Tag Archives: explosions in the sky

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.

Stream: Mono – “The Last Dawn”

The most difficult part about writing anything about a post-rock band is that each song is such a journey, and the albums seem to be massive offerings. It’s more about the journey than it is about the little pieces that make them up. Mono, throughout “The Last Dawn” manages to weave together extended sections of tranquility with blasts of euphoric noise. The slow unfolding of each track (as is usually the case) relies on short repetitive melodies that are built up in every way possible. This, of course, is not exactly out of the ordinary. Post-rock tends toward the slow-burn, slowly blending in element after element until the full fabric is complete. It’s a lot easier said than done.

There are many moments on “The Last Dawn” that sound close to Explosions in the Sky’s treatment of guitar, with open string voiced chord extensions are carefully articulated. Mono makes extensive use of a piano as a complement to the quieter guitar parts.

What it all really boils down to is a series of beautiful moments. Specifically, the moments of martial drumbeats and roaring guitars strummed wildly. After so much waiting and placidity, once the album really opens up, and it does so at only a few key moments (which isn’t to say that it should happen more often. On the contrary, the pacing is maybe the most important thing to listen to here), it’s something that gives the listener pause. Those moments are made all the more explosive and awe inspiring in that Mono has made you wait for them. As much as “The Last Dawn” is a collection of songs, it really is more about the journey across the entire album.

And the journey doesn’t end with “The Last Dawn,” the album was recorded simultaneously with their other new release “Rays of Darkness.” The albums are counterparts, but aren’t to be thought of as the same entity. “Rays of Darkness” stands in near opposition to the hopeful, sometimes joyous nature of “The Last Dawn.” Both of these albums are currently available on LP and CD through Temporary Residence Ltd.

New music from Thou: “The Sacrifice” and “Heathen”

Brutal slow burning metal from the Baton Rouge’s most prolific band Thou.  I’ve posted one of their earlier releases for a few reasons. The first is that they have a new album available for pre-order and I’m highly recommending it; and the second reason is that if you go to the band’s bandcamp page you can download a whole slew of stuff for whatever price you see fit. This, of course, coupled with the fact that “Heathen” is barely a month old so both of the releases in this post are pretty much brand new.

Imagine Russian Circles, Earth and Explosions in the sky meeting up with Deafheaven. The music pushes forward with all of its weight while throat shredding vocals fight to be heard. With a 14+ minute track like “Free Will” there is plenty of time for an expansive buildup, and several contrasting sections of equally sludgy metal.

From just earlier this year “Heathen,” above, features 10 songs, with nearly half of them over 10 minutes in duration. Album opener and “At the Foot of Mt. Drisskill” feature more of the pummeling end of the spectrum while some of the shorter tracks such as “Dawn,” “Clarity,” and “Take off your skin and dance in your bones” clearly show a more plaintive side of the band’s songwriting with delicate guitar soliloquies draped in reverb and delay. Truly some beautiful stuff going on in those shorter tracks that provides a nice counterbalance to the heavier elements displayed on much of the rest of the album.

According to the press release the newest offering is going to be a little different: “Eschewing the crawl found on most of their long-players and upping the tempo a bit while retaining their well renowned doom and roar. Several new bludgeoners (“New Orleans Is a Hole,” “Pill,” and “Eulogy”) are joined with the masterful drone of “I Believe Because It Is Impossible” and, per usual, a ferocious Nirvana cover, this time putting “I Hate Myself and I Want to Die” through their apocalyptic grinder.”

You can hear the new release in its entirety below:

Definitely head over and pre-order “The Sacrifice” right now and then go over to the Thou bandcamp and download a bunch of their other stuff. If you order directly from Robotic Empire you can get $5 off if you buy “The Sacrifice” with their “Baton Rouge” EP. The new one is also going to be released on tape.

Monthly Muxtape Madness Vol. 1

So I decided that I am going to lend my time to yet another page on teh interwebs. Muxtape.com allows users to create a mix tape of up to 12 songs. Who doesn’t remember creating mixes for your friends and family to listen to? I definitely created tons when I was a kid.

Now it is popular with the hipster set as not only a form of nostalgia (hipsters love nostalgia, seeing as how they never want to grow up) but as a way to show everyone how eclectic, strange and indie their taste in music is. That being said, I’m going to start making my own mix and update it, change the tracks periodically (hopefully monthly or so). I’ll blog up little descriptions of each track here and give you a link to the tape. Big surprise, it is http://quartertonality.muxtape.com. Just click on the track you want to start with (

Here is Volume 1:

“Wake Me When It’s Over” is off of Longwave’s 2nd full length album and is quite a change from their first, though it definitely extrapolates off of the influences that they clearly feel strongly about (Television, U2, Radiohead, The Strokes etc…) This is the opening track off of that album and I thought it would make a good opening track here. This song kind of feels like a sunrise anyway, with orange light bouncing off of dust as it flies through the air. Lots of delayed effect on the guitars and atmospherics. Great song

“Get a Shot of the Refrigerator” is typical Stereolab. Sometimes instrumental, sometimes not. Sometimes the lyrics are in French, sometimes English, sometimes both. This is a truly unique band with a very devoted, indie “insider” following. Somewhere between rock and dance music lies Stereolab with their groovy jams and tight ensemble work. “The groop”, as their fans call them are unlike anything you have heard before.

“Love and Death” is off of The Stills’ first album. This Canadian band made quite a splash with their first album, only to completely lose me with their second. This album feels nostalgic to me for some reason. It is great in all the right spots. This song has not only a great chorus but a great verse as well. The whole thing fits together very well. I like the interplay and counterpoint between both of the guitars and the way the verses really work towards the choruses to create a seamless texture, similar to the Longwave but a little more overproduced.

“Range Life” is off of the now defunct California outfit Pavement’s absolutely amazing album entitled “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” and features a very loose ensemble with barely tuned guitars creating a song that feels like it is in slow motion. Lead singer Stephen Malkmus’s voice is shaky and somewhere between falsetto and full voiced belting, but it seems like he is trying to keep it quiet. Sarcastic lyrics with a lazy delivery and all genius.

“First Day” is off of Sunderland England’s own The Futureheads first blistering album full of jangly, angular punk songs. The guitars are all over the place in this one darting in and out of the way of each other with the entire gang joining in to sing the chorus. The band builds up faster and faster until it seems like they are going to completely fall apart, the trick is that is when they are at their best, right before everything falls apart.

“My Mathematical Mind” is from Austin, Texas’ own Spoon’s album “Gimme Fiction”. Though that album did not quite do it for me as much as their most recent effort (“Ga ga ga ga ga” from 2007) it still has a few decent tracks on it. This is one of them. The lyrics are almost too brainy and self-absorbed, but they never quite cross the line. The bouncy, hemiola inflected piano line helps give the opening a good swing and the throbbing, present bass propels the song forward while the guitar struggles for air just below Britt Daniel’s soaring vocal.

“Stereo Sanctity” is from Sonic Youth’s album Sister. The group experiments with altered tunings, noise and chaos as part of its aesthetic flawlessly combining the ideals of the post-punk crowd and the downtown music composition scene of Eliot Sharp, Glen Branca and free jazzers like Sun Ra. This song has always been one of my favorites of theirs, very energetic, very noisy. Just plain great.

“Freak Out” by Liars, originally from Australia, then moved to NYC and now based out of Berlin Liars have experimented with each of their albums. This is off of their most recent offering simply called “Liars” which features a whole series of really tight rock songs that are similar in vane to early Sonic Youth, but a little more percussion driven. This album combines elements of all their past efforts and shows them finally focusing in and going out on one clear path. This song brings forward the jangle of a reverb soaked, out of tune guitar and the chant-like approach to singing.

“Your Hand in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky is one of the only examples of music in a rock band format that is truly orchestral in scope. This band, again from Texas, creates grand sonic soundscapes on each of their albums that are usually full of lengthy, developmental structures. This song is one of the most beautiful rock songs I have ever heard. Simple, in E major, utilizing the open strings on the guitar to create a truly moving sound. You can tell that each line was painstakingly put together. The structure of this song is almost mathematical and it is even divided into sections, but they work so well together it is scary.

“Goodbye Ukulele” by Peterborough, Ontario’s The Burning Hell is depressing, yes. It is also a great way to close an album. Singer Matthias Kom bids adieu to each of the instruments in the band one by one and they disappear until he is completely alone with his ukulele. This is one of the only really slow songs that I have ever really liked this much.

I hope I haven’t rambled on too long. I hope you enjoy this mix.