Category Archives: reviews

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.

Hadals – “The Dog”

Here’s a fresh batch of noise coming out of Nashville. Hadals’ “The Dog” is available on cassette from the Portland, OR based label Nailbat Tapes.

Opening the release is “Hound of Golden Light.” It’s squealing feedback refuses to be kept at bay, while the track plows forward aided by the heaviest of bass lines. Vocals are relegated to the background, and despite being pushed into the red the punishing discord of the guitars are clearly at the fore here.

“Claws Stretching to the Sky” starts off one part Wolf Eyes and one part punishing death metal, choosing to focus mostly on anxiety inducing wails and distant sounds of torment. Following that “My Teeth on Your Neck” picks up exactly where “Claws…” left off – with the crushing bass-heavy backbeat and feedback taking over once again.

Closing with “Sink Into the Earth” solidifies the fact that this release really is of two minds. On the one hand there is the noisy, Wolf Eyes/The Thirteen Ghosts elements, casting an unnerving pall around the distorted guitars and drums. Slowly building from one to the other the last minute and a half finds Hadals absolutely punishing their instruments into apparent oblivion.

You can grab a copy of this limited cassette from Nailbat over at their bandcamp page. And while you’re there you should check out a few of their other new releases including the Portland-based death/grind of Maltheist, and dark/ambient/noise of Red Boiling Springs.

 

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.

Hello Ocho – “Hello Ocho”

It’s always pretty exciting when a band comes out with an album that is so expansive in its vision that even after listening to the first four tracks you still don’t have much of an idea of what the band is really about. Each track gives you another glimpse into what is possible, and only then can you start to appreciate what is really going on here.

Hello Ocho’s self-titled album actually came out in 2013, and features 13 songs nearly impossible to place into one single genre. I guess we could use the catch-all “psychedelic,” but that doesn’t really make an effort toward clarifying what is really going on here. Songs like “Stickin’ to the Sheets” are created out of a single idea that continually grows over a persistent foundational pulse like what you would expect from kraut-rock inspired minimalist rock. It’s rhythmically driven, and concerned primarily with its propulsion than it is with sticking to a typical, strict song structure.

We immediately shift from the more or less psychedelic, kraut-rock-yness of “Stickin’ to the Sheets” to the bluesy vocal melodies of “Song Gafe’.” There is a considerable amount of focus on the structure here, with an emphasis on more or less refrain based vocals and a pretty catchy hook. Although, that all starts to fall away eventually as the song comes to a close.

From here on out the album becomes a bit more of an instrumental exploration. “Fandancy” and “Charles Romanson” are a bit more experimental, but they are followed by the Animal Collective-ish sound of “Whomp.” Sure, that one is pretty experimental too, but there are also elements of great melodic thinking going on too; once again we’re focusing more on the melodic line here than the structure itself. There are catchy hooks, but somehow outside of the context of a pop-tune format. This works though, it works its strange magic, as everything shifts from one idea to the next, balancing melodic craftsmanship with psychedelic experimentalism along the way.

Hello Ocho’s self-titled album came out in 2013, but there are still copies available in vinyl, both clear and black, available from the Hello Ocho bandcamp page. They also have a bit of a teaser for an upcoming release “In Portuguese,” with a 2 minute sample of a funky, electronic freak out. You can check that one out below. Head to their bandcamp page to get a copy of their self-titled album on vinyl, or as a digital download.