Album Review: Hiboux – Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up

Hiboux Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up banner
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Local post-rock band Hiboux (pronounced ee – boo. The French word for owls) have worked hard to get to this stage of their career, cultivating a following as they wrote and recorded the songs on this, their first album, Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up.

They struck me as talented when I saw them open for Tortoise last year [Tortoise live review], and this début release has only cemented that opinion.

Before we start discussing the music, I need to draw attention to the title of the opening track: “East Of Seddon”. For those unaware, some of the more major New Zealand earthquakes in recent years have triggered – you guessed it – just east of the upper South Island town of Seddon. I adore the imagery that the title evokes. Does it indicate that Hiboux are at the epicenter of something big? That their music is earth-shatteringly good? Let’s find out…

The track starts of with some gorgeous harmonising guitars that riff together in tandem. Not like thrash metal riffing, but more elegant and leisurely. The two guitarists each deviate ever so slightly with their picking to keep the ostinato sounding fresh. The rest of the band joins in – bass and keys add atmosphere while the drums add urgency. The song meanders and changes – as you would hope from a nine minute epic – and the guitars split to each adopt different roles. But it’s those dual guitar lines at the start that really make this opening track what it is.

Most of the songs follows suit in much the same fashion. Repeated guitar riffs, band comes in, things start to expand. But this is not to say that the music is formulaic. The riffs are fantastic – musical and memorable. The drumming is sensitive – adding to the overall feel with finesse, but not overplaying.

Something that Hiboux excel at is creating memorable riffs without the need for heaviness. Or creating great sound without the need for effects (that I can tell. I hear little reverb, distortion, delay etc but I am not an expert on such things).  And I hate to focus on the guitars so much at the expense of the other instruments, but they really do stand out.

I always wonder how musicians manage to write and remember such long and complex songs. Ranges have a 24 minute song called “Night & Day“, and “Dominion” by Kiwi heroes Jakob rings in at just shy of half an hour. In a recent interview I learnt that Hiboux take months (or even up to a year) to write and refine their epic pieces. It makes sense when you listen to each track. Spontaneous music is great, but it is clear that these songs are not just ideas picked out willy-nilly from a jam session.

Hiboux Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up Band Pic

(Again, I need to go off-tangent here. Look at that photo! How cool is that shot? And, even better, the band is standing on the wall of old army magazine bunker ruins in Wellington, which was burnt down when bank robbers set alight a stolen van that they had parked inside. So much awesome in just one picture!)

Running a music blog is pretty cool, but I find that after reviewing so many post-rock albums it can be hard to come up with ways to discuss music that sounds so similar. Not so with Hiboux, who have done themselves proud with this release. Yes, it is undeniably post-rock through and through. But it also sounds fresh and innovative whilst sitting comfortably within the genre.

I am always stoked to discover great local bands who can sit comfortably beside their musical peers on a global scale, and with Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up, Hiboux have proven that they fit that description.


Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up is now available for download from https://hibouxband.bandcamp.com/ with a limited run of Digipaks available at shows.

Hiboux links:

Bandcamp: https://hibouxband.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hibouxband/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hiboux_band

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/hiboux-official

 

Joseph James

Album Review: sleepmakeswaves – Made Of Breath Only

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I was already a fan of sleepmakeswaves before they released their last album, Love of Cartography, in 2014. And I thought that album was great. But it wasn’t until I saw their fantastic performance opening for This Will Destroy You in Wellington the following year that I realised just how great a band they are.

So when they asked for support to crowdfund their new album Made Of Breath Only via pozible I was right in there. sleepmakeswaves, you are welcome to my money if it means more incredible music. (You are welcome to even more of it if you decide to come and play in Wellington again as well!)

So I pledged my money to the worthy cause, shared the link a few (OK, more than a few) times to garner further support, and waited for the album to be recorded.

Stylistically, I’d say sleepmakeswaves are similar to both maybeshewill and 65daysofstatic in many respects. Of course you can draw the parallels that all the bands have runonnamesthatlackspaces, but they also all play remarkably energetic post-rock with electronic elements.

Made Of Breath Only commences with a short intro track that builds anticipation, before segueing seamlessly into the explosive opening of “World’s Away”. The track dies down quickly, but remains interesting, with computer glitch sounds adding texture to the jazz rock guitar noodling. Not that this lasts long, because sleepmakeswaves are HIGH ENERGY! Goshdarnit I love these people! Overdriven guitars, thunderous bass, twinkling keys and incredible drumming marry to form aural bliss. So dynamic! The track comes in waves, from rocking wildly, to quieter, more musical passages. And every moment is infectious with joy.

I’m finding it hard to describe my excitement using words alone. Please picture me wildly air drumming and grinning ear to ear as you read my sentences for the full immersive experience.

OK, so we’re only about ten minutes into this album and I’m already calling it as one of the best albums of the year. Sorry, but if you want an objective, unbiased opinion you’ll have to search elsewhere.

“Tundra” was the lead single from the album and I tend to agree that it is the best pick. The lead guitar cuts through with plenty of treble, atop a rolling beast of monstrous rock. And again, it’s that energy that makes it so compelling to listen to. The slower dynamic moments show off the band’s talents as well-rounded musicians, but it’s the explosive sections that inspire. It’s more than the usual crescendocore post-rock here, with some of the amazing music from the Australian prog-rock scene clearly rubbing off on the sleepmakeswaves crew.

I’m overstating the energy to a degree. There are some incredible moments in the quieter sections of the album, like the tender piano parts of the title track.

In the past I have sometimes written about how I prefer “real” instruments over computers. I prefer rappers who have bands over ones with DJs. If I attend a concert I want to see musicians playing live, not acting along to backing tracks. And when I listen to an album I’d prefer to think that the music was actually played and recorded, and not just programmed into a machine. Well I’ll eat my words in whatever way you see fit here because the computerised aspects really enhance the music. The glitches add an extra dimension to already great songs.

If I haven’t made it clear already: this album is incredible! Listening to it makes me feel elated. And the talent is immense. Daniel Oreskovic from fellow Sydney post-rock act Meniscus has replaced founding member Kid on guitar, and although I by no means want to slight Kid’s part in the band, I think an injection of fresh ideas from a new member may have helped to rev the band up a bit.

Made Of Breath Only is going to do wonders for sleepmakeswave. They haven’t even released it yet and they’re already touring China, and scoring support slots on tours opening for big international acts like Underoath and Devin Townsend. And, even better, they are on the verge of breaking out from their niche genre into mainstream awareness thanks to radio play from Australian youth station Triple J.

Listen to this album. If you like post-rock, then you’ll recognise how good it is. If post-rock isn’t your thing, then this could prove to be your gateway album. It’s a beast of an album and deserves your attention.


Made Of Breath Only comes out on Pelagic Records on March 24, 2017

sleepmakeswaves links:

Official: http://www.sleepmakeswaves.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sleepmakeswaves
Bandcamp: https://sleepmakeswaves.bandcamp.com
Label: http://pelagic-records.com

North American, UK and European fans, you can order the new album at cheaper shipping rates right here: www.sleepmakeswaves.com?p=1916

Live Review: Chain and the Gang at Moon 1, Wellington

Ian Svenonius Chain And The Gang Moon Wellington
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Ian Svenonius’ Chain And The Gang

w/ Beatcomber and Hex

Moon 1, Newtown, Wellington

Friday 17 March 2017

The sad irony of being a music reviewer is that I spend less time seeking out new music these days, and more time simply listening to music that people submit to me to review. Cry me a river, right?

So sometimes I need people to push me out of that bubble and recommend things that I wouldn’t usually come across on my own.

My mate Sam invited me to a Cody ChussnuTT gig during my student days. I was coming off an all-nighter, having not been able to find the time to fit in writing an essay around work and showing up to lectures. I was spent. God knows how I was even able to stand upright, having been without sleep for such a long period. But I somehow made it to Bodega for the gig, and I was so glad I did. I went in having never heard a single bar of ChesnuTT’s music, and left a complete convert. It wasn’t the type of music I would usually listen to, but the musicianship, the interactions, the energy – it was all electrifying.

The Chain And The Gang show at Moon was very similar. A friend suggested I come when I caught up with him a few weeks ago, so I figured I may as well. I chose not to even look up the band. Sometimes going in fresh makes the experience even more exciting if the act is good.

And oh they were good!

Ian Svenonius was the circus ringman – the off-kilter MC leading preaching his counter-cultural gospel. Bearing a wild mop of hair and a dapper pinstripe suit, he commanded complete attention and demanded audience interaction.

His band, three younger women also wearing the matching pinstripe outfits, laid the basic rhythm that set the template. The music was a hybrid of raw garage and punk. The trio did incredibly well, considering that they hadn’t been an established line-up for too long. Plus they had to be on their toes, watching Svenonius closely to take cues for when to change-up.

Anna Nasty led the music with her basslines. It all built off that bass. She reminded me of Uma Thurman in a few of her Tarantino roles, with a dark bob of hair and a deadpan expression. Ramona Flowers also to mind – maybe it was a garage/punk connection? It was obvious that Nasty was the musical anchor of the band. She had a great voice as well, meaning that the music sounded better live at the gig than in Chain And The Gang recordings I’ve listened to since.

Ex-pat Fiona Campbell had returned to New Zealand to support the band from behind the drum kit. She synced in tight, helping to push the simple beats that propelled the night. And Francy Graham rounded off the music on guitar. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t hear much guitar in the mix under the dominant bass, but Graham did have a few solos that sounded good.

The musicians played tight, yet simple rhythm while Svenonius dictated the show’s direction.

His character was all over the place, standing high on the shoulders of the crowd, or coming in close and pushing himself around the masses at the front. It made me think back to when I saw Damien of hardcore act Fucked Up do the same when opening for Foo Fighters at Western Springs. Svenonius was unpredictable. At times, beckoning us in close to share an exclusive secret, and other times crying his message out loudly, and always punctuated with wild shrieks and yells. He gave small introductions to each song (“We have wanted to come to Wellington for a long time. You want to know why? Why not?”) before signalling the start of each with “Kick it!”

It was very self-aware, ironic, and even self-parodying. The gospel of oppression. Down with liberty! Up with chains! Celebrate censorship, and trashiness and lack of vitality. A very backwards political statement that made sense through reverse-psychology.

The highlight of the night was the song “Mum’s The Word”. I struggle to think of the last time I felt so much joy. I got completely sucked in. The band started off their beat as usual, but then brought it down to the point that the music had stopped and Svenonius was just conducting the audience and instructing us to sing a repeated mantra. I had been exhausted half an hour ago, and now I was possessed by this energy that had me dancing to the music and singing along with the crowd in some inexplicable cult ritual. I had caught something contagious from the primal music and freaky frontman.

Chain and The Gang. Wow.

It was something else, that’s for sure. Call me a convert!

Chain And The Gang Moon Newtown Wellington Set List

The set list

Album Review: George Will – Dawn

George Will Dawn Album Cover
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George Will almost quit music after his band Audrey Fall released their album Mitau in 2014. He sold off most of his gear and the guitars gathered dust for almost two years. But in recent times the film scores he was listening to inspired him to revisit the piano. One thing led to another, and he start playing again. Thank goodness he did.

Fittingly, the titular opening track from Will’s new solo album, Dawn, reflects that story. It begins with Will playing softly on the piano, and evolving into something bigger by encompassing more instruments as Will regains his confidence.

 

Will sought out to create music that sounded different to his post-rock work of the past. Initially he used minimalist piano and cello, and his repertoire expanded as he experimented.

The very Lights & Motion sounding “Mist” takes us into cinematic territory with violins and hopeful guitars. “Rhea” also sounds suitably cinematic, with delicate piano setting the mood for a solemn affair that turns triumphant.

By comparison, tracks like “Rust” and “Iris” venture into more metal territory, even bordering on djent. Because as great as it is to try new things, there’s nothing as fun as letting loose and rocking out.

In all seriousness though, the tasteful symphonic album closer “Arda” is a testament to Will’s talent. The song is expertly crafted, growing gently and gaining momentum until it takes on a life of its own.

My highlight of the album is the last section of “Veil”. This is interesting considering that Will told me that he regarded as “Veil” one of his least favourite songs on the album. I cannot agree with him, because the second half of that song is so stand out to me.There is something irresistible about how the drum and guitar accents compound in such an epic way. Give it a listen when the album drops and please feel free to weigh in on that discussion.

 George Will Dawn Promo pic

Some albums are perfect for driving. Many are great for blasting at parties. Others are earthy and warm and suit being played on a turntable. Dawn is an album for headphones. Plugging it into my stereo or playing it through my speaker just doesn’t compare to listening to the album through headphones so that the all the elements jump out at me.

Will shared with me that he was undecided about whether he prefers being part of a band or going solo. Playing on your own can offer creative freedom, but is perhaps too open-ended without having others to critique your work as you write.

I’m pleased that George Will did decide to try his hand at some solo writing because Dawn is an inspired work. It is a wonderful album ranging from lush cinematic piano compositions to post-metal, stopping off at various instrumental sub-genres on the way through.


George Will Links:

The Lay Of The Land – An Interview With Lydia Cole

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Busy, busy

Auckland singer/songwriter Lydia Cole has just come home from a short Australian tour promoting her second album, The Lay Of The Land, which came out a few weeks ago. She’s in a weird state between excitement and exhaustion.

“On ­­­­­­Monday I flew back. I did three shows in four days. It was kind of insane. I have never been more tired or thoroughly exhausted in my mind and body than I was this weekend.

“It was awesome though. Totally pays off and definitely worth it.” she hastily adds.

Lydia Cole Live

Image: Josh Yong

Cole will continue the tour locally across our three main centres over the coming few weeks, before emigrating to Berlin in a couple of months. She has spent the day trying to organise the logistics and equipment for her next few shows.

“The stress has been pretty insane over the past month, but I’m learning to break it down. I’m not sure about the details for the Wellington show, because I’m just thinking about this weekend, you know? I’ll worry about Wellington next week, which is the only way for me to cope with everything.

“At the moment it’s literally too much work for me to do. I did the Kickstarter, and there’s something like 260 people that I have to send CD’s or different rewards to. I’m definitely not up with all of that. Maybe half of the rewards are in boxes waiting me to package and address and send out.

“But I figure if those people have waited 18 months than they won’t be bothered about another few weeks … hopefully” she chuckles.

“I’ve never been this busy before. It’s like full-time plus. But I’m really grateful for it, because I know it doesn’t always happen that way.”

A new album

The Lay Of The Land is a stunning follow-up to 2012’s Me & Moon. She’s pleased with the album. Me & Moon left her anxious about what people would think, whereas this time around Cole is has had long enough to sit on the songs and is happy that they represent her well at this moment of time, and realises that they don’t have to define her forever.

“In the studio when I was recording it I was very anxious. And I don’t know if it was because I was subconsciously thinking that there was 260 people hoping to like this. The grassroots support from an array of people – the Kickstarter people – was one of the big reasons why I decided to go that way. Firstly: it was financial, but secondly: I don’t have a label or a publicist or anything – it was just me at that stage, doing my own thing – and I realised that doing Kickstarter was a way to have a few hundred people aware that I was going to release something. They’re waiting, so you already have a bunch of people on your buzz already. They’re loyal. They’ve invested with their money already and they’re likely to tell their friends and follow what you’re doing, so it’s cool.”

Lydia Cole Lay Of The Land Album

Cole had quit her job and sought contributions from her fans via crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help her fund the recording process. She managed to raise the $15,000 within only five days, and since recording the album a year ago has worked hard to piece together the package that has become her album. This has involved finalising the album art, creating music videos, having band rehearsals and waiting for the CDs and vinyl records to get pressed

When you look at what she has put out, you can understand why it has taken so long. Take, for example, the incredible stop motion video for “Telepathise”. Cole teamed up with ex-pat animator Timothy Armstrong to create this brilliant clip that is not only visually stunning, but complements the song so well. It took Armstrong a whole month to make, and could have easily taken three times as long.

There are so many intricate details in the video. Armstrong discussed at length with Cole what types of trees she likes and what animals she wanted featured. He painstakingly created the layered images atop a Lazy Susan table and spent a lot of time manipulating small lights to create the different effects you see in the video [example here].

Cole is also super excited about having vinyl copies of the new album available.

“I was living at home a few years ago with Mum and Dad and they had an old record player. I’ve got a small collection: Louis Armstong, Sufjan Stevens, Ryan Adams, Phoenix Foundation (fun!). Since I’ve gone flatting I haven’t had a record player and have had to shelf them, but listening to records is like making coffee for me. It’s a physical routine: you chuck it on, put the needle down and it’s more of a tangible moment to enjoy.

“Look, I’m not a big sound-y person and don’t understand technical stuff very much but I did have an inkling that the warmth and the textures – a lot of the synth sounds on this album – would suit a vinyl sound. It was real cool when the test pressing arrived and I chucked it on. It sounded so good – I think it really suits it. I’m stoked with that.

“And they’re selling really well at shows and online as well. I sold a whole bunch to people in Germany and all through Europe, which is awesome! Hopefully they all make it in one piece!”

Nic MAnders plays keys for Lydia Cole

Nic Manders on keys. Image: Josh Yong

Moving abroad

Berlin represents a fresh start and new challenges. Going from support slots for big name artists and Silver Scroll award nominations to being a nobody on the opposite side of the planet.

“I’m very aware that I’ll become nobody. I’m excited to start afresh and meet people and go to gigs and busk and see who reacts to me on the street. I’ve always had Nic Manders produce my stuff, and he won’t be there. Over there I’ll be doing home recordings and stretching myself in that way as well.

“I’m a real big fan of sustainable and thorough growth. Like, chipping away at your character, chipping away at a project that means a lot to you instead of hoping for that overnight success that doesn’t actually mean anything. I apply that to my music and to my personal growth. I think that the slower you grow, then the more concrete that change will be.”

Connecting with musicians

We spend some time enthusiastically discussing the Sufjan Stevens shows we had each been to when he came last year. He embodies that type of musician Cole aspires to be like, just an upfront guy who is also a talented musician. She shares that these are the types of people she tries to share a stage with as well.

Luke Oram plays guitar for Lydia Cole

Luke Oram on guitar. Image: Josh Yong

“A guy called Chris from Christchurch is coming up to Auckland to support me. He messaged me on Facebook to say ‘Hi, here’s a link to my latest song on Soundcloud and I’d like to support you’. I really liked it. I’ve never met him and have seen no footage of him playing live so it’s like a fun little risk that I’m taking.

“In Australia it was real interesting trying to find people to support me. And I was lucky with that too. I got a couple of real cool people. I think musicians have pretty amazing stories a lot of the time so it was cool to bump into more people who have crazy stories.

“People who play music in similar genres to what I play – they’re writing from the heart and writing about stuff that matters to them. Usually when I click with someone like that it’s often on a personal level as well, so you make a really good friend out of that, which is nice.”

Success

Authenticity is something Cole values. She presents herself as she is, flaws and all. She chooses not to wear makeup and her personal lyrics can leave her feeling incredibly exposed, but she’d prefer to be seen as genuine than perfect.

“When I was younger I thought that not needing a day job meant you’ve made it, but I’ve changed my perspective on what success means.

“Success to me is balance and health. The past little while I’ve been working part-time in a café, and doing music the rest of the time. The café work helps keep me social and personally healthy, and not going all crazy in my head. And it pays the bills. And that to me is success.”

Lydia Cole has four more NZ shows before moving to Germany to continue her personal and musical growth. With hundreds of people paying to help fund her music and a likely three sold out shows on this tour, it’s hard not to agree that she has done well for herself. We wish her the best of luck starting afresh overseas.


Lydia Cole tour details

Auckland  – The Wine Cellar, March 2 – SOLD OUT

Christchurch  – Space Academy, March 3

Auckland – The Vic, March 10 – SOLD OUT

Wellington – Meow Bar, March 11


Links

Bandcamp: https://lydiacole.bandcamp.com/

Tumblr: http://www.lydiacole.tumblr.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lydiacolemusic

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lydia-Cole/24107578241

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/lydiaalice

Words by Joseph James

All photos taken by Josh Yong at the Wine Cellar on February 14 and provided by Lydia Cole