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reviews

Mark McGuire – Get Lost review

Guitar player for the electronic band Emeralds, Mark McGuire is not shy when it comes to solo work. Boasting a back catalogue of over 30 releases, the 24 year old shredder takes the perceived notions of guitar playing to a completely new level. Many of the sounds present on this record are made through loop and delay pedals, all translating through a guitar. It’s always interesting when a musician finds innovative ways to utilize his or her instrument, this is a perfect example. On this solo record, Get Lost, we are introduced to some very vibrant material that stays with the listener for quite some time afterwords.

Ontop of very bright layers of sound, there are also vocals thrown into the mix on select tracks. The vocals aren’t as dominant as one might think, they’re more of a background noise, or another layer ontop of the pre-existing ones. The song Alma is a good, if not the best example. Many of the songs transition very slowly into one another, creating some anticipation. I thought this was clever in contrast to songs abruptly weaving in and out from one another, something I have come across many times before. Sequencing is very important. The final track clocks in 5 seconds under 20 minutes long. My love for the 10+ minute tracks can only go so far, and I believe they should stay exclusive to more progressive/experimental artists. There just isn’t a whole lot to hear in this song that can’t be heard in a trimmed down version. I appreciate the ambience that leads up to the more memorable parts of the song, but really, its a wasted effort in my opinion.

I think that Mark McGuire’s solo work is better appreciated by fans of his main project Emeralds, as people who are new to his work may not have the patience for it. I won’t lie when I say I was much more interested in trying to understand and experience this music after I learned of how it was made, and where it came from. Someone without this knowledge may not be as attentive.

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reviews

Baths – Pop Music False B-Sides review

Pop Music False B-Sides is the second album by California based musician Will Wiesenfeld [aka Baths]. I have been reviewing musicians that specialize in this genre for quite some time now, and I have to say that this record is by far my favorite. There is a lot to take in here; gorgeous piano, clever layering, soothing falsetto, and a very light take on the glitch genre. You can really come to experience and appreciate the masterful creation behind this record, and the brilliant melodies that are present throughout. Will Wiesenfeld was credited for having a very strong grasp of the wide spectrum that is music, and it’s really present here.

The first track of Pop Music False B-Sides, Pop Song, I feel is almost a parody of the title itself; an unofficial title track. It is a very wide window in terms of truly experiencing this record for all that it really is. The melodies are incredibly soothing, but the glitching is always there to remind you of that strong electronic atmosphere. I didn’t like the transition of Pop Song to Overseas though; I felt it kind of ruined the atmosphere created by the first song on this record by abruptly changing the mood. With each track though, you will be immersed into something quite different from the last, until you reach this sort of tranquil state. I find that to be the albums greatest quality. The songs are a very modest length as well, so nothing is ever drawn out for too long. Something I find very important in an album, and something i’m sure many listeners appreciate as well.

Pop Music False B-Sides is easily one of the best records I have reviewed on this site, and this year in general. It is crafted amazingly, and a true testament to brilliant musical experimentation. I strongly recommend checking this out. People who stick with this genre of music, people who are unfamiliar with it, and the like. It is very powerful in the sense that it will immerse you entirely and it will not let go.

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reviews

Biosphere – N Plants review

I was given the opportunity to review a rather revered figure in the Ambient music community; Geir Jenssen AKA Biosphere. Since 1991 Biosphere has released a number of records, each defining the boundaries of Ambient music, and then going on to break said boundaries. The album i’m reviewing, N Plants, is one of great substance. It pertains to the post-war economical miracle of Japan, and as a writer with Japanese roots, this record spoke to me on multiple levels. Though I did not let this detract from the technical aspects I will be reviewing. This record was inspired by the beauty and surreal futurism of Japan’s nuclear plants, specifically the Mihama plant. If you’re curious to see what inspired this, it is definitely worth looking up.

N Plants is a very minimalistic record; there isn’t ALOT going on, but that appears to be its greatest charm. I respect Biosphere for staying true to the roots of ambiance, but I was expecting alittle more in terms of experimentation. Speaking of which, I personally wasn’t a fan of the house elements on some [if not most] of the tracks, I felt that they polluted the base track in a way. When you really listen to whats going on in these songs, you will come to appreciate the use of atmosphere, but I feel this atmosphere becomes tainted whenever the electronic kicks come in, or any techno related sounds. I think it might have been much better without it. The songs in general are well composed in terms of placement.

This is definitely a record worth checking out for yourself, you may agree or disagree with my gripes with it, but it’s still something you should get a feel for yourself. Anyone unfamiliar with this type of music may be alittle bored though, as it does seem to be very specific to the crowd who generally pick up these records. I did enjoy N Plants quite a bit, for its imagery, social commentary and subtle sounds.

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reviews

Laurel Halo – Hour of Logic EP review

Deep and entrancing, the Hour of Logic EP by Laurel Halo gives off a strong sense of urgency throughout the listen. I found it to be very mysterious, and thought provoking aswell, and in a strange way, the urgency that it creates is also a feeling of security. The entire genre’s of Trance and Ambient music come off to most as effortless, but to make something impactful and something as deep as Hour of Logic is truly something to marvel at. The subtle layers underneath the dominant sounds are really the strong point of this EP, as they are what gives life to the entire experience. On a more basic level though, there is not much going on in these songs, but that also gives it a sort of minimalistic charm.

I found the song lengths for one to be appropriate lengths, especially since this is the kind of music you generally keep on in the background. There is not much to say about the sequencing of said songs, as they all kind of fade out and fade in to the next track, but if you have this record on as background noise the sequencing is sort of irrelevent. The first track, Aquifer gives off a very positive vibe for this EP, and is a great example of the subtle layering I mentioned before. It’s also probably the fastest song on the entire CD, so it becomes memorable in quite a few ways. Many of these songs take you to a better place; they are strangely soothing, and I found them to provide an almost lethargic feeling during my listen.

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reviews

Wet Hair – In Vogue Spirit album review

In Vogue Spirit is a soothing ambient journey through the musical minds of Ryan Garbes and Shawn Reed. For just a 2 piece project, Wet Hair certainly offers a very wide variety of sounds for the listener to experience. Formed in 2008, Wet Hair has released a number of records showing off their take on the electronic/new wave influenced sound the band has to offer. At some points though, the wide variety of sounds do become incredibly drab, and the songs start to drag on. The biggest flaw of In Vogue Spirit is it’s inability to keep the listener interested for more than 3 minutes, which poses a huge problem considering many of the songs reach 4, 5 and even 8 minute song lengths.

The most horrific example of this is the track Liquid Jesus, which starts off strong, but ends in disaster. The fine line between experimenting and annoying is crossed, and you’re left sitting there listening to car alarms and an incredibly bland voice drone on and on until you have to change the track. Fortunately not all of the tracks are like this, such as Echo Lady, which comes in at the 5 minute length, but still has enough going on to keep the listener interested. And listening. The problems on In Vogue Spirit are problems that can be easily fixed. Some of the songs simply just drone on way too long, and unless I’m skipping over the drone/doom undertones, then this just simply does not fit. The songs that stay under the enormous lengths are usually the best songs on the record.

Despite the obvious problems on In Vogue Spirit, it’s still something worth checking out, especially if you’re into the more ambient flavours of the musical spectrum or you’re an avid Sunn O))) fan. But in this case, I would take the 24 minute long Drone/Doom Metal song over mostly anything on this record. The songs that do shine, are very dim. I feel as if Wet Hair would benefit greatly from writing shorter songs and using less “avant-garde” sounds within their repertoire.

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reviews

Title Tracks – In Blank album review

Title Tracks newest release In Blank is upbeat, catchy and an utter delight to listen to. Drawing heavily from the raw influence of “indie”, In Blank definitely gives off a very homey and garage-esque type of sound. Of course, Title Tracks are no strangers to this style. The Washington, DC based band has been creating music since 2008, and in that time has released another album, performed live and crafted their sound very well. To the average listener it appears to be slapped together and recorded in someones bedroom, but this is not the case. The layers weaved into the sound are subtle, but they are there. The melodies and sheer commitment translates so well if you listen carefully enough.

The first track Shaking Hands is an amazing start to In Blank; catchy and upbeat, but still rough enough to pass for rock. It rarely takes so little for me to be able to jump into an album, especially after only the first track, but this song does the trick. From then on, the record doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. No drastic change in mood or atmosphere, nothing like that. It doesn’t randomly become bad after multiple listens, and best of all, it’s so easy to just jump into; sad or happy.

The album does have a soft spot though, but it’s not as soft as you might think. Forget the Ghost showcases exactly that. It almost has a Beatles/60’s rock sound to it. After all is said and done though, you can still hear that it is strictly Title Tracks. The slower material doesn’t work as well as the upbeat songs. Fast and raw definitely suit this band much better than this kind of sound, and any listener (veteran or new) can agree to this.

In Blank is one of those timeless records that speaks out to any kind of generation. The album is a joy to listen to and I strongly suggest anyone give it a try. I wish Title Tracks luck in their future endeavours, and hopefully their next record translates as well as this one has.

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reviews

David Thomas Broughton – Outbreeding album review

The spontaneous and peculiar mind of folk musician David Thomas Broughton brings us Outbreeding, a record that seems to portray these traits very clearly. Outbreeding continues the quirks that make David Thomas Broughton so intriguing, and entices the listener with somber acoustic melodies, electronic soundscapes and DTB’s authentic baritone vocals. I have not heard Folk done this way very often, so it’s quite refreshing to hear something so outside of the box in terms of creativity and sound in general. For anyone new to this artist, I feel as if this is a good place to start off.

One has to admire the subtle complexity in this record, especially within the choice of guitar chords and arrangement. This first becomes apparent on Ain’t Got no Sole, an intimidating track at 6:20 in length. Fortunately the time is well spent, as the song never seems to grow weary of itself, or turn into a repetitive snooze fest. The electronic samples within the sound are very interesting aswell, and add a very distinct touch to an already polished track. On top of that, one cannot help but notice the presence of DTB’s incredible voice. Good or bad isn’t really a huge debate here, as anyone should be able to appreciate the uniqueness of it. This is a somewhat dreary song, but Outbreeding does pick up with knee slappin’ jives Apologies and Electricity. The almost gloomy voice of DTB covers even the happiest of songs on Outbreeding very nicely. There is just something about the contrast between his voice and the sound that are an undeniable combo. I can definitely see how said voice might be very off putting to some though, but I did find it very soothing, and very fitting of the “folk” genre.

Outbreeding is not for everyone. For any fan of the acoustic/folk genre, I would strongly recommend it, but to some others out there that are maybe trying new things, this might not be the best piece to pick up. Then again, with a sound this unique, its hard to tell who may find it appealing. The album a success in a creative sense, really shining an interesting light on a genre that can easily run out of avenues for experimentation.

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press releases reviews

Jessica 6 – See the Light album review

Brooklyn trio Jessica 6’s newest release, See the Light, shows us an incredibly fresh take on R&B and the very subtle touch a genre can add to a band. The almost hypnotic synth, and the deep soothing voice of the vocalist Ruiz really creates an atmosphere worth experiencing.

The trio started in 2008 during an improvised jam session, and since then has created possibly the most innovative take on R&B I have ever heard. It’s not nearly enough to pigeonhole this group as just an “electronica” act, there are so many interesting sounds to be heard within the creative sounds of See the Light.

This particular record jumps from very moody atmosphere songs like Stars in Your Eyes, weighing in at a hefty 8:41. Where most songs become incredibly repetitive and boring even at half of this length, Stars in Your Eyes creates an incredibly engaging atmosphere. The album contains songs like these, which are very mood setting and relaxing, and other songs like U Motion and Champagne Bubbles/Remember When contain very bouncy, even disco like music. The variety on See the Light is very impressive, something unfamiliar with many R&B artists, and even Electronic ones in general. Jessica 6 are a perfect example of how electronic music can be used as a perfect template to add other genres to.

Overall, I enjoyed See the Light very much. I would easily recommend any of the songs on this record to anyone unfamiliar with this band, as most (if not all) are an amazing look into the style and texture present within See the Light, and Jessica 6 as a whole.

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reviews

Nodzzz – Innings album review

Garage rockers Nodzzz new release, Innings is a very simple record at first glance, but the subtle undertones really give it a noticeable charm. The fuzz fueled pop of Nodzzz is truly something of an acquired taste, and unfortunately it becomes even more difficult to appreciate in this record. There are certain elements that at first appear to be charming, but they quickly lose this merit.

The most off putting part of this record, and even possibly this band are the vocals. They become incredibly irritating right off the bat, and really take away from the clever muscianship that Nodzzz has to offer. The repetitiveness and simple rhythmic patterns of the vocals also make it hard to appreciate the efforts gone into this CD. Other than the annoying vocals, Innings has an undeniable charm, and the music really shows this. There are many different genres weaved into their harsh sound, but it never feels cluttered. Heyday Past Heyday Due is really one of best examples of this, but once the vocals kick in it quickly becomes unbearable. This is one of the truly unfortunate flaws of Innings, and Nodzzz in general. It really is a shame that one element of a band can be so detrimental to whether or not it is enjoyable.

This album is really 50/50; the instrumentals are very enjoyable, but the vocals take so much away that it almost becomes pointless. Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend Nodzzz, as the vocals are just too much of a negative factor, and this is really a shame because these guys are clearly capable of creating catchy and creative music. As an album however, Innings falls short because of this.

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Girls Names – Dead to Me album review

Dead to Me by the Belfast trio Girls Names is a dreary drive down the graveyard of 60’s surf, 80’s new wave and even a subtle pinch of pop. I found the gloomy undertones of Dead to Me to be very enjoyable, and it added a very strong distinction to their debut record. In a world dominated by auto tune and pro tools, it’s nice to hear there are still some artists out there with a love for the classics. In the past I have criticised bands for an abuse of these vintage genres, but Girls Names seems to know how to do it right, and not in an off-putting way.

The chiming sound of nostalgic guitar, and the gloomy vocals set the stage for a very interesting listen. I really enjoyed that these songs were kept short and sweet, as opposed to drawn out. I Could Die is a very good example of the subtle undertones this record proposes, and also a good example of time well spent track length wise. These songs do not drone on, they are very straight to the point, making the sequencing between tracks very enjoyable and a much easier listen for any newcomers. The structure of these songs follow a very basic format, but what makes this record so unbelievable are the subtle traces of the almost Bauhaus-esque sound.

The retro atmosphere created on Dead to Me is one to be savored, and also one to be praised. The brilliant mix of past, past and present is something you don’t hear much of these days, or something you don’t hear done very well at all. Girls Names have definitely succeeded with their debut album, in restoring a sense of nostalgia with the listener, and also with creating something truly worth the listen.