5-Star Reviews

Collection of 5/5 album reviews.

False Readings On – Eluvium

It seems in the past few years, ambient artist Matthew Robert Cooper, operating under the moniker of Eluvium, has really be attempting the push forward the envelope on ambient music. Albums like Similies and Nightmare Ending saw Cooper really expanding upon his sonic palette, offering up beautiful yet slightly challenging album experiences. On his latest album False Readings On, we see Cooper presenting what is perhaps one of his most ambitious album experiences yet. Still ingrained in the ambient genre, and yet incorporating many experimental elements, False Readings On shows Cooper as an every evolving artist, one who is able to redefine the ambient genre in any way he sees fit.

On his 2013 album Nightmare Ending, Cooper offered up a great range of ideas and concepts, creating something within the ambient genre that was a little different. Though the two-disc album did feel oddly bloated at times, it helped establish many leaping off points for False Readings On, which shows Cooper really refining his music, and showcasing some incredibly creative ideas. Many tracks anchor themselves around experimental motifs, such as a constantly shifting high-pitched drone, or a bouncing bass note that flows into view. Everything results in an album that is peculiar and challenging at first, but on repeated listens displays an incredible craft and an extraordinary number of hidden beauties beneath the layers.

False Readings On is certainly an ambitious album, but one that isn’t the easiest listen at times. Whilst the ambient genre suggests calm droning aspects, Cooper challenges this notion by structuring his tracks around certain motifs and techniques. The result is an album where each distinct element paints an individual portrait, with each pushing the overarching story-line being presented by Cooper. False Readings On may disappoint those expecting a more low-key and calmer album, but those who enjoy Cooper’s sheer creativity will no doubt find the album to be one of his most enticing and rewarding.

Even though there’s at times, so much happening on False Readings On, the result is still an album experience that is simply beautiful at times. Each new listen of the album reveals something initially overlooked, whether it be an underlying motif under the surface of a song, or something that ties into the overarching story-line. As an album, it is easily one of Cooper’s most consistent experiences from start to finish, with each track contributing wonderfully to the album itself. False Readings On comes across as one of Cooper’s most creative albums to date, and one that demonstrates so many new ideas and concepts, that what is to follow should be equally enthralling.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Regenerative Being
  • Beyond The Moon For Someone In Reverse
  • Rorschach Paven
  • Posturing Through Metaphysical Collapse

Eluvium’s latest album ‘False Readings On’ is out now available at: https://eluvium.bandcamp.com/album/false-readings-on 

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The Glowing Man – Swans

When Swans reformed in 2010 with the release of ‘My Father Will Guide Me up A Rope To The Sky’, people perhaps may not have predicted that the band would ultimately start releasing some of the most defining albums of their career. Having released two phenomenal double-albums ‘The Seer’ and ‘To Be Kind’, Swans return with their latest tour-de-force, ‘The Glowing Man’. The new album follows on much from what its predecessors established, offering gargantuan slabs of experimental post-rock that are as cryptic and enigmatic as ever. Once again, this is another challenging album experience that certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted, and one that is rather difficult to really put into words.

‘The Glowing Man’ continues much in the same vein as both ‘The Seer’ and ‘To Be Kind’, with each musician pushing along through noisy experimental tracks where everything is unrelenting yet brilliant. It’s in the uncompromising style that only Swans seem to have that we find what makes the music great. This is truly a head-space only they can create for us, with the result being something confusing yet powerful. Much of the album feels like a true companion piece to its predecessor ‘To Be Kind’, perhaps mostly in part to the similar motifs running throughout both albums (and perpetuated by the inclusion of the ‘Bring The Sun’ intro used on the previous album), but all together much tighter than they’ve ever managed. It all works well in providing a bookend to what is perhaps one of Swans’ most phenomenal and powerful musical chapters.

As with many albums by Swans, there is that incredible experimental element that comes with Swans’ music that makes it all a challenging listen. Combining elements of drone into their unique sound, we’re presented with something that occupies the foreground, whilst refusing to let the listener go. It’s all together a somewhat intimidating experience, and one that is truly difficult to put into words. It’s perhaps in this challenging yet unique style that only Swans have that we find the main focal point of many of their bodies of work, what it is that drives the albums along and gives it that quality that is so enthralling.

It seemed like Swans were at the height of their creativity with the release of 2012’s ‘The Seer’, and to have followed that album up with phenomenal ‘To Be Kind’ was an impressive feat. It now seems though that Swans have repeated this once again, with ‘The Glowing Man’ being a perfect follow up to its predecessor. Although there’s a great varience in Swans music, from their early no-wave years to their dark alternative rock years in the 90s, it seems that this current wave of music is what they were always meant to do, with it being perhaps some of the best music Swans have ever released. Whether or not ‘The Glowing Man’ signals the end of this current era of Swans or not, it’s certainly great to have seen it all in action.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Cloud of Forgetting
  • The World Looks Red / The World Looks Black
  • Frankie M
  • The Glowing Man

Swans’ 14th studio album ‘The Glowing Man’ 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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Ritual Spirit – Massive Attack

English trip-hop act Massive Attack seem to have faded themselves away in recent years, turning to activism and various promises of reunions and releases. Finally following up on those promises, Massive Attack have released their first EP in roughly five years, the stunning ‘Ritual Spirit’. The new EP comprises four tracks with each featuring a different guest appearance, including the long anticipated reunion with trip-hop artist Tricky. At 17 minutes, ‘Ritual Spirit’ is an EP-experience that passes by far too quickly, but is also one that firmly ingrains itself into one’s head with each listen.

Massive Attack’s latest EP release seems to have instantly reminded us all of the sheer power and grandiosity of their particular branch of trip-hop music. ‘Ritual Spirit’ slowly pushes along, using stronger elements of traditional hip-hop music to brilliant effect. At times, it feels sinister and macabre, creating images of dark London high streets and underground passages (perfectly expressed in the music video for ‘Voodoo In My Blood’). This is one of those few releases that manages to utilize guest appearances, with each collaborator cementing their position on the release by extenuating the particular tracks they appear on, rather than simply being an extra name for the credits. It’s arguable that ‘Ritual Spirit’ isn’t as chilled out as some of Massive Attack’s earliest releases, but it is one that’s hard to ignore the power of. There’s something almost hypnotic about what’s being presented here, suggesting a great new movement for the act to delve into on future releases.

This might be the sign of great things to come, or it might just be the result of years of trying and trying. At the very least, there’s a lot to be excited about for what ‘Ritual Spirit’ offers us, regardless of what is yet to come, if anything. Each track on the EP offers something a little new, and perhaps a little familiar from Massive Attack, all coming across as some of their absolute best tracks in their whole discography. This is a release one might find themselves constantly returning too, allowing oneself to delve deep into that head-space only Massive Attack’s music can provide.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Dead Editors feat. Roots Manuva
  • Ritual Spirit feat. Azekel
  • Voodoo In My Blood feat. Young Fathers
  • Take It There feat. Tricky

Massive Attack’s latest release ‘Ritual Spirit EP’ is out now.

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Lost Voices – Esmerine

Canadian group Esmerine’s 2013 album effort of ‘Dalmak’ came across as an incredibly concise and impressive musical experience, one showing the chamber-pop band as one that has evolved from its early roots into one willing to explore new ideas and indulge in creative concepts. The groups latest album effort ‘Lost Voices’ continues this reign of impressive musicianship, with the band offering up another beautiful and haunting album experience. It seems on their last album Esmerine really found their footing in their music, and have now found a way to channel it all into an incredibly cohesive and well constructed format, resulting in some of the best albums of their career.

‘Lost Voices’ continues much of what Esmerine established on ‘Dalmak’, though the whole effort seems to take more steps forward than its predecessor. It seems the band are offering a new chapter in their repertoire,  with ‘Lost Voices’ displaying more creative ideas and ingenuity. Whilst beautiful string melodies help form character in the tracks, its the use of electric guitars that anchors most of the album together, creating a drive that hasn’t really been seen on previous Esmerine albums. There’s somewhat of a sinister and dark edge to a few of the tracks, though the fragile beauty we know of Esmerine still remains apparent in most of the songs.

Esmerine’s wonderful and delicate touch on music is hard to fault, with the realization and execution of the project coming across brilliantly on the album itself. Everything feels incredibly well crafted, with such care and attention going into each track in terms of their structure and pace. The Middle-Eastern influence that formed much of the basis on ‘Dalmak’ seems to been removed on ‘Lost Voices’, though this makes the album a much different character, showing that Esmerine have much more to offer in their music than what a single album suggests.

It seems Esmerine have managed to follow up what was easily their strongest album with an album that easily comes across as having equal strength to its predecessor. The new concepts and ideas Esmerine explore come across so naturally, and yet there are so many complexities to the album that those who enjoy listening to every little detail in every second will find ‘Lost Voices’ to keep delivering with each and every listen. This is truly beautiful music in every sense of the word, even when there is some feelings of worry and fear being injected to the songs, it comes with its own achingly beautiful edge, certainly making the album itself one of the best this year.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • The Neighborhoods Rise
  • A River Runs Through This City
  • 19/14
  • Funambule (deus pas de Serein)

Esmerine’s latest album ‘Lost Voices’ is out now on Constellation Records.

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Never Were The Way She Was – Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Saxophonist Colin Stetson teams up with his partner Sarah Neufeld for the release of their collaborative album effort ‘Never Were The Way She Was’. Featuring Neufeld on violin and Stetson performing his powerful saxophone melodies recording without overdubs, the new album release showcases the incredible talent from these two Canadian musicians, coming across as one of the most essential releases both artists have released thus far in their extensive careers. Powerful blasts of saxophone layers like the breathing of an engine accompany the haunting notes of violin, resulting in some of the most creative music ever recorded by two individuals.

‘Never Were The Way She Was’ sees the incredible power of Neufeld and Stetson being combined in incredible ways, resulting in a musical experience that neither artist could achieve on their own. Incredibly powerful multiple layers of saxophone accompany haunting yet beautiful violin performances, resulting in a powerful listening experience that is both impossible to ignore or forget. Much of the album comes across as dark and foreboding, utilizing the deep notes of saxophones and the high-pitched notes of violins to create a symbiotic musical experience, where everything stands out amongst itself, whilst harmonizing with each other perfectly.

Like both Stetson and Neufeld’s solo album releases, ‘Never Were The Way She Was’ features a very experimental edge, and one that brings with it an almost inaccessible quality to the album. The music featured on the album can at times feel like rather challenging work to listen to, though one that ultimately gives those open to the experimental edge a wonderful listening experience. The underlying concept of both Stetson and Neufeld’s methods in compositon might also be a bit difficult to get one’s head around, though it results in some of the most powerful and impressive experimental music.

‘Never Were The Way She Was’ features many elements one might expect from either Neufeld or Stetson, though it hardly makes the whole album experience any less impressive. Both artists have pushed out their own respective talents to great lengths on their debut collaborative album, one that features the best of each artists own branch of music. Although much of the album feels rather dark for the most part, there’s also a wonderful beauty to much of the music, mostly in how Stetson and Neufeld combine their instruments and their own voices in unusual yet harmonious ways. This is certainly a powerful album, and one is certainly required listening for the fans.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • The Sun Roars Into View
  • Won’t Be A Thing To Become
  • With The Dark Hug Of Time
  • Never Were The Way She Was

Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld’s collaborative album ‘Never Were The Way She Was’ is out now.

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Sonnet – Benoît Pioulard

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

American Musician Thomas Meluch offers his latest release via Kranky under the moniker of Benoît Pioulard titled ‘Sonnet’. The new album sees Meluch offering a rich and vibrant selection of sonic instrumentals, making great use of various genre techniques to build up the album experience. Meluch expands upon many of his previous techniques, confidently constructing every detail to present his own personal vision. ‘Sonnet’ seems to occupy a weird and unusual land where everything is washed in hazes of static and noise, with the music being a comforting friend that gently holds your hand as your guided through an uncertain yet engrossing world.

Meluch’s latest effort seems to be one of his most ambitious, utilizing his many musical techniques to build up incredibly mysterious and exciting soundscapes. There’s an incredibly mystical element running throughout the album, joining together each track into one singular listening experience. Certain elements move through gently, building up calm tones that comfort, whilst others rush through layers of noise to greet the listener. It’s a phenomenal effort, one that borders lands where genres are crossed together until they are no longer discernible. This is arguably Meluch at his absolute best, utilizing his many talents to present a wonderful album experience.

Those familiar with Meluch’s style might note his various takes on different genres, ranging from ambient to lo-fi to even folk. On ‘Sonnet’, many of the folk elements we might know of Meluch are mostly abandoned, in favour of lo-fi electronic treatments that form a universal sound across the whole album. It might be a little disappointing to some who might enjoy these now missing elements of Meluch, though the whole album presents so many wonderful elements, it’s hard to notice anything missing as everything feels incredibly complete and whole within its own context.

Meluch’s latest work could perhaps be his best thus far, one that builds upon the many experimental notions previous explored on his earlier releases, whilst pushing out some new and exciting ideas that all fall effortlessly into place. There’s a wonderful notion on ‘Sonnet’ that Meluch is pushing everything he has forward, whilst simultaneously holding it all back just a little bit, never once revealing the whole picture, but offering us a slightly distorted yet equally enjoyable view of the image being created. It’s noisy, sonic and a little confusing at times, but it’s easily one of the best records Meluch has pushed out thus far.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Of Everything That Rhymes
  • Whose Palms Create
  • Upon The Break Arch
  • The Very Edge Of Its Flame

Benoît Pioulard’s latest album ‘Sonnet’ is out now, available through Kranky.

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Botul à La Campagne – Michel F. Côté

Experimental artist Michel F. Côté teams up with Tiari Kese for the release of ‘Botul à La Campagne’, his first album released through Squint Fucker Press. The new album sees Côté and Kese teaming up to offer a highly experimental musical experience, combining different elements of varying genres to great effect. Much of the album indulges in experimental notions, though elements of ambient, classical and jazz seem to seamlessly work their way into the tracks, offering up a very enjoyable album experience. There’s arguably a more subtle element to ‘Botul à La Campagne’, which never seems to overstep its mark at any point.

‘Botul à La Campagne’ offers up an interesting album experience, and one that leans towards the more accessible side of experimental music. Elements of different genres all come into play across the various tracks, though the album itself as a whole presents itself as a musical experience not limited by its own genres. The whole album seems to defy conventional genre classification in favour of pure creative experimental compositions. There seems to be elements of improvisation on the album, as could be expected of Côté, though at the same time there also seems to be real direction, and vision.

This latest release from Côté and Kese offers up an incredible musical experience, and one that seems to be oddly accessible for an album released through Squint Fucker Press. The album’s experimental notions do make the album a little odd in places, and thus this is perhaps a release that’s not for everyone, but those who are familiar with Côté’s work, and are open to his many different ideas and visions, expressed through his musical techniques, will most likely find ‘Botul à La Campagne’ to be one of the best releases this artist has to offer.

There’s an incredible amount being offered up on ‘Botul à La Campagne’, which takes ideas and brings out so much that the average musician wouldn’t think to do. Côté and Kese both manage to brilliantly bring forth so many different ideas and techniques, and string them all together into one coherent album package that just works. ‘Botul à La Campagne’ sees jazz music turn into dark ambient music turn into classical music without any notion or indication whatsoever. There’s some wonderful ideas being presented on the album, most of which work incredibly well and result in one of Squint Fucker Press’ most interesting album releases thus far.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Anasthasia sur l’herbe
  • sexe sous un arbre
  • chant de chasse à l’ancienne
  • esthétique de l’indifférence

Michel F. Côté’s latest album ‘Botul à La Campagne ‘ is available now through Squint Fucker Press.

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Rêves Sonores À Montréal – Stefan Christoff & Nick Schofield

Canadian Pianist and composer Stefan Christoff teams up with fellow Canadian Nick Schofield for the release of their collaborative album effort ‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ (Sound Dreams in Montreal). The new album offers up an electronic ambient album experience, utilizing Schofield’s experimental electronic ideas and teaming them up with Christoff’s gentle piano accompaniments. The result of this partnership offers up an interesting album, one that is at times, quite thought provoking in terms of how its instrumentals, and the techniques used to create them, result in music that is for the most part, rather emotional, but also one that is incredibly relaxing.

‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ features many elements of a conventional ambient album, though there’s many elements and ideas at play that make the record feel anything but. Unconventional techniques and concepts work their way seamlessly into the shared vision of Christoff and Schofield, everything combining together into a cohesive album experience. Both Christoff and Schofield use their own respective talents to guide the album’s musical motifs in ways that highlight each other’s techniques, whilst also working well with each other to create an album experience. Everything results in a very enjoyable musical voyage, one that bursts forth from the incredible amounts of creativity from the two musicians.

Whilst the collaborative effort between the two artists results in a very cohesive and understandable album experience, there’s still a few instances, techniques and ideas that push the album into an unusual and inaccessible territory. Those expecting an ambient-styled album similar to the work of Brian Eno or even Stars of the Lid will most likely find ‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ to perhaps be a little bit more than they bargain for, though those who enjoy music with much more of an experimental slant than the norm will find Christoff and Schofield’s collaborative effort to be an incredibly enjoyable album experience.

‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ isn’t the most conventional of album experiences, though it is one that can be more easily tapped into by most people, even with its experimental slants here and there. Christoff and Schofield’s respective talents combine effortlessly into a wonderful album experience, one that is perhaps one of Howl! Arts most enjoyable releases thus far. Christoff and Schofield both seem to have tapped in together into an equally shared vision on ‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’, both complimenting each other with their own musical motifs, resulting in one wonderful album experience.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Altitude
  • Generation I
  • Tempête
  • Haunted Lands

Stefan Christoff & Nick Schofield’s latest album ‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ is out now, available on Howl! Arts.

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Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – Hans Zimmer

Following on from producing and conducting the scores for Christopher Nolan’s previous films (The Dark Knight, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises), Zimmer returns with his latest soundtrack for Nolan’s latest film ‘Interstellar’. The soundtrack album for the film sees Zimmer employing some new ideas and techniques, resulting in a soundtrack experience that perfectly encompasses the film it was composed for. Whilst some soundtrack albums might come across poorly when listened to independently from their accompanying films, it seems Zimmer’s managed to produce a wonderful album experience that is easily enjoyable as a stand-alone album experience, as well as one that works perfectly for its film.

The strengths of Zimmer’s score seems to be in his minute and delicate touch in each of the tracks. There’s a wonderful timbre to the music as it slowly sets the scene up, before manipulating emotions through its sound and pace. At times, the score seems minimalist, using small minute instruments and techniques to set the scene, before building up into incredible and emotional movements. Driving forces in the tracks seem to be the motif of ticking clocks, which play a huge part in how the music guides itself, and how it presents itself as a musical piece. It’s all perhaps one of Zimmer’s most impressive soundtracks, and one that is incredibly enjoyable as an album experience.

Although Zimmer’s score works incredibly well as an album experience separated from the accompanying film, it seems that it makes much more sense in context of the film. One who has seen the film will more than likely find the separate movements of the soundtrack to be an incredible listening experience, and one that brings back the majesty of the film itself. One who listens to the soundtrack without having seen the film might find it all to be rather enjoyable, as it is a very strong album experience, though the real context would be completely lost.

‘Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ is perhaps one of Zimmer’s best pieces of work to date, perhaps even outshining the now significant soundtrack of ‘Inception’, whose musical motifs seem to have become a standard in modern Hollywood movies. Zimmer seems to have taken more of a step back in his compositions, relishing much more in a subtle approach to the music, rather than going for the big and dramatic. (not to say that music on this particular soundtrack isn’t dramatic!). This is perhaps a good example of a perfect soundtrack where every single element comes together cohesively in an incredibly strong way, working well to support both great music and great film.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Day One
  • Mountains
  • Coward
  • Detach

Hans Zimmer’s latest album ‘Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ is out now.

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