Review Roundup #3

ToeThe Future is Now EP 82%

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Japanese post/math rocker’s TOE are back with their latest release “The Future is  Now.” This is their latest release to 2009’s album “For Long Tomorrow” and is quite  short clocking in at just under 16 minutes over four tracks. Typical quirky and fun math rock blended with bright tones and clean guitars can be found on this EP. Unique drum patterns and a plethora of well textured layers help make the EP feel creative and provide a unique sound as only Toe can. Vocals in the track “Tsuki Kake” are a nice change of pace but the track has somewhat awkward layering and transition issues. “Ordinary Days” is a mellow jam that is as relaxing as it is playful with its quick and sporadic drumming. My favorite track is by far the title track which feels like a rush of sounds exploding before your ears. The quick pacing, heavily layered acoustic guitars and general insanity of this track makes it one of my favorite math-rock tracks of the year. TOE once again proves that post-rock can be designed around the lack of the big build ups and still sound excellent. Overall an EP well worth the listen! – 9/19/12
Available on Itunes or the band’s official website: http://toe.st/

Coastlands/My Brother, My Captain, My KingSplit EP84%

SPLIT EP cover art

This split EP is the collaborative effort of Texas duo Coastlands and My Brother, My Captain, My King who I surprisingly couldn’t find any information about. The EP sits at 25 minutes long over four tracks, two by each band. The first two are from Coastlands and begins with a two-minute intro of  mostly static with deeply layered samples too far embedded in the mix to understand. Next we have “Abductions”, a 10 minute long track that sees the layer of static peel away as the samples begin to become understandable. As the track begins to take form we are treated to an electronic inspired ambient track that is one clean guitar layer away from a drone like feel. Drums are patient and the heavily layered distortion guitars playing the role of drone textures are spot on. I could find myself getting lost in this track over and over.

My Brother, My captain, My King take a more electronic approach as keyboards play over the sound of a crackling fire in “Columbarium Lighthouse.” Drums/beats are rhythmic and feel as though the high hat is being struck at alternating amounts of aggression. The track feels more like a true downtempo electronic track rather than a post-rock track and that is quite alright with me. “Chapman Point” begins as waves crash amongst a beach as layers slowly begin to take form. Again just another great song to chill out to as the pacing, intensity and dark keyboard tones all blend together in perfect synergy. Fans of The Album Leaf should be right at home with My Brother, My Captain, My King. I just hope they develop some sort of web presence as I would certainly like to know and hear more. 9/19/12

Available for $1 on bandcamp: http://coastlands.bandcamp.com/album/split-ep

ReflexerThe Vanishing Lake – 82%

The Vanishing Lake cover art

Reflexer is the solo project of Ryan Anstey, a self-confessed tech geek from Vancouver, BC with a love of music. All of his work is impromptu and all made up on the spot, which is a pretty cool concept. “The Vanishing Lake” is 43 minutes over 14 tracks and were all created by Anstey over the course of the last six years.

Most of the tracks are rhythmically repetitive and there is a definite understanding of post-rock song structure present throughout the album. As this is more of a collection of tracks rather than a true to form album there isn’t much synergy between the tracks and there are a few dramatic transitions in tempo and loudness. As you can probably imagine the guitar work is stellar and captivating and really makes the album. The range of tones and styles featured is infinitely large and range from ambient layers to downright shedding like on the track “Escape From Neptune” which in sticks out as my favorite track by far.

My biggest complaints about this release are that the drums are mixed too loud and some of the tracks are far too short. For example, “The Invisible Enemy” is an excellent 6 minute track but “Capture of the Red Falcon” fades out right as its hitting its stride.  Albeit most of them are short, 14 tracks are a lot of different sounds to digest. Fans of more electronic inspired post-rock should feel right at home while fans of more dramatic and drawn out material might want to look elsewhere. 9-19-12

Available for $2 on bandcamp: http://reflexer.bandcamp.com/

Marriages – Kitsune – 79%

Kitsune cover art

Marriages is a relatively new side project featuring two members from Red Sparowes. Released in May on Sargent House Records, “Kitsune” is their debut release and is 6 songs over 26 minutes. Being a huge Red Sparowes fan, I have high expectations from 2 of the masterminds of the band that has given us behemoth albums like “At the Soundless Dawn” and “The Far is Excruciating…”

Upon pressing play we’re presented a much different sound nothing remotely like Red Sparowes. Heavy layers of distortion flood the ears from the opening seconds and the album never looks back. The vocals found within the opening track “Ride in My Place” are full of despair and compliment the rest of the track. A Natural transition into “Body of Shade” makes the two tracks feel more like one. This track brings the levels down to a moody ambient vibe as deep bass fills the lower areas of the mix. That doesn’t last long however as the song has a big finish as drum fills begin to roll as the guitar levels increase.

The intro to “Ten Tiny fingers” has all the makings of sounding more like a shoegaze track than a post-rock track. The vocals on this whole album are absolutely fantastic, as is the guitar work. It’s easy to let yourself get wrapped up listening to just one layer at a time while tuning out a multitude of layers around you. “Pelt” is an absolutely mind bending track that has an insanely catchy rhythmic layer amongst a field of distortion.

Continuing the albums almost perfect synergy, “White Shape” is next and after a quick bass intro we’re treated to sludge metal esque groove that sounds eerily similar to the band 5ive’s . Fantastic guitar tones lead the way until the song comes to snails pace slowdown. My only complaint here is that this track is far too good to be as short as it is. The album comes to a close with “Part the Dark Again” which slowly builds upon clean guitar work and vocals until distortion guitars and cymbals find their way into the mix. The front sounding vocals sound glorious and this track feels expansive and huge.

Kitsune” gives Marriages a lot of angles to work with as it displays elements of post-rock, shoegaze, drone and sludge-metal. The end result is a solid album from a young band still developing their sound. Marriages is a band that firmly stands on its own two feet and is as far from just being an extension of Red Sparowes as it gets.

Available for $5 on bandcamp: http://marriagesmusic.bandcamp.com/

This Patch of Sky – Newly Risen, How Bright You Shine – 83%

Newly Risen, How Brightly You Shine cover art

When I heard This Patch of Sky for the first time last fall I was instantly blown away by the beauty of their music and their unique sound. My first exposure to them was “A Fire Through the Dark,” the intro track of last year’s “The Immortal, The Invisible,” which has remained one of my most listened to post-rock albums over the last year. Each of the 6 tracks were highly creative, sonically brilliant and the perfect blend of post-rock atmosphere meets math-rock fun and intensity. On top of an amazing record, the now 6-piece band is also from Eugene, OR which is a stones throw away from my hometown of Seattle, where indie and grunge still reign supreme and the post-rock scene is somewhat barren. The band is back this year with “Newly Risen, How Bright you Shine” a 5 track 30 minute album released through Oxide Tones earlier this year.

The album opens with “A Light in the Attic,” which has an atmospheric intro that slowly builds up into a powerhouse track. This is a far more mature and well designed track than the opener on the last album, which sucked you in with its amazingly catchy guitar work. “How He Loves // To Sink a Ship” is where the album really begins to pick up steam as it opens strong with the same great guitar work we come to expect from TPOS. The feel is moody and the layered guitar work has never sounded better. Drums remain patient yet integral through the build up, playing their part well until finally they pounce in all their cymbal crashing glory. Perhaps my only complaint in this track is that the cymbals are well hidden in the mix and not loud enough.

The title track is next up and really gives a large sound staging a chance to shine in its opening deep and bassy intro. This is the exact type of relaxing ambient track where you can really just let your mind wander about while guitars roars and drums give marching orders. Just really excellent stuff by the young pacific northwest band. This is the track that really made me realize just how far TPOS has developed their sound. No longer are they trying to blow away their listeners with huge guitar work or overpowering breakdowns. Instead these tracks are way more refined and well-developed that engulfs the listener.

The album goes on to make a natural transition to “Cities Beneath” that begins quick out of the gate. A much more raw guitar layer in this track rises through the lighter layers like a dog on a chain chomping at the bit to be broken free. It’s nice to see that the band hasn’t completely abandoned the more gritty, heavier distortion based guitar work. While this track is the shortest, it’s also the sweetest and has by far my favorite guitar work on the album. Finally the album closes with “With Morning Comes Hope” and at 9 minutes in length it’s the longest track on the album. Beautifully clean guitars set the stage for an epic crescendo inspired build up as drums begin their fateful uphill climb to the peak. Layers pile atop one another as the sound levels begin to build and build and build. I realized that the beautiful soft ambiance at the end of the track is the perfect finish to the album. After trekking upward for over 7 minutes, when it finally reaches the top of the mountain the listener is treated to the beautiful bliss of a fading sunset over all the valleys and peaks the album once climbed over.

I find that this is a more complete album over last year’s effort. That being said, there isn’t one particular song that truly stands out amongst the five tracks. I will always been driven back to their last album by “A Fire Through the Dark,” which is one of my favorite post-rock songs ever. Still I have faith and firmly believe that This Patch of Sky will one day be amongst the giants of the post-rock industry. The craftsmanship in their albums and their mindset to constantly evolve are two key factors that let bands like Sigur Ros and Explosions of the Sky remain at the top of the class. I expect big things in this band’s future. 9/17/12

Available for $5 on bandcamp: http://thispatchofsky.bandcamp.com/

Miroist – The Pledge EP – 95%

The Pledge cover art
Miroist is a djent/prog metal band based in London who’s influences include the likes of Cloudkicker, Meshuggah, Mogwai and Boards of Canada. The Pledge is their debut effort and is completely self funded as most smaller releases tend to be. at 20 minutes over 3 tracks. I’ve prepped my ears for the djent goodness that lies ahead.

The intro track certainly does not disappoint as wickedly aggressive guitars pierce through the channels of my headphones from the opening seconds. The thing that really sets Miroist apart from other prog-metal bands is the deep layers of electronics underneath the guitar layers. It really adds a new dimension to the mix as guitars violently shine in all their palm muting glory. The second track, “Schopenhauer’s Fallacy” takes a different approach by pacing itself with a slower intro. That doesn’t last very long however as the track is quickly at full steam with beautifully layered guitars quickly leading the way. Guitar work is absolutely masterful as they put on an absolute clinic in this short but sweet EP. The third track “He Had Been Old in the Beginning; But He Was Saved” continues the intense pace but feels like the real winner here. The guitar work is so perfectly in tune and balanced with the drumming the two feel like one at times. The second effort finish to this track is easily my favorite part of the EP.

I can’t even begin to tell you how refined this EP sounds. If you were to take the much older work of Cloudkicker and give it the type of craftsmanship found on “Weightless” by Animals As Leaders and throw them in a blender, you’d end up with something strangely close to Miroist. If you’re really pissed off or you are desperately seeking something loud, give Miroist a few dollars, turn your speakers or headphones up to the loudest point you can physically handle and let The Pledge beat your ears into oblivion for 20 minutes. This is a must listen to EP of 2012. 9-13-12

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

Ghosts Wear Clothes – Threads – 78%

Threads cover art
Ghosts Wear Clothes is a 3 piece electronic inspired post-rock band from Nottingham, UK who use words like “weird” and “haunting” to describe themselves. Released in April, Threads is the band’s debut and clocks in at 7 tracks spanning 53 minutes.

“Prelude” starts off the album, setting the stage with a sea of drone static ambiance. “Every Cloud” follows up with slow and chill opening featuring thick and deep bass, minimalist piano and slow-paced drums. As the track continues the intensity increases as layers continually stack upon each other and drums pick up their pace. There are times when I wished the static would subside just a little to allow the rest of the layers to shine brightly. The keys are excellent in this track but only get their moment at the end. On the technical side, there are a few issues unfortunately with this track, as there were some noticeable clipping issues/pops in the track.

“Stay Indoors and Watch Buildings Burn” paints a stark picture with its eerie piano opening filling a large soundstage. Synths sound fantastic though they feel very front sounding in the mix in comparison to the keys and drums for the first half of the track. Guitars give the track a deep feel as cymbals violently crash. From here the album takes a twist with “L’Insurrenction Qui Vient” which opens with persistent high-hat leading the way as the rest of the track takes form around it. Synthesizers again sound gorgeous and this track as a whole feels like a true post-rock track.

The album goes on to make a transition to “Darkness Creeps in Quick These Days” which is an appropriate name as the strange opening sounds very outer space like, sounding like something I’d expect to hear as the soundtrack to the formation of the universe. Piano attempts to breathe some life into the track but the power struggle between it and the static ambiance ends with the piano being dragged down into the depths of the mix. This track is extremely loud, relentlessly dark and at nearly 8 minutes will probably be the point where fans of straightforward post-rock fans will decide whether or not this album is for them.

“Zealous” is up next, clocking in at nearly 14 minutes. This track features some of the band’s best work with experimental and progressive keyboards, aggressive drumming and strong layers of guitar that synergize well with the ambient feel. Even the ambient passages are well designed and excellently mixed. This track has a little bit of something for everyone as it plays the role of a chameleon, switching from post-rock to ambiance and then to downtempo electronic over the course of its duration. The album ends with “You Set Yourself on Fire,” which opens with elegant piano work before breakneck drums rapidly increase the tempo. As crazy as it sounds, even with the all-over-the-place drums, this is perhaps the most relaxing track on the album. But hey, given how insanely experimental and unique this album is, I guess that doesn’t really seem so crazy after all.

Ghosts Wear Clothes is a unique project that takes three very different genres; post-rock, downtempo electronic and drone, and tries to blend them into one. The end result is an album that is both loud yet relaxing and intense but reserved. While the experimentation works well for the most part, some areas of the album miss the mark and are either too dull or too out there to really enjoy. Fans of drone and downtempo electronic should find their way to this album and for the most part should enjoy it. More straight forward post-rock fans might be turned away by the drone elements. With Threads, Ghosts Wear Clothes should have no trouble finding their place within these respective genres. 9-13-12

Available for about $8 on bandcamp: http://ghosts-wear-clothes.bandcamp.com/

Athletics – Who You Are Isn’t Enough EP – 83%

Who You Are Is Not Enough cover art

One of Deep Elm Record’s many great bands, Athletics are a 5-piece alternative-indie/post-rock band from Asbury Park, NJ. This is their follow-up effort to “Why Aren’t I Home?” and is a half hour of music over 5 tracks. Athletics brings to the table a mix of post-rock musical elements with indie style clean vocals and nu-metal/post-hardcore esque screams. While I’m a fan of most of their clean vocals, I have to say that I generally find the latter to detract from the rest of what makes the band so good.

The album begins with a highly ambient intro as the first track begins to take shape. Guitar tones are vibrant and moody and the vocals further add to the somber vibe. The track kicks it into overdrive halfway through as guitars rip through the mix in perfect rhythm with the drums. A beautiful clean guitar plays amidst the static in the left channel while a second guitar pierces through the right channel before fading away as the track edges back down to a close. The mixing starts to shine in the second track, a nearly 9 minute behemoth that opens as a bass heavy low-lying guitar layer sets the ground work for a clean guitar layer and prominent yet patient drums that sound open and airy. While I do enjoy the singing, I’ll hold back my opinion of the lyrics and let you decide. There’s no reason to be overly critical on them as the excellent layered guitar work really carries this track anyhow.

I feel like a lot of post-rock releases miss the mark with a lack of deep bass, which is why I was overjoyed when the third track opened again with a bassy layer underneath its vocals. Deep Bass just really seems to bring out the best in surrounding instruments, especially drums, much like how a little bit of spice sets off the flavor of a steak. The wide open sound staging on the album deserves credit for the flurry of layered guitars really shining through in its starring role when the vocals disappear. The album makes an absolutely perfect transition to the next track, a testament to the great synergy the 5 tracks possess with one another. “IV” delves into a much more minimal ambient track in comparison with the rest of the album and the vocals are the softest on the EP. The album comes to an end with a dark sounding piano and singing with a haunting echo effect. While I like the idea normally and am all for the piano ballad closer, The end result comes off sounding overproduced and missed the mark, at least with me anyways.

At the end of the day this is the type of genre spanning work that can only help the likes of the post-rock genre. While some post-rock traditionalists will be turned off by the vocals, indie and alternative fans will feel comfortable with this EP as they are introduced to post-rock sounds and elements. That exposure will in tune help the genre grow. And that my friends is something that this crazy music industry desperately needs. 9-12-212

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

Old Man Gloom – NO – 85%

NO cover art

After nearly 8 years Old Man Gloom return with NO, their first release since 2004’s “Christmas“. Driven by ISIS front man Aaron Turner and including members of Cave In and Converge, the post/sludge/doom metal giants are definitely back and sounding as powerful as ever. NO is nearly an hour of brutal metal that is as gut-punchingly intense as it is deafeningly loud.

NO feels like a return to the earlier days of Old Man Gloom, with less experimentation and a more in your face approach. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely experimentation here, but for the most part, the first 7 tracks are some of the bands heaviest work to date mixed with just the right amount of minimalist drone effort. Tracks like “Common Species” chug along as they change tempo and intensity while others like “To Carry the Flame” begin with tight riffs and Turner’s signature brutal vocals before tapering off into a sea of drone static. Turner is spot on throughout this album, providing deep nasty brutal vocals that are understandable and deep screams that will take on the ear-drums of anyone brave enough to delve into this album.  The album wraps up with “Crescent” which is the most mellow track on the album featuring clean vocals and “Shuddering Earth”, a 14 minute groove mammoth that is a fine mix of pace changing, deeply layered vocal textures, and static/electronic drone.

As someone who has loved ISIS for nearly a decade, it took me a real long time to understand the appeal of Old Man Gloom. I never really understand the appeal of straight post-hardcore bands and I’ve said before on this site that I’m not nearly as versed in sludge metal as I’d like to be. But to me this is an excellent album that blends the heavier side of post-metal with the drone side of sludge-metal. It’s amazing that after 8 years the fire and passion still burns within Old Man Gloom to churn out an album as emotionally violent as NO. Don’t call it a comeback because this is just another tale of a great band returning to claim their spot amongst post-metal royalty. 9-12-12.

Available for $7 on bandcamp: http://oldmangloom.bandcamp.com/