Magnetoscop. – Une Fleur Dans Le Goudron – 82%

une fleur dans le goudron cover art

Formed in 2010, Magnetoscop. is a band whose sound is forged on dark overtones and haunting passages of bleak emotion packed nothingness. Their latest album, “Un Fleur Dans Le Goudon” is a mysterious orchestra of emotion, interweaving distortion guitars that hum in despair with ghostly piano segments. I’ve listened to this album nearly half a dozen time and with each listen my imagination wanders further and further as the 9 track, 45 minute story unfolds.

The album title translates to “A Flower in Tar”, quite a depressing scene if you ask me. The album opens with a chilling piano based tune that sets the scenery as bleak, lonesome and dark. From here we have “I’Homme” which has French samples that are most likely a crucial key to the story that is about to unfold. This is where I’m left out in the cold, unable to decipher what is being said, forced to use only my imagination to paint the picture myself. In so many ways this feels like a blessing rather than a curse. In a genre that has no shortage of stories unraveling through the use of only instrumentals, “Une Fleur Dans Le Goudron” is a welcome challenge.

Church bells chime amongst the chattering of birds as the sound of a heavy door of olden times open in “Ulan Bator (ou Jekyll Devient Hyde)” begins. The wooden floor squeaks as the character proceeds forward before fumbling with glass instruments. A scene inside a chemists lab is unfolding. The music’s intensity picks up as water begins to bubble. The track has all the vintage markings of modern post-rock yearning to be of a different time and era. At the end of the track lightning cracks the sky and rain pours from the heavens above onto the ground below. “Apres Le Pluie” (after the rain) part 1 is a short interlude that see an acoustic guitar intertwine with a more elegant piano segment while part 2 expands upon the sound, adding drums and a multitude of layers into the mix. The track grows increasingly loud, pushing the pace with through the use of cymbal crashing with aggressive piano notes.

Another short sample after “Le Meche” and in “Feu” offers us more of the stories clues, but anyone who doesn’t speak French is still left out in the cold. “Feu” takes a stark turn from the rest of the album as it’s a much heavier track with a quicker tempo. More french samples play amongst  the sounds of a cities ambiance in “Opium” as cars in the distance echo throughout the city. The track itself is a much more relaxed vibe and is the “prettiest” track on the album if you will. Magnetoscop. saved the best and longest track for last, as “I’armee Du Cancrelat” (Army of Cockroach) clocks in at almost nine and a half minutes. In this moody closer the album we hear a slow burn build up as distortion guitars rev up in heroic spiraling fashion as drumming intensifies. The french samples are distraught, telling me something has gone horribly wrong throughout the story. The track slows down with a drawn out exit as we fade away from the musical journey and back into reality.

Magnetoscop. have done an outstanding job painting the scenery around the story and deserve much credit for maintaining that atmosphere throughout the album without so much as breaking stride once. That being said, stripped of its atmosphere and samples what “Une Fleur Dans Le Goudron” lacks is originality. It’s a rather basic sounding somber and bleak post-rock album, albeit a finely crafted album, that has all the tell-tale signs of french influence that I’m use to hearing. It does serve it’s purpose though in reminding us that post-rock is truly a universal language, transcending language barriers and uniting those who have a deep admiration for this style of music regardless of their positioning on the globe. That in itself is an undertaking I can surely get behind. 9/29/12

Available for $2 on bandcamp: http://magnetoscop.bandcamp.com/album/une-fleur-dans-le-goudron

A Call to Arms! Postrockstar.com is seeking writers!

When Postrockstar.com began nearly 3 months ago it started off as a small blog that would serve host to my ramblings and thoughts on post-rock and non post-rock albums. There were no intentions of helping expose smaller bands and there were no standards of quality to adhere to. It was simply one man doing his own thing. Over the last 90 days the blog has taken off far beyond my wildest dreams and as a result we’re seeing traffic in the area of 4000-5000 hits a month. In addition, we’re constantly seeking out new post-rock/post-metal/math-rock/ambient and shoegaze albums from lesser known bands and we’re also being asked by those bands to review their work. The demand has become overwhelming and I’m now focused on bringing spotlight to new bands and releases rather than just giving my opinion of their music, which can be evident in the neutral stance I’ve tended to take in the majority of my recent reviews.

That’s why we need you! Are you a talented writer who wants to be featured on a site that averages roughly 150 unique visits a day? Are you passionate about post-rock and related genres to the point where you feel you can accurately compare and contrast albums to one another in an effort to determine the best of the bunch? Or maybe you’ve just got creative juices running through your veins and need a place to express yourself? If so, I want you to come write for postrockstar.com as we take the next step forward. I have big plans for this website and would like to see the site grow to include news, interviews, features and more in addition to album reviews. None of these plans will see the light of day however unless I find like-minded individuals willing to step up to the plate and produce content for the site as we plow through our backlog of albums and look ahead to 2013.

This website is a 100% self-funded project that sees absolutely zero revenue. As of right now I am strongly against monetizing the site due to the fact that I don’t want to compromise the integrity of the website. Pop-ups and banners are annoying. I don’t want to see them and neither do you.  Perhaps in the future when we move the site off of wordpress I’ll soften my stance but as of right now I stand in firm in those beliefs. What I’m getting at is I cannot offer any sort of financial compensation to those who wish to write for the site. I can however offer promotion and support to whatever website and/or project you are affiliated with. If you think that this is a fair trade and think you would be a good fit for the site please go ahead and send an email with writing sample to postrockstars@gmail.com . Thanks!

Review Round Up #4

té – Oto no Naka no ‘Keiren Teki’ na Bi wa, Kannen wo Koe Nikutai ni Otozureru Yasei no Senritsu EP80%

té_2012
Japanese post/math-rockers are explosive and aggressive in this EP which features 3 new tracks and a live show recorded earlier this year. Bold, heavy and rhythmic would best describe the three new tracks, which are the only tracks on the EP I am reviewing. Furiously breakneck sets a ridiculous tempo that textured guitars of all varieties struggle to keep up with in the first track. In the second track we have a much slower smoother tempo indie-rock like feel with dark tones bursting at the seams in complex layering, creating an enormous wall of sound. The main riff is cutting edge and catchy as the band manages to sneak in some scaling spiral guitar layers embedded deep within the mix as well.  The final new track begins space-age esque electronica before evolving into a groovy blend of muddy bass and textured guitar crescendos while a single high-pitched clean guitar swirls around the tornado of sound. always manage to impress me and these new tracks are no different.  9-27-12

Available for a staggering $19 at http://zankyorecord.bandcamp.com/album/te-official-merch

SinobolaSinobola81%

Relatively new onto the scene, the Ukrainian 4-piece Sinobola’s self titled album is their first full length and the follow-up to their 3-track “Ideas EP”, reviewed just last month by Bothra, a postrockstar guest reviewer. The 6-track 28 minute album is a highly impressive effort that steps upon new territories by being a very bass centric album. Superb lush guitar tones in “Walls of Horizons” and “We Were Confused Because the Universe is Silent” really help the two tracks shine as the best of the bunch. “Speak in Whispers”, the closing track on the album, showcases a refined and mature sound that tells me this band is nowhere near reaching their potential. Even though the album manages to make a lot of noise and ratchets up the intensity here and there, it never reaches levels loud or intense enough that it interferes with the laid back vibe. There are a few technical qualms I have with the album in terms of mixing and a few areas that sounded a bit muddy, but those can be overlooked and are minor nuances that don’t really hinder the album much. In many ways the album has all the markings of a young band throwing themselves into the fray while still developing their sound. 9-27-12

Available for free at their Last.fm page: http://www.last.fm/music/Sinobola/Sinobola

A Place of OwlsThe Oceanic Tomes –  78%

The Oceanic Tomes (ft. Blake Tanberk) cover art

A solo project based on Minneapolis, A Place of Owls has had a firm grasp on both my ears and my heart from the moment I heard “Inviere”, their 2010 EP. When I saw this release on bandcamp, I instantly noticed the track lengths and hoped for the best, realizing I had to prepare for the fact that “The Oceanic Tomes” most likely wouldn’t be a return to the edgy, aggressive, short and to the point songs that I had grown fond of. Even though the release is a collaboration with music theory instructor Blake Tanberk, I was still caught off guard  by the minimalist ambient stylings found throughout the record, a stark departure from the band’s previous work. Those looking for wailing post-rock guitars of despair will be met with long drawn out moody passages of deep ambiance painting a picture of a journey through the pitch black depths of the blue unknown. A soundtrack for deep soul-searching best enjoyed in a dimly lit room or under the relaxed sedation of heavy eyelids. Those expecting post-rock may need to wait for a future release. Those willing to dive into the 45 minute journey will be rewarded with enough space to let their mind roam at will. 9-27-12

Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://aplaceofowls.bandcamp.com/album/the-oceanic-tomes-ft-blake-tanberk

North – The Great Silence – 87%

The Great Silence cover art

(IamHop note: Please welcome longtime friend Erich B. Heider to the Postrockstar family! Erich will be lending his ears and offering his insight for the foreseeable future in an effort to help bring fresh opinions, critiques and writing to the site. Erich will be handling most of the post-metal, sludge and shoegaze content that comes our way.)

North is one of those bands that, upon continued listening, rewards the subject with the realization that although made up of a few completely disparate elements, comes together amazingly into a beautiful monster.

This Tuscan, Arizona band mixes super thick heavy riffs and one of the best death/sludge vocal sounds I’ve heard in years with gossamer post rock/gaze instrumental passages and undercurrents in a way that sounds quite unique in the current overcrowded post rock/post metal oeuvre.

The intro track, “nihil novi sub sole,” which, incidentally translates from the Latin as “There is nothing new under the sun,” lulls one in with stereophonic warmth bursts. This trend continues into the beginning of “Sentience” which starts out with an Explosions in the Sky vibe that is dissipated as soon as the deep, gravel throated vocals kick in. This doesn’t cross the railroad tracks into heavy until the sluggish, almost lazy riff drops, so the vocals against the grain of the music here make for a special sweet and sour treat. I was  pleasantly surprised not only at how well the vocals work with the lighter moments of the music, but with the well written lyrics and melodic hooks (although I hate to call them that, as they aren’t contrived at all).

We entirely submerge ourselves into the dark on Track 3, “Inanimate Fathers.”  Though the tempo doesn’t pick up, the whole vibe is heavier, and if it weren’t for the underlying edges of post rock stylings you’d figure you were listening to the next great “stoner” sludge band.

“Origins” is up next, and at first bringing us back to the gaze. An interesting guitar figure played over swelling peaks of volume resonates warmth…with only the bass suggesting at first that something is very wrong. There’s just enough dissonance mixed in to unsettle you, keeping you off-balance until what turns out to be a perfectly executed semi-duet, complete with female vocals, kicks in. The track breathes menace even as its fractured beauty invites you in.

The next track, “Pulse,” picks the pace up slightly again, but pours on the anger. The vibe is relentless. It’s like the promise of getting a beating when you’re a masochist. With the force receding briefly for an interlude that’s like the relief after an ice cream headache subsides, you get smashed in the ear with tremolo picking and more plodding beast riffage.

Ironically enough, “Patience,” is one of the shortest tracks on this album, clocking in at a little under 6 minutes. It’s comparative brevity doesn’t mean it lacks in the power sludge that permeates this great album. It’s a nice treat to hear the vocals lighten up ever so slightly, before going over the crest into a thousand sand grains shredding through the desert in a windstorm. Very hooky, despite the slow brutality exhibited. Darth Vader would waltz with you to the bridge of this song.

“Paradox” returns to a familiar post rock cadence at the beginning. Of course the slight turn in the road takes us down the dim streets of rain slicked sludge, passing only glimpses of its former self in the puddles. At this point it will occur to anyone even fairly into music how amazingly solid, though understated, the rhythm section of this band is. One realizes how far one has come, but only now do they see that the path they follow is so in synch as to absorb, like the shocks of a dune buggy, all the peaks and twists, without letting one know it were ever happening. This is Lincoln Continental style air glide.

Chaos is permitted only long enough to deliver us to “Ou Est Tout Le Monde.” This is the best ending possible for “The Great Silence.” It reprises all the flavors that have come before it, but in an ultimate form. Epic, mean, and with a sharp octave guitar line, cutting all the way till sweetness is found. Duel riffs lead to sweet shoegaze interludes that lead to the belly of a leviathan, thanks to the once again stunning vocals and their melody. Oh yeah, and since I set a translation precedent, the title translates to “Everyone (in the world) is there.”

In summation, if you the least bit interested at post metal/gaze music, even out of curiosity, this album is a fucking smash. There’s almost literally no going wrong here, which is comparatively astounding, given the hit or miss nature of the post metal genre as a whole. North know how it’s done, and they are innovative and skilled enough to even invent some new ways to do it.

Available for $8 on bandcamp: http://galacticdads.bandcamp.com/

Pray for Sound – Monophonic EP – 87%

Monophonic cover art
“Monophonic” is the debut EP of Pray for Sound, a solo project from Massachusetts. In an interesting twist of affairs, the EP is partly result of hearing loss sustained by Bruce Malley (aka Pray for Sound), who used his medical struggles and hearing loss as inspiration to channel his creative and emotional sides while creating “Monophonic.”
The five track 27 minute EP cuts right to the chase with “Stereophonic” as a short intro screams for attention at maximum decibel levels. With something of a somber light-hearted feel, the track delves into a softer valley before climbing uphill in volume as it chugs along with walls of textured distortion guitar intertwining with spiraling dreamy guitar work and relentless cymbal crashing. From here we’re treated to “Tympanoplasty”, a spacious track that opens with eerie piano amongst rich bass that occupies the low end of the mix. Guitars roar in the background like waves in the distance. I love the minimalist slow down halfway through the track as the highly layered piece becomes just one guitar layer at one point before ascending upward again as it comes full circle.

Retrogression parts 1 and 2″ occupy the next two tracks and is a prime example of how multiple part songs should be. While part 1 is atmospheric and moody, part 2 is a whole different animal, combining marching order drums with ear-splitting post-metal riffs. The contrasting styles of the two tracks is quite beautiful really. Part 1 brings the sound levels and vibe down with a quiet ambient passage allowing for part 2 to shine as the heaviest and most explosive track on the EP. The album comes to a close with the title track, clocking in at just under eight minutes. A beautiful arrangement of high-pitched clean guitars combined with the slow-paced drum work and prominent bass really makes this track stand out as the most polished highlight of the album. When the track hits its stride over six minutes in an overwhelming amount of sound floods both channels as the EP makes one final push to win over the listener with a huge closing that feels reminiscent of how the album began by commanding attention at peak volumes.

In terms of mixing and audio engineering “Monophonic” is as good as it gets. Sound staging is large and the arrangement of instruments is always solid, allowing both guitars and keyboards a chance to shine without neither getting swallowed up in the mix. occasionally the drums do tend to get lost amongst the heavier distortion layers, but that’s forgivable given that I’d also complain if the cymbals were too loud so I guess this whole point is really more of an observation if nothing else.

Pray for Sound feels like a post-rock band that has been around for a very long time despite this being their debut work. The EP treads upon familiar ground for a large majority of the time while still managing to create a few new tracks of its own. I can tell that this is an EP that will remain on my ipod for a very long time. It’s a rock solid addition to any post-rock collection and well worthy of your attention. 9-26-12

Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://prayforsound.bandcamp.com/

Collapse Under The Empire – Fragments of a Prayer – 95%

Collapse Under the Empire’s meteoric rise to the top of the post-rock genre can be compared simply to the way a NASA shuttle launches into space. From humble beginnings of systembreakdown” in 2008 to last year’s monumental “Shoulders & Giants”, my favorite post-rock album of 2011, the German duo have ascended at a rapid pace, never once looking back. Through constant progression and evolution of their music they have solidified their rightful spot among the very best of this genre.

My first introduction to them was through the hype that “Shoulders & Giants” received prior to its release last year. After being hung up on the album for well over a week and quickly getting caught up on their discography, I felt ashamed of myself for not knowing of their greatness sooner. Now they’re back with “Fragments of a Prayer”, their fourth album in as many years to go along with numerous singles and EPs.

The album begins with the title track as bassful rattling begin to the fill the channels. Layers began to pile a top of one another as this spacious ambient track slowly transforms before our ears into a strong opener that feels welcoming and familiar. From here the album transitions to “Breaking the Light” which doesn’t take long to pick up a head of steam. Excellent crescendo based spiraling guitar work competes for the spotlight against the keyboards while cymbals crash around them as the three flood the mix. When the track slows down we’re treated to a hypnotic beat that we’ve come to expect from C.U.T.E.

Next we have a smooth transition to “In the Cold” which brings the volume down a level or two with a slow build up. Beginning as a slight fluttering, the guitars slowly ramp up until they occupy the majority of the sound stage in a multitude of layers. “180 seconds” begins with an elegant keyboard layer amongst booming drums and an influx of electronic sounds. The track maintains it’s aggressiveness as a pinch of guitar work is thrown into the mix down the line. “Closer” keeps the vibe going with its entrancing combination of keyboards and spiraling guitars. The keyboards have just the right amount of bass that allows it to really stand out on the lower end of things while guitars generally occupy the mids and occasionally the highs. This track is without question one of the most interesting post-rock tracks I’ve heard in a very long time. There are times in the track where you can feel the intensity move up a notch. It’s such a blatant obvious progression step up and yet it works so brilliantly and sounds undoubtedly unique.

“Distance” is the sixth track on the 10 track, 47 minute album and is captivating and expansive. Gorgeous spiraling layers of guitar work stand out amongst a backdrop of well mixed cymbals. The contrasting highs and lows of this album fill every inch of the sound stage. “Opening Sky” is a  relaxing ambient passage that leads to “The Beyond”, the longest track on the album at just under 7 minutes. Keyboards fill the high-end amidst a sea of electronics as the track begins with an epic build up with synthesizers. This track as whole is just as fun as it is creative and is second only to “Closer” as my favorite track on the album. The keyboards in this track are as catchy as they come and the synths are vibrant and well-arranged.

Given the feeling of epicness behind the previous track, “When the Day Fades Away” has something of a second coming vibe to it. Layers of guitars mesh with keyboards in a shroud of somber bleakness. This track just oozes raw emotion particularly around the 3 minute mark or so. The album concludes with “The Great Silence”, which opens with gorgeous low-lying bass amidst the high-pitched medium tempo keyboards. This track feels like a throwback to some of the bands earlier work in that it feels loud and heavy but  mild in pace. Layers shift about like a lake after a violent storm. The heaviness I mentioned can be credited partly due to the monstrously loud sounding cymbal crashes found in this track. A great closing number to one hell of a powerhouse of an album.

In comparison to “Shoulders and Giants”, “Fragments of a Prayer” is a much different animal. While last years release felt like more of a point A to Point B album, it really feels like the band took a sandbox approach with this album. “Shoulders & Giants” had amazing catchy songs that had particular beats and layers that sucked you into the well grooved album. “Fragments of a Prayer” is a much larger album that  always seem to offer something new after every play. Songs seem expansive, incredibly deep and I’m never quite sure where the focal point of my listening should be. The album feels less raw and powerful but more mature and textured, a trade off I find fair, while being a bit more on the experimental and ambient side.

What is impressive to me is that Collapse Under the Empire continues to churn out extremely polished albums year after year with no signs of slowing down. The continual progression and maturity of their sound will be what defines the band’s success down the line. C.U.T.E is already a band walking the fine line between pleasing fans of their older work while further developing their sound. Those hung up on the band’s 2011 sound will undoubtedly think this album is inferior to “Shoulders & Giants” but I don’t think that is the case at all. The albums are simply too different at their core for me to choose between them, much like how “Shoulder’s and Giants” sounds nothing like it’s 2010 predecessor “Find a Safe Place to Be.” “Fragments of a Prayer” is an album that commands attention and is a must listen to album of 2012. 9/24/12

Available in MP3, CD, and Vinyl through the band’s website on September 28th: http://collapseundertheempire.com/shop/

Underground Cities – Arcosanti – 93%

Arcosanti cover art
“Arcosanti” is Underground Cities follow-up album to their 2010 debut “The Dalliance Album.” The Arizona four piece formed in 2008 bring a more straight forward post-rock sound to the table. “Arcosanti” is 46 minutes over eight tracks and starts strong with “Early Birds”, a fun track with acentric drumming and beautifully layered guitar textures. “Made of Rust” is a short and sensual piano number that features a horn instrument in the distant background that helps moves the album along seamlessly to “1876”, a huge track that brings a monumental feel to the table with its build ups and changes in intensity. A large sound stage allows the excellent mixing and audio engineering found throughout the album to really shine.  “Stay Fast With the Ships” begins as a quiet piece chalked full of emotion that features lovely violin work amongst a twinkly backdrop of keyboards and slow distant cymbal crashes. Eventually the track works itself into a post-rock frenzy that I really feel should have lasted much longer.

“Arcosanti Bells” is fun track that is deeply layered and is oozing with charisma and really feels like the track that defines a band. “Talk Slow, Move Slow” is another track with an interlude vibe that helps set the stage for “Something New in All Sizes and Colors”, the longest track on the album at nine and a half minutes long. This track opens curiously and builds up while drums give marching orders as spiraling crescendo guitar layers amp up the sound levels. A clean guitar layer hangs around as long as it can until  distortion guitar layers completely shove it aside. Easily one of the biggest highlights on the album is when this track bursts at the seams as it peaks in all it’s post-rocking glory. Finally the album comes to a close with “It’s a Fine Life”, a great track that really sends the album off as a big closing number.

“Arcosanti” is a highly imaginative and creative release by a young band that have created an absolute powerhouse of an album. It’s not often a release comes along that is this sonically solid while still being just an outright enjoyable album. It brings with it an energetic playful vibe that refuses to let you get sucked into the music, forcing you to pay full attention to every tempo change and every new layer. While “The Dalliance Album” piqued my curiosity towards the band, “Arcosanti” has made me a fan for life. This is a must listen to album of 2012. 9-19-12

Available for $8 on bandcamp: http://undergroundcities.bandcamp.com/album/arcosanti