Review: Celephaïs – Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens

dav
Ordo Viatorum surprised us first with the split between Neugeborene Nachtmusik and Onont Kombar, to us they seemed like an off-shoot to Enfant Terrible at first – though they share common ground in a lot of aspects – this label is run by Jeroen Holthuis and Maurice Hermes. The label is even more experimental, if that is even a possibility. The second release to be reviewed on Repartiseraren came out in November last year, and features the first album of the duo Celephaïs – Ian Martin (Kaval, Opfer) and Jeroen Holthuis, titled “Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens“.

We were sent a physical vinyl (limited edition of 300) which is remarkable in all its simplicity, but more on that later on in this article, as we’re about to show you the full layout of the release itself in the pictures below.

davdav

Gladly enough, there’s nothing negative to report about in the shipping process, everything looks pristine and is working as intended. So here’s where PostNord actually didn’t screw up in terms of delivery, a once in a lifetime experience. There are two more pictures which feature the A-Side and the B-Side of the vinyl itself, which can be viewed down below, and then we’re off to the aesthetic aspect of this release.

The aesthetic aspect of Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens

It is clean, easy on the eyes and beautiful in its own particular way. White and black, some hints of light brown on the vinyls themselves, and the insert almost looks like a Rorschach-test. There’s always been hints of different colors beneath the black and white facade that Ordo Viatorium have portrayed before this release, there are subtle notions of something else hidden away that you’d have to look for before even finding it.

Even though the aesthetics aren’t that pleasing when it comes to the cover, it is simply because it is not something we’ve grasped and can relate to in any way, it feels like a profound release when viewing the package as a whole, but be wary of catching a mind-virus, as it feels like looking at something resized a million times as if it was originally viewed through a microscope.

Those kinds of aesthetics are not off-putting, but it is subliminal in a way that we cannot fathom – but the artists themselves had a clear intention of putting images in our heads – and that goes perfectly well with the music. It’s pretty standard for any experimental release to have something that doesn’t adhere to the norm – but it has rather become the opposite – that experimental aesthetics have set their own norm – which isn’t touching your soul in the same, rebel spirit as it may once adhered to.

celephais

The musical aspect of Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens

As described earlier, this duo consists of Ian Martin and Jeroen Holthuis, both of them are no strangers to experimental electronic music. Ordo Viatorum is proving to be a viable platform for these projects to flourish, without the help from the outside and little to none recognition, which is wholly undeserved. The musical experience these two possess is what reveals itself in this debut-album, “Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens“, now we’re going to delve into it as per usual – on a track-by-track basis – for the review.

Undreamed Dreams” is a paradox in itself by name, but it adheres to the concept in the title of the track, a dreamy and ambivalent soundscape set in motion by a hushed electronic motion that steadily creeps in on you. A boat that never reaches harbor, a train that huffs and puffs like the old days but never stops on a platform – a continuum between awake and asleep. It is a ghastly feeling to be caught in a limbo, the more you notice the vague and sensible touches put in there by the artists, the more uneasy it feels listening to it.

We conjure the most horrible thoughts, as time passes by this is where time stops for a while and feels like an eternity. Not even on the second track yet, and we’re not even upset because of boredom, but it is upsetting to be drawn in and latched on to musically – it feels like never letting go, a constant reminder that you can only affect as much of the world around you, but it doesn’t make a difference in the end. There are some beautiful nihilistic tendencies which gives off a cold, stale emotionally charged vibe.

The music itself is as if ambient were re-occupied by the greatness of Tim Hecker’s earlier material once again, just in a completely different setting. It is very European in style, and delivers what can be construed as a thoughtful but menacing barrage of noisy synthesizers, simple but provoking droned out sounds, abhorrent ringing sounds and rambunctious arpeggios – a wake-up call on a Sunday evening that Monday is tomorrow.

Resentful Of Awaking” is being hit by the sunlight when you just want to pass out, another day to tackle with inane activities. What becomes clear after two songs in is how accurate the titles are, they have not just been made up out of the blue, like most ambient songs have – they actually reflect themselves into the music, as it have reflected it back when first being named. This one is more beautiful in a calming fashion, though some of the sounds manage to send a chilling feeling down our spine. If we’d hear this every time we’d be waking up, we would’ve been filled with energy and optimistic about the rest of the day.

There is a certain nerve of darkness that smothers itself upon you, when the rain hits your window and you’re forced to endure walking through it on your way to work. When the music is so thought-provoking in different ways, and you can just soak it in – doesn’t matter if it is negative or positive – you know the musicians have succeeded. It is an art form if you manage to pull so many strings, so many nuanced feelings in between that can’t be written in words, that you should be aware of what talent you’ve amassed.

Damp Stone Spiral Stairway” is the best song overall on the A-Side of this vinyl, nothing beats the constant brooding, deep base tone that makes your head spin round and round like the vinyl itself on the turntable. You may feel nauseous, you may be a bit dissy after hearing it – but when paired with the flair and urgent sounds in the background – the atmosphere cannot get any better. Having built upon a solid ground, this uproots on itself and heads upwards, through the mountains. Have I ever wanted to witness Aurora Borealis in sound, this is it – or at least close to one of nature’s phenomenons – it is almost as if they’d want to mimic something like that with the sound.

When paired with the whole audio-visual experience, this song becomes even better and should solely be watched together with this video, even though it definitely holds up on its own. Some of the best combinations of ambient and experimental electronica in general that we’ve heard for quite some time.

Red-Roofed Pagoda” starts off with a whirlwind of buzzing sounds, spaced out electronic music and a more industrially-oriented paved way musically. There’s more surprising elements fused within the music itself, and chords that feel like they are going somewhere – rather then laying the emphasis on a massive atmosphere – it is more compact and solidified. It is heavy on the ears but not antagonistic in any way, there’s a seriousness that isn’t fading out any time soon, an urgency to deliver a musical message or show the way, despite what you think of it in your own mind.

Had there been any vocals on this one, they’d be suitable for power-electronics and industrial, but more so the last genre. It is almost as if there will come something that reminds you that it could be power-electronics or noise music, but they discard that run-at-the-mill option and go heavily into other territories of unexplored synthesis. An eye-opener for anyone interested in those genres, as it is most often invested in what came before but not on what comes next, or what could be morphed into something in between all of that.

A Violet-Coloured Gas Told Him” is by far our least favorite song, it doesn’t swing the rope as high as the others and instead falls short. There is a short way to climb, but this is as if something was concocted in a laboratory, where the main focus wouldn’t be on establishing anything to bridge over from the gap the last song left, to the song after this one. Unfortunately it feels bland and uninspiring, though some moments of it leaves more to the listener in terms of experience.

Here’s where they jumped ship for the first time, there really isn’t anything that makes you feel anything. If that is the point – then they’ve succeeded – if not, then they’ve failed miserably, unfortunately. We’ve tried to listen to it multiple times, but it barely gets interesting on the end of it, but then we’re all deaf ears.

Good thing to be caught up in “They Seemed To Gallop Back Through Time“, as it saves the evening, literally. Despite being the last song on the vinyl, it proves to be a great outro as well as a song, heavily invested in intangible themes and a compromise between atmospheric electronica and the more industrially oriented side of Celephaïs. There are also some oriental vibes caught in between all of this, but as they fade out it begins to get more scarce with that. Then – all of a sudden – they jump back into it, more outdrawn and less stoic, more psychedelic and with a vengeance.

What do we think of this album all-in-all? It is probably one of the greatest debuts we’ve heard in these genres, and we’re interested in what will happen in the future for Celephaïs. They provide you with something different, even though you hear similarities with other artists and groups, but they don’t affect your judgement when listening to this. To get the ultimate experience, you definitely have to get the physical edition of it, the vinyl – from Ordo Viatorum. You can listen to some of the full tracks from this mix Jeroen made for SEER 334, down below.

 

Advertisements

Review: Rope Sect – Personae Ingratae / Proselytes (CD)

mde

Caligari Records have been a favorite of mine since some time back. Always on top with new releases, always on point with the darker themed musical styles (mainly metal) – everything is allowed if it is contained within these limits – and they don’t do a half-arsed job at it. The proprietor of the label was kind enough to send a physical edition of the release about to be reviewed, and we’re glad to finally be able to listen through and critique an item from their discography.

mde

Unfortunately to our own dismay, the case was slightly damaged with what seems to be small cuts on the front of it. The CD itself was not damaged but the plastic attachment which keeps the CD in place was in half, thus there was no use for it at all – thanks to our wonderful shipping company PostNord – who seems to take much joy in making sure that shipments arrive as damaged as possible, unless packed very tight and secure.

 

The aesthetic aspect of Personae Ingratae / Proselytes

Aesthetically the whole package, despite it being a standard jewelcase, is really magnificent to look at. The booklet comes with lyrics for each song, and at the end of it (pictured) there’s a very well-drawn image of a man which could resemble any statue from ancient Greece, holding a rope which yields a perfect representation of the band’s name. Just beside the man is a tightly knit rope, where the words “Venerate the rope! Fear The Rope!” is written beneath it. Makes for a very sinister impression.

The decorative‘ aspect of this release is what makes it, though the fonts are somewhat off-putting except on the front of the CD where it almost seems to be sketched out rather then digitally put there – even though, in the end, part of that dimension as well. You know very well what kind of genre it ought to be by looking at it, even though you might not be able to place the sub-genres, which is a slightly ambiguous touch that makes it even better. Shows how much can be done aesthetically without the release having to be more then a jewelcase.

ropesectdigitalcover

The musical aspect of Personae Ingratae / Proselytes

Rope Sect as a band is a trio, consisting of ‘Inmesher‘ (guitars, drums & vocals), ‘Harbinger‘ (bass) and ‘Gaarentwynder‘ (additional guitars). The release is a compilation, a combination of their first EP released by Caligari Records on cassette, “Personae Ingratae“, and their double-single “Proselytes” released on vinyl by Iron Bonehead Productions. We want to make it perfectly clear that we haven’t heard these releases in their physical format, therefore we can’t do any comparisons and if we had we wouldn’t any way because it would only make sense as that instead.

Fallen Nation” starts off with an ominously sounding German quotation in sound sampled from somewhere, heck knows where. Then what could be described as some crossover between metal and punk, but without the -core in it. Somehow it reminds us of a better, less outdrawn version, maybe heavier in certain aspects – later Katatonia. If they had mingled with Jawbreaker, but without the cheesy lyrics. It is hard-hitting, straight up emotional and there is where the first comparison is drawn, out of a sense of nostalgia and not so much musically – even though some of it is similar, in terms of melody.

It feels weird that a first track on a release can be so addicting. A perfect cocktail of nihilistic tendencies together with a dim, bright light of hope in the end of the tunnel. The drums are muddy, distorted and together with the guitar work and baseline create a malformed, rowdy atmosphere – which is then smacked together with clean vocals. The vocalist is really talented, he pulls off such an emotional but assertive tone in the way he articulates each word, lyrically.

The second song “Tarantist” ups the instruments a notch in terms of how the solos, the riffs and the overall rhythm is concerned. Sure, much of it is similar with the first song, but it has a more deathrock-ish vibe over the atmosphere, perfect for a December’s evening like this. We find ourselves digging more to this song, even though the first one had its perfectly laden harmonics. The psychedelic edge in some of the riffs are absolutely glorious in all their simplicity – they manage to bridge to the chorus in a down-tempo – to maniacal uptempo after a few seconds, so effortlessly.

Even though it makes no sense in text at all, the most powerful lyrical content in this song is when the singer calmly but ominously proclaims: “We’re gonna die – why?“, it hits so close to home that it almost frightens. It is so existential in a beautiful way – yet it gives you an unobjectionable push into the grim realities of life, which isn’t as romantically charged as the notion of living forever either as a memory in the past, or resurrected in the future.

Pretty Life” heads in a different, more downtempo way that has a lot in common with atmospheric black metal, instead of the punk (and sub-genres of it) overtones that dominate on this record so far. Too bad that it is so repetitive and doesn’t really cast a good light on the vocalist as it has done with the uptempo, more aggressive songs before this one. Sure, some moments are great as when the more ‘acoustically’-oriented passages that add an upswing to an otherwise not that interesting song.

Some facets of it can be intriguing to listen to but it is not what we’re expecting after we’ve listened to Rope Sect, we’re sorry to say that. If anything, the abrupt ending is in a class of itself, since this song doesn’t need to be more outdrawn and killed right away. Don’t get it wrong, it is not a bad song per se, but it is an OK song in comparison with the other two which set the standard very high.

King Of The Night” remind us, in a good way, what the commercially successful band Ghost would’ve been if they hadn’t sold out from the get go. Rope Sect is like the better version of what the ideal would’ve been with that band, even though it was dead from the get go, really. A really trashing song from the get go which includes the better parts of good death metal, with the melodically oriented stance that actually, by now, defines their music for us.

Not to mention the classic rock’n’roll vibe coming out of the second chorus, the solos from the guitars are fantastic. They also slap the darker atmosphere on it so that it doesn’t flip out and go into full deranged death’n’roll. In this song comes another memorable line, which also touches emotionally through how the singer delivers it vocally – “We found the gallows sling in the light / A lost reversal of fortune“. What a great line lyrically. It gives off a very subliminal message as it goes through your brain, an ambiguity not easily taken away.

On this compilation, “Recess” feels like the dividing line between “Personae Ingratae” and “Proselytes“, even though it originally wasn’t. A good piece of death-doom metal but with much better melodies then there generally is in that crossover genre. They are really accentuated and heightened in this short song. An uproar of the most desperate anguish, but without the cheesiness that would be attached to it otherwise with bad lyrics, so it is actually good that they went full instrumental for once. Though it wouldn’t of been any trouble for the singer to lay his unique touch on it as well, had it not been.

Ochlesis” is the longest track on the release, and feels like a combination of all the good in the first few songs and the otherworldly nature of their atmosphere. Simple but ingenious riffs lay the foundation of the choruses, as one is transported between all possible sub-genres and back again. From metal to post-punk, doom metal to gothic rock. There’s also an downtempo part that is fanatically great – they leave room to each instrument, and let the different textures blend together through silence and noise – completing the sound in a vividly imaginable perfect scenario.

Though the first part shines the brightest, as that is their stronger side, it is accompanied by an even heavier laden barrage of the finest metal you could imagine. Nothing is compromised when they get to do their own thing, whatever that could be called in a summary. Though, as written in the first paragraphs about this song, it is clear that it is a combination of all the best elements so far from this record.

Death Is Your Lover” is by far the roughest sounding track so far, having more dark riffs then ever before. The title alone suggests what you’re about to hear when turning it on. The drumming also goes into different riffs, as it almost wants to go into full blast-beat as soon as possible, but is hindered by the fact that it is as gloomy as doom metal can be when it is at its best – in combination with the psychedelic, slow and hard-hitting aspects of that certain genre.

Little bits of pieces in this song are good, but together it doesn’t stand out that much in comparison with other songs. There are different ambiance that could’ve been adjusted a bit more, and the singing gets a bit dull after parts of it, but without a doubt the lyrical content of this song is one of the best. Especially the repetitiveness of it all, which lulls one into uncertainty.

Rattenkönig” is so pleasurable to listen to. It holds up great in all aspects and is except the first two songs, “Fallen Nation” and “Tarantist“, which in itself makes it a great song. The lyrics flow so well, as if the vocalist have lived what is described himself. As if it is recited by a great orator. There’s really nothing more to be said then that it gives off a spiritual feeling when listening to it. Such a great, uncompromising and skilfully made song that it isn’t even funny. Nothing could be done better in it that would make it even more outstanding.

BothQuietus” and “Proselytes” is if you had inverted the record itself, not that they are identical to the first two songs musically, it is just that they are as great in their own respects. Here, they’ve added a bit more that gives the atmosphere that knife-sharp edge and volatility which some of the other tracks miss out on. The first song mentioned actually contain some blast-beats to our joy, and it is the better one of the two, but both are god-damn impeccable.

Such a great ending to an otherwise more than good compilation of two releases. We could not recommend it more, actually. It is just a shame that it hasn’t gotten more publicity, because this sure is a hidden gem in the Caligari Records discography – despite it being the next-newest release there. If anything, you should really get this CD because nothing beats having the physical item. You can get it digitally and on CD from Caligari Records, stream the release down below to make up your own mind.

 

Review: STEREO NO AWARE – the sound of STEREO NO AWARE (LP)

IMG_20171013_155111.jpg

STEREO NO AWARE is completely new to us. Their sound is experimental rock’n’roll with psychedelic influences. We had the opportunity to receive the limited edition color version of the vinyl-release, which is beautiful in all its aesthetic glory. When it comes to the general aesthetics of the release there are too much colors for us and a coherent theme cannot be found – but that does not discourage listening. Each to his own. The aesthetics are on point when it comes to knowing from the first glance, what kind of genre and record this is going to be. The covers are very pattern-based when it comes to the outer layer of it, and more basic and down to earth when it comes to the inside of it.

IMG_20171013_155104.jpg

Lyrics for each song have been printed on the insert and is sharing the space with artistic doodles of different creatures, a computer with tentacles and something which looks like a freely interpreted version of Edward Munch’s painting “The Scream“. There have been many people involved in the making of the artwork itself (both sleeve and front cover), such as Jonathan Ash, Jane Nicola Rossi and Isaac Ashlind.

Now on to the music. The first song “Passing For A Ghost” is obnoxious in all its experimentalism at first, with the different voices and basic rhythmic beat, but it is swiftly sidelined into a more oriental vibe together with the ethereal mind of someone else. It is like there are different personalities on display within the song itself, like a madman talking to himself or an organic trip between a younger and older self. What is exciting about this form of rock’n’roll is that there are so many instruments that aren’t used normally.

From different flutes to what almost sounds like mandolins, but probably isn’t. They themselves call their music “experi-mental pop”, which might be an apt title to put on yourself, but I believe it is more then just that. Popular music has no bearing in their music, especially not in this first song. It is too “out there” to ever be popular in anyone’s mind. Probably why they used that play of words with “experi-mental” pop.

Tristram The Manipulator“, the second track is more coherent in the general sound and is a part of a huge soundscape which one could get lost in immediately. Though we’re not a fan of the almost rapped lyricism a bit into the song itself, the reverberating noise that the rhythm and baseline together with the drums produce – is astonishing in and of itself to make up for that lack of musical prowess. The vibe is switched from emotional and right up the funkier alley – right into 8-bit crunched up and claustrophobic beats. There is a lot of attention to detail in this song in general, where every shade of instruments gets a play in between the main rhythm (if there was one) and the rest of the song.

Yareta Yorona” is even more emotionally invested then the other songs so far. We’re not fans of the poetic side of the talked lyrics, though more of a fan of the stoner/psychedelic influenced vocals that appear further in. Attentively changing from a darker, more distorted voice to a louder and pitched one. Two different worlds that collide perfectly and make for nice moments. Everything flows so great together except the aforementioned babbled (though audible) lyrics. The singing parts are much better. Too bad that some of the outro goes into an obnoxious playful fogged up state, but it is saved by the more acoustic and sincere proper ending.

Cattle Calling” is messed up in a lazy way. It feels like they just let everything go, but at the same time the melodies in the song are on point. There’s too much experimental hitting on the drums, slapping on the baseline and churning on the guitar going on, until a desperate vocalist manages to save the good melodies with his voice – as it goes totally spaced out. An otherworldly sound complete with the influence of a saxophone – haven’t heard that instrument until now – but it gives off a jazzy and entwined feeling together with everything else. “Pagan Feelings” is like a continuation of “Cattle Calling”, it could almost be the same song, outro-wise at least.

The big difference between these two is that it continues down the same trodden path in which STEREO NO AWARE have made us aware of their talent. An experimental needle in the right position, delivering everything they can in terms of musicality to make up for their past mistakes. The common theme is the spaced out and less filled up, erratic soundscape. They leave silence to play a bigger part in the sound then they have before in the other tracks. Everything from the beginning of the song up until the end goes more acoustic, as it has been with the latest tracks we’ve listened to on this album so far.

Normal One” is the highpoint. They’ve managed too well to combine the organ with the drums and the vocalists ‘normal’ state. Had they not screwed up some of the rhythm by filling out the space left by the organ as it slowly disappeared, it would’ve been the best song so far. Though having said all of that, we believe it combines the best elements of their music and turn it up a notch – to make it believable.

Oaks Park” is perfect when it comes to the drums. Everything else is just a companion on this flipped out journey. They touch a deeper nerve with it and hold themselves together instrumentally. From the guitar-licks to the sharpened edges of the fast-paced strumming of guitars at some points, is replaced later on with an outdrawn saxophone that slows down the tempo a notch and bring a cloudy comfortable feeling of well-being into the mix.

As the songs grow longer, “The Great Dialator” adds a minute or more to the song in comparison with the others. Accompanied with a robotic voice, maybe this is the epitome of human and AI interaction – they can never convey that feeling which is human – they will never encompass all those facets of humanity. No matter how much Bladerunner 2049 will try and convince you otherwise. No matter how the futuristic automation will keep us from doing what we loathe. There is something humble about this song and it convey their more primal outlet.

Had they simply removed “Tongue Clouded“, the album would’ve been better off. It is a decent song, but it is so far removed from the feelings that have been given by them musically so far. Though one favorite part is the stern baselines that comes into the song, but one-two seconds later it is far gone. Just to arrive again. They could’ve built on that emotion further – it had a rejective theme to it and a more dark, sinister outlook on things then what have been made clear so far.

Conversely (Exit Tango)” is a mish-mash of everything you’ve heard so far. To get a grip on STEREO NO AWARE – you must listen to it. It gives you a grasp on what this album might be all about, musically. A very ambitious track and the longest one on the record so far, with old-school piano-playing and in more of a drunken haze then before. Imagine film noir gone completely decadent cabaret. Together with “Credits“, both are your typical outros but the first one was made into a track instead that clings to what have already passed (the other songs).

After having heard this it sounds like so much different music one have already heard, but they have something distinctly theirs. It would be interesting if they could develop it further, though they’ve already done it to good length already. Maybe this is the final product. A good album if you’re into experimental music – if you’re not, then this might not be for you. Listen to it in full down below (digitally) and do yourself a favor – order the limited edition vinyl – the colored one(s).

Review: Canter – Traveller

canter

Ever since I first heard a song by Canter, their sound have struck me as something unique and out of the regularly mashed out minimal wave, cold wave, dark wave, and synth-pop sound one has gotten used to nowadays. There’s a transgressive notion in their music that descends the genres and picks influences from each one of them. When I saw that TONN Recordings had released a new album by them, I just had to listen through it and do a track-by-track review of it.

What begins as a musical seance, “Deflection” slowly descends into a mixture of industrial and synthesizer-based music. It has a very unorthodox approach as to what track it should be that starts off an album, as this song isn’t very introductory but rather downtempo and experimentally odd. As if they’d walk on the steps of acapella, electronic music and post-punk – simultaneously. Subliminally it is a wicked song that etches onto your brain and have a very disturbing approach in general, vocally.

It very much seems to continue down the trodden path in “Traveller” for the first seconds or so – but instead takes a turn for melodic, surprisingly pop-oriented synth-pop music. They seem to be splintered as a group musically, but it builds on you and it feels like the metaphorical line on which they tread is ever expanding. Especially noticeable are the vocals in this song, how the singer accentuates the last lines in the lyrics and sets the melodies up for a continuum of greatness. Being their first album ever this song gives off a really promising and unique sound in the sense that it is like nothing I’ve heard before, in terms of simplicity but also in terms of ambiguous and ambitiously sounding synthesizer music.

One’s mind is blown when “Metal to Metal” comes on. What an imaginative and stylized type of electronic music they’re capable of making. Melodies upon melodies that are layered sufficiently to create both an overtone of raw energetic music and a mystic undertone. Unfortunately the vocals aren’t that inspiring on the song, but it doesn’t matter as they go well with the sound-scape anyway, so that is just a minor nuisance. It’s a dreamy song, a well-thought out one in terms of synthesizer sweeps, minor stabs and general rhythm. Slowly fading into nothingness one more time, the more you listen to it, the more you’re hooked and can’t stand anything else.

Just to have an upbeat song, titled “Red Heather“, throw em’ into the kind of maniacal but genial type of electronic body music Schwefelgelb handles – if they’d be stripped to the core and devoid of that harsh rhythm, and beats. This is more of a fast-paced electro-punk – at the core melodious darkwave – which goes from that spastic rhythm into a controlled, hard-line maelstrom of punishing emotional electronica. After each song they seem to outdo themselves in terms of musicality, as they play around with the clay in which they mold their wondrous, dreamy but human music.

Now this song I recognize, having had the pleasure of uploading it myself into my compilation titled “Ljudkalendern III” – the song “Same” was first to be featured there. It is more of a ballad, really. Breaking from the shyness of the vocals and maturing together with the uncompromising synth-pop. I notice this might come off as being a bit biased since I’ve released the song myself some time ago, but let it be that – I’m just giving you my honest opinion. The song is great in and of itself and it was well-placed on this release, since it feels like you’re moving to the end – as the album is.

The last song on the release, “Highest Peak“, reminds me a lot of one song from the Person:A-release “Beneath The Grey Line (Sketches)“. They share a lot of attributes at least, but Canter have a more shadowy approach. It is unfortunately one of the least great song on this release. It feels too splintered in and of itself that it only works as an outro, not as a way of bridging the release towards the end and making you (the listener) want more, or at least a forthcoming second album. Even though it fails in many ways it builds up quite a momentum – only too late.

I’m surprised that TONN Recordings have released such a good album. The other releases on that label haven’t been that much of interest, but with this one they’ve managed to set themselves up for future releases. It is more then a decent release, it is actually good and most of the songs hold up. Order the physical vinyl from them if you can, otherwise you can settle with the digital release itself. Listen to it in whole down below.

Review: L’Avenir – Soir

soir

A couple of months ago Cold Beats Records announced the fourth album by L’Avenir, titled “Soir“. In terms of aesthetics he’s been consistent but it is not the most pleasing artwork to lay your eyes upon. There’s a certain connection between each of his albums and it is noticeable even though he’s shifted to a more ethereal approach on this release. He’s kept the most interesting elements of his music and developed it into an otherworldly experience – but how that holds up in practice is what you’ll find out – in this latest track-by-track review on Repartiseraren.

The introductory for this album, “Modern World” is excitingly refreshing to hear as it starts off but when the melody is laid down in the song, it gets increasingly mind-numbing. Going from laying a creative and ethereal sound, bouncing from ambient to minimal wave, synth-pop and back again – is simply astonishing. The lyrics hold up well and the dismayed tone of the sound is also an unpleasant reminder of the topic that Jason brings up in this song.

As the song comes to a close, another melody is laid upon the frankly cheesy melody that he decided to delve too much into. This other melody is more in tune with the overall sound and fits the picturesque notion he deliver with the rhythm, drums and occasional synthesizer bravado. Conceptually the song is much better, however it lacks severely in captivating melodies and make it a blunder in terms of the passage between the intro and the outro.

Desert” is way more of a stable track, which in its essence has a great melody and move toward a decent sound. The problem with the song is that it suffers from the opposite of what the first one did, that is the vocals and lyrical content isn’t that good to begin with -but the melodies, rhythm and everything else that carries the atmosphere and develops it into something more are consistently surprising – in a good way. The alarming nature of high-note synthesizers is reminiscent of Person:A.

Another thing must be said about this and that is how the rhythm in the beginning slowly drags the listener into the sound-scape and lets the ambient side of L’Avenir glisten. It is good that the vocals and the lyrics don’t take up much of a space in general and that one can drift away, enjoying the remainder of the music itself and how he professionally crafts what is his own sound.

InThe Stranger” the beats get heavier and more pulsating. There’s an eerie darkness and the synthesizers get to be in the background a lot more, as the vocals and the rhythm are the first and foremost benefiters in this song. The rhythm is simple yet hypnotizing when the base drum resounds and the snare drum hits, a very unchanging atmosphere that relies on what already has been presented in the beginning of it. It’s overall the best sounding tune so far.

As it switches into more ambient settings the further in you get, the melodies layer beautifully upon one another and connect marvelously, inserting that much needed emotional touch which L’Avenir can pull off brilliantly. This is where the transition into “Mirror Men” goes painfully, as they share many of the elements that made “The Stranger” and “Desert” much better then “Modern World“.

WithMirror Men” you can almost hear some of the hints that are so lovable in Drab Majesty, for example. A sound-scape clad in an ethereal form, where smoke sifts through the cracks and give off a mysteriously but huge atmospheric draped in a synth-pop outfit. The melodies are crystal clear and put forth some kind of eerie existentialist but immortal vibe to it. Your body is more then a vessel, it is one metaphysical step closer to god and the divine. The beats have also become more concentrated and punched up, there’s more guts in this song.

Silence Shouts” become more of a standardized song for “Soir” after the aforementioned one. A bridge to something else. But he utilizes the differentiating vocals in this song to create a worthwhile listening experience. The more you get into it the further it develops in the background, together with the constant synthesizer-baseline and then a grandiose section is dropped in – the synthesizers get more brazen and deliver a more confident version of the same song. Hearing the different components go out of their way, some of them in a minuscule fashion, others drift away into complex melodies, is very satisfying.

Then comes a transgression from regular minimal synth and synth-pop, a more electronic body music oriented vibe in “Winter Calls“. If the other songs had a string of sublimity in it – this is when the hammer hits the nail – it is without any mysterious intent and more with a colder touch. Here’s where the concept have been on point with the actual song it self. As the beats stumble more and stutter, the synthesizers are more concentrated then ever. It doesn’t stand and fall with the rhythm and beats, it stands on its own in melodies and general atmosphere.

Now whenOutside” comes on, it hits right at home but there’s something off with the sound, one doesn’t know if it is intentional or if it is the masterer’s fault. We on Repartiseraren have released “Outside (Just Like Home)” on a compilation before this. It sounds a bit different. The melodies should be more apparent then they really are, the beats are too hollow and in front of the atmosphere that should be felt in a different way. It is as if someone activated a drum-machine and had the intentions of making another song, at the same time that L’Avenir made “Outside“. It doesn’t really fit.

It is one of the more serious disappointments on this release. “What Happened To Yesterday” is, however, a great example of the adaptiveness of Jason’s music as it is a pure synth-pop gem. The melodies are central and bring out the soul of the song immaculately. Even though some parts of it ain’t my cup of tea, one can not dismiss it in its entirety. Atmospherically the song is huge and covers more territory then any other on this album. Synthesizers are in the background and foreground without the rhythm or beats interfering in an awkward way. A great addition to a so far alright release.

The songVivet” is more playful in its style and stray away from the seriousness in the music at times, giving it a more ambiguous feeling while listening to it. A very dancefloor-friendly song. Rhythmically it is enchanting and nothing bad could be said about it, it is the embodiment of what L’Avenir tries to say and establish with this release. It is funny how the songs gradually get better, then as they get better it turns for the worse and come back to the greater side where they could’ve stayed in the first place.

Had this album been released in August or September instead, “August” would’ve been the epitome of an outro – the change from summer to fall – for better or worse. A sullen baseline carries the rhythm of sharpened beats that steadily marks the end of “Soir“. Even though you’ve already been given a lot to listen to, it doesn’t end with the outdrawn melodies and simple beats to shut everything down and call it a day, there are bonus tracks and remixes available as well. Let’s take them on.

Interestingly enough, “No Destination (Bonus Track)” is a really experimental gem that should’ve been saved for the b-side instead of one of the other songs. Not to mention “Fault” – which is quite frankly one of the best songs on this release. Even though one gets why “No Destination” doesn’t fit the album, “Fault” could’ve easily outmaneuvered one of the A-Side tracks – because it is really, really great. The fast-paced rhythm, playful synthesizer melodies and overall great, ambitious sound-scape is reason enough.

Denial (Bonus Track)” is also one of those songs that would’ve made it better on the line-up for the original line-up. It has a well-crafted atmosphere and even though it might be a bit more experimental, it is way better and more inspiring then “Moonlight (Bonus Track)“. Experimentalism doesn’t always have to be on the bad side of the spectrum, it could very well be a more enthralling song more fitting on an album such as this.

Remixes, what about them? Well, they’re in most cases hit or miss – oftentimes more a miss. Forever Grey make a reasonably ok attempt at their version of “Mirror Men“, but the original stands much taller and this remix does nothing to stand out on its own, not a memorable attempt either. But there’s something about it that is charming but it is reserved for some parts of the remix only. Since the original song “Outside” was ruined, it is nice to hear the Person:A-remix which deliver some really claustrophobic, minimalistic cold-wave interpretation of the original. He’s managed to pull off a really ominously sounding melody, that make the song less upbeat and more downbeat.

The breakdowns made by Kline Coma Xero on “What Happened To Yesterday” are charming but not enough to be considered great, but it adds a different touch and a whole new version of the original track, that coupled with auto-tuning gives it an experimental electronic and electro-ish vibe. MAKiNA GiRGiR‘s rework of  the same song almost makes it a chiptune tribute, one of the best remixes on this album for sure. They have a really minimalistic approach and it becomes a song on its own, ready to stand by itself in the atmosphere they’ve created and especially the melodies.

When the song “Silent Shouts” get the remix treatment by Nina Belief, it unfortunately falls on its own into the category of uninspiring. Had the beats matched the tempo better and her vocals as well, it might’ve been an off-shoot into something different and more alluring. This is most definitely a miss in terms of the remixes. The remix of “The Stranger” by Lola Kumtus is not anything interesting either, unfortunately. It just rehashes the song and makes it more cloudy, repetitive and basic.

So this is what I think of this album. In terms of the overall quality the record is not the best L’Avenir can do but it is worth listening to, since it contains a few really great songs and some that are not as great. You can listen to the album in full down below and if you like it, you can order a double-CD or a vinyl as well from Cold Beats Records.

 

 

Review: TSTI – Endings

tstiendings

Some time ago TSTI had his third album released, or second if you don’t count “Evaluated: An Album Of Remixes“. German-based Basic Unit Productions have gotten the pleasure to release “Endings” – which is the apt title of the release. Other Voices Records have also gotten their share of it and have released a limited edition cassette of it. We’ve had the possibility of listening to a few of the demos before this was released and they sounded promising, as does his whole discography. The aesthetics of the release are industrial and very cut and paste, not really anything we enjoy at all, and the first album “Evaluations” looked more alluring visually.

The album clocks in at around thirty-six minutes in total. So let’s get into what this album has to offer in its entirety, by doing a track-by-track review of it.

Things I Would Do” is a special kind of song when it comes to the atmosphere, right from the start there is an inviting kind of mystic vibe over it but at the same time an assertive industrial sound to it. We’re not really fans of the processed vocals at all but the lyrics in this song are simple but add a catchy melodious tone to an – at first – deserted landscape. The favorite part comes forth in the build-up until the chorus and the chorus itself, as they both pack a melodious punch which is remindable and emotional. It lurks in the background and comes out in full bloom together with the drum beats and snaredrum, which later on forms a stunning introductory to a hopefully, equally as great album.

We’ve been fortunate enough to hear the craftsman, S. Smith, create this marvelous tune step-by-step until it finally was released on Basic Unit Productions. Even though the fondness of the demo-version of this song have caught on, his stamp throughout it makes for a more bombastic and impactful experience.

Naïveté (feat. Jennifer Touch)” is a lot more pop-influenced then the first one, but he stays true to himself and his sound, which allows for a heavier side to take place amongst the cheesier vibes of the flute and the melody itself. It is not necessarily the build-up and climax of the song which is interesting, but rather the dissective nature of the downbeat melodies that are produced in between – giving it a whole atmosphere instead of a half one. We don’t think “Jennifer Touch” adds anything that gives this song momentum, or a different characteristic, which is probably not what was meant – but as a collaborative effort it is stale. The instruments and rhythm are more interesting here then the synthesizers for the most part, as they are more complex and add more to the song overall.

The slower nature of “Sincerity” allows S. Smith to build up a better atmosphere then in any of the other songs, this one crushes totally in terms of the synthesizers vibrancy and the emotional delivery of his vocals. It is almost like an anthemic ballad in of itself and layer upon layer of instrumentation cut right through and form the shape of a transgression between straight-forward synth-pop and ambient music. A very nice addition which sprawls from his old sound and new, to connect and make something greater then all of that. Too bad that he underestimates this kind of touch with his other songs, whom are more industrial in nature, but not in the crafty kind of way – because they build upon a foundation of synth-pop – instead of a transgressiveness between severeal genres.

It is a dreamy song and we drear the end of it, which comes at a too fast pace unfortunately. Even though it is the slowest song yet, but at the time it is allowed to brood and deliver chord upon chord of nicely laden synthesized beauty – is precisely the reason why one ought to check out TSTI in his new form.

Forgive Me” catch elements of the previous song and have also been featured on Repartiseraren’s own compilation “Whoever Am I”, long before release. It is noticeable how Sid’s (from Schwefelgelb) mastering have affected the song, because it is somewhat different from Zarkoff (who mixed the re-mastered compilation) – so it is very intriguing to hear how different characteristics, in terms of mastering – can be heard in the end product. Since we have a special bond to this song in terms of nostalgia itself, it is hard to not have a personal connection to the song itself, but it lacks in momentum although it is picked together quite good through the atmosphere of the song itself. There is never a dull moment and around the corner there’s a whole different interpretation in itself.

The song has very different characteristics throughout, which is what ultimately makes it different as well as fitting at the same time. Everything runs like clockwork and the time never stops until S. Smith cares to do it himself, by ending on a high note. It’s a very classy song in terms of tone and clarity, where the repetetive lyrics play an integral role to it moving forward at all.

Strange Times” really catches one off-guard. Damn, the first melody is a work of art in itself and from there and on you can’t turn the song off. Had S.U.R.V.I.V.E moved in a different way and taken the help of S. Smith – this is how it would sound like. There’s a certain niceness about the mysticism in the song itself, the sweet touches of synthesizers and not-too-industrial beats make this outstanding synth-pop music. By now, had it been some other album, it probably would’ve dulled off by now. Here’s the part where musicians fall short, oftentimes, if they have an album that goes on for as many songs as “Endings” does. The samples that can also be heard but in another form, on “Naïveté (feat. Jennifer Touch)” take a step into informing the listener – rather then shake the world together with beats.

It is good to hear how the first melody is expanded in the end and clangs out like it should’ve. Not that we’ve heard this song before, but because it is just what is supposed to happen – it is the destiny of this song.

To Visit You Again” is metaphorically speaking the most emotional song so far. Both in message and sound. The longing, the outdrawn beats that scrape against the soundscape and the desperation in the atmosphere that lunge towards you in an instant. It draws upon mutated choirs that between added effects and from high to low notes, add a nicely angelic touch to an otherwise doom and gloom song. It is also the only instrumental song on the whole album. Which is a pleasure to listen through. The repetetiveness of it doesn’t bother at all because it is inventive and make use of the different small touches added to the whole totality of sound. When “Flatter Me” comes on, it is obvious that it is a direct continuation of the aforementioned instrumental song. They share many of the same ambitions in being emotionally touching and direct, together with impervious melodies that never stagnate.

Here though, the melodies are taken into a different direction which both touch upon these elements and create a whole other atmosphere – the intangible nature of TSTI’s sound is one of his strengths. All of a sudden everything is downhill and from there it goes uphill, the emotions come crashing down and the beats develop intensity as they shift from rhythm to rhythm. Very flattering of him to do so.

R.A.S.” never hits home but at the same time does. It is a song filled with paradoxical sound production, with melodies that sound oriental at times and the complete opposite. There’s a shyness and awkwardness about it as a whole, as if he doesn’t want it to bloom out completely – as he holds it even closer. He shapes and unshape things, from rhythms that don’t really make sense to beats that almost put the synthesizer’s wonderful soundscaping out of play. Maybe it is the complete destruction of everything, the ending as it is, even though this certainly isn’t his last contribution in terms of sound as TSTI.

Unfortunately, the remixes of “Things I Would Do“, by Hante and Ssleeping desiresS don’t do the original justice. It is much better and their versions of it aren’t up to par with it, and it doesn’t even create anything tangible from the perspective of making a new version, or something that could possibly stand out in any way, in terms of musicianship.

The album as a whole is a decent thing to listen to. It might even be better then that, though some things are hit and miss – but when it comes down to it, TSTI hones his old sound and develops something new – not necessarily breaking everything down and making the outcome dull and boring. Listen to it in whole down below.

 

 

Review: The Bug vs Earth – Concrete Desert

concretedesert

This is one of the first times I’ve taken a good look at a bigger artist and wanted to review what they’ve released. I found the concept worthy of investigation track-by-track, since the whole theme surrounding it is alluring. The aesthetics are interesting and it feels worthy to delve into deeper and see what can be found or what can not be found. I am now about to dissect this release. It clocks in at around 90 minutes – making it around an hour and a half long.

City Of Fallen Angels” is a dreamy but dreary experience. Stating what the title is isn’t enough to describe how the song is. Conceptually it makes perfect sense why it is titled that way – as it infects the overall sound as well. Experimental electronica seep through the headphones and the barren landscape appears ahead of you. The atmosphere is such that it represents that and it takes you from tumbleweed and calmness into the stormy heart of a city. As you come further into the song it charges up for a second and then unleashes the noisyness which is normally reserved for industrial music, coupling it with laidback electronica – messing up your points of reference and as it progresses you’re stunned by the intensity of it. The soundscape is bombastic and doesn’t hold back, but comes in with assertive ease. Lulling you into submission.

Gasoline” is eerie. Keeping the listener at bay while he awaits what happens around the corner. Nothing. Then, suddenly, a slow rhythm brings out the melody and adds to that a solid baseline that is strung out by an electric guitar. Even though it remains in the solid rhythmics that it started with, it warps you into different ones that make you wonder if you’ve lost your mind or not. Layer upon layer of mighty instruments that figuratively catch on fire as he pours on more gasoline. Still, even though it broods primitive melodies and an unorthodox soundscape – it fades out the way it faded in. Nothing catches on in this track but it manages to hold a special kind of craftiness that make it broad and intense under the surface anyway. No need for it to give off a spark.

Agoraphobia” – if you weren’t to begin with, maybe this murky and spaced out song will make you experience the phobia. What feels like the development of a smashing song goes out of its own way to create weird melodies within the melodies and rhythms in the rhythm. The amplified sound of the rambunctious noise that is created by the baseline – or what at least seems to have been created from it – is suddenly paired with riffs that would make you feel a transgression from electronica to non-electronic music is happening. That, however, never happens. I’m not too sure about whether to feel positive or negative about this song, but I’m impressed about how the seemingly out-of-motion melodies later in bring out the experimentalism in its purest form. It is odd, it is weird, it is intimidating to a degree – just to fade out like the other ones have.

Here’s a grime-infused track, “Snakes Vs Rats“, that gathers the best out of that genre and ignore the vocals. They create a sort of underground opera-like electronic music together with the grime-beats. Dissecting the genre for what it is good for and creating a pleasantly huge sound. The most solid rhythm combined with the most forward-thinking of synthesizer sweeps – a glance into the futuristic world as imagined a decade ago – almost bordering to one of the great soundtracks accompanying sci-fis of the 1980’s. The sound portrayed is not an idealistic one, it is a rather bleak non-picturesque and alarming narrative that is being pushed with the song. Somewhere we might be, where we don’t want to be – stuck in the middle, nowhere out, control is absolute.

Broke” is minimalistic to the core. What drives it is a few sounds here and there, well-placed beautiful synthesizers and a claustrophobic atmosphere. A cry for help. Symptomatic of the sound so far is that it relies heavily on the baseline, which helps it progress throughout the soundscape in a great way. Where there is no rhythm, one have to create it in between the noisy and deconstructed melodies that are repetetively churned out – as the outdrawn riffs play a vital role in keeping the maniacal atmosphere livid. There is something about the song that draws on what solid ground The Bug (and Earth) create everything. It is immersive and too real.

From the beginning, “American Dream” is a piece of work just seconds in. Unfortunately everyhing looses its meaning after the monstrous opening. Maybe that is just the way it is supposed to be, as it is certainly not a portrayal of the american dream in any positive way at all. But it by now only feels like an empty statement, having heard the other songs that contain something more then just the formulaic approach he has in this one. It’s good how he draws from his earlier creations and put it into a whole, synchronized experience. What’s bad is that it feels like one has already been here, listened through it and discarded it on the way. Sure, the attention to detail is very ambitious, but it in the end becomes just an outdrawn piece of ambient music that do no justice at all.

Don’t Walk These Streets” hits you over the head and immerse you into a gruesome world. Blindfolded, struck repeatedly by the knife-sharp rhythms and the playful melody of the piano, the message of the song becomes apparent. It is violent in its nature but you don’t have to fear anything, listening to it. You’re far away from the emotions itself – it is like you’ve detached from them and become a part of this message. They marvelously craft something you want to listen to repeatedly, expanding the song every step of the way to make it even more enchanting. The depths of the synthesizers and the crassness of the beats are not temporary – they exist there to give meaning to the soundscape. A very well-rounded song all-in-all.

Other Side of the World” gives off a meditative feeling. After you’ve been entangled into the music – a basedrum hits and catches you off-guard. Every single part of the song has some kind of magnificent tone to it. The different facets stand and fall together, nothing can be separated or it will knock the rhythm and melodies away from one another. As simple as the song might seem, it is very addictive. Here’s a perfect transgression from different genres and what it lacks in rhythm it makes up for in melody and structure.

Hell A” is too hip-hop for me. A genre that is not of my liking at all. If that kind of rhythm and those beats have been reserved for something else – it would be fine. Had it been stripped from the atmosphere and replaced with a better rhythm, it would’ve been a glorious listening as the dark synthesizers come in, sweeping the floor with everything else. It becomes a very energetic song that doesn’t stray away from the better aspects of his music. Without that edge and vibe to it – it would’ve been a lost cause and nothing worthy to listen to at all. It is good that he at least keeps that in but he should’ve left more out this time – in terms of beats.

The title-trackConcrete Desert” is a phenomenal ride from curiosity and into the bleakness of the human soul itself. Right from the start you’re immersed into his world, you’re taking part of what he has created and he leaves no ends open, instead of thinking, one seems to be in need of visualising the music – it really gives off an audio-visual experience that is on the next level. After some of the previous songs it wouldn’t seem possible but he manages to create the narrative, spin it into the conciousness of the listener and give meaning to the instrumentation in more ways than just the musical. Which is good, since this song should be the summary and epitome of what this album is about.

Dog ft JK Flesh” is the resounding adaptation of one of the other songs from this release. He manages to add a whole other sound to it than The Bug and Earth could do. It becomes much angrier, more cheeky. When they had to choose a vocalist, nobody could fit the bill more perfectly – this simply cannot be unheard and fits too perfectly. Same can be said about “Pray ft JK Flesh” – here JK Flesh is allowed to be as expressive as possible through his powerful vocals. After listening this far in it is nice to have this addition in the release becomes it helps it become more vital instead of rehashing everything over again – instead creating something new of it, even more intimidating.

Nothing more can be said about this album other then that “Another Planet” is the perfect outro. Easy to listen to and it makes you yearn for more of this kind of music. When you think about it, the album is solid and pretty good despite its faults. I suggest you get it from Ninja Tune (or The Bug vs Earth themselves) in physical form, instead of digital. Though you might want to listen through it a couple of times before, it still is a good headphone experience. Stream the whole album down below.