Cathedraal/Rings of Rhea/Schematics for Gravity – Split – 88%

Split with Rings of Rhea & Schematics for Gravity cover art

The thing I love about split releases, aside from being presented with the music of at least two different bands, is that they’re fairly unique to “underground” music. You won’t go into your local Best Buy and see a split between Nickelback and 311 or something. It’s a great way for each band to expose themselves to the other band’s fan base, and since most splits tend to be bands with similar sounds, it generally works out well. Heading into this split, I had only heard Schematics for Gravity, though I was familiar with Rings of Rhea. Cathedraal was completely unknown to me, but knowing (at least roughly) what the first two sound like was enough to inspire confidence in me that they would be good.

I didn’t have to wait too long to find out, as Cathedraal leads off the three way split. Aside from finding out that they’re from Paris, I still know relatively little about them – they have all of the areas of online presence, there’s just not a lot of info about who does what, or even how many members are in the band. There’s something about the mystery there that really appeals to me. After listening to the split, to call their brand of chaotic screamo the odd sound on the release is only slightly accurate – they’re not a band that you would typically classify under one of the “post” categories, but it fits very well with the other two bands here. Imagine something along the lines of Envy, and you’re on the right track. Their portion of the release starts off with a very cold feeling, sounding to me like wind blowing through an abandoned factory. The drums and guitar start to fade in slowly, before kicking in full volume accompanied by the bass and vocals. As far as screamo vocals go, this is exactly how I like them. They’re very similar to the vocal style of Tetsuya Fukagawa (hence the earlier Envy comparison), very passionate and emotional. Even though I don’t speak French, I can still pick up on the passion and intensity, which are two very key things to me.

The music works perfectly here, the first song, “Les Chiens Rouges Sont Lâchés”, is a grooving track that, musically, is the closest to something “post” presented in their three songs. The track stomps along before calming down into a swirl of feedback for a bit, then kicks back in with the intensity and speed of a black metal song. The anxiety and chaos here is incredible, and makes for a very tense feeling. This tension carries over into the following song, “Qui Pense Encore à Toi?”, starting out with another solid groove that kicks into hyper-fast black metal mode. It’s something of a formula amongst these three songs, but it works to tie them together well. This track in particular expands on that quite a bit with some wonderful melodic moments. The juxtaposition between the guitar harmonies and the desperate vocals is absolutely fantastic. “La Ville Brûle Depuis Des Jours” starts off with a melody strummed on an autoharp, certainly not something you hear often in this genre. The autoharp continues accompanied only by drums and vocals for over a minute, before the guitar comes in, though it’s very light, distant, and airy. It’s a beautiful beginning to the track, and by the time the bass kicks in about halfway through, the autoharp’s presence fades a bit to the background, which coupled with the faint guitar makes for a very haunting sound. At around 3:30, a layer of guitar comes forward, creating one of the most powerful moments present during their three songs. A brilliant way to end their portion of the release, and to make me want to investigate them further.

Rings of Rhea, hailing from Ukraine, bridge the gap between the other two bands nicely, playing a mix of scream and post-metal, with some hints of sludge thrown in for good measure. They start off the first of their two songs, “Destruction”, with an ominous, quiet intro that slowly builds up to an eruption. The ominous feeling carries throughout the song, with the hoarse screams layered a bit in the background, trudging along at an almost sludge pace before things get a little frantic around the 6 minute mark. The last minute is a fade out of guitars, joined by a light, sorrowful piano melody which fades perfectly into the follow up track, “Creation”. The two truly feel like one track, split into two parts.  The title of this track is very appropriate, as the music builds up and feels like something grand is being created after the frantic crash of the preceding “Destruction”. The only downside here is that after the speed and intensity of the Cathedraal songs, you’re left wanting a bit more. Given the layout of the split, I think that this is less of a reflection on Rings of Rhea in general, and more of an example of on of the ways splits can provide differing sounds.

Where the second part of the split felt a bit lacking, Schematics for Gravity bring the intensity back, though not in the same way as Cathedraal. Things move very slowly here, but there’s a method and emotion to it. These Swedes work very well with the traditional feel and orchestration of post-rock, adding a bit of a metal edge via the guitar tones and screamed, distant vocals. The vocals possess the same element of being layered under the instruments as Rings of Rhea, but I feel like it works better here. Both of their tracks, “Cast in the Same Mold” and “Behind Closed Doors”, have a beautiful quality to them thanks to the way the music and vocals play off of each other so well. They have a strange way of feeling both sad and inspiring at the same way, which to me, speaks volumes about their ability as a band to construct a post-whatever song. “Behind Closed Doors” is the best example of this, of the two tracks, going from a sorrowful intro, to a nearly upbeat bridge, and closing it back out with a hint of sadness. There’s an element of shoegaze in what they do, and I think it works nicely.

All in all, I think this is a great release. I don’t think that the Rings of Rhea tracks are bad at all, in fact I really enjoyed them and they do make for a great transition, they just sort of lack the intensity of the other two bands. Knowing that this isn’t really going to be the style preferred by many readers, this split is a really shining example of the European post-metal scene, with each band contributing something a little different to the table. Interestingly, it seems as though the Schematics for Gravity songs were added almost last minute, as the original album artwork indicates a split between just Cathedraal and Rings of Rhea. Good choice to tack those on!

All three bands have bandcamp pages with pay what you will releases, while Cathedraal and Schematics for Gravity provide links to download the split. Both bands also provide a mediafire link so you can grab the whole thing at once.

Cathedraal:   http://cathedraal.bandcamp.com/

Rings of Rhea: http://ringsofrhea.bandcamp.com/

Schematics for Gravity: http://schematicsforgravity.bandcamp.com/

Grab the whole thing via mediafire: www.mediafire.com?r9pya000enak4e9

Vessels Live @ Broadcast, Glasgow, UK, November 21 2012

(IamHop — A big thanks to BC for sending us this great report of a recent Vessels show he attended!)

Vessels are carrying out an experiment, they say.

Tonight, for the very first time on a stage anywhere, they are abandoning the majority of their
guitars in favor of a multitude of synths and a laptop. They’re not entirely sure how it will go, and
neither are we. Fingers crossed.

In another bold move, their set tonight includes, for the first time, a pair of covers, one of which
opens the show. Their cover of a remix of Nathan Fake’s ‘The Sky Was Pink’ pulses and throbs
and rattles the walls of the compact cellar venue. I had expected this to be punishing live, having
heard the recorded version on their website, and I am not disappointed. ‘Monoform’ follows, and is
greeted with howls of enthusiasm from the crowd. It suits their new kidney-disturbingly loud hypno-
synth sound, and everybody is happy.

We are starting to notice a troubling and unidentified crackling/hissing noise, as if some part of their
kit is on fire. Nobody can find the source, but there is no smoke, so they press on regardless with a
new song, ‘Myopic Biopic’ and the second cover, Modeselektor’s ‘Blue Clouds’. It’s all going down
well, but I am starting to feel a tad uneasy. The guitars, previously such a major part of the Vessels
live sound, are relegated to a supporting role. The synths dominate. Even the famous second drum
kit is reduced to snare, hi-hat and a drum pad.

Two ‘greatest hits’ next, ‘Later Than You Think’ and ‘Happy Accident’, and two more new
songs, ‘Attica’ and the bizarrely titled ‘Runting Grumbar’. As we approach the end, technology
decides to finish early and the laptop packs up. It all stumbles to an awkward close. The band are
apologetic, they fill in with some amusing banter, and the crowd doesn’t really mind. After all, it was
their first attempt at this, and where there are computers, there are glitches.

Personally, I am left feeling a little disappointed. Make no mistake, it’s fine stuff, it’s all done
extremely well, and the audience loves it, but I miss the old Vessels. The one with guitars, and songs.
I know that, as artists, they are free to do what they want, they don’t owe me anything, and if they
want to head off in a new direction, that’s fine. But I’m just not sure I want to follow them.

Valerinne – Kunstformen Der Natur – 84%

Kunstformen der natur cover art

Valerinne are a 3 piece Drone/Shoegaze/Post-metal band from Bucharest, Romania. If memory serves me right this is the first Romanian band I’ve discovered from these genres. Despite being formed less than a year ago, they’ve already shared the stage with big name bands like Maybeshewill and Tides From Nebula. Their first full length ‘Kunstformen Der Natur’ saw release in October and is 46 minutes chalked full of shoegaze drone meets post-metal.

“Messier” starts things off with an upbeat blend of shoegaze styled guitar distortion and excellent drumming chops with perfectly timed cymbal crashes and high hat riding. There is a noticeable amount of drone to be found in Valerinne’s sound but not enough to overshadow the deep layering found within the song. “Mons” switches up the style with an absurdly thick distortion layer underneath layers of higher pitched flutters in a spacious feeling ambient track. While the song for the most part is much slower than it’s predecessor, it’s equally as loud and really picks up a head of steam towards the end. “Ins Meer” is a haunting track that gives off some really eerie vibes. It feels Valerinne shed their shoegaze  styling for this track and went with a more straight forward doomy post-metal track. Guitars become a little less thick and a little more vibrant. The song offers a glimpse at a more melodic side of the band that as more straight forward post-rock guitar layers began to take form underneath the heaviness that envelops the majority of the mix.

I think “Medusa” is the band’s best work on the album for what they’re trying to accomplish drone wise. At times the guitar work fee;s almost trance-like and when combine with drum beats that are hypnotic and just catchy as all hell, it’s no wonder this track is a clear winner. This track faintly reminds me of older Godflesh to a certain degree. That is one hell of a comparison and I have no problems saying that this one of the better post-metal/drone tracks I’ve ever heard. I will come clean and admit that I generally prefer cleaner and prettier post-rock to the heavier and more aggressive material, but that doesn’t mean I don’t crank up Jesu‘s self titled or Old Man Gloom from time to time.

The album comes to an end with “Aphelion/Perihelion“, the longest track by far at nearly 12 minutes and is definitely my favorite track on the album. This song is as straight forward post-rock as it gets and really opens up the sound stage with deep instrument separation and a feeling of openness. Beautiful clean guitars fly off in the distance as a distortion layer occupies the lower end of the mix. There is an obnoxiously large amount of cymbal/high hat riding to be found here but it can easily be overlooked. Comparing this track to the rest of the album is really almost a night in day comparison. In so many ways it feels like the four previous tracks were a build up to a grand finale, and what a glorious finish it is. This song feels like the band opening up and realizing their full potential. There are a few words I rarely use when reviewing music but this track is worthy of one of them. This track is as close to a masterpiece as it gets and I’d encourage anyone to check out this album based on this merit alone.

As a whole I feel that this album is tailored for fans who gravitate towards the drone side of the genre. I fear that the album could be a little too thick for post-rock fans, a little too slow for post-metal fans and the tracks could be a little too long for shoegaze fans. Still the album does offer something for everyone and is a strong showing from the Romanian natives. 11-27-12

Name your price on bandcamp: http://valerinne.bandcamp.com/album/kunstformen-der-natur

The Littlest Viking – The Littlest Viking – 88%

the Littlest Viking cover art

Southern California’s The Littlest Viking return with the self-titled follow up to their 2009 debut, “Labor & Lust”, and pick up right where they left off, showcasing the super guitar work of Ruben Cortez and Christopher Gregory’s speedy, complex drumming. The duo hasn’t slowed a bit in these 3+ years, kicking things off with the aptly titled “Give Me Motorhead”. The driving rhythm and thrashy, d-beat guitar riffs are a great wake up call, one that crashes headfirst into the fun, dancy “Slap Bracelet Wounds”. This track has a very late 90s/early 2000s DC feel to me, calling to mind bands like Q and Not U and The Dismemberment Plan (the latter especially in the final minute of the track). I’m certainly not saying this is a bad thing, in fact, I think it’s one of the things that really sets The Littlest Viking apart from so many of their math-rock peers. These post-hardcore influences pop up elsewhere on the album, most notably in some of the tracks that feature vocals, like “Picadilly Palare is a Real Boner Drag”, “Puppies Forever”, and “Mary-Louise Parker Has AIDS.. A Lot”. The last of those three features a nice juxtaposition in vocal styles, bouncing back and forth from a more chaotic, yelled vocal style to a clean, duet style featuring accompanying female vocalist Denise Mutuc.

“Return of the Mack (Redux)” is my favorite track on the album, starting out with a quiet, fuzzy, almost shoegaze feel, which leads up to a great mix of math and post-hardcore, and the best usage of vocals on the album. I’m not just saying that I like it because of the nod to Mark Morrison, either. Things get a little thrashy again on “I Hope There’s a Glory Hole in Hell”, a rowdy track that stops rather abruptly, as if it didn’t want to crash into the bouncy, dance party feeling of the following track, “My Little Brony”. Gregory’s drumming really stands out to me on this track, not because of any one moment, but throughout the course of the song, he really shows what he can do, and does it well. Too often people think that faster drumming equals drumming, not realizing the skill it takes to pull off some of these time and rhythm changes. “Free Metal Pat” closes things out, and does so wonderfully. The gang vocals layered over the reverb heavy guitars that bring the track to an end are really well done, and leave you looking forward to what these guys will pull off next.

That said, one of the downfalls of this album to me is that you’re left wondering what these guys could pull off. It seems like they haven’t yet really hit their full potential, and the flashes of that here left me wanting more. It’s a very solid release, though, and hopefully we won’t have to wait another 3 years to see how the band progresses further.

Grab the MP3s for $10 from the Mountain Man Records bandcamp – http://mountainmanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-littlest-viking-2

Vinyl (including digital download) is $11 from Mountain Man Records – http://store.mountainmanrecords.com/product/the-littlest-viking-s-t-12-lp-pre-oreder

Niño Koi – La Pequeña Muerte – 94%

La pequeña muerte cover art

One of the greatest things to me about the ever-expanding genre of post-rock is the seemingly nonstop discovery of new bands. In most cases, they’re not even really “new”, just new to my ears. Case in point, Costa Rica’s Niño Koi, and their newest release, “La Pequeña Muerte”. Being wholly ignorant of any post-rock scene in Latin America/Central America at all, this an absolutely wonderful discovery.  One of the main things you’ll notice about this album (their third, as far as I can tell) is the bass. Not that it’s overpowering in any way, but that the songwriting is done in such a way that the bass is often it’s own instrument. Bassist Chris Robinson doesn’t necessarily always follow along with the drums, and even when he does, the bass sound stands out. This is a really nice touch to me, and reminds me a bit of Maserati, in that regard.

These guys are definitely on the “rock” end of post-rock, rather than the familiar ambience of most post-rock albums. That’s not to say those elements don’t exist here, because they certainly know how to create a mood, it’s just that when it comes down to it, Niño Koi really know how to rock. The opening track, “El Último Rey de Talamanca”, starts with a very spiritual feeling, in the form of a wind instrument that I can’t quite put my finger on (didgeridoo?), then a stomping beat courtesy of drummer Fabrizio Durán. The bass and guitars join in, briefly sounding like an ode to Joy Division before as the distortion and speed pick up, before an explosion of cymbals and drums really kicks things into motion. The stops and starts present in this track really show that Niño Koi fully understand how to work well with space and volume, using both to great effect. Chanting and further wood instruments, this time in the distance, lead into the following track, “Unio Naturalis”, which starts out energetic though pleasant, and leads into a frenzied cacophony of guitars, bass, and drums before finally calming down into a beautiful melody, as though you were waking from a nightmare. The final part of the first act of the album (the album itself is broken up into three parts, via the brief interludes “I” and “II”) is  “¿Adónde Está la Noche?”, a track that makes great use of some of the “traditional” post-rock elements by crafting a pleasant, bright scene which segues nicely into the first interlude.

The next act begins with “Giulietta Guicciardi”, which is easily the most “post-rock” sounding song on the album, to me. It’s a beautiful track, named for the Austrian countess and one time student to whom Ludwig van Beethoven dedicated his “Piano Sonata No. 14”, featuring several samples of a woman speaking in French, which fit in rather nicely with the feel of the track. As the song draws to an end, things begin to seem a bit darker, concluding with ringing bells that carry a rather ominous feeling.  The top track on the album for me, “Mátalos a Todos”, starts with a wave of feedback, a Charles Manson sample, and a solid, driving drum line, and delves into a rather somber mood, with a sparse bass line and clean, jangly guitars, before picking back up a violent intensity that is accompanied by air raid siren like guitars. An explosive barrage of drums and guitars follows, briefly bordering on a post-metal chug, just before slowing back down, without losing any intensity, into a wail of fuzz-laden guitars. It’s a really well crafted song, and the abilities of the band are displayed here magnificently.

The next track, “3:00 A.M.” starts off with heavily distorted feedback and a driving bass line, that when layered with the spoken prayer, really serve to create an eerie mood, the kind that you’d more expect to be found on a metal album. This feeling continues throughout the track, with some really dark piano notes, joined by some frantic sounding guitar. It seems almost like something that would grace the score of a horror film, and really leads you to think that this was crafted with some sort of scenario in mind. Think running through the woods, chased by some unseen presence. Good stuff.

“El Sueño de la Razón” follows, and has an almost schizophrenic sound – the instruments are occasionally joined by bursts of electronics, which, when combined, create a strange, uneasy feeling. Given the title of the song, I can’t help but think that it’s inspired by the Francisco Goya carving, “El Sueño de la Razón Produce Monstruos”, or, “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”. If you’re familiar with the artwork, or do a quick search for it, this piece makes for a good companion. While not as heavy as the preceding track, it’s every bit as dark. “Pequeña París” makes for a great album closer, starting off well organized and calm, and devolving into occasional frenzied bursts of guitar and drums, before ultimately winding everything down. Guitarists Mauricio Fonseca and Federico Salas really do some great work with the usage of effects on this track, and it’s a really excellent example of how to close out an album.

Ultimately, Niño Koi have created an incredible album, and have more than proved themselves worthy of notice on the world stage. I’m delighted to have discovered them, and am really looking forward to what the future holds for these wonderfully talented musicians.

Availabile for $1 (or free, through a band-provided link) on their bandcamp page – http://ninokoi.bandcamp.com/

Round Table Review #3 – The Calm Blue Sea – Arrivals & Departures – 80%

   In installment number three of our ongoing Round Table Review series we take a look at the new album ‘Arrivals & Departures’ from Texas natives The Calm Blue Sea. The album is the band’s first release in four years and the follow-up to their debut self titled in 2008. Before we began, Postrockstar gives a huge thanks to the band and their label for offering this album to our writers free of charge so that we could complete this Round Table Review.

Shooter ‘Arrivals & Departures’ should be everything that I want in an album. It melds pretty post-rock guitar lines and piano melodies with the kind of delicate vocal delivery akin to bands such as Immanu El, Kyte, or the softer side of Athletics. The sense of texture and atmosphere once perfected by Explosions in the Sky is rarely ever traced with this amount of sophistication (“Pont des Mouton”, for example, sounds so indebted to Explosions in the Sky that it’s uncanny — not a bad thing). But for the first few listens to ‘Arrivals & Departures’, I felt like something was missing. The music floats, but not quite as gracefully as Immanu El‘s ‘They’ll Come, They Come.’ It’s emotional, without quite evoking the level of sentiment conveyed by Dorena‘s ‘Holofon‘. ‘Arrivals & Departures’ is fundamentally mid-tempo, and this serves to ensure that it never offends, yet it never quite excites either. Devoting your full attention to this album might render it a forgettable experience. Take it simply as music to accompany other activities such as reading, however, and you might find it will grow; its melodies and crescendos gradually latching themselves onto your subconscious. Patience is rewarded. Hopefully with their next release The Calm Blue Sea will play more to their strengths, averting focus away from explosions of sound and with a penchant for their softer, more pensive moments. The vocals, too, should be given more space to explore, as they’re certainly one of the stronger constituents of the band’s sound. – 81%

Bothra – With their 2008 self-titled release, The Calm Blue Sea rose quickly to one of my favorite new acts on the scene. “We Happy Few” was the perennial top request in the Post-Rock & Beyond turntable.fm channel that a couple other Postrockstar writers and myself regularly frequent and “The Rivers That Run Beneath This City” absolutely blew me away on several occasions. It is an understatement to say that I eagerly awaited their next installment. We were teased a few months ago with “Mary Ann Nichols“, and it piqued my interest but did not strike me at the same level that several songs from the previous LP did. I figured they were saving the real meat of the new album, ‘Arrivals & Departures‘, for release. On release, I sat with this album several times before forming an opinion on the progression between the two solid records. What I found was that my expectations got the better of me. On this album, we get more of the same – but not in any sort of innovative or comforting way. Sure, there are standout tracks such as ‘Pont Des Mouton’ and ‘Tesoro‘, with their clear melodies incorporating light intricacies of piano, subdued vocals as well as shining guitar work. I just feel that the overall emotion is lacking the punch and subtlety of the first record. The listener is left to meander half-heartedly, accompanied by background music that occasionally morphs into cacophonous crescendos. Still, TCBS does many things well. Their use of vocals in the mix is velvety and discreet, their piano work feels welcomed and they have moments of excellent song structure and effective building of emotion. Ultimately, I’m underwhelmed due to my high hopes for the album, and I feel that many bands have put out similar overall quality over the past few years. What was my pre-release favorite for album of the year ends up in the middle of the road. 83%

James – In so many ways I consider The Calm Blue Sea‘s self titled 2008 debut to be something of a perfect storm. Here you have a band coming from the backyard of one of the biggest post-rock bands of all time (Explosions in the Sky) that just happens to debut with one of the most breathtaking emotional roller coaster ride albums of all time. The album immediately put the band in rarefied air with timeless songs like “This Will Never Happen Again” and of course “We Happy Few”. To say the band set the bar high would be an understatement in my estimation. Some four years later the band has returned with ‘Arrivals & Departures’ and while I will say that it doesn’t reach the mark the band set with their debut it certainly doesn’t disappoint either. The band retained much of the formula from their debut album including the deep piano intros, the sweeping build ups and their ability to make each peak feel like a monumental moment. While some of the piano work such as the short opening track didn’t particular speak to me on the same levels the work in their earlier songs did, the guitar work is as stellar as ever. One thing I do like much more about this album is the much larger vocal presence. The vocals found within “Samsara” are beautiful yet not overpowering and feel well meshed within the rest of the instruments of the song. With its flurry of guitar layering of various styles, “Pont Des Mouton” gets my nod as best track on the album. I also have to mention the album’s closer, “To Approach the Vivian Girls” where the band manages to hit the absolute sweet spot in combining lush guitar tones and elegant piano work with minimalist vocals. All in all it combines to create a relaxed closing track that is a proper ending to the album. Overall I find ‘Arrivals & Departures’ to be a great album to drift away to the back of your mind to that will continue to grow on me as it racks up plays on my ipod. – 89%

Drew R. – To best judge an album, after the first play through I ask myself, “would I play this again and under what circumstance?”. Unfortunately for this Texan band once I have finished this review I will not be listening to it again. Whilst on the whole this album is inoffensive, there is nothing here that hasn’t been done before and done to a much higher standard. The build ups are predictable and pedestrian and sound like tracks that EITS have left on the cutting room floor. Musically the rhythm section is functional, providing a stable base for the guitars to play over but nothing is willing to take a risk. Sadly the greatest tool I can use to engage with albums, emotion, is sorely lacking here leaving me unmoved and apathetic – 55%

Bryan – After listening to ‘Arrivals & Departures’ for the first time, I walked away feeling like I hadn’t listened to anything. Nothing seemed to stand out. When I perked my ears up, the reasons as to why I could tune this out became apparent. The problem with this album is that the transitions between heavy riffs and slowly plodding piano parts are abrupt and sloppy. Right as I was sinking into a track, the guitars would start blaring and the drummers would beat the hell out of his set. Of course, this is the post-rock paradigm, but we’ve begun to move on from such easy progressions. Many will love this album because it stuck to the roots of post-rock: quiet, build, explode, restart. If that’s what you want, other bands have done it and done it better. I look forward to seeing how this band continues to evolve because there are moments that I still revisit. “Samsara” is a wonderfully slow build that breaks without unnecessary intensity. The title track emphasizes a minimalist but gorgeous piano that doesn’t devolve into unnecessary noise, and the quiet vocal line still gives me shivers. This band has some good ideas, but they need to move away from the post-rock cycle and embrace their sound. 81%

ShanexEdge – Let’s face it, when any post-rock band releases a record, it’s going to get compared to the heavyweights of the genre. That’s a given, really, in almost any genre. The Calm Blue Sea, hailing from Austin, TX, get it two-fold, as they share their hometown with genre titans Explosions in the Sky. While I can understand making the comparisons, since both bands (and many others) are big fans of the build-up, I don’t think it’s really fair. On their newest release, ‘Arrivals & Departures’, The Calm Blue Sea have delivered an album that, while carrying familiar elements of post-rock, really sets them apart from a great deal of their peers. Sure, the build-up is ever-present, but it’s delivered in a way that strikes me as more cinematic than anything else. This isn’t really a stretch for the band, considering that between the release of their self-titled debut album, and this one, they wrote a score for the 1924 silent film Siegfried, performing it live in a one-off showing off the film in their hometown.

One of the first things you notice after listening to this album all the way through is the increased presence of vocals, though I’m certainly not saying that as a negative. The majority of the vocals here, especially on tracks like “We Will Never Be As Young As We Are Tonight” and “To Approach the Vivian Girls”, are performed in such a way that the vocals themselves become an instrument, and aren’t delivered in the standard verse-chorus-verse layout. This also works well on “Diaspora“, a shorter, almost interlude track, where the vocals are the only thing accompanying a beautiful piano line, creating a wonderful atmosphere to lead in to the following track, “Mary Ann Nichols“. As wonderfully as this track starts off, it really hits its stride at the 4 minute mark, with a build-up that leads into one of the most explosive moments on the album. Showing their mastery of writing a full album, rather than just a collection of songs, this in turn leads right into “Tesoro“, my personal favorite track. What begins with a rocking first two minutes, a la The Appleseed Cast (I know, I know… comparisons), leads to a beautifully droning segment of the song, slowly building up to another explosion of melody at around 5:30. The crafting of this song is so brilliantly done, I almost feel like saying when the build-up hits should be preceded by me saying “spoiler alert!”

If you really must have a comparison between The Calm Blue Sea and their more famous Austin neighbors, here you go – to me, ‘Arrivals & Departures‘ rivals damn near anything Explosions in the Sky has released, and should rightly cement this band as one of the best in the genre, hands down. – 93%

Final Score – 80.3%

Available digitally through Itunes for $8 here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/arrivals-and-departures/id560383959

or grab the CD for just $11 here: http://modernoutsider.bigcartel.com/product/pre-order-the-calm-blue-sea-arrivals-departures-cd

The Calm Blue Sea: http://www.thecalmbluesea.com/

Dresda – Diluvio (Flood) – 81%

Diluvio cover art
     Dresda are a 5-piece post-rock band out of Genoa, Italy who have just released ‘Diluvio‘, their second full length album and first release since their Soundtrack EP in 2010. I have been overjoyed by the amount of excellent material coming from Italy especially in the post-rock realm with releases from the likes of Magnetoscop. and Australasia. Actually, it seems like if you’re a post-rock fan, Europe is the place to be. While that region of world gets to enjoy large post-rock festivals and tours, the same can’t be said for most of America. Anyways let’s get back to the point and I’ll just cut to the chase, ‘Diluvio‘ is 40 minutes of solid post-rock that is captivating and emotional.

The album opens with “Piccoli Ricordi” (Small Memories) and starts off with a somber clean guitar in front of the sounds of children laughing and playing on a school yard. The guitar work is inviting and a tad bit haunting. Spiraling crescendo guitars try to rise through the mix as the cymbals insistently begin tapping. Later on in the track the spiraling guitars finally rise to life as distortion slowly climbs into the mix as well culminating in a strong finish to the track. “Le strade all’alba” (The Streets at Dawn) continues to build upon the foundation of the children playing in the background and starts off with a much more relaxed ambient feel. Electronica beats give the opening a strong chillwave or electro ambient feel as guitars begin to rev up in the background. The electronic beats stop about 5 minutes into the track as guitar intensity increases and real drumming enters the fray. Similar to the first track the final two minutes or so of this song are a big wall of sound post-rock finish.

Che tu sia per me il coltello” is next and standing tall at over 10 minutes long is easily the best song on the album. It’s a brooding track that starts off slowly from humble ambient beginnings. The slow-pacing of the drums and the minimal guitar work makes the sound stage feel spacious. There is no clever mixing to be found here as sound simply engulfs your ears. Guitars swirl around endlessly slowly pumping more and more distortion into the track as cymbals crash with precision and purpose. Clean and distortion guitar layers play a relaxing melody as the song continues. After nearly 8 minutes the drums pick up the pace as the well textured song makes its final push. I’m noticing a trend.

I wish I could say that I enjoy “Fili Spezzati” (Broken Threads) but I just feel like it misses the mark. While the drum solo intro is awesome and is something that the post-rock genre is sorely lacking, the samples of agonizing screaming that takes place in this track just completely ruins the albums vibe for me. Even though it only lasts nearly 20 seconds, it still completely kills the mood and the song for me. The album wraps up with the “Diluvio” (Flood) which is a largely piano dominant track that also features violin work. It’s a real nice change of pace from the rest of the album and gives the band’s sound a bit of depth. The guitar work in this track compliments the piano well and the whole track feels like a fitting retrospective on the album. In typical Dresda style, the track makes somewhat a strong push in intensity towards the end before ending in high-pitched guitar feedback.

Overall I think that if you familiarize yourself with their early work you can easily see that the band’s new material is a lot more focused. The deeply layered textures are full of emotion, each instrument has a purpose for its placement and the whole album feels full of life. Despite my displeasure with track four, I have really enjoyed listening to this album in preparation for this review. All in all another solid release out of Italy that shouldn’t be ignored. 11-18-12

Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://dresda.bandcamp.com/album/diluvio