Friday, August 19, 2016

Kaschalot (2014)

Its incredibly rare to come across such a completely focused solo effort as this.
Not to mention there are a high volume of groups trying to play in this same sandbox of energetic post-rock by way of math.

This is something that is great with repeated listens...catchy and intricate..

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sphaeras - Sun Seeker (2016)

Insanely powerful post-rock math prog ambient... well you get the idea.
The blender approach to engaging post-rock.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mouse Fitzgerald Presents - Living Like A Mouse (2016)

         Following up from last year's alt-emo ramshackle blast we find our fellow mice in a far greater vantage point than even I had thought. 
         If you are a new comer Mouse Fitzgerald (NY) synthesize a number of loves into a small and often intimate package. It frequently has an air of 90's alternative but with a real appreciation for intricate rock (post-hardcore and math alike) early emo and a punk spirit (in vocal delivery). That's not to say that these guys channel one more than another but you get a decidedly different ratio with each song while still maintaining a healthy identity. Tempo's are varied and and songs provide some nice structural surprises along the way. 

          While thinking of a apt group to lump them in with (if pressed) I'd say an alternate dimension Built to Spill if they had suckled less off the classic rock and indie of the early 80's.  Its difficult to say this especially while listening to songs like the end of Track 4 The Buildabear Group with its unabashed hardcore breakdown to liken them to an iconic indie group. For the most part riffs are the point man here which is why I think the comparison is apt. There are plenty of fantastic moments like this though that feel at home but refuse to be boxed into a "normal" genre descriptor's (Deafhaven, CT's take on shoegaze surf punk for example). 
      Its beyond a fantastic album.. period and a powerful statement for leaving at the end of their run. I always wish more groups would spend less time playing into something and exploring personal loves within a song while then moving onto the next group of idea's. MF are a prime example of this and for that reason I would recommend this to any one with a passing interest in rock music as whole.

To me this year its right up there with some of the best so far. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Codon - NODOC (2016)

       Ran across this beast of an album that..seemingly has appeared out of no where. A progressive rock and acoustic folky tinged feel litter the proceedings. Rounding out everything is some intense drumming chops. The songs are incredibly varied while still maintaining an identity all their own. If you are wondering the origin of this upon some further digging we find that this is the work of Cameron Lawrence. Who? Oh.. you know just the drummer for mega excellent Nova Scotia based Oceanic.  This is a different beast though for sure but very much in the vein of pushing progressive boundaries in unique ways.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Breakfast - Untitled (2016)

Sort of an over due post honestly.
A few years back I braved an upstate new york snow storm to see a previous incarnation of this fantastic group (along with junior bob) called Elos Arma....which I highly suggest everyone still check out.

Breakfast is made up of mostly the same crew but with the replacement of their second guitarist. A lot of the same features remain...bombastic and excellently executed vocals..a penchant for pop melodies and excellent drums. This time around Breakfast has embraced a much more... angular approach to structure which I think we can all appreciate here. Looking forward to a lot of good things in the future from these gents.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Oroboro - Demo (2016)

OroborO - Demo (2016)

Its been a bit since a three piece has really hit me with fantastically subtle instrumental math. A hard position to be in for sure to really stand out but I can safely say that after..many times through its clear that these are some real deal tunes.

Inspired and memorable guitar lines match up with occasional unexpected rhythms to really mold these three songs. The impressive aspect that keeps bringing me back in are the intelligent song structures and how the band plays with dynamics to keep things fresh and interesting. I can appreciate as well that no one instrumental (or all) are really trying to tap their way out of a cave or solo through heaven. Its a riff based affair that has a sort of 90's throw back vibe especially with some of the chordal choices and progressions but its a welcome vibe really and helps edge things into a warm nostalgic territory at times. Do yourself a favor and jump into this...

Friday, May 6, 2016

PoS Top Tens - Eyes Averted

When you talk legendary groups of Upstate New York in the realm of technical rock you often list the usual suspects ...Damiera...Zona Mexicana..Monster Machismo...Cattle Drums... (no this is not an exhaustive list)  But it did remind me when Matthew St. Laurent (of the fabulous Syracuse based Department) and Greg McClure (of Buffalo's Del Paxton) both mentioned Syracuse group Eyes Averted recently. This really got me thinking as they should rightfully hold a place with the greatest of these above groups as well

If this is a group that has slipped my mind, then its my duty to shed a bit more light onto their influences and hopefully get new people aware of this post-hardcore punk math wrecking ball. I recently reached out to the members and they were gracious enough to supply some albums that influenced them as well as a shared number one spot. It really gives an interesting view into their over all sound. Besides it being eerily close to a lot of albums I hold close there is also plenty of wrestling references. 

Steve - (Drums)

Lifetime - Jersey's Best Dancers (1997)

This record changed the way I saw music, punk rock or otherwise. For me, this record had a sense of urgency that I had never been exposed to, chordal tendencies that challenged my ear, but enough familiar aspects of many different genres to keep it digestible for me---and it all felt really honest at the same time.

Mock Orange - Captain Love (2008)

This band has always been a favorite of mine, and I've found myself growing musically in similar ways as these guys have. This was as near-perfect an indie rock record as I'd ever heard at the time, and it still comes off as this completely effortless, unique, and beautiful collection of songs that to this day I can't stop listening to.

Choke - Forward (1999)

I have to include this just because it was, at the time, kind of a defining marriage of all of the technical stuff I liked about the more progressive and heavy genres with the melody and aesthetic I loved about punk rock. It was this crazy music, but not reactionary at all---very purposeful and intricate but never over indulgent.

Gary - (Bass)

The Dillinger Escape Plan - Calculating Infinity (1999)

A timeless record that will never be duplicated. Dropped heavy music on it's face, then hit it with a flying elbow for good measure.

Converge - Jane Doe (2001)

Ruthlessly and epic-ally intense from start to finish, a la Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestle-mania 17

 Botch - We are Romans (1999)

Another game changer that dropped a genre on it's head, just like The Undertaker hitting Bray Wyatt with two Tombstone Pile driver at Wrestle-mania 31

Brad (Guitar)

Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary (1994)

Some people have that one song to just roll the windows down and drive for miles. This cd seems to fill most gaps in the winter, spring, summer and fall drives... But a cheese steak also fills those same gaps.


All I have to say is ..."triplets anyone?" 

Always have loved listening to and trying to create new music of all kinds. But when Crash Test Dummies' -"Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"  isn't hitting the spot and my accordion isn't syncing up with my flanger/reverb pedal, I just relax and remember the words to "out of reach."

And the number one agreed agreed upon album by all members is...


Brad - What can I say about this record that hasn't been said countless times before. 
These guys came in and took over the emo/post-hardcore game and shocked the world, just like the time Hulk Hogan unbelievably body slammed Andre the Giant at Wrestle-mania 3

Be sure check out Eyes Averted or revisit if your out of the habit. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pennines - Discography

The brief lived UK math group Pennines.... you know Henry Tremain from TTNG's last group?
Well besides having an impressive love for Mock Orange (as I also do) has made their short discography available via bandcamp. Its a good chance to revisit these tightly wound math pop gems.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Looking back at 2015

2015 seems like a distant memory but there are several releases I feel as though were...short shafted a bit and not given proper attention.

Number 1 being....

       In all things, having the physical representation in front of you is pudding proof of failure or success. In 2015 I had the excellent pleasure of watching these guys move through this album essentially in its entirety. Then wont this be skewed? biased? Nah just have your band come play Ithaca NY sometime :)

      Its true I've been following Shipley since 2012 with varying degree's of brightness. With 2015's "Normal Soup" you'd be a fool to ignore the effortless power these cats command. We find them easily at the top of their craft. Its math as filtered through the sieve of indie, emo, post hardcore lite breakdowns and pop song craft. If that sounds at all run of the mill then.. you might need some prescribed medication.  
      Vocal's are just as important as any instrument here, done emotionally, with varied delivery and something honest to say. A lot of people have pointed to Delta Sleep's last release vocally...which I don't disagree...but musically? please...there ain't no candle holding betwixt...Shipley breaks bread first. For proof check out the break at the end of "Slouch". Its confounding and delightfully dense as a skating boarding terrier kick flipping a gap.
      It's easy to point to cool time changes and awesome break downs...believe me there is enough to fill your Easter basket here. Really what impresses me are the rhythmic choices that are made. A lot are latin based in nature and occasionally plays to that melodically. It adds flavor and spice to a genre that is crowded with young imitators. If you take each song as a whole you will find that their pop songcraft has been so razor sharpened that you will be humming each song at different points of your day. I cant honestly remember a progressive rock album doing that in a good long time.  
     Keyboard should just be an instrumental choice all bands discuss. A few other albums I enjoyed from this year present them in meaningful ways and Soup is no exception. It fleshes out and colors the songs here providing space for the guitars. It never dominates the proceedings but knows how to interject a valuable counter to the other instruments.

    Why pick as my top this year? several reasons.... Truly I have spun this album more than any other. It also has memorable hooks that keep you coming back with an emotional intensity that reveals new layers upon each listen. Song lengths are fair and never out stay their welcome. Drums and bass? I could write an entire article on how Patrick and Seamus Hamilton have crafted what amounts to a perfectly balanced rhythm section.

When asked specifically what picks the folks in Shipley appreciated in 15 they were more than happy suggest the following

The Quaaludes - This Is Your Future We're Talking About

Seasons - Help Me Help You

Tawny Peaks - Tawny Peaks

Dance Gavin Dance - Instant Gratification

and of course: Professional Rapper by Lil Dicky


Others I enjoyed:

Delicious Death - Still Death

(Bob Baxter) arose from the depths to re-launch his sonic assault. Having 5 years between releases gives you time to really hone your attack and leave us needing more..more MORE!!

Del Paxton / Gulfer - Split

These two can seemingly do no wrong. I would have included Gulfer's June release as well but this feels just right. I dont normally enjoy splits...the whole.. an album as a story thing but it works and showcases two bands that apart may not have a lot in common but each flirt with the others strengths  It honestly feels like the start of a beautiful relationship. Having seen them play together its really a no brainer. Paxton's power trio has only become more laser focused in their approach since their last release.  A slight up tick in aggression and a bit more jagged edges while never eschewing their fantastical melodic side.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Castle Cats - Ice Locks (2016)

Castle Cats has the spit and polish of veteran group but seems to be largely the vision of one Brian Davis with some kit work by Ryan Berg. Both Brian and Ryan are instructors at "The School of Rock" in Downington PA. Its clear there are insane chops flying around the room but I'd say my interest lies in the compositions themselves. An electro/keyboard elements helps round out the sound and makes things very atmospheric. Something akin to a more updated 80's classic prog sound at times. Each song holds its own unique vision with moodier pieces thrown in for good measure. I have to say its some of the most immediately enjoyable rock I've heard in a good bit. Castle Cats provides a great technical base without feeling like your being clubbed over the head with knotty guitar work. It can be a hell of a lot of fun as well. Both Ice Locks and Dog Dungeon (somehow it actually sounds like a dungeon for dogs) really encapsulate the sort of prog I wish we could have more of in 2016.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mushroom Death Suit

Have been listening to this acoustic folk math flecked gem for the last few days. It has held my ear strongly. Interesting vocals...atypical and all the better for it honestly.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Deerhoof's Hidden Math Rock Pedigree

I've personally always found it interesting that the members of Deerhoof have such a rich history of playing with groups that have aired on the side of prog and math. 
That is something given their current position in music may not be evident to a lot of people. 

Having seen them live and following them for years its impossible to view them without the lens of avant-math popsters instead of the dred "indie rock" tag they often garner. As far as popular groups in these circles they still remain some of the most consistently fun yet challenging bands we have around today. Often at odds but never obtuse, with as much interest in zeppelin style riffs as jazz structures. Deerhoof remain champions in their own crafted domain. Certainly they would be a very different group without the assisted influence of math rock in its formative years. 

Now this may sound like an odd title ...I know ...
but bare with me because this has some interesting angles at work.

Lets start with the easiest and possibly the most surprising.

Greg Saunier is the only member of Deerhoof that has been present since the beginning. One would think with his extremely technical and jazzy play style he would be the obvious choice for having some far flung connections to math rock...well not so much BUT with a notable exception. Zach Hill (HELLA) and Greg took part in a one off album in 2003 of experimental percussive jams with some shifty time signatures under the name Nervous Cop. Oddly enough Joanna Newsom makes an appearance to harp it up a bit. Now I'm not going to say this is any sort of wonderful album because frankly it has only a few small bright spots but it is pretty interesting for what it is.

John Dieterich (Guitarist of Deerhoof) was part of the mid 90's math rock group Collosamite well before he slung ax for the Hoofsters.  Those guys mixed a lot of punk and hardcore sensibilities with the clean tones of jazz and dissonant chordal approach of noise music while very much being a math rock group. In my opinion pretty darn influential to a lot of what we have today. Contemporaries of the time such as US Maple and Dazzling Killmen helped pave the way for groups we may view as  pretty singular like Yowie, U SCO ect. John also was in the similarly inhinged Natural Dreamers with Chris Cohen (former guitarist of Deerhoof). Jay Pellicci rounded out the third in this group of Dilute and 31 Knots fame....maybe you've heard of them? :)

Ed Rodriguez who has been a little bit of everywhere in regards to his association with math rock before Deerhoof.
He was also a member of Collosamite and Gorge Trio with John Dietrich. Gorge Trio/ Collasomite drummer Chad Popple would also join Ed in the highly under-rated mid 90's experimental/math/jazzcore group Iceburn (or Iceburn Collective) Oddly enough not a lot of fuss is draped over this rotating group especially as a fairly unique musical voice even by todays standards. Long form compositions that share equal parts classical music as jazz, rock and improv group. After this Ed and Chad wold also spend time in the legendary rotating  Weasel Walter "brutal-prog" group The Flying Luttenbachers . Ed hung around from 2003-2006 officially.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Dirgahayu - Emer/Gency (Split w/ Nothingness)

Malaysian Math rock seems to be kicking up a lot of fuss lately. I have to say I haven't been particularly intrigued until I came across this burner of a single by Dirgahayu.  It has that intensity that is often lacking but with a prowess that flexes when it needs.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rest Ashore - The Human Error (2015)

Indie Rock is often viewed by me as this behemoth of mediocrity. As it has broad genre specifiers we tend to get a lot of bland rock (shudder). It should always be noted though when a group rises above the hoard and issues forth a proclamation.

Enter in:
Rest Ashore from New Jersey. While surface investigation may lead you to believe that this 4 piece is a group that will fade into the background like its contemporaries.. I will kindly disagree and prove that incorrect.

Inspired instrumentation in an indie rock/emo setting is the fastest way to my heart. At times these folks flirt with math rock conventions but dont seem overly concerned to play to any specific side. Its to their benefit of course as each of the 11 songs holds its own story as well as musical theme.

If the music was the only thing we had here... well we could pack it up and be happy with ourselves...make some snacks and binge watch netflix. BUT luckily vocalist (and guitarist) Erica Butts has an incredible amount to say. Its an approach that never stays in one place for too long. At times shouted, crooned and sang plainly things get down right soulful at times. Now imagine all of this going down while the rest of the band is laying down tasty riffs and funky rhythms.  

I do catch a sort of throw back emo/indie early 90's vibe but at the same time incredibly vital to todays music. There's plenty here for any music fan to enjoy really. I can only see good things and further success coming for this band.

Rest Ashore - The Human Error (2015)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Greg McClure (Del Paxton) Year End List 2015

For the close to zero people waiting for me to announce my grand list for 2015...tough nugs. I'd much prefer to let my buddy Greg (kit master in Del Paxton) dispense what releases made him take notice this year.

It is perhaps more important to point out that Del Paxton released their excellent split with Gulfer this year and if you haven't...its something that you need to be digging into. Both groups always have a great showing and this is no exception.

Without further babbling, take it away Greg...

"Hi I’m Greg and I play drums in Del Paxton. 

End of the year lists are HARD! 

Here is a list of releases that best define my 2015. 

OK here I go."

1    Toe “Hear You” 

When I first heard Toe I was mega jacked up on caffeine I watched every youtube video that exists of them. Like… seriously every single one. There’s a lot. This vinyl got pushed back by plants for months. Now that I finally got mine in I treat it like an only child.

2     Options “Driftwood Metaphor”

This is the solo release of Seth Engels. Dude is crazy talented and in about 3242135 bands. I met him after our set at Fest. I tried to play it v cool but I’m such a fan boi so I’m guessing I was probably not that v cool :-/

3     Tenement “Predatory Headlights”

This record actually might be too good. There are days where I get struck by an urgent need to hear the song Garden Secrecy like some kind of anxiety attack. It’s also a double LP which is cool.

This record is as relevant today as it could have been back in the early 90’s when this band put out their first record. I however was too busy listening to Ace of Base to check them out back then.

5     Ratboys “AIOD”

We played with the ratpeople in Albany before either of our bands announced we had signed to Topshelf Records. We def clicked right away… cool people putting out cool music is the easiest thing to back. Hope to play more with them.

6   Gulfer “What Gives”

The only thing I don’t like about this band is that I’m not in it.

7     Alaska “Shrine”

I kept hearing about Alaska and putting off a good honest listen. We all do it OK!?. Then we played with them in Savannah and they really blew me away. We listened to their record many times on the rest of that tour. Big future on this band.  Listen to Hashish Christo.. it might actually be my favorite song of 2015.

8     Hop Along “Painted Shut”

This record is going to make everyone’s list. I will add that at first I didn’t love it, but it sat in my car stereo on low key repeat until one day I realized I knew every word.

9     Sonny Baker “Flesh It Out”

I have this rule of thumb, if you release music that sounds like it could have been on the soundtrack for the movie Angus, I will probably love it. Such is the case for this incredible Buffalo native releasing music. I saw them play this live in a basement before it was released and I think that was the right way to do it.

10  Soft Skills “A Future to Remember”

This record actually came out in 2013. But I found it in 2015 and it’s the most important record that I discovered in the last 12 months. Every single second of this absolutely rips. Listen to it from front to back.

Again....check out Greg's band Del Paxton 
If you already have then check them out again because once is not enough.

Happy New Year Everyone 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

POS Top Ten's - Kyle Owls (He Was Eaten By Owls)

He Was Eaten By Owls
has been for me a breath of fresh air in the often stagnant waters of the math and prog communities. They have a command for incredible song structures with intricate and well thought out passages. We are also close on the heels of their newest release that will officially make you re-consider your notion of the group as well as be an album we will remember for years to come.

It's of course then no surprise that we find member Kyle with his head clearly fixed on some of our greatest contemporary composers and more in this installment of POS Top Ten's......


        Apart from being geek heaven - with its tongue-in-cheek references to the Dungeons & Dragons role play game through the track listing - the album itself is a work of chamber music genius. The ability to compose fluid, elaborate counterpoint music in odd time signatures and make it seem like nothing out of the ordinary is happening is quite a skill, and Pallett exhibits his penchant for such delightful subtlety to great effect on tracks like 'He Poos Clouds' and 'Many Lives → 49 MP'. 
Not just a musical marvel, his lyrics set him apart from many of his contemporaries, littered with references to obscure video games, casual drug use and gay sex, his open and frank discussions of Queer issues and this (Owen Pallett Facebook Post)
stand him out as an important figure in todays musical/political field. 

Take these lyrics from one of the albums b-sides for example:

While you were out sexing
I was a chef soaking a hundred tissues with sweat
and moisturizer
In my head burns a picture
of my face with your privates
I read your diary it said: I've been a good son
All it takes is a good job
to take you out to dinner
but I sold the volvo for pot
(Jars Of Lars)

    I heard 'This Lamb Sells Condos' on a late night radio show back in 2006, and I've been literally obsessed with the man ever since. It's well worth listening through his back catalogue from his days in Canadian alt-rock band Les Mouches ( through to his most recent release 'In Conflict' under his real name Owen Pallett, to observe for yourself one of the most interesting, eclectic and inspiring careers of our times. 


        Not much needs to be said about this album. It's just perfect. Steve Albini recorded the harps and vocals for goodness sake. Van Dyke Parks wrote the arrangements and played accordion. Jim O'Rourke mixed the thing and she's simply one of the greatest living musicians, a rare gift, a generational genius. Her lyrics are dense, highly constructed thickets of poetic imagery steeped in folk tales, history, botany and astronomy; her musicianship is second to none, flitting between lilting washes of enrapturing and impossible polyrhythmic mantras and gentle, heartbreaking balladic simplicity. 

      Parks' arrangements will dazzle with their dancing complexity - the supporting melodies at times rushing up to overtake the harp and vocals, at other times delicately augmenting slight vocal dynamics. Watching her perform songs off this record was one of the highlights of MY ENTIRE LIFE, and I say that with no exaggeration whatsoever.


     My very favourite composer, probably of all time, is the California based John Adams. 

 It was really hard for me to decide which piece of his to put in here, as he's a fantastically prolific and always revolutionary composer, but in the end, it came down to a fierce battle between 'The Dharma...' and another which I insist you check out, 'Shaker Loops'. In fact, here is a fantastic mini-documentary filming him in rehearsal with Shaker Loops for a 2002 performance, which gives you a really deep insight into just how complicated and subtle his works are
(John Adams: A Precise Process)

       'The Dharma At Big Sur', Adam's slow moving dedication to the West USA coast as well as an intentional homage to fellow experimental composers Lou Harrison and Terry Riley, is really a stunning piece to wrap yourself up in.

    A work of two movements for orchestra and solo electric six-string violin (written to incorporate just intonation tuning methods on the harps, pianos and synths), Adams' attempt to describe aurally the feeling of coming up against the Pacific coastline is quite offsetting and uplifting at the same time, rich in sudden dynamic shifts and long, resounding washes of single string glissando's. 

    In trying to describe his feelings for the landscape which influenced the composition, he basically sums up how it feels as a listener to experience his piece for the first time: "Here the current pounds and smashes the littoral in a slow, lazy rhythm of terrifying power. For a newcomer the first exposure produces a visceral effect of great emotional complexity". 

   Equally influenced by Qawwali singers, Jazz musicians, Beat Poets and Blues players, he really stands out for me on the contemporary 'classical' and Post-Minimalist scene as someone deeply in touch with the roots of his tradition but just as forward thinking as the best our younger generation has to offer. 


       This record is, in my opinion, a cult classic waiting to happen. I first met Perhaps when we performed together somewhere in Leicester, and after being bowled over by their energy, inventiveness and sheer noise we became friends and when 'Sludge & Tripe' erupted a few years later it had a profound effect on my musical tastes and style.

      I can honestly say that this album was my first real introduction to what a 'rock' band format could do with tightly constructed rhythmic changes, a wide dynamic range and and a left-field approach to songwriting, and I'm super proud to know them and to have watched their career thus far, recently supporting Amanda Fucking Palmer in London and receiving 12,000 euros from the Haizetara International Street Music Contest. 

     Never one to be pinned down by genre, the band now exist as a marching Prog-Brass outfit, complete with stripped down drums, a giant Sousaphone and a delightful amount of group harmonies and counterpoint melodic meanderings. In between this and their origins as a noisy and very English prog band they produced a stunningly beautiful acoustic record with themes and concepts reappearing from tracks off the first album (this conceptual continuity continued too - when they reformed as the brass-punk outfit they re-imagined the main theme song 'Business' from the second record for the new band with really spectacular results.)
Still D.I.Y, and still producing incredible work, with elaborate self-penned art, matching stage costumes, choose-your-own-adventure style videos and a ferocious live show, they are a shining staple of the London/UK alternative music scene.


    Another set of good friends, this band began life, as did we, on the London squat/anarchist free party scene. Bought together by the political ideal of humanism, uniting under the banners of anti-fascism, anti capitalism and the no borders movement, 52 Commercial Road create glorious, mellifluous dreams of swelling guitar sounds over an almost electronically-tight rhythm section. 

     This record dropped in the middle of 2010 and made a significant dent on the scene, crystallising the intricate, elaborate forms set out in their first self titled record, only this time with the incredible Sam Navel on production duties and Harris Newman of Grey Matter on mastering, who's joint work made the already brilliant songs erupt with life and warmth. 
    This album is never long off my playlist, and it still stands out as a seminal post-rock record for me. It was through these guys I got into Godspeed and their label mates Do Make Say Think, and in my opinion 'A Wreck' is up there with the best works in the genre. 
    I'm really excited to say that their fourth album will be coming out on our label Fu Inle around April of next year, and it really exhibits them branching out into less familiar, more off-kilter territories in their constant striving for positive political advancement and shared experience through music. 


      A must-have album for anyone into the experimental side of chamber and what I'll loosely call 'contemporary classical music'. 

    The first section is written around tape recordings of various speakers - ranging from Reich's childhood governess and the train porter from his youthful journeys (Part 1, Before The War and Part 3, After The War) and three holocaust survivors (Part 2, During The War) - using the unique patterns of speech from each subject as the grounding point for the string and wind melodies to quite stunning effect. These three consecutive pieces move and sway and jolt through sections in such a wonderfully jarring and disarming manner (something we really tried to replicate within our new record), so the listener is literally catapulted between 'different trains' by this incredible music of gradual process defined by outside influences. 
Reich, a middle class American Jew who grew up during WW2, became very aware that while he spent his childhood riding the trains across the US with his nanny, millions of his people were being shipped off on trains to much more terrifying fates across the water, and this raw and terrifying realization is palpable in the piece. 
 Part 2 of the record, Electric Counterpoint (For Electric Guitar and Tape), is for me, the precursor to albums such as 'American Don' and other loop heavy works. Originally recorded by Jazz whiz Pat Metheny, who recorded the first seven guitars and two electric basses onto tape, adding the last lines live in the studio or in performance. There is criminally little footage of him performing this piece, this video here being the best I could find (Pat Metheny Plays Steve Reich).

     There's few things more moving for me than sitting back with headphones on and just disappearing into this record, allowing the pulse heavy drones of some of Reich's finest and most illuminating work to propel you out of yourself for a little while. 


A collaboration between one of the greatest Classical violinists and the most respected and revered exponent of the Sitar (even going as far as redesigning the instrument to the now accepted standard) was obviously going to be something special, but when they released WME (Volume 1) in 1967 - after a successful performance the year before at the Bath Music Festival - it sat on the top of the best selling Classical LP chart for a shocking 18 weeks, prompting them to follow up with the second volume, my personal favorite.

 I first heard this at about 13 years old, and the tangible connection between the two soloists and the incredible Tabla player Alla Rakha, as well as both artists work with using their positions of privilege to raise concerns for human rights and cultural harmony, was a formative influence on my teenage years and early adulthood. 

   Up until this point most of the music I was listening to was in a Pop, Folk, and European Classical vein - Kate Bush, Michael Jackson, Scottish singers Dougie Maclean, Hamish Imlach and John Martyn and stuff like Britten, Bach and Tchaikovsky from my fathers radio. 

   I can literally catalog the first moment my musical life (in this video 4:23/4), when everything changed and all became possible. I didn't have a clue what was happening, had no knowledge of bar measures, time signatures, scales, nothing, but I knew that this was something entirely different and entirely more free than everything I'd heard before. 


      My first celebrity crush and the author of some of the finest works of pop music ever created, Kate Bush is - for me - the quintessential experimental artist of the late 70's and early 80's. I first heard her as a very young kid in the 80's when I saw the video for 'Suspended In Gaffa', and have spent the rest of my life hooked to her intricate, eccentric melodies. 

     Notable especially because she produced the entire album herself, 'The Dreaming' deals with a wide variety of themes; such as the Vietnam War (but controversially from the perspective of a Viet Cong soldier), illegal immigration and the oppression and murder of Aboriginal Australians; as well as more personal issues like being worthy of ones place in the world, acknowledging your 'darker' self and existential frustration. Thrown in for good measure is the life of Houdini, gung-ho robbery and a the cataclysmic album closer influenced by 'The Shining'. Something for everyone then. 
    The multi-layered intricacy and depth of her lyrics and the baroque-esqe/folksy/world-fusion style of her music really put her head and shoulders above most of her contemporaries, and indeed many of the modern day disciples of her work. 

    To get an idea of what a small group of truly gifted musicians can do in a simple live environment, look no further than Nina's live album 'At The Village Gate'. 

     Featuring undeniably powerful performances - where you can literally feel the musicians tied to her every word, her every lyrical and musical cue - the album holds sublime interpretations of great American songs like 'If He Changed My Name', 'Just In Time' and 'Children Go Where I Send You', as well as the gorgeous African folk tune 'Zungo'. 

     Just check out this delicate, mournful interpretation of 'House Of The Rising Sun' and I challenge you to find another version with as much sincerity, grit and deep emotional rawness underpinning it's performance as this (House of the Rising Sun). 

     In my opinion Nina was the greatest singer of all time, her voice resonating simultaneously with all the joy and sorrow of her people, gracing every song she sang with her remarkable, unmistakable timbre, and this record exhibits her raw unbridled skill perfectly. 

      I play this album a lot in the shop where I work, and it always amuses me the vast difference in how people seem to experience it - one person demanding I write down the name so they can purchase it, and another saying (and I quote) "This sounds like it was written specifically just to annoy people".

   Vibrant, sonorous, elaborate patches of colour rise up through the repetitive, criss-crossing guitar lines; soft horn swells and pulsing fretless bass cascade over the beautiful weirdness created by the slight phasing of two drummers playing live with each other. 

      Recorded over a fairly long period, with a lot of time spent in post-production micro-mixing swirling lines of electronic sounds, this album taught me that taking your time on a project is key and also that no matter how many layers and (I dread to say) 'soundscapes' go into your work the most affecting parts will not only lie in the interplay between the melodies and rhythmic lines but in the quality of the silence hanging between the notes.

Just missed the cuts:

Cheval De Frise - Self Titled

The Slits - Cut

DM Stith - Heavy Ghost

Fairport Convention - Leige and Leif

Grace Jones - Warm Leatherette

Nick Drake - Pink Moon

Davy Graham - Folk, Blues and All Points In Between

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Slow Riot For A New Zero Canada

Rostroprovich - JS Bach Cello Suites 

Suffer Like G Did - Rasberry EP

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ni - Les insurg├ęs de Romilly

       What an absolute disaster. We'll be tragically telling our kids, so stuck on whatever latest orchestral djent symphony is floating around (hopefully along with us on some sort of relaxing meditational chair), wearing strange visor bands on our heads, avoiding advertisements with our retinal movements, albeit poorly due to the unstoppable flow of tears clogging up the sensors caused by our offspring's decidedly mediocre taste in metal. We'll be thinking ever so fondly about the times of our youth:
when metal bands slowly started to unravel the 80s/90s framework for what ought to be considered metal or not.

      I'm not too worried about whether my future child wants to listen to ni. 2, I'll probably be far too busy ensuring he understands not to put each fathomable ounce of his faith and trust in anything other than himself,  hopefully to some avail. That being said, ni. will likely be bouncing around the walls of whatever gigantic floating stucco hive our immediate emergency area's populace will be forever dwelling in.

       This raucous four piece from France is likely turning heads with this album. I've never really heard a band work it out like this, they are as addicting as they are relentless. Their approach requires what I imagine to be an inordinate amount of rehearsals and time spent mapping out incalculably knottier sections. Give it another three years, and they'll (hopefully) have released another EP and a full length. Every time you think they're about to repeat themselves, they throw some Murphy-esque wrench into whatever metaphorically visual bike spokes are turning in your head as you listen. Songs like Rodomont and Flaquadin seem to have the band wrestling between tranquil atmosphere and momentary intensity, but I found the majority of the songs on the album tend to feature both of these aspects prominently as well as at the same time.

        Take Gringuenaude, which starts off with noises I could only interpret as a broken SNES system and a back masked Raga from some old Bollywood film playing to each other while someone watches Monty Python's Holy Grail in the background and leads to a very intense and wobbly 3/4 jangly guitar riff that is more or less the spinal column they build their atmospheric and rhythmic leads upon for the first 3rd of the song, until an introduction into the next part from what I assume is some sample from a conversation in an obscure (to us) French film propels it to grow up, maybe get a job in the real world of riffage. From there they adopt a very callous but decidedly expanded permutation of that riff, only furthering the perpetual build up to the climax where the band improvises and trades off solos until everything begins to crumble around them in a sonic storm that makes the whole thing sound like some tragic scene in a science fiction movie.

       Certain people, I feel, will immediately liken them to Meshuggah. Who do you think put them up to the task of usurping Meshuggah's fan proclaimed throne of groove metal? Nobody except fans with narrow outlooks on what they like, which is required by snob-law to apply itself to every possible musical exchange scenario. Who cares, they have slightly similar rhythmic vantage, and that's pretty much all the connection there is. As you'd imagine with a name like ni., there is not a whole lot out there to know about such reclusive and veritably underground musicians. Objects pertaining to former musical projects that are of potential interest to you, the reader, can really give some type of perspective on the music itself:

          Drummer Nicolas Bernollin also drummed in a four piece noisy bluesy kind of band called V13 who released two LPs, Overlook Hotel  in 2009 and Traqueur in 2012. The latter also happens to be produced by everyone's favourite coffee enthusiast and poker star, Steve Albini.

           Bass player Benoit Lecomte also plays bass in a very unique fusion band out nowadays, uKanDanZ, which basically is the sonic equivalent of a bunch of French Bungle-y jazz grads attending a Yared School of Music open mic night (That's in Ethiopia), as well as having played in a now defunct freak rock outfit by the name of JMPZ. The former is releasing their first full length, Awo, in February 2016 via the Dur et Doux label which is also home to both ni. and another band from France, the psychonautical rock (not noise, I've seen them labelled that, and I really don't know what the hell people are talking about) called PoiL, which members of ni. have been working very hard with to form a super group by the name of PinioL. There are a few live clips of them playing full songs, and believe me, this ain't your grandpa's cup of gin. These guys are really fusing their abilities in a cohesive and seemingly effortless manner, hybridizing even further into frenetic oblivion. The axiom here is: " time to rethink the game again".
             Not a lot is known about the guitar players. One of them  is bald, smokes a lot and has a name that bears intense similarity to another French jazz guitarist called JEAN Francois Mignot, while the other one has a huge afro and has a set of facial expressions like he's constantly winning and losing the lottery when he plays live. They balance each other out visually in this sense, and further give credence to my theory that men with hair are insecure about it, no matter how huge or good it looks. They will always be worrying about losing it, until they actually do. At that point, they can relax and smoke entire cigarettes while playing stupidly difficult riffs on guitar. It also seems, that it's quite likely that the one with the afro is now in another band on the Dur et Doux label called ICSIS. The names on the credits of ICSIS first album (released in 2013) don't match, but if you go to the Dur et Doux website and look at the artist profile for them, it's clearly the same guy.
          There's really not a whole lot to dislike about ni. They are in their prime in every sense, and there seems to be quite the little scene stirring up in France at the moment, which doesn't limit itself to math, or metal in any way. These guys are furiously jettisoning whatever calcified genre "rules" from this gleaming ship they are riding in, in a clear effort to warp to light speed.  Beam me up, Scotty.

-(review by Chris Harry ~ Toucan Slam)

Monday, December 21, 2015

POS Tops Tens - Andrew Grannis ( Flower Coronet )

Happy holiday week to one and all.

Welcome to another exciting installment of our top ten album series. This week we are treated to a list by Andrew Grannis, the one man jazz-math power house behind Flower Coronet.

A special event truly because Andrew has just dropped his newest release since 2013 called Hyperconformist EP.

I urge every living breathing organism to really dive in to this stuff as it's truly inspired composition. Mr. Grannis has graced us with two versions of his list. One a post-modern send up explanation as well as an abbreviated version. Hit the links to be transported.

Flower Coronet Domum Inspirationis 

Flower Coronet's Top Ten 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Empyrean Atlas - Inner Circle (2014)

Its easy to become disenchanted with guitar based noodle rock, lets just be honest with each other. There is a hell of a lot out there these days. I am happy to say that I am late to the party on one band that really pushes the envelope when it comes to complex guitar rock.

Empyrean Atlas (NY) operate far closer to the aesthetics of modern composition than almost any of their counter parts. Coupled with the fact that they have performed/recorded with an array of artists (including Philip Glass Ensemble and Steve Reich) you might start drawing some sound conclusions.

Intricately laid guitar works that dance and cut like a practitioner of the math rock arts but with some noted stand outs. There is a clear jones for melody and tone that is easily displayed in every song. Rather than boorish fret gymnastics you get something that sounds...carefree..almost easy...breezy...beauti... To think that couldn't be farther from the truth however. These compositions are razor structured and truly a testament to genius level calculations.

Songs do operate in very much the same ways though. BPM's are on cruise control but dynamic shifts do happen. But like its modern comp brethren the compositions are more concerned with repetition and small shifts. It's incredibly nit picky really and possibly a byproduct of my penchant for aggressive shifts in mood. This is an album that needs to be heard...bottom line. Unlike a lot of bands in this ilk, Empyrean Atlas have easy appeal to all manner of music appreciators.  I implore anyone with even a passing interest to really sink their teeth into this band. After repeated listens there are more and more things to discover.

Empyrean Atlas