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


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, omne metallum, ScreamingSteelUS, nikarg
Published: 17.10.2021


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - September 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:

August 2021
July 2021
June 2021

And now to the music...






Turnstile - Glow On
[Post-Hardcore | Alternative Rock]


Though I am a casual fan of the band, I wasn’t jumping at the chance to hear Glow On when it first came out; however, after being bombarded by fans and critics falling over themselves to praise the album, I decided to pop it on and, lo and behold, you actually have an album that lives up the hype.

While mixing post-hardcore with alternative rock is nothing new, Turnstile do so in such a way that fans of both genres will not feel short-changed in the meeting of the styles. As the sharp guitars contrast against the softer production and sound of the rest of the album, it sounds like an iron fist in a velvet glove. With tracks like “Alien Love Call” and “No Surprise” sounding like Turnover, they still manage to be perfect bedfellows next to abrasive tracks such as “Endless”. The songs are as memorable as they are brief, with each track sounding refreshing and bouncy without seeming rushed or unfinished.

While the songs can be taken out and listened to in isolation, it is a much better experience hearing everything as one unit, as the separate short sharp shocks will mean you miss the full picture that appears when placed together.

Apple Music | Spotify

by omne metallum





Thrice - Horizons / East
[Alternative Rock]


Starting out as more of a melodic post-hardcore band in the late 90s, it's not like Thrice was ever that close to being a metal band, but also not very far either. Even in their punkier days, they had a bit of a pop punk vibe, one that slowly evolved into alt and indie rock during the mid 00s. This transformation seemed to be complete around 2009 with the release of Beggars, the first Thrice album where it was absolutely clear that the alt rock side was stronger than the post-hardcore one. Material in the 2010s was middling, since Thrice never really tried to be too commercial in their approach to alt rock, but it also felt a bit more watered down.

Horizons / East is also clearly an alt rock album, where I can almost feel more post-grunge than post-hardcore. It's album that is more restrained in a way, more content to just learn what worked in Thrice's approach to alt rock and do that as best as they can in this stage of their career. Somehow Horizons / East is the most focused and concise I felt the band being in more than a decade, and this ironically allows the quirks in their songwriting to show even more. And calling the vocals more "mature" would almost sound like an euphemism for "lazy", but they sound strangely fitting as ragged as they are, and the occasional hardcore scream grounds it to what came 'fore it. Not a masterpiece, but solid.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Drott - Orcus
[Progressive Rock]


Enslaved have increasingly explored the overlap between extreme metal and prog; with Drott, long-time guitarist Arve Isdal (a.k.a. Ice Dale) abandons the former to delve deeper into the latter. This trio from Bergen, also comprising guest/live drummer for Ulver, Ivar Thormodsæter, and Matias Monsen, veer away from metal territory on this debut record, which clocks in at just under 40 minutes, but there is still an eeriness and darkness to Orcus, in line with the titular character’s role as god of the underworld in Roman mythology. The sinister drones on “The Marauders” bring to mind the likes of Dark Buddha Rising and Waste Of Space Orchestra, whereas “Psychopomp” has a twisted psychedelic feel courtesy of several overlapping layers in the arrangement, including some menacing background ambience and woodwind.

However, this isn’t an album that revels in bleakness. The album, which is predominantly instrumental, feels light and leisurely on the languid “Grey Gull”, and the whistling on “By The Lunar Lake” feels positively whimsical. One of the few songs with vocals of any kind, “Katabasis”, has an air of melancholy to it early, with the subtly progressive groove of the guitars and drums underscored by subtle cello from Monsen before it moves into a more driven rock approach. The vocals on this song are very airy and distant-sounding, layered in effects; I would say, if the band plans to continue featuring vocals, that this is one area in which they can improve, as the contributions are not particularly convincing. Overall, Orcus is quite a distinctive-sounding take on dark prog rock; simplistic on the technical side, it instead experiments with atmosphere and tones to make something subtly sinister yet also delicate.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Tropical Fuck Storm - Deep States
[Art Punk | Noise Rock]

RaduP's pick


Bonkers! Absolutely bonkers! But what else can you expect from a band literally called "Tropical Fuck Storm". The band is sort of a continuation or a parallel project to The Drones. After a rowdy debut, I noticed that their previous album, Braindrops, was a bit more tame and introspective. The Australian band has managed, in the time space of just three albums, to already craft their own idiosyncratic sound, and find ways to play with it from album to album. Their own mix of noise rock, punk blues and neo-psychedelia comes, this time around, with a bit more of the latter. But what makes Deep States "Deep States" is not just what concentration of each subgenre it has.

If you listened to the previous Tropical Fuck Storm albums, Deep States might not come as that big of a surprise, but it still might be their bluntest album. It's loud and sarcastic. It moves in weird grooves, though psychedelic production, spits pessimism, and winks at you in a quirky way. It's fun, but it's often fun in a way where you can't quite tell exactly what's going on, sometimes it's a good trip, sometimes it's a bad trip, but it never has you lose interest. It's messy, but in a way that adds to its mystique. Simply put, the band isn't afraid to lose control of their sounds once in a while. It kinda feels like I like the record, but the record doesn't like me.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Eidola - The Architect
[Post-Hardcore]


The influence of Dance Gavin Dance upon the post-hardcore/math rock scene across the past decade or so is perhaps best represented by the emergence of the term ‘swancore’ to refer to bands within their sphere that bear resemblance to their signature technical instrumental approach. One of these bands, Eidola, not only have previously been on the Blue Swan Records roster, but frontman Andrew Wells has regularly played with DGD live in the past few years, further raising the profile of Eidola prior to the release of their fourth release, The Architect (on which DGD’s vocalist Jon Mess guests to further strengthen the ties between the bands, a collaboration they can presumably bring to life live when they go on tour together this autumn). If the added exposure from these close ties provides the opportunity for Eidola to reach a new audience, the quality of The Architect should help them to solidify it.

The sound here, much like Dance Gavin Dance, lingers at the intersection of post-hardcore and math rock, with some prog thrown in to take it into Coheed & Cambria territory. You’ll find contrast between impassioned clean vocals and semi-regular screams above a backdrop of rhythmically and technically complex post-hardcore, and a relatively metal-leaning backdrop at time (just listen to some of the thick low-end barrages in closing song “Ancient Temperament”). This sound comes together nicely right from the off with the excellent “Counterfeit Shrines”, arguably the strongest track on The Architect (although I do love both the heaviness and modern prog guitar leads on “Ancient Temperament”), but also on the likes of “Mutual Fear” (featuring Mess) and “Forgotten Tongues”. Eidola aren’t as wild as DGD can be, but the funkiness of “Empty Gardens” and the mini-ballad “Occam’s Razor” are some of the more unusual moments to be found here. I really enjoy The Architect; I’m not sure it quite beats out Hail The Sun’s New Age Filth as far as post-hardcore goes in 2021, but it’s a top-notch record nonetheless.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Closet Disco Queen & The Flying Raclettes - Omelette Du Fromage
[Instrumental Rock | Psychedelic Rock]


My favourite album title featured in this month’s article, referencing one of the most memorable episodes from Dexter’s Laboratory, Omelette Du Fromage sees Swiss duo Closet Disco Queen joined by Swiss duo The Flying Raclettes to make a Swiss quartet. The only references I can find online to The Flying Raclettes are related to the release of this album, so why it wasn’t possible to just make Closet Disco Queen a four-piece is not entirely clear. However, pedantry aside, Omelette Du Fromage is a good-quality chunk of instrumental prog/psych rock, packed with energy and good fun.

The album is bookended by two tracks substantially longer than those found in between. “Melolo-Aromatomat” is a rambunctious opener that flies right out of the gate with a high-tempo bounce for a few minutes, before then going into a very extended semi-ambient stretch that ever so gradually works its way towards a reprise of the opening. “Gigadodane” is similarly gradual in its progression, with an energetic underlying rhythm section persisting along whilst the guitar work gradually intensifies, with a similar vibe of “Night Of Pan” on Motorpsycho’s recent The All Is One. The songs in between don’t have quite the same capacity to build as these lengthy tracks, but the likes of “Glutentag” and “Flugantaj Raketoj” explore this approach on a more micro scale; in contrast, “Goussepaille” goes full garage rock with its twangy main riff. Overall, this is definitely one of the stronger and more memorable instrumental psych rock albums I’ve heard in a while, with some really engaging hooks and passages to be found within.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Trophy Scars - Astral Pariah
[Blues Rock | Art Rock]

musclassia's pick


Not the easiest sound to describe, Astral Pariah was initially tagged as post-hardcore when I encountered it somewhere in the sprawling mess of the internet. There’s hints of that genre to be found here, but presumably it must be a lingering relic from a previous lifetime for Trophy Scars. Instead, the first song “Mother” feels like an old-time spaghetti Western piece re-envisioned as an indie blues rock song. The guitar twangs and saloon-style piano, the stomping bass drum beat, all of it takes your mind to the red deserts such as those found in Monument Valley (featured on the album’s cover), but the exuberant vocals of frontman Jerry Jones feel rather more modern, as do some of the more indie-leaning inclinations in the song’s sound. Although it’s not something I’ve ever longed for, it turns out that an ex-post-hardcore band writing Western songs works out quite nicely.

Jones’ grizzled, growling narratives are a key feature of Astral Pariah (and not one that I’m always totally taken by), but so are strong guitar solos, bluegrass acoustics (“Pestilent Scar”), the prog-toned keyboards on “Sister”, and about a dozen other ideas that are somehow packed into a 30-minute record that, in spite of this, still feels unrushed and spacious in the way that Western music should. Whether it’s the gentle acoustic strumming of the title track or for more lively violins on “Father (Part 1)”, everything here fits with the vibe the band were presumably aiming for, and it all comes together quite wonderfully. This is a thoroughly enjoyable record that makes its point quickly and doesn’t hang around afterwards.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Poppy - Flux
[Alternative Rock | Electropop]


“Flux” certainly describes Poppy’s career thus far: after a series of strange internet electropop and ambient releases, she went from a Babymetal-meets-Motionless In White blend of bubblegum nu metal to a noise EP and from there to an industrial screamo pop-punk EP, and now finally she lands in the nonmetal series with her fourth LP. Flux pursues a grungy, machine-flavored alt rock sound, shaving some of the rabid edge of EAT and revisiting some of the airier elements of her pop side. The title track opens the album with a “Dragula”-style rhythm and a restrained chorus counteracted by screamed backing vocals and noise effects, and “Lessen The Damage” succeeds it with an unmistakably Nevermind-era pace and attitude. Much of the album takes the same path, pulling away from conventional rock chic on the surface and fundamentally mirroring a Nine Inch Nails-meets-Foo Fighters songwriting blueprint underneath, with some spacey pop to fill in the gaps. There are times when Poppy snaps into a bridge or a breakdown that reveals her late and postmodern entry into the grunge game, not to mention some lingering extreme metal fixation, but Flux generally betrays little of the aggressive eclecticism that I Disagree first greeted heavy music fans with in 2020.

That change in approach is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, lax tracks like “Hysteria” and “So Mean” posit that Poppy has always been fairly accessible and you’re just now realizing it; the trappings may have been difficult to digest, but there are catchy pop melodies everywhere you look, and now they are simply laid bare for broader appreciation. On the other hand, the sheer ineffability of Poppy’s metal transformation was a substantial part of the appeal of I Disagree, and if we can judge by the fact that her subsequent, more effable releases haven’t generated nearly as much attention, that shedding of confrontational musical disparities also entails a loss of some personality. Now, in the end, Flux still covers more genres than your average album is supposed to, so it’s really the comparison to last year alone that makes it seem tame, and it’s another blithely enjoyable half hour without any major missteps. Nonetheless, with the heaviness and the surrealness alike dialed down so far, it’s getting harder and harder to hear what’s so special about Poppy, and none of the songs are quite as catchy or well-produced as the first two. It’s fine if Poppy is getting more comfortable over time, but as the style grows more conventional, there is going to be more and more pressure to nail the execution more effectively.

Apple Music | Spotify

by SSUS





X’ed Out - We All Do Wrong
[Noise Rock]

musclassia's pick


It is true that We All Do Wrong, but X’ed Out do a lot of things right on their debut record. The noise rock outfit, featuring members from the likes of Silent Front and Working Men’s Club, have produced a sprawling, ambitious and compelling first offering. “Inborn” starts deceptively with trumpets and muted meandering before the first real riff of anger is introduced. We All Do Wrong is noise rock that lives right on the boundaries of hardcore, metal and at times mathcore; there is real force to the instrumentation and Phil Mann’s sickened yells when the band go full-on. At the same time, despite the persistent bleakness throughout the record, We All Do Wrong is dynamic and varied in approach, which very much serves to its benefit.

Those brass sounds do appear throughout; they can be somewhat buried by the loud, grim guitar work, but when they break through the mix they add a nice sense of depth to the chaos surrounding them, such as on “The 5 Headed Boy”. Whilst the whole tracklist is very strong, additional highlights include the proggy, droning drive of “Fouling The Nest” and “Self-Healer”, with its atmospheric percussive opening and relatively delicate clean-sung, piano-accompanied ending bookending minutes of sonic violence. There’s also an impressively successful attempt at a long-form song with the 10-minute closer “The Noble Rot”, where the more atmospheric tendencies from songs such as “Self-Healer” were expanded on with predominantly subdued instrumentation, clean vocals and proggy meandering. We All Do Wrong is a gripping merging of aggression, atmosphere and contorted compositions, and makes for engrossing listening.

Bandcamp

by musclassia





Starless - Hope Is Leaving You
[Post-Rock | Slowcore]


There is something of a disputed zone between post-rock and post-metal that I refer to as ‘heavy post-rock’; it’s an area in which I would place Valerinne, and a band like Year Of No Light can linger on the edge of it at times. Starless are a post/alt-rock band from Chicago, that flirt with the volume or crunch of metal in its heavier moments, but have a sound that is still primarily rooted in rock; although “Helvetii” has hints of metal in it, there is more of the slowcore sound popularized by Chelsea Wolfe or of 90s alt-rock/shoegaze to be heard in the subdued vocals of Jon Slusher, plodding rhythm section and tremolo-centric guitar work of this song.

The sound on Hope Is Leaving You, the sophomore release from Starless, is for the majority of the time grounded in hazy, introspective stretches of melancholic rock, with plenty of airy clean guitar work, soporific singing that draw heavily from slowcore and shoegaze vocalists, and bursts of more muscular alternative rock riffing. The capacity to push the intensity further in specific moments does add an extra dimension, bringing some added potency to the middle of “Devils” and a bit of fire to the climax of “Citizen”. Most songs span the whole dynamic range, but some lurk more towards one end of the dynamic range throughout; opener “Pendulum” is the most consistently heavy and loud song here, whilst “Forest” is a track that remains fairly subdued and ponderous throughout. I generally like the album, although I find the percussion to be arguably the most impressive element about it; I’m not quite as keen on some of the vocals and song directions, although those with a greater taste for artists such as Chelsea Wolfe or post-rock bands that take influence from American folk music (I hear hints of Wayfarer in "All The Winter") will likely find a lot to enjoy here.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Sawtooth Monk - Goddess Empress
[Psychedelic Rock | Electronica]


An instrumental companion piece to Peregrination, released earlier in 2021, Goddess Empress sees Sawtooth Monk, a solo project of Travis Abbott (Ealdor Bealu), explore both psychedelic/stoner rock territory and ambient electronica almost simultaneously. The psych-rock runs closest to Abbott’s other project, but whilst the spacious psychedelic lead guitar melodies and subtly droning background atmospherics of opening track “Goddess” exhibit a clear connection with this sound, the meandering, overlapping synth lines and trap beats that follow on “Ormr” make clear early on that this record is not rooted in one specific style.

Perhaps something of a cliché, Goddess Empress alternates back and forth in style between tracks; the odd-numbered pieces a languid, Western-toned spacious psychedelic rock jams, with meandering guitar leads set against sonic backdrops that nicely capture the essence of the open desert, whilst the even-numbered tracks are dominated by electronics. However, the two approaches do not feel disconnected set against each other. Okay, maybe the oscillating synths of “Multiplicity” belong more on the soundtrack of a cheesy 80s movie than they do next to these other tracks, but “Signs Of Ragnarok” feels eerily atmospheric with its scattered layers and stripped-down underlying beat, whilst subtle electronics on “Miles” make a bridge from the guitar-based tracks to the electronic experiments. Wrapping up this brief offering is the classically droning psychedelia of “Empress”, slowly bringing down the sun on this sonic desert.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Tauk - Chaos Companion
[Prog-Fusion | Electronic]


Combining prog rock with electronic music isn’t necessarily a novelty; Zombi have been dabbling with this fusion for 20 years, and there’s artists that predate them still. However, it’s hardly a scene that has been saturated, so when I stumbled across an album like Chaos Companion, the seventh full-length record from Tauk, it was easy to be captivated by their combination of prog, electronic music, jazz, funk and other ideas, all merged together fairly seamlessly inside compact and emotionally resonant instrumental tracks.

The jazz comes through on the first track, “Chandra”, courtesy of Isaac Teel’s complex drumming, but the chilled keyboards serve as a nice counterpoint to the energetic underlying rhythm, and this is something of a theme throughout the record, where the mellow electronics act as a soothing element above various different styles. The more prog-inclined “Make Your Move” takes inspirations from different World music styles in both its percussion and melodies to win over listeners instantly, whilst “Moon Dub” ventures (unsurprisingly, given the name) into dub music for another early shift in style. Tauk explore a number of different musical approaches across this relatively compact record, with the dubstep/trap on “Dormammu” (featuring The Shady Horns) really standing out as a surprising but successful experiment. Tauk are clearly very musically diverse, finding a way to fit each different approach within a familiar framework that remains consistent across the eclectic record, right up until the slightly melancholic vibes of lush closer “Yasuke”.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Andy McKee - Symbol
[Fingerstyle | Acoustic Rock]


Fingerstyle guitarist Andy McKee was something of a star of the early internet; allegedly, at one point in the early days of YouTube, the top three most-watched videos on the site were from McKee. The musician from Kansas has achieved some respectable success in the physical world as well, touring or collaborating with musicians as renowned as Prince. On Symbol, McKee’s first studio record in seven years (a surprisingly dormant period when compared with his previous output), he pays tribute to inspirational songs and musicians, including Prince’s “Purple Rain”.

This six-track EP of covers allows McKee to display his technical proficiency, but also the hear that he can put into his music. The “Purple Rain” cover is an instantly recognizable interpretation of the classic, and it is preceded by recordings of tracks by three renowned fingerstyle musicians. A potentially less orthodox feature here is a quite charming version of “Streets Of Whiterun” from the Skyrim soundtrack, as well as a “Rocky IV Medley” made in collaboration with original composer Vince DiCola. The latter seems to be largely driven by the latter, with any acoustic guitar input overshadowed by the classic 80s synths, but “Streets Of Whiterun” is quite delightful. A perhaps brief offering from McKee after such a lengthy gap in records, whilst Symbol doesn’t offer any new compositions, it’s a nice view into some of the musical inspirations of McKee.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Osi And The Jupiter - Stave
[Neofolk | Americana]

musclassia's pick


Nordic neofolk has become something of a ‘fad’, for lack of a better word, in the past decade or so, with many following the lead of the likes of Wardruna. Those bands have mainly been Nordic in origin, but even those further afield have taken inspiration from these Nordic bands. This might be considered a shame, as most countries have their own folk history and music that could be similarly explored. Osi And The Jupiter, from Kent, Ohio, were one of these bands, as betrayed by early album titles such as Uthuling Hyl and Nordlige Rúnaskog. However, 2020’s Appalachia EP saw the gaze of multi-instrumentalist Sean Kratz and cellist Kakaphonix veer slightly closer to home. Now, on Stave, Osi And The Jupiter straddle the Atlantic, exploring folk music from both sides.

Those two styles aren’t necessarily integrated within a single song; rather, some tracks continue in the vein of Wardruna, whilst others opt for a more Americana approach. On the one hand, it does make for a slightly disjointed listen to be frequently flip-flopping between the two sounds, between the atmospheric, rousing strings, drones and percussion of the Nordic style and the stripped-down roots singer/songwriter Americana. On the other hand, both styles are acoustic folk, so it’s not too drastic a disconnect, and both forms are written and performed well, so even as the styles alternate, the quality remains fairly consistent throughout. The album starts off with the Red Dead-worthy banjo-based “To Reap What Has Sown” and lowkey Americana song “Folk Of The Woods” bookending two droning Nordic-style tracks, and ends with a string of Americana songs (concluding with the title track from the Appalachia EP) interrupted by the lengthy “Eihwaz (The Beating Heart Of Yew)”, the one song that really diverges from the two established templates by effectively being a soundtrack-style string quartet track. Stave might feel a bit awkward at times with its back-and-forth approach, but, providing you like both of the styles predominantly featured here, you should get a lot out of this album.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Maston With L’Éclair - Souvenir
[Lounge | Progressive Rock]


The collaboration featured on Souvenir was birthed in 2018, when American composer Frank Maston, whilst living in Paris, was introduced to the Swiss-based prog-jazz quintet L’Éclair. The two projects first joined forces in a live setting, before committing Souvenir to tape over three days in early 2019. It’s taken a long time for the finished project, a somewhat brief effort at only 25 minutes in length, to see the light of day, but the collaboration is a successful one.

The sound of Souvenir isn’t that easy for me to describe, but if I was to go for a loose term, I might go for ‘soft prog’. There’s definitely elements of the instrumental work on the record that brings to mind music such as Zopp’s self-titled album from last year and softer cuts from classic prog rock albums, particularly the likes of “Do You Feel It Working?” and “Ghost”, thanks to the gentle guitar work, dreamy keyboards and airy vocals. At the same time, “Les Monstres” has more of a smooth jazz vibe, whilst “L’Eau Bleue” is very much easy-listening lounge or elevator music. The record as a whole is very easy-going thanks to the mellow tones of the synths and guitars; at times, it perhaps feels a bit too twee, but there is some real substance to be found here as well.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Low - Hey What
[Post-Industrial | Ambient Pop]


Low is a pretty classic case of a band whose discography often gets overshadowed by that one album, sometimes, and in this case, the debut. 1994's I Could Live In Hope is a staple of slowcore, possibly my favorite album in the genre, and I listen to "Lullaby" much more often than it is healthy. And I did listen to half a dozen of Low's other records, and I loved them, but they didn't push me to revisit them as much. I did notice from afar how the previous two records switched up from Low's usual slowcore sound into something more focused on electronics. Drone-y ambient glitch pop and indietronica. Double Negative especially cemented that sound into something bleak enough to be in line with the debut.

Now Hey What keeps the same methods and aims for different results. "I want to see technology break as much as it has broken me", says frontman Alan Sparhawk in an interview. Though Hey What is still somewhat sparse, understated, and... well... low as its predecessors, it exudes an aura that is more surreal and uplifting, and perhaps a bit rowdy. The background is noisier, but the layered vocals more confident and comforting, creating a contrast that radiates pure power. It's the yang to Double Negative's yin. It's the kind of thing that not only works fantastically on its own, but helped me re-contextualize Low's previous work, and give me renewed interest in exploring their discography.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Nite Jewel - No Sun
[Ambient Pop | Art Pop]


Ambient pop may not get the best reception on a site dedicated to music that is generally the complete opposite (read: loud), but a better description would be coffee table music: gentle, mellow music that refreshes the palette and helps clear the mind. Nite Jewel have proven to be one of the more prominent acts in the genre, but unfortunately No Sun stumbles instead of striving forward.

The choice of producing fewer but longer songs is perhaps the key problem with No Sun, as the balance between minimalistic and hollow is often tilted too much towards the latter, with several tracks too sparse to colour in the mental images they conjure in your mind (the opener “Anymore” being a prime example), leaving you with outlines that are drawn over and over again with little extra detail added.

There are many bright moments and aspects to the album that will have you floating away on an ethereal cloud, from the shimmering “#14” to the more upbeat “To Feel It” and “Before I Go”. In addition Gonzalez’s vocals remain the solid anchor that holds the music together, maintaining that soothing and relaxing tone that manages to capture your attention without you noticing.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by omne metallum





Sleigh Bells - Texis
[Noise Pop | Electropop]


You might remember Sleigh Bells from the grimy cover of the Appalachian folk song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” that appeared in the trailer for 2020’s The Rhythm Section. It was great exposure for a project usually too violently abstract to make it that far into the public eye; Sleigh Bells is far more exotic than a promotional snippet could convey. The “noise pop” tag is really just a vague catch-all used in place of the paragraphs of explanation it would take to break down all the breakdowns and analyze all the rapid sequences in a Sleigh Bells album. The instrumental tracks on Texis evolve so frequently that a single chorus might, with each repetition, transform into undulating hip-hop, warped surf rock, melting industrial, or electronics-infused metal, only to come out on the other end as blithe, lilting synth pop. If Sleigh Bells were heavier, we’d be talking about them in the same breath as Igorrr, although you can do that anyway, because their exemplary production puts other genre-shifting chameleons to shame. Already more than a decade into their career, Sleigh Bells clearly paved the road for artists like Poppy (whom you’ll see elsewhere in this article) with their merciless barrage of hooky, dreamy pop choruses and abrasive, acquisitive production. Skittering percussion, slappy acoustic guitar, foghorn brass-synth, rapid double bass, and whining noise riffs pelt the air, ensuring that the songs are never the same for more than a minute, and yet it all remains very accessible.

Texis, the duo’s fifth album, is perhaps the least grating (which I’m using in a descriptive rather than a pejorative sense), with the distortion heavily curtailed and the overall sound smoothed into something less punky and more pop-like than previous releases. The higher proportion of electronics to guitars and emphasis on ethereal pop soundscapes continues where the band left off with 2016’s Jessica Rabbit, though there is still plenty of raw noise punk energy to be found, and opener "SWEET75" contains one of their most bludgeoning industrial metal riffs. The real magic of Texis – and Sleigh Bells as a whole – is how the entire album maintains a consistent feeling in spite of the countless genres it borrows from in its 11 tracks. It’s partly the ever-present vocals of Alexis Krauss, whose clear, layered voice is soft enough not to damage the effervescent atmosphere but strong enough to hold its own against the heavier instrumental tracks; it’s partly the impression that Sleigh Bells aren’t really playing other genres so much as adopting their techniques to a style of their own. I’m more a fan of the Reign Of Terror/Bitter Rivals aggression, but this duo has never produced any album that was less than great, and Texis certainly does not break that streak.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by SSUS




Tim Hecker - The North Water
[Ambient]


Tim Hecker is probably my favorite electronic musician, with his 2016 album Love Streams coming just at the right time when I was getting into electronic music. In the meantime, I've grown to favor 2001's Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again and 2011's Ravedeath, 1972. Logic dictates that a 2021 album would be up next among my favorites. Well I wasn't as enamored with the Konoyo and Anoyo duo that came before this, and The North Water is actually a soundtrack, so odds aren't precisely in The North Water's favor. But listening to it, and knowing just how well Tim Hecker can capture moods in sound, I'm surprised that this is his very first soundtrack. Well, there's a time for everything.

It probably goes without saying that I haven't seen the TV series that this acts as a soundtrack for, but it's probably not very hard to guess that it's something that happens in the arctic. I can get that from the title and the cover art, but most importantly for the scope of this review: I can get that from the music itself. I'm not sure if arctic ambient is a genre (probably), and this acts very well to both create that scenery for me, and to create a sense of dramatic suspense. I could guess from the music alone that things go pretty awry in the show, and then I check it and it seems that the show is a survival drama. All that because Tim Hecker knew how to combine strings and synths to give me that feeling. With soundtrack albums there's always the question of whether they stand on their own. The North Water feels like a soundtrack album, but it also feels like a good album, soundtrack or not.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Amon Tobin - How Do You Live
[IDM | Experimental electronic]


One of the most important figures in experimental electronic music, Amon Tobin has been exploring audio manipulation and experimental sound design since the 1990s across styles as varied as IDM, drum and bass and jazz. With an array of records released under his own name or various aliases (Cujo, Two Fingers, etc.), Tobin has built a reputation as one of the more reliable and adventurous musicians in electronic music. With How Do You Live, record number 17 across all his different psuedonyms, Tobin draws from his back catalogue whilst still venturing into new territory.

The opening title track is insidious, darkly ambient with layers of overlapping and contrasting layers providing subtle melody or unnerving menace, not unlike some material found on an album like Mezzanine by Massive Attack, gradually intensifying until it bursts into a powerful trip hop-inspired percussive assault. “Rise To Ashes” is less insidious and more overtly harsh, with heavy dubstep drops combined with harsh electronic noise. How Do You Live does not make for easy listening; there’s a darkness and subtle aggression to a lot of the music, with even lighter cuts such as “Phaedra” carrying a degree of menace via the powerful bass beneath the collage of guitar samples. Much of the rest of the record explores the spaces between ambience and glitchiness, resulting in a constant feeling of unease even in the absence of more abrasive elements. How Do You Live is a challenging and dark listen, but also a relatively rewarding one.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Lee Gamble - A Million Pieces Of You
[IDM]


A Million Pieces Of You was released on the same date as Flush Real Pharynx; this isn’t a double album, more an album within an album. English electronic producer Lee Gamble has worked on three EPs in the last couple of years, with A Million Pieces Of You following In A Paraventral Scale and Exhaust; all three are combined on Flush Real Pharynx. I’ll only discuss this final EP here, but if you enjoy it, you may wish to try the whole of Flush Real Pharynx.

I saw A Million Pieces Of You tagged as IDM, or ‘intelligent dance music’, a somewhat controversial term due to the implications of the mental faculties of other dance music. The term indicates that the music on display aspires to be more ‘complex’ than most dance music, and in this case, club music producer Gamble has created music that bears hallmarks of club music courtesy of its sometimes blissful tones and bouncy beats, but also dabbles with harsh noise (“Balloon Lossy”), complex rhythms (“Newtown Got Folded”) and simple ambience (“Empty Middle Seat”) in a very non-club-conducive manner. There’s hints of artists such as Boards Of Canada to be found here, particularly on a track like “You Left A Space”, but Gamble can also push into more immediate territory with the vibrant sounds and pulsating bass on “Hyperpassive” and brash synth lines on “Balloon Copy”. Located somewhere between electro-ambient, experimental electronica and dance music, A Million Pieces Of You is a bit of everything, for better or worse.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Hail Spirit Noir - Mannequins
[Synthwave]


I remember finishing my review of the magnificent Eden In Reverse saying: “I don't know what the future of Hail Spirit Noir will be. They may go all Ulver on us by ditching metal completely and follow the path of the bonus synthwave version of “Incense Swirls’”. And (guess what!) this is exactly what they did. Mannequins is yet another transformation of the ever-shapeshifting band and this time Hail Spirit Noir celebrate their 10th anniversary with a one-off, synthwave / sci-fi pop album, completely devoid of any metal instrumentation, and serving as a soundtrack to a horror story. I know that you have had enough of the ‘80s revival, what with the countless Carpenter Bruts and the Perturbators of contemporary synthwave, but bear with me for a moment.

Mannequins features both new songs and remixes of older songs. And, while it is very enjoyable to listen to the new versions of “Against The Curse, We Dream”, “The Cannibal Tribe Came From The Sea”, “Mountain Of Horror”, and “Alien Lip Reading” in the form of “Against Your Will, My Blade”, “The Monsters Came From The Sky”, “Visitors Of Horror”, and “Alien Cell Charging”, I found the two standout songs to be the title track and the super-addictive “Enter Disco Inferno”, both featuring clean vocals in an album that is mostly instrumental. I can easily imagine this music being part of the score for a series like Stranger Things or a film like Drive and I do find Mannequins an atmospheric and enjoyable listen, but it is clear that Hail Spirit Noir don’t aim to innovate here the way they have done in the past. This is a nice addition to their discography and a fulfilment of a desire that the band has had for a while apparently, but I am personally ready for their next step to be towards a new sound, with which they will become leaders again and not followers. Yes, I know, I am a spoilt fan but Hail Spirit Noir have made me this way.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by nikarg





FM Skyline - Illuminations
[Chillwave | Vaporwave]


Chillwave is a sub-genre that is pretty much defined by its pursuit of nostalgia, which perhaps destined it for a brief period in the sunshine, as the sound declined in popularity only a few years after emerging. However, the creation of nostalgia-based music is hardly a novelty in metal, with waves of thrash and OSDM revivals just some examples. As such, I’m sure we can all appreciate the power of nostalgia, provided it’s channeled through decent music, which I would consider Illuminations, the fifth album released in just five years by FM Skyline, to be.

The sound of the album is pretty much as expected: lots of retro-sounding synths, whether moody (“Prelude”) or bright and upbeat (“Overture”), along with lo-fi aesthetics and 80s synthpop melodies that would sound right in place on the Vice City soundtrack. There’s times when the similarity in style across the board becomes a tad glaring, with similar central motifs in “Veranda” and “Veil”, although the songs generally have sufficiently memorable melodies to stand on their own merits, such as the overlapping synthlines in the bright-sounding “Harlequin”. Still, chillwave is generally more of a background style rather than something to listen to intently, and there’s a level of consistency to Illuminations that renders it very easy listening.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Sneaker Pimps - Squaring The Circle
[Trip Hop | Synthpop]


Given how mainstream trip hop was in the 1990s, I find myself encountering relatively little of it these days in comparison to other electronic styles. A lot of this may be due to several of the bigger names in the genre, including Massive Attack and Portishead, either going on hiatus or slowing down their studio output in the new millennium. Another notable British band in this scene, Sneaker Pimps, also followed this trend, going on hiatus in 2005 for over a decade. Squaring The Circle, the project’s first album in nearly two decades, serves as a good example of why the decline of this genre was unfortunate.

Once a five-piece, Sneaker Pimps are currently a duo comprised of Liam Howe and Chris Corner. Corner has performed vocals for the group since Kelli Ali was fired after Becoming X, but he’s joined by American singer Simonne Jones on Squaring The Circle, who’s understated, soulful vocals work perfectly for the muted trip hop/synthpop found on the album. Opener “Fighter” is one of the strongest songs here, with the interplay between Corner and Jones’ vocals working nicely above the moody electronics and trippy beats. “Child In The Dark” shifts somewhat away from the trip hop template for a somewhat brighter synthpop sound; Jones fits this approach similarly well, delivering the more pop-oriented chorus with conviction. Other highlights of the album include “So Far Gone”, which combines slick hip hop beats with delicate electronic sounds and hushed, ethereal singing, and the dark, twisted “Love Me Stupid”. With 16 songs running for over an hour, Squaring The Circle is a bit inconsistent; I find myself more drawn towards the trip hop-heavy songs and those featuring Jones (around two-thirds of the tracklist) over the other songs. Still, it’s a solid comeback after a prolonged absence, and I would like to hear Jones continue collaborating with Sneaker Pimps.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Chvrches - Screen Violence
[Synthpop]


I heard of Chvrches a while ago, but I was never really interested to get more into them after my initial impression of them was being competent but extremely sugary synthpop. What did make me interested was seeing that this new album would have a song with The Cure's Robert Smith. And lo and behold! It's a good song. It was actually that song alone that not only became a staple in my listening binges, but was the sole reason why I decided to cover this album. I gave their discog a courteous binge, since they only have four albums, so now I have some context: their debut is the type of synthpop that would be cool if it had more reverb on the vocals, their previous album is the most pop one, and Screen Violence is the one I'd have the easiest time to recommend.

The short story is that "How Not To Drown" is the absolute highlight and everything else pales in comparison. The songwriting is on point, Robert Smith has lost none of the voice he had in the 80s, and their voices mix really well. Now the long story is that everything else is still Chvrches being sugary synthpop, but this time with more of a horror theme, which does make things a bit more interesting, even if the music is still bright and would fit a teen TV show more than anything. So, it's not that far off from what I didn't like about Chvrches in the first place, but it's still the one album I'd be most likely to return to, and it has the only song I'd listen to regularly.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Durand Jones & The Indications - Private Space
[Smooth Soul | Disco]


It's probably no surprise that, even if we have an entire article series about non-metal music, some genres still get more traction that others. Stuff like dark ambient, synthwave, post-rock, or post-punk usually get more of a pass than EDM, R&B, trap or pop rock, even if the latter obviously have a bigger share of the market. So... when was the last time we covered a soul album? Good question, I don't know, but we probably did. Durand Jones & The Indications's previous album was one of the albums that we considered writing about, but we let it slide. I did remember the name though, and I when I saw that there was a new record from them I was eager so raise our soul music quota.

But their previous album, American Love Call was a soul album through and through, the Curtis Mayfield/Sam Cooke type that sounded like it legitimately could have been released in the 60s. Now, Private Space, even of a first glance, is a bit different, because it changes the soul context. It's still kind of a soul record, but it's imbibed in sounds of disco, moving the emulated sound by a decade into the late 70s. It's smooth, lovemaking music. Durand Jones & The Indications seem to be able to make absolutely believable soul music regardless of type, and there's a reason why the band seems to stand out. Even if there is no originality in merely emulating old sounds, they do it so precisely, the vocals are absolutely intoxicating, and the arrangements are top notch. There's a reason why the genre is called "soul". This drips with that.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP




Injury Reserve - By The Time I Get To Phoenix
[Experimental Hip Hop | Glitch Hop]

RaduP's pick


I find it quite hard to call this hip-hop. People have experimented with the confines of hip-hop for a long while, and acts like Clipping. and Death Grips and dälek all have works that feel like they experimented so much that they transcended the tag. Injury Reserve were far from traditional, showcasing their experimental side as far back as their breakthrough mixtape, 2015's Live From The Dentist's Office, but most of the time was spent moving between jazz hip-hop, hardcore hip-hop, and industrial hip-hop. 2019's self-titled record is the first time where it felt like they were putting this forward-thinking-ness ahead, but even that still felt pretty well grounded in hip-hop.

Now By The Time I Get To Phoenix does have moments that come from hip-hop, mostly in the fact that it has rapped verses occasionally, with flows that wouldn't feel alien on a more traditional beat. Sometimes they're natural, sometimes they're processed to sound akin to psychedelic trap. But everything else deconstructs hip-hop into a glitchy surreal and psychedelic mess that almost sounds more like a sound collage than anything resembling a hip-hop beat. The whole album flows rather with the logic of dreams, sounding a lot less structured, approachable or able to resemble anything. It's the kind of album where you really feel like existent genre tags are not enough, and that it will either be a cult experiment, or a staple in future discussions.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Moor Mother - Black Encyclopedia Of The Air
[Experimental Hip Hop | Abstract Hip Hop]


Moor Mother is a name that I kept encountering since discovering her, and her stuff has became quite commonplace in our features. Though her 2016 album, Fetish Bone was followed by a more quiet period, ever since 2019 she's been collaborating, featuring, and releasing stuff like crazy. From the illbient Zonal, the jazzy Irreversible Entanglements, the punky Moor Jewelry, plus a collab album with rapper Billy Woods, to her own solo albums. Now Black Encyclopedia Of The Air is technically a solo album, but it's a very collaborative one, with more than half the tracks having features.

The extended roster of the album does make this a pretty entertaining listen, and given its brief 30 minutes runtime, it's certainly one of Moor Mother's most digestible records. But don't take that to mean that the album is too accessible, with its experimental nature still very prominent, even if it's less direct and explosive. Black Encyclopedia Of The Air is more moody and abstract, moving more within dark jazz landscapes and a very heavy emphasis on atmosphere alongside its lyricism. Despite the short runtime, there is no shortage of ideas in how the moody abstract atmosphere shifts with each style approached, and the result is probably Moor Mother's mellowest album.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





The Bug - Fire
[Grime | UK Bass]


Full disclosure: this is the only The Bug album I listened to in full. I plan to change that, but I didn't have a lot of time. Which is ironic since the only The Bug song I had listened to before this was a song with Death Grips featuring, and The Bug actually have an album on Metal Storm, but it's a collab with Earth. Now listening to Fire, the "'people were no longer arrested for not being vaccinated, now they were just terminated" line in the intro did kinda sour my first impression. But after that, the dystopian angle is pretty much dropped, and I can say that Fire is, as the title implies and as kids these days would say, "fire".

Fire is a pretty British album in the sounds that it approaches, with a lot of the tracks having features from Ragga and Grime artists, but not exclusively, as the Moor Mother (since we were just talking about how she's everywhere) feature proves. So now you take a bunch of Jamaican Patois (presumably and not exclusively) flows over hard-hitting illbient UK bass beats. There's some dubstep (the good kind, not the brostep that came to define the genre), post-industrial and ambient dub, making Fire move through a lot of sounds, and the constantly changing roster ensures that there's always something interesting going on, even if the album isn't completely consistent quality-wise.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Boldy James & The Alchemist - Bo Jackson
[Gangsta Rap | Jazz Rap]


Boldy James is definitely a very diligent and hard working rapper, considering how many releases he's had his name over in 2020. He's been around for a longer while, but it seemed that starting in 2019, with an EP collaboration with The Alchemist, he's had quite the resurgence. I got to know him through his The Price Of Tea In China, a collaboration with, once again, The Alchemist, which was followed by two more collaborations with other producers, as well as a solo tape, out of these I also covered Manger on McNichols when it came out. And now, 2021 seems to be a bit of a slower year, with Bo Jackson being his only release this year.

Well, Boldy is enjoying the result of his hard-working 2020, having built a sort of following, a gangsta mystique, and a reputation for his storytelling and penchant for eclectic beat-makers. The Alchemist continues to be an absolutely perfect match for Boldy's lowkey and deadpan delivery, with the soulful jazzy samples working around to emphasize the lethargic violence of the record, and of Boldy's storytelling. I am honestly more of a fan of Alchemist's beats than of Boldy James's flow, but Bo Jackson is more than the sum of its parts, and guest spots from Earl Sweatshirt, Benny the Butcher and Freddie Gibbs only make it more livid.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
[UK Hip Hop | Conscious Hip Hop]

RaduP's pick


Little Simz is now in that position where she released a very well-received album, but is only now able to build upon that into something even grander. Grey Area was one of the most exciting hip-hop albums of 2019, but I didn't return to it as often, at least not until the singles for Sometimes I Might Be Introvert started dropping. And those made this album easily my most anticipated record of the year, both in terms of seeing an artist's growth and in just how grand the presentation seemed. And in turn, it also made me appreciate Grey Area more, and dive back into Little Simz's previous works. Now I think I finally have the necessary context.

I'm still mostly into the songs that were made public before the album's release, but in my defense, there were quite a bunch of those. And having went through a sizeable bulk of her catalogue, I'm surprised that Sometimes I Might Be Introvert doesn't have as much in common with the darker and rougher (relatively) Grey Area, instead having a bit more of a soulful vibe taken from her previous work. But even so, the huge string moments of "Introvert" and the gloss of "Woman" (the rare care of an empowerment anthem that really avoids the cheesy pitfall) and the banger that is "Rolling Stone" do make this album feel much more ambitious and, I know you might strike me down if I use the word again, but "grand". The lyricism is obviously deeply personal, with "I Love You, I Hate You" and "Little Q, Pt. 2" being highlights in that regard. Grey Area might have been more concise and focused, and Sometimes I Might Be Introvert's 65 minutes does leave some room for some moments that aren't necessarily highlight territory, but that do make sense in the album's scope.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP




And that was it. You've made it through still alive. Congrats. See ya next month. Here's a Spotify playlist we compiled out of stuff featured here:







Comments page 2 / 2

Comments: 31   Visited by: 133 users
29.10.2021 - 23:54
IronAngel

Written by Nejde on 20.10.2021 at 23:51

Best disco song of 2021 has to be Pearl Charles' Only For Tonight


It's a fantastic song but the rest of the album has grown on me more and more. At first I was disappointed it didn't stick to that melodramatic Abba pastiche, but once it clicked, I was glad for it. But then, I've also listened to more Fleetwood Mac this year than usual...

In general, disco has been having a huge revival in the past few years. Meanwhile I'm discovering Donna Summer properly for the first time.

My AOTY (Low) is here, obviously, so happy for that, and also great to see Sleigh Bells back in the limelight. I did not get Injury Reserve at all, Little Simz is the best hip hop album in a while (for a non-hip-hop fan like me).

I had not noticed new Tropical Fuck Storm and Hail Spirit Noir albums, must check out asap. TFS's debut was great but I think I also missed the sophomore.
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