Saturday, May 31, 2008

Venetian Snares - Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole (C)

Listen to the sounds of Winnipeg… Intense glitchin'sanity. I've never listened to more than the first track of this album before because the first track is so amazing. That's all I have to say for you to realize that you need to hear this, but if it's not then here you go. The first track (titled for the album) is basically literal insanity with a bass that makes you want to dance in traffic. But don't dance to it - because it's impossible. You'll probably actually die. It's one of the most intense songs that I've heard- only beating noise in intensity for the fact that it has the musical and beat-driven element that noise lacks. This is music to kick faces into. If you can listen to the first track, and not spend the whole time doing some sort of intense head-bob-bang-thing to it, then you're literally more insane than Aaron Funk. This track doesn't use breakbeats, it uses bullet beats. There's nothing faster. Nothing more filled with hatred for a place. Nothing more horrifyingly malicious.

Okay, now that I'm over that hump, the rest of the album keeps up the intensity. You can tell that Aaron Funk does NOT like Winni-glitch-Peg. This album is extremely clever, and extremely catchy. Each track reveals some new little trick of Funk's, as well as some new level of hatred he holds for his hometown. Some people shoot up schools; Aaron Funk lays down sickening beats. Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole, and Vsnares in general is not for everyone, but if you're sad and like beer then this album is your lady.

Overall, I recommend that everyone at least check out both of these albums.

Venetian Snares - Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett (C)

This album by Vsnares happens to be one of my favorites. The album combines some classical-ambiance; some sampled Hungarian, Russian, and English classical; as well as those sick beats Vsnares is known for. Compared to Aaron Funk's other releases under the Venetian Snares name, this album certainly lacks the overall intensity of Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole etc., but in no way lacking in intensity. Starting with a delightful piano piece (color tones? Atonal? Open Key? Too much heroin?), then shifting to a somewhat tense orchestral build up into some standard breakbeat-age, it all eventually gives way into a sort of drumsolo-madness. One of the highlights of the whole album is track 3, Öngyilkos Vasárnap (Literally "Gloomy Sunday"… Sound familiar?), a rather awe-inspiring remix/cover of Billie Holiday singing Gloomy Sunday, a song that on its own is one of my favorites, but as it is tactfully played with by Vsnares it becomes something more. The main beat of the song is simple in a way that fits the song well, but easily works into more drumorgasms throughout it. Almost giving you time to contemplate it is followed by another brief classical-esque piece, and then a very tense and chaotic piece more about the piano and the instruments than the beats, featuring a very sparse jazz-esque beat. The whole song is quite jazzy, featuring several "solos", most prominently for piano. Soon the beats take precedence again, and take the intensity to a new level. It all sets up the next few pieces (all very intense) very well, but before the storm begins, a brief calm sweeps through the album. The one thing that has always puzzled me was the choice of samples. The best track of the album begins with a somewhat odd sample regarding the concept of the album, the idea of being a pigeon at the Királyi Palota. The sample, practically bare except for some more pulsing strings, says "It's just a pigeon... Looking for its nest. It doesn't know that it's white. It doesn't know that it scares me. Why am I frightened so easily? Pigeon, why can you scare me? Am I not part of your life anymore? Am I not welcome anymore?" Almost immediately the chaos begins, starting as some simple fast-paced breakbeats, and slowly devolving into glitching insanity. Easily the next best track of the album, Masodik Galamb never ceases to amaze me with its strange choruses of pieces of the opening sample. This leads into the very glitch-heavy end of the album which is saturated with buzzing bass and some pretty high BPMs. Eventually it all winds down to a vaguely music-box ending.

Stars of the Lid - Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid (C)

Stars of the Lid. Where do I start? For one, this is how drone SHOULD be done. Stars of the Lid create ambient droning soundscapes that sound like nothing. They literally sound like nothing. The main bits certainly don't sound like the guitars they are, they're so effects-treated, and the few string and brass and piano parts are the only distinguishable parts of the music. Stars of the Lid are beauty. Pure, distilled beauty. Their music embodies aesthetic perfection in all its form. Simply stated, if you have not heard Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid, then you ought not to ever use the word "happiness." The soundscapes of Tired Sounds… are unencumbered by the drums and vocals so often added by other drone supergroups. This album is lying in the grass on a fair spring day, watching clouds passing overhead. It's the feeling of the sun on your face while you sit at the beach. It's lying cozily in your bed next to someone you care about on a cold winter night. Stars of the Lid have managed to concentrate emotion, add it to powdered landscape, and coat it over a perfect batch of chocolate chip fuzzy feelings. Sometimes I listen to this album and feel like I might cry (Which is okay, guys. Just let those tears out), and sometimes it makes me feel lonely and isolated, and other times it makes me feel warm and happy to be around so many wonderful people.

Stars of the Lid are a perfect dreamtime experiment. Spin Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid and get ready to start spinning.

Smohalla - Nova Persei (V)

Smohalla is really a fine example of the sort of progressive, atmospheric movement of what one might call post-black metal. Slo and company build up entrancing layers of keys, synthesized strings, acoustic guitars, heavy guitars, clean vocals, and more raspy vocals into a truly epic and glorious blend. While the complex layering of the music would tend to create something more noisy and harsh, this release fits into itself wonderfully. Even shifts to discordant riffs and blast beats just lend another taste to the atmospheric bewilderment of Nova Persei's tribute to the dreamworld.

Without ever abandoning the atmospheric layers, Smohalla freely shifts between well-written piano interludes and triumphant choruses, dark riffs that seem almost like black metal, thrash, and even doom. Everything remains, through effective transitions, consistent tempo, and distinctive Smohalla guitar sounds and ambience, part of the same story. The songs are distinctive and beautiful, and everything is well done. Recommended for fans of any of the artistic elites of black metal. Smohalla has earned its place long before the twenty minutes of Nova Persei have passed.

I understand that this is the last copy of Nova Persei, but the project isn't abandoned. I recommend following Smohalla's progress and snapping up anything you can lay your hands on.

Nordlicht - Nebelmeer (A)

Alright, a sentence might suffice, that being if you're a fan of Paysage D'hiver you will NEED this. Not to say this is a clone but there are some definite similiarities. Might also help to know that Nimosh, the man behind Nordlicht runs Kunsthall Productions with none other than Wintherr (Paysage D'hiver). Now, this being the only material put forth by Nordlicht (except for a song on the "Schneesturm" compilation) I'd say this is one of the best debuts (black metal or otherwhise) i've heard in awhile. A curious thing though, apparently the band was started in 1996 but "Nebelmeer" wasn't released until 2002. So perhaps this was a long in the works endeavor, even with the length not reaching a half hour. Anyways, onto the black and beautiful sonic mysteries that lurk within. Comprised of nine tracks, four being actual songs. The other five are murky, watery drone interludes underpinned by constant static. Transitioning from one piece to the next, they help to create a cohesive, almost one-long-song feel to the album. The songs themselves are walls of sound, thick tremolo picked guitars tangling up within each other making it hard to distinguish individual notes, smeared into a dense, blackened epic noise. All sorts of ambiences lurk beneath the surface, occasionally fully revealing themselves when the distorted guitars die down and offer some respite. Sometimes if listened closely enough to, you might hear, or think you're hearing the same murky drone that serves as interludes between the main songs constantly in the background. The guitars even slip into a downtuned chug every once in a while, reminding one of Darkspace. So again, completely recommended for those already under the wintry spell of Paysage D'hiver. It definetely creates the same image in the minds eye of snow blanketed forests, a shadowy figure hiding 'neath the branches ...

Released through Kunsthall Produktionen.

Navicon Torture Technologies - I Fucking Hate You All and I Hope You All Fucking Die (C)

Navicon Torture Technologies is the dark ambient brainchild of Lee M. Batow, now on its way to a polite and quiet grave. I Fucking Hate You All and I Hope You All Fucking Die is a NTT masterpiece, bested possibly only by Dripping with the Power of Her Flesh. It starts out with a haunting repetitive keyboard line, and then dives straight into the refined cesspool of gritty noise backing a series of effected vocals (repeating the phrase "I want to hang myself, I want to die." and noisy swoops. The album itself is noisy, but not loud. It's truly "dark ambient" in its unique style of unobtrusive, yet compellingly haunting noisescapes.

After a couple similar gritty noise tracks, NTT eases into a very minimal, pulsing noise line, which is soon overtaken by a clean sample of a distraught-sounding girl saying over and over again "I love you, and I'm so sorry that I'm so awful to you. And I don't know, I don't know what to do or what to say. I hate this, and I hate myself…" Over the pulsing underline, a more traditional ambient cloud slowly fades in, adding to the morbid beauty, and striking one-two punch of the track. After Personal Apocalypse, there are a series of more non-noisy, psychedelic-esque sample tracks featuring tribal beats, and more traditional ambient elements, as well as a series of more in-your-face noisy tracks.

The real highlight of the album, however, is Personal Apocalypse II, featuring another sample of the same girl, with a similar backdrop. All in all, this album is one that can only be expelled from an extremely dark and disturbed psyche, and received well by a comparable one. I do not recommend it if you are depressed, alone, or breastfeeding.

Nature and Organisation - Beauty Reaps the Blood of Solitude (V)

The lineup: NAO itself is the child of longtime Current 93 member Michael Cashmore, and this album features guestwork from David Tibet, Douglas Pearce, Rose McDowall, and Steven Stapleton. Beauty Reaps the Blood of Solitude features all the usual elements: soft acoustic guitar, mixed percussion, keyboards, strings, woodwinds, industrial noise . . . really, all the elements. And they're all well-done. And all the songs are excellent. And there's incredible variety. "Beauty Destroyed" would almost fit in on a more harsh Nadja record - but there's enough Nadja in this issue. "Obsession Flowers as Torture" starts off with classical guitar and moves into incredible heavy martial industrial sounds.

Since this is Michael Cashmore's project, not a vocalist's project, there's a LOT more going on instrumentally here than with most neofolk albums. In Gowan Ring comes to mind much of the time, particularly with the well-developed interaction of strings and guitar. Tibet's lyrics are as bizarre as ever. The melodies are beautiful and thoughtful. The rendition of Paul Giovanni's "Willow's Song" is beautiful. "My Black Diary," notwithstanding the heavy ambient music at the beginning, would fit wonderfully on a Death In June album. The record as a whole flows beautifully, with connected themes and lyrics throughout. Definitely recommended, for anyone.

Nasheim - Evighet/Untergang (J)

Long have I been a Noltem fan, and even after knowing that Erik did session vocals for the "Hymn of the Wood" demo, it took me the two years

I have been a fan of Noltem to check this out.

I'm glad I did.

This compilation of the two demos, Evighet and Undergang, is nothing short of amazing. After months of trying to find deep and meaningful black metal outside of the realm of bands I listen to, I found myself listening to Nasheim, and these guys really know how to bring empowerment back to black metal.

Seeing as the trend of "Depressive/Suicidal Black Metal" is really taking root now, people tend to overlook bands that empower the listener, as black metal was originally supposed to do, it is great to see bands that "bring the epic" like Nasheim that are still making music.

Onto the music, the fuzzy guitars add a lot of personality to the cd, like I am wandering in a deep and dark Northern Swedish forest with a ram's horn of mead and a fresh kill slung over my shoulder.

Even the bass is noticeable in this, with little doodles here and there, adding even more variability to Nasheim's style.

The drums are your standard black metal fare with alternating blasts and ambient cymbal work along with the standard slow beat with lots and lots of ride and crash cymbals. This does not add on anything really to the album, but it does not detract either.

The shining and standout quality of Nasheim have to be Erik's vocals, though very high in the mix, his vocals are powerful and mournful. I cannot say that Erik's vocals sound like any other I have heard yet; they are highly original black metal rasps (thought you'd never hear someone say that, did you?).

There is even an amazing cover of Bathory's anthem "Blood Fire Death" included in this compilation that takes my breath away. Quorthon would be very happy with this cover out of the many there are.

My one complaint with the demo is the quality of the song "Evighet." Though it is a great song and the dual vocal work is interesting, the all-treble sound quality of black metal is hard on my ears and is rough enough to have me take off a touch from a perfect score.

For fans of: Ulver, Wolves in the Throne Room, Angantyr, Agalloch, Noltem, Wind Through the Trees, Dornenreich, Herbst...

Nadja - Thaumogenesis (V)

Thaumogenesis is clearly an epic piece of work, apparent even when the CD first goes into the machine. The album's sole track - Thaumogenesis - comes in at 61:43, over an hour of Nadja's trademark all-consuming atmosphere of sound. Seldon Hunt's art reflects the nature of the music fairly well, or would if the CD folder took up all four walls of a large room. Both art and music combines a complex of familiar elements

within a framework of controlled, slowly building and dissolving chaos that makes even the familiar into a new layer of something simultaneously instinctive and otherworldly.

The variety of timbres and musical aesthetics throughout Thaumogenesis is breathtaking, especially in a piece so singularly coherent and beautiful. Leah Buckareff successfully combines extended, meditative moments of soft, clean motifs and collosal doom riffs - and strikingly "other" segments - within Aidan Baker's atmospheric layers. It is truly a peaceful and inspiring experience to watch the pair combine their work into such a powerful greater whole. The independant layers do not give an impression of chaotically combined concepts, but rather a distinctive and beautiful form of larger orchestration.

Thaumogenesis is really very good. If you like Nadja, I recommend Thaumogenesis - an example of Nadja turning from mere 13-or-so minute songs to a proper hour-long epic. Unless you'd prefer their more quick, in-your-face material . . .

Nadja - Long Dark Twenties (J)

Well, today I decided I was going to get back into Nadja, and it's a good thing I did. I must have grabbed about one and a half gigabytes of releases (I'm almost done!) and by far this EP has stuck out as one of Aidan Baker's most beautiful works.

This song is has its similarities and differences from the rest of the nadja discography. The standard thick-and-slow-as-chilled-molasses rhythm riff over an industrial drum machine is still apparent, but this release has more similarities to shoegaze mainstays such as Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine.

Aidan's light vocals are mixed much higher above the music than before, but this isn't a bad thing. One can definitely make ties to Justin Broadrick's work in Jesu just by hearing the vocal work.

Wonderful ephemeral guitars flutter in the background and mingle with keyboards and flutes, giving this piece a very light and airy feel, contrasting the heavy sludge riffing beneath.

Overall, this EP is beautiful, one of Aidan's best, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of doom metal, shoegaze, or even ambient music.

Nadja - Desire in Uneasiness (A)

Nine albums. Nine fucking albums. That's how many releases Nadja has already put out THIS YEAR (and we're only at the half-way point!). Most artists/band never release that amount in their existence. Saying it's prolific is an understatement. But suprisingly all the material released by duo (husband and wife too) Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff is quality stuff. Ok, some might not completely agree with that previous statement, saying some of the material can be too samey, but fuck it, I love everything they've put out, granted ever since hearing "Truth Becomes Death" some odd years ago i've been a HUGE fan. Just couldn't resist some kind of dreamy drone/doom/dirge/ambient/post-rock/shoegaze hybrid! It manages to be totally blissed out AND crushing at the same time. So with that said, onto one of the latest of Nadja's releases.

First off, something for those already familiar with Nadja that will certainly raise an eyebrow or two is the art, which certainly gets one ready to expect something different from the music. Cartoonish drawings of chickens, half-filled bottles and chairs with trees growing through a hole in the middle of them adorn the cover and insides of the album. Another quick glance will most likely elicit even more eyebrow raising as in, this album has a real drummer on it! This being the first album to date without programmed drums. And to date, this is probably the most organic sounding of Nadja's releases. Guitar takes to the back burner, smeared into more of an ambient blur than usual, present but never overpowering the other instruments although it menacingly rears its head from time to time. The focal point of "Desire in Uneasiness" is the bass and drums, which usually end up locking into a kind of laidback groove at some point in every song, wanting to stay that way and drift forever. A lack of vocals can be noticed too, which is also a tad unusual for Nadja. Though, it works quite well as I don't see how Aidan's vocals would fit over the "jams" provided. "Desire in Uneasiness" is a definite step forward for noticeable change, one that works rather well and see's a band able to have a recognizable sound and yet move forward in their approach.Something not just for obsessives (like me) and completists. Something that could work to win over new fans. Something to show the skeptics Nadja still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Released through Crucial Blast.

My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything (V)

I picked up Isn't Anything sitting, unwanted, on a record store shelf for 10 USD. Would have been a deal at twice the cost. Isn't Anything is pure optimism, regret, pain, and hope wrapped in a little pinkish package. The album has drifting feedback, soft chords, oddly burnt-out rhythms and vocals. When I first heard My Bloody Valentine, Kevin Shields' vocals took some time to get used to. The strangely muddy guitar dragged me in and wrapped me in Bilinda's singing, propelled strangely by Colm and Debbie's slightly off-kilter rhythm section. This is an incredibly inventive album, and beyond that, full of beautiful songs. It's a little rough around the edges, but sweeps the listener up in some sort of pure, childish honesty.

"Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside)" is a very rock-powered but light and happy sex song. By the time we get to "No More Sorry," My Bloody Valentine has switched to painful, dark, ambient music centering on child abuse and possibly incestual rape. The single, "Feed Me With Your Kiss," is oddly heavy rock with mathematical rhythmic variation. The album drops straight from there to "Sueisfine" or, as live versions would have it, "Suicide."

Isn't Anything is a slab of excellent songs. My Bloody Valentine isn't really like anyone else - warm, sliding guitar and ample atmosphere with a tendency towards driving rock beats and fast blasts of snare. Soft, ambient vocals, pure, sweet melodies. Strange musically ordered chaos of fragmented words and fuzzy, unclear distortion. If there's anything left in you that isn't purely cynical, take this album. Spend time with it. Open up to it. It's worth it.

Oh, and if you're in Europe or Japan, go see them soon. Just for me. They're playing Roskilde if you'll be in Denmark. Hopefully they'll come visit the new world within a couple years . . .

Coil - Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil (V)

Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil is a patchwork of glitchy electronics, marimba, experimental percussion, and twisted, ritualistic vocals from the late John Balance. This record could easily be a gateway record into noise, or an almost musical addition to a noisehead's collection.

Coil's work in this context is less connected to beats and straightforward songs than on a typical Coil album - and that's saying something, given Coil's twisted approach to songwriting. There's something glitchily attractive about the tone of Constant Shallowness' swirling, droning, rumbling electronics that has nothing to do with harshness or chaos. Coil's semi-noise has a stronger connection to tones, pitches, and chords than the all-frequency chaos of the average noisework. That said, the music is swirling, drifting, grinding, teeth of giant gears working together, without the piston-pulse of industrial drum machines lowering Constant Shallowness to a glitchy electronic pop piece.

The marimba and assorted percussion connects further to the musical spectrum than the electronic glitches that pervade Tunnel of Goats, but in an atonal-sounding semi-mechanical loop that pulls Balance's effected, groaning ritual mutterings - "I am the Green Child" - into a mystical, drug-hazy trance. Not often can one find razor-edged sounds that create such a numb, mind-drenching atmosphere. This is not a typical Coil record. Pick it up, whether you like Coil or not. You'll not regret it.

Bloodrain - III: Nomen Nostrum Legio (A)

My neck sure is sore after a listen to the latest offering from Russia's Bloodrain. From a quick trip to Metal Archives you might come to believe this is just another satanic black metal band in a sea of satanic black metal bands. But if you give 'em a listen you'll find they're more of a blackened technical thrash, super tight and super catchy. Catchy? Uh-oh, that seems to be a dirty word in the world of metal (especially black metal), but i'll be damned if you won't have these songs stuck fast in your bangin' head. And a bangin' your noggin shall be as you're lead through a whirlwind of furious, convuluted thrashing structures with the occasional fast-as-fuck blastbeat. Guitar solo's abound throughout the album, and not some shitty play-as-fast-as-I-can Kerry King solo, no sir, thought out, super melodic and catchy (there's that word again). The production on the album is pretty fantastic as well, ALL the instruments coming through loud and clear (there's even some awesome bass lines here and there!). I especially like the sound on the drums, really powerful and punchy. Helps too that the drummer rules, throwing in some odd time signatures and killer cymbal accents to the precise blast n' thrash. But yeah, production wise something you might not expect coming from a Russian black metal band, especially one who's had releases on Stellar Winter (Blazebirth Hall anyone?). This also seems to be one of those rare thrash albums that can be gone over and over and again without being monotonous, which with my past experiences of thrashier bands is quite a feat ! But i'm fairly jaded, my thrash intake nowadays mostly limited to such bands as Morbid Saint, Destruction, Toxic Holocaust, etc. And just to reiterate, ALL the songs manage to kick huge amounts of ass whilst containing memorable parts galore. So if into black and/or thrash metal, this is surely a band you will want to check out. If you don't mind wearing a neck brace might help too ...

Released through Hexenhammer Records.

Aluk Todolo - Untitled (C)

Aluk Todolo are one of my favorite discoveries of late. Hailing from the happening French BM scene, Aluk Todolo bring black metal sensibilities and dark ambient seasonings to the world of Psychedelia. Sure, they have a full length, but truth be told all you really need to hear to fall in love is their debut 7", which is nameless and just referred to as "the 7 EP." The 7 EP starts out with a quiet, pulsing rhythm, then a thick and sloppily precise bass line kicks in, building up a sort of circular tension. The first few bits are only the "You must be this tall…" sign for the upcoming rollercoaster of absolutely freak out zap your mind. The repetitive Jaws-half-step bass line is topped by some building sparse guitar. The track swings into its funk before you even know what's hit you, eventually coming to a sort of figure-eight-ish transition into complete free-form delay jams, but still maintaining the haunting feeling of circularity. The track eventually digresses into a genuine chanting temple-like ambience, topped by the oh-so-soothing voice of Aleister Crowley. Then the fun begins. Side A ends on a quiet note, only to be overtaken by the pulsing Sunburned Hand of the Man-esque Side B psychedelic rock. Side B retains the pulsing of Side A, but what was once a circular wandering turns into a foreword-driven march. The track subsides briefly in the middle, but jumps back into its demoniac acid-possession with an even increased fervor. The rhythm section builds the perfect atmosphere for the out-of-this-world sounds of the guitar as its solo burns up like a forest fire glutted on fuel. Side B is a track you almost want to dance to, were it not so bizarre that you need to stop and listen to every new instant of sound. The energy of this album is the kind that has you tense and on the edge of your seat every second, and exhausted the second its over. And the energy just keeps coming, until the track ends with a dead-stop, leaving you like a heroin addict without a fix. All in all, The 7 EP earns a 100/10 for me. 18 minutes of ecstatic auditory, emotional, and physical sensationalism.