Friday, November 2, 2012

Ana Never-Small Years review

This may be one of the more challenging post-rock albums to review.  I really want to give this album good marks, but there is one major issue getting in my way.

First off, it is only fair to describe the music to you.  Ana Never's "Small Years" is standard fare for post-rock.  The music is entirely instrumental, blending melodic, but highly distorted live instrumentation with soothing and rich, stretching electronic textures that give the album its distinctive vibe. 

Ana Never is a classy band from Serbia.  This is their second release to date, and it is a good listen. Fluttery Records, who produced and released this album, bills "Small Years" as one of the best post-rock albums of all time and certainly the best of 2012.  That is high praise coming from a record label that produces mostly post-rock and ambient music.  I'm not so quick to crown this album the king of post-rock, however.

The main issue I have is the album's length.  A total run time of just over 75 minutes may seem innocuous at worst, but when you consider the fact that this album contains only four tracks, you start to get a feel for how long it takes to listen to just one track, let alone the entire album.  In case you don't think you read that last part correctly, let me confirm it.  Four tracks totaling 75:34.  The opener is better than 26:00 long, and it isn't even the longest track on the album.  For that first track, you are ready for the song to be over 13 minutes in because it seems like it has run its course.  At that point, you are not even halfway finished and most casual listeners would become bored less than 13 minutes in. 

To be clear, the music present in these four tracks is outstanding, provocative, and explosive.  Each track slowly builds to a noisy crescendo that is loaded with looping guitar reverb and electronic ambiance.  Drums play their part well, allowing plenty of room for the spacey instruments while never becoming the focal point of the track.  I have to say that this is impressive music.  If not for the length of the tracks "Small Years" would be a smash hit worthy of the billing.  Instead, what you have is a good record to listen to while you complete a task that you expect to take a while.  If you try to just sit and listen to it, you will be bored. 

The following is the entire album streamed here from Ana Never's bandcamp page.  If you are not in the mood to listen to a 26:34 track, skip to the second track, which weighs in a just 4:46.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Mark Lanegan Band-Blue Funeral review

If you a fan of grunge rock, there is a chance you have heard of Mark Lanegan.  Lanegan is an American musician who started out in 1985, forming the grunge band Screaming Trees.  He began his solo career way back in 1990 when he released his album "Winding Sheets".  Mark Lanegan was born in 1964 in Ellensburg, Washington. 

Having not been a huge fan of the grunge movement of the late 1980s-early 1990s, I had not been aware of him until earlier this year.  I discovered him on one of those days were I was browsing through 'artists you also might like'.  The cover art of "Blues Funeral" intrigued me, but nothing could have prepared me for the music I was about to hear.

For starters, "Blues Funeral" is not very grungy.  This is an alternative blues-rock album and nothing more or less.  I didn't know this until after I had listened to some samples on Amazon.  So I decided to give this record a try.

This album blew me away.  Lanegan does what he was good at so well that he doesn't try to be something he is not.  While the subtle grunge influences do show up from time to time, this is an album that is startlingly honest and bitterly sorrowful.  The guitar work is sheer wizardry, second to none.  Lanegan's band blend buzzing, crunchy alternative rock riffs with slower-tempo and amazingly melodic acoustic blues plucking.  The band weaves keyboard atmospheric work into the mix on many occasions, which help to accentuate the bleak nature of this album.  As expected, the drum work is tight, but not overbearing, allowing plenty of room for the other instruments to shine.  This is not even to mention Lanegan's vocals.

Lanegan has a very distinctive baritone voice that has been described as "scratchy as a three-day beard yet as supple and pliable as moccasin leather."  I find this description to be quite accurate. This differs from typically nasal high pitched singing and bland yelling found in a lot of grunge rock today.  His voice further deepens the sense of tragedy you get when listening to this record.  That was one asset to his singing that hooked me right away.  Not many singers are willing to go through the risk to sing quite like he does.  For the vocals alone, this album gains points with me.

"Blues Funeral" is a great album that should go down as one of 2012's best releases.  I may even rank this in my top ten.  It is that good.  Take a listen to the blues below. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New music from Nick Efremov and Underoath

I've got some sad news and some happy news for you today.  Since I try to be a glass-half-full kind of guy (what's the point anyway?--it's half a glass, right?) I'll share the happy news first.

Nick Efremov has released a bunch of new music available for free download at Soundcloud.  Efremov is a Russian electronic producer who composes beautiful works of dream-pop/electro-gaze laden with rich reverb.  After listening to just one of the new songs, I decided I would pick this up.  After all, you can't go wrong with free.  The textures Efremov weaves into this music are breathtaking, rounding the arc from full-on shoegaze, to repetitive dream-pop, to electronic ambiance, and back again.  His vocals are understated, layered, and looped to create the stretched melodies that make up the music.  While this music is mostly electronic, moments of distorted live instruments creep through the music.  It appears that most of the songs are written in Russian, so I am sharing one that is obviously in English.  Check out December here.

Now that I have the happy out of the way, I lament to be the bearer of the sad news.  American Christian Metalcore band Underoath is disbanding after some fifteen years in the business.  They have just announced plans for their farewell tour and have shared perhaps their last brand new song, which is streaming now.  I became a fan of Underoath after hearing the solid release "Define the Great Line".  After that, I picked up a copy of "Lost in the Sound of Separation" as soon as I could.  This disc also did not disappoint.  As I mentioned, Underoath is a Christian metal band.  Lyrically, most of their songs deal with personal, emotional issues and religion.  This band manages to blend harsh, screaming vocals with beautiful melodic clean singing as well as any I have ever heard.  When they break out the clean singing, the pace of the music slackens to reveal heartfelt, somber guitar melodies enriched with ambient atmospherics.  Underoath is as good as metalcore gets.  This new track, Sunburnt will apparently be released with the farewell tour live album.  This is a great track by which to remember this excellent band.  Check it out below.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mist Glider-The Pyroclastic Flow

Recently I have been reading a lot about volcanoes and learning some interesting information that has been new and enlightening to me.  I'm a fan of learning if I have the time, and in fact can do it on my own time.  By now I am able to define what a pyroclastic flow is.

A pyroclastic flow is a superheated surge of volcanic gas and rock collectively known as tephra that is emitted during an explosive volcanic eruption.  For two examples, I would point to the 1980 explosion at Mount St. Helens.  That event unleashed a pyroclastic flow that destroyed the nearby forest.  Another, perhaps more pertinent example, would be the infamous event at Mt. Vesuvius which buried the Italian city of Pompeii in ash and rock.

In the interest of not turning this into an educational piece on the awesome power of volcanoes, I will now turn the the music of Mist Glider. 

The newly released album from Mist Glider is an eclectic selection of off-kilter electronic tunes that defies description.  This is music that you have to hear to appreciate.  If you are not a fan of electronic music in general, it is a safe bet to assume that you would not like this album.  This music float across the ears with vivid, pulsing rhythms and atmospheric eruptions of sound that are at the same moment unsettling and startlingly beautiful.  This formations of sound often take on textures of nu-jazz with echoes of ambient music spaced over the mix.  These rhythms are varied enough to never get old, yet stylish enough to be easily predictable so that one can nod in time with the music.

Mist Glider have crafted a deceptive album that somehow sounds exactly like you might expect by admiring the wonderful cover art.  This music is hypnotic and spellbinding.  It would be a great addition to any collection of weird electronic music. 

In some ways this album can be reminiscent of some of Trentemoller's more rhythmic tracks, but in other ways drastically different.  "Pyroclastic Flow" was not at all what I was expecting, yet pleasing and refreshing.  Perhaps the best part about this LP is the fact that all of it is available for free download at soundcloud.  To give you an idea of what you're getting into, I'm including a few of the standout tracks at the end of this post.  Do enjoy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

CSLSX & I Break Horses and Dark Princess

Today we are going to do something a little bit different.  I am posting two songs I have never heard before from two bands who I have shown some interest in.  Therefore, I can't hardly describe the music to you because I have not listened to it yet.  I do know both of these bands somewhat, so that will give me something to start with. 

Let's start with CSLSX & I Break Horses.  CSLSX is an electronic pop producer who has teamed up with Swedish shoegaze band I Break Horses on a new track called Violent Sea.  I don't know much about CSLSX, but I Break Horses is of particular interest to me, because I'm a fan of shoegazing music.  The sound they put out is very similar to Spc-Eco and Tamaryn, blending spacious electronic melodies with minimal, looped vocals.  I own a copy of this band's album "Hearts", which I listened to yesterday and have long ago decided it to be a good album.  Check out Violent Sea below.

Dark Princess is a Russian gothic/symphonic metal band from Moscow.  A few weeks ago I stumbled across this band on Amazon, which presented them as very similar to Xandria and Within Temptation.  I listened to samples of a few tracks from the band's latest album "The World I've Lost" and found it to be interesting.  I'm not sure the original description fit the best, and I was hesitant to add this to my list of albums to get, but It was interesting nonetheless.  Listen to Everlasting Pain below.  Enjoy!