Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Caretaker - Providence

Providence Cover Art
Caretaker - Providence
Genre: Metal/Progressive
Rating: 10/10

2011 has been an absolutely sterling year for music. Whilst you could be forgiven for thinking that the best albums of the year have already been and gone Caretaker couldn't help but muddy the water and make choosing your own personal favourite that much harder by releasing Providence. Caretaker already burst back into life when they released their split EP with Undersmile earlier this year which in itself was a triumphant return but not content with leaving it there the Oxford trio have set about a limited pre release of Providence, the bands first LP since 2001's self titled mini album debut.

Over this long period of time Caretaker have overhauled their sound so much their current slick post-metal style bares only the slightest resemblance to their previous material. Whilst this may alarm the bands oldest of fans it really is not to the bands detriment that they've made such big changes. The current sound is a vibrant mix of serene reverb drenched soundscapes and more crushing angular riffs with angsty blood curdling screams layered on top for good measure with the occasional melodic respite thrown in here and there. The most obvious point of comparison is probably with Post-Metal's founding fathers ISIS and Neurosis but the music here is still wholly original and avoids being derivative. The real strengthof the record is the balancing act of these two opposite ends of the spectrum. The soft bits are beautifully sparse and airy but the low down dirge of the underpinned bass and primordial oozing riffs are never far away which gives the echoey segments a feel of foreboding doom making Providence the bands darkest offering to date by miles. The real strength is that whilst each segment of the song may not be overly complicated the elements are tempered together with such clarity the results are utterly evocative . The whole affair is rather hypnotic and grabs you from the very beginning only allowing you to get comfortable just long enough to rip away the false sense of security they've gifted to you. Highlights come thick and fast throughout and include "What We Have We Hold" which constantly shifts between sparse instrumental passages and harsh riffs as it slowly builds levelling your ears as it comes full circle. Other highlights like "Martinet", with its chugging sludgey riffs which stop only to creep back in slower and more jarring than before, and the hauntingly sparse title track "Providence" just add to the seemingly infinite charm of the record. The only downside to Providence is that it took 10 years to see the light of day and whilst definitely worth the wait it doesn't feel like it lasts quite long enough. That being said it's always better to end too soon than to last too long, at least where music is concerned.

Overall Providence is nothing short of a glorious rebirth for Caretaker showcasing a great amount of skill and vision. Not only is the music interesting and engaging but it is brilliantly original. A late entry for album of the year and an album I would highly recommend.

Download: "What We Have We Hold" "Martinet"

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sleepstream - A Waltz With The Seventh Crane

Sleepstream - A Waltz With The Seventh Crane
Genre: Post Rock/Progressive Rock
Rating: 7.5/10

Sleepstream are a quintet from Greece who formed back in 2008. After several different complications and line up changes the band have finally pulled together and released their debut LP this year on Fluttery records, a label that predominantly focuses on ambient/experimental/post rock artists. Whilst post rock is a fairly saturated scene that seems to continually be expanding with new acts springing up from all over the world Sleepstream are actually quite unique. The main aspect of their sound that seperates these greeks from the herd of faceless nameless clones is their uncanny ability to mix the ambient serene aspects of post rock with more hard hitting prog rock.

Whilst many post rock bands continually strive to create grand epics worthy of Sigur Ros Sleepstream steer themselves away from the constant overuse of reverb and tremolo picking that has become common place. Whilst these factors are still undeniably within their music the band seem less inclined to focus on pure ambience and sometimes classical chugging rock guitars intersperse themselves in amongst the airy melodies. Whilst this seems like such a simple thing to do it really works well here with giving most of the album a sombre yet occasionally visceral tone similar to Swedish gothic metal masters Katatonia. The imagery is bleak and the two tracks with singing are fairly gloomy affairs and throughout the record extra depth is added with dramatic flourishes of violins. The standard practices of post rock at times seem a million miles away and whilst the record could do with more singing in my opinion the instrumentals normally have enough punch and personality to avoid falling on deaf ears. The mixture of soft melodic passages and more frenetic riffing makes the album have a more directed feel rather than just a mix of random melodies and the overall flow is very pleasing. Highlights include the powerful "The Spirit" and title track "A Waltz With The Seventh Crane" both of which ebb and flow building to some powerful guitarwork and simple yet sombre violins that really tugs at the heartstrings. The only downside to the whole album is the lack of vocals which only make a brief appearance on a couple of tracks which could serve to give the band a slightly more unique sound and identity.

Overall A Waltz With The Seventh Crane is a powerful debut effort. Whilst it may not be a perfect record and may sometimes feel a little ambiguous it still an interesting listen for the most part and definitely worth giving a spin or two. Recommended.

Download: "A Waltz With The Seventh Crane" "The Spirit"

Olafur Arnalds - Living Room Songs

Olafur Arnalds - Living Room Songs
Genre: Neo-Classical/Alternative
Rating: 6.5/10

Olafur Arnalds is a neo-classical composer who first came to my attention back in 2007 with his glorious debut album Eulogy For Evolution. Since then he has been championed by critics across the globe for his beautiful contemporary compositions that fuse classical orchestration with more contemporary influences. Living Room Songs is his latest release a collection of minimalist arrangements recorded at home and rather than an exuberant follow up studio album to 2010's ...And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness Arnalds is seen treading the same simplistic path of 2009's Found Songs, a compilation of songs recorded in just a week.

Since the beginning of his career as a classical composer Arnalds has seen his fair share of critical accolades. Signed to the well established indie label Erased Tapes over time his experimental pallet has done nothing but widen with each release helping to further his success. Whilst many of the key elements of his music remain the same from record to record each album so far is mixed with its own contemporary musical counterpart which gives most of his back catalogue each have an individual feel. His average composition consists heavily of string sections that fade in an out using plentiful rests and plaintiff melancholy piano's and keys. The real creative flair in his sound comes from his intermittent inclusion of samples and standard drum kits where Arnalds welds together classical and contemporary to make beautifully cinematic movements. The contemporary element Arnalds experiments with in Living Room Songs is as the title would suggest ambient background noise. Throughout the album Arnalds classical sensibilites are expressed in a more lo-fi raw form with added creaks from floor boards and scratchier and less precise strings and clumsier keys. The whole album has the feel of being recorded in isolation the creaking floor boards and crackly imperfections adding an extra dimension to sombre compositions. Highlights include the eerie "Near Light" where slow building crackles eventually turn into skittering programmed drums as well as "Ágúst" which is trademark Arnalds with its beautiful melody. The main downside to the recording as it feels rather restrained whilst it is more of a compilation than a full studio album too many of the sampled sound effects repeat themselves and it lacks the air of adventure of his earlier work. Whilst his trademark sound is something he has truly mastered with such a large output it can't be helped feeling that he may have started to repeat himself.

Overall Living Room Songs is an adequate release from a very talented composer. Whilst the critics are sure to sing its praises the fact of the matter is Arnalds has produced much better albums in his time and comparitively this latest addition struggles to stand up against comparisons with his earlier more varied work. The album is not terrible just a tad disappointing.

Download: "Near Light" "Ágúst"

Abandon - Monsters

Abandon Monsters EP
Abandon - Monsters
Genre: Post-Rock/Shoegaze
Rating: 7.5/10

December is usually a month that sees a real wind down for the music industry as the charts are inevitably flooded with the same christmas tunes as all the easy listening balladeers release christmas albums. A dire state of affairs indeed. However december is not totally bereft of good music at least not this year as Abandon's latest release from underground rock label Blindsight Records proves. Blindsight Records are a relatively small UK record label that boast an impressive roster of underground talent and were responsible for releasing the triumphant Caretaker/Undersmile split earlier this year, which some of you may remember I gave a full ten out of ten. Abandon is one of the many monikers taken by label founder Umair Chaudhry and fits in suitably with the record label's overall dark aesthetic.

Abandon fall under the vaguest of genre pigeon hole of shoegaze, a term that can be applied to bands like Jesus And Mary Chain all the way to Jesu, a broad spectrum indeed. So what does this mean of the band itself? Well what you actually get with Abandon is a million miles from the more lacklustre blurry noise that can be associated with bands under the shoegaze tag and instead you get more focused, dark and brooding material. Throughout the EP Umair paints various doom laden shades and the whole record slowly builds a sort of horrific tension in slow motion as though leading towards a truly evil crescendo that never actually arrives. The whole experience is unsettling, haunting and desolate whilst all the while retaining a hypnotic trance like pace. The lyrics are fittingly bleak and a murmured over the intricate eerie melodies and only add to the creeping menace of the record. The EP itself is very long with many of the tracks scraping the over eight minute mark but the majority of the material is devoted to remixes. Whilst generally remixes are a difficult to get right the majority of the remixes here fit the purpose and seem to have exercised restraint only adding faint crackles and skittering drums looping over the faint distorted guitars in some cases even improving on the originals. The music itself could be compared in style at least to the more melodic haunting work of Jesu or the utterly brilliant enigmatic cult outfit Have A Nice Life who are unparelleled in their field. Highlights include title track and opener "Monsters" with its looming dark majesty and the beautifully affecting and hypnotizing "Faith We Once Held (Fragment Remix)" which is over 9 minutes of nightmarish sound with crushingly powerful lyrics that feel as though they are being whispered in your ear. The only downside to the whole EP as a whole would be the repetition factor. Whilst the remixes are quite masterfully done with a softness of touch that fits the overall tone of the record at the end of the day you get the same melodies and lyrics slightly too often. That said most of the reinterpretations are still very pleasing and the whole EP proves to be an utterly intriguing affair.

Overall Monsters is Abandon's most well developed release to date. The music is dark gloomy and powerful and aside from a few too many repetitions of some of the songs Mosters is a very impressive release. Whether this sort of music will achieve a wide scope of interest is debatable with its downbeat slow bereaving songs I can't help but feel it would be lost on many but if you're into the darker side of rock you'll definitely find something to love here. Abandon are definitely one to watch in the future. Recommended.

Download: "Monsters" "Faith We Once Held (Fragment Remix)"

Friday, 2 December 2011

Boots Electric - Honkey Kong

Honky Kong
Boots Electric - Honkey Kong
Genre: Dance/Rock
Rating: 4.5/10

Eagles of Death Metal are certainly an acquired taste. Their unique brand of danceable desert rock is highly tongue in cheek and overtly sexualised leaving many to dismiss them as a watered down cliched version of Queens Of The Stone Age. Whilst the artistic merits of the band are debatable the real focus is to make party friendly feel good tunes which they do in abundance. Boots Electric is the new project of Eagles Of Death Metal outspoken frontman Jesse Hughes and sees him for the first time step out of the shadow of his mentor and contributor Josh Homme.

As far as themes go Boots Electric continues to play it safe aiming itself down the road of Eagles Of Death Metal mostly focusing on sleaze and gimmicky rock n roll cliches. The main difference is actually in the framework in which these tunes are presented. Whilst Eagles Of Death Metal are known for their heavier lofi guitar driven sound Boots Electric seems to favour slicker electronic means. Keyboards, Synths and drum machines seem to replace guitars and drum kits for the most part making the whole record ooze an almost techno feel. Unfortunately this takes away the swagger that makes the cheesey over the top posturing bareable and instead your left with quite an embarassing cluster of songs. It's not all bad certain tunes have their own simplistic charm but on the whole the music is pretty tame at best. The tunes themselves aren't as hedonistic and rather than being sleazy often show a level of romance but with the cheesey electro hooks this turns the tunes into limp whiney ballads that don't really suit Hughe's. These more mature reflections on love could be seen as Hughes expressing more honest emotions but unfortunately they are expressed in such an overpowering style that it isn't really affecting at all. The few highlights that are on the record are quickly forgotten when tracks like "No Ffun" and "Dreams Tonight" force the listener into such powerful cringes that the catchier moments fall by the wayside. Highlights like the opener "Complexity" with its throbbing synths and the grittier Wolfmotheresque "Oh Girl" are not enough to redeem the album. Whilst its interesting to see Hughes left to his own devices the results are fairly inconsistent and the electronic aspects just don't stand up to repeated listens with the novelty wearing off pretty quickly.

Overall Boots Electric's debut is rather lacklustre. Whilst there are a couple of catchy tunes there is very little substance to the whole record and its likely to be shelved and forgotten very shortly. Avoid wasting your money.

Download: "Complexity" "Oh Girl"

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

King's Daughters & Sons - If Then Not When

King's Daughters & Sons - If Then Not When
Genre: Post Rock/Alternative
Rating: 10/10

Few record labels can boast a roster of such importance as scottish label Chemikal Undergrounds. With some previous alumni including post rock giants like Mogwai, Aereogramme and Arab Strap it would be hard to argue that they don't have the midas touch. New to their ever expanding roster are Kentucky based band King's Daughters & Sons who are releasing their debut If Then Not When on the 21st of this month. The band first caught my attention very recently when I recieved an email from Chemikal Underground about upcoming events, whilst most record label chainmail goes directly from inbox to my bin Chemikal Underground's newsletters are written with enough poise to make them feel quite personal and interesting. They announced signing King's Daughters & Sons and with interest at it's peak I decided to head over to myspace to have a listen prompted by their comparisons with Nick Cave and Led Zeppelin (which together makes them sound like some sort of freakshow). What I actually heard was quite unique and brilliant.

The easiest way to describe a new unknown band's sound is normally to make comparisons between their sound and more famous bands with King's Daughters & Sons though this is pretty damn hard. The musical style is varied and has hints of Nick Cave as well as post rock titans Gregor Samsa. The band's sound is made up of some pretty simplistic elements like guitars, pianos and drums the main thing you notice is the way each track is constructed. Each individual element comes in individually making the whole thing seem effortless and each track slowly leads on from a few stray chords into a sprawling epic. Lyrically the each track tells a story it is this and the classical elements of piano is where the similarity between King's Daughters & Sons and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds is drawn. Whilst this is quite a favorable comparison to make the vocals that come from different people throughout If Then Not When are much less over the top and dramatic yet still very evocative. The music is sparse and melodic, the guitars move from more serene melodies to more rabble rousing strumming in places but are hypnotic throughout. The grim narratives add a bleak yet enthralling depth to the record making it a true stunner from start to finish. Highlights come thick and fast without a single dull track, opener "Sleeping Colony" is a great example of the band's dynamic as what appears as a simple narrative slowly develops into a sprawling epic where each individual element grasps at your heart strings. Other highlights include the hugely powerful "Lorelei" and the shorter, punchier "Dead Letter Office" which has a fiery anguished stomp that is truly infectious. The whole damn thing is so catchy I've been humming it all week at work.

Overall King's Daughters & Sons have delivered a stellar debut. It's powerfully emotive and brilliantly concieved yet more evidence that below the torrents of pretentious post rock there is still much life and potential in the genre yet. Not just recommended a true contender for the best album of 2011.

Download: "Dead Letter Office" "Lorelei"

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Birthday Suit - The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour
The Birthday Suit - The Eleventh Hour
Genre: Indie/Folk
Rating: 8.5/10

The Birthday Suit is the latest side project to spring from indie veterans Idlewild. When Idlewild first formed in the mid nineties there was a lot of interest in them mainly because rather than just sticking to one genre they fused two together. This is nothing new in the music world but normally helps build expectations for a simple idea turning into the next big trend. Idlewild's early material clearly demonstrated their own unique fusion of dissident punk and softer more emotionally adept indie sensabilities seperating them from the pack as it were.  16 years on and several records down the line the original harsh energetic punk attitude has mellowed and these days the band have more of a folky sound as both lead singer Roddy and lead guitarist Rod Jones have both established solo careers in this vein. The Birthday Suit however is quite different from  the other projects that have sprung from Idlewild in two ways. First of all it is not a solo project in which a random ensemble of players have filled in the necessary gaps and secondly it is not pure folk.

The Birthday Suit are fronted by Idlewild's lead guitarist Rod Jones who takes position of lead singer of a full band for the first time. After years of being a background singer and producing his own solo album I guess Rod has finally built the confidence to front an outfit and the results are more than pleasing. Whilst many have grumbled and moaned at Idlewild's more recent releases as losing the impact and power of their earlier raw works The Birthday Suit is oddly reminiscent of Idlewild's seminal album 100 Broken Windows. Combining the power of simplistic but emotive guitar, catchy chorus structures and a sense of occasion with dramatic orchestral flourishes the album immediately grabs you. Rod's vocal delivery, whilst not as consistent as his Idlewild counterpart Roddy's, adds extra character with his thick scottish brogue supplementing the punchy tracks whilst beautifully dual harmonies and backing is provided by the other members of the band throughout. Whilst it is decisively heavier than Rod's solo work there are still some softer moments and this does nothing but make the whole thing feel more varied and enjoyable. Highlights include the powerful "World Gone By" which is supplemented by some beautiful strings making it a truly heartwrenching ballad the heavier tracks like "On My Own" and lead single "Do You Ever?" also provide plenty some high points with their high octane driving guitars. The only criticism that of the Eleventh Hour is really the similarities between this and Idlewild's early work which is no criticism at all considering that Idlewild are no longer putting out music that sounds like this, and this sounds bloody brilliant.

Overall The Birthday Suit's debut is a surefire winner. Packed to the brim with catchy tunes the record oozes all the enthusiasm that made Idlewild great. A definite must have for any Idlewild fan and also anyone who's into indie for that matter. Highly recommended.

Download: "On My Own" "World Gone By"

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Chris Connelly - Artificial Madness

Artificial Madness
Chris Connelly - Artificial Madness
Genre: Alternative/Post-Punk
Rating: 7/10

Chris Connelly is probably best known for his work with Ministry, Revolting Cocks and more recently the High Confessions rather than his solo career. The main reason for this would have to be the transient nature in regards to his solo work, whilst most of his more notorious projects have centred on quite dark themes and areas of music his solo work is much more diverse. Previous efforts have seen him experiment with everything from pop to new wave with varying levels of success so unlike many solo artists his work normally has no relation or common ground with his other more lucrative projects. This also means however that even at best his output could be described as patchy so whether or not you'll be on to a winner remains to be seen. Luckily with Artificial Madness Connelly has made the decision to play to his strengths blending elements of post-punk and industrial genres.

Whilst Artificial Madness bares some resemblance to Connelly's more recent work with The High Confessions there are still a lot of determining factors that ensure the two are not one and the same. The music on offer is mostly fast paced and their is a real sense of urgency throughout most of the album, the album is also less experimental which makes it instantly more appealing. Whilst the overall tone is one of darkness there is less effort to make each track an epic slow building masterpiece. The guitar playing is a lot more pronounced and schizophrenic with its impressively fast scales and scratchy vibe imbuing the whole record with more traditional punk sensibilities. Connelly's vocals, whilst not at the frightful snarl of some of his other work, fit the tunes well and the album is quite lyrically diverse touching on a broad spectrum of themes. Whilst areas of the record seem quite claustrophobic there are also some softer moments that help the album avoid being to repetitious. Whilst Ministry stood more prominently within the industrial genre there is not that much in the way of electronic and machine like beats here with most of the music having a more organic feel overall. Highlights include the frantic opener and title track "Artificial Madness", that surges with a volatile pace with inspired guitar work throughout, and the softer "Compatibility" that sounds like an eerily distorted Clash-esque tune. Other great tracks include the gentle and almost poppy "The Paraffin Hearts" which whilst contrasting strongly with the rest of the record provides it with one of the most notable moments. The majority of the album is good and accessible the only downside to all this is that it lacks the power of muxch of his other work. Whilst consistent in its dark themes the music doesn't quite capture your imagination enough to make this a true masterpiece. It is still thoroughly enjoyable though.

Overall Chris Connelly's latest effort is fairly impressive, especially when compared against the rest of his patchy solo work. Whilst it hardly redefines the rule book it is an enjoyable listen and easily more accessible for the mainstream. Recommended.

Download: "Artificial Madness" "The Paraffin Hearts"

Monday, 14 November 2011

Spotlight: Make Sparks

Whilst 2011 has seen no real change in pace in terms of musical trends this year has produced some fine examples of underground talent. Whilst the charts are still swamped with Beyonce and Gaga clones beneath the surface some new players have begun to emerge who prove that music isn't completely bereft of hope. This is certainly the case as far as Make Sparks are concerned.

I first found out about these plucky young Scottish gents last week when I saw them live supporting fellow Scotts Sucioperro. Whilst very few support acts rarely win genuine applause this year I've come across two or three support acts that have not only won my applause but also won me over completely. Make Sparks are one of these bands. The bands trademark sound is characterised by accessible rock guitars beautiful three part harmonies and lovely melodic reverb sections. The bands soft tracks are very reminiscent of american emo giants Jimmy Eat World yet at the same time some of the bands material is more fiesty and raucous with a swagger completely of their own.

After about five or so tracks the band soon departed and at the end of the night I was lucky enough to bump into the lead singer and buy their independently released album Rewound at the merch booth. Since then in spite of the other new acquisitions to my extensive music library I keep going back to Rewound. The album is full to the brim with talent and ideas and rarely have I seen such a fledgling act produce such a coherent debut. Rewound is available from the band's bandcamp that I have linked below for the amazing bargain price of £2.99 and I would highly recommend giving it a bash. Definitely a band to watch.

Make Sparks Bandcamp:

Make Sparks Facebook:

Make Sparks Website:

Thursday, 10 November 2011

David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time

David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time
Genre: Experimental/Alternative
Rating: 6/10

Music is not the first thing that comes to mind where David Lynch is concerned. A prominent director for most of his career so far an album without a movie or short film to accompany it seems like a strange move for the 65 year old. Lynch's first dabbling with the music industry started way back in the late 80's with him contributing to various different projects and making a few odd compositions for some of his films this however has mostly been overshadowed by his accomplishments as a director. Most recently he contributed to the final Sparklehorse colloborative effort Dark Night Of The Soul before leadsinger Mark Linkous tragically committed suicide. This brings us to Lynch's debut album as a solo artist Crazy Clown Time which is one of the biggest surprises this year has had.

Lynch's sound is quite similar to the one he adopted on Dark Night Of The Soul, the music is fairly minimalist and simple in structure but none of the material is particularly conventional. Throughout the album there is a blend of different styles with folkier elements sometimes presenting themselves from time to time. Lynch also employs a lot of distortion to warp the songs simple nature into a more eerie and abstract place and the metronomic simple beats, sometimes synthetic whilst at other times organic, move the process along at a steady pace. Vocally Lynch is quite interesting and he even dabbles with auto-tuning to add further distortion giving off a creepy robotic vibe. Whilst the music on offer is very experimental in nature the overall sound is not so overly complex that it is unaccessible and most of the material has enough creative flair to sustain the listener's interest. The main detracting point really comes from the odd dull tracks which, whilst perfect for background music to one Lynch's stranger movies, provide very little get excited about without the context of a greater narrative. Still overall the album is quite an impressive feat and whilst not a corker from strat to finish definitely has it's moments. Highlights include the sparse opener "Pinky's Dream" which features Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs providing a haunting ominous vocal over a sparse and dark tune and the more straight forward electronica lead single "Good Day Today" which sees simplistic beats and fuzzy distortion meet to create an almost ambient dance track. Tracks like "Strange And Unproductive Thinking" however seem to just be mindless filler and noise.

Overall Crazy Clown Time proves to be a very ambitious release for Lynch. Whilst it has its flaws it also has a strangely hypnotizing charm about it and proves to be quite an engaging listen. Although this will definitely not prove to have a wide appeal due to its abstract nature I would definitely suggest you at least stream a little of it.

Download: "Pinky's Dream" "So Glad"

Puscifer - Conditions Of My Parole

Conditions of My Parole
Puscifer - Conditions Of My Parole
Genre: Alternative/Rock
Rating: 8/10

Out of all of Maynard James Keenan's musical projects Puscifer is easily the most experimental and baffling. More famous for his critically acclaimed work with progressive metal outfit Tool and rock group A Perfect Circle Maynard left many of his fanbase scratching their heads in collective confusion when the band released their first album back in 2007. With a new Tool album speculated to be released next year and the reformed A Perfect Circle also doing tours it is a very strange time to release a follow up to 2007's V Is For Vagina regardless of this the album saw general release on 18th October this year. Being the idiotic purist that I am however I ordered it on cd from the bands online store hence the lateness of this review.

Whilst Maynards's other musical projects are easily categorised Puscifer's output is a lot more diverse and free form. The band in Maynard's own words is a revolving door project with multiple contributors and see's him express ideas and songs that wouldn't work within the confines of his other bands. Whilst this ensures the band aren't a carbon copy of his other projects this does unfortunately lead to mixed results and their debut was a strange mix of gimmicky smutty tunes and more serious gothy tinged industrial material. The bands latest album seems to have dropped the smut in favour for a more restrained mix of electronica and rock. The end result is generally more consistent and more enjoyable and makes for a much stronger album. Whilst Conditions Of My Parole sticks to a stricter format and isn't as eclectic in some areas as its predecessor it still has subtle hints of different genres throughout like the use of banjo on opener "Tiny Monsters" which soon fades away behind a wall of synthesizers. Highlights come thick and fast with tracks like "Green Valley" reaching the same transcendal heights of A Perfect Circle with its restrained electronica leading to a powerful chorus. It's not all soft and cuddly however as tracks like "Telling Ghosts" and "Toma" hit the listener hard with fierce synthetic beats and heavier guitar tones. The variety and odd flittering experimental nature ensures the album keeps your attention and with very little to complain about it almost effortlessly trumps Puscifer's first effort.

Overall whilst the "hardcore" Tool or A Perfect Circle fan may scoff at Maynard's Puscifer project Conditions Of My Parole asserts itself as a great addition to Maynards broad catalogue of work. The album is fun, fresh and entertaining and is more consistently pleasing than the projects debut which wasn't awful by any rate anyway. Recommended.

Download: "Tiny Monsters" "Toma"

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bush - The Sea Of Memories

Bush - The Sea Of Memories
Genre: Alternative/Rock
Rating: 3/10

2011 seems to have been the year of rebirths with many defunct bands reforming after long hiatuses. The latest addition to this swell of bands is nineties post grunge band Bush who return this year after a decade of silence with their new album The Sea Of Memories. Bush were formed just after the grunge explosion of the early nineties and unlike many of their peers chose to take on a more standard rock sound. In the gap between 2001's Golden State album not much was heard from the members of Bush apart from frontman Gavin Rossdale (who is essentially more famous for marrying Gwen Stefani than anything else). Rossdale formed Institute a short lived rock band and even tried going solo more recently under his own name both endeavors falling short of the exposure and commercial success of Bush. Now it seems the band have reconvened without their original bassist or guitarist.

The music on display on The Sea Of Memories differs quite a lot from the simplistic primal rock Bush began producing at the start of their career and favours a more mellow tone. Whilst acoustic and piano ballads became more frequent on their later releases The Sea Of Memories is almost entirely composed of soft tracks. The main issue with the record as a whole is the mixing, whilst Rossdales singing is adequate the music in the background is so low down on the mix it's hard to work out what the music is actually doing. If anything The Sea Of Memories owes more to Institutes electronic sound than Bush's straight forward guitar driven rock. Whilst some technical flourishes on some tracks are quite well employed the album from start to finish feels quite tired and sombre. The bands debut Sixteen Stone rippled with energy, Sea Of Memories of however feels like a band playing it so safe that the whole experience is devoid of excitement. Whilst the music shouldn't have to be upbeat or in your face you would assume that after a ten year hiatus when the band agreed to come back they would've done it as a result of having something spectacular. Unfortunately Bush do not and Sea Of Memories is merely a lacklustre collection of crooning dreary ballads. The solitary highlight of the whole album is the single "The Sound Of Winter" which shows some interesting distortion and the same depth as the band's earlier material. Unfortunately the rest of the album is fairly shambolic especially the cringey over the top closer "Be Still My Love" which is so pedestrian and mainstream it could be used as elevator music.

Overall Sea Of Memories is by far Bush's worst album to date. Lacking in imagination and having little impact at all it proves to be nothing more than a collection of indentikit ballads that show no flair or passion that made Bush an interesting band. Whether this reunion is purely a money spinner is debatable whether the album is a worthwhile purchase is less debatable, it just isn't worth buying. A contender for worst album of the year.

Download: "The Sound Of Winter"

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Spotlight: Martin Grech

Martin Grech is one of many enigmatic underground artists that does not recieve enough exposure. I first fell in love with Grech's music way back in 2006 when he was featured on Yourcodenameis:milo's collaborative mixtape Print Is Dead. Since listening to that track a long term love affair started between me and his music. Martin's career actually started quite a while before this and saw him attaining relative critical acclaim and quite a lot of media exposure thanks to his track "Open Heart Zoo" appearing on a Lexus advert. The impressive thing about this track was not just it's unique eerie falsetto but the fact that it was written by Martin whilst he was still in his mid teens. Martin's first album of the same name also was produced and released before he'd even reached twenty and cemented his reputation as a truly inspirational young talent.

Open Heart Zoo was a beautifully realised album from start to finish mixing a vast range of different styles and still is one of my all time favourite records. The albums sound was very experimental with some tracks featuring ambient piano segments and saxophones whereas others were filled to the brim with industrial beats and scratchy unhinged guitars. Whilst the subject matter throughout remained bleak and quite depressing areas of the album were upbeat and even poppy. Martin's unique vocal stylings that sometimes went into supersonic high pitched falsetto where compared by many to Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley two singers held in universal high regard. From every perspective then Open Heart Zoo appeared to be the start of a promising career indeed.

In 2005 Martin Grech returned with his crowning achievement sophomore album Unholy. Whilst the more morbid tones of Open Heart Zoo were counter balanced by often upbeat backing music Unholy boldly saw Martin reinvent himself into a purveyor of all things dark. Where there were once sparse and delicate keys were horrendous sounding guitars and violent orchestral stabs. Whilst this shift left many complacent about his complete overhaul of his sound the album remains a powerful testament to his ability to continue to evolve. The albums main highlight for me is the brooding epic "Holy Father Inferior" a 9 minute long masterpiece that slowly layers tension and anxiety before exploding with a truly haunting blood curdling falsetto. Martin also branched out with his experimental nature and even explored industrial metal elements throughout the album proving once again his versatility.

Following Unholy Martin split from his record label Island. Whilst Martin's fanbase grew the music industry was on very uncertain ground in the late noughties and Grech's cult success made him a prime candidate for going independent. March Of The Lonely was Martin's next album, released in 2007 it saw Martin once again define convention and all of his critics attempts to pigeonhole his work. March Of The Lonely was a much more serene album than either of its two predecessors. The album saw Grech strip back to the barest bones the majority of material being acoustic and only very subtle tweaks were made to make a more organic and simple album. This again left some in uproar as the heavy dark elements were totally abscent although anyone with any interest in his career should have expected a curve ball at this juncture. The album again was mostly seen as a great success and yet another testament to Grech's almost limitless versatility.

After this period of time is where the veil of ambiguity and mystery began to arise. Following March Of The Lonely Martin tried to set up a new project under the working title Meatsuit, the idea was to recruit other artists to form this band. In the mean time Martin also created an original score for the film Blood River, a score that as of yet seems as though it will not be released. During this transitional period Grech worked tirelessly on demos for Meatsuit tracks with regular updates to his Myspace. With the gradual demise of Myspace in favour of the new social networking hit Facebook the updates stopped and Martin disappeared. Updates were few and far between until more recently when an official facebook page surfaced with a few short mysterious trailers of new material under the working title Shadow Secrets. This was later changed to The Watcher.

Whilst further details are still eagerly awaited by his fanbase Grech recently released Meta part 1 and 2. Meta is a collection of all the music Martin put together in his transitional stage between his albums and each part is made up of roughly 25 tracks. Clearly the quiet period of inactivity was not quiet at all. Both of these releases were available for download part 1 through facebook and part 2 through Martin's bandcamp. Both part 1 and 2 of Meta whilst made up of demos again highlight Martins experimental nature from the metallic Meshuggah like qualities of his Meatsuit project to the serene and poignant experiments with electronica that echo of Thom Yorke's solo work. Both are highly recommended the only reason they weren't reviewed properly on here at the times of release was the sheer magnitude of material and Martin Grech himself adamantly proclaiming these are only to be viewed as sketches of songs.

Whilst the release of The Watcher still has not been announced and the tracklisting and even musical direction remains a mystery one thing is certain, Martin Grech is definitely an artist to keep your eyes on. It is quite unlikely at this stage that The Watcher will see the light of day this year but I'd estimate a release next year is quite a high possibility.

Martin Grech's Facebook:
Martin Grech's Bandcamp:

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Catscans - Catscans EP

Catscans EP Cover Art
Catscans - Catscans EP
Genre: Post Rock/Prog Rock
Rating: 6.5/10

Catscans are a four piece band from Leeds who have released a new eponymous EP this year. Forming from the ashes of other projects the band is fairly fresh on the scene and create post rock a genre which has seen quite a significant boom in recent years. This unfortunately brings with it an element of foreboding as with such a wide market it is one particular musical field that is very difficult to stand out in. The main ways in which Catscans attempt to break out from the crowd is by mixing classical with contemporary elements. Whilst many bands have begun to realise the impact classical instruments such as violins and cellos can have in turning dreary and dull compositions into sprawling epics the real notable difference on this EP is found in the rythms.

Post rock is a notoriously difficult genre to master not only because of the hordes of competition but also the unnecessary drive for towards instrumentals. Admittedly the forerunners and defining bands of the genre like the scottish giants Mogwai may be partly to blame for this, noone could have predicted the unprecedented arrival of thousands of voiceless bands. This is an issue that still plagues the genre today and whilst the majority of these bands are very talented it has become more and more difficult to distinguish between acts. Catscans avoid this by mixing elements of prog rock into the formula so whilst you have all the reverb and delicate layers you are also treated to jangly rhythmic blasts from real drums and drum machines alike. The programming does somewhat breathe life into the EP giving it a freshness of its own. Rhythm section aside the music is fairly typical of the genre, soft ambient guitar tones minimalist keys and sweeping string sections are prominent throughout making for an interesting listen. The main downside would have to be the use of vocals throughout. Whilst as a general vocals can serve to give a more individual sound and provide some actual context to the serene landscapes the music paints here it seems to be employed as an instrument. Rather than communicating any real message all the vocals consist of notes being sung without words and without any real lyrics it just seems redundant. Another issue is the length of the EP with only three tracks in total it is very difficult to gleam any real impression of the bands sound. This aside the closing track alone "Untergang" makes this an intriguing release with its icy textures and powerful emotive strings and highlights the bands potential.

Overall Catscans self titled EP averages out as quite a good release. Whilst the band haven't reinvented the rule book or exploded onto the scene in a blaze of glory they display their skills quite humbly and have shown enough potential to keep me watching for future developments.

Download: "Untergang"

Exit Ten - Give Me Infinity

Exit Ten - Give Me Infinity
Genre: Metal/Alternative
Rating: 4.5/10

Exit Ten are a little known metal band from Reading who started up in the mid noughties. The bands sound started of as a merging of melodic vocals and heavy metal riffing and breakdowns leaving much of the music press to christen them as metalcore, a genre that describes a baffling range of more commercial melodic metal like Killswitch Engage and their ilk. By the mid to late noughties this metalcore trend was slowly becoming a huge movement. With the end of nu metal and the explosion of emo the market for heavy bands was wide open and metalcore seemed to fill this void. Unfortunately like most trends it wasn't long before the market was oversaturated and the initial buzz wore off. In spite of this Exit Ten stuck to their guns for their debut album 2008's Remember The Day. After an extensive tour the band return this year with new album Give Me Infinity which also see's them adopt a new sound.

Whilst Exit Tens early work was notable for its fast paced metallic elements clashing against the soft melodic vocals of Ryan Redman, Give Me Infinity lacks its predecessor's bite. Where there was once thunderous drums and nasty riffs there is now soft reverb distortion and even string sections. Whilst Give Me Infinity does not make quite the same impact as the bands debut it has to be celebrated for its boldness if nothing else. The main issue stopping this album from being great however is that by making the move towards a more post rock sound the band actually double their competition and unfortunately the many veteran kings of the genre are not easily displaced. Whilst the music is technically proficient and quite well produced the majority of songs are so subtle that they are quite easily forgotten. Without the pace set by the bands previous metal elements some of the songs drift on for longer than they need to and even drag in places. Songs also fail to stand out from one another making the whole album feel somewhat like an ambiguous mess in places and the consistent drive to make an anthemic chorus out of each track somewhat grates and feels too forced. This is especially the case for "Suggest A Path" the albums lead single which seems overly dramatic and cheesey. It's not all bad though as some tracks have enough kick to make them stand out. The fast paced "Sunset" is a perfect example of this with its intricate guitar work being both beautiful and powerful other tracks like "How Will We Tire?" succeed in their endeavour to produce anthemic results whilst avoiding to appear drawn out. The sad fact of the matter is these moments are just too few and far between.

Overall Exit Ten's bold attempt at branching out isn't a complete failure. The good bits, whilst limited in their frequency, are very well done the real detracting factor is that the majority of the material on offer is instantly forgettable. Whilst the band prove themselves technically adept Give Me Infinity fails to capture the imagination and lacks the punch of their debut. I would advise giving this one a miss.

Download: "Sunset"

Antlered Man - Buddhist Soup (Giftes Pt. 1)

Antlered Man - Buddhist Soup (Giftes Pt. 1)
Genre: Rock/Alternative
Rating: 8.5/10

Antlered Man are an up and coming band based in London who I previously discussed in my first (and so far only) "spotlight on" feature. The band produce what can only be described as truly deranged rock music which flirts with experimental proggy elements whilst retaining a level of astute punk vitriol. The band are very difficult to describe in terms of overall sound as they seem to revel in twisting and turning away from standard conventions but this only serves to make the whole thing more intriguing. Following two download only singles the band have just released their first part of a two part album in both limited hand made cds, of which only 500 will be made, and download from their self established label Goo Grrrl records. The end result is Buddhist Soup, a 5 track mini album or EP that demonstrates the bands creative flair and originality.

Buddhist Soup, as predicted, is a very sporadic release that schizophrenically evolves in and out of states of absolute mania and more refined calmer moments. From start to finish the band make no attempt to go easy on the listener throwing a riotous dismissive racket in your general direction before disappearing behind their more eerie material. In places the material on show has an almost nursery rhyme feel as seen in the title track, which only adds to the sense of unease spread throughout the record. Whilst this all sounds a bit too chaotic to work the band manage to pull this off  in their own unique way. Highlights include the bands opening gambit and single "Outrages 1 Ta 3" which see's a simple lone guitar slowly twist into an almost psychedlic hypnotic riff before pummelling your ears with crashing metal intensity, as well as the eerie whistling and flute work on title track "Buddhist Soup" which makes for quite a creepy listen. The biggest highlight is my personal favourite, the closing track "Platoono Of Uno", which sees the band yet again baffle and confuse as they twist and turn time signatures into strange new shapes employing loud and quiet dynamics to devastating effect all the while the tense and poignantly sharp lyrics ooze like bile. The only real criticism of the whole release is the decision to release it in two parts which means an undetermined wait for what I can only assume will be a thrilling conclusion to the album. With only five tracks making up merely half an album you can't help but feel that it all comes to a close a little prematurely. That being said it does the job to wet your appetite for more material so this is only a minor grumble. 

Overall this is a suitably impressive first outing for a band who have only just started to show off their true potential. The bands originality and vision is employed with a finesse rarely demonstrated on a debut and is a real breath of fresh air stacked up against quite a stale music scene. Highly recommended.

Download: "Platoono Of Uno" "Buddhist Soup"

Screaming Trees - Last Words: The Final Recordings

Screaming Trees - Last Words: The Final Recordings
Genre: Rock/Grunge
Rating: 10/10

Way back in the mid eighties alternative music began to shift away from it's traditional values with a unprecedented explosion of hair-rock and cheesey metal swamping the charts people began to tire of the classic rock template. It was this tiresome over the top posturing that aided a musical revolution and saw the birth of alternative rock and grunge both genres which focus more on expression than leather clad cliches. One of these groundbreaking bands was Washington's psychedelic rockers Screaming Trees who to this day are seen as one of the founding fathers of the grunge movement. Whilst the bands legacy and influence on the grunge scene is undeniable the bands sound was a much more traditional affair heavily influenced by the psychedelic tinged rock of the 60's. Unfortunately Grunge would end up being the reason behind the bands break up in 2000, with the influx of grunge bands record labels had a hard time working out how to market the more vintage rock made by Screaming Trees and with frontman Mark Lanegans solo career gathering speed the band dissolved.

Whilst 2011 has been a monumental year of unexpected comebacks the liner notes of Last Words clearly state that this is not a reunion album. The majority of the music on display instead was recorded way back in 1999 for the follow up to bands seminal work Dust and was distributed to labels in an attempt to secure a record deal. Whilst in 1999 the record label was king of the music industry the slow disintegration of this idea over the past few years has given Screaming Trees an opportunity to actually independently release this material to the fans. The album is produced by an equally important character in the grunge movement, Jack Endino. Endino himself was part of Skin Yard another band that helped to form the Seattle sound and is still to this day an influential music producer most notable for his production of Nirvana's debut Bleach. The album is true to form sticking to the sound the Screaming Tree's had perfected by the late nineties, fusing poppy choruses with the flair and imagination of classic psychedelic rock. Throughout the album Lanegan's legendary dry whiskey stained vocals provide an almost blues feel whilst soaring sustained solo's by Gary Lee Conner paint a beautiful range of tones and moods. Whilst sceptics could easily regard posthumous releases as a quick cash in, Last Words from start to finish is an impressive addition to the bands already established canon of work. Highlights come thick and fast from the punchy fast paced opener "Ash Gray Sunday" all the way to the sombre closing moments of "Last Words". Other highlights include the fiery "Black Rose Way" and the more experimental and claustrophobic "Crawlspace". From start to finish Last Words delivers what may just be the Screaming Trees strongest recorded work. The only downside to the brilliance of this album is the fact that it is merely an epitaph in a career that has already reached its conclusion. The album highlights what a crying shame it was that the band had to break up and how foolish record companies can lead to great works being overlooked.

Overall Last Words is an amazing album showcasing the Screaming Trees at the peak of their career. Whilst the band members have all moved on to massively successful projects since the bands break up there is still a real feel of nostalgia to their music. Their influential mix of psychedlic rock and grunge was perhaps before its time and the sound still resonates with power hard to rival. Highly recommended.

Download: "Black Rose Way" "Ash Gray Sunday"

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Matt Stevens - Relic

Matt Stevens - Relic
Genre: Prog Rock/Rock
Rating: 8.5/10

Whilst the last submission I recieved to review was quite a flawed piece of classical music I have recently been contacted by another artist interested in a review. Matt Stevens released his third solo album Relic this september and was kind enough to send me a copy to review and I must admit I was genuinely suprised. Stevens produces instrumental rock which on the whole is not really a scene I've bothered to get into all that much. Following the post-rock explosion of the mid to late nineties bands like scottish pioneers Mogwai inspired millions with their powerful music to drop singing and unfortunately this lead to a genre oversaturated with instrumental bands. The main issue I have with instrumental rock is that without vocals it is often hard to gleam any sort of personality from an album and all your left with is interchangeable bands who are so anonymous they could be anyone. This however I was suprised to find does not have to be the case.

The first thing that strikes you when listening through Relic is Stevens's versatility. Whilst many bands are content to release a whole album of instrumentals that flow one into the other seamlessly, Relic, from start to finish, is an album of constant shifts and changes and this is what makes it such an engaging listen. The music ranges from mellow acoustic guitars to full blown metal chaos. Another key strength against its closest competition is the accessibility, whilst some artist who chose to go down the instrumental path feel the need to compensate for their lack of singer by going over the top into self indulgent complexity, Stevens seems to side step this for more straight forward punchier compositions. The use of Glockenspiel, Mellotron and the odd synthetic beat give the album enough variety to seem fresh and keep you paying attention. Whilst the tracks never reach ostentatious levels of complexity Stevens pulls no punches in regards to curve balls with most tracks ending abruptly at a moments notice and catapulting you into a completely different genre. As far as labels go with such a diverse record it is fairly difficult to pigeonhole, but this just adds to the records numerous charms. If comparisons had to be made I would say that in places tracks have hints of Radiohead, Pink Floyd and King Crimson to say the least but the music here still retains its own identity without coming across as derivative. Highlights include the brilliant closer "30 End" which has huge hints of David Gilmours sedate yet powerful sustained guitar style and the outright brutally schizophrenic "Frost" which see's Stevens push the boundaries of his technical ability experimenting with elements of metal. Other brilliant tracks include "Rusty" a lovely piece of classical spanish guitarwork complemented by some evocative violin  and pacey drumwork, the title track "Relic" is equally enthralling with its shifts and changes between strummed acoustic guitars and brilliantly reverby electric tones.

Overall "Relic" is somewhat of a success story for Matt Stevens. Not only does it highlight his ability as a guitarist but shows his ability to create original and exciting instrumental rock a talent that is truly quite rare. The level of variety makes this an incredibly impressive album on the whole. Highly recommended.

Download: "Relic" "Frost"

Giles Corey - Giles Corey

Giles Corey - Giles Corey
Genre: Folk/Alternative
Rating: 10/10

One sleeper release you won't hear much about this year is the monumentally dark Giles Corey self titled debut. Giles Corey is the brainchild of Have A Nice Life's lead singer Dan Barrett an outfit who already find themselves on the furtherst stretches of the underground music scene. This new project of Barrett's takes the name from a famous american who was killed during the Salem witch trials by being pressed to death for refusing to plea guilty or not guilty relating to charges of sorcery. Giles Corey proves a suitably grizzly moniker and image for an album that can only be described as hellishly dark and unsettling.

The music on offer throughout this record owes a lot to Barrett's time spent with Have A Nice Life, a band who produce some of the darkest shoegaze around. Giles Corey's sound however feels slightly more focused whilst maintaining the same dark atmosphere and tone. The music is fairly straight forward from start to finish and consists mostly of haunting synths and acoustic guitars with Barrett's somewhat angelic vocals murmurring over the top. Whilst this doesn't sound like enough to make an album worthy of a perfect score the level of emotional depth and the undeniable power of the songs is what really wins you over. Atmospherically the album is very well developed and real thought has gone into the sparse and lonesome tone of the songs the lyrics are sublime in places and the whole album is a haunting affair. The vocals are layered and overlapped in a similar way to Bon Iver's critically acclaimed debut but Barrett does this in his own unique way, rather than doubling up Barrett sings one line melodically whilst lining up the same line in a more raw emotional form often sounding quite tortured. Small creaks in the background, subtle synth and keyboards are used to devastating effect giving the whole record a nightmarish feel some songs also build in intensity towards huge trumpet refrains and furiously strummed guitars. The album is not short on highlights with every track working together brilliantly to make a compelling record from start to finish. Personal highlights include the immensely hushed darkness of "I'm Going To Do It" and the eerie and atmospheric interlude "Empty Churches" which features a sample of a man discussing voices of unknown origin backed up by sparse synths. Other masterstrokes are the almost uplifting, but still very creepy, "Blackest Bile" and the downright sorrowful "No One Is Ever Going To Want Me" which slowly builds to a climactic finale with trumpets blaring. I could go on and on about this hypnotizing record but the rest is best discovered on your own.

Overall Giles Corey is definitely a project to keep a watchful eye on. The material released so far showcases Dan Barrett's immense talent unbound and is one of the most raw and affecting releases this year has seen. Whilst this album will prove incredibly tough to track down due to the underground nature of the band it is more than worth the effort. Highly Recommended.

Download: "Blackest Bile" "No One Is Ever Going To Want Me"

Radiohead - T.K.O.L RMX 1234567

Radiohead - T.K.O.L RMX
Genre: Alternative/Electronica
Rating: 7/10

Following on from their frankly disappointing 8th album The King Of Limbs Radiohead return with a two disc set in which various artists remix the aforementioned album. These remixes, much like those of Thom Yorke's solo album The Eraser, were first released two at a time on limited edition vinyls before being compiled into this two disc set. Remix albums on the whole are a tricky business to get right. When a band offers up a whole album to a wide range of artists the results can often be quite inconsistent and often feel like a cash based rehash of old material or something that has no place in either of the artists back catalogue. That said I've been pleasantly suprised before with some quite flawed albums gaining new life after interesting and inventive reinterpretations.

Whilst The King Of Limbs was a scittish album filled with out of tempo scratchy beats and rather lacklustre tracks the remixed album fairs much better. Somehow even with the wide range of artists involved it manages to be more consistently pleasing than the albums source material. The reinventions of the tracks are the real clincher here with some tracks sounding almost nothing like their original forms. Oddly though the most popular track for reinterpretation is "Bloom" with 5 of the nineteen tracks being remixes of this track. An odd choice considering "Bloom" was one of the many weaker moments on King Of Limbs its mismatched electronic beats and keys making it a dull and dreary bore. However all five of these remixes breath new life into this tired track without sounding similar. The album whilst stronger than the original is not all smooth sailing whilst some of the remixes add new depth and dimensions to the tracks some sample and edit the tracks so much they are near enough unidentifiable which somewhat defeats the object. Another disappointment is the reluctance to use Thom Yorke's vocals on a lot of the tracks making many of them solely instrumental affairs. Most of the music on show though hits the spot and rather than turning the tracks into dance floor filling club bangers predictably they aim to capture the eerie mood of the dark electronica pioneered on the bands previous outings like Amnesiac or Kid A. Whilst there are more than a few duff tracks the sheer size of this release means this isn't anything that a track skip won't fix. Highlights include the brilliantly reimagined opener "Little By Little (Caribou RMX)" which see's the band cut and twist Thom Yorke's falsetto vocals with joyful abandon whilst bringing forward the power of the original melody.  Other highlights include "Good Evening Mrs Magpie (Modeselektor RMX)" which turns the bands track  "Morning Mr Magpie" into a much darker form with claustrophobic beats and sinister synths throughout turning the otherwise dull track into something with real substance. Flaws like "Morning Mr Magpie (Pearson Sound Scavenger RMX)" however fail to add anything to the album as whole and strip back the original track so far it is unrecognisable turning an ok song into nothing but an off beat drum track.

Whilst TKOL RMX 1234567 is not perfect the whole record balances out as a rewarding listen. Whilst the source material was flawed by its minimalist nature and wishy washy overall sound the remixes on display offer a more robust end product. Bad tracks are few and far between and the whole thing is just easier to get into. Recommended.

Download:  "Good Evening Mrs Magpie (Modeselektor RMX)" "Little By Little (Caribou RMX)"

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A Journey Down The Well - How Little Can Be The Orchestra

A Journey Down The Well - How Little Can Be The Orchestra
Genre: Neo-Classical/Ambient
Rating: 4/10

A first for me this time as I'm reviewing an EP that was sent to me for the sole purpose of me reviewing it. The EP in question is the new effort by A Journey Down The Well a neo classical group that was originally made up of members split across two seperate countries. After completing two full length albums together the swedish section of the band left the project citing the difficulties in travelling back and forth leaving just the turkish duo to continue the project as an instrumental endeavor. This in itself is no mean feat when the bands classical nature centres around a diverse range of traditional string instruments. This is the reason behind the EP's aptly chosen title How Little Can Be The Orchestra.

The bands sound was previously very traditional with violins and cello's making up the majority of the scores whilst the band all provided almost choral group vocals over the top. With the vocals no longer in the mix and condensed down to a two piece there is definitely a notable difference in sound. The band also seem to have incorporated more contemporary elements with this new release mixing in samples of ambient recordings of traffic from quiet streets to overheard conversations in cafes. These ambient recordings work to the advantage in some areas of the record providing an extra dimension or tone to the sombre and quite introspective arrangements. The main flaw that stops this EP really standing out is the stiff competition it faces from its peers such as the Icelandic prodigy Olafur Arnalds and his label mates Peter Broderick and Nils Frahm. Whilst certain parts of the record are undeniably emotive in other areas the sound effects serve only to ruin the serenity of the track. The album closer "The Orchestra" for example whilst musically very sombre and affecting is somewhat brought down by  the constant barrage of what sounds like owls mewing and other misplaced noise. This isn't the case throughout the whole EP as opener "How" is a beautifully icy piece with poignant violin work and "Can Be" demonstrates a much more subtle use of samples which work well against the classical instruments at the bands disposal. Whilst most of the material on show here is quite impressive there is simply not enough to really get excited about. Whilst the music feels passionate the minimalist stylings and limitations of being a two part orchestra ensure that the listener is never taken to the limits of sorrow or joy and the whole thing seems to lack true value. In short the music, whilst adequately arranged and performed, fades into the background too much and makes very little impact when compared to other modern composers.

Overall whilst it was a bold and ambitious thing for A Journey Down The Well to attempt to continue as a two piece the results are somewhat tame. Whilst not particularly unpleasing on the ear the EP fails to engage the listener and as such memory of it soon fades. If you are interested in Neo-Classical music at all you could do a lot worse but you could do a lot better as well.

Download: "How" "Can Be"