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Amplified Man (Manchester)

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Peeping Tom
Peeping Tom
Price: £10.04

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peeping Brilliance, 31 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Peeping Tom (Audio CD)
Mike Patton has been pretty inconsistent these past couple of years. Let me recap; The period of decline, for me, began with Mit Gas by Tomahawk. It was pretty good and has some brilliant tracks but was no where near as good or consistent as the debut album. Delirium Cordia by Fantomas, the big 75min `soundtrack to a surgery disaster' was hit or miss. I mean, how often was it going to get a listen, really? Patton's collaboration with John Kaada was a bit too esoteric and formless and a bit forgettable. The General Patton & The X-Ecutioners was just crappy. Didn't like that one at all. Then came the big surprise; Suspended Animation by Fantomas. I was really anticipating this one and was excited when I got it because the cover art was so good; done by Yoshimoto Nara. It was possibly the worst one yet; just a recap of the first album but crammed with cartoonish samples. It's was uninspired, too schizophrenic and completely forgettable.
Therefore I was hesitant before getting Peeping Tom. Patton has been working on it for years, compiling respected guest musicians such as Dan The Automator, Kool Keith, Massive Attack, Rahzel, Amon Tobin and Norah Jones amongst others.
Hesitant I was indeed.
Stuck it in the player and I heard beats (as I was expecting with Dan The Automator on board) then Patton's smooth croon slid into the mix over a steady beat. Ahh, could be good this. The chorus to Five Seconds is a schizo Tomahawk-esque blast, with guitars whilst the verses are smooth beat oriented croons. This goes for quite a few tracks. It's not done badly though, as is very easily could have been. Everything seems right, fits and compliments everything else.
The first sketchy moment was the lyrics in the chorus to Mojo; "Now roll it up and smoke it again, now line me up and snort it again, now fix it up and shoot it again, I can't believe I did it again". I hope he's taking the piss. Midlife crisis anyone?
Don't Even Trip is a collaboration with Amon Tobin and is one of my favourites, it's naturally a bit darker than the rest of the songs and has a really catchy chorus. Kook Keith provides his undeniable vocal talents to Getaway and Your Neighborhood Spaceman is a very easy Dan The Automator style trip hop tune even though it's one of the ones he's not on.
The first downfall comes in the form of track six; Kill The DJ, a collaboration with Massive Attack. That's a shame because I was hoping that was going to be one of the best; it's just a bit dull.
The next surprise is Sucker, featuring Norah Jones. It's not an easy ballad as you would expect and Patton has got her singing "There's one born every minute, Sucker, Sucker, So keep it in your pants boy, Sucker, Sucker, What makes you think you're my only lover, the truth kinda hurts don't it mother f***er". Genius!!
We're Not Alone is another favourite. Dale Crover (from the Melvins) provides the drums on most tracks and lays down a nice beat here. It's the simple, steady beats I like best, that's why I like Dan the Automator so much. This track bursts onto a Faith No More style rock chorus and it's catchy as hell. Definitly a good track.
Patton has actually expanded his musicianship too; he plays bass, guitar and keyboards on here as well as singing and beatboxing, who needs a whole band anyway!?
Peeping Tom is very much a pleasant surprise and is by far and away Patton's best release in the last three or four years. The collaborations and the time he's spent on it have given him a new lease of life, and even though most of the album is beat oriented, tracks like We're Not Alone and Five Seconds reassure us that he's not gone over to the dark side and still loves his rock and roll. There are some dubious lyrics scattered throughout, but they're probably tongue in cheek.
Overall, Peeping Tom is pretty consistent, it's varied (as if it wouldn't be), the collaborations are all good bar Massive Attack and most of it you'll be singing for days afterward.
Nice one Mr. P, reassurance that you can still realease some inspired music. I think the fact that it works is due to it's less esoteric and less idiosynchratic nature. It's a record for the people!

Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £11.15

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zombified, 31 Aug. 2006
This review is from: SURFACE TO AIR (Audio CD)
Zombi are a band I've heard a bit about, probably due to the fact that they're on Relapse. I dismissed them becasue the average Relapse bands I'm not too bothered with; just extreme for extreme's sake sometimes. But I heard that Isis took them on tour with them and that got my ears pricked up. It even said on the sticker on the front of the CD they were similar to Isis and Pelican. Not to skirt around the point; they're not like Pelican or Isis.

Zombi consist of Steve Moore on bass and synths and A.E. Paterra on drums. They' play some interesting stuff to be sure, like nothing I've heard before. They're a bizarre mix of Ozric Tentacles, OK then - maybe a bit of Isis, and old school computer game music. The drum patterns and the bass riffs belong to the progressive post rock style stuff but the synths are really cheesy and old fashioned like from an 80's film score or computer game. But instead of having a repellent affect they're strangely fitting and an interesting twist to say the least.

I'm really into this after several listens actually; the synths usually provide a simple loop and then washes of texture and string replications, the drums build and add the rhythm. The whole effect is very trance inducing and hypnotic; like Ozric Tentacles darker stuff.

Saying they're like Isis and Pelican is a cheap shot to sucker in people (It worked with me!) and to categorise, but Zombi deserve their own place and have certainly stamped their place in the instrumental post rock world with Surface To Air in my book. The packaging consists of some astonishing abstract aerial shots of Earth which fit really well with the vibe of the music.

It's definitely something for everyone I think, especially people into instrumental rock and music with interesting twists, but it's definitely too concrete and worthwhile a twist to be called a gimmick.

Hope Isis bring these guys over on their next UK tour.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 19, 2009 4:51 AM BST

Drawing Circles
Drawing Circles
Price: £14.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Drawing Circles, 31 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Drawing Circles (Audio CD)
The first thing you notice about Drawing Circles is that Textures have changed their vocalist. The old vocalist was a bit lifeless and had no character, this new vocalist adds a vast amount to the band. Most notably a bigger character and a better voice, when both screaming and clean.

The music hasn't changed much at all though. They're still operating on the edge of metal and hardcore and use awkward rhythmic devices not unlike pioneers Meshuggah. Drawing Circles has a lot more melody in it than Polars, the previous album, simply because this new guy can actually sing and they're, wisely, making use of it. Clean singing in metal/hardcore it still a bit of a taboo really. Metalheads are scared of appreciating it just in case it turns out to be emo and emo fans are just stupid anyway for liking emo. Because of the emphasis on melody this time there don't seem to be as many catchy or at least discernable riffs like there were on the first record. This doesn't mean there aren't any however, `Denying Gravity' is a fantastic riff, `Millstone' is just mad and the opening section of `Stream of Consciousness' is a lesson in technical thrash.

There was something puzzling me to what separates the two albums and why this new one sounds more ordinary and I think I've figured it out. Polars was self released and self produced and it did sound good but the production was recogniseable becasue ot wasn't a professional job. Drawing Circles benefits(?) from a professional run-of-the-mill production job and now they sound like everyone else. Plus the vocalist, whilst being a lot better, has the usual hardcore/metal screamy voice, the old singer had a limited voice but it was unique. These elements have taken away some of the original appeal of Textures, now they do sound like everyone else. The songwriting and quality of the musicianship though, puts them up there with the best in their field, alongside The Red Chord, The Acacia Strain, Poison The Well etc. They have more subtlety and ideas than those guys though, which probably puts them higher still.

A good record that will probably make quite a few top ten lists but by no means make number 1.

Blood Mountain [U.S. Version]
Blood Mountain [U.S. Version]
Price: £5.54

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood Mountain, 31 Aug. 2006
Along with Tool's and Isis' new albums, Mastodon's Blood Mountain may be one of the most anticipated metal releases of 2006.

All metal fans should know Mastodon by now; 2004's Leviathan was a massive underground sensation and gained them thousands of new fans, it also caused them to lose some through the fact that Leviathan was more melodic and not as brutally heavy as the previous effort; (and best, in my opinion) Remission. Mastodon, for the uninitiated however, are an incredibly technical and creative metal band, and are one of the best things going for the genre at the moment. So Blood Mountain is quite an important record, for the fans as well as the band.

Right off the blocks you immediately know it's them from the furious and complex drumming from the inhuman Brann Dailor. The Wolf Is Loose may be their fastest tune yet and is very old school hardcore in it's approach. The choruses have become more melodic and generally more listenable, they've been working on melody rather than brutality and it's obvious by listening to the whole album alongside to Remission. Whether that's going to take you futher from enjoying Mastodon or make you like them even more is whether you prefer Remission or Leviathan. Blood Mountain is without question for the fans of Leviathan. It has the same crisp production and an even stronger undertone of melody.

There are some brilliant riffs; The Wolf Is Loose, Capillarian Crest, Sleeping Giant, Circle Cysquatch, (I could go on) and they're all filled out by memorable choruses and hooks.

There are also some strange things going on, Circle Cysquatch has a robotic/ vocoded effect on one of the verses and it sounds pretty stupid to be honest. Bladecatcher has this idiotic bleeping and gibbering vocal which also sounds ridiculous. It's as if the album has a more light hearted feel about it which doesn't quite fit with what they're doing.

Josh Homme guests on the track Colony of Birchmen and adds a lot of melody to the track and it makes the song stick out like a sore thumb because it's so different than the rest. The technicality has been halved, but it's a fantastic track and makes a refreshing change.

It's a fantsatic album and takes quite a few listens to appreciate because it's so technical and changes to much.

If I may I will go so far as to say it's easily better than Leviathan and on a par with Remission. It's a unique, catchy, heavy, metal record and will top many people's list of 'best album of 2006'.

However, it's not going to change how you listen to music or revolutionise metal; it's too esoteric. Don't look too deep and expect too much; it's simply a fantastic metal album.

Offered by BLUEGOLDFISH1963
Price: £8.99

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Avatar, 31 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Avatar (Audio CD)
Comets On Fire are a band I've known of for a while but not bothered to hear. All I can say is I'm glad I have bothered now!

Comets On Fire play a noisy & psychedelic, form of 70's inspired rock. If you imagine Cream playing with two intertwining guitars and the odd wash of keyboards and noise effects you'd pretty much nail what Comets sound like. It's an intriguing sound and one that's quite addictive to these ears at the moment. It's a sound that's bluesy & layered and takes quite a number of listens to appreciate, like any good record. The hooks and melodies aren't apparrent at first but they do show themselves after some time spent with Avatar.

Dogwood Rust has a very skittish, jazzy rhythm but it's addictive and you know you want more when the chorus kicks in. Jaybird begins in more or less the same vein but is a lot more melodic, utilising the two guitarsists extremely well. Comets have a really solid rhythm section over which evertything else is layered. The vocals aren't as up front as you'd think and everything has it's own oppertunity to shine through the mix.

Lucifer's Memory is probably the highlight, even though it's, in essence, a cheesy ballad. It just harkens back to the vibe of bands like Cream, Pink Floyd, & Led Zeppelin so much it can't not be apprectated. The melodies, guitar, piano and the singer's voice are all so good the cheesiness involved is completely excused.

The Swallow's Eye and Sour Smoke are two pretty lengthy, satisfying psychedelic jam tracks, in fact every track bar Holy Teeth clock in at over 6mins. Holy Teeth is the low point for me. It's a brash, shouty rocker and I'm definitely not adverse to brash, shouty rockers but it doesn't seem to fit within the album at all and disrupts the flow somewhat. Being only 3mins, it's a fairly disposable, uninspiring track. The rest of the album is satisfyingly original yet leaves a taste of all great 70s rock gone before it.

The last 3 tracks aren't as good as the first 4 causing Avatar to droop at the end but it's still a great album. I'll now have to look up more Comets stuff. I've heard that Blue Cathedral is a good one....

The Sun Awakens
The Sun Awakens
Price: £16.37

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sun Awakens, 31 Aug. 2006
This review is from: The Sun Awakens (Audio CD)
It took me ages to get into Ben Chasny's Six Organs of Admittance. I kind of disregarded School of the Flower as being a wimpy, floaty acoustic album and not really worth listening to. That is until I really listened to it. Like all great albums, it's takes a while to sink in; for the melodies, hooks and images to appear.

Once they do appear you realize that The Sun Awakens, like School of the Flower is definitely a wimpy, floaty acoustic album, but it's so much more as well. There's a kind of spitrituality about every Six Organs track, an aura or vibe about it that evokes imagery of the sun throwing it's rays over the apex of a mountain (or is that just the cover art?). It's apt, is all I can say.

The Sun Awakens is another stone in the Six Organs journey. Dark Noontide was very droney and quite dark comparitively. School of the Flower was very spiritual and quite shy and gentle in it's approach. The Sun Awakens is the sound of Six Organs degree after leaving School of the Flower. It's a lot bolder; the vocals are way further up in the mix; there's a lot more percussion and some tracks are less floaty and more immediate. You can see the Comets On Fire side of Ben Chasny creeping into Six Organs as well. The track are more layered, bolder like Comets and feature some pretty cool electric guitar drone chords behind the acoustics.

If you get into it it's avery absorbing album and ultimately satisfying to listen to, just like all the other Six Organs albums I've heard.

The track worth mentioning outright is the epic noise piece `River of Transfiguration' which traverses ambient textures throughout it's 24min running time. It's a lot spookier than the rest of the album and in that respect, doesn't fit right in with the other tracks, especially as there's no hint of an acoustic guitar in there. It's mostly tape drone, effects and electric guitar with a section of scattered drumming and chant-like vocals. It's definitely something to get absorbed in. It's way better than that awful title track from School of the Flower anyway.

The Sun Awakens is a good album but I'm not sure it beats School of the Flower, we'll have to see. Definitely worth a purchase by all types of music lover.

Sun Baked Snow Cave
Sun Baked Snow Cave
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £31.12

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boris & Merzbow, 31 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Sun Baked Snow Cave (Audio CD)
I've been intrigued by this for a while and read lots of reviews to whether it's worth getting. Some people say its OK, some people say it's genius, you never really hear any bad reviews about drone. Maybe because the people who know it exists and acknowledge it as a form of music usually really like it and the others who would hate it simply don't know it's there. Imagine a 20min Sunn O))) video on MTV! It would be hilarious!

If anyone isn't familiar with either Boris or Merzbow, then I will enlighten you. They are probably two of the most recognised Japanise musical acts at the moment in the West, both operating on the extreme and experimental fringe of music's boundaries. Boris (the title of a Melvins song) are a three piece heavy rock band who play fast, aggressive, punk and stoner rock inspired songs under the heading `BORIS' (all capitals). They also play under `boris' (all lower case) where they play a more esoteric form of music called `drone'. The drummer usually switches to second guitar for gigs under this guise and they churn out massive walls of sound and ambient textures for the listener's pleasure. I personally prefer this facet of Boris because, believe it or not, I find it to be more interesting than the plain old rock Boris.

Merzbow (Masami Akita to his mother) is the grandfather of the Japanese experimental noise movement. He began in the mid 1980s and has released uncountable albums, CDs, EPs, vinyl, remixes, and whatever. I think this entire catalogue was all put together in a package called the `Merzbox' and retailed at something like $500.

`'What's `noise'?" I hear you ask. Well, noise, is, er...........noise. It's all electronically fucked-with sounds, samples and effects and layered up it just, literally sounds like excrutiating white noise. I honestly don't know how people can listen to it; Merzbow's usual output just sounds like a microphone in a blender to my ears.

However, thank the lord he's toned it down for `Sun Baked Snow Cave', a huge 62 minute collaborative track between the two.

`Sun Baked Snow Cave' is the aural equivalent of a glacier's life cycle. It builds and grows slowly until it hits it's peak and crushes everything in it's path until it finally recedes and disappears. It's takes you on a journey all right.

Bori's past works have been similar; Feedbacker and Flood being two prime examples. They built, crescendoed then collpsed back in on themselves and returned to their original state. If you're familiar with those two then Sun Baked Snow Cave should be right up your street (sans drums). It's one long piece of experimental drone laced with Merzbow's subtle electronics. It all works magically and is one of my favourite things at the moment. I've sat through it twice already.

If Boris' collab with Merzbow is this good I can't wait for the one with Sunn O))).

Le Fil
Le Fil
Price: £9.56

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My best musical discovery for ages....., 15 May 2006
This review is from: Le Fil (Audio CD)
To point out to another reviewer the "annoying undertone" throughout the record is actually the concept of the entire thing. 'Le Fil' is roughly translated as 'The Thread' hence the line that appears thoughout the packaging. The Thread is a perpetual vocal hum that lasts the entirity of the record. It has a strange effect becasue you end up hearing it even when the album has finished!

Camille sings 98% of the record in her native French and it (if you don't speak it) gives an ethereal mystical quality to it. The saturation of melody in this album more than makes up for the fact that you cannot understand the lyrics.

It's majority is constructed entirely of vocals, a similar concept to Bjork's Medulla album. Camille makes a plethora of noises, ululations and percussive sounds to augment her lyrics and the occasional bass guitar. Theres a goreous bit where she hits a note which gets blended into the same note by a saxophone and the effect is superb.

A fantastic album, varied, innovtive, even catchy. I find myself singing along without knowing what the hell I'm on about! I would say it's an aquired taste but it's worth checking out.

The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon)
The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon)
by Dan Brown
Edition: Paperback

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Can't understand the hype......, 14 April 2006
Why is this so popular? The narrative is poor, the story is your usual run-of-the-mill predictable thriller and the characters are tiresome and grating. The only character you come remotley near to liking dies in the opening scene! Even if the stuff he yammers on about regarding the Holy Grail and the Last Supper is fairly interesting, but none of it is true! Everyone I know who's read it had believed every word in here! It's a work of FICTION!
I can recall few films that have been at least as good as the book they are based upon but I have no doubt the film will be better because the book is so uninspiring, hopefully some good acting may revive the flaccid characters.
Taking credit for other peoples work is one thing but taking credit for other people's crap is entirely another.
To give it some credit the way Dan Brown's become one of the world's biggest selling authors of all time on the back of a bad book is an outstanding effort!

Robot Hive / Exodus
Robot Hive / Exodus
Offered by Smaller World Future
Price: £41.12

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robot Hive/Exodus, 8 Jun. 2005
This review is from: Robot Hive / Exodus (Audio CD)
I have to say, right off the bat that this is Clutch's best album to date. There's always a split with Clutch fans as to whether Elephant Riders or the self titled is their best (I preferred Pure Rock Fury before this came out) and I think it's a testament to how brilliant they are for their best album to be released 15 years into their existence.

For those who haven't heard Clutch, I cannot really articulate their sound in mere words. They're bluesy (a Howlin' Wolf cover appears here), they're funky and groovy and they can be pretty heavy when they want to be.

The music is top notch stuff; you can tell these boys do it for a living. Jean Paul Gaster is one of the best drummers I've seen live, he pulled out a 10 minute drum solo the first time I sawe them. The rhythm section is tight and grooving. Tim Sult, the guitarist is obviously a Hendrix devotee without going over the top.

Now it's Neil Fallon, the vocalist that really takes Clutch to a new level. He's the make or break point to wether you like Clutch or not. His voice is an acquired taste. It's very gruff and powerful yet not harsh as you'd expect. Described as 'the voice of ten men'!. His lyrics are extremely clever and witty too and you'll be singing them for days to come.

To those who have heard Clutch; then you will not be disappointed. It gathers together all the elements that make them an awesome band and is a culmination of their past efforts. It has the solidity and catchiness of Blast Tyrant, but has the technicality and querkiness of Elephant Riders. The songwriting and consistency is up there with the self titled. Robot Hive/Exodus is chock full or catchy choruses, grooving rhythms, & bluesy riffs & is one of the most infectious albums I've heard.

You'll just have to hear it to understand.

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