Monthly Archives: September 2015

Helios | Erebus – God Is An Astronaut

Irish post-rockers follow on from their previous studio album ‘Origins’ with the release of their heavier and somewhat more ambitious album of ‘Helios | Erebus’. The new album sees the band continuing their own vein of post-rock music, featuring their distinct sounding guitar melodies accompanied by an array of varying instrumental styles and techniques, giving their sound one that stands out a little bit more in the genre than most do. For the most part, ‘Helios | Erebus’ is a rather strong album from the band, and one that certainly stands out nicely amongst their discography.

‘Helios | Erebus’ has the makings of a strong post-rock album within its inner-workings. Many of the tracks offer a somewhat aggressive and almost threatening style of music, utilizing elements of math-rock from time to time, though hardly restricting itself to this specific genre. There are of course some very distinct moments of beauty and solace amongst the almost chaotic mix. God Is An Astronaut manage to show restraint from time to time, not allowing every single track to indulge itself into wild-ish heavy moments. All in all it’s a rather strong effort that comes across as a very strong album from the band, and one that is not so difficult to access, both for fans of the band and fans of the genre.

Whilst the new album from God Is An Astronaut sports many strengths, with a few tracks coming across as some of their best material thus far, it does seem that at a few points the album lacks in strength, and instead becomes a little bit dull and repetitive. A few tracks on the album seem to sound a little too similar to the rest of the album, not really showing anything new from the band, but instead showing a reliance on their old methods and techniques. Whilst far from their weakest material, it does give the album its negative traits, sounding disappointing amongst a rather strong album.

Though not every track lives up to the level the album itself presents, there’s still a strong standard of material being presented by God Is An Astronaut, who are continuing to maintain a reputation as being one of the strongest bands working today in the post-rock genre. There’s many strong qualities to the bands music, and much of ‘Helios | Erebus’ continues that standard, whilst on a few occasions showing a little bit more to be offered from the band. It’s arguable that the bands’ new album might not be their absolute best album thus far, though it is amongst the strongest.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Pig Powder
  • Vetus Memoria
  • Helios Erebus
  • Centralia

God Is An Astronaut’s latest album ‘Helios | Erebus’ is out now.

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Stolen Flowers Of The Dead – Stolen Flowers Of The Dead EP

This little experimental EP release titled ‘Stolen Flowers Of The Dead’ offers up a slightly more experimental ambient experience. At 9 minutes, the release is incredibly short though it offers insight into some of the creative visions being presented by the creator. Ambient swirls and drones are accompanied by snippets of varying other instruments, many of which have been manipulated and re-designed through editing, resulting in an interesting and rather intimate release. In just shy of ten minutes, Stolen Flowers of the Dead presents a great amount of creativity, showcasing some wonderful ideas without ever over-doing anything.

‘Stolen Flowers Of The Dead’ offers up the groundwork for an interesting ambient project. Various instruments and techniques have all been utilized in the creation of something personal to the artist. Although a little rough around the edges, there’s something that draws the listener in on this EP release, inviting them into a somewhat darker yet somehow still comforting world. Though certain elements in terms of the production of this EP somewhat falter from time to time, suggesting that the EP could benefit from more care and attention to certain post-production elements, though the EP demonstrates some very nice ideas that would be interesting to see developed in the future.

It’s unsure of whether or not the Stolen Flowers of the Dead project ends here with the release of its first EP, or whether it may continue in the future, though one certainly hopes so after hearing this debut release. Although imperfect, there’s some wonderful notions being presented here, and the personal nature of the music itself gives it an element of real sincerity that’s somewhat hard to find these days. Yes, it is incredibly short, though it serves as a perfect introduction to something very interesting.

 Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Vandalising Abandoned Chalet, 2006
  • Loneliness Contextualised By Schufftan Process
  • Cemetery Shortcut

Stolen Flowers Of The Dead’s debut EP ‘Stolen Flowers Of The Dead EP’ is out now and is available from:  Stolen Flowers of the Dead

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No Place In Heaven – Mika

British singer-songwriter Mika offers up his fourth studio album ‘No Place In Heaven’, following on from his mature yet enjoyable 2012 album release of ‘The Origin of Love’. Mika’s latest album sees the singer-songwriter falling back to the playful and quirky sounds of his debut album, whilst adding in the more serious and mature elements from his previous studio album, resulting in an album that bridges all the gaps between his work. There’s a few enjoyable tracks featured on this fourth album by Mika, though for the most part, ‘No Place In Heaven’ feels largely disappointing, sounding like an effort that fails to capture any real spark.

‘No Place In Heaven’ is certainly an interesting album from Mika. There’s a lovely combination of styles and techniques being used on this latest album, blending together quirkiness with seriousness. It seems like an effort on Mika’s part to push out everything he has learnt over the past few years, from his own strengths to a few daring moves of not knowing how something will turn out. There’s even some very personal tracks on the album, where Mika really puts himself out there as a person. For the most part, many of Mika’s efforts on ‘No Place In Heaven’ are rather admirable, with there being a rather conscious effort to produce something interesting.

Although there’s some strengths present on ‘No Place In Heaven’, it does feel that most of this album effort sadly falls flat, with most of the ideas failing to really take off and arguably showing Mika at his weakest. Most of the tracks just fail to inspire, and offer the same level of childish glee that the singer’s debut album offered, or even the interesting and charming level of maturity as his previous album. Many of the tracks on the album feel mostly forgettable, failing to offer any kind of infectious vocal hook or interesting and delightful lyric, with everything instead sounding like the bare minimum Mika can and has offered.

 There is the odd enjoyable song here and there, but sadly Mika’s ‘No Place In Heaven’ is a rather large let down, coming across as an album that fails to capture much joy, glee or really any emotions, except for disappointment. When the songs on the album work, it shows some very enjoyable elements and techniques, though it fails to run throughout the album. Though the personal elements on the album are certainly admirable, it fails to really bring enough to the album itself, leaving ‘No Place In Heaven’ as a very weak and disappointing effort.

Album Rating:

  • ★★☆☆☆  2/5

Selected Songs:

  • Talk About You
  • No Place in Heaven

Mika’s fourth studio album ‘No Place in Heaven’ is out now. 

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In Colour – Jamie xx

Musician & Producer Jamie xx follows on from his independent releases that began with 2011’s ‘We’re New Here’, with the release of his debut solo album ‘In Colour’. The new album sees Jamie xx immersing himself completely in his own understanding of electronic and dance music, weaving together a somewhat unusual yet enjoyable album experience featuring interesting ideas and songs. Whilst’s Jamie xx’s 2011 release may not have been a great indicator of what he is capable of in terms of his own creative ideas, it certainly came across as a good groundwork for many of the ideas built up upon on ‘In Colour’.

‘In Colour’ sees Jamie xx flourishing in his own concepts and ideas, really using everything he has learnt to push out a coherent and enjoyable album effort. All the makings of a current popular album are presented on ‘In Colour’, showing the great understanding Jamie xx has of the music industry and his own techniques and ideas. There’s some level of experimentation on Jamie xx’s part, who uses his solo endeavor as a chance really get his own ideas out there, presenting a collage of various styles and techniques, all of which come together nicely in a coherent manner.

Whilst mostly a strong effort that is easily enjoyable and instantly accessible, it does seem that on some levels Jamie xx fails to really bring all that much to the table in terms of electronic dance music. Although it is undeniable that Jamie xx has a great amount of talent when it comes to the composition of the material on his album, it sometimes comes across that a few of the songs on the album are only there to please everyone, rather than showcase some interesting ideas.

Although ‘In Colour’ is not the greatest representative of the genre it occupies, it is a good indicator of someone making attempts to create something they know and understand well. Jamie xx seems to have utilized everything he knows in the creation of his own debut album, certainly elevating himself to a position well above the average norm in the genre. Although more could arguably have been done at certain points on the album, there’s certainly enough present to result in an enjoyable and mostly fun album experience.

 Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • SeeSaw
  • Stranger in a Room
  • I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)
  • Girl

Jamie xx’s debut solo album ‘In Colour’ is out now.

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Jerusalem In My Heart – If He Dies, If If If If If If

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Producer, musician and composer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh follows on with the physical releases of his Jerusalem In My Heart project with the release of his sophomore album effort ‘If He Dies, If If If If If If’, featuring Moumneh and various guests on sound, and Charles-Andre Coderre tackling the visual components (including the album artwork). Following on from his 2013 debut album effort of ‘Mo7it Al-Mo7it’, Moumneh continues his efforts of combining traditional Arabic musical techniques and motifs into modern and experimental sounds, painting up a phenomenal and driving album experience expressing political and personal concepts. The core of Arabic performance styles run dominant throughout the album, much like the debut album, though this time much more deconstructed in places, combined with new and unusual techniques to create a challenging yet cohesive album experience.

‘If He Dies, If If If If If If’ sees Moumneh really immersing himself into a musical project, using his many skills and techniques to really push forward a creative album effort. Anchored by traditional motifs, we see a truly Arabic album experience become morphed and re-designed into something both modern and new. By using experimental techniques, and a number of guest musicians including Pierre-Guy Blanchard (whose debut album on Constellation Moumneh recorded mixed and produced) on percussion, and Constellation Records founder Ian Ilavasky on guitar, Moumneh pushes forward a record that blurs the lines in terms of creating and approaching music. Western and Arabic music become parallel on the album, everything sounding incredibly cohesive, all complimenting and challenging each other at different turns.

From their evocative live performances to their challenging albums, Jerusalem In My Heart have shown great strength in their resolve to incorporate experimental techniques in a strong and understood way. Those familiar with Moumneh’s work, both as a producer and composer will most likely know of the almost inaccessible motifs of his many projects, and whilst this shows Moumneh as a wonderfully creative and expressive artist, it does result in ‘If He Dies, If If If If If If’ becoming an album that is limited to a very few people. With Moumneh’s constant challenging of music structure and technique, it’s no wonder why this album can feel so inaccessible at times.

Moumneh’s latest work is one that pushes forward the creative artists talents and techniques to great levels. The project’s debut album established an innovative act who had a clear understanding of what they want to achieve in their music. ‘If He Dies, If If If If If If’ shows the project as being even more ambitious and creative as their debut suggested, with there being great strides taken to really push forward a phenomenal and powerful album effort. Those who are open to music of an experimental nature, techniques that combine various cultures and differing genres will find ‘If He Dies, If If If If If If’ to be an incredibly pleasing and rewarding album, and one that definitely challenges for all the right reasons.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • A Granular Buzuk
  • 7ebr El 3oyoun
  • Ta3mani; Ta3meitu
  • Ah Ya Mal El Sham

Jerusalem In My Heart’s second studio album ‘If He Dies, If If If If If If’ is out now on Constellation Records.

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Ought – Sun Coming Down

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Canadian alternative-rockers Ought seem eager to jump back into the world of physical releases with their sophomore album effort of ‘Sun Coming Down’. Following on from last years release of the bands’ debut album ‘More Than Any Other Day’, and the vinyl-only EP release of ‘Once More With Feeling…’, Ought have busied themselves with extensive touring, immersing themselves in the world and establishing themselves as an indie-rock band who one should really keep an eye on. There’s a wonderful chemistry and charisma to Ought’s music, all of which helps to push forward a persona of eagerness to really get out there and become something great.

‘Sun Coming Down’ continues the band’s path of indie-rock music, featuring wonderful instrumentation ranging from the manic and hurried paces of the bands’ debut effort, to the slowly unfurling instrumental spaces, adding character and personality to the band’s music. Everything stands well on the bands’ previous outputs, with the new album even sounding a little more experimental in certain sections, really showing off some of the bands’ true capabilities. Everything feels incredibly well envisioned, with Ought recognizing what they want to take forward and what they want to leave behind in the creation of their band persona.

Ought have taken many great steps in crafting their personality in their music. The incredible efforts of Ought in terms of the work they do and the music itself, have pushed forward this band as an incredibly hard working and exciting one, who are really trying to do something with themselves. Whilst ‘Sun Coming Down’ comes forward as another incredible effort, it should be noted that there’s an almost more manic and mad pace to most of the tracks, sounding almost looser and less intricate as the bands’ debut effort. Whilst this may disappoint some, it also comes across as Ought taken further steps to craft themselves, showing off everything they’re capable of with every release.

Since their debut, Ought have come across as an incredibly exciting band, one who are taking incredible steps in their reach. It seems with every bit of news about the band, Ought are just getting better and better, really presenting themselves as one of the strongest musical acts working in their genre. Ought just exude this incredible energy and charisma with their music, with ‘Sun Coming Down’ coming across as another incredibly strong album from this incredibly strong band. With more music like this coming from the band, one will definitely want to keep a closer eye on them, anticipating whatever is going to come next.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Passionate Turn
  • Sun’s Coming Down
  • Beautiful Blue Sky
  • Never Better

Ought’s second studio album ‘Sun Coming Down’ is out now on Constellation Records.

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Nature – Valet

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Experimental artist Honey Owens revives her moniker of Valet for the release of her first album in roughly seven years ‘Nature’. The new album sees the artist completely immersing herself in a wonderfully engrossing and engaging musical experience that drives forward at an incredible pace, though never bombarding the listener with abrasive and harsh elements. Owens and her wonderful team seem to have found a middle ground in their music, where noisy elements come across as calmly and delicately as ambient elements. After so many years of inactivity, ‘Nature’ comes as a very welcome surprise from Valet, offering up a wonderfully immersive album experience.

‘Nature’ opens up with incredible swirls of noisy guitar and ambient textures, accompanied by Owens dreamy vocals that sit atop the layers with comfortable ease. Owens seems to have comfortable fallen back into her natural ability of weaving together genres and concepts together with great uniformity, appearing in concept to be incompatible, yet somehow coming together so naturally and easily. There’s a wonderful indulgence to what is being presented on ‘Nature’, which sees brilliantly talented musicians pushing out a wonderful album experience, one that arguably showcases the best of their abilities.

Valet have certainly pushed out an incredibly strong album experience, and one that completely immerses the listener into a world of their own creation. Everything is very coherent, all following an order and pattern that ties everything together wonderfully, though some may argue that this gives the album itself a somewhat repetitive notion as it progresses along. Although this is true to some extent, most of Valet’s efforts seem to have come across very strongly, with everything resulting in a brilliant and impressive album experience, perhaps highlighting the best of the band’s talents.

After so many years of inactivity, Honey Owens seems to have brought back life to her old musical project, revitalizing it with an incredible amount of refreshing and enjoyable qualities. There’s a wonderful beauty to ‘Nature’, which builds up hazy noises brilliantly, transforming it all into wonderfully gorgeous musical moments. Valet have pushed out an incredibly impressive album, and one that never fails to capture beauty in something arguably so chaotic at times. One can only hope that this will see the return of Valet as a musical act, and that there will be more to come in future, though for now, ‘Nature’ serves as a wonderful offering.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Sunday
  • Nature
  • Clouds
  • Transformation

Valet’s latest studio album ‘Nature’ is out now on Kranky Records.

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Dream Memory – Ken Camden

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Musician and composer Ken Camden of Implodes, returns with his third solo studio album ‘Dream Memory’. The new album sees the musician creating a world of subtle tones, slowly building everything up using an array of instruments and techniques at his disposal. Everything has resulted in an interesting album experience, where lines between ambient, electronic and experimental music are all blurred, everything instead combining effortlessly into one cohesive vision, all packaged and presented in a very strong manner. Though a little inaccessible and unusual in places, ‘Dream Memory’ offers up some incredibly interesting and emotive musical moments, showcasing some of the best of Camden’s abilities.

‘Dream Memory’ sees Camden really utilizing many of his skills and techniques in order to create an engrossing and interesting album experience. There’s many different ideas and concepts being presented on the album, all of which lull the listener into a mysterious and slightly ominous world. Everything feels very textural on the album, with each note feeling rather meticulously placed on the album itself. Although there’s a rather dark and unsettling impression given off by most of the tracks on the album, everything still feels beautiful and emotional, with a few tracks coming across as some of the best material Camden has presented thus far.

Camden has pushed out some very nice ideas on his latest solo record, many of which all come together nicely into a cohesive album experience, full of sonic textures and ethereal concepts. At times, certain ideas feel a little disjointed, with somewhat harsh musical elements dominating the tracks instead of the more relaxing and gentle elements that seem to originally establish the album. Whilst this affects the overall album somewhat, it also works in other ways, showcasing a diverse range of ideas and concepts being presented by Camden, instead of similar sounding tracks that suggest little ingenuity.

Although certain elements come across as a little confusing and polarizing, ‘Dream Memory’ sees Camden creating a wonderful album experience, one where experimental notions and ideas don’t run away into areas of inaccessibility, but instead elevate the base ideas being presented. It’s arguable that ‘Dream Memory’ isn’t the strongest of Camden’s material in his career thus far, though it is one that is deserving of attention. Camden presents a world of intrigue and mystery, one where questions are never answered, but one is left feeling satisfied, if somewhat confused.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Time Bend
  • Curiosity
  • Brain Work
  • Asleep at the Wheel

Ken Camden’s latest album ‘Dream Memory’ is out now on Kranky Records.

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Capturas del Único Camino – Damián Anache

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Argentine composer Damián Anache sets the way for this first solo album endeavor ‘Capturas del Único Camino’. The new album features Anache completely immersing himself into experimental ambient music, utilizing every trick and technique at his disposal to create and present a challenging and driving album experience. The real driving power of ‘Capturas del Único Camino’ is in how Anache created the music initially, which involved various source material (be it acoustic instruments ,vocal recordings and field recordings) all being run through an algorithm created by Anache himself. The result is a slowly moving meditative piece that hardly evolves as it progresses, but instead lulls one into a mysteriously captivating world.

 ‘Capturas del Único Camino’ comes across as a very intelligent and driving album experience, one in which the techniques in how the music itself has been composed is every bit as relevant as the music itself. The algorithm made by Anache himself results in the creation of music that moves at glacial paces, slowly moving in and out of focus, constantly interpreting sounds and data until the music is created within. The album itself is more than just its experimental notions, as the result of the ideas and techniques is an engrossing album experience that slowly engulfs the listener.

There are many merits to ‘Capturas del Único Camino’, which sees Anache completely embracing experimental music with great confidence, utilizing his many talents to create something where the experimental elements don’t overtake the accessibility of the music itself. Although there’s many enjoyable elements to the album, it’s rather sparse sound, combined with a fairly challenging nature overall, might perhaps turn away those expecting something more on the ambient or classical end of things than the experimental side.

Anache’s first solo album comes across as a difficult album to swallow at times, though its experimental notions give it great gravitas, pushed further by the actual result of the experimental notions themselves, which create an interesting album experience. The experimental ideas being used by Anache may come across as a gimmick to some, though Anache has managed to push out an incredibly impressive album experience, somewhat reminiscent of William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops, both in terms of the tone of the music itself, and the methods used to create it. It’s a strong album experience, and one that showcases Anache’s talents in a great light.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Paisaje Primero
  • Paisaje Propio
  • Paisaje Artificial
  • Paisaje Natural

Damián Anache debut solo album ‘Capturas del Único Camino’ is out now.

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