Category Archives: music

Snakes of Pennsylvania – “Snakes of Pennsylvania”

Snakes of Pennsylvania’s eponymous release was among Field Hymns’ final releases of 2016. It should be noted that last year was a fantastic year for the label, and it remains one of my favorites. Field Hymns is usually my go-to spot for analog synth jams, but I always like a good deviation from expectations.  The album remains in fairly subdued territory throughout, so maybe we aren’t too far afield after all.

Starting from the middle, with “Instrumental One,” we find a simply stated, spacious, analog synth-based track. There are a limited number of layers, which keeps the texture uncomplicated and focused. “Instrumental One” is based around a simple, descending minor third motive entering after a brief ambient introduction. A dissonant second line then begins to counter the motive, before fading into a lulling and bright coda.

The track that follows, “The Human,” may contrast arrangement-wise, but is agonizingly beautiful nonetheless. The hushed guitar melody comes from the same world as the quiet moments of any Explosions in the Sky song. However, here a single guitar fills the role of Explosions’ three while still managing to capture the ambiance in between the notes as they gather.

“Attack of Lyme” adds to the album’s already varied palette with a plucked steel string acoustic adding more presence to the sound. Synth sounds skitter across the landscape as fingers skid down guitar strings in the foreground. A similar acoustic guitar sound appears throughout “Kolbojnik,” which features an even more patient construction by taking long breaths between fragmented melodies within a minute long framework.

“Snakes of Pennsylvania” successfully melds ambient analog synth sounds with guitars that both compliment and contrast.  The synth sounds end up adding, surprisingly, to the Americana sounds generated by steel string guitars.
Find “Snakes of Pennsylvania”:
A limited number of cassettes are still available on the Field Hymns bandcamp page. As with any album on bandcamp, of course it is available as a download in any format you can imagine.

Absent in Body – “Absent in Body”

“Absent in Body” is the fifth and final installment of the series “The Abyss Stares Back,” featuring a collaboration between Scott Kelly of Neurosis; Mathieu Vandekerckhove of Syndrome and Amenra; and Colin H Van Eeckhout also of Amenra and CHVE.

I only put a small excerpt of the twenty minute opus above. I wanted to give at least some idea as to what was going on here. Nobody told me I could do that, but writing about music is hard enough without you, the reader, then having to simply imagine the music that I could possibly be describing.

The track, like some others I’ve covered this week, is an interesting mix of ambient drones, and total destruction. As such, the excerpt above comes from somewhere toward the first third of the song and captures a little bit of both worlds covered throughout the rest of the track. The track opens with a primordial drone; strings rattling against frets, a steady buzz from which the overtone series emanates amongst distant foreboding echoes. Before long a John Bonham-like four-on-the-floor beat comes in at precisely 60bpm. This is accompanied by deathly growls and a de-tuned, chugging palm-muted riff. At this point Absent in Body begins to take the shape of a stoner metal band, like Kyuss, mixed with death metal.

You can break the song down into four parts, as it alternates between more ambient material to harder edged, directed, driving metal with a steady pulsing beat. The last few minutes of Absent in Body are especially brutal, with thick, supremely distorted harmonies droning in the red. It sounds as if the music itself is attempting to break into the actual physical world through sheer force of decibels and shredding distortion. I think, actually, the best way to describe the track is to actually show the track. So, take a look at the track below.

Absent in Body is still up for pre-order, with an official release date of January 20, through Hypertension Records. At the moment there are only about fifty copies of the original 500 copies available. You can pre-order from Hypertension here.

 

Visit – “Werewolf Honeymoon”

Visit’s latest, “Werewolf Honeymoon,” is a varied ambient album. Textures range from the repetitive ground bass and overdriven guitar of opener “We Had to Grow Gills Or We Wouldn’t Make It Out Alive,” to the steel string acoustic guiding “Sungaze,” and the more pure amorphous ambience of “Meadowolf” and “Sun Pact (for Niki).” The way that the longer tracks, opening and closing the album, develop amid static textures is what makes “Werewolf Honeymoon” so interesting.

There are moments throughout that call to mind Godspeed You! Black Emperor, especially their two most recent releases. The drones on “Allelujah!   Don’t Bend Ascend” are presented as palate cleansers; one between the two extended tracks and one to close out the album. On the vinyl release of that album those drones exist on a 45 separate from the seemingly main 12″, and easily separated from the listening experience. Godspeed takes a similar approach with their latest as well, though in a condensed form.

I think that some of the very same elements appear here in “Werewolf Honeymoon” though the ambiance surrounds those longform melodic elements all within the same track. The sharper attacks of plucked steel strings arrives via the lush sounds which preceded it, while the shorter middle tracks present one of these elements at a time, ushering the listener to the final track.

Visit show themselves to have impeccable pacing in the way that ideas are not so much layered as they are revealed. Sounds not originally in the drone feel as though they have been merely pulled up for closer inspection, and that they were in fact lying in wait the entire time. From the perspective of phrasing each track is shown to be very thoroughly considered, with fairly regular cadence points and an ebb and flow that feels completely natural.

The album is available for pre-order now on the Chicago tape and record label Patient Sounds. If you like this album, then you should know that Patient Sounds regularly releases great stuff, so you should check out their page and listen to all of it and sign up for their newsletter.

Coastal Car – “Lossless”

I’ve had Coastal Car’s “Lossless” on repeat for the past couple of weeks now and I don’t think that I’ll be getting sick of it any time soon. “Lossless” is an album full of perfect bedroom pop tunes. Think Yuck crossed with Carseat Headrest and that will put you pretty close to what is going on aesthetically here.

There’s more than that though. The harmonies and guitar work on “all i wanna do” shows a hint of Pixies, while the guitar harmonies on that track and “trade centre way” are reminiscent of Rogue Wave. Every song really captures a relaxed approach to songwriting; with one part flowing seamlessly into the next, effortlessly.

The latter half of “Lossless” moves from the folk-ish “halfway” to the layered, delicate guitar work of instrumental “belong reprise,” one of the album’s highlights. That track seems to beg for lyrics, while simultaneously sounding like a song that you can’t quite place. It’s like the interwoven melodies are lodged in the collective unconscious, begging to be let out yet not being able to quite come to fruition.

Album closer “f u n” perfectly encapsulates everything presented throughout the album. It’s another perfectly crafted, and catchy-as-hell bedroom pop song. Like the words that don’t exist on “belong reprise,” I can’t quite put my finger on what images are being conjured up in my mind as I listen, but they do seem like fond remembrances. I’m just going to have to continue listening until I figure it out.

Lossless” is available digitally, with a limited number of cassettes still available from Already Dead Tapes & Records. You can check their bandcamp for this and a whole slew of other great albums.

 

 

Freak Dream – s/t

You may remember my post from a few years back about the fantastic prog-pop psych-rock band Sprïng, or you may not. I can refresh your memory briefly: they were great. Unfortunately they are no longer, though they did trickle out some new material after the release of their brilliant “Celebrations,” it seems there won’t be a follow-up.

However, and thankfully, Sprïng’s former guitarist Elliot has recently released a great five-song EP under the name Freak Dream. The release explodes right out of the gate, with synths and driving guitars combining to create a fusion of the industrial and hardcore punk sounds. Opening tracks “Let Me Out” and “Almost Gone” create a sense of space with more understated prog breakdowns before launching back into the more aggressive sounds favored throughout most of the EP.

The persistent kick of “How Can I” immediately calls to mind Big Black, though again Elliot creates more depth through his ability to pull everything back before piling on the noise again. Although, you’d never find a song like “Breathe II” on any Big Black album. That track’s mode shifting piano and delicate, feedback-driven, atmospherics not only lend the perfect amount of contrast to the collection, but show the range of Elliot’s interests and the palette he’s working with. It lays the groundwork nicely for the final track “Get Up” which is basically a really great, straight ahead rock tune. “Get Up” even manages to touch upon glam with its soaring coda emerging from dreamier, echoes of guitar.

You can listen to the entire EP above, or on the Freak Dream bandcamp page. If you head over to that page you can name your own price for a digital download, or get a CD with an 8-page, color zine for $5 Canadian.

Alessandro Cortini – “Scappa”

Alessandro Cortini has just released his “Forse 3” double-LP, which is the third and final installment of a trilogy of “Forse” double-LPs, through Important Records. “Scappa” is the third track on the album, and was composed–like everything else in the Forse double-LP trilogy, on a Buchla Music Easel.

The track unfolds slowly, across nearly the entirety of its 10 minutes, unveiling a beautiful, long melodic line little by little, that dovetails its end to its beginning to create a perpetually growing looped line. Delicate pulsations give this otherwise mostly ambient affair an added dimension, providing a regularity of sorts, or something more for the listener to grab onto in order to orient themselves within the piece. Other timbres are allowed to take shape underneath the main legato melody line, with deep bass fuzz that calls to mind Tim Hecker’s “Ravedeath 1972.”

Personally, I am most impressed and fascinated by the way that Cortini manages to create a work based on a compositional scheme of a consistently growing structure. The amount of forethought, nuance, and technique that needs to go into creating a successful long-form work of this nature can not be underestimated. Creating an idea that slowly develops, and builds up enough momentum to propel the work while remaining engaging the entire time is easy to do wrong. However, when it is pulled off, as it is here, the results are typically awe-inspiring.

It’s truly a breathtaking track, and I would imagine that the entire rest of the 4-sided affair will deliver in exactly the same way. “Forse 3” is available as an extremely limited double-album, and you would probably be smart to grab this now, as the first two installments of the Forse trilogy have long since sold out.

Cloud – “Zen Summer”

Typically when we listen to an album from front to back it’s because we want to be taken on a journey. Things need to be held together with a common thread, while at the same time differentiating themselves from one another significantly enough that we want to keep listening without tuning out. I think that, for me at least, this is the ideal of what an album should be. Unfortunately, that is no easy task for any artist.

Cloud, the recording project of on Tyler Taormina, does manage to do just that though. Across the expansive album that is “Zen Summer” we are taken to several different but interconnected places. From the all out rock of “Sunshine Psych” that moves nicely into the piano ballad buried beneath a wall of noise that is “Mantra One.”

And on “Mantra One” Taormina’s voice calls to mind that of Panda Bear. Even some of the same melodic nuances are there, fitting in perfectly amongst the glitchy electronics and backwards looping guitar tracks. Naturally this track flows neatly right into “Luana,” creating a suite of more or less piano based pop tunes.

Later with “Electrical Smile” the guitar begins to play a bit more of a central role, with its slow slide-guitar descending glissando connecting each of the harmony changes. Continuing through the next phase of the title track breaks everything down to ambiance, while “Tastes Bad” continues to place the focus on the guitar. In my opinion though, the best track of this section of the album, and the best track on the album, is “Sleepy Giant Speak.”

The sound of “Sleepy Giant Speak” combines all the elements of the album to this point; the octave jumping melodic contours, the fuzzed out wall of guitar noise, and the gentle piano just barely heard through it all. “Sleepy Giant Speak” manages to capture the feeling of continual expansion, striving toward some distant goal. It’s great to hear that song, and all the tracks on “Zen Summer” really, continually reach for that distant goal because it makes us all want to continue listening and to continue on that journey through the album.

“Zen Summer” was released on Paper Trail Records back in April, but is still available on very limited yellow vinyl that can be found on Paper Trail’s bandcamp page.