Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Polyphonic Spree Live @ The Electric Ballroom (03/09/15)

polywoly

To mark their 15th anniversary, Texan-based symphonic rock band The Polyphonic Spree embark on their tour, offering a live rendition of their first studio album ‘The Beginning Stages…’ played in its entirety. The Polyphonic Spree’s concert at The Electric Ballroom offered an incredible concert experience, one that fans of the band will find to be completely unforgettable. From the playing of ‘The Beginning Stages…’ non-stop in full, to the cosmic second-half of the show, Polyphonic Spree put on one of their best performances, one that connected with every fan of the band on such a personal level that it reminds us why people set out to make music in the first place.

Polyphonic Spree’s performance at The Electric Ballroom saw the band offering up something truly magical. The first half of the concert saw a non-stop playing of the bands’ debut album, which (explained by Tim DeLaughter between songs) was recorded in 48 hours and intended as a demo album). During this half, the audience knew what to expect after each and every song, and slowly anticipation of the album’s favourite tracks built up until the energy in the room was at an incredible level. The performance itself was flawless, with each track sounding as fun, beautiful or even as peculiar as it does on the original recording. Even the album’s more arguably weaker moments added an incredible layer in the live setting. Beautiful moments included the rarely played ‘Days Like This Keep Me Warm’, where the instrumental elements beautiful soared through the air, whilst exciting and energetic moments included the roaring and raucous ‘Light & Day’.

Then came the concert’s second half, which saw Polyphonic Spree not only playing popular songs from their repertoire, but also indulging in some incredible instrumental performances, where each and every performer on stage had their moment to flourish. It was impossible to tell what was going to happen, or what was even going on from time to time, but the sheer showmanship and energy from everyone made it one of the most exciting performances to witness. The concert itself seemed to have around 10 different endings, with each suggested ending giving such a sense of excitement to the audience, before building it all up again with another cosmic musical blowout. It was incredibly easy to see just how much each member of the band enjoys music for the music itself, giving the concert such a genuine and warm sensibility that lacks in so many other bands these days.

The Electric Ballroom performance is easily one of the most unforgettable musical experiences witness, one that still leaves this reviewer stunned in amazement at the sheer energy, magic and wonder given off by the band. In what sometimes feels like such a cynical and dark world, it’s truly wonderful to witness a really passionate and human performance, where music is being played to simply celebrate its own self. Something really connected between the band and the audience that night, as hinted by Tim DeLaughter after the show itself as he reminisced with another audience member about previous performances. As a fan, I will definitely never forget this performance, and we certainly hope The Polphonic Spree won’t either.

Set-List:

1: Have A Day /Celebratory

2: It’s The Sun

3: Days Like This Keep Me Warm

4: La La

5: Middle of the Day

6: Hanging Around the Day Part.1

7: Hanging Around the Day Part.2

8: Soldier Girl

9: Light & Day/Reach for the Sun

10: A Long Day

11: Hold Me Now

12: Younger Yesterday

13: Popular by Design

14: Porpoise Song (Theme from ‘Head’)

15: Everything Starts at the Seam

16: When the Fool Becomes a King

17: Two Thousand Place

18: A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed

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Death Cab for Cutie Live @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire (10/06/15)

American rockers from Seattle Death Cab for Cutie’s tour in support of their latest studio album ‘Kintsugi’ brings them to Shepherd’s Bush Empire, a venue filled earlier this year by Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Joined by Death Cab for Cutie in a supporting role are the wonderful indie-rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks, whose roaring and raucous rock style created a wonderful experience for all those there. Death Cab for Cutie themselves proceeded to put on a highly enjoyable show, one that failed to not connect with those who’ve grown up with the band over the years.

Death Cab for Cutie’s concert saw the band playing a nice range of tracks, a few spanning back to their very earliest years on Barsuk Records. Whilst the concert and tour was in support of ‘Kintsugi’, Death Cab for Cutie offered a wonderful selection of their old songs, intertwining them nicely with their newest material to create an enjoyable set-list. The energy flowed comfortably from the band, giving excitement and joy during the upbeat and fast-paced tracks, and bitter-sweetness during the more somber moments. Even with all the fame and fortune lead-singer Benjamin Gibbard has garnered over the years, everything still felt genuine and comfortable.

As known by fans of the band, the recording of ‘Kintsugi’ marked the last time founding member Chris Walla will work with the band. The concert itself featured some of Death Cab for Cutie’s best tracks, which were all played wonderfully, but it has to be said that the lack of Chris Walla does give the music a slightly disappointing element, as we know that little extra bit he brought to everything is sadly missing. In fairness to the rest of the band, they certainly pushed themselves to compensate for the lack of Walla, making it look almost easy. It is disappointing to not see Walla with the band, but most of Death Cab for Cutie is certainly better than no Death Cab for Cutie.

The bands’ performance at Shepherd’s Bush Empire was largely successful. Many of the tracks worked wonderfully, connecting to most of the audience members on some personal level, whether through good memories or even bad ones. It just feels as though Gibbard understands largely what makes everyone human, and knows how to present this through a musical format in a way that connects with everyone. Highlights include some very old songs from Death Cab for Cutie’s back catalogue, from ‘Company Calls’ to ‘Your Bruise’ from the bands’ first album, as well as some absolutely beautiful moments through the performance of ‘What Sarah Said’, ‘Passenger Seat’ and ‘Transatlanticism’ (of which closed the set). Arguably this might not be the absolute best concert from Death Cab for Cutie ever, but it is certainly one that is memorable for all its own reasons.

Set-List:

1: No Room In Frame

2: Crooked Teeth

3: Photobooth

4: Black Sun

5: Doors Unlocked And Open

6: The Ghosts of Beverly Drive

7: Title & Registration

8: Codes & Keys

9: Little Wanderer

10: No Sunlight

11: Company Calls

12: You’ve Haunted Me All My Life

13: What Sarah Said

14: I Will Follow You Into The Dark

15: El Dorado

16: You Are A Tourist

17: The New Year

18: Cath…

19: Soul Meets Body

20: I Will Possess Your Heart

-Encore-

21: Passenger Seat

22: Your Bruise

23: Marching Band of Manhattan

24: Transatlanticism

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor Live @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire (20/04/15)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s return to both music and live performances since the release of 2012’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend’ has brought joy to fans of the band all across the world. In support of their recent studio album of ‘Asunder! Sweet And Other Distress’, instrumental rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor set off again, with a few dates in London for the English fans of the band. Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s performance was one of mystery and intrigue, certainly a little baffling to those who are completely unaware of what their live performances are like, but also completely engrossing as well.

The concert started with the band coming on stage individually to a darkened room to simply check their instruments, before leaving the entire audience bracing the brooding sounds of a drone for roughly ten minutes. Audiences were then treated to customary tracks from Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s live gigs, as well as a few surprises here and there, mostly in the form of two new tracks which displayed the ingenuity and craftsmanship we’ve come to know from the band. There was a quiet sense in the air during the new songs as the audience understood they were hearing the new material which has been discussed previously on the internet, but not yet committed to tape (as far as we know). These hauntingly beautiful and intense tracks will forever stick out in my head, making this an unforgettable experience.

There were a lot of elements of confusion from time to time at the concert. Mostly in the incredibly unorthodox way Godspeed You! Black Emperor presented themselves. The band simply arrived on stage, played their tracks, and then wandered back off stage, without a word to the audience. This puzzling behavior seems incredibly rude when compared to the behavior of every other band in their own live concerts, but it seems excusable for a band like this. When it comes to the music the band are offering, both on recording and in a live setting, what more do we really need? The band played each and every song with such expertise and precision, creating an incredible emotional connection with each track, whether it was the intensely charged ‘Mladic’, the hauntingly beautiful untitled second track, or the sinister brooding ‘East Hastings’.

One could not have asked for more from Godspeed You! Black Emperor. A truly unforgettable experience was presented by the band, without so much as a word being uttered by any band member. To create such a connection with the audience shows the true power of the band’s music, and how sometimes you don’t need words, or need to have something explained in order to feel something so strongly and with such power. Sometimes all you really need is just the music, which easily flow over you, inspiring a whole myriad of emotions and feeling. A strong shout-out should also be given to the excellent support band Xylorious White, whose two man team filled up the concert with a wonderful sound of drums and guitars, intriguing those who didn’t know of them before, but certainly pleasing them.

Set-List:

1: Hope Drone

2: Untitled Song #1

3: Mladic

4: Untitled Song #2

5: Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’

6: Lamb’s Breath

7: Asunder, Sweet

8: Piss Crowns are Trebled

9: The Sad Mafioso

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Mika Like @ Adelphi (18/10/15)

mika live

After a long stint spent abroad, hosting French variations of The X Factor and The Voice, Lebanese-born British singer and performer Mika returns to the UK for a few dates. His concert at the Adelphi saw many of his British fans flock to the theater, as well as a few from overseas. The tour saw Mika and his new backing band supporting the release of his fourth studio album ‘No Place In Heaven’, with the tour offering live renditions of the albums tracks, with the customary hit singles from his previous works thrown in for good measure. Whilst a mostly fun and upbeat affair, it seems the entire gig pales in comparison to Mika’s earlier tours and concerts.

Something about Mika’s concert at the Adelphi just didn’t seem to work. The crowd definitely enjoyed everything, except the starter band who seemed to bore people to the extent where they felt they needed to talk loudly about the most inane of topics. Even starter bands deserve respect for coming out and playing, even if they were arguably not that good. It’s a simple common courtesy to both the band and everyone else in the audience who payed the same price as you. Anyway, getting back on topic, Mika himself certainly did his best to put on an enjoyable show. It’s hard not to get pulled into the lovely and charming world Mika presents with his songs. It’s when something didn’t work did this vision get pulled away.

There were many elements to this concert which didn’t seem to work well. For starters, the backing band seemed a little thin, failing to add enough to the songs and leaving them mostly dry and empty-sounding. The venue itself, a theater known mostly for its current production of Kinky Boots, was simply a poor choice of venue for the type of crowd Mika draws in. When being presented with pop songs, one simply wants to dance around. The Adelphi’s tight sardine-like seating arrangement on every floor meant everyone was simply sat, facing Mika as he performed. On the occasions where everyone got up to dance, there was simply no room to move around. Then there was Mika himself, whose voice seems to be failing him. It seems he’s simply unable to sing the way he once did, and must instead resort to slightly more lackluster renditions of a few of his more well known track.

It’s wrong to say Mika failed at his concert though, as the entire crowd applauded and cheered at any given moment, as well as joining in with a few of Mika’s little gimmicks here and there. It just doesn’t feel like Mika is at the same position as he once was. Any time a track from his recent album ‘No Place In Heaven’ was performed, it reminded a few of us that his new material simply doesn’t work on the same level as his earlier material. There were highlights, but so much of the concert just came across as disappointing, with Mika himself coming across as a sad almost faded version of his former self. Maybe he doesn’t have it in himself anymore, maybe he does. We’ll see in time I guess.

Highlights:

  • Relax (Take It Easy)
  • Talk About You
  • Underwater
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Panic Stations – Motion City Soundtrack

Punk-rockers Motion City Soundtrack follow on from their 2012 album release of ‘Go’ with their sixth studio album ‘Panic Stations’. The new album sees the manic rockers returning to their roots somewhat, offering up charming and whimsical slabs of punk rock, placing Justin Pierre’s brilliant lyrics against a backdrop of raucous and noisy rock. There’s something incredibly lovable and delightful with ‘Panic Stations’, which certainly comes across as one of the strongest albums Motion City Soundtrack have pushed out so far in their career, with the band almost falling back on their whimsical, charming and noisy background, combined with the maturity they’ve acquired in their recent years.

‘Panic Stations’ offers up much of what one would expect from Motion City Soundtrack. Noisy power chords accompanied by odd Moog melodies and thundering bass-lines build up the vast majority of the songs, setting the scene for a noisy punk-rock record. What works here though is how the band structures everything, from the choice of instrumentals to the lyrics. Everything feels incredibly fun and light-hearted, with nothing taking itself too seriously, whilst still touching on some personal level here and there. ‘Panic Stations’ seems to feature many of the elements that makes a great Motion City Soundtrack album, with it featuring a wonderful blend of old and new.

There’s many wonderful elements to ‘Panic Stations’, though it does lack quality on certain occasions. Most notably in the album’s second half, we hear a little dip in quality, as Motion City Soundtrack present songs that sadly lack the same level of energy that the album’s first half offered. This doesn’t bring down the overall quality of the album too much though, as there’s still some great tracks being presented by the band, though it is difficult to place this album well above the position of the band’s absolute best work. Certain tracks on the album feel a little bit like filler material, rather than a fantastic song that deserves its place on the album.

Even though a few tracks on the album may come across as a little less memorable than others, it does seem that Motion City Soundtrack have pushed out an absolutely wonderful album effort with ‘Panic Stations’. There’s just a wonderful standard being offered by the band, which is evident in the few songs that have you singing out the lyrics every single time. It’s the kind of album one would expect from the band, without it being too cliched or too similar to their old work, and one that features some of the bands’ best songs thus far in their current repertoire.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • TKO
  • I Can Feel You
  • It’s A Pleasure To Meet You
  • Days Will Run Away

Motion City Soundtrack’s sixth studio album ‘Panic Stations’ is out now.

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Ones and Sixes – Low

Duluth-based slowcore band Low showcase their latest offering with their new full-length studio album ‘Ones and Sixes’. Following on from 2013’s release of ‘The Invisible Way’, the new album sees Low almost returning to their roots of dark and unsettling alternative rock for the most part, where ghostly harmonies push through the album, accompanied by an almost hollow selection of instrumentals. ‘Ones and Sixes’ demonstrates much of Low’s new sounding repertoire, showcasing a little louder volume in places, as well as a few experimental ideas here and there just to mix things up. In some respects, ‘Ones and Sixes’ feels somewhat weaker to its predecessor, though it also comes across as an entirely different beast all together.

‘Ones and Sixes’ sees Low delving deep into something that for the most part sounds dark and sinister, utilizing couple Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s chilling vocal harmonies to incredible effect. Though mostly dark, there’s a few lighter moments thrown into the mix, giving the album a nice level of diversity. It seems Low have gone to great lengths to really push out a cohesive album experience, one where each track compliments each other, all resulting in something that really works and highlights the best of everyone’s abilities. Many of the tracks work well, contributing to what comes across as one of Low’s strongest albums.

There’s a lot more experimentation present on ‘Ones and Sixes’ than on most of Low’s previous albums, showcasing the band as one whose always trying new things. Whilst most of the efforts work very nicely, it seems a few ideas here and there come across as rather sluggish, failing to really liven up the album in any way or form and instead slowing the whole experience down somewhat. There’s many strengths to the album, but certain elements just don’t seem to work all that well, with a few tracks coming across as regretfully forgettable.

Although a few tracks fail to live up to the level the album sets for itself, ‘Ones and Sixes’ is another welcome offering from Low. With each and every album, Low seem to be treading newer and more interesting territories, taking a few little risks here and there and hoping for the best. Regardless of whether they work or not, they make the whole thing feel exciting, and make themselves so much more exciting as well, as we all constantly wonder what are Low going to do next? ‘Ones and Sixes’ may be a little dark and unsettling in a few places, and oddly quaint and upbeat in others, but it’s definitely a strong offering from the hard-working band who definitely aren’t afraid to try new things.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • No Comprende
  • Spanish Translation
  • Lies
  • Landslide

Low’s latest album ‘Ones and Sixes’ is out now on Subpop. 

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Live at 9:30 – Animal Collective

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Baltimore’s psychedelic experimental band Animal Collective offer their latest release since their 2012 studio album ‘Centipede Hz’, with the release of a vinyl-only live album ‘Live at 9:30′. The live album comprises a selection of tracks from their live show, most comprising of tracks from the bands’ last album, though also including a few numbers from the popular 2009 album ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, and the 2005 album effort of ‘Feels’. ‘Live at 9:30’ is somewhat of a typical Animal Collective record, with it being a mostly chaotic and confusing bombardment of sounds and noises, all of which comes together in the most oddest form of coherency.

‘Live at 9:30’ may be another quintessential Animal Collective experience, though it is one that manages to capture the wonderfully bizarre yet engrossing world of their live shows. The live album mostly sees the band exploring tracks from their previous album ‘Centipede Hz’, somehow managing to draw out even more absurd and crazy notions that weren’t present on the album version. Throughout all the chaos is Animal Collective showing off what makes their music so utterly engrossing and wonderful. It’s difficult not to get pulled into the charming ‘Did You See The Words’ or be amazed by how ‘Pulleys’ gets turned into a 15-minute freak-out.

Like most Animal Collective releases, there is a strong element of in-accessibility, making much of the album a rather difficult listen. Whilst ‘Centipede Hz’ challenged fans who came through on the hype of the somewhat accessible ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, we see Animal Collective further challenging those notions, through their morphing of ‘Centipede Hz’ tracks into more difficult, more in-accessible and more bizarre musical odysseys. At times, ‘Live at 9:30′ gets almost overbearingly difficult to listen too, though it does showcase the bands’ phenomenal live style which is certainly pleasing to those who like a challenge from time to time.

Animal Collective’s latest release ‘Live at 9:30’ might not be the most easiest and comfortable listening experience, though it is one that should certainly please fans of the band since their earliest years, and perhaps please those who are willing and accepting of the more unpredictable and more-or-less insane musical style of the band. There’s some phenomenal moments being presented by the band on this live album, giving the whole album experience a somewhat charming feel, as it is wonderful to see the band capturing their live essence in such a strong and wonderful light.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Did You See The Words
  • Pulleys
  • What Would I Want? Sky
  • The Purple Bottle

Animal Collective’s  live album ‘Live at 9:30’ is out now on Domino. 

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Where All Is Fled – Steve Hauschildt

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Musician and composer Steve Hauschildt offers his latest solo-album effort on the Kranky record label titled ‘Where All Is Fled’. Taking inspiration from ‘surrealist landscape paintings, early alchemical emblems and recurring visions Steve had from dreams‘, Hauschildt slowly builds up engrossing worlds of sound, presented through his own style of dreamy electronica music. There’s at times a wonderful beauty to the somewhat surrealist album effort being pushed out here, though at certain points it feels as though Hauschildt delves a little too much into the almost cliched elements of the genre.

‘Where All Is Fled’ sees Hauschildt really involving himself in a visual world, taking influence from what is being seen in both a conscious and unconscious setting and translating it into an audio format, presented through his own understanding of ambient and electronic genres. Many of the tracks on the album follow very dreamy, sonic, almost new-age styles of instrumentals, showing a nice mix of different styles all being combined together into something cohesive and understandable.

Whilst Hauschildt has pushed out a strong album effort on ‘Where All Is Fled’ it does sometimes feels as though certain points of the album let the whole thing down somewhat. Certain tracks seem to sound a little too similar to everything else within the genre, mostly using synthesizer elements in cliched ways, rather than trying to bring more out of the actual genre through other means and techniques. Whilst there is a lot of creativity and talent being presented by Hauschildt on his latest effort, it does feel a little forced on certain occasions.

Perhaps more could have been done on Hauschildt’s part, though there are some lovely creative elements on ‘Where All Is Fled’ that certainly make it a strong and enjoyable listening experience for those already familiar with the artists work. The surrealist landscapes conjured up in the mind of the listener suggest some wonderful effort on Hauschildt’s part to really express the ideas and concepts he is experiences in his life, giving the album effort a very nice strength that others within the genre may fail to live up to.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Eyelids Gently Dreaming
  • Arpeggiare
  • Vicinities
  • Where All Is Fled

Steve Hauschildt’s latest album ‘Where All Is Fled’ is out now, available through Kranky.

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Stanza II – Benoît Pioulard

Continuing the release of companion pieces to this earlier album release of ‘Sonnet’ on the Kranky Record label, ambient musician and composer Thomas Meluch, working under the moniker of Benoît Pioulard, offers the second companion album ‘Stanza II’. Like the previous release of ‘Stanza’, ‘Stanza II’ sees Meluch indulging in the ambient side of things, drawing out elements for long periods of time, resulting in an enjoyable and relaxing album experience. ‘Stanza II’ offers much more of the same as the previous album, offering a less experimental edge than what was present on ‘Sonnet’ and instead coming across as a more traditional ambient album.

There’s many strengths present on ‘Stanza II’ which sees Meluch once again immersing himself in his ambient creative streak. Much of the music on this new release bursts forth in what feels like a very organic way, utilizing drones to create an immersive and relaxing ambient music experience. There’s a comfortable and nice progression to what is featured on this release, which lets each track flow in gently and remain long enough to ground itself before slowly pulling itself away. There’s some elements at play here that make this release a stronger one than its predecessor, mostly in how Meluch develops each track on the album.

 One can find some level of criticism on ‘Stanza II’ for many of the same reasons on its predecessor. Whilst acting as a companion piece to ‘Sonnet’, the album instead seems to lack the somewhat experimental edge the album held, instead opting for more droning compositions, with less instruments, techniques and varying concepts thrown into the fray. It all works wonderfully well in pushing forward a more meditative album experience, where one is relaxed by the music, though the experimental edge of ‘Sonnet’ was one of its great strengths, and one that would have been interesting to have seen pushed forward more on these later releases.

Though it might not be as daring and to some extent ambitious as some of Meluch’s previous works, there’s still a great amount on offer with ‘Stanza II’, which once again showcases Meluch’s talents as an ambient music composer in a brilliant light. The wonderfully relaxing textures presented on the album result in a wonderfully calm and meditative album experience, one that is perhaps more relaxing and calm than the Kranky album release of ‘Sonnet’. It seems with each release, Meluch is indulging much more in his ambient side, and is churning out some really wonderful albums as a result.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • VIII
  • IX
  • X
  • Held In

Benoît Pioulard’s latest album ‘Stanza II’ is out now, available at: https://pioulard.bandcamp.com/album/stanza-ii

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Stanza – Benoît Pioulard

Following on from his latest album release of ‘Sonnet’ on the Kranky record label, musician and composer Thomas Meluch operating under the moniker of Benoît Pioulard, offers a companion piece to the album titled ‘Stanza’. The new album comprises 7 tracks that follow the same vein of ambient drone that was cemented on Meluch’s previous album effort. Much of ‘Stanza’ moves in swirls and drones, sustaining notes for long lengths of time rather than rapidly moving through them. Those who are more taken by Meluch’s slightly more experimental styles established on ‘Temper’ and ‘Lasted’ may find ‘Stanza’ to be a little too repetative, but those who enjoyed the sonic landscapes of ‘Sonnet’ will find this to be a wonderful companion to the album.

‘Stanza’ sees Meluch offering more of the ambient drone style of music that dominated his previous album effort. Whilst ‘Sonnet’ has elements of experimentation intertwined amongst the layers of varying instruments, ‘Stanza’ seems to offer a more drone-based ambient style, not throwing too much into the mix and letting the sometimes sparse layers speak for themselves. Everything results in an incredibly relaxing and sometimes beautiful album experience, really highlighting Meluch’s talent as an ambient composer. It’s arguable that at times there’s a somewhat repetative quality to what is being presented on ‘Stanza’, perhaps due to the nature of not over-complicating the mix with unnecessary elements and motifs.

‘Stanza’ comes across as another wonderful offering from Meluch, showing off the best of his ambient-techniques as did his previous album effort. It’s incredibly easy to allow oneself to get completely immersed and lost in the ambient drones being presented on the album, which never bombards or scares the listener at any moment. Those who enjoyed ‘Sonnet’ will no doubt find ‘Stanza’ to be a wonderful accompaniment, which certainly elevates Meluch’s position as one of the strongest ambient composers working in the scene today.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • I
  • III
  • VI
  • VII

Benoît Pioulard’s latest album ‘Stanza’ is out now at: https://pioulard.bandcamp.com/album/stanza

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