Ah yes, August is upon us. Depending on where you live, that probably means that the weather is getting hotter, and you may or may not be on vacation. In my case, August means staying in bed all day sobbing because the fall semester is looming over me. So of course, I’m gonna need to console myself with some MUSIC. We’ve got a nice selection of products to choose from today, including new music from Thou, 88rising, Snail’s House, Body/Head, and more.
We do this Review Rundown thing every two weeks, so be sure to have a look at previous editions here.
Well… this is different. For the last year, Thou has been on an experimental, and experiential, journey, dropping three EPs all of differing tastes and sound. This third in the trilogy, Rhea Sylvia, is a melodic grunge ‘Alice in Chains homage’ so says the band. Traditionally a sludge/doom outfit, they meld their strengths with their ambitions to create one of the strongest projects in their catalog to date.
The melodies here are charmingly dark. Listen to “The Only Law” plod along, the cleaner, deep vocals striking a haunting vibe alongside more traditional, higher rasps. Instrumental breaks provide a lot of atmosphere with wispy guitars and accenting cymbal taps. “Non-Entity” and “The Lasting Dose” pose heaviness front and center, which will appease the doom addicted among the fanbase. Dark riffs give Rhea Sylvia a Gothic bite that hit all the right places for me.
I like Thou for who they are as musicians and always enjoyed their work up until now. Saying that this sound isn’t Thou would be a little disingenuous because they’ve crafted something special. This isn’t a fluke. This is calculated and raw, and I love it for being different. I sincerely hope the band experiments more like this in the future.
Eddie Palmieri has been around for ages. An accomplished and prolific pianist, he imbues his jazz playstyle with salsa stylings courtesy of his Puerto Rican heritage. The result, Full Circle, is wildly smooth, catchy, playful, and colorful.
Much of the album contains reworkings of older songs throughout Palmieri’s career. Here, though, we get much more fleshed out compositions with the help of stellar and passionate New York jazz alum to create a backing band. If you’re familiar with Latin jazz, you’re no doubt accustomed to the wide variety of sounds. Bass, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, bongos, and more all color the pieces of this album. Herman Olivera’s velvety Spanish crooning permeates throughout the album, with “Muñeca” and “Óyelo Que Te Conviene” standing out in particular. “Azúcar” has horn flourishes that ascend scales and make playful call-and-response segments to form danceable grooves that were meant for block parties throughout el barrio. And, of course, Palmieri himself has outrageous command over tracks with the piano acting as a voice all its own. He shows immense, infectious confidence with his performances.
Full Circle is a sweet collection of top-notch Latin jazz with a lot of heart and soul behind it. Palmieri is a touchstone of the genre for a reason. This sounds like history. This sounds like heritage. And it’s a beautiful thing.
88rising is a music label and media outlet that primarily hosts Asian hip-hop, pop, and R&B artists. Head in the Clouds is a promotional album that features work from the likes of rappers Rich Brian and Higher Brothers as well as singers Joji, AUGUST 08, and NIKI.
With support from big names in popular rap like Blocboy JB and Playboi Carti, Head in the Clouds is a whopping 17 tracks of summer bangers, jams, bops, the whole shabang. I almost hate to say it, but the project has really grown on me.
The lead single “Midsummer Madness” is a catchy pop tune featuring most of the big 88rising associates. But most of the crew splits a few tracks individually. Brian particularly shines on “History”, somehow making what sounds like elevator music into a nostalgic trap-colored earworm. Blocboy and Joji make an interesting pair on the tongue-and-cheek “Peach Jam”.
However there are some underwhelming moments, a lot of them coming from AUGUST 08. His delivery on the hook of “Disrespectin” feels offbeat and awkward. NIKI also feel lackluster on “I Want In” and “Plans”, a song that sounds like it only exists to be played inside of Aeropostale. Not to mention Higher Brothers on “Red Rubies”. Congrats, guys, you made a Migos song.
This trendy compilation will probably be considered outdated in a few years, but at least it’s pretty sugary sweet now. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.
Now that It Djents is no more, it’s really weird for me to talk about an EP like Visionary. It comes from a similar place as the music that we’ve now distanced ourselves from. In fact, it seems to wallow in it at times.
While the opener “Dawnburst” definitely sets the mood for Visionary, I’m not sure why else it’s here, especially since I think “Skyflower” would have been more effective anyway. On that track, The Halcyon Effect puts forth a playful melody over some overly-syncopated drums. The title track seems to suffer from being underwritten at points, and the solo from Morgan Thomaso, while a bit flashy for my taste, doesn’t add much structure to the song.
Visionary improves in its latter half, starting with “Retrospect”. This one has some of the stickier grooves on the EP, and Halcyon seems to mess with time signatures in a way that keeps the flow fresh. In both song structure and melody, the closer “Eventide” reminds me a bit of something off of The Madness of Many, with its swinging breakdown sections and lengthy runtime.
Some lackluster songwriting moments on Visionary are made up for at some point. If The Halcyon Effect can clean those up, he could aim to be right up there with Plini. Fingers crossed for his next project.
With each passing day, summer’s end looms large, along with an apprehension of this fact. Tokyo artist Ujico*,composing under the moniker Snail’s House, has created a record that captures these feelings and more in their latest release. L’été coaxes palpable emotions through the use of electronic, downtempo jazz with a splash of Japanese sensibility to boot. This album while entirely instrumental is both nostalgic and inspirational, bidding me to hang onto every moment. It’s playful, but never lacks awareness and contains melodies that are nearly aromatic. “Sunflower” is pure sonic catharsis and will go down as one of my favorite tracks of the summer.
The pacing of L’été is borderline perfect with each tune dovetailing nicely into the next. While the majority of the record isn’t taxing any metronomes, the dynamics in the composition and instrumentation will capture your attention and allow you to consciously enjoy every moment. “Platonique” is a great example of a track that isn’t played at a breakneck speed, but packs a sonic punch through the clever use of dynamics. This record is like a glass of lemonade on a hot day. If you want to hang on to those summer feelings, or if you’re reading this in the dead of winter and miss July, go get this one.
Perhaps I should check my blood pressure since both of the records that I picked for this Rundown are incredibly chill. Matchess is an experimental ambient pop act from Chicago where every note sung and played is the product of one person, Whitney Johnson. Both spacious and spacey, Sacracorpa is a radiant piece of music that infuses neoclassical orchestration and electronic downtempo segments. “Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes” is a fantastic mixture of both of these, and allows the charming combination to seep into the listener’s pores.
“Ossify Them” leans into the electronic side of things a bit more; moments that feel like The xx or Disasterpiece’s wonderful Fez soundtrack. This is a deep and meditative record that is diverse in approach, but consistent in tone. Its total runtime is right in the sweet spot for this type of album, and I didn’t find myself bored at any point. Finding artists such as this part of the reason that I love writing for Everything Is Noise. Listen and enjoy.
Motorowl’s Atlas was the album I was looking for to complement my current musical focus. I feel slightly guilty not rolling it into a full-blown review, but hopefully I’ll be able to convince you to load this into your playlists. Motorowl’s style is really hard 70s rock, with a proggy, stoner feel to it. For such a young band, they push out a really mature sound with well-rounded songs that groove, but show considerable songwriting prowess at the same time.
The clean vocals provided are similar to Dead Letter Circus, the instrumentation like a more exciting Karnivool, mixed with some The Doors. The old school organ which permeates the mix takes the sound back to the 70s, especially in “Infinite Longbook”, but the production levels give the album a modern flavor. The title track “Atlas” gives a taste of Haken to listeners, with epic climaxes mixed throughout the seven-minute track. In this track, too, I really picked up on Motorowl’s prowess of forming brilliant vocal hooks, which give this classic sounding record a really modern prog bite.
On a couple of listens I grew a little weary of their sound by the final track “Norma Jean”, but on others I powered through and felt fulfilled on completion, which I put down to their sound staying on the straight and narrow for the majority of the album. Listening to individual tracks, you see there is a lot of depth to the songwriting, so I would recommend sampling this LP in a variety of ways to get a full grasp on it. It’s a solid record, and I’m looking forward to perusing its delights as the summer draws to a close.
I’ve dabbled in experimental music in my time, but never really opened my mind and engaged with ambient experimental. I did initially laugh as I flicked through a song to see what I was getting myself into, but having sat down and let myself go to the sounds that Cruel Diagonals presented to me, I’m not only intrigued, I’m damn impressed too.
The tracks on Disambiguation are relaxing, beautiful, and psychologically unsettling all at the same time. “Malaise Vague” is one of the best tracks to pick which represents this. I pictured a siren’s song calling across the waves when the vocals kicked in, with an almost classical twang of guitars complimenting the sound. However, out of nowhere a jarring bass sound appears, taking out the softer sounds and pushing you into a psychotic state of mind where you’re trying to anticipate the next sound. Some songs offer a little bit more structure and consistency, I loved the beat used to hold together “Render Arcane”, the ethereal vocals a brilliant touch.
Everything is very minimal in this album, so the songs lend themselves to a late night, or a peaceful listen. Headphones are recommended, especially if they offer surround sound. The sounds used in the album pan across the listeners peripheral, with some popping up briefly in one place and in another later. Despite my initial reservations, this has turned out to be an exciting journey, one I’m looking forwards to complimenting with more records in the future.
Body/Head would be a project of ex-Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon and Bill Nace. The Switch would be their second album and third overall release. If you only know Sonic Youth as the slightly edgy indie-rock band that made 1988’s Daydream Nation and later popular works, then Gordon’s output on this album will prompt a solid ‘WTF’ response. Consider her old band’s groundbreaking earlier work (for all intents and purposes, they were the first band on the rock side of things to use alternative guitar tunings) and Body/Head sounds more like a return to form.
The Switch is an all-guitar, all-experimental affair. Bill Nace a variety of techniques to create droning sounds and ambient noise. Not much plucking happens on this album, nor are there very many actual notes. What we have here instead is a successful attempt at making musique concrète with electric guitars, Kim Gordon’s singing, and nothing else. The full range of possible guitar sounds and deliberate sound manipulation in the recording process are part and parcel of Body/Head’s sound.
Who made The Switch matters very little. This is art so inhuman that it obfuscates its source. The whole point was to put the sounds that a guitar can make out there, and make them fill a room. As with all experimental music, listen at your peril, but you might find it a rewarding experience.
And… our next event in the WTF Olympics seems to be a solo project by a Victoria, BC-based multi-instrumentalist named Maxwell A. Patterson. Yes, this is Olympian-grade WTFodder. Gold medal material, even. i.o gets categorized as ‘experimental jazz’, ‘math rock’, ‘avant-garde’, and a million other things. All of these labels are accurate without doing i.o any justice.
Most listeners might be turned off by the drumming. On first glance it sounds like something an overly-energetic child would do when left alone with a kit, but after a few listens, some deliberate patterns can be discerned. The weird, seemingly random guitar pluckings have enough melody (or some atonal approximation of such — “resolution” does not seem to be a big thing for i.o) to be easier for listeners to distinguish some purpose about them. The bass-playing might be the only immediately coherent thing on this album and though whether or not Patterson actually intended that is debatable.
This changes abruptly after 12 songs. The last three tracks on Your Transfer Distorting have song-like qualities, chord progressions, and even riffs. They are such an abrupt change from the album’s lengthy first act as to make one wonder if they were added as an afterthought. Perhaps it was intended as a break from the routine? That would be yet another mystery wrapped in an i.o enigma.
Nothing on Your Transfer Distorting will make sense the first time you listen to it. As a mental exercise, repeated listenings might prove rewarding to the most patient and open-minded among us.
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