Showing posts with label ambient. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ambient. Show all posts

Monday, October 7, 2019

video review: 'ghosteen' by nick cave & the bad seeds

And here we are. First big review of the week, and man, this was a beauty to get through...

Anyway, up next is Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then Danny Brown - stay tuned!

album review: 'ghosteen' by nick cave & the bad seeds

I had a surprising amount of trepidation approaching this album.

And I feel it's important to admit that before going in because if you know my history surrounding Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, you might find that surprising. This is an act I can convincingly argue has made some of the best albums of the past forty years spanning a half dozen different genres, fiercely literate but not at the expense of striking melodies and dynamic performances. I still hold they have at least two bonafide 10/10 classic albums, the first being 1990's The Good Son, the latter you all should know as 2016's Skeleton Tree, which very nearly was my top album of that year if it wasn't for Dave Cobb's country compilation masterpiece Southern Family. But for a project that wracked with grief, both in the passing of his son and an exploration of the failure of narrative and art to encapsulate it... how in the Nine Hells do you follow it?

Well, this takes us to Ghosteen, the new double album that was promising to lean even further into the fractured electronic and ambient textures that have coloured his work in the 2010s, and could very well be even more touched by grief - many people forget that much of his work on Skeleton Tree was written before his son's tragic passing in 2015. And thus I was preparing for the sort of overwhelming emotional experience that was listening to Skeleton Tree, an album I can rarely listen to in public... but I also knew the odds of replicating such an experience was impossibly steep, so I was preparing for a project just a little less than what we got in 2016, especially across a double album that many were saying was even more spare and abstract in its poetry. So okay, what did Ghosteen bring?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

video review: 'cocoon crush' by objekt

Well, this took a bit longer than I was expecting - but it was great enough to avoid the Trailing Edge, and I just hope it picks up some traffic.

Next up... hmm, looks like it's going to be another blast from my reviews past, so stay tuned...

album review: 'cocoon crush' by objekt

Let's be honest, the vast majority of you don't remember when I reviewed Objekt last time. It's one of my least-viewed reviews - and considering how rarely I cover electronic music, that is saying something - and Objekt is obscure even by those standards, a German artist with the real name TJ Hertz that I found going through a Pitchfork deep dive. And given that my exposure to electronic music has been somewhat backwards in comparison with how one is 'supposed' to experience a genre - I started in the experimental stuff and worked my way towards conventionality - I still find it a bit surprising how much I wound up liking that debut. I'd struggle to call it great - Objekt might have an uncanny grasp of balancing out industrial malfunction with ambient tendencies but he tended to avoid a melodic core, which made engagement with his work tricky - but it was a fascinating listen and one that I did find myself revisiting whenever I was craving some darker techno.

So to hear buzz about Cocoon Crush, Objekt's follow-up this year, which was reportedly changing tactics for a more organic sound palette that was richer in melody... look, it's not like there wasn't precedent for this. The mechanical elements of Flatland always had the sparking warmth of metal that had experienced use, only further accentuated by the ghostly atmospherics, so I had reason to believe this could be a potent step in the right direction. So, what did we get with Cocoon Crush?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

video review: 'the anteroom' by how to dress well

Yeah, have to be honest, I don't exactly expect this to go over that well... but hey, I got Resonators and Robyn on the horizon, so stay tuned for something better soon!

album review: 'the anteroom' by how to dress well

So I wasn't expecting this. 

And if you've been following Tom Krell's career arc as How To Dress Well the past few years, I think that's a reasonable statement to make, as he's gradually taken steps away from the misty, melancholic alternative R&B sound to something more pop-friendly, culminating in 2016 with Care, an album that did not totally stick the landing but did provide me with 'Salt Song', one of the most infectious and gripping indie pop songs of the decade - if there was something that should have gotten a single push, it was this! But with that being said, pop was not a natural fit for Tom Krell, so if he was going to stay in that lane, I expected some careful tuning and refinement for the next project - hell, it'd probably be more lucrative in the long term, right?

What I didn't expect was this, the sort of genre pivot that flew not only in the opposite direction but also past his alternative R&B roots to something quite different, what he's described as 'an ambient dance record where the energy never goes above three out of ten'... which could work, I guess? It's hard to tell, it might fit closer into Tom Krell's comfort zone but it also seems like the sort of experiment that could misfire if he wasn't careful. So alright, fine, what did we get out of The Anteroom?

Monday, May 21, 2018

video review: 'echoes from eta carinae' by alrakis

Yes, I know this has been LONG in coming, but I'm happy I got this out - great atmospheric black metal, really enjoyed this.

Next up... hmm, let's do KYLE and Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'echoes from η carinae' by alrakis

Oh, I'm happy I finally got this one, the sort of project that I was originally going to put on the Trailing Edge but took off specifically to cover here in a full review, I was that excited about it...

Well, perhaps 'happy' isn't the right word, because today we're going to be talking about a brand of black metal that is pretty controversial - yes, even for black metal. This sub-subgenre is labeled DSBM, an acronym for depressive suicidal black metal, where the tones were more dreary and drone-like, the lyrics more nakedly introspective and dark... and that's the polite way of getting around how some of these acts could dig into some of the most transgressive and masochistic material both on and off the microphone. And if you do some research into what some of these bands did it can be shocking, enough to push away from exploring more - especially for me, given that I'm not really a huge fan of drone or doom metal and I'm behind schedule as it is - but more research unearthed some articles describing the raw catharsis this subgenre could trigger, that its exploration of such themes through the agency of art gave the artist and by extension the audience some form of release. And while I'm not quite sure I can buy into all of those themes, especially when the bands pair those tones with more conventional, naked aggression, it at least gave me some context.

And even with that, I'm not sure I needed to dig that much deeper with Alrakis - from my research, he's a German artist known for blending DSBM tones with a more atmospheric soundscape, which some have branded 'cosmic' black metal. He broke out in 2011 with Alpha Eri, but it's been seven years since, and he had a behemoth project here: a single track, over fifty two minutes long, with the title 'Echoes of Eta Carinae'. And while I initially thought I wouldn't have enough to say - after all, it's just one song - a single listen changed my mind and convinced me I would have to cover this at length. So what was so compelling about this that I took it off the Trailing Edge?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

video review: 'reassemblage' by visible cloaks

Again, I have no idea how many people are going to watch this review, but it was a fascinating one to put together, and I'm grateful for that at least.

Next up looks to be Jaime Wyatt, and that'll be a cool project, so stay tuned!

album review: 'reassemblage' by visible cloaks

This'll likely be one of the stranger reviews I've done in some time.

Granted, I could say that about the majority of electronic music I cover, especially the more experimental and 'quirky' it gets, but Visible Cloaks sits in a peculiar space all on its own, to the point where I'm not quite sure how to properly describe it. The project of composers Spencer Dolan and Ryan Carlile, the sound sits in an odd plucky brand of warbling ambience that sparks and careens off of all sorts of bells and whistles that played fast and loose with any idea of consistent key or tempo or groove. That's certainly what I felt about their self-titled debut project, which as expected had a certain homegrown Bandcamp quality in its meandering experimentation but also brought a level of quality and poise in the compositions that did draw my interest. And when their sophomore project began picking up considerable critical acclaim... well, suffice to say my interest was piqued. So what did we find with Reassemblage?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

video review: 'rennen' by SOHN

Man, this was tedious to cover. But hey, it's Patreon - you guys wanted it, it happens.

Next up is also off that rack... and whoo boy, this'll be interesting. Stay tuned!

album review: 'rennen' by SOHN

You know, there's something I've been thinking about ever since The Weeknd released Starboy and called out R&B artists for copying his old style... where the hell are the copycats?

Seriously, I've been covering hip-hop and R&B for the past couple of years on both the Hot 100 and the underground, and for as many people have ripped off Drake or Future pretty blatantly, The Weeknd doesn't really have the same group of imitators - mostly because his style and content have a fair amount of unique identity and flair that's harder to replicate. Sure, there have been those who have mimicked some of the content, but it's not like bleakly framed debauchery was totally foreign to the R&B charts - hell, even if you go into the darker and more experimental PBR&B acts, many of them have charted their own course - it's not like How To Dress Well or Miguel stayed in that lane with later records over the past two years.

Okay, so what about acts like SOHN? An English singer-songwriter, you could definitely make the argument with his higher crooning delivery, bleak lyrics and melancholic tone that he could be seen as in a similar lane when he dropped his debut album Tremors in 2014, arguably the peak of that sound. But going back to that album, I'm not sure how viable the comparison is - the tones SOHN chose were more blocky and electronic, inspired more by chiptune or Kanye's autotune experiments more than The Weeknd's brand of chilly gothic abrasion. Kind of a shame, really, because I didn't find Tremors interesting - I can see why people like the tonal balance and vocals, and when it did pick up more of a groove it was indeed pretty solid, but beyond that I tended to find it underwritten and meandering, decent ambient and electronic textures not really adding up to solid songs. But hey, that can happen with a debut - maybe it would feel more refined and tighter on his sophomore album Rennen, which thanks to Patreon managed to climb up the schedule. So how is it?

Friday, December 2, 2016

video review: 'sirens' by nicolas jaar

Well, this took way too long to get to... but I'm happy I did. Who knows if it would have clicked better before the election, but honestly, I doubt it - the sound has to hold up.

Beyond that, though... well, the schedule can shift any time, but I've got another long-overdue project next, so I'll be covering that. Stay tuned!

album review: 'sirens' by nicolas jaar

I say every year that I hope to cover more electronic music... and yet somehow, in the last few months of the year, I find myself catching up with the acts that I really should have covered months ago - hence why it has taken so long to get to this review.

And it's not like this album hasn't been on my schedule for some time. I may not have been talking much about music when Nicolas Jaar's critically adored debut album Space Is Only Noise dropped in 2011, but when I did start getting requests to cover him as early as 2015, where he reentered the spotlight courtesy of a few EPs and soundtrack albums. And when I went back to Space Is Only Noise, I actually really liked it. The slightly askew melodies, the vocal snippets against scant flutters of glitch, the intense intimacy of every bit of percussion, the haunted vocals, the odd sense of groove it had, it was a weird as hell record, but it had the sort of ridiculous poise and confidence that made Jaar seem like a veteran effortlessly crossing and blending styles. Again, like most electronica I cover, I will not say it's for everyone - too slow and diffuse to really dance to, not nearly as abrasive as more experimental producers tend to fly, not as melodic to build to consistent vibes, but not so spacious where it slips towards ambient music. This is music at the intersection of a lot of ideas, a fair few of them weird, and while they didn't all quite work for me on Space Is Only Noise - some of those melodic shifts and vocal samples were something else - I was definitely curious to check out Sirens, especially given how much critical acclaim was dumped on it. And thanks to consistent Patreon votes, it's now finally got its chance to shine - is it worth it?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

video review: 'love streams' by tim hecker

Well, this was a fascinating and incredibly difficult album to untangle. I still think it's worth listens even if its not my thing, but again, not my thing.

Next up... hmm, probably Parquet Courts, so stay tuned!

album review: 'love streams' by tim hecker

I've talked before at length how I'm still working to explore electronic music, still trying to find the clearest inroad to a genre that can frequently be beautiful and powerful and experimental, but often can be just as hard to talk about or fully dissect. And today, it's time we talk about one of the subsets of electronic music that remains some of the hardest to decode and explain: ambient drone and noise. The sort of sounds that will nearly all but the most dedicated of listeners branding it as background noise or completely empty to just walk away, it's long been a genre to which I've touched in passing but have had a certain aversion to it. I can definitely appreciate ambient music and atmosphere, but stretched across glitched out soundscapes with only the slightest of change-ups in melody or the sparsest of beats... yeah, most of the time it's just not for me. I like groove and composition more than textured sonic tapestries that often rely on the thinnest of context of define what it might be trying to say. 

As such, delving into the extensive back catalog of Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker has been quite the experience for me, most notably because it probably came the closest to create soundscapes that were enticing enough to keep me coming back for more. The missed connections and fragmented transmissions of Radio Amor, the darker, guitar-feedback-soaked Mirages that started touching into black metal textures, the more soothing but melancholic Harmony In Ultraviolet that grew all the more expansive, the more dense construction of An Imaginary Country, they all reflected so much more than what the first few listens would imply. This would reach a peak on Hecker's 2011 album Ravedeath 1972, a titantic, borderline apocalyptic record that I would have no qualms saying is legitimately great, and while I didn't quite like his 2013 record Virgins as much - I missed the thicker atmosphere, even if the greater, more intimate focus on melody with much cleaner textures made it a potent listen in and of itself - I think I understood enough to delve into his newest record Love Streams, which had been garnering something of a mixed critical response. So as a relative newcomer to this sort of music, how did it click?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

video review: 'casualties of cool' by casualties of cool (RETRO REVIEW)

Holy shit, this album was fantastic. Seriously, I wish I could have gotten to this a few months ago, this is amazing.

Next up is Billboard BREAKDOWN, hopefully dropping tomorrow, so stay tuned!

album review: 'casualties of cool' by casualties of cool (RETRO REVIEW)

There are some records that the second you hear about them you just know on some level they're going to work - or at least they should. Maybe it's the people behind it, the concept, the genre fusion, you just have the feeling in your gut that this is going to kick all amounts of ass.

And really, the fact that I'm only getting to this now is more than a little embarrassing. A side project that Canadian extreme metal artist Devin Townsend had long dreamed about, the beginnings of Casualties of Cool started in 2010 as a pairing between himself and Che Aimee Dorval, a spacey country/blues/ambient blend that promised one of Townsend's most ambitious stories yet. And keep in mind this is the guy who wrote Ziltoid The Omniscient, a space opera that featured a dimension bending alien searching for the meaning of existence and the perfect cup of coffee. In other words, I had to make time to hear this album, half because it's Devin Townsend and half because I'm still one of the few critics on YouTube who really talks about country music in any capacity, and this looked to be right up my alley. 

So why did it take me so long to get here? Honestly, this is a case of me completely forgetting about this album when it dropped and struggling to find time to cover it. And part of it was beyond some scattered albums, I still hadn't taken the time to delve deeper into Devin Townsend's entire discography. But now that I've had the pleasure of doing that and since I've already covered Devin Townsend projects twice this year, why not make it three with Casualties of Cool? So I finally took the time to dive into this self-titled album - what did we get here?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

video review: 'the endless river' by pink floyd

Man, this should have been better. Ugh.

Okay, next up is... well, honestly, not sure, next week looks a little crazy. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 21, 2014

album review: 'the endless river' by pink floyd

I didn't want to do this review.

Really, I didn't. If it wasn't for your requests, I would have kept on my regular schedule and found every possible excuse to pass this record by. And hell, it's not like I wouldn't have excuses - my backlog is reaching enormous proportions again as we get to the end of the year, and with year-end lists and the holidays approaching, a record like this that demanded deep, thorough analysis would take up a lot more time than I could reasonably afford.

But that's not the only reason why I didn't want to cover this album. To answer that question, we need to talk about Pink Floyd, one of the greatest and most influential progressive rock acts of all time. A band that has made records like the excellent Dark Side Of The Moon, the slightly underrated Animals, the slightly overrated but still awesome The Wall, and that's simply touching on their seminal mid-period work. And, of course, there's Wish You Were Here, a record that might not have the killer singles but stands up as the most emotionally evocative and powerful record of Pink Floyd's career. For a band that many derided throughout the 70s as detached and lacking in emotion - themes the band themselves explored on The Wall - Wish You Were Here was a deeply poignant record that holds up as one of the best albums of the 70s, hands down.

And then it all fell apart. The 80s were not a good decade for Pink Floyd, with The Final Cut being pretty good but having more than its fair share of problems, but then Roger Waters left the band. And I'll be blunt and say it - from there, some of the legendary instrumental prowess might have been there but the writing wasn't. It was breaking the rudder chain and leaving the band adrift, lacking the focus and tightness that defined the band's best work. And sure, the music might have been passable, but Pink Floyd should be better than 'passable'. 

So yeah, I wasn't looking forward to The Endless River. Not just because Waters was gone - with the death of founding member and keyboardist Richard Wright, pieces of his compositions during the creation of The Division Bell in the 90s were adapted posthumously for the record, something to which I take issue with on principle. Sure, I get that the album was intended as a tribute to the late and great keyboardist, but I can't help but think Deep Purple's approach when they paid tribute to Jon Lord with the incredible 'Above & Beyond'. But putting that aside and knowing that much of this album was reportedly pulling inspiration from Wish You Were Here, I gave The Endless River a deep listen - what did we get?