Sey Hollo – Kombinat

Kombinat cover art

Artist Say Hollo
Album Kombinat
Genre Post-Rock | Post-Metal
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Release 31 May 2013
Rating: Solid

Being a solo artist is the best way to create music the way you want it. Nobody is looking over your shoulder, suggesting ideas, and making changes to your ideas; how dare they? It is also a way of avoiding quality control and running away with your ideas until the outcome is nothing short of self-indulgent and, quite frankly, crap. I find, and this is a massive generalisation, that solo artists are more likely to have a back catalogue of inconsistent quality than a full band. Simply because you have nobody there to bounce ideas off and trim the fat; a second pair of ears is invaluable when you are composing.

Kombinat’ is a mixed bag, but overall it is not an album I am going to go back to again and again. Bunker of a Bare Life is kind of grungy and shoegazey. The crunchy guitar brings the grunge, the heavily reverbed melody lines bring the shoegaze; less the wall of sound. The thing is, while it sounds good, it is far too repetitive and lacks drive. I would like to say that it is hypnotic, but it falls short of that. Cutting the track’s length would have improved its effectiveness.

“HarakaHarakaHaina Barakza” is a definite improvement. The syncopated riff that drives it is certainly unnerving. Once that heaviness breaks the track finds its feet with a repetitive part that really works due to the way the instruments interact with each other. Returning back to the original riff kills the vibe though; this is another track that could do with being shorter.

Now we hit gold! “Terroture” is a track that hits home why I like Post-Rock. It builds layers of noise and introduces melody and distant drums that build slowly as sludgy chords drone and tremolo picked guitar adds atmosphere. I find that music that can build around a simple idea is often the most affective and this track is perfect. If you have heard and loved “Weight” by Isis then you will certainly fall for this.

Marching percussion holds “Lusaka Funeral Association” together as simple chords support a spoken word sample that lasts for a good few minutes. Luckily things step up a little and the drums push the track forward while the other instruments play with ideas around a repetitive chord progression.

“Crowds at the End of the World” is the longest track on the album. I hoped for another behemoth of a track, much like “Terroture“, but It does not immediately deliver. I found the first six minutes to be tedious, but it is building a context for the end of the track which builds drums over a monotonous guitar part and then breaks into a crushing, fuzz filled, sludgy, droney section. It is another highlight of the album.

The album finishes off with “Jimmy’s“, A track straight from the soundtrack to a film like Donnie Darko or similar angst filled teen movie. You know, that scene when the protagonist’s world has finally, completely, turned to shit. It is a nice piano driven track that is a little out of place on the album, but still one of the best.

After repeated listens you get a feel for an album, but I am struggling to understand if I like it more than I find it uninspiring. The solo artist “curse” has reared its head and overall I think that there are too many moments that go on too long, or structural decisions that make me groan; like returning to a section that started a track when it feels unnatural to do so. The standout tracks are those that build on ideas and I urge you to at least listen to “Terroture” lest you miss out on one of the top post-rock tracks I have heard this year. I’m a real fence sitter on this album, maybe somebody can tell me what I am missing?

Damascus – Heights

Heights cover art

Artist damascus
Album Heights
Genre Post-Rock | Post-Metal
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Release 10 July 2013
Rating: Very Good

I was rooting for this band to be good when I first started doing research on them simply because they’re from South River New Jersey, which I lived fairly close to for about 10 years.  I tend to research before I even listen to any given release that I’m not already familiar with because I like context. The fact that damascus are from Jersey really has nothing to do with their music, but it gave me a bit of a star to wish on, so to speak, and that star didn’t disappoint me.

The guys in damascus are evidently fluent in quite a few sub genres of post-rock, and I am impressed by the grace with which they slide into different modes, with seemingly no effort.  This is, again, third wave, but has elements of post-metal and even neoclassical as well as the expected peaks and shadows.

Although song lengths here are hardly epic by post-rock standards, damascus uses the average 8 minutes very well throughout “Heights.”  For the most part everything blends quite seamlessly, making the individual tracks actually feel more like movements in a longer work. The downfall that this can sometimes precipitate, in the form of repetitive themes and boredom, is completely avoided here, with always a twist of trail and riff.  The whole album seems to evolve over its span, rather then simply feeling like a deliberate sequence of songs.

The musicianship of this 4 piece is very good. These guys are tight in all the right ways. This makes for a precise execution of musical and tonal ideas, which further solidifies the flow of the entire album. Especially dexterous to my ears is Bassist Edwin Rivera, who adds countermelody and a certain textural definition to “Heights” that really stands out. It’s a joy to hear the bass, at times, take a more up-front roll, without making the band sound like they’re ripping off Tool, like so many others.

The production, done by Drummer Brendan Bianowicz is well suited to the styles involved, and, while not stellar, is solid and satisfying. The mix here is key, and it is on point. The ear of the listener isn’t assaulted, but teased, helping one find more depth and idiosyncrasy with each listen. Guitar tones shift very well. The previously mentioned bass is mixed into just the right pocket to stand out, and it’s tone is organic, yet full, especially considering it’s nimbleness. Drums are solid and grounded, while cymbals dance in the stereo spectrum at just the right intensity for the band’s sound. If any of this were overdone, it would likely have wrecked the entire endeavor.

In this, Bianowicz shows restraint and self-discipline that many people who play an instrument and produce oftentimes disregard in favor of showcasing their preferred instrument or device. When this happens, it infuriates me to no end, so my compliment is one of gratitude as well as commendation.

With a previous full length and two EP’s, one of which being a more ambient reworking of some of their earlier songs, these fellows are doing a yeoman’s job at putting out solid, slightly progressive, and very enjoyable post-rock. Most of their music is “pay what you want” on bandcamp, which shows they desire your patronship more then your dollar (although the music is, to my mind, charge worthy, which is another rare statement for me to make) there is every reason to check out both “Heights,” and their back catalogue. They do play live, and I would be guessing that it would quite a treat to hear them in that sort of environment.

I suppose I have two questions remaining about damascus and “Heights.” Who played the keys at the beginning of “Come to Light,” and why hasn’t a decent small imprint or label gotten in touch with them? I know I would be proud to say I backed the release of something like “Heights.”

Anadelta – Vita Brevis

vita brevis cover art

Artist Anadelta
Album Vita Brevis
Genre Ambient | Post-Rock
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Release 13 May 2013
anadelta is an experimental post rock studio project from Athens, Greece.

“God gave us music so that we, first and foremost, will be guided upward by it. All qualities are united in music: it can lift us up, it can be capricious, it can cheer us up and delight us, nay, with its soft, melancholy tunes, it can even break the resistance of the toughest character. Its main purpose, however, is to lead our thoughts upward, so that it elevates us, even deeply moves us. … Music also provides pleasant entertainment and saves everyone who is interested in it from boredom. All humans who despise it should be considered mindless, animal-like creatures. Ever be this most glorious gift of God my companion on my life’s journey, and I can consider myself fortunate to have come to love it. Let us sing out in eternal praise to God who is offering us this beautiful enjoyment.

 – Nietzsche in 1858″

(Courtesy of Anadelta’s facebook page)

Braveyoung – Will The Dust Praise You

Will The Dust Praise You cover art

Artist BraveYoung
Album Will the Dust Praise You
Genre Ambient
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Label The End Records, Level Plane, Teenage Disco Bloodbath, Southern Empire, At A Loss records
Release 03 March 2013

Braveyoung is a band that has always managed to elude me. They seemingly play my hometown of the Seattle area on a regular basis, yet for whatever reason or another I have yet to be able to catch one of their shows. The four piece from Portland, OR lauds themselves a “A punk band, kind of” which I have to believe is some sort of running or inside joke that a promoter or venue once dubbed them. Rest assured, Braveyoung is a band that is technically sound and is well aware of their abilities as a band when it comes to creating ambient and drone music.

‘Will The Dust Praise You’ is their latest EP and tops out at 19 minutes across four tracks. Recorded in early 2012 but just released this March, the EP takes a much more orchestral and reserved route this time around when compared to their 2011 album ‘We are Lonely Animals’. Absent are the dark overtones and guitar work, replaced by somber minimalist piano work and deep synthesizers that create a glaze of drone that help the sleepiest of eyes drift away.

Opening the EP is “Inquietud” , a short two-minute intro that makes a first impression letting the listener know they’re in for an emotion-packed experience that requires full attention to truly appreciate. Interestingly enough, I’ve found myself listening to ‘Will The Dust Praise You‘ two different ways leading up to this review. When I give the album my undivided attention, I find myself picking out and targeting sounds in the mix, realizing just how truly deep this EP can be at times. When I listen to the album while doing other tasks, I find my mind drifting away as if the synths aren’t there, only to have my attention recaptured via the prominent piano work.

“No Cure” is a beautifully arranged track that is driven primarily by piano work until about the two and a half-minute mark where a giant wall of ambiance just sort of overpowers its way above the piano. “I Felt Even Then How Monstrously A Man May Get Used To Things” (whew, that’s a title) moves the EP forward and moves just a slight bit faster than “No Cure”. At eight minutes, “Relief Is Near In Four Parts” is the longest track and is also the most emotional composition of the four. There is a level of despair in the synthesizers and a sense of relief in the piano work that creates for a very melancholy vibe.

I really like ‘Will The Dust Praise You’ for what it is. Braveyoung stands out to me for their ability to produce an EP like this that starkly contrasts with their previous releases. I still prefer ‘We Are Lonely Animals‘ because it houses “The Weight of Loss is Whole”, the song that introduced me to Braveyoung and will always be one of my favorite post* songs ever, but I feel this is a healthy alternative that ambient fans will almost certainly enjoy.

Charun – De Ortu Solis

De Ortu Solis cover art

Artist Charun
Album De Ortu Solis
Genre Post-Rock | Post-Metal
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Release 01 January 2013

Started in 2012 as a solo-project by Nicola Olla (already guitarist in Curse This Ocean). In January 2013 Charun released the debut-ep “De Ortu Solis”.  4 piece from Italy who lists their influences as Immanu El, This Will Destroy You and Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Coma Cloud – The Sleep Issue

The Sleep Issue cover art

Artist Coma Cloud
Album The Sleep Issue
Genre Post-Rock | Ambient
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Release 01 March 2013
Rating: Very Good

It takes quite a bit these days to keep me interested in an album. Novelty wears off very fast, and if I’m asked to review something, I know I’m going to have to listen to it quite a few times.  Usually this ends up killing an album for me, even if it’s a good one. At some point I’ve just had enough. Coma Cloud’s “The Sleep Issue” proved to be an exception to this pattern.

We had previously featured “The Sleep Issue” on a no review day, but this was such a compelling album that we felt it should be revisited with a full review. That’s lucky for everyone involved, because I’ve listened to this album at least 25 times, and I still find enjoyment and freshness in it.

Coma Cloud, hailing from the UK, has been around for a few years, but this is their (his) first full length. The previous EP’s were enjoyable, but “The Sleep Issue” just trumps them easily. The past releases were the thread, and this is the blanket. Still, the back catalogue is very worthy of checking out, as is the just released team up single with Dutch electro avant-gardeists Crows Labyrinth.

This is third wave, but done with such aplomb and style that it is literally the best third wave album i’ve heard all year. The first few tracks bring a good amount of heavy, driving, post-metal guitar, which was used in very nicely in conjunction with the more delicate parts of the songs to drive them right into the catchy part of my brain. There was a great amount of groove, which is sustained, albeit in a more gentle and sublime fashion throughout the rest of the album.

Tracks like “Going Under” and “Safety” show the amazing versatility Coma Cloud has on tap. Fluid and mellow in parts, yet raging in others, the former track is a masterpiece of groove-based post-rock. The later track is one of the best conveyers of mood and subconscious narrative I’ve encountered in literally years.

All of this is made possible by the excellent production. Everything is in perfect balance here, from ambient harmonics to snappish snare beats. Guitars are incredibly varied in tone and texture, going from thick Smashing Pumpkins-esque fuzz to beautifully chorused delicacy. The programming here is spot on, and the more electronic beats that populate a few of the tracks sound natural and understated. The mix is damn near flawless to these ears. A perfect example of this is the transition from the predominantly pastoral “The Sleep Issue” to “Going Under.”

I have no reservations about recommending this album, or Coma Cloud in general.  The music here is done extremely well, and is presented effectively and wonderfully. I’m still listening.