Sunday, November 27, 2011

the sky does not care about me - 2010 - any speed any direction

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A bit of an older album compared to what I've reviewed thus far, but probably one of the stranger; “Any Speed, Any Direction” seems to be inspired by the soundtracks to games like Quake and Half-life or science-fiction films. With that in mind it performs admirably. AS,AD is mainly industrial and ambient music, that isn't as interested in following typical song structure conventions in favour of creating soundscapes that would work great paired with a visuals of sterile complexes and desert wastelands. The first track; 'sitar freeman' is both an actual song and certainly lives up to its name. All sitar, all the time, and could even pass as a recurring theme for a character. I don't think I could take an entire album of this, but it is a fun starting point. Everything that follows “sitar freeman”clocks in over 9 minutes and sounds like someone took a microphone through a manufacturing plant to record every sound they possibly could and then added static and occasional glitchy bleeps over top. Well, except 'armor' which appears to be more song oriented, but is still seven minutes long. On the other end of the scale, a couple of songs are soothing to listen to for all their lack of context and noise('film' and 'knife'). This probably isn't a record you'd throw on for guests or dates (unless your guests/date are awesome), but if you do happen to want some background music while you frag over Xbox Live or happen to be putting together an art piece about futuristic dystopias, then “Any Speed, Any Direction” is one art show away from perfection

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gatsbys - 2011 - The Boy & the Mountain

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  • 5 songs to download
  • For free
  • Direct Download
  • Listening recommendations: Gulf of Mexico, Dawn
Another band that really managed to grow on me after listening to it for a while. Two guys and their guitars singing songs about the sun, the moon and whatever they deem important enough. Whether you like the partly raw and unpolished lead voice is entirely up to you, but there is no doubt about the charm of the songs. You can't help but liking the guys making the music, whether you really enjoy their songs or not. The first songs in particular evoke a kind of familiar "folky" feeling and are immediately accessible. However, this also makes for a slightly noticeable lack of variety, as the songs are pretty similar. But this might be rectified in a, hopefully already planned, full album release. The most remarkable song, and a song I really like, is "Dawn". Its a fantastic combination of the voice and the steadily increasing tension, and heartily recommended for anyone to check out. Music with heart.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mono Tonique - 2011 - Street lights

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Welcoming the ever dropping mercury in your thermometer comes six songs of trip-hop goodness straight from mother Russia with “Street lights”. I can't really explain trip-hop to anyone who has never heard it, suffice to say its often slower hip-hop beats with intricate compositions laid over top (often electronic or classical in nature), with little ambition of getting your ass shaking. “Street lights” doesn't reshape the trip-hop landscape (not even the artists who created it seem to have that power anymore), but does a damn good job of creating its own mood that is well worth a listen. The first half of the record is mostly based around electronic beats and has a somber, lonely feeling. 'Sunset mirage' for instance is awash in layers of synth and noise surrounding chimes and a simple drum machine loop that is comforting but decidedly detached. Mono Tonique are taking you on a voyage through a beautiful, empty but not quite natural place. If an electronic sound dominated the first half, instrumental hip hop makes its home more clearly in the second half of “Street life”. 'P.S.' has the same sort of lonely vibe as the three tracks that precede it but uses horns and piano as its driving force, giving it a sound reminiscent of Endtroducing...-era DJ Shadow. It's a nice change of pace right in the middle of the album following the more alien sounding 'Far Side' with its gitches and new age-y synth backdrops. 'Street homeless' then shatters that somber, lonely mood completely in one fell swoop as a throbbing baseline and snare drum transport the listener from cold and lonely emptiness to a dirty, thriving urban setting complete with grinding street traffic and constant sirens. I dare say it reminds me of early Cypress Hill (minus any rapping) in this regard. If the four tracks before this were “somber” and “lonely”, this is “claustrophobic” and “depressing” music for being swallowed up, unnoticed by the surrounding cityscape (something its title implies). It's the standout track here and the one you'd likely tell friends about, on an album full of excellent tracks. Trip-hop fan or not, definitely check out Mono Tonique's Street lights. it would be a shame to miss this record.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One-Eyed Doll - 2010 - Break


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Hard rock with playful female vocals, why do you not happen more often? One-Eyed Doll's "Break" more than proves the formula works. One-Eyed Doll's sound is reminiscent of other hard rocking female fronted hard rock bands that have come before them. The one that comes to mind most during a listening session is Curve. Thankfully the album does not rest solely on the groundwork laid by forebearers, and plays with the 'female lead rock band' idea enough to keep us interested - in this case by slowing things down and adding a bit of humour/balladry to the mix (the aptly titled 'Murder Ballad' is my country love song of the year!). It works here because Kimberly Freeman would not sound at all out of place on a country record. There is just something warmly approachable about her voice that it would likely work singing over just about any genre of music. On "Break", Freeman's voice is the sly smiling facade that lowers your defenses before the music smashes a vase over your head and steals your stuff. Not that 'Break' is a throwaway pop-punk joke record, subject matter as serious as child and domestic abuse (the album's title track) are gracefully situated alongside tracks like 'Redneck Love Song' and whatever opener 'Airplane Man' is actually about [email if you know the answer/are Kim Freeman. I'm keen to know - Gabbo]. The whole album feels like One-Eyed Doll are letting you in on the joke, like a secret only you and the band know about. The secret is that Kimberly Freeman and Co have released one hell of a rock record.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

2 People - 2011 - Hymns

Folk Pop 
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Actually, it isn't too hard liking any of these small bands we cover on this blog, because most of them are rather professional in their approach to music and don't differentiate itself in many ways from commercially available music. However, there is also quite a large chunk of bands/musicians in the lo-fi, lower budget sector which deserve some attention. This EP falls into the Folk Pop category with a very striking introductory song and a nice follow-up, making people listening up and getting them interested in the few songs featured. The first song is a mashup duet of Bright Eyes "First Day of my Life" and Bob Dylan's "Don't think twice", which works beautifully and is  followed it up with the similar captivating Lion's Den. I got the impression that the other songs don't quite come as well together or maybe they just didnt "click" for me and especially the good ideas of the 9 minute epic "What's left of me" might have been better served if presented in smaller chunks, although I salute the effort of musicians to present another angle on the typical 3-4 minute pop songs. I really had a hard time putting a score on this one as it is obviously not made with the same budgets as some other releases, and for the love put into the making of these songs 2 people more than deserve a curious ear or two, if only for the enchanting first song.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Town Portal - 2011 - Vacuum Horror

Hard Rock 

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  • 6 songs to download
  • You name the price (min 0,-)
  • You get the link if you register your email address
  • Listening recommendations: Salut, Drastic Insights
'Vacuum Horror' is a crunchy slab of instrumental hard rock that seems to have its sound rooted several of rock musics harder camps – grunge without the white male persecution complex lyrics that often accompanied the lesser acts that came to dominate that grunge post-1994 (Staind, I'm looking in your direction), sludge metal, even a bit of post-rock for variety. I would say of those three, grunge is the one this record seems to thrive on most. Town Portal know enough to slow things down just long enough so we can catch our breath ('Segway', 'Phantom Time's second half), but doesn't seem as interested in extending the proceeding into the 8-10 minute epic territory, were ambience plays a much larger role in slower sections. In cases like Isis' “Wavering Radient”, the ambience creates gloomy atmospheres, here it would be unnecessary padding. The guitars are thick and happy to riff things along at a quick but steady pace, the baselines are low and dirty (Tell me you don't need a shower when 'Salut' is over) and along with the drumming provide just the right amount of kick to get headphones nodding. Vacuum Horror would fit nicely among the harder hitting grunge records from the early 90's, but thankfully can be heard in 2011 without any nostalgia required to be thoroughly enjoyable. For those that like their rock with a little more meat to it, Town Portal's Vacuum Horror is highly recommended.