Album Reviews

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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.


Released 5 April

 

Noise From The Attic

Heyme

Jezus Factory Records

Originally from Holland but now residing in Poland after a lengthy stint performing in various bands in Belgium, Heyme (Langbroek) releases his first solo album on Jezus Factory Records. With this record being a genuine solo affair where all instruments on all the songs are played by Heyme, and a recording space that consisted of his attic at home with recording sessions pencilled in for every Sunday, the ten songs crafted on this debut solo album are largely built out of improvisation. With Heyme admitting that improvisation largely took place during these recordings, “I just started playing and recording and improvised on top of that, weaving rhythm and melodies into tapestries of sound.” Such words are true once ‘A Day In Life’ unfurls its sounds where you will hear brass instrumentation punctuating at various stations and aiding the direction of this moody opener. It’s a compelling start and continues in similar fashion with ‘Paranoid’ offering vocals to paint a broader picture, before slipping back into a pure instrumental via ‘Hard Times’. The method of work adopted here harks back to Heyme’s days of recording with Kiss My Jazz, and later IH8 Camera, where improvising on the spot was integral to both bands in terms of how they operated. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Heyme has continued with such a formula that functions for him as well as creating such beautiful tender moments as ‘All Time Favourite’, to the stretched out melancholy of ‘Where She Goes (she goes)’ that will linger long in the memory long after this album spins to its conclusion. It’s a formula that has served Heyme well, and continues to do so with the near continual loop of instrumentation and improvised workings added on top that suggest feelings of loneliness and sadness whether informed lyrically or via the instruments that capture your senses from start to finish, thus making ‘Noise From The Attic’ a truly remarkable album considering its humble foundations.


Released Out now

 

Cuan

Ian Nyquist

Eilean Records

Deriving from Dublin, Ireland, Ian Nyquist is an artist with a background in field recording and sound art. By setting his experience to date of compiled field recordings to his first physical release on Eilean Records, the album ‘Cuan’ was recorded over the period of a year between November 2017 – November 2018. The title for the album translates as Bay or Harbour, with the field recordings picking up on Nyquist’s sound messages regarding ‘home’, which its press bio’ refers to the album as it “pays homage to places and people of familiarity.” This is true as the sounds portrayed here often linger for some time as if to pick up and reflect every possible detail that sonically represents the people and places mentioned earlier. A good starting point to experience such descriptions is the shimmering sounds of light during ‘Obelisk’, which reflect to a greater extent nearing its conclusion where a sense of wonder is often felt. Such feelings blossom further with the near-orchestral approach of ‘Bring Her Home’. There are moments containing darker tones such as the loneliness given by ‘After The Disappearance’, which is dominated by piano and genuinely captures one’s attention and followed by murkier tones of ‘Bank na Cise’ and barely audible ‘Peninsualas’. Ian Nyquist has produced a captivating array of sounds that reflect familiar objects and surroundings of his environment that are known to him. However, this does not mean that ‘Cuan’ is an album that sounds introverted and intended for a singular audience, because it’s an album that will have no problem translating to a wider audience where people can apply their own experiences to these tracks and feel a sense of their own familiarity.


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.


Released Out now

 

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.


Released Out now

 

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!



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