I’ve got a ton of stuff to listen to, but I have managed to get to some lately and am starting to catch up! Here’s the pick of my recent listening. I do appreciate all these submissions, folks!
It’s good to get back to reviewing up-and-comers. I’ve noticed that the bigger the act, the less likely the review will be reposted, or even retweeted, which makes spending the time writing said review a little bit of a waste. (there are exceptions, most recently IQ — thanks for the repost, guys!) I mean, you don’t want to write into a vacuum, do you? I do have many loyal readers, I know, but it’s hard to expand your reach if your work is not being, if not recognized, at least used for the intended promotional purposes. However, despite the writing quality and level of insight here, I know I’m not Pitchfork or Rolling Stone (see how I know which bits to italicize?), just some schmoe in the Boreal region of North America. So I will soldier on in my mission to bring new works by new talent to light, and thus:
ohrenbetäubende stille – N°1
This release on Sparkwood Records is quite stunning. I’ve given it three listens and am very impressed by the fact that, unlike a lot of modern ambient/”post”-rock (I’m going to use comical quote marks there from now on) acts, this one has a very distinct hazy, mystic personality to go with its unpronounceable name. An album of long pieces separated by “pauses”, it’s a bit like if you took all the bombast out of acts like Sigur Ros and just distilled the sound down to the minimal, pretty parts. This album features some nice Rhodes and saxophone bits on the first track, a piece of full-blown Kraut ambient on “Atem”, an 18-minute masterpiece of minimal guitar in “Puls” and a piece of abstract noise ambient in “Ankunft” to wrap things up. These disparate elements mix really well together in an atmosphere of hazy melancholy. If you like a combination of retro electronic Kraut experimentation with the organic end of “post”-rock (think Stars of the Lid) touches, this is for you. Very good stuff and a beautiful album cover too.
An Ant and An Atom – You Are No One
This interesting album from the lovely province of Alberta definitely has a ton of variety on it. “Flirting” features an eerie, crazed spoken word vocal sample and an insistent organ pulse. “Metallergies” is expert industrial fuzz nose skronk. The creepily titled “The Bathory Allure” is full-on “post”-rock with lazy guitars repetitively thumping away and wistful keys before an ear-melting electronic shriek interrupts things. “Devi Changed” is another ghostly noise piece, while the lengthy “I Left It in Places I’d Have to Forget About” goes all Windy and Carl with clean, reverbed guitar chiming until the crazy experimental electronics kick in. Very hypnotic stuff. This is an excellent experimental, post-everything album worth your time to check out.
In Snow – ef-fort
In Snow is a band from Birmingham, Alabama, that plays dirty-ass experimental rock that sounds like it was recorded at 3 a.m. in a big rusty warehouse in the inner city of some nightmare version of America. Which is also the real one, but I digress. A simple lineup up bass, drums, and anxious, minimal guitar thunders and undulates through a series of uncompromisingly dark tracks, of which the abstract “Red Towers” might be my favourite. There are also some peculiar vocal samples from the media inserted here and there. I’m struggling a bit to come up with comparisons, which would mostly have been from the late eighties and early nineties “college rock” era, though these names were on the tip of my tongue for a while. Let’s just say if you strapped some balls onto Godspeed You whatever it’s called, you’d end up with this music, which, when it’s loud, is gloriously so. I suppose it’s “”post””-rock (double double quote there). Anyway, don’t let it pass you by if you like experimental instrumental rock.
Vinc2 – By The Third Sea
I believe I rescued this from hard drive purgatory, seeing as I’ve had it for some time. Boy am I glad I loaded this one up. This is, no fooling, one of the prettiest collections of music I’ve come across. Frenchman Vincent Coudert starts off with a ballad straight out of fantasyland, delicate piano, soft, ethereal sounds and a calm, reassuring vocal tone. It goes really well with some nice Harmonium. Just a really beautiful piano ballad. But this album has 11 tracks! I can’t even get into all of them here, but the highlights are: the “post”-rock, cinematic “Fantasia” with its dramatic strummed electric guitars and sweeping string sounds, the impressionistic “Ballad in Em”, the noisier, Tim Hecker-ish “Between C and Y”, a beautiful piano instrumental, “After Her Call”, and the light, airy ambient of “New Moon”. But each track is a gem. This music is kind of like the soundtrack to the most mystical, otherworldly fantasy movie that’s never been made, and anyone who likes their music with dollops of ethereal beauty will go crazy for it. Coudert is a big talent.
Pueblo People – Sentiero di Guerra
Retro may still sort of be in in the rock and roll world, I’m not sure. I spent six years in a seventies throwback band, and we did OK. I don’t mind a little vintage vibe, as long as it’s done properly. Pueblo People, an Italian band, make some pitch-perfect retro psychedelia on these three long tracks, complete with production touches straight out of 1972, by which I mean the drums actually sit in the mix rather than dominate some scorched-earth over-compressed sonic wasteland. Everything sits perfectly here. The first track is totally Crazy Horse, lazy guitars picking out a minor key tune as the shaky-voiced singer holds forth with quiet intensity. Neil would be impressed! However, this band’s sound is not a Neil Young pastiche; in track 2, “Eastbound Sun”, we delve fully into Krautrock psych, a driving beat, high-pitched organ and wild soloing. Great for Amon Düül 2 fans. Finally, the long “Warpath” goes full-on freakout for thirteen minutes of tribal drums, weird sounds and ominous guitar tones. A very impressive psych album!
Silmus – Shelter
I’ve mentioned Dutch act Silmus before, but very briefly, so it’s a pleasure to talk a bit more about this full-length release, which is guitar-based ambient/instrumental post- — oh, I don’t want to use that term again. I’ll use three double quotes this time: “””post”””-rock. Anyway, this is just as good as the Vinc2 album, but in a guitar-centric vein. The finger-picking on “Remembrance” is oh so lovely, with layered strumming accentuating the flowing mood with subtle piano added. There’s a nice blend of reverby effects, keeping the character of the plucked string rather than burying it. There are also a few pure ambient/”modern” classical tracks like “You Are Tenderness”, “You Have the Words and I Listen” and the mournful “Sadness Covers Me”. The tone overall is wistful but with a distinct whiff of hope. Exactly what I like to hear in my “”””post””””-rock. Some lovely vocals infuse the closer, “Follow Me”, with a touch more optimism. This is a really lovely instrumental album not only for fans of beautiful ambient but also lovers of shimmery guitar as well.
Yep, putting those quotes around odious modern genre names IS helping me use them…