Brian Eno – Lux – 97%

When I first started listening to post-rock and ambient music, one of the first albums I found was Brian Eno‘s ‘Music for Airports’. I remember sitting in my room, transfixed, as this new genre of music started to change the purview of my limited musical knowledge. I started listening to every ambient album I could find, but something about Eno made me constantly go back. I eventually found myself playing a loop of his ambient albums, his albums with Robert Fripp, and my personal favorite: ‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’Eno changed my perception of what music could do.

 Now I sit here after spending the past few weeks listening to Brian Eno’s latest album, ‘Lux‘, and finding myself remembering and reliving why his music is so beautiful. There is no singular stunning track on this album that builds to a peak or follows a stereotypical structure. This album is made of four tracks that have their own distinctions, but those distinctions are set in compliment with each other. That means that this album is easily perceived as one long track, and there’s nothing I can see that would be wrong about such an assumption.

The music takes Eno back to the roots of his creation—ambient music. You could call this Ambient 5 and I don’t think you’d be too far off.  To compare this to an earlier work is something I’m not keen on doing. I will say that if you’re a fan of ‘Apollo’, ‘Discreet Music’ or even ‘The Plateaux of Mirror’, you’ll love this album.

So what does it sound like? That’s a tricky question. Each track is calm and lucid, punctuated by the chime of piano keys. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a simplistic pattern being repeated and altered throughout each track. The album is minimalistic and reflects Eno’s famous idea that this is music that can be ignored. Turn the volume halfway down and do something else. The music will move you in some way. I can imagine this album becoming a favorite of those that love falling asleep to tranquil sounds. I find myself doing the same.

The album has a soothing and almost pensive effect on the listener. Describing exactly what this is seems to take away from the point. What Brian Eno has produced is something beautiful and something worth hearing. He’s stepped back into the world of ambiance to show how it’s done.

For what it is meant to be, this album is as close to perfect as it comes. Brian Eno proves again that he is one of the leading musicians of our age. Listen to this album at home before bed or during a morning commute. See what the simplicity of the notes does to you and you’ll see power of ambient music.

Available in digital format for $8 on Enoshop

Also available on Amazon

EF – Delusions of Grandeur – 90%

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of EF’s new EP Delusions of Grandeur is that, in the span of less than thirty minutes, it makes you seriously contemplate what is going on with this record. This is in no way a bad thing. EF uses everything at their disposable (guitar, drums, horns, vocals, you name it) to draw you in and keep you listening. As post-rock fare this album is magnificent. The buildups are gorgeous and the crescendos, mouth dropping. This is a band that knows how to make beautiful songs and they do just that.

Once a band has that ability to craft beautiful music, they can stick with it and see what happens (Explosions in the Sky). Other bands invent and alter themselves musically (This Will Destroy You). What EF is doing is something that resonates with the new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album; they are using their music to speak. They have the crescendo down. They know the perfect spot to amp up the delay and then kick in the distortion. Those are old concepts. The music has become a conduit of message. But what is that message and is it worth hearing?

What this first track does beautifully is take a sense of personal crisis and suffering and paint a landscape of music around it. The lyrics creep in on painful little waves and speak of “Hollow scenery” and “Falling Autumn leaves.” The sound of the vocals is enough to indicate the sense of loss. The second track is laid out in quiet rumination. Nothing too epic, nothing too subdued. We ride through the thoughts created in that first track.

And then we arrive at the conclusion of this trilogy of tracks. This song will most likely be hailed as the best on the album and for good reasons. The slowly plodding melodic melancholy continues as the track unfolds. A voice creeps in over a minimalist piano melody, telling a story about him as a boy with some other boys who find a hurt foal. As the story unfolds, the narrator drowns the foal, ending its misery. These words are made unbelievably powerful by the slowly rising music placed behind it. The minimalist piano is accompanied by softly chanting voices and clean guitars.

At the end of this debatebly cliché story, we have a story of a boy becoming a man through his decision to drown the foal. The rest of the track grows into the heaviest riffs so far. The chanting choir returns and the guitars blare. The last few minutes of this track are post-rock at their finest. Music made and fused with strong emotion.

This EP by EF shows the ways in which post-rock continually evolves. Is the music itself something brand new and unheard of? Absolutely not. But what the band has done is take a half hour of sound and carved out a story that is not necessitated by words, but by music. Eliminate the vocals and the music keeps the message. Lyrics here are a non-essential guidepost. This isn’t the world’s most original story, but EF fills it with a level of emotion that is almost shocking. When you listen to this EP, do nothing but listen to it. Put aside the world for a bit and let EF tell you a story. 11-9-12

Available on vinyl through Pelagic Records: http://pelagic-records.com/vinyl/

Available digitally on Itunes and streaming on Spotify.

Hammock – Departure Songs – 94%

Departure Songs cover art

(IamHop note : Please welcome Bryan to the Postrockstar family! Bryan is 26, from Pennsylvania and is working towards a bachelors degree in writing and a minor in literature. His favorite bands include GY!BE, Hammock, Mono and Stars of a Lid. This is his debut review)

 

Hammock is known for their ability to create minimalistic ambient landscapes. There music draws you in in with spacey dreamlike progressions that often just fizzle out leaving you spellbound. They don’t often rise to the crescendos of the post-rock stereotype. Instead, Hammock lives in that strange realm called ambient music.

With their 5th album and first double album, Departure Songs, Hammock delivers what every fan expected: beautiful rolling ambiance with the occasional peaks and valleys that manipulate emotion and make you feel like your floating around Venus. The album is straightforward Hammock, but they delve into some new territory this time out.

Perhaps the most daring songs on this album are (Tonight) We Burn Like Stars That Never Die and (Let’s Kiss) While All The Stars Are Falling Down. The intro of (Tonight) sounds like something you could easily mistake as being off an M83 album—an electronic buzz that pounds its way to an 80s synth riff. Then something a little shocking happens; Someone starts singing. And not just random noises but lyrics. Of course the music masks the lyric with that sense of ambiance that makes a lazy reviewer want to start throwing the word ethereal around. (Let’s Kiss) follows this same pattern, but the riff almost overpowers the ambiance and the lyricist seems to enjoy hollering out muddled lyrics. Both songs are very different and take risks that manage to work. Instead of interrupting the ambiance of the album, these tracks punctuate what could otherwise devolve into a repetition of synthesizers and electronics.

This double album never ceases to satiate the ambient monkey. Frailty (for the Dearly Departed) is perhaps one of Hammock’s best songs to date.  They enlisted the talent of The Love Sponge Springs to add some heartbreaking violin and viola. The song sounds like a truly depressing slow motion reel of a film. Seriously, listen to it and that analogy will make sense. What may surprise some listeners is the much more prevalent use of vocals, the incorporation of a variety of instruments, and a seemingly faster paced tempo to some of the songs.

What Hammock has done with this double album is stretch their limits…just a bit. If one of the tracks takes a risk, there are plenty that will take you to classic sounding Hammock. The risks they take are well executed and show a slow evolution taking place. For the diehard fan, this album offers classic Hammock with a few new twists that may ruffle feathers. For the newcomer, strap in, put on your helmet, and go to space.

Available for $12 on bandcamp: http://hammock.bandcamp.com/album/departure-songs