Album Review: Winter Dust – Sense By Erosion

Winter Dust Sense By Erosion cover
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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

Buried Treasure: Mineral – The Power of Failing

Mineral - The Power of Failing
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Mineral

Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

The further away you get from a pivotal moment in your life, the more important it seems.  Sometimes you don’t recognize the moment as being truly crucial as it is happening.  It usually takes several years for the weight of it to settle in.  It’s this slow passing of time that lends the moment all its lofty nostalgia.  A nostalgia that fills us to the brim with terrible longing and beautiful memory.  Music has a way of pinning all your best and worst memories to a page.  No band did this to me more than Mineral.

The year was 1995.  I was an awkward Sophomore in high school in Illinois.  My mother was shopping for a birthday present for me and was apparently having difficulty in doing so.  Maybe 15-year-old boys are hard to shop for.  She would end up running into a guy in a record store at the mall (a fellow I would eventually become friends with) who told her to buy Diary by Sunny Day Real Estate.  My mom is a conservative Midwest type and it amazes me still that she took the advice of a stranger in buying a record.  I would devour this album whole.  Something just clicked.  It resonated with me and my extremely impressionable 15-year-old mind.  Diary would change me down to my core and would set me down a road of music that, even at 38 years of age, I’ve yet to stray from.

Fast forward to 1997.  My best friend Steve and I were all over the Midwest emo scene.  This was before GAP got hold of the word and cheapened it.  The post-hardcore scene of D.C. that was the birthplace of the sound we adored wasn’t that far in the rear view mirror.  This was in the early days of the internet.  Steve and I decided we’d start an online “zine”.  Looking back at it now, an online “zine” in 1997 was probably a little ahead of its time.  We called our little project Quagmire 9 and did music reviews, show reviews and collated all information for upcoming shows in a 100 mile radius of where we lived.  Eventually we’d end up getting into the show promotion game.

Imagine 17 and 16 year old kids being able to pull in bands like Cursive and Boilermaker to a sleepy, blue collar town on the Illinois River.

All of this eventually led to a small relationship with CRANK! Records.  We’d get little press packages that had all kinds of release information for bands they were distributing.  This is where we would become familiar with Mineral, a relatively unknown group at the time from Austin, TX.  We hopped in my 1985 Delta 88 and made the 30-minute drive across the river to CO-OP Records in East Peoria and picked up a copy of The Power of Failing, Mineral’s first album.  If Diary shook me to my core, The Power of Failing would resonate with me on a biochemical scale.  Every vital process of my entire being was owed to this album.  I came out the other end of my first listen as something different.

Listening this album in its entirety can still elicit a plethora of feelings inside of me.  A lot of my reviews right here on this wonderful site take on a theme of hopeless joy and redemption.  These are concepts that I often latch onto.  Looking back I would have to believe that it was lead singer Chris Simpson’s vocals that shaped my love for these ideas.  The album is just full of moments where it feels as if the world may collapse in on itself, only to come up for air and become awash in the sun’s healing rays.

“Tears stream down my cheeks only to meet their redeemer and be wiped away.  And there is joy.”

I’m unsure if it was the equipment used or just a lack of money for quality studio time, but The Power of Failing has one of the most incredibly raw and visceral sounds on a record that I can remember.  This rough-hewn sound gives The Power of Failing an almost violent edge.  It makes the melodic portions uneasy but uplifting while the more riotous and distorted parts come across as angry but supernal.  It would be difficult to imagine this record with anything other than the sound it has.  It’s since been remastered and it managed to retain the punch-you-in-the-gut sound that made it so absolutely brilliant.

I remember trying to get all the Smashing Pumpkin and Veruca Salt kids in high school to give Mineral a chance.  They just didn’t get it.  The younger me couldn’t get over how they weren’t moved by what they were hearing.

Mineral’s importance to the mid-90s emo scene is undeniable.  There were a lot of bands doing the Rites of Spring thing back in those days, but none of them did it with as much raw emotion as Mineral.  The lyrics weren’t weighted down in hyperbole or symbolism.  Chris Simpson spoke his mind and put everything in such a beautifully poetic prose.  It tore at your heart and left you smiling with a sort of recognition.  Pardon the cliché, but he was able to paint a picture.  A picture we’ve all found ourselves in but were always bereft of the words to accurately describe it.

“And I don’t know if I should say “I’m sorry” or “Thank you”.  I’ve tried to speak but the tears choke the words.  And I think I finally know what they mean when they talk about joy.”

This is just part of what made Mineral so damn special.  If the lyrics and vocal melodies weren’t tearing at your insides, it was the guitar, bass and drums.  They just had a way of making their instruments cry in torment.  I understand I’m starting to sound a little corny here, but before Mineral and bands like SDRE, guitars and rhythm played second fiddle to vocals.  Listen, I was an idiot kid but Mineral opened my eyes musically to concepts, ideas and feelings that I barely knew existed.

It sounds weird but this all started with my mom.  I honestly have her to thank for all of this.  If she hadn’t gone against her better, more conservative judgement and bought a Sunny Day Real Estate album at the behest of some skateboarding punk kid behind a desk at a record store, none of this would have happened.  Hell, I wouldn’t even be writing this. Thanks, momma.

 


MINERAL LINKS:

Facebook

Mineral Official Page

Twitter

Album Review: Into It. Over It. – Standards

Into It Over It Standards
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How does one describe Into It. Over It? Sometimes a solo folksy singer-songwriter, sometimes rocking pop-punk band. Always kooky. And the “E” word gets thrown around a lot. Does “really good” suffice for an accurate description?

Into It. Over It. is Evan Weiss, in the same sense that Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor. Weiss is extremely prolific, having released countless compilations and splits around his IIOI studio albums, as well as playing in a number of other projects (Stay Ahead of The Weather, Their/They’re/There, Pet Symmetry). He usually rocks the stereotypical folksy/hipster combo of a beard, thick glasses, and checked shirt, and most of his lyrics are introspective and poetic. And did I mention that his music is great?

I first heard IIOI featured in split EPs alongside the likes of Such Gold and Koji, and on a Fake Problems tour sampler. Later I fell in love with the adorable Daytrotter sessions. Discovering Weiss was so rewarding, because there were so many avenues to explore. One project, 52 Weeks contained a whopping 52 songs, written at the rate of one per week for an entire year. And all of the music is so diverse, yet irresistible.

Despite being so incredibly prolific, Standards is only the third full studio IIOI album. The first, Proper (2011), was lovably addictive upbeat pop-punk. Follow up album Intersections (2013) was less accessible, partly because Weiss chose not to include choruses when he wrote the album. And Standards? Read on to find out.

into It Over It Even Weiss The Rev Melbourne

Look back through Weiss’ previous work, and you’ll notice that he is a man obsessed with location and environment. Many of his songs are named after places and towns. It is interesting then, that for this album he choose to go to the middle of nowhere in Vermont. Isolated in a cabin in the woods with drummer and collaborator Josh Sparks, surrounded by snow and little else, they had no choice but to write.

We are introduced through “Open Casket”, with lightly picked guitar and xylophone, but become antiquated with the energetic IIOI sound in second track “Closing Argument”, which brings in the attitude in the second verse.

Lead single “No EQ” centres around a mantra that reminds me of a doorbell my parents had when I was a child. The drumming is frantic and busy, while Weiss sings calmly in the verses, with more urgency in the chorus. Sparks’ style of urgent, hurried drumming is noticeable in a number of songs on the album “Vis Major” sounds straight up punk, with added flourishes of complexity, and “Adult Contempt” follows suit with highlights on cymbal bells and plenty of wash. “Bible Black” also standouts as a drumming track due to the odd trashy percussion that punctuates the song with attention grabbing tones.

Tracks four and five signal a slump in the album . The slow burning “Your Lasting Image” seems to drag for almost 5minutes, full of swirling swells and echoing accents. Weiss sadly sings “I can’t remember your touch”. The dreamy hazy music runs seamlessly into “Old Lace and Ivory”, which keeps the mood low, but sounds more hopeful than forlorn. There’s a lovely extended bridge of guitar picking over simple drumming, slowly building up and gaining fuzz to lead us back into the more energetic songs on the album.

“Who You Are ≠ Where You Are” has a delightful bouncing riff that stops abruptly while a hi-hat beat dances merrily in the background. For a man touted as the figurehead of the new wave of emo, this album sure sounds upbeat. He does show versatility though. Weiss rates “Anesthetic” as one of his proudest moments. It’s another soothing slow-burner, rich in atmosphere and layered with distant vocal tracks.

This is truly an album, not just a handpicked selection of songs. You can tell by how the transitions between tracks sound so flawless. Weiss commented on a recent Reddit AMA that he had been inspired by “mostly instrumental ambient stuff when it came to most of the textures. brian eno. harold budd. yes. michael hedges. 60’s prestige and blue note stuff.” You hear the fuzzy tones, odd percussion, quirky doorbell riffs. You hear distorted acoustic guitar, moog synthesisers, and a range of effect pedals – weird sounds, textures and tones that all add to the appeal and make the album cohesive. There’s also a lively feel that could be attributed to the less-than-perfect analogue method of recording the album, at the insistence of  producer John Vanderslice.

With Standards, Into It. Over It. still defy clear genre definition, with the tender songs full of folksy finger picking somehow fitting seamlessly next to punk belters.

Urgent. Intimate. Upbeat. Quirky. Perfect. Evan Weiss, the emo revival figurehead, went reclusive with his drummer and together they churned out some of their best work to date.

 

Joseph James

LIVE REVIEW: THE MENZINGERS AND MEWITHOUTYOU AT NEUMOS, SEATTLE

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The Menzingers (Scranton, PA, USA)
mewithoutYou (Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Pianos Become The Teeth (Baltimore, MD, USA)
Restorations (Philadelphia, PA, USA)

Neumos, Seattle, WA, USA
Saturday November 14th, 2015

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It had been a very long time since my last live show experience.  I’ve been to plenty of local shows over the past few years but I’m not even sure I can recall the last time I attended a live show where the sound check happened before the doors opened, people were actually at the venue on time, and the first band actually took the stage precisely at the time stated on the flier.  I’m sure very few paid attention to these details.  But for me, being reminded how professional bands operate at professionally run venues, like Neumos, was a breath of fresh air.  Obviously, I need to get out more.

Typically, the reason you attend a show and subsequently write a live review is to highlight the headliner, or in this case, the headliners.  And while The Menzingers and mewithoutYou put on a great show, I didn’t necessarily find anything too remarkable about their sets.  Honestly, this was my first experience with The Menzingers so, to be fair, I can’t really say much about them as I know very little about them (shame on me, I know).  As I like to say, “they were fine”, meaning they did their thing and people enjoyed it and I appreciated what they did.  Enough said.

mewithoutYou on Audiotree Live

mewithoutYou has always been one of my favorite bands.  They are fantastic at writing catchy music that is capable of hitting the heart strings of whatever emotion you’re in the mood to meddle with.  Ever since [A->B] Life came out in 2002 I’ve been quite comfortable keeping their music in my arsenal.  Frontman Aaron Weiss has a unique lyrical style that absolutely works for me.  While others may struggle digesting his lyrics, I am continually impressed with anyone that can work “pumpernickel bread” into their writing.

Restorations opened the night and did a great job setting the vibe for the evening.  I hadn’t really heard much from these guys prior to the show but they are definitely headed in the right direction.  Their stage presence was enjoyable to watch and kept a newbie, like me, entranced for their full set.  Like Restorations, mewithoutYou and The Menzingers held the attention of the venue for the entirety of their sets and I would definitely see them again.

This brings me to Pianos Become The Teeth.  While I had every intention of writing this review on mewithoutYou, it was Pianos Become The Teeth that absolutely stole the show for me.  And it was absolutely for reasons I did not expect.

Pianos Become The Teeth live @ The Underworld, London

Like most bands I come to discover, Pianos Become The Teeth have been around for a while.  They formed in 2006 and have honed their sound over the past nine years moving from an aggressive, post-hardcore band to masters of gloomy, emotionally packed, post-rock.  For those of you who have yet to indulge in their newest record, Keep You, I highly recommend you do so.  If you need an enticing comparison, this album is very reminiscent of Oceana’s Clean Head from 2010.

While the other three bands put on visually stimulating performances, Pianos Become The Teeth struck me in a different way.  I was lucky enough to get to the venue early enough to grab one of the few spots on the balcony that gave me a great view of both the band and the crowd.  Pianos Become The Teeth were steady, energetic at times, but the way they moved the crowd was absolutely stunning.  The movement I witnessed was not physical by any means.  In fact, the crowd was absolutely motionless, aside from a bit of head-banging here and there.  Being fairly in tune with my mushy side, the emotional grip that pushed and pulled throughout the crowd was mesmerizing.

I think I spent most of my time watching one specific kid in the crowd.  By appearance alone, he was completely out of place.  If I would have seen him walking on the street prior to the show there was no way I would have thought he and I were headed to the same destination.  But this kid knew absolutely every word to absolutely every song Pianos Become The Teeth played.

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Pianos Become The Teeth from the balcony @ Neumos

For those who are familiar with frontman Kyle Durfey’s lyrics, you know they are very sad and tend to center around the loss of his father in 2010.  Like many lyricists, Durfey’s lyrics are dark and contemplative.  But unlike some, Durfey is surrounded by an exceptional band that is able to add deep dimension to his words.  The coupling of his lyrics with the desolate tones of his band’s music is nearly heartbreaking.  To me, it’s the cohesion of these two elements that make my eyes well up with tears and send chills down my arms.  I’m sure we all experience these phenomenons in our own way, but experiencing Pianos Become The Teeth live was the pinnacle of emotional overflow for me.

The kid three rows back, belting Durfey’s lyrics will forever be seared into my musical memories.  It was a profoundly powerful moment for me.  It left me wondering how this out of place kid related to Durfey’s lyrics.  What was it that moved him by this band.  Being witness to the connection between the writer and the listener added a totally new experience for me.  Usually you only get to see the back of everyone’s head at a show, but my balcony vantage point let me see things in a new light.  It was truly an honor for me to be in the same place at the same time with five guys in a band, the kid in the third row, a few friends, and a room full of strangers.

C.J. Blessum