Album Reviews

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Released Out now

 

Dawn

Kenji Kihara

Eilean Records

Nature plays a big part when structuring the ambient soundscapes during latest album by Japanese artist Kenji Kihara. Residing in a part of Japan known as Hayama, which is surrounded by nature consisting of much costal beauty in addition to mountainous ranges, the music conjured here is often warm and filled with much light as expressed by ‘Nostalgic Wind’ that provides a feeling of much optimism for the past as well as leading into the future. Such ideas and feelings expressed continue, and pause for a moment, once ‘Light In The Sea’ comes in to view, yet its ambient sounds remain subtle and continue to filter and shine during the following ‘Warm Haze’. The sense of optimism almost reaches for the stars once ‘Cosmos’ begins and rolls out an electronic carpet of beats and pulses that almost steps out from the boundaries of ambient as one can imagine vocals being applied here, such is the tighter, fuller construction of the composition. Clearly, Kenji Kihara is a musician inspired by his homestead as his musical compositions are filled with much beauty and wonder as the album ‘Dawn’ clearly demonstrates and will have no difficulties communicating to the rest of the world.


Released Out now

 

Entropia

Banabila & Machinefabriek

Eilean Records

The working relationship of Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) has come together over several years, having begun as far back as 2012. Their latest collaboration ‘Entropia’, which is their fifth album together, finds them compiling a series of field recordings that sound distorted and disfigured, coarse and uneven, and therefore quite chaotic in their overall executions. Limited to 180 copies, ‘Entropia’ marks the 100th release from record label Eilean, and it’s something of an ear opener because even though tracks such as ‘Anima’ tick to a steady rhythm, it also has moments where it coughs, puffs and wheezes intermittently with keys and brass instrumentation slightly more audible over the scratched and hushed background canvass of flowing sounds. This happens for the majority of ‘Entropia’ as it challenges the senses, yet it does possess moments of stronger fluidity during the fuller sounding ‘Nostalgia’ to suggest that not all is at unease with the emotions expressed via the sounds filling ‘Entropia’.


Released Out now

 

Sundowner

Angels Die Hard

Jezus Factory Records

Never ones to do things by half measures, Angels Die Hard found their sources of inspiration for their second album release on a remote island in South East Asia. The location was situated in the Andamans and it was here that band members Alex Van Herk (Synths/Loops, etc.), Alain Rylant (Drums/Percussion, Theremin, etc.), Thomas Noppe (Guitars), in addition to guest trumpeter Sigrid Van Rosendaal became rankled by a few issues as a result of the problems associated with capitalism infecting this idyllic and remote location. The end result is eight instrumentals containing varying degrees of psychedelia, post punk and electronica that intertwine and call on numerous sources, with Brian Eno and Jah Wobble being two immediate candidates springing to mind, Angels Die Hard certainly project a gripping sonic soundscape during their second album. With song titles seemingly referring to the previously mentioned (evil) influences of capitalism worming its way through to this remote island and thus having an environmental impact (‘Stray Angel’, ‘Acid Beach’, ‘Dancing Algae’) but also socially (‘Stray Angel’, ‘No Apron For Emily’, ‘Gutter Glory’), Angels Die Hard certainly do their utmost to project the various pollutants they discovered first-hand via darker shades musically, but at the same maintain a sense of optimism that can be heard during lighter moments of ‘Tears of The Cobra’ for example. To discover for yourself, then simply immerse your ears in this thought-provoking body of work where music can really illustrate a number of emotions felt where injustices reside.


Released Out now

 

Come Again

Grand Blue Heron

Jezus Factory Records

With a plethora of bands associated with Grand Blue Heron ranging from The Jesus Lizard, Ride, The Chameleons, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Motorpsycho, My Bloody Valentine and so on, it’s safe to say that, despite a range of influences being associated with this four-piece band from Belgian, there’s no other band currently doing the rounds who sounds exactly like them either, and therefore Grand Blue Heron sound like, well, Grand Blue Heron. So forget what has gone before and heed the words accredited to the band’s press release where it explains, “Known now for having a very particular, yet recognizable sound of their own…” Such words ring true once ‘WWYDS?’ opens this second account for Grand Blue Heron where the sound is cold and desolate yet trying its hardest to generate warmth via its lead guitar. From such distant openings, the double sonic crunch of ‘Come Again’ and ‘Head’ unfurl in a distorted tangle of guitars, with ‘Come Again’ eventually ironing out its creases due to its rhythm becoming shorter and sharper in terms of its bite, as does ‘Head’ yet it cannot shake the dirt from its exterior. It’s a compelling start that only continues to enthral and that is down to Grand Blue Heron never remaining stagnant in one particular sound. Such examples can be heard via the more cohesive and melodic ‘Iron Milk’, to the atmospheric ‘The Killing Joke’, before sailing through the excellent and, if pushed, heroic direction of the guitars during ‘The Cult’, which is expansive and experimental but never strays from the parameters set. Grand Blue Heron has erased any notion of “difficult second album syndrome” by retaining several of their debut album’s finer moments and taking these to the next level by some considerable creative distance via ‘Come Again’.


Released Out now

 

Turn Up The Fire (Single)

Nova Miller

BMG Records / 21:12 Entertainment

Classy pop music by way of Nova Miller and her latest single ‘Turn Up The Fire’. With her roots firmly set in Sweden, there is a definite Scandinavian feel to the fresh pop sound on offer here. ‘Turn Up The Fire’ possesses a crisp production and is filled with bright electronic beats that really get behind the song’s chorus, and lend weight to the sentiments of love expressed during this current single. With an equally classy video that accompanies the single release; filmed on location in Iceland with breath-taking backdrops and Nova Miller at the centre of this (naturally), there is a definite resilience to this Swedish songstress echoed by the song’s lyrics, in addition to having to brave the cold climate or, more to the point, embracing it! No matter as the passionate tones burning a trail through ‘Turn Up the Fire’ are enough to warm up the coldest of hearts and make one believe that love really can prevail.


Released Out now

 

Colours Change Their Tone EP

The Crowleys

Bandcamp

Following on from previous singles – the glorious shimmering guitar sounds of ‘L.A. Sunset’, and the equally engaging and upbeat tempo of ‘Midnight Blue’ – Canadian indie psychedelic outfit The Crowleys return with a brand new release ‘Colours Change Their Tone’. The quartet see their creative efforts extend to a full EP, containing a total of six tracks. The first taste of the band’s new record arrives in the form of ‘Pink Rainbows’ that radiates genuine warmth, and where one can visualise a golden sunset via its mellow rhythm generated by acoustic and electric guitars and synths. It’s a beautiful entrance and one that possesses similarities with its neighbouring cousin ‘L.A. Sunset’ where influences can be heard from Cocteau Twins, Delays and MGMT, but with one notable difference where folk pop concludes ‘Pink Rainbows’ journey. Any further pop references can be heard during the ensuing ‘Midnight Blue’, which saunters along at a far breezier pace and offers another dimension via its vocals by means of a vocoder to help give voice to the robotic figure central to the band’s music video that accompanied its earlier release. ‘Stargazer’ has a whiff of more recent composition about it as The Crowleys twist and turn their psychedelic melodies into something possessing a darker tone, and certainly more robust around its edges, largely due to the buzzing and jarring synths propelling the song along. The closing ‘Pansy Party Extravaganza’ sees the band flex their musical muscles as they collectively, and rather skilfully, navigate their way through an instrumental that is almost bleeding in feedback by its conclusion. It looks like The Crowleys has genuinely given meaning to the expression of the title of their latest EP, because there is enough colour and creativity expressed by their beautiful and blissed-out soundscapes, which can investigate darker emotions as well, but there is always a sense of light at the end of their musical ventures and therefore optimism.


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Muscle Memory (Single)

FACTOR

Falling under such descriptive banners as ‘alternative pop’, ‘art pop’, ‘chamber pop’ or quite simply ‘indie’ is the latest single from Toronto artist Kira May. Having composed the song herself, as well as serving as producer with additional help by way of Sandro Perri at 6 Nassau studios, Kira May very much assumes a hands-on approach when it comes to new single ‘Muscle Memory’. Once it becomes clear that ‘Muscle Memory’ centres on issues associated with anxiety and depression, the reasons for such a personal attachment to this latest musical creation from Kira May becomes even more apparent because they are issues that have personally affected her. With references to the “damaging effects of negative interpersonal relationships”, but with a firm desire to move forward and leave such feelings in the past, ‘Muscle Memory’ gives the impression of wrestling with such emotions as its packed full of ideas where it sounds as if its rhythm is floating in one instance, only to stutter the next before heading towards a more heavenly conclusion of vocals, brass and electronic strings. ‘Muscle Memory’ is the sound of  Björk  and Florence + the Machine joining forces, but more specifically it’s the sound of Kira May and a very personal one at that.


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Zero Dawn EP

Obscure

Obscure Music

A band that falls under the metal, stoner rock and sludge rock categories but crossing the border of indie due to this being a self-released effort (hence our label), Zero Dawn hail from Finland and bring three new tracks to the world labelled under the heading ‘Zero Dawn’. Having set up their stall in 2015, Obscure has gathered enough musical nous to produce a sound that reveals much expertise and undoubted quality. Such experience shines through in abundance during latest EP ‘Zero Dawn’. From the scattergun rhythm of the record’s title track and P. Veteli’s slightly gruff and passionate vocals keeping pace, the rest of the contents of ‘Zero Dawn’ follow in similar footsteps. It’s probably a fair assessment to suggest that the following ‘Low Low Down’ and ‘River’ actually surpass the EP’s opening song in terms of quality, with the former track remaining at a steady beat yet managing to really get under your senses with its steely guitar sound and ditto the vocals once more, whereas the concluding ‘River’ offers a faster tempo yet no more compelling than its preceding number such are the strengths of both tracks. Overall, ‘Zero Dawn’ provides enough evidence to suggest that Obscure has plenty of ideas in their musical locker to pave the way for a full-length album if the desire is there.


Released Out now

 

Evocation (Single)

Up River

Holy Roar Records

Seemingly coming out of nowhere is the brand new single from post-hardcore outfit, Up River. With a mini-tour of the UK fast approaching, Up River unleashes an absolute powerhouse of a single in the form of ‘Evocation’. The latest release from the Brighton-based band certainly lives up to their press billing that suggests their “music has grown more despondent, desperate and dragged down with emotional weight.” ‘Evocation’ gives way to such thoughts as it’s a two minute blast of thrashing guitars and vocals that are stripped bare, alluding to the aforementioned desperate feelings, as the song rallies its final few drops of energy before collapsing under the emotional weight felt. It’s compelling stuff and the sort of track that every so often has a habit of shaking up the system, for all the right reasons, to serve as a reminder that we should never just settle for mediocrity. As far as surprise packages go, this is one of the very best!


Released 2 February

 

Scale Of Blindness

Benjamin Finger

Eilean Records

Limited to 150 copies is the new album from Benjamin Finger ‘Scale Of Blindness’. The album marks a second outing on Eilean Records for the Norwegian composer, electronic music producer, DJ, photographer and film-maker after the critically well received ‘Pleasurably Lost’ in 2015. With eight tracks mapping out the landscape of ‘Scale Of Blindness’, Benjamin Finger wastes no time in terms of decoding the ideas entrenched inside his mind and crafting these into ambient sounds. What transpires is a gritty and grainy beginning, where lights fizz and stutter and illuminate the surroundings for the briefest of periods as life in general gives way to a feeling of rolling continuously in a dark vacuous space, which is the impression given by openers ‘Halogen Flux’ and ‘Anxiety Blues’. With mere snippets of samples and sounds used, which are then looped into greater reels of sounds, the effects utilised work tremendously during ‘If Memory Preserves’, which offers a brooding tone full of electronic keys humming and tinkling intensely as well as drifting into mere wisps of noise adding to the mystery of the monologue taking place of what sounds like an inquest of one particular tragic incident in the US. The fascination continues with ‘Vagabond Void’ as it emerges into the light, electronics blinking, before breaking and splintering and seeing its particles drift into, and along the fragmented signals emanating from ‘Fragrant Darkness’. It would appear that Benjamin Finger has worked tirelessly to create a wonderful and truly captivating experience that illustrates feelings of loneliness and isolation encompassed by latest album ‘Scale Of Blindness’ that so often throws up shining beacons of light in the bleakest of spaces (‘Vanishing Faces’, ‘Falling Asleep’), to more abrasive creations (‘Fragrant Darkness’) that sound cut adrift and completely lost in the dark void suggested. It’s a masterwork, and it’s called ‘Scale Of Blindness’.


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Doubt Mines EP

Terrible Love

Big Scary Monsters

There seems no cure for the emotions expressed here. Cracked love, open wounds and downright despair is what you’re likely to get when it comes to the latest release from post-hardcore outfit Terrible Love. The gap experienced from 2015’s ‘Change Nothing’ EP and latest release, ‘Doubt Mines’, was down to reasons concerning shifts in personnel, a period of writer’s block, to everyday concerns of working overtime due to busy schedules, but thankfully the five-piece band from London managed to overcome all such obstacles in order to deliver this rather fine release. The delay in terms of reaching this stage was clearly worth it once ‘Doubt Mines’ unravels its contents and displays subtle differences that reveal genuine signs of development from what was a magnificent effort in ‘Change Nothing’. The differences lie in the splashes of melody that can be heard throughout opener ‘First Flowers’, and the generally more considered approach of ‘Separate Graves’ that really take this band to another level without losing any of the previous tension and angst which has so far shaped their career. Add to that vocals that are stripped bare and raw and full of honest confessions, then Terrible Love remain a rare breed of band who are vital in these troubled times.


Released 2 February

 

Baksida På Operaen (Single)

Stian Fjelldal

Didelidoo

Norwegian artist Stian Fjelldal enters the New Year with the release of ‘Baksida På Operaen’, which is the third single to be taken from his album ‘Idioten’. With very little info on the desk regarding Fjelldal and his musical content, only lengthens the mystery and one worth pursuing in the course of finding more answers. Unfortunately, the quest for answers continues to remain a mystery, in addition to any queries relating to the rear entrance of the opera house remaining equally mysterious, only to say that the ode penned to this particular landmark in the centre of Norway’s capital suggests an unbridled talent, and one skilfully plying his trade via a mixture of hushed vocals that verge on spoken word whilst mild electronica swirls all around. It makes for compelling listening, especially given the added teaspoonful of eccentricity that brings to mind Scotland’s Mull Historical Society. No matter the shortage of answers because the only answer you’ll get once hearing ‘Baksida På Operaen’ is to buy this magnificent single in droves!



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