ALBUM REVIEW: MMTH – PATERNOSTER

MMTH Paternoster cover
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There seems to be a general consensus within the instrumental rock genre that as it ages it risks falling prey to the very traits that make it so great in the first place. Bands that attempt to force change risk alienating fans. At the same time, the fans alienate the band by not demanding growth. It’s a delicate yet necessary symbiosis. Pushing the envelope just to say you’ve pushed the envelope achieves nothing. It’s counter-intuitive. Change is good, but change for the sake of change is not. Growth as a band has to be organic. There’s still a lot of room in this genre for bands that just want to write what they feel. It is for this reason that I enjoyed Germany based instrumental band MMTH so much. And this surprised me.

As far as first impressions go MMTH has to be happy with their initial DIY release. Paternoster is filled with great moments. Thematically, the band doesn’t stick with just one emotion. There are great moments of sludgy gloom peppered in with uplifting phrases of retribution. I may even add there are occasions where the band will drop right into indie groove. You’ll find yourself bobbing you’re head in time with a beast rhythm section.

I can appreciate what MMTH has done with this record. You can tell they’ve put a lot of love into the production. Both the sound quality and the mix are well done. The band even released a cassette tape replete with some pretty stellar art.

There’s a lot of diversity on this record. One moment you’re trudging knee deep through a swamp of thick and cloudy chords as on Big Mouth. The next you’re staring out the cargo bay door into the endless reaches of space. The highlight for me on Paternoster would be Pogba is the New Zidane. It starts out with a lonely piano part with guitars quietly humming in the background. The drums start an almost marching cadence which instantly gave me the impression of a convict of old marching to the gallows.

While the sound from song to song is different, there is one thing a lot of them have in common: driving and distorted guitars thrusting their pulsing violence into your earholes. These guys have to have a background in classic rock. As stated before there are parts that really groove and punch you right in the nose. Extra kudos have to be given to the drummer and bassist. These two really know how to carry a tune and seem to compliment each other well. If I had one complaint throughout this album is that there were times when I was begging for the needle to drop and hear an intensely distorted and loud rock breakdown. I wanted them to set their guitars to kill.

There’s a lot to like about Paternoster. The band doesn’t try to go out of its way to be something they aren’t. I’m not flooded with busy or overwrought guitar work or rhythm. Every note seems to have its place. Most importantly MMTH doesn’t come off as overzealous. For a first record I think they’re on the right track and can’t wait to see what they come up with next as they all grow musically.

MMTH


MMTH links:

Website: mmthband.com
Bandcamp: https://mmth.bandcamp.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mmthband/

TRACK REVIEW: THIS WILL DESTROY YOU – KITCHEN

TWDY Kitchen
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This Will Destroy You has had a strange year-and-a-half. Gone are long time bassist Donovan Jones whose work on bass and keys elevated TWDY’s already sonorous sound to next levels, and drummer Alex Bhore, a talent that made me believe in drums again. The band has since been able to fill this void with Jesse Kees and Robbi Gonzalez, two talents in their own right.

While TWDY fans eagerly await a new record and see what, exactly, these new additions bring to the table in a songwriting sense, This Will Destroy You hasn’t been resting on its laurels. Tasked with creating a soundscape for Chef Jordan Kahn’s new experimental restaurant experience Vespertine, the Austin based band would appear to be the perfect fit. Eschewing the more vanilla restaurant event that a lot of us are used to, Vespertine hopes to throw everything you’ve ever learned about the dining experience on its ear. It’s part art project, part gastronomical experiment. As with most higher end restaurants Chef Jordan Kahn wants to create an atmosphere. Enter This Will Destroy You, a band that eschewed the more traditional limitations of instrumental rock to create their own atmosphere.

Magic Bullet Records released “Kitchen” to the public on October 13th. “Kitchen” is the first track you’ll hear upon entering the restaurant. It is the tip of the spear so to speak and sets the stage for your dining experience. The band’s last two records saw them shed the mantle of everyday-post-rock and set out to create something they could call their own. Over the last two albums the band’s tracks have become darker and dripping with post-apocalyptica. “Kitchen” is in direct contrast to the mushroom cloud melodies and discordant yet controlled chaos of Tunnel Blanket and Another Language. This newest track is the silver lining. It’s the sun breaking through a blanket of purple clouds in a last ditch effort to hang on to the day. It’s a beautiful piece that hearkens back the band’s earlier days. “Kitchen” is full of hope and retribution, but there’s tragic despair there as well.

The opening notes hold on forever and act as the curtain slowly drawing back for the big reveal. Small layers of guitar are gently added on, careful not to tip the balance. The tones are soft, warm and cloyingly inviting. Everything swells languidly and every note seems to be just at the tip of your tongue. Eventually, a tiptoeing pizzicato emerges as if it’s crawling out of the dark. It’s the perfect amount of movement in a song that moves like quicksand. The way it all comes together evokes the imagery of soft colors dancing on the floor as light pierces a stained glass window. You’re filled with billowy joy, but there’s a ghostly edge there just out of reach that also fills you with the uneasy feeling that the stained glass window could come shattering to the ground at any moment.

I’ll probably never be able to visit Vespertine, but if “Kitchen” is any indication you’re in for one hell of a night. The track is subtle and invitatory, which is perfect as it’s the sonic set piece for your evening at the restaurant. We may be a long way off from a new full length from TWDY, but “Kitchen” does a magnificent job of sating any hunger pangs for new material.


This Will Destroy You links:

Label: http://www.magicbulletrecords.com/site/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/magicbulletrecs
Bandcamp: https://magicbulletrecords.bandcamp.com/album/this-will-destroy-you-kitchen
Band: http://thiswilldestroyyou.net/

Album Review: Bandina ié – Synekdoke

Bandina ié - Synecdoche cover
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Copenhagen quintet Bandina ié have spent a long time working on their début album, Synekdoke. Six whole years for six tracks. Spending an average of a whole year on each track is either a sign of stupidity or great attention to detail.
Named after the Charlie Kaufman movie “Synecdoche, New York”, the album feels light and summery.
The introductory title track feels ambient and ephemeral, with light guitar picking, electronic swells, and tapping on the drum cymbals that sound like cicadas chirping in the trees. It doesn’t feel so much like a song, but serves to set a relaxing tone for the album.
“Arjuna” is fantastic. Everything about it makes me think of carefree dancing – the great groove, the way I picture fingers jumping off the strings on the fretboard, the way the drumsticks bounce off the rims of the drums, the way the shaker rattles in time to the beat. It’s a wonderful song, reminiscent of Dorena.
Likewise, “Solipsisten” warms my heart. Sweet guitar picking, a strong beat with a shaker and ambient swells combine to create a thing of beauty.
The reason I love this album so much is because it sounds so fun and lighthearted. I picture a fantasy scene with elves and fairies partying it up in a forest clearing, fireflies spiraling around them, and everyone having the time of their lives.
Not every track is a fun fairy tale soundtrack. A few are more ambient, and “Kazuaya” features a dangerous rhythm that comes close to a rave track. “Ophavet” opens and closes with clinking wooden wind chimes and rustling in the bushes, but features a down-tempo bassline between. But overall the album still sounds like an adventure in the wilderness.
Too much instrumental music is sad and gloomy. And as much as I love heavy music, the music that Bandina ié writes makes me want to celebrate life in a way that few other post-rock songs inspire me to do.
Bandina ié - Synecdoche
Synekdoke is available now (digitally and on vinyl) through Stella Polaris Music.

Bandina ié links:

Bandina ié is:

Johan Carøe (guitars):
Rasmus Boesgaard (guitars)
Simon Ulstrup (bass)
Mads Michelsen (drums, percussion)
Emil Duvier (piano, synthesizers)
Joseph James

Interview: Judith Hoorens – We Stood Like Kings

We Stood Like Kings USA 1982
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We Stood Like Kings are a Brussels-based post-rock quartet who specialise in re-imagining scores for silent films. Their upcoming album, USA 1982 (out 22 September 2017 on Kapitän Platte), was written to accompany American cult movie Koyaanisqatsi, directed by Godfrey Reggio. The film explores the imbalance of nature when mankind takes over. The original film was scored by Phillip Glass, so Judith Hoorans explains why her band decided to write music to fit something that already has a soundtrack.

Hi Judith. How are you?

Hi Joseph. I’m absolutely fine, thank you. Happy to be here!

Tell me about your personal musical journey. How long have you been playing piano and when did you first discover post-rock?

I started playing piano as a child. My parents really wanted their three children to have a musical education, so we didn’t really have a choice. I first learned violin, before figuring out it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I remember being very afraid of my teacher. Then I switched to piano. It’s only later, in my late teenage years , that I became conscious of how much music meant to me and that I could do something worthy with it. It’s about at the same time that I discovered post-rock through a good friend of mine. The first band I really enjoyed was Caspian.

How did We Stood Like Kings come to exist?

I’ve known Mathieu, our drummer, since a very long time. We were both students at the same boarding school in Aalst, a little Flemish town located between Brussels and Ghent. Our supervisor loved music a lot and even provided us with a rehearsal room. We started writing pop songs, playing covers. A few years later, we had lost sight of each other but met again by chance, almost literally bumping into each other at university. That’s when I let him hear some post-rock, and he was totally up for it. We started a new band, and over the years, We Stood Like Kings took shape with Colin on bass and Phil on guitars.

Who is your favourite film director and why?

I don’t really have a favorite film director. I’m not a movie know-it-all, I like to enjoy good movies and I don’t really watch them the way that I like listen to music (which I do in a more professional way, you might say, paying attention to meter changes, tonalities, etc.). The best movies for me are the ones which make you forget all the things you have to take care of.

What process does We Stood Like Kings go through when deciding which films you’d like to cover?

Of course we watch a lot of movies, and at some point, it becomes obvious which one we should choose. I guess we discussed the choice of Koyaanisqatsi for like, 5 minutes. Our second project for Vertov’s A Sixth Part of the World was a bit more tricky, because we knew that the movie was a difficult one and would raise many questions from the audience due to its political nature.

We Stood Like Kings

One your website you include a quote from Godfrey Reggio that includes the sentence “Copies are copies of copies”. How well do you think this applies to your current project?

The way I would interpret your question is that in my opinion, nothing is ever really new. We are all different but identical at the same time. Though I would say that we have consciously chosen a musical direction that was different from Philip Glass’ approach. Bands are always inspired by other art forms, be it music or other kinds of art, and there are always many others doing stuff that’s close to what you do. The only way to make it really personal is to put all your soul in it. Trying to create something to really resonates within you. Therefore you have to find what’s yours and not someone else’s and use it as your strength.  

You’ve covered Berlin, USSR – two lost empires.  And now you’ve chosen the USA. Was that a conscious decision?

Yes definitely. We had the idea of making a kind of trilogy on the subject of fragile empires. BERLIN 1927 is like a snapshot of Berlin right before the outbreak of World War II. USSR 1926 shows a glimpse of the Soviet empire at the height of its power. It was only logical to focus on the USA, the Western lifestyle and how it came to its actual form thanks to the technological evolution of the last decades. How knows how it’s going to end?

How does copyright factor into what you do, seeing as you are playing music to match other artists works?

We certainly have to handle copyrights. The two movies from the 20s are still protected by what you call “screening rights”, which we have to pay for each screening of the movie to the Film Museum who has restored to movie and commercialized it on DVD. For Koyaanisqatsi, we have made an agreement also. Of course it’s never free to use existing movies and one should be really careful about this to avoid bad surprises.

Have you ever received feedback from people who were involved in the films you write soundtracks to? And were you in contact with Phillip Glass at all during this process?

Well, not for our first two albums obviously, because the people who made them are dead now. We have not been in contact with Philip Glass. But we have recently sent our soundtrack to the directing team of Koyaanisqatsi. We are eagerly awaiting their feedback, that’s the least we can say.

Last year was the anniversary for the battle of Somme. I watched a documentary about it which was filmed during the the battle, and a live orchestra played the score in time with the film. Do We Stood Like Kings do something similar?

Yes, it’s what we do. We play live, below the screen, while the movie is playing and we are synchronizing our music with it. Of course there’s just 4 of us and not a whole orchestra!

This work has taken We Stood Like Kings a whole year to write. Talk me through the writing process.

Of course the first step is to choose a movie to work on. That took us quite a long time, as we had to watch tons of silent movies before finally coming across Koyaanisqatsi. But it was love at first sight. Once the choice is made, the next step is to watch it over and over again while trying to decide which overall mood fits in which part. Of course you have to split it up in different parts, and that might be a bit tricky as we have to take into account the fact that the album’s going to be released as an LP (which can’t hold more than around 20 minutes per side).

The musical writing process itself has taken us about a year. It’s a kind a puzzle really. You’ve got ideas and you have to make them match the length of the movie scene you are working on. We can’t just let ourselves be carried away by the music. Some songs were very easy to write, other have taken us months. I think one of the oldest songs we started working on, “Night Owl”, was one of the last songs to be finished. We just tried out dozens of different versions of that one before we felt satisfied.

The album features 11 songs. Had you considered writing a seamless, feature length track instead?

In fact, the album is divided into 11 songs but live, they flow seamlessy into one another. I think it’s much easier to fit in today’s standards to have separate tracks. Movie soundtracks released on CD are also always divided into tracks.

You recently featured one of your songs from the upcoming album on the Open Language Volume II comp that our friends at A Thousand Arms put out. Has this help you reach a new audience?

Yes, we definitely reached new people by being on the compilation. We were also thrilled by the review from Heavy Blog Is Heavy. They seemed to have enjoyed the track a lot.

How are you feeling about the upcoming tour you have planned?

Obviously we are incredibly excited. We just came home from the first 6 shows of the tour. These shows were a kind of test because we’ve added a new light show to our set. Technically, there were a lot of new things to take care of, but it was a success and we’ll carry on that way for the whole tour. We’re super happy to visit a few new countries and cities we’ve never been before, like Ljubljana in Slovenia for instance. We’ve planned several shows in Eastern Europe too, for which we got help from Colossal Bookings. Were looking forward to these as well.

The message of this silent film is implict, rather than overt. Post-rock and instrumental music in general is also often up to the listener’s interpretation. Do you feel confident that your music matches the themes of the film well enough?

Of course, you can’t discuss taste and it’s up to every single person to decide whether our music fits the themes of film. Obviously, we hope that we succeeded to give the movie, which we love so much and has influenced so many directors, a new breath and approach. Our goal is not to try to replace Philip Glass, we simply were so touched by the images that we wanted to express musically the feelings that the movie had stirred in us.

After a show, a woman has written us that she felt our music was more hopeful than the original soundtrack. That it made her believe that our world might still as well be saved. Because if there is no hope, there is no point, right?

You are planning on releasing this album on CD and vinyl, as well as digitally through Kapitän Platte. Do you think the music is best listened to on its own, or with visuals supporting it?

I think we wanted to make music that both would stand on its own and mix up with the screening in a way that wouldn’t be too disturbing for someone wanting to “watch a movie”. For me, the ideal setting for this project is a venue with comfortable seats, a big screen and a nice stage. It’s really meant to be half-concert, half-screening. If people just want to see a movie, they should go to the movies, not the a movie concert. I guess the balance changes in every venue but we definitely don’t hide behind the screen.  


We Stood Like Kings are currently touring Europe to promote USA 1982. Head along to www.westoodlikekings.com and click “shows” for more information regarding dates and locations.

We Stood Like Kings links:

Bandcamp: www.wslk.bandcamp.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/westoodlikekings

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/wslk/videos

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeAreWslk

 

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