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Silver (UK)

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Birds & Cages
Birds & Cages
Price: 12.52

4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome tonic for the 'indie' scene, 2 Jun 2011
This review is from: Birds & Cages (Audio CD)
I almost felt obliged to write a review here, as soon as I realised that there could be legions of people out there who might be wondering who this band are, and what they're about. Well...perhaps not that many. I'll try my best to elaborate on exactly why everyone should at least give Deas Vail a listen, because it's well worth your time.

The band were initially peddled to me a few years ago by a friend who, somewhat darkly, observed that they were 'a Christian band'. Don't stop reading here! Yes, they are a band with members who believe in Christianity, but it's not obvious when listening to them. Gospel rock this is not; were it not for the initial 'warning' from my rather misguided mate, I wouldn't have been able to tell. What I heard absolutely opened my eyes at the time, when my primary beef with the UK music industry was the sheer number of copycat, dull indie-rock bands all hiding under the umbrella of hazy guitar rock. Deas Vail should not ever be associated with these bands, because not only is 'indie' a farce of a term these days, it's also a misnomer.

So, what do they sound like? It's a tough one to describe, and with no help from the 'related artists' (who?), I'll have to go it alone and hope that's enough. They're essentially a light rock / pop / 'indie' outfit, focusing heavily on melody, tangible lyrics and strong, harmonious vocals. Piano is scattered liberally throughout the album, and everything sounds very sugary, full in tone, and bright. But make no mistake - the singer will likely carry your opinion of the band, given his prominence in the mix and throughout the album. Truly excellent singers are few and far between these days, and when you're classically trained as a vocalist, in certainly helps - the Blaylock siblings both interplay exceptionally well throughout, and I think that it'd be tough to actively dislike the harmonies that are frequently flung around. 'Birds and Cages' is a fairly seismic shift from their (superior) previous album, although both are genuinely excellent - this one cranks up the soaring choruses, melodies and harmonies, possibly building on the praise that they got for their last album. However, I feel that as a result, the unbroken chain of uplifting and dynamic songs lacks the subtlety of 'All The Houses...', and I do yearn for the wistful nature of a song like 'Shoreline' to change gears every now and again. With that said, when they go for broke on the catchy, poppier songs, they absolutely destroy it - 'Sunlight' is the highlight here, with everything coming together in a gloriously sun-drenched cacophony.

I can't really criticise them for pursuing this direction, because they're so capable at making it stick; and good luck to them, because a band of their calibre deserve far more attention. I advise listening to both this and 'All The Houses...' and picking a winner - but either way, you can't lose.


This Is Silver Ray [Australian Import]
This Is Silver Ray [Australian Import]
Price: 2.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An organic jaunt through a post-rock landscape, 12 Sep 2010
I bought this album on a whim, expecting some serious instrumental post-rock in the vein of the usual suspects - not that it'd be such a terrible thing, of course, it's just nice to see something different crop up. However, I was pleasantly surprised by what was a very different take on the usual 'quite to loud' dynamic, creating something that was similar to other artists, yet somehow very distinctive. In fact, I wouldn't even describe Silver Ray as a primarily post-rock outfit. I'm surprised there's no review yet - I'll do my best to help out!

It's always difficult to describe this sort of sound, but Silver Ray make it a little easier by incorporating plenty of nice piano lines that border on outright lounge or jazz melodies at times, meshing well with very restrained and appropriate guitar lines. Restraint does seem to be the name of the game throughout the album, and despite that it really does feel as though the band have managed to jam their way to six excellent tracks, building up from basic ideas into fully fledged epics, all live in the studio. The first two lengthy tracks in particular demonstrate this very well, somehow transforming a sound that would be more at home in a laid-back jazz bar into something that occupies ten minutes of space very well, despite never straying into the trap of overstaying their welcome. They don't sound cinemtic or orchestral in arrangement like Godspeed!, being a little too minimalist for that - the closest that I can get is applying a delicate, tasteful jazz touch to the post-rock stylings of a band like Mogwai at their softest.

Track 3 displays a change of gears with a hugely evocative, wistful guitar melody that seems to conjure up images of desolation and hope at the same time - strangely, it reminded me very much of Mark Knopfler's 'Local Hero / Wild Theme' in tone. Combining this with some layered ambience boosted the atmospherics of the track and the following one, seeming both organic and lively at the same time, a rare feat even for the more downtempo artists out there - it actually reminded me of Gas or Loscil at times. I won't analyse all the tracks in depth for the sake of (relative!) brevity, but hopefully this gives a decent idea of what the band's about. I can't help but feel relaxed and comfortable when listening to Silver Ray's music, and whilst they never push the envelope unduly, it's a pleasure to listen to. I feel in particular that the piano is underused hugely in post-rock music, and it being applied liberally here is fantastic to see.

A very nice hybrid of jazz, post-rock and ambience is on display here, a quiet excursion into 'headspace music'. I've no idea how Silver Ray have progressed since this, their first album, but if they've stayed true to their sound then only good things could have sprouted from a fine debut. They only just miss out on top marks as a few bits and pieces sound a bit too raw and brittle for my tastes, but it doesn't detract from the overall experience much at all. I'll certainly be checking out the rest of their discography as soon as I can!


Self-Preserved While The Bodies Float
Self-Preserved While The Bodies Float
Price: 9.21

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Christian rap' has never had it so good, 9 Sep 2010
And I mean that, with no disrespect to those who like Christian rap. I should probably explain to those that think I'm out of my gourd - Oceansize's myspace is highly entertaining and enlightening. I see they've recently made the genre shift from 'Progressive Death-Indie' to 'Christian rap / Healing & Easy Listening' - good for them, they've certainly made it work.

Oceansize are a bit of a conundrum for anyone trying to review them, and I'm definitely no exception. I went after one of their earlier albums in another review and was left grasping for adjectives a little as I tried to describe their sound, who they're similar to, which genre they call their stomping ground - and this, of course, is the point of their ridiculing of genre tags. Oceansize seem to occupy a space between other bands, showing flagrant disregard for anything remotely resembling 'convention'. For the curious, those who've never heard the band, this is the sort of thing you're getting into - a bizarre hybrid of ambient, progressive, jazz, fusion and metal that smashes together in a mish-mash and, vitally, actually works.

I'm a fan of the band, but my excitement for the album was tempered by their previous effort. I would now criticise their earlier two albums moreso than before, for being a bit too fragmented and incoherent, particularly Everyone Into Position. They're still a good listen, but other than a few standout tracks they paled in comparison to the might that was Frames, in my mind. One of only two albums I've ever given a maximum rating for every single track (the other being Eluvium's 'Copia'), it ebbed and flowed beautifully, orchestrated and layered with fantastic attention to detail, and being as catchy as hell with it. After that, I was pretty concerned - how on earth could Oceansize hope to match that with their next album? Surely I'd end up being inevitably disappointed.

Well, the truth is that they didn't, and yet I wasn't, respectively. This latest effort is a very brave move, taking yet another step in musical direction from previous albums and showcasing a heap of different styles to boot. It opens with some seriously heavy gauge guitars, and ends with some truly mellow outings, and the bookends really define this album. I won't go into detail on the tracks, as other reviewers have already done it with more finesse than I could, but the band jumps frequently around the musical spectrum throughout. Vennart's singing and lyrics are both melodic and piercing at times, and the band works extremely well as a whole unit, creating layered soundscapes that either brutalise or cajole the senses. I actually prefer the lighter work on this album, as I immensely enjoyed the mellowed songwriting on the Home & Minor EP, and was hoping for a logical extension with this album. That's certainly not the case, but there are a fair few lighter, borderline jazzy moments hidden amongst this album. Vennart's singing is often more exposed than ever before, rather than being deliberately buried in the mix somewhat - this allows his more gentle singing register to shine, and I think that it suits the new style, particularly on 'Oscar Acceptance Speech', my favourite track.

I see no other option - this album must get a full rating from me. This is severely influenced by my own personal tastes, and other fans of Oceansize that loved Frames may not want to consider this album to be quite as highly rated as 5 stars. And yet, I wouldn't advise utilising the 'try before you buy' mantra, as this remains a very accomplished body of work, and one for any Oceansize fan to purchase. Rest assured, they haven't disappointed in the least (not that anyone really expected them to, surely?!), and have once again blasted apart musical convention, sticking to their guns and making an album that's probably as severe of a departure from Frames as the latter was from EitP.

Have you heard the one about the hipsters that walked into a bar, and ordered the same drink that every other tired old indie band has? Oceansize the barman laughed derisively, flipped them off and starting jamming out whilst grinning maniacally, marking yet another chapter in this unique and fantastic band's history. Buy this.


Discovery
Discovery
Price: 5.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diverse and entertaining, 11 April 2009
This review is from: Discovery (Audio CD)
It's tough to describe this album in few words, especially given Daft Punk's radical shift in style over the course of their three LPs to date. What I will say is that what everyone says is right - this album is definitely at least worth a listen, and for fans of all music, not just techno. This is highly accessible stuff, and worthy of being played in anyone's player. I'll also add that the album is probably worth it for the first four tracks alone, easily one of the best opening runs ever recorded. However, it has to also be said that most people aren't going to like every single song on the album. For every person that worships Aerodynamic, there'll be another one who thinks 'Too Long' is boring and repetitive; someone who likes the quieter 'Voyager' might dislike the upbeat classic 'One More Time'. The point is, the phrase 'try before you buy' has never been more prudently used than on this album, because it won't be to everyone's tastes, despite the fact that it's hooked in many people who'd never even heard of electronica, techno, acid or house before.

As for the tracks, they tend to fall into the category of either stunning, or reasonable. Newcomers to Daft Punk should be aware that the duo are primarily electronic-synth merchants, but also have a penchant for slinging in catchy choruses and insane guitar solos to sweeten the deal for those who aren't fans of a droning beat. As I mentioned earlier, the first four tracks are stupidly brilliant, and put together comprise perhaps the finest opening to an album that I've heard in a long time. More or less everyone knows 'One More Time' and 'Digital Love', even if they don't know it's by Daft Punk. 'Aerodynamic' is my favourite, the entire song flows well together and as everyone always raves, the solo is genius. The rest are either very quiet, murky ambient affairs or massively upbeat (almost to the point of being comical) blast-fests. The mood change is often swift and brutal, and can catch the casual listener off-guard when going through the entire album.

It is genuinely tough to not give this maximum marks, but I do recommend that the album is taken with a pinch of salt. Listen beyond the first four tracks and see if you like the rest, although those earlier ones are a decent indicator of overall sound. If you like a driving beat and some excellent synth-work that almost works as a rock-house-acid fusion, then this is almost certainly for you. Everyone else should tread carefully, but be advised that if you want to get into any of the genres of techno and associates, this is an incredible way to start. On a sidenote, this is one of the best love acts in the world, so try to see them if you can.

To sum up, definitely worth a listen, but also an acquired taste in parts. 8.5 out of 10, pushing a 9.


Experiments in Mass Appeal [bonus DVD][digipak]
Experiments in Mass Appeal [bonus DVD][digipak]
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 22.03

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was genuinely stunned, 14 Dec 2008
I picked up this album on release date, with the soaring guitar solos and epic soundscapes of Milliontown not too far away, still curled up in the back of my mind and yearning to be unleashed once again. I loved Frost*'s debut album, and was very eager to check up on their follow-up, to see if they could replicate the magic. What I discovered, to my eternal astonishment, was that Frost* had changed the formula quite noticeably.

It isn't just the change in personnel, although the new vocal style is very different. Nor the number of tracks, or the slightly more cathartic tone. 'Experiments in Mass Appeal', as a full album, smacks delightfully of a band that is simply more complete than it was before. If there was an over-reliance on keyboards and guitar solos in the previous release (perhaps the only complaint), the band has sewn together slightly more for this release, and really do sound fantastic. The track to highlight this difference is the magnificent 'Dear Dead Days', or perhaps the very...well, different 'Pocket Sun', which has killer riffs and sweeping vocals in abundance. At any rate, I was very surprised with this album, but in a very tingling, pleasant sort of way.

It kicks off with the title track, which more or less sums up the album as a whole - lovely vocal choruses and harmonics, some great guitar work, and the same stellar drummer that is present throughout the album. I can safely say that if you don't like this track or 'Dear Dead Days', I would advise not picking this one up, as they are a decent way of concluding roughly what Frost's new sound is. 'Welcome to Nowhere' and 'Pocket Sun' are both pretty rocking affairs, melting along in a pot of heavy, delayed guitar riffs and some exceptional drumming on the latter track in particular. Pocket Sun is a song that really stands out from the rest of the style, it has to be said. Following up those beauties is 'Saline', a softer number with some soulful singing going on, and it slots perfectly into the first half of the album, bridging the divide between the tracks either side of it nicely. It's probably the best softer song, very driven by nice piano interplaying with the vocals. 'Dear Dead Days' is perhaps the pinnacle of the album, with keyboard verging on ridiculously addictive at times, and the guitar as excellent as ever. Mitchell is one of the most underrated guitarists in the universe, he really knows how to lay down a riff and solo within a song, and not seem pretentious in the least. Superb playing.

The album continues with the softer 'Falling Down' and 'You/I', where a few lyrical themes from the previous album are continued onwards, with gentle piano the order of the day once again; that said, it's far from sounding samey and tired. Each track will keep you on your toes, and present you with something that another hasn't. Similarly, 'Toys' has to be heard rather than described, another very different song with a cutting edge, it reminds me of a few sections of the previous album in more ways than one- perhaps the only song that really links back. The final track (or should I say tracks? Aha...) is 'Wonderland', and is actually divided into the main track, and after a few moments of silence, another kicks in. Best to hear this one for yourselves, folks- I would be doing it an injustice otherwise.

Although I've spoken primarily on the LP so far, the DVD is well worth the slightly extra price tagged on. If you've seen the 'Frost Sessions' on youtube where the band routinely updated a video-blog with the happenings of the production of the album, you'll have an idea of what's going to be spinning around the disc. I won't ruin the surprise, but it's well-worth it, for sure. In addition, you get a few remixes of some old classics, and an entire album of instrumental tracks- the same tracks as the regular CD, sans vocals. Given that basically turns this into a double CD plus goodies, the price is a bargain.

On the whole, this album is just superb. I do like a lot of music in this vein, but Frost* are seemingly a throwback to the old progressive masters, whilst also driving forwards in the genre. I can't describe Frost* in terms of sound, because there is nobody who sounds quite like they do. They have really come on in leaps and bounds in terms of song construction, production and performance since 'Milliontown', and seem far more sure of what they're trying to accomplish. They are clearly a tight, cohesive unit who enjoy their music and the joy that it brings to listeners, and have a close relationship with their fans. They have progressed from Milliontown, but also kept true to their own sound, whilst retaining an excellent 'band' atmospheric nature to the recordings.

I honestly can't believe I'm saying this, because I've heard so much good music this year, it almost beggars belief. Entire genres have forced their way into my life, and yet through all of that...this album really did hit me on the blindside. I have to say that 'Experiments in Mass Appeal' is actually my album of the year. Still can't believe I just said that. And yet, it's true. Buy this album, and you will not be disappointed in the least.

Thanks for reading. :)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 10, 2010 3:22 PM GMT


Everyone Into Position
Everyone Into Position
Price: 10.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, and outstanding, 14 Dec 2008
This review is from: Everyone Into Position (Audio CD)
Oceansize have a habit of putting out consistently unique and majestic albums, and this is perhaps the very best of them. I was first introduced to Oceansize via Effloresce, a phenomenal album in its own right, and was initially reluctant to pick up another effort from the band so quickly after I had been transformed into one of their fans. I thought that if I was exposed to a similar sound, I might begin to find it all a bit samey. Thankfully, whilst retaining a sound that truly defines them, Oceansize have managed to bring into an existence a totally new album. The thing is about Oceansize- you can't really tag them very easily. They are 'progressive' in the sense that they do bend boundaries and defy genres, but lumping them into such a broad category as 'progressive rock' is unfair; the band are simply out to make fantastic music, and in this aim, they continue to succeed.

The album is perhaps more cohesive than their previous effort, and equally as mystifying, both lyrically and musically. Oceansize are all about dynamics and layers- layered guitars, endlessly ambiguous lyrics, a vocal track that is beautiful, yet often becomes part of the swirling mix of instruments. All of these aspects come together and make the band entirely unique, even if they don't stand out like some of the exceptionally left-field 'contemporary' works. It's clear that Occeansize are on a mission to make songs that are both extraordinarily listenable and force you to think a little; but not in an intensive way. Much as you can ponder the meaning of a sentence in a novel, Oceansize make you feel compelled to ponder their music, and patter around the tracks trying to gather an overall sense of what the band is about. The ringing guitars, expressive vocals and exquisitely timed drumming all come together to form an album worthy of the very best. If you have surround sound, this album is especially well-suited; be prepared for a concoction of the achingly beautiful and the terrifying powerful. I do try to describe Oceansize in terms of their peers, but there really is nobody else like them that I've heard.

As for the tracks, 'The Charm Offensive' kicks off the party very nicely, one of the better tracks. It builds and builds throughout, until it reachs the pinnacle of the song - and yet continues onward until the end, screaming through to a climax with shredded nerves and a grinding final riff. 'Heaven Alive' begins with weird chanted vocals, but then gets a lot heavier, with heavily distorted ringing guitars and some memorable riffs throughout the song- again, the bass is high in the mix, and is excellent. However, 'Homage to a Shame' is absolutely brutal, clearly designed to induce frothing in the mouths of hard-rock fans everywhere. Distortion, heavy beats, occasionally-screamed vocals and a driving pulse to the song all propell it along towards the finish. By contrast, 'Meredith' and 'Music For Nurses' both change up the dynamic tone of the album once again, slowing the pace down and cranking up the melody. The latter was used on an advertising campaign, and it's easy to see why, even though the lyrics are virtually unfathomable without looking them up - it's certainly a highlight of the album. The atmosphere and emotion it generates is staggering.

The second half doesn't quite measure up to the first, but is still fantastic. 'New Pin' was touted as the breakout song of the album...whilst I wouldn't quite agree, it is a great number that flits along amiably enough, definitely memorable. The same can more or less apply to the remaining songs on the album - all very good, polished production and the layered dynamics remain prominent. The final track, however, is quite simply a masterpiece of dynamic interplay and harmonised vocals. Much as the title suggests, 'Ornament/The Last Wrongs' can be divided into two different tracks of totally differing tones. The former is very brittle and alternating in pace and volume, whilst the latter is essentially a soaring vocal melody placed over a quiet guitar riff, it's the perfect finale to the album- the final brushstroke on a canvas, guided by a band who knows precisely what they're trying to achieve.

Oceansize are unique. They've been called 'alternative', 'progressive', even 'grunge' at times- but what they are not is boring. Any fan of good music can appreciate this offering, and it is definitely the album to get you interested in this band. The only criticism I could level at the album would be that the vocals are too good to be pushed so far back into the mix at times, and the layers of guitars occasionally sound fuzzy...but this doesn't detract from the album as a whole. If walls of constructed sound emphasised by guitars, lovely vocals and riffs that alternate between crushing and beautiful are your thing, then you can do a lot worse than to pick up this gem.


You Are There
You Are There
Price: 10.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like beautiful piano melodies..., 9 Dec 2008
This review is from: You Are There (Audio CD)
As a pianist, I find that many beautiful melodies on the ivories can jangle my emotions, and send shivers tumbling down my spine. And that is exactly how I feel when I listen to 'You Are There' by Mono, an album so packed full of sumptious moments that almost anyone could be bowled over by the beauty of the atmospheric pieces contained within.

Anyone familiar with Mono will know what they're about- soaring guitars, crunching riffs, frantic tremelo picking and emotion conveyed entirely through instruments. Mono don't have vocals in their compositions, because Mono have absolutely no need for them. I use the word 'composition' very deliberately here, because it applies to Mono perhaps more than any other band - these are considered, meticulously crafted pieces of music, and there is simply never a dull moment. Mono approach the studio as though they are playing live, and it's evident here - although every track is planned out and designed very well, the emotion that comes with a live concert is translated almost perfectly onto CD, an accomplishment few bands could even consider attempting, let alone succeeding in.

Every single track is amazing. In other reviews, I have noted some negative points to tracks and bands, but it's very difficult to fault this album. The beauty is there in abundance, and a more piano-orientated feel is still present on 'The Remains Of The Day', a soft and wonderful piece of music. Yet, despite the sweeping elegance of the emotion conveyed, 'You Are There' is still very much trademark Mono, and finds them in the form of their lives. The guitar work is sublime, and at times absolutely brutal - when I saw them live, Taka actually wore down his pick on the strings, such was the speed of the playing. That should give you an idea of what this band is about; they wear their hearts on their sleeves, and their instruments do all the talking for them, emotion and message conveyed purely through melody.

Mono have many contemporaries, some very lofty indeed (Mogwai, EitS, and so on). That said, this is the finest post-rock album I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. If you like the genre, the band, or any bands remotely related to Mono, you simply have to purchase this album - it is scarily powerful stuff, and an addition to any musical collection. 'Moonlight', 'Yearning' and 'The Flames Beyond The Cold Mountain' in particular rank amongst some of the best tracks ever committed to the recording studio, with crescendos, quiet buildups, piano, strings, and a million other combinations to keep you occupied. You won't get bored with this album. I know I'm eulogising a fair bit here, but it would be a disservice if I didn't. If you're not sure, try and pick up a sample of the first track somewhere, and get an idea of what the album is like overall, in terms of tone.

Sometimes, something in life is just so good, that you feel compelled to laugh out loud at how brilliant and beautiful it is. Mono's magnum opus does it for me everytime, and I hope to be dazzled by it for years to come.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2011 10:11 AM GMT


Submers
Submers
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 11.70

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting? Weird? Brilliant? Yes., 13 Sep 2008
This review is from: Submers (Audio CD)
Trying to describe Loscil was an amazingly tough task. I cast around to a few friends for help, and they described it laughingly as 'submarine music'. A fair point, to an extent, but that doesn't stop Submers from being possibly the most unique album that I've ever heard committed to CD.

Chances are, you've not heard of this band before, and you've stumbled across this page via another product. If not, then I apologise, please continue. But if so, then I'll do my best to enlighten you as to what this band is, does, and succeeds in. Loscil is the brainchild of Scott Morgan, the drummer of a Vancouver-based band called Destroyer, though that word is about as far from this album as you can get. No, Loscil is a side-project that's loosely based around electronica-ambience, but even that doesn't quite fit the bill when trying to describe this one.

Submers, as the name might suggest, is an album based around the waters of the ocean...deep in the ocean. Like, right down there on the ocean floor. This album has depth, mind-turning ambience and dulled beats that somehow manage to capture your attention despite the intense minimalism here. Seems like an oxymoron, I know. But the sheer scope of the minimalism on display is amazing, and the tiny sounds of the ocean depths, submarines and random oscillating equipment all meld together to create a remarkable soundscape that is different from any other. For me, the individual tracks almost fade into insignificance; this is, after all, a concept album, like all of Loscil's albums, and therefore the entire album really needs to be considered above the tracks themselves.

Don't get me wrong, there a few standouts (Nautilus, Kursk, stand up!), but on the whole this album is exactly that - an album. From the moment the first watery, sleep-inducing note filters into your ears, you're hooked into a world of endless drifting, pulsing and shimmering noise that whispers gently into your ear. Simplistically, picture being in a submarine, totally alone, and being able to listen to all the sounds of the ocean around you. When you think about how weird and cool that'd be, you're getting there in terms of understanding what this album is about.

Admittedly, you do have to be in the right mood to listen to this, and a warning to anybody who likes their music in their face and grabbing their attention from the first note - it won't happen. This album has to be left to build, simmer and seep into your subconcious. I recommend a dark room, maybe just before going to sleep, before trying this out. It is, however, genuinely powerful stuff in the right atmosphere, and whilst it is a notably surreal experience, it's also very much a worthwhile one. I gave this five stars due to my own personal preference for extreme ambience, but others may not like it as much. I'd also recommend listening to at least one of the tracks before purchasing, if you can, as I can see the tone of this CD turning away more than a few people!

Buying this might be a risk, from a very obscure artist...but you won't regret it, if you like melodic, deep ambience on a grand scale. Irrespective, if you do pick this one up, I hope you enjoy it, and that this review helps somewhat. =)


The Four Trees
The Four Trees
Price: 9.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somehow, they improved..., 12 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Four Trees (Audio CD)
Well, it's been a fair while since I wrote the only review on Caspian's debut EP...and still, hardly anyone has reviewed any work of this band, which is a shame. So, I intend to go into detail on this one too, in the hope that others can witness the glorious layered soundscape that is this album.

Well, where can I even begin? Caspian have only even been formed for five years, and given how long established bands usually take to get moving in the music industry, they've done very well for themselves. I honestly think that they can (and will) get to the top of their genre. They certainly have enough musicial and composition talent to be rubbing shoulders with the best in post-rock, including Mono and Explosions in the Sky. Their EP was excellent, raw and alternating between brutal and beautiful at times, but 'The Four Trees' is something else. Caspian have evolved from their initial flurry of musicianship, and have really stepped up a gear with their first full-length album.

This time around, they've not excluded anything that was in the first EP, but merely built on it. More tracks, longer tracks, and a lot more development and crafting has gone into this album, and it shows. From the opening delicate notes of 'Moksha', which later tranforms into a whirlwind of (gently) wailing guitars and a cacophony of noise, you can tell that you've about to be both touched and blown away at the same time. It's a gift that few bands possess, and although I dislike comparing bands, they really are up there with EitS and the rest in terms of drawing emotions out from the listener. The musicianship is excellent, the composition even better. But enough about that...the tracks!

The opener, Moksha, is my personal favourite. I'm not sure why, but it really struck a chord with me the first time that I listened to it, and it remains a wonderful song that introduced me to the album initially. It's a track that dips and soars throughout, Caspian's knowledge of how to build a crescendo evident here; a continual theme that spreads through the album. 'Some Are White Light' is similar in tone, but shorter and slightly more delicate that the (occasional) brutality of Moksha's waves of sound. 'Sea Lawn' contains more droning and doom-filled ambience than any other tracks- think Isis, but toned down radically. This continues whilst the others instruments gradually join in over the top, ending once again with them all combining together for an excellent all-around piece. It also has a slightly folkish ring to it, the melody. Personally, I feel that 'Crawlspace' is one of the weaker tracks, slightly too dark and pervasive for me, but it does create a very subtle texture of mood.

'Book Nine', 'The Dropsonde' and 'Brombie' are just awesome. Words won't do them justice, and neither will anything other than listening to the tracks, and realising that they are masterpieces of layered guitars, beautiful melodies and meticulous crafted soundscapes. I honestly can't fault the middle of the album, it's just excellent. The more gentle trend continues through to the next two tracks, delayed guitar melodies and light ambience aplenty to send you into another world. ASA and Reprise finish off this album, and neither disappoint, though I would have preferred the former to close out the album, as I prefer it. Reprise does hit you like a ton of tricks as it speeds towards the conclusion of the album towards the end of the track. Nonetheless, no weakness at the end, just more tracks that have you nodding your head without even realising it, and thinking about things in general.

This is music for the head, music that inspires you to pluck thoughts from the air and listen to them as well as the notes. It's passionate, delicate, beautiful and at times harsh, but Caspian's newest album is definitely up to their own high standards. The guitar work is splendid throughout, and the timing of each instrument is remarkable, they all mesh together so well that you can only really refer to Caspian as an entire band, rather than 'a guitarist and his backing band'. As a functional unit, they are unmatched. This album pretty much sets the benchmark for all other new post-rock acts to follow, and propels them up towards the heights of their contemporaries. Personally, I think they're already there, and will be for many years to come.


Meltdown
Meltdown
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Price: 2.97

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting direction..., 15 Jun 2007
This review is from: Meltdown (Audio CD)
Ash were one of those bands that were propelled into stardom at a very young age, thrust into the limelight after their explosive debut, '1977'. Widely regarded as one of the finest pop/punk-rock albums of the time, Ash were hailed as being at the forefront of a new wave of music. However, since those heady first days, their sound has altered and evolved, via some good tracks, some bad tracks, and some that ventured in between. Right now, with a new album out and touring some of the student unions in the UK, Ash's fourth studio album, 'Meltdown', remains a bit of an enigma.

Why shift away from the poppy formula that served them so well with 'Free All Angels', or the loose energy of '1977'. Nobody can really understand a band's evolution save for the band itself, but in this case...I think it's both good and bad. In my opinion, whilst 'Meltdown' is an excellent album in itself, and has far more depth than previous albums, it lacks the killer instinct that both of the aforementioned albums had. There are a few standout tracks here, but generally, the album as a whole fits more coherently together an entire entity, rather than a bundle of hit tracks to listen to every now and again. If you want the true 'Meltdown' experience, you need to listen to the whole album.

As Amazon's description states (and many other reviewers on this site have observed), Meltdown is a hell of a lot heavier than anything Ash have done before. This is good, in the sense that they still have some really solid tracks that are great to rock along to, but they do lose some catchiness in some areas, fading away from the 'poppy' sound of Free All Angels. This is by no means a bad thing, and some things never change. Wheeler's voice is in good nick here, tuneful but also as powerful as it was on FAA (and is ably backed up by Hatherly's vocals, too), whilst the pair interplay well on the guitars. Nothing particularly complex that'll make you boggle in amazement, but they definitely know how to write some catchy and fun riffs, and the parts of the song fit very well together. Perhaps the largest improvement from previous albums is McMurray's drumming, which is now of the highest order, driving the songs along rather than simply keeping up a decent tempo- this is one of the main reasons that the album is that little bit heavier than before. And of course, Hamilton's steady bass remains just that, sandwiched between the belting of the drums and the heavier guitar riffs.

Now, onto the tracks! To avoid making this review ridiculously long, I'll try and skip over each one, but only giving a brief description. The title track opens up the album, and is a pretty decent opening, representative of the album as a whole. Those familiar with Free All Angels will notice that things are already a fair bit heavier, with the drums prominent in this one. However, things quickly shift into a higher gear with the introduction of 'Orpheus', the albums leadoff single, one that did fairly well in the charts and got considerable radio airplay. 'Orpheus' is about as light as it's going to get on this album, with the song much lighter than most others, much more reminiscent of the old Ash sound. 'Evil Eye' follows, which is a pretty decent song, but nothing to set the world alight- again, interplaying between light picking and heavy riffs. However, the first real hammerblow in this album is 'Clones', easily the heaviest song I've ever heard from Ash, with far darker lyrics, too. It's hard to describe it aside from that, you really have to listen to it- it's a very good song. Last song I'm going to describe is 'Starcrossed', the last 'type' of song on the album, if you will. This is far more guitar-driven, with a relatively epic solo late on (by Ash standards), and is much more of a ballad along the lines of 'Sometimes' or 'There's a Star' from Free All Angels. Very interesting, and very good.

So, after lavishing praise upon the album, why haven't I given 'Meltdown' the maximum rating? Well...in my opinion, all things are relative. Whilst 'Meltdown' is certainly worthy of 5 stars as a stand-alone album, I have to be an honest reviewer and point towards previous albums as I review this one, comparing as I go. 'Meltdown' was a brave and fascinating decision by Wheeler and company, mainly as it stretched their imaginations and challenged them to make a new album brimming with attitude. However, they also drifted notably away from a tried-and-tested formula that had worked on Free All Angels, an album which I consider to be their magnum opus. Putting it brutally, I honestly don't think that this album packs quite the punch that the last one did. But! This is still an excellent album in its own right, and I highly recommend it- you can rarely go wrong with an Ash album, and 'Meltdown' is not an album that bucks this trend. =)


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