Cheetah EP – Aphex Twin

Since the surprise upload and subsequent take down of hundreds of tracks to Soundcloud, the fate of Richard D. James’ music has been in question. It seems though that Richard D. James has opted to instead refine some of these tracks into more cohesive forms, one such release being the new ‘Cheetah‘ EP, released under the moniker of Aphex Twin. This latest EP offers various versions and mixes of the CHEETAH track, as well as a couple of versions of CIRKLON which originally appeared on ‘Syro‘ in 2014 (although in true Richard D. James form, barely recognisable from their counterparts and each other).

There’s an almost hypnotic and entrancing element to ‘Cheetah‘, which slowly pulses along, dragging the listener into the enigmatic world that only James can create. Anchored mostly by two versions of CHEETAH and two versions of CIRKLON (divided by two brief interludes of CHEETAH), we see James reinterpreting his own work in a variety of different ways, drawing out different concepts and ideas through its presentation. It’s perhaps less urgent and intimidating than some of his other releases, showing more restraint in his approach, though an underlying notion of tension and worry seems to anchor much of the EP together. Those perhaps looking for continuations of some of James’ much earlier works will not find much on ‘Cheetah‘, but those who enjoy simply seeing whatever the hell it is that James’ can conjure up next, as well as just how different his various mixes of his own tracks sound, will find the EP to no doubt be an interesting and intriguing release, and one that perhaps stands comfortably alongside his already varied discography.

It’s in ‘Cheetah’s more reserved tones that we find the main strengths of the EP release itself. It’s seems to be more of an improvement on both ‘Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2′ and ‘Orphaned Deejay Selek 2006-08’ released under the moniker of AFX, which both showed a more experimental side to James’ music, but seemed less cohesive and structured. On ‘Cheetah‘, there is a much more comfortable flow, even with the brief interlude of two slightly more experimental tracks. Once again, we’re shown more of James’ incredibly vast sonic palette, with each new release being delightfully unpredictable.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • CHEETAH2 [Ld Spectrum]
  • CHEETAH7b
  • CIRKLON3 [Колхозная mix ]
  • CIRKLON 1

Aphex Twin’s latest EP ‘Cheetah’ is out now.

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A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

For some people, bands being at the height of popularity are somewhat dismissive, with interest in perhaps being lackluster even for the most creative of bands. It’s somewhat difficult to really see the true nature of something when concerns over money, intent and sincerity cloud the creative work in question. These days it’s incredibly easy to become jaded and cynical to the music industry, but at the centre of it all, music is simply another art form, of which just about anything can form an emotional connection with anyone. Sure, some music fails to do just that, but when it does, the effects can sometimes be indescribable.

Radiohead’s latest album A Moon Shaped Pool, has certainly generated some of the most interesting discussions out of any album of theirs. Many fans and critics all seem desperate to dissect the work, make their own opinions and theories known to all, which is perhaps something Radiohead does best. Some people believe A Moon Shaped Pool to be the best of Radiohead’s albums, whilst others simply see it as an improvement on 2011’s The King of Limbs. What’s more interesting though is how everybody is right in their own little way.

For this reviewer, tracks like ‘Decks Dark’, ‘The Numbers’ and the oddly named ‘Tinker Tailor Solider Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief’ all came across as some of the most interesting and creative tracks the band have put out thus far. For others, this may not be the case, and instead tracks like ‘Present Tense’ and ‘Identikit’ form the basis of joy for the album. The way this album has come across to so many people really stands out as a testament to the album itself, showing how our differences don’t really mean anything at the end of the day.

One of Radiohead’s greatest strengths is in how their creative works simply connect to each individual in its own little way. For this reviewer, A Moon Shaped Pool came across as something brilliantly unnerving, heart-breaking and beautiful. An album where that first listen was something phenomenal and fairly emotional. That emotional connection was there from the very beginning, and held on in so many ways as it morphed and shifted with each track on the album. There’s a power here, and whilst it might not come to all those who listen to the album, it has definitely come to some fans of the band, each in its own different way.

It can be easy to hate on certain people in the music industry, and to fans of those, it can feel discomforting to see that artist or band being berated in some way. It perhaps feels frustrating that whomever is saying these things simply doesn’t understand your way of thinking. Perhaps in these situations, it’s best to just let it all be. If music has formed that connection with you, why should someone else’s opinion make that any less powerful? For myself, Radiohead will probably always be one of those bands that will stick with me throughout the years, with A Moon Shaped Pool being another album that stands out in their impressive discography. That’s something that nobody can take away from me.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Decks Dark
  • Ful Stop
  • The Numbers
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief

Radiohead’s latest album ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is out now.

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Your Wilderness – The Pineapple Thief

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

If The Pineapple Thief’s 2014 album effort Magnolia saw the band finding a distinction in their sound, which in turn resulted in a strong and cohesive album experience, then the band’s latest album Your Wilderness is the progression of just that. The Pineapple Thief’s latest album experience shows the band having really pushed forward their new skills in song-writing and performance (helped no least by ex-Porcupine Tree’s Gavin Harrison, whose production skills on the album help shape much of the experience itself). Your Wilderness feels like a band who know exactly what they want to do, and know how to achieve just that.

Having established something great on Magnolia, Pineapple Thief have taken that template, and pushed it even further, creating a highly successful follow-up album that arguably stands on the same grounds (if not succeeds it). Your Wilderness shows remarkable progression from a band who had already demonstrated progression, and are now beginning to perfect their latest achievements.. Each track on the album contributes to the overall picture being painted by the band, and whilst certain moments on the album may feels a little lackluster in terms of energy, it feels important and necessary in presenting this overarching story-line. It seems rather than relying on old standard techniques within the genre, The Pineapple Thief have instead opted for more restraint, which in turn give those more urgent moments more emphasis.

With this new level of excellence The Pineapple Thief are now demonstrating, the standard of what the band are now pushing out seems to place them at the forefront of modern progressive rock music. Your Wilderness simply ticks the boxes of what makes a strong and enjoyable album of this caliber, with it arguably sounding a little less pretentious than other artists in the foray of the genre.  Though this is perhaps one of the strongest and most promising of The Pineapple Thief’s body of work, it does seem to have come with a loss of the band’s earlier more experimental roots. (Though conversely, confusing and tiresome dirges have now turned into the structured and enjoyable).

Whilst there was much to enjoy from The Pineapple Thief’s earlier bodies of work, it seems the band have started to hit their stride, and are now in the process of producing some of their best albums. Much of the work the band have thrown into this album seems to have really paid off, with it coming across as one of the strongest albums of their entire repertoire. Whether or not it overtakes life-long fan’s personal favourites is their own business, though it is undoubted that this is a highly interesting chapter in the band’s history, and one can only wonder where they’ll take themselves next.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • In Exile
  • No Man’s Land
  • The Final Thing On My Mind
  • Where We Stood

The Pineapple Thief’s latest album ‘Your Wilderness’ is out now.

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Atomic – Mogwai

Following the announcement that guitarist John Cummings would be leaving the band, the future of Mogwai’s music seemed a little uncertain, mostly in part to the phenomenal input of Cummings himself, who helped shaped so much of Mogwai’s music. However, any fear can easily be laid to rest, as the release of ‘Atomic’, a soundtrack by Mogwai, shows incredible promise from the Scottish post-rock band. The soundtrack, conceived for film-maker Mark Cousin’s documentary Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise, works well in context of the source material, but remarkably so, works incredibly well as simply another Mogwai album, and one that really stands out in their already eclectic discography.

Many of Mogwai’s releases seem to introduce new elements here and there, showcasing the band as one willing to expand their own capabilities. ‘Atomic’ is no different in that respect, with the album featuring some of the band’s most interesting work to date. Everything perfectly encapsulates the themes of atomic war, with some tracks capturing the essence of nature’s beauty, and others the sheer terror and panic of nuclear war. Though at times, a somewhat challenging listen, there’s many moments that stand out brilliantly, sounding just about as strong as any particular fan favourite.

Certain tracks on ‘Atomic’ may be raise an eyebrow or two on some Mogwai fans, notably on tracks where the standard notions of post-rock seem to have been thrown out of the window. It’s perhaps here though we see the real strengths of Mogwai as a band, who refuse to let the standard notions of the post-rock genre restrict them from interpreting the source material in their own way. The result is an album that perhaps pushes the boundaries of post-rock just that little bit further, showing us that there is more that can be done with the genre if one is only willing.

It’s one to make a soundtrack that perfectly fits the film it’s supporting, but it’s something else entirely when that soundtrack also works well as its own stand-alone release. There’s a phenomenal power and energy to ‘Atomic’, which shows Mogwai still hitting those amazing strides that only they can do. Whilst the absence of John Cummings is somewhat disappointing, it seems that the rest of the band-members have all pushed themselves even further, showing they’re still capable of making some of the most incredible instrumental rock music in this day and age.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Ether
  • SCRAM
  • Are You A Dancer?
  • Tzar

Mogwai’s latest album ‘Atomic’ is out now.

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Resonance – Slowrun

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Finnish post-rockers Slowrun finally showcase the follow-up album to their 2013 effort of ‘Prologue’ with their latest slab of instrumental rock ‘Resonance’. Once again, Slowrun delve deep into their generally pleasing and enjoyable aesthetics of post-rock music, offering a familiar and approachable sound that rises to the surface, showcasing its strengths in a subtle manner. The new album sees the band improving upon the promising sound of their debut effort, utilizing their talents and skills and honing in on everything, in the creation of a strong and enjoyable post-rock experience. At times, ‘Resonance’ may falter in some of the same ways that ‘Prologue’ did, though much of the work feels like a generous improvement.

On ‘Resonance’, Slowrun dive deep into their understanding of the post-rock genre, relying hard on some of its formalities, but utilizing them brilliantly in ways we may have forgot. It is perhaps arguable that at times, Slowrun method of post-rock relies a lot on its existing concepts, but its in the natural talent the band possess, in their ability to interpret and showcase the genre, that makes ‘Resonance’ such a strong and enjoyable album experience.  Certain tracks do oddly resonate brilliantly with the listener, with the band balancing some gentle and sparse moments of beauty with more sudden yet still subtle walls of noise.

Like certain parts of ‘Prologue’, there are a few of the same little problems on ‘Resonance’, though perhaps less frequent on the whole album itself. Certain sections may come across as feeling a little bit like Slowrun simply presenting what everyone would come to expect from a band working within the genre. This may be felt by the more cynical fans of the genre, but those who simply enjoy things for what they are will find a lot to enjoy on ‘Resonance’, which feels like a band really trying their all to create something they can be proud of, which they should most definitely be in this case.

Overall, ‘Resonance’ feels like a very strong effort from a band who seem to be taking great strides in their understanding of what they’re achieving. Slowrun have certainly advanced comfortably from their first effort, hardly overshadowing ‘Prologue’ to the point of irrelevancy, but simply building up upon the groundwork they originally set down. ‘Resonance’ feels like a step in the right direction, like a band starting to really work out their identity and using their strengths and talents to achieve that goal. There’s definitely something work keeping an eye on here, and something we hope will continue to grow over the years.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Blinding Light
  • Introspection
  • First Hour
  • The Way

Slowrun’s second album ‘Resonance’ is out now and is available here. 

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Painting With – Animal Collective

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

 

Whacky pop-artists Animal Collective come out with their tenth studio album ‘Painting With’. The new album continues the sonic sound explorative sound so often seen on pretty much any Animal Collective album, utilising electronics to create an almost digital-sounding psychedelic sound. It’s a sound that those who know and love Animal Collective will find themselves completely immersing themselves within, and a sound those will confuse and push away those who have no idea what Animal Collective are trying to do. It’s dumfounding at times, but it’s that special headspace that no other band puts you into that keeps you returning to Animal Collective.

‘Painting With’ seems to abandon the mostly experimental, pure-psychedelic and frankly, more batshit sound of their previous album ‘Centipede Hz’, in favour of a more ‘accessible’ pop sound (or at least as ‘accessible’ as Animal Collective can ever sound’). There’s less otherworldly cosmic blowouts on the new album, which are replaced with more direct and urgent pop tracks. Much of the album seems to harken back to the absurdly popular ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, mostly in thanks to featuring the same line-up, though perhaps ‘Painting With’ is a little easier on us all, and less of a sonic onslaught.

Maybe this is a criticism of the album. It’s certainly admirable how Animal Collective have produced such a bizarre and incomprehensible sound to such a popular place, but that craziness feels a little lost at times on ‘With Painting’. Some of the time, we’re presented with what feels like a slightly dumbed-down style of Animal Collective, with some tracks feeling mostly forgettable and failing to reach those absurdly dizzying heights of their previous works.  The experimentation that adds that wonderful element to Animal Collective’s greatest works doesn’t really seem to be there this time.

‘Painting With’ is certainly an undeniable Animal Collective experience, one that entertains in such a confusing way, though it is perhaps a little less entertaining than the bands’ previous albums. There’s definitely some enjoyable track featured on the album, songs like opener ‘FloriDaDa’ are far too much fun to deny, whilst ‘On Delay’ features wonderfully layered synthetic elements and vocals that sound rich and delightful. ‘Painting With’ might falter on occasion, and fail to become the new ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ or better yet, the new ‘Feels’, though it is undeniably fun and whacky, which is just what one expects from Animal Collective anyway.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • FloriDaDa
  • Hocus Pocus
  • On Delay
  • Golden Gal

Animal Collective’s latest album ‘Painting With’ is out now.

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rootless – rootless

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

The moniker rootless, the platform for which Brooklyn-based Jeremy Hurewitz released his solo music endeavours, offers his latest effort ‘Rootless’. This un-capitalized self-titled release comprises three new tracks, and three remixes of those tracks, each encompassing Hurewitz’s style of ambient post-rock drone set to spoken word dialogues that help to set the tone of the entire work’s body. Hurewitz certainly presents some nice ideas on this latest effort, which sees some good concepts coming together harmoniously, though we are let down by a second half to the album which essentially starts the whole cycle again, albeit a more dull cycle.

The strengths of ‘Rootless’ come from Hurewitz independent style of music composition, which has resulted in a creative and mostly enjoyable form of post-rock whilst also encompassing styles of ambience and psychedelic. Hurewitz’ spoken word helps create the setting for the songs, something which is often a struggle in experimental post-rock music. Here though, it is competently achieved, and results in some enjoyable musical passages, where synthetic elements combine comfortably with analogue music to create harmony. It’s a little cosmic and noisy on occasion, but when it works, it works nicely, with there being some lovely and gentle post-rock aesthetics accompanying some fairly interesting poetry.

When it doesn’t work though, it becomes tiresome, and sadly this is due to Hurewitz’s decision to muddy up his album with three remixes of the same three tracks on the first half. Although these remixes do their best to draw out some new elements from the original source material, it just feels entirely unnecessary. We’re essentially made to listen to the entire album all over again from the very beginning, except this time everything is just less colourful and less interesting, making this part of the endeavor pointless. This is helped less by the fact that although most strengths are in the first half, it is let down by this weird element of everything building up, without ever leading up to something. It’s almost as though each track is an introduction to something, though we never find out what it’s trying to introduce.

There’s some merits here and there, and definitely some nice ideas across the album, though there’s a fair amount to wade through before you find anything you might attach yourself too. One might consider the more recent work of Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek, and his spoken word styles accompanied by a variety of different musical genres. There’s definitely some enjoyment to be had here, though the main body of work is far from perfect. It’s certainly nice at times, with there being very enjoyable drone and post-rock elements, though sometimes it feels a little thin on the ground.There’s also that annoying thing where none of the song names are capitalized in a result to make it all feel different and interesting to everything else, personally it just feels annoying and unnecessary.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • buildings on fire
  • the camel and the moon

rootless’ debut album ‘rootless’ is out now.

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Reversal – Takénobu

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Nick Takénobu Ogawa, operating under the moniker of Takénobu, offers his latest solo album ‘Reversal’, released independently by the artist himself. The new album from the artist features his trademark style of modern classical music, layering instrumentals over each other to create rich textural music. ‘Reversal’ comes across as another strong album within a genre where we see can see a lot of flak from those simply doing their bare minimum, and hardly trying to create anything of interest. We can argue that at times, Takénobu is guilty of this, though there’s some lovely moments on ‘Reversal’ that we can attach ourselves too.

‘Reversal’ builds up gentle classical tones in a slightly modern fashion, using current time signatures and methods to create gentle and comfortable soundscapes. It’s in Takénobu’s competent abilities as both a composer and performer do we see the strengths of this album effort. Everything comfortable glides along at a pleasant pace, until we confronted by the more challenging and interesting ideas the record possesses.  Takénobu seems to be trying to break up the monotony of classical records by including various other ideas, including slightly darker and more experimental tracks.

This doesn’t detract from the fact that many of the tracks on ‘Reversal’ fall into the trap we often see on records like this. Many performers of classical instruments, whether it be cello like Takénobu or whatever else you can think of, it seems most people are only able to get one tone and one sound out of their instrument, making most tracks sound too similar to each other, resulting in the same old sluggish album experience we’re so often confronted with. Takénobu has tried to combat this with a few tracks on ‘Reversal’, though it’s perhaps not enough to stop the whole album experience from becoming a little dull at times.

Though the whole album itself becomes a flawed listening experience, we’re still offered some very nice ideas from a clearly talented composer who definitely has some nice ideas to offer. The album’s third track ‘Curtain Call’ definitely has some merits with its more modern approach to composition, mostly down to its inclusion of vocals. Certain elements come across as a little cheesy perhaps, but it still remains an enjoyable listen, and definitely a highlight from the album itself. This is perhaps one of those albums where you’ll find yourself ignoring the more forgettable tracks, but definitely enjoying the more memorable ones.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Reversing
  • Curtain Call
  • Snow Day
  • Swimmin’

Takénobu’s latest album ‘Reversal’ is out now.

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Never Had A Dream – Hunck

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

If you happened to go see The Polyphonic Spree perform their debut album ‘The Beginning Stages…’ in its entirety last year in London, and you’re the kind of person who gets early to things just to get to the front, then you most likely saw support act Hunck perform. Now, go back further. Did you happen to see Polyphonic Spree in London sometime in June 2014? First support band was The Plastic Dots, the now old-band of lead singer Frederick Tyson-Brown. Very exciting, but what does it mean?

It probably means Tyson-Brown got bored of performing noisy shoegaze and instead evolved his sound to include a more synth-pop element, thus forming the new band Hunck. The band have released their debut EP ‘Never Had A Dream’, featuring all the wonderful hits that we all know so very damn well, or at least those of us with half a memory from those few gigs we can actually remember.

Lucky for fans of the group, the songs heard live at these gigs have been recreated pretty much note for note for their first EP, so if you’re one of the people straining to remember what it all sounded like, just boot up EP and send yourself off down memory lane. Perhaps though, you’d rather not, for Hunck certainly know how to shape everything nicely, from their instrumentals to their vocals in order to create an accessible shoegaze sound, but damn if there is anything actually interesting going on here. There’s a lack of that great spark that makes us want to connect to the music.

Hunck definitely have tried to do something for their debut EP, but they have failed to actually produce something of true interest. It’s not unpleasant; it just passes by without impinging noticeably on your attention. Most likely fans of The Polyphonic Spree will see Hunck again if they make their rounds back to London. Could be worse I guess.

Album Rating:

  • ★★☆☆☆  2/5

Selected Songs:

  • Never Had A Dream

Hunck’s debut EP ‘Never Had A Dream’ is out now.

Categories: EPs, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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