Wednesday, 30 July 2014

New Tracks: Doomtree- .38 Airweight


A couple of days ago fiercely independent Hip-Hop collective Doomtree released a brand new song entitled ".38 Airweight." Comprising of some of the most revered and talented MCs in underground rap music (amongst the most renowned of which are P.O.S. and author, poet and singer-songwriter Dessa), Doomtree have been backpacker darlings for about a decade now, and rightly so. Their 2011 collaborative album "No Kings" was one of the finest examples of conscious, indulgent abstract rap that year, and this new track pulls no punches in terms of showcasing the group's respective ability. 

Pieced together sonically by the group's masterful production tag-team, Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger, it's a multi-faceted banger. It's a noisy, restless affair with a backbone of blaring sirens, low rumbling synth-bass and catchy electronic guitar amble. The flows brought to the table by P.O.S., Mike Mictlan, Cecil Otter and Sims are all excellent; the lyrical themes of the hardship of life, growing up and adulthood are delivered via vitally colourful flourishes of language and imagery, proving in spades that they're some of the most creative writers in the game. It's a shame not to hear more of the brilliant Dessa, but her gorgeous vocals add plenty of depth and flavour to the final hook. 

Listen to ".38 Airweight" via youtube below. 


And if you fancy gaining a further insight into the wondrous work that Doomtree do, here's a video of their full live KEXP performance, as well as an interview. 



Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Noise



Artist: Boris
Album: Noise
Record Label: Sargent House
Release Date: 16th June 2014

Heavyweight Japanese legends deliver much of the euphoria, epicness and power we've come to expect on their 19th album

It doesn't always sound like a compliment when bands have been around for so long that they are now (albeit with tongues firmly placed in cheeks) referred to as "institutions", but in the case of Boris to refer to them as such could only be complimentary. Having crafted themselves the legacy of being one of the most artistic and ongoing forces in Metal and experimentalism, their cross-boundary appeal and supposed inability to stop making music has been largely a blessing to anyone who cares to concern themselves with it.

So not only can Boris be positively deemed an "institution" due to their sheer righteousness, but also because with the arrival of 'Noise' they're now 19 albums into their career; a life span that not even Microsoft probably dreamt of achieving at its conception.

One of the most mesmerising things about Boris has always been their ability to churn out new sonic pastures that neither they (nor often anyone else) have travelled before. 'Noise' is perhaps the most conventional release Boris have put forward in years, but this, of itself, is not really anything to be concerned about. Whereas before a "conventional" Boris album (was there even such a thing?) would have meant making the most epic but mind-fuckingly strange racket plausible, but now it means euphoria in spades with a slight Metallic favouritism (save for the sugary pop/krautrock of 'Taiyo No Baka').

Opener 'Melody' captures the glorious pinks and oranges of a Tokyo sunset, as well as wrapping its entire trajectory in a planetary, interstellar level of feedback and triumphant guitar melodies. Crucially, there's a keen ear for a pop sensibility that lurks within, a sensibility that, despite the sometimes frantic heaviness, weaves its way into proceedings throughout 'Noise'. 'Heavy Rain' is on one hand a grizzly Doom Metal crawl held up by thunderous sludge-induced riffs and painfully slow pounding, but its multi-faceted pride allows the glistening lead guitar to glide overhead with subtle agility. The 19-minute monolith 'Angel' meanders its way through floating, repetitive arpeggios before exploding into (expectedly) heavenly proportions. It's the kind of thing that, in the hands of a lesser band might be written off as slow-churning wankery, but Boris play with such magnitude it's nigh-on-impossible to deny their force.

'Noise' is not, despite its title, anything like a definitive Boris record. For all its shuttles into the stratosphere it sometimes sounds frustratingly restrained, like on 'Vanilla', or the speculatively filler-esque ditty 'Siesta' that brings the record to a close. In many ways its Boris securing a relative comfort zone, but there's no guarantee that it'll be so for their next release. It may leave long-time fans of the band wanting something more, but for this listener's money it offers up enough euphoria, epicness and power to be perceived as a stock addition to the Boris canon.

7/10

Key Tracks: 'Melody', 'Heavy Rain', 'Angel'
For Fans Of: Anathema, Electric Wizard, SunnO)))

Jungle



Artist: Jungle
Album: Jungle
Record Label: XL Recordings
Release Date: 14th July 2014

Heavily hyped London duo launch a debut that breeds unashamed confidence and style, but falls short in terms of being as special as some have deemed

There's something rather dated about making a serious point about anonymity in music in 2014. As far as marketing gimmicks go, it's a pretty well-worn idea. Burial and Zomby have been flying the flag for their dark post-dubstep shapes since their very, ahem, *appearance*, and on a less renowned level Dragged Into Sunlight have hurried away from any kind of pin point media limelight. Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom Macfarland, the two friends who, on paper at least, make up Jungle, have only just been identified as such, after a rather vivid attempt at mysterious anonymity that actually, well, didn't really pay off. I mean, if they were hoping for small levels of speculation as to what two relatively ordinary blokes from London looked like then fine, but one suspects that the endeavour was more scripted than that.

Thus comes forth their self-titled debut record, and alas faces can now be applied to names. If Jungle's attempts at identity-classification did very little to add to their character, then there are a handful of tunes on this album that go much further. The subject of influence throughout 'Jungle' is somewhat of a taboo, duly because the records Lloyd-Watson and Macfarland obviously treasure are hinted at so unashamedly on the duo's sleeves a lot of the time, but there are songs here that forge a sense of own-branded identity. There's still something irrevocably addictive about the multi-layered and textured synth heaviness of 'Busy Earnin'', and the glitchy approach to cut-n-paste sampling  and soulful euphoria that grips 'Julia' screams "THIS IS JUNGLE" more vitally than anything else on offer here. 'Son of a Gun' and the more expansive and smoother 'Lucky I Got What I Want' too, are pleasantly singular.

But back to that old-chestnut of originality. Sometimes the lack of anything really unique works in their favour; 'Crumbler' is a relatively gorgeous soft-funk sex ballad that is precisely great because it's stripped of all pretension. Even with its tinges of '80s daytime TV show soundtrack 'Accelerate' passes as a well pieced lo-fi summer crawl.

But opener 'The Heat', with its slinky bass-line, reverb shrouded noodling and colourful synth flourishes, although concreting a pretty aesthetic for the rest of the album, is far less original than perhaps Jungle believe. The slightly more shady 'Platoon', with its maleficent goad of "I'll knock you down, brother", could  fit on, well, any TV On The Radio record really. There's something genuinely appealing about the winding, rhythmic lurch of 'Drops' but it runs its tracks far too close to James Blake-esque blubbery.

The thing about 'Jungle' is that, if you listen to any of the artists the band cite as major influences- J Dilla, Prince, etc.- and then go back and listen to it, those pioneering artists' DNA will kick out hard enough to crack a nerve in your brain that says "actually, I might go and listen to 'Sign of the Times'". There are some brilliant songs here, but unfortunately Jungle's oeuvre seems a bit too contrived to  really do this often rather ordinary album justice. As is the case with any young band travelling a slightly left-of-the-dial path, there's plenty of room for growth; let's just hope they turn further left than heading straight for the Radio 1 A Playlist.

6/10

Key Tracks: 'Julia', 'Crumbler', 'Busy Earnin''
For Fans Of: Prince, TV On The Radio, Michael Jackson

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Let's Wrestle



Artist: Let's Wrestle
Album: Let's Wrestle
Record Label: Fortuna POP!
Release Date: 10th February 2014

Over the past 5 or 6 years there's been a significant increase in the amount of spiel written about the evolution of a select few UK bands that deservedly have garnered sizeable followings due to their forward-thinking ethos' and creativity. Foals, Wild Beasts and The Horrors have been flying the flag for those who still have a morsel of belief that UK Indie didn't spend its last pickings when The Libertines split up. The somewhat conservative nature of the UK press however means that several bands have been left in the corner to trundle their charm to those diligent enough to seek it out; The Wave Pictures, British Sea Power and London trio Let's Wrestle all wear this sense of being left in the lurch on their sleeves, and albums like the latter's self-titled new release are testimonies to how much unknown talent resides in those distant corners.

The general artistic trajectory of 'Let's Wrestle' is almost romantically eccentric. A wry, often forlorn sense of humour sits atop jangly indie pop with a backbone of swirling orchestral instrumentation. Its charm is thoroughly placed in its quirkiness, its ability to not take itself all that seriously, and the fact that the lack of a massive fan base doesn't matter; 'Let's Wrestle' is wrapped up in its everso-slightly cutesy universe.

Opener 'Rains Ruin Revolution' is a jangly, clean-cut affair that kicks into action the band's sardonic take on the wider social situation in 2014, seeming like a call for more confidence in today's youth as it asserts "rains, ruin, revolution, they'll all get wet, they never have belief in themselves". 'Codeine and Marshmallows" is a sombre but summery Real Estate-esque affair about the aftermath of a relationship, sagging deep into melancholy as the chorus suggests that "codeine and marshmallows have an aftertaste of sick, blood and loneliness".


'Care For You' is a witty, Girls-esque brass inflected pop bounce that indulges in the complications of young love (sample lyric: "I love you... But just not enough to need you honey"). The idiosyncratic thrill is given extra vertebrae by a complimentary saxophone solo.

'Opium Den' is lined with '60s psychadelic synth parps that only get more oddball as the track continues, coupled with slightly angular, catchy guitar noodling and lyrics seemingly about losing a friend to a soul eating drug addiction. They end on the resonantly positive 'Watching Over You', a boisterous but controlled reverb-laden jaunt, like a toned-down My Bloody Valentine. It's a clamour that feels somewhat righteous and a fitting ending.


'Let's Wrestle' is a mish-mash of charm, wit and heartbreak, and those things combined make for a kind of story-telling that, although entirely of its own, never loses its grasp on tangible entertainment. As they head along it seems increasingly unlikely that Let's Wrestle will get the attention they deserve. In their case though, it hardly matters; they're happy inhabiting the territories that people stumble across almost by accident. They're still among the last bastions of off-kilter, secretive romance in British Indie.

8/10

Key Tracks: 'Codeine And Marshmallows', 'Opium Den', 'Watching Over You'
For Fans Of: The Wave Pictures, British Sea Power, Christopher Owens


Friday, 11 July 2014

Home, Like Noplace Is There



Artist: The Hotelier
Album: Home, Like Noplace Is There
Record Label: Tiny Engines
Release Date: 25th February 2014

For all its emotion, "Home..."'s distinctly unoriginal flavour leads boredom to settle in at an early stage

Massachussetts youngsters The Hotelier are seemingly the archetypical band to be spearheading the renewed interest in the late '90s/ early '00s Emo scene. Their debut album, "Home, Like Noplace Is There", is certainly emotionally charged (especially on the duo of 'Your Deep Rest' and 'Among The Wildflowers') and there's some decent lyricism abound too, like on 'Housebroken'. The sorry truth though is that there is NOTHING on "Home..." that hasn't been done before, and thus tedium settles in at a distressingly early stage.



4/10
Key Track: 'Housebroken'
For Fans Of: The Wonder Years, early Brand New

Rooms Of The House

 

Artist: La Dispute
Album: Rooms Of The House
Record Label: Big Scary Monsters
Release Date: 17th March 2014

The Michigan Post-Hardcore crew's latest is an emotional, poetic and refreshing take on expansive alternative rock

With their 2011 album "Wildlife", La Dispute re-invigorated the Post-Hardcore scene with a sprawling, tender sense of musicality that had always largely been unacquainted with the bands they'd previously been lumped in with. "Rooms Of The House" indulges in many of the same resources as its predecessor; raw emotion, ambitious story-telling and an energetic self-awareness that leaves a strong after taste. 

"Rooms Of The House" narratively revolves around the dissolution and eventual collapse of a long-term relationship, and thus it's never short on vivid and explosive wordiness. 'Woman (In Mirror)' sees frontman Jordan Dreyer searching his coupling and finding how all the small, menial things seem to have meant infinity; "the notions of ordinary love" are "tiny dots on an endless timeline". The symbolic imagery on '35' is arguably the album's darkest moment; it depicts a bridge collapsing into a violent river below and people drowning as they try to escape from their submerged cars. 'Stay Happy There' finds Dreyer raucously and desperately trying to recover the relationship from its dying throes, and the closer 'Objects In Space' is a solemn spoken-word piece that encompasses a sense of loss and nostalgia. 


"Rooms Of The House" is somewhat less expansive than "Wildlife", and its slightly limp production means that sonically it's not always as powerful as it tries to be. However, La Dispute's driving honesty and poetic firepower is in full swing here. This is still one of the more refreshing takes on Post-Hardcore you're likely to hear in 2014. 

7/10
Key Tracks: 'Stay Happy There', 'Woman (In Mirror)', 'Objects In Space'
For Fans Of: Thursday, At The Drive-In

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Horns Aloft!: 5 Recent Metal Albums Reviewed

Greetings!

As you may have been able to work out, the ability to write for this site has been mightily rare over the past year or so. How much time I have to dedicate it over the coming months remains unclear, however one thing that certainly hasn't dissipated is my passion for music of all genres and sub- genres alike. Such has been the influx of fantastic new music in 2014 thus far that it would seem remiss not to acknowledge any of it. 

Although I'm sure nobody gives much of a shit (and quite right, too), I've decided to embark on a series of pieces that will feature 5 mini- reviews of albums that I've heard in 2014. There will be a Metal segment, a Hip Hop segment and miscellaneous segment that'll focus on works from the worlds of Indie, alternative and probably some Electronic music too. Some of the albums covered in these segments may have been out for some months, but they're all records that have forced some kind of reaction out of me, and unfortunately for you lot I feel the need to dispense a portion of that reaction. 

Anyway, quiet at the back there! Enough chatter! The first of these segments in the first edition of the Metal edition of this series. I hope to get the Hip Hop and Misc editions up over the course of next week, with a second Metal edition to follow some time after. Perhaps in the not too distant future I'll find the time to go back to writing proper reviews (the words "proper" and "review" should always be taken with a pinch of salt when regarding my writing). Until then,

Horns aloft! 

Jack

Agalloch- The Serpent & The Sphere


On 'The Serpent & The Sphere', all the characteristics that have defined Agalloch as one of the most favourable USBM stalwarts are here in abundance; their thunderous, cosmic scope, the sharp acoustic dalliances, the slight romance with synths as well as lyrical themes of deities, folklore and general star- gazing mythology. However, much of the epic coda that made records like 'Into The Painted Grey' so powerful is somewhat missing from the core here. Quite often Agalloch don't reach the absolute magnitude they've previously relished in. That being said, Celestial Effigy soars with seamless grandiosity, and the utterly spell- binding 13 minute instrumental Plateau of the Ages brims with all the vastness its title suggests and ends on a particularly heart rendering segment of harmonised tremolo picking. 

6/10


Anathema- Distant Satellites


Far more to do with a Radiohead- meets- Sigur Ros brand of sonic mass rather than anything Metal related these days, Anathema's sumptuous romanticism soars as expectedly as magnificently on 'Distant Satellites' as one would hope. What makes it so awe- inspiring is that, in all its scope and ambition it seems so seamless, as though it's the only thing that makes sense. It builds its own languorous world and wraps its planet- sized arms around you and refuses to let you go until you're totally a part of it. It's the kind of album that was made for all corners of the spectrum; perhaps a peaceful night in with a significant other and several bottles of wine, or perhaps across one of Iceland's sprawling glaciers.  In more down to Earth terms, if you don't weep at least once during 'Distant Satellites' then there's nothing for you. 

9/10


Eyehategod- Eyehategod


For a band renowned for incessant drug- guzzling and writing songs about the supposed favoured redneck past- time of incest, on their first album in 13 years Eyehategod sound monumentally focussed. All the riffs and grooves here are smothered in their trademark marshland- caked fuzz and filthyness, but on tracks like the Hardcore crossover opener Agitation! Propaganda! and later the dystopian political disenchantment of Flags and Cities Bound  prove that they have plenty of fearsome societal deconstruction to throw around too. And in Trying to Crack the Hard Dollar and Nobody Told Me, 'Eyehategod' boasts some of the best, most monstrous riffs the band have ever written. 

7/10


Martyr Defiled- No Hope No Morality


Exactly the kind of prospect and album that Death Metal purists will turn their righteous noses up at, Birmingham bruisers Martyr Defiled wear the "Deathcore" tag unashamedly on their sleeves on 'No Hope No Morality'. True enough, they sincerely buy into the breakdown- heavy mentality, but this is an example of this kind of music being performed exactly as it should be. There are moments of insidious atmosphere (Demons in the Mist), nails-on-the-blackboard brutality and defiance (616), heartbroken bitterness (Under The Influence) and Neverender even has a HOOK. You'd have to be pretty stone- hearted to not be moved into neck- snapping action by at least some parts of 'No Hope No Morality'. 

8/10


Trap Them- Blissfucker


For all Black Breath's hulking rock 'n' roll vibes and all of Nails' blistering nihilism, there isn't one band in the wave of crust- indebted, hardcore inflected Metal bands that comes as close to reducing the human race to a pile of smouldering shame and faeces as Trap Them. On 'Blissfucker', the band pummel that home perhaps harder than they ever have before. The glistening riffing on Gift and Gift Unsteady  and the epic but bleak-as-all-Hell 7 and a half minutes of Savage Climbers prove that there's plenty more to the band than crusty meat- headed chug, but it's the violent moments that hit home the hardest, like the terrifyingly feral Habitland or the furious Death Metal of Former Lining Widen the Walls. This kind of righteous hopelessness gives Behemoth's 'The Satanist' a serious run for its money for Metal record of the year. 

9/10


Next time on Horns Aloft!: Mastodon, Mayhem, Feed the Rhino and more.