Archive for June, 2014

Review: epic45 – Monument EP

Although it’s only been two years, it seems like an age since we last heard from epic45. This is more a reflection of their prolific output thus far and the core members of the band, Rob Glover and Ben Holton, have hardly been slacking in the meantime. Whether reveling in vintage electronic pop (in the case of Glover) or the joyous, harmonic glories of Holton’s My Autumn Empire, the duo have been creating their own individual take on nostalgia. Nevertheless, it’s good to have them back together again even if ‘Monument EP’ features a mere three new tracks.

epic45 EP Cover

‘Defeat’ begins the EP in subdued, minimalist and rather morose fashion, with Holton whispering “these are the end days” (hopefully not a premonition for the future of the band) over a primitive foundation of beats. The title track is made of several more layers and takes a more familiar approach for those accustomed to epic45’s previous offerings, with pretty guitar patterns and choral voices resembling a summer’s dream, particularly for the exquisite coda. ‘Skeletons’ is dreamier still. Indeed, Holton has emerged as a much more strident vocalist on his My Autumn Empire albums so even when he’s singing dark lyrics such as “It’s like you’re dead” over a blissful arrangement, it still sounds like the sweetest music.

A cover of Tears For Tears’ ‘Ideas As Opiates’ is treated with a hushed piano-led reverence; Holton’s warm, soothing tones providing a satisfying alternative to Roland Orzabal’s low register. There are two alternative takes of ‘Monument’ added to the end of the EP. The first by ISAN begins with steady electronic pulses but by its denouement it is positively dripping with lovely vapour trails whilst ‘Monument II’, recorded with ex-Disco Inferno man Ian Crause, witnesses the collective in full-on experimental mode, in keeping with the adventurous spirit of their collaborator’s former band.

They’ve not been away long enough for ‘Monument’ to be considered a comeback but this EP is an elegant, refined return to the magic of epic45. The songs within may be too gentle and unassuming for some but the essence of what makes epic45 special is still very much there as those endless British summer holidays are once more brought into vivid form via some expertly arranged songwriting.

Web Sites:
epic45 Official Site
Wayside and Woodland Label and Shop Site
Video of epic45 – Monument

Further Listening:
My Autumn Empire, Field Harmonics, Depeche Mode, Robert Wyatt

Review: One Star Closer – Another Shape Of Purity

Hailing From Belarus, One Star Closer is a post-rock project dreamed up by Vladislav Petkevich. ‘Another Shape Of Purity’ is the second album from this one man band as he conjures up some impressive instrumental works which endeavour to steer clear from genre clichés.

One Star Closer Album Cover

‘There Must Be A Song Called Home’ is an epic and darkly cinematic introduction to the world of One Star Closer. Thereafter Petkevich’s journey continues to explore other landscapes whilst still staying true to post-rock roots. ‘Earth Doesn’t Always Seem To Be The Place Where We All Belong’ is full of nagging guitars but buoyed the sounds of lovely strings, ‘And The Sirens Will Follow Us’ edges into heavy metal territory (whilst ‘Alaska Awaits’ merely revels in it) and the modestly-named ‘Interlude’ is a lovely, fragrant piano piece.

When Petkevich puts all the best elements together he can make some beautiful and stirring instrumentals too; hitting a real purple patch towards the middle of the record for the joyous ‘Make Friends With Mountains, They Said’ and a dynamic ‘Burn As Bright As The Stars’. Only when nearing the end of the record does the album lose its intensity, as the ideas begin to run out or drift into pleasantness, although the rather fine ambient closer, ‘Mesonoxian’, opens up possibilities for future albums.

All in all, even if it never threatens to catch fire, ‘Another Shape Of Purity’ is a worthy addition to the ever-growing collection of quality post-rock albums. The album possesses insistent melodies and the willingness to incorporate different moods, styles and instruments, to ensure that the listener is kept entertained for the vast majority of the record.

Web Sites:
One Star Closer Bandcamp Page

Further Listening:
Explosions In The Sky, The Absolute End Of The World

Review: A New Line (Related) – S/T

In a long and distinguished history in music, Andrew Johnson is chiefly known for his time as a former member of both Hood and The Remote Viewer. The first album under his new solo identity, A New Line (Related), confirms him as an expert manipulator of deep house, dub and techno.

A New Line (Related) Album Cover

This is just the ninth release on the small Home Assembly Music label but they seem to have the Midas touch when choosing artists. The early signs are certainly understated but as the track ‘A New Line (Related) Vote Malcolm Eden’ develops, the rhythm and intensity begins to increase and by the time the track ends, it feels like the aural equivalent of being surrounded by a horde of hungry insects. ‘A Withering Attack’ follows a not dissimilar course but the atmosphere is eerier still thanks to a combination of pulsing beats and a chilling melody.

Even the less strident material, such as the moody ‘The Slow Sounds Of Your Life’ contain mesmeric and involving delights. ‘People Kissed Underneath Me’ resembles the idea of waking up at dawn to the sound of farm machinery whilst ‘Three Octave Voice’ touches on the early global techno sounds of 808 State. The most hypnotic moment, however, can be found on ‘Repetition (for Pryzbylewski)’, which is dominated by clanging, bell-like patterns. After seven minutes it should become irritating but the constantly shifting backgrounds ensure the track is disorientating in all the best ways. Finally, the shuddering yet blissful ‘Great Palaces’ is a great way for Johnson to sign off.

The album clocks in at just over an hour which could have been a mistake for a record which certainly celebrates the beauty of repetition. However, the music is chilled, complex and blessed with so much nocturnal longing that it is perfect for a late night headphone listen.

Web Sites:
A New Line (Related) – S/T
Home Assembly Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Hood, The Remote Viewer, Si-cut.db

Review: Greguy – Minor Injury

Frenchman Grégory Vrecsics claims inspiration from electronic stalwarts Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis but as is often the case with artists on Bearsuit Records, this only tells half the story. Using a nom de plume of Greguy, Vrecsics may have titled his EP ‘Minor Injury’ but he has the potential to have a major impact.

Greguy EP Cover

The title track is the obvious place to start and immediately demonstrates a penchant for mixing strings with vintage electronic music and a modern production. There are confident swathes of synths and beats here but these are balanced by noirish viola and some lighter than air harmonies from guest vocalist  Léa Cervini,  all of which creates a wonderfully original alternative pop song. ‘Close To Me’ follows suit and is another sublime combination of strings and electronica, with Vrecsics also revealing himself to be a romantic at heart with a tender and vulnerable delivery in front of the mic. Elsewhere, ‘Temps’ rides on the kind of opulent keyboards which aforementioned influence Monsieur Jarre would be proud of whilst  ‘American Way Of Life’ is a less exciting affair but gains flight and gravitas on the bonus version recorded with Cervini. Credit too for the last bonus track  which paraphrases Depeche Mode’s ‘Pleasure Little Treasure’ and this surprisingly excellent dance/pop number has a wired, cracked-up energy of its own making.

Considering there is less than twenty minutes of music here, there are ideas in abundance which will keep fans of maverick electronic pop salivating in anticipation for what Greguy does said. That said, this is still one of the more mainstream records from Bearsuit Records and arguably their most commercially-viable offering to date.

Web Sites:
Bearsuit Records Label Site
Bandcamp Stream for Greguy – Minor Injury

Further Listening:
Avril, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream