Have two weeks gone by already? They have? Well, I guess that means that it’s time for a piping hot batch of fresh reviews from some of the coolest records that you may have missed that are out now! We cover some neo-soul, post-metal, instrumental prog, and more! Without further ado, here’s the twentieth volume of Review Rundown!
We seem to be at a crossroads here. Where Animals as Leaders’ recent efforts have been a lot more flash at the expense of engaging writing, it seems Mestís hasn’t faltered much. This is relevant because, if you didn’t know, Mestís is the solo project of Javier Reyes, who is part of AAL with Tosin Abasi as well as other instrumental prog beasts like TRAM.
Regardless of what anyone else was doing, Reyes’ work under this band’s moniker has always been comparatively understated, but it’s now with Eikasia that I personally see the genius in it. This is neat, bow-wrapped progressive rock that has heart. “Sedosa” makes me feel at peace, like I’m on a hill surrounded by the brightest green grass, light wind at my back. “Media Noche” (‘midnight’ en Español) is appropriately titled, as it has a quiet, moon-kissed dazzle to the guitars. The slower pace lets you soak it all in with one listen, but, believe me, you’ll likely want more. Technicality still occasionally shows itself, but it’s well-earned and easy to follow. No gaudy guitar wank here.
For those disappointed by AAL and other prog instrumental bands lately, check Mestís out. If you counted them out before, check again. This is where all the fun is.
Mmmm, lemon pepper chicken wings. You know what else is yummy? This album. Crispin Wah (a pun on Chris Benoit) are an Atlanta band specializing in Shredgaze™. Aside from being the band’s independent label name, it seems to be a combination of jazz, experimental prog rock, and electronic.
It’s a real chilled out affair. Synth arpeggios, clean and wispy guitars, ambiance, and jazz rhythms all add up to a kaleidoscopic experience. It’s an overused – and often misused – descriptor, but there are definitely some psychedelic factors at play here. Very lush soundscapes abound in songs like “Malabar” and “Rain, Wait for Me”. They’re carried a bit more by atmosphere with keys and synths. This is a nice contrast to tracks like “Scream of the Hooch” or “AggroCragg”, which are more funk and rhythm-oriented with their snappy drums and bass-heavy jazz arrangements.
No matter what your flavor preference is, you’ll find Lemon Pepper to be quite palatable. It’s easy-going joy, tempered down for a relaxing time without sacrificing any of the punch that permeates top-notch instrumental artists nowadays. It’s an experience best captured first-hand, so what are you waiting for?
This would be the first new music in 20 years by renowned Japanese percussionist Midori Takada, a collaboration with Egyptian-Iranian-French-American composer Lafawndah (real name Yasmin Dubois – and her background history is exactly as cosmopolitan and complicated as you think it is). By ‘percussion’ here, we mean struck instruments that have tones, like chimes and marimbas. Add in some healthy influence from classical Persian music (something everybody needs to hear at least once in their lifetimes) and the music of the classical Japanese Gagaku (‘elegant music’), as well as the French Caribbean, and we have something really beautiful.
We are in the territory of extreme high art here. For those not in the know, ‘modern’ classical music rarely implies elaborate works for orchestras, string ensembles, solo pianos, and the like, as if centuries of jazz, electronic music, and world influences never existed! Instead, in works like Le Renard Bleu, we find academic rigor applied to sounds and traditions gleaned from many sources. Midori Takada and Lafawandah made magic on this one.
Le Renard Bleu is broadly organized into three parts: a haunting intro; a middle movement that swells into something somewhat less than a crescendo; and an extended ending that gradually ends as the piece began. The middle part generates the most interest. It stays in one key before making an abrupt, dissonant shift while the percussion combines the aforementioned toned elements with more familiar drum-like strikes in a growing rhythmic frenzy.
Do not miss this one.
For those conditioned to think of post-metal as sludgy riffs played by ex-hardcore musicians, this album is going to be a bit of a shock. To their credit, Netherlands refer to their style as ‘rock, fuck’ and that makes things a bit more clear. Obviously, with a name like Netherlands, it most logically follows that they are from Brooklyn.
Black Gaia begins with the kind of bombast that has the same subtlety as a garlicaholic breaking wind in a yoga studio. It maintains that level for its entire 43 minute run time. The album has a rather lo-fi (and low frequency, but thankfully low compression level) production aesthetic, but that suits things just fine. Netherlands wrapped this around some Sabbath riffs and a delightful respect for the 60s and a math rock love of randomness. The vocals range from nursery rhyme precision to full-on 70s ‘cock rock’ bluster. Sometimes they get buried in the mix, but at other times they are right up front.
Really, there is something for everybody on Black Gaia: noise, grooves, headbanging moments, hardcore screech, and sludge galore. And when all of it is played in such a raw and real way, it can be hard not to feel good while listening to it. If our Emotional Overtones feature ever gets to ‘pure fun’, this would get my vote.
Bosse-de-Nage are a blackgaze/screamo band from San Francisco, California. You as a listener might have already assigned a certain set of musical and non-musical values to these three pieces of information, connected to your personal experiences. What I want you to do right now is to relegate those things to the back of your mind while listening to Further Still, as it presents an alternate take on the genres and the blending thereof.
Unpolished, raw emotionality is the name of the game here. Bosse-de-Nage wield similar influences to those of other blackgaze bands, but instead of delivering the same glossy, mellifluous product as some of their contemporaries , they weave their ascendancies into a dark, cavernous expedition into the twisted psyche of modern man. Songs like “The Trench”, “My Shroud”, or the unexpected and haunting piece of murky chamber music that is “Dolorous Interlude” are perfect examples of this.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that a band who took their name from a book called Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, Pataphysician by French symbolist author Alfred Jarry would make their own lyricism a priority within the context of their creation. Seriously, go make yourself a nice cup of tea and sit down with the writings of vocalist Bryan Manning. His absurd, unsettling prose is one of the band’s main draws, as it adds a whole new perspective to their sound.
I am smitten with this record, and you too will feel its pull in due time.
Now to preface this short review for Über die Freiheit der praktischen Unvernunft by Cologne-based band Monophonist, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of you who are going to read this are not going to understand a lot of its lyrical content thanks to the language barrier. German can be a tough nut to crack even for native speakers, so there’s absolutely no shame in that. Trust me, though, when I say that this album is worth a listen without even a fleeting grasp of the band’s language.
This is mostly down to the baffling genre-bending that takes place within the instrumentals of its 15 songs. Fellow Germans The Hirsch Effekt might act as a reference point, although their penchant for chamber music isn’t mirrored in Monophonist’s sound. Instead, they take a similar base of mathcore/post-hardcore and add a hearty dose of jazz to it – they don’t call themselves ‘heavy swing’ for nothing! “Geronticus Eremita” is a prime example of this, as it carries the genre’s distinct swing feel not only in its saxophone lines but in the whole rhythm and interplay of the instruments as well.
To give you a comprehensive critique of this record within the boundaries of this feature is a physical impossibility. I’d advise you to just give it a chance; you’ll be rewarded with a worthwhile, if perhaps slightly confusing musical experience.
Hills Over Mountains ist the second LP by shamanic post-rock outfit Your Grace from Spain. Their blend of post-rock, psychedelic rock, and ritualistic-sounding compositions makes them stand out from most bands. What comes off as positive straight away when listening to them is the well-made production. The bass and drums are focused on heavily, delivering the hypnotic rhythm and deep hum that clings to every second of every song. Melody isn’t as important to the band, as they focus way more on building atmosphere and rhythm.
A perceptive listener will notice how the band uses droning sounds. While the band cycles through multiple stylistic turns, one instrument will always build an ostinato. This is either delivered by the bass or guitar, or, more rarely, the drums. Lastly, we have the vocals, which come off as strong and calm. You can hear the experience and the richness of the vocals, although they are used sparsely throughout the record. Their perfect for advancing the soundscape in the foreground as the guitar is mostly brittle-sounding, taking on the higher frequencies. I think Your Grace have carved themselves a very interesting niche I can’t wait for them to expand on.
This band also plays a blend of post-rock and psychedelic music, just like Your Grace, but the focus lies elsewhere. For Bat House, it seems important what texture and sound they create. Everything is very melodic, and the instrumentation seems complex, like a maze. Often the guitar plays around free from rhythm, only ever so often grazing the drum beat like a bee sitting on a delicate flower. Here, the vocals seem like they are recorded in a trance, as if the singer was sleepwalking into the studio and someone pressed record.
I don’t mean to imply that the record is without aim, of course. Every track seems to possess a certain urgency that mostly resolves towards the end of it. It feels like the instruments know they have to be at a certain place when the song’s done and the way is a weird, randomly intertwined journey. I enjoyed Stop Dying for its unique character and the adventurous melodies you could almost call pleasant noises.
One of the most rewarding parts of joining this bi-weekly feature is that we get to peruse records that don’t get the spotlight that the larger releases tend to attract. April + Vista is one such act that I probably wouldn’t have come across without the provocation of picking a record to review for this edition of Review Rundown. Made up of vocalist and writer April George, and producer mattVISTA, they spin of web R&B, neo-soul, and electronic music on You Are Here that is sharply executed. Across all eight tracks, there are varied beats, vocal approaches, and some of the smoothest compositions that I have heard all year.
“FOMO” is one of the early tracks that gets things going, and feels a lot like Submotion Orchestra meets Arms And Sleepers. The production is spot on, with each element of the song shining just as they need to and at the right moments. “Hot Coffee Freestyle” shows stronger funk and electronic influences, while the closer “Until” strips most everything back for a strong, intimate closer. From start to finish this is an incredibly rich, expertly produced album that genuinely shouldn’t be missed by fans of any genre that this album touches.
Aside from the incredibly cool band name and album title, this record is so chock-full of good moments that I’d be hard-pressed to get to them all in this mini-review. First things first: Psychonaut hail from Belgium, and create a cool blend of post-metal and sludge where the melody never falls too far below the density of the atmosphere. Unfold The God Man is nine tracks long sitting at over an hour of runtime, and showcases some damn fine instrumentals and song structures. From the opening “All I Saw As A Huge Monkey” to the final moments of the sprawling “Nothing Is Consciousless”, this album shouldn’t be missed by fans of Mastodon or Baroness.
Listening through Unfold The God Man from start to finish is quite a sonic adventure. Interspersed in the tracklist are some really interesting diversions. There are some full-bore attacks that showcase incredible intensity, and then out of nowhere along comes “Sanada”, which is spacious and uplifting with incredible soaring clean vocals. Psychonaut have done a fabulous job of setting themselves on a course for greatness with this record. While there are a few little production quibbles along the way, this is an album that deserves a listen. You’ll be a fan, I know you will.
That’s it, you’ve reached the end! Thanks for checking out this feature, we’ll be back in two weeks!