Roundtable Review: Moonlit Sailor – We Come From Exploding Stars

As we enter the thaw that is the end of the cold frozen months and march forward into those chilly yet bright sunny spring days, we leave winter feeling like it’s been a hell of a ride. The first three months of 2014 has seen the release of some extraordinarily great albums and definitely works that will top year-end lists in the months to go. In our third round table review this year we’ve chosen Moonlit Sailor’s ‘We Come From Exploding Stars’, released February 25th via Deep Elm Records as our featured album. This is the Swedish band’s fourth release and first since 2011’s ‘Colors in Stereo’.  It is also available at a ‘Name Your Price’ basis as Deep Elm has once again became trendsetters in the music world by being one of if not the first major label to offer their entire discography at this pricing point, a decision we all here at Postrockstar applaud. Without further ado, lets see what our staff had to see about the latest effort of Moonlit Sailor!

“Moonlit Sailor have consistently been one of my go to bands when introducing new listeners to the world of Post-rock. They make the genre very accessible with their upbeat songs that aren’t too drawn out nor are they too virtuoso or pretentious. With all due credit to the Swedish 4-piece, the majority of their catalog is incredibly easy to digest, fun to nod your head along with and occasionally pack that extra little bit of charm that can only be created by musicians who truly connect to and through their music.

‘We Come From Exploding Stars’ is yet another feather in the cap for the band and is an all around solid release from front to back. This is a Deep Elm release after all, so there isn’t any filler to be expected on this album, just ten equally quality tracks that create an album that flows wonderfully and create a really fun, relaxed atmosphere. “From Gemini to Lynx” and “Dollar Underwater” both stand out as my favorite songs on the album and are both gleeful romps through familiar territory.

While Moonlit Sailor’s fortay is cheery post-rock — and they do it as well as anyone, a part of me feels that ‘We Come From Exploding Stars’ is trying too hard to capture the special organic feeling I felt when I first heard “Colors in Stereo”. I could be and sure hope I am wrong, but I would like to see each album in a band’s catalog be its own work with its own blend of majestic moments, quirks and nuances instead of trying to capitolize off of a past high. If you feel as though I’m way off base here, simply choose to take this as of me saying I like ‘Colors in Stereo’ a bit more than ‘We Come From Exploding Stars’. Make no mistake however, this is a very good post-rock album from a talented band backed by the best label in the world. ” – James

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“Not much needs to be said about Moonlit Sailor’s latest album; if you’ve heard any of their previous works, you probably already know what it’s going to sound like. Sure as a sailboat will feature on each new album artwork, there’s something secure and expected with the sound of a Moonlit Sailor release. You know it’s going to be bright and pleasant — and it is. You can have faith that each chorus will brim with beauty, optimism and fun. The melodies will once again be as catchy as in a pop song without any sacrifice to their integrity. And you know that it will be the album you’ll want to turn to as the first Sun of summer rises.

Also familiar, though, is the way that the songs progress. Moonlit Sailor have always conformed fairly rigidly to a traditional (though not for post-rock) verse-chorus structure. This is a bonus when the choruses are so sensational (as they mostly are), but it can at times result in verses that are overly long and repetitive, almost crying out for some lyrical substance. If Moonlit Sailor did have a lead singer, they would make the must fun, catchy and dancable pop-rock album since Two Door Cinema Club’s Tourist History. But still I’ll gladly look to their instrumental choruses as goldmines for satiating melodies.” Shooter

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“I came across Moonlit Sailor when I was downloading free albums from Deep Elm Records during their huge ‘name you own price’ sale on bandcamp. It was labeled as post-rock, so I decided to actually pay for something, instead of mooching off of Deep Elm generosity completely. I procrastinated and never got around to clicking play, but when James told us that this month’s roundtable review was Moonlit Sailor, it was the kick in the pants I needed to really sit down and listen to the whole album, beginning to end.

I wish I’d done it earlier.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this album. It’s not overly technical to the point where it turns off everyone except the math-rock fans, but it’s not too simple to become boring. Their sense of composition is very similar to Explosions In The Sky at some parts, and one song even reminded me of Set & Setting’s “Fear of Obtainment” piece from their album, ‘Equanimity.’ For the majority of the album, I was thinking “Man, this is perfect as a next step past the gateway bands like Explosions In The Sky and early This Will Destroy You material.”

And I still stand by that thought. It’s very entertaining as a whole, though I’d have difficulty telling you which song is which, because they tended to sound very similar. Whereas, other albums may have the same tonality throughout the album, or the same timbre or whathaveyou, but the pieces still retain their individuality. This isn’t the case for most of this album and I would mark that up as a weak point.

The only other small weak point in the album is the bassist, in my very personal opinion. At times it did seem to stand out and make its own melody or harmony, but other times it seems to be very subdued, nearly invisible. I know it’s a really small thing to hang on, but I think the bass is the true backbone of any band. Without it, you’re completely missing the low end, which makes the music underwhelming, and underwhelming music is bad music.

At the end of the day, I found myself humming bits of it to myself, and hoping there was enough time in the day for me to sit and enjoy this album again, beginning to end.”Foofer

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“Ok, this album is a delight. I had not heard Moonlit Sailor before We Come From Exploding Stars, but I quickly endeavored to grab up their back catalogue, thanks to Deep Elm’s awesome “Name Your Price” promotion. I’m very glad I did, as it was worth it going through the past to get to the present with this fine release.

Moonlit Sailor seems to be more upbeat then the typical third wave “crescendo-core” of their peers. Peers that are the big names in third wave, which is exactly what Moonlit Sailor should be. Melodies are a tad more mysterious. Guitars don’t quite attack so much as chime, chant, and sing. In fact, this is an excellent album for anyone into guitar. Tones are spot on. The lines are deceptively simplistic. I mean, hell, they even used the E-bow well. That’s a hard thing to do because the device lends itself to overindulgence.

This collection of songs is just exceptionally well done. They are emotive but not overwrought. Narrative enough to build mountains of stories in ones mind.
It’s hard to even name just a couple of standouts because everything is so on par. However, I will say that personally “From Gemini to Lynx” is my favorite at the moment. This is for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it reminds me of the music that’s played in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” where the eponymous duo go forward in time briefly to the society that is founded upon their band.
 
Albums this solid and effortless sounding don’t just happen everyday. We’re all the better for enjoying We Come From Exploding Stars. Sail on.”Erich

   

tags: alternative emo indie rock instrumental post-rock postrock punk rock swedish
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Martyn Jackson – Home

Reviewed by James

Out of all the reviews I’ve written, the most difficult ones tend to be the albums by solo artists who choose to use their own name rather than a moniker or band name. It never quite feels like I’m reviewing the albums themselves, but rather talking to the artist directly. Regardless of whether I’m offering criticism or praise, referencing the creator by a moniker instead of directly helps to create a wall between the reviewer and the artist.

I’ve never had any trouble writing a Cloudkicker review, but I definitely recall passing Nathaniel Noton-Freeman’s ‘Seabirds’ album off to fellow Postrockstar writer Shooter about a year ago. Nathaniel is my friend and I love that album to death, I just couldn’t bring myself to speak to the artist directly for whatever reason. As a reviewer my goal is to remain accountable for my opinions yet stay veiled enough that my thoughts feel more informative rather than subjective. Maybe that sounds like bullshit to you because all music is subjective therefor all reviews are especially subjective, but I’d much rather tell readers what an album sounds like or who it sounds similar to rather than shit all over it for what I don’t like about it.  Oops, I started another review off with the inner politics of post-rock reviews. For future reference, just starting skipping to paragraph three if you just want read reviews.

Getting right to the album that lead into that diatribe we have ‘Home’ by Martyn Jackson, a talented solo artist from Portishead, UK who draws inspirations from the Likes of Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros and composer Michael Giacchino, who has worked on the scores for movies like Up and Cloverfield and the video game series Medal of Honor. ‘In his own words, Jackson describes his music as “…an anchor for people’s imagination. Since our music is instrumental you can paint different pictures in your head while listening to it, and the name for the track is just one of million possible roads that you can go.”

I feel like that analogy applies to nearly every post-rock album I’ve ever heard.

Released November 21st, 2013, ‘Home’ is an extremely polished effort that does an excellent job once again proving that one person is capable of accomplishing the sound of an entire band. As you can imagine, the guitar work here is stellar, a familiar trait on most solo albums. One track in particular it truly shines in heavily layered glory is “Heavy Weather”, a track that stands out to me as having a dark and raw bite to it. A crescendo guitar glistens above layers of guitar work in the lower laying tracks that fill out the sound spectrum. This track has apparently been featured on BBC playlists and rightfully so as it’s probably the most accessible song to be found on the album.

“At The End of A Dream There is a New Ideal” is another rock solid track with excellent composition and uptempo pacing, highlighted by bright guitar layers that occupy the center of the sound stage. The final minute or so of this song is awe-worthy, especially when the heavily layered guitars transition into one of the highest pitched squealing crescendos I can recall. The energy remains high through “Are We Nearly There Yet?”, the best song on the album and my personal favorite as well. Spiraling crescendo action right out of the gate compounded by a hypnotically cheerful beat that takes over the track and builds upward through the first two minutes. From there it coasts through a smooth valley of cymbal riding and a more relaxed pacing of spiderwebbed layers that all mesh together perfectly to create the tightest sound on the album. A layer of spiraling crescendo guitar creeps back into the mix and the drums and the rest of the track decide to play chase with it as the sound levels creep up steadily before declining into a clean guitar finish. Simply a marvelous track from start to finish. Top notch crescendo-core that could easily be mistaken as a multiple person effort.

I couldn’t finish this review without mentioning “Keep Your Eyes On The Tide”, an effort that would make bands like Mono and Joy Wants Eternity proud. Elegant piano plays a somber tale amongst a backdrop of ambiance, synths and classical strings that I’ve yet to determine are real or digitally produced. Either way it doesn’t matter. The piano in this track is eerily reminiscent of some of the work found on Sigur Ros’ ‘()’ album, but I’m not complaining as that is clearly their best work ever. And yes, I’m hoping to incite a riot of replies here with such a matter of fact statement.

Back to the album at hand, when it comes to albums as a whole there are two distinct negative traits I will never be shy to give criticism for. The first is poor audio quality, the second is poor transitions. The audio quality on this album is well above average for an independent release, so there is no need to fear ‘Home’ if you are an audiophile with fancy headphones like me. However, there are a couple of well, let’s call them ‘interesting’ endings to songs that make for poor lead ins to the following track. One in particular is a distorted voice saying the words ‘Nobody writes anymore’ over and over at the end of “Night Time Ideas” that leads into “At The End of a Dream There is a New Ideal”, one of the stronger tracks on the album. This track doesn’t end like the previous two. Instead it simply ends immediately on a repetitive bass note, leading into “Are We Nearly There Yet?”, the best track on the album as I stated above. These songs need stronger finishes because each subsequent song deserves a better lead in.

That is my really only gripe with ‘Home’. All in all this is a pretty solid release that deserves a listen or two (if not more) by anyone who enjoys crescendo-core.  The album serves up a solid half hour to get lost in thought in. A solid debut by an artist with a great brain for song structure and composition. I’m looking forward to hearing more.

 

tags: alternative progressive rock alternative rock indie instrumental instrumental rock post-rock postrock progressive shoegaze UK

Larkahl – Journal

Journal cover art James – “Our buddies Larkahl recently sent along their press package to us and while we might have time to review this album in the future, we are so back loaded with albums that we wouldn’t be able to get to it in a timely manner. Instead we offer you the press package that was sent to us because quite frankly it’s just a damn good read (the Long and Pretentious version of course. If you’re willing to listen to 12 minute post-rock songs you should be willing to read 4 paragraphs right? “

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The short and to-the-point version

Larkahl is a four-piece instrumental band based in Eskilstuna, Sweden, made up of four friends who first met back in our school days. An early incarnation of the band released a few recordings as a three-piece back in 2009, but since 2012 we’ve been recording and playing live with the current line-up:

Martin Hellström – drums
Tomas Johansson – guitar
Emil Wallman – bass
Oskar Westerlund – guitar

Listen to and download our music (for free!) on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, or follow us on Facebook for up-to-date news about recordings, live shows and whatever else we’re up to at the moment.

The long and pretentious version

Linguistically speaking, Larkahl doesn’t mean anything. At least that was the intention – to find a name that sounded beatiful but had no particular meaning in any language, although of course we can’t be sure we haven’t missed some more obscure language that’s out there. A cynic might point out how it’s convenient for a band to choose a name like that because it’s easier to find on Google or stick out among the band names on a show poster. But isn’t there enough cynicism in the world already, anyway?

What Larkahl means to us members of the band, is music that isn’t afraid of mixing the swirling soundscapes of shoegaze or ambient music with the trance-inducing monotony of heavy, doomy metal, or with the odd meters and effect pedal trickery of progressive or noise rock, sometimes within the confines of a single song. It means always to choose risking being perceived as pretentious rather than boring. What we hope that Larkahl will come to mean to our listeners, is music that isn’t afraid of being neither poppy and catchy, nor weird and surprising, but that after all still sounds unmistakably, well… Larkahl. We don’t have any lofty aspirations of giving birth to a brand new genre, but neither do we bother ourselves with trying to just remake the same old songs we’ve all heard a hundred times before. (Seriously, we enjoy Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor as much as the next guy with a flannel shirt and hipster beard, but there are already WAY more than enough almost interchangeable bands that do the whole instrumental post-rock-crescendo-core-call-it-what-you-will thing!) We sincerely believe that it’s possible to create music that speaks loud and clear without lyrics and vocals, and enjoy the challenge of trying to do that within the confines of a traditional four piece rock band setting. (Also, neither of us are particularly good singers, but that’ll be our little secret, OK?)

At the time of writing (March 2014), we’ve just recently released our first album. It’s made up of songs from our first several years as a band, both old and new pieces. But since we appreciate the traditional album format, we’ve tried our best to make it a coherent and thought through work rather than just throwing together a bunch of songs. Since we apparently enjoy not only nerding out about pedalboards, but also contradicting ourselves, it’s actually not strictly instrumental but does contain a few spoken word contributions. Not being anywhere close to being able to make a living from our music, this debut album is a work of endless hours of writing, rehearsing, arguing and struggling to find out what we want our music to sound like. So despite recording it with quite a portion of DIY spirit, with zero budget in a free studio, we’ve achieved a recording that we’re immensely proud of. It’s available as a free digital download through our Bandcamp site, or to stream on Soundcloud.

So what’s next in the world of Larkahl? Having forced ourselves to put the finishing touches on our older songs for the debut album, we’ve been inspired to work on completely new material which is already rapidly taking shape for a future release. Judging from the progress so far, it will probably be a little bit shorter and more to-the-point than “Journal”, maybe an EP or mini-album, and will probably also show more post-metal and progressive/mathy influences. We’re making good progress and are aiming for a release sometime in the later half of 2014, but no promises. Only having played a couple of small shows so far, we also really look forward to hopefully getting the chance to present our music to more live audiences.

With the warmest of greetings from the dark Swedish winter,

Tomas (and the other three members of Larkahl)

   

tags: 5/4 time experimental ambient debut album instrumental post-metal post-rock progressive psychedelic spoken word Sweden

Garden Party – EP II

Reviewed by Erich

Sometimes it’s possible to fall in love again. I thought it wouldn’t happen after I first heard Slowdive’s ‘Just for a Day’. Then I felt for sure after M83’s ‘Saturdays = Youth’ that it was over, that I would never find that beautiful, perfect mix of ambient and up-tempo. I thought I’d be lost in a sea of repetitious 3rd wave and wannabe soundtracks. I’m so glad I was wrong. I am in love with Garden Party, and I want the whole world to know it.

From the lush and drifting sound clouds of the opening track right through the shoegaze/dreampop, past the jangle and the wizardly intermix, through the whispers and dangling ringing notes, and all the way out the other side of the galaxy enclosed in’EP II’, my heart and mind sang. I drifted gleefully in a playground so well crafted that when the record ended I felt like I was thrown into a cold world unprotected by reverb and shimmer. So I played it again.

This release is so solid that it not only does justice to its influences, it trumps them. We all know that shoegaze and most of it’s non-metallic side branches have been in decline, fed by pretenders and amateurs, making it so diluted that all the power and supple majesty that made it great were in so short a supply that many of us gasped for it, drowning in the unintended silence.

We need not gasp again. Garden Party has replenished the finicky rare air we love, and enriched it.

Musically, this release is just amazing. My only wish is that it was produced slightly more unambiguously. At times there’s a sonic break up, almost like analogue tape saturation, that, if intentional, is very nice, but if manifest because clipping or track overload, is hiding more glimmering musical gold. Aside from that, the mix is well done. It may seem that that would be easy because many parts of this EP are sparse when it comes to harsh dynamics, but the nuances captured at low levels is part of what kept me coming back, to float again thru the ether of EP II.

The warmth, given the media, is astonishing.

This is a must listen if ever I’ve heard one. If I had a physical release of this EP I would cuddle with it.

 

tags: ambient bellingham drone indie math rock math-rock post rock post-rock seattle shoegaze soundscape Seattle