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Micky67 (Glasgow)

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D Rradio
D Rradio

5.0 out of 5 stars Peel-Endorsed Geordie's Unleash Under-rated Electronic Gem, 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: D Rradio (Audio CD)
While Autechre's "Quarisitce" may be hogging all the electronica headlines of late, Newcastle-upon-Tyne based trio d_rradio having been making a splash of their own with their eponymous 2nd album. 3 years in the making and it shows, this isn't just a release full of cut and paste editing or `what does this button do' production, there has clearly been a lot of thought, effort and time painstakingly invested in this record. It's an expertly executed release that seamlessly blends organic elements with the inorganic.

Messers Brown and Booth may consider themselves the artful guardians of `pure' electronic music, but somewhere along the line they forgot about melody in their quest. d_rradio clearly haven't on this outing, given the colour, vibrancy and soul emanating from these ten offerings. Yet people familiar with their earlier output or their genre-defying mixes (where Primal Scream sits comfortably besides the likes of The Ronnettes, Captain Beefheart and Dabrye) will already be well aware that these are the real factors that make this trio so special.

This is the sort of record that is a joy to listen to each occasion it is given a spin, it's alive and kicking with new sounds, textures and production nuances that seem to blossom incessantly from every conceivable angle. Processed guitars and grand orchestral washes are all woven into an ambitious electronic tapestry along with intricate samples, inventive, streamlined programming and buoyant melodies, while the trio is unafraid to include some danceable elements throughout the whole release - particularly notable on "Lifted" and "A Life Alive".

There's Efterklang like orchestral whimsy to a number of tracks. "Blow Out, for example, possesses and invigorating edge similar to that one would associate with a fresh, sun-kissed early spring morning as mournful orchestration mingles with soft beats and gliding, synthetic melodies. "Way Out" corresponds with these sentiments before giving way to a series of rapid-fire IDM beats à la Khonnor, while ethereal textures rebound from post to post.

With a production to rival the expert nature of Darryl Fitton's Bola project, tracks such as "Paper Soul, an intricate stitchwork featuring a cycle of guitar, spliced piano and sprightly beatwork, delights with its bright, dynamic veneer. As does the brilliant "A Life Alive" as d_rradio set about stretching the elastic programming around a rasping bassline, while filtering and phasing sounds beyond recognition into a slab of upbeat, head-nodding electronica. "Wish for More Wishes", meanwhile, is unashamedly playful and intrinsically empyreal, as the celestial assonance of such a piece wraps around enchanted, swaying percussive elements. It soon becomes clear, though, that D_Rradio are at home constructing those up-tempo numbers. Both "So Long" and "Bag of Lovely", while displaying all the production hallmarks found throughout this record, don't quite have the same impact, coming across as languid in comparison to the more effervescent pieces on offer here.

This is only a minor gripe; for the most part this North East based trio has struck the perfect balance between the analogue and digital fundamentals. While Autechre must take great credit for their services to contemporary electronic music, much of their recent output feels too cold, too sterile and far too mathematical. If you share this view, then d_rradio have an able tonic to cure your ills. Miles from the run-of -the-mill electronic sounds that have blighted the start of this year, this record is an intricately layered, expertly produced, multi-faceted beast.

Roman Anglais
Roman Anglais

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Promising Record That Doesn't Quite Deliver, 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Roman Anglais (Audio CD)
An interesting collaboration this, pitting Parisian sound sculptor Sylvain Chauveau (of FatCat and Type Records fame) with French chanteuse Felicia Atkinson, who is a student of Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy no less. Chauveau plays Ranaldo to Atkinson's Kim Gordon during this suite of four songs that have actually been around for sometime. "Romain Anglais" is mood music; not the horrific pan-pipe type advertised incessantly on TV, but sounds that portray an aura of loneliness, detachment and even darkness. It is a record for candlelit, incense-scented rooms or those fleeting few moments between consciousness and sleep. It is not a discernibly ambient record, but it is oh so quiet.

Chauveau provides a shimmering backdrop throughout; each sound appears to have been measured by a slide-rule, while silence is as important as any other component featured here. His nuanced atmospherics shift slowly, clouding into a Labradford like aesthetic. Drones merge with elliptical guitar parts and recurring loops of frothy sound to create a body of work that is both warm and elegant, vaguely recalling New York chamber outfit Slow Six. It provides an intriguing template for Atkinson's seductive spoken word vignettes, as she switches effortlessly between French and English. Her half-monotone monologues do possess a certain alluring charm.

Truth be told, though, "Romain Anglais" is a bit of an enigma. It straddles the fine line between immersion and distraction, often falling into the latter. On one hand, you have the outstanding " Aberdeen ", which features Atkinson's barely audible soliloquy of European cities over Chauveau's exquisite backdrop. On the other, you get the laboured "How the Light", where too much emphasis is placed upon Atkinson's performance, while little attention is paid to Chauveau.

In contrast "Dans Le Lumière" is brimming with captivating Machinefabriek-esque tension, as disconcerting binary noise and machine emissions intercept the orchestral like beauty of Chauveau's calming environment. Atkinson pays heed, delicately sprinkling her seductive tones over such beautiful music. At times, though, the duo seems to be purposefully building in the direction of a crescendo-laden finish, only to let their compositions meander for far too long. This is especially apparent in the 17 minute title track, which loses its focus and impact despite its excellent onomatopoeic origins.

It's all rather frustrating as there is some truly stunning moments on this disc, while there is certainly life left in this collaborative project yet. Over the course of four compositions it is more hit than miss, but you would need serious amounts of resilience to listen, uninterrupted, to a full album's worth of material.


3.0 out of 5 stars Decent, Doped-Out Rock from Glaswegian Quartet, 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Laudanum (Audio CD)
If the fact that Glaswegian quartet Ursula Minor describe themselves as an electronic-tinged Mary Chain meets Krautrock hybrid doesn't get you salivating, then opening number " Westphalia " certainly will. Tapping into the incendiary nature of the (in)famous Reid brothers, this instrumental number goes straight for the jugular with its driving rhythm, effervescent keys and anthem-sized guitars.

A promising start indeed from a band that is clearly unafraid to wear their hearts (and influences) on their sleeves. That's not to say they don't bring their own identity to the table. While the aptly-titled "Sick Fuzz" recalls The Ramones on speed or an opium-hazed Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, it is its ability to conjure images of the band performing in a dimly-lit fleapit, heads down, hair in the eyes and obscuring their faces that gives this track its electric disposition. The vocals are mixed so far back it's a struggle to make out what is being said, yet this adds to the intrigue of the whole song.

There's a feeling that this four-piece could benefit from the addition of live percussion rather than just a drum machine. In fact, in tandem with the electronics a live drum sound would give a number of these tracks that extra boost that could see them gaining new fans left, right and centre. "Two Past Weeks", the most commercial track featured here, already possesses considerable force with its visceral feedback straight from the Kevin Shields "How to Make a Wall of Noise" handbook. Live drums, though, would just give this track that extra edge it needs. That being said, the Interpol/Editors (should I say Bowie ?) vocals will definitely appeal to an indie-crowd, suggesting they could have a minor hit on their hands.

On a personal level, closing number "Laudanum" is my favourite track and this is purely for nostalgic reasons. Here Ursula Minor employs those swirling oscillations that Hawkwind have built a career on. Whether they are produced using David Brock's revered audio generator is a different matter, but this song possesses a similar catchy riff to that of "Silver Machine" as the band set about powering this track skywards much like a space shuttle with banks of overridden guitar. An excellent end to a diverse and exciting new Ep, witness the birth of another great Glaswegian act.

I Am Responsible
I Am Responsible
Price: £11.53

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Post-Rock From Sublime Swedes, 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: I Am Responsible (Audio CD)
It's a fickle world out there, none more so than in the music industry. Literally millions of bands jostle for a couple of meagre seconds of our attention, yet most of us view myspace friend requests as an annoyance rather than an opportunity to investigate a potentially exciting group. No, these days it isn't enough for bands to just tap us on our shoulders, they've got to hit us with a sledgehammer. It's refreshing, therefore, to come across Gothenburg-based quintet Ef, a band completely unconcerned with such trivial matters. For them it is all about the music, they're confident in their own craft to know that people will come flocking to them and not the other way round. With compositions that breach the double figure mark in running time, Ef's music is more like passages from a movie score or a section from some classical movement. About as far away as possible you can get from the quick-fix nature of the music world.

With six tracks featured over an hour's worth of music on "I Am Responsible", Ef take time to develop each piece, transcending varying degrees of texture and emotion. An eclectic range of instrumentation benefits them too, as they adeptly sway between brass and string orchestration, while their triple guitar attack reminds of the sonic assault of "The Bends" era Radiohead.

They may borrow stylistically, everyone from the aforementioned Radiohead, through to Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros is visited, but Ef are, by no means, generic copyists. Their powerful songs soar from ground-level contemplation to skyscraping exhilaration, often absorbing tsunami-sized orchestral majesty, moody hues and stunning tranquility. Frontman, Claes Stranberg can also be found manning the microphone with fellow Swedes immanu el, but his role in Ef is quite different. His style here is less obvious, his vocals form part of the overall picture rather than being the focal point of the music.

Time and time again, Ef proves to be an impeccably talented bunch of musicians on this album. Closing number "A Tailpiece" is simply breath-taking journeying from Godspeed-like depths through to soaring Yndi Halda-esque peaks, the shimmering Greenwood inspired guitar textures, in tandem with the swooning orchestration; affirm themselves as the driving force of such a piece. If 2006's "Give Me Beauty... Or Give Me Strength" was a statement of intent, then on their sophomore release, Ef have come of age. There is an invigorating maturity to the songwriting as they take significant steps in realizing their vision of grandeur.

Pale Fire
Pale Fire

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shoegaze in Stasis!, 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Pale Fire (Audio CD)
Shoegaze fans will likely not want to let "Pale Fire", by New Yorkers Dead Leaf Echo, slip under their radar. As if they are stuck in a time bubble or that the last decade and a half hasn't happened, this quartet tap into a world where droning riffs, torrents of feedback and spectral vocals and melodies that melt into a wall of sound landscape are the norm. A world where Alan McGee has still to meet the Gallagher brothers and is, instead, proclaiming Kevin Shields as a genius and Ride as the best band on the planet.

This is far from a bad thing, though, as it is a style that very much suits them. The title track itself benefits from Ulrich Schnauss on production duties and the German musician makes it sound absolutely huge. He clearly knows his Slowdive from his Catherine Wheel as he treats the banks of dreamy guitar, woozy melodies and lush male/female vocal harmonies in such a way that the track is literally bursting at the seams with ethereal sound.

Clearly this quartet has a great rapport with one another, always the hallmark of a great live band. "Cry The Sea's" languid tempo change in conjunction with frontman LG's slightly delayed, swirling vocals mixes brilliantly with the strange, other-worldly chord progression. "Tears" follows suit, wrapped in gauzy, irresistible harmonies and another vibrant, insistent guitar arrangement that keeps the interest levels from waning.

While they work within a template, this is a compositionally sound and comparatively inventive outfit, especially for a genre that many believe `jumped the shark' years ago. Dead Leaf Echo thread their music with a certain elegancy that prevents them re-treading old ground. I've always believed Shoegazing is an awful term when describing sounds like these. Music like this is for craning your necks skywards and contemplating what really lies beyond those clouds and in "Pale Fire", Dead Leaf Echo fits that analogy perfectly.

Our Sleepless Forest
Our Sleepless Forest
Price: £6.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Britain's Answer To Our Brother The Native, 30 Jan. 2012
Having declared Southeast London troupe Our Sleepless Forest as `one's to watch' some months ago during a review of Type Records "Free The Future" compilation, it's a tad surprising to see their long-awaited debut full-length release crop up on the much-loved Resonant Label. Stranger still, is Resonant's decision to go with one of Britain 's most promising up and coming acts, just before the label embarks on an "indefinite hiatus".

That being said, this three-piece, comprising Sam Purcell, Josh Rothberger and Karl Jawara, fit in perfectly with their new found home's love of melodic music with experimental tendencies. Billed as Ambient Electronic Space Rock, such ambiguity doesn't even begin to describe the sound of the Sleepless Forest . Their music is alive, bursting with a seemingly endless supply of layers. Melodies that spiral out of control skywards only to be anchored by swirling mantra-like vocals (at times eerily reminiscent of the little blonde girl in "Poltergeist") and huge plumes of monolithic, reverbed haze.

Brimming with a hermetic radiance, Our Sleepless tap into the heart-warming naÔve charm that has served other prodigious talents such as Khonnor and Our Brother the Native so well. The mix of hand-woven experimental pop with skewed pyschedelia, campfire forest folk and transistor crackle space-rock, though, points towards a mature approach to songwriting and composition. "The Clarion" is awe-inspiring, with its sweeping, shape-shifting guitar and swirling sonic sound effects, recalling such acts as shoegaze/post-rock forefathers Bark Psychosis. "Aircastles" is magical too as reams of melodic mystery blend with nocturnal insect life and a tempered dissonance.

"Afraid of You" is a temporary hitch, utilizing a hackneyed reverse-loop effect, used by just about every other band on the planet at some time in their careers. Let's be honest, such tracks are always more filler than killer, whether you are The Beatles, Stone Roses or, indeed, a young act from Putney. Perhaps the alarm bells should ring, why should OSF resort to such tactics so early on in the band's lifespan? Such notions will be swept away, though, and forgotten about along with the brilliant white light that the ethereal "Doors In Limbo" bathes everything in. The alluring "White Bird", meanwhile, seals the deal conjuring images of some lost Aztec civilization, the half-Gregorian chanting adding to the mysterious nature of such a piece.

Though not without its glitches, make no mistake, this is a solid debut from Our Sleepless Forest, a concrete platform for them to project sounds and set the controls for the heart of the sun.

Unanswered Questions
Unanswered Questions
Price: £4.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Experiments In Guitar, 30 Jan. 2012
Film-maker Daniel Hopkins is the musician behind Hurra caine Landcrash and finds his 4th record, "Unanswered Questions", suitably released by the relativey new Midlands-based imprint Split Femur - a label that is intent on opening new doors for electronic and experimental music. Hopkins has been busy opening doors himself. A portal, in fact, to an untapped region of other-worldly guitar experimentation sounds. "Unanswered Questions'" concepts are based around the tones and textures captured by dropping stones, shells and pebbles onto the strings and body of a guitar. The sounds extracted are then, in turn, processed in real-time using filters and other laptop functions.

A recipe for disaster, perhaps, to the most cynical of us, but despite traveling into uncharted territories, Hopkins handles the essential dynamics very well indeed. Creating a body of work that is composed of strange, disconcerting sounds as webs of clouding textures and abstract tones combine with tangles of imperfections and processed `scratches' to form an occasionally tentative, oftentimes comforting ambient mist.

Requiring an extra degree of patience on the listener's part, there is much to enjoy in this record. Starting with the drowsy bluesy drawl of "Soul" and through to the deep caverns of "Autumn Leaves", where the incessant water drips form into little pools of sound that recall Tietchens' recent "Eta-Menge". Both "Blood Letting Go" and the excellent "The Ultimate Ever", meanwhile, process sounds out of shape in such a way that they begin to resemble an old vinyl record spinning hypnotically on a ramshackle record player, creating deconstructed rhythms and percussive thumps from thin air seemingly. The former especially dabbles in the acoustic doom atmospherics that were such a feature of Svarte Greiner's "Knive" release.

The mood is somewhat ominous throughout, as if Hopkins himself was unsure where these paths would lead. This 6-track affair, though, grows in stature, be it through the thumping bass tones of "Reflex Reaction" or the unfurling mystery of "Trip to the Moon", which at 12-minutes long seems oddly short given its soporific qualities. "Unanswered Questions", though, will be a worthy addition to the record collections of those who require music to challenge.

Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £16.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Off-Kilter, Unusual Psychedelic Sounds, 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Matryoshka (Audio CD)
The more attentive readers will recognize the name Alex Newport as the musician behind both Nailbomb and Fudge Tunnel or, indeed, as an in-demand producer for bands including The Mars Volta, The Melvins, Death Cab For Cutie and Sepultura. That being said, his presence in the production booth for Ubyk's "Matryoshka" certainly piques the interest.

Ubyk was founded by Russian-born musician Roman Bleum and is augmented by singer/songwriter Samantha Tobey. Taking their name from a Philip K Dick story, this Los Angeles based duo breeze through twenty minutes of whimsical, acoustic-guitar led sounds. There is a distinct focus on the syrupy vocal harmonies of Bleum and Topey, with the Floyd influenced "Just Fine" the only solo track on offer.

"Work" is a fantastic piece, perfectly encapsulating the monotony and drudgery of a 9 `til 5. We all know the feeling, the sheer dread of having to get up early in the morning for work to spend several hours a day performing mind-numbing tasks, when you wish you could be somewhere else. Bleum's lethargic, yearning vocal delivery is contrasted by a guitar progression that flows at the tempo of a paymaster's whip - you cannot help but feel for him - while Topey's complimentary tones float around like the mundane thoughts that pass through your head during a dull Monday morning at work. Like a modern day take on the early blues tracks written in the cotton fields of America, the panning alarm clock shrill, panting breaths and tired `work' monologue in the background is an inventive touch and perhaps the influence of Newport?.

Both "Merry Go Round" and "Delicate Swarm", meanwhile, again display the vibrant interplay between Topey and Bleum as they segue from psychedelic-tinged passages, think 60's Canterbury, into theatrical Cirque Du Soleil endings, via nostalgic choruses that strongly recall something along the lines of The Mamas and Papas.

It is an engaging listen throughout; the music is vaguely familiar yet, at the same time, other-worldly. This duo take commonly used tools, namely the acoustic guitar, some sprinklings of spacey synths and their harmonious vocals, and meld them into to a sound that is distinctively their own. A commendable achievement for sure, especially when acoustic troubadour's are ten-a-penny and can be found nightly in every venue around the globe. Ubyk set themselves apart with their love of psychedelic song-structures and off-kilter, unusual melodies. Superstar producer or not, "Matryoshka" is still sublime stuff.

Through Scenic Heights & Days Regrets
Through Scenic Heights & Days Regrets
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £20.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A Diverse Record With Influences Ranging From Smasihing Pumpinks, Sigur Ros and Pink Floyd, 30 Jan. 2012
Last time round, Ericrock treated us to a rather fine Ep of dynamic post-rock and post-hardcore from their flagship band Motionless and the Boston-based imprint is set to win our hearts again with the release of The Baltic Sea's promising full length debut.

Hailing from Portland, Maine this quartet have actually been around since 2001, so it's a little surprising to see their first record surface some seven years later. That being said they haven't exactly been resting on their laurels as they have developed a very tight, inventive sound that is surely the result of relentless performing. Furthermore, there has been considerable effort injected into the production of this record, the differing guitars textures sound massive, the percussion and bass strong and the vocals mixed just right. It marks this album as a cut above the majority made by other independently backed bands.

Sonically, The Baltic Sea play an atmospheric, occasionally instrumental and oftentimes euphoric, brand of rock - driven in particular by the emotive vocals of frontman/guitarist Todd Hutchisen. Opener, "Monswoon" is a fine statement of intent, as both guitarists trade intricate chords until they interlock into hypnotic knot-like textures, over a sweeping percussion arrangement. There are parts of this song that strongly recall Radiohead, with tracks such as "Knives Out" coming to mind.

In fact, there's a progressive influence throughout much of this album and, while the likes of "Parallax" and "Cry Aloud (Then Explain)" meander for too long before leaving it too late to register their mark, both "Impasse" and "Dot.Violence" are absolutely monumental. The former delights with its exuberant crescendo/chorus, gloriously straddling the line between Sigur Ros and The Smashing Pumpkins. The latter, meanwhile, is clearly influenced by Pink Floyd, yet is delivered with such convincing panache and passion that few could fault such an attempt.

It may have been 7 long years in the making, but it has been time well spent. The Baltic Sea are clearly comfortable in any number of configurations and part of this record's charm is their refusal to bow to genre boundaries as they effortless blend their largely alternative sound with post-rock and prog-rock influences, making a mockery of such barriers. Hutchisen is an excellent frontman and in possession of an alluring voice, which at times has a similar high-pitched resonance to that of Perry Farrell. Though, this is clearly the work of a tight unit, with each member of this quartet as integral as the next. "Through Scenic Heights ..." despite the occasional misstep, is a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding record.

Sigillum Luciferi
Sigillum Luciferi
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £22.45

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Loudest and Heaviest Band in Richmond, Virignia, 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Sigillum Luciferi (Audio CD)
Cough claim to be the `loudest and heaviest band' in Richmond , Virginia (not bad considering they share a city with Souvenir's Young America) and they certainly put their money where their mouth is on this six track effort.

Clocking in at a whopping 57 minutes, swampy stoner sludge is the order of the day here. Basslines with more bottom-end than an elephant, vocals that sound like Gollum with a severe dose of bronchitis and riffs lifted from the gospel according to Iommi. The brutal, punishing drums don't so much beat, but toll in slow-motion like huge gothic cathedral bells. It's an impressive sound, and this is before this three-piece contaminate everything with particularly toxic waves of screeching guitar feedback.

It's nothing we haven't heard before, of course, from the likes of Electric Wizard, Iron Monkey or fellow Yanks Eyehategod, but there is no denying the awesome presence of tracks such as "288 Years of Sin" and "Lyssavaris" that simply pummels you into submission. As the introduction to "Northern Plague" informs us, `suicide is the only way out...'

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