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Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - January 2022


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, Milena, X-Ray Rod
Published: 14.02.2022


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - January 2022
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:

December 2021
November 2021
October 2021

And now to the music...






Jethro Tull - The Zealot Gene
[Progressive Rock]


Perhaps it’s unreasonable to be covering Jethro Tull in the non-metal series, given their famous metal Grammy-winning performance in the 80s. However, Jethro Tull are now over 50 years old, with sole surviving original member Ian Anderson comfortably into his 70s, so the hard rocking days are more in the past now. Truth be told, it's hard to really separate Jethro Tull from Anderson’s solo band, with the replacement of Florian Opahle on guitar with Joe Parrish the only difference between the line-up on The Zealot Gene and Anderson’s most recent solo album, 2014’s Homo Erraticus (although Anderson’s been credited as the sole writer on Tull albums since the 70s, so it’s arguably been his ‘solo’ project for decades anyway).

Now, what can one expect from a Jethro Tull album that comes over 50 years after their debut? The answer is an album that’s entirely listenable, and that has that whimsical classic prog charm, but one that’s also not the most memorable experience. The Zealot Gene arguably shines brighter in its folkier moments, like “Jacob’s Tales”, with its mandolin and harmonica; there is a thinness to the record that does makes its attempts at going harder (such as on “Mine Is The Mountain”) not fully land. Also, I’m not sure Anderson needed to get his flute involved quite as much as he does. Still, if I make an album as decent as this after having written as much music as he has, I’ll be very proud of myself.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Karfagen - Land Of Green And Gold
[Progressive Rock]


Karfagen is the brainchild of Ukrainian composer Antony Kalugin, who also releases under his own name, as well as with projects such as Hoggwash and Sunchild. As Karfagen, Kalugin writes progressive rock, clearly inspired by the retro Canterbury sound, but with more modern leanings. The first proper epic on the album, “Land Of Green (Part 1)”, has a lot of that 70s retro-prog charm, particularly in the extensive keyboard arrangements, but also pushes the heaviness at times, and also fits a nicely atmospheric drum section in around the halfway point.

Land Of Green And Gold is the thirteenth full-length album released under the Karfagen name, so by now Kalugin has a strong idea of what he’s aiming for with this project. As such, he’s comfortable throwing in curved balls, such as the accordion detour on “Solis Festum” or a funky jam in “Land Of Green (Part 3)”, and he has a good idea of how to balance prog rock’s complexity and technicality with an ear for upbeat melody, which becomes clear during the solos on this album. I’ve seen this album categorized as symphonic prog; to be honest, I’m not sure what’s really symphonic about it (flute and saxophone aren’t really novelties in prog, are they), but there is a sense of grandeur to parts of the record, such as the sci-fi midsection of “Land Of Gold”, and overall it’s one of the more charming retro-sounding prog rock albums I’ve come across in these last few years.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Madrugada - Chimes at Midnight
[Alternative Rock | Alt-Country]


Norwegian Madrugada, one of the finest alt-rock bands you've never heard of, return with a new studio album almost fifteen years after their final self-titled LP and the death of their guitarist and key songwriter Robert Burås. Of course, expectations are high after the band, finding itself revived and gigging after it had steadily gained a cult following in its afterlife, came out with something new they wanted to say. No one can say this is the exact same old Madrugada of Industrial Silence, but I enjoy their new, mature outlook, grounded by familiar elements of old, like Sivert's full-bodied red wine baritone and the romantic mood that emanates from their songs.

The instrumentation is mostly acoustic - our first electric guitar solo hits on track 4, "Stabat Mater" - and sparse, so every chord has to be imbued with meaning, and the band mostly manages to pull that off. This is some classy, buttoned-up music, that brings to mind surface-level references to Cohen and Cave, but it's not all in minor key or slow. They peek through every now and then, and at last, powerful rays of sunshine are suggested after the titular Chimes at Midnight during the soaring final track, "Ecstasy". Let's see if the band delivers on that promise, hopefully sooner than 2036.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by Milena





VRSTY - Welcome Home
[Post-Hardcore | Alternative Rock]

musclassia's pick


When I covered Nightlife’s debut EP last year, I pondered about whether the RnB/metal mash-up they featured might become a trend in the next few years. Well, it’s hard to say whether there is a trend yet, but Nightlife aren’t the only group playing around with this concept; on top of Issues, there’s also VRSTY, who have dropped their first full-length after a few short-form releases. Each band, whilst exhibiting similarities, has their own approach to mixing pop music styles with rock/metal elements, and of the three, VRSTY are the one that leans closest to being metal, whilst also bringing from quite a few other styles.

“Finesse” makes the unusual nature of VRSTY’s genre fusion clear early on, with Joey Varela’s hooky nasal cleans being contrasted with a screamed rap and accompanied with a Mechina-style cyber-djent instrumental backdrop. From that point, there’s journeys through glitchy post-hardcore (“Soul”), RnB rock (“Closer”, “Paranoid”), pop/trap/djent overlaps (“Never Again”), and other combinations of pop, electronic, RnB, post-hardcore, alt rock and metal elements. Whilst that sounds like it’s a revolutionary record, it does feel fairly conventional overall; it's like a softer, more pop-oriented revision of what nu metal could have been. Now, on the surface, all of this sounds pretty horrendous, and there’s every probability that it would’ve been, except for the facts that a) VRSTY are clearly committed to writing this heavy commercial blend with conviction, and b) Varela consistently delivers super-catchy hooks and has the right kind of voice to pull this whole thing off. Welcome Home is definitely not going to be for everyone, and at 14 tracks long it’s got too many songs without all of them landing well, but I had a surprising amount of fun with this record.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Honningbarna - Animorphs
[Garage Punk | Hardcore Punk]

RaduP's pick


Come to think of it, punk is a pretty large umbrella term. A lot of it falls under metal too, hence why we have so many "-core" genres, while also finding subtle ways to make its way into pretty much anything. Animorphs cover a fairly large range of styles, but it's one album that, regardless of the shape it takes, the sound has "punk" written all over it. Garage punk, hardcore punk, post-punk, noise... rock, but we can all agree that that's basically punk with extra steps. And for a Norwegian band, the language barrier distills the punk ethos to its bare essentials: the energy. Most of Animorphs is loud and in your face, but even its more subdued moments never let any of the punk energy escape unscathed.

It's the kind of album that would sound disjointed in lesser hands. Post-punk melodies juxtaposed with noisy grooves and hardcore vocals and gang shouts and approachable catchiness juxtaposed with explosive loudness. There's a certain eclecticism in the chaos, with Honningbarna in clear control of the different shapes. Sure, there's no post-hardcore, no screamo, no grindcore, no new wave (ok, maybe a bit of new wave), but it still effectively covers so much territory. It's fun, rowdy, loud, angry, quirky. It's primal and animalistic. It morphs. Like the title. And that description is not even doing the album's ambition justice.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Yard Act - The Overload
[Post-Punk]


Ah, yes, post-punk. A genre whose revival has been going for more than two decades, and somehow even now new bands are coming up in the genre and still feeling pretty vital. It seems to be one of the genres I've been covering the most here, so I'm naturally pretty attracted to the genre, but I didn't expect to be this struck by a debut album, especially when there isn't much in terms of daring genre fusions, but just really well at grabbing your attention. The Leeds band is pretty close to The Fall, in the sense that it appears like the lyrics take a bit of a precedence over the actual music, and the spoken vocals often either deadpan or quirky, take center stage in painting a pretty sarcastic, dissonant and pessimistic state of affairs.

Even though James Smith's vocals sit front and center, the music does a pretty good job at creating angular and groovy post-punk sounds that border on dance-punk. And they're at their most interesting when they're leaning towards either of those, as the more straight-forward post-punk cuts of the album kinda blend into the nondescript sound of what one imagines a post-punk band sounds like. There's definitely a lot in The Overload that feels very unique and intriguing, especially in terms of the stories told, some either through the vocalist's perspective or through a characters'. At 37 minutes of runtime, Yard Act's debut might be excused for not having everything figured out just yet.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Foxtails - Fawn
[Screamo | Emo]


As much as I dabble with post-hardcore regularly whilst writing for this article series, I can’t say I’ve got much experience with screamo bands, but it seems that Fawn is making waves in that scene, so this seems as good an opportunity as any to dip my toe in. My toe nearly gets bitten off by the starkly raw screamed vocals of lead singer Megan Cadena-Fernandez, who sounds genuinely pained on opening track “Ego Death”. There’s a stripped-down roughness to the production, which fits with the grounded feel that many emo bands seem to strive for, but it does also give a bit of flatness to the sound of an album that at times aims for vivid aggression.

Probably the most intriguing aspect of Fawn is the violin work of Jared Schmidt; a virtually ever-present feature on the album, it adds a dramatic flair to the music that really works to its benefit; the frantic strokes during the climax of “Star-Crossed” really serve to up the intensity of these closing moments, bringing a similar weight to them as the strings on a song such as The Dear Hunter’s “Mustard Gas”. As for the rest of the band, I’m not always taken by the emo guitar meanderings and melodramatic semi-spoken word sections, but there is a pleasant darkness and weight to songs and sections on the album, particularly the crunching second half of “Paper Tiger”, as well as moments that really take one by surprise, such as the blasting on “Gazelle”.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Dean Hamilton - Limina
[Post-Rock | Noise Rock]


I sometimes wonder how Radu finds suggestions for these articles; I can find virtually nothing online about Dean Hamilton or Limina. However he found it, he unearthed an instrumental post-rock album that actually has something a bit different to it. Arguably, that’s because it’s not really a post-rock album, so much as an album that features elements of post-rock, along with others from noise rock, progressive rock and ambient music, but that’s getting into nitpicking territory. From the optically illusionary artwork to the eerie-yet-warm vibe of the music, Limina has a peculiar aura to it, but a pleasant one as well.

Some of the more obvious musical references I found myself leaning towards when listening to Limina were the likes of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree; certainly, the mellotron and subtly heavy guitar of the opening track “Circadia”, as well as motifs later in the album, recalled some of Steven Wilson’s work, both as a solo artist and within his main band. That opening track is brief, however, and is then followed by a highly accomplished ambient track, one that ever so gradually evolves as sparse percussion fills the mellow soundscape. This is one end of the dynamic spectrum of Limina; there are genuinely heavy guitar crunches to be heard on the likes of “Limina” and “Melting Monolith”, the former of which only further establishes the Porcupine Tree connection with moments that bring to mind “Russia On Ice”. At the same time, there’s dynamic builds (with a nice tom-driven progression in “Melting Monolith” and exuberant guitar tremolos (such as late in “Limina”) right out the post-rock playbook. Limina is a very creative album, one that takes cues from established genre templates and renowned bands and shapes them into something less orthodox.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Deathcrash - Return
[Slowcore | Post-Rock]


With 40 Watt Sun's recent couple of albums, one of them released a week prior to this very album, embracing the slowcore sound, I hope a lot more of us are opening up to the genre, this unloud, unconcise, unfast sound, with its very unique emotional appeal. Deathcrash are quite new to the scene, with two EPs released since 2019, and Return being their debut album. As true to the slowcore fashion, Return overstays its welcome at 65 minutes of runtime, but that depends on how much you welcome it anyway. I mean, there are two songs named "Slowday" and "The Low Anthem", so maybe we're running into a case of self-aware slowcore. Well, whether that's the case or not, we have a band who pretty much nailed the essentials.

The music does blend in quite a bit of post-rock, but mostly because the band I'm reminded of most is Mogwai, especially Mogwai's quietest moment, which makes sense since that's a band that dabbled in slowcore consistently. The songs move at a snail's pace, the vocals only interrupt when really necessary, the sound is melancholic and lethargic, but Return also doesn't shy away from bringing in a couple of moments that are a bit louder in the aptly titled "American Metal". That goes to show that there's more than meets the eye to this band, but Return shows its secrets very scarcely and to those that are patient. I can only hope they'll get even more ambitious from now on.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Hugar - Rift
[Post-Rock | Ambient]


Hugar are an Icelandic band loosely tagged as post-rock, so unsurprisingly this is a very minimalist experience. In ways, it conforms to elements of post-rock, but more so it is built upon ambient electronica and neoclassical composition; basic, melancholic string arrangements, dainty keyboards and muted electronic beats join forces to create soundscapes so fragile, any hard-edged sound would shatter them. Sigur Rós and the debatably Nordic Nordic Giants have ventured in this kind of direction in the past, but not necessarily with this degree of commitment to featherweight levity.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Rift, to be honest. There’s a point at which dreamy, super-soft ‘cinematic post-rock’ starts to feel like navel-gazing, and I definitely get that vibe at times with Hugar, what with the amount of time it spends dwelling on super-quiet ‘uplifting’ tones (the main hallmark this music shares with post-rock, to be honest), particularly since the album is an hour long. Having said that, there’s an undeniable charm to tracks such as “Volt”, which builds from a simple oscillating synth melody to a still-pretty-quiet but fuller soundscape. Hugar do have a good feel for how to fill space simply yet effectively; it just gets a bit sickening sweet in large doses.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Gloios - Lide
[Post-Rock | Experimental Rock]

RaduP's pick


Gloios is the one-man band of one Rafael Xavier. And I feel the need to mention that, because after seeing that the project is from Brazil and hearing the music, I wouldn't have been surprised to hear that this is another one of Caio Lamos' projects, like Bríi and Kaatayra. The latter is probably the best point of comparison, like out of all my musical knowledge, not just in this Brazilian experimental bubble, because a lot of it sounds like a Kaatayra-ish sound with the black metal replaced by post-rock and post-metal. But one of the descriptions on Bandcamp credits Rafael by name, so credit where credit is due, there's now two amazing artists in this niche.

A lot of the similarities in sound come down to the completely alien feeling of the record, combined with daring genre fusions that include Brazilian folk music. The folky quirkiness has a quality that feels both very universally human, while also very specifically Brazilian, with the samba and forro sounds being so unmistakable. The flow movies in dreamlike logic, the album doesn't shy away from minimalist repetition, field recordings, and then it jumps into a post-metal riff. But even at its most metal, the album doesn't really feel heavy, still permeated by a constant cryptic ethereal layer. Like it's trying to trigger a different part of my brain than the one that's usually reacting to music.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Cloakroom - Disillusion Wave
[Shoegaze | Dream Pop]


So... I was browsing the "New Releases" page, looking for stuff to check out. I see this cover art and it looks cool. I put this album in my queue. Now, if you saw this cover art on a metal website, what genre would you assume it was? Grindcore? Death metal? Alt metal? Close. It's a shoegaze album. What Cloakroom is doing on Metal Storm, I have no idea. They're signed to Relapse Records so maybe that's why. Disillusion Wave is actually their softest album despite heaving the most metal cover art, with their previous two albums, especially their debut, having a bit more of a post-hardcore vibe. But Cloakroom have always been first and foremost a shoegaze band. I'm not complaining, I maybe would've missed Disillusion Wave otherwise, but I still find it weird.

Regardless, here we have it! Like I mentioned, things are softer this time around. The post-hardcore edge that the previous albums had has more or less been replaced by something closer to dream pop. This doesn't mean that Disillusion Wave is all soft, with there still being occasional spurts of loud walls of sound, but there's also a bit of a slowcore inspired minimalism that feeds more on subtle melodies. The best thing about Disillusion Wave is the production, with a lot of it feeling washed by waves of cosmic dust. Songs like "Dissembler" and "Fear Of Being Fixed" may have been sludge metal in another life, but only because their presence here makes me read so much into their heavy moments. And they're at their best when they feel like they're floating.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Elvis Costello & The Imposters - The Boy Named If
[Power Pop | Pop Rock]


It wasn't that long ago that I reviewed another Elvis Costello record. The proficiency has been Elvis' modus operandi ever since he started making music. Sometimes you get multiple albums a year, sometimes you get a five year break. In the writeups for the last album I urged readers to listen to This Year's Model before even thinking of jumping in. That was because Hey Clockface should really not be someone's first Elvis Costello album. I still urge you to listen to This Year's Model, but The Boy Named If isn't as bad of a first taste.

I wouldn't really call The Boy Named If a fantastic album and I'm not sure how time will treat its place among late-era Costello albums. But it's an album that showcases the qualities of late-era Costello much better, and late-era Costello is a pretty great place for music too, even if it's not as vital as the 70s/80s stuff. It sounds pleasant in its mellow ballads and it sounds pleasant in its rocking moments, and there's no part of the album that isn't decent at worst, which is more than I can say about the past couple of albums. What can I say? All of it sounds good. Time has treated Elvis Costello pretty well, with his gruffy vocals being a perfect fit for the music, and his songwriting abilities still not feeling like they ran their course. This definitely sounds like the same artist that made My Aim Is True, and not in a "rehashing sounds past" way.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Dance With The Dead - Driven To Madness
[Synthwave | Darksynth]


If you did a survey of metal fans and asked them what their favourite non-metal genre was, I wouldn’t be surprised if synthwave ranked pretty highly on the list. There’s been a longstanding overlap between the two scenes, with some of the biggest names in synthwave (such as Perturbator and Carpenter Brut) having featured in or collaborated with metal bands in the past. Then you have acts like Dance With The Dead, who aim to blur the lines between the two genres and show just why there’s such common ground.

Driven To Madness opens with “March Of The Dead”, a brief track where churning metallic sounds, guitar leads and dramatic synthwave melodies sit alongside one another (this song has iconic director/composer John Carpenter and his son both credited), and maintains this metallic vibe on the first ‘proper’ song, “Firebird”. From the drum beat to the synth tone, there’s a heaviness to “Firebird” that extends beyond where most synthwave bands reach; at the same time, Dance With The Dead is an electronic project first and foremost, and there’s plenty of Carpenter-inspired horror soundtrack synths on Driven To Madness, as well as some bright synth hooks. Ultimately, the metal influences are most present on these first couple of tracks, with the likes of “Sledge” and “Wyrm Of Doom” using them as only a background component or occasional cameo feature to add some weight behind brash keyboard hooks, and “Kiss Of The Creature” going full-on slick darksynth. At this point, I start to run out of things to say, because if you’ve heard some synthwave, you already know how this record sounds, and all there’s left for me to say is that Driven To Madness is a fun album, with strong tracks particularly in its first half.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Soichi Terada - Asakusa Light
[Deep House]

musclassia's pick


It’s always fun coming across a new artist, particularly one that’s been around for a while, and working out the story of their past. A quick look at Soichi Terada’s discography on Wikipedia revealed a glut of 90s releases, with an obvious slowdown afterwards. Further reading reveals that this resulted in a shift from the house/jungle music of his early career towards video game soundtracking and other projects such as the chiptune Omodaka, with Asakusa Light representing his first foray back into house music in over 20 years. The release of the compilation Sounds From The Far East caused a renewed interest from the public in Japanese house music, but also a renewed interest in Terada himself. In those 20-odd years, however, the scene in which Terada first made this music has changed, with the clubs he used to frequent closing or moving, and thus Asakusa Light represents a journey back through his memories and emotions from that time period, and the challenge of channelling the processes that resulted in his 90s material without the presence of the same surrounding influences.

Having not heard those 90s albums, I can’t discuss the extent to which Asakusa Light recaptures the feeling from those early records, but I can say that this is a very pleasant record to listen to. “Silent Chord” is a mellow opener, with bouncy bass, subtle beats and gentle warbling sounds on the surface, and it sets the tone in terms of vibe for the record to come. There’s little oddities that feature on different tracks, such as the piano chords midway through the upbeat “Double Spire”, the bamboo flute cameoing in the bass-heavy, pounding “Bamboo Fighter”, or 80s synths on “Takusambient”, but the general feel maintains that subtle serenity throughout. What’s more, Terada has assembled a catchy beats and grooves; Asakusa Light is a fun mellow dance record from start to finish, and a successful return for the veteran producer.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Bonobo - Fragments
[Downtempo | Deep House]


It’s been over a decade since Bonobo broke through with Black Sands, and the British electronic producer is firmly an established name now. Searching for his next musical step, Bonobo (also known as Simon Green) worked with fragmented ideas that rose from explorations with modular synthesis, recordings of/collaborations with harps (Lara Somogyi) and strings (Miguel Atwood-Ferguson) and dabblings with a Rhodes piano, but these fragments formed a whole thanks to a combination of further collaborations and solo trips into the American wilderness. The result, Fragments, does feel fragmented in its own way as a result of the different styles featured on it, but the record, whilst making for a somewhat uneven listening experience, does some have some captivating peaks.

There’s several songs scattered through Fragments featuring vocals, and these offer some of the most diverse sounds on the album, from the insidious-yet-mellow downtempo dance piece “Shadows” (featuring Jordan Rakei) to the RnB cuts “Tides” and “From You” (with Jamila Woods and Joji, respectively). More to my tastes are the tracks geared more towards techno, whether it’s the serene energy of “Otomo”, the playfully bouncy melodies in “Age Of Phase” or the gently evocative sounds of “Sapien”. I’d like to hear a Bonobo record in the future that was centered around these types of tracks, as I’ve found previous albums by him to be similarly inconsistent in terms of enjoyment, but he is equally capable of writing within the various styles he explores.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Burial - Antidawn EP
[Ambient]


Burial is one of the biggest names in British electronic music, not to be mistaken for the British death metal band of the same name. 2007's Untrue is not only one of the best Electronic albums, but probably one of the best albums of all time, and also one of my favorites. That said, 2007 is pretty far away, and Burial's career since then has consisted of sporadic EPs, most of which between 10-20 minutes of runtime and exploring different spaces between dubstep, garage and ambient. Yes, dubstep. A lot of these were compiled in Tunes 2011-2019, which we covered. Now the Antidawn EP comes, and out of all the EPs lately, this feels pretty unique.

First up, this one is over 40 minutes in runtime, so the EP, reinforced in the title as well, feels more like a categorization to avoid Antidawn feeling like Untrue's follow-up after more than a decade. And it makes sense because, second up, this is the closest to ambient that Burial has gotten for the entirety of a record. The music is very understated, which would make it feel more boring if it wasn't so textually interesting. Burial's music always had a nighttime feeling to it, but whereas it previously felt like the bus trip home from a rave or staring at the ceiling in your own room, this one feels like a dream, and realizing that the raves were decades ago, and it's all gone and the past is never coming back. A liminal space that's a continuation of the one previously explored, but it's emptier and more degraded.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Mydreamfever - Rough And Beautiful Place
[Ambient]


You probably don’t know Mydreamfever, but you might know Parannoul, the South Korean shoegaze artist that has appeared in this article series previous, whether with his own music on To See The Next Part Of The Dream, or on the split album Downfall Of The Neon Youth. His appearance with Mydreamfever is of a very different nature; eschewing guitars, rock and arguably structure altogether, Rough And Beautiful Place is a gentle stroll through nature brought to life with delicate piano, ambient field recordings and loose percussion.

Rough And Beautiful Place is easiest to describe as ambient music, but there is melody in the music from the piano; it’s just that the piano doesn’t have clear phrases, instead just pressing on carefree on a journey of tranquility. The drums add a slight sense of disorder at times, with brief bursts of activity that feel at odds with the sedate nature of the surrounding music, but this measured chaos doesn’t undermine the aura that is brought to life on Rough And Beautiful Place. Mydreamfever is a boldly serene departure from the music released under the Parannoul name and a display of versatility from this musical mind.

Bandcamp

by musclassia





Illuminated Void - Illuminated Void
[Dark Ambient | Dungeon Synth]


Sleestak aren’t the most active band, with a nine-year gap between their two most recent records, but that’s not to mean that the personnel involved with the project are lying dormant musically. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Schmitz has released a fair number of records under the Psyclopean moniker, not to mention those under his own name, and now there is Illuminated Void as well.

What is Illuminated Void, I hear you ask; the answer is ambient synth music. Bouncy, new age synth sounds roam around a spacious soundscape, with formless vocals shifting in and out of the void. It’s quite a peaceful-sounding album, but there’s also a very subtle darkness as well, particularly on the more spiritual “Ritual Of The Dawn”, what with its ominous drones and percussion. In the battle between light and dark, the illumination wins out over the void, but Illuminated Void makes worthwhile use of both ends of the spectrum.

Bandcamp

by musclassia





Molly Nilsson - Extreme
[Synthpop]


My first contact with Molly Nilsson was the YouTube-recommended-core that is the video for "I Hope You Die", which I liked and I figured that I ought to dive more into this artist's music eventually. Parsing the internet for January releases, the name "Molly Nilsson" seemed familiar, but it wasn't until actually diving into 2011's History that I heard that one song again and made the connection. Thinking that that song is ten years old is pretty mind-boggling already, but just looking at the cover arts of all the releases and the sound of what I've heard, Molly seems like a really consistent artists. I haven't listened to enough to really say that this consistency also applies to quality, but if Extreme is any indication, there wasn't any major fall-off.

So the consistent sound is a pretty minimal kind of synthpop that feels very haunting and hypnagogic, but not always in a melancholic way. A lot of the music on Extreme is upbeat, but without losing that haunting quality, which is something that feels really hard to pull off for the entire runtime of the album. Extreme's 40 minutes are pretty apt at making Molly's sound more upbeat than I remember on the other releases, replacing the colder minimal coldwave with something more akin to art pop. And here's where that consistency comes to mind. The music is catchy and full of vibes, but gets increasingly bland as it saturates into the rest of Molly's music, whether that's a song losing itself in the album, or Extreme losing itself among Molly's discography, despite some obvious attempts at sonic diversity.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Aurora - The Gods We Can Touch
[Art Pop]

musclassia's pick


The Nordic countries really have a knack for great music, don’t they. On top of all the great metal and dark neofolk that’s made the journey across the North Sea and to my ears, artists from those countries are overrepresented in the list of ‘alternative pop’ acts that I find myself increasing appreciating, including the likes of Kalandra, Fever Ray and Björk. The latest discovery is the Norwegian starlet Aurora, whose third record The Gods We Can Touch lands perfectly in the Venn diagram overlap between catchiness, emotion and unorthodoxy.

“Everything Matters” is a magnificent first ‘proper’ track on the album, a duet with French singer Pomme that charms with their ethereal, evocative overlapping vocals and subtle underlying beat. The emotional tone this song sets isn’t one that really sustains throughout the rest of the album, with only the haunting “Heathens” channeling a similar energy. However, that’s not necessarily a downside; although more electropop-oriented, the likes of “Giving In To The Love”, “Cure For Me” and “The Innocent” still possess a distinctive artistic voice, and shine based on their charm and straight-up catchiness. The album’s arguably front-loaded with the best songs (since most of them were released as singles, clearly someone else shares that viewpoint), and the overly bright “A Temporary High” is a bit cheesy, but even as a whole package, The Gods We Can Touch is likely to be a stronger contender for my favourite pop album of 2022 come year’s end.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





FKA Twigs - Caprisongs
[Alternative R&B]


FKA Twigs' discography is pretty sparse, mostly because of how long it took for her second album Magdalene, to come out. But her 2012-2015 stuff has been pretty game changing in terms of a certain brand of abstract off-kilter and almost liminal R&B. It's music that takes the form of mainstream music but twists it into glitches and ethereal spaces. Caprisongs, though, is not an album. It's a mixtape. Generally that's a term most often used in hip-hop for released put out for free to avoid copyright charges. Not really sure if this counts in this case, seemingly the categorization was used by FKA Twigs to avoid putting the same amounts of expectations that an actual album would require. Just like when Drake straight up defined a new format when he released "a playlist". But regardless, I guess it makes sense that Caprisongs is a bit more... uhh... free.

With a lot of her music being really somber, Caprisongs is a bit more carefree in its feelings. Even though it's still really well produced, there's a bit more of a rough-around-the-edges feel to it, complete with numerous interludes and spoken word passages that do make it feel pretty lively. It's not like her music didn't feel accessible, I mean, she even had a song with Future on her last album, but here things are allowed to go both more abstract and more direct. There's plenty of features here, with the flashiest one being a song with The Weeknd, which is about as pop as it goes. There are plenty more excursions into dancehall, hip-hop, glitch pop, afroswing, and generally stuff you'd have to put a lot more effort into incorporating into her usual sound. It's not like she doesn't put any effort in Caprisongs, but she makes it feel like it works more effortlessly than it probably does. Feels good to have a FKA Twigs that actually feels fun.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





The Weeknd - Dawn FM
[Synthpop | Dance-Pop]


The Weeknd isn't really a stranger to concept albums, or at least in the light sense, where a lot of his early mixtapes showed the dark side of the party life, and each of his albums since seemed to hint at something more conceptual. That culminated in After Hours, seeped in the 80s, its synths and all its excesses, but Dawn FM takes things a bit further, and in retrospect making Atfer Hours' concept even clearer. Not only is it metaphorically the time of day that follows the "after hours", Dawn FM is made to feel like a radio station in purgatory, narrated by none other than actor Jim Carrey. And in talks of this being the second part of a trilogy, it's quite likely the conceptual part will only be solidified once that is completed.

Part of what really nails the conceptual tone of the record is not only the constant interludes that range from compelling ("A Tale By Quincy" and "Phantom Regret by Jim") to questionable ("Every Angel Is Terrifying"), all of which hammer the point quite hard. But also the production being pretty consistent, with Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never) having a hand in almost all the tracks here. The two have been working pretty extensively for the past few years, but Dawn FM feels like the most fully collaborative effort between the two. Lopatin isn't the only producer involved, with a bunch of big names also contributing, but that somehow lead to a more streamlined approach, where the tracks all clearly feel like something that belongs on Dawn FM. Every main song here is a pop banger in pretty much every sense of the world, with the synthpop and house influences from previous records still apparent, but also has a more subtle dark and abstract vibe to it, something that feels in strong contrast to the the flashy songwriting on After Hours. A lot of the songs here work pretty well on their own, even if none really have as much star power as his previous mega hits, but with the way the songs flow into each other, Dawn FM is begging to be listened to in full.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Earl Sweatshirt - Sick!
[Abstract Hip Hop | West Coast Hip Hop]


There are things in the world that just naturally go together. Movies and popcorn. Pizza and pineapple. Earl Sweatshirt and really short albums. His albums have always been short, none of them surpassing the 30-minute mark. But as his music got increasingly abstract, the leanness of the tracklist became an even bigger factor in the experience. Some Rap Songs had the songs reinforce themselves in the overall experience, while Feet Of Clay actually brought the briefness to EP level. Having been around for more than a decade at this point, a lot of the tropes of abstract hip-hop that might start feeling a bit dated actually have his own trademark in their creation.

Sick! is, as the title would imply, a record that does look at sickness, but even if the pandemic has had some hand in its creation, there's more sickness of the mind at play. To say that Earl's music is depressing is like affirming that the sky is blue, and the more abstract nature of the music only makes it feel more like entering another's mind. Most of the tracks are brief and disparate, not necessarily reinforcing each other as well as the previous album, but there's no moment that really drags or doesn't have some of its malice and deadpan lethargic introspection rubbing off on you. The two tracks with features are the longest here, each with over four minutes of runtime, and naturally it was the Armand Hammer one I connected to the most. Only time will tell how this will stack up against previous Earl albums.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





OG Keemo - Mann Beisst Hund
[Conscious Hip Hop | Hardcore Hip Hop]

RaduP's pick


Regular readers of our feature will probably already be familiar with my experience with hip-hop, where I'm finding it difficult to really pay constant attention to the lyrics and most of the time I just get more into flows and beats anyway. So the solution has kinda been staring me in the face the whole time. If you don't care about the lyrics, I don't have to listen to hip-hop in languages that I know. And the best middle ground for it is a language that I have some basic knowledge of, like German. So listening to German hip-hop lets me pick up a couple of words and phrases while also giving me a proper excuse to focus on flows and beats. Which Mann beisst Hund (German for "Man bites dog") has in spades.

Now obviously I can't tell you anything about the lyricism, but the "Conscious hip hop" tag on RYM, which does fit the overall vibe I get from the record, might insinuate that they'd be worth looking into. The language somehow perfectly fits the boastful and poetic nature of the genre, or at least it does when OG Keemo is doing it, with his flow reaching the perfect equilibrium between aggression and introspection. The production is crystal clean and the sampling is incredibly creative, like just listen to "Töle". This long confirmed my suspicion that other countries are just as great as the anglophones at producing hip-hop. I can't say how Mann beisst Hund compares to the rest of the German scene, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is as big of a highlight as I consider it to be.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Silvana Estrada - Marchita
Chamber Folk | Singer/Songwriter


Marchita means "Withered" in Spanish and perfectly sets the tone of Mexican singer/songwriter Silvana Estrada’s debut full length. Her life has constantly revolved around music as her parents were luthiers. The flood of different types of musicians coming in and out of the shop must have left a permanent mark on her. This is audible in the impeccable arrangements of each passionate song. A couple of songs were already created in 2018 but the fine-tuning and addition of extra instrumentation surely were worth the waiting period. Some light jazz influences appear here and there in her style of South American folk which is otherwise fairly traditional and pays tribute to her roots in a marvelous way. But while strings and percussion add beautiful contrast and emotional crescendos, Marchita's true strength is condensed in two simple but oh so breathtaking ingredients: Silvana Estrada's astonishing voice and her melancholic Venezuelan Cuatro (a 4-string cousin of the guitar and ukelele). The work in the studio was kept as minimal as possible. This is a wise choice as every intonation, every note, just feels that much more impactful in all its naked beauty.

Marchita is an introspective look at love, its ever-changing nature, and what it entails after a break-up. At times thoughtful, at others fragile and naive in nature but always so intimate and gorgeous. I could swim in the sea of woes that Silvana Estrada creates with her powerful voice. In true South American fashion, her lyrics of love and loss are nothing but a work of art by themselves. Minimalistic like the songs, but each word feels so precise. While the overall atmosphere is very somber, Marchita manages to catch a bottle up a glimpse of light. Joy and loss are intertwined and the warm melodies will help you find strength through the bad times.

Apple Music | Spotify

by X-Ray Rod




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

Comments: 6   Visited by: 104 users
14.02.2022 - 10:44
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Really sad whenever something is Bandcamp only and we can't include it in the Spotify playlist, because Mydreamfever is so goddamn beautiful, so please don't miss out on 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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14.02.2022 - 11:27
nikarg
Mod
Madrugada and Sivert Høyem have such a huge following in my little country that I don't think they have even in Norway. I used to love them both at some point in my life so I will check this out. A couple of other bands here I once liked a lot but have now lost track of: Burial, Bonobo...
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14.02.2022 - 18:29
Nejde
Philosoraptor
That Dance Of The Dead album is so good. I don't think they ever made a bad song. A lot of other stuff here too that seems worth checking out.
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"You have the right to believe in what you want. I have the right to believe it's ridiculous." - Ricky Gervais
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15.02.2022 - 14:50
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Dance With The Dead has super cool artwork.
Is Elvis Costello still active. I liked his old works.
Mussclassia, radu us pure diamond, he has capability to find real Atlantis, holy grail and Conns grave
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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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16.02.2022 - 00:53
Blackcrowe

Great List as usual
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Not
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16.02.2022 - 08:22
Gaelv

Great article. started with the dance with the dead. it is going really good so far. thanks guys.
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