Monday, November 28, 2016
“Pale Moon” has a recycling topline riff that buzzes about like a bee trapped in a bottle. It’s a total earworm but, by the third run-through, not in a good way. It’s a blessed relief when its steady disintegration into white noise is finally complete. “Last Days” swings a little more; a loose-limbed slice of Americana with a sweet, folky hue.
Robin Hirse’s emotive vocal wraps itself lazily around the rhythmic backline drawing you temptingly into each track. His lyrics are often dark – “Death will come, he always does / for each and every one of us” – complementing the melancholic tones that lurk within the music. For “‘Til Dawn” he gnarls up his delivery to match the bass-boogie and old-school riffery. For “Wolf & Snake” he bristles as his vocal drops in the mix and takes on a powerful, cracking quality to it. Solid, intense and heady at every turn, the groove makes this a sure-fire stand-out.
With the tracks sliding off the bat, chilled, smooth and easy. it’s a bit of a shock when “Them Calling” hits. Suddenly the music gets urgent, driven with menacing mantras and demonic choral chanting. Warnings such as “Like the pain of a rusty chain around your neck / I’ll make damned sure that you never will forget” quickly make you realise we have strayed from the true path. Rather brilliantly, the metallic tang of steel invades the chords and the distortion and overdrive begin to shatter our repose.
III is a cracking little step back in time with a nice twist in the tail. It’s sadly a tad short at 35 minutes and besides a couple of tracks it fails to bring anything especially new to the table. Having said that it’s spectacularly solid and funnily enough makes for a great driving album.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Well, there’s definitely some progression here. More melody than before, some interesting warm tones and FX tweaks. But I’m getting ahead of myself. That mysterious album title – what gives? Well, it comes from a runic inscription on a Norwegian gravestone – the Eggja Stone – which actually provides some of the lyrical content on the record. And the tracks?
“The Stone” is loaded with elephantine potency. It twinkles like splintering glass falling upon its top layer, and sinks down to the alien, sub-aqueous thunder of metal under extreme pressure. After ten minutes, spasms of electric guitar kick in to set up the whirring, bass-heavy clank of some vast industrial machine. Blasts of steaming hiss squirt as if from pin-holes as ethereal voices whisper non-sequiturs and pistons drive the beast towards a semi-melodic, melancholic middle-section before returning to the melee.
“The Sun” is the lightest, most appealing prospect I’ve heard from Nadja for a good few years. With rich, ambient tones and emotive, spiralling stringwork, this plays like an ambient, post-rock track not too dissimilar to something from the back catalogues of Palms or OSI. There are vocals that whisper around the edge of your lobes, without ever taking root inside your ear canals. They are sung as if from behind some parallel dimension. There are waves, there is a beach and a sun and someone is talking close to your ear. It’s unsettling, and even more so when the whole image begins to dissolve into a dark malevolence of phantom-like white noise and subterranean crush. A wall of sound, sprawling, crawling and devouring all.
“A Knife” is far less ambitious than its compatriots. It’s a mixture of atmospheric, ambient drift, vibrant distortion and bristling fuzz and forms a 22-minute amorphous journey through a skyscape of sound.
Ultimately, each movement owns the space in which it exists, each differing in character, each stamping its authority upon the listener. Fans of drone and ambience will find these new worlds excitingly moreish. Is there enough to warrant repeat journeys? Considering its mammoth 79-minute runtime, maybe not for a while but, hell, we’re glad we visited.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Every now and then a new album pops up that deserves your undivided attention. Today, I'll give you a single teaser from it to whet your appetite - the excellent "All Hail Science".
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Richly-layered, warm and emotive the album opens on the thumpingly heavy “Ikaros”. The synth fizzes, the drums pulse and the guitar fires off arpeggios to keep the whole piece drifting along. There’s short snatches of something akin to 80s computer games lurking in there too all leading to the maniacally crazed sandstorm finish.
Moving through the driving thrust and distorted bass of “Off The Beaten Path” we alight at the oblique Giorgio Moroder-esque synthetic wash, poppish dynamics and cinematic trickery of “Monolith”. Here, the music begins to stab and test the listener to create a force that unites the pacier groove of the kind displayed by Station-era Russian Circles with the dark tones and blackened crush of the sorely-missed ISIS.
It does become apparent as you dig deeper that the subtlety of this particular instrumental album often means the music slips into classic rhythmic shapes (four-four beats, elongated stretches without rise, fall or melody, etc.). In these moments, you’d usually find lyrics or instrumental solos. Here, pg.lost have resiliently left their music undeveloped and, yes, uncluttered as it is, each piece is given room to breathe. It’s certainly a matter of taste whether you buy into that styling though. I have to confess I crave a more developed, instantaneous instrumental sound but that’s just me.
Stretching 7 songs over a 53-minute runtime, the band certainly rely on the listener taking time out to appreciate the music. Those with short attention spans need not apply. It’s just too easy to freewheel past the gentler or more simplistic tracks like the title-track or “Deserter”.
Happily they do like a good rumble to finish up so you’ll probably be shaken awake for the stark, bristling ambience of “A Final Vision”. It’s a joy that is every bit the equal of the wonderful, naturalistic flow that If These Trees Could Talk seem to generate so effortlessly.
At the end of the day, despite its impressive dynamic range and lush sonics, it doesn’t really add a great deal of new ideas to this rapidly-expanding genre. Despite that, it’s still a thoroughly solid addition from a record label that is getting a habit for polishing rough diamonds.
With a decade of live performances under their belt, the DIY post-rockers Ef have played with a vast range of bands and have built up a reputation for appeasing fans of both sweet sounds and heavy crush. Here, they set about drawing inspiration from the natural world to piece together a heart-warming wash of colour.
“Hiraeth” stretches into view with its exposed soft underbelly instantaneously exposed. It’s a gently tentative, rich piece of ambient music with building drums and an orchestral flood of violins. It’s only at its climax that the claws come out as the band show they are unafraid of tackling distortion and discordance. “Sju” works the emotions a little harder by managing to fuse melancholy and warming afterglow. Within a heartbeat rhythm, yawning violins and a sparkling synth wash, they filter the echoing sound of chirruping nature. Each delicate note is placed carefully and used sparingly, with the focus on space and echo, to create a series of continuous, supple fluctuations.
The remarkably odd “11ShotsAndSuddenDeath” moves keenly from piano-led meander into what feels like a reprise of “Sju”. It honestly feels like we’ve been dumped midway through a song into a chorus. “And down we fall” is a catchy hook but after the millionth time it does get repetitive. The song feels incomplete despite the fact that it has two natural conclusions within it. Beyond even that we find it then dragging on unnecessarily to 8:11. It’s the unconvincing song that won’t die.
Next on the bill we get instrumental psych-rockers Tiny Fingers. With their diverse sound, these dudes have been asked to perform with such diverse acts as The Mars Volta, Damian Marley and the Dub Trio. When you hear their music, it’s not difficult to see the connections.
“Dust” offers up a broken backbeat with samples, coloured with a rich cosmic vibe and a smattering of electronic effects courtesy of the fantastically-named keyboard player, Nimrod Bar. Wild, overdriven guitar a la Monster Magnet completes the set as suddenly we find ourselves in a whole other universe to the one we began in. After pitching up such a curveball, “Sanhedrin” simply hits it out of the park. A super-smooth jazzy set-up with brushed drums drives a sampled wash burning with portent. Like waves crashing back and forth on the beach it shimmers on and on, morphing to oblivion and I love it.
One presumes it’s the pair’s vintage sound that convinced them to combine EP’s but one suspects it’s more the case of a label alpha dragging along a rough diamond. It seems a pretty safe bet that most will come away having discovered something they dig, but also plenty of filler that they wish they hadn’t uncovered.