Tuesday, February 23, 2016

032 - "Evil Twin" by The Movie Theater

I'm not sure where I came across "Evil Twin" by The Movie Theater ... I may have picked it up on NoiseTrade or Bandcamp, I can't recall. It lay untouched on my iPhone for a couple of weeks until, intrigued by the cover art, I gave it a listen ... and was blown away with the instrumental rock sounds presented.

"Evil Twin" is a compelling listen: each track is wonderfully uptempo and brimming with life ... guitar, percussion, synths all work together to create the kind of wall-of-sound that I rave about. They are all different, each having an uniquely individual sound or vibe, but they work together so well ... in a delightfully cohesive manner.

Monday, February 22, 2016

031 - "Yume" by Helios

"Yume" by Helios (aka Keith Kenniff aka Goldmund) is quickly becoming a fast favourite for the times when I need something bright and breezy to soundtrack my day. It is wonderfully layered with delightfully uptempo, easily accessible sounds and rhythms; nothing too taxing or obtuse, rather it features a bright sense of joyfulness that I find intoxicating.

Kenniff's ability to craft sound is something to marvel: the way he can bring disparate found-sounds to create a deep rhythm track as he has with "sonora lac" is simply beautiful; to then layer acoustic guitar and synths over this soundbed is inspired.

"Yume" by Helios is a beautiful piece of music, one I highly recommend.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

030 - "The Last Dawn" and "Rays of Darkness" by Mono

In 2014 MONO released two albums: "The Last Dawn" and "Rays of Darkness". The albums, when release, were intended to complement each other and, in my opinion, do so very well.

"The Last Dawn" is the more accessible of the two: it is the lighter of the two and much more to-the-point. It is an electrifying listen, one that I've kept coming back to. The opening track - "The land between tides / Glory" - gives me goosebumps as only MONO can with it's growing intensity and, near the end of nearly 12 minute track, the use of piano and strings to bring me back down.

"The Last Dawn" is a stunning slice of post-rock brilliance, one that cements MONO up there with greats of the genre. Their combined use of shoegazey guitars, piano and strings throughout is an utter delight.

According to the notes on Bandcamp, "Rays of Darkness" is the first MONO album in 15 years to feature no orchestral instruments whatsoever. It is darker & heavier compared to "The Last Dawn" ... and even features the post-hardcore "voice" of Tetsu Fukagawa from the band Envy on what is my favourite track from the album: "The Hand that Holds the Truth", a track that slowly builds from a more ambient piece to a blistering face-melter that genuinely gave me a fright when I first heard it. Wow just doesn't sum it up.

I would highly recommend both albums to fans of the post-rock genre but, as I'm late to the party, I know most folks will already have them in their collection.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

029 - "The Unknown Man" by Pear Media - a documentary on Vangelis

Vangelis Documentary - The unknown man from Pear Media on Vimeo.

Vangelis is one of my favourite musicians ... playing in Aphrodite's Child alongside Demis Roussos, making great music as a solo artist AND creating one of my top three favourite albums of ALL time: The soundtrack to to the Ridley Scott film, Blade Runner.

I found this video to be utterly fascinating ... and highly recommend you take the time to watch it.

The word genius is too readily used ... but for Vangelis, it applies!

Monday, February 15, 2016

028 - "Wilderness" by Release The Longships

I recently picked up "Wilderness" by the fantastically titled Release The Longships. It was recommended by Musicformessier and was only £1 ... I figured what did I have to lose?

The answer is absolutely nothing!

"Wilderness" is a cracking listen: an album of wonderfully progressive post-rock / post-metal instrumentals that energise my soul like only frenetic double-tapping bass-drumming can do. These imaginative soundscapes feature delightful melodies and the inspired use of dynamics - soft & loud, gentle & hard, slow & fast; the variety is amazing ... "Wilderness" is a musical rollercoaster that twists and turns in the most unexpected of ways ... it is many things, dull isn't one of them.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

027 - “Sometimes” by Goldmund

I heard a track from “Sometimes” by Goldmund (aka Keith Kenniff aka Helios) on the All Songs Considered podcast and was knocked down by a wave of graceful elegance & exquisite beauty. I immediately stopped what I was doing (walking my dog Tinker in our neighbourhood) pulled out my iPhone and rewound the podcast so I could listen again.

"Sometimes" is a remarkable album: delicate melodies played on a piano that are backed by deep, engaging electronic ambience to create an absolutely stunning collection of tracks. These tracks enthral me as the listener, being both highly contemplative and gently romantic;

The title track - "Sometimes" - is exemplary: it is a cinematic masterpiece that could easily feature of the soundtrack to the latest character-drive Sundance-winner. Kenniff's use of strings is powerful, reminding me of Rhian Sheehan or earlier Sigur Rós. It was this track that inspired me to seek out the album ... I was not disappointed with the other unheard tracks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

026 - "Winter Loops" by Darren Harper

Drones are not for everyone. Whilst I've come to appreciate the simple, minimal beauty of a deliberately sustained note, I get that others may not share my view.

I find drones, when approached with imagination and creativity, to be wonderfully escapist: I lose myself in the wall-of-sound that is prepared and then presented by the musician.

My love stems from the music of Henryk Górecki and, in particular, his third symphony which opens with long chords that build in intensity. I'll never forget the first time I heard his masterpiece: it broadened my appreciation of music and opened up new doors of inquiry.

Darren Harper is an ambient musician who approaches his soundscapes with imagination and creativity. His latest release on Bandcamp - "Winter Loops" - is a four track EP that utilises sustained sound as the foundation for further loops, electronic manipulation and guitar-based melodic experimentation.

I found "Winter Loops" to feature the kind of escapist ambience that I love: short pieces that initially capture then reward my attention with their expressiveness.

I would recommend this EP for the exquisitely  glacial grace of the fourth and final track - "In Fragile Repose" - but that would do a disservice to the other three tracks, all of which are exceptional in their own right.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

025 - This Patch Of Sky

I recently picked up This Patch Of Sky's self-titled album. I was following their antics on Instagram (their concerts look amazing!) and wanted to hear their latest album, having an older album (Newly Risen, How Brightly You Shine) on my iPod.

Their self-titled album is a belter, it is everything great about postrock music: deep, engaging soundscapes made up of catchy melodies and expressive dynamics; the innovative use of instrumentation such as the cello, tin whistle and mouth organ (I think) to complement the guitars, keys and drums; these instruments add real breadth to the sound presented ... powerful instrumental soundscapes that allow me, as the listener, to drift away. This Patch Of Sky is all this and more, a grower that just gets better with each subsequent listen.

The only criticism I have is why it has taken me until now to pick it up!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

023 - The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble

The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble are an interesting proposition: expressive instrumental music with a strong jazzy vibe that has far more in common with downtempo electronica that it does with more contemporary jazz.

I found this album by accident. I came upon it whilst scrolling through the vast selection in Amazon's Prime Music Service ... the name caught my attention and I gave it a listen. I was so impressed with what I heard that I went and bought it on iTunes. Unfortunately the CD is out of print and was going for an extortionate amount on Amazon when I last checked.

TKDE create wonderfully deep and engaging soundscapes that place considerable emphasis on feel and atmosphere. These soundscapes have a decidedly percussive slant to them (hence my reference to current downtempo electronica) with layers of percussion and capricious polyrhythms presented for the listener to consume.

Traditional jazz instrumentation - trumpet, saxophone, stand-up bass - works with electronic manipulation to create their expressive soundscapes, soundscapes I would highly recommend.


Friday, February 5, 2016

022 - "25" by Adele

I love Adele.

There is something almost confessional about that statement, it's like I've admitted a deeply held secret for the first time. When you spend so long on the outer edges of music, it feels rather odd to be so enamoured with the music of someone so popular, so mainstream. But then I do love Coldplay so maybe it isn't so odd afterall.

I remember being told that there is only two types of music: good and bad ... and even that is relative to an individual.

You may not consider Adele to be good ... and I hope, for your sake, that you've developed this opinion by actually listening to her work ... but I do. And not for Adele's voice alone.

"25" ... Adele's third album, named after her age, is a delight. Her voice is amazing: not just technically proficient but with real feeling, Adele gets dynamics and knows how to make the most of her talent.

The musical accompaniment on 25 is first class: piano, guitar, percussion, backing vocals ... all work to complement and strengthen Adele's vocal delivery.

Adele doesn't do anything new on 25 but she does strengthen her position as one of the UK's preeminent female vocalists ... if not the world's.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

021 - "Disconnect" by Orbit Over Luna

When Shannon Penner aka Orbit Over Luna releases music ... I listen. His expressive form of ambient post-rock is my kind of expressive ambient post-rock. Penner has a way of creating and combining sounds that I love ... he is a craftsman and the craftsmanship of his output is evident for all to see.

Case in point is Penner's latest - "Disconnect" - a three-track EP that he released yesterday on Bandcamp. It delights me as only instrumental music does: it engages my attention and thrills me with each layer and every nuance. From the burst of heavy guitar on an otherwise chilled, banjo-laden opening track - "le bord de vision" - to the summery field recording that sets the scene on the second track - "sundog" - this EP has an attention to detail that doesn't disappoint.

Penner does save his best for last with "#fortheghosts" demonstrating his skill with the guitar. He has the most amazing tone when playing the guitar and this is evident on this track, especially when the percussion is removed and Penner can play ... just him and his guitar kicking back.

"Disconnect" is an exquisite EP that highlights Shannon Penner’s skill as a musician and is one I would recommend.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

020 - "Across the Oceans" by The American Dollar

The American Dollar are consistent. When they release a new album, as they did recently with "Across the Oceans", you know what you'll get: wonderfully engaging downtempo instrumental music that is informed by a wide arrange of influences from jazz, soul & hip-hop to post-rock, ambient and even neoclassical sounds.

"Across the Oceans" doesn't surprise but it does entertain ... it is further addition to their signature sound: vibrant, outgoing electronica; a collection of tracks that feel fresh and new; tracks that extend rather than seek to evolve TAD's body of work.

From the opening track - "Mosaic" - the listener is bathed in glorious sound ... sounds that inspire rather than challenge like a familiar friend rather than a new acquaintance.

The American Dollar are a familiar friend and, with all familiar friends, I am uplifted and renewed by being with them.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

019 - "Architect" by C.Duncan

Today's post starts with an admission: I didn't know about C.Duncan's delightfully dreamy psych pop until I saw that he was nominated for the 2015 Mercury Music Prize. I read his description, had a wee listen to the opening track and hit "buy" before the sample had finished.

I fell in love with "Architect" there and then ... and we are still going strong!

I have spoken before of my love of psychedelic sounds and dreamy pop, "Architect" has bucketfuls of both ... I would goes as far as saying if Brian Wilson were to record Pet Sounds today, it would sound very similar to  C.Duncan's masterpiece.

Woozy synths, gentle guitars, layered percussion, dreamy vocal harmonies; "Architect" has it all. It is a consistently bright ray of sunshine on a dull, dreich day: a lazy summer anthem in a similar vein to Air's "Moon Safari". In 20 years, "Architect" will still sound as fresh and new as "Moon Safari" does (it is crazy to think "Moon Safari" is 20 years old!)

We call out classics too quickly these days but I think it is a justifiable term for "Architect". Its timeless, dreamy version of psychedelia will live on for many years to come.


Monday, February 1, 2016

018 - "In The Crossing" by Dextro

I have a lot of love for the music my fellow countryman, Ewan Mackenzie, creates under the name of Dextro. His bold and vibrant electronic soundscapes excite me and keep me coming back for more. You can, therefore, imagine my delight when into my InBox popped a wee promo for "In The Crossing", his latest album (thanks mate!).

The opening track, "evacuate", is a belter: an uptempo big-beat floor-filler with BOC-esque wonky synths. I thought, upon my first listen, that this would be a fine scene-setter. I was, however, wrong.

I was wrong because Dextro takes “In The Crossing” in a completely different direction for tracks 2 to 5 and 8 (inclusive) ... these tracks present the kind of expressive ambient music that simply adore and find thrilling. These soundscapes include piano and both acoustic and electric guitar; they follow the postrock school of ambience: lots of reverb and droning sounds that create wonderful walls-of-sound.

One such track, "silent", totally enthralls me with its ethereal vocals and vintage synth sounds holding a mysterious dialogue. I will feature this track on circumambient because it would fit so very well.

From track 6, "the passage", Dextro picks back up his uptempo beats and synths, creating as he does a wonderfully engaging piece that reverts back to the beatless ambience of earlier about two/thirds in.

The penultimate track, "sum poly", is a real highlight: it encapsulates the album with it’s wall-of-sound, guitar and gentle beats; it sums up where Dextro is on his musical journey.

We then come to the final track, "occupy”, a powerful, euphoric multi-layered slice of electronica; it drips with anticipation. Mackenzie kicks off with a quirky harp / stringed instrument and slowly adds layers of sound to the track, layers that add to the tension of the piece. It closes the album nicely.

All in … “In The Crossing” is a pleasure that will appeal to fans of ambient, electronic and post-rock music. Mackenzie really deserves a hit on his hands with this.