Warner Bros Music
Following their EP which was mainly promoted online with the help of their dedicated “street team”, Linkin Park found a deal with Warner to record and release their debut album. Having been playing as a group since leaving school a few years previously, the band had worked hard to form a unique and original sound. As the Nu-metal wave progressed during the 90s, Linkin Park took their time to find exactly the right moment to enter the scene. Their definitive sound helped to mould the evolution of rap metal into the new millennium.
Rapping over metal riffs wasn't taken to well by all rock and metal fans. The music had snake tongued into two distinctive formats. One chunky and with shorts and a hat, the other frilly with long hair and fantastical song titles. Linkin Park went one way and pushed it hard in that direction. Their shorts got longer and their hats slowly turned round backwards. All in good taste, their lines made sense to the unspoken voice inside of the youth of America and Europe, broke the silence and did it in a style that didn't associate with the strange and often over the top aspects of the heavy metal scene.
Emotional music without the symbolisms and make-up got a lot of people's attention, it opened pathways to feelings and expression that didn't seem sissy or from a qualia. As hip-hop had stuck to the synthesised and looped backing-tracks composed by DJs and computer wizards, Linkin Park made full use of a proper band but managed to cling on to that smooth sensation that comes with neatly packaged rapping, but also were able to distil the anger and frustration into concentrated moments of musical force.
Hybrid Theory pulls aspects from many compositional areas, the experimental sounds that fill the spaces between staple numbers make for interesting listening. The nu-metal wave was moulded by this release and no band in the genre could get by without taking influence from this band. The hybrid between metal and rap was equalised perfectly, singing makes its worthwhile appearance in a few places and so does more musical based composing. The landscape of metal was changed dramatically by this album, for better or worse, rapping to guitars was brought into the every-day with a lot of help from Hybrid Theory.
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In The Presence of Nothing
Slumberland Records and SPINArt
This debut release from a band comprised of members of other bands, each with their own direction and take on musical expression, forms more than a footnote in the shoegaze world that enveloped the nineties and naughties. That is until swept aside by post-rock and dream-pop after a long-lived and worthwhile stint in the spotlight. As the genre never really went away, Lily's remain one of the keystone compositional driving forces behind the shoegazing sound.
The band leader, and all round front-man, Kurt Heasley, adapts a guitar and vocal delivery around the musical musings of various others, bringing percussion and another guitar into the mix. A host of backing singers complete the set-up, leaving the game-field pretty open for what the album can produce. Links to the fresh sound in the early-work of My Bloody Valentine have been suggested, not just by fans but even hard-nosed music commentators have pointed it out. I'd say it's a compliment.
As far as the sound is developed, an organic and warm guitar is kept nicely reverberated and rhythmic as it hollers and jeers in various directions. There is a discordant quality which sounds like a mirror image of the grunge movement, however the snarly and angst laced subject matter is replaced with a dreamy and almost incoherent murmuring. Simple progression makes fat and wholesome riffs out of repetitive but tuneful sections. The manner of the sound comes across as consistent with Mercury Rev from the same era. There's a distance between the music and the listener which distorts and infuses the sound with all kinds of heady echoes.
An important part in the rock music world, it's a push away from the compositional and into the realms of psychedelia and jammed momentous escapades. It fits the bill for a light-hearted summer time splash, and also gives us something to sit back with as well. The lack of aesthetic quality is made up by an interesting line of thought behind the mastering. It makes good listening and still has enough guts to make a real noise in quite a few places.
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The Ravendeath 1972
A distorted long distance signal brings abstracted ambience in the form of floaty light melodies however some white noise fusion gives a creamy and degraded texture to what could be something different. It's as if we're only getting the first bit, depth and harmonics are lost in the translation between alien transmitters and low-fi receiving equipment. Piano-drop begins this ambient album in a whisk of sound that although is decayed to such high levels it's hard to tell if this is music at all, it's still on the positive side of relaxing. An art form indeed, more escapism from the contemporary and commercial is brought along in fluid rivers as the second instalment follows the suit of compressed and fuzz driven sonics.
Clever weaving of reality and suggested gaps in resolution give a quality of ethereal and dark destinations, although it is as if a lamp is being held for us as we delve deeper into the netherworld of electronic sound. The Canadian political analyst becomes the mythical synth and loop sculptor after hours and plays to eclectic crowds of electro connoisseurs the world over. Travelling to Iceland to record Ravendeath, alongside Ben Frost, it's no surprise to learn that Tim Hecker has toured with Sigur Ros, Iceland's next best thing to Bjork in exports.
The music takes influence from Hecker's thesis in urban noise, which earned him a place lecturing in sound culture. The delivery of the noise and non-musical elements is well mixed and it allows the motions of music to wash around hollowed out basins of almost nothingness in the stead of more classically sounding music. As a scored composition, Ravendeath creeps around and makes waves in many small directions. With each new pass of a track title, some of which are simply parts of larger works, In The Fog I, II, and III, for example, new experiments are conducted with various styles of sound and pitch. Drills and crushing scratches add in alongside organs and breathy synthesisers. A true landscape of sound is crafted in musical strangeness, it's worth exploring and for many it may well be exciting and vibrant.
Minds of Infinity
Chanting and abstract electronics swirl in between a choppy guitar based beat that twinkles with metallic and ethnic loops. Melody begins to emerge and the use of synthesiser and guitar together flows well in unison that shifts from one to another in gentle movements. Track one is almost hypnotic and it sets a mood and pace which allows a graceful recline into the back of the chair or the mind if busy doing autonomous tasks. Frothy sounds and sections of strong character build up to release more composed pieces that give a quality of musicianship.
As the album progresses, a groovy quick-step and some beefy guitars rev up the psychedelia machine almost straight away. Intense happenings orbit the pulsing rhythm section like cosmic objects of sound. The build-up has been worthwhile, the sounds have taken us in many directions already which leaves only a gear change to go. It could be felt in the crafted injections of extra energy in the mix.
What began in 2012 as a chanting and guitar based get together, the sound was honed and polished until this professional heady and intense journeying effect was presented in this release. Keyboards and guitars work perfectly side by side, bringing organic and spacey feels to the music. Broken sections give rise to the rising magma of the underlying cosmos that manages to seep through the gaps, then as it solidifies the extra layers of melody and tone bring a crust of beauty and interesting direction.
Slow arpeggio style melodies slice away at the silence as the album opens with a sampled vocal in a foreign language. The track is called “Just Listen” and it's fair enough. I am listening and it's good. I think, though, that it means the whole thing. It's a short track in a fairly short album, around forty-five minutes of music make the production but it's deep enough to expand into more than this once in the mind.
A few bars of paced and tranquil flow build up into something with more air and a whistling tone which lays slightly under the mix. Some pitched frills in various colours of sound glisten along the wayside as repeating loops bring stability in an ambient and interesting rhythm. As we hit track three or four, abstractions begin to make a key appearance which gives a psychedelic feel to the digital and synthesised sound. Use of effects in subtle ways gives a layering that increases the scope without cluttering the bulk delivery.
By throwing the sounds in many directions, and placing little quirks and motions expertly in a stereo environment, the music is given real character but it remains incredibly relaxing. A soft drink perhaps, but one with an umbrella and a piece of fruit on a stick. It drips with tone that shimmers and plays around like light on a thick woodland floor, child-like melody keeps everything fresh and moving while beats are crafted from repetition and sound effects in a perpetual motion.
It's for sitting back and enjoying, the drama is diverse but it never brings the white to the knuckles. As directions shift and feels are handed out on platters lined with interesting garnishes, the general evolution of the sound is pleasant and eventful. The theatre of the mind is busied by the array of compositional cartography and choreography, a gently rolling contour of progression leans in on ethnic and sci-fi roots simultaneously. It's a worthwhile album, there's enough going on for it to not be boring after a few spins but it's peaceful enough to play to almost anyone.
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Art Of Harmony
Cosmic Leaf Records
Israeli chill out artist Zero Cult stayed with Cosmic Leaf to release Art of Harmony, having previously worked with Millennium, it seems that the predominantly net orientated music label suited his works and direction. As the album opens with a track called “Neokarma”, a breathy intro delicately tempts the ears to prick and give this some thought. As the first few bars roll by, some interesting key strokes make a cue for a sweet rhythm and a gentle dose of bass that causes the music to sit up and take a rightful place in the room.
Melodics are drawn upon in a pulsed flow that swirls in repetition but crafts corridors of sound that allow the music to simply sway from side to side and exist. Being part of the experience as a whole, a soundtrack to eternity snakes around the slow but active beat. A breezy drum score keeps the mellow and spacey flow in motion, graceful sonics greet each other in loops and overlaps that curl like cats by an open hearth. The heat source being a dramaticism and vibrancy that shimmers as if eclipsed by the meatier and jutted rhythm and bass.
As “X-Space” begins to play, the space-age feel is given a fresh energy that lifts the music into new parts of the soundsphere. Floating in zero gravity as snappy and technical rhythmic loops adjust a floaty and bouncy melody, the piece swifty loses the original organic sensations brought in by the previous number. The subtle change in sensation allows the music to evolve and grow without bringing in something that loses the cool and laid-back edge that it leans on so well. Dancing around the notion of relaxation with interesting and clever steps makes this a deep and nourishing composition.
The album sits nicely in a space of its own and can be played for relaxation or for background depth to a room. Synthesisers dominate the music, and the cross over between styles is subtle but noticeable. Every track calls upon slightly different ingredients but lay within the same tracks, delivering quality and chilled out vibrations in modestly lengthed numbers. Spooky sections and periods of anticipation give the colour a heady direction. Pan pipes and voice sounds give way to more earthy textures during the calmer periods, as the wave motion of the albums progression peaks, technology is called upon to give an extra layer of energy which is given time to rest as the more peaceful sections allow the music to dress closer to home.
You can get the album now from iTunes
Boards of Canada
Familiar ghostly slow melodics open the orange fronted album with pleasant but haunting melancholy, a dreamy state of mind is induced by the dropped tempo and deliciously warm reverberation that encapsulates each sound. Amidst claims of Satanism and the dark veined thinking that laces the album, the music is actually surprisingly pleasant and concordant, full of flavour and interesting wandering sections.
The decision to format the music in nuggets and nibbles which sandwich slightly meatier renditions in neatly spaced interludes was carried through from the previous work, Music Has The Right To Children. The tone change and progression from the earlier light and sometimes heavenly composition has been into darker and more shady parts. Minor keys and mystery play a forerunning role in the atmosphere and direction of Geogaddi.
Sound bytes and vintage sounds mix nicely in electronic fuzz and synthesised visionary scoring to meld into a cocktail of luminous darkness and magical motions that glisten and sway in and out of phase with our listening reality. We're tempted to fall into comfortable spaces littering the catchy bits, invited to drift off into sea like realms of static and chime, but the nostalgic frills and pulsing rhythms keep us switched on.
This isn't a sing-a-long, Boards of Canada utilise the electronic studio environment to create enchanting backdrops and breath-taking atmospheres. Down-tempo sludgy glades of reaching ideals and self-awareness grow into philosophical and psychological arenas that recreate the music from new angles and perspectives many artists simply never see. Despite the lack of commonplace tick box items that usually make a great album, Boards of Canada went and made one in a totally different direction, and in doing so wrote a whole new list of things to include when thinking about making something totally worthwhile.
The Dark Side of the Moon
Already established as a world power in the realm of music, Pink Floyd created an album of definitive quality and fresh direction which ended an era of psychedelic folk infused rock. As the album breaks itself into the room, the studio compositional poignancy makes itself apparent instantaneously. The band had clearly evolved and were willing to craft something much more solid and multi-directional. Escapades into the realms of madness and exhaustion aside, what was brought back from the edge seems to have been a gift for all of us.
Recorded in Abbey Road Studio, London, the album called upon Clare Torry as a session singer to fill in the jigsaw pieces for Great Gig in The Sky. She later won co-authorship rights in court, after receiving £30 for her contribution at the time. The album also used many experimental techniques that less well known bands may have found too risky. Luckily for the Floyd, their performances and previous work had always relied on the new and outlandish elements which made them ideal candidates for producing such an experimental album.
The 7 beat loop made for the intro for Money takes sampling to a level of exposure it had rarely seen before. Putting computer assisted music on an album to be heard by millions in the early 70's may have been a bit of a shock, but from those humble roots, musicians everywhere began experimenting with loops, layers, and unusual time signatures. Sound engineer, Alan Parsons, utilised several effects for many tracks, including reverb and flange which pushed the limits further on what areas the music could reach.
As a band, the music and album formed an iconic stepping stone for their work, and it allowed them to grip tighter on the music market. Because it doesn't resemble the commercially made music at the time, but remains continuously playable and still sells copies today, Dark Side has set the bar high and pretty early on for what a group of people can and really ought to be doing with their band. Monumental albums full of sonic landscapes and emotional bursts of compositional credence are rare, and perhaps they are famously hard to make. Not many albums can say that they are alternative and that they can reach people in such numbers as this, the world of music was much better off from having it made, it showed that it's possible to be truly creative and original while still enthralling the masses.
Children of Bodom
Finland is well known for having a thriving metal scene, and Children of Bodom add their name to the generous list of Scandinavian artists who made it onto the global scene. Something Wild is a short and punchy album that seeps with classic musical talent. The way the melodies are thrown down over their sweaty fret-boards defines the difference between guitar players and posers. I know when I first heard it, I forced myself to learn at least one intro riff to prove my worth as a player. It took me a few weeks.
Deadnight Warrior begins the album with a ghostly atmosphere which breeds an animalistic grunt and a spine shivering scream. The fast paced guitars with thumping drums then tear away the facade to bring forth the metal in a frenzy of pulse and melodic pantomime. Finding the space to flow in interesting and scale shifting interludes between the thrashing of power chord riffs takes a special talent that requires a lot of work. This debut album proves that the band members already took the time to truly learn their craft.
Alexi Laiho on vocals and guitar gives a masculine infused lyrical delivery from the back of the throat. The music is screamed, roared, and shouted at us where the dramatic and emotively charging compositions swirl around in manic rocked out sonic laser beams all around the room. What sticks out with this band is the fantastic use of keyboards to give a fascinating layer of sound that many metal bands simply shy away from or feel would be too much. Bodom have successfully managed to introduce classical and melodic keyboard sounds into hardcore music, which is an achievement by itself. Rather than using the cliché gothic effects and string simulations, Janne Wirman as the keyboard player has clearly defined his talent in new and worthwhile ways.
Punk attitudes to energy and the guts to go out and throw the solos and frills which punk totally lacks combined with interesting and enchanting melodic compositions make Something Wild a metal album with a difference. It's going to rock you, it's not designed to flimsy along the flowery path with an electric guitar for style, it won't suit everyone's taste. There's a concentrated heaviness to this band which make them simply inaccessible for many.
Mysterious electronic injections of high pitched distant reverberations adjust our listening experience to make way for space-age and abstract sonic craftings. They hover around the space before us in groups of self-similar and polar opposite families. Hefty synthetic bass notes begin to repeat in short bursts as subtle progressions lure the music into higher and higher states of sound. Formulated motions of atmospheric sections drift alongside each other as the track “Experiments on Live Electricity” kicks the album off after a brief intro track called “Generator” which serves no real purpose.
The pulsing and throbbing sensations sculpted in the bass section adjust to allow for the more aerated and heady compositions to figure skate in designer motifs as the virtual disk spins in its cosmically attuned spot. The dream-score feel to the whole delivery needs to be kept in mind, looking for the trees in the wood will leave us disappointed, just sit back and let this one flow. Chill-out electronic sounds need to be respected, but also there's plenty of space for talking and socialising. In this way it would be great background music that would fill silences nicely.
There are a few spooky sections, and I suppose experimentica like this has to push the boundaries. The lack of melodic enchantment is made-up for by the deep and dirty retrospective bass-lines that throw us into a dreary and possibly dangerous zero gravity junk yard. The imagery is quite fantastic, giving our mind's eye the freedom it loves to play around with this as a prompt is recommended. There's more to this that your usual visualisation CD, it's real music that has soul and character but it also effortlessly teeters between worlds, allowing for the duality of experience to latch on to the focused and passive elements.
At over an hour long, the similarities and lack of ground breaking jump out composition could cause this album to drag slightly. Psybient abstract may not be exactly what you're looking for, the mood may require lyrics or melody, or something that doesn't repeat itself. The hypnotic factor at play in this album is quite distinguishable, once allowed to, the flow sits comfortably in a state of semi-awareness, but it must be given permission For me, at least, finding a space to put this music was a bit of a challenge, but once it had been on for a while, a natural place opened up.
The dated aspects in this production can be heard in the way that the loops are quite defined and the build-up and progressions, although experimental, all slot into easy slices. Modern electronic music has to be a bit cleverer than this, however for its day the use of novel sounds and variable progressions which do not necessarily push the energy where it is used to going makes an interesting album. For those chill-out ambient listeners who like a bit of vintage, it's probably exactly what you'll love.