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REVIEW RUNDOWN: Volume 8

Welcome back to Review Rundown! Volume 8. It’s great. Lots of interesting stuff for you this time. There’s no cute theme this time, it’s all over the place, but isn’t that better in a lot of ways? More variety and whatnot. Anyway, let’s get right into it. Don’t forget to check out all this music yourself via the album links; it’s all out now!

VIGZ

instrumental (adj.)Reductio Ad Absurdum

Sydney based trio Instrumental (adj.) do exactly what their band name says: interesting instrumental music. Reductio ad Absurdum covers a ton of ground in just three tracks, and offers a lot more than your generic modern djent. There are plenty of jazz influences on display in both “Yours” and “Reductio ad Absurdum” with the interplay of bass and drums and ECM/John Scofield style guitar effects. They even mix in in some satisfying ‘djenty’ riffs and virtuosic solos.

The band also know the value of space (unusual with most instrumental prog), and frequently drop down (or drop out completely in the case of the title track!). “Panopticon” has great use of dynamics that showcase some interesting effects, including 80’s style synth-bass or 70’s era Leslie emulation on guitar.

They also do a whole lot more than just showcase their chops. Intrumental (adj.) know their prog (especially King Crimson), know their djent (“Panopticon”), and support this with experimental arrangements and interesting effects, never really letting the listener (or themselves) get bored. If you like instrumental prog, this needs to be added to your collection. A bloody good effort and I can’t wait for more!

Score: 8/10

AstrodomeII

Let’s get this straight: Astrodome think they are a heavy Pink Floyd circa 1969, and, to be honest, they pull it off! Starting off with atmospheric noodlings and soft sticks on the toms, I got an immediate vision of psychedelic light shows and the smell of patchouli oil. Add a pinch of fuzzy riffing and dual guitar solos (panned left and right for your listening pleasure!) and you’re in for a trippy time. Tracks like “Mirage” and “Sunrite” in particular capture this mood perfectly.

At 41 mins long, each of the five tracks features a great mix of sounds and styles. “Secular Fields” starts with a Santana-like groove, and some of the riffs interspersed across the album get pretty heavy, reminding me of early doom bands (before stupid compression became the norm). Think Monster Magnet vs. Kyuss vs. 1974-era rock and you get what I mean.

“Dawn Gardens” is a real treat. Retro keyboards, a really nice live drum sound, and fuzzy bass create a solid ‘carpet’, while the guitars solo away over the top and provide awesome massive scale textures soaked with reverb.

If you want to relax late at night, light up the incense, turn off the lights, stick this on, and tune out, man!

Score: 7.5/10

ANDREW BERNSTEIN

Phantom WinterInto Dark Science

Yes, this is dark, but the exact flavor of darkness is hard to define. Phantom Winter have post-metal-sludgecore moments with a lot of atmosphere and shrill screaming. Take in those elements and stretch them over the ten-minute opening track, and one would be almost content to lump them in with Amenra and their ilk, though the moments of pure noise make that hard to do. Then comes a song called “Ripping Halos from Angels” and those screams take on a more kvlt tone, particularly when the guitars and drums go full black metal. By song #3, they combine the sludge, the noise, and the black metal all in the same tune. Yup, Phantom Winter are very scientific about being dark. Well played, boys!

Dad jokes notwithstanding, Into Dark Science marries black metal with sludge and pure noise to make a winning effort. This obscure gem will satisfy anyone who needs something evil to hear before bed at night.

Score: 7.5/10

HinterlandtSollbruchstelle

File this one under ‘quirky’. For the classically-inclined, this is modern chamber music, though not ‘modern’ in the sense of using serialism and all the other 20th Century conventions that make the weak of (h)ear(rt) run away in fear. This Aussie quintet play melodies that would not sound out of place in pop music or even metal. Listen closely to the way they use the acoustic guitar, and one would not be wrong in saying Hinterlandt come close to djenting. Some of the violin motifs sound like Slayer riffs. One can almost call Sollbruchstelle a work of ‘stealth metal’.

Sollbruchstelle is a lot of fun to listen to, its only real flaw being that it does not have much to listen to. The three tracks (entitled “Plan A”, “Plan B”, and, most shockingly of all, “Plan C”) last only 19 minutes in total. One would have expected Hinterlandt to have played with their quirky musical idiom a bit more to make their compositions evolve in some way. All the same, Sollbruchstelle shows in an original way how how to use familiar instruments to take on unfamiliar musical territory.

Score: 7/10

PETE OVERELL

OpiuoSyzygy 01

Opiuo is one of the kings of glitch-hop, and rightly so. I’ve been following him since 2011, and he’s yet to fail with an album in my eyes. Syzygy 01 is not an album this time, but a return to his EPs, which he nailed in his Butternut Slap trilogy. Oscar manages to push out hard-hitting, really varied takes on his style, which ranges for sharp, popping glitch breaks to full on funk fests.

The first three tracks are my favourite, the first of which being a absolute womp fest. Every time it feels like it’s going to break out into a drum and bass track, it switches back to the pounding thumps that are so great to moving to. “Ginger Lizard” switches style to his funkier stuff, which you can hear on his critically acclaimed albums Meraki and Omniversal. Here, the horns that accompany swinging funk beats like this rock in to accompany the smooth bass. I’ll leave track three for you guys to decide, but keep and eye out for Syzygy 02 & 03 coming soon!

Score: 8.5/10

This City Called EarthCinema Jazz

Lured in under false pretenses by our review list, this album is an absolute fucking struggle for my own personal taste, along with anyone else I’ve shared it with. I quote my girlfriend: ‘Make it stop or I’m leaving the room.‘ She left. Yet I can certainly imagine on the other side of the argument, that others will hail this as a creative, unique and interesting album.

Fuck that.

This edgy mess of an album belongs at the back of your CD collection, its sparse golden moments shattered by some horribly tuned acoustics, wanky samples or this blokes terrible voice. Production could’ve been done better by some camels playing a Connect4 board game hopped up on some ketamine. Don’t waste your time.

Score: 2/10

TIM FLESKES

ÂqenMéditation Astrale

Âqen is a French black metal outfit that seeks to use the very best elements of black metal in their music. Méditation Astrale, which came out on the 22nd of February, mixes atmospheric black metal with elements from symphonic, blackened death, raw black metal and others to give off a rich and sophisticated feeling. Throughout the album, the songs morph from straightforward electrifying songs to deep and mysterious-sounding ballads to the obscure. An almost ritualistic ambiance builds inside the songs that gives me a strong Altar of Plagues vibe.

A strong and definitive romanticized theme drives Méditation Astral, which is rather easy to notice because of the very earthy sounds the band uses and the use of very natural sounds throughout the record (like wind blowing over vast fields and the sound of waves crashing into the shore). The band’s very dramatic and almost theatrical sense of playing adds to that feeling. While Âqen definitely made an effort with the album, it can seem dry and a bit derivative of other similar projects. The execution, though energetic and precise, can sometimes be a little robotic. A huge effort nonetheless, and one that might grow on me more in the future.

Score: 7.5/10

Bird Violence Seasonal Forests

Bird Violence is a band I had no knowledge of prior to listening to this album, but oh my was I blown away! Seasonal Forests came out on the 1st of March, and it is filled to the brim with fuzzy liquid goodness. If you don’t know them either, they play an intricate mixture of drone, doom and ambient music, although the drone part has quite the importance. Instead of the typical apathetic droning texture, the constant drone isn’t numbing or very dark; instead, it is shifted more into foreground and seems alive and ever-changing with the songs’ vibes. It even seems to flourish in an almost happy noise-style melody at times.

The doom riffs are part old-school, part modern, but always serve the purpose of being another sound blooming and flourishing in the mix. Bird Violence is all about organic and dynamic production that shows a very different side of the genre(s). It’s a real pleasure listening to these songs. If you look at the track listing for the first time you might be thrown off by the little amount of songs, but worry not. With only four songs, Bird Violence deliver a cascade of wonderful, almost poppy drone that, if you give it the time, will lead you into a completely different world.

Score: 9/10

DAVID RODRIGUEZ

The NeighbourhoodThe Neighbourhood

I have a soft spot for The Neighbourhood due to personal ties to their first album, particularly their smash single “Sweater Weather”. Their dreamy indie rock is endearing, and after stints with rap (#000000 & #FFFFFF) and watered-down surf rock (Wiped Out!), we see perhaps what the LA quintet have been working up to this whole time: pop music!

Their sweetly deviant and slightly unconventional attitude towards love songs translates well to more straightforward pop sensibilities, like a safer take on The Weeknd. “Nervous” and “Reflections” are spacious and catchy tracks that emulate modern r’n’b well, whereas “Blue” approaches things differently with a stop-and-go beat that’s pure fun. Subtly 80s-inspired “Softcore” has a hollow synth melody and mechanical percussion. “Sadderdaze” is the “Sweater Weather” of this album, providing a warm, organic element that was harder to come by in their last two efforts. Tracks like “You Get Me So High” and “Scary Love” are shallow low points of pop superficiality, but aren’t terrible either. There’s more good here than bad certainly.

Less of a rock and traditional instrumentation focus was a hard sell, but The Neighbourhood handle it well. My only question at the end of this is, what’s next for them?

Score: 7/10

Good GameGood Luck Have Fun

This is a three-song EP from sunny math rock act Good Game. When the Boston quintet say Good Luck Have Fun, it isn’t just a well wish, but a thesis to their music.

If the genre is math rock, “Supercollider? I Just Met Her” is calculus. It’s staggeringly busy, twin guitars sounding as if they’re wielded by octopuses with salvos of fret tapping. An indie rock presence is established immediately with the vocals (primarily handled by Addy Harris, but often harmonized with Brock Benzel, one of the aforementioned guitar octopuses). “Rat City” is a more reserved affair with a slower build, but same cathartic, upbeat payoffs with meditative, low-tempo pauses. Moreover, the last track “First Snow” is aptly titled, capturing the mood of watching quiet snowfall from a second floor window in your house alone. This EP has instrumentals for the three tracks on the backend, and while that’s great for people that want it, the vocals are an essential element to the songs here and shouldn’t be skipped the first couple playthroughs.

This is a nice pre-game for spring. The record’s mood and aesthetic is bright and sunny, eliciting thoughts of close companionship and sharing experiences with clear skies above you. This Good Game is one worth having multiple rematches with; the beauty of them is that everyone wins.

Score: 7.5/10

Thanks for scrolling! Tune back in fourteen days from now for another Review Rundown.

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