Instrumental music is an incredibly niche market, to say the least. For the vast majority of the music-listening population, instrumental music sounds incomplete and lacking that human touch in a way that only the human voice can provide. In the Metal genre in particular, guitar-led instrumental music can often come across as showing off how virtuosic the guitarist is without any care given to musical creation and taste in general. There are a few exceptions to this rule with Steve Vai’s Sex and Religion (Relativity) and Buckethead’s Electric Tears (Metastation) coming to mind. Continue reading
The thing that everyone always forgets about “Post-Rock” is that it was never intended to be a defined style of music. Essentially journalistic shorthand for “I don’t really know what this is, but they use guitars”, it was a useful semi-label for the otherwise unlabelable until someone decided that it was a genre defined by stroke-inducing levels of boredom and its use in a review became the Touch Of Death for all right-thinking people. Continue reading
The beauty to last weeks’ beast, the Ghost Cult album round-up is back for your vulgar delectation, and our final compilation of 2017 captures albums most Metal and most Melodic, shining a light on last-minute stocking fillers that St. Anne, rather than St Nick, would approve of… Continue reading
Ex Eye’s self-titled album (Relapse) is something extraordinarily different, so hold on to your hats and brace yourself! The soon-to-be-legendary group consists of renowned, experimental saxophonist Colin Stetson, Greg Fox on drums, Shahzad Ismaily on synths and Toby Summerfield on guitar and these dudes will literally blow your mind! Continue reading
For those of you who are unaware (and I dare say there will be a few), Davie Allan is a Californian guitarist probably best known for his work on a variety of biker movies in the 1960s. Taking the traditional surf guitar sound, he twisted it into something entirely different using the newly invented Fuzzbox. Allan’s fuzzed up guitar tracks have been used in many films over the years, most recently in Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds.
Joel Grind, on the other hand, comes from a completely different arena. His band Toxic Holocaust have been tearing up the Thrash scene since their inception in 1999. Their (or rather his, as Grind played all the instruments on the band’s first few releases himself) brand of Punk/Thrash relying more on creating sweaty, violent carnage in the moshpit rather than any kind of bizzaro Surf Rock atmosphere. Grind is no stranger to his music being used on soundtracks either though, having ‘Bitch’ from ‘Conjure and Command’ (Relapse) blasting out during a car chase in a Season 5 episode of Sons of Anarchy.
An entirely instrumental affair, this split four track EP (Relapse) consists of some seriously dirty hard rockin’ surf music with a greasy ’60s/early ’70s vibe. From the moment the motorbikes cease their revving at the beginning of Allan’s opening track ‘Recycled Too’ you are immediately thrust into a world of psychedelic, violent biker movies like Devil’s Angels, The Wild Angels or even Werewolves on Wheels where Hell’s Angels smoke weed, drop acid, have hairy, leathery sex, and beat up anyone who looks at them in a funny way. And all this happily continues with his second track ‘Buzz Saw Effect’.
Unsurprisingly, Grind’s contribution is somewhat heavier than Allan’s. ‘Peacekeeper’ kicks off his side of the disc enthusiastically, while second cut ‘The Invisible Landscape’ is driven by a more traditional clean surf guitar tone. Also, being instrumental tracks only, people who aren’t familiar with, or don’t usually care for, Grind’s Dalek-receiving-a-proctological-exam vocals don’t have to worry here.
If Rob Zombie directed a movie about Hell’s Angels on acid fighting a gang of machine gun wielding Go-Go dancers on the back roads of Hell, then this would absolutely be the soundtrack.
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In the world of post-rock, there are a lot of pretenders to the throne, but few worthy of the crown. The holy trinity of the genre in the USA falls to Russian Circles, Junius and, Pelican. As they have once before in their career, Pelican have teamed up with Allan Epley (Shiner, The Life And Times) to add his vocal prowess to their new EP, The Cliff (Southern Lord). On paper what looks like just a good match, becomes an exquisite exercise in songcraft, self-restraint, and true talent.
The main track ‘The Cliff’ has the best of Pelican’s breed working for it. Quietly epic, building slowly and entrancing you with each cadence. Hypnotic drums fall and rise in time with your breathing and brain patterns. Beating out a compelling rhythm that beckons to you follow like a spirit. The layers of guitars, a Pelican trademark, spinning motifs and head crushing waves. Added to this expert mix is Epley’s vocals which as a much an instrument as the band. If you are unfamiliar with his work, Epley has a voice not unlike a young Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees/Mad Season). Somber, but full of gravitas and character, Epley’s powerful tones weigh so heavy, it contrasts beautifully with the sunny (for a Pelican song) final stanza.
The other original song on the EP has been termed a leftover from Forever Becoming (also Southern Lord). However, it’s a track so deep and triumphant, I kind of wished they saved it for their next album. It’s like the soundtrack to sports movie, but only for the final montage part. The other two tracks are remixes of ‘The Cliff’. One remix, by Mr. Justin K. Brodrick (Godflesh/JK Flesh) is sans vocals, but enhances the dream-scape aspect of the guitars with synths and adds a heavier bass mix. Their is also an echo effect on the drums that give a surreal sleep-walking feeling to the listener as well. It definitely takes a killer track to the next level. The other track is remixed by Palms (Aaron Harris & Bryant Clifford Meyer). This track revs up the beat quotient, and adds more a dynamic flow than before. The vocals have a great delay loop on them, and some sick backwards guitars too. This release (digital or vinyl) should be enough of a morsel to tide you over until the next full-length.
Right off the bat, let’s be honest with each other. Everyone likes honesty right? This is a complete re-write of the review. Whilst that isn’t completely unusual, this is a complete re-write in the fact that the sway from negative perception towards positive has been massive. This is because Alright The Captain with Contact Fix (Independent/self-released) have created an album so bonkers and eclectic at points the only way to give it any real justice is to ensure you give it proper time.
The album is wholly instrumental, and like with so many other bands that have chosen to go down this unconventional route, the music simply HAS to be good. There’s no hiding behind the growls and screams of a big personality front man, instead there needs to be enough to grab your attention and maintain it – and one thing is for sure they’ve done this very well. The album is seven tracks long, and runs for just under 30 minutes. This compact running length encourages numerous playbacks, as you begin to listen intently for some of the smaller intricacies contained within each track. If you buy into the ‘Math-Rock’ subgenre title, then this is Math-Rock at its best. We’ve got synths galore amongst a combination between punk fuelled riffs and heavier moments.
At the absolute core of this music though is an unbelievable jazz influence. The drums in particular are testament to this, with both the opening track ‘Toaster Mouse’ and ‘French For Gnome’ the best examples. But this jazz influence isn’t solely contained within the music itself, but more the whole idea behind the album. You never really know which direction it is going to go, it sounds like an impromptu jam but it is actually a very well calculated beast. To be able to create this kind of impression is a skill in itself.
Since c.2005, Leicester (UK)’s Maybeshewill have curated their art in that strange netherworld of post-rock with a sense of style, passion and insight that is to be applauded. Fair Youth (Superball), their latest opus, cements and embellishes an already enviable reputation for compelling music that initially appears throwaway and easily dispensable but, following repeated listens, reveals genuine warmth, depth and soul.
Fair Youth, like its predecessors, is an album of instrumental tracks, each with their own structure, melody and percussive dynamics. Surprisingly for an album of this kind, it works remarkably well as a whole piece. There isn’t a narrative arc beloved of progressive music fans but there is a discernible ebb and flow to the record that keeps you hooked from the off. Maybeshewill have an insightful understanding how one’s own mind can wander and drift whilst listening to music. Self-evidently, the absence of a vocalist makes it more challenging to give a straightforward appreciation of the themes and “meaning” of these songs but, actually, this doesn’t matter as they have enough collective intelligence and credit their audience with enough intelligence to discern the meaning through the physical act and pleasure of actually listening closely to the music they have created.
At first listen, you get the sense that this might be a band in a much happier place than suggested by, for example, Not For The Want of Trying’s ‘He Films The Clouds Part 2’ or the mournful ‘Words for Arabella’ on I Was Here For a Moment. The album’s lead off track, ‘Amber’, with a heightened presence of keyboards, seems to reinforce this. However, repeated listens suggest that the initial impression may not be quite right and that there remains a deep melancholy, a melancholy that is being masked by the ostensibly cheery melodies that we are initially grabbed by.
Whatever this writer’s sense of the album’s “meaning” is largely irrelevant. What is unquestionable is solid evidence of a band that have continued to grow in confidence and style, a band with an unerring ability to conjure addictive tunes and melodies from their proverbial locker. By way of example, the insistent beat that architects the addictive ‘All Things Transient’, a simple hook repeated and built upon to a thrilling crescendo. Similarly, the simple keyboard that drives the charming ‘Asiatic’or the plaintive ‘Permanence’ both give credence to the view that the band could do this sort of thing in their sleep if they wanted to, such is the apparent effortlessness of it all.
Fair Youth has plenty of hooks and musical vignettes to keep even those with the shortest of attention spans enraptured and beguiled over the course of its forty or so minutes of aural bliss. Fair Youth is a terrific album, the sort of record you can recommend to your friends and, perhaps, even one or two of your enemies.
Aside from the dreaded Facebook page, there’s precious little information about Stroudsburg, PA trio King Dead. Yet another instrumental outfit, their self-styling as ‘spaghetti western doom sludge‘ isn’t too bad a description of this eponymous debut full-length (Self-Released).
Apparently consisting of two bassists, one of them six string and taking the place of a guitar, there’s nevertheless a remarkably mellow, dark indie-style melodic riff dappling through opener ‘Ghosts Along The Riverbank’ which seems to belie this fact. The melancholic doom pace is interspersed throughout by these elements of beauty, squalling a la Mazzy Star or Jesus and Mary Chain; while true bass notes, possessing a twang which supports the western edge, grow stronger and plough through the mind.
This, and the ludicrously titled yet gloriously emotive ‘As One Plows And Breaks Up The Earth…’, with its shimmering lead tone and shuddering bass evoking a solitary figure trudging a well-worn road, begin to lay the curse of the instrumental album to rest. Sadly the ghost is soon awoken: a rat-a-tat marching beat, bringing to mind to the worst excesses of 70s glam, ushers forth the stoner jam of ‘Length Of Rope’ which possesses little of the earlier heartfelt sadness. The eerie, brittle whistling does little to rescue a passable trundle through the motions, the kind witnessed on countless occasions during indulgent live ramblings. Whilst the bass-led ‘Drowning In Dust’ is heavy to the point of ponderous; only a rousing middle section and portentous coda showing any invention.
There’s a slight Shadows similarity to the opening chords of closer ‘God Makes A Lot Of Fucking Promises’ [Editor’s Note: great song title!], and the reintroduction of lead effects gives the required boot to the arse. A brooding undercurrent reminiscent of The Doors‘ ‘Riders On The Storm’ quietly throbs beneath the track, whilst that post feel reappears in the middle section to decorate a bruising, slow rhythm. As instrumental albums go, this is intriguing and, in parts, memorable. Fillers, however, are too easily exposed, and more is needed to make a lasting statement. Like a chilli lacking chilli powder, there’s not quite enough here to make you blow hard.