• Cocteau Twins – Lullabies To Violane [Review]

    Out 14 2014, 4h39

    Lullabies to Violane, Vol. 1 is a two-disc compilation of songs from Cocteau Twin's singles and EPs released in the 80’s. This disc sat unplayed in the glovebox of my car for years. I don’t even remember exactly how I came upon it. It may have been a gift, or a chance find in a used cd store. This year as the leaves started to turn color and the cool smell of fall was in the air, I decided to pop it in.

    I have listened to Cocteau Twins for years. It was only after many casual listens that I became captivated by their music. My love for them blossomed one sleepy autumn afternoon, long ago, as it played in my headphones at work. There is something highly addictive about Elizabeth Fraser’s voice. Her melodies catch in your head and echo in your memory, drawing you back again the more you listen. In the beginning I was never particularly fond of Guthrie’s music. He writes a kind of dreamy rock made with layers of guitars that are affected with shimmering reverb, as if the sound waves are surfacing through water, bending and rippling to give their music its recognizable ethereal quality. The drums offset the guitars with a big and punchy reverberating snare, a classic 80’s snare. Despite the upbeat, midpace tempo, Guthrie’s music remains modestly behind a veil in the background of Fraser’s clear, ringing porcelain voice. Read the rest at faceoftheforest.com
  • My Autechre video

    Set 16 2011, 14h48

    While I love all the early Autechre albums, Amber is something special. Here is a video I made for "Montreal" using time-lapse and miscellaneous footage that I shot around Sydney.

  • A victory for ambient black metal

    Jun 25 2011, 12h20

    Sun of the Blind - Skullreader
    This is an amazing ambient black metal album made entirely by one man, Zhaaral from Darkspace. It's well produced, with lots of hypnotic, fuzzy layers of guitar. Keyboards seamlessly weave between the guitar and sometimes sound like buried vocal humming. It has an occult flavor, of candles burning in dark caves, and ruminations in dark passageways...it's also rife with esoteric sounds/samples that echo and get lost in the din. My favorite songs are the first and last songs, Cursed Universe and Vanitas. Fire and Thirst is also a great centerpiece. I love this album because new sounds emerge on each listen. The keyboards play a big role in filling out the mix and adding mass. The songs constantly evolve within a spiralling, swirling atmosphere that seems to reach to the eges of the universe. The big expanse of sound must come from the way its produced, with echoes and reverb to hit on every frequency. Its driven by burning anguish on one hand (perhaps because of the desperate low, growled vocals) but it also has a triumphant sound. It strives with hope through the darkness to reach something, as if on a voyage, or a very long and difficult pilgrimage. It's a really well made album. I stumbled across over a year ago and its still in rotation.
  • Discoveries I: Electronica

    Jun 22 2011, 13h56

    Biosphere- Microgravity

    It's an error on my part not to have discovered this techno classic earlier, by an artist I already love and admire for his later ambient albums. This album is from 1991, perhaps a harbinger of what was to become of techno in a few short years. It's a short album, and while not all the tracks have the fairy dust that gives you goosebumps, there are 3 or 4 that do, and they're totally worth it. The old school synth sounds and samples are combined in such a simple yet ingenious way to make an immersive, hypnotic outer-space dance chamber, slightly subdued. It lets you escape into a fantasy-like, otherworldly atmosphere lit only by stars. And while it makes you feel good, it has an undercurrent of melancholy that adds that essential bit of depth.

    Pleq- Sound Of Rebirth

    This album is like a soundtrack to life in the womb. The textural landscapes of this minimal idm masterpiece are smoothly interwoven in the most professional way. I love how it envelopes you in a warm, dark space and floods your head with frequencies from every angle of the spectrum. I easily succumb to anything with bass, as it speaks to my gut and I don't have to think, I can just “feel” and know if it's onto something. This album instantly comes to life from the first spin. It has a delicate touch and a pervasive tranquility. The lows give it that dark/warm intimacy that washes over you soothingly, continuously. Each song incorporates a great number of clearly delineated sounds of distinct shape and color (if we could call each sound a tangible object). You can easily make out each one if you focus on it, but the idea is to defocus and let them interplay in your mental vision. It makes for an expertly crafted theater of aural experience. Some tracks have soft female vocals woven in that fall perfectly into place; they don't overpower or take anything away from the music, or steal the spotlight from any other sounds going on. The highlight of the album would have to be The Robot Can't Swim. A beautiful downtempo piece with a touching note of resignment. But really, there's no song to complain about. The whole album is filled with deep, poignant songs. It evokes a feeling of gazing at at your reflection in a dark spring and meditating on...whatever moves you to ponder.

    Cymphonic- Strataradialis

    This is the album that I'm happiest to have found over the past couple years. A totally stunning psychedelic ambient masterpiece. It comes from somewhere outside of time, full of wonder, surreality and unfolding mysteries. Ambient music has never sounded so natural and earthy to me before. It speaks the language of nature. This quality owes to the expert use of organic samples that bloom out of sacred ambient soundscapes. Perhaps the excellence of ambient comes from its ability to blend into the background...to become the unintrusive soundtrack to, well, existence. The music doesn't ask anything of you, or call your attention in any way. It's simply there, as if it has always been there and you just happened to tune in one day. Take the track Scimerian Silence, which opens the album in the most pleasant way. It evokes imagery for me of floating through a sunny summer afternoon in a crystal-clear bubble. The bubble wraps you in a silent world that is yours alone, but through the glimmer of sunrays you catch glimpses of the birds, a river, children at play. The sounds along this journey (the journey of the whole album, in fact) are seamlessly woven together to mingle in your senses as one. The instrumentation is incredibly subtle and gentle, and beautifully accented with natural sounds like the buzz of grasshopper wings. These samples are so well integrated into the flowing river of sounds that you hardly notice them. They rise up gently and then merge again with the landscape before you're even able to perceive their absence. It surprises me that Cymphonic has only 900 listeners, because his music is really incredible.

    The Flashbulb - Arboreal

    A truly amazing, recent release by an artist I've never listened to before. I randomly stumbled upon Arboreal, and it immediately appealed to me for its pure, tender spirit and the beautiful gloss of the production. It sounds like a very personal album, and this is due in large part to the lyrics and their delivery, where and when they exist. I don't feel quite right sharing any of them, because they seem to belong safe and sound amongst the sounds where they come to surface. The music is a kind of idm-glitch-breakbeat with some jazz guitar here and there, some distortion, some sparse vocals, and a wash of moody weather changes softened by blurred edges (see the video for Undiscovered Colors to see what I mean). A brilliant release, from start to finish. I appreciated how it grew on me slowly and gradually, and without being able to put my finger on any particular track, I felt compelled to hear it “once more” and then once again, until suddenly I found I was in love with it. And as an added reward, I'm even now discovering tracks on it that stand out more than on previous listens. There's always a hidden surprise on this album waiting to blossom.
  • Favorite albums of 2010

    Ago 26 2010, 16h58

    Here is a list-in-progress of my latest addictions. These are not necessarily albums from 2010, but I try to lend an ear toward new releases. Toward the end of the year I'll write reviews.

    Goldfrapp - Head First
    Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here
    Deftones - Diamond Eyes
    Sun of the Blind - Skullreader

    Other albums I've been enjoying:

    Autechre - Oversteps
    The Gathering - The West Pole

    I'm always interested in discovering new albums, so recommendations are very welcome.
  • Nachtmystium / Voivod / Kreator

    Mar 12 2010, 23h30

    Tue 9 Mar – Kreator, Voivod, Evile, Nachtmystium, LaZarus A.D.

    This was my first time at the Opera House. I missed Lazerus A.D. and Evile unfortunately, but came in time to see Nachtmystium's last three songs. The sound in the venue was great. It holds a lot of people (the place was packed by 10:30 or 11) but has the intimate feeling of a smaller venue. There are a couple tiered landings leading down to the main floor and stage, and a second floor balcony. There are three bars in this one room! One in the back and two on either side of the floor. In fact, the design was almost identical to the Palladium in Worcester, MA if you've been there, but a little smaller and giving the impression of being close to the stage no matter where you're standing.

    The place was pretty full when I arrived, but not many people were moshing to Nachtmystium. The first thing I noticed was that the crowd was cleanly divided between old-school metalheads in their 40+ years and teenagers starting from probably 13. These were the majority, so there were not a *ton* of people my age, it seemed. So, getting back to the bands. I've come to appreciate Nachtmystium's newest album, Assassins, and that's partly the reason I came to this show. The album is a nice fusion of their psychedelic US black metal, already unique in itself, with a modern punk sound. Blake's vocals, while always a little too monotonous and flat on their prior black metal albums, is much better suited for the yelling choruses they use now. They sounded great at this show. They've retained the dense fuzz and psychedelia from their black metal sound (even perfected it) but improved it by adding punchier riffs, changes and breaks, resulting in songs that are more fun and accessible. Now it's more about throwing your fist in the air, drinking beer and jumping around wreaking havoc, as opposed to locking into a hypnotized headbang groove. Or perhaps they were even too epic for thrashy headbanging, more like serious hairswaying with an occassional fist. Now their sound is more energized, but still very seriously metal, so they've really become a headbanger's delight. Blake was also in great shape, having lost apparently a lot of weight recently. He was wearing form-fitting black pants or leggings with boots and a dark off-black band shirt, and looked as stylish as ever (the pants were definitely a bonus!). They finished up their set with the title track, Assassins, and without much to-do they exited to make way for the mighty Voivod.

    Voivod played with the original lineup minus Piggy, their guitarist, who died a few years ago and has been replaced by Dan Mongrain of tech-death fame (playing live with Capharnum, Quo Vadis, Cryptopsy, etc). I never listened to Voivod until I recently discovered the two albums that Eric Forrest did vocals on while Bélanger was on leave - Phobos and Negatron. These are amazing, so I was inspired to see how these guys were live. They played a really fun set and definitely rocked the place. They played tracks off their late album and I believe Fuck Off and Die from the album Rrröööaaarrr. Bélanger was always smiling. He seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself and interacted a lot with the crowd. Although I don't like the new stuff on their studio albums, I thought their vocal choruses together added a lot to the live set. Blacky had a huge bass that looked like a weapon. The drumming and bass both sounded great.

    Then Kreator came on and took things to a whole new level of thrash agression. They pulled songs out of my memory that I haven't heard in in ages, and the sound was fierce. The guitars have a sharp edge like a sawblade. They had tons of energy and rocked out on stage (doing the coordinated headbang together a lot) but at the same time maintained a cool, casual air. When I got up close during the encore, I couldn't believe that they didn't even appear to be sweating (especially Petrozza the vocalist, who was wearing a longsleeve). They're practiced performers, so it's no wonder they were able to deliver. They also had a stellar light show, and the stage art was nice. The drummer was on an extra high platform, so his huge drumset was imposing and it was easy to see him play. I thought the blond guitarist had an imperial expression that I thought was very German, but in fact he's Finnish. Anyway, their whole set was great, including the encore. Everyone was into it.

    The bands that played tonight were really well matched, and Nachtmystium also fit the bill while adding some variety. This is probably part of the reason why the place was packed on a Tuesday night.
  • Efterklang Live - March 2010

    Mar 9 2010, 6h47

    Sat 6 Mar – Efterklang, Acrylics

    The show started late, and Efterklang didn't end up taking the stage until 11:30, but it was well worth the wait. They were playing downstairs at El Mocambo in Toronto, a warm venue with wooden floors, a couch, good acoustics, and plenty of standing/sitting room. A band from NY called The Acrylics opened for them, but there's not much worth saying about their set. They were two guys and a girl playing some kind of indie alt-rock, all three on guitars and doing vocals, with programmed drums. They were in sore need of a drummer. They weren't inspiring or original at all, especially when the drum track was virtually the same tempo and pattern for each song. They didn't seem to have much to do with Efterklang's music, either, so the pairing made little sense. Their amateur stage presence was in stark contrast to Efterklang, who were like a breath of fresh air to a crowd tired of waiting and suffering.

    Frontman Casper Clausen is clearly the band's visionary, conductor and spokesperson. At least that was the impression I got, having never seen the band before. The crowd warmed to his modesty and humor immediately. It was refreshing to see a band take the stage that were sincere in their musicianship and performance, but with an unassuming and lighthearted air. They had six members that were multi-instrumentalists, including a bassist, drummer/trumpeter, guitarist, programmer/sound magician, keyboardist/flutist, and Casper as primary vocalist. I didn't realize until later, but they were missing their violinist, Peter Broderick, who was getting knee surgery. It's fun to imagine how a violin would have enriched the performance beyond what it already was. I also found out their supporting band for this tour, Balmorhea, had to cancel, which was too bad because they seemed like a good band to open for Efterklang.

    Not knowing what to expect from their live show, and only being familiar with the album Tripper and a little of Under Giant Trees, I was surprised at how much they have embraced indie electronic pop. The songs they played had distinguished transitions and lots of vocal sections (at least four members contributed on vocals), making their set always entertaining and accessible. The unorthodox placement of each musician on stage also made them interesting to watch. The drummer was sitting front-right with his back against the wall, facing Casper. The guitarist was at the back, while the bassist was up front and slightly left of the guitarist. The programmer was in the back, and the keyboardist (the only female member) was standing off to the left, also facing Casper in the center. She did backup vocals and also played the flute and tambourine. Casper had some drums up front by his microphone with what looked like some electronic pads that he played with the drumsticks. The bassist helped the programmer on one or two tracks. The programmer also stepped up to the guitarist's mic to play the recorder on one track. Their setlist included Step Aside (one of my favorites), Mirador, Caravan, and several tracks off their new album Magic Chairs, including I was Playing Drums, Modern Drift, and Full Moon.

    It's hard to pin down the feeling their music inspires. The orchestral elements make them uplifting, dreamily delicate and pretty, while the micro-glitch electronic elements give them an experimental edge, and at times a melancholic one (as on Tripper). Upon listening again to Tripper after the concert - their debut from 2004 - I still prefer it to their newer pop-infused style. That album was nocturnal, intimate, nostalgic, and less playful. The vocals were quieter and tinged with sadness. It was intriguing in its subtlety, and very original. To me, this was the winning combination for Efterklang. Their live rendition of Step Aside from that album, although really enjoyable, also seemed to have been redressed in their modern, bright colors. Notice the difference in album art: Tripper had a minimal, black cover overlaid with a strangeish psychedelic line art, while Magic Chairs has an almost festive-looking cover with colorful flying streamers and blue skies. It's quite a departure from their origins. Nevertheless, I was inspired by their performance. Their set was entertaining and refreshing the whole way through, and their collective demeanor was professional. I especially liked how well they used space in their songs to great effect. These silences helped to emphasize the amazingly rich sounds of each instrument, especially the drums, which were a vibrant centerpiece. The occasional solos from guitar, recorder, flute, or trumpet were used in perfect measure. They excelled at performing lightweight and seemingly free-flowing songs that were in reality probably anything but random or improvised. No matter how noisy the ensemble became as a song coalesced, the pleasant melodies coming out of the chaos were perfectly easy to absorb. I'd highly recommend their concert to anyone. They are a unique group, a thing unto itself that has been developing over the years, and I can easily see people of all ages and tastes enjoying their show.
  • 10 Favorite Albums of 2007

    Dez 19 2007, 23h22

    A difficult task, but I finally narrowed it down to just ten. I don't have them listed in any preferential order.

    Burial - Untrue
    Alcest - Souvenirs d’un autre monde
    Nile - Ithyphallic
    Rotting Christ - Theogonia
    Murcof - Cosmos
    Abigor - Fractal Possession
    Zaya - Render
    Todtgelichter - Schemen
    Bergraven - Dödsvisioner
    Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters

    If you're interested in reading my reviews of them, go here and read them at Probably Smug - and thanks again to HWMtomservo for letting me post there.

    Now, tell me your favorite albums!
  • Romance in black metal

    Dez 13 2007, 16h56

    I was so surprised when I read these Zavorash lyrics. They make my heart melt. And there is nothing delicate about the music - this is BRUTAL Swedish black metal. The guy I. Hate used to be in Watain, Ofermod, and Funeral Mist, if that gives you any idea as to their sound.

    Never Blame Her

    Don't love her from a distance 'cause it's so fucking bound to fail
    Regardless of other victories of vision through pills and taps and nails
    Grasping that one chance that truly never returns
    Will save you fro the eternal punishment that inside burns
    Do not hesitate to reject friends image nor path
    I swear to you she's worth it even if it doesn't last
    Do this when the moment sings or do it all in vain
    For your love so quickly gets corrupted into insane
    This is a message of immaculate relevance
    To you wallowing in your youthfull ignorance
    This ain't no lyrics but a manual for success
    For you to win where I lost but it's not a fucking test
    Never play the sign-game 'cause its inventor's want you dead
    Don't make her a symbol (of anything) for at this point her love has fled
    Never mess her virtues onto others 'cause you're most likely right
    Though when you do stand by her die, live, or fight
    This ain't poetry but wisdoms dispensed beyond whims of redemption
    This ain't music but a glimpse of the power of nihilistic ascension
    Behold and loath my lack of envy and the freedoms and powers of perpetual death
    Still only a fool sacrifice that sort of love for the rest is but a loveless quest
    If you fail, missing your moment, like yours truly once truly did
    It won't matter what you do or to what fake dieties you bid
    Your life won't be life anymore than my death isn't death
    Know, then, there's only one and you'll just use all the rest
    Finally, whatever happens
    Never blame her.

    So selfless and romantic, how can one even say this? I wouldn't go so far as to "never blame her," since she is perfectly capable of mistakes. Anyway, I love it.
  • Album of the Year

    Nov 16 2007, 16h17

    Near Dark

    So, who else is loving this?

    i can't take my eyes off you