Foofer Friday: Not Just To Drink And Dream – Aerial Shots

Reviewed by: Foofer

When I learned that two members of Not Just To Drink And Dream were brothers (The Guitarist and Drummer, Roger and Stuart Gallant), I could hardly contain my excitement. To me, this is something significant. Just to give you an idea of why this is an important fact to me, let me show you some other bands that have brothers in their lineup.

Pelican (Bassist and Drummer, Bryan and Larry Herweg)
If These Trees Could Talk (Guitarist and Drummer, Cody and Zack Kelly)
Set And Setting (Guitarist and Drummer, Shane and Stephen Handal)

These three bands are some of my favorites, and they all make amazing music (Set And Setting is coming out with a new album soon, just FYI) so of course I’m already putting Not Just To Drink And Dream up against some of the bigger names in the post-rock scene. Looking back, I can’t honestly say it’s a fair comparison. But I can’t honestly say they didn’t fall flat on their faces.

Aerial Shots starts out with a few notes in the distance, and almost try to startle you with a sudden blast, then almost immediately float into dreamy sort of jam session, long and drawn phrases draped over drumming so slow it could be called laziness. Absolutely beautiful. It builds up almost instantaneously and just when it sees to be taking on a climactic ending, it just dies. It was really big, adding really cool layers… and it dies. Kinda kills you inside.

The music is revived with a guitar recording so pristine, you can hear the amplified sound and the unamplified sound, with the fingers on the strings, and the strings making infinitesimal noises against the frets as he slides up and down the neck. All back up by the softest hush on the keyboards. An absolutely heart-warming intro. But then someone decided to flip a switch and get loud again. I’ll get back to this complaint in a bit.

The album continues in pretty much the same manner for the remainder of its running time, but it took me three times round on repeat to notice, I enjoy this album so much. But now I must address the biggest problem with Aerial Shots. They suck at transition. Every single song started out with a gorgeous soundtrack of an angel’s heart, and it suddenly goes to the roar of a lion. I mean I’m not really complaining, they really sound very cohesive and dynamic when they’re really going at it, but they just sound so so good when they’re quiet, I never want it to end. Also, I don’t think I’d mind it so much if they actually made some sort of effort to make the transition from quiet to loud a bit smoother. It’s like FRAMES’ “InVia” album: It’s either on or off, there is no inbetween.

On top of all this, there’s almost no difference in structure throughout the entire album, very much like that god-awful one-man project Sleep Dealer that I reviewed last year. Start off quietly, get real loud for a bit, get quiet again, and then be real loud until you get tired of playing and kill the song. Repeat as necessary.

Even with a broken volume knob and one strategy in their playbook, they definitely scored big points with me. It’s a very easy and accessible album to listen to, and it’s a very well done album, I cannot get over the recording quality on the guitars. The drumming is more subtle and appropriate than most other bands are. Most times the drumming is either vulgar and in your face, or it’s so subdued you forget it’s there at all. Definitely give these guys a college try, because I think they just might be worth it, the whole brothers thing definitely has nothing to do with it.

Tweet me @Foofsies or email me at fooferfridays@gmail.com if you’d like. Judging from my empty inbox, it seems you don’t like. I get lonely like everyone else, y’know.

NEXT WEEK: Civil Protection’s “Stolen Fire”.

 

tags: rock ambiant instrumental rock post-rock Canada

Her Name Is Calla – Navigator

a0917986487_2I’ve been wondering if this album actually should be on this website as it probably sits just outside of our usual coverage, in terms of genre. Think of a Slowcore style Radiohead with more folky, ambient, and noise elements. For the record, I think Slowcore is a ridiculous genre name, but it does describe this album particularly well. From Wikipedia: “The music of slowcore artists is generally characterized by bleak lyrics, downbeat melodies, slower tempos and minimalist arrangements”. This is what you are getting in spades and it is wonderful!

Navigator is Her Name Is Calla’s first album since 2010’s brilliant A Quiet Lamb. They have been relatively quiet since then save a 2 track release entitled Ragman Roll in 2012. The subject matter explains why and makes this release an extremely personal one for the musicians involved. The band’s description of the album follows.

“Written over the course of the last three tumultuous years as life, death, distance, divorce and everything else in between tried its best to pull the band apart. Navigator is a story of dreams that fail and do not materialise as youth slips away. It is the story of leaving one life behind and heading into the unknown of another. It is a story of losing love, life, faith and identity, and the great depression that brings. More importantly, it is about finding the way back home again.”

It takes a strong group of people to really hold a band together, or at least one incredibly tenacious person for whom taking no for an answer is akin to lying down and dying. When life throws the things that the band describes at members you know that you have got to come out strong to keep things going. This whole album is a very personal journey that, even though reflecting on worse times, exudes a tremendous amount of strength. The tense moves from past to present throughout but I feel that the words were probably written in hindsight. Hindsight makes you see what you could not at the time so the lyrics feel far more honest than they might have been.

Adding the powerful delivery of the lyrics to the music makes for an emotional rollercoaster. What really makes an impact is that Her Name Is Calla sound like Her Name Is Calla, but there are so many different sounds and influences rearing their heads throughout. Each song stands alone, but I could not imagine feeling the need not to listen to the whole album to re-live the whole story every time.

The album begins with I Was on the Back of a Nightingale. An acoustic guitar introduces the vocals and a simple snare beat along with a banjo fill out the sound. Finally a violin joins in to support. It is a very simple arrangement that really supports the vocal delivery. The initial chord progression and strumming pattern reminded me of Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees and the initial banjo strums made me think of a better Mumford & Sons. Then the next track, The Roots Run Deep, is static electronic beats and droning synth, it has an almost 80’s feel to it and is completely not in keeping with the first track, but it works and I could not imagine any other two tracks being together.

Following on the tracks again just display different sounds, but tie in nicely. It’s called, ‘Daisy’ is an ambient interlude and then Ragman Roll comes on like a b-side from Radiohead’s Amnesiac album, with piano chords and Thom Yorke-esque vocals. In fact, despite having quite a unique vocal style, lead singer Tom Morris often drops into Thom Yorke style delivery. Meridian Arc, the first song that you might be able to describe as lively due to the pounding drums and overdriven guitars, has some Pablo Honey era Thom Yorke crooning thrown in. I do not think it is a problem, the different delivery styles bring even more variation and in this album you start to expect it.

Most of the tracks clock in between three and five minutes, but the title track is one of the longer tracks and is a wonderful slow burner with a really simple and really effective guitar melody that comes in just over half way through. When you think it is over it picks up again and builds to something really cinematic.

After the halfway point it is easy to lose your place in the album. I think the album length (just over an hour) and the melancholic heaviness of the whole thing has a part to play in this. This atmosphere can bring you down with it, which is not necessarily the aim of the album, but being pulled in is a testament to the whole release. Still the tracks are solid, especially the album’s longest track, Dreamlands. In fact the use of noise and static in parts of that track made my wife react in fear. She wasn’t expecting it and it put her into a fight or flight mode when that part entered. I like noise so I am totally with the track on this one, but the power of a sound to create that reaction just strengthens the music’s appeal to me.

Now I got into this album straight away. It appeals to me on so many levels: the variety of sounds, the whole “concept” feel, the brilliant vocals from each band member. I could go on. However I could see the length of the album putting some people off and sometimes the longer tracks probably could be curbed in length a little. That was I trying to play the Devil’s Advocate though. I love this album and you should give it your time.

    

Waking Aida video – Glow Coin

Here is the video for the track Glow Coin from their album that is due for release on June 2nd. You can pre-order the album from their Bandcamp and catch them at any number of shows across the UK in June.

2nd June – Avondale House, Southampton
3rd June – Firebug, Leicester w/ Alpha Male Tea Party
4th June – Bar 1:22, Huddersfield
5th June – Mother’s Ruin, Bristol
6th June, The Black Heart, London
7th June, The Ferret, Preston
8th June, Buffalo Bar, Cardiff w/ Alpha Male Tea Party
28th August – Arctangent Festival w/ Russian Circles, Maybeshewill
  

Roundtable Review: Those Amongst Us Are Wolves – This State is Conscious

Welcome back to another monthly installment of Roundtable Review. This month we have a real special treat for all of our readers as we are breaking down and dissecting Those Amongst Us Are Wolves’ latest effort ‘This State Is Concious’, the follow-up to their 2013 album ‘Chaotic Love Stories and Irrational Behaviour’.  TAUAW have been big supporters of our site for quite awhile now and likewise we are big supporters of them and their brand of unique post-rock, so it was really quite a no-brainer for us to choose ‘This State Is Conscious’ as a candidate for a Roundtable. Without further ado..

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At first listen it is easy to draw a number of different opinions about ‘This State is Conscious’. This album is a vast and intricate web of unique and differing influences and styles all culled into one giant post-rock cauldron. My original perception of the album was that even though I felt the band really poured their heart into perfecting this record, in doing so they had put too many different flavors (layers) in the pot. Each song was so distinctly different from one another, full of curious nuances and sounds from different genres and well hell, different cultures of music as well. As I continued listening several times through, I realized that wasn’t the case. Sure, the synergy between the four tracks isn’t particularly great, but the blend of layers featured in each particular song synergize so well with one another that it never really occurred to me just how much sound the band jampacked into these 40 minutes until I started breaking songs down layer by layer.

With “How to Level Water” the band chose to open the record with inviting and very listener friendly third wave (I believe the kids these days just call it “pretty”) post-rock in the vein of Lights & Motion. As the track evolves it becomes easy to forget that the main focal point of this track is the spotlighted cello work that lasts until right before the shift from pretty to a dark toned. Moving forward the album immediately shifts styles and picks up with the monstrous prog-rock presence of “At The End Of The Scene, The Walls Are Black And She Is Gone, And He Is Alone.” Originally I thought this track oozed influence from fellow U.K. band Crippled Black Phoenix, but after conversing with band members I uncovered that wasn’t the case. The keys in this track are the real highlight, shining and headlining the song from nearly start to finish. The center of the track gives us a brief keyboard interlude in an Asian/Mandarin theme amidst a backdrop of ambience,  a nice touch that leads into a reprisal of the intro while maintaining the same musical theme.

“Placebo Affects” is one of the most insanely creative musical mindfucks I’ve ever experienced. So the first time I heard this track, I immediately dismissed it as filler leading up to the grand finale. It’s very easy to do that considering how this album is structured. I can now tell you with 100% certainty that this is my favorite song on the album by a landslide. The psychedelic and space age-like intro really throws you for a loop at first, so it’s best to just let it set the mood and not over analyze it while the cascading sounds swirl around your head. The song shortly evolves into a grooving and downtempo yet proper post-rock jam. Then something outright ridiculous happens. A Horn section that would make any Ska band jealous spawns out of seemingly nowhere and captures the ears. Focus on it too much and you could easily miss the rattling guitar layers or even better, the bluesy bass line being laid down in the underbelly of the mix. Finally, as if all of this wasn’t enough, the guys go back to that big band prog-rock sound I spoke of earlier as the number comes to a close. This song simply takes these massive steps of radical change and does so without missing a beat. Who would have ever imagined a Ska horn section, a bluesy bass-line and post-rock guitar layers playing into one another so perfectly? The brilliance will surely be unappreciated by anyone without trained ears.

I suppose “He Is The King of The Tenuous Link” will be most perceived as a the band’s magnum opus effort, as it sits at 20 minutes, or half the album’s length. My biggest criticism I have with this track is that they could have easily done this song in 13 or 15 minutes and the 20 minute mark seems a bit artificially inflated. The copious amounts of ambiance is nice, but it really brings the mood down to a level where I felt like I was just waiting for the next big moment, and not in a good build up kind of way. However, from around 12:20 onward is when the real finale begins as the guys unleash an all out post-rock assault for next few minutes. Keys, bass and drumming come together to form a really tight build up leading to giant explosion of layers that all come crashing down in the mix. Guitar work here is easily the best on the album with an extremely tight, occasionally gritty sound that slowly envelops everything else around it.

It’s safe to say that one play through isn’t enough to appreciate what Those Amongst Us Are Wolves have accomplished here. ‘This State is Conscious’ was well worth the wait and well worth the price of admission. There is a little bit of something for everyone in this album. – James

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Song craft and structure are part and parcel to what makes good third wave post rock for me. If it’s lacking, things are flat and uninteresting, even when played by the most skilled musicians. That happens a good deal when you listen to as much stuff as we do here at PRS. This all too common downfall is in no way evident here, as TAUAW have summoned a very compelling handful of songs on This State Is Conscious.

 Surprisingly synthy in parts, I enjoyed the interplay between electronic and organic instrumentation. The atmospheres created by the electronics lend a thickness that enhances the handsome melodicism of the guitar and the very well rounded bass work.

 I had a slight issue with the drumming at times. There are a couple of places where the timing is off just enough to jar one out of revere. That coupled with the generics of the kickdrum sound (although it is a solid sound) left me wondering what was programmed and what was recorded from a live kit. The actual drum lines are inventive and propulsive when they need to be. I’m just nitpicky about sonics.

 While the last track, “He is the King of Tenuous Links” is the obvious opus on this album, and is truly a tour de force of segues and interlocking song craft, my favorite moments are in “At The End Of The Scene, The Walls Are Black And She Is Gone, And He Is Alone.” It is so well conceived and deceivingly complex. The combination of the atmospheric ambient sections and the hammered dulcimer just lit up my brain.

 All in all I quite enjoyed every piece and look forward to more. Erich

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“This State Is Conscious” has everything I want in a post-rock album. Soothing and mellow ambience, blistering passages through musical fire, a strong variation of instrumentation, and a chance to hear every member shine through at one point or another. This is one of those albums I can’t stand to listen to very often because I can’t find anything wrong with it. I have no complaints. I have nothing to think about this album, other than how much I enjoy it so thoroughly. It goes right up there with Yndi Halda’s Self-Titled album, and Caspian’s ‘Waking Season’. Just… too perfect.

That being said, don’t let me deter you from enjoying this album. The places it takes you and the stories it tells are things you shouldn’t miss out on. I mean, how many of you have listened to a post-rock album with a hammered dulcimer in it? In fact, when was the last time you heard the words ‘Hammered Dulcimer’? This is something unique, and should be at least appreciated, if not cherished.

My one and only complaint is the last song being a whopping twenty minutes long. When a song gets that long, I have a hard time avoiding any mental separation after the music dies down and picks up with a different feeling or instrument. It just kinda makes sense to split it into two or even three songs when it reaches a certain length. There are some exceptions to this like some Godspeed You! Black Emperor pieces, where they’re trying for a certain theme or telling a story. I don’t really get that feeling with this album.

Regardless, I become enthralled with the music to the point that I forget about my complaints when the album is over. JUST LISTEN TO IT ALREADY, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD. – Foofer

   

tags: rock electronica instrumental noise post-rock space rock trip hop Coventry

Foofer Friday: Chatting with Nathaniel Noton Freeman

I’ve been following Nathaniel Noton-Freeman and his music since he posted his debut solo album on Reddit. And with every release, his music‘s been getting better and better. This week I had the privilege to preview some tracks from his upcoming album Cloud Machines and interview this magnificent example of manliness about it.

Let’s start with first impressions; Where did you come up with the name “Cloud Machines”?

I absolutely love Vice documentaries and watch nearly every one that I can. There’s one about a chemical valley in Canada that really resonated with me, and the title is loosely based on that.

Do you inject your political views into your music, like Godspeed You! Black Emperor does?

Not in any way until this album, if you’d even call it political. I could see myself being a little more overt about world issues in the future, though. I’m extremely passionate about the environment, race equality, and LGBTQ rights, and I follow current world events quite closely.

Your music and instrumentation has changed drastically since “Whorl”. In what way have you made changes to your creative process?

This album was created in a fairly similar way to Whorl, actually. I write the whole album as I record, decide I hate the entire thing, don’t listen to it for three months, listen again, can’t believe that I wrote something that sounds so good, polish it up, and release it.

Dream was the different one – I had most of the songs written beforehand, but that was because all but one track were written as single guitar pieces, and I then broke them into multiple parts. I think both writing styles really work for me, and yield drastically different results.

What would you say influences you the most with your music?

People are sometimes surprised by what I claim to be influenced by. I’m always listening to heaps of metal (Cryptopsy, Septicflesh, Deafheaven, and Botch to name a few), and lots of electronic stuff (Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Pilotpriest, Tycho). I’ve also been thinking a lot about Miles Davis, Bill Frisell, Erik Satie, Brian Eno, and John Adams.

The metal influence is probably the hardest to explain (I think I’m inspired by metal band’s senses of rhythm and disregard for conventional time signatures), but the others are a little more obvious, and generally share a dreamy, almost surreal quality that I find to be very appealing.

Is there any specific music you listen to more than others while making Cloud Machines?

Bill Frisell, Miles Davis, and Boards of Canada were probably on my mind more than anything. I had a few times where I was listening to Davis in the car and just thought, “I need to be home to make music NOW.”

For the gearheads – What sort of equipment do you use on a regular basis for your music, and what guitars do you keep handy?

I recorded almost all of Cloud Machines with a Pod HD500X. I like the thing, but I find that it’s limiting in terms of processing power and routing options. I’m pretty sure I’ll jump aboard the Fractal Audio train eventually, but I’m in no particular rush. Otherwise I run into a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, Logic Pro X on my MacBook (THANKS to my Kickstarter backers!) and out to a pair of KRK Rokit 6’s.

As for guitars, I usually use my trusty Guild D40, but it took a back seat this time around for my beaten up Fender Mexi Telecaster (‘52 Nocaster pickups) and an Ibanez S-Classic (Seymour Duncan JB & Jazz pickups). Few things seem to top a Tele bridge pickup when it comes to making ambient sounds.

(That’s like erotic literature for guitar nerds. Mmf.)

Speaking of Kickstarter, what was going through your mind during that process? Were you nervous about leaving your next project in the hands of your fans?

I have some interesting feelings surrounding Kickstarter. I’m enormously grateful for the contributions of the many people who miraculously seem to care about my music, but I must confess that having some kind of monetary obligation to my fans is a bit stressful. I like to make music at whatever pace I feel to be right for me, and the Kickstarter adds an element of guilt when I don’t feel like recording for a period of time which is otherwise completely normal to my creative process. I don’t think I’ll be doing one again, but I do think that it’s a fantastic way to jump start any project and I’m psyched that it helped me so much.

Do you do everything on your own, or do you call up some friends for things like drumming or mastering?

I do everything myself. I like being accountable to only myself for my music – I can work as quickly or slowly as I need to, and that’s always okay when I work alone.

Do you think you’d ever join a band after doing so much solo work?

I’d love to play in a band. I play by myself for a variety of reasons – firstly, I haven’t found anyone with a creative vision that is similar enough to mine that it feels completely natural to write with them. Secondly, I have nobody to be accountable to for my music other than myself. Thirdly – and maybe some people won’t like hearing this – but playing alone allows me to keep 100% of the profits from all of my gigs and merch sales. When I don’t have to split what I make two or three or six ways, I can actually use music to pay for things other than gas and guitar strings. Music pays for my car, my student loans, and my general act of existence, and in this way it’s gone way beyond just being a hobby. It’s a full blown career. I think there are a lot of things that I would like to do with a group that I simply cannot do by myself, but I think that’ll be saved for another point in my life.

Almost all of your albums have been given some love in the form of a physical DIY release, do you think that helps get your name out there?Seabirds cover art

I sell SO many physical copies of my albums. I keep them in my car, my backpack, and everywhere else that I can. Selling someone a physical album is way better than giving them a card or telling them to go to your website; it gives them immediate access to the music, keeps them from forgetting about you, and sort of ropes them into the fold immediately. I think it also adds an element of care and legitimacy to your music that isn’t present with solely digital releases. People love the hand-made feel of my CDs. It’s really easy to just throw an album up on iTunes and forget about it, and I refuse to do that with my work.

What sort of advice would you give to other musicians trying to make a name for themselves?

Think of music like a business. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be fun, or be an art form, but if you want to be successful, you need to set yourself up for success.

Firstly, you need a good product. This is the easy part. Anybody can make music that sounds good if they really, really invest the time and want to be good enough. Practice = skill and polish – it’s as simple as that.

Once you have a good product, you need to sell yourself. This is the hard part, and the part that I’m still figuring out. You need to make people care about your music, and this seems to come in a lot of ways. If the music is good and you’ve branded yourself in a compelling way (good artwork and presentation is essential), then the next step is to make people hear your music. Firstly, make sure that every single person that knows you knows that you make music. Friends and family care more about your music than anyone, and will help spread the word. Sharing your music online (Reddit, blogs, magazines, forums, etc) can help too, but getting out and playing shows is the single best way to gain notoriety and meet people.

Other than that, being successful seems to be a combination of skill and luck. I’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities lately that wouldn’t have happened had I not practiced really hard and had a body of work available for people to hear, but also wouldn’t have happened had I not met the right person on the right day. Ultimately all you can do is give everything one hundred and ten percent and hope for the best.

What’s your secret to being so gosh darn good-looking?

To be perfectly honest, I make sure to regularly bathe in the blood of particularly pretentious black metal and post-rock kids. It does wonders for your pores.

Be sure to check out Nathaniel’s bandcamp page at whorl.bandcamp.com and be on the lookout for Cloud Machines!

As always, you can let me know how much I suck on twitter @Foofsies and via email at fooferfridays@gmail.com