EP Review: Ryan Beno – Don’t Say Too Much

Ryan Beno - Don't Say Too Much Artwork

I was given very little information about Perth post-rock outfit Ryan Beno. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if it was the name of a person or a band. But, I guess that is in line with their EP title: Don’t Say Too Much.

Indeed. Why give a self-congratulatory biography when you can let the music say all that needs to be said?

I’ll tell you straight off the bat: it’s a great EP. It’s like good vodka – smooth, chilled and crisp. None of the tired post-rock clichés that leaves me searching for new ways to describe the same things, just solid music.

Don’t Say Too Much feels smart. There is an air of sophistication to it, even if I can’t articulate exactly why. Maybe it’s the slight jazzy feel to some of the tracks? Although I’m no jazz lover, and wouldn’t call this record pretentious.

The drums feel rather samey throughout the EP, but 18 minute running time is short enough that you don’t tire of the same beat. This guy has a set style: steady, busy and syncopated. His light touch and smooth groove does everything he needs.

It’s a cohesive EP, stamped with a distinct mark. But at the same time, there is some pleasant diversity throughout. My personal favourite is the track “PS6”, with 8 bit tones reminiscent of playing Zelda on Nintendo. It’s just brilliant – too short, if anything.

Then we have “Ulterior Motives”, with smooth bass lines and that jazzy syncopated beat. “Black Dragon” feels darker, and less in line with the upbeat vibe of the rest of the tracks. Are they playing minor chords? (I couldn’t say) It’s just a shame to end a stellar EP on a more sombre note.

This is a worthwhile EP. A marked improvement from the band’s 2017 début, Full Moon Thai, with great feel and clarity. Sure, it’s repetitive and sparse, but it’s done so damn well that I could happy listen to more of the same.

Oh, and Ryan Beno, call me when you’ve finished the new Zelda soundtrack. I’m dying for more!

Ryan Beno. Image: Kieran Gibson-MacFarlane

Ryan Beno. Image: Kieran Gibson-MacFarlane

Ryan Beno links:

Bandcamp: https://ryanbeno.bandcamp.com/album/dont-say-too-much

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


Joseph James


Album Review: Beneath The Roots – Chasing Light

Beneath The Roots Chasing Light cover

Beneath The Roots is the psyedonym of Brandon Enderson of Manchester, New Hampshire. Enderson teamed up with local sound engineer Zach Zyla to record this début acoustic pop-punk album, Chasing Light.

This is a truly raw recording, done in Zyla’s home studio. Not to say that it is poor quality, but you can really hear the steel strings of the guitar hum and vibrate as Enderson strums. It soudns intimate and close. Chasing Light is mostly a standard singer/songwriter affair of one man with a guitar, but each track adds something new to the mix.

We could use more of these small extras. Initially, it just takes switching up the strumming. During “Digging Myself Out” Enderson changes to high-pitched strumming, punctuated with a lush fingerpicked tail. Other moments, like delay pedal accents in “The Cross You Bare”, and the keyboards in “Whiskey Song” also help to make the songs shine.

The simple style works well, but when we hear drums come in during the fourth track it sounds so much better. And a fully fleshed out fifth track makes you wonder if they should have done the entire record as a band. I’m undecided about this. On one hand, the evolution that progresses throughout the album is nice, but on the other hand, the tracks with more production are easily superior.

One of my main gripes with pop-punk is the whiny nature of the vocals. Sure, I like Blink 182 as much as the next guy, and Into It. Over It. can do no wrong, but it’s not a genre I can tolerate too much of. That said, there are some vocal highlights interspersed here. The harmonies in “We Are Divinity” strike a good balance between passionate shouting and musical prettiness.

Some of these tracks remind me of A Day To Remember’s more stripped-back material. Good pop sensibilities, slightly whiny vocals, and calm yet enticing delivery.

Beneath The Roots have done well with this début album. Polished enough to sound good, raw enough to boast guts, and good, simple songwriting that offers just enough technical flourishing to stand out.


Beneath The Roots links:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/4o71dQEerL6RkFnOdbdG5s
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/chasing-light-ep/1325220194
Bandcamp: https://beneaththeroots.bandcamp.com/releases
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/beneaththeroots
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beneatheroots/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beneatheroots/

Joseph James


Album Review: Masaki Hanakata – HIPPOPOTAMUS / PORT ELEPHANT

Masaki Hanakata Hippopotamus Port Elephant cover

Last year I travelled to America, where I worked at a summer camp in Maine. My role was to take groups of young girls on hiking and camping trips around the region. Often this required spending hours driving to and from our destination, due to the remote locations of the hikes. Sometimes the girls would bring iPods so they could listen to music during the drive. Sometimes they didn’t, which means I could play my own music, instead of pop hits.

On one drive to Franconia Notch in New Hampshire, one of the girls was going through my iPod and asked me: “Why do you have a playlist called Toe on your iPod?”, clearly amused.

I giggled. “It’s the name of a band. They’re awesome.”

“A band called Toe?!”

“Yeah, they’re Japanese. It’s mostly instrumental stuff, but sometimes there’s singing, or even rap.”

As you can imagine, this was of great intrigue to these girls, who exclusively listened to top 40, and Broadway soundtracks. “You listen to Japanese hip-hop? Why? Can you understand it? Can we listen to it?”

Most people think I’m weird for listening to music without vocals. But music in another language? Unthinkable!

I played on of the tracks (“Time Goes“, from Toe’s latest album), and then left the album running.

Sure enough, word spread around camp that I’m a weirdo who listens to Japanese music – even though he doesn’t understand it – and it’s actually pretty cool. On the next camping trip some of the girls asked about it, and soon enough they were all chanting “Toe! Toe! Toe! Toe!” so I would play it to them.

Maybe I am weird… Well… Ok, there’s no denying it, But why would you dismiss great music simply because it doesn’t have singing in English?

Case in point, HIPPOPOTAMUS / PORT ELEPHANT, a recent release from Masaki Hanakata.

Maybe it is a dead giveaway that I’m a trained preschool teacher, but Masaki Hanakata’s latest release is the most delightful music I’ve heard in some time. He captures the sound of youthful joy.

The two tracks are softly sung, backed by tranquil children’s’ instruments like bells and whistles.

Jimmy Fallon and The Roots have a series of youtube videos that follows this style [Here’s a version of “Enter Sandman” with Metallica]. And on of my favourite composers, Rhian Sheehan, also uses children’s’ instruments in some of his work.

Now, believe me, that when a classroom of children get their hands on instruments it sounds absolutely horrid. When I let my four-year-olds old loose with instruments they will shake, blow, bang and play the poor things with all their might. I occasionally bring a keyboard out, which soon leads onto a small group crowding around and jamming on the keys as much as possible. I’ve had a child who barely stands as high as my waist destroy a drum practice pad when I gave him some drum sticks. He wasn’t trying to break anything, he just got carried away with excitement.

Thankfully, Mr Hanakata has had more training than my children, and appears to have mastered many of these instruments. I am being perhaps a touch facetious when I say these instruments are for children. I do not wish to belittle this wonderful music. But we do not hear the standard electric guitar, drums, bass… that I deem “normal”. We hear instruments that sound hollow and dainty, that I imagine are brightly coloured. Melodica, ukulele, xylophone, bells and the like…

Part of the allure is that it sounds so innocent. It’s not perfect by any means. There are so many layers of sound that it border on gratuitous, but it’s so charming and fun that if anything the unnecessary layers enhance the feel. It captures the spirit of what folk music used to be about: fun and vibrant.

I recommend giving HIPPOPOTAMUS / PORT ELEPHANT a listen. And while you’re at it, follow-up with his other two albums, Breman soundtrack, and Lentment. I guarantee that it’ll brighten your day.


Masaki Hanakata links:

Website: http://masakihanakata.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MasakiHanakata

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/masaki.hanakata

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT6NxTrI3UZdvNUSvIWEx3g

Bandcamp: https://masakihanakata.bandcamp.com/


Joseph James

EP Review: Lights & Motion – Bloom

Lights & Motion Bloom EP Cover

Lights & Motion began in the dark recesses and buried corners of insomnia. Without much sun to speak of in the Scandinavian winters of Sweden, Christoffer Franzen took to sequestering himself in a studio to help battle his condition. I’ve suffered from small bouts of insomnolence as well in my life. It is difficult to find a more lonely and helpless feeling. Thankfully, Christoffer was in great company. Through his project, which began in 2012, Lights & Motion has at once been an escape and a release not only for him but for those lucky enough to listen to his music. Franzen has an incredible capacity to write truly inspiriting and somber music. The most incredible part is that it seems to come so easily for him. It may sound like I’m gushing here but with this latest five song EP, entitled Bloom, Lights & Motion is marking its second release and Franzen’s third in just a little over a year. In January of this year Lights & Motion released the spiritual Dear Avalanche while in October he wrote the score for an imaginary movie called Phenomenon under his own name.

I’ve written in length on the influence one’s surroundings have on creativity. Being able to stand at the edges of town with your arms spread out wide and your head tilted back as you gaze at a million points of burning light twinkling in an endless expanse has to play some role in your creative process. The mind behind Lights & Motion admits that the surrounding panorama and dark winters have had a strong influence on everything he’s done…even if he didn’t know it at the time. The seemingly eternal winter brings with it an urge to create. Through this creation it’s as if Lights & Motion set out to will the changing of seasons.

With Bloom, Lights & Motion comes out of hibernation with hopeful eyes ever set on the promise of Spring’s clement touch. It’s about rejuvenation and being born again. It’s about bursting from the sodden, stark loam of winter to blossom anew. I can’t help but think the song Lion wasn’t so named because of the old adage that ‘spring comes in like a lion’. You can hear a sort of revival present in each of the album’s five songs. Light, airy strings swirl around like a soft, vernal breeze accompanied always by glimmering piano or guitar that tiptoe through the songs as if through a puddle after a spring rain. With each lullaby on Bloom you can almost hear the sleepy staccato of rain dreamily pitter-pattering the tin roof of the shed in your backyard. Franzen states that Bloom, like a lot of his music, was written during the darkest months when he’s longing for the changing of seasons. This longing is the catalyst that enables him to write music with a lighter feel, even while the sky outside is a never-ending blanket of grey. Bloom encapsulate perfectly that longing. Or as Franzen puts it ‘a hopeful melancholy’.

Lights & Motion C Franzen

My only gripe with this album is that I want more. From the opening piano chord of the first track ‘Overture’ to the final chord of the last track ‘Lion’, Lights & Motion has created something here that truly transcends sensibility. Many of the tracks are full of lilting phrases that get your heart pumping new, enlivened blood, but there are moments when the weather changes. Lights & Motion won’t flip the script on you with the kind of abrupt crescendo we all know and love/hate with instrumental music. Instead, the tonal aura changes. Franzen relates that the piano and string textures ‘sound very blue-ish in color and tone’ on his newest mini album. This blue-ish tone portrays the quiet battle between a ceaseless winter and the ushering in of the new blessedness of promise.

Lights & Motion is nothing if not consistent. Every release is consistently beautiful. Consistently gut-wrenching. Consistently full of melancholic hopefulness. Franzen just gets it. On the micro-level he’s growing as an artist by experimenting with sounds and textures. You have to admire how unfailing his creativity is with release after release. The guy is pumping out music at an alarming pace and there are no signs of any kind of artistic lull. It’s difficult enough to try and be consistently creative with short gaps between albums, but Lights & Motion finds a way to do it with a faithfulness to his artistic conviction that I adore. At this point, my only advice to Lights & Motion is that if the landscapes of Sweden have as much influence over your writing as you claim – never move.”


Lights & Motion links:

Website: http://www.lightsandmotion.com/

Bandcamp: http://www.deepelm.com/lightsandmotion/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/lightsandmotion

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lightsandmotion

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

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

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/LightsandMotion

Album Review: Shipwrecks – Self Titled

Shipwrecks album cover by David Caspar

German post-rockers Shipwrecks released their eponymous three track EP back in 2015. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but it was good enough to impress.

Without wanting to sound too much like a jaded old critic, let’s just say that it is becoming harder to find bands that truly stand out and excite within the post-rock genre. Shipwrecks managed to do so with just three songs.

Those three songs did them proud, earning them support slots touring Europe with Immanu El and Explosions In The Sky.

Two years later, they’ve followed up with a début album – also self titled.

Recording Shipwrecks is a romantic tale of a band locking themselves away in a remote cabin to write and rehearse. They’re a band that sticks to a DIY ethos to do as much as they could in-house. The guitarist oversaw recording and producing. David Caspar, the drummer collected earthy mixed media to make the striking album art. The band used old vintage equipment to capture those warm, rich tones. It almost sounds like a wholesome movie montage.

Not afraid to take their time, the band craft their build-ups. Because, as is the case with most post-rock, this is about long songs full of crescendos.

I find it difficult picking a stand-out track. All of them offer similar things, each with their own little nuances. Long, deliberate, and full of hope. Except the song “Maelstrom”, which feels more ominous than the rest of the tracks. It sounds like you’d expect from something with that name. Listen carefully and you’ll hear murky depths, with something deep underwater bubbling away.

I love the drumming on this album. Regular readers will know that I often focus on the drumming because I am a drummer myself. And this is my style of playing: hard hitting. Not fancy or technical, but packing a punch. Hit with purpose and allow the music space to breathe. There are distinct moments I hear that make me smile, like the when Caspar hits the bright ride bell *ping!* in “Monument”, or playing *dahdahdah DAH* around the kit in “Home”. And of course, he loves to throw in plenty of snare rolls.

As much as I love running a music blog, I find it hard to come up with new ways to describe music. I listen to (and write about) a lot of post-rock and so much of it blurs together. Some quiet picking, rising swells, big crescendo… Which band is this again? And without wanting to unfairly name names, I feel that some of the major players in the scene have released fairly uninspiring and forgettable records in recent years.

Shipwrecks have done well to stand out in a saturated scene. Only two releases in, and they already have a reputation.

Like their name suggests, when you stumble upon Shipwrecks, you’ve found something special. Like a precious sunken treasure, offering knowing references to a rich past. Building upon their influences, Shipwecks offer something familiar, yet not contrived. Nothing groundbreaking – just done well.

Shipwrecks. Image: Mirka Scheuer

Shipwrecks. Image: Mirka Scheuer

Shipwrecks is available via Sportklub Rotter Damm and Maniyax Records.

USA buyers can order through A Thousand Arms 

Shipwrecks links:

Website: http://shipwrecks-music.com/

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

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

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT02cwVPZTmCavhADv3qOoQ

Bandcamp: http://shipwrecks-music.bandcamp.com/


Joseph James

Album Review: Slowrun – Passage


I want to say the year was 2003.

It was an unusually hot October morning hovering around 2AM.  Stepping out onto my back porch to have a smoke, I peered up into the sky.  At first I wasn’t quite sure at what I was looking.  I can admit to you now that I was actually a little nervous.  It looked completely alien.  Unnatural.  Running down the driveway to get a better view, I was both filled with elation and trepidation.

I stood in the middle of the street and shot my eyes skyward once again.  Before me were beautifully swirling patterns floating listlessly in the dark.  Bright reds and purples suspended impossibly, undulating like airborne waves on an alien planet.  I would learn days later that the sun had experienced a large coronal mass ejection, throwing it’s plasma towards Earth.  I had witnessed an aurora borealis.  And it changed me utterly.

Finnish post-rock band Slowrun knows a thing or two about auroras.  Roiling swells of so many colors, rippling like whitecaps soft enough to sail upon.  The area of Lapland can actually get immigrants moving to the area in search of the mystical Northern Lights.  To live in an expanse so blessed to be able to experience something so magical can make one envious.  In 2003 when I accidentally spied my own borealis (and only due to a once in a lifetime solar storm) it changed my entire perspective on life and the universe.  It shook something loose within me.  I couldn’t shake the experience.  I still can’t.

I bring this up because there are moments in all of our lives where something gets rattled loose; the veil is lifted from our eyes and we begin to see things more clearly.  Sometimes it is one big momentous experience.  Others it’s a series of small earthquakes over time.  Many times it’s a minor, mundane change in our headspace.  Still others it’s a tumultuous life changing event.  This happened to me in 2003.

It happened again in 2007.

I always enjoy hearing how people got introduced to the post-rock genre.  I’m probably considered a later comer.  I first became aware of the genre that would ultimately own almost ever fiber of my being purely on accident.  A lot like how I witnessed the aurora borealis.  I was watching the movie Friday Night Lights.  I didn’t know who or what the background music was, but suddenly the story and dialogue were no longer important.  I didn’t care.  All I knew is that whatever or whoever was playing in the background, it moved something inside of me.  I again felt something rattle loose.  I wanted more.  Again, I couldn’t shudder the feeling.  It was full of hope and moroseness.  Vindication and purpose.  I would soon devour everything the genre had to offer and, 10 years later, I haven’t slowed down.

Slowrun’s 2-song EP “Passage” gives me the feeling of 2007 all over again.  I almost instantly feel nostalgic and start to yearn for slower, easier days.  I’m not the same person I was in 2007 and bands like Slowrun have a lot to do with that.  They are able to capture the genre in a time when it was crawling through my veins and terraforming my soul.  Slowrun doesn’t play overzealous chord progressions chock-full of filler.  And they certainly aren’t in any hurry to get anywhere.  They let their songs build in slow motion upon the reluctant breakers of an aurora.  They build so impossibly slow into a ground swell that once the song breaks you feel swept up as into a storm.  The heavier portions are well measured and few and far between, but never cliche.


A lot of fans of the genre have grown restless with the quiet-loud-quiet recipe of post-rock.  I’ve stated in another review that I can understand their sentiment, but I can also admit that there’s plenty of room in the genus for bands that don’t necessarily feel the need to rewrite the book on instrumental rock.  There’s something sentimental about Slowrun’s writing that I find a bit infectious.  They aren’t going to score any points for pushing the limits of post-rock, but they don’t necessarily need to.  The band has a clear and composed approach to song writing.  Not every band needs to bring a thousand samples and a degree in noise shaping to the table in order to create a beautifully written tune. Slowrun is analytical in their approach.  They’ve come to convey an idea and they refuse to muddy the waters.  This is what I loved about post-rock when I first got in to the scene.  Sure, sometimes it was a bit formulaic, but it was comfortable and safe.

Slowrun has another record entitled “Resonance” released in December of 2015 (listen to the track Introspection).  It, too, is well worth a pick up and deserving of a review.  With “Resonance” the band really shows off its chops.  “Passage” is just that.  A portal into a new chapter for the band.  You can hear a sense of maturity growing in this latest 2-song release.  It’s tranquil but troubled.  It’s clear-sighted and contemplative.  “Passage” is why I fell in love with post-rock in the first place a decade ago.  If you need reminding of what it was about this genre that rattled something loose within you, starting a fire in your belly, you should (re)start with “Passage”.

Slowrun links: