Blog Archives

Tim Hecker – Virgins review

There’s already been a surprising amount of great electronic music released in 2013, and with the year wrapping up shortly, I’d like to bring up another release that stands out. Hailing from Vancouver, BC and taking his project to Montreal, Hecker has created a name for himself in the experimental music scene since his Imaginary Country release in 2009. Virgins is his 7th full length album, and it further progresses the droning, beautiful chords that he’s noted for.

The album opens up with a signature Hecker contrast between light, pretty ambience and booming distorted whole notes. What I loved about his previous release, Ravedeath, 1972, is that it carries an experience that is unable to be had with other musicians. The problem is that I wouldn’t go back to it all the time. It’s not that it’s not re-playable, but it was a listen that I’d crave after. What makes Virgins the superior album is that I want to listen to it immediately after the final track is finished.

These 12 songs off Virgins flow so smoothly, and they stick in my head. There’s a slight dance to his music that allows me to fall under a trance, but as soon as it becomes a little too much, he swaps for another sound. Think Stars of the Lid mixed with Steve Reich’s minimalism for this album. Add some distorted, resonating notes, and you have the formula for Virgins. Although not that simple, it feels like that at times.

I found Virgins to be quite accessible too. I never felt challenged to “stick with it” or pretentious having his music playing. Especially the track, “Live Room”. Now that’s what I’ve been wanting out of Hecker for years now. It takes over “Sketch 7″ as my favourite by him. Those omniscient opening notes collide like a horror movie soundtrack with the distant echoes of noise. I imagine a burst of white noise, Xiu Xiu style, breaking the tension, but instead Hecker works his magic by flashing distorted saw buzzes into both speakers with total control over the emotions of his fans. He watches like a god and laughs at us as we can only wait until the beautiful destruction of it ends. The track is literally apocalyptic.

I found my word to describe my feelings Virgins. It’s more destructive than a typical Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, and more tense than Oneohtrix Point Never’s recent release. I feel as though Virgins can full under post-rock territory, although it’s not rock at all. Maybe post-(insert genre here)? Post-experimental-ambient-drone. deciding what genre music is in is a losing battle so fuck that, but Hecker provides some amazing moments on this LP.

“Black Refraction” is another moment that I connected with. It’s the complete opposite of “Live Room”, but the tense, creepy feeling of being lost in unknown territory still lingers. The closer, “Stab Varriation”, reminds me of The GY!BE track, “Moya”, oddly enough. It’s downfall chord progression provides imagery of ashy, torn buildings, and loneliness. I love it, and I don’t feel guilty one bit. Hecker’s ability to stay with the same idea and expand it until it breaks without feeling forced is true talent.

That’s been my comment about his music in the past, and he fixes that on Virgins. I don’t at all feel like I’m having a song on repeat, and even after many listens, I pick up on the subtlety of his layered creations. They drone, and drone, and drone, but every measure the pieces get louder, quieter, add another faint noise in, etc, until the mess is too much to handle and you cannot think, and then it’s over. You can breath. You can relax. Now you want more, so one listen turns to two, and two becomes three, and three becomes four. Hecker implies one single question through the blips of noise on his opener, “Prisms”, and asks, “Are you ready?”. I thought I was until listened.

9/10

Listen to “Live Room” below:

 

Arcade Fire – Reflektor review

It felt like only yesterday I was watching my very own indie band grow into a mainstream giant with winning the album of the year award at the Grammy’s. Little did I know that they were already selling hugely even before their ultimate award. It didn’t bother me that they became huge, but my only worry lied within the single question, will this change their musical chemistry? I kept reminding myself that the most successful indie band of the current century knew their roots better than any music marketer and I wouldn’t have to fear. Fast forward to the present, and here we are. Presented with the idea that has slowly drifted my mind, Reflektor is born.

This is Arcade Fire’s fourth album, following a conjunction of extremely successful and great albums, the monster band hopes to continue this trend. The most noticeable difference lies not only within the sound, but the length of the album. Reflektor isn’t at the same length of The Knife’s new album, but it clocks in at 85 minutes and it sure feels like that length. These 13 songs can drag on and on, and that has to do with producer, James Murphy, who has a noticeable impact in the new sound of Arcade Fire.

Before I go any further, let me note that many previous fans will be pissed. And when I mean pissed, I mean ‘throwing their iPods/laptops/cd players/cars/trucks/phonographs/people’ against a wall because it isn’t the “Arcade Fire I fell in love with”. This is true. The secret to the success of the band lies within the thematic connection found in their music. On Reflektor, it’s not as apparent. These tracks aren’t as lyrically driven, With the only song that has that signature sound being “We Exist”. It might get some hopes up to fans, but don’t expect that same feeling from the rest of the tracks.

Now let’s bring up the important facts to this album. It’s 85 minutes, so it’s categorized as a double length LP. Does it feel long? Yes. Is that a good thing? Maybe. My first listen was exciting, but it was a grind when I finished the first side of it. Getting myself to listen to the second side was a challenge, but that’s where I really enjoyed myself. While I liked the first half, 5 of the 6 songs have a repetitive drum track that just tore me to shreds by the end of it.

When “Joan of Arc” came in I felt almost saved by the overproduction of James Murphy. It’s noticeably different, and reminds me of a ‘Berlin Trilogy’ Bowie track. The second side is longer, but I found it much more bearable. I don’t think that’s the right word I want to use, because it sounds like I don’t enjoy it, but the first few listens to this album didn’t bring the best out of me. I finally sat in my room with the lights off and tried to really listen to it, but even then it was hard to separate the thought of Funeral. I would say this is Arcade Fire’s The King Of Limbs. It’ll be it’s misunderstood masterpiece that will be picked up in years to come. I found tracks like “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” to be amazing. It’s Beatles influenced melody was super enjoyable. Following that was the post-punk “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”. That was my favourite song on my first listen, primarily because of the distorted opening riff which took the heat off the heavy dance tracks.

The single “Reflektor” was misplaced hugely as the opening track. I felt the need to say it, because I truly feel like it could create an amazing climax to the album, but instead many listeners will wonder where the rest of the magic went. “It went to the second half,” I’d tell them. If the average music listener can sit through until “Afterlife”, they’ll think the three years was worth the wait. Now I’ve given this album some heavy flack, but I did end up enjoying most of the album. The 11 minute closer of ambiance was super pretentious, and the opening riff on “Porno” really does sound like a B-grade porno (What are you trying to tell us Win?), but Arcade Fire hits most of the marks on this album. To be honest, I need more time with this album, but I’m unable to write a review in 2 months and explain how I feel about this. Reflektor is the ultimate “Grower Of The Year”, but right now, It’s a hard-to-digest double album full of potential magic.

 

 

 

7.5/10

 

Arcade Fire release yet another trailer

As the date draws nearer to the ultimate release for Reflektor, Arcade Fire seamlessly excite fans again with another trailer. Since appearing at performances like the YouTube’s Music Awards, and the Bridge School Benefit Show, they’ll perform on “The Colbert Report” October 21st. Expect (or hope) to hear some new tracks. The band continues to hold us on a string.

Nonethless, view the cryptic and beautiful trailer below:

 

Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven

For the past three weeks, I’ve attempted to write this review about five times with the same events happening. First, I create a strong opening line that describes my feeling about the album, followed by a point that talks about the artist, but by the time I get around to actually describing why I feel that way about the music, I cannot discover the words I want to use. Claustrophobic? Spacey? Droning? Jagged? It just goes to show how professional and experienced I am at this. When I think I have it all together, I’m thrown a curve ball in the shape of R Plus Seven and my confidence is shot completely. Not to worry! This time I’ll finish my thought before I’m stolen the words.

Daniel Lopatin is a Brooklyn-based experimental musician, who goes by the name Oneohtrix Point Never when recording his.. music. Now Lopatin is renown in the music world for really pushing the boundaries, not by appropriateness, or by outrageous stunts, but by releasing just plain odd music that sells quite well for an indie artist. I can recall my first review ever being the 2011 album, Replica, and I wasn’t quite sure if I enjoyed it or not. I mean, I gave it a good review, but for a long time I wasn’t convinced that what I was listening was music. Now Lopatin isn’t the most experimental musician out there, but he definitely creates amazing patchworks with odd layouts.

R Plus Seven is Lopatin’s fourth record, and it utilizes a lot of plunderphonics from Replica, but with the unexpectedness of Returnal. What’s so interesting about R Plus Seven is how its Lopatin’s oddest album yet, but also the catchiest. Now catchy doesn’t go hand in hand with OPN, but hear me out. On the opening, “Boring Angel”, a rumbling organ note is held until, yes you read correctly, a steady click from the snare head. Another is how the climax of “Still Life” actually follows hook with synth-based riff of chords. “Zebra” also opens with a staccato of high pitched notes that continue to build and layer. I can run these examples for ages, but that’s the excitement behind this album. It catches you off guard even if you think you know what’s about to happen. Think Walter White’s mind in music.

I would say R Plus Seven is the perfect soundtrack for Breaking Bad’s final season. It has the eeriness of the dark and dreary moments, as well as the flourishing, somewhat happy(er?) scenes. I would never describe Lopatin’s music as happy, but it’s content, much like Vince Gilligan’s intention with his epic show. The way his music on this album shifts from quietly chugging along on a long, droning note and immediately jumps into a whole new sound is frightening. At points (“Along”), it can be hard to handle. I get so attached to the one repeating sound that I feel taken advantage of when Lopatin just dumps a great idea and moves on. It took many listens to realize that R Plus Seven has many dynamics and layers to it.

Now I completely understand when I get a comment that says, “This is hipster shit”. I get it. I don’t think I fully grasp what Lopatin’s intentions are with R Plus Seven. It’s uneasy, awkward, aggravated, at points pure noise, but what draws me back time and time again is the unique feeling of home and warmth from his nostalgic sounds. Lopatin understands himself better than we do, and we just have to deal with it. I feel that he doesn’t expect us, nor does he want us to think ‘I like your music because I know what its like’ because we don’t. We all have different experiences, and Lopatin is providing us the soundtrack to assist with them.

 

 

7.8

Prepare yourself for Arcade Fire’s new single

The time has come. I can finally wear my Arcade Fire shirt with pride as they’re now relevant to everyone who’s listened to music past 2007. The Grammy award winners, and indie icons have announced a new single, along with a video that will be dropping on Monday (It fits the 9/9 9PM scheme). Even from the trailer, I’m very excited to see what they do, as the 40 seconds of sound they release is total kick-ass. Relfektor is supposed to drop Octobert 29th, and you can view the trailer below.

 

Stream Janelle Monae’s new album The Electric Lady

JanelleMonae_TheElectricLady

She’s hip, she’s got a funky beat and I can bug out to her. That’s right, Janelle Monae is back with her sophomore release The Electric Lady. Previously we heard little snippets from this album like Dance Apocalyptic and the Erykah Badu track Q.U.E.E.N, but to start this latest off, the first track on the album (Give em What they love) is a song she sings with F**king PRINCE. I’m feeling everything so far, I sure hope you will to.

The Electric Lady drops September 10

YOU CAN STREAM THE NEW ALBUM HERE

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

NIN-Hesitation-Marks

There’s a strong sense of invincibility that surrounds Nine Inch Nails. The music transcends masses of the public and have inspired many future musicians to break new grounds. Trent Reznor, the mastermind behind the rotating lineup of industrial superstars, is often thought of as a god in modern music. He is the main man to bring industrial rock into the light of day, and then progressed the genre to it’s own macro of categories.

Hesitation Marks is the eighth studio album released by the band, and is remarkably different compared to the past releases of albums. Every album after The Fragile has yet to match the critics expectations of a ‘great album’, as most have received mixed reviews. You could argue that critics reviews are utter shit (including mine), and reason that everyone has their own opinion, but the fact is that no album has been able to make the same impact as The Downward Spiral. The only other album that touched on it’s greatness after was The Fragile, but even that assumption is a tad too far. Reznor feels genuinely convinced that he’s putting out a solid album, and has the same motivation he had in 1994 (the same year as The Downward Spiral).

What’s noticeably different from the get-go is that this album doesn’t have the same aggressiveness as past albums, but instead feels catchier and accessible. “Copy of A” is the first full-length track and is one of the weaker songs released. The instrumental is actually quite upbeat and groovy, but Reznor’s repeating vocals is what killed the track for me. It feels like a manufactured single for first-time Nine Inch Nail listeners, which severely disappointed me. “Came Back Haunted” is more what I expected from this album. The classic choppy and static drum machine blends with Reznor’s gripping vocals extremely well. Everything about this track is just as easy to listen to as “Copy of A”, but it’s plain better. The song just has that NIN sound that made them stand out in the 90′s.

There are a slew of tracks that feel pulled from older albums released by NIN. “Find My Way”, “I Would For You”, and “While I’m Still Here” all feel like they’re taken from The Fragile era. “Dissapointed”, “Running”, and “In Two” feel like they’re possible B-sides for The Downward Spiral, and the rest of the tracks just expand on latest sound of Nine Inch Nails. If I were to sum up the album in two sentences, that would be it. I mean, there’s other things to add in, but Hesitation Marks does feel like a comeback album that’s trying to pick up new fans along the way. Now I have to bring up the song, “Everything”. What the fuck is this? It’s got to be the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard from Nine Inch Nails. It vaguely reminds me of “Truth” by Bloc Party, which is amazing, but to hear this by an angry industrial rock band blows my mind. The song is pretty solid, but the glittery vocals and contrasting chorus just screams ‘pop-punk’. I still haven’t grasped the concept with this song. I probably never will.

The beauty of Nine Inch Nails is they always surprise. The honest truth behind my opinion is that I had very low expectations with Hesitation Marks. The band has been on a negative slope with past releases, but to hear something that doesn’t disappoint is success. Songs like “Various Methods of Escape”, “Running”, and “Came Back Haunted” kept this record afloat. It doesn’t break any new grounds at all (except maybe for a pop song), and doesn’t stand out among the slew of recent albums to be released. That being said, it’s not a bad album in the least. It’s a nice surprise to finally have some good, relevant material by a legendary band.

6.5

Hear the new Nine Inch Nails tracks “Everything” and “Find My Way”

In classic NIN fashion, Trent Reznor has shocked fans once again. As the new album, Hesitation Marks, is about to be released, the band released two more songs to BBC Radio One with a very mixed reception. “Everything”, which was released just about a week ago, resembles the popular rock hits of the 90′s, while “Find My Way” is comparable to Reznor’s side project, How To Destroy Angels. I honestly have no clue how these songs will fit together, even knowing the other two tracks released are extremely different as well. I can see this album being extremely polarizing, much like their double LP, The Fragile. Nonetheless, we won’t know until it’s out, but for now be sure to compare the tracks below and enjoy!

 

Listen to the new Death Grips song “Birds”

The buzz surrounding Death Grips and their recent antics has been forgotten. Their dropped shows, including one post-lollapalooza show which went viral, doesn’t mean a thing because a new track titled, “Birds”, has been released on the bands official Youtube. It resembles the sounds of last years album, The Money Store, using a number of sampled and electronic drum tracks and voice manipulation. While not as up-front and aggressive, it gives us a sample of what to expect from the 2014 album they’re expected to release off their own Thirdworlds label.

“Birds” by Death Grips

Arcade Fire announce date for new album

The rumours are true, Arcade Fire have announced their new album with a release date. The title is unofficial so far, but we know the date will be October 29th. They causally responded to a fan on twitter, then out of the blue announced the date,

“Thanks. Our new album will be out October 29th”

This is exciting news because of how critically-acclaimed their three previous albums were, and the whole usage of the abandoned church for recording has finally came into play. Stay tuned for more details.

 

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Official Video) from City Slang on Vimeo.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,012 other followers