Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - November 2020


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, ScreamingSteelUS, Troy Killjoy, nikarg
Published: 13.12.2020


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - November 2020
Metal Storm's outlet for nonmetal album reviews



The place where we'll talk about music without growls or blast beats
unless they still have those but still aren't metal


We here at Metal Storm pride ourselves on our thousands of metal reviews and interviews and article; metal is our collective soul and passion, which is why we bother with this junk. That being said, we'd be lying if we stuck to our trve-kvlt guns and claimed that metal is the only thing we ever listen to. Whether we want to admit it or not, we do check out some other stuff from time to time; some of us are more poptimistic than others, but there's a whole world out there aside from Satan-worshiping black metal and dragon-slaying power metal. We do already feature some nonmetal artists on our website and have a few reviews to back them up, but we prefer to limit that aspect of the site to those artists who have been a strong influence on the metal scene or who are in some way connected to it. This article series is the place for those artists who don't matter to metal in the slightest but still warrant some conversation - after all, good music, is good music, and we all know metal isn't the only thing on this planet for any of us.

Down below, you might find some obscure Bandcamp bedroom projects or some Billboard-topping superstar; as long as it ain't metal and the album itself isn't a best-of compilation, it fits. Obviously, we're certain that not everything will be for everybody (you guys can be viciously territorial even when metal is the only thing on the menu, and we're all supposed to like the same things), but we do hope you find at least one thing that you can enjoy, instead of just pointing and screaming in horror "Not metal!" as if that would be an insult.

Here are our previous features:

October 2020
September 2020
August 2020

And now to the music...






King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - K.G.
[Psychedelic Rock | Heavy Psych]


King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard might not have been a band for that long relatively, but they've been incredibly prolific in the time that they've been here. Things have kinda slowed down this year, if having just one album in one year can be considered slowing down. But after previous years having as much as five releases, and the previous one also having a thrash metal one (hence why we have them here in the first place), this one feels a bit more low-key. If anything it feels like a spiritual successor to Flying Microtonal Banana, sharing its "notes between notes" concept and its psychedelic approach.

However, that psychedelic approach is toned down a bit here in favor of expanding the palette either with electronics and folkier elements, a lot of which try to give this album somewhat of an oriental feel (I've seen the "anatolian rock" tag associated with this one) to still find fresher ways to stay hypnotic and jammy. At this point in their career, there's already a core "KGLW sound" that makes every new record sound a bit familiar, so it's great they constantly try to shuffle around with styles, sometimes more subtly than other times, but with this being the second closest thing to having a self-titled, there's probably a reason for it.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Molassess - Through The Hollow
[Progessive Rock | Psychedelic Rock]


If you recognize the vocals on Through The Hollow, it may be that you are familiar with The Devil's Blood, the former band of Farida Lemouchi, as well as several other members of this new Dutch prog/psychedelic rock outfit. To be honest, I'm not sure I ever listened to The Devil's Blood, so I cannot offer any stylistic comparisons; however, if you're looking for reference points for this new project, probably the band that came to mind most frequently during the lengthy title track was King Crimson, with some of the guitar work definitely sounding inspired by albums such as Red. The additional prog and psychedelic influences brought into the mix here mesh well with the occult rock vibe of Lemouchi's vocals, resulting in something quite distinct from the plethora of other quality prog rock in 2020.

"Through The Hollow" is a formidable introduction to Molassess for newcomers, but it's not a flash in the pan. The band do get quite heavy here; the semi-dissonant riffs and dark atmosphere of "Get Out From Under" give a real sense of malaise to proceedings. In contrast, there's a relative lightness to the early minutes of "Formless Hands", almost taking hints from 80's stadium rock in the tones of the main riff, which are combined with a softer approach from Lemouchi. This capacity to mix things up somewhat is welcome given that the album breaches the hour mark, thanks in no small part to containing 3 songs that break the 10-minute barrier. Despite the formidable length, Through The Hollow isn't an album that is likely to bore listeners; the compositions, particularly the guitar texturing and interplay, are highly accomplished, as even sections that involve extended repetition are developed in a sufficiently well-paced manner as to keep any hints of staleness at bay. The various qualities of the band culminate nicely on "I Am No Longer", for my money the obvious standout song on the record. The Devil's Blood may be gone, but hopefully fans of that project will find Molassess to be a worthy continuation from the surviving members.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Onségen Ensemble - Fear
[Progessive Rock | Psychedelic Rock]


At some point, there must've been a spiked batch of LSD distributed around Finland, because I don't know why else it seems to be such a hotbed for unusual heavy psychedelic music. Oranssi Pazuzu, Dark Buddha Rising and their collaborative projects are increasingly well known, but beyond them (and both projects released albums this year), you have Kairon; IRSE!, a side project of a member of Oranssi Pazuzu that also recently released an album, and now Fear, album number three by Onségen Ensemble. This isn't metal like the first two projects mentioned, more of a prog-psych rock/jazz/avant-garde project, but it's similarly twisted, unique and eerie. The off-kilter chanting of "they are coming" on opening track "Non-Returner" sets an appropriately sinister tone for the album as a whole, but there is a real majesty to Fear that reveals itself as the record unfolds.

Perhaps my favourite song here, "Stellar", has a surreal mix of contorted prog rock with brass, tribal percussion, shamanic chanting and more going on alongside it. There is a darkness to the music, but it's not overwhelming, and there are plenty of moments when the clouds break; the soft synth stretch just over halfway through this song has a charming levity to it, which then gives away to something that honestly sounds inspired by classic Spaghetti Western soundtracks as much as anything else. There are nine members credited as part of Onségen Ensemble on this release, and it's an album that really feels like such a large number of musicians are collaborating and bringing their own ideas to the table. I could probably wax lyrical for several paragraphs about the record as a whole, but I think it should be pretty clear from what I've written here that Fear is firmly recommended to anyone with a taste for the unusual: an excellent album.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Vennart - In The Dead, Dead Wood
[Alternative Rock]


Alternative rock is quite a broad umbrella in terms of genre classification; under there, you can find grunge, shoegaze, Madchester and plenty more styles. On In The Dead, Dead Wood, you can find many of these different styles on almost a song-to-song basis, so when I tag the album as 'alternative rock', this isn't meant to indicate a lack of variety, quite the opposite, in fact. This album is the third solo full-length album by former Oceansize frontman Mike Vennart, and features involvement by fellow ex-Oceansize members Steve Durose (who mixes the record) and Gambler (contributing keyboard parts to several tracks). Personally, I haven't listened to Vennart's former group, but whilst the range of approaches on In The Dead, Dead Wood doesn't give me a clear impression of how they sound and whether they would be up my street, this record does show the high calibre of songwriting that Vennart can bring to the table.

In The Dead, Dead Wood is bookended by its strongest tracks, "Silhouette" and "Forc In The Road". "Silhouette" kicks off proceedings in slightly misleading style, a sumptuous piece of large-sounding space rock with powerful, dirty guitars and powerful vocals that rivals "Waves" from Hum's excellent "Inlet" in terms of kicking off an alt rock record in style. In contrast, "Forc In The Road" is a lengthy, muted post-rock effort featuring glacial drum beats, delicate piano, hushed vocals and increasingly intensifying guitars, an impressively well-delivered contrast to the force of "Silhouette". Between, you have the swagger of "Super Sleuth", which makes me think more of Arctic Monkeys than anyone else, the ponderous heavy shoegaze and beautiful piano of "Elemental", and the all-over-the-place "Mourning On The Range", amongst other styles. Personally, I think the album perhaps peaks at the start, and I do enjoy the heavier efforts ("Elemental", "Weight In Gold") more than the softer or more up-tempo tracks, but it's a consistently well-written and varied effort that should offer something to enjoy for anyone with a taste in alt rock.

Bandcamp

by musclassia





tricot - 10
[Indie Rock | Math Rock]


There are few more innocently effervescent and soul-soothing sounds in this world than upbeat Japanese indie/math rock. Give me an endless, rotating playlist of Polkadot Stingray, the peggies, 3nd, and 嘘とカメレオン and bam - depression instantly gone. Throw in The Pillows and depression comes back. There are a lot of bands out there that tune into this vague assemblage of sounds, some prioritizing the jagged dance steps of math rock, others seeking a harder alt-rock crunch, and still others just bubbling over with sugar-sweet pop melodies, but the fact that they can all converge somewhere is one of the most delightful mercies of modern music. tricot is one of the most well-known bands belonging to this eclectic but ultra-engaging mesh of styles, and accordingly was the first that I was introduced to some years ago. 10 is the band's fifth album (second this year), so named because it marks the tenth anniversary of tricot's formation. I'm not enough of an active fan to offer any insight as to how that birthday contextualizes this work or where tricot has come in all this time, but for a band already reaching double digits, tricot is sounding spotless, springy, and ever so light on its feet.

With production this tight and a group of musicians so comfortable with their instruments, anything is possible, and tricot flexes its natural versatility wherever possible, traditionally hanging more on the algebraic side of songwriting. Songs slip from one time signature to another, with each member somehow absorbed in their own rhythm and yet weaving together for an organized and delicate whole. A smooth, rubbery bass bounces and slithers over punctual drums that are restrained, but not clinical, insistent, but not forceful. The guitars are simply everywhere at once, countering each other and the other parts with staggering chords, interlocking riffs, and free-wheeling licks that sound almost too hot to be this cool. Ikkyu's voice wanders into lilting whispers and then back to barely inflected speaking before settling into a comfortably light, flowery pop register, generally on the modest side of expression but never short on melodies to complement the maverick behavior of the instrumentals. tricot is sometimes a little coy about the complexity of its music, and its slower, cooler moods make for perfect chill-out indie rock, but on closer inspection the band's musicianship is meticulously calculated; the shifts can be abrupt, but not disorienting, and whether running full-tilt for a shade of punky alt rock or layering vocals for a more reflective mood, the sheen of makes every track pop. As I indicated in the beginning, tricot is a band that I tend to throw on in the background more than one I pay serious attention to, but tricot is really a band that can serve any function: its aura and melodies are relaxing, but its instrumental prowess has a sophistication to be admired. 10, for its part, feels like one gentle, excited, fun performance, somehow flowing endlessly and skillfully constrained.

Apple Music | Spotify

by ScreamingSteelUS





Viaticum - Solar Transient
[Psychedelic Rock | Space Rock]


One of those releases that lurks near the borderline of rock and metal, Solar Transient is the difficult third album of Swiss psychedelic rock outfit Viaticum, and their first in six years (not the most prolific output for a band formed 15 years ago). Recorded live in the studio, Solar Transient sees Viaticum further expanding their self-described 'kosmikrock' style (Kosmikrock was the title of their previous album), a blend of psychedelic rock (particularly Krautrock) and space rock, amongst other expansive, experiential forms of rock. Primarily comprised of three lengthy tracks (with an abbreviated intro by way of "Farewell"), the songs are carried by dense, fuzzy, at times droning guitars surrounded by psychedelic guitar leads, punctuated with detours into more prog rock-influenced territories.

"Farewell" serves as a nice scene-setter, the drums gradually ratcheting up the volume and intensity until the first punchy guitar riff arrives, with vibrant guitar leads rising above in a manner that is frequently repeated throughout Solar Transient. "Sweven" (unrelated to the extreme prog band Sweven) has a lengthy, impressively composed beginning with intelligently balanced percussion, as well as nicely developed riffs and leads. This persists until the vocals first arrive at around 3 minutes into the song, and this may be a make or break moment for some listeners; the high-pitched, nasal tone of lead singer is something I must confess does not always work to the songs' favour, feeling like a bit of a mismatch with the tone of the surrounding instrumentation, although he can certainly deliver some force in those vocals. Outside of the vocals, "Sweven" is a really enjoyable and well-constructed journey, with natural transitions that keep the song moving without feeling rushed. "Deluge" starts off a lot heavier than "Sweven", genuinely approaching doom territory with the power of the glacial, droning riffs, but it subsequently fluctuates between these heavy moments and softer stretches. "Sun Goes Wild" features a combination of the approaches on both of the preceding tracks; personally, I find the approaches on "Sweven" to work more effectively than the dense, droning sections of the record. However, although I'm unconvinced by the vocals and the doom parts, there's a lot to enjoy on this expansive, psychedelic journey of a listen.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Nothing - The Great Dismal
[Shoegaze | Alternative Rock]


"A Fabricated Life" sets the scene for a more soporific album than eventually follows; the muted strumming, semi-whispered vocals, barely rising above the lowest volume except for the occasional crescendo of shimmering tremolo and strings, hint at a very slow, downbeat listening experience, which makes for a solid feeling of whiplash when the up-tempo drum beat at the beginning of alt rock cut "Say Less" suddenly comes in. The Great Dismal, album number 4 by up-and-coming shoegaze band Nothing, is not such a schizophrenic listen after this point, with most of the rest of the record sticking for louder, denser sounds than "A Fabricated Life". However, the energy of "Say Less", whilst less of anomaly, isn't truly representative of the album as a whole, which from "April Ha Ha" onwards locks into a more mid-tempo groove.

The sound here is what you'd expect, a lot of layered, effects-driven guitar filling out the sound whilst frontman Domenic Palermo vaguely emotes on top with the signature softly sung shoegaze vocal style. It's a now-classic sound, and one that Nothing replicate with a high level of competence; whether it's the grunge tones of "Famine Asylum", dense tremolo of "In Blueberry Memories" or thick trudge of "Blue Mecca", the band hit various notes in the 90s alt rock handbook to make some enjoyable shoegaze. As far as 90s-style alt rock in 2020 goes, The Great Dismal is certainly not a rival for something like Hum's Inlet; still, it's a well-written and effective effort.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





pg.lost - Oscillate
[Post-Rock]


I first saw pg.lost at the Cult Of Luna-curated Beyond The Redshift festival in London back in 2014, and their inclusion on the billing may have been helped by the at-the-time recent addition of bassist Kristian Karlsson to Cult Of Luna's line-up as keyboardist; whether or not this tie with their fellow countrymen influenced their inclusion, they justified their place on the roster with a solid performance. However, it wasn't one that left me eager to dive into their back catalogue, and aside from another festival appearance the following year at ArcTanGent, I mostly forgot about the post-rock outfit until Oscillate was recommended to me. Now, I can't say if pg.lost have substantially improved or if my memory of their performances are just inaccurate, but I have to say I've found myself very impressed with Oscillate, which must be one of the finest post-rock albums released this year.

I would say that the strongest moments on Oscillate are earlier on, particularly on the exhilarating title track. The combination of the oscillating synth arpeggios with the dense, emphatic percussion means that "Oscillate" starts the album off in style, style that is maintained on the punchy "E22" and frankly epic "Shelter". Later on, slow burns such as "Suffering" and the keyboard/electronic-heavy "Waves" add some contrast, but also lack some of the excitement the likes of "Oscillate" provide. The up-tempo percussive workout that is "Eraser" does somewhat counteract this, albeit only briefly before the sedate grandeur of "The Headless Man" ends the record emphatically, post-rock tremolo and 'maelstrom of sound' crescendo out in full force. The album is almost entirely instrumental (there's some high-pitched wordless ahh's popping up occasionally, such as on "E22" and "Waves"), and it does have some of the pitfalls that can come with instrumental post-rock in terms of maintaining memorability throughout, but at its best, Oscillate is an exquisite listen.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Puscifer - Existential Reckoning
[Synthpop | Electronic Rock]


It's been a busy couple of years for Maynard James Keenan, with each of his three projects releasing a new album in 2018 or later after lengthy periods without new music. The 5-year gap between and Existential Reckoning and its predecessor Money Shot doesn't rival the gaps between Tool's (13 years) and A Perfect Circle's (14 years) new albums and their previous records, but it's interesting to see these releases coming in such a burst given the lengths of the absences. I haven't been able to see from looking online whether Existential Reckoning was recorded before or after Keenan contracted COVID-19 in February, which he says he is still dealing with the lung damage resulting from the infection; given the quality of his vocals on the album, it's possible that they were recorded beforehand, as he sounds as strong as expected here. As for the rest of the record, it's my first full-length Puscifer album I've listened to, and whilst I generally find it fine to listen to, it's not going to have me returning to Puscifer in the way I do Tool.

I've seen synthpop, electronic rock and art rock used to describe Puscifer, and all feel applicable here; the sound is predominantly a mix of electronics and guitar work, whilst the songs have rock elements without necessarily conforming to what one would expect from a rock record, even a modern one, in terms of structures and guitar approach. Some songs lean more towards electronics versus rock than others; "Bread And Circus" is a moody electronics-dominated track, lengthy and brooding, whilst "The Underwhelming" is more guitar-oriented, with some slick guitar licks contrasted against the more percussive electronic approach here. "Apocalyptical" reminds me a bit of certain Nine Inch Nails tracks, between the guitar tone and rhythms. On top of these various combinations of guitar and electronics sing Keenan and fellow singer/multi-instrumentalist Carina Round, each showing good range. To be honest, I didn't particularly dislike any songs here (although I could do without "Apocalyptical"), but there was nothing that overly impressed me, which across a solid hour of music makes Existential Reckoning a bit of a drag at times.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Autechre - Plus
[IDM | Glitch]


Plus comes right off the heels of Autechre's previous record, Sign, which was released less than one month prior and which we covered in our previous article. Grandiose runtimes and numbers of discs are nothing new for Autechre, especially in the 2010s, which culminated in the eight hour long NTS Sessions. Compared to that, the two sibling records, Plus and Sign, both at around the hour-long runtime, are small game. But nonetheless, the duo works together to encapsulate Autechre essence. Sort of. They're a fairly odd pairing.

Plus acts both as the other side of the coin to Sign, but it also has a sort of a B-side album feeling. I'm not sure how these two will be viewed years from now, but for now I feel more keen to return to Sign than to Plus. Sign was somewhat of a return to the melody and ambiance of much earlier material, proving to also be more creative and more accessible, whereas Plus goes back to the more abstract leanings of their longer 2010s work, but also without reaching the same heights. So in a way, you have both sides of Autechre's overall sound within them, but neither of them really feel as essential at this point in there career, even if the duo still feels creative by electronica standards.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Midnight Odyssey - Ashes From A Terrestrial Fall
[Space Ambient]


Dis Pater again returns with an otherworldly experience comprised of swirling synth movements and enriched walls of sound simultaneously suitable for dystopian sci-fi and slow burn coming of age movies from the 80s. At its core, Ashes From A Terrestrial Fall encompasses the trepidation faced by cautious explorers of galaxies uncovering the darkest secrets held by the cosmos, but with an underlying sense of optimism. The Midnight Odyssey name brings with it an expectation of being carried through alternate dimensions and uncharted realms, and those aspects are readily fulfilled, yet this album retains a certain organic feel to it, as if predicting a futuristic cataclysmic event in our own spacetime. Seemingly anchored by this realism, the journey itself becomes more restricted by whatever potential realities the listener can imagine, thereby resonating on a more relatable level compared to Ruins Of A Celestial Fire, which -- though brilliant in its own right -- tended to outstretch the confines of one's own grounds.

This time around, Dis Pater has opted to take the hand of his audience and show them the endless opportunities that envelop them, but remains steadfastly carefree in his approach so as to let the journey unveil itself in due time. His use of motif and elevated passages are reminiscent of the angelic soundscapes typified by the type of ethereal supporting music used in videos set to a revolving photo album of water color paintings of the heavens. It's dreamy and dainty while poignant and ominous in a way that is unique to the Midnight Odyssey universe, and will satisfy all urges of planet-hopping and interdimensional traveling for anyone looking to escape their current environment for an hour.

Bandcamp

by Troy Killjoy





Trees Speak - Shadow Forms
[Krautrock | Progressive Electronic]


If the name Trees Speak seems familiar to you, it might be because you read last month's instalment of this series, as I covered their first 2020 album, Ohms, in that issue. The mixture of krautrock, psychedelic rock and soothing electronics was a winning combination, and it proves to be similarly successful this time around, although there have been modifications to the gameplan. For starters, whilst Ohms was designed to sound like a continuous piece of music despite being divided into numerous separate tracks, Shadow Forms features songs that are clearly separated from one another, which is probably a smart move to avoid the approach taken on Ohms turning sterile. Beyond that, Shadow Forms is a slightly brasher album than its predecessor.

The opening track "Large Array" plays into the subdued vibes of Ohms, with pulsating synths throbbing away below gradually shifting electronic soundscapes; however, the end of this song transitions into the slick yet upbeat prog rock vibes of "Tear Kisser", which is followed by some fun retro-synth rock courtesy of "Those Who Know". Three fairly different sounds covered in three consecutive songs, and Trees Speak carry on in the same vein for much of Shadow Forms. Not all the tracks work; the aimless noise on "Communication" would be okay for 1 minute, but feels a bit redundant when stretched over 3 minutes, whilst the free jazz-style saxophone towards the end of the title track isn't a highlight. However, for the most part, Shadow Forms is very satisfying, whether it's the aforementioned krautrock on "Those Who Know" or the more mellow moments on "Transforming" or "Crystal System".

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





William Basinski - Lamentations
[Tape Music | Dark Ambient]


William Basinski is one of the composers that has become most commonly associated with tape manipulation, especially due to his Disintegration Loops, which admittedly relies more on the gimmick than on any composition, but it worked so well that it keep propelling Basinski's name to this day. However it isn't like the man hasn't been busy and hasn't explored both the same and different ideas since to varying degrees of success. I have heard some of his other work, but far too few to really back up my statement, but I do feel that Lamentations is some of the darkest he's done since. As if the title didn't already make that clear: this is about death and decay and the passage of time.

A lot of the same tape manipulation techniques that deteriorate and disintegrate the loops seem to be employed here, giving an otherworldly spiritual quality to the sound design, spicing the samples with orchestral or operatic ones that evoke either a Górecki or The Caretaker that aim for the same tragic emotions. A lot of the album is more "to the point", at least as much as ambient can be, but there's less of the over-elongation that makes the genre so inaccessible, though the grainy sounds and lack of sound normalization does that instead, especially on "All These Too, I, I Love". Overall Lamentation continues minimalism's work of taking a moment, a fleeting emotion or a short sequence, and sustaining it with small tweaks to really hammer in the feeling.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Oneohtrix Point Never - Magic Oneohtrix Point Never
[Progressive Electronic | Neo-Psychedelia]


Daniel Lopatin has been one of the most prolific and influential electronic musicians of the past decade, whether through his collaboration with Tim Hecker, his scoring of Safdie Brothers films, him pioneering vaporwave under the Chuck Person, but most importantly through his Oneohtrix Point Never project. Magic Oneohtrix Point Never is the most nostalgic of his albums, not only taking its name from the original name of the project, the one that was used to release the debut, 2007's Betrayed In The Octagon, but also because of the album conceptually paying tribute to the radio with its own nostalgic lenses.

Obviously Magic Oneohtrix Point Never doesn't sound like actually listening to the radio, but more like a vague memory of listening to the radio popping up in your dream. The psychedelic and dreamlike quality washes over the pretty diverse and somewhat inconsistent tracklist, one that is also sometimes washed in radio static and gibbered radio announcers, and also some pieces of frequently radio played The Weekend and barely if ever radio played Arca, creating a sound collage of ambient, neo-psychedelia, electronica, synthpop and plunderphonics, taking the cues from the vaporwave sound that Lopatin himself pioneered into its logical conclusion.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Ólafur Arnalds - Some Kind Of Peace
[Ambient | Modern Classical]


Ólafur Arnalds has had an interesting and relatively lengthy career so far, given his age; one a drummer in metal bands such as Fighting Shit and Celestine (don't worry, I've never heard of them either), Arnalds is perhaps most widely known for composing the score to the hit crime drama Broadchurch. Some Kind Of Peace, his fifth solo full-length album, finds the Icelandic multi-instrumentalist in introspective mood, based on the vibes the music gives off. The peculiar vocal warblings on "Woven Song" don't detract from the delicate, soothing piano and strings that dominate the song and album, but also hint at the composer's more experimental side on what is for the most part a gentle yet stirring effort, with the strings-heavy "Spiral" sounding every bit like the backdrop to an emotional movie/TV climactic scene.

Some Kind Of Peace features collaborations with musicians from both Arnalds' native Iceland (JFDR on "Back To The Sky") and elsewhere (British electronic artist Bonobo features on opening track "Loom", a novelty on the record with its electronic-heavy focus), but whilst these collaborative efforts provide variety to the record, it's Arnalds' solo efforts that provide the main musical base for the record. The melancholic, peaceful piano and string arrangements make for exquisite listening, with tracks like "Still / Sound" feeling incredibly fragile in how dainty the piano work is, whilst "New Grass" brings moving strings crescendos to the table. Some Kind Of Peace offers a sad yet soothing listening experience, and as a newcomer to his music, it's not surprising that Arnalds has had success at soundtracking given the compositional skills on display here.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Steve Roach - Tomorrow
[Ambient | New Age]


Looking at the discography of Steve Roach online, I wonder what kind of buzz fans get when he announces a new album; the man has over 50 albums and counting released across a nearly 40-year career. Tomorrow is my first encounter with Roach's music, and clocking in at over 80 minutes, it's clear that he hasn't racked up this substantial discography by releasing throwaway EPs. Having said that, the elliptical ambient electronics on Tomorrow are tailor-made for producing lengthy records. As the bouncy electronics oscillate in volume and pitch throughout the duration of the title track, background synth chords fill out the background rather than offering any clear forward impetus. Nevertheless, although there's precious little in the way of song development going on, it does make for pleasant and charming background listening, with the oscillating electronics almost hypnotic in their convoluted repetition.

Probably unsurprisingly, the rest of the album mainly carries on where "Tomorrow" leaves off, jagged, bouncing elliptical electronics taking stage with background ambience filling out the songs. Some tracks develop the arrangements more than others; "Optimal Being" features more layers interacting with each other than "Tomorrow", where the aforementioned oscillations pretty much operate along. However, once you've heard one minute of Tomorrow, you've effectively heard all 83, so your mileage with this record almost entirely depends on how much you enjoy having these airy, new age vibes filling out the soundtrack of your day. Personally, I think it does a better job of taking up background space than a lot of ambient efforts in situations where I don't want anything too busy distracting me, but it's a bit limited.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

musclassia





Моlchat Doma - Monument
[Coldwave | Synthpop]


Моlchat Doma (or Молчат Дома if you wanna be really pedantic) have become synthpop poster-boys even since their 2018 album Этажи was gracefully picked up by the YouTube algorithm and shown in the recommendations of everyone with a slight interest in "doomer" alternative music. Combine that with a renewed interest in ex-communist aesthetics, and you've got a winning formula. Of course an explosion of popularity commenced, as did a lot of gatekeeping from people who couldn't suffer to see their favorite underground subgenre discovered by posers and genre tourists on Tik Tok. But for what it's worth, Этажи did spark a lot of interest in both everything post-punk related and Eastern European music.

Monument (or Монумент if you really really insist) has a lot to live up to, but it does obviously find Моlchat Doma making music while aware of their popularity, and it is a feeling that permeates the record. It's a bit more of a serious record, one that feels like it both tries to recapture the magic of its predecessor and move beyond it. The sound roughly stays the same in the coldwave area, but a lot more influences seem to come from The Cure this time around in how the dynamics of the songs go. Indeed, the songs feel a bit more full and lively instead of just being instantly catchy, with a lot more care given to the exploration of the atmospheres it tries to convey. But at the end of the day, it still sounds more like an 80s record than a 21st century one, which is probably what you were looking for anyway.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Kylie Minogue - Disco
[Dance-Pop, Nu-Disco]


Kylie Minogue's career goes a long way, having been pretty huge in the 90s and 00s, but I doubt a lot of people, myself included, really kept up with her releases since her heyday. I probably would've given this one a miss if 2020 wouldn't have been so kind to disco music, and her album pretty much saying "Disco" in the boldest way possible, both with its cover art and its to-the-point title. So you can add "getting excited for a Kylie Minogue record" on the list of 2020's oddities. And listening to it after never thinking of Kylie for so long I have conflicting feelings about it. On one hand, maybe I should listen to more of Kylie's songs. On the other hand, this really doesn't hold up as much as an album.

It is 2020 being such a good year for disco, and that made me interested in this in the first place, that also serves as a very uneven scale to measure Disco. Both Jessie Ware's What's Your Pleasure and Róisín Murphy's Róisín Machine have wound up among my most listened to records of the year because of how glamorous and infectious they made disco sound. Disco has its fair share of good songs, and some of them I might keep in figurative rotation, but I don't feel as compelled to listened to a middle of the road, safe and unimaginative disco record. Kylie's vocals really haven't aged at all, which is usually a compliment, but here it keeps me from properly taking this album as seriously as I should.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Bruce Springsteen - Letter to You
[Heartland Rock | Singer/Songwriter]


It's been decades since Bruce Springsteen basically became synonymous with heartland rock, and he influenced pretty much every singer/songwriter that even tangentially touched on the genre. Most of the time you only need to know two things when going into a new Bruce Springsteen album: is the E Street Band with him, and how long is the album. Letter To You answers "yes" to the former, and 58 minutes to the latter, so something good and something bad. Thankfully those 58 minutes aren't as bloated as they could be, and 2010s Springsteen has been fairly consistent up until now, but even so, some of the songs here are definitely the best he's done this millennium.

Coming off the heels of his previous album just last year, Western Stars, it follows a pretty similar direction, but the (re)addition of the E Street Band does bring back a fair share of their bombast, though still restraining it at times, making this more of a blend between the classic heartland rock sound, and a more stripped back singer/songwriter sound. It's great to hear Springsteen at this age still having such a boisterous voice and a sound full of soul, and his penmanship during these times still maintains a bit of its trademark bite. A few of the songs do seem to have been (or just sound like) written decades earlier, so this album maybe could've fared better with a bit more cutting, but this one is more often above standard than not.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Elvis Costello - Hey Clockface
[Singer/Songwriter | Chamber Folk]


Elvis Costello has already gone over the 5th decade of his career, one that spanned albums in new wave, power pop, sophisti-pop, blue-eyed soul, punk rock, rockabilly, country, blues rock, funk rock, ones with two different backing bands, and with The Roots if you don't count that as a backing band, and multiple other collaborations with other artists, orchestras and the like. If you really need me to tell you what a long career Elvis Costello has, you really need to listen to This Year's Model right now. Go on, ye, you can come back later. In truth, there are a lot more albums of his that one should listen to before Hey Clockface. Because this shouldn't be one's first taste of Elvis Costello.

This isn't to say that this is really a bad album, since Elvis Costello barely has any. But this is probably in the bottom quarter of his albums, which I can't say about the album he did two years ago, Look Now. I can respect Elvis Costello trying his hand at different styles even to this day and age, but with Hey Clockface being recorded in three different stints at three different places, it does feel more like a sketch than a fully fleshed album. There's parts here that are more in a sparse singer/songwriter folk, some of it feels more in a chamber or big band direction, which are decent at best and awkward at their worst.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Adrianne Lenker - Songs
[Contemporary Folk | Singer/Songwriter]


Adrianne Lenker is mostly well known as the frontwoman of Big Thief, but since that's a folk band her presence in it is pretty significant, but also this isn't the first time she released a solo record, with 2013's Hours Were The Birds actually preceding Big Thief entirely. The band's two records last year, both of which I covered here and loved, would've lead to some extensive touring that got cancelled for reasons we all know. Adrianne Lenker used that opportunity to write something for her solo career, with the aptly titled Songs also being held company by the also aptly titled Instrumentals.

I think pretty much any of these songs could've been Big Thief songs, but the absence of the rest of the band does give Songs a more vulnerable and personal feeling. Adrianne's voice being able to carry the record should be no big news, but her guitar playing is interesting enough to make up for the lack of the band backing it. A lot of the album sounds really intimate and dreamlike, almost as warm and soothing as the cover art, with Adrianne's shy vocals gliding over and pouring emotions. For as scaled down as this album is, there's a certain universality in its melancholy and longing that is captured both by its sound and its poetry.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Aesop Rock - Spirit World Field Guide
[Abstract Hip-Hop]


Aesop Rock isn't the among the most popular of hip-hop artists, but he is very admired and held in very high regard by those who do know him. One of the most verbose rappers out there, his wordplay and vocabulary, combined with nerdy and abstract interests, and the colorful production sometimes by him, sometimes by others, has worked so well in creating one of the most influential careers in underground hip-hop, from 1997's Music For Earthworms to last year's collaboration with producer Tobacco under the Malibu Ken alias. Overall there isn't anything in his career that you can call a low-point, just ones that are higher than others.

Spirit World Field Guide keeps proving his consistency even though it may not end up as anybody's favorite Aesop Rock record. This album follows a more spiritual concept, being focused around Aesop's experiences with the spirit world, which is a pretty broad topic indeed, so even with the album's extended runtime, there's only so much ground that can get covered. Spirit World Field Guide is introduced by "Hello From the Spirit World", which acts like an entry point and guide to the album, instructing the listener that one's experiences of the spirit world aren't uniform, and that one should jump to the point in the album which one feels best suits his progress. For such a spiritual record, a lot of the production, flow and lyricism is indeed a bit psychedelic, but it doesn't instantly strike me as "spiritual". Once again, different experiences for different people.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Gorillaz - Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez
[Art Pop | Synthpop]


Gorillaz is one of my main arguments when I try to convince people about how much more talented Blur were compared to Oasis. Damon Albarn's virtual band with artist Jamie Hewlett celebrate their 20th anniversary since the self-titled debut with an album that isn't based on a single concept as a whole but is made of individual tracks, and each track is supposed to stand on its own without having much connection to the one before or after it in the sequence. Various high profile guests perform on it and while all this may sound as a cohesion-destroyer, it is not; you have to hear it to believe it. This is a variety-embracing album and there is actually a sense of concept because Song Machine is a collection of different songs or "episodes" that constitute a "series' season". The first season is called Strange Timez.

The opener "Strange Timez" boasts the participation of Robert Smith and it is actually a song that takes cues from The Cure's album, The Top, and specifically "The Caterpillar". We then hear Beck on "The Valley Of The Pagans" and it is a trip back to the '90s, which is both Beck's heyday as well as the last time I remember listening to anything from him. Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez is ambitious enough to mix various sounds and genres and to feature very different guest musicians; from Elton John to St. Vincent to Octavian to Fatoumata Diawara. The love for blending is not only present from track to track but sometimes on single tracks too; "Momentary Bliss" for example is a real treat with rapper Slowthai co-existing with the punk rock duo of Slaves. The first season of Song Machine does not just demonstrate Damon Albarn's fine taste in music through his excellent choice of guests but it also reaffirms Gorillaz's ability to make the bizarre sound accessible and appealing and, in this case, it is even more admirable because the flow remains uninterrupted despite the massive stylistic flexibility.

Make sure you check out the deluxe edition, because the second disc featured in it is better than the first!

Apple Music | Spotify

by nikarg




And that was it. You've made it through still alive. Congrats. See ya next month.



 


Comments

Comments: 12   Visited by: 96 users
13.12.2020 - 11:58
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Aside from Midnight Odyssey, I'm probably most hyped about Aesop Rock, who I had no idea released a new album until reading this article, and Gorillaz, although my appreciation of their albums tends to coincide with my high school nostalgia. pg.lost and Nothing both have random tracks in my Spotify likes but most of what I explored from them didn't entice me to keep looking. That applies to Steve Roach as well, but I don't even have any liked tracks to compare.

The fact that Springsteen and Costello are still releasing new material isn't surprising despite their advanced age, but you just know they aren't going to reach the same heights as what they wrote in their prime. At least Costello can be relied upon to change things up and so even if it isn't quite the quality he's capable of, it'll still be more interesting than yet another blue collar folksy dad rock album as with The Boss.

As for Kylie... she's always been bottom-tier in terms of mainstream pop radio. Surprised she even got a mention here or that someone found her material interesting enough to write about.
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"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something."
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13.12.2020 - 12:04
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Troy Killjoy on 13.12.2020 at 11:58

Aside from Midnight Odyssey, I'm probably most hyped about Aesop Rock, who I had no idea released a new album until reading this article, and Gorillaz, although my appreciation of their albums tends to coincide with my high school nostalgia. pg.lost and Nothing both have random tracks in my Spotify likes but most of what I explored from them didn't entice me to keep looking. That applies to Steve Roach as well, but I don't even have any liked tracks to compare.

The fact that Springsteen and Costello are still releasing new material isn't surprising despite their advanced age, but you just know they aren't going to reach the same heights as what they wrote in their prime. At least Costello can be relied upon to change things up and so even if it isn't quite the quality he's capable of, it'll still be more interesting than yet another blue collar folksy dad rock album as with The Boss.

As for Kylie... she's always been bottom-tier in terms of mainstream pop radio. Surprised she even got a mention here or that someone found her material interesting enough to write about.

You're definitely bound to find something else here to like, so happy exploring.

You kinda know what to expect from a new Springsteen, so you'll get pretty much that. For Costello, I'd much rather recommend the previous album.

I wouldn't say Kylie is bottom tier, but I mostly did it because of how many great disco albums there were this year, so I was kinda hoping it would be more of that. It wasn't.
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Jusqu'ici, tout va bien...

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13.12.2020 - 12:33
musclassia
"Written by: RaduP, RaduP, ScreamingSteelUS, Troy Killjoy, nikarg"

Bit rude
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13.12.2020 - 12:38
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by musclassia on 13.12.2020 at 12:33

"Written by: RaduP, RaduP, ScreamingSteelUS, Troy Killjoy, nikarg"

Bit rude

Villain voice: "We're not so different, you and I."
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13.12.2020 - 13:00
Nejde
Just read the lengthy interview with Katla. and I really enjoyed the part about awful cover arts. Then I got here and saw the Costello one. Who seriously decided on that cover art? Probably one of the worst I've ever seen.
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"When you are dead, you do not know you are dead. It's only painful for others. The same applies when you are stupid." - Ricky Gervais
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13.12.2020 - 13:12
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Nejde on 13.12.2020 at 13:00

Just read the lengthy interview with Katla. and I really enjoyed the part about awful cover arts. Then I got here and saw the Costello one. Who seriously decided on that cover art? Probably one of the worst I've ever seen.

I have no idea what everyone involved was thinking.
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13.12.2020 - 15:29
JoHn DoE
Pg. lost's album was rather underwhelming for me, i just could not get into it, these guys used to create some nice atmosphere, not much for me here.

The new Collapse Under the Empire is miles better IMO.

Not much post rock for me this year. Two-three albums and that was it.
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I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
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13.12.2020 - 17:28
Starvynth
i c deaf people
Written by Troy Killjoy on 13.12.2020 at 11:58

As for Kylie... she's always been bottom-tier in terms of mainstream pop radio.

Nah, that's not fair. I've never really been into Madonna, Britney, Miley and the like, but I always thought that if there ever was one particular queen of pop with at least a handful of songs of relevance for the average metalhead under her belt, then it was Kylie.
Her duet with Nick Cave and the unsettling Confide In Me are classics of 90's pop culture and two very rare examples of catchy but eerie sounds and darker lyrical themes in mainstream pop from this time, methinks.
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signatures = SPAM
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14.12.2020 - 10:30
Shamppy
Can we keep adding stuff to this list? Dizzy Mizz Lizzy's Alter Echo deserves a spot here! Specially the three opening tracks
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14.12.2020 - 10:48
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Shamppy on 14.12.2020 at 10:30

Can we keep adding stuff to this list? Dizzy Mizz Lizzy's Alter Echo deserves a spot here! Specially the three opening tracks

Never heard of it, but seems like it was released in March. I'll give it a listen though.
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16.12.2020 - 14:48
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Bruce n Elvis is interesting, always check it, but Kylie, does i am only one who has not hear her music, only one radio song, other wise c mom, its pop crap, i dont even listen nu metal and prog what us metal. Seems i am more cast out outsider as I thought 1%
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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18.12.2020 - 09:40
tea[m]ster
Au Pays Natal
Thanks for the pg.lost mention. My favorite post rock band right now.
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rekt
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