Monday, 11 March 2013

Darkstar- News From Nowhere

Artist: Darkstar
Album: News From Nowhere
Record Label: Warp

Darkstar head further away from the bass and further into sonic exploration on their second full length

It was with their 2010 debut full length, "North", that electronica trio Darkstar shook off the dominant dubstep and two- step roots of their early singles and EPs in favour of a more meditative, dextrous sound that helped fill the void of that which was lacking in tangible emotional substance in electronic music. "News From Nowhere"sees them stray further from the path just as righteously, although it is an entirely different beast from "North."

"Timeaway", which previously dropped as a free download finds a meandering synth line and syncopated hand clap determining a subtle but competent groove. Warm, soothing layers and gorgeous harmonies take hold of the rising chorus. "Armonica" sounds like a much less glammy, less clunky but still surruptitiously industrial Depeche Mode with a lushous piano symphony at its core.

"A Day's Pay for a Day's Work" rehashes the Animal Collective "21st century Beach Boys" notion at its most accessible without much charm, but the 7 minute "Hold Me Down" revolves around a star- gazing but textured, wandering synth sparkle and incorporates gorgeous falsetto rushes and intricate synth developments.

If the shadow of dubstep was still slightly lingering over "North" then "News From Nowhere"sees Darkstar break free from the shackles and follow their expansive vision into enchanting, dextrous territory. The results are not huge, but they certainly could be, and in the meantime this is engulfing enough.

Key Tracks: Timeaway, Hold Me Down, Bed Music/ North View

For fans of: Animal Collective, Emeralds


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Darkthrone- The Underground Resistance

Artist: Darkthrone
Album: The Underground Resistance
Record Label: Peaceville

At this point in their career, Darkthrone are having fun... and why not?

Just like 2010's "Circle the Wagons" you can almost guarantee a spew of hyperbole surrounding Darkthrone's new album "The Underground Resistance" that includes such self- righteous and near snobbish assertions as "Darkthrone aren't black metal any more" or "Darkthrone have just become a parody of themselves."

The speculative listener could find evidence of both in "The Underground Resistance." At some points it even seems like Darkthrone are everso conscious of the criticisms, and with one wide smirk across their faces are playing up to the reputation they've garnered in recent years. However, more than anything else it sounds like Darkthrone are doing whatever the fuck they want, and are having fun doing it too.

"Dead Early" has a cascading, upbeat riff which then twists into the kind of punky rampage you could almost expect from Black Flag. "Valkyrie" starts off with a slow burning soundscape that isn't as epic as they'd like it to be but then follows the same punk rush as its predecessor, with the vocals appearing almost purposefully bad.

The 13 minute closer "Leave No Cross Unturned" traverses from an epic power metal rager into a rollicking black 'n' roll riff, and the song changes enough to just about remain interesting for it's entire duration.

Ever since 1992's "A Blaze Under the Northern Sky" Darkthrone have been held in the higher echelons of Black Metal prestige and influence. 15 albums into their career, it doesn't necessarily feel like they have anything else to prove, and although it would be nice for them to still be producing classic albums, them exersising the right to have fun on "The Underground Resistance" feels somewhat justified.

Key Tracks: Leave No Cross Unturned, Dead Early

For fans of: Bathory, Manowar


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Push the Sky Away

Artist: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Album: Push The Sky Away
Record Label: Bad Seed Ltd.

Fractious and dark, Nick Cave & Co.'s 15th is the kind of surreal masterpiece only they could make

It’s interesting that, perhaps unconsciously, on the closing song (the title track) to his 15th album with The Bad Seeds Nick Cave has dealt us a mantra that almost entirely summarises his career. “You know it’s only rock ‘n’ roll/ But it gets you right down to your soul” he muses over a stirring, reflective synth drone. At its most speculative it could seem that this is a level of narcissism that Cave has only exposed now. More likely however is that over the course of 30 years Cave’s metaphysical, frequently prophetic murmurings are based on experiences that have rocked him to his core, and thus the listener also.

The world of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds has always been idiosyncratic, and “Push The Sky Away” finds them revelling in that perhaps more than ever, certainly more than their previous project, 2008’s “Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!” which in comparison was fairly accessible. That’s not to say however that the emotion that swamps this record isn’t tangible. It’s entirely moving.

Said emotion is pushed to the fore on almost every track here, thanks to a rigid structure applied encompassing repetition, building intensity and pensiveness often to conclude on a head crushingly dextrous and layered finale. Nowhere is this more pertinent than on “Jubilee Street”, which stands as one of the finest songs they’ve written in years. It’s trajectory is propelled by a gorgeously bleak guitar line and flushes of soaring, melancholy before the sky touching closing minute brings it to a beautifully noisy close.

“We No Who U R” merges a shimmering, mesmerising keyboard chord sequence with unnerving verbal threats from Cave; “And we know who you are/and we know where you live/ and we know there’s no need to forgive.” “Wide Lovely Eyes” tells the tale of a female protagonist embarking on a swim from which she doesn’t plan to return; “You wave and wave your wide lovely eyes/ you wave and say goodbye.”
“We Real Cool” is terrifying, with its spine chillingly dark bass line, demonic piano splutters and Cave intoning “who bought you new shoes and wrote you a book you never read?” bitterly. The 7 minute “Higgs Boson Blues” is, in character at least, similar to a William Blake poem; spontaneous memories, apocalyptic imagery and cryptic flow of consciousness as Cave sings “Here comes Lucifer with his cannon slung low, and 100 Black babies running from his genocidal jaws.”

There are times when “Push the Sky Away” feels both fragile and righteous, vulnerable but forthright in its own vision. Cave’s lyrics may occasionally take a few listens to decipher, but the narratives and instrumentals are completely engulfing and enshrouding, meaning that for these 9 tracks you are completely at one with Cave’s meandering mind. It’s a surreal masterpiece.

Key Tracks: Jubilee Street, Wide Lovely Eyes, Mermaids, Higgs Boson Blues

For fans of: Leonard Cohen, Tindersticks, Mark Lanegan Band


Friday, 1 March 2013

Iceage- You're Nothing

Artist: Iceage
Album: You're Nothing
Record Label: Matador

The aggression and energy is still there, but in trying to become more mature Iceage have only become less memorable

Those of you few who have been following this blog since the early stages will remember that Iceage's ferocious 2011 debut "New Brigade" breached the top 10 albums of the year list. So full of rage, chaotic athleticism and fire were they that if it wasn't apparent that they were one of the most vital young bands of our time then surely they would cement such assertions with their second album?

One would certainly hope so. Alas, "You're Nothing", full of the gnarly, bitchin' connotations of it's title, is not the precocious step up we had all felt at the end of our finger tips. The young Danish quartet's dynamic is still fuelled by aggression, as is proven by the manic howling of "It might hit first." But what the album attains in energy it lacks both soul and the existence of any really tangible character.

The brilliant riffing on "In Haze" is the only meldoy that truly worms it's way into this listener's memory glands. "Ecstacy" has a cold, dark bite without being particularly moving, whilst the lethargic piano- lead drawl of "Morals" just drags into greyness.

Iceage have tried to maintain the ramshackle violence of their debut whilst trying to mature, but all too often "You're Nothing" is a rather impreganble, immovable record that feels like searching for a soul that doesn't seem to be tangible. There are hints here and there that their ambition could take them to very big places. They just need to get the aesthetic sorted first.
Key tracks: In Haze, It Might Hit First
For fans of: White Lung, Wire, Male Bonding