New Music Review – RedWater – Day 1

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Artist: RedWater
Album: Day 1
Genre: Electronic, ambient
Social media: Soundcloud/Bandcamp

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Let’s do some more ambient/electronic music, because why not? I mean I’m totally getting encapsulated within it recently with all this Boards of Canada and such.

RedWater, is the instrumental, electronic project of this Utah based produced that has previously released two other bits (an EP and another LP) both of which sound surprisingly different to RedWater’s most recent effort, the effort we’re looking at today, Day 1. When I say different, I don’t mean anything leaps and light-years away from the previous sound, but there’s a bigger focus on some interesting synth textures and percussion than the previous album, Natural Division.

Every track on this little album feels like an intimate little snapshot of RedWater’s life and composition style, and because of this, nothing ever feels too similar. From the poppy/lounge feel of Second Chance, to the largely progressive electronics going on in Temporary Permanence, you’ll find a brief little moment to fall for. Even the tracks I’d consider to be lesser than the others still have aspects that make them interesting and worth listening to – Entropy and the Intervals didn’t particularly thrill me, but I appreciated some of the fascinating aspects in each tune. I mean Entropy almost sounds industrial at times and that’s sweet when you consider the majority of the material here is all rather major sounding.

The End Of April, also contrasts this major sound well by being one of the more serene tracks that I’ve heard this year.

I guess if we’re nit-picking, I’d like to nit-pick at the intro to Day And Night, it seems to go on way to long with some rather plain piano and synth chords before things take a more interesting turn later in the song. However, I do like the erratic percussion on this track and the twinkling arpeggios in the second half… Oh and the skanky beat that in the second half as well. Oh, I suppose the track RedWater is a little dull when compared to the rest as well…

Final Thoughts:

I don’t really have much to say on this album because I think it’s worth your time in its gorgeous simplicity. Day 1 is varied, curious and delightful for it’s short playtime, so why not at least give it a quick listen? If you like music from electronic producers, or you love music you can stick on in the background while you enjoy a book, grab this album. It’s a name your price album and it’s worth however much you can give RedWater and then some.

New Music Review – Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

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Band: Helicopter Quartet
Album: Ghost Machine
Genre: Post-rock, ambient, dark ambient
Social Media: Facebook/Twitter/Bandcamp

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One year ago I reviewed the album, Leading Edges, by Leeds dark ambient duo, Helicopter Quartet. Leading Edges was dark, dismal and oppressive, but with a post-rock leaning in some of the songs, which created this, thankfully, not stock post-rock sound that’s being pushed everywhere these days. And so, one year on from Leading Edges and Helicopter Quartet have released their new album, Ghost Machine. Let’s start things off by saying that, the dark ambient is fully out on this release, darkly teeth gnashing and snarling with the frightening viola and synth tones produced by Chrissie Caulfield.

The oppressive and dreary nature of the songs on Ghost Machine has been turned way up and never have these two sounded so doomed. Romanze is looks like it would be right at home in a post-apocalyptic soundtrack, very akin to that of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but without the monolith run times and bombastic build-ups. The guitar from Michael Capstick and the viola work on this track are so damning and remind me eternally of East Hastings by GY!BE, but dronier and less driving than that track. Because of this droning, it can be rather hard to listen to casually. To truly enjoy this track, or any of them, you have to be paying attention, or at least not doing anything that takes up to much RAM, because this music requires your attention.

This mood strikes me as the kind of atmosphere that this album is hitting. All of the tracks seem a lot longer than they really are, but this gives a feeling that each of the creeping sounds in each song has a chance to grow. Cortege, is the best example of these dark tones shifting and growing throughout the song. The guitar contrasts with the massive and constant booming here and even the viola has moments of not sounding likes it’s been bathing in complete despair. This track travels in a lot of different ways in a lot of very subtle manners. The booming on this track did make me wish for a bit more percussion though, as a tool to help break things up a little bit.

Even with so few instruments blaring off in this mix, it sounds like a lot is going on, but I think there’s room in there for more, nothing large and obnoxious, but something subtle to help space things out.

Just like last time, subtle is what these two are here to do – Each song starts with a little idea and grows from there in a carefully considered way. The title track starts with something being dropped and dragged along some strings and it grows from there. It’s like a machine winding up and getting ready to haunt your ass. When this song is ready to haunt your ass, about halfway through, it lets you know and catches you off guard. It made me jump the first time I heard it, but I’m a complete wuss.

Final thoughts:

This album is massively comparable to the last one, but it does do enough for me to think that it treads interesting enough ground for it to not get boring. This Leeds duo has managed to pull off dark and oppressive even darker and more oppressive than last time, but I would like some more percussion play next time, something of a personal preference, but something breaking up this massive textures would be more than welcome.

New Music Review – Waveless – Hopelessness

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Artist: Waveless
EP: Hopelessness
Genre: Electronic, ambient, IDM
Social-media: Facebook/Twitter/Soundcloud/Bandcamp

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Hopelessness is the debut EP from Australian producer, Waveless, published through the electronic record label SVNSET WΛVES, on May 2nd. The label itself is one I’ve been working through recently, thanks to all the chilled releases that put their material up for a cool, ‘name your price’, price, so if you like what you hear at all, then don’t be afraid to contribute a to these hardworking artists.

Waveless has, like the title of the EP, a hopeless and melancholic sound. The chords are minor as fuck, the tempo crawls along and the instrumentation is so thick, it’s an emotionally heavy sounding EP that has a surprisingly large amount of colour in it. The second track here, Numb, is probably the most dreary piece of work, with its tragic keys and synths backing up the gorgeous guest vocals of self-confessed gloom-popper, Mothica (who is also rather talented). I think these vocals bring a lot to the table of Waveless’ compositions, if only to fill up the music a spell more.

That’s not to say that these songs are empty, but the vocals do Numb a lot of favours. There are subtle touches in these songs that fill them up adequately, but not to the extent of the vocals. For example, Hurricane, has some quaint arpeggios rolling up and down near the end; Forever Forgotten has lots of synth extras whirring off near the end; Oceanic had some vocal samplings during the outro. The format of these songs is predictable, but it gets the job done and each of these tunes has a thick sense of Hopelessness to them, except ESID, which didn’t strike me as particularly moody, but it was a cute little track.

I also liked the beats going on here, nothing complex, but for what this EP is, I don’t think they needed to be flashy at all, but what does matter is the use of synths and texture in this release.= and Waveless has some brilliant textures here. There’s a great sense of overwhelming textures that come hand-in-hand with the saddening chords and melodies here and it’s all channelled in a small period of time that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

Final thoughts:

Waveless says that ‘the EP aims to evoke a sense of emotional fatigue’ and it accomplishes that with some stunning synth work and killer manipulations of atmosphere. And although I don’t agree that these songs are, ‘The perfect soundtrack to drown to’, they do feel like the soundtrack to something less than favourable. But until that less than favourable thing happens, I’ll just enjoy the laid back ambiance of them though – a must for anyone that favours the chilled side of electronic music.

New Music Review – Låpsley – Understudy

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Artist: Låpsley
EP: Understudy
Genre: Electronic-pop, ambient
Social-media: Facebook/Twitter/Soundcloud

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Låpsley is an electronic-pop artist from the Southport, UK (even if her voice does conjure up thoughts of winter-wastelands/wonderlands) and recently (January 5th) she put out her debut (label) EP, Understudy through XL Recordings – these guys are responsible for some rather top acts, including FKA Twigs, Jungle and Radiohead(Although, King Of Limbs was not very top, just sayin’) – which means that people will be expecting good things from Låpsley in the future. She has already gained a massive following thanks to her bedroom project EP, Monday, which is a simple and effective release that’s fun to listen to with its bouncy beats and cute textures from the synths. Hopefully, this means that people will place their expectations in the right hands.

What about Understudy though?! Understudy feels similar (initially), but treads larger, more refined ground and as such, feels like an ambitious EP by the end of track one. The beats feel meaningful on this release, for example, the gentle flutters of hi-hats on Falling Short add something simple but effective at expanding on the already expansive sound. There’s also Brownlow, which has some incredibly punchy percussions which add a nice precursor to the gorgeous twinkling synths in the chorus of this track.

This is another really strong point for this EP: the instrumentation is wonderful, blissful and at times nostalgic with the use of synths. Like the retro sounding synths that flare in and out during 8896, very cool. Couple this generally fun instrumentation with a voice that is accessible and beautiful, you’re on to a real winning number.

Let’s talk about 8896 some more: it’s very ambient and IDM at the same time with its quiet drum loops and graceful playing of piano keys – it all really harmonises with the vocal performance. It all comes together to feel, as I previously said, quite nostalgic. While the final track, Dancing,initially had me rather bored, it surprised me as it hit this surprisingly epic wall of, almost drone-like synths and it got me thinking where else Låpsley might take her material in in the future. It’s moments like that that create hype and show-off what an interesting composer Låpsley really is.

Final thoughts:

A great EP that proves that coming out from being a bedroom artist and onto a label does not compromise an artist’s desire for experimentation. Understudy is a calming and beautiful release that prepares listeners for one of the more interesting artists of 2015. Well done Låpsley, A+ and a few gold stars!

New Music Review – Dan Caine – Still Awake

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Artist: Dan Caine
Album: Still Awake
Genre: Post-rock, ambient
Social-media: Facebook/Twitter/Soundcloud/Bandcamp

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On this glorious day, I am listening to the music of post-rock/ambient music composer, Dan Caine and his most recent album, Still Awake. It holds a strong resemblance to another artist I’ve reviewed in the past, musicformessier and as such, I do feel rather similar to it, but I’ll be sure to compare them during the review. Still Awake was released on the 29th of December, so is still a 2014 release, but we won’t split any hairs over it. Caine has also already started work on his new album and is planning on collabing with other musicians this year, so there’s plenty to keep an ear out for, if you like what you hear here today.

This album is very chill from start to finish and considering what it is, Still Awake does what it sets out to do. I just wish there was a little bit more variety to the sound that occurs so constantly throughout the album – lots of clean guitars with delay and plenty of gorgeous synths to help take you away to that special place of peace and serenity. However, when Caine utilises small amounts of distortion into his songs, everything becomes that little bit more interesting, for example: The Sleeping Masses, Beneath an Ancient Sky, Outrospect and Synergy all utilise very minimal usage of distortion guitar and it does help change up the pacing of things quite a bit.

Caine makes usage of small drum machines and this also helps keep things fresh and interesting to listen to. I’m going to mention Flight By Moonlight, the percussion here adds some real depth to the song and it’s the exact same with Synergy. It honestly feels like, to me at least, that any of the songs with drumming/percussion on them feel better than the ones without drumming and whilst I understand that this is (mostly) a solo guitar release, it feels like the drums are what make the song feel complete.

That’s not me saying that the guitar is rubbish and it should be a solo drum album, it shouldn’t. The guitars are synths are gorgeous and it goes from one gorgeous melody to another, but it would’ve been nicer to see some more standout melodies on the guitar – which again, leads me to the comparison with Musicformessier. The strongest part of this album, feels like it’s placing itself firmly in the middle, from The Sleeping Masses, to Faraway, Forogtten, right there, that’s where the gold on Still Awake resides.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being at peace with Dan Caine and I think anyone that’s into post-rock or ambient music will be right at home here. The middle of the album shows off Caine’s better and more adventurous side, but no matter what, you’ll be showered with lovely melodies and textures no matter what. Some more variety would have been nice, but if you take this album for what it is, you’ll love it.

Playlist Submission #1 Shifting Reality / Sketchy Map of the Human Soul

A few months back, I reviewed an EP, Naive Audacity, for David Puztai of the ambient/ethreal/soundscape project Shifting Reality and recently, this fine young gent has gotten in contact with me regarding a playlist that brings together a few similar artists into one playlist/mix. If you’re into post-rock, or noise, or ambient music, give this playlist a listen and enjoy lush and beautiful tunes – it contains some rather big names and some rather unknown ambient artists, if you want to be all ‘Oh you’ve probably never heard of them’. Seriously though, give it a go and see if anything tickles your pickle.

I’m not entirely sure how to go about writing about this, besides a few words and then presenting you all with the playlist, so that’s what I’ll do – I hope you like it.

New Music Review – We All Die! What A Circus! – Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back

a1985838075_10Artist: We All Die! What A Circus!
Album: Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back
Genre: Post-rock, ambient
Social-media: Facebook/Soundcloud/Bandcamp

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We All Die! What A Circus!, is the ambient, musical project of one João Guimarães from Portugal that started last year and has recently (September) put out his debut full length LP, Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back. Guimarães makes mostly ambient, post-rock, drone music that I’ve been finding incredibly immersive because of some fantastic work with pacing, texture and atmosphere.

To be honest, I think it’s rather difficult to talk to in depth about this album without someone actually listening to it. It’s described as “something timeless and endless in every proportion and every direction distinctive-ambient sound can travel”, it could just be me, but it sounds like something very personal to Guimarães and I can respect that this is why he’s still put this out there and for a name your price, price.

That being said, I’ll give talking about this a damn good go!

Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back, is a deeply atmospheric release that would work perfectly as a soundtrack to some post-apocalyptic movie with its minor sounding tunes that focus heavily on guitar and background noise to keep up a sinister vibe. That being said, the album is made up entirely of these darkly sounding soundscapes with splashes of guitar, great guitar mind you, and it can get somewhat repetitive.

I think the album could have really immersed me if there was more variety to listen to, some richer, less dry sounding synths . I think the only tracks that seemed to stick out, with their interesting sounds, were Ancient Blood, the ghost star interludes and And Only Then We Accepted Death As An Oak. Ancient Blood has these flutes (?) being played, some choral spots and even some baby crying at the end – it all blends scarily well together during the outro and is a genuinely creepy track that set my expectations up for some more experimental uses of sampling.

While I do think some of the effects are used in moderation, I also can’t help but notice a certain type of delay that doesn’t compliment the style of these tunes a few times. You’ll hear it on: We Saw Our Blood Turn Into Dust, From India To Gaza II, Our Dust Turned Into This and Through This Empty Canvas We Almost Found The Light. It’s this delay that sparkles, if you hear it, you’ll know what I mean, and I think for this general mood of loneliness and isolation that I’m getting with Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back, I think it needs to be toned down.

Otherwise, the album isn’t overly produced; it sounds airy and makes use of reverb carefully, without me thinking of an empty cave every time I hear the tracks.  I think the track And Only Then We Accepted Death As An Oak, makes careful use of effects – it’s also the first and only time I can recall where distortion is used on anything, which makes it somewhat more effective. There are also some rather squeaky sounding guitars near the end which are pleasant. Which goes for the same on a lot of these tracks, everything feels very easy to listen to, nothing scares you off or is abrasive, everything is just nice and accessible to listen to.

Final Notes:

An immersive listen that will ensure a few listens, if only so you can catch everything that’s going on in this album. However, it can run rather dry and long with some of the longer tracks that seem to gather dust over the synths quicker than an abandoned house. Still, worth your time for the guitar, the lovely textures and the very post-rock track, And Only Then We Accepted Death As An Oak.