Hello all, welcome to another volume of Review Rundown! Today we’ve got ten albums, reviewed for your pleasure in bite-size portions. Easy to digest, with a vast array of sounds and genres on offer! Our five writers have analysed Falseta, Mdou Moctar, Joep Berving, Justin Wright, Zvi, We’ve Got Muscles, The Far Meadow, Exuviated, Olam, and the crushing Bather.
Take a look at previous editions here, and let us know if there are any artists we should feature going forwards!
With beautiful integration of beach rock and progressive metal, Radiance is laced with djenty riffs and groovy vocals akin to the likes of Thank You Scientist and Good Tiger. Hailing from Hialeah, Florida, it is clear that Falseta was greatly influenced by their close proximity to Miami Beach, Florida in the overall vibe for Radiance.
The album kicks off with the title track which evokes a strong mood of the slightly chaotic serenity one might feel amongst a crowded, yet relaxed day by the ocean. We are given auditory glimpses of calm days at sea with the closing track “The Grey Lamont”. Emotionally, Radiance upholds the upbeat, vivacious tone throughout, even when the lyrics sometimes speak of less happy-go-lucky topics. And though Radiance’s tone is quite jaunty, there is also something whimsically aggressive about the amalgamation of polyrhythms presented within later tracks, which oddly makes it all the more interesting.
It’s very refreshing to me when an album displays both great technical production and a vastly enjoyable sound. The dichotomy of vigor and tranquility present in Radiance paints the picture of what it is like to be human, that left me basking in the sun at the rays of self-reflection brought on by this album.
At the gripping hands of my Westernized, American upbringing, I have missed out on so many incredible artists. However, the fascinating world of social technology has made it much easier for these fantastic creators to gain more traction and representation in Western media. One artist that deserves the utmost recognition is Mdou Moctar, and his latest release entitled Ilana (The Creator).
Mdou Moctar is a Tuareg singer-songwriter based in Niger. Ilana (The Creator), is his first studio album that features a full band. The album exemplifies the unconventional ways in which Mdou Moctar interprets traditional Tuareg guitar, and beautifully incorporates both his own culture and that of popular Western electro-rock music. I would compare this album’s sound to that of some notable artists in the spotlight right now, but this collection is all too unique in its own right and deserves to be categorized in a league of its own. Tracks like “Inizgam” and “Anna” display the exquisite integration of sensational Tuareg sound with smooth, groovy hard rock themes, while “Tarhatazed” drags the listener into a full-on jam session through sultry, gritted guitar riffs and solos.
It is an all-around thoroughly lovely album that deserves its praise. I would encourage listeners to branch out with Mdou Moctar’s other works, and those of any music group not as well provided for in Western media. Ilana (The Creator) is a magnificent encapsulation of what the rest of the world has to offer, and left me ready for more.
The opening “Unus mundus” comes with the promise of a soft, stripped-down piano sound with an underlying urgency shining through careful dynamic nuances. An unusually present sound complete with the noise of the action mechanism, as if Beving were sitting at arm’s length, and spatial synth pads form a delicate dialogue of electronic keyboards with the very acoustic (though possibly also virtual) piano over a number of short-scale tracks. More focused pieces follow, with a rather interesting crumbling nocturne melting into a cinematic string sequence begging for development in “Shepherd”. The Chopin–esque flavor doesn’t last for long, however, and neither do the string surfaces producing dynamic – but not musical – climaxes. More synths and choirs are to come, culminating in the penultimate “Nebula”, yet both the total length of an hour and 41 minutes and this reviewer declares a serious need to trim down and condense.
Henosis means ‘unity’ – and if the final installment of his trilogy spanning four years should mark the pensive reconciliation, as in the final stage of a Hegelian triad, focus would be the missing component. Joep Beving belongs into the vaguely defined family of ‘neo-classical’ music, which at times means little more than an attempt at cinematic ambient or minimalism played on classical instruments. While sufficient enough for those seeking gentle sounds of distinguished instruments, still it tends to be less than satisfying for those well-versed in the world of classical music.
Much of the above can be said about Music for Staying Warm as well, given it conforms to the neo-classical genre label, too. But in the end, this album works very differently. Justin Wright doesn’t rely too much on an abstract kind of atmosphere (or, in other words, tons of reverb) to ‘make’ his music, neither does he force upon the listener that wistful intimacy, seemingly necessary for this kind of music. He does try to avoid watering the music down and though rather sparse in melodic and rhythmic variation, Wright’s charming soundscapes (e.g. “In Sunlight”) can engage at times.
Honest compositional work thus makes for a pleasant experience with no excess demands on the listener’s part. On the contrary, Music for Staying Warm is a true ambient piece in the best sense of the word – actively setting the mood as well as establishing a particular space wherever it is played. Motifs and melodies are stretched out for a truly tranquilizing, even reminiscent experience. Each of the nine tracks features a particular method or technique: “Modular Winter” lets the string quartet’s layers stacked on each other shift and blend, “Flutes” manage to faithfully recreate the breathing timbre of an actual flute, while “Drone II: Flutter” maintains an inner tension by its unpredictably fluctuating vibrato. So, does this music warm one up? Not necessarily, but it certainly cozies up the place.
Drone is a genre that gets a lot of worried looks. ‘Isn’t that just listening to the same note over and over again for hours?‘, I can already hear someone say. Well, gladly I have the perfect artist right here to give you a taste of what very good drone can be. Zvi with his new album Deer Pink guides us into a strange world juxtaposed between colorful tape music sounds and bleak drone.
The first track “Kettle Dreams” opens with a dreamy, lush guitar, letting notes shimmer and ring through a haze of tape-style modulation before an abrupt, pummeling power chord on a second, distorted guitar rips us out of this dreamy scenery. As if nothing happened, the first guitar just plays on, slowly melting with the droning of the second guitar, fusing into one huge monolith of a surreal soundscape. The note choices of the leading guitar are very emotive and express a multitude of emotions from nervous to calm. As the vocals come in the track also introduces two synths, one arpeggiating and the other playing an ambient loop. Additionally, the song has an almost operatic feel to it now, slightly reminding me of Pink Floyd’s accompanying movie to their record The Wall. This is music at its most creative.
I love the 90s metalcore scene. Their abrasive, chaotic style that would later be known as mathcore, always impressed me with its authenticity and emotional range. Now a few bands seem to bring back those days of glory, among which are OLAMwho put a modern spin on this sound with their post-rock influence. Their new album I Will Guide Thy Hand is one of the strongest modern core records I’ve heard in a long time.
My favorite track of theirs is “Beth, The Birds, The Grip”. It starts off with a thick, sludgy power chord barrage reminding me of Coalesce’s Ox record. This turns into a mathy single note run extremely fast, bringing a sense of disorganization and anarchy into the track. The occasional melodies which are hidden under strong dissonance shine much brighter through the shrieking nature of the song. The end of the song is marked by a monologue under which the band continues to play, before ending the song in a final contorted climax.
I Will Guide My Hand is a wonderful example of diverse metalcore/mathcore that is both stoic and emotional, not shying away from being itself and standing up for it.
This is the kind of post-rock that I can get behind. Having fun and energy be in the forefront of your music is a gem that outshines many of your peers. We’ve Got Muscles take this and run with it with their newest release Phonotron.
While staying true to the standard tropes of the post-rock genre, We’ve Got Muscles are still able to make their own identity within those confines. They can make weird and outlandish songs that are not out of touch with the average listener, but can have some deep and weighty work. Even with these diverse musical styles all within Phonotron, it all comes together so well for the sake of fun. The ups-and-downs of “Electrolytic Capacitor” makes for a journey through the song. “Cok Guezel” shows the more eccentric side of the group, but once again it comes together at the end to create an experience that is unforgettable. It makes further listening sessions all the more enjoyable. The hints of electronic additions help add a layer of depth to the songs that really made me love them even more.
The sheer magnitude of such a short record shows the talent within We’ve Got Muscles. The subtleties and accents strewn throughout bring a depth to this album that will be hard to beat.
I feel like the best way to describe The Far Meadow is this: it feels like a 70s/80s band married the love of their life, progressive music, and had a child they lovingly named The Far Meadow. The outright brilliance in Foreign Land is remarkable and should be an inspiration for any progressive band to look up to.
What makes Foreign Land as wonderful as it is can be found in its variety. How they arrange their instrumentals and melodies feels natural and the flow is superb. Frontwoman Marguerita Alexandrou is the perfect mesh with the music, and her soaring vocals are a sight to behold – or rather, hear. The keyboards are an absolute highlight to this entire record and provide another layer to this incredibly thick work of art. The guitar solos and leads are impressive, and with just the right amount of flair to keep them interesting without showing off. This entire album just feels right and shows just how much The Far Meadow has come in their time together.
It takes a lot to make an album that is five songs and nearly an hour long interesting throughout. Keeping the listener focused and engaged with the music is a feat that is hard to accomplish anymore. There are a few exceptions to the rule, and The Far Meadow is here to demolish that rule.
So you know all those heavy-as-hell moments that you hear from post-metal giants like The Ocean that are couched in the bed of massive compositions? Have you ever dreamed of a band that would distill this down and just throw you into the deep end? Well, imagine no longer. Bather are here to subvert the expectation that you need a 12-minute song to drop you into expansive, dense death metal. This is an approach that will sit well with fans of down-tempo death metal that doesn’t wander into doom territory. Take the opening track, “Drown The Sun” as an example. The slow lumbering riffs just lurch along until the vocals enter, but there’s an immediacy to the structure that is extremely appealing.
There’s is a lot to love from Bather. The pacing is consistent from the first to the sixth, final track. The guitars are massive, the vocals are punchy and operate from a death metal base, but with phrasing and timbre that strays into the more brutal side of things on tracks like the ending of “The Path”. “Leaves Like Bones” closes things out with more atmosphere, a touch more groove, and clocks in at just under six minutes. This is a fantastic debut that is sadly getting overlooked, but trust me, it’s worth your time.
Death metal is having one hell of year, and one of the key contributors is Exuviated. Hailing from Belgium, this band just dropped their second EP, and fourth overall release with the immensely articulate Déliquescence. My first impression of this record, and this band as a whole is how grounded the sound is. While flash and excess can be enjoyable at times, Exuviated stand on a solid foundation of great riffs, expansive atmosphere, and incredible vocals. The opening track, “Rupture” is just over seven minutes and every aspect supports the composition as a whole and doesn’t fall into the trap of excess for its own sake.
“Errance” showcases some sinister vocal diversity and dabbles with groove as well, making it a refreshing listen, but still doesn’t stray away from the occasional pig squeal and double bass. While having just a handful of songs, the pace from start to finish is great with two smaller atmosphere-enhancing tracks sprinkled into the tracklist. “Abime” is a fine closer with even more toe-tapping, head-banging groove and vocal hooks that border on melodic. This is one of the finest metal EPs of the year, so don’t hesitate to check it out!