Review: Kryshe – In Between

‘In Between’ is a fitting title for Christian Grothe’s latest EP. Touching on ambient, post-rock and classical music, the German composer could be perceived as a dabbler but Grothe’s versatility is one of his main strengths and his music under the moniker of Kryshe reveals great maturity and subtlety for someone who only released his first compositions less than a year ago.

Kryshe EP Cover

The title track is bathed in warm ambient textures; the piano parts emerging like the pitter-patter of gentle rain. It’s undoubtedly melancholic but in a comforting way and the key melody is like rediscovering an old friend. ‘Iceland’ is unerringly tuneful, reshaping a music box motif into a yearning post-rock number, where each key change seems to ache a little more than the last. After ‘Lone’ represents a stark, reverberating centrepiece, a watery, portentous ‘Africa’ threatens to work itself up into a storm but instead holds back with some delicious use of restraint and experimental touches. This just leaves the stately, tear-stained melodrama of the finale ‘Lullaby'; the nearest Grothe gets to modern classical.

With each track offering something different, Grothe packs a great deal into twenty five minutes of instumental music. Minimalist this may be but ‘In Between’ is abundant with possibilities.

Web Sites:
Kryshe Official Site
Kryshe Bandcamp
Hidden Shoal Label Page for Kryshe

Further Listening:
Harold Budd, Bruno Sanfilippo

Review: Grammar – Grammar EP

Barrie Lindsay originally began Grammar as a 15-piece chamber pop group during her studies in music theory and composition at Wesleyan in Connecticut. The band has streamlined somewhat since then and Lindsay calls on her older brother as part of the surviving quintet. With the reduction of contributors, comes the inevitable changes in approach but on Grammar’s first EP, Lindsay make light of this to produce some really poignant, lovelorn moments.

Grammar EP Co er

‘Summer Skin’ is a decent scene setter even if Barrie’s cooing vocals, assisted by echo, err towards the cutesy side. Although there are suggestions of Fleetwood Mac, the song comes across as a little slight, almost as if the band are saving themselves for a big moment but then you begin to appreciate one of Grammar’s main qualities is their restraint. Propelled by bouncy beats, summery guitar and positive lyrics, ‘Head Up’ has a cheerier outlook which is both charming and likeable. However, ‘Cambridge’ is surely the definitive demonstration of the benefits of downsizing and stripping away the glitz. Lindsay and some gorgeous backing harmonies carry along a beautiful melody. At once the song echoes an innocent (possibly doomed) young romance and the chorus is a gem.

‘New World’ and ‘Foxes’ continue the trend in tender songwriting and subdued arrangements. It has to be said, there may be times when Grammar sound like a muted version of The Mummers but it would be tough to find five songs as warm and as intimate as this.

Web Sites:
Grammar Official Site
Stream Grammar – Grammar EP

Further Listening:
The Mummers

Review: Worrywort – Fridge Horror

In a perfect display of self-effacement, Worrywort’s Bandcamp page says “Please insult me”. Worrywort is Bobby Mitchell from Reading in Berkshire and is a fan of Tim Burton’s soundtrack buddy of choice, Danny Elfman, it seems. The opening instrumental ‘Soda Blossom’ certainly reveals cinematic ambitions albeit in a lo-fi way.

Worrywort Album Cover

The first actual song, ‘Milk’, is charming in a ramshackle way although the protagonist’s frail Americana-style vocals are unlikely to trouble Neil Young or Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue any time soon. Yet persistence with ‘Fridge Horror’ is rewarded. ‘Blurg’ revels in playful Sunday teatime Wurlitzer sounds whilst ‘Soapbox Whimper’ and ‘Rowing Over Katie’s House’ really deserves a longer showings than their respective 60 and 75 seconds allow and from here on in, the album begins to find some cohesion with Mitchell seemingly telling a story via consistent musical themes and no lack of quality. ‘Miracle Cure’ and its careful combination of classical interludes and The Simpsons Theme-style cutesiness demonstrate further talents and a great ear for melody just before ‘The Greedy Hordes’ veers into prog (and even grunge) territory and emerges in respectable state despite the confusion. Mitchell arguably saves the best moment for last via the vulnerable, tender ‘Bubbles’ which sounds like a lost, lush romantic number from The Korgis.

From an uncertain beginning, Mitchell gains in confidence with each song and composition. His style may be unfashionable but there is more heart and tunefulness in ‘Fridge Horror’ than so many other better-promoted musicians. So, sorry Mr. Worrywort, but you won’t get any insults from me.

Web Sites:
Worrywort Bandcamp
Video for Worrywort – Bubbles

Further Listening:
Grandaddy, Mercury Rev, Eels, The Korgis

Review: Chancius – Bando

It’s safe to say that Chancius started his musical path the hard way, which commenced with him busking in New York subway system. Now a “veteran”, Chancius himself is no great shakes in front of the mic, the production is lo-fi and he has chosen to make a sci-fi concept album. However, from these potentially worrying initial descriptions, he and an assortment of well-drilled musicians have conjured up an album of quality indie pop gems.

Chancius Album Cover

‘Making It Up As We Go Along’ may have a throwaway title and its down at heel C86 indie pop fits the expectation to an extent. However, while both melody and chorus are light the song is made more sturdy by a strong bass line; resembling the late 80’s incarnation of The Wake. The title track is where the band really come to life. Featuring sadder than sad vocals and an equally elegiac keyboard melody, the song drips with gorgeous, romance-fuelled melancholy. Proving this was no fluke, ‘Pliers Donar’ and the Gary Numan-esque ‘You’re Not One In A Million, You’re One of A Million’ are further examples of the moody verses/bright, infectious chorus formula which serve the album extremely well as a whole. In addition, ‘A Piece Of You Wherever I Go’, ‘Big Wave’ and ‘Hologram King’ all sound cheery and poppy enough but then then each song takes a darker turn thanks to some fine key changes. Indeed, clever song structures and invention continue to the last track; the eerie, military drum-led ‘Thunderhead’.

Sure, some of Chancius’ songs may initially sound too tinny and lo-fi but that’s part of the charm. Because on the second and subsequent listens, the songs evolve, evoking the synth and guitar hooks of a vintage era.

Web Sites:
Chancius Official Site
Chancius Bandcamp

Further Listening:
Gary Numan, Bondage & Discipline, The Wake

Review: The Great Depression – In A Starry State

As architects of some of the finest atmospheric rock albums of the last twenty years, Minnesota-born The Great Depression are one of music’s best kept secrets. For their first album in seven years, The Great Depression’s ‘In A Starry State’ promises “a science fiction romance which finds the band on a search for lost Gnostic wisdom deep in the woods”. If this all sounds a little proggy, perhaps even more disconcertingly, the album begins with spoken word over an ambient backdrop.

The Great Depression Album Cover

Maybe the group have spent too long apart and have forgotten the noble art of writing songs but this is The Great Depression and this was never going to happen. Indeed, true to reputation, ‘Hey Go Easy (Serpentina)’ makes a nonsense of such fears; it’s a track which shimmers with vitality thanks to rattling guitars, fleshy percussion and the kind of multi-layered arrangement which characterised the greatest of The Great Depression’s songs. Its boisterous brother, ‘The Thirteen Bells’, appears towards the end of the record but matches the song’s energy and vitality. These tracks also form a logical progression from main songwriter Todd Casper’s and Tom Cranley’s intense and more direct Admiral Byrd project.

For the lighter moments, there’s the unashamedly catchy pop of ‘New Salem’ and the humorously-titled ‘Philip K Disco’ which sounds just like the high brow techno-fest you would hope it to be. However, The Great Depression are often at their best when they slow down the tempo and let their richly textured arrangements unfold. The stately chamber pop ‘Visiting On Davenports’ and ‘A Dreamy Brochure For Elsewhere’ are possessed with the aura of vintage Hollywood. Meanwhile, the fabulous ambient rock formations of ‘Something Like Shame’ and the title track are reminiscent of The Helio Sequence at their finest.

‘Psirene’ is the kind of song which only Casper and Cranley could develop. Warm, complex and jazzy like Steely Dan and as imaginative and colourful as a modern ELO. This fine band have made a habit of saving some of their best songs to the end of the record and the finale ‘Sophia And The Fool’ is the perfect balance of beauty, grace and cinematic wonder. So much so that on hearing the lyric “I can’t believe it’s finally happening”, there’s a genuine sadness as the final anthem plays out.

The narrated interludes play a vital part in maintaining the filmic atmospheres, serving to heighten the anticipation of the next killer track and ‘In A Starry State’ is full of such moments. All told, it’s a fantastic tale and a magical and triumphant return from The (genuinely) Great Depression.

Web Sites:
The Great Depression Official Site
The Great Depression – In A Starry State

Further Listening:
The Helio Sequence, Mercury Rev, The Silent League, Admiral Byrd

Review: The Burgeoning – Love Alchemy, Life Algorithm

Pennsylvania’s The Burgeoning will have probably heard plenty of comments about their growing reputation but on the strength of their first half dozen songs, their fledgling music career is off to a flyer.

The Burgeoning EP Cover

After some BBC Radiophonic Workshop-style oddness for ‘(Nostalgia)’, it’s difficult to know what to expect next. However, worries are set aside when ‘Speak’ emerges with a heart bursting slice of euphoric pop and even if Logan Thierjung’s vocals veer towards emo territory, the layered, angular guitars are especially impressive. An involving ‘Death Of Social Networking’ boasts some escalating riffs matched by a sense of heightened pleasure. ‘Flicker’ and ‘That Day Of Yesterness’ resemble a cheerier Bloc Party although both songs begin to grate after their initial exuberance has worn off. However, the same cannot be said for stand out song ‘Lighthouse’, where Logan unleashes his full vocal repertoire on a joyful chorus. It’s a beautiful song, embellished by some sympathetic jangly melodies. There is further variation (not to mention further emphasis of the frontman’s star quality) on an the acoustic finale ‘I Am Deaf, You Are Blind’, too.

Perhaps typically for a new band, some of the songs favour complexity over emotional depth but on the basis of the outstanding ‘Speak’ and ‘Lighthouse’ alone, there is clearly a band here who can write ingenious, moving pop songs. Now they just need to expand these talents over the course of a full album.

Web Sites:
The Burgeoning Official Site
The Burgeoning – Lighthouse

Further Listening:
Bloc Party, McAlmont And Butler

Review: Dive Index – Lost In The Pressure

Dive Index were formed in the mid 2000’s by producer Will Thomas. An impressive list of past collaborators have included Roger Eno, Joseph Arthur, Ride’s Mark Gardener and Ian Masters of The Pale Saints. However, this time the latest album revolves around Thomas plus singers Isaiah Gage and Simone White (the former also lending his cello skills for good measure).

Dive Index Album Cover

‘Rewind Your Patience’s slick hybrid of trip-hop beats and smooth soul vocals call to mind the ambient/soul ensemble approach of Alpha or The Beauty Room. The sublime glitch-soul ‘A Person To Hide With’ contains a lyrical urge to “keep your shit together”, contrasting neatly with the dreamy aura. ‘Counting Umbrellas’ is the first time we hear the soothing tones of White and it’s a perfectly judged song where her almost effortless, calming contribution fits the subtly infectious arrangement like a glove; there’s even a luxurious string-laden passage to add further gravitas. Three songs in, it’s an almost perfect beginning.

It’s somewhat unfortunate then, that after such a bright start the album sags in the middle as the constant moodiness gives way to a number of songs which retain the album’s class and high production values but struggle to sink their hooks into the listener. ‘If I Ever Have You’ and ‘Constant Chatter’ are content to simmer away in the background; sophisticated and elegant but lacking an edge. That said, ‘Pattern Pieces’ makes the most of a latin-jazz arrangement in the manner of Stereolab and – in keeping with its dramatic title – ‘No Stab Wounds’ benefits from some robust rhythms and clicks; kicking in a stronger end to the record. Finally, there are few more dignified ways to end a record than Gage’s elegiac performance on the lovely ‘Singing To Bats’.

Thomas is clearly a real experienced hand at this kind of music and the production is right on the money. A few of the songs are less easy to remember than you would expect but when the collective step out from the shadows of coffee table ambience, they can create some very special moments indeed.

Web Sites:
Dive Index Page on Neutral Music
Video for Dive Index – Singing To Bats

Further Listening:
Alpha, Herbert, The Beauty Room



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