Thank you once again for joining us for Review Rundown! Wow, this is our 25th volume. When we came up with this feature about a year ago, I had no idea it would still be continuing to this day. Thank you all for still reading; I hope these reviews have been as fun for you to read as they’ve been to write!
This time, we’ve got lots to talk about, including the new projects from Big K.R.I.T., Cult Leader, Jet Plane, Parazit, He Was Eaten By Owls, and many more!
You can check out our Review Rundown anthology here.
Big K.R.I.T. returns with a very understated, low-key EP more along the lines of the second ‘Justin Scott’ half of his last LP, 4eva is a Mighty Long Time. The Mississippi rapper continues the personal streak from that album here on THRICE X.
This may be a lighter affair for K.R.I.T., but that doesn’t mean the songs don’t slap. “Glorious” is an anthem about fame with a minimal beat. The power is all in the bass and hi-hat, but the dreamy keys in the background give it an airy feel while the bars calls out fair weather friends. “Look What I Got” has a similar vibe to it, beginning with an ethereal synth line before the drums come in with a slow BPM for K.R.I.T. to ride on with the quickness. The first track continues his long-running “King” series. Part 6, subtitled “Higher”, works in autotuned backing vocals that the verse plays off of. Exploring K.R.I.T.’s relationship with God, the sonics are decidedly modern and show him taking similar routes that so many other contemporary rappers take, but it’s done a lot better, and more tastefully, than most can muster.
Bottom line is, if you’re a K.R.I.T. fan, this should satiate between LPs. It lacks the bombastic approach he does so well, but sometimes you have to take things slow to appreciate the rest.
I discovered Shubh Saran a couple weeks ago watching Adam Neely’s YouTube channel. Coincidentally, he had an EP coming out that same week. This is that EP, H.A.D.D., an acronym, but also an emotive, organic jazz adventure with some progressive leanings.
Saran is a guitarist, made complete by a seven-piece band. He writes wonderful works that capitalize on every instrument in the ensemble. Saxophone leads spice up songs, drums skitter along and keep the groove intact, and pianos offer up the expressive heart for tracks. You’ll often hear that Saran is very deliberate about when his guitar appears. He’s not here to drown out the record with licks or solos; he, as a composer, is all about placing instruments and elements into places where they serve the purpose of a song.
Take “Divisible” for example, which has a good harmony between guitar and sax, but is grounded by a piano line, everything climaxing for a strong finish. ”Eudaimonia” is slightly spacey in execution with a delightful melody, while “Sight and Seen” has the meatiest groove. “Falter” shines as being the only track with vocals. Offered up by Hannah Sumner, she gives this song a shiver-inducing gentleness unlike any other on the EP.
Contemporary jazz is a beautiful thing, and it’s EPs like H.A.D.D. that make it easy to show why. Shubh Saran truly breathes life and emotion into his music. Don’t miss this!
There was a time when I was exposed to a lot of slam and brutal deathcore bands. These acts basically exist to be as disgustingly heavy as possible at regular three-to-five minute intervals. I guess if there’s anything remotely similar to that that I’ll ever enjoy (besides straight-up noise music), it’d have to be A Patient Man.
But Cult Leader isn’t here to just turn your ears to slime. They have a lot more dimension to their sound than heavy guitar riffs and screams. I mean, yes, heavy riffs and screams can be heard throughout the album, like on the bloodcurdling single “I Am Healed” and the hellish freak-out that is “Craft of Mourning”. But the songs I really enjoy on A Patient Man are — dare I say it — more patient. The single “To: Achlys” is a great example; the vocalist really shines on these dirges. “A World of Joy” is one such dirge, and easily my favorite Cult Leader slow-burner. I am in love with the chilling guitar arpeggios and deep growls that lead into the aforementioned “Craft of Mourning”.
Yes, the bangers are nasty and gut-wrenching, but the slower passages on the album are steady and endearing. Clearly, A Patient Man comes from a place of passion, and I love it.
It’s wonderful to listen to a debut album that gets you this excited. Súd ad Astral seem to have some other smaller projects on their Bandcamp page, but this must be their debut album – and it’s a great debut.
Oasis only has one major flaw, in my opinion, in that its influences seem to guide the record in a heavy-handed manner. But that’s a benefit too; these influences of blackgaze, deathcore, and progressive metal clash abruptly, but with style. Tracks like “Pennies Down The Infinity Well” (my personal favorite) has guitars that are tuned an octave down but they carry a melody that feels suspended in air.
I’ve always thought of George Clarke of Deafheaven as more of a poet than a rockstar, and that apples to Súd ad Astral as well. In fact, I think they’re more cognizant of their lyrics than many bands that I review:
‘Etched in history
However insignificant these words may be
They’re all I have
My monument to your memory’
If you’re looking for some nice blackgaze to round out your last new albums of the year, but you want something a bit meatier, Oasis is an ideal choice. From start to finish, it’s incredibly satisfying.
As a relative newcomer to post-rock, I’ve found myself quite fond of the ‘less is more’ aspect many of the bands of the genre implement in their music. Jet Plane continue this trend wonderfully in Falls Feather. There is a very quaint sound throughout the record, with nothing too aggressive to shake up the mood, even with songs such as “Wildflowers”. A wave of serenity washes over the tracks with grace.
Following the ‘less is more’ mentality does not mean it is samey though. Songs such as “Morendo” and “Ocean” help break up any monotony that might have been by introducing new sounds to the mix. “Morendo” utilize a quick operatic section at the beginning, bringing with it a somber tone to the track. Quite a long song, the atmosphere that it brings may be disheartening, yet in doing so amplifies the halcyon mood of the album. In complete contrast, “Ocean” is a much more buoyant song that captivates that positive theme the record carries with it. There is encouragement and tranquility throughout, exemplified through the incredible string section near the end.
Jet Plane have been making music for some time, nearing nine years. Time has shown itself to be a blessing for them. All their experience and creativity shines immensely through Falls Feather. I have no doubt that this will become part of my listening rotation.
Confident may not be a powerful enough word to describe 503. Drawing notable inspiration from southern hardcore bands such as He Is Legend and Norma Jean, Sustainer have still managed to make it their own. This album is a brash, fun ride all the way to end.
In their attempt to essentially personify their hometown of Portland, Oregon (Area code 503, hence the album title), Sustainer have held nothing back in their style. The aggressive attitude brought into each track is fun and exciting. While most of the album carries the same sound throughout, there was never really a time during my listening that I felt bored. There is so much energy exuded from these songs. “M.I.A.” and “Back Down for What” give no pause and slam the listener with catchy riffs that keep your head bobbing. “Matriarch of Ash”, probably the song that personifies them the most, shows their demeanor as rough, but not taking things too seriously.
Possibly the greatest thing I have found from this album is the strength that has come from their first full-length release. It has to be one of the most promising debut albums I have listened to in years. Sustainer have created a phenomenal piece of work that may even be able to find a spot on my AOTY list.
Back when I was in grade school, my teachers tried in vain to find ways to make us have fun with math. If only they had the formula this Mexican instrumental power trio had! Parazit had more fun putting together this math-metal-prog workbook than I ever had with my times tables.
Call them ‘Animals as Primus Escape Plan’ for a stylistic label. Bassist Kello Gonzalez plays a leading role here that would make Les Claypool take notice, arguably a stronger one than drummer Christian Gomez. Guitarist Jose Macario proves equally adept at heavy riffs and funky grooves; effortlessly moving between different styles of extreme music and more conventional fare. He’s a regular Adam Jones with his genre-bending. Add in some saxual orientation experimentation on tracks like “Quark Soup” and “Acerbic Wit” for some respectful nods towards jazz.
Parazit put absolutely no dull moments onto Aural Coincidence. Casual listening, it is not. Fun, it definitely is.
Here would be where we must introduce Everything Is Noise readers to the phenomenon known as the ‘prepared piano’: a piano that has objects placed on its strings, between them, or its strings tuned in funny ways so as to alter its tone. No, Kelly Moran did not invent it. Neither did John Cage, from whom Moran took obvious inspiration for Ultraviolet (there’s even a song called “Water Music”, a title Cage used for a wholly dissimilar work). People have been trying this since the 19th century.
Here we would also remind our readers that every single composer in the history of composed music has claimed to have been inspired by nature after taking a walk in the woods while experiencing writer’s block, so going into detail about how Kelly Moran did this on Long Island before writing Ultraviolet would be a mere formality.
The fact is that even with all the clichés, Ultraviolet is a damn fine album. Call it a millennial take on a not-new idea, but it will not detract from the intense beauty in the pieces found here. Kelly Moran takes risks here. Witness the casual attention played to note duration and adherence to time signatures in “Nereid” and “Halogen”; the way the accent skips from measure to measure throughout “In Parallel” and, again, in “Halogen”. Surprisingly, Moran maintains tonality most of the time on Ultraviolet. It might be unorthodox tonality, but tonal it remains.
On the whole, Ultraviolet works as a safe introduction to ‘modern’ (i.e., post 1945) classical music for novice and curious listeners.
He Was Eaten By Owls is probably one of the most ambitious projects you most likely have not heard of. Just to give you an idea, their previous work, Chorus 30 From Blues For The Hitchhiking Dead, was an avant-garde record featuring 16 instruments delivered by a crew of 15 musicians. Their new album, Inchoate With The Light Go I, goes a step further, featuring over 20 musicians, performing in harmony.
Flowing from the simplest acoustic melodies to the high-hitting notes of the pipe organ, Inchoate With The Light Go I sees HWEBO create a lush, dense atmosphere around the listener, embracing them in warmth. The opening two-part “In The Grey Of Ones Matter” sets the stage as the complex harmonic patterns weave a story of their own which leave you mesmerised by the sheer quality on display. The album closer, consisting of the three-part “On The Pulse Of Morning”, oozes of sorrow and grief, with the strings almost pulling at one’s heart.
In its short run time of 28 minutes, Inchoate With The Light Go I connects to the listener in a way words cannot describe. In the behind-the-scene documentary accompanying the album, Kyle Owls (the mastermind behind He Was Eaten By Owls) mentions, ‘How many times have you heard a song that made you feel it was totally about you, and made you realise someone had felt the same pain as you are feeling and you are not alone.’ This album does just that.
How much emotion can one portray using a single instrument? If it’s Jo Quail‘s electric cello, the answer could be potentially endless. Using basic ambient sounds to accompany the sweeping strokes, she manages to create a gravitating atmosphere in Exsolve that completely captivates the listener.
Free from the shackles of genre limitations, the music on display on Exsolve could be described as everything from ambient to post-rock, or even progressive metal at times. The nearly 18-minute long album opener is a good example, starting with Jo‘s lonely cello sounds, it builds up as it gathers pace, before turning into a complex rhythm supported with Dan Capp’s guitar and finally breaking down into the singular soothing sound of the cello alone. The music feeling like a source of warmth in a cold and dark environment.
With just the three tracks on record (having a combined length of approximately 45 minutes), they each maintain their distinct flavors. “Mandrel Cantus” comes off as a heavy ambient/post-rock masterpiece, built around a powerful rhythm between the cello and the ambient electronica. While “Causleen’s Wheel”, a purely solo piece of art, could give shivers to the jolliest of the lot. It warns us of the oncoming doom, but it makes one feel helpless, almost as if the end is inevitable. Rich in emotion, Jo Quail has dug deep on Exsolve and the result is nothing short of breathtaking!
That’s it for now! Thank you all for sticking with us for so long! Here’s to another twenty-five editions of Review Rundown!