Brighton UK quartet Collectress is pleasantly barking. Not the London borough, you understand: just barking mad, in an endearing way. Describing their two-decades-old history as one of Chamber Krautpop doesn’t do it justice: instead, try SubRosa without the weight but with mischief lurking around every corner. Latest album Different Geographies (Peeler Records) is so named as a tribute to the band’s ability to maintain creativity over new, split locations and life priorities – a testament to love and loyalty rarely able or evident in the music world today. Continue reading
Following the premiere stream of their new single ‘Let It Go’, Ghost Cult caught up over email with the artist known as From This World over email for a Q & A interview to learn more about this project and the motivation behind the music. Armed with an inventive, excellent new album Variations on a Dream our dialogue covers the artist’s self-described “New Classic Rock”, influences, the personal nature of the music and much more! Continue reading
When the words ‘experimental’ and ‘French’ precede the word ‘Doom’ in a preamble, surely it’s impossible to ignore. Bordeaux trio Endless Floods, formed by members of cult outfits Monarch and Bombardement, are such a band and third album Circle The Gold (Fvtvrecordings / Bigôut Records) sees them test their expansive minds to new, sometimes more melodic limits. Continue reading
Arguably more recognisable for her work with Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Canadian violinist and composer Jessica Moss also has a nifty line in creating solo works of stellar magnificence. Second album Entanglement (CST Records) is a journey through string-led soundscapes and unnerving Electronica that renders the mind a bewitched mess. Continue reading
On the back notable career highs, Russian Progressive duo iamthemorning quickly became one of the modern Prog scene’s most recognisable and heralded entities. Most recent album Lighthouse (Kscope) particularly found a wider and fawning audience with varying aspects and artistry throughout. Perhaps commemorating this career high point, Ocean Sounds (Kscope) is a live performance filmed and based in a studio, as opposed to a live show, which provides a twist in comparison to the usual live release affairs.
The most striking aspect of this visual presentation and live studio recording is the beauty of the surrounding scenery, which is clear to see through the studio’s panoramic window structures. The remote location encased by the sea and the gorgeous coastal landscape perfectly encapsulates not only the oceanic imagery that iamthemorning have used prominently on recent albums; the solitude of the location matches the escaping, melancholic but enriching quality that their music possesses. Natural sunlight flows into studio as the openness almost follows the sun, being particularly magic with the even-time red light pouring through, or during the late evening/night-time period which matches the calming serenity that iamthemorning are craftsman at.
Laid out with the duo’s live setup and accompanying backing musicians, and with a set list mostly consisting of their most recent albums, Ocean Sounds sees the band on top form and shows exactly why they have been embraced so strongly by the Prog fraternity. The live versions of many of these songs reveals further nuances in part, and shows and enhances tones more greatly, for example how ‘5/4’ from Belighted (Kscope) feels a much more cheerful number than its studio version. The set showcases the dynamics, as subtle as they are, throughout their recent catalogue; ‘Os Lunatum’ is a modest piece which alternates between a ballad-like vibe that builds up to some subtle Jazz elements, all of which works well with the more classical reminiscent ‘Matches’.
Whilst the whole band ensemble shines, it is the partnership of Gleb Kolyadin and Marjana Semkina that, unsurprisingly, stands out here. Kolyadin shows just what a virtuoso talent he is as he moves between grand piano and keyboard, ranging from complex pieces to more minimalist but equally emotive and powerful passages, whilst Semkina’s voice is a majestic and suitably delicate and powerful when required throughout, showcasing just why she is undoubtedly one of the greatest voices in Progressive Rock in this current day.
A live album/performance DVD is often evidence of a band’s live prowess and the love and reaction from the crowd, but whilst there is enough of a performance component here to praise iamthemorning on, the contained and near private feel of Ocean Sounds actually suits the band perfectly and works better than a traditional live offering. iamthemorning’s music is meant for individual immersion, for escaping, whilst maybe getting lost in the great outdoors, and Ocean Sounds nails that without losing any of that characteristic heart and sense of tranquillity. Ocean Sounds is the culmination of a huge rise for the band and should hopefully mark their continued ascent into upper echelons of Progressive Rock, and the hearts of its many followers.
As one half and the musical engine room of one of contemporary Prog’s most beloved groups Iamthemorning, Gleb Kolyadin is one of progressive rock’s hidden gems and undeniably one of its greatest pure musical talents; a virtuoso pianist and a proven composer with Iamthemorning, whose brand of chamber music and progressive rock has gained not only critical and fan acclaim, but earned Gleb plaudits for his talent from peers such as Daniel Cavanagh and Steve Hogarth. Further cementing that reputation, this solo effort (Kscope) further shows off his compositional and playing talents, all in a manner that surprisingly branches out from his main act. Continue reading
So, you tell a band that the only thing you haven’t heard of theirs is their debut EP… and they tell you that they’re about to re-release it. “A Sea of Dead Snakes (Blindsight) was very Grunge influenced” states Tom McKibbin, drummer with Oxfordshire Drone quartet Undersmile, “and we’ve gone down a much more dirge-infested road since then! We’ve just had another re-pressing done, and given it a purple tint. It’s our ‘Ribena’ edition! It’ll be going out in November, as that’ll be five years since it first came out.”
The band, comprising two couples, has had a number of experiences in their relatively short existence: “We were so disliked in the beginning; we’ve cleared many gigs before now, particularly playing in Oxford!” Tom muses. “Initially you tend to get thrown onto weird, eclectic bills where you don’t belong. One was a Gay Pride gig where they cut the electricity!”
“They came to us and said ‘Stop! You’re making everyone leave!” continues rhythm guitarist / vocalist and Tom’s partner, Hel Sterne, “We couldn’t believe it. Then on came Sassy Ribbons, a drag act…”
The band’s second album, Anhedonia (Black Bow Records), has been out some months and has met with serious acclaim. Tom is enthusiastic about the reaction: “It’s been really great. The weirdest thing is that it was album of the month in Terrorizer, which you normally feel is reserved for Metallica or Slayer!”
The inclusion of cello on certain tracks has been considered a vital ingredient by many of the album’s admirers: “Taz [Corona-Brown, guitarist / vocalist] and I have always been obsessed with cello”, states Hel.
“We both have similar feelings about melodies, so it was basically something that had to happen. Our cellist Jo Quail is very talented: we told her to just do what she felt, and she did. She just went into that sombre zone which is where we like to lurk!”
There’s a wonderful blend of light and the disturbingly dark in Anhedonia, something that the band are aware of: “It was necessary in order to translate the amount of heartbreak that was intended in some of the songs”, Hel thoughtfully explains. “Some of those things, however, refer to other, nicer times. It’s so important to have contrast.”
“As long as I’ve known Hel and Taz, they’ve naturally gravitated to this close-harmony, slightly discordant edge” Tom feels. “As they’re the main songwriters, that’s what comes out in the music, and Olly [Corona-Brown, bassist] and I just try to bring it along. The Drone influence of Undersmile actually came from loads of different areas: Classical, Indian, Shoegaze, through The Melvins and Earth; but this time we wanted a more dynamic range. It’s nice to get these really clean chords – it has the same effect but with a cleaner, crisper sound. It can still be as mournful as it is with the distortion.”
“I think it can be more mournful” rejoins Hel. “Some people listen to music like that because they find it medicinal, purifying, even though it’s filthy, and I completely understand that. I listen to brainwave entrainment a lot, and I find a similar ‘cocooning’ thing in there too.”
The band is now with Black Bow Records after releasing stuff on a whole host of labels. “We recorded at Skyhammer, Jon Davis’ (Black Bow founder and Conan leader) studio,” Tom acknowledges. “Jon offered to put Anhedonia out in time for Roadburn, which was really important for us. He’s well-connected of course, people are really interested in what he’s doing, and so that was it. We did our parts over four days; then it was all mixed in sixteen hours’ straight with Chris (Fielding, producer and Conan bassist) who managed to get such a wonderful, natural guitar sound. Obviously we’d be interested in working with Jon again, but it’s just whoever is interested in working with us really. In the past it’s been as a result of friends asking us if they can put stuff out, or friends we’ve made by putting stuff out. They’re all good people.”
Undersmile played two big sets at Roadburn this year – one as themselves, the other as their more acoustic, ‘Grunge Unplugged’ alter-ego Coma Wall – and has two more big sets to come in November. Tom explains further: “We’re playing the memorial gig for Grimpen Mire’s Paul van Linden, who sadly passed away in June. We knew he’d been unwell but his death was still a massive shock. We did a mini-tour with them, Conan and Serpent Venom a couple of years ago and we all got on so well: Paul was always such a lovely guy each time we met. So we’re really honoured to be a part of that. Damnation Festival just came up quite recently. It’s something we’ve wanted to play for a while so it was a ‘no-brainer’, but once we saw the line-up it was incredible! We’re on quite early in the day, so we’ve got the rest of the day to enjoy the music and get drunk!”
So, do the couples ever take a break from each other?! “We have this year, post-Roadburn!” confirms Hel. “We’re all just so busy: there are Taz and Olly’s family commitments; we’ve just moved house; I run an acupuncture clinic and Tom is very career-focused at present; we’ve a lot of material for Coma Wall…with all that, we’re really having to ‘cherry-pick’ gigs. We did realise that we were spending so much time just working – Taz and I are best friends – and we thought ‘when do we actually make time to just go out and do ‘friend’ things?”
Finishing with another exclusive for Ghost Cult, Hel explains the band’s latest foray into the visual world: “We’ve just finished shooting a video for the Anhedonia track ‘Sky Burial’. So that’ll be two music videos this year!” she laughs.
Stardom? Probably not, but there’s certainly no doubt that the star of this incredibly hard-working, creative and crushing unit is well and truly on the rise.
WORDS BY PAUL QUINN
Immediately Ensemble Pearl‘s self-titled debut has a lot to live up to. A project consisting of luminaries such as Stephen O’Malley (Sunn 0)))), Atsuo (Boris), Michio Kurihara (Ghost) and Bill Herzog (Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter) is going to inspire not only an instantaneous following from fans of avant-garde metal, but also very high expectations. Thankfully though the collective skill and musicianship on display here means that Ensemble Pearl doesn’t disappoint, though it may come as a big shock to some. Continue reading