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Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - March 2021


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, tominator
Published: 11.04.2021


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - March 2021
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:

February 2021
January 2021
December 2020

And now to the music...






Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - Carnage
[Chamber Pop | Art Pop]


This is an album that might be easier to miss, since it's not a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album, and all previous of his works with Warren Ellis (also of The Bad Seeds, and of Dirty Three) have been soundtrack albums, including ones for The Assassination Of Jesse James and The Road. So when Carnage rolled around, it was a bit surprising to have the duo working without the other Bad Seeds and for something that is its own thing. Other than the slightly more stripped back sound, this isn't a far cry from what you could expect from an album with The Bad Seeds, especially since those were more stripped back and somber lately anyway. So there is a bit of a sense that this is a continuation or a bag of outtakes from that trilogy.

Carnage features the spoken work poetry and emotive crooning switch that Nick does so well, but it feels like a lot of the album features more of the former than the latter, with the stripped back minimal chamber pop beneath it feeling repetitive and brooding in a way that wouldn't work together with spoken word if it was anyone other than Cave doing it. Within its 40 minute runtime, Carnage expands the somber feeling of previous albums into something a bit more unsettling and more aggressive, but does so at select times, bringing gospel and art pop and experimental rock to fill the rest with a range of bittersweet emotions. It lacks a bit in consistency and coherence, even within the same track, but the strengths of the tracks could actually rival some of those from the previous trilogy of records, especially with a renewed sense of vigor amid the same somber waters.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP




Dust Moth - Rising // Sailing
[Shoegaze | Alternative Rock]


Although sedate, warm vibes are consistent across most shoegaze acts, the way that they're brought to fruition can vary. Some groups may push the volume to overwhelm listeners as their primary form of attack, whilst others approach their compositions with a more restrained approach. Dust Moth lean towards the latter on Rising // Sailing, the alternative rock group's first album in 5 years. The atmosphere of the record is very familiar, but "Annular Eclipse" sees the band slowly build the track up, starting off more stripped-down before gradually incorporating the dense guitar fuzz that is so emblematic of the subgenre. On other tracks, it might not even appear at all; "Everything Anew" is more of a straight-up alt rock song, with a strong groovy riff underpinning the track. However, whether the band go closer to shoegaze or more into other alt rock territory (or even heading towards post-rock, with elements of Rising // Sailing bringing to mind the likes of Red Sparowes), Dust Moth remain captivating.

Beyond the guitar work, which varies from engrossing walls of sound to clear, distinctive riffs, the most gripping element of Rising // Sailing is Irene Barber's vocal performance; whilst she is capable of the muted croons one would expect for the style, she has no issues dialling up the intensity of her vocals to something more immediate when the song demands it. Another element that is less prominent, but is nevertheless well-utilized, is the use of keys and mellotron; rather than directing the soundscapes of the tracks, these instruments are instead used mainly for subtle counterpoints that accentuate certain riffs or instrumental passages, but they elevate each section that they grace with their presence. All of these elements are brought together nicely on an array of songs with different tones, whether it's the slow build of "How To Sleep", the more up-tempo and in-your-face "Flinching" or the steady groove of "Motor".

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Django Django - Glowing In The Dark
[Neo-Psychedelia]


I'll be honest, with a name like Django Django I was expecting Spaghetti Western-style music. As it turns out, there are actually faint hints of that sound at times on Glowing In The Dark (or at least, that's what some of the guitar work on opening track "Spirals" brought to mind), but overall this is more a combination of psychedelic rock, electronic rock and indie, falling conveniently under the broad 'neo-psychedelia' umbrella. The psychedelic and electronic rock approaches both come through on excellent opening track "Spirals", but the next couple of songs are more somewhere between indie rock and The Beach Boys in terms of approach, whilst "Waking Up" (featuring actress Charlotte Gainsbourg) is a quite straightforward duet.

Glowing In The Dark is one of several albums I've decided to cover for this album series after being won over by the first song, only to find that the rest of the album mostly goes in a different direction. The electronics that lifted up "Spirals" mostly disappear for a few tracks, eventually coming back with a vengeance on the eerie quasi-interlude "The Ark", whilst the Spaghetti Western hints only pop up again on "Night Of The Buffalo". I do wish more of the album followed in the vein of "Spirals", as the songs that do, such as the synth-heavy "Hold Fast", are amongst the strongest features here in my opinion. I must confess myself to be less keen on the more indie-centric songs, and I can also easily live without the glitchy electro-pop title track, but whilst I don't love all of Glowing In The Dark, the eclecticism means there's likely a song or two here that will appeal, and the record is capped off with an excellent production that allows every element to shine to its fullest.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Xiu Xiu - Oh No
[Experimental Rock | Art Pop]


Anyone vaguely familiar with Xiu Xiu (pronounced "shu-shu") knows that their music is weird, anxious, vulnerable, and chaotic. To varying degrees. Depends on the album. You have balls to the walls craziness like the previous record, Girl With Basket Of Fruit, but the one before that, Forget, was one of their most accessible. Also covers of the Twin Peaks soundtrack, collaborations with Merzbow, and let's not talk about the "classic" era. A big varied discog of weird music. And then comes, Oh No, Xiu Xiu's album of duets. Naturally, it could be either weird or accessible, but it's both.

With 53 minutes of Xiu Xiu collaborating with a bunch of different artists, you'll find 15 duets with a wide range of artists, some quite expected, like Chelsea Wolfe or Drab Majesty, but then there's also Sharon Van Etten and Grouper's Liz Harris, as well as a bunch of artists I haven't yet heard of. And all of it sounds like Xiu Xiu but in a way that is clearly trying to meet all these collaborators halfway, hence why it sounds more diverse, accessible, still tainted with the trademark oddity, and obviously a bit inconsistent over the course of the entire album. But there are some "dream collaborations" here, and there is a really great balance found.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Cloud Nothings - The Shadow I Remember
[Indie Rock | Emo]


I'm far from the best versed Cloud Nothings listener out there, but I've always known them to be a pretty prolific indie rock band, usually on the side of things more noisy, but also with a pop tinge, which is a really fun approach compared to the "car commercial" indie bands. But from what I've noticed, there are albums like 2012's Attack on Memory that are very well received and almost considered classics in the genre, and then 2017's Life Without Sound that rely a bit too much on pop punk nostalgia to a worse reception. And everything in between. And that is from my eagle's eye view over their discography.

Where The Shadow I Remember lies in that space is probably up to someone better versed to properly assess, but this feels like a middle-of-the-road album, far from their best, far from their worst, but I find more things here to enjoy than the other way around. This is a blend of pop punk (with a healthy dose of nostalgia), emo, post-hardcore, noise rock, indie rock that might not be the most creative, fun, ambitious or whatever, but with Steve Albini back in charge of the production, it sounds like the best I've noticed Cloud Nothings to sound like in a while. And with a 30 minute runtime, one that goes over all those ingredients in their sound that I've mentioned, it's a pretty well-packaged taste of what Cloud Nothings are about.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Elephant9 - Arrival Of The New Elders
[Progressive Rock | Jazz Rock]


I hadn't appreciated before I started writing for this article series how much good prog rock Norway was producing; having covered the likes of Motorpsycho, Jaga Jazzist and Needlepoint in previous editions, I've now been introduced to Oslo trio Elephant9, whose eerie, jazzy brand of prog rock on Arrival Of The New Elders is as intriguing as any of those other acts. The sound on the record is a curious combination of retro-prog elements with more modern and unusual approaches, with a lot of jazzy weirdness thrown in for good measure. The meandering keyboards, muted but busy jazzy percussion and warbling electronics on the opening title track are quite disorienting, but then there's some simpler touching piano to ground the song, showing how Elephant9 can balance the bizarre, the brash, the sedate and the soothing impressively well.

The brash has a greater presence on the next track, with "Rite Of Accession" featuring more exuberant drumming pushed higher up the mix, as well as some more visceral and cacophonous synths; on the flip side, the track is grounded by a relentless background acoustic guitar strum, whilst more ambient keyboard work adds a soothing touch to the more aggressive first half of the track, setting the stage nicely for a softer, moodier second half to the song. The next few songs on the album are surprisingly mild given the precedent set by "Rite Of Accession", with Arrival Of The New Elders waiting until "Chemical Boogie" near the end of the record to push the loudness and weirdness further; the exuberance of this track does however make up for the wait. Elephant9 are a quiet odd prog/jazz rock group based on this first taste I've had of them, but they don't go about it in an obnoxious way, so it ultimately comes across rather charmingly.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Really From - Really From
[Jazz Rock | Math Rock]


The notorious question, "where are you really from?", is the inspiration of the name of jazz rock group Really From, a group comprised of mixed-race individuals tired of being the recipients of this invasive query. This self-titled third album reflects the band members' emboldened senses of identity, highlighted by the lyrics on the aptly titled "I'm From Here". This sense of identity comes through in the music on Really From, a mature combination of math rock and jazz that is both complex and accessible. "Quirk" has the brash improvisation of jazz courtesy of Matt Hull's trumpet, the technical yet delicate guitar work of math rock, and the emotional expression of emo, the latter coming from the traded vocals of Michi Tassey and Chris Lee-Rodriguez; it feels like there's a lot going on, particularly when it's all written out like that, but it doesn't feel overwhelming or excessive.

The emo part of Really From's sound is the part that helps to ground the music on Really From, allowing deceptively complex songs such as "Yellow Fever" and "In The Spaces" to be accessible. Sometimes there's no deception about it; "I Live Here Now" is both technical and meandering, but whilst it sounds weird, it's not in an off-putting manner. Personally, as someone that generally does not like emo music at all, I find it a bit hard to judge how well they pull off that aspect of their sound, but I am generally impressed by the cohesion and distinctiveness of Really From, and could see this album appealing to anyone with an interest in any of emo, math rock or jazz.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Parannoul - To See The Next Part Of The Dream
[Shoegaze | Noise Pop]


I think every one of us wanted to be rock stars at some point. We all had dreams, whether actual dreams or daydreaming, of shredding a huge solo in front of a huge audience. Huge dreams. Now we're on this forum, writing about music other people have made. Some dreams failed, but some of them continued in the bedroom, with some virtual instruments, a shitty mic, and either a Soundcloud or a Bandcamp. Parannoul's To See The Next Part Of The Dream is kind of meta in that regard. It is bedroom pop about bedroom pop. It's a South Korean musician who never made it, and makes music about never making it and all the feelings of inadequacy that come with that and that have never been overcome.

Now obviously, this album is in Korean, so I doubt most of us can catch unto that unless either we read the description on Bandcamp, or we listen to way too much K-Pop. It seems that the album has had a lot of success in some online circles, but ironically not in the Korean ones. There's a lot of authenticity that reeks from it, and even if the sound is very rough, especially the atrocious drum sounds, the noise pop emo ran through a dreamy shoegaze filter is only helping the album be even more resonant emotionally. But I really don't think it needed to be more than 40 minutes in length, so it wears out its welcome a bit. As it is, it's fuzzy, charming, and vulnerable.

Bandcamp

by RaduP





Dreamwell - Modern Grotesque
[Screamo | Post-Rock]


It's not unusual to hear screamo music mixed with softer guitar work, but it's quite unusual to hear vicious screams, aggressive drums and delicate clean guitar used at the same time in the manner that they are on "Painting Myself A Darker Day". Dreamwell can go heavy, and do so within the same song with a muscular slow groove; nevertheless, this is clearly a band that's eager to incorporate softness into this more aggressive genre when given the opportunity. This works to great effect in some particular standout moments; a particularly dainty guitar lead during a vicious breakdown later on in this track sees the two extremes of Dreamwell's sound combined to the benefit of both styles.

Modern Grotesque is a heavy album; the vocals shred and the riffs hit hard. The melody and gentleness that the guitars bring into the equation do nothing to diminish the impact of this heaviness, but instead only serves to expand the borders of Dreamwell's sound, allowing them to segue naturally into the mellow bridge of "Sayaka". When the band wants to go heavy, they don't hold back, with the latter stretches of the title track seeing vocalist Keziah Staska let completely loose with his screams as the band transition from an ominous build-up into an emphatic climax. Dealing with heavy lyrical themes, Modern Grotesque is a strong sophomore release from an up-and-coming force in post-hardcore.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Lorem Ipsum - Vivre Encore
[Screamo | Chamber Folk]


My write-up of Dreamwell's new album mentions how interesting I found the use of clean guitars during intense passages; however, Lorem Ipsum's own approach to screamo on Vivre Encore is even more distinctive. "Damoclès" shows just how they deviate from the norm; here, the screamo vocals aren't combined with softer rock instrumentation, but with only violin and acoustic guitar. This is baroque screamo, and it's not done in a gimmicky way; you can envisage how these songs could be easily transposed onto electric guitars and drums based on the violin/piano/acoustic guitar arrangements featured here, but the songs consciously draw from classical music rather than just trying to do screamo riffs on a violin.

The violin is probably the MVP here; whether creating an intense sense of dread with aggressive staccato or stirring listeners with legato, they make "Andrée" an instantly memorable listening experience. "Andrée" is intense, but Lorem Ipsum are able to soften their approach without the screamed vocals sounding unnatural, with "Anne" nicely highlighting this (this is a track where the guitar gets ample opportunity to shine). There's some quite beautiful instrumentation on Vivre Encore, with "Didier" being a particularly good example of this, but Lorem Ipsum are also adept at creating a sense of macabre, such as on "Sergei". Vivre Encore is a really interesting concept pulled off very successfully, and is certainly an album worth giving a try if you're looking for something different.

Bandcamp

by musclassia





Genesis Owusu - Smiling With No Teeth
[Neo-Soul | Post-Punk]


Putting a genre tag on the debut album of Ghanian-born Australian artist Genesis Owusu, Smiling With No Teeth, is no easy task, mostly because of the diversity of genres tackled more than anything else. You could say that there is a neo-soul basis that runs through all the songs, upon which a large palette of experimental hip-hop, funk, post-punk, new wave, alternative R&B builds upon. So if you ever wondered what it would sound like if your playlist went from Talking Heads to Funkadelic to Death Grips, it is mostly what Smiling With No Teeth feels like. With such a large range of sounds, cohesiveness becomes a big pitfall.

Listening to Smiling With No Teeth doesn't feel like you're listening to the same artist all the way, but it also doesn't feel like it jumps haphazardly between sounds, or like it tries to see what sticks. There's sounds that are approached more successfully than others, but what is amazing is just how great Genesis sounds regardless, and how his voice manages to mold to each of those, which is what made it feel like a playlist of different artists. And with only one guest spot from Kirin J Callinan, the vocal heavy lifting is all Genesis. And regardless of the sound approached, the manic quirky energy is never dispelled, and the lyrics might be worth looking into once the hypnotic fun of the genre mesh takes off its veil. I haven't heard an album this fun and ambitious since last year's HMLTD album.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Feu! Chatterton - Palais d'argile
[Nouvelle Chanson Française | Art Pop]


I really like picking albums by their cover arts, so with an album as boring as this one, I actually skipped over it the first time I saw it. It wasn't until I saw a friend posting on Facebook about this being their favorite album of the year, that I actually went ahead and gave it a try. And holy shit, were they right! It's not really the favorite for me, but it has a lot of replayability and memorability compared to stuff that it is racing with for that top spot. Ok, enough of that, let's talk about the actual music. This is a French pop album, and a lot of that lingers in the album more than in just the language that it is sung in, and though I don't listen to nearly enough French pop to have a solid reference point, it mostly reminded me of the self-aware cool of a 60s Goddard film.

Calling this art pop is pretty fitting, considering how eclectic the entire album sounds, with a lot of synth soundscapes that border on prog rock, a touch of neo-psychedelia, a new-wave sense of energy, and a tracklist that feels shorter than it is. At 70 minutes, there's a lot of material to unpack here, but after each listen that I give it, I don't actually remember that it is a long album, because I enjoy every moment of it, even if there could've been some occasional trimming. It works at its most straightforwardly poppy, at its most soulful, and at its most eclectic, and it keeps the balance without tripping over, without feeling pretentious, and never forgetting the fun of it all. Of course that Feu! Chatterton benefit a lot from how musical and charming their language is, but I'm sure that there's a lot that should be credited to them in how appealing they make it sound.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Maria Arnal i Marcel Bagés - Clamor
[Art Pop | Glitch Pop]


The second album from Catalan duo Maria Arnal i Marcel Bagés, Clamor, is apparently a significant departure from their debut record, which was rooted in Iberian folk music. I didn't pick up on much of that here; songs such as "Milagro" have hints in some of the vocal melodies chosen by Maria Arnal, but Clamor is mainly an electronics-heavy art pop album. If this is the duo's first attempt at such a style, it's a successful one; Arnal's vocals are gentle, but she can take a more forward approach when needed ("Fiera De Mí"). Accompanying her excellent vocal arrangements are intelligently utilized electronic approaches, whether it's the glitchy rhythms of "Ventura" or the pulsating bass of "Tras De Ti".

Clamor features a number of guest features, whether it's the orchestral arrangements on "Tras De Ti" provided by the Morphosis Ensemble, the strings from Kronos Quartet on "Jaque" or Holly Herndon's contributions to "Cant De La Sibil·la". These collaboration tracks are amongst the strongest on Clamor, whether it's rousing vocal crescendos on "Jaque" or Arnal's dark, convoluted melodies on "Tras De Ti". Clamor is a bit of a tricky album to describe; it sounds quite unique, drawing from no one place in particular. Instead, the duo draw from an array of influences to make a sound that is very much their own, one that is enchanting and deceptively enthralling.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Tash Sultana - Terra Firma
[Art Pop | Neo-Soul]


Tash Sultana is an artist that I've become unintentionally familiar with courtesy of the music tastes of my housemate, so after being repeatedly exposed to several of their songs in the past couple of years, when I saw that they were releasing a new album, I was curious to check it out. Sultana started off as a one-person band both on record and live, approaching this musical conundrum through extensive use of looping pedals, although Terra Firma does feature several guest musicians and writing collaborators. This looping approach that initially brought Sultana fame courtesy of a video performance of breakout song "Jungle" isn't a clear feature on Terra Firma; rather than featuring layering of repeating patterns in this manner, the songs here are unrestrained by physical limitations and thus more fluid as a result. With less focus on rock and with the guitar taking on less of a central role, "Musk" is more of a chillout psychedelic track, with slick beats, bright trumpets, electronic ambience and delicate guitar contributions. "Crop Circles" is a bit more guitar-centric, as well as featuring Sultana's vocals for the first time, but remains chilled, quiet and jazzy.

The soulful blues rock of "Greed" and busier guitar work on lead single "Pretty Lady" were a bit closer to what I was expecting based on the limited previous experience I've had with Sultana's music, but the record in general is more soul-oriented than I anticipated. Sultana's vocals fit the style nicely though, muted yet smooth and imbued with personality. The vocals work nicely across the relatively varied range of styles featured on Terra Firma, whether it's the dreamy psychedelia of "Coma" or louder funky soul in "Blame It On Society". The album is perhaps a bit too quiet and mellow, given the number of tracks featured on it (14), and I certainly wouldn't have complained if the sounds heard on "Musk" (particularly those that brought lo-fi hip-hop or more psychedelic electronica to mind) had been featured again later on the record, but Sultana is an impressive songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, with their leisurely guitar work really shining on this album.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Arab Strap - As Days Get Dark
[Indietronica | Slowcore]


It's been more than 15 years since we last heard from Arab Strap, with the duo breaking up after a successful run of slowcore-tinged indietronica in the late 90s/early 00s. As Days Get Dark breaks that silence, and indeed days have gotten darker since (even if this would make more sense to have been published in the part of the year when days actually got darker, like in autumn). After binging some of their older records, I can say that As Days Get Dark sits in a very balanced position, both feeling like it picked up right where 2005's The Last Romance left off, but also bringing more than a decade's worth of musical maturity.

A lot of Arab Strap's music relies on Aidan Moffat's vocals, which sit on the border between singing and spoken word. Really quiet and intimate, with an absurdly strong Scottish accent, he sounds like spending a night with someone with whom you can't stop talking. Or rather, you can't stop listening to him talk. The pictures of love, death, and coping are brought to life not only by the upfront lyricism and intimate delivery, but the instrumentals that linger in very lowkey waters of a post-punk, slowcore, indietronica and chamber pop mix, taking the most evocative feelings of intimacy from each of them. It feels rich regardless of its minimalism, purely based on how close it pulls you. This is a wine that has been maturing for long, and now glasses need pouring.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Kings Of Leon - When You See Yourself
[Indie Rock]


Kings Of Leon isn't really a band I followed much, never really listening to them past those two songs everybody knows, which happened to be on the same album back in 2008. It's been 13 years since, and I'm finally listening to a full Kings Of Leon album, since they're also releasing their first album in 5 years, which is the longest gap between albums for them. As much as I have a sort of adversity for a lot of big indie rock bands, I have some personal memories related to "Sex On Fire", even if they ironically involve neither sex nor fire. And Kings Of Leon are one of those indie rock bands that, as mainstream as they are, actually sound like a rock band. And listening to a few more of their albums, I liked them more than I expected to.

What surprised me the most is that there's a noticeable post-punk revival sound going under the usual southern rock ones that I expected from them, which makes a lot of the soundscapes a bit more interesting. Big catchy choruses are obviously something to expect from a band of this caliber, and When You See Yourself delivers in that regard (gotta mention "The Bandit" and "Stormy Weather"), and even if most songs drag on a bit too long and the album as a whole is pretty frontloaded, it still packs some punch. For a band at this point in their career, especially ones that had the spotlight and the spotlight left, to still feel like they put a pinch of passion in their songs is admirable, even if you can tell there's a bit of soulless commercialization in the sound. But hell, I've heard a lot of stuff that was a lot more soulless, and none of it sounded this crisp.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Yu Su - Yellow River Blue
[Ambient Dub | Downtempo]


Following a couple of EPs, Chinese-Canadian electronic musician Yu Su releases her debut full-length in the form of Yellow River Blue, inspired by a tour across China that she took in 2019. The music here is heavily inspired by Chinese music, which is clear early on with the folk instruments featured on opening track "Xiu"; however, these influences are combined with different electronic approaches, from ambience and downtempo beats (with "Futuro" aptly demonstrating this) to more energetic electronica (see the bright "Melaleuca"). Add on top of this occasional use of seemingly wordless, dreamy vocals and delicate piano, and you have a compelling mixture of sounds to dig into.

"Xiu" is quite deceptive in a way; given how prominent the use of folk instruments is on this track, one would expect more regular and overt use of them across the rest of Yellow River Blue, but the album ultimately is an electronic record first and foremost, whether it's the bouncy ambience of "Touch-Me-Not", the mechanical "Gleam" or low-key "Klein". The Chinese music influences do pop up again on certain later tracks, most notably the closing duo of "Dusty" and "Melaleuca - At Night", but it would've been interesting to see if they could have been woven into some of the mid-album tracks. In their absence, however, Yellow River Blue still offers a varied but consistent experience, mostly easy-going but with an occasional eeriness or coldness to expand the borders of the record.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Otay:onii - 冥冥 (Míng Míng)
[Post-Industrial | Art Pop]


I was initially familiar with Lane Shi Otayonii mostly as the vocalist of Elizabeth Colour Wheel and Dent, but she has been releasing some music under the name Otay:onii for a couple of year. 冥冥 (Míng Míng) isn't the project's debut, but it is their most realized record yet, building atop the similar genre fusions that the debut proper, 2018's Nag, laid the foundation for. Well, if you read the genre tags you can already guess that this is a very weird record, combining harsh post-industrial landscapes, eclectic art pop, droning dark ambient, neoclassical darkwave, and bits of Chinese folk influences as well. It is ambitious to say the least, and partly the record is more ambitious than it is cohesive, but at this point it wins on ambition alone.

There's bits of Swans, Coil and Bjork lingering as obvious influences, but the way that these sounds blend is pretty unique to Otay:onii. Considering the vocal work in Elizabeth Colour Wheel, it isn't a surprise that the more art pop / darkwave moments of the record benefit from an electrifying vocal performance, but couple that with the booming synths and throbbing noise, sprinkle some folk instrumentation and what might be strings, and you've got an ominous and dense experience. It's explosive, but it knows when to pull, and even if it's a bit too unpolished, its boldness will make you forget your train of though anyway. When the 36 minutes are over, you'll still wonder what the hell Ming Ming was.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





The KLF - Come Down Dawn
[Ambient | Electronic]


This one is probably the oldest album over here, not in terms of its release date, but in terms of how old the original material is. Come Down Dawn is less of a self-standing album as much as a reissue of The KLF's 1991 album Chill Out. Why the hell would a band decide to reissue an album under a different name so many years later? Well, inevitably I'll have to talk more about The KLF (or their aliases The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu or The Timelords) rather than the album itself, as the band were pretty famous for introducing the acid house / hip house to the UK, releasing their first album in 1987, but most famous for their overt use of samples. Needless to say, there have been copyright issues, and the band went as far as deleting their entire catalog after performing with Extreme Noise Terror at the BRIT awards, firing blanks into the crowd, and dropping a dead sheep at the post-awards ceremony.

A lot of older The KLF material never saw any sort of official re-releases, but 2021 saw an effort into bringing their music onto streaming platforms. First the two Solid State Logik compilations, which feature a bunch of their songs from all over their careers and aliases. And now Come Down Dawn is a version of their classic album with as many samples cleared as possible. I'd still suggest listening to the original album, since a lot of the iconic samples, like the Elvis or the Hendrix ones. But a lot of the charm still remains. Both versions of the albums are themed as a sort of post-rave journey through a bunch of American cities, but also as a sort of "what are the weirdest samples we can get away with using in an ambient" record. The album is constantly on the edge of the ridiculous, but somehow never really crosses that line. But if there is any praise I can give to Come Down Dawn compared to its original version, is that it is better fit for a stereo listen. It's quite the album where the less you know the better.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Vatican Shadow - SR-71 Blackbird Survivors
[Industrial Techno | Ambient Techno]


"Never Reveal The Secrets Of The World's Most Ominous Bird" is both a track on SR-71 Blackbird Survivors and the album's preface. The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, an image of which adorns the cover of the album, is a recon plane used during the Cold War and Gulf War that still retains the world record for the fastest manned aircraft. The ultimate Cold War spy plane, the SR-71 is a serious piece of machinery, and one that could certainly be considered ominous to those not wishing to be watched. Vatican Shadow's record permeates with a feeling of dread, particularly on the subdued opening pair of tracks, with the noisy, mechanical beats of the stripped-down "Outrunning Machine Gun Bullets" offering little in the way of hope or happiness.

There is livelier fare to be found on SR-71 Blackbird Survivors; "Nothing Lived There" is a semi-ambient techno piece that straddles a line between sinister and more soothing atmospheres, with distinct synth tones trading off against a backdrop of a relentless percussive march. However, for the most part, the album is subdued, sometimes eschewing beats altogether for an ambient electronic approach ("All The Molds And Dies Destroyed"), and the mood is bleak (particularly on the noisy and industrial "Never Reveal The Secrets Of The World's Most Ominous Bird"). This is an ambient record, but it's not a happy one, with the record successfully recreating the menacing vibes Vatican Shadow gets from the SR-71.

Bandcamp | Spotify

by musclassia





DJ Rozwell - What Happens After The Death Is Recorded
[Illbient | Wonky]


First off, 'illbient' and 'wonky' are both fantastic names for musical subgenres; they both make it clear what's going on (weird ambience for the former, unstable beats for the latter) whilst just being fun names. Seeing them both together intrigued me, so I decided to give What Happens After The Death Is Recorded a go. What Happens After... is but the latest in a long line of albums from the prolific DJ Rozwell; his Bandcamp profile features an alarming number of releases, considering it's only been 7 years since the first of these releases. Considering both the number and length of the albums that DJ Rozwell has released, it's probably not surprising to hear that What Happens After... is not an 'all killer, no filler' release, but there's some interesting stuff featured here at least.

"It Gets So Much Worse" represents what I assume is the 'illbient' part of this record, with trip-hop beats and eerie electronics placed together to produce something intriguing and disquieting. "Bicameral Mind (First Chamber)" is louder, with the beats placed right at the front of the mix as ominous, unnerving sounds are weaved around the sounds of the percussion. Most of the album leans more towards the muted creepiness of "It Gets So Much Worse", with the volume dialled up for only a few tracks ("Cumming In Socks", "The Tadpole King"); many of these louder tracks are grouped together near the end of the album, and a lot of them also feature guest rappers. I find the album more interested when it is quiet but unsettling, with the glitchy bleakness of "Dream Of A Dead Web" and the sinister deterioration of "The Hypnotized Guts" making a more positive impression than the brasher tracks. Ultimately, What Happens After... has some interesting ideas, but spreads them far too thinly over the 20 tracks included on the record.

Bandcamp | Spotify

by musclassia





Blanck Mass - In Ferneaux
[Ambient | Electronic]


Given how wild and eclectic Animated Violence Mild was (an album I previously covered in this article series), I was surprised when the new Blanck Mass record, In Ferneaux, appeared to be a dreamy ambient electronic album, based off of the oscillating electronics in the first few minutes of lengthy opening track "Phase I". Animated Violence Mild jumped about drastically both within and between songs, so the decision to release an album featuring only 20-minute songs, "Phase I" and "Phase II", combined with the repetitive opening of the first track indicated a strong shift in the writing approach of Blanck Mass mastermind Benjamin Power. Ultimately, In Ferneaux turns out to be a much less varied album than Animated Violence Mild, but there's still plenty about it that's weird and abrasive.

Those oscillating synths eventually transition into a very muted period that's comprised almost completely of eerie ambient sounds, until some soothing synths are brought into the picture. "Phase I" is overall a quite mellow track; however, there are patches of it that are noisy or dark, which hints at what is to come on the more abrasive "Phase II", a harsh composition that alternates between aggressive, tough static-like noise and stripped-down spoken word samples, only lightening up again as it approaches its conclusion. Despite the initial suggestions of the beginning of the album, In Ferneaux is not easy listening; all sections of the album fall under the ambient/noise umbrella, but the record spans the spectrum of possibilities under that umbrella, from the blissful and the soothing to the harsh and punishing.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Elori Saxl - The Blue Of Distance
[Ambient | Electroacoustic]


What do you get when you combine samples of wind and water, a chamber orchestra, and analog synths? You get the debut album of ambient artist Elori Saxl, The Blue Of Distance. We here at Metal Storm aren't strangers to atmospheric albums about nature, and albums conceived in and with nature always hold a special place, but this is a specifically "blue" album, not only due to the way it uses samples, or the theme of technology in regards to nature, but also due to the melancholia it evokes with its songwriting. And it only does so in a mere 40 minutes, which is briefer and also more engaging than most ambient albums.

So other than being an ambient album for people who don't have the patience for most ambient music, and being instantly approachable, it feels like the type of album that can appeal to both fans of ambient and fans of classical music, especially of the more contemporary experimental kind. Its use of strings is still minimalistic, but on the upper borders of that. The way the samples, synths and strings work around each other is something I could describe as both "academical" and "playful", not tilting the balance too much in neither direction, and once again managing to appeal to people looking for either. If there's any ambient album that actually makes you wish it was longer, it's this one.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Kuggur - Emstrur
[Dark Ambient | Drone]


You might already be familiar with the name Guðmundur Óli Pálmason. He was the drummer in Sólstafir and Potentiam, and is now half of Katla. Among other musical projects, some more obscure than others. I also interviewed him, and the the interview was so long we had to cut it in two parts. But he's not just a musician, and this musical project isn't the first time he's used the name Kuggur, as it is mostly his alias for visual art work. I do recommend glancing over if you happen to have a shitload of money to spend. But right now, Kuggur is also an alias for dark ambiance. Well it was before too, but now in music too.

Well, it sounds pretty much like you would imagine it would, conveying cold desolate Icelandic landscape, isolated on a volcanic island on top of the world, with the weight of the world closing down getting heavier and heavier. The synths do create that frostbitten feeling you would get in some synthy black metal, but isolated and coupled with some industrial samples whose repetition wears and wears. And maybe, just maybe, "Hvað dreymir þá sem aldrei hafa þjáðst?" didn't have to be 18 minutes long, but being followed up by a 3-minute violin-centered piece does more than enough to keep things interesting. There are some vocals, which might be less distracting if they were mixed just a little bit lower, but only at a few parts in the first three tracks. For the most part, Emstrur is as desolate as the landscapes it portrays.

Bandcamp

by RaduP





Sangre de Muérdago - Xuntas
[Neofolk | Dark Folk]


I wasn't that big into neofolk in 2016, back when I first came into contact with Sangre de Muérdago, but I really liked Agalloch, so the leap wasn't too great. In fact, I found out about them because I saw them at the same festival where I saw Agalloch. Needless to say, they weren't the only discovery of the festival, but in terms of this brand of neofolk, it made 2015's O camiño das mans valeiras one of those albums you can instantly hear in your mind when you think about them. With a lot more experience in neofolk of this type, I don't think I'd have the same connection to their music if I came upon it now, but it came at just the right time.

And the last I've heard of Sangre de Muerdago, they had just released a split with Monarch (which I covered here), but here on a full length they remind me a lot of why I liked them so much in the first place. Galician is a language that seems to work hand in hand with the fantasy fairy-like feeling of the album. The combination of harps, hurdy-gurdys and guitars from the large instrumental palette somehow never feel like they overwhelm the soundscape, but elevate the mood of the album to that of a gorgeously warm forest, that still retains some of the melancholia of the previous records. Comes complete with a guest spot from Neurosis's Steve Von Till.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Melltaur - The Other Forest
[Neo-Medieval Folk]


From the Polish band Melltaur we get an instrumental folk record with some fantasy flavour to it. The Other Forest is the type of album you could use as background music for your D&D sessions. That's honestly the first thing that came to my mind. But what exactly can you expect? Well, expect some relaxing and comforting yet adventurous sounding music. Melltaur absolutely nailed the "we're going on a journey" feel.

A clean and smooth production adds to the sweet and flowing music. This is a complete package with a clear direction and very solid ideas. An album which feels like complete and cohesive piece. Maybe too cohesive at times... The Other Forest suffers a bit from a repetitive feel here and there because songs start to sound relatively similar to each other. So yeah a bit more differentiation would have helped. And while the nature sound effects help with the cohesiveness, they also tend to increase the similarity in sound between the songs.

All in all though, this record delivers an enjoyable listening experience from start to finish. Its consistency in sound is both its biggest strength and weakness. Fans of folk music (and Dungeon Masters) should definitely give this album a chance.

Apple Music | Spotify

by tominator





Julien Baker - Little Oblivious
[Singer/Songwriter | Indie Rock]


Julien Baker is long in a line of indie singer/songwriters threading the line between indie rock and indie folk to have came into the spotlight over the past 5 years. 2015's Sprained Ankle and 2017's Turn Out The Lights certainly showed that she can move from a rawer direction into a more polished one without losing her emotional impact and the slowcore tinges on both records only made it weight even more. She has since been part of the Boygenius supergroup with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, and though Lucy hasn't came out with any new music since, Phoebe has made a huge step forward with last year's Punisher. So now it was Julien's turn.

Little Oblivious feels like it goes even further in the direction of Turn Out The Lights, being more polished and expansive, but also sounding a lot closer to that wave of indie folk rock at the turn of the past decade instead of the raw appeal of her debut. There's still a lot of what made her great, in terms of her lyricism and emotional vocal delivery, and there's certainly a lot of emotional weight that comes from those two, but it would be even better if it didn't feel as derivative as a result. And despite being more expansive and polished, it actually feels more flat than both of its predecessors. Far from a disaster, but I hope Julien can find a more interesting direction that can properly complement her qualities.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Merope - Salos
[Chamber Folk]


Chamber folk music based on traditional Lithuanian music is on offer here. A very specific genre description for a band (and album) that uses very specific instruments to create their unique sound. Instruments like the kanklès (yes, I had to look that thing up) and bansuri are an integral part of this experience. On top of that we get quite a bit of choir elements as well. Solas often has a heavenly almost ethereal feel to it and in large part that is due to these instruments and vocals. But wait! There's more! How about some synth and electronic touches? And let's add some guitar as well while we're at it.

Basically this is a melting pot of sounds and ideas. And honestly? It works. This record is something very unique and a rewarding piece to listen to. In my other review for a non-metal I talked about it being a relaxing and comforting experience. Well... this one dials that up to 11 (unless you get anxiety from choirs or something). The main vocals by Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė are silky smooth and fit beautifully in the mix elements that this record brings together. Is this something I would listen to every day? No, because it has a strong (positive) vibe to it and I'm a grumpy bastard. What I'm saying is that Solas is an album that works 100% when I'm in the mood for it. It's good and there's no denying that I had a good time with this.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by tominator





Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over The Country Club
[Singer/Songwriter | Americana]


I've been mostly on the sidelines of Lana Del Rey's career mostly because it felt like music for people who watch American Horror Story, but I did eventually start to get the appeal. Which was just around the time she dropped Normal Fucking Rockwell, now widely considered her best work. Instead of doing the logical thing and capitalizing on the success and sound of that album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club strips the sound to a bare minimum, while paying tribute to one of Lana's biggest influences. The album was initially supposed to be released for the 50th anniversary of Joni Mitchell's Ladies Of The Canyon[/b]. That got delayed, but the influence is still lingering.

A more concise and cohesive album than most others in her catalog, even if that doesn't mean that every song makes a big enough impact, just that each of these songs feel like songs from [i]this
record, and also the record doesn't feel like anything she could've done at a different point in her career. She's at the point where she has been one of the biggest voices in the music biz for the past decade, and now she has a moment to lay back, be nostalgic about both her life, and the music she is honoring. The laid back instrumentations still feel quite lush in their minimalism, and there are some out there choices at points, but a lot of the album relies on Lana's voice and lyricism instead of on the vibe it creates, which does lead to some cracks in the ice. Wrapping up the album with a cover of Joni Mitchell's "For Free" and featuring Zelle Day and Weyes Blood is a pretty neat choice, but it mostly makes me appreciate the original.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Lukah - When The Black Hand Touches You
[Abstract Hip Hop | Southern Hip Hop]


You might notice that we don't feature a lot of hip-hop here, and I have to apologize for that. It's not that I don't listen to hip-hop or that I don't enjoy hip-hop, but that I have a really hard time reviewing it. Not only do I still feel like I can't pay attention to lyricism as much as I should (which is an issue I have with other genres like singer/songwriter), but also I'm not confident in my ability to uniquely describe each of them. So even if I liked other 2021 hip-hop albums like this, this, this or this, and I do recommend them whole-heartedly, if I had to pick one to talk about, it would be Lukah - When The Black Hand Touches You.

Why? I don't know why, this one just popped up in my mind more often than the other when thinking about a hip-hop album to feature. So here we have Memphis MC Lukah, who I assume none of us are familiar with. More than half of this album is also produced by him, with the some tracks produced by other producers I haven't heard of, mostly by Cities Aviv. What I enjoy most about When The Black Hand Touches You is that it threads the line between boom bap, and an abstract soul/jazz sampled hip-hop, mostly settling on the latter. The flow and the way it interplays with the beats is damn smooth and oozes of both confidence and thoughtfulness, and the bits of lyricism I could grab on to (and there's a lot of that with how wordy and chorus-less When The Black Hand Touches You is) sounds killer.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP






Written on 11.04.2021 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments

Comments: 8   Visited by: 103 users
11.04.2021 - 14:23
Moose

Would you ever consider including a rating in your reviews? Or even just highlighting a few 'must-listens' for each month?
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11.04.2021 - 14:37
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Moose on 11.04.2021 at 14:23

Would you ever consider including a rating in your reviews? Or even just highlighting a few 'must-listens' for each month?

We'll think about it.
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Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
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11.04.2021 - 15:56
musclassia

Written by Moose on 11.04.2021 at 14:23

Would you ever consider including a rating in your reviews? Or even just highlighting a few 'must-listens' for each month?


I'd be happy to flag 1-3 albums as top recommendations for each month (if it helps for this month, I like the Dust Moth, Elephant9 and Lorem Ipsum the most of the ones that I covered, although in general this was one of my less preferred batches of releases in recent months)
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11.04.2021 - 20:16
Starvynth
i c deaf people
I'm neither a big fan of screamo nor of French vocals in general, but Lorem Ipsum's take on acoustic screamo definitely is something special. The tracks "Anne" and "Patrick" (damn, those violins!) are particularly fantastic. Great find.
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signatures = SPAM
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12.04.2021 - 10:30
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by Starvynth on 11.04.2021 at 20:16

I'm neither a big fan of sreamo nor of French vocals in general, but Lorem Ipsum's take on acoustic screamo definitely is something special. The tracks "Anne" and "Patrick" (damn, those violins!) are particularly fantastic. Great find.

I don't like French vocals in pop music, Spanish as well, same i hate Deutch schlager musik and Balkan turbo folk.
Will I see the day when you and nik will write a piece here?
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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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12.04.2021 - 11:02
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Bad English on 12.04.2021 at 10:30

Will I see the day when you and nik will write a piece here?

Both of them have written here and here among others.
----
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
Loading...
12.04.2021 - 12:32
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by RaduP on 12.04.2021 at 11:02

Written by Bad English on 12.04.2021 at 10:30

Will I see the day when you and nik will write a piece here?

Both of them have written here and here among others.

Missed it, I read articles, not writers name.
----
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
Loading...
12.04.2021 - 13:51
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
I like 2 neo folk albums, French n catalane was horrible, and Maria anal yes I read it. Horrible music, kings of Leon was bad, did listen it as teenager. Band from Lithuania was good kankles, kokle, kantele is same, who said the music recons
----
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
Loading...

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