Bibio: Silver Wilkinson

629Today marks the release of Bibio’s seventh studio album, Silver Wilkinson, and damn, you need to pick this one up.

The first three tracks are exactly what I would expect from Bibiothat melancholy sound that feels as far away as your childhood, yet still retains vibrant quality of a new experience, an aesthetic shaped from  reverberating guitars played through clean amplifiers, swashing pads, spectral vocals and tasteful audio samples like the vinyl static on ‘The First Daffodils’. Yes, Bibio’s simplistic tendencies produce a truly sublime quality to the music. Take ‘Wulf’ for example, a short two-minute piece consisting of ocean samples, a lone guitar played through an aqueous filter, and some other textural instruments which are near indiscernible. That’s all it takes to create a full audio setting with a mood that is strong and comprehensive of a lonely walk on the beach. This track transitions into ‘Mirroring All’, a song that, towards it’s center, illustrates a shifting of tone in the album from a series of washed out photographs to your family’s first color TV set.

Following this is my favorite track, no doubt one that will become a classic in Bibio’s repertoire. ‘À tout à l’heure’ is a bright, two-step song with sexy bass lines, tasty guitar loops, happy-sounding synths and some of the most pleasing vocal melodies I’ve heard. You can’t help but bob your head to this tune. I’m looking forward to blasting it out of my car over the summer.

Upon reaching the seventh track, ‘You’, the aforementioned colored TV set that used to be the subject of bragging amongst the neighbors is suddenly replaced by a 70-inch HD plasma screen. I’ll admit, as soon as this song came on I had to do a double-take. I just wasn’t used to this kind of downtempo trip-hop sound from Bibio. It sounded more like something from Bonobo’s line of work. Needless to say, I was happily impressed.

I won’t ruin the rest of the surprises that are in store for listeners, but I will say that by the time this album finished I wanted more. Of course I put it on loop later, but for a while after that first listen I was left with the same feeling one has when finishing a memoir or watching some incredibly moving drama, which is only to say that it feels like the story of someone’s personal journey. That being said, there is no more perfect way to wrap up this album than with it’s final song, ‘You Won’t Remember…’, a finger-pickin’ tune that sounds both sad and hopeful. Complete with an old-sounding piano, cool vocals and contemplative lyrics, this is a piece that is capable of evoking those feelings which are uniquely attributed to the most treasured of nostalgic memories.

From beginning to end Silver Wilkinson exudes nothing but beauty, creativity, style and the ability to push past it’s comfort zone. As I said, if you’re a fan of all things good, pick this one up…10/10

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Talk Talk: Natural Order 1982-1991

natural-order-1982-1991-coverAs lovers of music we sometimes go through certain phases in which we only want to listen to a certain kind of song that fits our mood, and calls to us. This past summer, I went through a Talk Talk phase in which I listened to Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock on a shuffle loop for what felt like a good, relaxing, month. I didn’t need anything else to sooth my spirit. Later, I had heard some of their earlier work, but I never felt compelled to get a hold of the early 80’s albums like The Party’s Over, or It’s My Life based on what I’d heard.

Natural Order 1982-1991 could be thought of as the long lost brother to an earlier compilation album entitled Natural History, which was compiled without the band’s consent, and left a sour taste in the mouth of lead songwriter Mark Hollis. Hollis was however, on board with this new release, and oversaw the track choices, none of which are hits, yet each one has something great to offer.

Having never heard any of Talk Talk’s early 80’s music, I felt slightly shaken when the first two tracks, ‘Have You Heard The News’ and ‘Renee’ came on. It was like my perceptions of this band had been dipped in a vat of liquid-80’s-pop-music, even still, the work stood out from any other radio song associated with the era. The music had a sense integrity that sought not to please an audience, but to make interesting, innovative and enjoyable music. At points, especially while listening to ‘For What It’s Worth’, I could hear the music fitting a scene in some blurry romantic drama starring Patrick Swayze or Richard Gere, and unfortunately, that’s the best way I can describe to you that aesthetic: a hollow sound sustained by cheesy synth sounds and midi piano.

It was only until ‘Wealth’ came on that I felt like I was in familiar, more comfortable territory, a place where songs can be as long as they want (or so I had hoped), where all you need is a fretless bass, a couple of keyboards, a guitar every now and then, and that unique timbre of Mark Hollis’ voice that seems to be stretching itself out, up to the heavens. It was here in the latter half of the album that I was met with a slight disappointment in the editing of certain songs like ‘Eden’ and ‘After The Flood’, as they were trimmed down in length.

It was really cool for me, as a fan of their later work, to hear this album, as I’m sure it would be for anyone who is only acquainted with the early work. In all, Natural Order is an intimate view of the band’s evolution, and chronological development of style over the course of a decade. It’s a good way to introduce yourself to the world of Talk Talk…9.5/10

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The Sonic Aesthetic: Tales From The Nocturn EP

sonic-aesthetic-coverI wouldn’t have gotten much done this weekend if it hadn’t been for The Sonic Aesthetic’s latest release, Tales From The Nocturn EP. I saw that it was only 17.3 minutes, so I put it on loop while attempting to clean my apartment. This was a good move on my part. For such a short span of an EP, there’s enough music to keep you going for hours. The repetitive electronic soundscapes are trance-like, yet moving, and constantly developing at their own leisurely pace. After a while, it’s like you’re not even listening or paying attention, you’re just bathing in it, letting the sounds wash over you.

Alright, so there’s three songs on this EP, and I’m going to tell you about all of them: We begin with ‘Mendicant Adventures’, a head-bobbing pace-maker. If I were to personify this song it would look like a well-groomed playboy with expensive taste and a relaxed, care-free demeanor. You’d find yourself going into one of his parties, and he’d be there at the door to cooly introduce you to himself and the setting, “Welcome to my club, ladies and gentlemen/You may call me Mendicant Adventures/Make yourself at home/Yes, I know this is a very fancy room we’re in right now, but please, don’t freak out about it/Go enjoy the food and drinks over by the neon stage/If you need anything I’ll be in the control room dishing out these bumpin’ tunes.” It’s a four-to-the floor journey through an electronic jungle of sounds. Sweeping pads, arpeggiating synthesizers, and a well accented hi-hat that knows no end. This seven-minute track seems to go by much faster than it should. By the time you hit the break at the four minute mark, the place where the song could have ended quite comfortably, you’ll realize there’s three more minutes to go.

This track leads well into the next four-four piece, ‘Dark of the Moon’, which is very similar, only with a more curious feel to it. The feeling asserts itself by way of an ostinato melody that seems to be both answering and responding to itself constantly, and bouncy staccato phrases. Like I said, this music puts you in a trance, and you begin to forget it’s even going anywhere as you’re moving along. It’s only when we reach the last track, ‘The Paradol Chamber’, that we see a different, more cerebral side to this EP, which is expressed through chromatically inclined melodies that seem to be exploring the boundaries of the song. This track is also the only of the three that is devoid of that relentless kick-drum.

Overall, there are a lot of really great, happy sounds in this EP, I mean that both instrumentally as well as compositionally. It’s a chill listen, and I’d recommend you let it loop a few times while performing some mundane task like sweeping or writing. There’s nothing here that will really jump out to shock you or grab you by the pigtails, so don’t worry about anything. I’d recommend this for your library if you’re like me and like to come across a surprise pleasant tune while on shuffle…9/10

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M83: Oblivion OST

frontIt’s been a while since I picked up an OST, and I was excited to pick up this one since I saw M83’s name on it. The first thing I thought when I heard this soundtrack was, “Oh, this is just like what happened with Daft Punk in Tron Legacy” By that I mean, it didn’t sound like Daft Punk, although you could hear them in the mix every now and then—in many ways this felt like an extension of the that original soundtrack. Of course, I wasn’t surprised when I realized that the same composer, Joseph Trapanese, arranged the music for this film alongside Anthony Gonzales of M83. It was an enlightening listening experience for me because I got the chance to notice some of Trapanese’s tendencies, like how he’ll boost the dynamics on a riff to make the development more intense and climactic, or those outstanding unison hits he likes to write in the percussion. Again, this album feels more connected to his work than that of Anthony Gonzales’ however, having once binged on albums like Saturdays=Youth and Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, M83’s electronically-charged sound really made sense of this collaboration.

My only qualm with this album is the amount of filler music, ambient tracks that add volume to the empty space of a scene where perhaps people are talking or a character is quietly performing some task. I felt like I had to wade through a lot of that near the beginning to get to the really juicy stuff– the fight scenes!

Although I haven’t seen Oblivion in theaters yet, I can already tell that there are going to be some crazy battles, dramatic moments, and lots of intense action. The wild and boisterous drums on ‘Radiation Zone’ were probably the highlight of this whole soundtrack to me– it sounds like heavy metal popcorn. At one point I was happy to hear that iconic ascending progression in ‘Canyon Battle’ (you’ll recognize it as the first four notes in a major pentachord) which always makes music more triumphant and gets me every time. That was actually one of the coolest tracks because of all the changes of tempo, meter, and scene.

There’s some really cool themes used throughout this soundtrack, but nothing so recognizable as a John Williams motif– mostly certain dissonant chords and specific rhythms. There is one theme that is only recurs twice throughout the soundtrack, a pretty little thing with dark undertones– you’ll hear it in the first track, ‘Jack’s Dream’, as well as in the penultimate track.

As far as original soundtracks go, this is a fun one. It’s reminiscent of composers like Clint Mansell, John Powell and Hans Zimmer who are not afraid to plunge into the realm of electronica. A fine collaborator, Trapanese is a composer who is definitely going to be making more appearances in Hollywood films. I’m looking forward to seeing him grow…9.5/10

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The Flaming Lips: The Terror

the-flaming-lips-the-terror-1024x1024I will say that when I first started listening to The Terror, I had high hopes. The first two tracks took me to a weird place, a disturbing dream set within the congested atmosphere of a house party. ‘Look… The Sun Is Rising’ evokes that feeling of being the only introvert in a crowd of extroverts; an outcast in a festive gathering. You feel confused, like you should be having a good time but you’re not. It’s only until you’ve escaped from that dingy apartment that you feel like you’re starting to enjoy yourself, ‘Be Free, A Way’ is that street that you walk alone on, back to where you came from, or perhaps to some new unthought-of place. It’s a melancholy tune, one that makes this album anything worth listening-to… the only part of The Terror that I find remotely attractive. ‘Try To Explain’ also functions within that same vein, but it’s even more depressing.

Now we arrive at the mother-load: ‘You Lust’, a 13-minute long waste of time. Like after you’ve left that stupid party and gone for a ten-minute walk, you decide to take a cab home and get stuck in traffic. All you can do is watch the meter burn a hole in your wallet, and you’re reluctant to leave because the last time you tried to bailout on a jammed cab, you were verbally harassed for wasting the driver’s time. So you just sit there, waiting for the road to clear up; for this car to actually go somewhere. Ten years pass and you haven’t moved an inch. That is exactly what this song is like.

Everything after this point is almost not worth writing about. A lot of it is like trying to hear your old favorite songs being played from a radio on the other side of a car factory whose soundtrack is comprised of grinding noises and distorted screams– I’m thinking specifically of songs like ‘The Terror’ and ‘Always There In Our Hearts’.

I didn’t enjoy this album. There wasn’t a single track on it that was worth listening to more than once. It felt abrasive and obnoxious. Suffice to say, it was not something that I expected from The Flaming Lips. It puts me in an odd place because I wanted to like this album. When I think of The Flaming Lips, I remember those happy tunes that I used to listen to in the summertime, songs like, ‘The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song’, ‘Fight Test’, and of course, ‘Do You Realize??’, but nothing like what’s on The Terror, which is truly a befitting name for this album, and I’m wondering if it’s on purpose; like it’s some kind of statement. What that statement might be: We can also make music that is sad and painful.

If my advice is worth anything, I’d say that The Terror is something worthy of being omitted from your library. Remember the good times, folks…4.6/10

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Bonobo: The North Borders

bonobo-thenorthborders-leif_800Having listened to, and enjoyed their former album, Black Sands, I was very pleased to see that Bonobo had dropped a new album this March. I immediately got my hands on The North Borders, remembering old tracks like ‘Kong’ and ‘El Toro’ and knowing that I was in for something exciting. Just glancing at the track listing I could already imagine the variety of flavors and textures that would be present in this new work. The album showcases four different featured artists, including Szjerdene, Cornelia, and Grey Reverend, as well as one of my all-time favorite vocalists. When I saw ‘Heaven for the Sinner (Ft. Erykah Badu)’ (which is one of the coolest 3/4 meter tracks I’ve heard in years), I knew instantly that the track had sexy written all over it. I pressed play and began my listening from the beginning, only to find that the entire album is musical coitus.

The first track, ‘First Fires (Ft. Grey Reverend)’ sets the tone for this whole album, with aching vocals, the slow progression of melancholy chords backed by heart-melting strings. It was an unexpected opening, certainly not one that I was used to, but a powerful start to a collection of unquestionably solid songs. The sound is reminiscent of early Burial throughout, with that relaxed and sometimes dark tone, intelligent structure, eclectic instrumentation, and well developed triumphant scenes. Like any great electronic trip-hop, Bonobo’s methodically repetitive nature is progressively engaging and moving.

Yes, The North Borders is nothing short of a completely satisfying experience for me, and it’s got some of my favorite friends in it: vibraphone (‘Towers’), saxophone (‘Emkay’), thumb-harp (‘Cirrus’), flutes (‘Antenna’), strings (all over the damn place), and vintage-sounding vocal samples (‘Know You’), all incorporated into the music in such a tasteful manner that the listener is pleasantly stimulated. Personally, this was the perfect spring break jam for me; it didn’t matter if I was on a 6-hour car-ride to the beach with my family, playing board games with my friends, or just painting by myself in the early morning- this music makes you feel badass, and does a good job of grabbing your attention.

Really, I don’t know how else to say it: This shit is cool as hell. It’s a must-have, one of those albums that secures Bonobo’s place as an unmistakable talent in the musical world…10/10

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Young Dreams: Between Places

young-dreams-between-placesTake a moment to imagine the joyful energy of any classic Beach Boys track blended with the innovative characteristics of old Animal Collective songs, maybe a dash of fusion jazz and whatever else you can find, and what you’ve got is Young Dreams. Their debut album, Between Places, is a great way to kick off the spring season; it’s a fun, crazy, beautiful, disorienting, and imaginative auditory experience.

I’ll admit, after the first track, I had to hear another. Throughout the album you’ve got those great Brian Wilson vox-harmony vocals in tracks like ‘When Kisses Are Salty’, a kick-ass rhythm section that makes you want to dance, and some great synths that keep the mood electrified. Though it’s a personal challenge for me to look past certain synthetic-acoustic instruments (the fake flutes and horns in tracks like ‘Wounded Hearts Forever’, are very unsettling to me), there is so much that is genuine about this music that I find to be completely satisfying and capable of redeeming any unusual aesthetic created by this band. Even still, that has to be my one qualm with Between Placesseven minutes into the album’s epic 11-minute track, ‘The Girl That Taught Me To Drink And Fight’, it starts to feel like it’s drawing closer to a bad 80’s movie score, yet very distant. In my opinion, if you’re going to use a fake instrument, be really up-front about it- don’t try to stick wax celebrities in your crowd of friends.

To put it lightly, this is some very creative songwriting, and there are some very amazing scenes throughout which are made even more enjoyable by the high-quality editing and mixing. These tracks are all mid-sized contenders at the least, with the shortest song, ‘Dream Alone, Wake Together’, clocking-in at just under four minutes—so don’t expect a quick sampling when you’re trying this band out. Still, definitely check out Between Places, especially if you’re into experimentalism. This is all very happy music, bouncy and charged with that youthful spark. You won’t find any melancholy escape tunes here, no lonely anthems to cling to, just a good time in a strange place…9.1/10

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