Certain styles of music lie slightly outside my comfort zone for dissection*, approaching it with less developed cognitive tools [critical vocabulary] has a tendency to leave me with comments ranging from “that sounds cool” to “that’s dancey and I don’t feel like dancing”. Lame. So, on the basis of the internet showering me with free music, and it sounding good, here is a small selection of “flash-reviews”:
Aptly named, The Attention Deficit EP by Benjamin Briggs frequently shifts from sound to sound with dramatic subtlety. Even large shifts blend seamlessly thanks to a smooth flow kept along the whole ep, with a unifying sense of intelligent layering and upbeat rhythms. Individual elements have clearly had a lot of attention as well: the lead line towards the end of Troll 4 Life skitters along the edge of cheesy and leaves a dancey smile on my face before giving way to an amusingly grotty vocal sample. [SPOILER ALERT] The most dramatic shift comes towards the final fifth of the ep, where things unexpectedly morph from instrumental to song based. I have to be honest, this is where things slightly lost me, I love the off-kilter ballsiness of the late intrusion and there’s a definite catchiness to the melodies but the actual tone of voice and production applied to it doesn’t appeal to me anywhere near as much as the multitude of playful synth sounds providing the instrumentation. [END SPOILERS]
Which is quite a contrast to Full Blush, where the vocals, despite feeling distant, are a large part of the draw for me. If anything, keeping the vocals back from centre stage pulls me deeper into the pulsing and wailing of the music. Thinking about it I can barely make out the lyrics, but there is a sense of flight, or perhaps falling, that gives a vaguely aquatic feel to the whole thing. I suspect I’d have summed up my reactions better by drawing a marine post-human swimming through a high-tech cathedral that was converted into the worlds coolest nightclub after The Flood.
Krowne’s sound palette on Quantum Living holds an immediate appeal to me, rich and dark with a really strong sense of space, to build a dense layer of interlocking rhythms with detailing shimmering and dancing throughout the structures. The title track itself features vocals from Texture (see Parasomnia, below) with lyrics deeply immersed in quantum mechanics over a bed of creeping riffs and shuffling, springing noises; halfway through the vocals bounce into themselves and off the instruments in a superposition of sound. (It also features the best looking album cover I’ve seen in ages.)
I tried to listen to Parasomnia while reading and failed. Texture (AKA †3X†UR3 AKA Bram E. Geiben) launches straight into a huge, dark cavern, doom laden and compelling: no way I could pay attention to anything else with that going on. The first track doesn’t even feature the dense lyrics which are probably Textures strongest element, but the atmosphere generated is immense and mind consuming, as it remains through all four tracks – even through a range of sounds and styles covered. The entry of fluid, rapid-fire vocals works brilliantly as a mere sonic compliment to everything else but the lyrics are phenomenal: dropping glittering turns of phrase, confrontational wordplay and above all a complex, ideas led viewpoint that I’m going to have to keep listening to for a while longer to grasp fully. It’s so good that when he namechecks himself at the beginning of Come Home, a trait which, as a general rule, bugs the hell out of me, I don’t even mind.
Kemper Norton also explores unconventional ideas from a distinctive perspective, but without lyrics. In fact, Libraries Act EP doesn’t even have words in the track titles, instead presenting them in Dewey Decimal. I’m listening to 133.43, and feeling unsettled, something otherworldly is seeping in at the edges of my consciousness, it doesn’t seem malicious, but it certainly doesn’t make me feel safe. The vantage point Kemper Norton occupies sits a on a particular edge of human consciousness and manages to communicate a vast amount through a very organic collision of sounds. I had to try and explain what Coastal Slurtronic Folk meant the other week, and whether or not I managed, there is a distinct perspective which communicates on a range of subjects through the medium of strange and beautiful music.
Non-conclusive vague thought pair:
EPs really seem to suit the way I listen to music on my computer. I can drop a substantial experience into my ears and give it the attention it deserves.
60% of these were released by Black Lantern Music. Well done, Black Lantern Music.
*See: things without guitars.