Waking Aida – Eschaton

a3619793962_2I had not really paid attention to Waking Aida until they were announced for this year’s ArcTanGent festival. Not their fault, it’s just that there is a lot of music out there and I hadn’t made the time. I made an ArcTanGent playlist in Spotify so they will have hit my ears at some stage, but still no blips on my “this is bloody great music” radar. That was likely to happen to some bands though as the playlist is fourteen and a half hours long and has 171 tracks in it!

So when an email came through with a link to their new video, Glow Coin I didn’t really think too much of it. Then the promo for the album came through…

Do you like Maybeshewill? I do, but can only stomach them for so long. A whole album can get a little tedious. They are really good at doing one thing and that’s about it despite delivering some of the strongest songs in the genre. Well I can tell you that there is definitely some Maybeshewill in this album. You can tell that Jamie Ward from Maybeshewill produced it as there are some very familiar tones coming through the crisp production values. It sounds great.

Do you like And So I Watch You From Afar? I do, I never really rated them until I saw them at last year’s ArcTanGent festival and then I realised that I’d been missing out on what everybody had been telling me for years.  Some of the mathy riffs that come through on this album speak to me from ASIWYFA’s camp. Yep, it sounds great.

So what do I think to Waking Aida?

Well I can tell you now that they are fucking brilliant.

The majority of the tracks are between seven and nine minutes long. Each and every one displays a really mature approach to complexity. The arrangements are complex without feeling contrived and they progress, almost effortlessly, from beginning to end without allowing you to lose interest. Of course post-rock albums are prone to being put on and then you find that you have drifted away until the album ends, but that is the nature of the beast.

Giving you a track-by-track review of this album would be absolutely fruitless. It would completely kill the exploration of the music presented to you. On the first play through I was enthralled, but it did not give all of its secrets and I am still finding new parts to that extend my enjoyment of the album. Yes it has elements of each of the name-dropped bands earlier, but it is honestly a more intriguing album than either of those bands has put out. Like those band’s the melodies are infecting, however there is a bigger appreciation of the bigger picture; of the different ways you can go with an idea without ending up with a convoluted mess. Each transition is effortless, some songs feel like they should end, they continue, and then you know that it still has plenty to explore without feeling forced. The first track (ignoring the short intro) Incandenza says, “I am every thing that Waking Aida does so well. I will hook you from the outset. I will take an idea and use other ideas to explore that idea. I will uplift you. I will make you smile. I will make you dance and, although you may look awkward and clumsy, you won’t give a fuck what others think because you don’t have to care. I will put you in the moment and I will give you those chills that make their way down your spine and make you feel like that you should cry, not in sadness, but because you feel something life affirming. I will make you feel alive”

However, less of the pretentiousness, the whole album feels well paced throughout and despite there not being any “classic” crescendos as such the parts can build up upon you unaware; silently preparing you for the next section. Check out This Isn’t Even My Final Form for a wicked example of this.

The more technical math rock riffs seem to have a real purpose rather than being a place for boasting skills. All the members get their place to shine amongst the diamonds just listen to the bass in How To Build A Space Station; those lines are magnificent.

Overall this is a really fun album. You can’t tell me that Time Travelling With Friends, especially, doesn’t put a smile on your face with it’s quirky guitar lines and percussion; it gives as much joy as any ASIWYFA album ever has.

The best way to really sum up how I feel about this album is to listen to the Sarah Kay quote used as a sample in Incandenza. That is exactly how this album makes me feel.

Summer is here and Waking Aida is your soundtrack to it. Do not miss it.

   

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
  

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

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

Row Boat – Shallow Waters

Row Boat. What a name. I saw it and thought, “Probably an indie, possibly math rock band”. I couldn’t really be much further from the truth, but it shows the power that a name can have. If you are not aware, like I wasn’t, Row Boat is the work of one man; multi-instrumentalist Mark Wardale. He is based in the UK, which might throw some of you off due to the obvious SigurRos influence that pokes through this EP. Luckily Row Boat isn’t just a rip off and I was certainly surprised when I pressed the play button.

“Ever After Memories” completely throws me off guard. This is not what I expected. It is a dark drone with a near industrial beat and breathy female ahhs that lay over swells, and pianos and glockenspiel (or similar) instruments. It is a real slow progressing track that deconstructs itself once it has built to its highest point. No crescendo, just an ambient wall.

My interest is now truly peaked. I am expecting another three tracks of pretty much the same ideas. I am taken by surprise. “Orkan” is darker and denser than the previous track, but also with some lighter ambient swells. I completely get the Sigur Ros comparison, especially with the Hopelandic style vocals that eventually bury themselves into the heavily delayed and soaked in reverb noise; it feels like it could sneak into the tracking listing for Kveikur.

“Karleksbrev” gave me the image of an elderly man, a man who had some stature, hunched over a piano as his life plays out. There is a certain sadness that lies underneath the piano melodies, one that sings of the joy that eventually brought on these feelings. It is a welcome reprieve from the ambience and noise of the previous tracks.

The final track, “Inertia”, brings together the ideas explored across the album. A more prominent piano plays over ambient noises. These sounds eventually envelop the piano and more Hopelandic vocals take its place and the sound develops to and from the piano until noise plays the track out.

I can honestly say that I was completely wrong in my preconceptions towards the sound and style explored in this EP. Shallow Waters is four tracks that work together incredibly well without stepping on each other’s metaphorical toes. This displays Mark Wardale’s brilliant compositional skills and I am saddened that I had missed this artist’s past releases, but am elated that I have something truly great to discover. A review for another 2014 release from Row Boat is coming your way very soon.

   

tags: 2013 ambient bottle imp ep prova shallow waters mark wardale postrock sigur ros visual United Kingdom