Thursday, 25 November 2010

Oceansize - Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up

Rating: 9/10
Genre: Alt-Rock/Prog Rock
Like most Oceansize fans I was more than a little worried when they announced that their fourth album would be made up of shorter songs. Oceansize, for the uninitiated, on the whole produce long complicated and proggy rock songs that fuse complex time signatures and  powerful guitar crescendos with sparse post-rock soundscapes. Oceansize managed to achieve a strong cult following similar to many of their peers (e.g. Biffy Clyro) and many of the bands peers have since folded under the pressure that the music industry put on them whilst others commercialised to ensure their survival. So when the manchester quintet stated the new album was going to made up of shorter songs alarm bells began to ring.

These initial fears and doubts are instantly put to bed as soon as "Part Cardiac" pummels your ears with its slow lumbering sludgey opening riff. Then the penny drops, shorter songs doesn't always mean compromise. Oceansize have rarely sounded as heavy as they do here on Self Preserved... leading many to claim this as their heaviest album to date. In reality however this album fits in with one of the most cliched claims a band can make: "The heavy bits are heavier, the soft bits are softer". It seems that many of the lessons learnt from their last EP Home and Minor come into play on softer tracks like "A Penny's Weight" and "Pine". Keyboards and reverb sync with Mike Vennart's soft vocals beautifully making the softer songs welcome rests from the otherwise unrelenting bass heavy riffing. Even after vowing to shorter tracks they still treat the listener to two sprawling masterpieces that nearly hit the ten minute mark in the form of "Oscar Acceptance Speech" and "Silent/Transparent". The other tracks as suggested are fast heavy and driven by the amazing rythm section with Mark Heron's insane drumming underpinning the whole record nicely.

Highlights include the slow building majesty of "Oscar Acceptance Speech" which ends in a beautifully icy string section reminiscent of Olafur Arnalds. The lightning fast "Build Us A Rocket Then..." and the unnerving ender "Superimposter" which slowly builds at an eerie pace towards a truly hair raising droning siren. Overall you'll be hard pushed to find a more robust release this year. This is Oceansize at the top of their game. Highly recommended.

Download: "Oscar Acceptance Speech" "Superimposter"

Monday, 22 November 2010

Neil Young - Le Noise

Rating: 6/10
Genre: Rock/Folk Rock
Not many artists are lucky enough to reach true legend status. Even fewer are able to have a career span over 40 years and maintain the same level of relevance as when they started. So it is no small feat that at 65 Neil Young has released his 33rd album Le Noise. Produced by Daniel Lanois "Le Noise" is somewhat of a departure from Young's trademark folk rock sound and a step in a new direction. Stripped of all his backing it is just Young and his guitar for company as the record unfurls around you.

The music is on display here is some of Youngs most interesting and challenging of recent years. The heavy distorted guitar sound and echoey vocals is very different from the usual acoustic ballads that adorn his solo records. Le Noise sounds more like a spaced out Young and Crazy Horse collaboration with the heavy guitar tones stealing the show and making each track that little more epic. Whilst a vast improvement on his 2009 effort fork in the road, which was a rather shambolic cliched rock n roll record about driving fast cars, Le Noise is still far from Young's greatest achievement. Overall the effects and overlaps of guitars and vocal tracks blur much of the album together making it hard to pick out where one song ends and another begins. The distortion also gives this record a very sparse feel leaving the listener feeling almost disconnected from it. As ever Young's voice is on top form when it breaks out from behind the wall of noise and his lyricism is as personal and affecting as ever which is especially notable on tracks such as "Hitchhiker" and "Love and War".

Overall Le Noise is a brave release for Neil Young. Whilst it is nowhere near his best work it is still worth exploring and a welcome sign that there may well be life in the old dog yet.

Download: "Love And War" "Hitchhiker"