Monday, June 20, 2011

Evil Invaders III

Despite planning on making the trip across the wastelands of this country to attend Evil Invaders III, I didn't quite manage to work it out, with uni and work etc. Which is pretty shitty considering the line-up of (but not limited to) Ignivomous, Innsmouth, Portal, Grave Upheaval, Black Jesus, Impetuous Ritual and the legendary dISEMBOWELMENT ressurected under the name d.USK. The gig is essentially the culmination of Australian underground death metal.

While I didn't make the trip, fellow slayer Eddie went up to Sydney from Melbourne to catch the show, and was nice enough to write about his time there. Read it here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bad Braids - Arrow and Orb

While you're all still delving into Wreck and Reference's EP, here's another Music Ruins Lives record that will undoubtedly interest you. Bad Braids' EP Arrow and Orb is a collection of six intimate and enticing folk songs, making up a captivating twenty minutes of introspection.

Arrow and Orb is a simple record, eschewing complexity in the wake of honest emotion and placid contemplation. Even through its simplicity, it still took me a while to properly digest Megan Biscieglia's music. While it's clearly charismatic, the mixture of pop sensibilities and somber folk on the record is almost hypnotic, leaving the critic in me somewhere far away from Biscieglia's voice.

Folk music is about personality, and it's about emotion. Arrow and Orb demonstrates both of these plainly, which ultimately becomes its affecting quality. It sounds just as much like everything else as it does nothing else, an unwavering sign that this project does not need to cater to unestablished and whimsicial folk tenets to write a good song - Bad Braids is simply heartfelt folk, meant to be felt from your heart.

You can download the EP from Bad Braids' bandcamp page for a price you choose.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wreck and Reference - Black Cassette

And so here I was thinking that I wouldn't ever find any new takes on doom metal worth hearing, until Wreck and Reference sent me a copy of their EP, Black Cassette. From the outset, this band's music retains elements of traditional doom, but it warps and distorts them into something totally unique. Coming out of California, the band describes themselves as a 'lo-fi electronic doom band', one that plays doom with no guitars. While this could be off-putting for some, all it does is simply set Wreck and Reference apart, putting them in a category that is completely their own.

Other than the drums and vocals, all the music on Black Cassette is electronically created using synthesizers and various samples. The end result is a composition that is structurally a 'doom' record, but one which loosens the genre's boundaries and leads expeditions into experimental territory. The claustrophobic nature of doom is here, but it is further accentuated by a noise-esque fuzz over the composition. Moments where the music bursts to life are shadowed by a deep rumble that is unnerving in the best possible way. Do not be mistaken, however, in thinking that this is as ‘lo-fi’ as the band claim – while there is a DIY feel to this record, it is immaculately produced and simply sounds great.

The pace of the EP is pretty much perfect. There are no lengthy songs here, and though the whole thing goes for a little over 23 minutes, I don't even notice the time when I listen to it. Compositionally, Wreck and Reference have nailed it. Each song is as engaging as the last, and while they keep to a similar core approach in each one, there are differences that set them apart and keep them fresh. Strange melodies, such as the one at the end of 'Evening Redness' or on 'Surrendering' are captivating and emotionally charged, a current that runs throughout the entire EP.

If I had to pick one thing about Wreck and Reference which makes me refer it (loosely) to traditional doom, other than the lethargic tempos, it would be the vocal work. While it's not a reference due to similarity, I'll simply drop the name Warning to get people interested. The vocals on Black Cassette are very unique and ordinary at the same time, something that Pat Walker is arguably known for. On Black Cassette, one thing that characterises all the vocal work is the acerbic tone in which it’s delivered, one which ranges from almost Placebo-like emission to Walker inspired wails (the vocal performance on 'In Chains, Awakening' a perfect example). If anything, they make Black Cassette all the more inviting.

What I love most about this record is the fuzz. And sometimes the lack of. The 'riffs' are made of walls of distortion, which swell and dip frequently, and the occasional moment where the absence of the fuzz is emphasised juxtaposes wonderfully with the rest of the composition. The quiet first half of 'Surrendering' as opposed to its abrasive and almost despondent climax is one such example, a formula that the band repeats in a variety of ways throughout Black Cassette.

At first I put little effort into this EP, but all it took was one concentrated listen for me to realise how good it is. Wreck and Reference is a young band, forming only a couple of years ago, and I'm while I'm unsure of any earlier releases, Black Cassette is reason enough to become a fan. They're a mesh of Warning and The Die is Cast-era Menace Ruine, with a lot of unique twists and touches - something which, in my opinion, simply has to be heard. This comes with the highest recommendation I can possibly give.

The EP can be streamed at Wreck and Reference's bandcamp page, from which you can download it for free. There is also the option to buy the physical copy, so if you do like it, please support them so they can keep putting out such great music.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Moonbeams - The Daisy Chain

All great shoegaze/dream pop boils down to an exercise in utter time distortion. This debut record from San Francisco indie outfit Moonbeams is no exception. Their particular brand of slow-motion pop with its psychedelic guitar and swirling percussion is an atmospheric delight. The lazy vocals have a rich, warm resonance that pours over each track just like honey. All of this culminates into an introspective sonic storm, the ebb and flow of which lulls this listener into a state of timelessness.

So what sets the Moonbeams apart? The right amount of fuzz on the needle. The lo-fi aspect isn't forced for the sake of it but genuine and natural. Despite the fact they're up there floating around in the clouds, you can't accuse them of being aimless. A good sense of balance and direction prevents this record from drifting too far and losing sight of the listener. The track order works, the titular song which comes four tracks in is a stand-out for me, as is 'Ultraviolet' around the middle and the final track 'Eternal Life' drives it home nicely. I have no major criticism of The Daisy Chain and I'm not going to burst this bubble with trivial nitpicking. It makes you reminisce for the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain without drawing unfavorable comparisons.

The Daisy Chain will be released by Hop Skip Jump Records on the 17th of June.

stream the album here
download the album here

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Balcony View - Balcony View

What happens when a trickster binges on ambient, drone and folk music and is then given a guitar and an instrument mic ? - Balcony View, that's who. Some of you may remember Trickster, a contributor on this fine blog in its formative stage, but unfortunately this fine specimen had to leave us, and actually became a real person, going to college and not really posting on the internet. Balcony view is proof that he's still Trickster deep down inside.

To quote the musician himself, 'everything's done using guitar and vox, recorded through an instrument mic i hooked up to my laptop, no synthesized shit'. This is pure ambient music, closely following the footsteps of one of S4D's favourites, Aidan Baker. Gentle ebb and flow on tracks like 'Skyscraper' are positioned alongside folky songs such as 'Cold Wind'. As Aidan Baker would put it, this is 'drone-folk' of the Scalpel variety.

The two long songs, 'Skyscraper' and 'The Coming Storm (And Its Aftermath)' are simply epic, with a wall of ambience enveloping the listener. What I love most about this as an ambient album is that it often strays from the generic ambient template. Listening to 'The Coming Storm...', one cannot miss the very bluesy guitar solo towards the end. It's something completely unexpected but sounds fucking great.

Ambient music is easy to make but it's difficult to make properly. Balcony View is easy to listen to and revels in its simplicity, but one can tell that thought and care has gone into its composition and arrangement. Trickster never leaves anything up to chance. Highly recommended.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Host - Demo 2011

No matter what style of music it may be, UK scenes have always eluded me. I know little about them other than 'big' bands and random underground groups that gain recognition due to being signed to a reputable label or just becoming 'known' on the blogosphere. But like any scene, I'm sure there are a 'host' of good bands being overwhelmed by a horde of shitty ones, but fortunately for me (and subsequently you) the band Host belong to the former.

From Leeds, this group play a form of dark and sludgy hardcore - the band themselves call it 'downbeat'. I'm not sure whether that's a British thing or if I've just not caught onto the term, but I don't really know what it is. Regardless, it sort of makes sense.

The three tracks on this demo clock in at a total of about 8 minutes, and it's ideal for constant replays. Faster-tempos morph in and out of crushing riffs with some really vicious and bitter vocals. I was told along with the submission that this is for fans of Cursed, Trap Them and Magrudergrind, but I'd also add Hatred Surge, Iron Lung and maybe even Dystopia to that list. There are probably lots of bands that sound a lot like this, but that doesn't mean anything to me because this demo is as visceral as it needs to be, and has me hooked.

If you've already figured out what this sounds like, you should be able to guess if you'll dig it or not. It's an amalgamation of two of my favourite genres, and it's done really well. Any fans of sludge or hardcore should check their demo out. I'm already waiting for new material.

host - demo 2011