Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network

Oh Trent. My first review of your music after over fifteen years of listening. I was excited about you scoring a film almost ten years ago, and at long last we have it here. I still prefer Still, though I am hugely interested in seeing this film to witness how well the music fits. In spite of the decline of my interest in NIN, I am continuously compelled to listen to this soundtrack. It does have a hypnotic edge to it.

Good film scores create a consistent mood rather than upstaging the action on screen. This soundtrack certainly pulls it off, with many ideas packed into multiple versions of the Reznor/Ross method. For those disinterested in Reznor’s dark Dr. Seuss-like lyrics, or confounded by the density and glut of directions on Ghosts I-IV, The Social Network may be the panacea. This score may combine the lowest common denominators to achieve depth, but it does so for a cause, without compromising Reznor's musical fortés. It is safe, yet effective. The limitations of matching one’s music to another’s ideas was likely a boon to Reznor and Ross. Their subdued approach to this release makes this the pair’s most relaxed effort to date.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brian McBride - The Effective Disconnect (Music Composed for the Documentary “Vanishing of the Bees")

I love me some Stars of the Lid, and for this solo effort, Mr. McBride has truly improved upon his craft. Read my entire review on The Silent Ballet.

McBride was asked by the George Langworthy and Maryam Henein to consider four different themes: “the gloriousness of the bees, the endurance and hardships of traditional beekeepers, pesticides and the holistic nature of non-industrial agriculture.” Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Piece of cake! In all seriousness, though, he attempted to focus on the gloriousness of the bees, to give the sad narrative a balancing serenity. A butterfly or a bee is beautiful to behold, but its life is temporary and fragile. McBride expertly captures this delicate aspect of life. His music hurts the heart, not in a bad way, but in a way that lets you know it’s still there. He felt that his tendency to make his pieces more mournful won out in the end, but these forty three minutes are too beautiful to wallow in sadness.

We depend on bees and other insect pollinators to have the varied diets and beautiful worlds that we do. While the documentary gets into the agricultural and political severity of this matter, it also celebrates humankind’s relationship with bees as well as honoring the benefits of “Colony Collapse Disorder”. The film is an earnest look at such a crucial facet of a fundamental part of our lives, and Brian McBride’s soundtrack is a worthy match, capable of fully resonating with a listener even without the benefit of seeing the film.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Aun - Black Pyramid

Here's my review of the new Aun. A mildly satisfying adventure into the depths of space.

packs enough grit into its hokey star surfing to satisfy, and often the music shimmers divinely. It’s fascinating to hear something so vast and dark sound so wholesome, as it does on the title track. Still, Black Pyramid does not quite hit upon the organic vitality of the band's Motorsleep. It’s pretty, but it can feel like wearing a labcoat at the edge of the universe. Despite the band's sumptuous efforts to make the guitars and melodies sound like they are crumbling, the synth sounds can often sound primitive, infused with a Larry Fast (Synergy) vibe. Yet more often than not, this album’s delicate doom will help listeners to visualize monolithic temples migrating through swarms of ice crystals and sunbeams being swallowed in dark rifts of nothing. The subtle sound woven behind the main melodies makes a strong backbone for Aun’s trippy tales. Recommended for fans of Hecker, Aidan Baker, doomgaze, and darker climes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Solo Andata - Ritual

This album is haunting and engaging, and I secretly want to go back to it again and again, though I am not sure why exactly. Read the review!

What is striking about this Australian duo is that they do not sound electronic. The overall effect of their audio science strikes one as being a completely natural phenomenon. It’s easy to conjure imagery while immersed in their rich, “sonic topographies,” which is a good sign of an engaging listen. Solo Andata have scripted another unique weave of sounds that, while invoking the natural world we humans coexist with, can only exist in its artful synthesis. The final track is full to the brim of sounds and ideas, but toward the end things drift off again into an unfocused somnambulism. Clearly this is the intent of the artists. What may seem like a letdown to the average person consuming a pumpkin spice latte can become for the focused listener a dance between the subtle and the intense. Given the right chemical guides or frame of mind, this album has the potential to cast a powerful spell.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Her Name Is Calla - The Quiet Lamb

This was a tough one to write. The album is just so massive. Hopefully it's not a tough one to read. Go ahead; read it! It's one of the year's best albums.

While this album behaves as a sorrowful witness to our lost traditions and civilized blindness, opening track “Moss Giant” reveals the playful storytelling Her Name Is Calla is capable of. Violins sustain, mallets gong cymbals, and a hopeful piano awakens in a clearing. “Oohs” and “aahs” drift in and out, and the scene is easy to picture as we look upon an ancient tree, wondering, “How can something so true be so fragile?” The strings creak like branches echoing in the canopy, and with nature as our base, we begin the journey.

The tone set on this album hints at an inescapable, pallid future, not unlike the worlds of Radiohead or Cormac McCarthy. Western culture favors the mindset that we are all individuals in contention with each other for an exclusive version of freedom. Her Name Is Calla, like many artists, rejects this, and devotes a musical landscape to faith and hope for us all to awaken before more unjust and brutal realities unfold. Vocals are often used as atmospheric support, and this element imbues the rather dire tales with a refreshing sense of optimism.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Concern - Cæsarean

I had high hopes for this record, but it wasn't the bag of chips extra than the "all that." It seems like Concern is best at writing drone EPs, as this record seems to be the combination of two strong EPs which max out at 76 minutes. Read the incredible break down of my amazing critical thoughts on The Silent Ballet!

Concern is very good at creating meditative drones fueled by perpetual energy. These typically possess great momentum, but when broken up after gaining so much speed, a veil or two drops. There is a lot of good work on Cæsarean, but in the artist's attempt to vary the landscape, things go awry. Nonetheless, as drone artists go, Concern is fundamentally glorious to listen to and a few speed bumps along this album’s arc needn’t deter listeners from checking it out.

Concern / Cæsarean by slowflowrec