Body Hound – Rhombus Now

Reviewed by: TenaciousListening

Technical music. Is it just showing off? Very often it is, but I do find myself drawn to it if the tracks work as tracks, rather than absurd wank-a-thons designed to stroke the ego of musicians who don’t know how to play for a song, but could definitely melt your God. Damn. Face. Off from 100 yards.

So that is why I dig bands such as Between The Buried and Me and Tool, and why I tend to prefer technical death metal over the classic grindier type. Another band I class as technical with a great mind for writing songs (however mental they may be) is RoloTomassi. Their first two albums are some of my favourite albums. Then two members left; two reasons I didn’t find their third offering quite as invigorating as the previous releases. Joseph Nicholson, the guitarist, wrote one of my go to riffs to (try to) play when I pick up the guitar, the first riff from the I Love Turbulance track. It is the perfect mix of technical without losing its sense of melody. So what am I blabbering on about…?

Well a couple of years on Joseph and the bassist (Joseph Thorpe) formed Body Hound with another couple of guys (Ex-Antares, RedmistDestruction), and damn if they ain’t great!

Sure, the first time you listen your mind is mangled by poly rhythmic madness, time signatures chop and change, and tempos switch at a moments notice. You need a sit down to recover, but then you need to listen again.

What really stands out is that in the first half of the album especially, despite the changing tempos and time signatures, there is still groove; the tracks don’t really feel disjointed despite their technicality. This becomes even more impressive when you realize that the tracks rarely revisit an idea. They take a riff, develop it, and then move on. Album opener Vector Approaching displays my point perfectly. It has hit its third section by the time it has hit one minute in, but you cannot fail to be pulled along by their mastery of time signature mangling riffage.

Sometimes the guitars harmonize, only to go off in different directions, finally meeting up once more. Systems is guitar harmony heaven for a lot of it, but the sections where each guitar goes its own way is superb. The rhythm section gets some spotlight action as well, but throughout the album the bass and drums hold everything together without being overplayed. The bass especially is quite happy to keep up with the guitars at any point, but is totally cool with dropping back and just grooving.

The intro to Void is very RoloTomassi, but that is the only time I have been reminded of them in the whole album. It is also the first track that really lets up from a barrage of riffing, at least for the first minute or so. Then it is full on again, the polyrhythmic ideas are mind-blowing. It could be two tracks playing separately sometimes, but still they work surprisingly well together.

The second half of the album is maybe a little more discordant than previous tracks. Their Stravinsky inspiration coming through, I guess. Momentum flies off the handles straight away and feels atonal (my music theory is not great, but it lacks any strong resolution that I can hear). This gives the track a great sense of movement without any abrupt changes in the riffs. It just flows perfectly from beginning to end. Perseus Arm starts in a similar vein with discordant and chaotic harmonized guitar lines. It gains much more time signature groove later on and the bass thunders in and grinds away wonderfully to push the track along.

Then we finish with the title track. We already know what to expect, but we are not disappointed. It is heavily syncopated in parts it is still less chaotic than what has come before it, but delightfully heavy and a suitable place for the album to finish.

Rhombus Now is perfectly organized chaos. If you like math-rock you have no excuse not to fall in love with this. I did have to give it a few listens through before it really started to shine, but once it started shining I could not give it up. Body Hound could be the biggest instrumental math-rock band of recent years. Here’s hoping, because this is a stupendous debut.

 

tags: alternative progressive rock math rock mathcore prog progressive United Kingdom

Catacombe – Quidam

Reviewed by: James

   I don’t know how you guys are feeling about 2014, but I feel absolutely bombarded by the amount of above average to great post-rock albums that have been released this year. There are A TON of great albums coming down the pipeline as soon as we can get to them, but in the meantime I’ve been pretty hung up on ‘Quidam’ by Catacombe. Despite being around since 2007 and having two previous albums under their belt, this is my first experience with this Portuguese post-rock powerhouse. In all fairness, they haven’t released an album since 2010 and I started Postrockstar in 2012 which is when I really started to dig deep into the post-rock surface. But with a little over 2000 likes on Facebook I almost feel bad for letting Catacombe slip past my radar.

   But I’m sure to have found ‘Quidam’, a 6-track 35 minute effort from the 4-piece band from Porto, the second largest city in Portugal which lies along the coastline (see, you get geography lessons in addition to great music also). ‘Quidam’ takes itself very serious, drawing inspiration from other “serious” post-rock artists such as Russian Circles or the earlier work of Long Distance Calling for example. In terms of sound quality and instrument arrangement this album shares a lot of similarities with Audrey Falls recently released ‘Mitau’ which was just featured on the site not too long ago. Gorgeous sound staging and instrument separation combined with above average production qualities will help set this album apart from the pack of DIY releases of 2014.

   Every great album has a strong lead up and ‘Quidam’ is no different with “Zenith” kicking things off with an alluring beat that leads into alluring guitar work that weave a web of hectic yet focused strands of reverb and distortion. “Ninho De Vespas” is next and features a unique tempo change about halfway through the track deciding to take a detour from it’s rough and heavy opening into a more melodic buildup. The track builds to a brilliant finish of multi-layered guitar work; distortion in the right channel, spiraling crescendos in the right while perpetual cymbal riding occupies both channels in the upper echelons of the mix. “Shroud” is next and is my personal favorite track on the album, taking a no-nonsense approach with an intentionally tease intro as if the band is trying to say “Hey, you better fucking pay attention!”  I love everything about this track from the downtuned guitars to the marching order drumming in the center of the track, indicating the beginning stages of a massive buildup. The screeching guitars amidst that build up are a real high point on the album to me and the culminating breakdown doesn’t disappoint either. Admittedly I’ve gotten way too into this song on numerous occasions.

   The album takes a swift with ‘Lolita’ as the tempo and mood completely change to a more mellow vibe. If you’re looking for a “pretty” track out of Catacombe, this track would be it. Although most of this track isn’t my personal cup of tea, the closing guitar work is pretty epic. “Mental Confusion” picks the tempo back up and gets back to the foundation laid by the first three tracks with more top-notch guitar work and serious natured atmosphere. The album wraps with “Nadir” which leaves a lasting impression as a mellow finisher with an understated breakdown as the song fades into the night.

I really like ‘Quidam’ because it does just enough to set itself apart from the pack but doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s the product of a band with a unique sound simply setting out to make great post-rock.  The perfect album to get lost in for either a half hour or several hours as the album plays front to back with great synergy. This is definitely a release I’ll keep my eyes and ears on later in the year as we gear up for year-end awards. Well worth your listen!

 

tags: alternative rock instrumental post-metal post-rock postrock Portugal

Foofer Friday: We Came From The North – From Which All Things Depend

Reviewed by: Foofer

There are some times when I want some artists to come out with new music more often. After I wore out my copy of Mono’s “For My Parents” I was really looking for some other band that was orchestral without being neo-classical when Lights And Motion saved the day. It really fulfilled my musical cravings, which is something I find increasingly rare as the days go by. After Caspian’s recent LP and EP, I was digging deep for another band with their specific sort of sound. I think I may have found it; We Came From The North.

This instrumental quartet from Edinburgh are definitely for fans of Caspian. They really capture your attention like Caspian without sounding exactly like Caspian. Unlike Surrounded by Infantry, which was an absolute mess of Cloudkicker rip-offs. You can’t say ‘homage’, ‘tribute’, or ‘imitation’ about We Came From the North, because they just wouldn’t fit. They aren’t Caspian and you can really tell that they’re trying to make a sound of their own.

“From Which All Things Depend” begins with a song of complete fluff that could have been cut out and we wouldn’t have cared one way or the other. I didn’t find it to really add any character to the album like Set and Setting’s field recordings, it just seemed like… well, fluff.

The album really starts with “Imhotep is Invisible”, which makes for a great second impression. Really solid writing with very coherent structure and form, all executed perfectly. We Came From The North is also like Caspian in the sense that their bassists play in a very prominent manner without showing off; they really added a new dimension to the music while still holding up their end of the sound spectrum.

The music eventually continues in “If Only I Could Be So Grossly Incandescant”. My only problem with this piece is how many effects was using, and how different they were. They seemed to clash a bit, and made it difficult to really find the rhythm. You can’t be so easily carried away by their sounds if you can’t find the beat without disconnecting yourself from your emotions and tapping your foot. They quickly get their act together in… a breakdown. Yes, a breakdown. In classic metal fashion, they go all out for about ten seconds, only to return to a dreamy post-rock atmosphere. I could almost hear them say “Just kidding!”

The album then makes a sharp turn into “High Garden”, where they show their effectual craftsmanship, if there is such a thing. They manipulated their delay pedal into sounding like a math rock riff, rather than sticking with the stereotypical clean guitars. It’s a clever way of MacGuyvering the sound you want out of your equipment. This song is the perfect example of their range, from the harsh guitars over clean guitars, to the syncopated dreamscapes. Practically perfect in every way.

We Came From The North plays music how I eat food, we save the best for last. I’ve said many times before that I don’t like the last song being the longest, and it definitely applies in this situation. It’s definitely the final harrumph, but I’d be a fool to deny how truly epic this song is. “Good Morning Tokyo” begins quietly with the bass, laying a foundation as the rest of the instruments contribute in turn and build up their sound in a most masterful manner. When the music has gone as high as it can go, they all go their separate ways, leaving you with ambience, noise, and a fuzzy, distorted bass rumbling in your chest. It’s almost like a second climax, the rumbling feels so pleasant.

After you’ve come down off the endorphins, you find yourself wanting to listen to it again. And again. It’s addicting. Thank goodness this wasn’t released on vinyl, or I’d wear that out, too. It’s only 3 British Pounds on their bandcamp page for the digital, which is quite a bargain for how magnificent this album is. I would recommend you support them further by buying their CD, but I bought the last one. Sorry.

NEXT WEEK: An interview with my buddy, the incredibly handsome Nathaniel Noton-Freeman about his upcoming album “Cloud Machines”

THE WEEK AFTER: Unless someone can recommend something exceptionally significant, I’ll be reviewing Not Just To Drink And Dream’s album “Aerial Shots”

      

tags: alternative ambient instrumental post rock instrumentalEdinburgh

Row Boat – In Between

Reviewed By TenaciousListening

Last week I reviewed Row Boat’s ‘Shallow Waters’ EP that was released this year. In the process of researching I found that a full album had also been released. This is it.

‘Shallow Waters’ is dark. ‘In Between’ is the dawning day, the rising sun; a lazy day with somebody that you care about deeply. Despite the contrast between the two releases we find that multi-instrumentalist Mark Wardale has an incredible ability to deliver compositions that are dense with layers while sometimes fooling you into thinking there is a minimalist approach to these tracks. He can take you on roaming journeys that bring you back to where you started, but you are not certain that you’ve actually traveled anywhere.

Take, for instance, “Meet Me At The Colosseum”. The opening track spans nearly 9 minutes of droning ambience and sparse piano tinkles. Violin adds more interest as the track progresses, yet nothing really happens. It is like a deep, deep, daydream and, this is the important bit, carries me throughout without losing my interest. I spend the whole track intrigued but how it is all carried off. This is ambient music that does not just make me want to let it drift into my subconscious. I cannot recommend this enough.

“Even After Memories” starts like a ship coming to dock through near opaque fog. The percussion and female vocals really bring this track to life and at some points so much is going on I cannot choose what to listen to, but it all breaks down perfectly into ambient noises

“All Of The Lighthouses” hooks me in with the delayed keys adding interest through another wall of bowed ambience while an almost metronomic beat builds from underneath and then the track fades away.

I am a pluviophile (read that carefully) so I was delighted when the rain comes down in “Hollow”. The piano sounds like the fresh feeling in the air as rain comes in to cleanse, absolutely beautiful.

There is definitely a darker side shown in “The Dying Art of Romance”. The staccato beats are the focus of the track and the distorted words that play among the beats are almost scary. For the first time the album builds to a massive crescendo of noise and beaten snare drum. If you did ever drift away at any point you are certainly awake now!

“You Hand, My Hand, And The Stars” has a screeching high end that is almost painful listening through my poor speakers (I long to spend some money on a decent sound system), but it is still a wonderful wall of sound as the album beings to wind down.

“Later That Day” that reminds me that Row Boat are often compared to Sigur Ros, due to the Hopelandic style vocals that mix in with layers of noise. The fact that this is the first time I’ve thought this all album is a testament to the fact those influences aside; Row Boat is an inspiration in himself.

Then the discordance of the hammered piano in album closer, “What It Is To Feel”, is slightly uncomfortable until the arpeggiated melody launches the track. The urgency is tense and the whole track feels unresolved. The perfect way to make you want to press play again!

Seriously one of my favourite releases this year. Again I will say that I cannot recommend this enough. If you like your ambient music to have a bit of bite to keep you attentive then this is for you.

   

tags: ambient mark wardale postrock sigur ros visual United Kingdom