Album Review: Ashen Swan – L’appel du Vide

Ashen Swan - L'appel du Vide
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Embrace oblivion.

It’s often difficult to write a review about an album created out of negative space.  L’appel du Vide, Ashen Swan’s latest record, is a lesson in embracing oblivion.  It’s a lesson in recognizing that there’s much more to music than packing it full of notes and flourishes to convey an idea when just playing the right note can accomplish the same.  There is an old adage that exists that less is more.  Ashen Swan takes this aphorism and runs with it.  This album is meditative magic.

So how does one write a review on nothingness?  I could give you my thoughts on instrumentation and composition.  The way in which Ashen Swan’s music sounds like the throaty whisper of a new dawn. I could tell you that Ashen Swan evinces qualities employed by the likes of Hammock and Lowercase Noises.  EBow heavy phrases of lush sound framed by billowy and Spartan piano..  I could do all those things, but the music inspired me on a more esoteric level.  L’appel du Vide begs you to reflect inward.  It asks you to dust the cobwebs from the lesser traveled inroads of your soul, to stop, to consider.

L’appel du Vide translates roughly to “void’s call” or “the call of the void”.  Most humans, in all their daily struggles, will often wonder what it would be like swerve into oncoming traffic.  Or perhaps your hiking here in Colorado at Royal Arch Trail.  You’re near the top and standing at the edge of the trail and get the sudden urge to just jump.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suicidal.  It’s simply a phenomenon of the human psyche.  A phenomenon the French called “l’appel du vide”.  It is nothing more than morbid curiosity.  I found myself experiencing this urge years ago so I did a quick Google search.  It was comforting to know I was not alone.  There were others out there that have felt the pull.  Ashen Swan’s new album explores this concept in a musical sense.  And pulls it off.

L’appel du Vide is a barren landscape.  The short, quiet piano utterances are the green lichen hugging the rocks as they wait for a summer thunderstorm.  Soft reverb the slow rolling thunder of an alpine tundra.  A dreamy susurration whispers throughout each track like a lulling breeze that dances lightly through the purple forget-me-nots.

Ashen Swan’s newest venture is a contemplative and horrifically beautiful ride of ambient bliss.  You get the overwhelming feeling of just wanting to let go.  The music plunges straight for your heart and urges you to answer the void’s call.  To feel the rain in your face and the wind as it thrashes through your hair.  L’appel du Vide wants you to be free and as the album goes on it becomes increasingly difficult not give answer.

L’appel du Vide comes to us by way of Nathan Kwon who also composes for Chicago post-metal project Crawl Across the Sky. Ashen Swan came to us in the year 2017 with the desire to cross section the more ambient elements of the aforementioned Crawl Across the Sky and turn it all up to 11.  And thank the void he did.

 


Ashen Swan links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

Instagram

Album Review: Coma Recovery – Apotheosis

Coma Recovery - Apotheosis cover
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Apotheosis sounds dense. Thick and heavy, saturated in sound. Think about the intense textures of Rosetta and The Ever Living and you may imagine something that sounds like New Mexico act Coma Recovery’s latest offering.

There’s another music blog I follow called Drowned In Sound, and I feel that term fits when describing this music. It’s full-bodied and consuming, swallowing you whole.

On first track “Nox Medicus” relentless bass and sloshy drums create a groove. Although there is a crushing density to the music, it feels uplifting due to soaring synths and vocals.

The next two tracks follow suite: epic songs full of feeling and grittiness.

I’ve read through the lyrics for all three songs, and to be honest this leaves me no more enlightened than before when it comes to interpreting content matter. Some mystic stuff, creation, spirits… Who knows? I’ve never been one to pay much attention to lyrics anyway. The singing is good though.

There’s not much more for me to say. Just listen to it. It’s worth a listen.

Apotheosis is huge and vital. Put on your headphones and prepare to get engulfed.

Coma RecoveryComa Recovery links:

Bandcamp: http://deepelmdigital.com/album/apotheosis

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

 

EP Review: Flicker Rate – Skylight

Flicker Rate Skylight
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17-year-old Spencer Bassett, a clearly talented guitarist and songwriter has released three EPs under the moniker Flicker Rate. Released in April 2018, Skylight EP is a non-stop showcase of clean jangly guitar work.

From the outset, my mind went to the musical DNA shared by bands like This Town Needs Guns and Long Island Sound. There is an almost jovial quality to the guitar parts as the melodies bounce along, in the same way that the pizzicato strings convey a similar emotion in Holiday for Strings by David Rose and his Orchestra (1942).

The musicianship is excellent with the production keeping the listeners focus where it should be. Elements fade in and out of focus thanks to the mix and that fills the void where one usually is expectant of vocals, but in this instance, the instrumentation does an excellent of carrying the songs. The songs, well paced, are over before the ideas become stale. In fact, the whole EP is over before you know it.

Well worth listening to if you like the instrumental math rock style or are in the mood for some light and cheery relaxation music.

Short and sweet.


Flicker Rate links:

Bandcamp: https://flickerrate.bandcamp.com/album/skylight-ep

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

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/flickerrate/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/flickerratemusic/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnKvPbjUogHvNR6MHBkZAnA

This review was originally posted by Murray Stace at his site Relative Silence

Album Review: Man Mountain – Infinity Mirror

Man Mountain Infinity Mirror cover
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Last year I spent two weeks on the road with Ranges, touring across America with them as they promoted their latest record, climaxing with the inaugural dunk!USA festival in Vermont. They teamed up with a few other acts along the way, playing multiple dates with: Tides of Man, Vexes, This Patch of Sky and Man Mountain.

I’ll forgive you if you weren’t familiar with Man Mountain before now. It is hard to maintain a presence with only four recorded songs out (The 2013 EP, To Call Each Thing By Its Right Name, and 2015 single “To Be Made As New’). I have a feeling that this début album, Infinity Mirror (Spartan Records) will change this, and earn Man Mountain deserved awareness within the scene.

Man Mountain David in Columbus

As I mentioned, I’ve spent a bit of time with the band. Man Mountain shared a four dates with Ranges on tour, and we all hung out over dunk!festival weekend, so I came to befriend them all. I remember standing outside a venue one night after the show, and Bryan shared with me about how Lowercase Noises influenced him to start playing ambient guitar music, which led to him joining the band. It’s a big effort because he needs to travel a long way to attend band practice, but is totally worth it because his friends in the band are awesome. And he totally has a point – they’re all genuine, down-to-earth guys who all share a love for the film Face/Off. Plus Mike has one of the greatest beards I’ve ever laid eyes on – who wouldn’t want to be in a band with a man that facially talented?

And their music is great too. Their playing casts a hypnotic spell. There are certainly a few videos floating around of me dancing along to the music, caught up in the immense magnitude of it all. It’s a shame that Man Mountain didn’t actually play dunk!fest, but they are more deserving of a slot on that festival than many of the bands who did play.

I love the DIY ethos that many American bands work by, the way that they create things for themselves. When Man Mountain played they would use flood lamps with foot switches to give visual oomph to the climactic passages of their music. It’s such a simple idea, and about as budget as it comes when you think of dynamic lighting rigs, but it packed such a punch. I can’t listen to their music without visualising that searing yellow beam.

Man Mountain Columbus

Something that stands out for me on this release is how well recorded it is. Mike Kalajian (Circa Survive, Prawn, Moving Mountains) mastered the album, and did an excellent job. By the sound of it, the recording process was somewhat experimental too, with the guys really taking their time to nail the sound. Things sound clear, crisp and articulate. I wish I had a copy of their vinyl record to hear the album in its full glory, but tell you what, it still sounds darn good just through middle-of-the-road headphones.

Jacob Goins just kills it on the drums. I already share a bond with him over our mutual love for Into It. Over It., but after hearing his playing on this record my opinion of him has skyrocketed. He showcases so much finesse and technical ability with taste. He’s not a hard-hitter, nor does he demand your attention, but he plays damn well, albeit subtly. The open/close hi-hat in lead single “Memory Trace” makes me think of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” – hard to pull off so precisely. And the excellent polyrhythmic intro of “Elysian” could just as easily lead into a Karnivool song.

Unlike your traditional model of lead guitar playing intricate melodies and rhythm guitar just filling in the rest with chord progressions, Mike and Bryan take turns playing dominantly. Like alternating sine waves, the two almost volley off each other. One will swell up as the other retreats, just for the opposite to happen soon after.

This music doesn’t attract many hyperboles. It’s middle of the spectrum – not especially fast, heavy, calm… But it is good. Nothing extreme – just done really well. Delicate and dynamic, with plenty to pay attention to.

Man Mountain’s music is reflective of the personalities within the band. At first unassuming and pleasant, and once you dig deeper you find quality gold inside. Understated, remarkable, and brilliantly crafted and recorded, Man Mountain’s début album Infinity Mirror is worth paying attention to. Listen with headphones on for the full immersive experience.

Man Mountain Mike in Ypsilanti

Infinity Mirror releases March 16th on Spartan Records. The 300 vinyl pressings have already sold out, but the record is still available on CD or digital download.

Man Mountain have also remastered their two previous releases, available for “Name Your Own Price” via Spartan Records or their Bandcamp page.

Man Mountain are

Mike Reaume – Guitar
Bryan Cowles – Guitar
David Reaume – Bass
Jacob Goins – Drums

Man Mountain Ypsilanti

Man Mountain links:

Spartan Records pre-order: http://spartanrecords.limitedrun.com/products/609477-man-mountain-infinity-mirror

Bandcamp: https://manmountain.bandcamp.com/

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

Twitter: https:// twitter.com/ManMountainBand

Instagram: http://instagram.com/man_mountain

Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/manmountainband

 

Review by Joseph James.

Photos taken by Joseph in Ypsilanti and Columbus in September 2017

Album Review: Those Who Dream By Day – Glad To Be…

Those Who Dream By Day And We're Glad To Be... cover
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Hailing from Warsaw, Poland, Those Who Dream By Day have just released Glad To Be…. Following on from their début EP last year, the quartet have created an album of infectious music full of life and energy. Drawing from post-rock, indie and math-rock influences, the lively blend feels vivacious and upbeat.

Glad To Be… is a concept album, the concept being about the emotions associated with the friendships within the band. And it could be argued that every post-rock release is a concept album about emotions, and that most bands write about their own experiences – which include being in a band – but when I listen to these songs it makes sense. 

Lead single “53°58’N 20°82’E (BIPOLAR PARADISE)” [what a mouthful!] is the only track to feature singing (although one other features samples). Tranquil clinking sounds on a karimba [thumb piano] cast a calming spell, snare rolls bring momentum, and the rest of the band adds ambience.

By contrast, the following track, “You”, commences a true banger of a drum beat – thing Alexisonfire‘s “This Could Be Anywhere In the World” – before launching into a rockier track.

I don’t want to risk pigeonholing this album by describing it too much. I’ll put it this way: it features everything I want from a post-rock release. Heavy moments that make me cry out with joy while sporting a wide grin. Tender, heartfelt passages rich in emotion. Interesting instruments that sit outside of your standard guitar/bass/drums lineup. Great musicianship that invites you to raise the volume just so you can hear certain aspects more clearly.

This is not safe music. It is not boring or clichéd. This is stand-out stuff. These folk can play, and they let you know it.

I have no hesitation recommending Glad To Be… It’s solid release that meets all expectations. They have it on Bandcamp for name-your-price, but this is an album worth paying for. Those Who Dream By Day were voted as one of the best new acts of 2017 in an Arctic Drones readers poll. Give their latest record a listen and find out why.

Those Who Dream By Day