Poltergeists: Week of January 23, 2017

Michael

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 Roig

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 Showers

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).

Poltergeists: Week of January 25, 2016

Poltergeists is a biweekly feature in which Michael and Wes share tracks that they have had on repeat over the past two weeks.

Michael

PZA - “PURECASTER”

Casually perusing the “witchhouse” tag on bandcamp is always a journey. There are a lot of weird crossover labels that get pulled up. Some things are “occult witchhouse vaporwave,” or maybe “dark pop shoegaze witchhouse.” You never know what you are going to get. PZA, however, instantly stuck out. I had a really hard time getting past the first track, which happens to be the title track from the tape version of “PURECASTER.” Starting in a dream state, “PURECASTER” lulled me in with an airy sample loop and a catchy, whistling synth line. On the surface, this track has a pretty repetitive groove, but when I turned it up and really let myself fall into the space of the track, I was lost in the elements. There is a moment right before the drums come in for the first time - just a tiny sample leading you out of the intro and into the heart of the song - that gets me pumped up every time I hear it. It is so simple and quick, but I know that it leads into this pulsing, almost breath-like groove, and it is important to the way the song progresses. If it weren’t there I think the track would have a different feeling. It is repeated later, to lead you into the same pattern, foreshadowing the drop.  

Depressed040 - “Lycka?”

I am not sure who decides this, but I think that it is appropriate to say that the second wave of witch house is well under way. I have been surfing through a lot of tags lately and there are some really great tracks floating around from the end of last year. Depressed040’s SJÄLVMORD is a loud and over-compressed mess of ultra-dark and wonderful sounds. Like the PZA track, there is a really awesome moment right before the main drums kick in where a woman says something and then begins to scream, but it is cut off suddenly by the impact of the over-compressed drums, which cause the synth line to push in and out of the mix. It has a great effect.

Wes

Dolor - “Strange Dies, Too”

I’m pretty sure it was Lorn that led me to Dolor, and Dolor appeals to me in a very similar way to Lorn. Dolor has these great, lush soundscapes that have a beautiful sort of layering and texture to them. They can flow smoothly, rolling like waves, or on other tracks, they can feel heavy and aggressive. While the whole album is great, I think that “Strange Dies, Too”, shows the beauty Dolor is capable of when the tracks are relatively restrained. There’s not really any percussion to lead you along; instead you are pulled by these washing, distant horns, hissing ever so slightly as they roll in, punctuated by subtle distorted bass. I recommend listening with good headphones, closing your eyes, and just hearing the textures wash over you.

Tempers - “Strange Harvest”

This track is immediate. There is something about the kick pounding along immediately with a background of quiet, panning guitars that makes you perk up and turn your attention to the track. When the verse kicks in, which doesn’t take long, that sense of urgency is only strengthened by the simple bassline and pads. The vocal delivery has a wonderful presence in the verse, but when the chorus hits that presence is taken to another level.

I really like how the guitar work never really takes a traditional form. It always kind of sounds like this strange and distant tremolo picking, or maybe just a pick sliding up and down on the string. The distance and tone of the guitar help it to blend well with the synth elements of the song, which while being sort of the primary tone under the vocals, have their own sort of subtlety to them. It’s a really well constructed track, and one I can’t stop listening to.

Poltergeists: Week of November 2, 2015

Poltergeists is a biweekly feature in which Michael and Wes share tracks that they have had on repeat over the past two weeks.

Michael

Distel - “Nothing to Mend”

I have written about Distel before, but this album is particularly interesting and deserves to be pushed. The second full-length album from the Dutch project comes with a theme - Autumn and funereal moods - two things that are particularly relevant this time of year. Zand, when compared to their first album, is equally as unique and interesting, but with a touch of the morose. The entire album plays on deep analogue textures and subtle percussions. There are no real extreme moments, which I think makes for a stronger and more in-depth album. “Nothing to Mend” begins with a plucky, simplistic progression and builds with deep bass elements and wind-like pads coming in and out of the mix. There are a lot of witch house and analogue electronic textures that are familiar in this track, but it still manages to keep with the unique and subtle tones of the entire album.

Ulvesang - “The Purge”

You all don’t know this yet, but one of the biggest influences for the music that I am working on now has been neofolk. I have written about a few neofolk bands here, Musk Ox and Disemballerina, and Ulversang falls in there with my favorites. “The Purge” is a collection of field recordings and acoustic orchestrations. The different parts fit so well within each other, creating wonderful melodies and a complex architecture of sound. There is a part about a minute in that introduces a soft male chant that I think is really impactful to the track.

Wes

Sci Fi Sol - “Twist Her”

I’m really digging the sort of sinister feel to this song. The soft, effected vocals mixed with the slowly rolling bass line and an almost heart beat kick make this song feel like it’s moving at you, slowly walking you down. The percussion is heavy, and somehow manages to sound aggressive while being totally unaggressive. It just pounds away, creating a feeling of insecurity through consistent, slow attack.

Everything about how this song is put together feels really thought out and pared back. There are no elements that don’t feel like they they are needed; it almost feels brutalist in a way; it is raw, minimal and cold.

Dolor - “Entruder”

Ever since Brant of ∆AIMON wrote about Dolor, I’ve been hooked on the stuff. The bass Dolor achieves sounds so clean and clear. It rolls along, punctuated by wonderfully constructed little snare rolls and snaps. I love how the vocals in the song seem to be used more as an instrument than as vocals; due to the heavy reverb and processing, they seem to provide sort of an atmosphere to play against the bass and percussion, achieving almost the effect that a pad might have in a more traditional construction. I’d love to see another EP or album from Dolor; hopefully this new track is a sign of new things to come.

Poltergeists: Special ∆AIMON Edition! Week of December 15, 2014

This week on Poltergeists, we have some special selections from a friend of the show, Brant of ∆AIMON!

Brant

Wrekmeister Harmonies - “Then It All Came Down”

I’m cheating a little with this track selection in that it is also the entire album - an epic 34 minute composition making up Wrekmeister Harmonies’ most recent release on Thrill Jockey Records. Wrekmeister Harmonies is a musical collective lead by JR Robinson and the source of some absolutely harrowing and breathtaking works. Last year saw the release of “You've Always Meant So Much To Me,” an unexpectedly cathartic exploration of isolation and existentialism. Joined by a cast of guest musicians this time - including Sanford Parker (Minsk, Corrections House), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Ryley Walker, Chanel Pease, and more - “Then It All Came Down” acts as the more demoralized and menacing follow-up. Uneasy impressions of defeat and pastoral doom slowly creep into transcendent reflectiveness and withdrawal as distortion crackles, threatens, and eventually annihilates all remnants of light in a crushing avalanche of decay and howls followed through to a disquieting resolution. Basically a bunch of words that mean this thing appeals to every raw emotional nerve-ending in my entire being.

Dolor - “Halfway A Siren”

I actually know very little about Dolor other than through his long-time and frequent collaborations with the musician Lorn, who incidentally acts as mastering and mixing engineer on this particular album - a context not lost in this track’s penchant for gritty and precise production. The vibratory low end is blown out in glorious and lush amounts of saturation, while the blurred synth work faintly bleeds through as an anachronistic telephone rings desperately on and on. There’s an incredible amount of storytelling breathing in these inky spaces, fleshed out even more thoroughly within the breadth of the full album. My sensibilities align pretty dramatically with the smoky, late-hour, loneliness conveyed herein. And while this track doesn’t illustrate some of the quirkier synth work or haunting vocals that sets Dolor apart from his partner Lorn, it still manages to carry across an impressive amount of emotion through such humble means. Beautiful and sad, like I like ‘em.

Michael

The Legacy - “Sand and Time”

You thought it was going to be the new Neuroticfish huh? WRONG! I have had a very post hardcore/hardcore/youth crew kind of week after seeing metal shows two weeks in a row. Having just had to reload all of my music into iTunes I was very pleased to find The Legacy’s Beyond Hurt, Beyond Hell from 2008. “Sand and Time” is my ideal hardcore/post-hardcore track - it starts off nice and slow and builds with the feelings of aggression. I would definitely suggest it for fans of Defeater, Have Heart, and Verse. Unfortunately The Legacy is very hard to find in terms of what is going on with them, or if they tour, and I do not believe they are still making music together (last release in 2008 according to iTunes music store.)

Wes

youryoungbody - “Bishop”


Seattle-based youryoungbody manages to bring together some very interesting and seemingly disparate sounds to create the feel of their song “Bishop”, off their EP Hashira. There is an airiness to the percussion and the vocals that reminds me of some of my favorite tracks from The xx, while the bass and vocal sample elements are more reminiscent of bass music acts like Krampfhaft, though admittedly moving at a much slower pace than you would expect from bass music. The downtempo feel almost adds a wonderful dark atmosphere, almost but not quite witchy. There is also this interesting, unexpected touch of what almost sounds like the sort of flute you would hear in a Putumayo meditation jam, that just floats around in the background; even more interesting, the flute sound seems to fit with the dark feel of the rest of the song, avoiding the cheese I would have associated with the instrument.