Archive for the ‘Album Review’ Category

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No, Aaron Funk. Thank you. That paracetamol was only going to go to waste anyway, and when better to put it to use than after an hour-long dose of Venetian Snares’ signature fury and maniacal daftness?

Thank You For Your Consideration is strangely sincere jollity, at least by the standards of Funk – a man behind such delightfully torturous and abrasive gabber and breakcore works as Meathole and Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole. In spite of Funk being in touch with his fans (after all, Thank You… is a free-to-stream, pay-what-you-want album in return for their support during his personally trying times), this doesn’t make him any simpler to understand and follow.

The artwork doesn’t help much either. At least Winnipeg’s excrement smothered grenade, etched with the city’s name was (horrifyingly) true to its themes. But today we have been greeted with a bold, technicolored ‘THANK YOU’, dogs, rabbits, party decorations and so forth. However, within the first few seconds of opener ‘Smersonality’, the album is already defined as rapid jangling noise from a deranged wind-up lullaby toy, falls out of tune. This album does not belong at Rosie’s fourth birthday party. She should stick to the teddy bears. Venetian Snares and his new works are just that evil.

It is the same demonically satisfying drills to the skull that he is known and adored for. Breathing space is irregularly teased in five-second chunks, as strings, are allowed through before being angrily sliced-and-diced, and for something so erratic, is so intricate, the one can’t help but be drawn in. In fact, sometimes it’s even disappointing when tracks have already done away with multiple movements in the space of the first minute.

The ambient track ‘09sept09’ is the only time that one is given a moment to rest. However, that is not to say that it’s pleasant. This is what listeners have come to expect of Venetian Snares – horror film strings and screeches of a subway train compensating for the brief moment of accessibility. Does one really want to know what happened on the titular day of 9th September 2009? This unnervingly confused atmosphere continues from start to finish, as it collides with pure immaturity amidst machine gun bass – a track entitled ‘Burgershot’ repeatedly samples a voice saying “Spread the legs, spread the cheeks… now you try”. God knows where that sample came from. 

It is remarkable how something that in theory should blast one against the wall behind them, should  be so immersive and cause such unease. Thank You For Your Consideration is about as brutal as ‘playful’ can get.

4/5

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NOTE: I came so close to referring to the odd emotion poking through nothingness in the last paragraph as Enya’s ‘shower thoughts’. I’m infuriated by how accurate that analogy is, but too inappropriate for the genre. So, there. There it is.

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In spite of the doom and gloom that a title like Dark Sky Island might portray, it could not be much further from the truth. It is in fact the ideal sounding, ethereal and otherworldly soundtrack to the celestial image of oneself carelessly laying back on a raft, atop a mild, calm, seemingly eternal moonlit ocean, staring at the stars and the ‘Forge of the Angels’ above. What else could one expect from the first album in seven years from Enya?

That near formlessness, with nothing on the horizon is both Dark Sky Island’s charm, and its troubles. On one hand, these forty-two minutes of ambient beauty of synth and outrageous amounts of reverberation are a non-stop trip during which the only rough are subtle waves throughout, but on the converse, so little happens that songs are difficult to differentiate. Those that stand apart are the cosmic variant of traditional Celtic folk opener ‘The Humming…’ and ‘I Could Never Say Goodbye’, which in being the most beautiful fragile sounding ballad in an album constructed of ballads, is a highlight. A moment of pure upset emotion with just woman and her piano and simplistic lyrics to state everything surprisingly bluntly for someone whose head is stuck in the clouds.

However, others sound so empty that they come across as interludes in an album so light and airy, that it is the very last album to ever need any form of breather. It is the case study of musical breathing space. This is especially notable in tracks such as ‘The Loxian Gates’. Sung in Enya’s own gibberish language of ‘Loxian’, its name promises more in concept by stating a location within the titular island (Loxopia, Loxstralia, United Loxian Emirates, or whatever it may be), and sonically descriptive of the landscape and seascape. Yet, it doesn’t deliver any answers – just the continuation of the next-to-nothingness, but even more nonsensical, with breathy synth and vocal tones that are so enjoyably soothing, that one can’t be sure whether they are even meant to care. Assuming that the listener isn’t wrapped up too tightly and comfortably in their thickest duvet.

Where earlier bestsellers such as 2001’s A Day Without Rain were slated for being fragments of unremarkable nothingness, rearranged into a new, disjointed nothing, Dark Sky Island effortlessly and shamelessly, is ‘nothing’ kept in one piece. This might sound like the ultimate insult, but it is everything that this album aims for. Something nice (only Enya really knows what that might be) is happening, with nothing else to care about besides the natural acceptance of ones celestial surroundings, with a rare moment of upset, regret or loneliness passing one’s mind along the way. Far more pleasant and abstract than Enya realising that she forgot to feed the cat before she left.

In this sense, it is perhaps Enya’s most definitive album, albeit not especially exciting or expressive, to date.

3/5

 

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There is a curious irony in how simplicity comes across as a massive risk for Tesseract, because it is a new territory. Previous album Altered State was extremely ambitious with just four tracks – all over ten minutes in length. Similar ambitiousness can be found in their debut album One, during which there is an almost half-hour six-track suite. All of their listeners know what ambition that Tesseract can fulfill. By comparison, Polaris on the surface comes across their least ambitious, with little suggesting a concept, and its brevity – nine tracks over the course of forty-seven minutes. However, listeners will quickly learn that this might be more down to how such massive ambition has been tightly contained.

Opener ‘Dystopia’, its title suggesting the next seven-minutes to be doom and gloom, is lived up to for the first thirty seconds against deep bass and grumble, until the difficult-to-follow beat and vocals tug the rug from beneath the ethereal misery and mystery, before listeners truly get to be immersed. It might be hypocritical to desire more drones of despair, but often such moments feel wasted. It is a slightly anti-climactic formula that continues throughout Polaris, fitting to its opposition related title, in how the majority of tracks begin with a utopian ambient glow, before meeting a dystopian signature, angry progressive math-rock formlessness. However, on occasion it is not a split-personality collision of emotion – whatever Polaris all represents, its heavenly calm and atmosphere, and furious chaos don’t belong together, something that with its titular fixation on opposites, might have been Tesseract’s intention all along. Either way, the in-out interruption of ether and ballistic rhythm becomes almost irritating.

On the other hand, there are some tracks that know full well how to build upon its background, such as closer ‘Seven Names’ and ‘Tourniquet’, the latter of which ironically feels far freer and deeper, with the light ticking of a cymbal providing the percussive metronome while Amos Williams’ complex bass provides a beat before giving away to secluded deep drums, as in spite of its rhythmic complexity, everything feels as though it is being given time to grow. This is documented also by showing off the full spectrum of returning vocalist Daniel Tompkins’ voice – falsetto through screams.

Although math and experimental rock thrives on chaos, Polaris is an impressive sounding album that comes across as far too contained for something with so little focus – almost as though a few tracks are squashed so much that the best moments aren’t allowed to hang around for long enough. Polaris is just asking to be so much bigger. Its bitesize approach (by progressive standards anyway) might make it easier to understand, but not promote Tesseract’s brilliant capabilities.