Friday, August 18, 2017

Sannhet : " So Numb"

The band from Brooklyn's 3rd album opens with thundering drums pounding into a ethereal drone. Driven yet dynamic as the melodic swathes of guitar color this in a much different manner than how thye have painted their songs before.  This is the second instrumental album I have reviewed this week. The first was Mogwai's new one and this album might share some of the post rock moments, it feels like a much different creature than what Mogwai does. It  would be more fitting to call this driving and aggressive music than heavy, and certainly not metal. They delve further into a more Cure like atmosphere on the second song. The drummer and the bass player are the conspirators when it comes to who is giving this album it's grit as the guitar floats over it like shimmering clouds made of glass. One thing I like about this album and their others is it stays true to who they are as a band, without retreading the same ground. Nothing about this album really feels all that black metal any more, but if it had it would have revisited similar ground. A fact I can be split on at times but here it seems to be working.

The first hint of their black metal past is in the drums to the title track that flirt with a blast beat and try to not actually commit to it. I don't think this fact and in of itself is what keeps it from being black metal, I think it has more to do with the feeling emitted from their music. Around the two minute mark the guitar does so really beautiful pondering. The drummer Christopher Todd continues to impress with his playing. "Fernbeds" has Thom Wasluck coming in to add a guitar solo. Opening with delay heavy bass, it falls somewhere between Pink Floyd and Joy Division. When it comes to solo's we are not talking about actual metallic shredding , but melodic sonic interplay. It is actually one of the album's best songs. "Salts" is dark and brooding, there is a an ominous tension and I like the electronic feel to the percussion, It feels more like 80's Cure.

"Way Out" continues with the post-punk vs post-rock feel. There are more more aggressive almost black metal accents in a few places that pound the point home in a similar fashion as a blast beat. The songs on this album are very concise and don't drone on yet the band manages to make much of this album carry a hypnotic sway. Vocals are my favorite part of most songs so to keep my attention with out them deserves applause. The guitars do a great job of carving out sonic slices and work well with the drums to touch on metal dynamics with out being mired into metal. 'Secondary Arrows" doesn't form it's own identity until I really hear a guitar melody emerge and guide the song on it's way. The tempo shifts and gets to some extent heavier on "Sleep Well" . The moods shifts a lot on this song but the most impressive part is when it locks in on the groove thanks to the bass player. "Wind Up" is pretty much just ambiance and feels more like an outro than a song so not counting it for the purpose of this review.

While this is not a metal album by any means , it is a collection of interesting songs that would still sit well against the band's other material in a live setting. Some of the best drumming and bass playing I have heard this year. I think they have come into their own and can claim a spot next to bands like Russian Circles in making sonically heavy music. While Russian Circles might possess the more overt metallic moments Sannhet now opts to use other colors in their expanded pallet. Not sure how much play I will get out of this due to the nature of this beast, but enjoyed what I heard and think fans will enjoy the ride so I'll round it up to a 9.The album comes out August 25th.

Tori Amos : "Native Invader"

My ex-wife would not let me play Tori Amos in the car after I played Kate Bush for her during out first week of dating and ruined Tori  Amos for her. Well when I was in high school I had already heard Kate Bush before hearing Tori, who is obviously influenced by  Kate , but always had a more emotionally fragmented rawness to her. Seeing her straddle her piano bench and play a harpsichord with one hand and a piano with her other made me forget those comparisons. It also made me not want to play the piano for a year. Tori and I have been estranged for 12 years as "the Bee Keeper" is the last album I bought of hers, and that was back when I still bought albums.  Her 15th album opens with a big dark piano sound. Her voice has mellowed over the years into a warm alto, that can still find it's way gracefully up into her head register. She works well over the groove of "Wings" which finds its shadowy introspection contrasting the more organic guitar oriented sway of "Broken Arrow". I am trying to be open minded about this guitar thing. In the past that is where Tori and I have part ways , as I want the piano to be the focus and for some reason I have not wanted her to have a six string in action on her songs, though I am ok with bass. So I am telling myself this time around to think of it more like I think of Elton John.

The strum of "Cloud Riders" is almost like the Decemberists. The way the melody rolls out there is a slight country twinge but it is still very Tori. I am not sure how to even file what she is doing on "Up the Creek" but I like it and the layered vocal harmonies sound great. "Break Away" has some beautiful piano in it, but it is really just a dialed in Tori ballad, she doesn't feel like she really has anything worth while to say here. "Wildwood" finds Tori indulging her more Joni Mitchell side with a filter of post-rock guitar. This is one of her best uses of guitar in a song to date. With 15 songs there was bound to be some filler and " the Chocolate Song" seems to fall under that. It's not bad just not as inspired as the first few songs. There is a darker undertone to this album and it continues to be felt on "Bang". It has a sultry smoke to it's western swing.  Two minutes it turns into something closer to chamber music which makes it very consistent in terms of who Tori is.

"Climb" finds the album dipping into a more intimate piano piece that reminds me a little of Led Zeppelin's acoustic moments. I prefer her stripped down like this. After the number of artists who do this in such a compelling fashion is fairly limited. "Bats" is more in line with her "Under the Pink"  years. The bass and drums plays around the song like a upbeat version of "No Quarter". It has a very 70s rock feel, like the stuff that floated on a cloud of cocaine and pot smoke from California, Don Henley I am looking in your direction. "Benjamin"  doesn't really connect with me despite staying in that 70s space. "Mary's Eyes" finds her going back into Neil Gaiman's world. So once again she connects with themes from her earlier work.  "Upside Down" and "Russia" close the album on that stripped down piano vibe. Over all it's a pretty solid album, if some of the fat was trimmed it could have been in her top 5, but that's not the case , but it did inspire me to want to go back and here what I have been missing over the course of the past 12 years, so I'll give it a 9. The album drops September 8th.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Satyricon : "Deep Calleth Upon Deep"

At this point I think only those in the deepest denial think of these guys as black metal. There are still black metal elements in play, but they are not much different than Behemoth in that regard. The opener throbs with a darkness . It has a disdain more than an anger to it. There is a groove and hints of melody. The drums are less produced than I expected.When I get into the winding riffs of This album does have a rawer element than their more recent stuff. The guitar gets adventurous in their use of melody.The drumming begins to really take off in this song. Some of the more angular mathmatic riffs clutter up the energy . The drums do work best in some of the more groove oriented sections of dissonance. At time the riffs even reminds me of morbid Angel.So that old school feel of death metal.

They sound more black metal when they slow down into a darker melodic pulse with " To Your Brethren in the Dark". Up until this point I was iffy on the vocals which are in more of a spoken croak. The croak however is placed in the drone of the song right where it needs to be. There is a more mainstream metal sound to the very deliberate groove of the title track.It almost sings like he is croaking out passages of Edgar Allen Poe rather than singing.  There are some weird almost operatic vocals in the back ground. It They do something similar on " the Ghost of Rome". It builds up and throws in some guitar harmonies, but is not a wild deviation from what they normally do."Dissonant" has an interesting groove to it's more jazz like stomp.

The first hint of black metal doesn't show up until "Black Wings and Withering Gloom". Then we get a few blast beats and thrash gallops. The lyrics are about the winter and the snow, which is better than some of the mumbo jumbo the other songs have been about. The album ends with "Burial Rite". This song is more aggressive than most of this album. It reminds me a little of Inquisition. I am not sure what this song is about aside from Leviathan making the sea rumble which has nothing to do with the rest of the song. Two and a half minutes into it the song feels like it is beginning to drag a little. Just as I am thinking that it transitions, but it seems a little arbitrary. I'll round this one up to a 9, as the rawer production makes this one of the first album's by these guys that I can take seriously and don't feel the need to write it off as mall metal. This album comes out September 22nd.

KMFDM : " Hell Yeah"

The legendary act who walks the line between electro and industrial returns like a drug against war, stronger than maybe not ever before, but certainly more powerful than most of the albums since Tohuvabohu. I am glad the guitar is receiving more focus on this album which makes songs like the opening track sound more like their classic work. The vocals work really well over the groove and the guitar accents the chorus. It's not until the more dancey Lucia track " Freak Flag" that we begin getting mixed messages from the band who was just telling us only the tough with survive. They begin wanting you to embrace individuality. This would not be a problem if their name didn't mean "no pity for the majority". This is the band that once instructed us to free our hate. A kinder gentler politically correct KMFDM is not what I want from them. I want them barking orders and espousing a more Darwinian ethics. Then lyrically things begin sounding even more like something from your Facebook feed on "Total State Machine" . Here they are preaching that the government hates you. And why have pity for the graves America dug for themselves if what I ponder. The chorus really pounds and had some dense guitar tones.

 Lucia is back with "Murder My Heart" which is more of a pop song with attitude. The groove gives it more of a strut.Her voice does sound good here and it's not a political song so I can deal with pop. "Rip The System" is another lament of the western world. They need to return to not pitying the majority. "Shock" has a better groove to it. Lucia coos her way into the song. "Fake News" claims that it going to make the sheep think for themselves which is more along the lines of what I want to hear from these guys. One of the album's best songs is the rowdy "RX 4 the Damned" where Lucia seems to have the biggest set of balls in the band. She screams out that the bridges she is going burn will light the way.The chorus to this song is the most explosive of the album.

Sascha gets his moment to shine on "Burning Brain" offering the album more redemption. The buzzsaw guitars sound very big and the production is totally dialed in for this album. "Only Lovers" sounds like Madonna having a darker more introspective moment. The album closes with one of the more hammering moments on "Glam , Glitz, Guts and Gore" . I'll give this album a 9.5 for me, really only because they stray from their mission statement lyrically which makes me a little iffy on a couple of songs, but when they are on they are are on and just as heavy as ever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mogwai : "Every Country's Sun"

I got on board with these guys back on "Come On Die Young". They have changed over the years. So have I. The opener of their new album is more familiar.  Post-rock before I remember hearing the term. They used to just sound good to get high to. I no longer get high, but I guess the drugs altered my perception enough that I listen like to listen to music that sounds good to get high, even without the drugs. The first song makes me envious of those who can do so. I am a little surpised y the vocals on the second song. It's not the first time they have used vocals , but it still takes me by surprised. They are light and breathy, would not sound out of place on a shoe gaze album so what you would expect The bass and drums hold "Brain Sweeties" together, not as strong as the first two songs, but still in range of their wheelhouse.

The atmosphere counter balanced the timid drug groove of "Crossing the Road Material" wich swells into the kind of beautiful post-rock these guys have become known for where they intensity it almost heavy in a transcendent manner. There is more of a kraut rock thing going on with the song that follows. While it sounds go the ambiance makes it feel more like an interlude than a song. "20 Size" is more organic and guitar focused. More soaring layers of guitar melody, this is want you want from these guys. The vocals come back in for "1000 foot face" it has more of a Pink Floyd sound. The atmosphere that opens up the very minimalist 'Don't Believe the Fife" make the song seems like a cloud slowly passing by. It does finally build up into more of a sweeping crescendo. There is more motion and substance to "Battered at a Scramble". The bass line is heft and the guitars kinda solo around in with a jammy yet fluid sense.

"Old Poisons" might be my favorite song as it starts off rocking harder than the others. It's that heaviness I often praise around here that is heavier sonically than it is metal. The drumming is outstanding on this one.  Midway into the song it has more of a Tool like break down that builds back up with the bass player riding it higher up on the neck, much less mathy or prog minded than Tool. They have a pretty stellar guitar tone on the title track that closes the album. The guitar melody is hypnotic yet melodic and coasting over the under current of wah wah noise. I'll give this album a 9 it's very solid and has moments of majesty that not only live up to the band's legacy , but build upon it. If you are a fan of this band you will fall in love with them all over again.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dalek : " Endangered Philosophies"

Death Grips was a cool concept that believed it's own hype and lost track of it's mission statement. But long before that project existed Dalek was rapping out of the box and creating jarring hip-hop. It has what other's trying to make experimental and noisy hip hop often forget about...groove. It's a big dirty "Check Your Head" style beat, but more rough around the edges. I like how "Weapons" is dark and brooding with the track playing backwards to further weave a surreal web around you. The lyrics are thoughts on the world around them without getting to mired down in being political. When it comes to rap, I don't think they should trust either party. "Few Understand" inhabits a similar sonic space that DJ Shadow often occupies. It is more droning and atmospheric than the first songs.

" the Son of Immigrants" says a rise in imminent, but it's more of a call to wake up than to arms. Perhaps lyrical that is what is hinted at , but the music lulls you into a womb like environment. The hypnosis continues to bring the gnosis on "Beyond the Madness " The rap falls back further in the mix and feels more freestyled than the songs that preceded it. While it's very unconventional when compared to mainstream hip-hop, it does adhere to a formula in terms of song structure. The ambiance becomes more intangible, while the vocals step up in the mix for "Sacrifice", As with most rap, the chorus is the chanted hook. Here they break away from the formula and keep chanting the chorus so when it breaks down to what would be a verse it feels more like spoken word.

The beat to " Nothing Stays Permanent" has more of a 90s trip-hop feel to it. I like the dissonance in the verses. This is more like what I have come to known this project as over the years. Long time fans will find this one to be one of their favorite songs. Sometimes they let the ambiance linger more than others. With "A Collective Cancelled Thought" it's allowed to simmer for two minutes until they drop the beat in. It loses me in it's drone eventually. I think the execution is better on "Battlecries" where he name drops Ian Curtis. It's slower and come along the lines of what you might expect from Tricky. They do credibility for trying to compare Jackie Wilson to Elvis. The argument ends with you say Elvis everyone knows , Jackie Wilson only fans of early r&b over the age of 50.

"Straight Razors" is more compressed . It clocks in around four minutes. The rap is not focused on returning back to the hook and flows more freely. This is not to say that they deviate from the formula altogether they just don't adhere as closely. The closing song "Numb" is more sing song, so it's about as up beat as this album gets.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big Hush : "Spirit / Wholes"

From the first song you can hear how they have captured the shoegaze spirit from the 90s and shove it into indie rock songs with more speculative guitar shimmer. They vocals have more form and function that vocals typically do in this genre. Their singer actually sings out rather than just breathing into the microphone. She has some attitude in her otherwise indifferent alto. There is more of a hazy punk rock clamor to the jangle of "Pay to Play". The guitar quivers with effects and the vocals sit back further into the guitar for this one. The bass comes up in the mix to give the song more balls. There is more of a Sonic Youth atmosphere to the woozy wall of drunken guitar clouding "Say Anything". There is a more drugged My Bloody Valentine sense of altered sonics on "Cold Shoulder" , but the riffs are still written with the angular quirk of math rock. There is a heavier undercurrent that opens "Cough" . This is contrasts by one of the album's most upbeat choruses. The vocals seem to be shared by the whole band, but if they were smart they would let the girl who sang on the first song , handle the bulk of the vocals.

 "Walk On" is more straight forward indie rock , with a decent sense of rock about it. "Wholes" is back to the song writing that made the first song work so well, even though it's more lo-fi and the vocals are not as forward in the the mix. The over all sound stays murky for "Honey" , but this is more of a stylistic choice for the given genre. There are some country influenced rock licks tossed into the surreal coast that can be noisy at times. The mood is similar and perhaps more country on "Wrong House", which lyrically sound like it could be sung from Goldilocks perspective. The best thing is the vocals most closely resemble what got my attention on the first song. I can hear hints of the Cowboy Junkies. The album closes with "Where I End". This is another song that highlights the girl with the more impressive voice of this band. Though here it's layered against other vocals that might not be of the same caliber. This song feels more like 60s pop than the country tinged indie rock thing they had going on in the previous song.

 I will give this album a 8.5. I think I have been pretty clear in regards to what I feel is the best path for this band to take in regards to what works best for them. There are some really good songs I wish all of them were consistent enough to measure up to the first song. It does improve when she takes back control of the mic later in the album. I will keep my ears open for what these guys do in the future, if you are a fan of shoe gaze or indie rock then they are worth your time .