Posts Tagged ‘Cinematic’

Septaphonic Records – 7th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While Dystopian Future Movies’ ‘difficult’ second album, Inviolate, took a full three years to land after debut Time, their third, War of the Ether crashed in after just over two, and it’s an immense sonic documents that the Nottingham trio have compiled in this time.

Back in the spring of 2020, I wrote of Inviolate that ‘Everything about Inviolate is bigger, bolder, more pronounced and yet more nuanced, shaper and more keenly felt and articulated. And every corner of the album is imbued with a sense of enormity, both sonic and emotional: Inviolate feels major-scale, from the driving riffs to the heartfelt human intensity.’ That amplification is again true of War of the Ether. Dystopian Future Moves’ previous releases amply demonstrate a band with both an interest in and a knack for the cinematographic, the dramatic, so it stands to reason that they should extend these focal elements here.

This time around they’ve drawn inspiration from little-reported but truly horrifying events which took place at the former Catholic-run Tuam Mother and Baby Home in songwriter Caroline Cawley’s native Ireland, where 796 skeletons found in the grounds after suspicions were raised by a local historian in 2012. As the press release explains, ‘to hide the shame of pregnancy outside of wedlock, women were sent to homes like this all over the country – forcibly separated from their mothers, many of the children died in infancy due to neglect, and some were trafficked for adoption to the US. The country is still dealing with the fallout from these discoveries.’

War of the Ether is not a joyful record. It is, however, a record with real depth, and imbued with real emotion, as well as an aching sense of tragedy. And, as has been established as Dystopian Future Movies’ signature style, it’s an album which balances riffs and restraint, and is built on atmosphere and menace. They promise an album that ‘explores a wide range of genres from prog and shoegaze to doom-metal, noise-rock and folk,’ and don’t disappoint.

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War of the Ether opens – somewhat daringly – with the ten-minute spoken word crawler that is ‘She From Up the Drombán Hill’. For the most part, it’s sparse and spare, tingling guitars gently rippling behind the narrative – but there are bursts off noise, and it swells and grows and when it kicks in, it kicks in hard with piledriving riffage. The dynamics absolutely blow you away – exactly as intended. ‘Critical mass’ is appropriately titles, starting out with a haunting, echoed clean guitar and delicate drums rolling in the distance as a backdrop to Cawley’s aching, melodic vocal as it stretches and soars, and ‘The veneer’ is a magnificent slow-burner that builds to a shimmering sustained crescendo which unusually fades at the end. Against the weight of the subject matter and brooding instrumentation, it feels somewhat frivolous to focus on a fade, but it serves to highlight the many ways DFM are outside trends and exist in their own space. This is never more apparent than on the dreamy but serrated buzzing shoegaze of the title track.

For all its darkness, War of the Ether is a remarkably accessible album – not on account of its myriad hooks and killer choruses, but because it is simply so strong on melody and so utterly captivating. And because, as they demonstrate admirably on ‘No Matter’, the album’s shortest and most overtly structured song – they do have a real knack for snagging the listener with the combination of tunefulness and megalithic riffery. And then, the final track, the eight-and-a-half-minute ‘A Decent Class of Girl’ brings together all aspects of the album in a powerful accumulation of sedate, strolling psychedelia and climactic crescendos that optimise the impact of both.

Magical, majestic, and immensely widescreen, the scope of War of the Ether is simply breathtaking, and leaves you feeling stunned. Awesome in the literal sense.

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Metropolis Records – 4 February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

For years, I’ve had the rage. There is, after all plenty in this world, this life, and no doubt beyond, to rage about and against. iVardensphere focus that rage through sound rather than verbally, through an album that articulates darkness and tension through the language of sound.

‘A Whimsical Requiem for the Fey’ is appropriately titled; being a breezy, neoclassical assimilation of light-as-air plucked strings and soft, accessible melody. As such, it does nothing to prepare the listener for the instant plunge into the darkest of depths brough with the growling churn of ‘The Maw’, which features Jesse Thom. But it’s on the title track that the album really hits its stride. Tribal drums dominate a gloomy soundscape, weighted with dense bass tones, but also the portent of soaring vocals. And while the jagged strings add to the tension, the drums simply build and build and batter your very being. This isn’t rage, it’s the unleashing of vengeance via the hammering of the soul.

The individual compositions are each dramatic and powerful in their own right, and the attention not only to the details of the arrangement, but the sequencing of the album stands out, and the ambition is clear without the explanation that this is ‘a sweeping, cinematic album, equally suited as the next evolutionary step of iVardensphere, and as the film score to a post-apocalyptic motion picture.’ It’s dark, stark, and atmospheric, and thunderous rhythms evoke ancient mysticism, and scenes on barren hilltops and sweeping moorlands; tribal rituals, burials, spiritual ceremonies of great import. And there are moments when those rhythms step up, pounding harder and more intensely, so as to be all-encompassing.

As the accompanying notes outline, ‘Traditional percussion from all corners of the world, Taiko, Surdo, djembe, timpani, and more are deftly intermixed with all manner of sourced percussion sounds. Hammers and anvils, slamming doors, even the sound of a dumpster being kicked are sampled and folded into the sonic melange.’ We’re in Neubauten / Test Dept territory here, but there’s a subtlety to so many of the compositions that go beyond these comparisons too: the graceful sweeps of ‘Indomitus’ stray from anything industrial towards progressive / post rock territories, and Seeming’s vocals are almost rock.

The electronic elements are remarkably restrained in the main, with only occasional incursions, such as the bending blasts of bass on ‘Varunastra’ (which features Brittany Bindrim’s vocals); elsewhere, ‘Draconian’ brings the drones, and a low, serrated throbbing. Then, it also brings glitchy danceable beats, which evolve into another crashing assault that batters away relentlessly.

Then there’s the straight-ahead thump ‘n’ grind of ‘Orcus’ and the mournful trudge of ‘The Age of Angels is Over’; these tracks conjure very different atmospheres, but in the way the album unfolds, they develop a sense of significance. If ‘Sisters of the Vipers Womb’, with Brien Hindman’s vocals, seems a little too cliché in its sinister stylings, it sits in the broader context of an expansive and immersive work that has a trajectory through ever-changing moods, and to powerful effect.

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Like so many acts, Ryan and Pony’s plans were stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lifted from their upcoming album, Moshi Moshi, ‘Cinematic’ is accompanied by footage that was shot at the legendary First Avenue in Minneapolis before COVID took it’s grip over live music venues everywhere.

By way of some background, the press release informs us that ‘Ryan is a workaholic multi-instrumentalist who has been playing lead guitar in Soul Asylum since 2016. Pony is a flamboyant performer and artist raised by deaf parents.  Together they have made numerous albums and toured internationally leading The Melismatics.  On Moshi Moshi they fuse Dream-Pop, post-Punk, Brit-rock, EDM, and good ol’ fashioned Rock ‘n’ Roll into a sound all their own;  irony, weirdness, and melody are at its heart.  Peter Anderson (The Ocean Blue, Run Westy Run, The Honeydogs) adds his killer drum skills to the mix.’

‘Cinematic’ lives up to its title, binding together the best of Garbage and Curve into a breezy burst of alternative pop. Watch the video here:

Ipecac Recordings – 24th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Some cursory research tells me that Oscillospira is an anaerobic bacterial genus from Clostridial cluster IV that has resisted cultivation for over a century since the first time it was observed. There’s a distinct compositional theme across the album’s eight compositions, although, with high drama and dynamics dominating.

Thirlwell has been mining a rich seam of orchestral drama for a long while now, in a trajectory that began with the 1985 Foetus album Nail. Since then, his projects have become increasingly expansive and ambitious, and the last decade has seen him abandon all trace of anything that could be remotely construed as ‘industrial’ in favour of grand cinematics, not only on the latter Foetus albums, but also the Manorexia releases and soundtrack works and all the other various side projects… Did I mention that over 40 years into his career, despite having tempered his wilder sonic urges, Thirlwell’s creativity and output remains unabated? And yet for all the volume, the quality remains undented. I make no apologies for the fact that I’m a total fan, and have been forever.

Few musicians are even a fraction as articulate as Thirlwell, musically, lyrically, or conversationally. Throughout his lengthy career, he’s retained his somewhat enigmatic status and singular musical view.

This collaboration with Simon Steensland is one of many during his career, and is very much representative of Thirlwell’s output over the last decade: heavy orchestral work with all the widescreen feel of a John Williams work, while at the same time seeing Thirlwell return to territories that bring industrial and orchestral together in a head-on collision.

‘Catholic Deceit’ enters by stealth with a sweep of strings, but swiftly develops into something bold and layered, before crunching metal guitars grind in hard and heavy. Revisiting the religious theme at the album’s mind-point, single release ‘Papal Stain’ follows a similar trajectory, with some energetic jazz drumming and discordant horns clashing crazily over the course of its ten-minute running time.

‘Heron’ goes choral and a little bit original Star Trek, but equally has some hushed, eerie passages that not only provide contrast, but alter the mood significantly. There’s a Swans-like stop-start guitar grind at the heart of ‘Night Shift’ over which monastic vocals echo like a ritual, and ‘Heresy Flank’ pushes a cyclical groove that’s ruptured by some classic orchestral strikes.

It’s not just the arrangements and the varied instrumentation that are outstanding in their immense vision and inventiveness, but the production too: it’s immense, and while the overall effect is one thing, the detail entirely another, as incidentals leap out unexpectedly, and different instruments rise to the to fore. Often, such details are subtle, but the effect and impact are pronounced, and something special.

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OUS – OUS027 – 7th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The accompanying text reports that Bit-Tuner’s seventh album, EXO ‘marks a milestone in his work’ and tells of how this ‘widescreen and beatless opus focusses on musical storytelling and atmospheric depth’.

EXO is unquestionably cinematic, with synth washes that are simultaneously soft and cloud-like, but achieve a density by their layering, and they conjure a breadth of sound, too, that evokes vast vistas that stretch from horizon to horizon. This isn’t ambient in the conventional sense, and while ‘beatless’ is a largely accurate description, it’s by no means formless, without rhythm, or without a certain sense of sensory attack. There’s a deceptive amount going on across the album’s eight pieces, and EXO is an album that doesn’t simply require attention, but demands it. This is not all wimpy, wispy sonic contrails that hang in the air: EXO has a certain solidity, depth, force that renders it anything but background. You can’t settle down and chill out to this, and while the musical storytelling may not be immediately apparent, the atmospheric depth is all-encompassing.

The prefatory single ‘Passage’ very much sets the tone, and on revisiting the piece here, it’s apparent just how much the mewling top-line, that semi-resembles a lost, plaintive seagull lost in the sweeping swathes provides a contrast and focus: this is an ambient work with intense focus, and, despite the absence of beats, a strong focus on rhythm. Then, ‘Valve’ pulses and throbs and crackles with distortion and decay around the edges and while it’s expansive, it’s also probing inwards toward the depths of the listener’s psyche. This isn’t music you can just leave running in the background: it continually grabs you and draws you in, demanding attention. And at times, it’s downright difficult and edgy.

‘Disbander’ pulses and grinds, low-end hums undulate and swoop into subsonics while mid-range interference collides against thumps and crackles and upper-frequency skitters and flits. There’s a lot going on, and while it’s anything but dark, it is incredibly tense: if you equate ambient with gentle, soft, and soothing, think again. ‘Ghost Light’ hits something of a Tangerine Dream stride, and electronic blips approximating beats coalesce to create a rhythmic structure that pulsates and throbs.

So is this ambient? It certainly doesn’t conform to the notion that it’s unobtrusive, or in an way calming, or soothing, and any contemplation encouraged here is rent with challenges. How does it make you feel? Ambience is so often geared toward the cerebral, but there’s a physicality to EXO, however subtle and subliminal: there are textures that make your skin crawl, tonalities than make you twitch, tense, and tingle.

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Music Information Centre Lithuania – MICLCD097

Christopher Nosnibor

Horizons has been a long time in the making, and the artist has described it as a ‘Sisyphean process’, which, at the end, ‘only strengthened the joy of accomplishment’. The five compositions span from between 2006 and 2015. Martinaitytė’s biography is long and detailed, and covers the complex and challenging circumstances surrounding the composer’s journey to its completion. But an abridged rendering would focus on the fact that the pieces here are from what she terms the decade which represents the ‘blue’ period of her career, and that the album as a whole represents her explorations of ‘the dichotomies between proximity and distance, nearing and departing’.

It’s perhaps worth quoting from the accompanying notes at length, in order to demonstrate the full expanse of the album’s scope: ‘With this album and the individual works on it the author tells an absorbing emotional narrative. She begins with a larger picture – a multi-layered, timbrally rich sonic expression of the faraway landscapes (Horizons, 2013; The Blue of Distance, 2010); she then moves on towards her subjective relationship with the untouchable distance (Thousand Doors to the World, 2009; Completely Embraced by the Beauty of Emptiness, 2006); finally, she reaches the state of inner calm (Serenity Diptychs, 2015). Acoustically speaking, the concept of nearing is presented through instrumentation – she begins with larger orchestral and choral works, and finishes with a refined, chamber sound.’

The title track sets the album’s tone: ‘Horizons’ begins expansively, a vast, expansive sonic vista stretching for some seventeen and a half minutes and leading the listener through moments of grace and tranquillity punctuated by moments of drama and tension. The choral swell of ‘The Blue of Distance’ resonates deep and strikes a spiritual chord, albeit in a vague, abstract sense, touching as it does the corners of the subconscious. Bursts of vaporous ambience spar against distant echoes of notes. The drama surges and sweeps on ‘Thousand Doors’, a tempest of brass and strings mounting and enveloping the listener. While Martinaitytė is a master of the subtle and the delicate, her compositions equally demonstrate her capacity for the bold, with passages of grandeur and turbulence.

Contemporary classical seems to have been relegated to big-budget film scores, but Žibuoklė Martinaitytė is unquestionably an exponent of 21st century classical music. More to the point, Horizons is a powerful orchestral work which transcends genre boundaries and interacts on many levels.

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Žibuoklė Martinaitytė – Horizons