Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Orb

The Dream
Traffic Inc.

Anyone even remotely interested in electronic music should be familiar with The Orb. They helped shape and mold much of the ambient/chill-out music scene with their unique sound. Fusing samples from news clips, prank phone calls, sci-fi films and anything imaginable then blending it with dub beats, smooth ambient synth waves, and sweet chill atmospheres the Orb personify originality and superb creativity in their field. Their live shows are amazing showcases of strange and colorful imagery projected on screens behind them while they manipulate sound and samples. While the band has been through a few line-up changes, founder Alex Patterson has remained a constant throughout.

Their latest effort "The Dream" is, again another masterpiece that defies genre and continues to evolve their unique vision. The album is filled with samples galore and beautiful electronic tapestries all in synch with dub/hip-hop and reggae grooves. The band also enlisted the help of jazz/house singer Juliet Roberts and guitarist Steve Hillage to further round things out. This album has so much going on that it will require numerous listen's to digest it all. (Even then you will probably discover new things later on). I highly recommend using headphones, as it will help capture the true essence of all the beautiful sonic complexity as it unfolds layer by layer.

To describe this release track by track would be a staggering endeavor, as it truly must be experienced through our aural senses. This small description in no way does this album justice, but hopefully it will encourage electronic devotees, fans and non-fans alike to make "The Dream" a must have in their musical collection.

- Craig Harvey


The Order Of The False Eye
Napalm Records

This Tampa Bay trio has released an impressive and incredibly brutal avant garde/experimental metal album that lays waste to many of their peers. Gigan, (whose name was derived from the Godzilla movie franchise) create a multi-level metal landscape that will draw comparisons to Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah and even Rage Against The Machine. Conventional riffing and standard song settings are thrown out the window as time signatures change in the blink of an eye, frenzied single note lines whiz by over tri-tones and diminished chord structures, all glued together with jackhammer drumming, thundering bass, and monstrous death metal vocals from the darkest corners of hades.

But wait, there's more. Within this metal mayhem are strange noises, feedback loops and a impressive use of guitar hardware, and outboard effects. Check out how they use a toggle switch to create a rthythmic effect by flipping it back and forth on "Occult Rites Of the Uumpluuy, or the first two minutes of noise and weird samples on "Hiding Behind The House Of Mirrors". There's even an untitled twenty minute epic of sonic destruction that sounds like the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet on acid. Gigan not only create a maelstrom of guitar chaos, but they can hang with electronic/noise artists such as Converter, Winterkalte, and Somatic Responses. The brilliance of this, is that most of the abstract sounds they make are done (as far as I can tell) primarily with guitars and effects. There might be some electronics, but not that much. Gigan are truly in a class by themselves and if you desire metal that pushes boundaries and opens dimensions then join The Order Of The False Eye.

- Craig Harvey


Let the Empires Fall
Moribund Cult

Surely much better than it has any right to be is this new platter from Canada's (!) Grimbane, the new creative vehicle for vocalist/guitarist Barbarous (or as you once knew him, more likely, Ace Gestapo from Blasphemy). "Let The Empire Fall" is an ill-tempered slice of total throwback Black Metal, harkening back to the reallllllly early Church-burnin' stuff, trying to sound as alien and cult as possible. It's funny, it's releases like this that remind me of how shocked I was at hearing "Transilvanian Hunger" or "Black Shining Leather" for the first time, not saying it's up there with those release, nosir-fucking-eee, just saying that it has that same lingering fumes and dedication to ugliness. With many of the tracks "introduced" by surprisingly rational atheistic arguments sampled from documentaries instead of dripping water or occult chants, it's a pretty fucking cool change of pace where you actually learn something you get bludgeoned over the head. (Not unlike Sesame Street, incidentally.)

Unlike the early black metal the members of Grimbane undoubtedly light black candles to, the sonics of "Let The Empires Fall" are not all treble all the time, there is a good bottom end enchoring songs. Blast beats can change to a steady chug and groove at will. The songcraft is what you would expect from Black Metal of this ilk - ice-cold mantralike waves of blackened distortion, giving way to surprisingly catchy swathes of swaggering thrash and mournful widescreen despair. Riffs range from twitching waves of nails to long washes of solid-state distortion that almost call to mind what a synthesizer would do, and then suddenly the guitar parts get all huge and dramatic and epic at unexpected junctures. Check out the thrashing, magisterial darkness of "Cauldron of Burning Iron" switching from mournful clean picking to super-tight authoritarian thrash that the likes of Metallica wouldn't mind nicking in a second. Barbarous's vocal style is a completely unpalatable and dissonant croak/wheeze, keeping things as undergound as possible - I end up enjoying the sheer gonzo weirdness of it.

Nothing new to see here, but the intensity and conviction and alchemical combinations of variant extreme aesthetics make it a fine, fine listen.

-Matthew Moyer

Monday, June 9, 2008

Stars of Track and Field

"Centuries before Love and War"
wind-up records

While comparisons to The Postal Service seem obvious, I think it's important to realize how far music has come and integrated into so many diverse sub sectors
As well as 'grey area genre'. It can be difficult to really get involved with a recording on multiple layers. Stars of Track and Field touch all the bases and are almost apologetically honest in 'Jason Bell and Kevin Calaba's lyrics РJason swoons easily over every emotional landscape. "Centuries before Love and War" is undoubtedly human, however the arrangements compare to an almost electronic expos̩. Complete with the promise of symphonic offerings. Daniel Baker Orvik's programming and drums are astounding. As if being led down an unexpected hallway, full of anticipation. Kevin Calaba plays the keyboards in a manner bringing into mind Chuck Wild of 80's new wave band Missing Person's.

Jason takes some pretty powerful moments with his guitar on tracks like "Say Hello" and "Movies of Antarctica" – The total package is a sort of Slowdive meets Coldplay. In mentioning 'Movies of Antarctica' There is a distinct similarity between Duran Duran's 'Khanada' from their very early years - while I am certain unintentional – it is amazing to have these brilliant songs from another time make a sort of galactic re-episode into an uncanny and unique reemergence that is both haunting and provoking while being honest from A-Z. There are even moments when I am reminded of The Fixx's 'Standing on the Beach' album. Also worth noting is Stars of T&F easily translate into alternative stadium rock I can see many, many people enjoying their music and would not be surprised if Stars of T&F are around for a very long time. I get the sense they are just getting started and are ready to tackle the world. "Centuries before Love and War" promises and delivers right down to the packaging which feels like you are opening a box full of lost and found things. 'Familiar and Abstract' my eyes and ears are on Stars of T&F for a long time to come. A definitive must have for any record collection.

-Marc Sound

Meat Beat Manifesto/Badawi

Orlando, FL

In the darkness....We all live in the darkness according to Meat Beat Manifesto anyway. But I get ahead of myself one clear night; the doc took a drive down to Orlando because he heard that Meat Beat Manifesto was throwing down at The Social. Having seen there mind blowing show a few years ago in Jax I was excited to check out the new material and see what they added to there visual mayhem. What I didn't realize was that Badawi, the opening act was going to rein sonic dub destruction down upon all that were there. I did a little reading up on this composer/dub freak, but you really had to be there to witness the bass rumbling in your gut. This wasn't your grandmother’s dubstep either; Badawi was droppin' three am pounding dub beats just as hard as any techno dj. With a brief respite we went and checked out the t-shirt booth and the girl running it was dating Mark Pistel (the funky drummer on a lot of MBM tracks). I was tickled pink by the whole encounter but it didn't stop there. When Jack took the stage he out came punching, with the latest tracks off his new album Autoimmune. This hip-hop dubtastic electronic jam had us all enthralled as we watched Jack Dangers and crew weave a tale of a society taken over by the television, ruled by fear of the president and controlled by the powers that be. For 10+ years MBM has been an experimentalist dub act, influenced by the hip hop sounds of San Francisco there is less anger and more of a stoned realization of what we are doing to the world or what the world is doing to us. Gone are the industrial strength pop tunes replaced by the smell of "marijuana smoke" as images of self destruction and sampling mayhem ask us to question our reality. Of course he could not help but play a few favorites stating the "consequences" of "past present and future are up to you" driving the nail home that the revolution starts here. Just press play.

- Dr. Strangelove


Movement Festival Review

The Detroit Electronic Music Festival also known as Movement amazes me ever year. The tens of thousands that show up for an underground music festival rooted in the birthplace of techno, truly astonishes me even when many of the musical talent is unknown to the majority of the masses. The Paxahau group has managed to bring a mix of techno magic that reflects the roots of Detroit techno and keeps pushing the boundaries of the genre forward. If there was a theme this year I would say live free form styles of jazz laden techno were it. Carl Craig arrived on stage with an inspiring speech about techno and the world and gave a live performance of pounding jazzy infused winding soul that would never stop. Cobblestone Jazz's free-form minimal techno jam had Matthew Johnson's tweaked synth style melting into a vocoded housey organ groove. The Real Detroit underground stage was back and folks like Punisher and Kevin Saunderson where not about to let us forget where it all started, keeping the groove hard and the energy high. The MINUS ten year onslaught at the Beatport tent kept up the minimal madness then good ole Josh Wink took over the next day and shook things up. The Red Bull pyramid stage dropped a nod to a hip hop electro past with two crazy jackin' performances by Neucleus and Egyptian Lover. The events that go on outside the festival are just as hot. We got a Memorial Day morning wake up call from Hello Repeat at a local joint called The Old Miami, drinking local Ghettoblaster brew at 10am is always a treat. I would be remiss if I didn't talk about our trip to Submerge Records, downstairs at this Detroit home to Underground Resistance, Axis, Metroplex and many other techno labels. We got to listen in on "Mad" Mike Banks as he talked about Ron Murphy, the vinyl cutter and mastering legend, why Underground Resistance still holds true to vinyl releases and how many of the early tapes of Underground Resistance and Cybotron are deteriorating. He also talked about the drug problems in Detroit, the industry that perpetuates it and his hopes for the future of Submerge and Underground Resistance. This alone was worth the trip to Detroit. As Detroit's past becomes the future the Detroit Electronic Music Festival will continue to be a force in keeping techno alive in the United States.


- Dr. Strangelove


Moribund Cult

It takes quite a bit of balls to name your album something as minimal and, well, final as “Omega” but these Morbid Angel-worshipping Finns get away with it in spades, by dint of their raw power. Now Azaghal have put out a passel of cds and split releases, but most likely this will be the first one you can get without an extensive search and/or being ripped off. Bringing the primitive brutality and somewhat more advanced compositional skills in equal measure, Azaghal’s unholy din made me sit up and take notice repeatedly as avant-garde and progressivefragments are buried deep within an angry, heaving mire of black knives and horseflies.

So one the one hand, you’ll have the of more traditional suicide run that is “Kuolonkaame” with the speed amped up to maybe 17 instead of the usual 11 and then you’ll have the thrashy creeping atmospherics of “Quetzalcoatl," and Azaghal execute both equally unselfconsciously. The songs on "Omega" come off as a seamless flow, not the cut and paste rifferema that you often get in bad metal. “Vihani…” is just a completely fucking unhinged performance, with sub-primal id insanity vocals that are more slashes than words, backed by either horror movie keyboards or kinetic panic attacks of guitar noise. “Maailman…” turns on its heels to a dead stop in the middle of a berserker rage and suddenly just embraces total despair with slabs of melancholy sound.

As I alluded to before, this Brings to mind a lot of the same holy shit, wide-eyedness, that I felt when I first heard "Altars of Madness," talented musicians putting themselves through hell to try and reach some new level of violent ecstacy and musical freedom. You get the fucking sense that sometimes they’re even carried away by their own inexorable forward motion. And they’re one of about five black metal bands that make good, judicious use of keyboards.

- Matthew Moyer

Colony 5

Buried Again
Artoffact Records

Colony 5 started out as a lighter synth pop band a few years back and I wasn't overly excited about their sound. However, they have been getting darker and harder on the last few albums which I most definitely like. Now, I was just stating in an earlier review by a similar band, how the ebm scene had not really moved forward in terms of style and sound. So does this apply to Colony 5? Yes and No. Yes, they still adhere to much of the standard ebm formula, for the most part because it works when playing in clubs. But they have changed, as I stated earlier. Their songs each has something that sets them apart so they don't sound like repeats over and over. There is a lot of emotion pouring out in the lyrics and overall the music is very infectious. So yeah, I might be a tad bit of a hypocrite by ragging on other new bands dong this type of music, but it could be that they don't do it as well as Colony 5!

- Craig Harvey

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Aeon Expand
Aphotic Audio

"Aeon Expand" is a remix album from the Australian dark-electro/ebm act Empty. It's pretty standard fare as far as this kind of music goes. It's well done no doubt, with all the right elements but nothing really stood out very much. I guess that this sound has become somewhat stale and tired to me. It has not evolved much at all. Same 4/4 beats, arppegiated snyth/bass lines, treated vocals etc… A few bands have broken away from this mold, but there are many still churning this sound into it's grave. Unfortunately Empty is one of the latter. Same goes for any musical genre, not just ebm. Again, it's not bad, just nothing to write home about.

- Craig Harvey


Cutting Records

I didn't even realize these guys were still around. The last album I heard was "Emotronic" a few years back. I liked their mix of cool electronics, bursts of industrial noises and beats and sultry female vocals. The band has gotten far more aggressive on this release with a more "metal/industrial" feel this time around. There is a definite "Nine Inch Nails" influence heard throughout (which is not a bad thing) but also some dark, melodic softer moments as well. Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction) even makes an appearance to add some guitar work on a few tracks. The heavier style on "Disconnected" was a definite plus in my opinion and fans of both genre's should find something to like in this very talented band.

- Craig Harvey


Moribund Cult

Absolutely vile black metal vomited out by this Swedish duo, Avsky (that's "disgust" to you, bub) carelessly and spontaneously toss out lo-fi gem after lo-fi gem. Blast beats are largely forsaken for mid-paced grinding and writhing beats, guitar and bass buzz like thick bundles of sharp thorns, and TO's vocals are muffled gasps and howls that are almost Burzum-esque in their desperation and raw viscera. There's plenty of room for headbanging here - songs swagger elastically like the chugging, deliriously jackbooted strut of "Malignant," while TO flays seemingly flays himself alive on vocals, sounding more like cloth tearing or a burn ward in a hospital. Avsky operate on a level of sonic self-abuse similar to GG Allin or Yamatsuka Eye and is fucking great and gives you those "oh shit" moments by the handful, like the long scream at the end of "Cleanse the World" or a desperate howl right in the middle of a lyric in "The Filth."

Avsky avoid slavishly giving praise to that fella with the horns and pitchfork, instead they’re purging and spitting years worth of bile and sociopathic ill will towards every aspect of modern socity It’s a much more immediate, white-knuckled evil. The harsh but somehow more inviting grind pacing– owing as much to the vicious end of doom (Sourvein, Beaten Back to Pure) as to the darker end of thrash and early black metal- seals the deal.

Around the time of "False Heavens" things start getting almost dangerously catchy and headbang-eriffic. A great, stone-dense guitar sound that verges on white-noise avant-gardisms, tombstone heavy drum attack, whipping up absolute storms of teeth-grinding noise before coalescing into these great fucking arcs of headbanging ecstacy.This is one of those points where black metal starts transcending its own ugly limitations and becoming something beautiful and chill-inducing (and I'm not talking about an icy wind either). Check out those cymbal crashes on "Fuck Your Values, Fuck Your Beliefs," punctuating a rock-godhead riff that is then superseded by a pained howl and a guitteral incantation.

Not as low-fi as you’d expect from a duo (the music is more effective this way, less cooks, less delegation, less dilution of intention), and as much as I love some primitive recording, this album definitely shines from a decent production. The sound is spare and clean; the drums and serrated guitar are both clear and separated and those vocals reverb all over the fucker. Lots of space and atmoshphere, not so much claustrophobia.

Ones to watch. Most fucking definitely.

- Matthew Moyer

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Place To Bury Strangers

A Place To Bury Strangers
Killer Pimp Records

Meet your new fucking favorite band. It's pointless to resist. Every moment of "A Place To Bury Strangers" (both the band and the album, then) is drop-dead fucking leather-jacketed and primitive cool. The sounds whipping and slicing out of the speakers are switchblade tough and heaven sent pretty all at the same time and as we know there are only maybe, what, two bands that can do that (one of them being the Jesus and Mary Chain, which brings me to my next point). A Place To Bury Strangers' aesthetic is in no way new, a lineage straight and true like a needle through the arm of the Velvet Underground, the aforementioned Mary Chain, Spacemen fucking 3, the Cramps, My Bloody Valentine, pil, Beat Happening, and more more more wide-eyed loners with bloody hands - but their execution, fuck, that's where the magic lies.

A heady mix of motorik pop perfection a la the JAMC's Automatic, the gothic majesty of Joy Division's discipline-and-punish assault and total fingernail-pulling feedback violence. With generous doses of black leather, black grease, black fingernails, black hair dye, teenaged caveman menace... Ahhhhhh, there's the stuff. God, I can almost see the guitars melt and warp in their hands as the songs drone on - every note overloading and feeding back with beautiful scree and snarl and echo. Not a moment is wasted, every little distorto tenement symphony whizzes by in a cloud of ill-feeling and longing, the songs are blood simple but that's another point of genius. Clattering drum machine, Peter-Hook-on-speed basslines, disaffected and confused lost boy vocals and a seemingly endless palette of guitar noise and atmospherics, all reined in by a fierce one-chord menace. The lo-fi recordings only add to the dark hearted sense of wonder. Don't worry though, they can do it clean too, like when choirboy vocals and clear chiming guitar emerges from the cloud-or-razors that punctuate every verse of "Don't Think Love."

The textures and sonic squall lines are completely experimental and improvisatory, forcibly lashed to sugary sweet naive pop melodies right out of Phil Spectors coffin (wait, he's not dead yet, but tell me he doesn't sleep in one at night). This formula may sound familiar, but a lot of the current practitioners are rank amateurs compared to this slash-and-burn salvation run. Tonight the sky is full of glittering knives.

- Matthew Moyer

The Kooks

Astralwerks Records

The Kooks make me feel so tired. So tired. I think reviewing their debut album drained me of any vitriol I had toward them. And now I just feel empty. And helpless. Nothing I say about this record is going to make a difference in the end. The critic has become increasingly helpless and marginalized, especially in the face of the looming blizzard of money being used to push the Pritchard brothers and their pals into the fame stratosphere. Surely Lindsey Lohan and/or Peaches Geldof is already being groomed to be the next celebrity girlfriend? Did I mention that their hair is ever-so-artfully mussed and they look better in scarves than any boy ever has the right to? A guest spot on Gossip Girl! Cutting ribbons at Wal-Mart's all over the Midwest! God anything to distract from the music!

Shake it off, man. Shake it off. I'm a Britpop fan from way back and lemme tell you, “Konk” is too leaden and market-strategized to really capture the idiot savantism of “Definitely Maybe” Oasis or the luciferian delights of “Can't Stand Me Now” or the triumphant headrush of “Common People.” This.... this is Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins.” This is Keane-level neediness.

So okay, maybe they've got some new tricks. The opener sounds like the Kooks have been mainlining Television and the Strokes and for some reason "Love It All" has distant hints of Van Morrison (don't even fucking ask). And the music, the choons ain't even that bad. Given, they ain't that good (if you want GOOD scope out the new Beach House or the Kills or Child Ballads), but it's not like it's not catchy. Sure is catchy. Sure is sugary. And spiky. And glossy. So spikycatchysugaryglossy that I want to just give it up and do the Rob Gretton riff from Control where he deadpans something like, I am a believer in the church of Joy Division, hallelujah. But I'm not going to do that, because when you strip all the hype away and stare at this cd cover in the cold light of morning and think to yourself, "Shall this be the first thing I listen to today? Will this be the thing that gives me the strength to face the real world? It surely is catchy and tuneful enough. Yes, I shall." But you'll hesitate. You'll flinch. And you'll reach for, dunno, Motorhead instead. It's like the difference between a fucking jingle and a sonata. Who wants to have a stomach ache first thing in the morning anyway? Smells like hype.

In my darkest moments, I want to shake the Kooks, yell at them. Take a fucking chance, you bastards! Destroy the formula! Piss people off! I can't take any more Kinks worship! Be young, be pretentious, destroy something! But they won't, they'll just show that winning smile as the next flashbulb goes... POP.

- Matthew Moyer