Saturday, February 12, 2011
Off the back of two releases (All Delighted People EP and Age of Adz) last year, Sufjan Stevens playing at the historic Wellington Opera House was sure to be a must see live show. Bringing with him an 11 piece band and his having two completely different sounding albums released you could only imagine what was to come, surprisingly with all that punch in terms of musicianship it was the visual aspect of the show that hit me the most.
Kicking off the set was the song Seven Swans from the album of the same name, that what got me most about this first track was the visual explosion that was before us. Not only did they use one screen behind the band throwing incredible visual effects at us, but also a screen was in front of the band at certain points during the show, putting forth an equally impressive laser show. It was a nice way to start the set, the song was unexpected for me but was a nice surprise.
After this it was into his new material, starting with the track Too Much and the first chance to find out how his electronic driven experimental songs come through in a live setting. To be short its a hit, the whole performance is tight and down to even the back up singers choreographed dance moves being perfect. You can see already that Sufjan has put in a lot of effort into the live show, wanting to make it a special night.
At the end of the track he starts to explain things about the songs and album Age of Adz to the audience, this goes on throughout the set and while this could've been boring, he has this sort of dry humour that he incorporates into it which gives everyone a good laugh at the time. The first example was a broken string during Too Much, after explaining it was the first time he's done this, he tells the crowd "I'm just going to get this string fixed, go get a drink or something".
To breakup all the electronic/experimental aspects he seperates them with tracks from the All Delighted People, a much more Sufjan-like album, much more acoustic and folk driven which settles things down in the set and shows his softer side to the audience. He has the audience in the palm of his hand by this point and completely changes everything up with the track Age of Adz. This track is a lot fuller in sound to the earlier songs and it fuses beautifully with the visuals creating a small epic.
The set continues to produce more visual effects mixing in with those aurally, but as explained by Sufjan, Age of Adz is music about different body movements and this is where he takes dance moves to a weird but cool change. He makes you cringe and laugh while he rocks his moves throughout the Age of Adz tracks, what gets you is that while this might seem ridiculous to you, this idea has spawned not only some great tracks but as a whole a great album.
The tracks Heirloom and Owl & the Tanager are the only other All Delighted EP songs that appear in the set which are surrounded by I Walked, All for Myself, Vesuvius, Get real Get Right, Futile Devices. Now while all these tracks were amazing, they were all in a losing battle if put against the 25 minute Impossible Soul, it had everything and more. The Visual aspect was ramped up even higher to incorporate even more things to look at, Sufjan wearing a Priscilla Queen of the Desert like head wear, while the rest of his band were wearing even more flamboyant outfits than the black with highlighter strips covering.
Now for the performance of the song, it was very much to script early on, nothing out of the ordinary until the tempo lifted and this got not only the band but the crowd in a frenzy, confetti falling on the band, balloons falling onto the crowd, Sufjan jumping crazily around the stage with his backup singers, everyone in the crowd finally out of their seat. You could say that while this song was already incredible, in a live setting its lifts to another level, one you wouldn't expect from it. With it being so long you might think it'll never end and you kind of wish it didn't, but by the end you know the band has put everything into the performance.
Now the cliché encore starts, this time Sufjan comes out alone to play piano and as the first note of Concerning the Ufo Sighting Near Highland, Illinois from my personal favourite Sufjan album "Illinois" the crowd were right back into it, some for the first time in the show singing along. Once this was over Sufjan was joined by the rest of his band and he played another from Illinois, this time it was another of the better tracks Cashmir Pulaski Day. It again was a hit with the crowd and the continuation of the slower, warm down like ending after such a burst that Impossible Soul produced. Finally thanking the crowd and informing us that he had only one song to play, the feeling of the end was near, but what was produced was nothing less than the highlight for me. Playing arguably the best track in his discography Sufjan with his backing band played Chicago. Again the crowd were out of their seats singing and dancing till the end. Such a spectacular song and a fine finish to not only an aurally pleasing
performance but visually the most amazing show I've been to.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Let me paint a picture for you. An old man with a receding gray hairline frantically paces a dimly lit room. There's a look of intent in his eyes. Like he's onto something. "But we have to go beyond that, otherwise we can't crack what the particle is," he says, as he brings his right hand up and curls it into a fist, grasping for the point he's trying to make. He continues, "The particle is about acceleration so it has to be worked out mathematically. Here's how I see it...you guys will have to translate it..."
The particle in question is the Higgs Boson particle (sometimes called "the God Particle"), a hypothetical particle which, if it exists, would help resolve many of the major inconsistencies in Physics. The man in question is Raja Ram, a flute playing, DMT smoking, 50 something year old electronic musician. The above dialogue was taken from a clip of Raja Ram in the studio working with Shpongle member Simon Posford and producer Benji Vaughan from Prometheus. Raja Ram was speaking about Shpongle's latest project, the 16 minute EP "The God Particle", which is inspired by the work of scientists in Switzerland working with the groundbreaking Hadron Collider, a device which was built to help uncover this so called "God Particle". From Raja Ram's enthusiastic description of this new project, it's clear that the Hadron collider really gives him a Hardon. I think it's pretty cool too, but I'll spare you physics of it...because quite honestly it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
I can speak about the final product though, which kicks off with a 6 minute track entitled "Before the Big Bang". The first thing you hear is a zipping sound, like a particle zipping through space maybe. (Actually, I think Shpongle achieved the sound by spinning a coin on a tambourine and then speeding it up...to some "mathematically" important speed, I'm sure. It's pretty cool though). The atmosphere starts to intensify until a thumping bass comes in, driving the track forward. Then the drums kick in, relieving the built up tension, and settle into a nice, half-time groove. From there we're off and cruising in Shpongleland.
If you wanted to listen to this track and draw parallels to the Big Bang and the Higgs Boson particle, I'm sure you could, as this was likely Shpongle's intent. That is, for the track to be some sort of time-warped experimental journey through space (or space-time, or whatever the fuck it is). We even get a brief interlude where a sample explains the Hadron Collider to the listener. I'm sure Raja Ram had some grand ambitions at this point with all his mathematically mapped out notes and what not. However, even with all this, I don't feel like "The God Particle" ever transcends into anything more than solid sounding, well-produced pystrance. Yes, the production is stellar, the bass is deep, the blips are blippy, and the overall sound is pleasing. But it's nothing near the religious experience that I hear other Shpongle heads go on about. For me, this is the kind of shit I like to listen to when I play Tetris Arena online, as its accelerating baseline pushes me to drop tetrimos faster and faster and faster! (I play tetris and you like men, call it even). But I don't feel like I've "unlocked" any "secrets hidden within me", as one person put it. In fact, I find Raja Ram's childlike enthusiasm for the EP a little silly, though it's great that he's passionate about his music. And I find some of the Shponglhead's responses ever sillier. Of course you're going to have a transcendental experience listening to Shpongle if you smoked DMT before hand, but that doesn't mean there's anything "embedded" within the music.
Bottom line: this is "cool stuff" but gtfo with your transcendental bullshit and go back to posting on ATS about contacting ancient aliens via the use of exotic amazonian shaman brews...or something...and excuse me while I work on my Triple T-spin combo...
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Metalcore fans around the world rejoiced when it was announced that Times of Grace, a project reuniting Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz with original Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach, were finally releasing their debut album after three long years of being a band. Dutkiewicz announced that the album would be "an epic mix of Metal/Rock/Pop/Shoe gaze & Punk." He also promised to push boundaries. Now, musicians often have a tendency of saying that their new material is able to push boundaries and the results being more of the same. This is the case for The Hymn of a Broken Man.
This isn't some kind of epic mix of styles, it is just standard melodic metalcore. It could serve as a lost album from the early days of Killswitch Engage. The difference is that when Killswitch Engage first came out they were new and fresh. They were the first big band to depart from the original style of metalcore by adding more melody and a sound more akin to the gothenburg style than extreme hardcore punk. Age has not done this style well, and Times of Grace are just a dime a dozen band. Even Jesse Leach, once considered one of melodic metalcore's best vocalist is rendered faceless. Furthermore, Leach doesn't do enough what he does best, which is scream. When he turns to clean vocals to add emotional contrast it comes off as insincere and Leach sounds like a poor man's Dustin Kensrue.
Adding insult to injury, they can't write a song to save their lives. While Dutkiewicz's guitar riffs are well executed, the songs sound thrown together and sloppy. For example, opener "Strength in Numbers" starts out with a strong riff, and then it begins to build up...and build up...and build up...and end. It doesn't serve the purpose of an opening song or even an intro. Its just poor songwriting, plain and simple.
"Willing" has an acoustic interlude that does absolutely nothing but sit there. "Willing" actually serves a purpose to describe the rest of the album, as Times of Grace often have softer interludes in the middle of songs that sound tacked on. Its like they went into pro-tools and cut up old Killswitch Engage b-sides and spliced songs by Thrice and 10 Years to serve as chorus's and bridges.
The beginning of "Live in Love" takes the most standard sounding -core riff in existence and is the worst performance by the band. Leach's yells are screechy and awful, and when Dutkiewicz throws in some triplet tapping its so off melody, especially with the blast beats that back it. It sounds like youtubing two different metalcore songs and playing them at the same time. The second half of the song does a complete 180, with a cool guitar break by Dutkiewicz and serves as a reminder of how good Leach is when he nails it. This is literally the only glimmer of good songwriting on the whole album. The songs are all indistinguishable from each other, save "The Forgotten One", a bluesy acoustic track that despite breaking the mold sounds entirely out of place, even if its not completely terrible.
Fans of old Killswitch Engage will find this disappointing. Fanboys will probably eat it up. Everybody else will find it terrible. Its ironic that two veterans of a scene they helped create sound like total amateurs here. The melodies are lost in poor choices of placement for the instruments, and the vocals (I'll give Leach a little credit, he at least sounds like he's trying) just spout off a poorly written attempt at positive lyricism. The Hymn of a Broken Man was supposed to be a triumphant return, but it just serves the purpose of proving that melodic metalcore, as a whole, has run out of ideas.
Posted by Joe at 6:29 AM
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
You ever think about how comfortable it is to remove your belt before taking off your pants? Yeah, neither. I was just thinking of a way to ease myself into writing a review 'cause really, how the fuck does anybody review a grindcore album? If you've listened to a grindcore album and need someone to describe the aesthetics for you, you have to be a little bit dense or uninterested. Either way, I'll probably still have to explain what went on, such is the nature of reviewing.
Shit, it was actually really retarded how I managed to find out about this band. I had no prior knowledge of them other than a day ago, and there was a Facebook ad which randomly advertised them. The ad promised a band that was for fans of Nasum and a few other grind acts. Needless to say, I had to check these fellas out. I mean, fuck, I really enjoyed what I had heard from Nasum, and one of the dudes in the band died in a tsunami. That's a pretty grindcore death. Anyway, I decided to listen to Subvert the Dominant Paradigm. I mean, for starters, I enjoy me some grind if it's done right, and so far this blog is reviewing recently released shit, so finding this album and listening to it worked out greatly.
There have been people that have compared the sound of this release to Discordance Axis, which is a pretty apt comparison. In typical grindcore fashion, the longest tracks on the album are less than 2 minutes (except for one track, but that's not even a song, just retarded filler), and there is nothing but unpretentious aggression that rips through your speakers. If you don't like blast beats, then you've come across the wrong album - in fact, what the fuck would you be doing even bothering with grindcore, you sack of cunt? Much of the riffing is unrelenting, shredded and has some moments that chug like fuck, usually when the guitars slow down. Shit's brutal as fuck. It does exactly what you would like a grindcore album to do but, like a lot of grindcore albums, there is always one small problem - FILLER.
Well, the filler on this album isn't that much of a problem because you can just end the album as soon as it gets to track 30. The track is basically a pointless barrage of noise that lasts for 20 minutes. Perhaps this is a homage to Merzbow or some faggot shit that's about as musical as shitting your pants. If you're a hipster, at least you can listen to the track and say "Dude, the new Noisear LP is so deck. Nobody except for me can handle the artistic greatness of the final track, which is as beautiful as it is horrific, maaaaaan."
Though, if you were the type of person that had an opinion like that, I'd really hope that the Al Qaeda murder you and send your scarves and vinyl collection to Allah.
Allah is great!
Monday, February 7, 2011
Seefeel have officially come back after nearly 15 years of absence from the scene. After Faults was released back in September, their names were scattered all over blogs as if the band never left at all. From a band that was so innovative for their time, what would they make of their newest full length outing?
Where the band had previously utilized shoegazy atmospherics to their brand of ambient techno to combine current music trends with fresh musical waters, Seefeel feels comparatively less inspired and musically complex. As "Dead Guitars"' slowly creeping melody winds down into nothing, only to resurface nearly identically in "Step Up", it feels as if they've wasted not only your time, but theirs also. Already settling on this as their 'come back' would normally have me questioning how much longer I'd stick around for this album to play out. Luckily, the band literally bounces back with the romp of the previously released "Faults", which manages to stand out amongst the mediocrity so far. "Gzaug" takes the ambient dub efforts of the past and refurbishes them with new electronics. "Rip-Run" is seven minutes of noisy feedback-laden swelling and echoing that is, while completely aimless, a dark and brooding track worthy of a come back.
Much of the album seems to follow in the footsteps of "Rip-Run", like the ensuing track, "Making", which glides along effortlessly, not attempting to take you anywhere except where it feels like flowing. "Airless" introduces a vocal sample that, while chopped and disfigured amongst the distorted backdrop of the song, is emotive and genuinely pleasant. In many ways, that goes for what Seefeel have accomplished with their full length return. Sure, it's pleasant. Even enjoyable in parts, mainly the ones where they ride a rhythmic groove into the unknown sonic universe. It's where they attempt to paint a spectral landscape that the music becomes wildly uninteresting.
As "Sway" enforces the album's strengths one final time, doing exactly what its title would imply, the album fades to nothing. And just like that, Seefeel's long awaited return disappears into the ocean of music that gets released every year.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Dam Mantle is the project of Tom Marshallsay, who was an up and coming musician in the post-rock and experimental folk scenes when he decided to make electronic music that incorporates elements of his musical past into a chilled out sound that falls in between dubstep and hip hop. Think of the popular remixing trend of slowing down popular songs by x800, and then think that Marshallsay decided to do that to instrumental Passion Pit songs, and you have an idea of what he sounds like. He's already close to the top of the charts on We Are Hunted and for good reason. As all emerging artists that end up making it, he takes the recent indietronica sound and adds a new flare to it. He drops his first full length on March 8th.
Dam Mantle - Movement
Posted by Joe at 6:52 PM