Thursday, August 25, 2016

Drug : "Infinite Stimulant"

Here is another album that came recommended by Dead Air at the Pulpit, whom I have gotten some pretty good stuff from, but it gets hit or miss when we get into albums that are not heavy. They throw the word post-punk around and get my hopes up more often than not as these post-punk bands typically are just punk bands who happen to be using effects on their guitars. Here is a case in point. This band from Tampa  opens  their new album with a pretty much straight up punk rock song and it isn't until "No Odyssey" that we begin to hear some darker colored garage rock that you can try to connect the dots to post-punk if you are desperate enough to. It's similar brand of reckless punk with a side of sludged out bass on "Burned Out Transport". There is a more surreal take on punk that finds the band coming closer to living up to their name on "Space Scape" which actually has a guitar solo and song room to breathe in the arrangements.

I know it is a part of punk, but the vocals on this album bug me. They are at their very best on "Hive-Mind" and sound like some of the more muttered moments from the first Gwar album. It' fine with me if a singer uses their voice like an instrument. I don't need to be able to make out the lyrics, but I need more than the free form chaos this guy engages in.  I'll give this album a 6, there are a few moments, but it generally doesn't do much for me. If want some punk rock that is a little more warped than your typical 1...2....3..go fare and have a thing for garage rock then you might be able to get a little more out of this than I did. Not bad...just not my thing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Psychic TV : "Alienist"

I first tuned into Psychic TV one hazy drug summer in the early 90's after picking up a copy of  their 1988 compilation "Allegory and Self" then went back and began listening to the albums preceding that. Last year I checked out "Snakes" which was more rock- n -roll than I remembered them being. So here we are with "Alienist". It starts off with a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Jump in the Fire" and finds a good balance between the more surreal side of their earlier work and this renewed interest in rocking out in a Hawkwind like manner. Here there is a more jammy and wandering spaciousness. There is is more surreal "I'm Looking For You" which is a conversation between Genesis and Lucifer. I always knew we shared similar experiences while on acid. This song sprawl out into ten minute out into the cosmos, but is so hypnotic that you barely notice how long you have been away from the Earth.

After the chilling epic before it, when Genesis and the boys launch into their cover of the Creation's "How Does it Feel" it doesn't feels as inspired. The band sounds like Alice Cooper's band from the 70's and Genesis also sounds a little like the Coop with more of a gravely rock n roll rasp.There is more funk to the title track than they used to have in their more electronic efforts. The vocals are a mumbled chant that asks if you ever felt like an illegal alien. This one drones on the same groove and rides it into the ground. I'll give this album an 8 because the first two songs are awesome and the second half of the album isn't bad by any means,  I am not sure it lives up to their legacy in the same way. If you are already a fan you can appreciate this , if you are just getting into them I suggest their pre-90's work first.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SubRosa : "For this We Fought the Battle of Ages"

I have been looking forward to this album and while I am not the biggest fan these days of songs tipping the scales at over ten minutes, they make the most with the powerfully dynamic opener. The violins weep against the slabs of sludged out distortion. The vocals are generally pretty delicate. A thick bass line leads you into "Wound of the Warden". There is more motion in the ocean on this one . Not quite metal in the way it builds up in the first couple of minutes, while riding a similar groove. The growled vocals arrive before the five minute mark. This is followed by a much softer vocal harmony, so they are not running the same old good cop/ bad cop thing with predictable vocal trade offs. The sludge does get hammered down onto by the midway point, with the violins acting as the salve.

Though it gets off to a softer start "Black Majesty" carried a more weighty drone. This makes the melodic trade off at the four and a half minute mark that much more effective. It goes hand in hand with what I always say about being just being heavy all the time and how that numbs you out unless you are given something to contrast that with. It does seem like at 15 minutes this song could have had the fat trimmed here in there , but nothing that makes it too ponderous. There is a more depressive doom like pacing to "Killing Rapture". The vocals are mixed back against the guitars with the violins weaving their mournful melodies in the back ground. The drums churn up omimnous storm clouds.

The strength of the closing song "Trouble Cells"  is the darkness that surrounds it's otherwise surreal take on folk. Vocally it's not the best song on the album, but they do weave together a pretty good mood, setting it apart from the bulk of the album.  I'll give this one a 9.5 and see how it sits with me.

Apologies, I Have None : "Pharmacie"

If you are British it's ok to have a poppier take on punk. You accent and attitude will make it all work out in the end. This is the first lesson we are learning from the opening track of this band's new album. By pop punk think more Brand New than Blink 182. "Wraith" is more introspective and explodes in a manner than expresses aggression in a way that darkens back to Myspace other words bordering on emo. But it is darker so that makes up for it. There is more atmosphere to "The Clarity of Morning". Another song where they benefit from their accents. The lyrics are really great not only to this song, but the whole album so far. In some ways this band reminds me of Glasvegas, slightly less bleeding of their heart strings and more self loathing. "Anything Chemical " creeps out of the previous song. This is a concept album that doesn't try to tell as story as much as it explores mental health and the stigmas. Around the two minute mark the song hits the most conventional pop punk moment thus far.

They do not let themselves linger in more ballad like moment for long. "Goodbye, Piece of Mind" may not be a song for those of you who have to be rocked out at all moment of your day, but it has an interesting display of emotive dynamics."Crooked Teeth" breaks this trend and wallows in it's thoughtful quandary. More tension is built going into "Every One Wants to Talk About Mental Health". This is one of the album's most powerful lyrical moments. The song finds the band giving into their more explosive side. The punk stirred up here is parred with a more post-rock sonic quality on "It's Never the Words You Say".  This is pounded out in the normal post- hardcore manner. They back off again for "Killers". It swells into a more sonically robust place. They close the album with a more uptempo song that kinda rides the middle road.I'll round this up to a 9.5 and see how it grows on me. It slightly loses it's steam toward the end, but the album's strength are the lyrics and honesty of the music.


Frank Ocean : "Blonde"

So "Endless" was a false alarm as he continues to play games with the way albums are released. The Munchkin effects that shift the pitch of his vocals on "Nikes" ,  are a little weird , but compared to what he did on "Endless" this is an improvement. It's good to hear that Frank hasn't forgotten how to write a song on "Ivy", there is a more free floating style to the verses. His only accompaniment is a guitar on this creating a more organic feel. There is a more conventional r&b feel to " Pink + White". His melody wraps around this song in a much more comprehensive fashion that will please fans of his first album. There is less of a thump to the groove and retains the more organic direction he was headed on the previous song.

"Solo" is more minimalist when it comes to the backtracking, leaving the weight of the song to rest of on Ocean's voice. His verses begin to transform into more of a hip-hop flow. I think the melodies on this song would have benefited more from having more support from a beat. Things are almost more stripped down on "Skyline". It makes me think the remixes for this album will be better. I think the melodies are more interesting on the previous song . "Self Control" features help from Yung Lean. This is another balladic song, even with the experimentation that finds this perhaps overly reflective beginning to drag a little. The harmonies owe more to Brit-pop here than soul. "Nights"  is oddly over the beat. Andre 3000 takes over on the reprise of "Solo" it's not his best verse. Distortion and noise drowns the beginning of "Pretty Sweet" making the song a little obtuse.

There are many moments that are not the most original, though in hip-hop this is called sampling, so "Close to You" makes use of Stevie Wonder's cover of the Burt Bacharach song "Close to You", "White Ferrari" contains some of the Beatles' song "Here there and Everywhere" and an Elliot Smith song is sampled for Seigfried. "Close to You " is only a minute long, so there is not any time to develop from being much more than an idea for a song. With "White Ferrari" he doesn't sample it but put his lyrics over the Beatles vocal melodies. He only uses Elliot Smith's guitar when it comes to stealing from him. I guess the problem with this song and many other's is this is r&b, yet there is little rhythmic or bluesy to it, while the genre has become more urban pop, this album is very slim on the pop hooks.

There is a turn to a more gospel feel on "Godspeed" which finds Ocean on more sure footing."Futura Free", opens with a piano , where lyrically he takes a look at where he is as the music swells up behind him. There is more of a hip-hop feel to the evolving flow of the song which bears a similar arrangement to "Pyramids", but falls flat of capturing that song's mojo. I'll give this album a 6, because when you compare it to " Channel Orange" it proves his more minimalist experimental song writing syle is not as effective when it comes to making an enduring album. This offers a little redemption from "Endless" , but still was not worth the wait.


Monday, August 22, 2016

the Devin Townsend Project : "Transcendence"

Devin is far from his days in Strapping Young Lad and is now making metal for fragile flower like nerd men who think A Perfect Circle is a metal band. The album sounds pristine in many ways. Almost to clean to the point of having all the grit that makes metal produced out of it. Pro-tools is his friend. The layered vocals are great if Prog Power is your idea of metal. There are metal sounds on this album, but heading into the third song I can say it's not heavy.  From a song writing perspective "Failure" is alright. He sings great on it venturing up into his falsetto. There is a dark cloud coming in from the song's edges but the storm never really hits.  I guess this falls closer to prog metal than other sub-genres, though there is a strong under current of pop mixed into the highly orchestrated "Secret Sciences". The main problem with this song is it's lack of balls. The double bass toward the end doesn't change this.

So four or five songs in and I find myself expecting much less from his. "Higher" is like a post- "Empire" Queensryche ballad. It does build by the two minute mark into some that is more typical Townsend. The palm muted groove that comes out of this builds a little tension, but everything is still too clean and safe. The drumming is great and will wow Rush fans. I would have liked this as a teenager when Queensryche was one of my favorite bands. Now as an adult when I listen to heavy music I want it to actually be heavy. There is a djent like riff that brings a little weight but it's surrounded by tons of sterile fluff. My wife asked me if I was listening to Night Wish.

There is a better riff to "Stars" , but the over produced vocals continue to over power everything else and give it a more Dream Theater feel. The title track is just as over blown and would invoke Night Wish comparisons, even without the folk trappings and the fact female vocals are just one layer. This song is slightly less cumbersome and tolerable. There is a little more drive to "Offer Your Light" but it is repetitious and more straightforward than I would prefer. "From the Heart" reminds me of the melody to a Uriah Heap song. It much happier and lighter than I prefer my metal but a decent song. I had to check with the opening riff of "Transdermal Celebration" to make sure I hadn't clicked on "Momma I'm  Coming Home" by mistake. Overall the song is not as much of a ballad as Ozzy's big hit. It's not written in a way that would make it a radio song, but it is too melodic and light hearted to be metal. I'll give this album a 7. It's well made and performed it's just metal for pussies, so if you have one or are one you might love this.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Falaise : As Time Goes By"

A Sad Sadness Song is becoming one of my favorite labels as I know I can depend on them to bring me melancholy.  Their first album that released themselves is now being officially released. While this band hails from Italy their sweeping fusion of post-rock and Black metal will make you think they came from France. They songs flow together more like classical compositions with the vocals buried almost to obscurity behind the shimmering walls of soaring guitars that still manage to come across as being heavy rather than the kind of meandering in atmosphere that the bulk of bands stumble into when attempting this fusion.  The drumming to "Lost Moments" give the song a lighter indie rock feel until it collides into the blast beats. Their guitar melodies sprinkled over even the song's harshest moments and they return to to the them established at the beginning of the song.

When they lash into black metal of a purer darkness of "No Destination" , they might be plenty mean, but lose some of the songwriting smarts by dumbing it down to get heavy. This makes them sound more like every other black metal band with a little atmosphere to them. The title track finds a better balance, though it leans more towards the ambiance of their post-rock side. Here the guitar is more thoughtful and a delicate piano melody is allowed to unfold. This song drones on while other landscapes evolve around it. The song that follows feels like an extension of this song rather than a song on it's own two feet.'Pointless" holds it own as a song, though it might not be as powerful of an expression that we heard earlier in the album.

"The Lump In My Throat" gives a more energetic take on post-rock. It still ebbs and flows with a sense of dynamics, and is a pretty well written song over all, perhaps one of the album's best moments. There is a more droning rock in the post- rock throb of "Waiting Time". I like how this song shifts at the three minute mark. I'll round this album up to an 8.5, there are some solid songs and sounds on this and they find a place where metal can meet post-rock in a place that doesn't feel like Deafheaven's hand me downs.