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Toby Staunton "dancing mole" (Derbyshire, England)
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He Who Saw The Deep
He Who Saw The Deep
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple elegance, 21 Nov. 2010
This review is from: He Who Saw The Deep (Audio CD)
After three years of waiting iLiKETRAiNS now return with their follow up to 2007's darkly reflective debut album `Elegies to Lessons Learned'. In that debut iLiKETRAiNS proved themselves to be one of the few bands that manage balance the post-rock principals of bands like Mogwai with the brooding vocals of others like Joy Division, Editors and Hope of the States. It is a balance of sound that produces an intriguing and powerful experience. This album then focuses more on personal mistakes as well as looking forward to the future and what the consequences of some mistakes might be on both a personal and social level.

The tracks on this album are varied and balanced in their content and delivery to create a cohesive flow to it as a piece of work. `A Father's Son' for example is a relatively quiet in its delivery with a focus on the personal content. Whilst, `We Saw the Deep', `Sirens' and `Sea of Regret', demonstrate the bands ability to create wonderfully building and insistent pieces of music that carry you from start to finish in a lush sonic landscape. The soft ticking and stripped back intro to `Hope is not Enough' focuses you on the almost desolate vocals which talk about a human need to survive rather than grow complacent. `Progress is a Snake' is a commentary on a history of human mistakes that we have to live with ("We made our beds and now we lay") and how though people grow and develop they will make the same mistakes again ("A snake can shed its skin but never change"). The specific example used in this case is that of global warming referenced through the lyrics "...Europe slips into the sea". `A Divorce Before Marriage' is like a gently crescendoing epitaph at the end of a life. The vocal whispers over the top of this gentle serenade like a fond farewell ("Close your bright eyes"). The album then closes with `Doves' which starts off feeling like the numb silence after a funeral whilst you consider the loss. The gentle washes of music in the background add a grey atmosphere to the proceedings and the final lyrics of "Nothing says its over quite like the way you hit the sea" act as a beautifully understated full stop to the album.

So once again iLiKETRAiNS have managed to create an album of lush sonic soundscapes that carry the listener on an emotional journey of worries and consequences without at any point being depressing. This is mainly achieved through some wonderful song craft creating very memorable songs that work together as a complete composition. This album is wonderfully elegant in its simplicity.


A Thousand Suns
A Thousand Suns
Price: £5.82

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brave Step Forward, 13 Sept. 2010
This review is from: A Thousand Suns (Audio CD)
The first thing that you have to remember when listening to this album is that any band worth their salt should be pushing their own sound on. Linkin Park's first two albums showcased a powerful series of emotions and a great ability to write accessible yet original tracks. Those first two albums however are very similar in sound and while it earned a good fan base for the band they were never going to stay with that sound forever. `Minutes to Midnight' then started to progress but did not push itself far enough in my opinion and it ended up compromising between creativity and easy accessibility. `A Thousand Suns' has not compromised in the same way.

In a recent interview in NME Chester happily talked about how the songs aimed to avoid big choruses and easy hooks instead aiming to produce a consistent flow and energy to the album. This is obvious from the start. Openers `The Requiem' and `The Radiance' flow almost seamlessly into each other focusing on composition and as a result they make a subtle statement of intent for the album. The first of these two tracks could be played as the soundtrack to a long awaited sun rise as it chirps to start and then slowly swells into the `The Radiance' which acts as a very well pitched segway into `Burning in the Skies'. This track uses some of Chester's more melodic vocals echoing like an apology throughout the track.

The relative calm of the opening three tracks is then shattered by the gunshots and military calls of the very brief `Empty Spaces'. This leads into `When They Come For Me' with drums and synths reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails balanced against Mike Shinoda's powerful vocals. It is a powerful track punctuated with moments of greater intensity, especially towards the end when an Arabic vocal sample is used. This is followed by `Robot Boy' which acts as a nice counterpoint to the preceding track's military atmosphere as it questions "You're not gonna fight, `cause no one will fight for you?" It is a patient track lead by a nice drum line and pianos.

The next brief interlude brings us nicely to `Waiting For The End' which for the first time in the album balances Chester and Mike's trademark vocals. The calm middle section is punctuated by simple stabs of piano and is nicely bracketed at the start and end with more layered instrumentation. `Blackout' then balances Chester's more aggressive vocals against comparatively calm music in the background to create a very interesting dynamic. This then develops into a more menacing middle section where the vocals are sampled and cut together with some of Mr Hahn's scratching to create some nice depth. The end of the track then builds with layered vocals and more intense drum lines. This relatively calm ending is followed by `Wretches and Kings' which opens with a sample from an emotive speech about stopping the hypothetical machine. This introduction is followed by mechanical guitar parts and the balance between Chester and Mike's vocals again creating the closest thing to a traditional verse/chorus structure we have heard to this point in the album.

After another brief interlude then we come to `Iridescent'. It is a strangely reflective and euphoric track lead initially by piano and then guitar supported by a nice choral vocal. It provides a nice moment of calm after the intensity of the previous few tracks. `Fallout' then hums along between `Iridescent' and the insistent demand of first single `The Catalyst'. It is interesting that the leadoff single from the album comes so late on in the track list. It means that the whole album does not suffer from having a major focus point. The full band choral vocals that you hear in this song also act to bring the whole atmosphere of the album together. It is a triumphant moment. `The Messenger' then closes the whole affair with a more intimate and strikingly honest sound balancing a gentle acoustic guitar and piano with passionate vocals.

This then is a diverse and intriguing album that acts as a complete composition rather than a series of standalone tracks. It manages to flow seamlessly from start to finish and yet when you break it down there seem to be three clear sections to it. The calm opening, the more intense middle which initially showcases Chester and Mike's vocals separately before playing them off against each other to great effect, and then there is the almost euphoric closing section. It is a brave step and one that Linkin Park deserve plenty of credit for. This is as good as anything you could ask of them and worthy of every praise. Just listen to it with open ears.

4.5/5


For The Masses
For The Masses
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £5.75

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal and Exhilerating, 25 Jan. 2010
This review is from: For The Masses (Audio CD)
This album is amazing in its simplicity. It basically relies on three aspects. Firstly James Smith spits out his vocals with unbridled venom unlike anything you have heard from him before. The singles `Turn the Lights Out' and `M.A.D' were just a hint of what he has in store on this album. `Ugly' is the prime example of how much the vocals and the lyrics bite, but another vicious example can be found on `Mic Check'.

On top of this new level of aggression there is a serious addition of some very raw baselines and excessively energetic drums. `Bombshock' demonstrates both very well and is a really strong track that will guarantee a few bruises and ringing ears when it is played live. Elsewhere opener `Rebirth' offers up bass like a statement of intent and more violence to come, whereas `Play the Night' offers a devastating break after saw like guitars introduce the track in ominous style.

Throughout the album there are also some really nice synth sections which have grown in their maturity from the simple yet effective Nintendo influenced offerings of the first album. Throughout the aspect of the music is used principally as a supporting rather than leading section, but in that respect it is very important. Too many things competing for attention would detract from all of them. The synths are therefore used to add to depth, flow and variation to the tracks, which is a very effective trick. One track however that has a very strong synth section is closer `Lost' which has moments of scratching and fidgeting synth that push and drive the track but it then is used to ultimately end the album in a calm and euphoric manner.

The highlights in my opinion are those tracks which balance all these aspects well. `Evil' is impressively intense and it seriously kicks if you are not ready for it. `Ugly', `Mic Check' and `Play the Night also offer all three in various excessively energetic forms.

If the first album was a rave then this is a riot, and there's no escaping once you press play. Some mention must also be made of Noisia's influence on the production but it really is Hadouken's triumph in the end. This is the future of dance-rock and it couldn't really sound much better.


There Is Love In You
There Is Love In You
Price: £7.99

31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is true greatness in this man, 25 Jan. 2010
This review is from: There Is Love In You (Audio CD)
Four Tet, aka Kieran Hebden, has always posed a bit of a problem for me. He is undoubtedly a musical genius I can therefore never figure out why he isn't credited more often for the quality of his work. He has always been capable of producing phenomenally atmospheric and intelligent music. `Rounds' was and still is an utter master piece filled with original and intriguing arrangements that manage to preserve the listener's interest throughout. `Everything Ecstatic' followed up on this with yet more of the same and most recently the `Ringers EP' showcased Kieran's developing sense of rhythm.

We therefore come to 2010 and the first full length Four Tet release in five years. He has in the meantime been working with Steve Reid and undertaking monthly DJ residencies at various clubs and you can hear these influences in `There Is Love In You'. The album opens with `Angel Echoes' which is a typically atmospheric opener with what is initially a very stripped back atmosphere, the tapping rhythms lead nicely into repetitious vocals echoing the album title over and over to build intricacy. It is also accompanied by simple instrumentation which gently adds to the collection of sound in such as to almost create a dream like sweep of sound. First single `Love Cry' follows this incredibly calming introduction picking up on the gentle rhythm and building on it. This is a very obvious example of where Kieran's club residencies have influenced his music. The initial slow buzz comes to be dominated by a complex drum track that patiently develops into something worthy of taking centre stage in any decent DJ set, of course with the aid of some nice synth and repeating vocals. There will be some fantastic remixes of this track I am sure as well.

So after that nine minute wonder Kieran treats you to what is initially a very smooth slightly euphoric dream like track. It is a warm and joyous moment kind of like the constantly grinning brother to `Tubular Bells', and it acts as a kind of excited greeting as well when you hear the eleven second recording of `Pablo's Heart' on the next track. This is literally as it describes a recording of Kieran's godson's heartbeat. And the combination of the two tracks makes a very nice atmosphere as well as helping the album to flow smoothly into `Sing'. This is a fidgety track with a repeated synth hook and complex bubbling rhythms and some interesting samples thrown in for good measure. This is a good Four Tet track with nice variation part way through as the gently stomping rhythm builds and changes.

The next track is `This Unfolds' which starts with an interesting rhythm that sounds something like a toad trying to beat box. At least that's what I imagine in my head and I think it's quite funny. The drums behind are initially simple and the guitar balances well. A series of chiming and whistling samples are slowly added to the track before briefly giving way to be allow a pulsing and rattling rhythm to add itself to the mix. The ensemble then ebbs and flows to its calm conclusion carrying you along carefully for the ride before leaving you in the ring of `Reversing'. This really is just a bridge track into `Plastic People' but Kieran doesn't try to do anything dramatic in it, instead he opts for keeping the flow of the album with it and in that way the track really works.

`Plastic People' then starts with a rhythm lead by some nice resonating bells, handclaps and shaking percussion. The track then gets a lot denser quicker than others on the album but always maintains that initial pace. The higher pitched lead lines of the track fade in and out as more percussion as added creating a nice flow that oscillates its focus between the two parts of the track. Finally the album is closed out by `She Just Likes to Fight' which is a quietly thoughtful track that seems to reflect on old memories. The music then slowly seems to focus on a single idea as if focusing on a specific memory. This results in the track being pushed forward by bouncing rhythms and softly crescendoing guitars. It is a strong way to end the album.

So at the end of those 47 minutes you are left to wonder what Kieran Hebden has achieved. The answer is simple in my opinion. This is a wonderfully focused and intelligent album with some truly joyous moments as well as those that just sweep you into the world of Four Tet. It is a fantastic album that will be loved by existing fans and will likely sway a fair few more with its openness, consistency and continued originality.


Hidden
Hidden
Offered by Amtrak123
Price: £13.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ominous and Rewarding Insanity, 18 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Hidden (Audio CD)
These New Puritans have done something amazing. Whilst everyone is raving about Vampire Weekend and Delphic at the start of the year they have crept in and produced something totally and utterly original that is stunning in every way. Their debut had moments of brilliance but at times seemed to lack a bit of focus for me. This though is a different beast.

Opener `Time Xone' acts like an overture before `We Want War' breaks down all your expectations and reshapes them into a dark and malicious beast. It is a devastatingly confident start for a very young group of musicians. `Three Thousand' then continues the ominous drone of the previous track with some similarly creepy keyboard work balancing vocals which are more chant than song. The atmosphere is there maintained and emphasised brilliantly on this concise track. `Hologram' then acts as a counterpoint to the apocalyptic feel of the opening few tracks. It appears more upbeat and positive but underneath there is a strange sense of confinement like this is the sound of those hoping in vain for a better tomorrow. This idea is then exaggerated by the return to a more menacing sound in `Attack Music'.

`Fire-Power' follows with like a distorted and strangely desperate fight between two panicked enemies who do not quite know why they are fighting. It therefore has a strange and unnerving atmosphere. This is followed by the more definite direction of `Orion'. Here drum lines are initially punctuated and then surrounded by initially truncated and then swelling choral parts and synths. `Canticle' then offers another moment of relative peace and clarity from the brooding menace of the rest of the album. Sure enough then `Drum Courts-Where Corals Lie' returns to a more intense sound with a driving drum line, soft organ sweeps and vocals like the chant of a madman. Moments of calm in the song are followed by a return to the intense drumming with greater layering and depth which helps to emphasise the calm insanity of it.

`White Chords' has a strangely quiet introspection to it which really stands out compared to the relative intensity of the rest of the album. None the less the moments of sweeping instrumentation towards the end are wonderfully calculated and emotional. This is the sound of a young band with musical maturity beyond their years, and the bouncing and happy counterpoint presented by `5' at the end of the album reflects this, with interesting orchestration balancing twinkling rhythms and deep ominous sweeps.

The whole album then is an extraordinary experience. Diverse and mature it is a joy to listen to and I expect to find more and more details in the tracks as I listen to it long into the future. It is simply stunning.


The Colossus
The Colossus
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.26

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rhythm and Soul, 18 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Colossus (Audio CD)
After a brief stint doing some more traditional singer-songwriter type stuff on his third album Ramble John "RJ" Krohn now returns with his fourth album which sees him back to the quality sample based hip-hop and electronic music we are used to. It is an album which carefully balances the two sides of RJD2's music. There are moments which demonstrate his ability to create intricately layered beat heavy tracks and elsewhere we see his more melodic and soulful half with tracks focused more on vocals and well judged instrumentation.

Opener `Let There Be Horns' is a wonderfully intense beat heavy track that flows very nicely into the much more soulful `Games You Can Win'. The vocals here, provided by Etheopian born American musician Kenna, are really nice and balance the calm beat and twinkling accompaniment brilliantly. `Giant Squid' then demonstrates more of RJD2's ability to layer beats and samples to create a cohesive and attractive whole. After a brief interlude `The Glow' bounces into view principally lead by a cheerful vocal line and energetic piano line with some complimentary horns at the end for good measure. This is followed though by the atmospheric `A Spaceship for Now' which starts very atmospheric before being lead by a strong beat.

The album really plays out in this manor throughout trading soulful melodies like `The Shining Path' for beats like `A Son's Cycle' and `The Stranger'. This is not to say that it gets particularly boring it's just RJD2's style and it is always worth a listen.


The Betrayed
The Betrayed
Offered by I-Deal Media
Price: £2.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Calculated Emotion, 18 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Betrayed (Audio CD)
I haven't listened to Lostprophets for a long time after being put off them at school by some really irritating "Emo-kids". I am now debating whether this was a mistake since The Betrayed is such a strong album.

The power of the songs is a little breathtaking from the start as the drums on `If It Wasn't for Hate' kick in. The vocal line on `Dstryr/Dstryr' is intense and powerful. The rest of the track is very accomplished demonstrating some good song writing and production with well balanced highs and lows that add variety whilst keeping the pace and interest in the track, this then moves nicely into singles `It's not the End of the World' and `Where We Belong' which are both strong tracks showing little compromise on quality even though they are much more radio friendly. Thankfully the album doesn't descend into total chart friendliness. `Next Stop Atro City' kicks back up into a seriously high gear with some fast riffing and quality vocals.

The thing that really makes this album more than just a collection of tracks though is the production. It can only be described as slick and calculated. The result is a precisely balanced piece of work. It all flows as a cohesive whole therefore maintaining the energy and atmosphere despite the slight moments of filler in the second half of the album. The absolute highlight though comes at the very end with closer `The Light that Shines Twice as Bright.' It is a darkly atmospheric and emotional track with hints of apocalypse.

Overall the album is strong with quality shown throughout and will definitely satisfy existing fans and should convert curious listeners as well.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2010 9:35 AM GMT


Contra
Contra
Price: £7.37

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short and Sweet, 11 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Contra (Audio CD)
And so at the start of the new decade we are greeted by a band who have great potential, Vampire Weekend. Unfortunately they haven't gotten any closer to really achieving it on this their second album. It's not a complete second album disaster though.

The sound has developed a bit though. There is less of an unrestrained feeling of joy and more focus on the rhythm sections within the tracks such as on `Run' and `Giving Up the Gun'. This gives the tracks more of an urgency and determination which in its way is refreshing when balanced with Ezra Koenig's vocals. Additionally tracks like the opener `Horchata' and `Cousins' provide really nice energetic moments of excessively enjoyable pop. `White Sky' also adds a very welcome slice of Graceland influenced wonder filled with synths and clapping rhythm sections.

The weakest tracks on the album in my opinion are `California English', `Taxi Cab' and `Holiday', though the later still has charm to its excessive hyperactivity. The first is an example of the band trying to be too clever for themselves and sacrificing any tune. `Taxi Cab' is simply forgettable in my opinion with no clear hook.

They have probably saved themselves by only making a ten track album. Any more than that and I suspect there would have been too much filler that would have taken away from the moments of really good quality music. It is a good offering and worth a listen but be prepared that it will not have the sheer unrestrained joy or consistent quality of their debut.


Acolyte
Acolyte
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £3.63

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crisp, Intriguing and Highly Enjoyable, 11 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Acolyte (Audio CD)
The recent resurgence of electronic music has been an interesting one to observe. It has manifested itself in a variety of forms. Initially a few years ago there were artists like Klaxons, Shiny Toy Guns and CSS who balanced the use of guitars, synths and various effects and samples. Then more recently Friendly Fires and Late of the Pier continued the trend before it was overtaken by a plethora of female vocalists to varrying degrees of success. Now though Delphic are taking it back for the bands.

Their debut album, `Acolyte', has been heralded as "the first great album of the decade" and has been compared to early New Order. I am as of yet unconvinced by both of these statements, but it is none the less a good offering. The whole album does run on an almost constant high from start to finish with glittering synths and crisp vocal harmonies. But if you peel off this glossy pop film there is actually something quite interesting underneath. They haven't just confined themselves to making radio friendly chart fillers that could have been oh so simple. Instead there is more focus on the actual music that drives the whole the beast. `Red Lights' and the title track are both prime examples of this where the clicking and bouncing rhythms take centre stage for much of the track and the vocals are used more as an instrument. Obviously there are also moments of pure pop with tracks like `Doubt' but because of the quality of the music underneath these also stand up to scrutiny.

Delphic then have produced an intriguing album with many very nice moments of both pop, and intelligent dance. It is well worth a listen as gems can be found within.


This Is War
This Is War
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.96

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good fight!, 7 Dec. 2009
This review is from: This Is War (Audio CD)
Let me start with a simple statement. If you already like 30 Seconds to Mars or you like first single `Kings and Queens' then you will more than likely enjoy the album. It's that simple, but it's not to say that it is overly generic. Of course it has its own style but I would be disappointed if it didn't `cause that's what makes 30STM stand out from the crowd.

The whole album sounds like some kind of underground resistance going on between 30STM and the rest of the world. This makes sense of course once you know that the band went through a lawsuit with their record company and that they made this album at the same time while locked away in a house in the Hollywood Hills. Throughout the lyrics sound like the angry testimonial of a rebel with same emotion being reflected by the various anthemic chorus parts scattered throughout the record.

This angry and rebellious atmosphere is laid bare at the very start with a droning undertone overlain by a rolling drum beat which grows in intensity before Jared Leto's first vocal comes in declaring "It's time to escape". The vocals on the track are almost spat out at moments before the first choral shout of "This is war". It's an atmospheric opening. `Night of the Hunter' then strikes the first serious blow with a powerful drum line that drops away to allow space for some calculating vocals that grow into a chorus that is simultaneously epic and claustrophobic. The first single `Kings and Queens' is a defiant shout that demands respect from the listener from start to finish. The title track then is a chance for the rebellion to start gaining pace. The tapping rhythm is intriguing and it allows space for the vocals to lead the track through the verse and into the chorus like a call to arms. It doesn't just call for you to fight though, the lyrics also offer the chance of freedom at the end of it.

After `100 Suns' which is a brief yet pleasant acoustic moment on the album which makes it all a bit more personal the sound returns to one of demanding claustrophobia in `Hurricane'. It feels like a more personal track than those preceding `100 Suns' whether this is a result of the brief acoustic number or not is debatable, but you can be sure the lyrics and emotions of the track are raw and intense. Lyrics like "Do you really want me dead?" hit home to great effect. `Closer to the Edge' follows this intimacy then with more wide screen ambitions and hope, emphasised by the energy of the drums and the choral moments. `Vox Populli' build on the widescreen ambitions with urgency. It feels like the final rally call before the storm.

The start of the storm though is strangely quiet. `Search and Destroy' is in fact almost more questioning than aggressive to start with which is quite a nice surprise. It does however grow subtly into something more aggressive but without ever becoming abrasive. `Alibi' is then another quiet moment after the surprisingly brief storm. It's a moment of reflection more than anything else in fact. `Stranger in a Strange Land' then is a very dark song with powerful lyrics and brooding atmosphere created by rattling drums and malicious synth lines. It feels like the violent gesticulation at the end of a fight. Strange then that it is not the last track on the album instead it is followed by `L490' which is just an oddly atmospheric instrumental closer designed I expect to balance the atmospheric start.

Over all it is a strong album that loses its way towards the end, though this is mainly due to track ordering rather than a reduction in the quality of music. It has moments of atmosphere, emotion, widescreen ambition and aggression all balanced and portrayed effectively. It is well worth a listen in the cold winter months.


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