Foofer Friday: We Came From The North – ‘Low Sun, Long Shadow’

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Following on the heels of their recent single, ‘Ruseman’s Lightning +5’ We Came From The North is really stepping up their game with a new EP titled ‘Low Sun, Long Shadow’. Everything I thought was the weakest parts of ‘From Which All Things Depend’ have all been strengthened and refined. The single was definitely a good indicator of their skill progression, but this lovely little EP takes it even further.

The flow from one song to another is much smoother than before. It really feel like a conceptual EP rather than a compilation of stand-alone pieces. The sounds just go hand in hand with the feelings of a warm sunset. The imagery is absolutely perfect. ‘From Which All Things Depend’ definitely had a dramatic sense to it all, but this takes it to the next level without overdoing it. It’s dramatic without being pretentious, if that makes any sense.

The musicians have all blossomed as a group, making the compositions much deeper in layers, and more complex syncopations. The ambience is fleshed out, and the walls of sound are thicker. The musicians have all improved individually, too. The bassist really sticks out much more than before, with bigger bass lines, and more pronounced tones. ‘Secret Pinata Party’ would be the best example for both the bassist and best example for a song title. The drums sound more professional, and the cymbal control’s much more precise. The guitars bounce off each other much better than before, and it really makes the sound better, overall. This EP is better in literally every single way. Even the production quality seems to be improved. It’s quiet when it’s supposed to be quiet, and it’s loud when it’s supposed to be loud. You will not regret downloading the FLAC files on bandcamp. (While you’re at it, download all their other FLAC folders, too.)

I would describe this EP the same way I would describe a sunset. Warm, inviting, and calming. I played this for one of my co-workers a few days after receiving it, and he said it’s so serene and soothing. This, coming from someone who says Macklemore is one of the greatest musicians (he was very specific about ‘musician’ and not ‘lyricist’) of our time. That’s just how strongly this EP evokes emotions. This is a very strong contender for EP of the year, in my opinion.


And it’s released today, so get on it! Support this band anyway you can, your money will go towards some fine young men who love music as much as you do, if not more.

   

Moofer Monday – To Destroy A City – ‘Sunless’

SUNLESS cover artMaybe it’s just a coincidence, but I’ve been hearing a lot more electronica influences after Mogwai released “Rave Tapes”. Sleepmakeswaves’ “Love of Cartography” comes first to mind, but there are many others I heard while mucking about in newly submitted singles and albums on bandcamp. Some of them didn’t really make the electronic sounds feel at home with the other instruments, while others just didn’t really use them outside of their quieter passages, which is only using half of its potential, in my opinion. But there are others still who seem to have a firm grasp on what the electronic instruments are capable of, and utilize them effeciently. To Destroy A City is a prime example of these bands.

To Destroy A City’s second album in nearly four years, ‘Sunless’ reminds me of older 65daysofstatic music, with its glitchy backgrounds, haunting ambient guitars and drums, both digital and tangible. Also like 65daysofstatic, it never gets me pumped up, it always leaves me feeling serene and calm. Even when it’s thrashing and violent, it never tempts me to press down on the gas when I’m driving. I’ve actually stopped listening to ‘Sunless’ in the car because I end up driving too slowly. It’s just that calming.

Once I stopped listening to ‘Sunless’ in my car, and gave it a listen on a proper sound system, I discovered something alarming: The low end is surprisingly bare. The balancing between highs and lows is disturbingly, well, unbalanced. The only way I could tell there was any bass at all was when I had my fingers inside my subwoofer. A major disappointment concerning the production of this album. Even in a trio the bass can maintain a solid presence, and this particular trio failed.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy this album immensely when I’m not listening with a critical ear. I find myself humming tunes from ‘Sunless’ and and I nod my head just as enthusiastically during the album, but I can’t take this album too seriously, or I end up disappointed with it.

To be honest, I can’t see myself listening to this very often, if at all. It’s missing a crucial part of any piece of music (except pieces like solo violin and the like) and I can’t get over it. I can sometimes ignore it, but I’ll never truly forget about it. But if you find yourself enjoying it, by all means enjoy it. Don’t let my inability to ignore flaws get in the way of your happiness. If you buy the physical album, be quick to grab the coloured vinyl. I mean, just look at those discs.

 

This album will be out Tuesday, November 18th via n5MD records.

Mono – The Last Dawn // Rays of Darkness

 

One of the most fascinating parts of listening to postrock (and music in general I suppose) is being able to stand a distance away and watch a group of people come together. They form a band and create a sound. That sound is an expression and when that sound resonates with you, it’s a wonderful feeling that’s hard to describe. And as you watch this group of musicians put out new albums that sound and that expression evolves in unique ways. Mono is a band that many see as one of the biggest faces in postrock. While I try to write reviews from as objective as a point as I can, I would be lying if I didn’t start this by saying that the sound and expression Mono has created in the past has always resonated with me.

When I first listened through The Last Dawn, I heard the expression I’ve come to appreciate from Mono. They somehow create a sweeping orchestral sound through layers of almost dissonant noise. If you are a fan of Mono, The Last Dawn is what you’d expect from them. The sounds and the arrangements are tighter than what we last heard with For My Parents, but this isn’t a step in either direction for the band. That’s not a criticism because the album is gorgeous. Where We Begin is a standout track that encapsulates Mono’s sound.

But then we get to Rays of Darkness, and the game changes a bit. This album felt almost like a big reveal in a movie. When they finally say who the killer was and all you can think is, “I should’ve known the whole time.” The arrangements and the sounds are much darker and much heavier, but they still remain true to the band. Recoil Ignite is a track that might be a bit of a surprise because of its mood, but seems so obvious once you listen to it a few times. The whole album felt almost revelatory.

This is the album where we watch as this group of musicians evolve and express in a new but not unfamiliar way. And now it’s time to talk about what many people are going to be scratching their heads over: The Hands That Hold The Truth. This song brings vocals… well if you can call those vocals. It’s by far my least favorite track on the albums, but I’d like to explain why I could understand and appreciate what they tried to do. 

If you listen to the whole track it builds up to the point of a climax, which we would expect of Mono. They are known for their crescendos, but those always came from guitars. In this song, they switch the formula and bring it with vocals. The vocals are harsh, grating, and startling. This is a darker album for them, and it almost seems inevitable that they would have to switch their tone to be darker for this type of song. Unfortunately, they went to a far extreme, but the reasoning seems solid enough.

Overall these two albums welcome you back to the sound of Mono, and at the same time bring you into a new expression of their band. The Last Dawn is a gorgeous example of what this band is capable of producing, and Rays of Darkness shows what we can expect from them in the future. Evolution is inevitable and Mono managed to still be Mono while showing some new and great things.

 

Foofer Twofer: Nomads – “Fields of Light/Sunset on the Range” & Saisa – “Aftermath”

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NOMADS has been one of those strong bands in my library that I never got around to fully appreciating. I’d listen to it every now and then, but I never really sat down with it and soaked it all in. The big change in sound from their self-titled debut and their following singles to this EP stopped me in my tracks.

Apparently there’d been a theft, someone got away with thousands of dollars worth of equipment. To my knowledge, NOMADS didn’t spam their Facebook with kickstarters or indiegogo campaigns, a fact that speaks volumes about their character. I think too many bands rely on their fans too much for help recoup their losses. Your fans are just that – Fans. They are not investors, they not anything so official. They are people who like your music, and can stop liking their music whenever they damn well please.

But these guys don’t whine. They just continue making beautiful music. In the description of this EP it says this music is not only a giant middle finger to the thieves, it’s a monument to ‘The show must go on’. In my eyes, that makes this band so much better than any other band I’ve liked on Facebook.

Due to the new-found limitations with their equipment, the music’s changed drastically, because they’re just working with what they’ve got. But don’t let that deter you from listening to this, it still shines brightly in this year’s list of releases. ‘In Fields of Light’ consists of a keyboard, a guitar, and a guest on the trumpet. No drums, no bass, it’s a very airy sort of ambience, and it’s gorgeous. Even apple fans with their cheap earbuds can fully enjoy this track, so everybody wins.

‘Sunset on the Range’ is an acoustic rendition of a song by the same name, to be released with their upcoming album ‘When Those Around Us Leave’ and I must say that I’m very excited for this album, if the music is going to be this captivating. But then again, I’m biased. I’m a sucker for acoustic guitars in post-rock, so take that with a grain of salt, but the melody stuck with me for the rest of the day after I first heard this.

I would highly recommend supporting this band, even if only for the sake of charity. I will be supporting it when I can, in hopes of seeing the new album released a little sooner.

    

~

SAISA has been another band I’ve been meaning to get around to, and this Foofer Twofer’s given me an opportunity I can’t pass up. It’s even along the ambient strain of NOMADS, with its distant vocals and piano-driven ambience, it’s too perfect a pairing to ignore.

‘Aftermath’ is practically a dirge, with its mournful vocals, and drawn out melodies. The strings and piano bring images of funerals to mind (which is probably the point). As I pointed out with NOMADS, the lack of bass makes it a very airy, ambient sound, which is perfect for the forlorn timbre. When the crescendo begins, the bass is introduced in such a way as to not decrease from its ambience. It’s a very impressive feat, if you pay attention.

‘Agitator’ continues in the same tonality, with the addition of a distorted guitar, following the piano like a ghost. Overall, this piece sounds like Aftermath pt. II, but it’s so pretty I don’t even care. The attention to detail given to the crescendo is astounding, it’s not too fast, it’s not too slow, and it doesn’t get too loud, nor is it anticlimactic. Practically perfect in every way.

‘Heart Tree’ should be called ‘Aftermath (Reprise)’, it sound remarkably similar, with its vocals. Their English is impressively clear, which is something I’ve never really heard in a Japanese band before, outside of the occasional word or phrase. The way it reflects ‘Aftermath’ gives the EP a strong sense of closure, like the loop has finished, and the concept behind this album has been fully fleshed out before you. In my own weird opinion, this makes it perfect for listening to over and over, because it loops in on itself, becoming flush with its beginning. It’s pretty easy to get lost in it, too, since it’s only 18 minutes long. The tape perfectly represents that thought, with the whole album on both sides.

This can be purchased on digital directly from the band’s bandcamp page, and the tape can be bought through Keep It Together Records. (I did, and I’m in love with it. I would also recommend LITE, Low-Pass, and A Garden Overgrown).

  

Foofer Friday: Last Builders of Empire – Post War

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Last Builders of Empire’s sophomore album “Post War” begins like most other post-rock albums; a song of complete fluff. Every instrument dances lazily around each other, like an improv dance number. The rhythm is very loose, and the timing almost seems a bit off, but the coherence begins in the second track, ‘Quiet like a knife’.

‘Quiet like a knife’ is true, purebred post-rock. The guitars are creating dense soundscapes while the bass creates the melody and carries the tune throughout. The overall feel of the track reminds me of This Will Destroy You’s earlier work, though not as melodic. Unlike most post-rock bands thier on/off switch when it comes to ambience and walls of sounds, Last Builders of Empire smoothly trasition between the two, which makes for a much more enjoyable listening experience.

Speaking of smooth transitions, I didn’t even notice the album had moved on to ‘This Tired Wasteland’ my first time listening. The way the whole album flows from one idea to the next is a good way to sew an album together, but the lack of key change instills a feeling of being too repitious. What does change, is what the music reminds me of. It’s change from early This Will Destroy You to something like Mono. Tremolo guitars atop thrashing backing guitars is so beautifully violent, but I can’t hear Last Builders of Empire when I’m thinking Mono. As soon as that thought came to mind, they switched to yet another founding father of Post-rock, Explosions In The Sky.

‘Pyre (Where There’s Nothing Else Left)’ is a gorgeous ballad of a song, but the problem still remains; I don’t hear Last Builders of Empire, I hear Explosions in the Sky. It’s a tragedy when a band can’t sound like themselves for the beginning half of their album. Yes, they play each style with a very apparent skill and talent, but it’s not theirs.

Things do get better as the album goes on, but how many people are going to actually stick around after a song of fluff and three different copies of three different bands? I know I had a hard time getting into this album after three pieces of post-rock impressions.

There is something to be said of the other half of the album, however. They’re still a very competent band, and their sound does have a certain exotic flair to it; the very fact that they play in 3/4 time sets them apart from 90% of other post-rock bands.

Maybe the genre has just become so stereotyped that it’s getting harder and harder to avoid certain sounds, but the fact remains that you don’t hear this band until you’re already halfway into the album. To me, this screams a lack of ambition or creativity.

That’s not something I want to listen to. Do you?

 

  

Foofer Friday: Lite – Installation

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It’s hard to describe mathrock in any other way than “Just a bunch of music majors constantly finger-tapping.” Or “Time changes. Time changes everywhere.” But neither of these descriptions apply to LITE. They are definitely mathrock, but they refuse to fall in line with every other mathrock band out there, and truly stand out as something special.

What I mean becomes apparent from the very beginning of ‘Installtion’, their latest album. They have a very linear structure, and don’t change times very often at all. It’s actually more like Post-rock with its structure: continually adding layer upon syncopated layer until it creates this wall of sound. They still retain thier mathy sound through complicated drumming and intricate guitar riffs, but they don’t sound like every other mathrock band out there. All that within 4 minutes. To say this is a roller coaster of an album would be nothing if not accurate.

Nothing is played that isn’t complimentary to another instrument at the time, everything is timed perfectly and executed as such. The textures that are made always fit so perfectly with the mood of the song. If this album had vocals, I wouldn’t be able to resist singing along, even if it were to be Japanese. The jazzy chord work in “Hunger” never fails to make me feel as if I should don a leather jacket and Ray-Bans. It’s so cool and smooth, it makes me feel like a neanderthal by comparison.

It’s difficult to think of a word other than ‘groovin’ when it comes to the bass. It’s as if the bassist has ADD in the best way possible, he can’t still for too long, he has to be doing something other than following the guitars around like a lost puppy. The way “Bond” and “Fog Up” are strung together show a certain regard for the bass that I don’t see too often in the mathrock bands I listen to. To me, it also shows a strong sense of flow for the album overall. They were very purposeful about what song goes where, rather than a mess of songs thrown together, which is becoming more popular with smaller mathrock bands I’ve noticed this past year or so.

Mathrock is trending within the smaller circles of music lovers, and it’s beginning to show in the new mathrock bands that are popping up left and right. I would suggest to these new bands that they look at bands like LITE for inspiration and guidance. Their strong sense of direction should be shining beacon to others, making the genre more enjoyable overall. And with Topshelf Records releasing this album on digital and vinyl later this year, I think that LITE becoming a mathrock cornerstone is a very distinct possibility.

You can wait for the vinyl, or buy it on tape now through Keep It Together Records if you just so happen to be the impatient type. But if you do so happen to order through Keep It Together, I would also recommend LITE’s previous album “Past, Present, Future” and Low-Pass’ “Trimurti”. Both are superb mathrock albums from Japan, without the incredulous shipping fees.

 

    

Foofer Friday: Row Boat – Romance

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Romance’ is, in a word, beautiful.

There, I’m done. On to the next review.

Seriously, there isn’t much to describe Row Boat’s latest release other than Beautiful. The opening track ‘Bella’ is a beautiful soundscape created by a myriad of instruments, showing you just how far Row Boat is from traditional post-rock. The more traditional instruments are barely audible. Like they’re trying to sound like post-postrock without being pretentious. Again, just… Beautiful.

‘Ljudet’ takes a more neo-classical turn, laid atop ambient guitars. It has a sombre feel to it, but strongly retains its beauty. The structure reminds me of Lowercase Noises’ “Migratory Patterns” EP, with the droning and slow horn progression fading in and out again. In keeping up with the romance theme, even the deepest of relationships have dark times. This is a perfect representation of that idea.

The title track ‘Romance’ is, in my opinion, representative of the more light-hearted times in a long-term relationship. It isn’t energetic by any means, but its melancholic positivity is clear. It’s far too easy to space out and think of friends during this song, but I think that’s what post-rock is partly about.

The album seamlessly progresses to its last track, ‘Gjenfodt’. The dreamy vocals singing in a foreign language are like The Dude’s rug: It ties it all together. The rhythmless structure feels like it was composed with instruments made of clouds, it’s so soft and gentle to the ears. The percussion instument sounds like a child’s toy, giving it a true sense of innocence.

The Romance theme is far too strong to ignore, upgrading this from a very impressive EP, to bery impressive *conceptual* EP. It’s definitely worth a listen if you’re into sad mountains, distant boats, or lonely birds.

10/10 burning cars.

    

Foofer Friday: Dust Sculptures – Far Above The Pines

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This is one of those rare albums that stood out to me during my slumming session through the new albums tagged as post-rock on bandcamp. For the mast part, it’s pretty easy to tell when something isn’t actually post-rock just by looking at the tags. I cannot tell you how many times I didn’t even bother clicking play because I saw so many tags that weren’t post-rock. Dust Sculptures hit all the right notes with tags like Shoegaze, Progressive, Black Metal, Experimental, and Post-rock. I will be among the first to tell you that all of these tags are accurate.

Just looking at the bandcamp page, you can immediately tell that he’s put a lot of effort into this album, seeing how the track titles themselves tell a story of sorts. “Far above the pines lies the youngest mountain, where we left something in the snow. Subtle thing under the canopy of trees, breathing life into these tired lungs.” Right away I knew this was something very special.

This one man band from Nashville seamlessly ties together so many genres at once, it’s really hard to describe him in a small amount of words. At one point you could go from experimental soundscapes to chilled out jam sessions, to blistering blast beats all withing the span of a minute. It’s a roller coaster of sounds, and what a thrilling ride it is.

Josh Marberry, the man behind the music, really showcases his skills and talents in the opening track, ‘Far Above The Pines’. It begins with a very heavy influence from post-rock, with tremolo guitars in the distance moving to layered guitars, in a very post-metal sort of groove. Layered voices, all belonging to Josh, sing of the Pines in a very heavenly tone. It’s very simple harmonies, but he pulls it off well. The mellow sounds eventually give way to heavier, more metallic influences. And then he goes full out black metal.

And I haven’t even covered the first half of the first track.

In all of its 13 minutes, not a single second has gone unperfected. Every single track of this album is exactly the same in regards to attention to detail. Everything is very deliberate without feeling too forced. The sudden transitions from electric guitars to acoustic aren’t jarring at all, proving an extremely strong sense of structure.

Since we’re on the topic of structure – Remember those track titles? Each sentence takes up about half of the album. Once one sentence is over, the album feels like it’s been flipped over; like flipping a record on a turntable. There are no words to describe my excitement about this detail. To most, it would go unnoticed. Back in the day, artists would take the size of a vinyl record into consideration and make two sides of an album; two sides of the same coin. I don’t know if that’s what Josh had in mind, or if it’s completely by accident, but I love this album all the more for it. The “Sides” are in fact too big to fit on one side of a 12″ 33rpm vinyl record, but the concept itself doesn’t go unappreciated.

This is a remarkable album, forged by a remarkable musician. A true artist with a true work of art. This doesn’t deserve to be tied to any one genre, it doesn’t deserve to be heard by any one group of fans. Anyone and everyone who enjoys masterful music should listen to this magnificent piece and bask in its genius. Listen to it now and listen to it played loud.