Archive for the 'Experimental' Category

EP – Nowhere Else – Dysopian Dreams

Posted by admin on 15th November 2008

This is one of those CD’s that blurs the line between CD and EP. With 7 tracks, and a running time of a tad over 31 minutes, to me this is a short album, but the band call it an EP, so who am I to argue.

I put this EP back on, after writing another review, and the thing that smacked me was the gorgeous guitar work, which was mixed just right, giving the most wonderful sound, real ear candy. However the same cannot be said for the vocals, which for me, were a little washed out in sound and a little uninspiring lyrically. Actually lyrically uninspiring is probably a little harsh, as it’s quite difficult to actually concentrate on what is being sung. This also pretty much describes the song that follows, “How Fate Works”.

With “Comablues” the vocals problems seem to have been addressed to some degree, but I have to be honest, by this stage it’s not the vocals I want to hear, it’s the wonderful, and rich sounding music. For me, these tracks would really pop, if the vocals were totally removed. I hate sounding harsh, but when you get a disconnect that’s so great, maybe it’s better to disconnect totally. That being said the EP seems to be really warming up, with “Sweet Humanity”. The vocals manage to hold their own and this is the first song, that feels like words and music are complimenting each other, rather than fighting for top billing. Similarly “Keep Coming Back” is definitely more refined and feels a more complete track.

“I Would” has a fairly different music style, and is the first track where I feel the vocals are the driving force. The production is much more balanced and I think should give the band a benchmark to work too. Finishing off with “The Aftermath” again, it appears that the latter part of the EP, is where the vocals really come together.

Whatever hangups I have about the vocals, the music throughout is first class, musically and in production. Seeing as this is an all acoustic demo, I have to say it’s pretty well done and with a little bit of work on the vocals, this EP could be amazing. As it is, it’s still rather good and certainly deserves a place in your collection.

Conclusion : A great EP, slightly marred, but managing to redeem itself with wonderfully vibrant and lush music.

Posted in Acoustic, Experimental, Rock | 3 Comments »

EP – Mode 4 – Robert Bray

Posted by admin on 28th October 2008

There was something that always bugged me, when listening to Robert Bray, and that was he reminded me of someone who I just couldn’t place. Sitting down to do this review and it just came to me, he reminds me of Double, a Swiss band I think, who had a hit in the 80’s with “Captain of her Heart”. Admittedly the musical styles are quite different, with Robert being more Alternative / Acoustic than Pop, but for me, there’s just something that joins the two.

Opening with “What Were You Thinking”, there’s a wonderful, freshness and calming feeling that washes of you when the track begins. There’s also a wonderful Pink Floyd feel to the track, with an organ/synth that subtly underpins the track and a gorgeous piano that plays throughout. Robert’s vocals, are clear and distinctive, but for me, they compliment the music, rather than the other way round, certainly for this track anyway. “Optimisanthropy”, which being a mouthful, again musically stands out, with some wonderful acoustic guitar. More organ/synth interject, this time however, I’m more reminded of The Beatles’, “Strawberry Fields”. It’s obvious that here is an artists with a wide breadth of musical influences, who’s not afraid to draw from them, but also not afraid to experiment. This is a track that keeps surprising, and indeed surprised me, as it became my firm favourite on the EP.

“Lord Cornflower’s Lament” is a perculiar track, but it somehow comes as no surprise. At a tad under two minutes, it kind of feels like a piece of self indulgence, with what sounds like oboes, or is it bassoons, I can never quite tell, but it sort of provides a wonderful interlude to the EP. “Catherine’s Waltz” is a track given to me by Robert a while back and already played on the podcast. Waltz’s are not something you hear much in contemporary music, the only artists I can think of who’s not afraid to try is Leonard Cohen, who takes a waltz and firmly places his stamp on it. The orchestra on this track is wonderful, you just don’t get enough strings in todays music.

Closing with “April (Part II)”, an instrumental track, that rounds things off beautifully. I never really thought of the music that Robert played to be experimental, which is one of the genres he describes his music as, but this EP is certainly that, but in an assured way. Having reviewed Robert’s previous work “Ludo”, I was certainly excited to get this EP in and it exceeded my expectations in every way.

Conclusion : A great EP, which goes off in many directions, but still manages to hang together exceptionally well. With Robert’s new band, the Predecimals promoting their new album, I’m hoping that Robert still manages to continue recording, giving us some more of this rich vein into which he’s tapped.

Posted in Acoustic, Alternative, Experimental | No Comments »

Album – Exotic Bird – Jessie Kilguss

Posted by admin on 11th February 2008

I got this album in via a MySpace request and have to admit it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, based on the tracks I’d listened to. This 12 track album, has some flashes of pure brilliance, but also some tracks that aren’t quite my cup of tea. The opening track “Desert Song” is one of those tracks that failed to grab me. It almost sounds like a country track, from the guitar that opens, but turns into a more theatrical song. I can’t pinpoint what it is that just doesn’t hang with me, but I think it just doesn’t do anything to sell Jessie’s amazing voice. The track that follows “All I Am is Breath”, however is pure magic. It’s a song that’s reminds me very much of a Jennifer Warnes, Leonard Cohen collaboration. I love the male vocals which provide a great contrast to Jessie’s. “Lord Lucan” is also an amazing track, albeit with an interesting subject matter, Lord (Lucky) Lucan, the 1970’s aristocrat, who supposedly murdered his children’s nanny, thinking it was his wife and then disappeared. “Pulling a Lucan” became a phrase in England synonymous with making a disappearance.

“Don’t” is one of several covers on the album, which can be very difficult things to pull off. People have been covering popular artists forever, but there are two different approaches to take, either cover the song in a similar style, or run with it and make it your own. Jessie takes the former approach and I couldn’t help but wish she’d firmly stamped her hallmark on it. “The Word” is a quite remarkable track, which really shows Jessies voice to it’s fullest. As making comparisons is my forté, I’d say there is a remarkable likeness to Karen Carpenter. Not so much in the tone, for which there are few to match, but more in the tone and phrasing. In fact this track and the two that follow, “The Crypt” and “The Acrobat” are the style that I find most enjoyable. Jessie’s swings from the sweet and gentle, to the dramatic and theatrical, which while still entertaining, don’t excite me in the same way. Her vesion of Tom Wait’s “I’ll Shoot the Moon” is in fact a cover I really enjoyed. I’m not too familiar with the original, but have to admit I’m not a fan of Tom Waits at all. This however is a great track, which I have to attribute to Jessie’s vocals. It has a very 40’s feel to it and reminds me of the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

The album draws to an end, with “The Desperate Ones”, originally by Jacques Brel, a name I’m not too familiar with. It rounds things off nicely, with a more melancholic sound.

Conclusion : Whilst there’s no doubt Jessie has a wonderful voice, there’s a couple of songs here that I feel don’t let Jessie shine to her fullest. The majority of the tracks however are terrific.

Posted in Electroacoustic, Experimental, Rock | No Comments »

EP – You Are My Sister – Antony and the Johnsons

Posted by admin on 26th February 2007

Although I’d never heard an Antony and the Johnsons (AJ) track before, I was aware of them, having seen an article about them in Magnet magazine. I did actually approach the band, but didn’t hear back from them and thought no more, until I received the latest EP in the post, from their record company.

So here we go. I popped the CD in the player, but nothing could prepare me for one of the most radically distinctive voices, I’ve heard in a while. I have to admit, when I first heard the opening and title track, my knee jerk reaction was to say “Bloody Hell!”, I was basically stunned. The nearest comparison I could make at the time, was of a kind of mixture of Nina Simone and a kind of 1920 negro vibe. Yeah, not the best description, but it’s the best I could think of at the time. It was only listening to the title track a few times, that I noticed on the CD case that Boy George was a guest artist. As soon as I read this, I listened again, and yes, sure enough there he was. Sometimes it’s very difficult hear the wood for the tree, or is it clefs for the keys? The more I listened to this track, the more moving it became. And now anytime I listen to the track it gives me goose bumps.

With another 3 tracks on the EP, this is great value for money. The tracks are not just fillers, they all have merit of their own, which is always a pleasant surprise on an EP. “Poorest Ear” continues the style of singing and is just a wonder to behold. Rounding off with “Paddy’s Gone”, this is a deviation from the norm on the EP, but is a welcome change of direction and rounds the EP off nicely.

Conclusion : Simply stunning. Go forth an purchase forthwith! Yes that really is an exclamation mark there and deservedly so.

Posted in Experimental, Folk Rock | No Comments »

Album – The Bluebird Sings – A Whisper in the Noise

Posted by admin on 26th February 2007

If this album were any darker it would probably have it’s epicenter in a black hole. Consequently this isn’t going to be an album that you throw on for a cheery sing song. That being said, I’m a great advocate for the darker side of music and sometimes love to wallow in the depth of someone else’s despair. The album opens with “The Tale of Two Doves”, which I have violins that just drive me nuts. It’s almost like someone dragging their nails down a blackboard. The title track has a a very manic and almost psychotic, bordering on the edge of madness vibe, which at times is I have to say a little unnerving. It’s like peering into the mind of a mad man, but there’s something strangely compelling.

“The Carpenters Coalmen”, sees the album take a more relaxed and friendlier sound, all the while though, you feel yourself being lulled into a false sense of security, standing like a deer in the headlights, you can’t help but wait for final impact. “Through Wounds We Will Stitch” the more relaxed tone continues, with a lovely piano rift repeating throughout the whole track. In fact this lighter sound continues with “Hell’s Half Acre”, which again makes great use of the piano.

By the time we get to “Havoc” that manic, maudlin sound returns, but again it’s like being a witness to a car crash, unable to avert your gaze. Unfortunately that violin returns for “Until the Time It’s Over”, which if I were listening on headphones would probably feel like someone sticking knitting needles in my brain. It’s not that I have any kind of aversion to the use of violins, just when they wail like banshees. “The Sounding Line” and “Bridal” fortunately revert to the more relaxed and mellow (but still maudlin) sound.

Final impact comes with the absolutely amazing Bob Dylan cover of “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, a beautifully haunting rendition of the Dylan classic and a fitting end to the album. This was the track that brought the band to my attention and must surely go down as one of the great Dylan covers.

Conclusion : I put this album on the house stereo and it wasn’t long before my wife gave me the look that says it all. So it’s not going to be your usual family friendly CD, but still I find myself coming back for one more listen. Amazing stuff.

Posted in Ambient, Experimental, Rock | No Comments »