Cool swag needs a cool bag - There's a high chance these will get more bizarre and less relevant as the months go by
I rarely have the chance to make an individual post about everything I’d like to, even less so now that my 6-week break is officially over (which also means I’ll be back to posting every 2-4 days from here on in); so I thought I’d start a monthly round-up with a selection of freely available music that has grabbed my attention as I travel across the vast realms of the ‘net – enough for me to grab them back.
…have released two free EPs for your listening pleasure. First up is Ava by Clang Quartet, which is a live performance recorded during the 2008 Ava Gardener Independent Film Festival. Ava is half an hour of improvised drone/noise. The second EP is a re-take of Sarah June‘s In Black Robes, titled Beneath Black Robes. The folky Americana of the former is given a shoegaze/trip-hop makeover in the latter.
…have continued to bring some great sessions to the fold, though I will admit I haven’t downloaded so many this past month, having not been so much in the mood for excessive amounts of alt-folk-ish type stuff (there is more than that there, of course, but it does seem to be the primary focus). Anyway, a few interesting ones to look out for:
…came a little late to the party (just in terms of what I happen to dig), but put up some choice tracks for free download just recently that I couldn’t say no to, as I’m quite keen on True Widow‘s debut album as well as very much looking forward to the new one due for release in March; plus, while I wasn’t fanatic about the Xasthur album I picked up a while back, the black metal meets folk collaboration with Marisa Nadler intrigued me enough to pick up the two tracks from recently-released Portal of Sorrow (my verdict is similar to theirs, funnily enough, I liked the idea better than the result, but the two tracks are worth a listen/download so you can decide for yourself).
Clare Bowditch, whom I recently mentioned in my Oz music series, has a free download of a song (for your next fashion parade), remixed by Storm Boy. Also available is a free track put up on the website just before (and for) Christmas, which I most definitely recommend grabbing if your interest was piqued earlier – a lovely song no matter the time of year.
…Sealings, who have posted their first, now sold out tape (released via Clan Destine Records) on their site for free download. Containing four tracks, including personal favourite My Boyfriends Dead. If you haven’t heard it yet, all you have to do is click play.
After learning a little of the history behind this album, it might not be surprising that it sounds a bit like an elegy – there is something of a funeral procession that moves steadily and subtly through each piece.
As Thorn1, musician Evegny Zhedya presented So Far As Fast as something of a farewell to his life in Russia before moving to Kiev, Ukraine. As a prelude to leaving, saying goodbye to home and to friends, the album works exceptionally well to capture a bittersweet journey from one place to another.
The music presents a fairly turbulent range of emotions, yet more often than not it is subdued and sombre in effect. Through elongated, ethereal drones, blended with shades of post-rock, electronica and shoegaze, Evegny has created a dreamlike sense of separation and isolation; during which most pieces utilise either guitar, piano and accordian to elicit often searing melody, which both contrast and highlight the sense of loss.
Organiq Grostee, the opening track, is almost frightening, and probably would be had it been purely instrumental. It’s a little like the opening scene of a film, where an organ grinder is standing on the corner of an otherwise empty street – one whose eerie presence has the capacity to inspire both faint trepidation and a kind of comforting familiarity from the knowledge you’re not completely alone on that street.
Soon after, fourth track Safe Trip makes a rather definitive statement on the tone and perspective of the journey being related. It is a gorgous 8½ minutes of echoing guitar that rests on the cusp of the darkest moment before the dawn. As the sun rises, or in this case the rest of the album progresses, the light is cast on landscapes of various textures and temperatures.
This culminates in the final track, Welcome Home, a beautiful piano instrumental. It’s like listening to a heart simultaneously break and mend in slow motion – the triumph is tempered with tragedy, the hurt with healing, and the separation balanced with solace.
So Far As Fast is an eclectic mix, steeped in a similar sense of dreamy disorientation, the likes of which you feel when experiencing déjà vu – surreal and a little mysterious, but still…it is accompanied by the implicit knowledge that it belongs to you.
You can listen to Drone, the second track from the album, courtesy of Silber Records.
If you’re thoroughly sick of all these artists that take upwards of five minutes to get their message across, then Silber‘s latest compilation is aimed quite pointedly at you. These are not 30 second excerpts, but complete songs all done and dusted in half a minute. What’s the point in that, you might ask? Well of course there’s a point, otherwise who would do it?
Anyone who’s even half as indulgent as I am would be well aware of the difficulties faced by such limitations – being short, sharp and to the point is often easier said than done, so I’d think crafting a 30-second track that sounds complete would be quite the challenge – and possibly even a challenge to listen to if you can’t imagine a song sounding fully accomplished when it’s over mere moments after it began.
The roster of artists involved in this compilation are: Electric Bird Noise, Zanzibar Snails, Muscle Mass, Pacific 231, Ben Link Collins, Rollerball, Thorn1, Promute, Irata, Charles de Mar, Small Life Form, Notorious Jet Set, Lullabier, The Undermasks, Drekka, Sybill Kalff, Vestirse, Bryce Clayton Eiman, slicnaton, Miss Massive Snowflake, Drekka featuring Thorir Georg, Subscape Annex, Mood Ring, Remora, IANTH, mwvm, The Collinses, The Velveta Heartbreak, Fires Were Shot, Yellow6, Mahlon Hoard, Peter Aldrich.
Whether serving as a nice little intro to artists you’ve not heard before or showing a different aspect to ones you have, there’s sure to be something interesting to grab your attention for a while, even if you only have a few minutes to spare to find out. To sweeten the deal, Silber have released this compilation in a variety of formats to suit your whimsy, all of which are available to download for free.
I’ll be the first to admit that, for as much as I like the genre, post-rock has a few problems. Without going into too much detail, it’s laregly owing to a few common cliches and the greater stumbling block of being able to effect long-term engagement (particularly with instrumental post-rock). I mention those (albeit briefly) because it’s nice to come across an instrumental post-rock act who, by and large, avoid those problems.
Having recently discovered the label Silber Records, I took it upon myself to explore a few other titles in their catalogue. (First, the lovely China Mountain by Lotte Kestner – reviewed over at [sic]). Next up on my “hit-list” was Irata‘s self-titled debut, which I admittedly approached with equal amounts of trepidation and anticipation. Trepidation owing to the aforementioned issues; anticipation owing to Silber’s own description:
Irata dwells in the world where drone, post rock, & metal unite into a giant monster to kick your ass. Guitars, drums, bass, & saxophone form this instrumental group from Greensboro, NC.
It is, at least, a combination that sparks intrigue, as my taste for projects blending drone into the mix has only been recently developed.
Ok, so what you can expect is some well-paced and energetic instrumental pieces that appear to draw heavily on action over emotion – which for me means it rocks without draining my energy. The riffs hook easily and there’s no unnecessarily extended or drawn out builds into cinematic-like climaxes (where often – even without lyrics – one can come away with the feeling of being a tad emotionally manipulated). These guys get straight into it and give it all right there. It might be just me, but I can see this being a great soundtrack to an action movie with tons of car chases and spy tactics. And ninjas. (Yes, there is some subtle subversiveness in this here music. Also, I just like ninjas).
You’ll get the post-rock, the metal and the drone, seasoned with the occasional touch of blues, shoegaze and even a light sprinkle of Middle Eastern influence. If it suffers from anything at all, it’s a bit of a tendency for repetitiveness, but at least the pace is swift enough to be able to carry it.
I’m often fascinated by the titles some post-rock bands will bestow upon their songs. Again there’s a common tendency to issue them with unnecessarily overlong and convoluted names that perhaps serve as an attempt to better clarify the story or concept with the listener… But I’m looking at this tracklisting and I have to say I find the comparitively succint Clown Rehab far more fascinating – my imagination has run away with it already (last seen wondering about the effects of clown addiction, whether or not one who suffers from it would hide big red noses and floppy shoes in various places about the house. It might seem like I’m making fun – I’m not. Consider it more having fun with what I’m being presented with; which I actually think is cool that I can do 😉 . If one was to actually take a more philosophical approach, one might consider it to be a reference to the often implied notion that the happiness of a clown is a facade, and perhaps there is an addictive quality to maintaining that).
So there you have it, taken it on the nifty action packed level and let your imagination do some wilder things than mine; or study it all a little more deeply and find your own rewards.
I’m a pretty new to the music of Rivulets (AKA Nathan Amundson), having taken the opportunity to listen to the acoustic version of Stead (from 2002’s Thank You Reykjavik) just a few months ago. It was one of those songs that is so immediately easy to love and inspired the quest to hear more, but I’ve been taking my own sweet time about it. After a track here and there, Debridement finally became my first proper foray into the Rivulets catalogue – which is really quite wonderful and has been on high rotation the last couple of weeks.
Of course, it does further the desire to hear more, so alongside putting all current releases on my ever-growing ‘wish list’, I was happy to learn that not only was a new album planned for release in the near future, but that a recording of demos was recently made available to download via Silber Records, for the more than reasonable sum of US$5.00. (I’m also quite looking forward to the planned Stray Songs, which, according to a post on the Rivulets website, will be a complete collection of singles, compilation tracks and covers spanning 2000-2010).
Originally self-released in 2000 on CDr and containing four tracks, the digital-only re-release of d e m o s has been expanded by an additional 6 tracks. Unfortunately for me, I’m not familiar with any of the later incarnations of these songs yet, so it’s impossible for me to get the same kind of insight from them that long-time fans might, but even without that history I can certainly appreciate them – some really nice, occasionally raw, work.
From the Silber Records website (for those a little more in the know than me ;)):
“d e m o s” captures an era of Rivulets that hasn’t been documented elsewhere. During the first formative year of Rivulets, an important part of the band was bass player Jason Seckel, who’s minimal long sustained notes style can finally be heard for the first time by many fans. You get to hear early versions of songs like “Four Weeks” & “Past Life” along with unreleased songs like “Sick Love” & our personal favorite “Anyway.”
For my part, Rivulets is assuredly recommended for fans of softly spoken, highly charged acoustic slowcore – and quite likely to appeal to fans of Boduf Songs, Tiny Vipers, Jessica Bailiff (who has, I see, been a collaborator on a few projects) and Spokane.
Need more convincing? Watch, listen and ♥ this live performance of The Road.