Monthly Archives: June 2014

Essays In Idleness – Christopher Bissonnette

First posted on echoesanddust.com

Electronic musician Christopher Bissonnette returns to the music scene to offer a new follow-up to the brilliant 2008 album ‘In Between Words’. On his latest album, Bissonnette offers a wonderful palette of varying movements and electronic treatments to create a wonderfully envisioned world that Bissonnette is so eager to display. The new album is one of Kranky’s latest releases for 2014, and is certainly one of Bissonnette’s most interesting releases to date.

There’s a wonderful experimental nature to the new album from Bissonnette, which doesn’t offer just a typical selection of keyboards and electronic treatments. There’s some very careful consideration to the music present on the new album, which offers a much more interesting and much more involved branch of electronic music. Droning compositions seem to open up the way to new worlds, only to be snatched away again without a moment’s notice. Much of the album has a sort of soothing effect, but even so it is an album that can’t truly be categorized as an ambient record. Electronic effects, elements and ideas introduce themselves in the songs, adding specific notions to the tracks themselves to give them the character that they contribute to the overall album itself.

Christopher Bissonnette has certainly demonstrated some wonderful experimental techniques on his latest record, many of which contribute towards a very interesting album experience. It seems though that the album itself is greater than the songs present on the record, none of which seem to work well as stand-alone songs. Either one enjoys the album in its entirety, listening to each and every song present on the record, or they don’t bother at all. It seems there’s little room to take the songs out of the album context to be enjoyed, as they are all so relevant to the album itself.

On one hand, we can enjoy the wonderful album Bissonnette has crafted with such delicate approach, but on the other there is a disappointing element that there’s nothing more than the album itself present on the record. Perhaps this is something we should have expected from Bissonnette though, who seems to work more towards crafting fully-thought out album experiences rather than individual songs. In any case, much of Bissonnette’s efforts have come across brilliantly, with the new album being a somewhat flawed yet highly enjoyable album experience.

Album Rating;

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Greenish In Its Light
  • Entanglements
  • Uniformity Is Undesirable
  • Wasting A Little Time

Christopher Bisonnettes’ latest album ‘Essays In Idleness’ is out now.

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Leonov – Leonov

First posted on echoesanddust.com

Rock outfit Leonov present their debut self-titled effort, offering up an incredible rock experience featuring elements of Shoe-Gaze and to some extent Math-Rock. There’s a great number of strengths on the album, which features Leonov going all out to present absolutely everything it is they have to offer the musical genre. There’s some brilliant creative ideas as well being presented by the band, who showcase their brilliant talent with what comes across as an impressive debut that’s sure to please a wide range of audiences.

On ‘Lenov’, we’re presented with what comes across as a very in-depth rock experience, often branching out in other various genres for good measure. Everything’s presented in a very cohesive and understandable way, with each song complimenting each other in order to present one strong full-album experience. Most of the elements of the album seem to be at the top of their game, showcasing just how much there is that Leonov has to offer the musical scene today. There’s a large number of strengths on the album as well, with many songs featuring some brilliant rock aesthetics that are just impossible not to enjoy.

Whilst there’s some great elements being featured on ‘Leonov’, a few of the songs on the album do seem to miss the mark somewhat. At times, Leonov seem to opt for big instrumental passages, which are enjoyable to some extent, but on a few occasions it seems to outstay its welcome, suggesting that Leonov have some great ideas under their belt, but don’t really know how to properly express each and every one of them. It’s a shame as we can see at times what it is that Leonov are trying to do, but sadly their efforts on these occasions have just failed to work.

There’s enough great tracks present on ‘Leonov’ to make it an album worthy of recognition though, with the best tracks easily overshadowing the few negative traits scattered on the album. Although the album could of course ‘be better’ than what it is, it still comes across as a very strong album experience, where enough has been done right. Leonov clearly have a great thing going for them, a great understanding of the rock genre and how it can be utilized, as well as a great understanding of how to present it all.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Creation
  • Tempest
  • In Fire
  • Cities Fall

Leonov’s new album ‘Leonov’ is out now.

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The Hunting Party – Linkin Park

Linkin Park showcase their sixth studio album ‘The Hunting Party’, featuring an electric mix of aggressive rock tunes. The latest album follows from the bands rather average 2012 album ‘Living Things’. Much of ‘The Hunting Party’ is made up of the harsh rock tracks we know of Linkin Park, though this time it seems like the band has finally got things working more smoothly again, presenting what is actually a rather strong album experience, featuring some great material. Considering the rather sluggish pace Linkin Park have been at since the phenomenal 2003 album ‘Meteora’, it’s great to finally hear the band sounding great again.

Much of ‘The Hunting Party’ sounds similar to the bands’ previous out-put, though this time round it seems to actually be working well for them. There’s a number of great tracks present on the album, but it’s how they all work together and contribute to the overall album experience that gives the album it’s own strengths. There’s a cohesive and strong sound to the whole album, which just works on a number of levels. As well as sporting some great tracks, there’s a number of collaborators on ‘The Hunting Party’, all of whom add some great layers to the tracks they feature on, giving it even more strengths.

Linkin Park seem to have pushed out one of their strongest albums in years, though it isn’t without its odd flaw here and there. Whilst big flashy and aggressive openings are usually one of Linkin Park’s strong points, it doesn’t seem to have paid off as well on ‘The Hunting Party’ than the band might have wanted it to. The album itself seems to start off a little bit sluggish, taking a while for it to really open up into the strong elements that it does possess. The opening songs themselves have their own appeal sure enough, though as songs they pale somewhat when compared to the strengths of the remaining songs.

Although ‘The Hunting Party’ has a somewhat rocky start, the end result is an album that is very enjoyable on a number of levels. It seems Linkin Park have finally  managed to get things working well for themselves for the first time in years. ‘The Hunting Party’ features some great tracks, ranging from the aggressive and harsh tracks we know and love from Linkin Park, as well as some brilliant collaborative material that really broaden’s the albums palette. ‘The Hunting Party’ might not live up to the strengths of Linkin Park’s early material, but it is perhaps one of their best albums since then.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • All For Nothing
  • Until It’s Gone
  • Rebellion
  • A Line In The Sand

Linkin Park’s sixth studio album ‘The Hunting Party’ is out now.

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Lazaretto – Jack White

Following on from the release of his first solo album ‘Blunderbuss’ back in 2012, Jack White delves back into the fray with the new follow-up ‘Lazaretto’. On his second solo album, we see White broadening on the palette that was first established on ‘Blunderbuss’, this time offering up a more enjoyable collection of tracks covering an enjoyable variety of genres. As well as the expected blues elements we’ve come to know from White, we’re also treated to elements of country music as well. Although there’s some typical elements on ‘Lazaretto’, the whole album does come across as a very strong album featuring some of the best music from White thus far.

‘Lazaretto’ is very enjoyable selection of tracks, executed in brilliant style by White. Elements of blues/garage rock-based songs find themselves bundled up next to country-twinged tracks. Everything works brilliantly though, with the varying song styles working well together on the overall album. The album’s highlights seem to be the more heavier moments, where the album indulges itself in blues/garage rock tunes. Much of the work gone into ‘Lazaretto’ seems to have paid off nicely, with a few of the tracks being nothing short of brilliant, and definitely standing out as some of the best material White has written in his whole career.

Although there’s a lot to enjoy from ‘Lazaretto’, it is arguable that most of the elements featured on the album are all things we’ve heard from White before, and there’s not really a great deal present that is actually new from him. Everything is enjoyable and strong, but there is perhaps a little disappointing element that White hasn’t actually pushed himself as far as he could potentially do to create something new and innovative. This doesn’t seem to dampen the album too much though, which still comes across as an incredibly enjoyable album experience.

Jack White has managed to further cement his position as one the most strongest and influential guitarists and song-writers with his latest album ‘Lazaretto’. The whole experience comes across much more strongly than ‘Blunderbuss’, which is paled in comparison to its greater sounding follow-up. ‘Lazaretto’ features a wonderful selection of songs, showcasing Jack White doing what it is he does best.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Three Women
  • Lazaretto
  • Would You Fight For My Love?
  • High Ball Stepper

Jack White’s second solo album ‘Lazaretto’ is out now.

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Niagarama – How To Swim

Combining elements of alternative rock with cinematic orchestration, How To Swim present their latest album effort ‘Niagarama’. The band’s latest album further continues’ How To Swim’s own slant of lo-fi alternative rock music, this time combined with new ideas and new techniques to create a strong album experience. Each song contributes wonderfully to the overall picture and story being presented by How To Swim, working well as stand-alone songs and as songs contributing to a whole complete album experience. How To Swim may have outdone themselves on ‘Niagarama’ which is not just a strong album from How To Swim, but a strong album within its genre.

There’s an almost playful element running throughout ‘Niagarama’, giving it an almost light-hearted sensibility that gives it many strengths at it progresses along its various selection of tracks. There’s some great weight to the album itself, which offers up a great album experience that features some great up-beat tracks, as well as some beautiful orchestral pieces at various moments. There’s some lovely variety in the tracks, all of which work well together on the album itself, helping to push forward the great talents that How To Swim have as a band.

Whilst there’s some brilliant moments to ‘Niagarama’, with each track contributing nicely to the overall album’s image, it seems that there’s a sluggish element to a few of the songs featured, sadly dampening the effect the album has. Certain tracks on the album are both brilliantly written and presented, but others sadly pale in comparison to their stronger counterparts on the album. A lot of effort and love seems to have been pushed into ‘Niagarama’, which for the most part really works as an album. Whilst most of the tracks contribute to the album nicely, others don’t seem to contribute as much.

How To Swim have certainly pushed out a great album with ‘Niagarama’, and whilst some tracks don’t come across as strongly as others, the overall effect of the album itself works brilliantly to counter this. There’s some wonderful ideas being sported on the latest album from this alternative-rock band, who even push their own capabilities to create a new and great album experience. ‘Niagarama’ comes across as a brilliantly strong alternative-rock album experience that has a lot going in its favor, and certainly warrants the band some well deserved notice.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Niagara
  • Too Old For A Crush (To Be Endearing)
  • Long Division
  • Animals

How To Swim’s latest album ‘Niagarama’ is out now.

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Oceanscape – Castleview

Ambient-artist Castleview offers up his latest full-album experience with the release of ‘Oceanscape’. The new record from Castleview is perhaps one of the most ambitious releases from his extensive discography, with the new album featuring one 40-minute recording. The singular track offers a full album experience, but one that is both challenging and rewarding. On ‘Oceanscape’, Castleview presents us a long-form droning composition, featuring incredibly subtle movements and moments here and there that really form the track, offering us a wonderful and true ambient composition.

‘Oceanscape’ effects are a rather subtle ones. Unlike Castleview’s previous albums which offers various tracks featuring different forms of movements, ‘Oceanscape’ is reliant on its one track to anchor the listener into the story. From the first appearance of the beginning drones, we’re presented with a rather dark and yet oddly peaceful composition that encompasses the feelings, emotions (and most importantly) the sound of being under-water. Castleview’s efforts have worked wonderfully on ‘Oceanscape’ which is certainly challenging, but is perfectly presented.

One might find the idea of a 40-minute track too much to deal with, and in some instances they might be right. At 40 minutes, ‘Oceanscape’ is rather demanding for a singular track. However, something about the track just seems to work incredibly well. It’s an incredibly easy song to put on in the background and allow to hover around, as well as being a track that is rather easy to listen intently too. What’s amazing is how the album doesn’t come across as a chore to listen too. As the track comes to its end, there’s a sense of having really experienced something, as though coming out of a meditative state.

Castleview’s highly ambitious ‘Oceanscape’ is perhaps one of his most accomplished recordings in his current discography. The singular track offers an incredibly emotional ambient experience, featuring an array of emotions ranging from feeling worried about an ominous presence, to being at peace. ‘Oceanscape’ is certainly an ambitious recording, and it’s wonderful to see it executed so brilliantly and so well. ‘Oceanscape’ certainly cements Castleview’s position as one of the best ambient artists working in the independent scene.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★   5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Oceanscape

Castleview’s latest album ‘Oceanscape’ is out now.

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X – Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran offers up his follow-up album to his breakthrough record ‘+’. His latest work ‘X’ (pronounced ‘Multiply’) continues on from the first album, offering up a mix of acoustic-folk tinged tracks, combined with elements of hip-hop and rap here and there. It is easy to hear the progression in Sheeran’s work on his latest work, which seems to expand upon his own sound much more than on his debut record. For the most part, ‘X’ is a rather enjoyable record, featuring some well written songs, though the whole album experienced seems to come across as very confused and mixed up.

On Sheeran’s latest record, we’re treated to a large mix of new tracks from the singer-songwriter, as well as the production values of many producers, and the input of a number of collaborators. Each collaborator has helped push out Sheeran’s style just a little bit, widening the edges of how the singer’s music comes across. For the most part, it’s resulted in a very varied mix of tracks, much more-so than what was present on the singer’s debut effort. There’s a number of strong tracks present on the album, many of which will surely go on to become very popular tracks in the charts no doubt.

What’s a little confusing is why Sheeran has opted for so many producers on different tracks. Every other song present on the album has been produced by somebody different, resulting in a bit of a mismatched selection of tracks. There doesn’t seem to be much structure here at all, as the album goes from typical acoustic ballad straight into a typical Pharrell Williams hip-hop pop tune. Some efforts from some collaborators seems a little pointless at times, as their input seems to add very little to the tunes they’ve worked on. It’s a shame as it’s nice to see Sheeran really progressing in terms of what he is capable of, but it seems he’s let too many people get their fingers in, taking away the honest element that came across on some of the singer’s earlier releases.

There’s some very enjoyable moments on ‘X’, which features some great songs here and there. As a full album experience though, the whole effort feels very flawed, with the best of Sheeran’s capabilities being overshadowed by over-production. Sheeran has certainly pushed out a lot of his own experiences and ideas into his latest album, but they don’t seem to come across as strongly as he might have wanted them to. ‘X’ is by no means a failure of an album, but it does come across as an album that has let itself down on a number of counts.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • One
  • Don’t
  • Tenerife Sea
  • Afire Love

Ed Sheeran’s second studio album ‘X’ is out now. 

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Dog Years – The Great Sabatini

Montreal-based sludge-metal rockers The Great Sabatini present their third-studio album ‘Dog Years’. This time round we hear The Great Sabatini producing their sludgy metal sound to great effect, utilizing more ideas and more techniques to add real groundwork to their latest album effort. Much of ‘Dog Years’ is dominated by incredibly heavy riffs, accompanied by the distorted wailing, groaning and screaming vocal style. Although at times there’s an element of repetition to ‘Dog Years’, there’s a few little surprises here and there, making The Great Sabatini’s latest album a really interesting musical experience.

The Great Sabatini present a strong understanding of the sludge-metal genre in their latest work, but its in their ability to mix things up and change things around that really helps ‘Dog Years’ come across as a strong album. Starting from the album’s incredibly sudden beginning, we’re treated to a very interesting selection of tracks, a few of which really shift everything around, sounding nothing like what one would expect to hear on an album of this style. The Great Sabatini have not only managed to present the sludge-metal genre to great effect on their latest album, but have also managed to structure their album carefully in a very strong and enjoyable way.

‘Dog Years’ is certainly a strong album for a number of reasons, though it is let down by a few little points that prevent the album from being a really great album. Though there’s some variation in terms of the instrumentals present in the album, there’s not enough when the album opts for the sludge-metal moments, which dominate the album. Most of the tracks follow similar formatting and similar structures, making some of the songs that appear later in the album a little bit more dull than their predecessors. Whilst they might sport some enjoyable sections and moments, it would perhaps be nicer to see even more diversity at times.

Although it’s by no means a perfect album, ‘Dog Years’ contains enough strengths to make it an enjoyable release from the band. Within its own genre, there’s enough happening on the album to make it one of the more stronger album releases of its own genre, which is rather refreshing to hear after so many repetitive and dull albums. The Great Sabatini have a lot going for themselves, and have managed to push out some great ideas and some great music on their latest album. One can only hope that The Great Sabatini keep this up in their career.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Reach
  • Akela
  • Munera
  • Life During Wartime

The Great Sabatini’s third studio album ‘Dog Years’ is out now.

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48:13 – Kasabian

The playful and somewhat immature indie-rock band Kasabian present their fifth album effort titled ’48:13′. Named after the total running length of the album itself, Kasabian use their fifth album as an opportunity to present more of their indie-rock styled anthems, echoing some of their previous albums as well as incorporating some new ideas here and there for good measure. The bands’ new album is certainly a typical indie-rock experience, featuring a few enjoyable tracks here and there, but much of the album comes across as rather weak, perhaps suggesting that Kasabian are truly running out of steam.

Kasabian’s latest album ’48:13′ is an interesting record in some respects. The new album features some different ideas than what we’ve seen on the bands’ previous record. This time, we’re treated to short-song interludes that help break up the album into its various sections, before we’re presented with the rather bombastic indie-rock anthems that we certainly have come to know from Kasabian. The whole effort is somewhat interesting at times, featuring some rather memorable songs at various points. There’s even a few surprise songs that certainly sound unexpected when their turn on the album finally comes, giving ’48:13′ some of its own character and flair as an album.

Although ’48:13′ is a better album experience than its predecessor, it hasn’t managed to do enough to make it a worthy album. Many of the songs present on the album seem to just meander around, not really offering anything to the overall picture, and instead give off an image of Kasabian just pushing out any old thing they can think of. There doesn’t seem to be any of the real genius that was present on the bands’ earlier records, and none of the craftsmanship of ‘Empire’ or ‘West Pauper Ryder Lunatic Asylum’. The new album just doesn’t seem to hold its ground well as an album, as though it’s doing its absolute best to be a good and strong concept album, but sadly containing none of the required elements to be just that.

It doesn’t feel like Kasabian have tried really hard on ’48:13′. Some tracks on the album are certainly enjoyable, with a few managing to stand out, but there doesn’t seem to be any real reason behind the album itself. There seems to be elements of a concept behind the album itself, but nothing comes forward to make it known. The few enjoyable songs on the record don’t manage to save the album itself either, making it an album not really worthy of purchasing. Regrettably, ’48:13′ sees Kasabian at their worst, with the album suggesting that there’s nothing left to come from the once great indie-rock band.

Album Rating:

  • ★★☆☆☆  2/5

Selected Songs:

  • Bumblebee
  • Treat
  • Clouds
  • Bow

Kasabian’s fifth studio album ’48:13′ is out now.

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When Plants Turn Into Stone – O

O (Circle) present a grand post-rock album experience titled ‘When Plants Turn Into Stone’. The new album from the Belgium/Netherlands & Germany based band features an incredible cinematic approach to the post-rock genre, presenting an incredible experience that encompasses the many enjoyable elements from the post-rock genre. O showcase a great range of expressive ideas, showing careful commitment to the craft of their music. ‘When Plants Turn Into Stone’ is a rather dark, perhaps haunting, album experience that echoes varying bands from Godspeed You! Black Emperor to Sigur Ros.

‘When Plants Turn Into Stone’ comes across as an incredibly expressive album, featuring some incredible attention to detail in building up the natural images of the music itself. Musically, the album is rich, featuring gorgeous instrumentation that is certain to please fans of the post-rock genre. It is in the composition of the six tracks, and their presentation on the album itself, that we see the true genius of the album. Each track on the album contributes so much to the overall story and impressions that O want to present. This is post-rock music at its best, where ideas and elements are only included if they really contribute towards the album itself.

Within its genre, ‘When Plants Turn Into Stone’ is almost flawless. There is an incredible amount to be enjoyed here, especially if one appreciates carefully crafted music. Some elements of the post-rock genre that could be described as cliched are found at various points within the album, which to some people might dampen the impact of the album itself. However it’s arguable that O have managed to make each element really work on the album, going back to the early days of the post-rock genre when the techniques were surprising, and really worked with the music itself. Nothing feels out-of-place or pointless on ‘When Plants Turn To Stone’, helping to elevate the album as a brilliant effort.

O have managed to craft themselves a brilliant album effort, featuring the best of the post-rock genre, as well as some great ideas of their own. ‘When Plants Turn Into Stone’ manages to echo some of the best bands within the genre without actually ripping off the strengths of these bands, and simultaneously sounding unique in its own unusual way. There’s certainly been a lot of really strong post-rock releases this year, but ‘When Plants Turn Into Stone’ has a great number of them easily beat, with its presentation of a dark yet interesting story, told through incredibly atmospheric post-rock instrumentals. This is perhaps one of the best releases of the year.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Entstanden Im Schatten Wie Wasser
  • How Polished Boulders Carried Us Along
  • When Plants Turn Into Stone
  • I Offer My Hands To The Shades

O (Circle)’s latest album ‘When Plants Turn Into Stones’ is out now.

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