2012 Year End Review Round Up

Orbit Over Luna – 京都​/​奈良 – Kyōto​/​Nara EP – 87%

京都/奈良 - Kyōto/Nara cover art

Orbit over Luna is the work of Shannon Penner from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is a primarily an ambient instrumental project that occasionally crosses into post-rock territory. Penner lists all the usual suspects you would expect to find as his influences: Hammock, Boards of Canada, Sigur Ros, the list continues. ‘京都​/​奈良 – Kyōto​/​Nara’ is Orbit Over Luna’s latest work and is the brainchild of Penner, who pulled inspiration from a recent trip to Japan to create the 5-track 22 minute EP. As you can probably imagine the EP is littered with Japanese influence ranging from instruments commonly found in Asian music to just the overall relaxed pacing and musical flow. I won’t pretend that I’m deeply versed in the field of asian music, but it doesn’t take deep knowledge of either of those to realize just how deeply intertwined this music is with traditional japanese culture. The relaxing nature of this EP makes it a short yet sweet musical journey.

I also want to mention another EP by Orbit Over Luna released earlier this year, ‘The Wind Alive like a Heart Beating’. This 3 track EP is available for $3 on the band’s bandcamp page with all proceeds going to the Ovarian Cancer Society. In addition, Shannon is matching all donations received. All in all this seems like a fantastic deal that is going towards a good cause. That is something I can always get behind.

available for $6 on bandcamp: http://orbitoverluna.bandcamp.com/album/ky-to-nara

Orbit Over Luna on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/orbitoverluna

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Tales of Murder and Dust – Hallucination of Beauty – 85%

Hallucination of Beauty cover art

Tales of Murder and Dust are a 6-piece band from Denmark that have been together for about 5 years now. Describing themselves as a “dark experimental mixture of Psychedelic rock and shoegaze”, the band employs the use of non-traditional instruments. With one EP under their belt, ‘Hallucination of Beauty‘ is their first full length release and is a deep record oozing with eastern influence and clocks in at around 40 minutes over 8 tracks.

To best describe Tales of Murder and Dust’s sound, I would liken it to the slower styling of Earth mixed with the somber bleakness and sometimes dark feel of Jesu’sAcescension‘ album. The electro-accoustic guitar work is also eerily reminiscent of the work found on ‘Ascension‘ as well. While not directly post-rock, the band does borrow some post-rock influence such as the spiraling crescendos found in the background of “Hypnotized Narcissist”. Vocals are generally of the shoegaze variety with heavily filtered or echoed effects. ‘Hallucination of Beauty’ is an extremely well built album that flows exceptionally well and never fails to maintain the listeners interest. For that the band should be extremely proud. Tales of Murder and Dust are definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Name your price on bandcamp: http://talesofmurderanddust.bandcamp.com/

Tales of Murder and Dust on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/talesonline

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Like a Paperplane – Light EP – 88%

Light cover art

A four-piece from Florence, in the heart of the Tuscany region of Italy, Like a Paperplane released their short yet sweet 4-track 20 minute EP ‘Light‘ earlier this year. Like a Paperplane‘s sound revolves primarily around guitar-centric post-rock with most songs featuring leading guitar tracks that draw the listener’s attention rather than layered drone guitars. Ideally you would place Like a Paperplane somewhere in the God Is An Astronaut region of the post-rock genre. Just enough crescendo based work to be considered somewhat heavy, but primarily post-rock that you would consider “pretty” akin to Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, etc.

Each of the four tracks on this EP are distinct in their own rights. “#8” features prog-rock guitar work that swirls throughout the track while “Light,now” is a more straightforward crescendo-core third wave post-rock track. “Basement” builds upon itself and goes through several peaks and valleys amidst multiple tempo changes. “Memories” has Collapse Under The Empire / God is an Astronaut written all over it with its relaxing and laid back aura.

Although short, ‘Light‘ is the perfect kind of EP you can put on in the background on repeat and forget about as it replays itself multiple times over. It’s an impressive little EP with a big heart that leads me to believe big things are ahead from this talented italian post-rock band.

name your price on bandcamp: http://likeapaperplane.bandcamp.com/

Like a Paperplane facebook: http://www.facebook.com/likeapaperplane

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Review Roundup: Qualia – “Kaleidoscopes” – 79%, “Resonance” – 86% and “Ambient Improvisations” – 77%

In today’s review round up we take a look at Qualia’s latest offerings. With these releases, Qualia has now put out six albums this year! Quite an impressive amount of content.

Kaleidoscopes cover art

QualiaKaleidoscopes79%

The one man project from Cambs, UK has had quite the 2012 producing 6 albums worth of content. While the project tends to be on the lighter side, ‘Kaleidoscopes‘ does bring loud and sweeping distortion guitar to Qualia‘s music. At four tracks and 33 minutes long, this album falls fairly easy into the standard third wave category. Long ambient passages and strong build ups help characterize the album. At nearly 13 minutes, Track 3 is by far the best work on the album with the beautiful ambient picture it paints through the use of fantastic guitar tones that are as brilliantly layered as they are beautiful.

On the down side, the same problems I spoke about three months ago when I reviewed Qualia‘s earlier work still persist in this release. ‘Kaleidoscopes‘ is plagued by Muddy distortion guitar that lacks equalization, awkward transitions and audio anomalies (pops) can be heard when listening to the album with quality hi-fi gear. Still these issues won’t keep me from excluding Qualia from my post-rock catalog. 11-5-12

Resonance cover art

QualiaResonance86%

Resonance‘ is without question my favorite Qualia release. The 5-track 39 minute album is shrouded in a mist of peace and harmony. The piano work is elegant and brilliant and the guitar work is complimentary and relaxing. Although there are heavy spots and distorted guitar to be found here, the transitions between the lighter and heavier areas are much better and I don’t really find the heavy areas detracting from the lighter work. ‘Resonance’ is the perfect album to drift off to, and I’ve done just that on numerous occasions. Earlier this year I said that I preferred Qualia‘s heavier stuff to their lighter work but after this album I’m going to flip-flop on my opinion like a politician. Qualia‘s softer work is far more refined and sounds far more natural than their heavier segments. This is THE Qualia album to check out if you’re just going to check out one. 11-5-12

Ambient Improvisations cover art
QualiaAmbient Improvisations77%

‘Ambient Improvisations’ is over an hour of Qualia material across seven tracks. “I” is a hypnotic little number that sees ear-piercingly high synths work their way into the track near the end. “II” is an acoustic number that has subtle hints of folk-rock worked into it. Again overpowering synths overtake the beauty of the track in almost a drone like and very unpleasant approach. “III” is a much darker track that also leans more on the soft drone side but the primary difference is this is drone done right and proper. “IV” is a piano driven ambient track that brings a certain amount of depth and somber emotion to the table, at least in my interpretation. The spirally guitar work at the end is really quite nice. “V” features some of the best guitar work on the album and builds naturally in its entirety. “VI” is the first track to really get loud through the use of distortion guitar, although it is purposely ratcheted back in the mix and feels like a full sound than it does a loud sound.  Finally there is “VII” which is a dense and spacey track that feels by far the most explorative on the album.

Overall I like the album, but there is some questionable decision making. I really felt like the synths in the first two tracks were so overpowering and unreasonably high that they outright ruined the tracks while they were present. Other than that, the rest of the album is decent and even though a bit long, worth the listen. 11-5-12

Review Round Up #4

té – Oto no Naka no ‘Keiren Teki’ na Bi wa, Kannen wo Koe Nikutai ni Otozureru Yasei no Senritsu EP80%

té_2012
Japanese post/math-rockers are explosive and aggressive in this EP which features 3 new tracks and a live show recorded earlier this year. Bold, heavy and rhythmic would best describe the three new tracks, which are the only tracks on the EP I am reviewing. Furiously breakneck sets a ridiculous tempo that textured guitars of all varieties struggle to keep up with in the first track. In the second track we have a much slower smoother tempo indie-rock like feel with dark tones bursting at the seams in complex layering, creating an enormous wall of sound. The main riff is cutting edge and catchy as the band manages to sneak in some scaling spiral guitar layers embedded deep within the mix as well.  The final new track begins space-age esque electronica before evolving into a groovy blend of muddy bass and textured guitar crescendos while a single high-pitched clean guitar swirls around the tornado of sound. always manage to impress me and these new tracks are no different.  9-27-12

Available for a staggering $19 at http://zankyorecord.bandcamp.com/album/te-official-merch

SinobolaSinobola81%

Relatively new onto the scene, the Ukrainian 4-piece Sinobola’s self titled album is their first full length and the follow-up to their 3-track “Ideas EP”, reviewed just last month by Bothra, a postrockstar guest reviewer. The 6-track 28 minute album is a highly impressive effort that steps upon new territories by being a very bass centric album. Superb lush guitar tones in “Walls of Horizons” and “We Were Confused Because the Universe is Silent” really help the two tracks shine as the best of the bunch. “Speak in Whispers”, the closing track on the album, showcases a refined and mature sound that tells me this band is nowhere near reaching their potential. Even though the album manages to make a lot of noise and ratchets up the intensity here and there, it never reaches levels loud or intense enough that it interferes with the laid back vibe. There are a few technical qualms I have with the album in terms of mixing and a few areas that sounded a bit muddy, but those can be overlooked and are minor nuances that don’t really hinder the album much. In many ways the album has all the markings of a young band throwing themselves into the fray while still developing their sound. 9-27-12

Available for free at their Last.fm page: http://www.last.fm/music/Sinobola/Sinobola

A Place of OwlsThe Oceanic Tomes –  78%

The Oceanic Tomes (ft. Blake Tanberk) cover art

A solo project based on Minneapolis, A Place of Owls has had a firm grasp on both my ears and my heart from the moment I heard “Inviere”, their 2010 EP. When I saw this release on bandcamp, I instantly noticed the track lengths and hoped for the best, realizing I had to prepare for the fact that “The Oceanic Tomes” most likely wouldn’t be a return to the edgy, aggressive, short and to the point songs that I had grown fond of. Even though the release is a collaboration with music theory instructor Blake Tanberk, I was still caught off guard  by the minimalist ambient stylings found throughout the record, a stark departure from the band’s previous work. Those looking for wailing post-rock guitars of despair will be met with long drawn out moody passages of deep ambiance painting a picture of a journey through the pitch black depths of the blue unknown. A soundtrack for deep soul-searching best enjoyed in a dimly lit room or under the relaxed sedation of heavy eyelids. Those expecting post-rock may need to wait for a future release. Those willing to dive into the 45 minute journey will be rewarded with enough space to let their mind roam at will. 9-27-12

Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://aplaceofowls.bandcamp.com/album/the-oceanic-tomes-ft-blake-tanberk

Review Roundup #3

ToeThe Future is Now EP 82%

https://i0.wp.com/www.postrockxchange.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/1340213889_toe2b-2bthe2bfuture2bis2bnow2bep.jpg
Japanese post/math rocker’s TOE are back with their latest release “The Future is  Now.” This is their latest release to 2009’s album “For Long Tomorrow” and is quite  short clocking in at just under 16 minutes over four tracks. Typical quirky and fun math rock blended with bright tones and clean guitars can be found on this EP. Unique drum patterns and a plethora of well textured layers help make the EP feel creative and provide a unique sound as only Toe can. Vocals in the track “Tsuki Kake” are a nice change of pace but the track has somewhat awkward layering and transition issues. “Ordinary Days” is a mellow jam that is as relaxing as it is playful with its quick and sporadic drumming. My favorite track is by far the title track which feels like a rush of sounds exploding before your ears. The quick pacing, heavily layered acoustic guitars and general insanity of this track makes it one of my favorite math-rock tracks of the year. TOE once again proves that post-rock can be designed around the lack of the big build ups and still sound excellent. Overall an EP well worth the listen! – 9/19/12
Available on Itunes or the band’s official website: http://toe.st/

Coastlands/My Brother, My Captain, My KingSplit EP84%

SPLIT EP cover art

This split EP is the collaborative effort of Texas duo Coastlands and My Brother, My Captain, My King who I surprisingly couldn’t find any information about. The EP sits at 25 minutes long over four tracks, two by each band. The first two are from Coastlands and begins with a two-minute intro of  mostly static with deeply layered samples too far embedded in the mix to understand. Next we have “Abductions”, a 10 minute long track that sees the layer of static peel away as the samples begin to become understandable. As the track begins to take form we are treated to an electronic inspired ambient track that is one clean guitar layer away from a drone like feel. Drums are patient and the heavily layered distortion guitars playing the role of drone textures are spot on. I could find myself getting lost in this track over and over.

My Brother, My captain, My King take a more electronic approach as keyboards play over the sound of a crackling fire in “Columbarium Lighthouse.” Drums/beats are rhythmic and feel as though the high hat is being struck at alternating amounts of aggression. The track feels more like a true downtempo electronic track rather than a post-rock track and that is quite alright with me. “Chapman Point” begins as waves crash amongst a beach as layers slowly begin to take form. Again just another great song to chill out to as the pacing, intensity and dark keyboard tones all blend together in perfect synergy. Fans of The Album Leaf should be right at home with My Brother, My Captain, My King. I just hope they develop some sort of web presence as I would certainly like to know and hear more. 9/19/12

Available for $1 on bandcamp: http://coastlands.bandcamp.com/album/split-ep

ReflexerThe Vanishing Lake – 82%

The Vanishing Lake cover art

Reflexer is the solo project of Ryan Anstey, a self-confessed tech geek from Vancouver, BC with a love of music. All of his work is impromptu and all made up on the spot, which is a pretty cool concept. “The Vanishing Lake” is 43 minutes over 14 tracks and were all created by Anstey over the course of the last six years.

Most of the tracks are rhythmically repetitive and there is a definite understanding of post-rock song structure present throughout the album. As this is more of a collection of tracks rather than a true to form album there isn’t much synergy between the tracks and there are a few dramatic transitions in tempo and loudness. As you can probably imagine the guitar work is stellar and captivating and really makes the album. The range of tones and styles featured is infinitely large and range from ambient layers to downright shedding like on the track “Escape From Neptune” which in sticks out as my favorite track by far.

My biggest complaints about this release are that the drums are mixed too loud and some of the tracks are far too short. For example, “The Invisible Enemy” is an excellent 6 minute track but “Capture of the Red Falcon” fades out right as its hitting its stride.  Albeit most of them are short, 14 tracks are a lot of different sounds to digest. Fans of more electronic inspired post-rock should feel right at home while fans of more dramatic and drawn out material might want to look elsewhere. 9-19-12

Available for $2 on bandcamp: http://reflexer.bandcamp.com/

Review Round Up #1

In an effort to catch up on the backlog of post-rock releases this year that postrockstar hasn’t reviewed yet, we’ll be doing short review wrap ups until we are caught up. This is the first installment of what shall now be known as “Review Round Up”

Whorl cover art
Nathaniel Noton-Freeman – Whorl – 89%

Nathaniel Noton-Freeman is an acoustic solo artist from Worcester, MA. With a degree in theory/Composition I was excited to see that he has not one but two releases this year. The first release is “Whorl” and is a 34 minute 9-track odyssey that should appeal to post-rock fans who enjoy the lighter side of the genre. The album is complex and beautifully layered with acoustic guitars going in every which direction. The layering gives it an ambient post-rock-esque feel and is what really sets this apart from other acoustic artists such as Trace Bundy or Andy McKee. All in all the album is extremely soothing and the flow never misses a beat. Excellent tones and fantastic sound engineering make this one of my favorite ambient releases of 2012. 9-3-12

Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://whorl.bandcamp.com/album/whorl

Cairn cover art
Nathaniel Noton-Freeman – Cairn – 80%

Unlike “Whorl”, “Cairn” is a much shorter, 4-track 12 minute EP that was created around the idea of working with only one guitar layer. As a result it sounds almost nothing like Nathaniel’s other work. It sounds far more acoustic than ambient and definitely similar to other acoustic artists I’m familiar with. “Gray Eyes” is without question the best work on the album. I like that Nathaniel decided to switch it up with this release. However the EP is far less refined as well, string vibrations are strung throughout and it just sounds sonically inferior to the way Whorl was recorded. All in all a short but sweet effort. 9-3-12

Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://whorl.bandcamp.com/album/cairn

Tell Me Tales of Canada cover art
Without AeroplanesTell Me Tales of Canada EP83%

“Tell Me Tales of Canada” is the debut release from post-rockers Without Aeroplanes who come to us from Glasgow. I found this album to be highly moody and bleak at times. The soundstaging is especially surprising as the drums sound extremely spacious and airy most of the time. The drumming does an excellent job in its duel role of setting the pace and also standing out while still complimenting the rest of the instruments. Guitars are beautiful and flow freely throughout the album in all their layered glory. I prefer the cleaner, softer valleys of Without Aeroplane’s work to their heavier stuff where distorted guitar tones always end up sounding improperly equalized and quite muddy. I did enjoy one heavier segment a lot though near the ending of the track “Circling” as an extremely rich and heavy tone hits its stride and demolishes everything in its path. the crescendo-based guitar work that spirals about is excellent also. At the end of the day I find this release from Without Aeroplanes to be a good starting point for a promising young band with a lot of potential. 9-3-12

Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://withoutaeroplanes.bandcamp.com/