Album Reviews

Filter :

Released Out now

 

Hold My Hand

Ecovillage

Eilean Records

Limited to a mere 130 copies is the new album from Ecovillage. ‘Hold My Hand’ is the latest creation from collaborators Emil Holmstrom and Peter Wikstrom. Despite working together since 2001 on different music projects, it wasn’t until 2006 that the pair decided to set up Ecovillage after a period of travelling around South Asia and being inspired greatly as a result of this trip. With several albums already to their name, Ecovillage issue album number six, ‘Hold My Hand’, with a “less is more attitude” that sees the creative duo let go of any past constraints in terms of creating their music and allow for a more minimalist approach. Such working conditions in terms of ‘Hold My Hand’ are evident from the beautiful artwork with its bright colours gracing its cover where nature is expressed in a patchwork/jigsaw effect, to the ambient music flowing from its contents. If you’re searching for peace and tranquillity then you’ve come to the right place as ‘Remember The Sky’ opens a doorway to a quiet corner of the world where there is a secluded beach and only nature’s inhabitants for company set to a gentle acoustic guitar and the barest sound of a piano. Other tracks such as ‘Heaven In Your Eyes’ offer a more melancholic feel yet capture the senses equally with its cello taking a star turn, only for the mood to swing via the liquid gold impression of ‘Novus Lux’. There’s a fine balance created by Ecovillage and ‘Hold My Hand’, where the cello often brings out the darker atmospherics lingering in the background, but there remains much light as well and therefore capturing the different moods no doubt experienced when the previously mentioned journey helped to inspire this latest album.


Released Out now

 

Illuminate

offthesky

Eilean Records

Described as an “experimental sound artist” is offthesky (all lowercase). Such a label is a fitting description once the contents of latest album ‘Illuminate’ begins to unravel its tapestry of piano, synths, percussion, cello, oboe, viola, violin, sax and pretty much the whole kitchen sink (!), where it soon becomes apparent that much thought and attention to detail has been considered. This becomes clearer once the background details of current album ‘Illuminate’ reveal that it began its inception during autumn 2017 and was spread out in terms of its recordings with stints in Denver and Kentucky and the European destinations of Latvia and Poland. It wasn’t until two years later that the recording of ‘Illuminate’ was completed. With offthesky presented as the solo work of Michael Jason Corder, the new album includes a variety of musicians who offer their skills. As often with Eilean Records, the music is often a purely instrumental affair, but every now and again you will hear the faintest of vocals, something of which is utilised during ‘Illuminate’. As mentioned already, the sounds are often experimental and lean towards ethereal sounding compositions (‘Eyes Like Isles’) or moody reflective numbers such as ‘Future Fire’, held together by a compelling saxophone. There is often the suggestion of late-night wonders under moonlit skies (depending on your interpretation of course) via dreamy ‘Neon Aeon’ and more tense ‘Monomystic’ with its shades of folk music. Having released a mammoth number of albums, latest addition ‘Illuminate’ is another strong and moving record to add to the catalogue of offthesky.


Released Out now

 

Crossing

Seabuckthorn

Eilean Records

Clocking up an impressive eight studio albums is Seabuckthorn otherwise known as Andy Cartwright. With latest album ‘Crossing’ finding a home at Eilean Records, Seabuckthorn gets to showcase fourteen new tracks of instrumental passages. Beginning with ‘Crossing’ where its use of bowed resonator guitar certainly grabs all of the attention as it vibrates loudly and can still be heard echoing faintly on occasions during the following, yet far quieter, ‘Premonition. The picking, sliding and scratching of strings continues and blossoms to fuller effect during the daylight breaking ‘The Cloud And The Redness’. As mentioned, with fourteen tracks to fall on, there is much to consume here, and for Seabuckthorn to explore, which shows via the faint synths and use of bow grinding across strings, albeit in the same faint sounding manner, and allowing for much reflection during ‘The Observatory’. ‘The After Quiet’ offers something quite different with its sounds illuminating like a flashing beacon cast adrift at sea. The introduction of banjo and percussion (‘Cleanse’) adds further dimensions to the overall sounds and reveals further talents of the musicianship of Seabuckthorn. ‘Crossing’ is an album that requires repeat listens due to the detail on display, but once these details become more known, you will not be able to let this album go.


Released Out now

 

Surface Textures

Andrew Tasselmyer

Eilean Records

Far from being a newcomer to a corner of the music world that exists on a diet of field recordings, samples, electronics and numerous other instruments when called for, American Andrew Tasselmyer sees his latest creation ‘Surface Textures’ released via Eilean Records. Going to great lengths to capture the sounds included on ‘Surface Textures’ with visits to Japan, China, Europe and the USA between 2017 and 2018, there is a sense of a journey captured here that is attempting to recall the past. Whether that is a means to unravel certain memories that continue to perplex or relive happier times then that is a matter for the artist at the centre of this record to workout. But what does transpire is a series of atmospheric tracks that suggest moments where surface noises aid suggestions of memories felt, such as the darker tone of ‘From Out The Depths’, and then lead to clearer paths (‘Nara Sunset’) although (and interestingly) the murkier shades of any such fog never fully dissipates. A fourth outing for Andrew Tasselmyer with latest album ‘Surface Textures’ and it is one that will really get under your skin for numerous good reasons.


Released Out now

 

El Mar De Junio

Ciro Berenguer

Eilean Records

Strictly limited to 130 copies, latest album ‘El Mar De Junio’ (‘The Sea Of June’) from Argentinian Ciro Berenguer sees the musical composer and guitarist set out his stall in a combined use of field recordings, electronics, loops and electric guitar that results in much sound experimentation. With the sound decibels barely rising above three and the approach to the majority of tracks being minimalist at best, it remains an interesting collection of atmospheric tracks that can shine gloriously in a moment (‘Antu’) as well as remain touching and tender during others (‘Camino Al Espinillo’, ‘Luz Entre Los Bosques’). With the album taking its time to bear fruit, and finally being completed during the summer and autumn of 2017, ‘El Mar De Junio’ brings together six years’ worth of memories and emotions (Ciro Berenguer now resides in Barcelona, Spain) that are transformed into a collage of sounds that quietly go about their business and offer moments of genuine beauty.


Released Out now

 

Captivity

Forth

Secret Entertainment

Having spent a bit of time with FLW recently via interview ‘Free of Limitations’, Canadian – Finnish alternative rock band FORTH see their second album released. The band’s latest album ‘Captivity’ marries influences from alternative rock, grunge, hard rock to even Elvis Presley himself. The twelve tracks on offer certainly wear their musical influences on their sleeves where pure 90’s grunge seeps from every pore of opening songs ‘Master and Slave’ and ‘Black Angel’ with nods to both Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots. Elsewhere, there is much passion to be heard in the vocals of lead singer Brian Forth who cuts a defiant figure during the ballad-esque ‘Can’t Bring Me Down’ and then switches emotional camps with the equally good and more playful rhythm of ‘Let Me In’. With ‘Captivity’ drawing on the past in terms of its influences, FORTH is a unit that remains out of synch in terms of the here and now. That is not a negative, and meant in praise because FORTH is a band who are genuine fans of music (clearly indicated by the tracks on offer) yet remain unique in their quest by sticking to their own beliefs and producing an album with a strong 90s sound in the year 2019. Such a career path is to be commended by going against the status quo and realising your dreams. FORTH has managed that with their current long player as ‘Captivity’ subtly rages against any notions of musical trends and associated constraints with a barrage of songs that also finds the time to reflect on the highs and lows of love.


Released Out now

 

DANCE!

Freedom Fuel

Secret Entertainment

Second album for Finland’s Freedom Fuel and what a ride this second outing turns out to be! Pumped up and ready to unleash a combined sound of indie rock, garage, pop and swamp blues that made up their debut album ‘Happy People’ as well, Freedom Fuel begin season two (if you like) with the delightfully creative, weird and wonderful epic that is ‘Dancing’. It starts off with an indie rock stomp, before spiralling skywards and seriously loosening up via some bluesy swamp rock and then entering a third phase of mellow electronica and back to where it all began at the indie disco. A truly beguiling start and one that will leave you speechless such is its magnitude. The energy continues with the bristling and bullish rhythm of ‘Planet Away’, which also knows how to have fun judging by its lyrics. ‘DANCE!’ also knows a few moves of its own as there is plenty of room for experimentation during its playback with ‘Suspension Of Disbelief’ providing the strongest example with its static sounding electronica and lone vocal sounding like a direct transmission from space itself. The following ‘Goddageda’ explores this experimental side further by adding more weight to the instrumentation and ends up a combined mix of indie rock and blues rock that trips along another intergalactic space tunnel that is a journey to the other side. A massive leap forward as far as the creativity is concerned when it comes to Freedom Fuel and their latest long player ‘DANCE!’, which almost defies description and will leave you scratching your head in disbelief one minute, and the next grinning in sheer delight. This is down to its overall audacity and, yes, sense of freedom. A remarkable achievement, ‘DANCE!’ deserves to be heard.


Released Out now

 

When She Is Here (Single)

Rain On Monday

ROM Music

It’s been a while since any word from Swedish singer-songwriter Rain On Monday (real name Raimond Nurmilampi) and his last output ‘Hiding Places’. With the silence finally broken this month, Rain On Monday signals a comeback via new single ‘When She Is Here’. This latest offering ushers in a more stripped back approach compared to its predecessor with the new single being mainly acoustic driven with the faintest of electronics whispering in the background. The focus of the record is the beginnings of a new relationship and the joys and fascinations this can bring, but not without forgetting the anxieties that can bubble to the surface in those isolated moments, which is all brought to the fore via the hushed tones of Rain On Monday. New single, new start and time for a full-length album judging by the ongoing high quality that ‘When She Is Here’ clearly displays.


Released Out now

 

Bedsit

Jamie Hutchings

Come To The Darkside Luke

Coming from a bleak period in his life, but not without forgetting to raise a smile and exude a belly full of laughs once in a while, is Jamie Hutchings fourth solo album ‘Bedsit’. Despite the initial blueprints of the album being conceived within the surrounds of the humble abode of its title, ’Bedsit’ was fully realised in a former shearing shed in the Australian outback. With the New South Wales environment providing a sense of vigour to the contents of ’Bedsit’, with the general stillness and fresh odours of its vast surrounds aiding a period of creativity and multi-tasking for Jamie Hutchings, with additional company by way of bass player Reuben Wills, resulting in nine songs before returning to the asphalt jungle. Delving deep in to the recess, ‘Bedsit’ has been described by the artist himself as “…a stark record, my starkest yet. It was recorded at a time when I was returned to the world of me, myself and I.” While that may be true of some tracks such as the personal and delicately executed duo of ‘Judas Is A Girl’ and ‘Walking Dream’, the latter reflecting a deep sorrow and likely to leave even the most hardened among us in pieces such is its authenticity, there are attempts to reach beyond the melancholy and offer a sense of optimism whether in songtitle or sound (‘Above The Rain’ and ‘Here Comes The Frost’). The true charm of this album however, is to be found by the stripped back nature of its recordings with minimal instrumentation used, often relying on the acoustic guitar and upright bass for example, where you can hear the odd shuffle of feet or a door being closed and leading out in to ‘December Park’, not to mention the album’s engaging and almost hushed entrance ‘Second Winter’ with its largely spoken word delivery that darts between surrealism and reality as well as providing moments of humour. Just as ‘Bedsit’ reveals numerous details regarding the artist at the centre of this record, it can be debated that such details remain far from clear due to being cloaked in mystery and caught up in the complexities of life itself. This is why ‘Bedsit’ is such a compelling listen, and for the intimate way its contents play out that requires further investigation.


Released Out now

 

Steady In The Saddle (Single)

Ossian Smith

Secret Entertainment

With this very music paper having championed Ossian Smith after his debut release ‘Sleepless Town’ last year, the singer-songwriter (plus additional band members) returns with a brand-new offering. The single ‘Steady In The Saddle’ throws up previous roots and rock influences however subtle, yet reveals a harder edge and one purported to by Ossian Smith during our previous encounter: “A lot of my newer unreleased material has more of a harder edge to it, which probably comes from listening to heavier stuff like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and The Cult”. Despite such an announcement bearing creative fruit in the present via latest single ‘Steady In The Saddle’, any suggestion of this being a straight grunge workout is far from obvious. The truth is that Ossian Smith with Miiro Kesti (keys), Markus Ilkka (bass) and Timmo Salakka (drums) have created something far more inventive. By incorporating elements of light grunge kicking off  ‘Steady In The Saddle’, before developing into a rollercoaster ride of rock and funk, the kind of which The Rolling Stones knit together seamlessly, Ossian Smith equally masters by creating a driving rhythm that backs the vengeful message of the narration, inspired by Aesop’s tale of a horse that lost its liberty. It all makes for an engaging listen and bodes extremely well for the release of Ossian Smith’s album this year.


Released Out now

 

Everybody Lies (Single)

MSRBL

Secret Entertainment

Transmitting a melancholic electro-pop sound from Helsinki, Finland, is the duo MSRBL. With the new single suggesting that all of us are guilty of spinning a fabricated yarn or two, the synth team at the centre of this record set about their task and created a brooding, midtempo slice of electronic pop that’s befitting of a late-night arthouse movie setting and accompanying movie soundtrack. The additional video to the single, ‘Everybody Lies’, suggests the same outlook with its moody settings consisting of shadowy rooms and dimly lit streets where the occasional neon light glows. It’s a very good follow-up since ‘Echo’ for MSRBL, and one that potentially has much promise if they continue in a similar fashion with their next release.


Released Out now

 

Hit Your Heart (Single)

Dagny X Aoki

Propeller Recordings

We confessed our love for the “Songbird from the North” (aka Dagny) back in the day when the pop sensation that was ‘Backbeat’ was blaring from the Norwegian airwaves. Returning with a new single ‘Hit Your Heart’, which follows after previous singles ‘Used To You’, ‘Drink About’ and ‘That Feeling When’, in addition to a busy live schedule last year, Dagny made the decision to call on producer, DJ and fellow artist Steve Aoki to help deliver the end results for her latest single. Such a decision to collaborate with Aoki reaps dividends for Dagny as ‘Hit Your Heart’ tugs on the senses from the start with a determined outlook “You know I’m coming back to you like a bullet” that’s set to a finger-clicking, synth-driven rhythm which has a habit of igniting during the chorus, and blares even louder nearing the song’s conclusion. Comparisons with current pop sensations Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift will be identified here, as similar vocal and rhythmic stylings can be heard (Dagny has international ties with Republic Records responsible for Grande and Swift), but this does not deter ‘Hit Your Heart’ from being the compelling record it is, and on its own pop merits.



Back To Top