VVITCH - “Homecoming”
This is a super chilled out song from VVITCH. It took me a little bit by surprise at first, but the more that I listened to the track, the more consumed I became. The drum sounds are just complicated enough to keep me interested in what is going on, but not distractingly so. The mix on this song is really well balanced and I think that really helps with the flow once the bass and drums kick in to the main pattern. The artwork too - what initially drew me in - is incredibly on point with the atmosphere of the track. I’m having a hard time deciding whether the song needs to be longer, with a few more pattern changes, or if the current length is why it feels like it flows so nicely, but at any rate it is a great song that could easily fit into a blackgaze album’s interlude.
VVITCH is a Swedish project that has many influences and a really wonderful output. You should check them out on Bandcamp and buy some of their tracks!
Heretoir - “The Circle (Omega)”
It is a little bit sad to me that bands have to declare that they are anti-fascist in advance in this genre, but it is still nice to know! Heretoir make a point to delve deep into the emotional journey of “a life dedicated to the sun and to freedom” with their new album, The Circle. “The Circle (Omega),” is a powerful journey in itself. It is the only preview track up right now on their Bandcamp, so it is hard to say, but this track has such a powerful sound that I hope reflects the rest of the album - from a soft violin, to an intensely melodic verse, to an emotional, screamy chorus section, and back again. The singing reminds me of Alcest a lot, which is not only a good thing but important to note because Neige of Alcest does guest vocals on a different track. The path through this song is very deliberate to its name. The track circles back to the intro violins and adds some more emotion to it before kicking back into the heavier stuff again. I am definitely looking forward to this album’s release on the 24th of this month.
Mansion - “California Priest”
Mansion was recommended by Aaron Rieseberg in our latest episode, and it is some wonderfully weird and heavy stuff. “California Priest” is an interesting example of how Mansion touches on some poppier sensibilities in the midst of their noise rock deliveries. Low and quiet in the verses, discordance is created with the strange guitar tone against the vocal delivery. When the chorus does hit, it hits hard, bring the noise part of noise rock fully to bear, heavy chords building a wall of sound. At the end of the track, Mansion breaks away into almost a chant, punctuated by a guitar tone that sounds almost like something I would expect from a power electronics group messing with a loop pedal. After the structure of the rest of the song, it is an interesting and effective break to take us into the end.
Mansion was a noise rock band from Oakland, California. Their latest release, Early Life, is a free download on Bandcamp.
Heinali - “Sway, sway”
I was sent Sway, sway as part of the Telekon music exchange, and wow, what a beautiful piece of music. The title track is a wonderful movement of piano - the arpeggios on the lower keys present a backdrop of softness, almost somber. When the higher keys come into play, they initially dance in that beautiful sort of sadness before move even higher and creating a feeling of sort of tense hopefulness. There is a simplicity to the overall sound and delivery of the piece, but the minimalism works incredibly well. I’ve not had this long and have already listened to it more times than I could count.
Heinali is a composer from Kiev, Ukraine. His latest release, Anthem, is available on Bandcamp via Injazero Records.
Frostreich - “Empty Again”
I have listened to this song about a dozen times this morning. It hits all of the notes that draw me into a metal song. There is a special quality to a song that makes you just lose your mind by yourself at the kitchen table, and it deserves to be written about. There is a hardcore element to the way this song breaks down a few different times that lives within this kind of blackgaze / atmospheric black metal shell and is masked by the first part of the song. But when the chorus kicks in… holy shit, I lost it. Just the small break with only vocals and a few drums - “Empty again!” - and then back into this breakdown where the choir samples kick in and everything comes back. It is emotionally perfect for the theme. Lost and empty. This breakdown is repeated and altered throughout the song, but it has the same effect. The rest of the album is also very good. There are a lot of different influences that are exorcised throughout Join The Wind, but “Empty Again” is the track that I will definitely come back to again and again. It is a tightly constructed song that moves me. This album will appeal to fans of Harakiri for the Sky in the best way.
Frostreich is an atmospheric black metal band from Germany and you can grab their latest album, Join The Wind, directly from their Bandcamp.
Deadlife - “Aurora”
I am no stranger to outrun. Lazerdiscs Records is a great place to find the newest outrun releases and I usually comb through their catalog every few months to see what is going on in the futurepast-world of 80s synthesizers, hard dance beats, and fast, colorful cars. Sometimes the best part of the music is the story that the artist tells through the concept of the art and content - and when you look to outrun there are plenty of over-the-top fun plots running through neon worlds. Deadlife is a robot that has lost a lover. The lover, and maker, haunts him in a wonderful concept album. Tracks like “Aurora” are classically pulsing with rhythm and plucky synthesizers, a driving bassline, and a great sense of a dance beat. The voice, presumably the maker mentioned before, drifts through the song with a few mournful praises that give the track a sad energy. It is very good. The final track, “For You”, is a wonderful techno track. It reminds me of some Apoptygma Berzerk tracks in the more dance-happy period of albums like Welcome to Earth or 7.
You can pick up the new Deadlife album, Bionic Chrysalis, on the Lazerdiscs Records Bandcamp page.
Schwefelgelb - “Aus Dem Hals Der Flasche”
I mean you knew this was coming. Of course I was going to write about the new Schwefelgelb release. The whole release is great, but I really love this track. The percussion in “Aus Dem Hals Der Flasche” is heavily compressed and distorted, creating a really full and interesting sound - it’s the sort of thing you might hear a beginner do on accident to poor effect, but when applied on purpose, as it is here, it creates a texture to the beat that fits the motion of the track. The open hats smashing in create a forward momentum that makes you want to bang your head as much as it makes you want to dance. I’ve probably listened to Dahinter Das Gesicht ten or fifteen times since it was released, and this track stands out every single time.
Schwefelgelb is a techno/EBM duo from Berlin Germany. Their latest release, Dahinter Das Gesicht, is available on Bandcamp via aufnahme + wiedergabe..
Drekka - “Like Yesterday”
This is a beautiful, slow, and thoughtful piece. Soft pads blend seamlessly with quiet strings, punctuated by piano. Soft vocalizations create a almost ocean like wash of sound as they come in and out. The instrumentation is very sparse; every note played or sung feels necessary to the life and emotion of the track. It feels like Drekka cut and cut and cut until the only thing that remained was the core idea, the core feeling, that they wanted to create. It’s the type of piece that you just want to close your eyes, put on headphones, and lay back, letting the emotion of the thing carry you away.
Drekka is musician from Bloomington, Indiana. Their latest release, Golden Braid, is available via Bandcamp.
ESA - “The Hold (Tight Grip Remix by ESA)”
Negative Gain Productions have a pretty consistently awesome set of releases and I tend to check in on what they are doing often. This release, though, needs no introduction! ESA (Electronic Substance Abuse) is a project that I can count on to be both dance beat heavy and emotional. Jamie has a way of making even the danciest tracks very dark and this EP is no exception! “The Hold (Tight Grip Remix by ESA)” is an epic, and yet somehow more thumpy, version of the original track - which features vocals from Valeriia Moon. The cello intro to the track is great - it has a wonderful dark folk feel and sets the stage for the pulsing, semi-tribal beats that are to come. There is an iVardensphere remix on this EP, but I didn’t review it because Scott is too cool for school and the Tight Grip mix had clear and wonderful cellos.
ESA (Electronic Substance Abuse) is the (mostly) solo project of Jamie Blacker and is one of those bands you should see live if you have the chance!
Threads - “Words That Rhyme With Loneliness”
I have been getting into really minimal lo-fi atmospheric black metal recently. The emotions and the atmospheres are so sincere and mesmerizing. “Words That Rhyme With Loneliness” is one of many great tracks on Thread’s 2016 release As The Pale Chorus. A lot of the tracks contain a lo-fi spoken word section in place of vocals that I highly encourage you to translate if you have a minute. The writing is beautiful and tragic; it passes from hopeful life to a dark and lonely death. Here is a short passage translated from Spanish to English via Google Translate (sorry): “Let us share the same dream and in eternity we will float to the end. We will change our skin into more grayish pigments and we will feed on joy.” It is not just the spoken word that brings me to this song though. There are many different guitar parts playing off each other deep in the background, swelling and evolving to set the tone.
Threads are a lo-fi blackgaze band from Guanajuato, Mexico and you can find their album As The Pale Chorus on their Bandcamp page.
HØUNDS - “Transfiguration”
HØUNDS sounds, to me, like what you would get if Author & Punisher suddenly got into future bass. “Transfiguration” is the clearest example of this I think. You start with a simple vocal sample, and that sample is turned into a rolling, distorted sort of instrument. Then, you have the almost sludgy doom metal pace of the drums - the weight of every hit of the “snare”, the way the kick ducks the heavy bass. The bass itself, and the way it rolls and is glitched, reminds me of something you might hear from a Saturate artist. I missed this album when it first came out in 2015, and I would really love to hear what HØUNDS is doing now.
HØUNDS is an electronic project from Los Angeles. Their latest album, OUR LOVE, is available on Bandcamp.
Grebenstein - “Black Hatch Dive”
Making an eight minute techno track that doesn’t get boring is quite the feat. There is something about the rolling of the deep bassline that has a gravity to it; it pulls you in with wave after wave. The track is almost hypnotic in the way that it moves - at times, all the percussion fades away, leaving you with that pulsing, rolling bass, and right as you almost forget that the percussion had been there in the first place it drops back in, amping up the energy of motion in the song. The changes as you move forward are small and subtle, but have a significant impact on the feeling of the track. Little clicks pop in a little past halfway through the track, and suddenly the feeling shifts from the hypnosis to almost a frenetic, panicked feeling to the sound. These clicks give way to a sort of high pitched whine that creates a feeling of unease in the listener. All these little changes in the emotional timbre of the track feel completely intentional, and the results are excellent and endlessly listenable.
Grebenstien is a dark techno project from Kassel, Germany. Their latest release, Gloss, will be available on Bandcamp 24 February 2017.
Ellende - “Ballade auf den Tod”
After a long night of talking to and then seeing Alcest live in Portland, I was in need of some truly epic atmospheric black metal and very quickly found myself lost in Ellende. One of the things that drew me to “Ballade auf den Tod” right away was the somber tone of the introduction. Soft strings and sad, usually nylon stringed guitars tend to get me right where the heart is. The somber introduction carries through the verse with only a few added sections for rhythm and screams, but the atmosphere really pulls me through the many variations and back again to the roots of the song. The breakdown, which carries along at a nice pace with full instrumentation, is helped along with a lo-fi, sad-sounding audio sample that I can’t make out enough to translate but is spoken meaningfully enough to get the message across. Needless to say I am thoroughly satisfied with Ellende’s unique take on atmospheric black metal.
Ellende is a one-person project based in Austria who quotes Camus on their Bandcamp release page… so… I am sold.
V▲LH▲LL - “ΛΞONS”
As a very key influence in my own music, I tend to watch V▲LH▲LL very closely whenever anything is about to come out. Not only are they awesome people to hang out with, but the music is always unique and inspiring. The first track on their newest EP, STΞNDHΛL, is a take on the very popular outrun synth lines, but with that special V▲LH▲LL stuff mixed in. The main line itself has a very spooky yet victorious feel to it, leading through various patterns and samples. One thing that the track really has a grasp on is the way that different plucky synth lines can play in the background of the main line to change the rise and fall of the song. The samples and the bass lines are all important, but the faster notes in the background give it that characteristic outrun feel. My only complaint is that it is too short and ends with a quick fade. I could have gone on that same synth line for another 2 minutes easily.
V▲LH▲LL are a bunch of wonderfully spooky people with great taste in music and style. Their new EP is up on their Bandcamp, and if you haven’t picked up the last full-length album (Leaning on Shadows), you definitely should!
Dumal - “Lost Caverns”
Dumal’s has managed to develop a really powerful and emotional tone to their music. In “Lost Caverns” the song start with a riff that carries a sort of melancholic weight, lifted by the sort of rolling beat of the drums. This tone becomes a through line - after breakdowns of heavier, more aggressive moments, the beginning riff breaks in and brings back a sense of almost hopefulness.
On top of this, Dumal is an incredibly tight sounding black metal band. In a genre that often lacks in production values, you can tell that these guys take their time to make sure that everything sounds as good and together as possible. The tremolo picking stands apart from the rhythm guitar in the background in a way that really pulls their sound together and makes it shine.
Durmal is a black metal band from Pennsylvania whose music is inspired by Ukrainian folklore. Their album, The Lesser God, is available on Bandcamp.
Nails - “Wide Open Wound”
After recently seeing Code Orange play with Youth Code, I’ve been going on a bit of a hardcore kick. This kick led me to Nails, who are, and I think this is the only accurate way to describe them, heavy as fuck. With breakdowns that feel around 80 BPM, Nails just grinds away at the listener. If it weren’t for the sort of rolling feeling of the guitars, a sort of way the riff creates a feeling of circular motion, the speed and feeling of “Wide Open Wound” would almost make me think of funeral doom - the weight of the guitar tone and the fact that you can almost count the seconds between the kick and the snare through much of the song shares a sort of language with its metal cousin.
Nails is a hardcore band from Oxnard, California. Their latest release, You Will Never Be One Of Us, is available from Nuclear Blast.
This week we talked with Kanga before her show in Portland. We chatted about her tour and the venues she's be playing, taking tumbles on stage, negotiating haircut safety with fellow bands, and Kanga's interest in philosophy!
Emptiness - “Digging the Sky”
Emptiness is an extremely odd combination of all of the genres that make up my regular catalog of to-listen releases - the guitars are clean and shoe-gazing-ly atmospheric, the vocals are destructive and experimental, and the overall sound goes between sad doom metal and a more realized version of early 2000s gothic rock. This record is fittingly produced by Jeordie White, of Marilyn Manson fame, and Sean Beavan, who has recorded with NIN, Marilyn Manson, and Kindneythieves. Each song is unique and very odd - the vocal delivery is generally the same, but still unique against the strange landscape of each track as it passes through many styles and influences.
Emptiness is an experimental band from Brussels.
Apocryphal Throne - “Triumph Over the Backs of the Downtrodden”
Apocryphal Throne, a new project that I hope Chase Dobson will continue making new releases for every year until the day he dies, is an apt meditation in modern atmospheric metal (not entirely black metal, not entirely doom metal, but a good combination of many types). The influences are vast and wonderful, the production is clean, and it is presented within a snowy, winter landscape. This album proves to me that Chase is a talented and inspirational musician - taking a genre that is not his current medium and just running with it is not an easy thing to do, but The Day of Our Demise proves that he very much can. It is presented without vocals but you almost don’t notice because the segments of the songs flow well enough together to create the bigger structure of the songs.
Apocryphal Throne is the solo project of Chase Dobson, who has also released IDM stuff I guess (C.DB.SN released one album on the now defunct Tympanik Audio label that is also very good, and you should check out).
Avi is a former blogger and musician who lives in Washington and is awesome!
Ştiu Nu Ştiu - “October”
The majority of post-rock/metal/gaze fails me on two main principles. Firstly, despite the promise of grandiosity and bombast, the style so rarely achieves true heaviness; for all the bands that set their sights on the mountaintop, very few manage to cross over to the other side. Second, and most importantly, the standard template of build and release remains a poor stand-in for actual songcraft, even when augmented by an armada of effects pedals. Sweden's Ştiu Nu Ştiu defies the status quo by deploying actual riffs and composition, engineering the toms to thunder like timpani and by not shying away from dual guitar heroics that would make the Scorpions proud. The traditional hallmarks of the genre remain at the core, but fold in Billie Lindahl’s fragile, alien vocals and a predilection for chaos and noise over orchestrated soundscapes and the result exceeds far beyond all the usual expectations. The final coda of “October” is the grand highlight, a superb and glorious din and by far one of the most triumphant moments of music in recent memory.
Brant is the mastermind behind all of my favorite projects and an Audiotrauma label mate!
Dolor - “Zero Dead Channel”
After heavily listening to Dolor’s album, Gun City, throughout all of last year (and SISTER the year before), I was extremely excited to learn that he’d be kicking of 2017 with a new album as well. Dropped somewhat unceremoniously on January 4th, the new album includes some interesting changes to Dolor’s sound palette. Bridging from his usual hazy, dusk-hour electronics, Ruby delivers the listener into rich, acidic sunsets and synthetic soundscapes in a way that seems perhaps a bit more self-indulgent than has been previously expressed through Dolor’s work. This doesn’t deter in any way from the album’s great qualities though - to the contrary, as many long-time fans will be more than happy to allow for the notoriously private artist to reflect on his more personal musings. To that end, the inclusion of the description, “this one’s for me,” is an appropriate sentiment to forgive the album’s more exorbitant synth explorations (especially as on the twelve minute ‘Reppin, Reppin’’).
One of the immediate and recognizable changes to Dolor’s production is the absence of engineering by his oft-collaborator, Lorn. For those familiar with Lorn’s specific sonic qualities, his absence will quickly explain the change in tone of this album from Dolor’s previous releases. It’s a bit unfair to place so much responsibility on Lorn’s involvement, but could also point to a specific stylistic decision made by Dolor in distancing himself from Lorn on this particular album. Either way, despite its departures, Ruby still maintains plenty of the unique traits that characterize Dolor’s music and will definitely satisfy his long-time fans. The track ‘Zero Dead Channel’ is a perfect example of prime Dolor material - saturated synth-work, beautifully distant percussive elements, and haunting leads.
Ruby may not evoke the same lush nostalgia as previous releases, but it’s an incredible way to start of the new year and stands strong in maintaining Dolor as an absolute favorite of mine. I’m excited to hear him explore new ideas and look forward to listening to this through the rest of 2017 (and on).