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A Killer for That Ache
A Killer for That Ache
Price: 13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilde Marie Kjersem- A Killer For That Ache LP Review (7.5/10), 13 Oct 2008
This review is from: A Killer for That Ache (Audio CD)
When I was 14 I found my first dead squirrel lying on a road, when Hilde Marie Kjersem was 14 she played her first gig. Now she's 27, her 13 years of experience making her a veteran by music industry standards, and releasing quality albums such as this year's `A Killer For That Ache,' a diverse compilation of songs revolving around her powerful, dulcet voice and its accompaniment of creative instrumentation. Over its 11 tracks Kjersem takes us on a journey that begins at innocence, moves to personal doubt and social outrage, but then ends victoriously with affirmation in the face of scepticism.

It all begins in rather understated fashion though with the first couple of songs, `Sleepyhead' and `Mary Full of Grace,' with their focus on winsome vocals and spare backing, and one may be forgiven for being initially underwhelmed, but `A Killer For That Ache' is undoubtedly one of those albums that reward repeated listens. It's full of hidden treasures that creep up on you and cast each song in a new light, such as the tense, foreboding trumpet in the verse of `Midwest Country,' or the spacey moog that closes `Fantasy' in a surreal vein. No song sounds like the one preceding it, and often individual songs contain striking transitions of their own, like that heard in `It Is Easy,' which begins with lamenting piano and guitar but then switches to lively jazz clarinet before collapsing into a manic section of downwards-spiralling flute, frightened yells and paranoid, reverb-laden guitar.

But musical shape shifting is not what `A Killer For That Ache' is primarily about. Above all, these are songs of quiet internal triumph over externally insurmountable difficulties; songs, such as `Marie Antoinette' and `London Bridge,' that set artfully understated overtones of exaltation against their apparently calamitous underpinnings. Chief among them is the penultimate track, `Catching A Star,' which, from two opening verses of wistful acoustic guitars, horns and autoharp, gives way to an uprising of celebratory electric guitar and a defiant, rapturous final verse, with Kjersem singing, "I cannot be-aware of what lies ahead/ I can only find out for myself instead." With this line she ends the album on a high, knowing that triumph is not about the actual acquisition of an object, but about resolving to act and to persevere.

And persevere is what everyone should do with `A Killer For That Ache,' because they will definitely find themselves inspired. It is an album that, lead by a stunning voice, runs through a formidable array of emotion, sounds and styles; and anyone who truly delves into it once, will delve into it again and again. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: Cat Power, Nina Nastasia, Jarboe, Feist, Kate Bush, She Keeps Bees.

The Fist and the Laurels
The Fist and the Laurels
Price: 11.83

4.0 out of 5 stars Speedking- The Fist and the Laurels LP Review (7.5/10), 10 Oct 2008
One of the charges often levelled against noise-rock is that it's a very grey genre, whose annals are littered with albums that for all their ferocious abandon are decidedly lacking in the variety department. Fans of the genre (and I include myself here) often find that a fairly typical album involves a duo or trio of blistering opening tracks, which they lap up with glee, followed by a dreary slog through ten more of the same minus the venom and the liberating sense of subversion. Many have lost interest as a result and moved on to something else, convinced that there is nothing new for them under the noise-rock Sun. These people however, would do well to look up the now unfortunately defunct Speedking, a Brooklyn three-piece whose drummer was none other than the DFA's James Murphy, and their great lost album, The Fist and the Laurels.

The Fist and the Laurels, recorded in 1997 but not released until 2002 due to the band's breakup, doesn't just stick to the tried and tested noise rock formula of trebly, dissonant guitar married to propulsive, squelchy bass and titanic drumming. Added to the usual mix are such electronic instruments as synthesizers and drum machines, which Speedking use on the album to maximum effect (in the process foretelling the litany of electro and dance-rock bands who would emerge to much larger acclaim in the 21st Century). The opener, `What is a Mason,' begins with an ethereal synthesizer hum that, with the addition of an insidious bass line, segues to and from a riot of fierce electric guitar slashing. And with this rousing beginning the album runs the gamut from violent guitar-driven tirades against alienation (`Yi Ma,' `Put Me Up Against The Wall') to desolate ambient soundscapes (`Orphans,' `Mannikin') to comfortably numb affirmations of the harshness of life (`Hearts and Flowers,' `Trans/Resistr Now').

Throughout the duration of The Fist and the Laurels, the band effortlessly switches between an aloof cool and a frantic zeal, sometimes in the course of the same song, and the listener is often left feeling gratifyingly disoriented and challenged as a result. But Speedking weren't a bunch of overindulgent virtuosos: every single guitar, bass, drum and synthesizer part has a purpose and a tangible effect, and every addition to the fray raises it to a new intensity. In sum, with Speedking, nothing was an afterthought and everything killed. (Simon Chandler)

Overexposure CD
Overexposure CD
Price: 11.30

4.0 out of 5 stars The Wayward- Overexposure LP Review (8/10), 8 Oct 2008
This review is from: Overexposure CD (Audio CD)
There are two kinds of people on this Earth: those who prefer to take things easy and those who are happy only when busy, when sweating in the heat of a hundred different tasks executed at a hundred miles an hour. My dear old mum used to say that The Wayward belonged to this latter group, but then she hadn't heard the band's second full length `Overexposure,' for if she had she would've surely agreed that an entirely new categorization was needed, since to say that the album is the nocturnal emission in waiting of every hyperactive ADD-suffering rock fan out there would be akin to saying Hitler was a little bit bad.

For those unfamiliar with them, the Wayward are a Virginian three-piece who specialize in a dense and hectic fusion of math, noise and prog rock with a little bit of metal thrown in to finish off anyone who isn't quite floored by the end of `Detective Story,' the second track on `Overexposure.' They've recorded an album that, bar a few intros, interludes, bridges and codas veering from the confidently laidback to the enigmatic, is nothing but ceaseless and relentless movement. Within its labyrinth of robotically discharged vitriol, spidery yet powerful guitar riffs spin around frantically and threaten to take off, churning bass lines convulse with inhuman rapidity, and the skins of dead cows are psychotically beaten just to make sure that they don't return to life. The musicianship, particularly of guitarist Nick Skrobisz, but also of his bassist brother Jesse, is staggering throughout and the band use their chops to whip up an unshakeable sense of emergency and social extremity. Songs such as `Antiseptic' and `Neutral Observer' rocket by in a hail of notes, seething destructively as they go and leaving the listener wishing he had opted to do something less stressful, like wrestling alligators while fighting the Taliban.

Yet for all their single-minded viciousness and unwillingness to slow down, The Wayward certainly know how to draw on a wide range of influences and make use of structural dynamics. `Peacock,' an album highlight, sounds like Baroque classical music put through a blender and played by the criminally insane; the aforementioned `Detective Story' begins with an ominous intro of lightly picked chords before abruptly bursting into a marathon of jittery guitar gymnastics; while album closer `Shovel' features an intricate and jazzy bridge that gives way to an explosive finale.

If nothing else, `Overexposure' is music for the over-worked and over-stimulated children of the 21st Century, an album so busy one is able to forget themselves for the best part of fifty storming minutes. The only weak side to it is the vocal performance of Nick Skrobisz, which is admittedly nondescript and distant, but since there's so much going on, and since he's the one playing all those crazy guitar parts as well, we'll let him off the hook I think. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: Don Caballero, Oxbow, Mastodon, Iceburn, The Jesus Lizard, Today Is The Day

Proof of Dark CD
Proof of Dark CD
Price: 10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Aughra- Proof of Dark Matter-Light the Lights LP (6.5/10), 8 Oct 2008
This review is from: Proof of Dark CD (Audio CD)
Perhaps the most well known formulation of Plato's was his Allegory of the Cave, a dark and confined interior space inhabited by a small group of chained prisoners who spend their days watching the shadows cast by various out of sight objects placed behind them. Interpreted as a warning against taking our sensory perceptions as indicative of the reality of the world as it is in itself, the Allegory has been celebrated for having had a profound influence on philosophical thought for over two thousand years.

But it also seems as though the musical world has been deeply moved by the tale of the Cave, or at least Aughra (also known as Brent Eyestone of Forensics and Corn on Macabre) has, for with his first full-length LP `Proof of Dark Matter | Light the Lights', he has recorded an album that concerns itself with the ethereal traces of life, love and reality. Over the course of nine tracks, or ten with the CD version of the album, he paints a stark landscape of distant echoes, cosmic howls and ghostly static fuzz, an ambient wasteland over which monumental electronic drones and the occasional vaporous guitar hauntingly loom in and out of our bewildered consciousnesses.

Intriguingly the album begins on a remarkably sanguine note with `Et in Arcadia Ego,' a track in which a glacial wave of heavily processed guitar rises in intensity to fill the speakers and a hopeful bass line dances blithely in its undercurrent. The piece truly sounds like a birth, full of optimism and euphoria, so it comes as mild culture shock to hear its immediate successor, `The Warmth of the Shallows,' take a sudden u-turn into the bleak and desolate sounds of abandoned space. From this transformation the rest of the album follows suit, and Aughra employs his talent for ambient electronica to afford us an obscured glimpse of incomprehensible transmissions from long evacuated space stations (`There is Nothing Tender in My Resignation'), trudges through snowy industrial ruins (`And the Decision to Eviscerate'), and the Heavens turning to violence (`Peers Become Prey').

`Proof of Dark Matter' does finish with something that could be construed as relatively positive, but like the album as a whole, `Ode on An Urn' begins in the hope of transcendence, with its reverb-laden and uplifting piano, only to prematurely collapse as if under the weight of its own expectations. But don't let this put you off; if you have a taste for evocative ambient electronica peppered by indie that sounds as if it was recorded in a black hole, then `Proof of Dark Matter' is a work you should definitely delve into. With it, Aughra has created the kind of music that stays with you long after you've finished listening, lingering in your unconscious and subtly colouring your view of the world, undetected, like the dark matter of which the album is undoubtedly the proof. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: Auburn Lull, The Asuza Plane, Windsor for the Derby, Aphex Twin, Mogwai.

In The House Of Mirrors
In The House Of Mirrors
Price: 14.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hector Zazou & Swara- In the House of Mirrors LP Review (8.5/10), 1 Oct 2008
This review is from: In The House Of Mirrors (Audio CD)
Inviting four outstanding musicians from India and Uzbekistan, Hector Zazou and friends step into a virtual hall of mirrors in which sound is reflected from one note to another. Featuring Toir Kuziyev (tambur & oud), Milind Raykar (violin), Ronu Majumbar (flute) and Manish Pingle (Indian slide guitar), `In the House of Mirrors' was recorded in Mumbai. Re-creation and fusion projects involving culturally embedded sounds can so easily turn into watered down world music by numbers, a worthy criticism of so many such releases on major labels as well as on specialist labels like ECM. Well forget all that and rest assured as what `In The House of Mirrors' does is something very special indeed. Zazou not only assembles a cast of experienced and extremely talented instrumentalists from a number of cultures but gives them the opportunity and scope to utilise their instruments in the way that was originally intended whilst reproducing this sound in an authentic and (thankfully) non-glossy anti-Westernised pop approach.

Such specialist Asian sounds stem from a culture of music where time is free, not compacted and commoditised for commercial gain. As such, `In The House of Mirrors' faithfully showcases tones that are naturally elongated to make drawn out and unhurried soundscapes which flow naturally in the music's own personal time-zone. Such freedom gives the instruments a welcome and contextualising breathing space instead of curt and unnatural boundaries which restricts scope and the conveyance of meaning from the music.

What stands out about this release is that these unabated classical Asian sounds are enhanced by their delicate interaction with the subtlest of electronic treatments. From brushes of electroid flairs to subtle glitches, these electronic sounds add an intense sense of atmosphere, almost a kind of electricity, to proceedings thus accentuating the timbre of the traditional instrumentation. Zazou explains that "the use of electronic treatments and reflections interact with the way the musicians play, and reinforces the spiritual aspect of the music, just as church acoustics do with Gregorian chant". Throughout its 10 track span, richly textured soundscapes arranged in a minimalist yet stirring vein, bob buoyantly and enchantingly like the texture of smoke. From the deliciously drone-laden `Attainable Border: South' to the sparkling journey in the heart of darkness which is `Hool Ki Seva', `In the House of Mirrors' is consistently moody and evocative, as sounds bow and arc with a refined majesty that brings to mind visions of the Thar Desert coated in the rich navy blue and golden glow of dusk. Even though it was mentioned before that the tones are elongated and naturally spaced, this never means that music drifts without intention. Rather the instruments and deft electronics combine to weave a harmonious and deeply emotive tapestry steeped in the deep rooted traditions of the Eastern realm. The trembling resonance of the tambur, slide guitar and oud eschew a mystical and shadowy quality, a quality that sounds like the micro-vibrations of a thousand feathers and tugs at the heart strings with its melancholy fervor. The introduction of Spanish flutist Carlos Nuñez, Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet, flamenco pianist Diego Amador and Hungarian violinist Zoltan Lantos serves to add an extra dimension, giving a distinctive sense of flair to soundscape.

Twenty-five years after laying the foundations for afro-electronic fusion and after many groundbreaking albums, Hector Zazou has succeeded in bringing a fresh and contemporary vision to the music of the East. Meddling with such organic sounds can lead to distressed results but Zazou and his group of talented musicians have perfectly captured the dark and mystical qualities of classical Asian music and have cleverly accentuated the deep-set atmosphere through the use of the subtlest micro-electronics and Western instrumentation. (KS)

For fans of: Anouar braham, Anoushka Shankar, Debashish Bhattacharya, Toumani Diabaté

Afraid To Dance
Afraid To Dance
Price: 12.92

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Port Royal- Afraid to Dance Double 12" Review (8/10), 28 Sep 2008
This review is from: Afraid To Dance (Audio CD)
**This review refers to the double 12" version of 'Afraid to Dance' which includes a new version of the track 'Deca Dance' and a previously unreleased remix of 'Roliga Timmen' by Degar.**

Hailing from Genova, Italy, Port Royal are a little known bastian of authentic beauty in a burgeoning and usually uninspiring post-rock meets electronica scene. The hour long, 8 track `Afraid to Dance' is a special double 12" version of their second album of the same name and sees the heartstring-tugging Italians make their first foray into dance-orientated electronica. Utilising a wide variety of stylistic traits can be a cumbersome responsibility and result in a messy and unfulfilling piece of work. Thankfully then, it is refreshing to hear that Port Royal have gone to great lengths to evoke truly stirring emotion from their compositions. Fusing the touching poignancy of post-rock with ethereal swathes of ambience, icy shards of electro-glitch and gentle skirmishes of melodic dance-based electronica- the group develop soundscapes which take immediate hold, vividly captivating listeners through a blend of optimistic beauty and melancholic romanticism.

From the stunning crafted opener `Bahnhof Zoo' to penultimate track `German Bigflies', Port Royal encapsulate the haunting resonance of dark and emotive post-rock at its very best. Similar to modern-day Mogwai, they tred an elongated and naturally un-urgent path; its depressed melodic motifs, drag-beats and melancholic accentuations wafting across each others paths in a drawn-out yet crystallized vein. Angelic vocal murmurs and found-sound lace the deftly crafted melodic motifs of the foreground, creating depth and realism to an already bustling soundboard. On `Putin vs Valery', these otherworldly background vocal hums hover eagle-like and ring out with a delightful high-frequency resonance whilst clusters of bustling, dredged up fuzz-beats and snippets of narrative meet with soaring melodics to stunning effect. This is what 65 Days of Static wish they could make.

The B-Side of the first 12" makes a marked move towards Port Royal's dance-music leanings. The tempo-shifting `Anya: Sehnsucht' sees sparkling melodic reverberations elongate and splinter, accentuating a busy backdrop of heavy trip-hop beats and floating ambience. Warm and throbbing, the follow-up `Deca Dance' is unashamed in its deliberations, exploring a richly textured and kaleidoscopic post-dance groove-scape which builds up and drowns out in an ocean of euphoric electro-emotion. Staying true to their A-grade influences and covering vast amounts of ground on one track, the meandering `Internet Love' on the C-Side sees Port Royal commence with a glitchy yet tranquil `Boards of Canada' ambience before dropping into deeper and darker thickset trip-hop beats that go on to morph into a lush Lindstrom-esque slice of future-disco.

`Afraid to Dance' showcases a band that are at ease with themselves and with the genres they utilise. The concatenation of complementary genres can be a turgid and unfocused affair in lesser hands but Port Royal know how to whip up a frenzy, be it subtle and expressive or pronounced and rocking. With a forthcoming third album and a remix of their debut album all in the pipeline, Port Royal are sure to cast their pulsating and emotive soundwaves across a wider audience in the coming months and years. (KS)

For fans of: Icebreaker International, Boards of Canada, Murcof, Lindstrom, late-Mogwai
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2009 1:43 PM BST

Tori Neji
Tori Neji
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 9.86

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nisennenmondai- Tori/Neji LP Review (8/10), 24 Sep 2008
This review is from: Tori Neji (Audio CD)
Garnering much attention in the West after appearances with the likes of Lightning Bolt, Hella, Battles and No Age, Smalltown Supersound have taken it upon themselves to unleash the beast that is Nisennenmondai to non-Japanese arenas. Consisting of three deviously innocent looking girls, Nisennenmondai are a noise-rock trio who have caused seismic waves in their notoriously thrill-seeking and experimentalist homeland. With strong instrumentalism and a knack for creating a `bounce', the trio drill out walls of distortion which meet with the angularised rhythmic skeleton of kraut-rock grooves. Being made up of the bands two domestically released EP's, `Neji/Tori' consists of 9 tracks totaling some 58 minutes and a few of the track titles reference the trios first-class influences.

Commencing with the `Neji' EP, the trio rock out across 5 tracks of distressed math rock which is less crushing and more melodious than `Tori'. Sounding like a raw, pre-production Battles, opener `Pop Group' is a delightfully interesting and extremely rockable take on industrialized disco-rock with its groove-laden metallic clatter soaring eagle-like into an acid cloud of cosmic-grind. Follow-up track `This Heat' writhes on an ever-pulsing bass groove that evokes images of Can meets Birthday Party whilst `Sonic Youth' and `Ikkkyokume' totally re-write the leftfield-rock rule books as they instigate a danceable aesthetic into a crushing whirlwind of psychedelic rock.

The `Tori' EP picks up the pace with its manically constructed set of kraut-derived groove based anti-rock songs which paint a picture in which the rapidly approaching horizon continuously melts in front of you. Utilising a set of almost commercial alt-rock rhythms, they set about deconstructing them in an intricately executed manner so much so that the keen sense of melody is spun so fast, it threatens to fall off its axis. What does it sound like? Well, calamitous percussion, frayed guitar warp and pulsating bass tones that meld into a structured cacophony of angular post-punk dissonance.

`Tori/Neji' is the sound of a trio that want to explore the outer cosmos through their instruments but want to do it via the medium of some sweat-soaked nightclub. Their ability to build up from a relatively straight-edged math-rock core into a psychedelic free-form assault on the senses must be heard.
Rockable, crushing and danceable, the trio cleverly pit these free-form noise-rock clattering against melodious grooves to deliver exciting and original pieces. Lightning Bolt are another entity who has, on recent releases, melded bouncing dance-orientated motifs with unrelenting noise-rock but theirs is a far more crushing proposition. Nisennenmondai on the other hand deal with a less accentuated and more reigned-in sound but it is nevertheless a sound that writhes, wrangles and pounds with impressive authority. (KS)

For fans of: Hella, Lightning Bolt, Boredoms, Skullflower, Battles and Liars all put into a psychedelic blender

Johnson & Jonson
Johnson & Jonson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Johnson&Johnson s/t LP Review (8.5/10), 24 Sep 2008
This review is from: Johnson & Jonson (Audio CD)
Comprising of Blu and Mainframe, `Johnson&Johnson' is one of three projects Blu has worked on (C.R.A.C, Below The Heavens, Johnson&Johnson) and was originally intended as a mixtape for `Below The Heavens'. Intended as Blu's rap/swagger project it takes the undeniable beat-crafting and melodious instrumental arranging skills showcased so bluntly in his other projects and combines them with a new type of personality that digs deep into the crates of other genres from the last several decades.

With `Johnson&Johnson' the duo have created a brash and unique sound that has their stamp all over it. Fusing swiftly spitted, conscious hip-hop into a contemporised brew of soul, funk, rock and r'n'b, the results are nothing short of impressive. With plenty of stylistic variation and cleverly crafted arrangements that burn into the mind and possess the longevity associated with the classic genres they utilise, this release shows how far hip-hop can go whilst still remaining firmly rooted in its core. Theatrical tracks heavily layered with live instrumentation and thickset beats bounce with an undeniable groove whilst Blu and Mainframe's tongue-in-cheek raps flow easy on the ear. The summery Cali sound seeps through every instrumental pore as the duo display a visceral live energy and undeniable swagger that expands upon the C.R.A.C sound.

From the crunching rock-fuelled riffage driving forward the bustling opener `Finally' to the bragging and boasting aesthetic of `Still Up All Night' which rides upon a 90's West Coast vibe, `Johnson&Johnson' plough through a variety of stylistic traits and subject matters. From summery old-skool influenced sounds to contemporary urban bangers, the album has the ingredients to satisfy anybody whose into or interested in hip-hop. `Up All Night' is a case in point as it rides a skeletal and down-tempo bass-heavy instrumental that meanderings in captivating fashion and which is set ever-so-slightly out of sync from the unwavering flows, thus exuding a warm live feel. Lyrically the track, as with the rest of the album, features clever and humor-laden metaphors like "I've been OG'ing it since Adam called Eve a bitch". Nice. The Seventies psychedelic funk melody underpinning the Kwali-esque `Half a Knot' delights as the duo totally rip up the track with their fierce, point-blank flows whilst 'Wow' takes this liquid funk aesthetic and morphs it into a deep, driving slice of David Axelrod-esque big pimping.

Covering a wide range of subject matters, narratives range from the gangsterised swagger of `Get the Name Straight' to the gambling-based `Go For the Gusto Room' featuring Bo Bo Lamb which is a dramatic piece of humor-filled hip-hop that plays out like a musical story-board. In `The Only Way', a slice of buoyant soul-funk, they showcase their love of the game and not the love of the fame, spitting lyrics like "I ain't laying down my soul for gold or any forms of bills" over a busy beatscape that is laced with a classic soul-funk sample.

With so much quality across the album, a mixtape release for this project would have indeed been a disappointing outcome. It deservedly merits its full length release status and stands proud amongst Blu's other projects as well as contending with "real" hip-hop albums from the likes of Kwali, Mos Def and Lyrics Born. The duo's personable approach, tongue-in-cheek yet totally on-point flows, heavily textured instrumentals, warm production techniques and swaggering grooves have created an album full of classic tracks that combine the old-skool and new-skool hip-hop ideologies in perfect harmony. If you only buy one off-kilter hip-hop release this year, make it Johnson&Johnson. (KS)

For fans of: Common, Talib Kwali, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch

Unholy Majesty
Unholy Majesty
Offered by Hausmusik
Price: 20.05

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ROSE KEMP- UNHOLY MAJESTY REVIEW, 24 Sep 2008
This review is from: Unholy Majesty (Audio CD)
With influences ranging from Sabbath to The Melvins, from Tom Waits to Earth, `Unholy Majesty' was never going to be an ordinary proposition. Its skillfully arranged multi-hook harmonies and majestic instrumentation bring into play a unique concoction of pastoral leftfield folk, gothic atmospherics, epic post-metal crunch, psychedelic doom and spiraling prog-rock, all delivered in a rich, Seventies, analog dynamic. Part of folk-rock heritage, Rose is the daughter of Maddy Prior and Rick Kemp from seminal, pioneering British band `Steeleye Span'. After releasing her debut album `Glance' on Park Records, Kemp traded in her acoustic guitar for an electric and took the turbulent journey into the tempestuous world of leftfield rock. Following on from 07's `A Handful of Hurricanes' in which Kemp started to forge her experimental sound, we are now graced by this latest 10 tracker which showcases great versatility, immense production values and that oh so riveting voice.

`Unholy Majesty' is bookended by two dizzyingly progressive pieces. Being grandiose alt.rock tinged with an epic post-metal flair and combined with Kemp's hauntingly operatic vocals, both pieces grind and meander across a gothic soundscape that progresses story-like, delivering both a sense of dread and a sense of lush beauty. In between these bruisers, we find Kemp in more serene territory, territory which does however explode every so often with galvanizing riffage that could wake the dead. 'Flawless' and `Nature's Hymn' are touching alt.folk lullabies that portray Kemp's ethereal side and really bring through her exquisite range of depth whilst `Saturday Night' takes this serene formula and steeps it in a more vibrant and darker, Radiohead-esque aesthetic. `Wholeness Sounds' perfectly showcases the albums immense production values with its rich and harmonious tapestry of fleeting organ-drone, subtle cosmic feedback, metronomic percussives and backbone guitar melody that drips with a melancholy majesty. Kemp's vocals writhe with a gentle and feminine charm before the whole track drops into a heroic stomp that will have live crowds in spazz-mode.

Kemp's powerful vocals have to be heard to be believed and the epic setting in which it is displayed makes for an even greater proposition. The snarling atmospherics and ever-expanding riffage are easy to imitate but difficult to make unique, however, `Unholy Majesty' has managed to twist a clutch of influences into a proprietary sound. Those with less musical knowledge would most probably compare the sound of `Unholy Majesty' with that of Evanescence but in reality there is far more going on and Jarboe's lysergic, avant-rock stomp would be a more fitting comparison. (KS)

For fans of: Jarboe, Neurosis, Titan

We Have Everything We Need
We Have Everything We Need
Price: 5.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We Have Everything We Need LP Review (7.5/10), 21 Sep 2008
Shelleyan Orphan's first new album in 16 years comes at a time where alternative-folk is riding a heady wave of popularity across Europe and the States. Formed in Bournemouth in 1983 by Caroline Crawley and Jem Taylor, the duo eventually signed to Rough Trade in 1985. Brought together by their love of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and combining their love of all musical genres, they created an unusual blend of pop, utilising a full range of classical instruments including some obscure instruments (Strumento da Porca, Tamboura). Coupling this with their obscure and wide-ranging influences (Sparks, Delius, Joy Division) theirs was a sound that was unique in the British scene of the late 80's and early 90's. After their lengthy hiatus, the duo (along with a host of instrumentalists and international orchestra's) has created a piece of art that takes their early influences and expands them across a contemporary spectrum. Bringing into play elements of rock, pop, Americana, trip-hop and folk and arranging them into grandiose spectacles, Shelleyan Orphan are an entirely new proposition to behold.

With its subtle trip-hop aesthetic, `How a Seed is Sown' features distorted guitars and heavy percussion that provide a skeletal rock energy to the sweeping strings and smoky yet graceful vocals that elongate with a soothing and drift-worthy characteristic. On the darkly tantalizing Scandinavian-esque mystery-tale charm of `Judas', Shelleyan Orphan drive forward with lush orchestral instrumentation that glitters with an eerie resonance whilst the tender vocals disperse vapor-like, syllables hanging high in the noir-ish atmosphere. From the upbeat jangly folk-steeped Americana of `Something Pulled Me' through to the tension soaked somberness of `Host' and the sugary pop-folk of `Your Shoes', Shelleyan Orphan deliver a wide palette of emotions through their sound. This diversity can serve to divide listener's opinions and make for a fragmented album, then again, its versatility can make the album appeal to a wider audience and every listen can reveal a new favourite depending on one's mood.

Whist 16 years is a long time to wait, Shelleyan Orphan have returned with a sound that places Caroline's and Jem's uniquely beautiful vocals at the forefront and props them up with arrangements that, as well as being more diverse, are more calculated, mature and patient. As a reward to patient fans, a winter tour is planned and a 4CD/DVD box set is also due out featuring all four albums, a bonus disc of unreleased music and a DVD. (KS)

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