EP Review: Suburban Dinosaur – Mountains

Suburban Dinosaur Mountains EP cover
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Suburban Dinosaur is the work of Gonçalo Trindade, a Portuguese guitarist living in Berlin. He deserves applause for his choice of his pseudonym, let alone his music. Suburban Dinosaur: isn’t that just the best name? Trindade is also prolific writer, with this latest EP, Mountains, being his third release so far this year.

Mountains features seven short, calming guitar tracks with light piano accompaniment. This is a slight deviation from some of Trindade’s usual output. His last release sits more within the realms of noise/drone, and I even found some earlier works jarring. But I prefer this ambient direction. Serene acoustic guitar never fails to nourish my soul, and this EP hits the spot just so. The songs feel relaxed, slightly sad and soothing.

These softly picked recordings are intimate enough to let you hear Trindade’s fingers as they slide along the strings. The sparse piano notes only add to the mood, sensitively used to enhance where needed.

Although the EP feels cohesive and boasts the same vibes throughout, there’s enough subtle differences to delineate between songs.  It’s not all entirely acoustic. Second track “Contritum Pecus” employs a delayed loop, almost like a heartbeat. “Heartstrings #1” stands out for its strumming, compared to the other tracks, which are fingerpicked. Whereas “Intertitle(s)” features only piano.

It’s a short EP, but beautiful all the same. Certainly a lovely 20 minutes of music worthy of adding to your collection.

Suburban Dinosaur links:

Bandcamp: https://suburbandinosaur.bandcamp.com/

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

Album Review: Tides Of Man – Every Nothing

Tides of Man Every Nothing cover
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I became friends with the guys in Tides of Man when on tour with Ranges last October. The two bands shared three dates on tour, as well as both playing the inaugural dunk!USA festival in Vermont. The day that I really got to know the guys in Tides was in Clifton, NJ. We got to the venue with plenty of time to spare, so after loading our gear into the venue we went on an adventure, exploring some nearby drains nicknamed “Gates of Hell”. Nothing like a shared adventure to help form a friendship!

That night I got locked backstage while the band played. It was during that set that I realised just how good the band was. I was already a Tides of Man fan based off their album Young and Courageous, but being able to watch them play that night, and the few nights that followed, added to my appreciation of the band.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this new album since then. I was lucky enough to hear some of the new tracks played live in America, and again at dunk!festival in Belgium this May, so I knew that the record was going to be great.

Tides of Man dunk!festival 2018

Technically, this record is excellent. Most of the guys moonlight as sessions musicians, so are clearly adept at their craft and know their way around a studio. Not to mention that they have already released three other albums with which they could refine their sound and gel as a group.

I’ve listened to Every Nothing on heavy rotation for a month now. It’s an album that ages with time. With Every Nothing they’re trying new sounds, new textures, new feelings. And it’s stunning.

Most people’s first introduction to the album will be through the track “Static Hymn”, seeing as it is both the first single, and first track on the album. It warmly beckons us in, enveloping us with swirling haze. There’s a lot going on without it sounding overly busy. At 2.40 the music launches into blast beats and drill picking, melding a new hybrid of sounds that I’m going to nickname hope thrash – both intense and inviting.

Exploring sonic textural possibilities has paid off, because Every Nothing sounds so warm! They paint moody atmosphere with every masterful stroke. I can’t wait to get a copy on vinyl to hear it in its full glory.

It must be mentioned that Alan Jaye is a brilliant bass player. He dials his tones in – from the in-you-face intro of “Everything Is Fine, Everyone Is Happy”, to the spacey feel of “Outside Ourselves”. The solo bass during the drop out of “Waxwing” hits the spot so well.

His rhythmic counterpart Josh Gould matches him with talent and diversity, with plenty of interesting moments like the distant percussion outro in “Mercury Fields”, the open/close hi-hat playing in “Mosaic”. One hang up I have is that Josh’s drum tones could cut through more at times when his bright washy cymbals dominate the mix. I can’t fault his playing, I would just like to hear it more clearly in certain sections.

Possibly the best example of this Josh’s playing can be found in “Outside Ourselves”. Saturated with feeling, and offering sweet melodies, it is one the leviathan tracks on the album. Josh shows off his chops with prog drumming, playing around the beat with subtle finesse.

Tides of Man dunk!festival 2018

“New Futures” is one of the standout tracks, boasting powerful drumming and defined guitar playing. I dig this articulate sound, picking up Lost In The Riots kind of vibes. Josh brings us in on drums, with crisp rapping on the rims and alternate sticking on the hi-hats. The guitars come in looped layers of delay. 

I hear a new side of the band in piano ballad “Far Off”. Solemn, ghostly and ambient, it’s a song with strong gravitas. And, going off on a wild tangent: what do we hear in the background at 1.19 mark? A child shouting something? 

The This Will Destroy You influences are noticeable in “Death Is No Dread Enemy”. It’s hard to tell how much is digital or analogue within the mix, but there are certainly elements that sound electronic/triggered and offer fresh new textures and timbre. A brooding, searing piece that fluctuates between introspective and intense.

There are many brilliant moments to be found throughout Every Nothing. There are too many to list, but some of my favourite moments include during “Old 88″, when the sadness and longing explodes into something raw and defiant; The outro of “Keep Telling Yourself” with plucking sounds that mimic a lullaby music box; And the piece in “Waxwing” that transitions from harmonic riffing, to a bass solo, to everyone coming back in full force after the drop-out.

Spencer Tides of Man dunk!festival 2018

Strong emotions arise when I think of Tide of Man’s music. Being overwhelmed with joy when dancing along to “We Were Only Dreaming” every time I’ve seen them play it; Having raucous, carefree laughter as we drunkenly ‘sang’ the lead melody of “Young and Courageous” to some uninducted French Canadians in the back of a van after dunk!festival; Experiencing bittersweet sadness as Joey put on Young And Courageous in the tour van as we drove through New York state the day that our bands parted ways.

Every Nothing replicates these feelings, spanning the emotional spectrum as the band explores both the meaningfulness and monotony of life. Tender, mournful moments sit alongside intense elated explosions.

It’s a grower of an album, for sure. Bound to blow you away at first, but also rewarding you with new discovered intricacies upon repeated listens. There’s an undeniable homeliness to the record, being so warm, comforting and familiar. But even though it is settling, it also tugs you along on an epic adventure filled with exhilarating danger.

 

Order physical copies of Every Nothing from A Thousand Arms:
https://athousandarms.store/collections/tidesofman

Tides of Man dunk!USA2017


Tides of Man links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tidesofman/
Bandcamp: https://tidesofman.bandcamp.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tidesofman
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tidesofman/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGu5lp7dVJNbsYCEjN2Mk_A

 

Words and photos by Joseph James

Album Review: Ashen Swan – L’appel du Vide

Ashen Swan - L'appel du Vide
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Embrace oblivion.

It’s often difficult to write a review about an album created out of negative space.  L’appel du Vide, Ashen Swan’s latest record, is a lesson in embracing oblivion.  It’s a lesson in recognizing that there’s much more to music than packing it full of notes and flourishes to convey an idea when just playing the right note can accomplish the same.  There is an old adage that exists that less is more.  Ashen Swan takes this aphorism and runs with it.  This album is meditative magic.

So how does one write a review on nothingness?  I could give you my thoughts on instrumentation and composition.  The way in which Ashen Swan’s music sounds like the throaty whisper of a new dawn. I could tell you that Ashen Swan evinces qualities employed by the likes of Hammock and Lowercase Noises.  EBow heavy phrases of lush sound framed by billowy and Spartan piano..  I could do all those things, but the music inspired me on a more esoteric level.  L’appel du Vide begs you to reflect inward.  It asks you to dust the cobwebs from the lesser traveled inroads of your soul, to stop, to consider.

L’appel du Vide translates roughly to “void’s call” or “the call of the void”.  Most humans, in all their daily struggles, will often wonder what it would be like swerve into oncoming traffic.  Or perhaps your hiking here in Colorado at Royal Arch Trail.  You’re near the top and standing at the edge of the trail and get the sudden urge to just jump.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suicidal.  It’s simply a phenomenon of the human psyche.  A phenomenon the French called “l’appel du vide”.  It is nothing more than morbid curiosity.  I found myself experiencing this urge years ago so I did a quick Google search.  It was comforting to know I was not alone.  There were others out there that have felt the pull.  Ashen Swan’s new album explores this concept in a musical sense.  And pulls it off.

L’appel du Vide is a barren landscape.  The short, quiet piano utterances are the green lichen hugging the rocks as they wait for a summer thunderstorm.  Soft reverb the slow rolling thunder of an alpine tundra.  A dreamy susurration whispers throughout each track like a lulling breeze that dances lightly through the purple forget-me-nots.

Ashen Swan’s newest venture is a contemplative and horrifically beautiful ride of ambient bliss.  You get the overwhelming feeling of just wanting to let go.  The music plunges straight for your heart and urges you to answer the void’s call.  To feel the rain in your face and the wind as it thrashes through your hair.  L’appel du Vide wants you to be free and as the album goes on it becomes increasingly difficult not give answer.

L’appel du Vide comes to us by way of Nathan Kwon who also composes for Chicago post-metal project Crawl Across the Sky. Ashen Swan came to us in the year 2017 with the desire to cross section the more ambient elements of the aforementioned Crawl Across the Sky and turn it all up to 11.  And thank the void he did.

 


Ashen Swan links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

Instagram

Album Review: Floating In Space – Dreamland

Floating In Space Dreamland cover
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Floating In Space sets sail upon the solar winds with the new release Dreamland.

Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot is a significant picture.  Taken by the Voyager 1 from a record distance of 3.7 billion miles, it shows Earth as nothing more than a tiny speck in an endless blanket of space.  It puts things into perspective.  Earth is such a microscopic part of the greater expanse.  I understand man’s obsession with discovering what’s out there, but sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. There’s plenty of wonder and beauty right here on Earth.  Perhaps we should cast our eyes more inward?

I often ponder the beauty that is the impossibility of me.  Around 14 billion years ago there was nothing.  Imagine that.  Nothing.  How do you even wrap your head around nothingness?  We’re virtually incapable of truly understanding such a terrifying thought.  Then, inexplicably, there was something.  Depending upon your belief structure an event occurred and the Universe was birthed.  At least in reductive terms.  What exactly triggered this “big bang” has been the question hounding our existence since time memorial.  In all honesty, I don’t even think this question is relevant.  What’s relevant is that after the first second of this “bang” the size of the universe was expanding at such a rate that even the math can’t fully do it justice.

Fast forward 14 billion years and you have us.  From all the chaos and violence this planet has seen from its planetesimal stage up until now you get, impossibly, you and I.  This almost feels laughable.  After the first second of creation had things been off or different by even the most minuscule amount, none of this would be.  You’re a blessing…an absurd, inconceivable blessing.

Ruben Cabellero/ Floating In Space

Credit: Yera Espinosa

The earth heaved and groaned for millennia.  At some point in time during all the anarchy of creation events began transpiring that would eventually lead to the birth of a single thread.  This thread would whirl, loop and flutter through the winds of time and stop somewhere in Spain.  The story of the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist behind Floating In Space, Ruben Caballero, began 14 billion years ago.  He’s another infeasible creation of an event too far back for any of us to really, fully discern.  The odds that you even share a space in time with him are astronomically beyond your scope of understanding.  But space and time have a different story to tell.  Here you are.  And here is Floating In Space.  You both share the same blink of an eye in time.  Let us rejoice at the absurdity that bites at the edges of possibility.

On the 2016 debut “The Edge of the Light”, we were introduced to just a small portion of what Floating In Space was capable of.  It was a superbly tranquil journey through Caballero’s experiences and feelings as he viewed his life as if they were but mere sequences in a larger movie.  “The Edge of the Light” was to showcase the potential of the band.  The sophomore effort, “Dreamland”, is the realization of that potential.

“Dreamland” is a 12 song effort released by proverbial indie powerhouse Deep Elm and co-produced by its owner/founder John Szuch.  Floating In Space’s new release expands upon the piano driven cinematic motif.  Every song is brilliantly structured and realized.  There isn’t a track on the record you won’t find yourself humming along with after just a few listens.  “Dreamland” is a purpose driven record.  Every note has a purpose.  Every angelically choir-like vocal cadence is well measured.  I can’t help but feel that Floating In Space set out to create an album that deigns to set fire to every butterfly in our stomach.

What is it that you think we’re all searching for?  Even when it appears we have everything in life we could ever possibly dream of having, still we search.  We search to fill the voids.  Voids as far reaching and depth-less as space.  “Dreamland” is about letting go.  Stop searching.  You have everything you could ever hope to have in a million lifetimes right here in front of you.  This is an album about recognizing the beauty you see before you instead of tearing at the remaining threads of your soul to find what it is you think you’re looking for.

Floating In Space is a gifted artist.  A band not afraid of baring its soul.  You can hear love and inspiration come through in every flourish of the guitar and syncopated beat of the drum.  But the real beauty of “Dreamland” is that the band isn’t afraid of letting you in.  Of sharing that grey area between dreaming and fearing.  Between utter solitude and warm fellowship.  We tend to drive distance between ourselves and our fellow man.  Distances measured in time. “Dreamland” closes that gap and makes us believe that we’re going to be OK.  Floating In Space dares you to dream again, but asks that you appreciate what it is that you already have.

Fans of labelmates Lights&Motion , U137 and Inward Oceans will feel right at home with “Dreamland”.  It’s truly uplifting and enlightened songwriting.  Floating In Space fits in so beautifully with the Deep Elm musical aesthetic.  This is a relationship forged in the fires of the big bang.  “Dreamland” is, from the opening notes to the last, filled with so many astoundingly gorgeous frames of optimistic grace that your heart is fit to burst.

If you find yourself adrift searching aimlessly for that next fix to fill whatever void it is in your life that haunts you, an album like “Dreamland” could aid in reminding you what it is that makes all of this so damn worth it.  Mathematically speaking you shouldn’t even exist.

You’re a miracle.


Floating In Space Links

Watch Album Trailer: http://bit.ly/fis-dreamland-trailer

Stream “Earth” on Spotify: http://bit.ly/fis-earth-spotify

Stream Album Preview: http://bit.ly/fis-dreamland-preview

Pre-Order – Apple Music: http://bit.ly/fis-dreamland-apple

Pre-Order – Deep Elm: http://bit.ly/fis-dreamland-nyop