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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

 

Listen to a new Arcade Fire song “Afterlife”

MITNG has been covering the recent news for Reflektor very heavily, and it’s come to the surface that a studio release for a song titled “Afterlife” has arrived. On Zane Lowe’s BBC radio show, he premiered the track, which resembles the early 80′s dance floor scene, especially in England. It still has that classic Arcade Fire twist to it, but it’s nice to see the band try new sounds. I’m really excited to see what happens with the rest of Reflektor, which is released October 29th.

Listen to “Afterlife” below:

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:

 

The National are to appear on “Catching Fire” Soundtrack

A movie about killing children in an apocalyptic world can’t fit any better to The National’s gloomy lyrics. Maybe I’m taking the band’s lyrical meaning differently than what they intended to have, but it could work out. They’ve announced that the group wrote a song for the new Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, which is set to hit theaters November 22nd. Titled “Lean”, lead vocalist Matt Berninger told NME that their original title was ‘too dark’ for the movie.

“The song almost didn’t make it because it was too dark for The Hunger Games soundtrack, which I thought was sort of funny because it’s about killing kids. I don’t know how a song can be darker than that. So we had to change the name of the song; I actually like the name ‘Lean.’… You know, I get it. It was a really fun project… It was a cool change from how we normally work on things, to write something for something else. It was kind of a pressure release thing, and it was fun.”

For the record, the original title was “Dying Is Easy”. Oddly enough, it doesn’t feel out of the ordinary for The National’s discography. Watch their video for “Graceless” below.

What to expect from Arcade Fire on Reflektor

So as the dust has sort of settled with the release of the new single, “Reflektor”, I can honestly say I enjoyed it a lot. At first, I hated it. Then, I disliked it. Following that I accepted in myself that it’s a great track. The shift in sound is very different compared to the past Arcade Fire sound, but let’s face it, when a band wins a Grammy for album of the year, are they ever the same? The band has arguably become even more experimental with Reflektor as the rumors grow. Yet, as everyone knows, nothing is for sure until the album is released. Here’s what you should expect following the release of Reflektor on October 29th:

Double Album:

Lead vocalist, Win Butler, has announced that Reflektor will be a double album, marking longer tracks, and an overall gigantic collection of songs. He also noted that the two sides will present two distinct vibes. The question is, what will the sides sound like? Well for one, Arcade Fire has never been afraid to touch on themes like nostalgia, growing up, questioning life, so forth on the “meaning of life” metaphors. The way it will translate into music might be a tough call at this point, but never the less it’ll be interesting to see.

LCD Sound-alike:

This is a tough call right now, but as the first single dropped it seems like an appropriate gesture. The DFA records and LCD Soundsystem founder, James Murphy, is producing Reflektor, so don’t be surprised to hear his influence on these songs. I apologize in advance if anyone despises LCD Soundsystem, but I wonder then why anyone would hate such a great band. “Reflektor” was chock full of the signature groovy, steady beat that Murphy does perfectly, but on a double album will it be enough to hold up?

Featured Artists:

Bowie has already confirmed that, in fact, it was him on the band’s first single. Not surprising in the least as he’s already cited himself as a fan since Funeral‘s release way back in 2004. Now the question is who’s next? Many musicians today agree that Arcade Fire will be held as the original Indie bands of the 21st century, and that could open many doors to other musicians for appearances on songs. The band was spotted on LCD Soundsystem’s documentary, Shut Up and Play The Hits, along side The National and Sufjan Stevens. The potential for opportunities is enormous, but how amazing would that combination be? Add Owen Pallet into the mix, and that’s a guarantee for an award somewhere.

Rising High or Falling Fast:

The band has only grown since it’s debut, and although fans recite Funeral as the ultimate winner, it’s hard for the music industry to argue with the biggest Grammy award. They’ve influenced music forever, won every award imaginable by many publications, and have the album of the year award by the Grammy’s as an indie band under their belt, but is there room to grow? Arcade Fire has extremely high expectations to meet, considering their only three albums in, yet have been consistent since their beginnings. Reflektor so far is very promising, but with 8 minutes in, and possibly 70+ to go on the double album, should we lower our expectations?

Everything is up for debate until the release of Reflektor. The band’s influence on music only proves that this is one of the most anticipated releases of year, and decade following The Suburbs, which reserved them a spot in indie music history for breaking down barriers of independent music. Reflektor comes out October 29th, and you can watch the video for the single of the same name below.

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.

 

Underground Mondays: Urr – The Endless Riddles of Sky and Earth

When Dylan Carlson wrote the first notes to his defining album, Earth 2, for his band Earth, I wonder some days what was going through his mind. For anyone unaware, Earth 2 is arguably the heaviest, deepest, darkest guitar album ever written. It’s minimal and droning structure scares off listeners within seconds, and lucky for me I have the entire album on vinyl for the pure cult status of the music. Although I can’t honestly say if the album actually gained popularity at the time of it’s release, besides the fact that it’s an icon in music today, but I do know that it proved that Sub Pop can release all sorts of music. The label itself was the only one that gave this monster a chance, and thank you Sub Pop. Without Earth 2, there would be no Sunn O)), Melvins, or the Underground Mondays featured artist, urr from Denmark. 

You read that correctly. Much like Sunn O)))’s unnecceasary brackets, urr does in fact have all lower case letters. They’re name could resemble the buzz of the extremely downtuned guitars or a message that the band created. What I love about this album, titled The Endless Riddles of Sky and Earth released by Golemtapes, is how bleak, defining, and unique it is. It has more tone than a Sunn O))) album, but just as much punch as early Earth. They put their twist on drone metal and create a unique unmatched sound by today’s standards.

Take the first song for example; titled “Bleak and Golden”. It’s the same riff over and over again, and is quite quick by for a drone metal song. It’s like a crashing wave in the dark off a coast of Scandinavia that still cools the rocks it pummels. Even at almost 8 minutes, it’s only the beginning of a monstrous listen. The second song, “Sun – Moon – Earth”, is a more traditional drone metal track. While most drone metal tracks don’t have any sort of drum track on them, the duo of urr add in the cymbals and drums to keep things heavy and intense. The second track is far longer, at 23 minutes, and I cannot describe the feelings I have while listening. I head banged (at super slow tempos), I air guitared, I zoned out, I was in a trance. That’s the best way to put it. The band puts the listener in a state of semi-consciousness, only letting them go after the breaking of sound stops.

The third and final epic track is titled, “The Branches That Bend the Most Bear More Fruit”. Now it’s structurally the same as the first track with the looping guitar riff that changes throughout the song, but it also contains the dynamics of the second track. It’s the grand finale of the album, building to the crushing final moments of the album, but never feeling like it’s missing a beat. The song, along with the rest of the album, contains a slight buzz that’s so omniscient in the background. It adds to the droning effect of the album, capturing anyone who focuses on the waves of sound. It’s a beautiful effect that urr have created.

Giving drone metal a chance can be hard. I compare it to scene in “Lawrence of Arabia” when they travel through the desert, or the entire movie of “2001: Space Odyssey”. My guess is if you enjoyed either/or, you’ll have a real connection with drone metal. Urr is a band that takes the elements of drone, and even stoner metal, adding to the ever growing popularity of heaviness in music. The Endless Riddles of Sky and Earth is an album that needs more attention. It craves the necessity to be recognized as a new face to the drone metal scene. There aren’t enough house-hold names in the genre, and the ones that are known need a young gun to help progress them. Urr is just the band they need.

 

Click here to check out the band’s website

Also be sure to listen to their soundcloud below: 

The Dismemberment Plan announce new album

A quick note to readers, get hyped. The Washington, DC indie-rockers have announced their first album in 12 years, titled Uncanny Valley, it’s set to release October 15th. A message from the band’s facebook says,

“The Dismemberment Plan is pleased to announce that on October 15, it will release Uncanney Valley, its fifth LP and first since 2001′s Change.
This music will be available for digital download. It will also be sold in the compact disc and vinyl 12″ formats.We are very happy with how it turned out and can’t wait for everyone to hear it… we’re also super excited to play these songs at shows this fall.”

How exciting is this! The band has made huge strides in promoting indie-rock, especially with their 1999 album, Emergency & I. So excited for this. Also expect shows to follow-up this release.

In the mean time, check out some classics by the band: 

 

M.I.A. releases new song, set to release new album

On the brink of a new album, M.I.A. has released the single, “Bring The Noize”. The new release, titled MATANGI, is a follow-up to the 2010 album, Maya. The album failed to reach the success of the great Kala, which was released another three years earlier in 2007 (“Paper Planes” anyone?). The multi-talented British artist seems to have dabbed her toes in every genre surrounding a drum machine, and she kills it for the most part.

The song is aggressive from the get-go, and it blends traditional Middle-Eastern singing with a few drones. That’s before the song breaks into a chopped and jumpy combination of vocal splices. She uses her voice are a drum beat that oddly reminds me the “Otis” off of Watch The Throne last year. The difference is that this song is way closer to a trap song than “Otis”.

Her rapping is quite typical, but in M.I.A. fashion. She touches on telling people off, her heritage, and how far she has come. Most of the time I have to laugh at musicians when they mention this, but she has my fullest respect when she talks about her success. Kala and Maya are chart toppers, and a British Female with Tamil decent who has broken into the American music market is remarkable. I’ll give you an idea to how difficult that is, and the only other successful person of Tamil decent in American entertainment is Aziz Ansari. Huge respect for M.I.A.

Her videos as well is semi-controversial. She makes light of a few topics like religion, and life in India, but in a way that’s respectable. Her contrast between the outside of the venue with it’s dusty and bleak roads compared to the indoor club is quite creative. I’ve always enjoyed the cultural aspect behind M.I.A. videos, and even if in the end they’re for pure entertainment, I like to think there’s a deeper meaning behind them.

M.I.A. always has a few tricks up her sleeve, with a great closer that separates itself from the rest of the track. It’s slower, but still retains the energy found in the hard hitting chorus and verses. The gold background of the music video gives me full reason to believe that it’s a section that will lead into another track. Not to mention it’s one of the best parts of the song. It’s cut time beat of the drum is so minimal, but it adds the effect of the song growing even if it’s not. The native Indian influence that is found on so many M.I.A. tracks shines again on the closing section of the song.

It’s reasons like this that makes 2013 such a great year so far. Knowing that new M.I.A. is coming gets me fired up for the summer, and fall, and winter. Make that the whole year. Make that all of 2013, and the albums released before today. So much music has come out this year that stands out to me, it’s a shame knowing that 2014 is around the corner. Who knows, maybe a new Avalanches album could be in the works? Nonetheless, check out “Bring The Noize” below.

 

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