Eyeland – The Low Anthem

8 years since the release of their break-through album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, and 5 years since their last album Smart Flesh, American indie-folk band The Low Anthem have certainly been through some ups and downs. Now the band have released their fifth studio album Eyeland, displaying a much different edge to their music than what their previous albums did. Encompassing elements of indie-rock, ambient and experimental-ism, we see The Low Anthem starting to evolve their sound, whilst still encompassing the many elements that helped make their music so lovely in the first place.

Eyeland is a much different beast to previous albums by The Low Anthem, which seems to stray away from the indie-folk roots of its predecessors. On Oh My God, Charlie Darwin and Smart Flesh we’ve seen hints at a more manic and fast-paced Low Anthem. On Eyeland, this seems to have culminated into more of a freak-out style, with experimental notions bringing more out of these rockier tracks. There’s a wonderful cohesion to the album, which brings together these rockier tracks with experimental drone interludes that help to paint the overarching story-line of the album itself. It’s not what one would expect from the band, but it definitely shows growth, with great care and attention going into the album itself and not just individual songs.

Fans of The Low Anthem who came in on Oh My God, Charlie Darwin may find Eyeland a difficult album to approach, and a more difficult one to accept. With the band trying out many new things, there’s perhaps a loss of that delicate beauty that helped make their much earlier work so delightful and warming. However, under the surface of the tracks on Eyeland, those same elements remain, albeit, presented in a much different way. There’s a lot to be enjoyed on the album, which is perhaps the band’s most ambitious album to date, and the one that displays the most diversity and creativity from each member.

Eyeland understandably will most likely polarize many fans of the band, though those who are willing to accept the band’s newfound creativity, and are willing to just see where that creative streak takes them, will find Eyeland to be one of The Low Anthem’s more enjoyable and consistent album experiences. The overarching story-line and concept helps to tie together many different elements and ideas, making what would originally be a mish-mesh of ideas sound cohesive and well structured. It’s certainly different, but the creativity from the band certainly promises a lot, if one is willing to allow them to do their own thing.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • In Eyeland
  • The Pepsi Moon
  • Waved the Neon Seaweed
  • In the Air Hockey Fire

The Low Anthem’s fifth studio album ‘Eyeland’ is out now.

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Radial – Benoît Pioulard

Benoît Pioulard‘s Thomas Meluch’s latest body of work sees him releasing Radial, a three-track album just over 40-minutes in length. The latest album sees Meluch continuing much of his experimental ambient work, all in the hope of raising money to cover medical bills (through the use of a pay-what-you-want model). The album comprises some of Meluch’s most interesting bodies of work, showing a strong creative streak that draws much out of the ambient music genre. Radial at times feels a little hastily thrown together, but there’s evidence of a real dedication to the craft, making it one of Meluch’s more stronger independent releases.

Radial features many elements we know and and understand from Meluch, though there’s something a little different this time. Everything seems to rely mostly on Meluch’s ability to create large washes of ambient noise to help push along the album, with surprise elements coming in effortlessly to help build up the individual elements. Each track has its own identity, with some very interesting motifs coming out at each point. Notably in the album’s 22 minute opener, ‘The Very Center Of Its Flame’ harkens back to Meluch’s 2015 album Sonnet, in instance, the album’s track ‘The Very Edge Of Its Flame’. Here we’re seeing Meluch drawing more out of this initial idea in the creation of something ambitious.

It is perhaps important to take note of Meluch’s decision to include a reworking of Aphex Twin’s ‘Stone In Focus’ on Radial. The decision to do so is perhaps ambitious, though we get to see more insight into how Meluch operates and create his music, with Aphex Twin’s original track acting as a launching off point for Meluch to begin his own version. Some may find Meluch’s experimental style of ambient music a little less interesting than those at the forefront of the genre, perhaps mostly due to his reliance on walls of noise. Those who enjoy it though and simply let the music transport to whatever destination will no doubt find Radial an interesting release.

Meluch has certainly been prolifically acting in the past few years, pushing out releases at an incredible rate. It seems that with each release, we’re shown more of what Meluch is capable of, and perhaps just how ambitious he can be. There’s something about Radial that seems to draw the interested listener in, enveloping them in a world that is entirely their own. In terms of ambient music, it may not be as minimalist as some people may prefer, but it is indeed every bit as creative and every bit as relaxing if one simply allows the music to be. As of now, Radial is perhaps one of Meluch’s more interesting releases, that fans should definitely find much to enjoy from.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • The Very Center Of Its Flame
  • Madrigal
  • Stone in Focus

Benoît Pioulard latest album ‘Radial’ is out now, available  at: https://pioulard.bandcamp.com/album/radial

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Second Hand War – Thomas Charlie Pedersen

The debut solo album Second Hand War from Vinyl Floor’s lead singer Thomas Charlie Pedersen offers an album experience a little different to what we might be used too from Vinyl Floor’s outlet, but one that is also every bit as accessible and enjoyable. The solo album gives Pedersen the time and space to begin expressing himself, drawing from his own thoughts and experiences in the creation of his first solo record. The result comes across mostly as a quintessential singer-songwriter album, with Pedersen drawing from many influences, but ultimately pushing out a rather intimate and enjoyable album experience.

Whereas Vinyl Floor’s sound characteristally seems to fall into the indie-rock genre, Pedersen strays away from this sound on Second Hand War, instead opting for a more stripped down approach to his song-writing. Anchoring themes of demise, breakups and recovery around a more sparse sound palette, we’re shown a much more intimate side to Pedersen’s music, and perhaps gain an understanding as to why this album has been released as a solo endeavor, rather than with the rest of Vinyl Floor. Much of the music and its content feels important, as though this is something Pedersen feels he has to say at this particular time in his life.

When we look at the bare elements of Second Hand War, we see a rather lovely album marred by a few inconsistencies. Many of the tracks are built up around singular instruments, and whilst this is what Pedersen has been specifically aiming for, it does result in a number of tracks sounding very similar to each other. Whilst the sparse nature of the album allows it to be more intimate, it does feel that Second Hand War could have benefited from some additional input at various places, just to help bring more out of what Pedersen is trying to convey.

Second Hand War is certainly an album of merit for Pedersen, and one that helps showcase many of his talents in a condensed form. Whilst certain elements and creative ideas do lack in certain places, it does seem that when it is working, it’s working well. It might not be as fun and upbeat as what Vinyl Floor fans might be used too, but it seems to be an important album for Pedersen. Whether this is simply a one-time thing for the artist, or whether we’ll see some more forays into solo-albums, only Pedersen knows. For now, there’s certainly evidence of good talent here, which has culminated into a charming album experience.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • High Dust Devils
  • Appreciation Hymn
  • Golden Age
  • Kill With Kindness

Thomas Charlie Pedersen’s debut solo album ‘Second Hand War’ is out now.

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Stranger to Stranger – Paul Simon

Veteran musician and song-writer Paul Simon returns with his latest solo album ‘Stranger to Stranger’. The new album, composed over the course of several years, sees Simon utilizing his trademark style with more experimental elements here and there, pushing out an album that surprises more than it would confound. ‘Stranger to Stranger’ offers a gentle pop aesthetic, done so in the way only Paul Simon could ever do, with his calming voice soaring over electronic blips and hand-made instruments. It seems unlikely that ‘Stranger to Stranger’ is the kind of album to be revered as highly as some of Simon’s earlier albums (both collaborative and solo), though it features many merits of its own that makes it an interesting listen.

Simon’s strong song-writing style is prevalent throughout the album, interrupted only by the inclusion of short instrumental tracks which help to break up the album somewhat and keep the flow moving. There’s some humour in a few of the tracks, with Simon’s natural story-telling like style coming through once again in great style. As well as this are the more bittersweet tracks, which combines the gentle vocal style with charming instrumentals that accompany in great form. Everything feels very meticulous and intricately designed, with it all coming across as a great effort to really push forward a cohesive album experience.

There’s certainly many merits to ‘Stranger to Stranger’, which is certainly a consistent and cohesive album experience. Whilst there are many strengths on the album, it does sometimes feel as though it’s not really enough present here to make a really strong and lasting impression. Everything is certainly charming and nice, but ‘Stranger to Stranger’ seems to lack that real same impact that made Simon’s earlier work so important and notable. It’s definitely hard to argue against the fact that the album is perhaps one of the strongest Simon has put out in recent years, with it certainly showcasing more creativity that some may have given him credit for at this age.

‘Stranger to Stranger’ is certainly a nice album, and perhaps that is all it really needs to be at this point in time. Simon has created some of the most important and well regarded music in his lucrative career, and it’s certainly admirable that there’s not been a clear attempt to just repeat those initial successes, and instead create something that is a little different from the norm. It’s definitely admirable, and ‘Stranger to Stranger’ certainly showcases a great creative style, one that shows Simon is always ready to attempt something new, even at this stage in his life.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • The Werewolf
  • Wristband
  • Stranger to Stranger
  • Proof of Love

Paul Simon’s latest album ‘Stranger to Stranger’ is out now.

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Blood Moon – M. Craft

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Seven years after the release of his second studio album Arrows in the Sun, singer-songwriter Martin ‘M’ Craft returns with his third studio album Blood Moon. Craft’s latest album sees the song-writer drawing influence from his residence at Joshua Tree, Mojave, using the landscape surrounding him to build up a strong and surprisingly cohesive album experience. Whilst tracks like ‘Dragonfly’, from the singer’s debut album Silver & Fire gave moderate success and airplay, it seems the performer has abandoned those substantial elements in favour of an arguably more experimental and wholly more pleasing format of music.

Blood Moon comes across as a strong step in Craft’s repertoire.  Whilst previous album from the singer were enjoyable in their own right, featuring many common elements of singer/song-writer albums, there was something arguably lacking in the whole album structure. On Blood Moon though, we see Craft anchoring the whole album together with the use of gentle sparse piano notes, structuring everything into an album that flows beautifully from one track to the next. It’s a different Craft to the one some of us might be used too, but it’s one that’s wholly involved himself into something interesting, utilizing everything in the creation of this particular album.

Whilst Blood Moon feels like a more strongly structured album that Craft’s previous works, it does feature the problem of too many similar tracks, mostly in the use of the piano being the general motif of the album experience. This feels mostly apparent in the album’s first half, which introduces everything comfortably, but arguably fails to really deliver for the most part. As the album enters the second half though, we start to see everything really take form, and suddenly the whole album starts to make sense.

It’s arguable that Blood Moon is a little too easy-going, or a bit cheesy in places, but the general impression the album itself leaves is one of calming delight. When the tracks work, we’re presented with something rather delicate and gentle, that isn’t trying to be groundbreaking, but is simply another artistic expression. The straying away from his own earlier style that helped to establish his career may alienate the odd few people here and there, but to some, this is a surprisingly strong album, and one that helps shed new light on this song-writer.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • New Horizons
  • Chemical Trails
  • Morphic Fields
  • Love Is All

M. Craft’s latest album ‘Blood Moon’ is out now.

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Boarding Pass – One Hour Before The Trip

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Eschewing their early days of progressive rock and psychadelia in favour of more experimentation, One Hour Before The Trip present their latest body of work Boarding Pass. This latest work displays strong promise from the band, who clearly lay out the various formulas and aesthetics that fall into the instrumental rock genre. Whilst certain bands may opt for very specific styles within the broad genre, One Hour Before The Trip seem to be presenting a great multitude  of elements, showcasing their strong understanding of the genre as well as their ability to take any leaf out of its book.

Boarding Pass presents that new chapter in One Hour Before The Trip’s repertoire. From the offset, we’re presented with promise as the band showcase their understanding of the intricacies of post-rock, before sweeping it away in favour of the intense and bombastic. There’s all the makings of a strong record here, with the focal point being the band’s remarkable understanding of so many different elements of the genre, as well as the strength in which the band present that understanding. It’s apparent that the band are very capable and talented at what they’re doing.

Whilst there’s many strengths to presenting a varied album experience, it does come with the problem of it all coming across as a slightly muddled and incoherent album experience. Each track presents something different, and some strength from the band, but as a whole, it doesn’t seem to work quite as well as the band might have hoped for. It’s perhaps a problem we see on a lot of albums, where there’s too many ideas all wishing to be thrown in, and as a result the whole experience feels a little disjointed.

Although Boarding Pass suffers from a few faults, it’s hard to deny the strong natural talent present on the record. There’s a clear element of effort and passion that has been thrown into each and every song, and whilst the album experience might feel a little confusing in some respects, the songs themselves can come across as very promising and enjoyable. One Hour Before The Trip seem to have moved into (arguably) more interesting territory on their latest album, and once all the kinks and faults have been ironed out, we’ll most likely see some very promising work from the band.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Boarding Pass
  • Interstellar Neighborhood
  • Happiness is K
  • Hell in Mozart’s Home

One Hour Before The Trip’s latest album ‘Boarding Pass’ is out now.

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The Wilderness – Explosions in the Sky

Through no fault of their own, the popularity of Explosions in the Sky’s album ‘The World Is Not A Cold And Dead Place’ inadvertently helped to create the template used by countless bands all hoping to achieve the same dizzying heights Explosions in the Sky achieved. Through this, we’ve seen Explosions in the Sky refine that sound, creating brilliant albums that only they could ever have done. The band’s latest album ‘The Wilderness’ though seems to show the band starting to take greater creative steps forward, incorporating new elements into their post-rock sound, showcasing the kind of creativity normally seen in bands like Mogwai.

‘The Wilderness’ is quintessentially Explosions in the Sky at the end of the day, but it feels like a more ambitious project than their previous works. With shorter tracks and a bigger variety of them, we see Explosions really tuning into what shapes the overall tracks individually, using that as a template to construct the album itself. It all feels very well refined, with there being more creative flourishes than we normally see on Explosions in the Sky records. Whilst previous albums offer emotional moments through almost aggressive intensity, ‘The Wilderness’ seems to opt more for a reserved and experimental tone, providing heightened emphasis on intense moments.

This album feels like a vastly different chapter in Explosions in the Sky’s music repertoire, and it’s likely those expecting essentially more of the same from the band will most likely be disappointed with this release. The tracks are all together much shorter, sounding more similar to the band’s EP release ‘The Rescue’. Whilst the incredibly emotive heights of the band’s earlier work seems absent on this album, there is an emotive layer entirely of its own present, giving the album its strengths and showcasing it as perhaps an important step in the band’s career.

It’s perhaps difficult to say whether or not ‘The Wilderness’ works better than its predecessors or not, but it is undoubtedly an interesting chapter in the band’s career, and one that perhaps shows more creativity and promise than their previous album did. ‘The Wilderness’ shows that there is certainly a lot on offer from the band, more-so than what albums like ‘All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone’ was trying to suggest. It may be a dividing album for most people, but it is definitely an important one, and perhaps one Explosions in the Sky needed to make, lest they end up the terrible rut so many bands have found themselves in trying to follow in their wake.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Logic of a Dream
  • Disintegration Anxiety
  • Colors in Space
  • Landing Cliffs

Explosions in the Sky’s latest album ‘The Wilderness’ is out now.

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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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Cheetah EP – Aphex Twin

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

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

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

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

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

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

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