Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

Album Review

Jordan De La Sierra – Gymnosphere: Song Of The Rose (Numero Group, 2014)

jordan de la sierra - gymnosphere song of the rose album cover
Jordan De La SierraMusic For Gymnastics (Numero Group)
 

There’s kind of an unofficial rule that I don’t write about reissues on AGB (for too many reasons to go into here) but this record is a perfect example of why that’s not an official rule. Jordan De La Sierra should be spoken about in the same breath as Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and Lubomyr Melnyk, but he only put out two records (in ’77 and ’88), so he was destined to fade into obscurity under the New Age revolution. I never heard of De La Sierra before this Numero reissue of the original 2xLP, and that’s just a fucking travesty. This music is absolutely stellar, 100 transformative minutes spread out over 4 soft piano pieces, looped melodies creating meditative rhythms, slow ambient keys soloed out and resonating in your soul, nothing but harmony and sober trances, the delicacies of hypnotic piano ambience laid out in the most masterful and endearing way, everything about this says “fucking classic” and hopefully Numero has been the catalyst for that. And since this is a bigger label, no song download from me, but that “Music For Gymnastics” link up there goes to a Soundcloud stream of the full 24 minute song, so dive in, then throw your money at Numero.

Album Review

William Cody Watson – Seafoam (self released / No Kings, 2014)

william cody watson - seafoam album cover
William Cody WatsonSeafoam (self released / No Kings)

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William Cody Watson is easily one of the most underrated and underrepresented bliss droners, and Seafoam is his final release, not as in he’s going on to make music using another moniker, he’s just done, no more music as WCW or Pink Priest or Gremlynz or Malibu Wands or any other name, but he’s going out on the fucking top with this one and he corralled thee High Aura’d to contribute some field recordings and piano, so this is a fuckin brilliant piece of sound, with gorgeous cascading harmonies and slow shifting tones that glow like angel choirs descending from a cracked open Cecil B. DeMille sky, the light of the world shining straight into your heart, and low sober minimalism, pulled out from your deep aching core and rapt in endless sorrows, melancholic & resigned, not admitting defeat but acknowledging reality, with long stretches of unsteadiness, the trembling anxiety before plunging into the unknown, and hoping it turns out ok, this is tender and glorious and just absolutely fucking magnificent, and you get your choice of digital, which Watson released back in January, or tape, which No Kings just dropped.

Album Review

Pascal Savy – Adrift (Eilean, 2014)

pascal savy - adrift album cover
Pascal SavyGhost Echoes (Eilean)

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While Pascal Savy has a few releases under his belt, this is the first I’ve heard of him, and holy shit am I glad I finally did, this record is fucking outstanding, a slab of dark drone “mythical seascapes,” using foreboding static swells and washes of minimal thrum to evoke images of desolate fog-cloaked seamen lost in the middle of an oceanic world (yeah that album artwork is fucking spot on for this one), super bleak, super beautiful, this is all about the taste of salty air and the serenity of calm waters while slowly suffocating under the impenetrable gloom above, slow & meditative with moments of overwhelming squalls, I feel myself drowning and it’s a welcome respite.

Album Review

Siavash Amini – What Wind Whispered To The Trees (Futuresequence, 2014)

siavash amini - what wind whispered to the trees album cover
Siavash AminiThe Wind (Futuresequence)

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This Iranian dude has only a handful of releases to his name (although he’s been making music for a while with other bands and such) but from the sound of What Wind Whispered To The Trees I’m pretty sure he’s already at the top of his game, this record is jaw droppingly beautiful, full of overwhelming moody drone accompanied by a tender & sincere violin by Nima Aghiani, from the moment the opening track starts swirling in a dark & stormy cloud of gorgeous melancholy, you know you’ve chosen the right path, and it just gets better & better, walls of hissing static and long stretches of gloom, this is full of heartache, the brooding drone and a crying violin bringing back all the grief you’ve experienced all at once, a slow rush of pain to the head, smooth but devastating, the kind of sounds that I live for, this is just absolutely fucking fantastic work, I can’t wait to see where Amini goes next.

Album Review

Skullflower – Draconis (Cold Spring, 2014)

skullflower - draconis album cover
SkullflowerSunset Dreams (Cold Spring)

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The masters of chaotic drone are back with their first solo full length since 2011’s Fucked On A Pile Of Corpses, and this time it’s a double CD overstuffed with a total fucking maelstrom of gloriously harsh drone, and some might balk at the drone label here but make no mistake, this has all the makings of the most perfect fucking drone, overwhelmingly loud with a thousand layers going at once, each seeming like they’re totally independent from each other, doing their own thing, but they work in a discordant unison and form a cohesive slab of destruction, at a distance, this sounds like an impenetrable waterfall of noise, but the closer you get, the clearer it becomes, patterns emerge and harmonies rise from the static, this is an unequaled transcendent experience, and I know I’ve been throwing around “transcendent” a lot lately, but it’s always been appropriate, and here even more so, Draconis takes drone to new heights, this is a spiritual rite, the majestic mess of sounds conjured are not only the conduit to a greater truth, but themselves are an element of the Holiness that Skullflower embrace, they’ve created an altar of tumultuous bliss and call you forth to take part in the worship, you can’t fucking deny this.

Album Review

Trepaneringsritualen – Perfection & Permanence (Cold Spring, 2014)

trepaneringsritualen - perfection and permanence album cover
TrepaneringsritualenHe Who Is My Mirror (Cold Spring)

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This dude is one of my favorite dudes, his work as Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words was incredible and Deathward To The Womb from 2012 is one of the most uniquely horrific records ever, and he’s ever evolving into newer and more painful sounds, finding a groove in evil rhythms and going full on death industrial on Perfection & Permanence, a wholly unique decrepit ritual rooted deep in Christian mythology, growled distorted vocals that couldn’t possibly be coming from a human, gurgling “Father, why have you forsaken me?” with a mouthful of puss, the monstrous atomic bomb beats and throbbing synth balanced perfectly with walls of caustic static and ethereal gongs, the blackest most wretched ambient that will make your blood curdle, bleak as fuck sounds from beyond the post-apocalypse, where the remaining humans have taken up arms against angels, this is beautifully disgusting and absolutely fucking enthralling, the rotting remains of a human corpse that you can’t turn away from. Limited vinyl from the UK, currently available stateside at Forced Exposure. This is not something you want to miss out on.

Album Review

Northumbria – Bring Down The Sky (Consouling Sounds, 2014)

northumbria - bring down the sky album cover
NorthumbriaThe Ocean Calls Us Home (Consouling Sounds)

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Mega doom drone from these two Toronto dudes, and on their second full length they make it seem like they’ve been doing this forever, a timeless maximal minimalism that carves new neural pathways in your mind and tears rifts in the fabric of the sky, shifting feedback & reverb as supreme as it gets, a wall of drone that demands only that you bask in its majesty, this is the call of gods, truly epic revelations with overwhelming buzz and toothy crackle, the kind of scorching bliss that turns amps white hot and parts oceans with its limitless power, this is absolutely fucking gorgeous, not black and occult like that other doom drone band you’re thinking of, more drone, less doom, Northumbria journey down their own righteous path of monolithic euphoria and leave us with tragically perfect records such as this. A fucking plus.

Album Review

Sun Splitter – Time Cathedral (self released, 2014)

sun splitter - time cathedral album cover
Sun SplitterDesistance (Sun Splitter)

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These Chicago dudes aren’t gettin the love they deserve. They’ve been at it for years (check out reviews of II and III) making consistently awesome dark demented psych doom, and their newest is a beast of a record, charging through the emptiness of space, destroying everything in its path, seeking Truth, this is some heavy weirdness that takes from industrial, noise, and drone just as easily as it does Lovecraft and Hawking, long riff heavy grooves that build into swirling chants, methodical and explosive arcs of abyssal rock, creeping, plodding, fuckin ugly, and heavily spiritual, worshiping the almighty Infinity, these songs are the mystic rituals aiming to cross through dimensions, reaching that which is unknown, and fuckin dooming it up real hard along the way. This will be primarily a digital release (available next week, along with a poster if you’d like) but there’s going to be a super limited CD-R version available only at the release show in Chicago at The Empty Bottle on January 5th. So, you know, that’s probably worth the hike if Chicago is in your general vicinity.

Album Review

Billy Gomberg – Certain Words Again And Again (Sunshine Ltd, 2014)

billy gomberg - certain words again and again album cover
Billy GombergThe Present Until It’s Tangible (Sunshine Ltd)

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This is one of those instances where I know the artist, I’ve listened to him before, I’ve even reviewed a record of his before (Waiting In Poor Lighting), and while the name has stuck with me, I was never really hooked or anything. So if you’re maybe in the same boat as me in regards to Mr. Billy Gomberg, do yourself a favor and put this one on the top of your listening pile. Certain Words Again And Again is 40 minutes (45 if you’re listening to the digital version) of brilliantly beautiful minimal tender drone that effortlessly floats in the air, light & delicate, yet substantial enough to completely wrap your senses in a cloud of bliss, glowing shades of warmth that shift oh so slowly in a gorgeous display of silent transcendence brought to life, a stunning presentation of restraint and precision perfectly balanced between overworked and underdeveloped that can be so hard to achieve in minimalism, Gomberg has made something truly fucking exquisite, I just want it to swallow me whole and not have to care about anything else. And back to that time difference thing I mentioned before, the track listing differs between physical & digital versions, the physical has 2 long and 2 short songs, the digital drops the 2 short songs and adds another long one, so you’re actually treated to almost an hour of music here, wholly worth the $7 price tag.

Album Review

Teeth Engraved With The Names Of The Dead – Starving The Fires (Pt. 1) (Malignant, 2014)

teeth engraved with the names of the dead - starving the fires part 1 album cover
Teeth Engraved With The Names Of The DeadLacerate (Malignant)

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Total fucking depravity. These two dudes, who only have one other physical release to their name, the Kosmiche Deathworship tape on Sol Y Nieve (the first five copies came with deer teeth), put out this 70 minute long death drone monstrosity that delves deep into necro nihilism, full of slow churning bestial static, demonic hypnothrum vaporizing your bones, garbled samples spitting filth at humanity, this travels to some very dark places, a hideous doomed ambient that screams of abandoned hope, at times boiling up to a full on black industrial noise, reaching monolithic fucking heights of caustic horror that knock you on your ass and eat you alive, this is pure fucking evil and every painful, prolonged moment is worthwhile, and something tells me these guys are just getting started. Make sure to snag Cold Ashes, the free companion EP which clocks in around 35 minutes.

Album Review

Grasshopper – Dark Sabbath: Symbol Of Evil (Hausu Mountain, 2014)

grasshopper - dark sabbath symbol of evil album cover
GrasshopperInverted Cross Of Satanic Justice (Hausu Mountain)

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New York synth drone trumpet noise duo Grasshopper goes to new heights with Dark Sabbath and it’s a fuckin trip, a noise record wearing a doom cloak, worshiping the dark arts, and turning souls to stone, this is a totally twisted mess of demonic drone that buzzes & hums from the depths of the void, freakish spouts of squelching electronics, and constant pulsing from the unknown dimensions of horror, menacing as fuck and easily capable of driving you mad if you pay close enough attention, there’s a black beast hidden behind all the stretched out static and nauseating cosmic skree, ready to take you to the next level and flip you inside out, an unholy transcendence that is pushed upon you, full of fear, but infinitely grateful of the experience, these dudes have truly outdone themselves, and lucky for us Hausu Mountain gives them the vinyl treatment, which you can (and should) snag next week.

Album Review

Dreamcrusher – Suicide Deluxe (Hausu Mountain, 2014)

dreamcrusher - suicide deluxe album cover
DreamcrusherNovokuznetsk (Hausu Mountain)

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I’d seen Dreamcrusher’s name tossed around here and there and thought “Oh, cool name” but never made it a priority to seek out his tunes. FUCK. You guys, this is unreal. Don’t do what I did. Listen to this now. “Inspired by a vast series of traumatic events,” Suicide Deluxe goes on a fucking technoise rampage, massive beat driven jams that could be jungle or house or glitch or whatever but you’d never know because everything is buried under a hundred layers of caustic grit, totally bombastic and in the red, like someone accidentally got their number one dance mix stuck in a feedback loop and it just grew to inhumane proportions and now we’re being rushed to the ER after coming from the filthiest most crushing blown out party, ear piercing squelches & brain crunching bass that make Pete Swanson sound like Paul Oakenfold, this is complete and utter fucking madness, visceral and nightmarish and just the fucking best, and the volume on this is cranked to infinity, so please please please turn your speakers way the fuck down before you hurt yourself. $7 for the tape if you’re into that kinda thing, or pay what you want over on Bandcamp, so NO EXCUSES.

Album Review

Æther – Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring (Mandragoræ, 2014)

aether - tagzig olmo lung ring album cover
ÆtherStraddling Two Kingdoms (excerpt) (Mandragoræ)

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All your drone needs right here, two fucking hours worth, two songs acting as a “meditation on the ultimate realisation of the the end of flesh,” although not nearly as dark and bleak as that sounds, this is more like the music of life you’d hear while in the womb, slow warm tones shifting in and out of focus, a constant flow of minimalism, major dancing tones and throbbing low end, it’s a monument to the endless cycle of life & death, the mark of peace amidst chaos, this is the religion of Drone incarnate, the Holy Mother of Transcendence, that takes the bare minimum of sound and turns it into an eye-opening otherworldly experience, an absolutely divine record, and pretty much essential for all who worship at the altar of Drone.

Album Review

Elisa Ambrogio – The Immoralist (Drag City, 2014)

Elisa Ambrogio - The Immoralist album cover

No stream here, Drag City’s got the whole album up on Soundcloud via Impose, check it there
 

I’m admittedly a little late to the Magik Markers game (which is shameful since they’re a localish band), I’ve only been jamming them for a few years, but got hooked real quick, and am always jonesin for more (the Arbitrary Signs page helps with that), so when I heard Elisa Ambrogio, singer/guitarist for MM, was dropping her solo debut, I got pretty fuckin psyched and was hoping for more MM-tinged garagey goodness that was maybe a bit more stripped down, and that’s exactly what I got on The Immoralist, and while there’s a couple songs that sound like the could’ve come from an actual MM record, for the most part it’s like a bedroom pop daydream of MM, with Ambrogio taking charge of everything, cleaning up the fuzzed out rock a bit and showing off her soft side, layered vocals harmonizing with herself, going for the deep 60s psych pop where you can be a total fuckin weirdo and it doesn’t seem out of place in the slightest, throwing down melancholic piano ballads alongside catchy Top 40 celebrations, this is both a joyful summer slam and awkward bittersweet downer, where Ambrogio travels merrily down memory lane, and closes the record with the lyric “Nothing new would live if nothing died,” which in one short phrase encompasses the whole feeling of The Immoralist, gettin high on those shitty feelings and not letting life’s despair bog you down, and that’s basically what I strive for, so Ambrogio fucking nails it with this one and it’s just as good as, if not better than, the best MM records, just in a different way, something I’m pretty sure everyone should be and wants to be spinning basically non-stop.

Album Review

Rivulets – I Remember Everything (JellyFant Schallplatten, 2014)

rivulets - i remember everything album cover
RivuletsInto The Night (JellyFant Schallplatten)

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I fucking love this record. Everything about it. Rivulets, aka Nathan Amundson (backed here by a very capable bunch), has been steadily releasing incredible records that somehow still fly under the radar, even if they’re on high profile labels like Important (We’re Fucked from 2011 was just outstanding). I think this might be the one to break Rivulets out of the glass ceiling, though, even though it’s on a German label (but available stateside on the cheap), because it would be a goddamn travesty if anything this good came & went largely unnoticed.

This isn’t normally my thing, the singer-songwriter Americana country-ish thing a la Will Oldham, Bill Callahan, or Jason Molina (who gets his own tribute here with “Ride On, Molina”), but this is slower, sadder, weirder, and injects some psych & folk into the mix, but even then, on paper, I’d be like ok cool but I’m not going out of my way to hear it or anything. For some reason, though, I see strong similarities to drone king Kyle Bobby Dunn, two pained romantics making slow-sad-core, one going the drone route, the other down Americana lane, so regardless of your taste in music, this is 100% worth seeking out.

I Remember Everything starts out with “Reinforced / Delicate” whose lyrics are “And it’s reinforced, and it’s delicate. I’m not delicate. Are you ready now?” (which are the only lyrics in the whole song), so it sounds like you stumbled into the middle of a jam session, I mean who starts a record with “…and?” And the the songs are structurally straightforward, no tricks or whistles, they’re minimal, repetitive, & hypnotic, sometimes the song is essentially a repeated chorus (see “Reinforced / Delicate”), sometimes (not always) short and like a brilliant one-off idea with only a vague beginning and end, the full band equivalent of notes on a napkin, and all of this works so goddamn well. Where Rivulets truly shines, though, is mood & sound. This is some sad fuckin stuff, not like Giles Corey levels of depression, but definitely bummed out (lyrics like “My favorite drug is sleep”) and a little bit pissed (“Isn’t it time you found your own place to ruin?”), it’s dark but not too dark, and the sound is really what gets me, it sounds like Amundson is at the bottom of a canyon with his rich voice and rusty guitar echoing down the cliff sides, sounding simultaneously huge and intimate, and it deeply resonates with me, not so much metaphorically (although that too), but physically, like the chords, tones, and drones are tuned to the frequency of my body, everything in this just feels and sounds so right to me, I just can’t get enough of it, the resonance is too strong, and it all adds up to a perfect fucking record.