Categories
Music Reviews

Ancestors

Ancestors

Suspended in Reflections

Pelagic Records

This might be the most calming heavy metal album I’ve ever run across. While looking for some background on it, all the notices I found came from places like “Angry Metal Guy,” “Encyclopedia Mettalum” and “Heavy Blog is Heavy.” So, it’s clearly a metal album. And while there is a great deal of tortured guitar backing the singer, the tracks are all rather calm feeling. Anger and bombast are put up on a shelf, and while melody is stripped away, there’s a musical logic in this project that doesn’t take a dozen face-ripping listens to decode.

Opening track “Gone” features that ominous drone we associate with metal, but the lyrics proceed laconically, and I sense a quiet hangover and not an alcohol fueled invasion. “Through a Window” launches with simple guitar work, light on the feedback and conservative with the reverb. Lyrics croon in the background, what they say is hard to decode, but this emphasis here is a slow progression through a dark cavern. “Lying in the Grass” carries the thought forwards, its heavy metal with a relaxing twist. It’s not exactly easy listening, but for metal, it’s a more relaxed stress-free musical experience without all the head banging you might expect.

ancestorsla.bandcamp.com/album/suspended-in-reflections

Categories
Music Reviews

Underworld and Gabriel Yared

Underworld and Gabriel Yared

Breaking and Entering: Music From the Film

V2

My previous exposure to Underworld’s dalliance with soundtrack work was the inclusion of their club hit “Born Slippy” at the end of Trainspotting. It was one of those perfect filmic pre-credit moments where the song’s emotion and drive encapsulates the previous hour-and-a-half into roughly five minutes of music. Their collaboration with Gabriel Yared for Anthony Mighella’s Breaking and Entering is a completely different beast entirely. The propulsive Euro disco groove is forsaken for serene soundscapes of electronics; even strings and subtle breakbeats cut very foggy lines in the compositions’ ether. It’s all very low key and fitting for a drama of urban relationships. At times, the thin pulse given to this work could be heard as ominous, others it feels repressed. “Hungerford Bridge” breaks softly like daylight after a particularly calm night, but the the last seconds of the track resonate with a chilly melody. For all of the slow building tracks like this there is no climactic moment on the score, it fades out at the end just as humbly as each individual track ushers in the next. Even the percussion rich “Monkey Two” keeps its distance from the listener, pulling the clatter farther and farther away as the song progresses. Having not seen the film, I can only guess how the conflict plays out, but at least I know the action (or inaction) is supported beautifully.

V2 Records: www.v2records.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Toman

Toman

Perhaps We Should Have Smoked the Salmon First

Graveface

After the monotony and lack of direction on Explosions in the Sky’s latest LP this disc is just what’s needed to re-affirm post-rock’s vitality. Belgium’s Toman’s musicality threads through a number of the genre’s touchstones — elliptical guitar riffs, off-kilter time signatures, etc. — but the band has more in common with Spain’s Migala than they do with the more bombastic or jazz-influenced American set. By placing more emphasis on melodies and dynamics, and less on experimental and aggressive sounds, they accomplish more innovation with their modesty. The band works predominantly with two methods of songwriting: by building their rhythms in a slow coalescence of instruments until the collective voice created reaches a deep, resonant pitch (as on “By Then It Was Summer”) or by stringing their ideas along individually, fashioning some interesting juxtapositions in the process (the electro pulse that gives way to a clipped rhythm section and Isaac Brock-esque vocals and ending up in swirling riffery and aged audio footage in “They Storm In (No Knock)”). Taken together, the styles ensure there’s hardly a dull moment on a nearly universally pleasant and accessible album.

Graveface Records: www.graveface.com

Categories
Music Reviews

The Lookyloos

The Lookyloos

You’re Looking Very Beautiful Man

Lather Records

While I’m not positive, I think these guys are emo. I have a lot of trouble telling emo from a half-dozen other genres that leave me feeling comatose and depressed, so if this assessment is wrong, let me know. This is their second disc, and it’s full of quiet, flat little songs that seem to suck the energy out of my CD player. They’re not BAD songs, but kind of depressing. I did like “Confidant” and “Ace Ain’t the Face,” but the self-reflective element of The Lookyloos’ music dominates over any blood-boiling emotion. Eric Janssen’s vocals are smooth and relaxing, back-up singer and guitarist Paul Takushi provides a tuneful bed for the lyrics, and Dave Thompson’s drumming never intrudes more than one would ask for. These guys don’t rock, but they can keep you pretty calm in the face of any sort of personal crisis.

Lather Records: www.latherrecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

The Glaciers

The Glaciers

The Moonlight Never Misses an Appointment

Eskimo Kiss

I’m starting to think of this type of music as “Sunday afternoon pop” — clean female vocals over an eclectic mix of pop and jazz riffs, with just enough weirdness to keep you awake if you’re not watching a football game. There’s a fair amount of this coming out, judging by the number of discs coming my way. The Glaciers posses a calm energy, with some songs a bit Beatles (“Habit to Break”), some songs a bit folk (“Old Buildings”), and some a bit rock and roll (“Lucky Me”). Collectively, it’s a very interesting set and a pleasant edition to the random setting on your juke box.

The band members have extensive experience playing in groups none of us is quite cool enough to have heard, but can safely fake because none of our friends know of Ladybug Transistor, or Babe the Blue Ox, or Mr. Bungle. Clearly these groups have some competent musicians and maybe they will surface someday on their own.

The Glaciers are technically solid, make a good CD, and have one of the most poetic press releases I’ve read. Their songs are “built on the morals of melodies and retracing of regrets.” I have no idea what that means, but it’s the first press release in my bin that ever said anything memorable.

The Glaciers: www.theglaciers.com • Eskimo Kiss Records: www.eskimokissrecords.com