Review: Arc Waves – Arc Waves EP

Having first written about Brooklyn’s Elaine Lachica some thirteen years ago, it’s fascinating to gain an insight into the development of a musician. As a solo artist, Lachica immediately stood out with her impressive vocal range and inventive way with song creation but she did seem like a talent who needed a bit more focus, even if her most recent solo album 2009’s ‘I Think I Can See The Ocean’ was a gem. Arc Waves are a new band based fronted by the vocal talents of Lachica and – like her solo records – they’re not content to stick to one genre either.

Arc Waves EP Cover

For opener ‘Half Dome’, Lachica’s ululations are kept in check by shoegaze-indebted guitars and nagging indie pop basslines. She is more controlled for a gentler but ‘Look Straight At Me’, which heads for the territory of dream pop heaven.
On the strength of these first two tracks alone, Arc Waves are clearly a good match for each other; complimenting vocal originality with tight musicianship.

For the straighter-edged reverb-heavy rock of ‘Cascades’, however, the band sound less interesting, with Lachica’s style somewhat at odds with the Interpol-like production. By the time of the final offering, ‘Galaxies’ the group have moved into ambient rock circles and it’s no exaggeration to say the group seem to be attempting a more danceable version of latter-day Cocteau Twins on this song and with some success too.

This is an interesting move for Lachica after her somewhat wayward displays on previous albums. Perhaps the unity of working in a band gives her the solid structures she has been craving but importantly her individual talents are not compromised here either, even if sometimes the genre choice seems like an awkward fit. Minor quibbles aside then, all of this promises much for the debut album.

Web Sites:
Arc Waves Bandcamp

Further Listening:
The Attic Ends, Elaine Lachica, Cocteau Twins

Review: Surfacing – Surfacing

Nottingham’s Surfacing aim to give voice to (amongst other things) the horrors that society tries to suppress. Yet anyone who likes their experimental music embellished by post-punk yet curious about the terrors of the night club will find an album worth pursuing here.

Surfacing Album Cover

Thanks to its tribal drums, whispered vocals and dystopian, industrial atmosphere, ‘Surfacing (Susanna’s Song)’ builds up as if it’s going to turn into an alternative dance anthem. In fact, to be perfectly frank, there are strong undercurrents of¬†Underworld here. ‘Hypocalypse’ also has roots in the club scene but the edgy spoken word and sense of claustrophobia suggest an affinity with angry post-punk obscurities such as The Royal Family And The Poor too.

As the record reaches its halfway point, ‘Amaurot’ mesmerises with its mix of chants, Eastern rhythms and modern beats; the overall effect sounding like the lost cries of forgotten prisoners as they rattle their cages. It’s a stunning moment. ‘Melancholy Of Fulfilment’ cuts the production layers back further still with vocals now represented by dislocated echoes. This excellent mini album then ends in dramatic fashion with ‘Her Smoke Rose Up Forever’; where the beats, bleeps and rhythms merge into one another to form the thinking man’s floor filler Surfacing had been threatening from the start.

Within each track there is music of stark beauty which haunts the listener with every ghostly step. Experimental music very rarely sounds as vital and as invigorating as this.

Web Sites:
Surfacing Tumblr
Surfacing Bandcamp
Records On Ribs Label

Further Listening:
The Royal Family And The Poor, A.R. Kane, Underworld, Ultramarine

Review: Lukas Creswell-Rost Go Dream

Back in 2011, the Berlin-based The Pattern Theory released their excellent self-titled post-rock album; which found that all-important middle ground between sonic invention and a strong emotive pull. A few years on and it’s time for former member Lukas Creswell-Rost to release his latest album. It has more in common with the likes of Destroyer’s ‘Kaputt’ than the kings of post-rock but undoubtedly possesses similar levels of creativity and emotions.

Lukas Creswell-Rost Album Cover

Creswell-Rost is a fine vocalist with his gentle, breathy tones bearing favourable comparisons with Green Gartside. His song structures are even more distinctive and even if this means some of the risks don’t pay off (the sax solo on ‘Week Of Warmth’ for instance), he generally hits the mark with some clever melodies. Added to this, the lyrical matter is based on rarely-covered subjects such as Yngwie Malmsteen’s air rage, Badfinger and Seinfeld.

‘Foreign Movies’ is busy with squelching beats, seaside samples and smooth synths and the song’s pattern is all over the place but Creswell-Rost has clearly put in the hours; turning incongruous elements into a rambling, warm and intriguing opener and it’s a good indicator of what’s to come. ‘Time Waster’ features a relatively sparse production which gradually develops in intensity and is a definite stand-out but even lighter, less complex material such as ‘Stolen Thunder’ bears the hallmarks of classic songwriting.

A hook-laden vocal and languid Sea And Cake-like rhythms ensures that ‘Own Night Out’ perfectly encapsulates Creswell-Rost’s charm. Yet the album reaches glorious peak as it nears its conclusion. ‘Patient Pilot’ possesses a breezy elegance whilst the stunning title track begins like a beat-hungry Durutti Column and then morphs into a fabulously epic ambient rock piece.

Although it obviously bears influences, ‘Go Dream’ signifies its creator as a true original; creating oddly-structured songs and turning them into multi-layered, dreamy, wonderful tunes.

Web Sites:
Plain Sailing Records
Lukas Creswell-Rost – Go Dream on Bandcamp
Video for Lukas Creswell-Rost – Time Waster

Further Listening:
Destroyer, Scritti Politti, Michael Flynn, The Pattern Theory

Review: Kemper Norton – Loor

Not traditionally known as a hotbed for exciting original music, Cornwall is now doing its bit to improve matters, at least where Kemper Norton is concerned. ‘Loor’ is the Cornish word for moon and you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s where it was recorded.

Loor Album Cover

‘Howsled’ is certainly a bold way to start the album and – with its fragmented melodies, found sounds and unearthly atmosphere – it is more than likely to send experimental music novices running for the hills. Those who persist, however, will find much to sink their teeth into.

It is the vocal-led tracks which are the most rewarding initially. ‘Ostiasz’ frames what appears to a traditional folk song in a shroud of dark ambience and click-clack beats; the song gradually adding in new layers as it mutates into increasingly abstract territory. ‘All Through The Night’ applies a similar formula (not that this music is ever formulaic) but to even more chilling effect. With subsequent listens, the instrumental pieces begin to grow in stature. ‘Cravendale Round’ takes on an enigmatic shimmering beauty whilst ‘Cityport Of Traps’ embraces the joy of repetition with a hypnotic combination of looped vocals and bell rings.

Seven minutes of pulsing rhythms and drones on ‘Helston 91’ may be a tad too long but the album very rarely loses its ability to mesmerise. All told it’s another sterling, original release from the always inventive Front & Follow label.

Web Sites:
Kemper Norton Blog
Kemper Norton – Loor on Bandcamp
Front & Follow Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Lutine

Review: Canopy – The Healing Sessions

Wisconsin’s Ryan Vanden Heuvel apparently “has a thing for music with no words”. This is the cue for forty minutes of sublime ambient/post-rock, where the tunes are generally upbeat but with plenty of openings for the melancholy to filter through.

Canopy Album Cover

As is often the case, when instrumental music hits home, it can often possess a stronger emotive pull than lyrics. ‘Come Alive Again’ is certainly a rousing opener; revolving around a nagging guitar refrain and propulsive bass rhythms and is a very good example of modern shoegaze. ¬†‘Stray’ brings in the crashing waves but as soon as the warm chords and glacial beats take hold, the track casts its seductive spell. Vanden Heuvel rarely opts for the loud side of post-rock and even when he does so – as on the towering, skyscraping ‘The Change’ – it is balanced by enigmatic melody. The slightly cheesy ‘1988’ sounds like it may have been recorded in the late 1980’s but still has a certain period charm. On the other hand, the superb ‘Isolate’ rides in on robust rhythms, squalling guitars and serene layers of melody to make some lovely modern dream pop and an experimental conclusion to the record is given further weight by the samples and haunting atmosphere of ‘Escape Control’

That ‘Healing Sessions’ title is not as inappropriate as you might thing. This is music to lose yourself in but it’s always strident and strong enough so that it doesn’t succumb to the traps of background chillwave music.

Web Sites:
Canopy Bandcamp

Further Listening:
Melorman, David Newlyn

Review: Nicholas Krgovich – On Sunset

Full marks to Canada’s Nicholas Krgovich and his team for arousing interest. His latest album is said to be “experimental music masquerading as pop” in a similar vein to classic albums such as ‘Steve McQueen’, ‘Cupid & Psyche ’85’ and ‘Avalon’, as well as drawing comparisons to Donald Fagen. What’s not to love?

Nicholas Krgovich Album Cover

‘The Backlot’ is our introduction to some sumptuously arranged soul music, with female harmonies and brass and string parts that are engaging and never obtrusive. Thanks to their rolling keyboard motifs, refined production values and nocturnal atmosphere, ‘Along The PCH On Oscar Night’ and ‘City Of Night’ come across like Vancouver-based versions of The Blue Nile. Meanwhile, further highlights ‘Cosmic Vision’ and ‘You’re Through’ are inventively arranged and produced and given further gravitas by Krgovich’s smoother than smooth tones.

It’s probably no coincidence that ‘On Sunset’ was produced by John Collins who also has credits on past Destroyer releases; another act with a penchant for exquisite 80’s-flavoured productions. The ideas seem to fizzle out slightly towards the end of the record as the album settles into tasteful but unspectacular soul music but otherwise this is a classy affair which makes light of the weight of its impeccable influences.

Web Sites:
Nicholas Krgovich Official Site
Nicholas Krgovich Bandcamp
Nicholas Krgovich – Along The PCH On Oscar Night

Further Listening:
Destroyer, The Blue Nile, Scritti Politti

Review: Postcode – Year Of The Zebra – Part One

Just when you thought all the sub-genres in the universe had been exhausted, along comes Zebracore. Needless to say, this is presumably a joke term conjured up by Isle Of Man act, Postcode, although given the fixation with the black and white striped mammal throughout the cover art, album and song titles, you’d be forgiven for thinking the branding has gone to their heads. In reality, though, their music is relatively straightforward and nostalgic for a time when British indie ruled the airwaves.

Postcode EP Cover

‘Yggdrasil’ begins with duelling jangly guitars and Marie Reynolds’s cool, cooing vocals will possibly win favour with lovers of any number of 1990’s female-fronted indie bands. The lengthy ‘At Last’ moves amicably enough between mid-paced fare and rousing anthemic rock. There’s more emphasis on acoustic guitar for the pleasant, gently seductive ‘Blue Fluff’ but the EP refuses to catch fire until the end. That moment occurs on a classy ‘Letting Go’, which has a similar lilting feel to ‘Blue Fluff’ but the fuller arrangement and wistful melancholy are wonderfully judged. They finish with a flourish too, thanks to the grungy, visceral ‘Boardwalk’; an energising song tailor made for closing out a live gig and an indicator of what is to come on the harder-edged ‘Part Two’.

One can imagine Postcode being signed to Kitchenware Records if they existed twenty years ago and they certainly bear a strong resemblance to Hug from that same label. Overall, ‘Year Of The Zebra – Part One’ is solid – if rather dated – indie rock fare but the ending to the EP certainly suggests they have special songs in them. Those seeking more darker, psychedelic adventures, however, should check out the more recent ‘Part Two’.

Web Sites:
Postcode Tumblr
Postcode – Year Of The Zebra Part One

Further Listening:
Hug, Catatonia


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