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Iceage – New Brigade album review

The first thing that came to my mind when I had to slog through Ice Age’s latest offering, a 12 song LP called New Brigade, was ugh.

This redundant punk slop from a band of teenage boys is just tiring. The introduction sounds like a bunch of half-assed noise and the songs that traipse after that only echo these so-called efforts.

Where does Pitchfork get off by saying they sound “old beyond their years”? They sound exactly like their age; inexperienced, lazy little punk rock wanna-be’s who thrive on redundancy and stale material. Altered Zones is saying they “have in them…greatness.” Okay, well maybe if Ice Age listen to a broader range of music and stray away from the comatose generic punk-trying-to-be-creative-sound, then maybe they’ll at least have in them something interesting. Not to mention their creative name, which is already being used by at least 2 other 80’s has-been hair bands.

Hailing from Copenhagen, their blog has them selling merch, touring the States like fiends and has a slew of pictures on there of them screaming into mic’s and the faces of other aggressive little teenagers.

No, I’m not some bitter old grandma, but come on, give me some fuckin new punk. This has been done. This has been done, chewed up, spit out, and shat on. Punk rock, man.

There blog can be viewed here http://iceagecopenhagen.blogspot.com/

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Holy Other – With U EP review

Holy Other is as elusive as the picture on his MySpace; just some black sheet draped over the head of some shadowy ghost. That’s all fine if you are interested in his music. If you want to write his biography, you may be in trouble.

Well, so Holy Other is from Manchester, UK, but he’s based in Berlin where solid electronica music just keeps pouring like neon blood from some charged open cut. It has that heavy, melancholia of a lot of music coming from Europe (or going to Europe like Grails was doing.)

His last full album, We Over, dropped almost exactly a year ago and what follows it up is the soul escaping spectrally from that last album’s mouth.

With just 5 short songs, With U is a phantom gasp. And on song three, Touch, it is gasping. Synthesized sexy vocals whisper over solid and soft beats.

This is the perfect EP to send yourself off into dreams. Sometimes it`s hard to find that superlative compilation that`s one solid vibe of matching sound, but Holy Other captures that level perfectly with smooth tracks and the kind of laid back creations ideal for closing your eyes, nodding, swaying…

While the term ambience has become a vague umbrella word that seems to cover nothing specific anymore, when you take ambience back to its roots, which by definition means “completely surrounding and encompassing” then Holy Other fits in there nicely.

The sound pulls you in and surrounds you with its slightness, its atmospheric dream quality. Nothing harsh or overwhelming. The first two tracks are those sought-after starting tracks, pulling you down into his particular style without yanking or forcing.

The title track With U uses melodic instrumental bits and pieces before layering glitchy, here-and-there vocals and maybe as a whole it`s nothing so mind-blowing that it`s going to revolutionize how an artist approaches the way electronica music is executed (think Amon Tobin) but Holy Other has created something valuable here in that it`s actually enjoyable. And it makes me want to hear more. Mission accomplished, Holy Other. I bet you`re awesome live, too.

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Battles – Gloss Drop album review

For days we were searching for hangars, warehouses and big empty loft spaces. We got the opposite along with the immoderate enthusiasm of Agnes, who works with the city’s cinematography association and wanted to see “what it would be like, a Blogothèque concert at the city hall”. It was incongruous, it was bloody exciting. We were going to shoot Battles in a rococo style lounge in The Hotel de Ville, the magnificent city hall and mayor’s office in the centre of Paris.
The result is like nothing we’ve ever created before. Blogothèque, Battles, Bertrand: three B’s who have together embarked on a twisted mission.

– La Blogotheque”
-Taken from http://bttls.com/
 
Everyone has experienced their own personal battles. But when Battles plays songs from their new album, Gloss Drop, songs like Ice-cream, one doesn’t think of some “hostile encounter.” One pictures hot June days, roaming the streets, adventures through tight and crazily packed urban locations.

Self-described as experimental fusion rock, Battles formed in 2002 in NYC and people will probably remember that one track, Atlas. This is only their second album too, the first one, Mirrored, featured Tyondai Braxton who did all the crazy modulated vocals (and this reviewer highly recommends checking out his solo material), but this particular album is the summer-in-the-city-album; bright electronic sounds over top of busy galactic sounds.

The best way to describe Gloss Drop is just to sit down and to listen to it; it’s like when Sargent Pepper came out and suddenly everyone was all astounded by the fact that music was something that could be actually listened to; Battles is like that. Sit down and tune in. Songs like Inchworm have you picturing wormholes digging through black-holes and atmosphere; they create an experience, and where a lot of electronica music can leave you feeling sketched out and agitated, Battles actually draws you into something fresh and groovy.

Tyondai Baxter had created warped vocals that are sorely missed for sure; older Battles fans will definitely feel the canyon. But Battles forges on, blazing through the creative expressions that caught ears in the first place. They never forget that busy soul-drive and through tracks like Wall Street and My Machines, they rage on, chaotically and wildly, and die-hard fans of Battles won`t be disappointed as they stay true to their own personal blend of electronic madness.
 

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Amon Tobin’s Montreal show and ISAM album review

Amon Tobin’s Montreal show and ISAM album review

In the precious fistful of relevant artists, Amon Tobin sticks out as an alchemic trail-blazer, challenging our neurons with surprising time signatures and a style and sound that could only be him and nobody else.

After Midnight Project – You Belong EP

April Fool’s day began in the 1500’s when the Julian Calendar switched to the Gregorian and people still tried to celebrate New Year’s on the 1st. Now it’s become a day of pranks, where people get made fools of. Which is ironically, and perhaps appropriately, the day that After Midnight Project decided to release their eight-song EP, entitled You Belong.

The first title track, You Belong, starts off with a watery glitch ripple sound and it’s by far the best, and maybe the only, part of this little production that makes you really tune in. For starters, it’s instrumental, and sounds like some sort of experiment, more so because it’s coming from some LA-based radio/pop band. Maybe the boys drank too much coffee, heard an Amon Tobin song and actually tried to use the studio gear themselves.

The next song, Fire in the Sky, erupts rudely into the obnoxious Placebo-esque styling’s of Jason Evigan, asking if there’s a reason he’s alive. Well, the reason he’s alive probably isn’t to make music, if this is what they’re coming up with.

Let Go delves into their biographies with hard knock lyrics revealing their troubled lives: “Mom and dad weren’t perfect and the world was never clean.” Wow, so glad these martyrs can overcome mean parents and litter bugs to share their experiences with all of us.

When you’re producer is John Feldman, whose claim to fame includes such profound and artistic revolutionaries like Hilary Duff and Good Charlotte, you pretty much know what’s coming next.

Coming from Los Angeles, Evigan with Spencer Bastian on guitar, Christian Meadows on guitar too and Ryan Folden on drums (according to AMP legend, Folden was scrounged up by Pappa Roach, during the midst of legal troubles). Last summer the band played Warp Tour and are apparently known for an energetic live show. Picture four guys in really tight jeans jumping around, tossing their straightened hair and swinging their guitars around their skinny waists and you probably have the right idea. It’s all so flavorlessly and banal that even writing about this is feeling insipid.

Keep My Feet on the Ground is at least slightly interesting instrumentally with layered guitars and eerie vibes, but then what sounds like a drum machine kicks in (don’t they have a live drummer?) and then luckily the song is over.

Open Door starts off with some Tokyo-style energy beeping and fast-paced percussion, but it’s so god-damned formulaic. There’s nothing new here. This band could be any other late 90’s radio band with a polished male vocalist. The repetitive chorus and the bland verses…

You have to give the last 2 songs credit, Beautiful World has melodic potential and somewhere in there the guitar is actually kind of ear-catching, if they ran with that and didn’t put such high-stock in pop song structure and humiliating lyrics.

And then the thing ends with The Otherside. The vocals pan around which is kind of neat, there’s tempo changes with heavy drum breakdowns that at least almost freshen up this shit, and the guitar riffs are alright, there’s a synth buried in there somewhere, which could be cool if you isolated it and brought a completely different sound to it….I don’t know. It ends, abruptly, and then…that’s it. The radio and teenagers will lap this up. People who enjoy quality music will probably never even knew this EP happened, and I kind of wish I was one of those

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Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues album review

Through fantastical near silences and obvious growth, we can all go back into Fleet Foxes forest, as Helplessness Blues, their 2nd LP dropped May 3rd.

Helplessness Blues seems like a raw exhalation of breath and while Fleet Foxes last album, released almost three years ago, was like trekking mountains in Oregon in the fall, The album is some sort of strange twilight and there’s a calm resolve in Robin Pecknold’s voice as his melodies chime aching and trill over renaissance guitar and this full castle sound of instrument heaps.

In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, Robin Pecknold mentioned Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks as a context point, saying that it was “the best-sounding album because it sounds like there were only six hours in the universe for that album to be recorded in. So I want [Helplessness Blues] to have that feeling.”

A reviewer could take this section here to mention the money involved or the time spent recording, the wait for the album, speculate about the relationship that almost went to shit over Robin Pecknold’s musical dedication…but the music stands so strongly for itself, that it doesn’t really matter what went on behind it.

Singing about walking blindly through the sun and temporary city stays, holding someone at arm’s length and then plunging off into their signature bedrock sound of cloud-shape vocals, The plains/Bitter Dancer is just one track of many entrancing tunes on this valuable album.

Shockingly wistful and amazingly theirs, ethereal and involving, Sim Sala Bim has a Simon-and-Garfunkle-at-the-train-station-vibe, if the train-station was in an apocalypse city that nature had claimed, covered in redwoods and ivy.

Like strangled geese, horn squawks worry themselves over rubber band twangs and melting, dragging string sections on The Shrine-An Argument and Lorelai brings back the warmth of Fleet Foxes previous stuff, despite Pecknold singing about feeling like trash on the sidewalk; there’s a bit of a waltz groove going on, flutes and old stories.

There’s a forlorn strength here. With childlike bluntness, Pecknold curiously lilts about his blue philosophy’s and wandering trips of nomadic lostness on Blue Spotted Tail.

The album wraps with Grown Ocean and the lyrics weave together portraits of old children growing thoughtfully by the sea; loose lyrical coverings for a million personal experiences Pecknold was drawing from that none of us will probably ever know.

Rare are the albums that are actually an experience to listen to; this isn’t some harassed offering up of a product borne from the pressure of record labels or some desperate grab to maintain a dwindling and bullshit rock star lifestyle.

Fleet Foxes take you into their melodies, bring you inside their trip and what’s there is what was there on their last album; timeless, pure expressions and essentially just good music.

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Grails live in Montreal review at Casa Del Popolo

It was their very first Canadian show.

With a crowd crammed to the back walls of Casa Del Popolo, no elbow space, Grails started off slow, chilling strands of eerie sound. Ominous in the darkness, the lights came up and melted in with the music, glittering across the twelve-string acoustic and buffet of peddles.

Grails then came on strong.

If you’ve ever tripped balls, you can make the comparison here. Grails is like a hit of good acid. Starting out, you feel the potential thrill before plunging face first into an experience of wild and worming brain conduits.

Making dope beats with shakers mid-song, and whirling through the crowd’s heads with solid pieces of sound, they held everyone captivated with their custom-sounding epic instrumentals. Nobody got distracted. Heads were turning to check out the gear and where the sounds were coming from; like musical alchemists, they tinkered with the levels of noise.

Grails paints enigmatic audio pictures of crows and ghosts, grey fields of mist and heavy air. Although they had to stop and tune a few times, it only kept audiences anxious for them to start the trip back up again.

At the end, when they wound down into soft breakdowns, everyone’s sweating and nodding with impressed appreciation at each other; it was that closeness you feel when you’ve just endured a fourteen hour mind fuck with a couple other people you didn’t know as well before.

But nobody was leaving the room. The crowd, we all stood there until Grails came back to their buzzing instruments they’d left on the stage and they finished us off good.

Afterwards, I was outside smoking a post-show bowl and Grails came outside for cigarettes. They seemed pretty stoked to finally have played a gig here and their attitudes were as pleasant and natural as their music was far out.

Definitely a live show worth getting involved in. And I say “getting involved in,” because their music is totally interactive, drawing you in and playing upon the pictures just waiting to be drawn into shapes in your head, only possible with good fucking music.

Grails are makers of this very music.

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O’Death – Outside album review

With a resume of playing shows with electronic madmen Battles, and being called a fusion of punk, Americana and bluegrass, the first song off their new album, Outside, comes off as a complete wash-out.

O’Death? More like O’Snore.

Maybe it was just that first song, “Bugs.” When the chorus drops it has a pretty slick little banjo riff and maybe the song would be a lot better live (most likely), but this sounds like easy listening off the Irish channel on a bad radio station. Punk? I don’t think so. Americana? You’re joking, right?

This Brooklyn five-piece has been chucking out scrambled CD’s at concerts and playing shows since forming in 2003, apparently performed over 100 gigs in 2006 and when their 2007 LP dropped, it won a Shortlist prize. Not bad.

Still trying to hear the punk references in here though.

Skipping forward to “Alamar,” you get a lukewarm Tom Waits feel towards the end of the song with the whole industrial percussion vibe, but it’s still not really doing it for me.

“Black Dress,” really starts to pick this whole album up from the bland dust where it’s been resting. An intro of chilling picking…And then it breaks down into some sort of Billy Bragg sing-a-long…A little gypsy jig ensues and Greg Jamie sings about clipping the wings of children and comforting the homeless in a long black dress. Then the weird instrumentals come in, and you kind of picture this black and white musical with a twisted side.

An eerie minimalistic jam called “Look at the Sun,” incorporates some stripped down poetic lyrics and some half-hearted plucking before wailing into this epic chorus and “Howling Through,” finally picks up the energy, and oh, looks like they’re finally bringing that Americana and what sounds like a sitar roughly choked up with some Irish-Goth rock or something. Picture burly men grabbing their pitchforks and storming the castle. Jesus.

“Don’t come back,” starts out with a beautiful instrumental intro, some little piano touches and the strings are a real treat. Listening to “Don’t come back,” has been my favorite part of this whole album for sure. Maybe the band should just keep the whole thing instrumental. It’s the overwrought Irish vocals that are a little tedious and take away from the poignancy they can’t seem to reach with the obnoxious, call-to-arms voice.

“Pushing Out,” is back to Greg Jamie’s vocals and you know who he sounds like? Gordon Downie from the Tragically Hip. It’s a little uncanny, actually, but we only need one Gordon Downie and even he can be a little too much to bother with sometimes. The song does a fresh tempo change and takes it up a notch from the snooze that is the beginning of the song, but it seems a little too late to save face on this one.

Bizarre huffing, wheezing clanking noises join the end of “Pushing Out,” up with the next track, “Back of the Garden,” and just when you think it’s going to crashing off somewhere really edgy, “Back of the Garden,” just limps off into some poppy verse-chorus-verse structure, and while the banjo progression in between vocals is actually touching, the vocal melodies are slightly irritating.

The album concludes with “The Lake Departed,” which begins with some Nintendo-sounding opening, which could quite possibly be interesting as it blends with these dramatic strings and sweeping tin can percussion, and even the vocals demand more than they have on this entire thing.

Basically the whole album starts out on weak crutches and stumbles along to this last track here, which appears to be the one they put the most passion into; the vocals are more urgent and the violin drags itself on in a death dance through the grimness and it feels like a funeral march for someone who’s not quite dead yet.

O’Death might put on a better live show, but in the meantime maybe they should work more on capturing whatever magic they may have in the studio, because right now, I’m straining my ears to try and hear it.

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Brother Interview / Viva Brother interview

From Slough, England, Brother is a band that, according to them, is going to be the “future of music!”

While poppy, formulaic tracks like “Darling Buds of May,” (the band themselves has called their style “Gritpop,”) and “Still Here,” don’t really bring to mind the revolution of all present music, who knows, maybe they’re right; the music industry does seem to be bent on playing it safe with traditional, commercially viable styles. This sort of stuff very well could be the future of mainstream music. At least they have the confidence to back up such sweeping statements, as quoted in an interview with NME: “We know how amazing we are. And soon everyone else will,” said lead singer, Lee.

With two whole released singles under their belts, Brother are already making it known that they want to play, no, sorry, headline the titanic European music festival, Glastonbury. “And we will,” they say. (This is all extracted from their first NME interview, and the Glastonbury prediction was made just thirty seconds in, apparently)

Well there.

Listeners can sign up to their website mailing list to get their track, “Time Machine,” or if you hit that “Like” button on their Facebook, you can get the B-side to “Darling Buds of May,” entitled “Homesick.”

With a heap of April and May shows all over the UK, Australia and even a show in San Francisco, Brother seem young, excitable and self-loving enough to actually be able to pull the music thing off. Cool. MVRemix has an interview with the band’s lead singer Lee Newell, and here’s what he had to say about the possibility of being music’s future, and then some.

Grails in Montreal at Casa Del Popolo Wednesday April 27th

This is one of those bands that you could write and write about, but it would never really explain what’s going on here; one could write about their enigmatic vibe of strange mystical noises, or the fact that they formed as a band called “Laurel Canyon,” on a whim to play one live gig.

The now 3 piece (they’ve had some shifting members) consists of Alex Hall on guitar, Emil Amos on the drums and their 2nd guitarist Paul Spitz.

So how do you even describe Grails? Luckily they have this show coming up on Wednesday, so if you’re that intrigued you could go check it out for yourself. (Which I highly recommend, as you’re not going to see or hear another band that’s like Grails.)

Deep Politics is their latest titanic offering, dropping in March of this year. And pretty much everything on there is a trip and a half.

“Deep Snow,” an epic, an almost nine minute long song, has this soft almost Spanish guitar running through piano pieces but out of left field comes electric guitar mutated into something eerie and then suddenly at around 3:30 minutes in, the track goes off clashing into hard riffs.

“All the colors of the dark,” is deep black piano and what sounds like a haunted house hidden behind operatic vocals and wailing guitar and at around four minutes is one of the shorter tracks.

And then there’s “Almost grew my hair,” which is this really great electric guitar zipping all over the place on top of this acoustic jam, and then it breaks down to this tight drum groove before dashing off into manic jams that make you just shake your head and zone out hard…Oh, Grails.

Eeriness seems to be a common thread with Grails, but they appear to embrace the shadowy parts of music and blend it well into black magic and beautiful, intricate instrumental landscapes.

The band had a “Europe only” policy when touring; that kind of makes sense, as they’re music sort of sounds like Europe; crumbling castles and bleak skies, cold winds and open fields, their songs sound like that. But now they’ve taken to touring the East Coast (the band itself is actually from Portland, Oregon) which rocks if you don’t want to travel all the way over to another continent to see this band live.

So they’ll be hitting up Casa Del Popolo on Wednesday, April 25th. If you want to see or hear something that is done like nobody else, well, here you go.