars throughout. It’s warped beauty is so alluring.
ISUM is an oddity. Nothing is quite as it seems. It’s alien. It’s beautiful. It moved me in a way someone digitally ripping instruments to shreds shouldn’t. Everyone should give this a go as their “One weird EP of 2012″
Atra Aeterna’s catalogue of music expands by the mealtime but when things just click – why not go nuts? Pressure is an EP of five tracks – or sketches – as they are entitled here. They are very much in the vein of Atra Aeterna’s previous works and fit perfectly with visuals of broken down towns.
“Sketch 1 Kara” is a short introductory piece of ambient blips and twists with disembodied piano guts slowing dripping out the mouth of your speakers before “Sketch 2 The School Of…” enters for an electronica morning Raj as a singular note vibrates and permeates around bending glass cups and eerie foreboding inner sadness that is finally punctuated with sparse piano half melodies. It’s the kind of ambience that befits a mental horror movie or a Silent Hill game. “Sketch 3 Squalls” veers into more gritty electronica as a really harsh guitar roar is going absolutely nuts but has been turned right down in volume and has elegant piano and ambient effects overpowering it. It’s these kind of odd turns on your head that Atra Aeterna does so well and that’s why his ambient works always empower my ears. “Sketch 4 Ash in Snow” is the first time a percussive edge comes in with distorted snow crunches being used for a drum beat over fuzzy keyboard synths. Again it doesn’t stay on a melody or beat for very long so you are never settled. The closing track “Sketch 5 The Ides of March” is a short but stirring track of stabbing noise spikes that sound either like a perpetual knife to the heart or a never ending march to disary.
Atra Aeterna always hits ambience perfectly on the head. It leaves you enough room to evoke an emotion, and enough ambiguity to start forming your own stories, images and horrors to tell. Understated beauty.
Stereo Alchemy is the product of twice Grammy winning composer Christopher Tin and Grammy nominated percussionist Kametron. God of Love is their début album together and showcases a broad spectrum of electro excellence.
“A Rapture” is a classic case in point. Starting out with ambient murmurings before breaking out into a stadium stomping wash of electronics and plush keyboard exploding seascapes. Equal parts isolating and warming, it blasts into epic chorus moments and shows real scope. “Unbound” is more gritty and crunchy guitar lead track and the pounding percussive nature of the guitar chugs really gets your pulse racing.
“God of Love” is the title track and where the concept of the album really fleshes out before your ears. Each song relates to a poem about Love or Death and they very much become characters during the album itself. The title track is simply mesmerizing. It’s a track that seems to spread far beyond the depths of the speakers the music blasts from and the drums and the vocals play together beautifully.
“She Walks in Beauty” is one of the more straight-laced tracks with some insanely catchy electronic work and sublime vocal work from a soulful male lead. It feels retrotastic in many ways yet it’s got a new pair of sneakers and is enjoying the ride. “Is It Possible” reminds me of Savage Garden – some of the best pop of the late 90′s – with extra funk! The percussion and beats in this track are unreal Kametron is definitely pressing hundreds of buttons a minute here and the ending minute is euphoria in a riff.
“Monster of the Sky” veers right across the edgy darkness that inhabited underground electronica in the 90s and reminds me of a crystal clean version of the band Curve. The chorus is rip-roaring and the guitar / bass lines added to reverbing vocals and nutty drum loops make everything tingle and explode like lit touch-paper.
“To Eternity” is a great hybrid of absolutely everything the album does wrapped up in one track. Starting out as a beautifully angelic number it slowly evolves into a riff rock disco track. In one way it’s got all the excellence that was the over produced 80′s way of musical life but the difference is Tin has managed to work everything into having its own space. Outstanding. ”My Hearts Fit to Break” is a more melodic track with lots of shimmering grit and glitz over fragile vocal delivery. The vocal performances of Melissa R Kaplan, Mozez and Lia Rose are spot on throughout and should be commended.
“Young Lovers” is so 1990 it is impossible to not smile and dance away to. Infectiously happy, delirious with its power chords and pumping beats – perfect for a sunny drive with the top down. “Love is Love” closes the album with a minimalistic chord swirl ballad that is both enlightening and understated in its beauty. The lyrics shine here, as they do throughout.
Stereo Alchemy have blown me away. The sheer complexity of some of the tracks is mind-boggling from the percussion to the little nuances and frequency changes in all the instruments as they go. It’s these things that elevate a good album to a truly great one. Quite frankly, God of Love is one long eargasm from start to finish and is firmly the first contender for album of the year on this site.
We love Merril here at HPM and after the stunning debut of Bird-Brains, tUnE-yArDs returns with W H O K I L L which moves the home-made sound along into great clarity while keeping the whole low production settings and bursting enthusiasm throughout.
Opener “My Country” is typically outspoken and political and has plenty of percussive and melodic trickery going on in the background but still in a home-made setting. Add in fanfare brass and loud boisterous vocals and you have an instant classic. What’s more noticeable is that the songs are much more layered this time round using lots of vocal layers swirling around that she uses live. “Es-So” has a particularly kooky edge to it with its raising off camber chord structure. It’s slightly panicked but fun all at the same time which is a great combination especially with the keyboard twists at the end.
“Gangsta” reminds me of a real hark back to the debut album with Merril’s vocals being chewed into a police siren. Everything has elevated production wise however and is much more complex and fuller in sound. This track has such a forceful power to it which is really the order of the day. Garbus has really stood on her own two feet with this album making lots of political and feminine statements. Her second album is much more confrontational and confident throughout. “Powa” is almost produced properly! The vocals are crystal clear and not overdriving, the guitar actually doesn’t blister the speakers and everything chugs along nicely. It’s great to note that without the production twists and deafening ukelele the music holds up completely on its own merit. “Riotriot” utilises the uke beautifully using its whole aural spectrum from beautiful harp like twinkle to guitar rock outs. The track builds and builds from a patter into a blast and gets you going with it.
“Bizness” is my favourite track on the album. Using lots of looping vocal samples and a ton of percussive stick and clicks, Garbus absolutely rocks out to one of the most catchy chorus’ I’ve heard all year. It’s the sheer celebration of the music that is apparent throughout the album that by this point has really pushed all your buttons and got you moshing and dancing around to the infectious beats. Stunning. “Doorstep” is a t-y hark back to the 70′s diva genre I’m sure with sumptuous vocal montages and lots of shoop-shooping. Of course there’s the usual percussive loops and serious bass lines throughout but this is the most serene I’ve heard her yet!
“You Yes You” is a funky rock track but it’s eclipsed by the beautiful second clip at the end of what I assume is her son singing. So cute! “WoolyWollyGong” is contender for best song name of the year and its the only quiet song on the album. A slow tick tocking track that is minimal in sound and production it holds a mysterious timeless quality as if everything has been put on pause. There’s nothing else quiet on the album so it stands out for that reason and for Merril’s high vocal register sounding beautiful. The album closing with the fantastic “Killa” with lyrics flying in from all angles and some rocking uke riffs. It’s almost like an alternative uke rock disco track.
It’s a fantastic follow-up album. Moving her sound along to be more complex, fluid and seemless and yet retaining the unique overall production sound and sheer energy of her music, tUnE-yArDs continues to grow into an absolutely powerhouse. A fantastic album for all who dare look outside the box.
Every now and then an artist appears on your radar from nowhere and blows you out of the water – and you don’t mind a single bit! Jordan Reyne did this to me when I first heard her new album “How the Dead Live” as Jordan weaves a bold tapestry of folk olde age guitar tracks mixed with all kinds of ambient clunks and mechanical noises.
“From Gravesend” sets the mood with minimal guitar and a doubled vocal in different keys thicken the mood like molases. The track is completely underscored with ambience from outside in the woods and industrial murmurs and swishes. It’s almost like you’re listening to the music take place in a foundary. The noises are present throughout the album and really give the music a more sinister tone.
“The MichaelAngelo” seems to take on a sea ambience as Jordan’s beautiful voice continues to provide a soundscape of layered vocals, which are very pretty in this track. Jordan doesn’t need to shout and scream to make her presence felt. The control in her voice has a certain force behind it that just makes you sit up and listen.
The tracks effortless transition from one to another through the background noise and “The Witness (murder)” is more dramatic and darker. Shakles and more violent mechical crunches punctuate the track as Reyne flexes her vocals chanting “murderer”. All the while the simple but very effective guitar work holds the tracks together.
“The Brave” is decidedly eerie. The dual vocal sounds like a prophetic medium reading the riot act. Here is the first time real percussion is used in an understated marching beat that along with all the dripping ambience in the background just notches the creepy dark folk meter up to 10. Effortlessly leading into “The Dead” things turn more into Nina Nastasia than before with some keyboard trickery hiding in the background behind the acoustics and echoing metal clashes leaving their marks behind.
About as close to a single as the album gets, “The Proximity of Death (Blue Eyed Boy)” is an absolutely stonking track. Jordan’s vocals are the most fierce here and show’s just how diverse she can be. The acoustics, the industrial ambience and the percussion with keyboards all fit seemlessly together into a killer tune. This track also has some fantastic lyrics. The lyrics are great throughout but I just love the way how the whole song describes distances between different people and emotions.
“Ghosts (lest we forget)” is set to the backdrop of rain and thunder which fills the speakers right up as a beautifully dark ballad envelopes you. The delicate nature of the song against rolls of thunder is genius and Jordan’s vocals are very sweet when they soar up high. As the thunder and rain falls away “Blood” spurts into life and the industrial noises sound to me like the rush of veins pumping blood round your body. This track is actually one of the most easily accessible with a strong melody and a beautiful string arrangement underscoring the whole event. The closing track “Remembering the Dead” is a swirling ambience where Jordan appears almost to freefall vocals around the two chords. The song eventually raises up to a funeral march beat as if the album is being laid to rest with a final salute.
“How the Dead Live” is phenominal. The holds such a special atmosphere from start to finish that you feel like you’re being let into dark folk’s best secret yet – in the middle of the witching hour! An absolute contender for my top 10 albums in 2010, Jordan Reyne is a masterful ruler of Dark Folk.
This weeks Video Vault comes from the absolutely fantastic solo artist tUnE-yArDs. This music video from Real Live Flesh is so entertaining yet it looks like she done it in her living room. It’s not surprising that though as she recorded her whole album in her bedroom with the tiniest budget and yet although I’ve only just discovered her, every video I’ve seen makes me want to hear more. Enjoy!
British band Broadcast are quite fantastic and I’ve only just been introduced to them (thanks Wears the Trousers). The first EP that I’ve bought of theirs is Pendulum and is summed up as dial up rock!
The music of Broadband in general is rock but the strange heavily processed syntheriser is just as important and prominent as the guitars. “Pendulum” is the opening track and has plenty of drums and the vocals are so silky smooth, it matches and takes away the really hard edged synths being used. It just sounds like a dial up connection being connected, but in a tuneful manner. It’s quite strange and can really flange into your ears and pierce them if you have it too loud, but that’s half the point. It digs right into your mind and rocks about in there. “Small Song IV” focuses on Trish’s whispy vocals glazes over bass guitar and computerised feedback noises. It’s quite interesting to listen to as got a slight eerieness about it.
“One Hour Empire” is like a spaced out lounge bar track or James Bond sneak-em-up track. It’s been heavily processed to be very close to the speakers and sounds like a real mash up of all kinds of ideas in a tuneful abstract way. Great for hiding behind corners to then sneak around on your walk to work or school! “Still Feels Like Tears” has an interesting duel feedback running through it, like an organ and guitar feedback have been fused together. This is possibly the most rock orientated track on the album and the most accessable from an outsider.
“Violent Playground” sounds like The Go Team! had a baby with Akira Yamaoka – both playful and slightly eerie but very spaced out, this almost freestyle end of gig drum backed freakout is great for just letting go. “Minus Two” is the final track on the EP which is full of all kinds of bizarre noises and is like an improvisational freakout again while flying through a psychadelic hedoism. Bizarre and quite unique.
“Pendulum” is definately not for everyone, and many won’t appreciate the fact it tries its best to go anti-hook, anti-chord and anti-guitar for a rock band. However it is completely unique and experimental and deserves credit for being completely compelling listening and it will draw you in if you take thew bait.
I’m not normally one for posting two video vaults in one week but I’ve just discovered my new musical craze. Welcome Afrirampo. Completely bonkers and loving every minute of it, I can only discribe it as Rikku from Final Fantasy X going grunge rock whilst squeeling at high volume. It’s mad! Here’s the video to their song Afrirampo and it always brings me a smile.
EDIT: For some reason it didn’t publish yesterday but I did try, I’m still on one post a day
I’ve been going through Wear The Trousers’ Top 100 albums of the last decade. You can view the article here. My goodness, there’s a lot of albums I really want to get and new artists discovered for me!
Here is the first of them, Juana Molina, an Argentinian comedian turned credible musical nutter. This video is nothing short of fascinatingly bizarre and more than a little scary, yet you will watch it again and again. This is “Un Dia“