In a dimly lit speakeasy, tucked away,
Lived Inter Claus, a grump who’d sway.
His fedora tilted, his scowl a bluesy note,
A bebop maestro, in a frosty coat.
Inter scoffed at sleigh bells, the usual fare,
His ears craved improvisation, a wild affair.
‘Jingle Bells?’ he’d snap, tapping his shoe,
‘Give me Coltrane, Miles, or a midnight brew.’
His workshop hummed with brass and sass,
As he tuned his sax, a secret jazz class.
He’d sip bourbon, swirl it with disdain,
While composing riffs in a minor strain.
‘Deck the halls?’ he’d growl, ‘Too vanilla, man!
Give me Ellington, where the notes expand.’
His shades gleamed, his trumpet poised,
As he judged carolers, their chords annoyed.
On moonlit nights, he’d wail on his horn,
His piano weeping, its keys well-worn.
‘Silent Night?’ he’d muse, smoke rings aloft,
‘Forget the charts—let’s riff, trade fours, take off!’
But oh, dear reader, here’s the twist—
Inter’s heartstrings began to insist.
He hummed Mingus while stringing lights,
And danced a samba to Jobim’s delights.
His scowl softened, his beret askew,
As he joined the jam, a reluctant debut.
‘Joy to the World,’ he whispered, eyes aglow,
‘Perhaps syncopation has its own glow.’
And that’s how Inter Claus, once so uptight,
Became the legend of the Yule’s late-night.
He’d still critique carols, but with a swing,
A jazzy curmudgeon, in the groove of things.
*Note: Inter Claus may still grumble about fruitcake, but now he scats a festive melody. The gifts he gave away generously have returned in the form of sweet little words.*
When I was very young, my godmother, who is a wonderful cook, kindly surprised me with a chocolate cake. Being the birthday boy, I of course, got the first slice, a kingly portion of this handcrafted treat. And I handed it back disgustedly. I can’t stand chocolate cake, a take which is, I know, pineapple-on-pizza levels of lukewarm, but I promise there’s a point to this story. I, being eight at the time, was ungrateful and hurt someone’s feelings, so almost twenty years later, with this memory still strong as ever, have I learned my lesson? Nope.
Inter Claus has gifted me a beautiful chocolate cake in this album. It’s adroitly crafted, using a vast array of instrumental textures and dynamics. It masterfully employs tempo and key changes in mood defining and seamless moments. The cinematic flair for the dramatic is unique and addictive. But? The vocals unfortunately, are the tar black icing on this triple mud black forest. I want to get this out of the way early because there’s nothing wrong with chocolate icing on chocolate cake, some people love that shit, but this style of vocals just isn’t for me and if I don’t mention it now, I’ll just be yucking your yum for the rest of this. To that point, if you are a fan of Future Islands’ Sam Herring, firstly, god bless you, but secondly, this style of vocal performance should be right up your alley and I’d highly recommend checking out the whole album on Bandcamp. I will, however, just focus on the two tracks I really enjoyed, because when someone gets me a chocolate cake these days, I say thank you and enjoy a couple mouthfuls before stealthing it onto someone else’s plate.
One Star is the sophomore release from Fabian Altstötter’s solo project Jungstötter. This album is certainly a labour of love, with Fabian writing and producing, as well as arranging the exceptional string sextet. I’d hesitate to put this in any genre’s box, but experimental or art pop is somewhere in the ballpark. Brass, strings, synth, and more traditional indie folk instrumentation feature on various tracks, and the breadth of sonic textures is impressive to say the least. It all serves as a vehicle for the rather dramatic vocal performances, and the Vienna based artist pours plenty of soul into the poetically opaque lyrics he croons throughout the LP.
My highlight of the album is the track “Ribbons”. By the mid-point of the album, the slower pace and grandiose orchestral feel threatens to become tiring, and “Ribbons” does a fantastic job breaking expectations. A dark detuned synth stabs rhythmically through the verses with a panache that feels very fitting with the feel of the vocals. This cinematic, moody theme, is a lot more fitting with his timbre than the more singer-songwriter tracks to me, and sets up the delicacy of the chorus beautifully. Said chorus cuts back to single cello notes, a distant vocal vamp, and the titular line delivered dripping with desperation: ‘Your eyes/ Tear me to ribbons‘. The track leans into the theatrical nature of Fabian’s voice, and it makes this focal moment feel like we are centre stage in a play, the main character’s monologue reaching a tragic crescendo of self-realisation.
“Burdens”, I found similarly appealing, for its grand sense of sonic scale, apropos of Fabian’s expressiveness. The chorus is bursting with detuned and cacophonic strings which wail with the urgency and atmosphere of a thriller score. Hans Zimmer eat your heart out.
This all being said, it speaks volumes to the variety of the album, that despite much of it being not my cup of tea, I found these couple of tracks so thoroughly enjoyable. Fabian has created something rather special and unique here, and if chocolate cake is your thing, this might just be exactly what your sweet tooth craves.
This year has been an odd one, on that you might agree
As we reflect and ruminate on 2023,
But hark, I took great comfort, as I have often done,
In sapping from the kindness of our EIN-house festive one
This year I sought not carnage, I made no request of din,
Instead I craved the warmth that textured layers often bring,
To nobody’s amazement, Inter Claus has blessed my ears,
A feat completed comfortably this past quintet of years
So onwards shall I press, a giddy joy within my sails,
This year’s record? Anches En Maat from Portland outfit Grails,
Their first since 2017, a wait that’s surely ached,
But rest assured, this proud return is anything but half-baked
There’s a heightened sense of camaraderie that you can clearly hear,
Grails came together to record for the first time in ten-plus years,
The result is a coherence – a blossoming, vibrant whim,
That courses through each song, providing charm to the very brim
Grails have found a way their sound can confidently thrive,
Combining unique tones and touches, the album truly feels alive,
This instrumental prowess needs no vocals to succeed,
As each seductive-sounding vista takes their aim and then exceeds
How’s it done? Well truth be told, there are many ways at hand,
But grant me several moments and I’ll willingly expand,
Through soaring strings of grandeur that both swell and stir the heart,
Drenching the 40 minutes in romanticism – a shimmering work of art
They steep the tracks in warmth, bathe them in a golden glow,
Enticing you increasingly the further in you go,
From sultry open to the pizzicato of “Sisters of Bilitis”,
There’s a persistent, cinematic air that’s impossible to miss,
This orchestral, soulful core is partnered with a modern touch,
Through electronic voicings, just enough and not too much,
They’re smeared throughout Grails‘ sound, a dash of digital appeal,
Unleashing futuristic tones that imbue a steely zeal
Adding complementing vibes to enrich and never strain:
Nocturnal charm for “Viktor’s Night Map”, cascading motion on “Black Rain”,
These inclusions lend a sombreness – a sense of mystery,
That pulls you further in and then refuses to set you free
Another crucial aspect of this record I must state,
Is the wondrous robustness that’s served upon our plate,
By versatile guitars that shine amongst the instruments,
They sometimes rouse the soul and other times hint at lament,
Drenched in reverb, lost above, they linger in the stars,
Drifting riffs and melodies like the headlights of passing cars,
Nonetheless their presence is a welcome one for sure,
But wait, we’re not quite done, I must indulge a little more,
With each new listen you find fresh things to appreciate,
Like the presence of piano lending sincere emotional weight,
It adorns the lovely “Evening Song” with passion and with power,
And calls to mind the expanding, softened haze of twilight hours
And then there’s the percussion, employed throughout with splendid taste,
To help propel our voiceless voyage like devoted hands around the waist,
Each strike of drum is tender, each cymbal guiding us with love,
A groove and pace that’s delicate, that feels gifted from above,
All these things and more besides give Anches En Maat its draw,
An album that’s approachable and not one to ignore,
It’s a heartened, personable listen as the soundscape flows into view,
Inviting you to sit back and let its charm wash over you
From the ’80s gleam of “Sad & Illegal” to the album’s self-titled end,
These expansive tunes embrace us with a captivating blend,
It makes for pleasant listening on these darkened winter days,
As the temperature nestles low and clouds obscure the sun’s bright rays,
I recommend this record wholly, as my festive treat to ye,
A musical endeavour I’m glad was gifted unto me,
So find yourself a blanket, cosy up, lend Grails an ear,
As I debate: will Inter Claus ever fail? Perhaps…but not this year.
I should probably preface this review by saying this is the first time I’ve had a visit from Inter Claus. Reading past entries from other EIN writers I understood it to be a time of joy, magic, and rum-fueled escapades on/with the copier machine. However, ole Inter Claus’ gift of Drunk in Love has left me questioning whether their human form is less fat bloke with jolly red cheeks and more akin to Jack Skellington stuffing snakes into little kids’ Christmas stockings.
Of course, this isn’t a discussion of Inter Claus and his questionable gifting. This is a review of my actual gift – Drunk in Love, a collaborative album by experimental electro/sound artist Elvin Brandhi and Lord Spikeheart, the vocal half of Kenyan electro-grind group, Duma. While this album isn’t my first experience with Lord Spikeheart, having come across Duma’s self-titled back in 2021, it was my first time hearing about Elvin Brandhi…and what an introduction to make.
In simple terms this is an experimental electro/noise album featuring improvised screams and gutturals from both artists, with Brandhi also providing more ‘traditional’ spoken-word/sung vocals. However, it isn’t really that simple. The duo have created a soundscape that is equal parts Grime, Grind, Gqom, and samples of the music that would play at a carnival haunted by a malevolent entity, run by the ghouls and visited almost exclusively by crows.
Brandhi and Spikeheart avoid making this a comfortable listen from the opening tracks “Cruxify all the prophets” with arrhythmic beats intertwining with Spikeheart’s distorted screams and Brandhi’s growls. A majority of the album focuses on the interplay of different creepy samples and more traditional ‘melodic’ elements, like the mix of synth-y violins and babies crying in “DEATH CODE E666” or the pummeling bass beats giving way to choral chants on “whiom8warwomb666”. Similarly, “666.6668” includes some of the few decipherable vocal melodies on the album before disintegrating into cyber noise, and “do you like feeling awakeee33 cult 8 again” is almost dancehall like in its beat, yet eerie due to the high pitched sirens.
There is something a bit ‘uncanny valley’ like about Drunk In Love. There is the semblance of what could be popular grime/dancehall tracks, especially on “whiom8warwomb5 avecaffection2”, but the otherworldliness that Brandhi and Spikeheart have conjured up here will have many people backing away, trying to keep as much difference between the album and themselves as possible.
It kind of goes without saying then that Drunk in Love is a challenging, hostile listening experience; it is also incredibly individualistic. The artist duo seem to have an understanding of the sounds and genres they want to explore, yet there is an improvisational aspect to the music that, while liberating for the artists, can make for a haphazard listening experience.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if I like my gift from Inter Claus or not, and I’m unsure if I’m able to decide one way or the other. Drunk In Love is strange and hard to follow but whenever I finished a listen through and went on to something else, I would find myself thinking about it as though it was a puzzle that I needed to crack.
Last year, I asked Inter Claus for a standout hip hop recommendation that came in the form of Injury Reserve’s By The Time I Get to Phoenix. This year, I went in a decidedly different direction, asking our resident grinch and giver for his favourite metal record of the year.
Having known Inter Claus for about seven years now, I had no doubt that his choice would be a hidden gem that I was yet to discover. And I was right. I was presented with Profane Order’s One Nightmare Unto Another, the sophomore release from the Montreal, Québec blackened death metal duo. I also suspected that Inter Claus’s gift would challenge me, and I was right.
As is probably clear from most of the music I cover and favour, I tend towards the more polished sides of metal. One Nightmare Unto Another is antithetical to that kind of production. From the pick scrapes, crashing drums, and throat shredding growls that open “In The Shadow of The Past”, I was dropped into a quick and cutting 26 minute blackened death metal record.
One Nightmare Unto Another comes 4 years after the band’s debut full-length, and Profane Order have seemed to only pick up speed and intensity in the interim between the two. “No Light Here” is full of blackened blasts and shrieks, while “Suppression” features some terrifyingly cacophonous screams, masterful drumming, and hooky lead lines.
With copious amounts of reverb and raw, aggressive production, Profane Order careen close to chaos but have enough songwriting and technical chops to keep just enough order to make for a cohesive, crushing record. Drawing from 90s death metal, black metal, and punk, the album never relinquishes its intensity, but uses tempo variations, grooves, and guitar hooks to give the unrelenting bleakness off the record a throughline for the listener.
While it’s unlikely I would’ve encountered or explored One Nightmare Unto Another without Inter Claus’s generosity, I’m grateful for the exposure to one of the most relentless, raw death metal records I have heard this year. If that sounds like your thing, you should definitely give the Profane Order’s sophomore release a listen.
Sulphur Aeon: Seven Crowns and Seven Seals – A Review in Seven Stanzas
It’s just about Christmas, and like every year,
I miss German winter as I am stuck here –
In lovely New Zealand, where it is a bummer
That Christmas occurs in the middle of Summer.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my new home,
But without my fam’ly I can feel quite alone.
So as you imagine, t’was a pleasant surprise
When Inter Claus gave me music by five German guys.
The band, Sulphur Aeon’s, recent release
Is really quite the death metal beast.
Both melodic and blackened, the album shows
That in this vast genre, anything goes.
Let’s start with the cover, a grim depiction
Of bleakness and dying and a creature from fiction:
The mighty Cthulu, blood pour’ng from his fangs,
Amidst a posse of planets he hangs.
This dark flair for drama is a mark of the album:
With all its suspense, boredom comes seldom.
Already the first track simmers slow like a kettle
Before bursting out into cosmic death metal.
With tremolo picking and blasts at the helm,
You’d be tempted to think it’s all in that realm,
But the riffs range from gentle and clean to quite wild
And a few were so good that I certainly smiled.
Seven being a theme, I decided to write
Just seven short stanzas about it, despite
The fact that there is still so much to glean,
Check it out for yourself and you’ll see what I mean!
Last year around this time, my daughter was a month and a half, and – deliciously enough – slept like a baby. I took part in our revered Inter Claus feature, and our merry overlord sent me some rather nice Japanoise to spend some quiet evenings with. Life was good. Currently, none of those things are true anymore.
The last year has been the most tiresome and downright dreadful one that I can recall, and while the joys of fatherhood are inexplicable, the opposite side of the coin is rather dismal. Without going too much in-depth with that, let’s just say that not sleeping for a year is not my idea of a good time. However when I signed up for the feature again, the good time presented itself to me gloriously, through the aiding hand of the aforementioned jolly fur ball of a person.
Heejin Jang, the Korean producer and sound artist was someone completely new to me, but once I was steered her way, she hasn’t really left my daily rotation, and probably won’t for a while. Her new album Me and the Glassbirds from early March this year, is something near-unfathomable and inconceivable in scope and artistic prowess. Dissecting such an effort to atoms would take a thesis’ worth of blabbering from my end, so I’ll try to abide to broad strokes to keep this a tolerable length. The one-hour monolith, after all, is filled to the brim with nuances and details that need to be heard to be understood, and I have a feeling I’d severely step on everyone else’s toes in this feature if I said everything I wanted to say about it.
Me and the Glassbirds is an ocean-sized mosaic that refracts light to create the most mind-numbing and inexplicable hues that get drastically altered by every passing minute and completely transforms if you glance to another direction every now and then. The album relies on meticulous sound design that’s immaculate by nature, conjoining everything from experimental electronica to glitched-out jungle beats, from ponderous doom to contemplative drone, and from industrial-tinged soundscapes to towering harsh noise. The very notion of avant-garde is hardly ever as palpable as it is on Heejin Jang’s output, and I’m all for it. What left perhaps the deepest imprint to my psyche is the fact that even though the areas discovered and delved in on Me and the Glassbirds is nothing short of gigantic, the entirety is a seamless unity with each and every angle and edge somehow fitting the big picture fluently. Even though the mentioned stylistic leanings flirt with each other a lot to begin with, it is a drastically different thing to fully explore them in length and still come out victoriously on the other end.
”In The Egg” is an exhilarating start to the trek that fully grabs the listener’s attention at once, with the following pair of ”Manufacture” and ”Wings Customization” sealing the deal, in spite of a better anecdote. Being also the shortest songs on the album, it’s amazing how something seemingly minimalistic is but a product of layers that don’t fully expose themselves until you’ve spent hours with them. I’ve lost count on how many times Me and the Glassbirds have spun through on my commutes and listen-to-something-wherever-and-whenever-I-can moments, but still, it unveils new facets from the most unexpected of places tirelessly. I’m actually a bit mad at the fact that I didn’t catch this sooner than now, granted that I surely keep an firmly out on the artist from now on.
It’s difficult to pick the greatest moments from something that really is just one consecutive great moment, but the distorted jungle trip of the elephant-esque ”Our Brief Eternity” and the unbelievably menacing snap crackle fest ”Machine Birds Fly” alongside the ominous mood piece ”Electric Feathers” stand out on their own right from the rest. I do advise you to just leap in and enjoy the entirety of the damn ride as many times in a row as you can, but if you need some prior reassurance, give a listen to any of these and be swept off of your feet. After that you naturally just hit play on the whole thing, regardless, so it’s ultimately a win-win anyway, I’d say.
Heejin Jang is an exceptional artist, with Me and the Glassbirds being an equally exceptional example of just that, which is all the more reason for me to continue bowing my head before the trickster in the bushy beard and pot-hazed appearance. I’ll be damned if I don’t jump in on this again next year, sleepless or not.
Well well well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions; or rather, the absolute lack thereof? You see, I once again evaded the well-deserved divine retribution I was convinced would be heading my way at the behest of a certain red-robed music snob. And yet I stand before you, decidedly un-retribution’d. Huh.
Every year I throw my hat into the ring for this feature, I’m secretly (masochistically?) waiting for Inter Claus to throw some heinous noise in my face and tell me to grow up and deal with it. But he never did. Not last year, not the one before that, and most certainly not this year. What I got instead of an aural heap of still-smoldering coal was an actual treat: for all we know by Seattle-based experimental dream pop artist hannah ramone.
There’s a sweetness to this record, but it comes with a raw edge. It writhes and rumbles within this unpolished crystal; never threateningly, but enough to draw your attention beneath the shimmery surface. Aside from being a good songwriter, they’re quite the capable vocalist, too – ramone wouldn’t feel terribly out of place on a much more harmless slab of indie pop. Yet they’ve consecrated their attention to the slight subversion of yet unformed expectations. Like the grainy, fuzzy guitar riff on the otherwise saccharine “sorry boys”, ramone knows how to squeeze seemingly contradictory stylistic choices into a mysterious bundle that doesn’t shamble but strut confidently.
To say I’ve enjoyed this wouldn’t be far-fetched – Inter Claus left me another gift that didn’t make me ponder gazing into the proverbial horse’s mouth for even a millisecond. hannah ramone can be proud of themself for dreaming up this deliciously two-faced indie gem called for all we know, and, well, do I even have to mention that Inter Claus can be proud of himself too? Part of me does fear feeding his ego too much… but if that’s the price to pay to keep the retribution at bay, I’ll gladly do my part.
This was my first year as a writer at Everything Is Noise, and amongst the many good things this experience has brought me, one of the best for sure is how much different stuff I managed to find thanks to the blog. Being around people that share the same interest in finding lesser known artists is dope, and some recommendations from my fellow writers ended up being great discoveries for me.
I really went out of my musical comfort zone this year, so I asked our good Inter Claus for a good record in a genre I never really dipped my toes in: math rock. And so he delivered, in the form of Yes Yes A Thousand Times Yes’ latest album Supertinyinfinitedans!
I listen to many different genres and subgenres, truly, but something about math rock always sounded weird to me. I do like stuff that is adjacent to it, such as some mathcore bands, but the pure, unadulterated math rock never really managed to catch my ear. However, this year I found out about And So I Watch You From Afar and quite liked it, perhaps because they lacked the main thing that pushed me out from the genre: the vocals. I may have started with the wrong stuff, but most of the math rock bands I listened to have this sort of whiny vibe to the vocals that are a massive turnoff for me. With that said, way back in the day I didn’t like harsh vocals either, and now I can’t live without them, so maybe it’s all a matter of acquired taste. So here I am, giving math rock a fair shot with Yes Yes A Thousand Times Yes.
I must say, I had a good, good time with this one! While the vocals are still not really my cup of tea, instrumentally this thing just rocks. Fast, playful, very very pretty at moments and even kind of punk rocky. There is some neat musicianship here, and a lot that I like about ASIWYFA can kinda be found as well.
Many songs share that sort of ‘youthful rebel’ energy, like a very, very technical Green Day (I can’t believe I made this comparison), and I normally really dislike any music that goes towards that territory, but somehow this album makes that work pretty well. Maybe I’ve just expanded my musical horizons this year? That too, probably, but it’s easier when the music is good. Some personal highlights of mine: “Realizing You’re Everywhere” and “Buzzing Still // Cousin Home”.
While this didn’t blow my mind in any way, I had fun with it. It’s a good time with very good musicianship, and unlike most of the math rock I listened to before, I didn’t feel annoyed by this one. It definitely made me realize there is good fun to be had with this genre and I will continue to give it a shot. So if you’re not a math rock fan like me (yet), maybe check out this one?
It feels very satisfying to close a year of so many discoveries with yet another one. There are tons of wonderful music that we don’t know about, huh? I know I owe a lot to Everything Is Noise for this year, and I sincerely hope that we helped expand your musical horizons this year, too!
I haven’t believed in much outside of kindness and love for most of my life. That all changed this month when I wrote Inter Claus asking for a hip-hop album. I am regrettably not as in touch with new hip-hop releases as I should be, and I thought it would be lovely to hear something new that I may have missed. I wrote in poetry, rhythm and rhyme in request for rhythm and rhyme as a gift. I left out the traditional pickles and Gewurztraminer and went to bed. In an Intermas miracle, I awoke to find the latest release from Oddisee and a bottle of Rittergutz Gose under my turntable!
I had a passing knowledge of Oddisee prior to this, but I am not sure why exactly. A guest spot? A producer credit? Either way, the dude is a prolific creator and it has been a pleasure to explore To What End, his tenth full length album. He uses all of his maturity and experience on this album. It feels like a rap veteran auteur at the helm from track one. The production is entirely a live band whose tight beats and lively playing provide an effortless funk and breezy soul for Oddisee’s heady, articulate flow.
The instrumentals are bright and snappy enough to match the mood of the album, confident and self-aware. There is vulnerability in the self-awareness. Fatherhood, years as an outlier in the scene, contentment in knowing oneself all dominate the themes of To What End. Oddisee isn’t alone in this endeavor with guest spots for Bilal, Freeway, Phonte, BeMyFiasco, and more adding their vocals and storytelling with electric soul.
For all of the wisdom espoused on this record, it never comes off as sanctimonious or preachy. Rather it grapples with the challenges of life that are relatable for anyone who wants to be a good person, pursue their dreams and responsibilities, and bring others up at the same time without HOV’s bank account. Though he may not prefer to be approached in public, his lyrics are very approachable, relaying thought-provoking concepts and heavy maturity without the double entendre and abstract poetics of other veteran rappers. Oddisee is the ideal everyman with talent backed by a precise musicians, a great gift indeed. I am a believer in Oddisee and Inter Claus.
Up to this point in my life, I’ve been much more of a giver than a receiver. ‘How generous of you’, you might be thinking, but quite the contrary! I actually believe it to be the more selfish option, because of the ease with which it can be done. Yes, depending on what is being given, it can be an arduous task —there can be buying and transporting and wrapping and hiding and secret-keeping involved, which is no easy task—but it can also be quite simple. More often than not, we are overflowing with things to give, so it’s just a matter of choosing what we’ll be giving this time and voila! One is a giver, perhaps not a great giver—that does take more care to achieve—but a giver nonetheless. Receiving, on the other hand, even at a basic level, requires a conscious, and often continuous, effort to make room inside one’s life and self for that which is being received, to take it in, to treat it with respect and kindness, in spite of so much of us which is already overflowing.
So, up to this point I’ve been much more of a giver, I’ve been swayed by the easy route, but I’m making a great effort to receive with more care. That’s why, when the opportunity came knocking to receive a musical gift from Inter Claus himself during my trial period here at EIN, I couldn’t say no, I had to receive, and do so with great purpose!
I wasn’t too demanding of the giver of givers, only asking for something eclectic. And boy did he deliver. A few days after writing my letter and pressing send, from the faraway land where Inter Claus dwells, I received Hive, from Teeth of the Sea. Just from the artwork and the band’s name I was pretty sure my wish had been granted. The name especially intrigued me, such an odd image, too vast to pin down; I thought their music must be this way as well. So I took the plunge blind, giving me the opportunity to dive into an album in a way which I hadn’t done in a very long time, without a clue what I would find.
And eclectic is the right word to describe this album. Although all eight of its tracks are united by an electronic principle, they are each their own unique creation, utterly unpredictable; eight iridescent nebulae all visible in the same night sky, lightyears apart despite their apparent proximity and similitudes. In spite of repeat listens, I still feel lost wandering their endless spirals and labyrinthine pathways, and I always return to the first time I heard these songs, in absolute awe at how wrong each and every one of my assumptions was.
Hive starts off with “Artemis”, one of three pieces originally commissioned by London’s Science Museum, a slow, dreamy track that begins with a repeating synth line which is then joined by a sweet yet eerie trumpet. As these two elements continue, morphing as they go, like a gyrating kaleidoscope, a glitchy electronic beat, like digital knives being sharpened, erupts gently from below, carrying the track deeper into dreams. It was a cold morning as I experienced Hive for the first time, and as “Artemis” drew to a close, I thought I had an understanding of what was in store for me.
Suddenly, having reached a hasty conclusion, the track ends and your ears are assaulted by an unsettling and aggressive synth that serves as the backbone of “Get with the Program”, a jarring juxtaposition that led me to believe the opener had misled me completely. A steady metallic beat joins the fray, followed by a swelling bass-synth line that dips delightfully beneath the surface of intelligible sound during each cycle. When the vocals—sung by the band’s own Mike Bourne—kick in, I again thought I had a good idea of where the album would be heading, as his timbre and delivery drew the song into what I perceived as industrial territory.
But then came “Butterfly House”, which features the vocals of Kath Glifford, an odd and danceable synthpop song complete with super catchy chorus and erratic guitar soloing. Standard fare, it seemed, for the ever-developing mystery which is Teeth of the Sea, apparently. Again, there was no way for me to ever conceive that this was the direction the album would take. And at every turn, in spite of occasional recurring elements, the band springs surprise after surprise at you; even within individual tracks, the logical course of action suddenly makes a 180º turn, leaving you in the dust and rushing to keep up. I won’t spoil the rest of the album’s surprises for you—even though my descriptions are pale imitations in compared to the real experience that Hive subjects you to—because I would wish for you to experience this great record, if my account piqued your interest, with as little outside influence as possible.
There’s a bittersweet feeling to discovering music so late in the year, when perhaps it seems too late to change your list of favorites for the year (even if they exist only in your head, or a page in your notebook never to be seen by anyone else but you); the joy of finding something exhilarating might be tainted by the regret you didn’t do so earlier, were deprived of precious time with a great album. But in listening to Hive in the first days of December, as the cold sweeps in suddenly into Mexico City, I’m grateful to have been given this gift by a wise giver; I will continue to receive it excitedly.
When I asked Inter Claus for a record for this series, I was requesting something bleak, nasty, and atmospheric and when I received my present, I immediately knew that I was in for a treat – because how can a record with such expressive cover art that is furthermore named Death Blossoms in A Trauma Year NOT be a fantastic bleakfest?
So there I was: being happy with a present that was – at least externally – exactly what I was hoping for but somehow still afraid I wouldn’t like it for some reason, so it took me a few days before I was brave enough to put it on. But when I finally did, all my doubts almost instantly disappeared when I heard the first notes of “Hard Sear”, a song that perfectly sets the mood for what to expect during the upcoming 38 minutes: energy, desperation and some damn good musicianship all the way through.
Before you can even understand what exactly is going on on this record, you are pretty much hit in the face by a freight train of screamo extravaganza that is the first third of Death Blossoms in A Trauma Year (with “Bug Juice” definitely being one of my favorite songs off the record). Once you complete that very rewarding masterclass of screamo songwriting, introduce you to their wide variety of different musical influences: the chaotic “Invoke Despair” could just as well have been on a Converge B-side while “Coup d`état” taps more into a direction of post black metal.
The fuzzy, stoner rock inspired “Congregation of Dunces” suddenly turns into an Amenra-esque climax of desperation and hopelessness before the album’s closing track rattles you up once again only to end with an absolutely crushing, instrumental post metal finale that left me baffled and hungry for more. What a way to end this record!
Death Blossoms in A Trauma Year definitely grew on me with every listen and I’m more than happy that I had the chance to listen to this record I missed throughout the year as it showed me – once again – that no matter how much time you spend listening to music, there is a gem hidden in plain sight for you only waiting to be discovered. Because music is endless, and knowing that is probably one of the best gifts you can ever receive.
Farewell, Dear Reader
In the frosty twilight, as stars align,
I bid adieu, my friend, with a twist of rhyme.
No more scowls or grumbles, just a jazzy refrain,
As we part ways, like notes in a midnight train.
The cocoa grows cold, the fire dims low,
Yet memories linger, like soft-falling snow.
Our banter, our laughter, a syncopated dance,
In this cozy speakeasy of chance.
Inter Claus taught us well, in his own peculiar way,
That even curmudgeons can sway and play.
So take this melody, tucked in your heart,
A bebop souvenir before we depart.
May your days be jazzed, your nights swing bright,
And may fruitcake harmonize with starlight.
Remember Inter’s gruffness, his secret delight,
As you journey forth into the Yule’s sweet night.
*Note: The cocoa may be bitter, but the memories are sweet.*
Wishing you a festive farewell, my friend!