Archive for July, 2009

Fragment. – Fragment

Posted in Review on July 26, 2009 by joeki2000

I previously discussed Fragment.‘s big label debut “Is Your truth carved in the sand?”. But truth of the matter is that the s/t release is by far his best release and thus needs reviewing as well. For some background information about this artists I suggest you check previously mentioned review. I will get straight down to business here.

First off, this release is going to be pretty hard to acquire if you sit on this. Only  a 100 copies were made on Consouling records. But this is certainly his most accomplished feat yet so let me state from the beginning that it will be worth every effort tracking this down.  The sound is less polished than “Is Your Truth Carved in the sand?”  and therefore Fragment. comes of as more authentic and genuine. It also sounds more cohesive as it is a collection of 8 tracks all recorded around the same period. The track list is composed in such a way that it provides a perfect listening experience. Though the tracks are all lengthy, I can easily sit through this thing in one session.
Fragment. starts off with “Empire“. This is the original version of “Empire (Version II)” and it is just better. Though sounding “cheaper”, this version has so much more authenticity and emotion in my opinion.  The nostalgic melody played by the high pitched  and overly manipulated guitar is an immediate attention grabber. When the heavy bass and programmed drums join the mix, this becomes a truly epic opener. It is rather repetitive. The vocals could use some improvement but it doesn’t really bother me.
I already picked “Ghost”  as the highlight track on “Is Your…” and it serves the same roll on this cd. The version featured on “Fragment.” is exactly the same but it fits more on this release because it was recorded in the same period with the same producing methods. Again a few misses on the vocal parts but I got over that quickly and now I feel it adds to the authenticity of the release.
Claydust” stays on par with the previous two tracks. It is heavily inspired by the works of  Jesu. It opens rather slowly and unimpressive but once the vocals kick in (who are very good this time) the track slips into a shoegazed trip down memory lane. The guitar play after the chorus is really the highlight of the track.

Mesmerizer” provides a well timed break. It is a lengthy ambient intermezzo. Soundscapes are created solely with processed guitars and some synths but then the bass joins in and creates even more depth. The guitars almost sound like bagpipes and the synth’s are organ like. No drums on this track.
After this break we are ready for the pièce de résistance.
Drained” is such a complete song. It opens ruthlessly with heavy bass, basic drums and ambient features that set the listener into serious headbaging mode. It is perhaps the heaviest track Fragment. has done. The songwriting is excellent. Melody and melancholy start to emerge from behind the concrete foundations and work their way to a very emotional climax. The vocals and lyrics on this track are the best on the release :

Drains you. And Leaves you, with no faith within. Lonely, with no faith within.”

After this build up with epic climax, “Drained” has a tempo shift coupled with the fully emerging guitars and repetitive echoed vocals. The third part  sees the drums disappear to form a more ambient outro (much like “Friends Are Evil” by Jesu).
It just doesn’t stop after this track either.  “Where’s your Kingdom” is yet another amazing piece. It starts off with simple lyrics performed with good vocal melodies and sparse drum beats again slowly working it’s way to a climax when whispered vocals utter :

Where is your kingdom?”

The second part sees the track turn into a heavy beast with double basses in the drums, bringing back memories of Godflesh and the likes. Again though, he manages to squeeze some melancholic synths underneath which just add so much more to the track.
An alternate version of ‘Loose Yourself‘ was also featured on “Is Your Truth…” but again  I prefer this version. Production wise it sounds a bit sloppy (not a good choice of synths) but this version has drums programmed into it and is just less repetitive. The vocal melody is again very bitter sweet.
Perfect closer to the album is the acoustic track “Opaline“. It completes the album on a more upbeat note after a few heavy tracks (both musically and emotionally). It is sure to appeal to many post rock fans.

Fragment. is  just a very complete effort and deserves every mention. It is a candidate for best release of the year so far too.  Any fan of Jesu, Nadja, Isis, Godflesh or even adorers of the more rock inspired shoegaze will adore this. Be aware though that the heavy moments are indeed heavy and the rawer production serves its purpose. It sounds very authentic and you could say there is good balance between heaviness and melody. This leaves me in much anticipation of the collaboration between Fragment. and Methadrone, upcoming in August.

YouTube : Joy Orbison – Hyph Mngo

Posted in General News on July 24, 2009 by joeki2000

Yass,  after 6 months :  finally another YouTube link from me.
Like the last time, it’s a temporary return to electronic music on the blog. Dubstep !

I’ve been thinking about dubstep and its future a bit these past weeks and am in conflict about it.
For one, I don’t like all the mid range wobble that is being churned out like coming from a production line from the likes of Bar 9, Rusko, Caspa, Crissy Criss and even one of my dubstep heroes : Skream.
Don’t get me wrong : when I’m at a party I feel the need to hear at least one of those metallic (meta-lick heh) anthems or the party doesn’t quite feel complete. But at present, there is just an alarming rate of releases that are probing into this post drum&bass/noise mutant string. Especially at home during private listening sessions I find myself looking for the deeper and experimental records more and more rather than the so called dancefloor anthems.

Skream‘s latest performance in Antwerp brought a balance between the two I suppose (though still relying heavily on the anthems, he did squeeze in tunes such as Spectrasoul‘s “Melodies“).
Today I made the decision that I rather have dubstep go in another direction. 2 Step, wonky and minimal techno are some of the influences I’d like to see dubstep take in and move on. A return to the dark and dubby origins of dubstep such as the earlier Digital Mystikz or Mode Recordings releases would also be more than welcomed. Finally : Elements of garage or deep house should never be forgotten! (look for FaltyDL‘s upcoming release on Planet Mu!)

A perfect example of this is Joy Orbison. His forthcoming release on the epic label Hotflush from Paul Rose (which has been a guarantee for quality music all year such as Pangaea, Scuba, Sigha, Mount Kimbie and Untold) has been made available on YouTube and it is easily THE dubstep track of the summer .
I present to you :

Joy Orbison – Hyph Mngo (HFT009 , September 2009)

Hope you enjoy it and let this be the future of dubstep!
BAGGED!

Fragment. – Is Your Truth Carved in the Sand?

Posted in Review on July 17, 2009 by joeki2000

I keep discovering exciting one man projects lately (see Chuter). Now, the French one man project called Fragment. came to my attention.  Fragment. is heavily inspired by some of my favourite bands like Jesu and Nadja. He constructs  the same blend of shoegazing drone/metal with a heavy melancholic vibe. The drums are also programmed (no wonder ’cause it’s a solo project). Fragment. has a slew of  very limited releases (mainly EP’s) under his belt. I have managed to obtain 3 of them through the consouling music label (Cavity EP, 2008 ; s/t, 2009 & Towards The Surface EP, 2009).
Is Your Truth Carved in the Sand? is the first record that will see a more widespread release under the Japanese label Happylife (who previously released Nadja stuff this year).
It is a collection of songs all previously released on those limited cdr’s & EP’s. Some versions of the songs have been retouched as well (Version II).

The opener “As it Always is” can be found on the Monolith cdr. Reverb & distortion drenched guitars play a simple melancholic melody line. The  lines are formed by a higher pitched guitar (much like Jesu) and some synths that rise above the guitar onslaught. The vocals are modulated and sound very harmonic and melancholic (again like Jesu, Iroha, Nadja etc.). Recent Jesu though for example, is much more electronic than this. Fragment. sounds very organic. The songs are quite repetitive. But in most tracks I didn’t find that a bother at all. The vocals in the opener reminded me of the Jesu track called “Why are we not Perfect?”.
Two Becomes One” opens rather strange with guitars modulated with a flanger or something. When the drums kick in though, this quickly brings the sound of the mentiond bands back to mind. This is a slightly more uplifting track. The vocals are a little more prominent and could do with some minor improvement. The lyrics are quite simple but effective. Again a repetetive and lengthy track, but if they are of this quality this really doesn’t bother me.   I got goosebumps when the bass & drums dissapear and you only hear the guitar melody and the subtle voice uttering “two becomes one”.
The third track “Ghost” appeared on the s/t release and this is one of the gems on this release. The heavy ambient opening swarming with bass is more reminiscent with the heavier bands in the genre. The beauty of this track is its simplicity.  One redicilously melancholic melody (a very simple guitar riff), monstrous bass and only four phrases of lyrics repeated. But it is truly heartbreaking stuff.
Numb or Blind (Version II) ” was featured on the debut EP Cavity. What we have here is the first retouched songversion on this release. It opens with a discordant high pitched guitar plucking away (almost like a Jesu live sound check if you’ve seen em). The walls of guitars, bass and noise quickly join the club again. This track is a little bit more upbeat and the riffing in this song, though more complex,  is less affective. The nifty vocal section in the middle part is what makes this one worth while.  During the final quarter, the track slips into an industrial vibe bringing to mind bands like Godflesh.

Burn (Version II)” is the most electronic track on the release (originally on the Towards the Surface EP). It’s almost void of pure guitars.  A lot of emphasis on the synths and drums. The bass is very  heavy (but clearly electronically manipulated).  It is again a slow melancholic creeper that gets under your clothes and into your heart. The vocals are subtle and back in the mix and this lends itself well to this track.
Empire (Version II)” is a track clearly inspired by the earlier works of the band Jesu. It’s heavy and repetitive. It’s upbeat compared to the depressing earlier Jesu works. Again, one single melody wrapped in heavy bass, ethereal melancholic vocals and programmed drums form the ingrediënt of this incredibly simple yet effective track.
The final two tracks are the lengthiest ones. “Loose Yourself (Version II)” clocks in at 11.18 minutes. It’s got an ambient flow (more like Final) and the emphasis is clearly not on the rhythm but purely on the melodies created by the synths. The bass makes it’s first appearance on the track at around the 1.40 minute mark.
At the 2 minute mark the ethereal vocals turn this into another melancholic cut.  It’s a gorgeous track but the absence of drums makes harder to focus on this one.
Divided (Version II)” sees a return to what Fragment. really shines at. At 13.19 minutes it is the lengthiest track (again rather repetitive) but it packs a punch and is more in the traditional style found in bands like Jesu and Iroha. The lengthy outro sounds like it could have come from the Sun Down / Sun Rise EP (2007).

Relatively simple melodies,  matched with drony guitars and heavy bass and programmed drums. Ethereal echoed vocals and heavenly, well balanced synths. Other bands have already managed it to perfection but as far as I’m concerned Fragment. can join this club. It’s not an inventive or revolutionary release. But the quality is enormous and so there is no reason to complain here. For now Jesu and Iroha have yet to release a record in 2009 and Fragment. more than fills up the void!

Chuter – Leaving Here

Posted in Review on July 15, 2009 by joeki2000

19 year old Jack Chuter will be a stranger to most of you and untill recently me as well. I got introduced to his music through the Avalanchers Board where he lurked and posted for a while. How this new solo project of his is still unsigned I can not apprehend. He creates a blend of post rock/metal inspired shoegaze that is very blissfull and unique. Leaving Here dates back from 2008 but I just had to review it because it’s worth every second of your attention.

The album opens with “Tree“. The plucking guitar notes sound not unlike premium post rock band Explosions in the Sky. One big advantage Chuter has over this band though, is the use of vocals.  Those vocals make their debut on the release  in a distorted spoken verse style deep underneath the music. Then the drums kick in creating a fascinating build up along with the clear ethereal vocals which break through the music. Because they are back in the mix I immideatly fall into a shoegazer mindset. Jack’s voice sounds very mature for a 19 year old and he can certainly sing.  The opening track never quite  bursts open so we are left to wait ’till the second track to discover the full aural spectrum of this solo project.

Vision” is an entirely different beast from the opening track. Sludgy walls of guitar caught me off guard as I had never expected that. When the melodic guitar and the vocals join in we are back where this release started. This has become pure metal instead of rock though. The sound of this second track will remind listeners of the sounds from Jesu, Iroha and perhaps even late Godflesh (Hymns).
The composition sounds incredibly balanced. Though it is surely on the heavier side of the musical spectrum, it makes for remarkably easy listening. Again Chuter proves his voice can handle quite a lot.  In true shoegazer form, the vocals are not prominent in the mix. But it is still apparent he can reach high tones quite easily.  Past the midway point of the track the sludgy guitars return and remind me of Isis, around the Celestial era. Astonishing track. The melodic guitar lines never dissapear from underneath this heavy foundation, creating a completely different experience from that album.
The third track,  “Reel In” is a more humble approach. It’s repetetive drum patterns along with the vocals provide an hypnotic listening experience.

Harness” is again a completely different tune. It’s the most relaxed track on the album  and the composition is very melancholic. The vocal arrangement is at its best on this track. I got a strong Slowdive vibe from this track which can mean nothing but good.
The final track “Leaving Here” (at a lengthy 10:21) seems to build on the melodies of “Harness”. The drums and vocals sound like they come straight out of the nineties, meaning an even stronger shoegaze stamp. These two tracks form a great combination and are the highlights of the release in my opinion.  Especially when the über fuzzed out guitars make their way into the second part of the final song.
In between is the surprising “Within Your Head” which reintroduces  the sludgy guitars  from track 2. Again early Isis comes to mind, but in combination with these ethereal vocals, it needs to be stressed that this is a completely different experience. The track slowly broods but just like the opening cut, never quite explodes. The ambient melody that almost unnoticably slips underneath in the final minutes of the song reminded me of Boris – “Farewell” (Pink,2005).

This artist who comes out of the blue for me has made a wonderful album and I can’t believe it is download-able for free. There are six great tracks on here (all 7 minute plus). Compared to some of the shit that get’s sold for 15$ nowadays this is pure quality. A few minor remarks are perhaps the repetitiveness. Though I personally don’t mind repetitiveness within a song, the melodies on the album are all quite similar. Though the introduction of sludgy and heavier guitars in two of the tracks brought some welcome variation.  For a solo project this is simply an amazing album : period. And I can’t wait to here more from this young talent.
The album is available for free download from this blog under the “Audio/Video” section : don’t wait on this!

Mastodon – Crack the Skye

Posted in Review on July 14, 2009 by joeki2000

As I mentioned before I’m going back to doing more instrumental music. And the next installment in this series is a review of the brand new Mastodon album : Crack the Skye .

Mastodon is one of many bands falling under that elusive “Progressive Metal” label. They are influenced by bands who are called the inventors of that genre ( Isis, Neurosis…) and their debut full length (Remission,2002) still sounds very much like these bands.  They also take elements from hardcore acts like Coalesce. But to me,  Mastodon are generally a heavier, faster and more technical stoner rock band. Their sound developed as such on the second full length (Leviathan,2004), which appealed to a much wider audience and was generally heralded. Their big label debut (Blood Mountain,2006) though their most mature production to date, mysteriously failed to deliver in the sales departement. Let’s see how their new full lengths holds up to this impressive discography.

Mastodon always work around a concept with their albums. This time, Tsarist Russia and Rasputin serve as the base for the listening experience. But don’t let that scare you as some of the lyrics are not nearly as deep as you’d expect with such thematics.
The band has a tradition to open a record very hard and loud. They certainly surprised me this time. “Oblivion” is a very melodic track, reminiscent of “This Mortal Soil” on Blood Mountain. Indeed, this is probably their most melodically complex album yet.  Second track “Divinations” proves me right after again catching me by surprise with banjo notes in the intro.  This track also still hints back at their previous release. Any further comparison is harder though.
In “Quintessence” the hardcore influences in the band are most apparant. The chorus brings me back to late ninetees early 21st century hardcore.  At the end the song slips into a sludgy vibe which I really liked.
Main piece on the album “The Czar” is up next. This 11 minute monster starts out with a synth intro and slowly builds up. It then schifts into a jazzy jam with splendid moany vocals.  It then seems to slip into more traditional Mastodon sound, only to surprise me again with it’s less complex third part.
The slower “Ghost of  Karelia” is easier to digest as it is again very melodic and catchy.
Title track “Crack the Skye”  has a relaxed opening but is the hardest track on the album. The band finds the middle ground between Neurosis and their own sound on Blood Mountain.
The epic closer “The Baron” is similar to “The Czar“.  Though it is denser and murkier, more complex even, than that track. It is probably the most technical track on the album and all the musicians go full out on this one which for me made it one of the best tracks.

Overall, I found the shorter, melodic tracks suiting me very much. I do think this album will further alienate them from their original fans. And the complexity of the longer songs (though certainly not complexer than their previous  full length) might be too much to handle for some of the newer fans. The strong melodies on the album though are certain to appeal to many people. If Blood Mountain was considered an experimental album, then I’m not sure how to classify this. The band has stretched its musical abilities even further and might have lost some power along the way. This album is less technical than their previous work  but more cohesive than Blood Mountain in my book. Though no album of the year, they sure deliver once again. But Blood Mountain has proven that is no guarantee for big sales.

Gig Review : Ignite (12/07/09)

Posted in Review on July 14, 2009 by joeki2000

There’s a first time for everything. Today I introduce the first gig review on this blog. I have writtin dozens in the past for other websites & forums but I figured I might as well start here. This is the first of what I hope to be a monthly tradition.

Past Sunday, Ignite came to town. Now this is a band I have seen at least 5 times already. So I suppose I know what I’m talking about when it comes to these guys and live performances.  Today’s show was an indoor show, the way I prefer it.  There were 3 support bands, unfortunately I only saw one.

Reno Divorce (from Denver, Colorado) opened for Ignite. Perhaps a weird combination, but it worked quite well for me as I was in a relaxed mood before the headliner (didn’t feel like doing crazy things like stage diving etc.) . Reno Divorce play a blend of punk & rock heavily inspired by Social Distortion, Bad Religion and perhaps a little Misfits as well. The earlier stuff is sometimes a little rougher around the edges than SD, but the vocals are very much alike. The newer stuff is even more melodic (hence why I listed Bad Religion as influence). The newer tracks deffonetly sounded better to these ears but I was quite impressed with the band in general. They played a single from the new album called “How Long’s it Been?” which was the highlight of the set for me. Two big hits from the previous album also passed the review (“Say It” & “Firecracker”) . “The Ace of Spades” cover I could have lived without, but it was a good attempt for sure.
Quite a relaxed and enjoyable performance with a little bit of humor from the lead singer/guitarist. The performance did seem a bit short… (we did walk in when they were already playing so we might have missed some songs..).

Ignite were up next. And the the Trix Zaal at the Trix Music Center was heavily packed for a Sunday performance. A lot of younger listeners came out to see Ignite, which isn’t a surprise given the wide range of audience their last album “Our Darkest Days” appealed to. The first half of the set was colored by tracks from this album.  Just like the last 3 times  I saw them they opened with “Bleeding” , which is also the opening track for the aforementioned album. It certainly got the crowd going. More tracks from that album followed (“Fear is our Tradition“, “My Judgement Day“, “Poverty for All“…).  In between, ” A Place Called Home” got the crowd singing along.  Traditionally one of the best accepted tracks in their repertoire is their U2 cover of “Bloody Sunday” and today was no exception.
Acoustic versions of “Slow down” and of course “Live for Better Days” were nice to hear, but slowed things down a little too much I suppose because the crowd response was less enthusiastic after this intermezzo.
Perhaps the choice of tunes also had something to do with this.
In the second half of the performance only older songs were played. “Who Sold Out now” still got a circle pit going. One of my favorite tracks “Hands on Stance” seemed to get little appreciation by the crowd. “Ash Return” , also still a regular addition to their set,  unfortunately got the same treatment. The crowd lifted their spirits one more time for “Veteran” which was a highlight late in the set. The encore consisted of “By my Side” , which unfortunately isn’t my favorite song.
They also did a cover of  The Misfits (“20 eyes“?) but that song did nothing for me.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with the performance (though I have seen them better in Holland, or at Groezrock fest). The crowd response in the first half of the gig was better than expected. “Hands on Stance” in the set and some of the big hits from the latets album made for a sufficient performance as far as I’m concerned.
A few remarks : Leave out the cover. “Ash Return” is a great song, but largely unknown by the younger audience so it seems. Perhaps “Embrace” would have been a better choice. Also, “Call on my Brothers” should be played at any Ignite gig!
The acoustic intermezzo was interesting and sounded pretty good. Apparently they are recording an acoustic album with Walls of Jericho later this year.
The older I get, the more the comments and speeches Zoli Teglas delivers between songs appeal to me. I used to think “cut the crap and play more songs”, but now that I’m older myself, I see that a band is in a very privileged position to get important messages out to a thinking audience. In the end :  If  our generation doesn’t act, who will? Therefore I applaud bands like Ignite who are still doing this. And it’s a necessity as fewer young people seem to be interested in these things.

In the end I went home quite happy. Perhaps the only real downside to this gig was the price. 5 years ago Ignite played around here nearly for free. Now a ticket was 18€ at the door. Wether this is due to their popularity now or a consequence of the global economic recession I don’t know. Everyone has to make a living and if it is a socially/politically aware band who try and do some good and deliver a good live performance while at it, I still gladly pay that money : “Nothing’s for free, Pay may ticket at the door“.

Cloaks – Versus Grain

Posted in Review on July 8, 2009 by joeki2000

I got my claws on a promo copy of “Versus Grain” last week. I have been keeping track on these guys from the U.K. ever since I heard their “Hi-Tek” EP something like two years ago. So this first full lengths has been a long time coming. After getting the  “Against / Rust on Metal” single,  which served as a teaser for this album last month, I just had to check this out.

Cloaks form a noisy mixture of industrial, ambient, dub & break elements. Hard to compare to any artist ( if anything, recent Scorn, the heaviest Distance or King Cannibal should come to mind ). If those names are a warning to you, read no further because there is no middle ground on this release.

Whereas the “Hi Tek” EP was still a mutant dubstep variant for the better part, there is little of that remaining on this full length. It is not that danceable (if anything, I found myself headbanging). In fact, only two tracks mess around with the 140 bpm rhythm which is a dubstep trademark. The rest are all faster or slower.  The ingrediënts are a dense layer of industrial sounds, big basses, distortion and computer samples which are piled up to create a thick slab of noise. The sterile but full bass provides a kick in the stomach to any listener.
Opening track #00148 immediately provides one of the highlights for me. From the rumbling opening sounds (almost like a Geiger meter or something) to the outburst of sterile & clinical basses and programmed drums. This track is a cold and relentless introducer to a dark listening experience. At 148 bpm’s it’s still remarkably danceable as well.
The beginning of  Junk is just scary. A distorted computer voice utters words that are incomprehensible. This could be coming straight out of a horror movie. But then the rolling bass line sets in which is even heavier than the opening track and you move completely into an industrial comfort zone.
Against was already featured on 12″ and has a more  break  inspired approach. It is slow in the build up and shows that these guys can actually write songs and not just pummel everyone with heavy bass lines and noise.
Rust on Metal was also featured on that same 12″ and is one of the highlights. It sounds like a manipulated or extremely down tuned guitar was processed to form the main bass and melody line (if you can call it that). Again the programmed beats are still quite danceable and I can see a wide range of people enjoying this (people with extreme taste in music though). This will certainly appeal to metal heads as well.

In between the aforementioned two tracks, we have #00162 .  Again an opening reminding me of classic break(core) with a very danceable drum rhythm programmed underneath it. Probably the most dance able tune on the release, too bad it clocks in at only 01.38 minutes.

Sixemenaxetwo serves as the main piece on this release. Here I clearly notice industrial influences from bands like Godflesh and Scorn. Rhythm & drum wise this could come straight from “Streetcleaner” (an album released in the 80’ies!). The electronic sound layers placed over this makes this one really worth while. Heavy, mood creating and well produced. The second half of the tracks sees just more and more layers of noise placed over the basic drum patterns.  Highlight track of the album for me.

#00197 has some hints at actual melody at the start. It’s 143 bpm rhythm is also more reminiscent of dubstep. So this one probably sounds the closest related to the “Hi Tek” EP from 2007.

R.F.I.D. reminded me of acts like Techno Animal, again Scorn and King Cannibal. It’s pretty danceable at around 80 bpm’s. The bass & noise are cut down on a little and there is more focus on rhythm. Still it is a pretty pummeling experience.
The album closes off with the 5 minute plus track Detritus, the only track that is actually 140 bpm’s flat. It has a long ambient / noise intro and the beats and rhythm are so deeply buried in the noise that it is almost impossible to distill them. On a very experimental album, this was probably just a little too experimental for me, and thus I find it to be the only weaker cut on the album.

Who should get this? It certainly isn’t easy listening, but it is edge cutting and creative in dealing with existing genre’s that have come to stalemate. Any fan of past industrial giants like Godflesh or Scorn, will surely get some fun out of this release. Ambient noise is another big ingrediënt so anyone enjoying Merzbow and the likes can check this out. For a correct audience, it is still danceable and the basses re monstrous so even dubheads can like this.
Everyone who enjoys harmony and melody should stay away from this as far as possible. I find it to be one of the strongest experimental releases all year.