Review: Colin L. Orchestra – Infinite Ease/Good God

Monday, August 15, 2011

According to the blurb, Colin Langenus’ Colin L. Orchestra spent three years working on this double album, his first project following on from his work with duo USAISAMONSTER. Infinite Ease/Good God is a sweeping epic of guitar-led country-influenced rock (again with an urban bent, as hinted by the album cover), which taps into a variety of styles along the way, although each album has its own definitive sound. Infinite Ease is my favourite of the two, being the more maudlin and introspective counterpart to the largely upbeat and lively Good GodInfinite Ease has the feel of a jam album; repeated motifs and long instrumental sections are very much the order here. The first four tracks flow into each other, making for a solid twenty-minute block of sound. Hold Tite and Best Thing, the final two tracks on this disc, are nine and ten minutes in length respectively. Good God, on the other hand, is a ten-track assortment of ‘poppier’ punches, with Dreams My Only Friend being the only track to significantly push outside of the four-(and-a-half-)minute envelope.

Whilst I loved the first disc I was initially hesitant over the second, though I have found this has grown on me with repeat listens. However, whilst I can confess that for me I feel that Infinite Ease shall see the greatest number of virtual spins in my music player, it is not to say Good God does not deserve attention. All in all, each is a solid album in its own right and you would not feel cheated were each released separately. Having both packaged together gives the feeling of a project really pushing out to explore its potential. The result is that there is something here for all to enjoy.

Nothing to Say, from Good God, can be streamed and downloaded from Free Music Archive. Videos for You Need Sleep and Smoking, opening tracks of Infinite Ease and Good God respectively, follow:

 

Colin L. Orchestra’s Infinite Ease/Good God is available as a double CD or a vinyl LP containing Infinite Ease with a digital download of Good God from Northern-Spy Records, and via these Amazon links.

Purchase: Amazon UK | US

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Review: The Shimmies – For All Beloved Enemies

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The last album on my current pile of material for review also comes with its own genre for consideration, namely “home school rock”. Brothers Sean and Jimmy Galloway, whose names combine to form that of their “maturing” childhood project, The Shimmies, coined the genre as a result of their own philosophy of developing a musical sound without the intervention of the opinions of one’s peers, which too often play the majority share in the forging of the artistic mindscape. Growing together and working on their sound from children, Sean and Jimmy founded The Shimmies as an acoustic duo, later plugging in and adding their younger brother Stephen on bass and long-time friend Jack Gingerich on drums in the process.

That is a very basic background, which I shall halt there in favour of getting on with the briefest of reviews, as I am completed worded out this week (besides which, the album has been out a full year; I write this before they head out on a US tour). This is an accomplished album both in terms of lyrics and arrangement; it will take a few repeat listens to take everything from it (the spot-on harmonies, the skillful weaving of complex melodies, the lyrical poetry throughout every track), but each is an absolute pleasure.

I could wax on, but instead, given the hour, I shall let the music speak for itself here with the official video for their first single, Judas, and a stream/download of Friendly Fire.


The Shimmies – Friendly Fire by fanaticpro

Besides the above, a generous smattering of free samples is available direct from The Shimmies’ official website.

Purchase: Amazon UK (MP3) | US (MP3)


Review: Metal Mother – Bonfire Diaries

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Witch house is the name given, ostensibly, to a deliberately secluded and underground subgenre of music, but has been doing the rounds as the terminology of a more general aesthetic that surrounds the mood of the music about the Internet for a while. Unless you are at all active on Tumblr, you might be forgiven for missing it. It has its roots in industrial music, infused with the darkness of ambient gothic rock and darkwave, primarily utilising synthesisers, drum machines, effected vocals and glitched beats. This is all worth mentioning and a good background to have before getting into the review proper, because witch house is definitely not the category that this album falls under.

Besides the fact that Tara Tati, an Oakland-based singer-songwriter and artist who resides behind the moniker Metal Mother, has outright denied that her music can be labelled thus (in this excellent interview with Euterpe’s Notebook), the qualities of her music are entirely different. A look at the official Metal Mother Music webpage gives away an occult leaning, but the music itself has more in common with shamanistic ritual and chants than with the sprawling, frenetic mechanical connotations of the industrial genre. In fact, most everything here sounds more stripped back toward to its natural core. This is not to say that it does not use electronic instruments, but the driving force behind the tracks – which, too, is percussive – is definitely more a tribal sort of drumming (where it can be found; Willow, the penultimate track of the album, is the most notable example of Tati’s skill on the keys taking the driving seat) than the broken electronic beat you might expect from witch house. Over all of which is Tati’s perfectly beautiful (and, usually, unaltered) soprano – powerful where she wants it to be, but most usually a restrained instrument of the mood.

This is the problem when an artistic movement springs, especially in this instantaneous digital age, replete with the lazy labels of the hashtag “#generation”; anything that vaguely approximates a movement can often be assimilated by its terminology. Bonfire Diaries deserves being treated as an entity of its own volition and character. You, in turn, will be rewarded with some of the richest sounds this summer. It is too easy to throw out the word “haunting” in reviewing the album, and not entirely just; the songs might take a hold and they might chill, but if you let them in and allow them to really touch you, you will likely be left feeling their tremendous warmth.

The opening track, Shake, captures the overarching sound perfectly, as evidenced below in the not entirely work-safe video directed by Tati herself (the track itself is also available as a stream and download below):


Metal Mother – ‘Shake’ Music Video from Manifest Media on Vimeo.


Metal Mother – Shake by fanaticpro

Metal Mother: Website

Purchase: Bandcamp* || Amazon UK (MP3) | US (CD | MP3)

*The In the Bones EP is also available here, on a pay-what-you-like basis.


Review: Annie Crane – Jump with a Child’s Heart

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Possibly the summer has mellowed me, or maybe it is simply that I am a sucker for a tight harmony, but I am really feeling this. Annie Crane’s Jump with a Child’s Heart is, thematically speaking, a sort of open letter or Making It in the City 101 for those young optimists flocking to the city of New York with the hope of becoming an overnight sensation. Without even hearing the record, you can tell, from Crane’s personal journey alone, that this is going to be a record in praise of, though occasionally at odds with, that dream.

Crane herself began a slow progression to this, her sophomore album after 2009’s Through the Farmlands & the Cities; from arriving in New York in 2006, she began regular open mic attendance before going on to make weekly appearances at Sidewalk Cafe’s Anti-Hoot for a year where she started to drum up support. This long slog paid off. She has since toured internationally and shared the stage in Nashville with one of her personal folk icons, Emmylou Harris at Nashville’s first Music City Roots’ Live from the Loveless Cafe.

The title track reveals that she feels her secret of success is no great mystery at all, but is the result of an awareness of that factor that all are guilty of wishing to disregard, whatever their particular field. It is as well to have talent and a uniqueness of expression and vision, but without putting in the hours of effort it may as well all be for naught. In her own words:

“The song reminds them that without giving time effort, time will owe you nothing. It is me asking them to do it without complaint, to do it honestly and with the purity of a child’s heart. This sentiment is what this album is for me; committing to a goal and seeing it through in the face of self-doubt and practical thinking, knowing that time will one day tell me the outcome, but that I am the one who can define it.”

This album is, on a lyrical level alone, a true folk record, replete with a personal struggle and an overturning of the odds, chock full of honesty, personal observation and sound anecdotal advice. Yet, besides a passing reference to the tightness of harmonies I have barely scraped the actual sound of the record, which is rich and warm in tone, and with a blend of complexity and simplicity that reveal an exceptionally talented guitarist who knows how to win you with a melody, but also when to hold back and simply let the words speak for themselves. I can foresee this album becoming a staple soundtrack for those darkening-yet-still-warm Autumn evenings, for which – conveniently – it shall be released just in time.

Jump with a Child’s Heart is due October 4, on Constant Clip Records.


Annie Crane – Jump With A Child’s Heart by fanaticpro

Annie Crane: Official website