Palms – Palms

Artist Palms
Album Palms
Genre Post-Rock | Post-Metal | Experimental
Buy/DL Bluecollar Distro | Itunes
Web | Facebook
Label ipecac
Release 25 June 2013
Rating:  Average

I’m in an interesting position here. This is a fairly big name group, consisting of members from two of my favorite bands, and yet, I wish it wasn’t.

If you don’t know, Palms is the new project from almost all of Isis (with the sole exception of Michael Gallagher) and Chino Moreno of Deftones, and lately, Crosses, fame. Heavy hitters, no doubt about it. Isis practically wrote the book on post-metal for christ’s sake! That’s why it’s so hard for me to write what I’m about to write.

Palms self-titled debut isn’t all that special. It has its moments of really striking beauty and mood, but I expected so much more than what I feel I got. To me, this is watered down Isis with Chino doing Chino over it.  I would have thought that we’d be treated to something groundbreaking or profound. Unfortunately it’s an interesting listen a few times, and that’s it. For a band like this, that’s just not enough for me.

Palms’ vibe is pretty slick, in an angst-ridden 20-something coming down off of molly at sunset in southern California way. In this, the album is quite effective. However, it was never stated that this was its mission. In fact, with all the hype around this project, not much was actually said about its substance.

Chino sings/caterwauls some cryptic phrases amidst the insubstantial songs, adding a melody or counter-melody. It’s interesting for a time, but honestly, the replay value is pretty low for me. Once again, let me stress, I love the Deftones, and I love Isis. I also find Chino’s side project, Crosses, extremely good, and fairly innovative in its amalgamation of elements. This, though…this is a letdown.

I try to judge everything I listen to in such a way that if a friend were to have made it, what would I say to praise and/or critique him/her? I don’t usually buy into the rockstarishness of things, and post- music is a great thing to be reviewing in this sense, as usually it’s the music that speaks, as opposed to the resume of the musicians.

While I do think Palms is worth a listen or two, in such a competitive market so full of diversity and choices, I don’t know if I could recommend this for actual purchase. This has nothing to do with the status of the players, because lord knows I own everything I’ve been able to get my hands on by the former bands involved, in multiple formats, and have seen them live as many times as I was able. It’s simply because there’s nothing new here, and the things that are here aren’t so well done that this is a keystone to the genres or “movements” involved. You get a semi-heavy third wave post-rock, with more laid- back Deftones vocals (all over…extremely prevalent) done less progressively then Isis has ever done.

Sonically, this record is produced well, but not exceptionally. There’s a lot of slow panning that gets repetitive and doesn’t really serve the songs (“Antarctic Handshake” is a great example of this) and many textures that have a hard time actually meshing, but are not dissonant enough to be exciting. The whole album seems to be mixed towards favoring the high end of the frequency spectrum, which becomes physically tiresome as well as aurally. Vocals are done in a manner that is very forward in the mix. Pulling them back would have added a little nuance and depth.

Everyone here plays music exceedingly well. There is no question of competency here. The songs are just tepid. I feel like instead of making love to an attractive, exotic woman, I just jerked off to some 90’s VHS Andrew Blake porn.

Den Svenska Adeln – Riter & Teorem

Riter & Teorem cover art

Artist Den Svenska Adeln
Album Riter & Teorem
Genre Post-Rock  | Experimental
Buy/DL Bandcamp
Release 11 May 2013

Throughout the ages and in this now – from the dawn of time until the end of ages – mankind has been and is still searching for purpose. We say: be all you can be, and be naught – for the truth is but an illusion to be swept away by night. The orbs – the spherical lights – provide answers: they speak when spoken to through powerful rites, based upon ancient truths and radical theories. We do not turn our backs on the pain of the infant. We embrace the fact that it’s part of the journey, a lasting curse and blessing that enlighten us with the gift of purity. Not purity in the sense of abstinence, but in the power of amazement when staring through the looking glass instead of living with a status quo of closed lids.

In 8 sealed urns – eight – 8 sonic spiritual offerings – we offer others to get a first sense of what has been, is and will be. The first 4 – four – 4 are physical. Power and indulgence for the body. The other four – 4 – four are mental, but spiritual and transcendental. Ways to achieve comprehension. Not so much a means to an end, as a chance for a new beginning. All starts and ends here.

Yours, in and out of all,
Den Svenska Adeln

Collapse Under the Empire – The Silent Cry

The Silent Cry cover art

Artist Collapse Under the Empire
Album The Silent Cry
Genre Post-Rock
Buy/DL Bandcamp
Web Facebook | Website
Label Sister Jack
Release 12 April 2013
Rating: Solid

Collapse Under the Empire should need little introduction this time around. The well oiled post-rock machine from Germany has released a high caliber, finely tuned and excellently crafted album every year dating back to 2009 to go along with a whole army of singles, splits, Compilations and EP’s. You will only hear praise from me when it comes to just about every track in their discography. They’ve done no wrong and left a lasting impact on the post-rock realm. Call them pioneers, call them leaders, but make no mistake. They create and other bands follow in their giant footsteps.

I’ve put off writing this review as long as I possibly could. Admittedly this review has been by far the toughest review I’ve written in months because I realized that the things I want to say about Collapse Under the Empire will directly conflict with what I wrote about them in my review of their last album ‘Fragments of a Prayer’ 11 months ago. I’m finally ready to cross that line. Let’s get into the content of the ‘The Silent Cry’ first though.

The EP starts off with the electronic beats of “We Are Close as This.” Synths and guitar static paint the scene of a desolate break of dawn. Crescendo guitars murmur amongst a creeping wall of sound that is deeply electronic driven this time around. The calm before the storm right before the three minute mark where the track’s intensity peaks is certainly the highlight of the song. “Stjarna” is up next and kicks off with a chilling piano intro as cymbals lightly crash amidst a field of dramatic synths in a track that’s tempo is aggressively controlled by drumming. My biggest complaint here would be that the track really feels sort of like a staircase to nowhere.

The title track is where the EP picks up to the same level of quality I’m use to hearing from Collapse. Crescendo guitar rattles from the opening minute and the drumming patterns are relatively unique. The focus here is primarily on synths and electronics for the first half of the track until guitar work violently overtakes a solo keyboard effort. Cymbals crash in epic fashion as keyboards find their way back into the mix. Horn-like synths make for a unique ending.

Infernal” opens with strange heavily digitized slap bass that sets the ground work underneath the track. Beats that sound as though they are being processed from several leagues under water join in and the whole track starts to take form feeling heavily experimental and almost free form in some sense. It isn’t until guitar work shines through and drumming intensity picks up that this starts to feel like a C.U.T.E track. This is my favorite track on the EP simply because it’s the most unique feeling to me. “Ashfall” is a return to the more normal output we’ve come to expect from the duo. I really enjoy the keys here and the church bells are an incredible companion that the guys should find a way to utilize again in the future. The EP wraps with a short two and a half minute piano outro “Shut off the Lights” which is something we haven’t yet seen from Collapse and is a welcome addition.

Postrockstar has put me in a position where I’m constantly listening to and scrutinizing new music. My time with albums is sometimes short, spanning only a week or so before I churn out a review and move forward. Sometimes if an album is truly great, it stays on my ipod, but like a child who gets a new toy, the older toys usually find their way to the shelf. I’ve admittedly said before on this site that this is a terrible way to process and listen to music, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to help keep Postrockstar moving. Keeping that in mind, you probably understand now why the albums that truly grab and keep my attention are almost always ones that make a huge first impression and/or are albums that sound like nothing else out there. Which leads to where I’m going with my final thoughts on “The Silent Cry“.

As a long time fan of the band who has listened to their discography extensively, they are becoming a bit formulaic for my tastes and this EP failed to register in terms of making that lasting impact on my ears. To the average listener who hasn’t experienced C.U.T.E, ‘The Silent Cry‘ is a top notch release that should be applauded as an extremely solid and well built EP. But to someone who was borderline obsessed with ‘Shoulders & Giants’ and equally as impressed with ‘Fragments of a Prayer‘, this release doesn’t nearly touch upon the greatness of those albums or even come anywhere close. Further the timing of this EP and I suppose ‘Fragments’ to some extent just seems strange to me. The band is prepping the second half of their two part concept album series ‘Sacrifice & Isolation‘ to be released later this year (2011’s ‘Shoulders and Giants‘ was part one). I just think that it’s asking a lot to look at the two releases between the two parts independently as they are not a of the concept series. Presently ‘Shoulders‘ and ‘Fragments‘ feel very intertwined to in my mind with ‘Silent Cry‘ serving as an off shoot of that work present on those two albums. How ‘Sacrifice & Isolation’ plays into this I have no clue and maybe it will all make sense when that album is released, but right now I feel like the conceptual series doesn’t have the same luster it would have if the two parts would have been released back to back.

To summarize all of this into a TL;DR conclusion , I like ‘The Silent Cry‘, I’m just not in love with it the same way I am with the band’s last two albums. I’m continually impressed by their ability to create music at a high level of quality, but at the same time am left feeling overwhelmed by it all as well. When compared to other EP’s released this year, ‘The Silent Cry’is a VERY GOOD album. When compared to the rest of Collapse Under the Empire‘s body of work, I can only say it’s a SOLID album and would be in the lower echelons of their discography. If you can’t play the opening notes to “Disclosure” on piano from memory and haven’t listened to all their work front and back several times through, you should really enjoy this EP. Quickly get yourself caught up with their discography because they’ll be back with a new release before you know it.

Jungle Urban Lounge – Colors

Artist Jungle Urban Lounge
Album Colors
Genre Post-Rock  | Electronic
Buy/DL Soundcloud | Jamendo
Web Facebook
Release 11 May 2013

Unique one man project out of Lyon, France. Colors is the second EP of Jungle Urban Lounge. Its name is due to a kind of synesthesia of its author whose the listening music causes the vision of a color. Each track of the EP was made ​​in reference to a specific color vision: “Iced” is the blue track, “Hammer Punch” the red one, “Hawaï Ecstasy” the yellow one and finally “Lying Down And Lucid” the purple one.

You Bred Raptors seeking Drummer

(IamHopYou Bred Raptors is currently seeking a new drummer. Below is their ad found on Craigslist. Think you might be a potential candidate? Hit these guys up, they are really cool dudes with a unique sound and style..)

We are a highly successful trio looking for a new drummer to fill out this posse. . . or if you’re on the other side, a bandito outfit. We are comprised of 8 string electric bass, cello, 2 glockenspiels and drums. The band’s name is ‘YOU BRED RAPTORS?’ It’s a question. Wanna fight about it? We have been quite successful in the NYC area for the past 3 years playing shows at the Mercury Lounge, Knitting Factory, Public Assembly, Galapagos, Jacob Javits Center, The Rock Shop, The Cake Shop etc etc. Recently our drummer left to focus on work and so we are in the position to fill this void in our hearts. We have a MASSIVE online following (almost 10K on Facebook alone), steady income at every show, seasonal touring along the East Coast and connections to open up for touring bands in NYC.

Our latest music video:

We are in the Music Under New York program (with permits) playing both weekly subway shows as well as venue shows all over the 3 boroughs (no one counts Staten Island as a borough anyway).

We have been featured in New York Magazine, the Deli, The New Yorker and Bass Guitar Magazine as well as various and numerous online publications/blogs. The music is instrumental, gratifying, challenging, and has a Post-Rock feel with elements of Classical, Jazz, Metal and Hip-Hop. If you know or like any of the following bands, you might get a musical boner for what we do.

– Explosions in the Sky
– Russian Circles
– Wintergatan
– Scale the Summit
– Pelican
– Buckethead
– Primus
– Mogwai
– Tortoise

Yes, we wear masks and scientist outfits. Yes, we have an entire back story that you would be hurled into, but the experience is TOTALLY tits. We play to an absurd amount of people during subway performances and hit more demographics than any other touring band because of that. This translates to a huge built in audience for venue shows/other events. We have released two LPs and an EP, all of which have been very successful in sales. We have decided on using the rest of this summer to regroup with a new drummer and prep for Fall recording. We have 12 new songs ready to be recorded (all of which we have live recordings of in one form or another).

Here’s what we need from you:

– NOT a hired gun. We need a full time member who gives a shit about the project and isn’t just looking to get paid. We have the money, we just don’t have the time to print out an I9 and W4 form for you.

– A Flexible Schedule. Lots of shows and rehearsals. We reside and practice in Astoria. We also have a monthly residence here.

– Proper Gear. We are willing to purchase a new drumkit for subway performances but your own kit is essential. We have a practice space in the area for a reasonable monthly cost.

– Musical Versatility. Don’t be one of those wiener priests who can only recite one style of music. We love all types of music and while we use elements from each, this position is all about pushing boundaries of the unusual and striving to make new and interesting sounds.

– Reading music is a plus but not mandatory: The former drummer has parts written for glockenspiel and drums that we are used to. Look at it, make it your own, high five… out.

– Willing to learn glockenspiel is a plus but not mandatory.

You will get paid but the band fund is always the favorite child. We have a bank account. We are stupidly professional. Our money goes to merch, CD’s, recording costs and Chex Mix. We’re currently working on a new album, scoring the new film from TROMA pictures and are in talks with a few minor labels. . . We don’t want to get bogged down by unnecessary bullshit. Long story short, this is a serious commitment and is demanding of attention/effort, all of which will be paid for in dollars, friendship, and great times playing/creating music.

If this sounds awesome (and it is), don’t be shy.

Please contact us! Or we’ll take a toaster bath!

You Bred Raptors?

Skyed Pillars – Cloud Opus

Cloud Opus cover art

Artist Skyed Pillars
Album Cloud Opus
Genre Post-Rock | Post-Metal
Buy/DL Bandcamp
Web Facebook
Release 20 June 2013

Hailing from Munich, Germany, Skyed Pillars is the moniker behind the solo work of Christian P. Bassett , a musician that strives to deliver a really personal take on post rock, blending elements of post-metal as well as cinematic influences, not unlike seminal genre pioneers such as Explosions in The Sky or Stars of the lid.

Cloud Opus deals with how emotions often control the way in which we think. We are often faced with 2 choices. One choice relies on our emotions and on our instinct, your ‘gut’ if you will. The other choice relies purely on logic. The logical choice is not often the right choice, but the emotional choice will definitely be the most difficult, which is why we have an ongoing fight that takes place deep within ourselves. I use certain weather types to associate with different feelings, hence, Cloud Opus.
Listen, and you will understand what i am talking about, hopefully.
On a sidenote: The purpose of this record is to be up-lifting.

Balloons Kill Babies – Leviathan

Leviathan cover art

Artist Balloons Kill Babies
Album Leviathan
Genre Post-Rock
Buy/DL Bandcamp
Web Facebook
Release 20 July 2013
Rating: Average

Balloons Kill Babies emailed me to review this on an old blog. I said I would and have brought it with me to PostRockStar. If I was not reviewing it I do not think I would have played it more than once. With repeated listens I’ve still not found that something that takes this from solid to spectacular. For me the production is really what makes this release somewhat lifeless. Let me explain.

The record was produced (entirely, it seems) by Marly Luske. His CV includes The Red Paintings, Ash Grunwald, and Deep Purple. I will admit to knowing only one of those bands, but after a quick Google search I find that none of those bands play any type of metal. I feel that could be the downfall. The EP is well produced, but not by someone well versed in producing heavy music.

The first track, “Akathisia” takes some time getting where it wants to go, but finally settles on a chugged, flange soaked, mid-tempo post-metal groove. It’s OK, but fairly uninspiring.

I am now skipping to the EP’s final effort “Somnophilia” where everything revolves around a catchy little riff that does eventually lose its effect due to overuse before closing the track with a long, arduous sample taken from Sleeping Beauty (2011). It works well, but could do with being cut shorter as I find myself just wanting the track to end.

Now if Balloons Kill Babies continue to write tracks like title-track “Leviathan” then we can look forward to some great music from them in the future. In fact I think that any lover of post metal is going to want that particular track in their collection. It is a slab of driving build ups, chugging chords, and just enough quieter, more melodic parts that keep the track interesting. It’s nothing new, but shows that they can compose something that works.

So, in conclusion, the only reason I’ve listened to this release more than a couple of times is that I am reviewing it. Nothing else really made me want to go back to it, even if I do think that the title-track is pretty good. Balloons Kill Babies are a young band and this is their debut EP. I won’t shy away from their future releases as I really think they can improve their song writing and overall sound, but for me ‘Leviathan’ is no more than an average release.

Bergmál – Saker man tänker på när det tyst

Saker man tänker på när det tyst cover art

Artist Bergmál
Album Saker man tänker på när det tyst
Genre Post-Rock
Buy/DL Bandcamp
Web Facebook
Release 31 March 2013
Rating: Very Good

The one thing that has time and time again irked me about the post-rock genre is the lack of thought that goes into some band’s album  artwork. I understand it though. Most releases are online only or extremely short printed, so why bother spending copious amounts of time on artwork? The music is the most important aspect of an album, don’t get me wrong, but seeing effort poured into an album cover or vinyl gatefold just makes me that much more interested in the album I’m about to listen to.

With Postrockstar, I’m in a frustrating position where there is too much music and not enough time for me to possibly listen to it all. The bands that get reviewed and promoted here are the bands that stand out the most. I’d like things to be different, but for now that’s mostly the truth about how our process works. Albums that consistently grab my attention are ones with amazing artwork or unique photography.

That’s how I discovered Bergmál, a talented group of four guys who make music out of Motala, Sweden. Their 2011 effort, ‘Under Månen Lever Jag‘ grabbed my attention only because of its album art. If you’re not familiar with the cover, a beautifully hand drawn barn owl with a tiny little village of houses is flying through a dark starry night that’s been carefully painted with water color. The contrasting art styles create majestic scenery. The imperfection of the dark trees in the background combined with the thousands of thinly detailed lines in the owl’s body, the shading of the feathers against the star-laden backdrop. The biggest travesty to be found is that there is no option for me to purchase a high quality print to place on the wall. (hint hint, gentlemen).

While ‘Under Månen Lever Jag’ is unquestionably a slower album compared to their latest ep, ‘Saker man tänker på när det tyst‘ which I’ll get to in a little bit, the most memorable track on ‘under’ to me is “Hindenburg“, which makes depressingly brilliant use of Herbert Morrison’s infamous commentary during the disaster. The rest of ‘under‘ is solid, but ultimately “Hindenburg” and the artwork itself made the album for me.

And now they’re back with “Under Månen Lever Jag“. an album the band claims is their attempt to strive towards a heavier sound with great contrasts in order to promote a wider spectrum of feelings in their listeners. The 5-track EP starts innocently enough with “Imorgon, dagen jag lär mig” and feels right where their 2011 effort left off. Layered guitar work leads the listener along as the wall of sound begins to build. Combining subtle delay effects with guitar work that has a slight twinge in it is a unique touch that works well. Mellow harmonizing and vocals are non-obtrusive and feel welcomed.

Ingenting” floods the eardrums with low-lying bass before picking up the pace as a sense of urgency falls over the song. Drumming is really the highlight here and does a great job controlling the tempo. A little too much cymbal riding, which can be said for all of Bergmál’s work, but that is something that is forgivable. One thing I admire about the band is their ability to seamlessly transition from their heavier to softer material at a moments notice AND completely change the direction of a track. Most bands are pretty good at doing one or the other, but very few succeed at doing both at the same time without it being noticeable. Bergmál gets an A+ in this category.

Att vara ensam” is an interesting track that starts similar to other tracks until it catches you completely off guard with an innocent yet sudden build up that leads to one of the heaviest moments on the EP. The band teases a heavy finish but opts to bring the decibel levels back down before finishing in twinkley fashion. “Dahlian” is the truly unique track to be found here and is certainly the most cheerful and happy track, complete with an upbeat tempo and dominant vocals. As someone who has a track record of hating vocals in post-rock, I don’t mind the vocals found here or really throughout any of Bergmál’s songs. The song does a complete 180 as it gains a head of steam towards the end as a crescendo guitar and aggressive drumming dominate the mix. A final guitar layer takes spotlight away from the crescendo guitar as the two duel for the listener’s attention in opposite channels as the track comes to a close.

Jag glömde vem du var” is the EP’s closer and features samples deeply embedded in the inner layers as haunting guitar work squeals in the foreground. I like the track and it’s certainly a respectable closer, but I think it loses a bit of its luster thanks to “Dahlian” being a difficult act to follow. Another teasing series of build ups and “Saker man tänker på när det tyst” comes to a close.

If there  is one complaint I have about this EP is that the band never really fully opens up for more than 15 seconds at a time. Just once I hoped the band would rip the spectrum wide open and go all out heavy for a full minute if not longer. Otherwise I find the album to be a very good example of a lower key post-rock that captures the imagination with bright guitar work and clever, on-the-fly changes in styling. While the album art isn’t as captivating this time around, the contents within are better than it’s predecessor and ultimately that’s why Bergmál deserve your attention.

game.SET.match – set and setting live in Seattle

My ears are still ringing and my adrenaline is still flowing. I can still feel the powerful performance given by set and setting deep within my veins. On what should have been an ordinary Sunday night in a nothing to write home about dive bar in the college district of Seattle, there are a select few of us who witnessed and experienced real life magic created through the instruments of four very talented musicians.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing nearly every single one of my favorite bands perform live and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt the way I did after seeing set and setting perform. Post-Rock is a genre that captures our attention with walls of sound and production values that are often times impossible to replicate live. Very few bands I’ve seen perform are able to output the same energy and sound as on their albums.  Last year it was The End of the Ocean who made magic in Seattle on tour in support of a new EP, outperforming their recorded self. This year it was set and setting who took the distinct honor of capturing my imagination and my heart.

As the band set up their DUAL drumsets, I began to feel we were in for something amazing. Anticipation grew as the band opened with the short intro track to their debut album “Through the Unhindered Break of Day”, a three minute long low key build up composed through a few docile riffs and endless light cymbal tapping. The bar patrons had yet to truly take a notice to set and setting‘s presence. Then the moment the band busted in “Spiraling Uncertainties” it felt like the beginning of something truly brilliant. The aggression from Shane’s guitar work against Jon’s low-key bass and  the intensity of two drummers made me feel like there was no better place on earth I could be at that given moment. Ears began to perk up, all attention was now focused on set and setting as the band played under their own custom blue lighting. The crowd began to form around the stage as some closed their eyes and swayed while others encouraged the drummers Mark and Stephan to go faster and harder as if that was somehow humanly possible. It was.

The band’s third song escapes me as I was far too wrapped up in the beauty, but I believe it may have been “The Truth of the Path“. Sadly, the band exclaimed they only had time for one more after less than 20 minutes of performing. I had already decided in my head I was going to be the one to start the “one more song” chant afterward. But that idea never came to fruition because it wasn’t necessary. The band’s final song was “Essence of Paradox“, their  13 minute long magnum opus that felt like it was never going to end. And none of us wanted it to end either. Louder, faster, harder. Louder, faster, harder. The build up continued as a crowd in awe witnessed a band playing endlessly like the world was crumbling around them.

There are few things in this life that are true and pure. Being in the band’s presence as they performed “Essence of Paradox” felt like an honor and a privilege. If set and setting was a drug, I would have overdosed and died with no regrets. Performances this good and of this quality don’t come around that often, so when you experience one, you damn well better praise and thank those musicians. After the show I confessed to the band members that there a few post-rock bands I’ve seen live that have been able to replicate or come close to the quality of work found on their albums. set and setting exceeded even my wildest expectations, their album does their live act no justice whatsoever. set and setting deserve to be heard by all, post-rock fan or not. Magical, captivating and awe-striking enough to leave a crowd mesmerized, I cannot praise this band enough for their talents or the music they have created.

I feel like I’ve witnessed something truly great and beautiful and now I want to share it with the rest of the world. This is a band you need to see. If you live close to any of the cities the band is playing near over the next three weeks, it is your duty and responsibility to not miss this act. get ready to witness magic my friends.