Album Review: Nihiling – Batteri

Nihiling Batteri cover
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Are you the type of person who believes in the album as a whole? Do you listen to music on shuffle and make playlists from the singles, or listen to entire albums as the artists intended it?

The reason I ask is because for the past few weeks I’ve been listening to Nihiling’s new album Batteri out of sequence. When I downloaded the album the tracks arranged in alphabetical order, and not according to designated track listing, and I feel that somehow I’ve ruined the listening experience.

Not that the experience is bad by any means. But I’ve had to reflect on whether listening to the correct track ordering enhances the album listening experience, or if the tracks need be good enough to stand on their own.


I was taken by “Cellardoor”, the first track I listened to. For first impressions, it certainly had me intrigued. It begins with clicking noises (someone playing the spoons?), and drawn out cello notes. As this progresses the music grows more complex, with multiple poly rhythms that don’t fit work in well together. Despite this, it works. I found myself thinking back to Biffy Clyro’s “Living Is A Problem…”. seeing as both tracks are odd, but undeniably technically proficient.

The real first track of the album, “Ottersong” commences with a minimalist beat and singing that reminds me of Bedouin Soundclash’s Jay Malinowski. Slowly other elements come into the foray – toms and tambourines, more singers, weird glitches. Everyone has their chance to shine, with no shortage of talent fond.The guitars are especially great later in the piece , transitioning from effect laden underwater sounds to searing solos.

But like I said, there is no shortage of talent here. As biased as I am, I find the drums outstanding throughout the album – Rhythmically hypnotizing and dynamically diverse. Not to mention the singing. I’m a sucker for good vocal harmonies and Batteri offers this in spades.


But if you want my recommendation for the first track to start on, try “Power Rangers”. THIS. TRACK. RULES. Honestly, even if my review isn’t going to sell you on the album, at least take the time to listen to this one song. I’ve embedded it in the review here for convenience. The song has two  sublime elements: groove and harmonies. Just give it a listen. Please.


That’s another thing that threw me – the singing is incredible. .Not only was I listening to this album with the songs in the wrong order, but I went in with incorrect assumptions. The press release called it post-rock, but the best songs don’t fit within this description.

I’d class Batteri as eclectic math-rock. As a general rule, the post-rock genre lacks singing. Whereas Nihiling give us layered vocal harmonies to die for. Odd indie Glitches and effects. You can call it post-rock if you must, because I can’t think of any accurate genre classification.

Upon listening to the band’s earlier releases I can understand the post-rock label better. But the band have evolved and embarked into new territory with Batteri. The first half of the album offers experimental prog-rock, and the latter half gives us the post-rock that was advertised.

“Rope” lurks into trip-hop territory. I’ll give the band kudos for atmospherics. Despite the simplicity of it, there is an off-vibe permeating the track, slowly becoming more unhinged as it progresses. The messiness worsens when a chaotic programmed synth à la The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” comes into play towards the end of the song.

“Idiot” goes heavier, with doomy sludge metal that loses intensity half way through, only to be replaced by a snare drum tattoo and less saturated guitar tones.

I highly recommend that you give Batteri a listen. If you do, you’ll hear brilliant musicianship, interesting experimental sounds, great groove, mathy dynamics and vocal harmonies to die for. The first half of the album stands stronger than the reserved post-rock of the second half, but don’t let that stop you checking out this stunning release.

 


Nihiling’s fourth album Batteri came out on Kapitän Platte on May 5, 2017.

Nihiling links:

Joseph James

Album Review: Defend The Rhino – Static Breeze

Defend The Rhino Static Breeze Album Art
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Despite the very pop-punk sounding name, Edmonton’s Defend The Rhino is a solo cinematic instrumental project from singer-songwriter / composer / audio engineer Nathaniel Sutton. With a CV like that, Sutton sounds more than qualified to release an album.

Said album, entitled Static Breeze, is actually the second Defend The Rhino release, featuring ten short tracks that would all fit comfortably within the context of a film.

The album has a somber start ,with soothing waves of soft pads and heartfelt violins, broken up with lingering single piano notes. The second track progresses to using chords on the piano instead of singular notes, and drums add a welcome element.

There are some great elements in said track, “Sound The Alarm”, that are hard to pick up on unless you pay close attention. For example, the bass line at the start is adds awesome feel, but is hidden deep in the mix. Towards the end we hear some brilliant tinkling xylophone that should really stand out, but is again lost and ends up as a minor detail. This is among my favourites on the album because the drum beat and piano ostinato add such energy and liveliness to this song .

The bass notes on “Fade To Dusk” are well captured. I can visualise the thick, dense strings vibrating each time we hear it played. It is here that we are introduced to a ghostly coo that Sutton employs in a few songs – an odd mournful wailing effect that makes the song sound ominous.

Most of these tracks a short and direct, unlike a lot of instrumental music I listen to. They tend to keep the same theme throughout without delineating far from the key melody or beat. The drums especially make the songs appear straightforward, with the same simple beat dominating many tracks. I can tell that they aren’t programmed – there are little giveaways like rapping on the rims in “Dim Lights” and the snare drags in “Fallen Leaf” – but they feel rigid enough that I can tell that the person behind the kit would feel more at home playing another instrument.

“Fallen Leaf” features a funky electric organ tune reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and “Running In The Dark” just screams David Bowie’s “Heroes”. The latter is the only track on the album with vocals. Hoarse and almost whispered, the singing mirrors Bowie’s delivery of holding back until the chorus, creating suspense as we wait for the crescendo.

This is first and foremost a cinematic piano record. Beautiful evocative, it provokes my imagination into conjuring up all kinds of scenes to fit the music. Sutton includes a variety of instruments and effects to colour in the sounds, making for a varied listen. Static Breeze would be the perfect study album, with pleasant sounds in the background that could help you focus and lift your mood. And of course, it would work brilliantly soundtracking a film, seeing as it is so cinematic in nature.


Static Breeze is due out April 7th through Mint 400 Records,

Defend The Rhino links:

Website: www.nathanielsutton.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/defendtherhino
Twitter: www.twitter.com/defendtherhino
Instagram: www.instagram.com/defendtherhino

 

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

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: