Album Review: The End Of The Ocean -aire

The End Of The Ocean -aire cover
Standard

I’ll admit that I hadn’t come across Ohio’s The End Of The Ocean before seeing them play at dunk!USA in Vermont in 2017, but any of my friends recommended them in the lead up to the festival, and sure enough they played one of the more memorable sets of the weekend.

I’m guessing that the key reason that they’d escaped my attention for so long is because they hadn’t released any music since 2012, which would have been when I was fairly new to the genre and still discovering what gems the world of post-rock had to offer.

But now they’ve ended the wait for new music, offering us the cryptically titled third album, -aire.

I could tell straight away that this album was worth my time. Album opener “endure” commences with light pads and piano chords – ok, atmospheric, setting the mood. But then the drums kick in – so punchy – and I could tell that The End Of The Ocean mean business.

They launch straight into the guts of it from there. The triumphant drums lead us through a euphoric movement that I’m tempted to label as a crescendo – but the energy doesn’t peak and die away. I must add that the mixing is fantastic, offering great depth and clarity.

“bravado” sustains the energy of the first track, offering more melodies and fury. It’s direct, relentless, and glimmering with beauty.

The End Of The Ocean really put the ‘rock’ into post-rock. Forget the loud-quiet-loud approach, these guys and girls go more for the loud-loud-LOUD style, simply adding to the music to increase the fullness and density of the sound.

The intensity doesn’t let up much until we reach the fourth track, “self”. It’s a tender song with pleasant guitar strumming that reminds me of Lights & Motion’sDream Away“. “homesick” follows suite, keeping the mood down for a bit, before bringing the volume back up where it belongs.

Drummer Wes Jackson is a force to be reckoned with. Not content to simply sit back and set the tempo, he injects driving essential energy into each track. Just listen to the blastbeats in “jubilant”!

Lead single “desire” is an ominious beast. Built around a piano ostinato, with the ever brilliant drums rapping on the rim, this is a powerful track. The best part is that unlike most post-rock music we are accustomed to, they don’t just use guitar crescendos and washy cymbals to build the mood, but instead add dynamic complexity to their playing to help the song grow.

This is post-rock that avoids cliché. Sure, it’s emotional instrumental music, but The End Of The Ocean manage to write great songs that avoid the same played-out tropes that every Explosions In The Sky tribute act. -aire pushes past the boundaries of the genre, offering simply brilliant tunes that reward the listener with energy and excitement. Yes, it’s atmospheric and moody, but this is music that demands your attention, not just tired background filler.

Although -aire starts out stronger than it finishes, it’s a solid album guaranteed to stir emotions and pique interest. Check it out and fall in love with it.


The End Of The Ocean links:

Pre-order link to the album: https://theendoftheocean.merchnow.com

Website: http://theendoftheocean.com/

Bandcamp: https://theendoftheocean.bandcamp.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/endoftheocean

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

Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/artist/4AXRViJcT2cJ0x1CxSSldW

The End Of The Ocean Tides Of Man Tour Poster

 Joseph James

Album Review: tide/edit – All My Friends

tide/edit All My Friends cover
Standard

Regular readers will know that I teach toddlers for a living. It’s a lot of fun, drawing pictures, digging in the sandpit, building lego, reading stories, running around, acting silly, and generally doing things that don’t really sound like “work” (although believe me – it’s not easy!)

Trying to create a fun and vibrant feeling environment is an integral part of my job. It’s easier to learn things when we feel comfortable and at ease. I enjoy finding music that can help to elevate or lower the mood of the room, depending on the need. Relaxing ambient music by the likes of Rhian Sheehan or Steve Gibbs can help settle everyone down for the chilled out times of the day. And dance parties that feature Disney tunes from soundtracks like Frozen, Lion King and Moana are daily occurrences. But my favourites are upbeat post-rock and math-rock – fun stuff like Toe, Just Neighbours, Tom’s Story and Dorena.

Filipino quartet tide/edit just got added to that list. I can’t believe that they’ve escaped my attention until now, because this is exactly the kind of music I need in my life.

All My Friends ticks all the boxes: upbeat, energetic and melodic. It’s fun and interesting without feeling too distracting.

I’m sure that any math fans will know the deal: it’s happy, tappy music that makes you feel good and want to move your body. For the longest time I thought that math-rock only featured innaccesable bands like Dillinger Escape Plan or Messhuggah, which put me off. But bands like tide/edit have taught me that exploring different time signatures doesn’t alway make a band hard to listen to, it just means that they’re too talented for their own good.

But seriously, All My Friends is a great record. As the title would suggest, it’s the soundtrack to friendship and playfullness. We hear light tapping on guitar fretboards, twinkly riffs and busy drumming, all coming together to create wonderful music. “Chronograph” transports us to electronica territory with glitches in the beat. It doesn’t matter if you’re pumped up, or feeling dreamy and vacant, this music just makes you feel good about life.

Now I know that I cover a lot of instrumental music on this site, but I must disclose that the track “White Flag” contains (cover your ears, children)… vocals! Singing? How dare they? But jokes aside, Dee Cruz’s vocal addition makes for a lovely relaxing song.

It is the start of summer here in New Zealand, which means time spent with friends, cooking on barbeques, hanging out at beaches and rivers, and making time to enjoy what life has to offer. I dare say tide/edit’s carefree tunes from All My Friends will make worthy additions to the soundtrack.

image: Karen de la Fuente

STREAMING AND PURCHASE LINKS
Digital (Bandcamp): tideedit.bandcamp.com
CD (A Spur of the Moment Project): shop.aspurofthemomentproject.com
 
SOCIAL LINKS

Album Review: Europa – Small Steps

Europa Small Steps
Standard

It’s instantly clear that Florida act Europa have paid plenty of time and attention to the production of new record Small Steps. Their music, comprised of many complex layers and glitches, travels along wildly erratic paths, despite being easy to listen to. Think along the lines of Circa Survive and Coheed & Cambria crossed with Postal Service.

If I had to pigeon-hole them, I’d lump them in with prog-rock. The songs take wild twists and turns, switching time signatures, veering off onto new tangents, and throwing all kinds of effects at you. And they have a 14 minutes song, which counts as an automatic entry into the genre by virtue of its length alone.

Turns out this was a deliberate move. Cory Worsley shares: “The prevailing theme for use when writing this record was progress. Progress musically, personally and in the world as a whole. It can be easy to look around the world and feel perplexed as to the state we’re living in but this album was a way for us to remind ourselves to take steps in the right directions and that each and every step is important. We have to start near if we’re to go far.”

Europa cover a lot of the spectrum. Take “Lag” for example. Sublime acoustic guitar switches to frenzied tapping and choppy keyboards. And that’s only in the space of a minute. Some songs feel like lullabies, whereas others are fully fledged rippers. And, just when you think you’ve heard all they throw something new at you. The title track is a wonderful piano piece, a peaceful closer that gently lowers you back down to earth after taking you on an interstellar ride.

The vocals are an instrument in their own right. The fuzzy auto-tuned warble is a throwback to Postal Service. Those auto-tuned parts are real ear-worms, with the softly cooed lines like ‘settle down’ or ‘let go’ burying themselves deep into your psyche so that you’ll catch yourself humming along for days. Tracks like “Paths” and “Criminals” have throatier singing, with more aggression, and the intensity increases when we hear anguished screams in “Redesign”. Kristen Peluso guests on a handful of tracks too, which was a great move, because she has a wonderful voice that serves to add more to the variety of timbres.

Small Steps is an ambitious venture. It almost ventures into rock-opera or musical territory, due to the expansive sound, interludes and reprisals. This begins to make sense when you look through a recent playlist Santiago Mesa put together for Alt Dialogue and see that he’s been listening to the Hamilton musical a lot. Or maybe I’m drawing false conclusions… Who knows? But it’s an epic sounding album with some structural similarities to musicals.

Themes and motifs threaded throughout the album give a cohesive and well thought-out feel, which is refreshing in this current day of singles. More and more acts are resorting to pushing out EP’s and singles to cater to people’s short attention spans [This is an interesting discussion in itself. With the nature of streaming, it pays to have singles featured on playlists, but at the same time, albums gain more streams than EPs. But I would suggest that frequent, shorter releases are becoming more commonplace than long albums]. So it feels like a powerful and deliberate statement when a band releases an hour-long album.

It’s good enough that nobody would believe it’s a debut release. Debut full-length, yes, but they already have a few EP’s under their belts. The production is clearly of standard that comes from plenty of time spent tweaking and playing in the the studio.

I imagine that Europa are extremely proud of this release. It’s a solid album, showcasing a wide breadth of talent. 

Europa. Image: Brian Macaione

Europa links:

Website – discovereuropa.net
Facebook – facebook.com/discovereuropa
Instagram – @discovereuropa
Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/artist/08wB1vbFRcknKXhhX8Puj3#_=_
Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPhWcFChXo8l9UbnaPtxNPA
Twitter – twitter.com/discovereuropa
Bandcamp: https://europa.bandcamp.com/

Joseph James

Album Review: Winter Dust – Sense By Erosion

Winter Dust Sense By Erosion cover
Standard

I’m going to make a bold claim.

The 2015 EP Thresholds by Italian sextet Winter Dust is one of the best releases you’ll find in the world of post-rock.

I still remember when I first heard Winter Dust. It was during a walk to work on a frosty winter morning. I used to love that time of morning, and used those walks as an opportunity to get into a good frame of mind for the day ahead. It was especially cold. The grass on the park was coated in white crystals, and I blew jets of steam with every breath. I had headphones on and was listening through the new Open Language compilation that A Thousand Arms had recently released.

It was a good collection of songs. I already knew a handful of tracks, from the likes of Tides of Man, I/O, Ranges, We Lost The Sea and Dumbsaint. But many bands were new to me.

The one that stopped me in my tracks was “There”, by Winter Dust.

That night I logged onto Bandcamp and downloaded Thresholds as soon as I got home. Months later a vinyl copy arrived in the post [I believe the first order got lost in the post so they sent me another]. I love that EP so much.

And now we have a follow-up: Sense By Erosion.

It’s exactly what I wanted: Thresholds, but more. Intense emotion, anguished hardcore vocals, sublime instrumental passages and visceral dynamics.

The many Marco’s have exceeded themselves this time. (four of the band members have the same name, along with Fabio and Carlo). Some of them live in separate countries, so I can’t begin to fathom how they managed to write this masterpiece. Yes, the internet is amazing, but nothing can substitute human contact when you’re communicating and creating with each other.

Sense By Erosion starts of as many post-rock releases do: softly building up. The track “Quiet January” quietly loops on itself, building with intensity as dialogue plays in the background. Then, just as it built up, it then slowly decays in waves.

“Duration Of Gloom” continues the build up with a good groove, slowly growing. The playful melody that floats above the main riff is a nice use of treble. Then BAM, distortion and cathartic roaring. I always find it fascinating when foreign bands choose to sing in English. Then again, I can hardly tell what they’re saying unless I pay close attention anyway. These post-hardcore vocals are one of the marked improvements that Thresholds and Sense By Erosion have over Winter Dust’s earlier output, giving the music a huge injection of urgency and feeling.

This song has me sighing with delight. This is what I want: emotional, energetic music that kicks me right in the feels and leaves me winded. Just like with Thresholds, I feel so consumed and swept away by the music. It’s so engrossing: Hard hitting drums, tremolo guitar, and a raw undercurrent. Then, once you think it’s all over, a calm bridge to let you catch your breath and ease you into a false sense of security. Before BAM, back into the intensity. If you listen carefully during the soft outro, you’ll hear church bells faintly ringing in the distance.

If you can’t tell yet, I’m a big fan. Loud or quiet; heavy or soft; sung or instrumental, Winter Dust just nail the mood.

At first, “All My Friends Are Leaving Town” seems like a softer song, although it picks up later on. One passage features a weird reversed effect. Maybe they’ve subtly backmasked messages that brainwash me into loving the music?

“Composition Of Gloom” is the second song with the word ‘gloom’ in the title. Funnily enough, the absence of vocals makes it feel like an interlude, despite the fact that one of the defining aspects of the post-rock genre is lack of singing. That, and the fact that it’s the shortest song.

Again, “Disharmony” is by no means weaker, but the lack of vocals is noticeable. Ironically enough, I found lead single “Cruel Jane” is one of the songs that makes the least impact for me, with the first half feeling soft and meandering. This is not to say these songs are bad, but they don’t offer as much oomph as the tracks from the first half of the record.

Their blurb on Bandcamp states “Our new album is ideally divided in two, the nervous part and the heartening part. It’s a record about leaving people, leaving places, parting ways, losing things.” This makes total sense. And I’m not sure what that says about me, that I prefer the nervous part, but as you can tell, I’m very much drawn to those songs.

It’s a shame that we don’t hear much piano in the mix throughout this album, but they make up for it with album closer “Stay”. After a tumultuous emotional ride, this is the touch of hope at the end of the album to send us on our way in good spirits, with a parting gift of ambient tranquility.

I simply love this album. I feel so strongly about it, but at the same time find it hard to articulate exactly why. I think the intense evocative nature of the music certainly resonates with me in a way that few others can. By taking the beauty of post-rock, the intensity of hardcore and the emotional aspects of emo, Winter Dust have fused their own sound that ticks all the right boxes for me.

Thresholds EP, was an underrated masterpiece. Sense of Erosion is the logical progression: taking all components of its predecessor, and building upon them to create something longer and more fully realised. I had high expectations of this album, and I’m delighted to say they’ve been met.

Winter Dust

Winter Dust links:

Bandcamp: https://winter-dust.bandcamp.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/winterdustmusic

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

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1wcxnlsMklfqJ_QurUuGVQ

Joseph James

Album Review: Tenacious D – Post-Apocalypto

Tenacious D Post-Apocalypto
Standard

Tenacious D have long been a guilty pleasure of mine. They’re misogynistic, juvenile and crude, but at the same time I do find some of their content funny, and they know how to rock. I guess the same could be said about Jack Black, who has had gold moments throughout his acting career (namely School of Rock), but mostly boasts lemons. He’s a slightly more reliable Adam Sandler, but I still have a soft spot for his work.

Post-Apocalypto is their fourth full length album. Like The Pick of Destiny, it is a soundtrack. It follows a YouTube webseries that has played out over the past month, featuring the songs and snippets of dialogue from the show.

Both Black and partner Kyle Gass are comedic actors, so writing funny songs with narrative suit their strengths. I’ve seen them play three times, and although it can feel slightly forced, the story arc that carries through their shows is fun, and allows them to play with theatrical flair.

The narrative for this record doesn’t quite work though. I still enjoy the skits from their first record, which were silly stand-alone pieces. But the skits on this new album are just snippets from the web series used to advance the story. This should help to provide context for those who haven’t watched the series, but there isn’t enough to fill in all the plot points of the story-line. I think they would have been wiser to have an all-or-nothing approach, and should have left the snippets out, instead of sprinkling an inadequate amount throughout.

Post-Apocalypto (the web series) was a painful watch. Like I’ve said, I’m a fan, so forced myself through it, but didn’t feel rewarded for my efforts. I hesitate to call it an animation, but more a selection of Black’s hand-drawn stills to give visual reference for the audio. It’s a sci-fi series that explored Tenacious D trying to survive in a (you guessed it) apocalyptic wasteland. Along the way they adopt a three-headed dog, battle genital monsters, fight Nazis and travel to space.

Tenacious D have always been crass, but I was shocked at the many gratuitous sex scenes. But then again, it’s exactly what I should have expected – it was just visual this time. It’s a political show too, with The D taking shots at Trump and Nazis. I guess the timing is appropriate, with approaching elections in America, but only time will tell how fast these political and pop culture references will date the album.

The songs are short. It makes sense, they fit within short episodes. And The D have plenty of short, furious songs with impact. But still, this entire album lasts half an hour, and that’s with skits padding it out. They could have at least fleshed out a few of the songs so that the album lasted longer. The title theme offers plenty of potential for extension, but feels incomplete as is.

And they’ve done their fair share of ballads in the past too, but almost all of the songs on this album are ballads, leaving me wondering what happened to the band that once won a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance”.

It’s not all bad though. Black’s voice acting shines through. You really feel for Terminator’s lament in “Robot” (despite the odd Arnie-esque accent). The redneck Nazi’s sound so thick that you really want to believe that they’re all really that dense.

“Hope” is arguably the best of the ballads, and most rousing. The D explore new musical horizons with “JB JR Rap”, rapped in a hoarse voice and complete with an autotuned section. To be honest, most of the album is Classic D, albeit shorter and less rocking.

The D have a long history with Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. Grohl has drummed on all of their records to date, and the trio have featured in a number of each other’s videos. The first time I saw The D live was opening for Foo Fighters at Western Springs in Auckland, where the crowd jumped up and down enough to trigger minor earthquakes [It sounds absurd, but it’s true!]. Black has also guest starred on one of Grohl’s Probot tracks, “The Warlock“.

As you’d expect, Grohl’s drumming is on point. He’s long been known as a powerhouse drummer since his Nirvana days, and has collaborated with such a range of rock royalty that it has almost become a meme. You can hear unmistakably in the title theme – a rehash of an old unreleased bridge (Rolling Thunder) that the band cut from their song “Rize of the Fenix” (off their last record). “Daddy Ding Dong” also has Grohl written all over it, one of the few stand-out rock of the soundtrack that venture into metal territory, as does “Woman Time”, with awesome Dio-esque vocals.

In short: Post-Apocalypto not a great album. Just as their other soundtrack, Pick of Destiny doesn’t compare well to the other albums, this one feels weak too. It is entirely in keeping with the Tenacious D brand, being puerile and budget, but doesn’t rock enough. Only the most loyal fans will appreciate it, and I doubt even they will revisit it after the initial listens. If you’re interested in it, at least watch the web-series so that you can hear the songs with context. I hope this isn’t the end of The D, but if they do release new music in the future, they’d be best to write without a constraining concept.

Tenacious D links:

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

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

Website: https://www.tenaciousd.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealTenaciousD

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