Archive for January, 2015

Review: Order Anura – Order Anura

Funereal bedroom songs are the order of the day for Ivan Heemskirk. Via his Order Anura outlet, this Michigan solo artist has created a bleak and chilling debut album which he recorded “very slowly” in his apartment.

Order Anura Album Cover

A church organ melody lights up ‘Fiercely Aglow’, adding a richness and warmth to contrast with Heemskirk’s thin vocals, which recall Bernard Sumner’s early efforts behind the mic. Yet even though it would be stretching it a bit to compare the approach to Joy Division, Heemskirk seems to be striving for the same spiritual vibe as ‘Atmosphere’ and sometimes doesn’t fall that short of such a lofty target. Thanks to its spare, gospel-like arrangement, ‘Where You Are’ could have been recorded in the 1950’s; Heemskirk’s tones are more strident this time and form an important part in making this track one of the more optimistic-sounding efforts.

Stylistically, the songs vary little as one murmured vocal accompanies another grand keyboard melody and events take an even darker turn on the second half of the album. Firstly, on ‘Time Will Bend’, as the singer bemoans “You are so far away”, the ability to haunt the listener becomes stronger. ‘Underwater’ is appropriately submerged in distortion as our hero’s soliloquies appear to be sinking into the depths of the abyss; an idea confirmed by the despairing aura of the last of Heemskirk’s self-written pieces, ‘Helpless’. Bizarrely, the album ends with a version of Nintendo Gameboy tune; presenting a somewhat incongruous footnote to what has gone on before.

In terms of emotional reach, Order Anura isn’t as convincing as last year’s Black Walls’ magnificent ‘Communion’ but then little music is, in fairness. However, within the limited confines of his bedroom studio and inevitable lo-fi production, Heemskirk has developed his own world of gloomy processional music. This could have been a depressing listen but the warmth and intimacy of these songs presents a surprisingly moving experience.

Web Sites:
Order Anura Bandcamp

Further Listening:
Joy Division, Black Walls, Tyler Sullivan


Review: The Glass Set – First Image

Boston, Massachusetts act The Glass Set admit to being brought up on a steady diet of UK post punk acts and this much is clear on a darkly impressive mini album EP which takes on shoegaze and gothic genres along the way. This description alone might make you think you’ve heard all this before but there’s a noticeable maturity and complexity to their songs which ensures their music lurks in the memory.

The Glass Set EP Cover

For the first song ‘Luckiest Girl’, Joel Cohen’s murky guitars and Allen Esser’s thick, pounding percussion are interwoven deliciously with Leah Callahan’s sweet innocent vocals and Cohen’s own haunting murmur. It’s an unusual yet intoxicating beginning; echoing the shadowy work of early Breathless as much as any female-fronted shoegaze act you could care to mention. Callahan becomes a more dominant presence on ‘Elephant And Castle’. Here the arrangement is stripped back for much of the song; where the band are content to build a ringing, chiming foundation on which the singer can deliver a dominant yet classy performance and when the song enters its inevitable loud phase it is done so in a superbly controlled way.

The title track seems slightly wayward at first with male/female vocals colliding and fading into each other above warped guitars but credit to the band for experimenting with production and this clever, complex track grows in stature after repeated plays. A more commercially-friendly ‘Ooh La La’ proves that The Glass Set can “do” pop if the mood takes them and here the melodies flow from every key change. The final two tracks are plunged back into ethereal darkness; with ‘Keep It To Yourself’, especially, bringing gothic influences into the mix.

The Glass Set may have been hailed as “Joy Division fronted by a female Morrissey” by their local press but there’s a ring of truth to the hyperbole since ‘First Image’ is laced with well-judged Mancunian influences and their frontwoman has the charisma to ensure they rise to the top of similarly-styled bands.

Web Sites:
The Glass Set Official Site/Bandcamp
Video for The Glass Set – Elephant And Castle

Further Listening: