Posts Tagged ‘Progressive’

3rd August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

A decade in existence and with three previous albums to their credit, instrumental prog band Tides of Man from Tampa, Florida, deliver album number four. While their first two albums featured vocals courtesy of Tilian Pearson (who, since his departure in 2010 has provided the ‘clean’ vocals for craply-named post-hardcore act Dance Gavin Dance and enjoys a solo career as Tilian), 2014’s Young and Courageous saw the band emerge as a very different, instrumental, entity.

This means that Every Nothing has been four years in the making. It’s an expansive post-rock / prog crossover, with the twelve compositions spreading and exploring in various directions, both in terms of mood and instrumentation. Ranted, the majority of the album weaves reverby soundscapes from chiming guitars, rolling drums and understated, strolling bass, breaking into the occasional sustained crescendo that alludes strongly to the slow-build and big-burst stylings of Explosions in the Sky. And while they do really work hard to delay gratification, to the point that there are moments the album borders on frustration, and much of the album is so much standard template form, when they do break out, as on ‘Old 88’, and the explosive, choppy breaking on ‘Everything is Fine, Everyone is Happy’, which veers into Shellac territory, it proves to be more than worth it.

Elsewhere, the spacious, wistful piano of ‘Far Off’ – a song that exists more in the echoes between the notes than in the notes themselves – reveals a band who are comfortable with giving the structures and sounds room to breathe, and the piano-led ‘Death is No Dread Enemy’ which slows the pace, lowers the tempo and conjures a reflective mood marks an atmospheric shift.

Every Nothing is by no means a high-impact album, or a set which even stands out as an exemplar in its field. It’ll never set the world alight, but is solid, and a pleasure to listen to. And that’s probably enough.

AA

Tides of Man

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Christopher Nosnibor

Paul K first came to my attention with the release of Glitch Code’s debut album, Gifted_Damaged, a real standout release for 2016 in the sphere of dark electronic pop. Omertà saw Paul venture out as a solo artist last year, and revealed a very different musical aspect: instrumental, dramatic, and in places a bit proggy, it found him explore some expansive sonic territories with impressive results.

The Fermi Paradox sees Kirkpatrick expand on this – immensely. And expand is the word: this is expansive both conceptually and sonically, and he explained that ‘the album is about the theme of isolation, exploring our place in the universe and questions “are we alone?” to the perspective of social isolation through social media… It looks at the space race and the billions spent on wondering if we are alone in the universe vs. the juxtaposition of so many lonely people on our own planet.’

As such, The Fermi Paradox ranges from the macro to the micro, casting an eye to the farthest reaches to the most inner of anxieties. So while in terms of what it delivers, The Fermi Paradox isn’t a million miles from its predecessor, in terms of intent and focus, it’s a very different beast from Omertà.

Such isolation is something that’s immensely relatable: I’ve found myself in discussions with a surprising number of people, many with anxiety issues, conflicted over social media. It’s a different kind of paradox from the question of alien lifeforms the title refers to, but nevertheless, it’s a paradox. The dependence on the endless stream of posts and comments is countered by the despondency the belief that your own life is no match for others’, the sense that other people breeze through life, happy and carefree while your own life is fucked. Any sense of connection feels flimsy, secondary to a sense of disconnection and inadequacy. And what happens when, just for five r ten minutes, your phone goes silent: no texts, no notifications? The silence you’ve been craving is a howling void of emptiness.

It’s with ponderous piano and soothing strings that ‘Anomaly’ opens the album, and it’s mellow but twistedly poignant. It’s clear that Kirkpatrick knows how to tug at the emotions without words. The motif that runs through ‘Sagan’ makes me think of ‘Forever Autumn’ from ‘The War of the Worlds’ – surely one of the most heartbreaking songs ever committed to tape. Or maybe I’m just a sap. Nevertheless, regardless of whether this is about the music itself or my response to it based on, its drift into lilting piano and achingly sad strings is simply beautiful.

It’s on ‘Ecce Homo’ that Paul reaches into expansive territory, a cinematic, layered progressive-style piece with soaring chorals and supple rhythms, it drives, but also meanders. At times, as on the opening of ‘Exegesis’, Kirkpatrick slides into near-ambient territory, but for the most part, it’s about sedate, spacious soundscapes, defined by rolling, soft-edged bass. As the album progresses, the song titles suggest a shift from the more inward-looking to gazing out into the cosmos.

Are we alone? Always. Intensely. But with The Fermi Paradox, Paul K has produced a magnificently-crafted soundtrack to play into the void.

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Send The Wood – 28th January 2018

James Wells

Antagonism Of The Soul represents the culmination of five years of work or French metal act Insolvency (a name that’s more suggestive of a punk band, perhaps, although it’s clearly been no hindrance to their connecting with an audience on their home turf).

If the instrumental intro track, with its cinematic strings, rolling piano and brooding atmospherics, all woven together to form a mellifluous melody is a shade cliché, it sets a degree of expectation for the album as a whole.

Insolvency’s style is centred around contrast and juxtaposition and the uptempo. The clean / guttural vocal interactions which define the sound is matched by driving, distorted rhythm guitar chug and soaring, melodic and highly technical lead work. There’s a lot of technical proficiency on display here, as it happens: the rapidfire drumming is dynamic and intense, and there are tempo changes galore, meaning the songs feel as if they’re in constant transition. So, while the elements are commonplace, the execution and the delivery are far from it. Insolvency pack an awful lot into each of the five-minute segments, and these miniature epics are finely honed, and the production does them justice: it’s polished, but not so overly slick as to sand off the edges. It’s crisp, but still has bite, and balances aggression and emotional resonance.

There are hooks and some epic choruses, but they’re never overplayed, and for all of the heavy metal thunder, there are elements of prog and atmospheric post-rock in the mix. It all equates to an album with depth and range.

AA

Antagonism of The Soul Artwork

Southern Lord – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The arrival of this album in my inbox gave me pause for thought. Their debut album, the brilliantly-titled Iron Balls of Steel was a full five years ago. I reviewed it, and raved about it. And I realise I’ve been doing this for quite a while now. Over that time, bands – great bands, shit bands, mediocre and forgettable bands – have come and gone. And now, Loincloth, whom I praised for their ‘megalithic chunks of undecorated, heads-down behemoth guitar riffage and earth-shuddering rhythms hewn from colossal slabs of basalt’, are entering the catalogue of bands gone.

The press release includes the following statement: “Loincloth is no longer a live band, so this record is our final offering not only to the great horned one below, but to the committed ladies and gentlemen of the Cloth.” Still, what a sign-off. Never mind the ladies and gentlemen of the Cloth: the nine shuddering riffcentric sonic barrages that form Psalm Of The Morbid Whore are terrifyingly heavy, dingy and gut-churning enough to leave the listener close to touching cloth. As such, while their departure is sad news, the delivery of this awe-inspiring musical gift is a cause to rejoice for those who like their shit heavy.

The press release pitches Psalm Of The Morbid Whore as ‘packing nine new instrumental passages of white-knuckled twists, and by-the-throat percussion, into a half-hour’.  But this fails to convey, even slightly, the grungey riffs which jolt and jar, shuddering through a stop/start chug of thick distortion. Between the blastbeats and thunderous culminations of bass and rhythm guitar twist sinewy lead guitar lines that spread and unfurl like foliage spreading in a mystical forest. Also emerging from the swamps are fleeting moments of prog-hued illumination.

It also overlooks the progression between Psalm Of The Morbid Whore and its predecessor. While the tracks are, on the whole, short, there are a number of longer workouts, with the final cut, ‘Ibex (To Burn in Hell Is To Refine)’ running to almost eight minutes (twice the length of the lengthiest piece on Iron Balls). And, significantly, the tone has shifted, from the slightly jokey or flippant-sounding ‘Underwear Bomb’, ‘Shark Dancer’ and ‘The Moistener’ of the debut the to the subterranean savagery of religious / pagan coloured titles like ‘Necro Fucking Satanae’, ‘Pentecost Dissident’, ‘Bestial Infernal’. Psalm Of The Morbid Whore is dense, dark, and heavy, and while in some respects less claustrophobic than its predecessor, it feels more focused, less metal, more grunge, and also more groove orientated.

But most importantly, Psalm Of The Morbid Whore retains the dirty, unpolished primitivism worthy of a band named Loincloth.

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Constellation

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been 29˚C in the shade today. I’ve been awake since 4am for the second day in a row, and at work in the day-job since 7:30am. I’m a flustered, strung-out sticky mess, dying of hayfever, trying to hold it together and keep myself cool and hydrated with a constant flow of Scrumpy Jack. It’s not working. But I am: instead of kicking back or chilling out, I’m desperately trying to chisel out words in my cramped home office space where it’s so humid I can barely breathe. And instead of taking the easy option of one of the million mellifluous ambient works in my never-ending to-review pile, or taking a soft hit with some straight ahead metal or whatever, I’m battling with this dizzyingly diverse effort by Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche.

Sold as a kraut-rock ensemble, Montreal collective Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche (which translates, I believe as ‘with the sun coming out of his mouth’) pack myriad influences into their second album. Although containing ten tracks, it’s ostensibly an album built around three primary movements.

Psychedelic rock, krautrock, desert rock, punk rock, noise rock, afrobeat, experimental pop, post-rock, electronic; all are touchstones for Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche.

The album’s first track, ‘Trans-pop Express I’ manages to combine hypnotic psychedelic desert rock with wibbly analogue retro-futuristic spacey electronica and some kind of warped gospel/country infusion. It bleeds invisibly into the hypnotic pulsating riff-trippery of ‘Trans-pop Express II’

The opening minutes of the second movement ‘Alizé et Margaret D. Midi moins le quart. Sur la plage, un palmier ensanglanté’ (of which there are three parts) marries a martial beat to some skittering world music vibe and tops it with a desperate, yodelling vocal holler that’s far wide of carrying a corresponding melody, or even a tune. Over the course of the piece as a whole, the band push into new territories by unconventional roads. This is essentially the key to the pleasure to be found in Pas pire pop. Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche are clearly a band who please themselves first and foremost, and enjoy themselves in doing so. And yet they largely swerve indulgence by virtue of their sense of movement: the tracks build and bed, trip and transition: the explosive crescendo at the end of the aforementioned first part of ‘Alizé et Margaret D’ is killer, and immediately loops back to the opening proggy motif on the second part. It’s like skipping back in time, like a glitch in the time continuum. It’s a minor detail in many ways, but it’s also a minor work of genius.

The final movement – in a colossal five parts – begins with a sweeping orchestral cascade which gushes every whichway over a thumping dance groove. It’s merely the beginning of a crazy journey through jazzy math-rock and noodlesome post-rock via some hefty noise and some Talking Heads-y post-punk oddness that works its way to a nifty finale by route of a tightly-woven funk groove meted to some clattering drums while whizzing electronic details fly like comes into the distance.

I’m oozing perspiration from every pore, especially the backs of my various joints: the knees, the elbows, the groin, and I find myself contemplating the complex musical conjunctions within the framework of the shifting tubular geometry of my limbs in context of the insane, overwhelming heat and its effect on my capacity for focused, linear thought, as if existing in some stylized Ballardian landscape of the mind.

 

Avec le Soliel

Season of Mist – 4th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Bronze is the sixth album by Crippled Black Phoenix, the current musical vehicle for Justin Greaves, who has a remarkable CV which features Iron Monkey, Electric Wizard, The Varukers, and Earth 2 referencing drone supergroup Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine. They’ve spent a good few years mining a fresh seam of dark progressive music, and Bronze is an album which qualifies unreservedly for the label of ‘epic’.

As the pre-release blurb helpfully points out, ‘Bronze consists primarily of copper, but it is the inclusion of other metals and non-metals that gives this alloy its specific characteristics. Ever since mankind discovered the secret of its making thousands of years ago, the golden and shining bronze has changed the course of history, spawned destruction and war, yet also been crafted into desired objects of extreme beauty.’

And so it is that the first track, the expansive organ-style synth-soaked instrumental ‘Dead Imperial Bastard’ opens the album with a darkly funereal instrumental. ‘Deviant Burials’ locks into some solid riffing which contrasts with some surprisingly easy-going vocals, and the contrast between melody and driving guitars calls to mind Queens of the Stone Age in their poppier moments, before veering off into more overtly progressive territories with some expansive post-metal dynamics.

‘Rotten Memories’ is the album’s shortest track, and offers something approximating a dark pop song, albeit in the vein of the piano-led power ballad beloved during the 80s. it is, of course, but an interlude before the immense ‘Champions of Disturbance (pt 1 & 2)’, which segue together to form a nine-minute epic. It’s prog, for sure, but in the post-Oceansize sense, a sinewy, riff-led behemoth. ‘Goodbye Then’ brings wistful melancholia, which contrasts with the psych-tinged hard rock of ‘Turn to Stone’, and it’s clear that on this outing, Greaves has brought a whole host of stylistic elements to the party to produce an album that’s got range and depth and which brings emotional evocativeness as well as cinematicism and bombast.

The emotional depth is no fabrication: Greaves recently ‘went public’ about his personal fight against severe depression, and as the press release notes, ‘for him, not letting the “black dog” devour you is a big message mixed within his songs.

That doesn’t mean that Bronze is an easy or entirely uplifting album. In fact, it’s an album of remarkable range, and an album which is often awkward and emotionally bleak. While downtempo epics like ‘Losing a Winning Battle’ bring an expansive, progtastic darkness, what really shines through with ‘Bronze’ is its immense range, as well as its scope and ambition, which is matched by its ambition and production, this is a big album and perfectly executed.

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2nd September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

With seven tracks and a running time in excess of half an hour, it’s one hell of an EP. ‘Elderflower’ is also a whole lot more than the prescriptive ‘post-rock’ tag attached to the duo. Much as I appreciate labelling as much as the next time-pressed music journo struggling to place a band and clutching for pointers for pitching a band in a review, and much as I like a lot of what slots into the post-rock bracket, Defy the Ocean are a band who create music that simply cannot be readily classified on their expansive and accomplished new release.

For a start, it’s more rock than post rock. It’s pretty loud. It’s pretty heavy. There are a lot of vocals. None of these are bad things, and ‘Elderflower’ is a work of depth, range and power. From the get-go, they demonstrate a knack for shifting between segments and moods with real panche, dragging the listener along with them: ‘Rest’, the first track may only clock in at two minutes and fifty-five, but it’s got more twists and turns and ideas and emotional range than some bands’ entire albums.

‘Veils’ is restrained, darkly atmospheric, moody and is perhaps the most post-rock track of the set. But it’s got a bleak, metallic edge that also tips a nod to the mid 90s alternative rock sound.

The title track breaks into full-on grunge mode, the quiet / loud dynamic and brooding atmosphere more Alice in Chains and Soundgarden than I Like Trains, and the crushing power chords are thick and heavy, and paired with a drawling vocal delivery, it calls to mind Melvins – the mellow piano breakdown notwithstanding. ‘Brine’ is serpentine, stripped back, and provides a distinct contrast with its chiming guitars which does call to mind I Like Trains – but then again, the burst of powerchords, distorted vocal and full driving climax, alludes to millennial progressive acts like Oceansize, Amplifier, Porcupine Tree, Anathema, and if anything, ‘Vessel’ amalgamates neoprog with the desert rock vibe of Queens of the Stone Age and their ilk. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s all well-assembled and musically articulate.

Everything about ‘Elderflower’ points to a band who aren’t confined to any one format or bank of instruments, which makes for a refreshingly varied collection of songs, and one which demands repeated listening in order to reveal its full richness.

 

Defy the Ocean EP