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Hox Vox is an artist whose roots are in DaDa-ism, yet consistently pumps out the antithesis of DaDa: The Concept Album. He is a strange one to pin down and describe, not least because his music is absolutely and completely, irrevocably, inaccessible. Yet he doesn't care. With an intellect rarely found he composes vast works of epic proportions that are meticulously sculpted to instil the most severe sense of unease in the listener. And yet, it is thoroughly enjoyable.
In this latest instalment of the bizarre series of works that is Hox's discography, we journey through several intriguing portraits of Norse Gods, and eventually find ourselves on the battlefields of Ragnarök. Having been dealt an onslaught of arpeggiated midi notes, barrages of drum fills, ever shifting keys, innumerable time changes and mind-boggling blitzkriegs of unintelligible sounds, we arrive at the end and say “What the fuck just happened?”
A work with such power is a diamond in the rough.
Mjöllnir comes with a .pdf booklet, a gorgeous treasure with breathtaking artwork and liner notes with information about each track. For a concept album without lyrics this is a convenient way of portraying the portraits and storyline. Had I have been listening without reading this booklet I would be lost amidst the swirling notes and complete lack of consistency in tonal and modal qualities. As I said, it is inaccessible. Yet it is the combination of the booklet and the music that creates coherence, and makes for a compelling, engaging experience. This is not surprising from an artist who is also an extremely competent video producer. His whole schtick is multi-media in the true sense of the word “multi”. His art aims to immerse as many of the listener's senses as possible in imagery to convey his message.
But what is his message? Well here we get back to his DaDa roots. DaDa was the art that defied art, and I have always felt whilst listening to Hox Vox's music that it is a product of entropy - a breaking down of preconceptions of what art should be, whilst at the same time raising the stakes of what is expected of a listener and their engagement with the work. I say entropy because in the end we have two polar opposites – breaking down perceptions and building up imagery – that meet comfortably in the middle, at a point of stasis. Whilst the sounds coming from this album are like a tornado, the eye at its centre is the solid, unwavering conclusion of “lofty ideal meets pragmatic delivery”.
In case you can't tell, this music gives me a lot to think about. I have often thought as I listen to Hox Vox's albums that they are dissecting me more than I am them. If you want to know what the fuck I'm talking about, download this album, completely free, from Jamendo. It can also be legally bit-torrented, which is a fantastic way of getting the music out there (yes people are seeding it, I got it in 30 minutes).
I cringe to have written that last sentence for they seem like really really nice guys, and I want so much to like their music, but it's hard to like. I applaud their enthusiasm and honest hearts, though. Not only are they actively involved in many charity events, but they strive to be the best that they can and their music is truly about pleasing the fans. Unfortunately the fans that migrate to this sort of music tend to care more about things like haircuts and guitar stances than tension and resolution in chord changes. This is their profile picture on Last.FM:
Hmmm… To quote from their bio, "The guys pride themselves on their do-it-yourself mentality, taking charge of their own recordings, websites, videos, promotions and show-bookings", and from a sound-engineer's point of view I couldn't commend them more for the quality of their recordings. The whole thing is a professional package from the polished sound to the pimped-out homepage and attention to hairstyles, yet unfortunately when you open the box it is mostly styrofoam.
If they release "At Sunset She Strips" as a single they're bound to lure some fans in, and for a rock band brimming with enthusiasm and positive vibes they sound like a live show would be a fun night out. No memorable experience to cherish forever, any more than a listening of the album is, yet they ooze a confidence and energy that would translate well to live shows. This energy shows in the recordings where songwriting skill doesn't, and earns the boys 5 stars for effort.
To the guys from Last Nights Vice: don't let any crappy reviewer's words sway you from your course, you're doing good things and you've just started. There's plenty of room for growth here and I look forward to more engaging releases in the future.
Album available to listen to at the band's website, with "The Perfect Little Noise" set to release on iTunes and other such stores on 31st August.
5 stars because the effort speaks reams more than the music. Rock on.
At least, that's where the album takes me, and I didn't even grow up in that era. I think, however, this is a testament to the depth of the vibes coming from this album, its ability to conjure scenarios in the head of the listener that are externally sourced. The sounds do more than just stimulate memory or imagination, they add to the mind's repertoire of imagery. Northcape has always described his music as depicting and reflecting nature, and I think this is the essence of it: it's music that depicts the world we live in, from those psychedelic loungerooms to the moors of Scotland, a quiet urban street at midnight to a backyard pergola and a windchime in Autumn. All of it is part of nature, part of our world, our collective consciousness, that we can thus associate with.
The deep, mellow, and layered sounds strike a chord with the part of the soul that is in tune with nature, with the earth, and is perhaps just the medicine required in today's pacey world where people like me get bored without a lava lamp to look at. 4 stars.
Freshly released today, available from Sun Sea Sky Productions. Enjoy.
Frontman Matt Bellamy’s voice is pure heaven. I once asked a friend if he liked Muse and he said “No, because the guy sings in falsetto.” Well… W. T. F. That would be like saying you don’t like Van Gogh because he used a wide paint-brush, or the Eiffel Tower is ugly because of what metal it’s made out of. It’s a style of singing, and not only is it perfectly warranted as a part of Muse’s overall sound, it augments it. He has the ability to bridge the gap between the higher register and the lower seamlessly, something that takes a lot of practice and dedication to the art of singing. And it doesn’t stop with his voice; anyone who has seen them live can attest that his piano and guitar skills are ludicrously good, and on their studio albums the layering of these elements is nothing short of divine.
But hang on, aren’t there more members in the band? Yes, and they are, too, incredibly talented. I especially like Chris Wolstenholme’s bass and always-in-the-background yet never unnoticed backing vocals, and drummer Dominic Howard is simply outstanding. Yet Bellamy’s voice will always be the defining thing about Muse, and on this album it delivers, with soothing, uplifting and soaring timbre, the usual message of love and regret, themes of world unification, disestablishmentarianism (I’m sorry I couldn’t think of a better word), and conspiracy theories.
The album holds together very well, a thoroughly enjoying experience from start to finish, and you wouldn’t expect anything less. I think where some people get their dislike of this album from is that they don’t realise Muse are not a “heavy rock” band. They have always shone on softer tracks like “Falling Down”, “Screenager”, and who could forget “Unintended”. This softness is interwoven very deep in the fabric of the album, probably off-putting newbie Muse fans who expected the slightly harder-edged nature of their previous release, “Black Holes and Revelations”, yet it is done in a gorgeous way, utilising string sections, sweeping pads and lush vocal layering. This is particularly evident in the three-part magnum opus of the album, “Exogenesis Symphony”. Symphony is definitely the right word to use here, although Muse has been known to label their music rather strangely (Bellamy has been cited calling “Supermassive Black Hole” an RnB track).
All in all it’s another Muse album and another winner, simple as that. People will look back on the 00’s and remember Muse as legendary, and fans the world over, myself included, sincerely hope they continue making great music like the luscious, scintillating, operatic and 5 star album that is “The Resistance”.
The drumming on this album is exemplary and is part of what gives the entire timbre of the songs that "pop-y", upbeat sound, that is so delightfully deconstructed by the dark lyrical moments. To compliment this, the truly uplifting sentiments such as the track "With Love" shine like a lighthouse in their sporadic unexpectedness. Terry says he spent "Nearly 6 months recording and mixing in my mountain forest home studio", and it certainly shows in the gorgeous production that includes piano, organs and string sections. Yet it his wistful voice that encapsulates you, and makes his message, should you choose to listen, a powerful one that is truthful to the bone. "How can I make change? With poison in my blood. Waiting for change. It will free me. Waiting for change. It will come".
This delicate collection of deeply poetic and moving pieces is available for only 10 dollars at http://terryspringford.bandcamp.com/album/pretty-girls and I highly recommend it for anyone with a soul.
A bizzare mixture of textures and beats combine to create a copmplex tapestry of genre-defying music. A rich barotone voice floats in and out, sitting back in the mix as if it's lounging in a deliciously comfortable armchair, making the lyrics hard to fathom. Yet lyrics are unneccesary for music that carries with it such an incredible ability to conjure concepts, themes and emotions from a purely instrumental perspective. The warm bass, at times squelching and playful, at other times deep and resounding, remind me of heavy, tired footsteps on the pavement at night. The jazzy, light piano is reminiscent of a warm streetlamp, pushing away the darkness, providing solace, yet the whole time aware of the empty blackness only meters away. Link these elements with extra-dimensional soundscapes, and both insanity and bliss are constantly within arms reach.
There is an edginess about this music that, when resolved in fleeting moments of sheer harmony, send shivers down the spine. The edginess comes from the strange tonality that is prevalent throughout the whole album: notes that sit next to each other that don't quite fit (deliberately so), jostling for position in the forefront, arguing with each other. Despite the general first impression of a lax, drifting attitude, the album can be quite aggressive at times due to this discord. Yet tension and resolution are the keystones of great music, and the album manages to keep the tension just long enough that you feel uneasy; and then, with perfect timeliness and inclination, segues into harmonic resolution.
Described as "Light Music meets Dark Electronica", HealeyIsland's latest album "Not Afternoon, But Evening", is suitably titled, the whole thing feeling like the fading daylight leading into encroaching night; where shapes and figures are blurred, silhouetted, undefined, and the air holds an essence of change, of limbo, purgatory: twilight.
It's not afternoon, and something is lurking in the shadows, yet the familiar lull of downtempo shuffling tricks you into thinking this is gonna be a smooth ride. You could pay to see some blockbuster movie that tries and fails to keep you on the edge of your seat, or you could buy this album and feel the chilling, haunting vibes strangely coupled with moments of calm, beauty and peacefullness; and feel the imagery of your dreams, nightmares and fantasies become reality. A must have for those who understand that normality is banal, and strangeness: Divine.
Out now through White Label Music.
Qubenzis Psy Audio or QPA for short, with his latest album “Meta Dawn” is a di.fm sort of listening experience. As linear and one-dimensional as it is, it nevertheless stirs something deep within me. The preamble to the album is that of aliens broadcasting messages from the depths of space, of cosmic music born from the ether of a timeless, tribal “Worship Of The Vibe”, as I like to (since just now) call it. A theme often found in psy-trance is that of two seemingly opposing concepts: Aliens and Earth. It's either about reverence for The Mother or acknowledgment of Extraterrestrial Intelligence already embedded in our culture through music and dance.
QPA's spin on psy is a curious mix of the two. To quote directly from the album's “Total Disclosure”:
“Knowledge = freedom. Whatever is hidden must be brought into light. The truth is for all to know. Openness and transparency is the only way to go. To embrace the forthcoming age of trust, honesty and love is the only way we can save the planet from… us!.
Until the [meta] dawn we dance and trance into the parallel timeless dimensions of eternal sound and light.”
In psy-trance there has always been this sense of Unity and Light. Whether it be from cosmic E.T.s showing us The Way or by lying on a field of grass staring at the sky with headphones on, it's about the deep Vibe running through our veins and showing us something that may not have existed before it manifested in our minds. This speaks of The Great Mysteries, of psychedelic experiences (with the obvious connotation of and connection with drug usage) and of Love for our planet and all Life.
“Meta Dawn” is a vastly optimistic and spiritual journey as good as anything I listen to on di.fm. It may be linear and it may not be everyone's cup of tea but if you're into mushrooms whack this on with your next bag. If you're into magick whack this on as you cast a circle. And if you're just a chilled sort of person lie down in your loungeroom, and yes, whack this on. But whichever way you listen, there is only one pre-requisite: it has to be Loud. Let the bass wind its way up your feet all the way to the cerebral cortex. You will feel Ascended. Let the Light flow through you.
Available from QPA's site, where you can stream the album, download it in 128kbps MP3s for free, or purchase it at ultra high quality for true audiophiles (this is also an interesting marketing idea that I sincerely hope works for Qubenzis).
“A Psychedelic Trance sonic universe delivering imaginatively, intelligently mind-bending, kick ass, electronic dance beats.” - QPA
As I lie in the fading Autumn light at the end of a hot Melbourne Summer, nothing connects more with my state of mind than this sort of music. Entitled “Songs For And From The Heart”, it certainly captivates the essence of that organ that infuses the whole body with warmth. Soft and gentle, soothing and tranquil, the musical energy of this album flows through you like blood, and you can bask in it like a lizard does the sun. Over and around you, it is a delight to feel the closeness of the driving yet perfectly paced rhythms, the high-end chimes running trilling patterns, complimented by a smooth bassline and sunny swirling pads, all held together by a simply sublime voice. I can't tell if it's male or female, which causes some confusion as “emorej” is a play on “Jerome”, the first name of the creator of this music. Perhaps it is a duo with a female singer, or perhaps he simply has a high voice, or perhaps it's pitch-shifted, or my interpretation that “Jerome” is a male name is completely wrong.
Anyway, it doesn't matter. I don't need to do any research on this music as I may have to in other reviews to flesh out what little I can say about it, as the music itself speaks volumes. A highly recommended 5 star album. And guess how much it is? 1 dollar. You get that in change from your coffee or soft drink, so just do it. And if you're feeling generous there's the option to pay more.
Support independent, talented musicians like emorej and buy this album at Bandcamp. Mellow, engaging, calm waves of airy bliss await your appreciative ears.
Radiohead's pinnacle of success has often been described as the best album of last century, and whilst "This Is War" is simply outstanding, there's a lot of century to go before we can make any claims similar to those surrounding OK Computer.
Yet it is also curious that 30 Seconds To Mars' latest release, put out in December '09, sounds distinctively like the beginning of something, like the beginning of a great era in music. This is 2010. This is now. The first decade of the millennium was plagued by a horrible President of USA, by the biggest recession since the great depression, and the foundations of the music world were utterly smashed by the arrival of the MP3 and file sharing. "This Is War" stands tall and proud as an epic statement to the world. As the title suggests, it's declaring something.
For me, part of the very first generation to grow up with the net, the album defiantly declares war on the past, and embraces the future. The lyric "The war is won, lift your hands toward the sun" off the title track sends shivers down the spine as a military-style snare rattle builds up to an epic take-off. I almost burst out crying everytime the outstanding vocals on the second track, Night of the Hunter, yearn "Pray to your god, open your heart, whatever you do don't be afraid of the dark". And as each song progresses the lyrics just keep tugging at those heartstrings: "Tell me would you kill to save a life". This music is Shakespearean in scope, timeless. And although it's not entirely clear on a first listen what 30 Seconds are declaring war on, it unfurls as you dig deeper and deeper like the most poetic of Elizabethan plays. The outstanding "100 Suns" states "I believe in nothing, not in satan not in god, I believe in nothing, but the Truth in who we are". For me this sums up what "The War" is about, it's about a new world order, where religion and belief systems no longer harbour the hearts of most of the civilised world; where people are looking inside themselves for Truth and not being dictated what they should believe anymore. A war on the past, and embracing the future. With the advent of the internet people are moving closer together, old values are replaced by true individuality as accessibility to information allows us to make our minds up for ourselves about the big questions.
The fact that this is a commercial release, under a major label, means nothing. Everyone knows you can get it for free if you want, and I think the lads from 30 Seconds know this too. I can imagine when they finished this album they realised they had made something truly special that would resonate throughout the land and earn them not money, but artistic merit. The recording industry has changed whereby the success of an artist is not determined by how many records it sells but by how many people are Tweeting about them. A new world order. Declare war on the past and embrace the future. It's 2010 everyone! Rejoice! "Darkness floods, here comes the rain, to wash away the past."
I have seen many people slagging this album for departing from "their earlier style", and I have to admit I have no idea what that earlier style is, for this is my introduction to 30 Seconds To Mars, and it's a fuckload of a good one. Get this album, by whatever means. It will change your life.
Yet the reality of 27-year-old Zane Michael O'Brien's existence and music is a truly bizarre combination of rustic, basic, level-headed and completely normal upbringing meets pseudo-spiritual-enlightenment via. intravenous force-feeding of the Occult and Magickal realm into his brain. Exposure to the modern Fucked Up World, partly through travel, but largely through the internet with its plethora of conspiracy theories and otherworldly ideas, have formed a very confused and complicated ego that churns out some of the strangest music you will ever hear.
I have a brief yet intense history with the man behind one of the 21st Century's most perplexing solo projects. It's hard to describe the music without also describing this person. I have spoken to him through Skype once, and a million times through little interactions on Facebook. When confronted with a video image of an unshaven man, about my age, scraping hash resin from a bowl in the dark basement of his father's house in Wisconsin whilst we talked about deep and fascinating subject matter, I could easily see both where he finds the time to be online almost 24/7, and why his music is so completely Caved In. There are no two better words to describe ʄ≜uxmuℭica. The music closes in on you from all sides and from the first note makes you want to just immediately hit stop and put the whole thing in the trash.
But there are two qualities I possess that have led me to a higher appreciation of many things that others would never listen to again: I like to be challenged musically, and I often find that what I have a knee-jerk reaction to hate, I grow to love.
In this way I would say, for me, the most comparable sound to ʄ≜uxmuℭica is Cradle of Filth's early material. Like the promising symphonic black metal albums of "Cruelty and the Beast" ilk, "HiFi ♮ SciFi ♮" feels like the beginning of something, something extraordinary.
At least, not-ordinary.
Despite his music clearly defying pigeonholing, Zane is a lover of tags; he labels his own music as "crunkgaze", "ghost-step", "post-whatever", "triangle-core" and many other delightfully unique yet utterly weightless terms. However, there is one tag that demands immediate attention in relation to ʄ≜uxmuℭica, and that is "witch-house".
Witch-house is a phenomenon that has grown from humble and genuine beginnings - of including Qabbalistic Symbology, Occult references, and Magick in musical creations - but that has now exploded into a disgusting "scene", whereby the coolness of your music is determined by how many uni-code symbols you can squeeze into a title.
Zane is as sick of this scene as I am, and I notice he no longer tags his own stuff as "witch-house". He has alienated himself from the scene, and looks down on the posers who have hopped on the bandwagon hoping to find success and glory. Yet he still uses symbols instead of letters wherever he can. Why?
Now we get to the nitty gritty, the true essence of what "fauxmusica" means. It's fake music. Everything from the timbre of the synth sounds he uses, the structure and melody of the songs, and ultimately the project's position in the "witch-house scene" - is fake. In that Skype conversation he was talking about how he felt like a "Spiritual Airport", not possessing any personality or ideas of his own, but merely acting as an air-traffic-controller for the terabytes of data that float in and out of our brains every day.
In this way, Zane holds a DarkMirror up to the world. What you hear when you listen to ʄ≜uxmuℭica is a reflection of modern media. It's as simple as that. In a stroke of genius he picked up the dead carcass of the witch-house scene and threw it back in the faces of those that created this sub-pop-culture bullshit, and we lapped it up.
I have listened to HiFi ♮ SciFi ♮ maybe 4 times now and only about half an hour ago did I manage to make it to the end. It's truly terrifying and horrible to listen to, but as a landmark in recent history it stands tall and proud as A Work of Something. It's not outrageous enough to be Art, not experimental enough to be avant-garde, and not musical enough to be, well, music. Tag it with weightless words and spam it on Facebook. Whatever the fuck it is, it Works.
Works, a term often used to describe a Magickal Happening... Magick is one of the greatest revelations a human can come across. It is not for everyone, a surety that can be illustrated by this very paragraph: some of you will simply stop reading once I start talking about Magick, others will "get it", and most inspiringly, others will be confused yet plough on in the hopes of learning something.
Magick is not for everyone and this album is not for everyone, yet in its Qabbalistic, spiritual alignment it stirs something within the air your speakers vibrate when you play this stuff, and performs Works. It doesn't need describing to the initiated, and it doesn't bother pandering to the disbeliever. It is also probably too inaccessible for the merely curious, save the bravest of them.
Above all, the highest of compliments I can attach to this album is to reiterate its absolute weightlessness, both in the treble-heavy, vacant synth lines' tone, and in its complete lack of emotion.
It is therefore a Work that truly reflects. It reflects how you feel at the moment. It reflects your agitation. It reflects your disdain for pain and anxiety and synths that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.
It reflects your soul, for it is a DarkMirror.
Out now for FREE... I don't recommend this album, but you're going to listen to it to see why.
See what he did there?
HiFi ♮ SciFi ♮ <------ Direct Link to instant, free Mediafire download.
ʄ≜uxmuℭica Is part of the escc9 net-label, a Yorba Zergot initiative.