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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 intimacy comes neither solely from Sid's lush, velvety rhythms and textures - complete with gorgeous vinyl crackle, brass sections, sounds found in nature, jazzy drums, and bass like slipping into a warm bath - nor solely from Marie's universally-acknowledged crystal clear, enchanting and seductive voice, but rather from a unique blend of the two. To me it is akin to a salad dressing of oil and vinegar. Both are good ingredients on their own with distinct uses, yet as part of the dressing you couldn't imagine one without the other.
The style they have chosen is trip-hop, or rather, the style seems to have chosen them. The album is very natural and flowing, indicating a very smooth sense of spontaneous improvisation, again as if they just walked into a studio together and music flowed forth, not heeding any rules; as if it just became what it is of its own accord. Yet in the year-long production and taking into account professional mastering by Canada's Crimson Death, every single beat and phrase sits absolutely perfectly in the mix. Constant variation and evolution keeps the listener engaged whilst retaining a strong sense of continuity. It is the attention to detail in this ever-changing scenery that elevates the album into equal steading with trip-hop legends such as Portishead and Massive Attack.
Simply put, if you want to get someone into bed put this album on. Not only for its veneer of sexy, smooth, and silky atmospherics, but for its ability to alter your mood, no matter how ratshit or anxious you feel, into warmth and comfort.
Soulful music made by masters of their craft. Intimate and close. Pure sex.
Available in physical form from cdbaby.
High-quality downloads from Bandcamp.
And preview the album here.
Furthermore, the first thing that comes across when you listen to this is that it is fuckin’ HEAVY! The powertude of their riffage is unrivalled by anything I’ve heard this year. And they don’t even have a bassist! With just two guitars and drums, this outstanding three-piece manage to fill the frequency spectrum with growling low-end subwoofer delight and high-end free-wheeling lead breaks, cemented solidly by the meat in the middle. It sounds like at least a 4 piece band, but there is no layering. It’s just guitar vs. guitar vs. drums. I say ‘versus’ very appropriately, as the whole album sounds like a battle between the different instruments. Math rock evolved from the fusion of technical jazz and rock. Where listening to a jazz CD conjures up images of the musicians dancing together, listening to something as heavy as this brings forth a different sort of image, a different sort of dance: that of gladiators in the ring, circling, striking, parrying; the dance of Death.
All the while there is still that sense of “calculation”. It’s so intricate it seems that if you got out a pen and paper and dissected this music, you would discover some secret about the nature of the universe. But that is not the intended effect. It is so complex that you just can’t follow the sharp twists and turns, and thus ends up sounding like pure, raw, Chaos. I’m a lover of Chaos Theory, fractals and the like, and as I listen various thoughts propel themselves to the forefront from my subconscious: from chaos comes order (for example, the branches and leaves of a tree spring out randomly, yet the tree is ultimately symmetrical), yet this music reveals that from order comes chaos. There is no doubt that these guys have arranged the music precisely, they know exactly where each note is gonna land and when. Yet, it does sound like something from another plane of existence; otherworldly, all over the place, from somewhere so chaotic it’s almost too much.
This brings me to my final point: unfortunately I feel it is a bit too much. No sooner do you grasp an awesome hook than it falls through your fingers to be replaced by something else. The moment you start head-banging to a solid 4/4 beat it is replaced by 13/8 time. It’s the reason why a lot of people don’t like jazz. Too much change, not so much “songs”, as “shifting patterns”. I feel, however, that the more I listen to this album the more familiar it will become, and although I may never be able to fathom the mysteries written in the bizarre numerology of this music, it’s heaviness will always make it a great wake-up album and these amazing musicians will always be held in high esteem through my eyes.
The Slagg Factory by Dr. Slaggleberry is out now through Crash Records, and is highly recommended for anyone who likes something different.
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.
Those three names came to mind as I listened again, and again, and again; not just comparing the production values and composition of this jewel to those classic albums, but also because of what the sonic scope incorporates: warm yet heavy guitars, a voice that expresses, soothes and provokes; that is raw yet clean - segueing easily between different styles - carrying lyrics of hefty weight and emotion whilst still somehow retaining a hauntingly cold distance; drums that punch straight through the mix and combine with a positively droolifying bass to get that spinal action happening; and the light, albeit perfect amount of, electronic elements.
It’s a special sort of sound that a lot of bands aim for and miss, and that a rare few like the ones I’ve mentioned nail, yet at 25 minutes long, this 8 track album manages to compress all those juicy elements into the sweetest fruit possible. All killer, no filler, engaging for every single second, superbly produced, and an album you simply cannot live without. So it’s a good thing this album can be downloaded in its entirety from their website (free), for without it life would just be… less.
Red Army (Red Friday's fan site)
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).
So why does it suck?
Quite simply, these guys are playing in the wrong key. The tonality and action of their guitars are aligned for heavy metal, as is the drumming with its heavy kick drum and outstanding fills. All is aligned for neck-snapping flat-fifths and dark, minor chords. Yet they're playing this major key happy pop stuff. With heavy palm-muted guitars. !? It is just completely incongruous. And ugly, totally ugly, devoid of life or passion, and impossible to like.
The engineer of these albums is the only one with any vision, utilising fantastic production techniques that make these packages radio friendly for sure, but the stations that play this kind of stuff, wellvomitpukeergh oh excuse me.
You get the idea. Guys, if you're reading this: STOP with the happy pop crap and do a complete 180 into the heavy metal you were born to play, even if it means firing your current songwriter, for this incarnation of Dear Noel is a dead end.
I have nothing more to say.
Both EPs "Party Fouls" and "Hope You Get To Heaven Before The Devil Knows You're Dead" are available from Simple Stereo, if you want to listen to some really, really naff music.
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.
1. of the surrounding area or environment.
2. completely surrounding; encompassing.
This music envelopes you. If you close your eyes it takes you to another place, a place fabricated from the tonality and texture of the pieces, that are “of the surrounding area or environment”. Yet it is a surreal environment, a place that doesn’t exist in the “normal world”. This is true ambience, yet there are no chirping birds or wind through bamboo to be found here. The music takes your hand, quite gently at first, and leads you to a door to another plane. If you resist it grabs you more firmly and pushes you through.
Haunting, disquieting, the ghost-like atmosphere of this compelling album is made up from a variety of only vaguely familiar sounds, like the dropping of water in a deep cavern, yet not quite. Like two discordant notes played on a sitar, yet not quite. And the whole time, there is an emptiness that conveys vast reaches of uninhabited space. Merely the Universal Hum of something borne of chaos. With swirling dynamics and disparate textures this powerful album comes at you from all sides. It is often quite scary, feeling as if everything is closing in on you, yet that is part of its magick.
Nezumi is a lover of the metaphysical, the mystical and the unknown. His attempt at creating soundscapes that depict the multitude of parallel universes and dimensions, so far away from normality yet always deep within our souls, is realised quite incredibly on his latest album.
When I first listened to a release of his in late ’07, it sounded like a kid toying with midi for the first time. Although I could tell there was so much he wanted to convey, the instrumentality was primitive and thus did not do his imagery justice. A few years and two releases later (that I’ve heard, there are more), I’m amazed at how he has progressed as an artist.
This music is truly the definition of ambient, “completely surrounding; encompassing”. And of course, I wouldn’t be raving about it so much if it weren’t my favourite sort of music: Dark. Very, very Dark.
Set to release in early 2010, this album is now available as a pre-release from sendspace.
(that link will expire so get it quick)
The Ambience has spoken, and it demands you take a trip through another dimension...
Nezumi's artist page at LastFM
My last review of these guys ended on the high note of wanting “to watch their future releases with intrigue”, having picked apart both their flaws and better attributes. This 4-track EP is one of those future, now present, releases.
I think the title of the album is a good place to start: it’s something a person hurled forward in a time machine from even as recent as the 80s would just say “WHAT?!”, but we’re all tech-savvy net-linguists these days and we know exactly how to pronounce the name. Say it with me together guys, “p014r0pp05it3b34r”, because chances are, if the winds are favourable, you’ll be hearing it around. The title reflects the music: youthful embracement of a new era, cutting edge stuff that only the select few of us, that are still quite comfortably weathering net-waves and web-squalls, will understand. An age where you don’t need to understand the lyrics because immediacy is more important than longevity. The guy has a really nice voice and it compliments the music: immediate reaction equals happy face. No I’m not gonna rush out and buy a physical copy of the EP for the precious liner notes with lyrics, but nonetheless there has been communication.
The communication comes mostly through the delightfully playful interaction of bass and guitar, with a simple message that says, “I am alive”, uplifting yet heavy at the same time. My review of their previous release, “The Cre EP”, noted the bass as being outstanding whilst the guitar was “exceptionally well played, even if monotonously composed”. In this release not only does the guitar appear to have considerably more thought put into its execution of riffage, but is layered with (itself? another guitar?) in a subtle, intriguing and progressive way, and together with the bass craft a familiar yet nonetheless utterly pleasurable soundscape from the solidest rock there is, that being: Rock!
Admiring the well-hewn rock from afar, one notices etchings of “progress”, the noun that appears in the adjective “progressive”, that is thrown around nilly-willy in the contemporary music scene. Yet what does “progressive” really mean? It means it evolves. The song writing on this release is about 450% better than their last release. Each song builds and builds, morphing and twisting, the melodies and root notes summoning wreathes of charisma about their undulating forms to hit your brain at the exact same time as the final part of this manifold creation: the drums; and hit it does.
The drumming on this release is about 875.6% better than their last release, and also highlights the winning factor for me: production. To a sound engineer’s ears this EP is heaven. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard an underground rock drum kit captured so well. Props to the engineer of this EP.
And massive props to the band for delivering on their promise that the next EP would be much, much better. I’m very impressed.
Say it with me, guys, “p014r0pp05it3b34r!!!!”. Yea. No, really: YEA!
Available for free from POB's MySpace