Saturday, May 21, 2016
Genre: Power electronics
Plague Mother's work is never pleasant to listen to, but with the possible exception of 'The Faithful Supine', 'Lavender in Flame' is arguably the Wisconsin PE pedlar's most aurally demanding creation. Opening with an ear-splitting peal of obnoxiously high sine waves, both sides play on the conjunction of this whistle and of crunching, unforgiving blocks of white noise. The effect of this pairing is something deeply unsettling, even when overlooking the obvious initial physical barrier. The whistles, akin to shrieks, sound pained and desperate when breaking through the thick blocks of distortion. Remove the blocks, 'save the tortured' as it were, and you realise that the entity you thought you were saving turns its sadistic mind on you instead.
The aforementioned admittedly does give the impression of this being a wholly impenetrable piece, completely without merit or purpose further than auditory masochism. As it happens, 'Lavender in Flame' isn't totally unlistenable (although it does require plenty of initial substance to get through it all first time around). Inspecting closer, the seemingly monotonous whistles are filled with small glitches; little industrial grinds and miniscule changes in frequencies that give what would otherwise be flat, boring noises dimension and shape. The white noise is hardly a simply on/off affair either, and along with the dynamic changes implemented, there are several distinct 'pitches' to each that provide them with their own discernible characteristics. Some are 'safer', allowing the listener to hide slightly in their lower, thicker timbre, while the slightly thinner, higher walls are arguably the scarier, allowing the sines to perform their aforementioned deceptive work. These little bits of what variation are what make 'Lavender in Flame' what it is; for those willing to be consumed by its undeniably uncomfortable presence, there's a surprising amount to be gained from such a small package.
Fancy splitting your eardrums? Click here.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Genre: Black Metal (instrumental)
The most captivating aspect of Nine Odes to Oblivion are the blank spaces. Thanks to it's production - raw, but certainly not unlistenable - there are scattered moments where I'm not sure exactly what I'm listening to. Is it the actual music, or am I just projecting what I think would sound best here? After of years of listening, I still don't really know; and I absolutely love that. It's personal, visceral and each individual that listens to it will have their own unique experience. It's a transcendent album and you're only doing yourself a disservice by not listening to it.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Genre: Black Metal
Country: United States
Addaura is a band I've loved since the very first moment I discovered them in 2010. Along with Alda, Skagos, and Fauna, Addaura were the front-runners of the burgeoning Cascadian black metal scene that began in the late 2000's. Though the other bands were certainly good, Addaura were always very much my favorite. Their WIITR inspired sound was absolutely perfect, and their demo is one my favorite black metal releases ever. Black metal has always based around nature-worship, and the Cascadian black metal scene took that concept even further. Musically, I love their repetitive ebb and flow, and the very subtle changes their music featured. It all felt so organic and in the spirit of what they were trying to achieve. Although she's now departed, their vocalist at the time Chantal was fantastic, and her hoarse rasp played a huge part in my love for them. It was a shame that she left, but it was still clear that Addaura had a bright future ahead of them.
In 2012, the group released their first full-length Burning For The Ancient ,and again I was in awe of what they were able to create. It wasn't a departure of their previous sound, but rather a refinement. Though the songs were longer, their sense of flow had improved dramatically, with each track building and building until it hit its epic climax. Once again repetition played a large role, but because the melodies were so strong and the arrangements so tight, there was never a moment where any section felt like it overstayed its welcome. Guitarist Ryan had taken over the role of vocals, and though I was initially a bit scared, upon his first wail he quickly laid those worries to rest. Not only were his shrieks as good as Chantal's but he was able to deliver monstrous gutturals, adding yet another dimension to the group's sound. Once again, Addaura proved to be step ahead of their peers.
This brings us to 2015, and after a seemingly eternal three year wait Addaura dropped their ...And The Lamps Expire EP. At first, I didn't really know what to think of it. However, the more I listened, the more I began to appreciate what they are attempting to do; finally forging their own sound. Though elements of the Cascadian style (and therefore WIITR) still remain, ...And The Lamps Expire is very much Addaura beginning to create a style of their own. To a degree they've abandoned the repetition and subtly of their previous material, but it really fucking works. Rife with more folk and experimental touches, here Addaura displays a sense of dynamics I would have never expected from them. The more furious black metal segments certainly still sound like them, but now they've expanded their sonic palette, accentuating the strength of the more aggressive moments as well as the softer ones. Overall, it's a great release and I'm certainly looking forward to whatever they do next.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Genre: Dark ambient
From the crackling, stuttering piano loop that opens '001', Pahuuden merkki is nothing short of eerie. Kolmiotaajuus' debut feels as though it would be a fitting soundtrack for a dystopic video game; dingy corridors, the feeling of being watched and a growing sense of claustrophobia are all easily imagined from its impersonal electronic ambience, made human by the trio's compositional improvisation. '002''s combination of regular, thumping bass and synthesised choral sections alongside inconsistent computerised glitches sits the listener firmly on edge, and the last 3 minutes or so of '006' (following a significant period of silence) serves as a fittingly dissonant finale. Some lightness can be found during the first half of '003', which carries airs of (an admittedly more morose) Explosions In The Sky, and '004' and '005' lean more towards Kolmiotaajuus' sci-fi influences. However, even these have an insidious quality to them gifted through dropping velocities and ominous drones, contributing further to Pahuuden merkki's overwhelmingly macabre atmosphere.
Kolmiotaajuus made an interesting decision in the recording of the album, choosing to take the tracks from 5 different live shows played across 2015. The effect could have been one of disjointed chaos. However, Pahuuden merkki flows miraculously well as an album, the care put into post-production making itself abundantly clear as each chapter segues into one another with only the slightest skip. Their improvisational streak during these live performances is wholly beneficial. Allowing them to make impromptu decisions on what feels 'right' - a glitch there, an 'off' timing there - it makes for an unpredictable listening experience that is not only arresting first time around, but offers enough variety that repeated listening is a must to gain the full picture. The effectiveness of Pahuuden merkki may depend largely on environmental factors, and undivided concentration is a must, but given time and suitably dark, still surroundings, it's an immersive listen that rarely, if ever loses its grip. Keep an eye on that shadow.
Don't act like you're not curious.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Country: United States
I'm starting to believe that women may have a natural predisposition to be the best fucking screamo vocalists. Over the course of the this album Steph absolutely shreds her vocal chords, and her commitment and passion are a huge part in why this is one of my favorite screamo records. She jusst can't be stopped. Instrumentally, it's fucking great as well. It has the technical chaos powerviolence while still somehow remaining exceedingly melodic throughout. Even during the most aggressive parts and mathematical parts, the band seamlessly weave complex melodies through the fabric of the music. It's truly fantastic stuff.
If you haven't heard this, you know nothing.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Genre: Sludge/Hardcore/Black Metal (kinda)
Valve perform an intriguing balancing act with Apnée. The combination of sludge, hardcore and black metal isn't anything particularly new, with bands such as Hexis, Celeste and This Gift Is A Curse making names for themselves in certain circles with their respective amalgams. However, whereas the aforementioned artists play a seamless blend of the three, Valve operate primarily by isolating one or two at a time, drip-feeding the listener with parts of each. This 'drip-feeding' approach means that across its five tracks Apnée feels as though it's constantly evolving, a boon in a style where mid-tempo stagnation can easily occur.
To illustrate this, it's best to look at Apnée as a whole. Opening tracks 'Lapsit Ex Illis' and the album's eponymous number sound remarkably Converge-like in their makeup, albeit slower and with a lower-register grounding that separates them from the seminal hardcore group. However, by the finale '777', a greater focus on the oppressive atmosphere associated with blackened hardcore is apparent, eschewing some of the initial catchiness in favour of distinguishable but serpentine passages. To bridge the gap between the former and the latter is the instrumental 'Odds', which provides not only respite but forms an integral part of the album's structure. By separating the more hardcore-influenced first half from the 13 minute sludge giant 'Une Carcasse Vide de Vie et de Sens', the transition between the two slightly differing halves doesn't feel as immediate, and is therefore less jarring. Admittedly, the linkage between 'Odds' and 'Une Carcasse...' could have been smoother (instead of 10 seconds of awkward silence), but as a compositional tool it allows Valve to experiment with a wider palette rather than boxing them into a singular, albeit well executed style.
Holding the audience's attention is of vital importance to the effectiveness of any artist's work. With such a potentially suffocating presence as sludge this could have proved particularly difficult, yet Valve manage the feat with seemingly consummate ease. By sparingly combining their influences rather than placing all of their eggs in one basket, each track has something different to offer whilst not detracting from the crushing aspect so important to the genre's appeal.