EP Review – R. Missing – Unsummering


R.Missing is the name of a dark or cold wave electronic project between New York based Sharon Shy and Toppy, otherwise known as Indie duo The Ropes. This project sees them embrace a darker and introspective form of electronica and experiment in a middle ground between acts such as The Knife and Austra. Their EP is called Unsummering and was released on March 3rd. 

‘Kelly Was a Philistine’ is the lead single from the EP and is evocative of the general sound and feel of the album. With a steady, punchy beat warping synths and reliable, oscillating rhythm section that run beneath Shy’s calm and emotionally detached vocals, this track retains a cool and cold feel with shimmering electronica fading into space providing a glacial atmospheric quality. The title track delivers a driven piece of Electro Pop that has a deep, whirring synth, a more rapid beat and ringing riff as its engine. It is just as coolly delivered with more delicate, vocals responsive to the music. Tracks such as ‘Birthright’ have a pulsating beat with whirring synths flashing and extending from it. The blocky verses feed into the light of the chorus for a dynamic track. 

The EP is full of coolly delivered and well produced music with eerie vocals and misty soundscapes. The lyrics of detachment marry with the music produced and in many ways goes beyond The Knife and Austra comparisons; in parts it screams of John Foxx or even Gary Numa and an earlier dark wave sound. What makes this different are not the robotic or morphed vocals of Numan or Foxx, but the dispassionate delivery of Sharon Shy which hints for the sake of the lyrical narrative that a emotional person was once there. Their investment into their theme has fully paid off for well functioning piece of sophisticated electronica. 

Owen Riddle 

Sunday Suggestion – The Knife – We Share Our Mothers Health

Foto: Divulgação.
Over eleven years ago today, The Knife recorded the ground-breaking and pioneering Deep Cuts. The ground shook, but nobody noticed as it ventured far beyond the norm and to the point were it’s hard to grasp their sound. Nevertheless, we are now living in their sound in 2014 as everyone finally got to grips with their sound. The same will be the case in 2023 or even beyond as the world catches up with potential of Shaking The Habitual. The Swedish duo’s last album before they announced their spilt in the summer. Our 2013/14 sound (The Knife’s 2002/03 sound) is perhaps best demonstrated with the Deep Cuts track ‘We Share Our Mothers Health’. The trap drop-like, pulsating beats continuously burst out throughout the track with sharp and clean synth sounds cutting and slashing their way across the beat. The aggressive and bold, higher pitched vocals from Karin are countered by the divulging and warping, low pitched vocal from Olof that are a little unsettling while acting as the perfect harmony for Karin’s vocal. See The Knife as a long term gift that keeps on giving.

The Knife and what sort of legacy they will leave

THE KNIFE ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM
The Knife have announced that they are to split at the end of their Shaking The Habitual tour that concludes in Reykjavik, Iceland on September 7th. Upon the news, they were hailed as one of the most influential acts of the millennium by The Guardian and even though you won’t be familiar with them; that evaluation could not be more true. Sweden’s Karin and Olof Dreijer were initially pushing the boundaries of electro-pop with their 2003 album Deep Cuts and their most popular single ‘Heartbeats’. With it, they were grasping the heavy distorted synth sound and trap drop like beats nearly a decade before they were in widespread use like they are now. Today we’ve even reached the point where McCartney is doing just that. Throughout the 21st century so far, they have continued to develop and push this sound on beyond it’s very advanced boundaries; encompassing the very best of the unknown and the future of music progression. The fact that today’s groups have only just cottoned on to what they were doing eleven, twelve years ago while they were taking their first steps is testament to their advanced ability. Most recently they have reached the heights of experimentation; to the point where a label or genre cannot be applied. Shaking The Habitual and it’s fear inducing, synth laden, cave dive was their sound of 2013, however, we will not see music of that tenacity and inventiveness until 2024 at the very earliest, such is their progressiveness. Their legacy is not what they’ve done but what other people do with what they’ve done. The legacy does not hark back to the past, but to the future. We just haven’t reached it yet. They shouldn’t be stood alongside The Beatles, Bowie, Sex Pistols and the like; they will take their place of the modest sort of innovators. The one’s that aren’t appreciated until long after they’ve gone. Like The Sonics, Silver Apples, John Foxx and Broadcast; their music will be uncovered like a archaeologist discovers and rare artefact.
 
Hopefully their separate projects will be just as advanced and as enthralling for god knows we can’t afford to lose some of the last great innovators of music we have left.

Sunday Suggestion – The Knife – Heartbeats

The Knife are one of the few musicians operating beyond the boundaries of music and exploring a little. The Swedish duo didn’t just do this with the unparalleled Shaking The Habitual last year; they were pushing the boundaries eleven years ago too. Even with the most light hearted songs they could muster. Heartbeats is a wonderful, all out synth affair from their second studio album Deep Cuts and it sounds like the sort of music a large amount of synth groups are producing right now over a decade later. It’s heavy and blocky with it’s synths sounds and intertwines a combination of them to build hook on to hook. The tumbling 80’s drum sample and the curious vocal link it together in a simplistic fashion that is enhanced by it’s minimalism and production. The synths have an added kick and spring to them after each chorus and also go into a hook filled, melodic feast at one point that is only enhanced by the less obvious but still harmonious vocal style. This song is quite simply everything that’s good about 21st century pop music.

Image from thefridgemedia.com

Forget What The NME Says. This Is The True Face of Musical Progression.

I won’t get bogged down in the details, but I recently wrote an article about how musical progression, on the face of it is in grave decline compared to the second half of the twentieth century and it seems many are living in some ignorant bliss about it all. In what was largely a rant against the ‘Indie Hipster’ I did paint a pretty bleak picture about the majority of those who weren’t pushing music forward so I thought I’d redress that and show you who is.

 

Factory Floor and The Knife

Dark and gritty synthetic churnings and grindings of an industrial nature. A collage and a deep texture of different electronic sounds burrowing beneath the song or fire out from it in a laser like fashion. There isn’t really a traditional base or middling sound and if there is it isn’t playing centre stage. Songs that are pretty lengthy and play on sensory and emotive vulnerabilities. These are enhanced by the very different ways the vocals are packaged. Only inserted at intervals to enhance the sound or scare you half to death.

 

Bombay Bicycle Club

Though perhaps not making such a huge difference to the progression of music before; they certainly are now. They could almost act as the in-between or the transition from the ‘Hipster’ culture to the progressive and forward thinking culture and the highly futuristic nature of Factory Floor and The Knife. They are slightly less shocking and assertive in their approach and they act in a much more accessible and melodic fashion particularly with ‘Carry Me’ with a sustained vocal but still with a great focus on the music and an untraditional approach to verses.

 

Pinkunoizu

A great combination and clashing of different sounds to forge a new type of music but one that still has a large air of familiarity to it. Combining the punk and krautrock elements with the neo-psychedelic, shoegazing and even folk elements but in a much matter of fact way rather than making a mockery of the respected genres in the process. It results in direct and easy to grasp song progression but one that is much more complex and varied.

 

Warpaint

A fantastic proprietor of the atmospheric and of the expanded sound. They don’t plug a cheap atmosphere using the same default echo and distortion that most bands who think they are of the same banner. They in fact utilise the natural sound of their vocal as well as the differing effects that they have at their disposal. The also do this with the natural rotating rhythms and in using sounds to build up textures that are fluid and drawn out. Sometimes the atmospheric quality comes from the vocal, the guitars, the bass, percussion, synths etc. This can allow them to control the type of atmospheric quality of each song. Sometimes it can change mid-song, but they have the ability to produce completely spaced out and unlimited sounds and much more bottled up and immediate atmospheric moments.

 

The Horrors

Psychedelic music of the future. They have already went through a rapid personal musical progression and it would be a crime to leave them out of this list. The free flowing synths and the layering atop of it can be complex or simple but divulges the sound perfectly in a way original psychedelica has not. Combine that with the wizardry of guitarist Joshua Hayward. To a passing ear it just sounds like an aggressive shoegaze style, but it does so much more. Instead of acting as a side show of the rest of the song he uses it as the songs engine to grind out a tune from the reverb and to act as an added melodic element. You just have to look at the abundance of pedals he has to see where he is taking guitar music as a whole to an age of the intelligent and disciplined guitarist. The bass is always less obvious in it’s bass lines and Faris’ vocals speak for themselves for a fresh vocal style.

 

Rose Elinor Dougall

Not only was her debut album Without Why a great rejigging of outlooks on genres with brilliant combinations and fresh approaches on each; but her 2013 EP Future Vanishes is a great example of a new type of pop music. One that is more intelligent and does so much more than provide the quick fix people look for. Lyrically capable as always; she moulds songs that are infectious in their beat, rhythm, groove and melodic feel. You can sing a long and you can dance along to them. There is also a great spaced out quality to her music from which you can be totally immersed and lost in. Something that is rooted deeper by her lyrics. That doesn’t detract from those infectious qualities and if anything she cleverly utilises and manipulates this to enhance such things.

 

Damon Albarn

Already a legendary innovator in several guises; he has recently shown he can still do just that as we all set about embarking on his solo venture. Songs like ‘Everyday Robots’ are broken and off beat with their melodies and the mismatch of percussion going on at the same time. He combines the traditional strings and piano with the samples and lets them sit separately and unifying them with his easy listening vocal to smooth everything over. He has much more to give and much more to show younger generations currently driving music backwards.

That was just a few off the top of my head but there are such artists out there. You just have to find them and go to their gigs and so on for they are the true driving forces of music. Even if they are behind the scenes they are the forward thinkers and the progressives like generations before them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Albums of 2013

Now that I have listed my top ten tracks and now that it is 2014, I’ve decided to roll off my top ten albums from last year. Again, if your favourite artists art present they either didn’t make the cut or weren’t reviewed by me last year; for this is a list compiled from albums that have appeared on the blog in 2013. However, the listing is this time based on the rating I gave each album and not on my current opinion. Anyway…

 

10. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

File:Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City.png

The band had certainly tried a few different methods with the pitch shifting which was also used on the drums and the guitar was recorded straight onto the recording programme while various different recording techniques were used to ‘soften’ the album and make it listenable. They have certainly done that and while being very careful with the production. It also has a slight edge to it as well and therefore results in their best album yet. They have grown older and their music has grown with it to create a very unique at times and mature sound.

 

9. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film

Rewind The Film is not too generic and its by no means so experimental and conceptualized that it isn’t relatable or translatable. The lyrics are and music share equal footing and in general it just shows that the Manics are still capable of being truly creative. probably their most complete album since Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours in terms of the lyrical challenges posed and the moods and emotions created via their light and airy production.

 

8. Factory Floor – Factory Floor

It’s not too far away from what The Knife did earlier on in 2013, but perhaps it has a more subtle edge to it. For now, it’s main strengths will be it’s ability to fill dance floors as well as sound dark, scathing and haunting. All in all it’s a great effort and was probably worth the long wait we had to endure for a full studio album.

 

7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

File:Random Access Memories.jpg

Even though tracks like ‘Get Lucky’ have been played to death in 2013; it’s a proper song in how it’s been crafted by musicians, written by musicians, produced by musicians and played by musicians and talented ones at that, with bags of experience. The fact this sort of music is topping the charts whether it’s your thing or not should be celebrated. Thomas Bangalter pointed towards the likes of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd and Sgt Pepper from The Beatles as “the ones that take you on a journey for miles and miles.” They all served as some of the several models for creating an album that provides that journey which they have managed to achieve in the sense that you can become engrossed and lost within it. Perhaps it is their best work in how they are more have proved successful with this different approach.

 

6. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual

All in all this album is just beyond me. Even if you don’t quite get some of the songs at first you should listen again and try to deconstruct the wall of different and varying sounds. Some of which fill the song but others leave the songs with lots of space to generate a real atmosphere while at times terrifying me. With this they have challenged the norm’s of modern music to the points where a lot of people won’t appreciate it because they don’t understand it. I think had I reviewed this a month ago, then it would have a much higher rating.

 

5. Connan Mockasin – Caramel

 Though the sound and tone of Caramel isn’t moved and shifted around so much; it would be wrong for that to happen as it would break down the larger flow and feel of the album. It is nearly impossible and it almost feels wrong to plant a mark on it. A surreal and coolly insane and outrageous event from someone being himself, taking risks and being bold.

 

4. Arctic Monkeys – AM

AM falls down on very few occasions and when it does, it’s only to re-envisage some great Desert Rock, Swooning Ballads etc. The rest of it has been new takes on worn out sounds, showing that you can be innovative in what you don’t bring to a song and with at times fluctuating styles within songs. Josh Homme’s presence has for once not been an overbearing one but something that has furthered their vision and aim. It showed everyone what still can be done with guitar music in 2013. I know it can be easy, but don’t let all the crazed fangirls and boys put you off it because it’s an album that maintains a very high standard throughout. I perhaps think that there are some better albums with a lower ranking in this list, but nevertheless it deserves it’s place in the top ten.

 

3. Savages – Silence Yourself

 File:Savages - Silence Yourself.jpg

The musical discipline and obvious talent of all the members is clear to see and they don’t seem to have any hidden agenda or motivation either. They lay everything out in their music alone. Not even in their image. This for me is refreshing and they have left themselves with the difficult task of the second album. But that dreaded phase I doubt will effect them at all. They seem so cool and at ease with their music; behind the urgency and rapid nature of it all and Silence Yourself is the result. Just be sure to take in the depth and meaning of the album too, so don’t judge it on first impressions.

 

2. Pinknoizu – The Drop

All in all this album is highly varied and you should never get bored listening to it. That’s what makes a great album like Sgt Pepper for example. Not only that but the composition and production is also reflective of that variedness that exists across the album. A varied tone that is driven by the mutations and combinations of sounds the Danish group have been able to put together in order to forge new and interesting soundscapes. On top of that; it gets easily manipulated and heightened by the production and recording prowess the group attained. It’s a real treat.

 

1. Jagwar Ma – Howlin

They have justified all the fuss about them for sure to create a very ‘trippy’ album but an album that is almost perfect on a technical level. Jono Ma’s understanding and meticulous attention to detail on getting the right amount of each element in their songs is a great skill to have. The album does go beyond the combination of their past influences to create an album that sounds familiar yet also new and exciting. All this and it’s only their debut album of which many others have very safe and rather dull debuts with perhaps too much focus on the singles. This is not the case with Howlin. Beyond that they have the basic aspects of variation and at times rhythmic affairs intercepted by more sparse musical artistry.

 

 

Tracks of 2013 – Top 10

It is now time to wrap up the year of music 2013 has given us and what better way to start than with my top 10 tracks of the year. Out of the top 10 there have been tracks that have struck me for their imagination, innovation, risk-taking, melodic mastery and so on. They come from worldwide heavyweights to the more obscure crafters of music and they’ve all been picked from those I have looked at, so please don’t despair if there are any missing artists as they might just have passed me by this year.

10. Paul McCartney – Appreciate

 

Yes. He is 71. Yes. It is from his album New. No. It isn’t what you are thinking. If you look upon McCartney’s 2013 album; full of nostalgic forays into the past decades of his career, then you’ll see that the man of innovation and risk taking is still there. Appreciate is a hidden gem within the New album. It’s neo-psychedlica curled around a hip hop beat and it has more freshness about it than many of the young artists releasing music this year. That is either a sign of McCartney’s prowess or a sign of the lack of it amongst the new musicians of today. http://youtu.be/3Aq-iiDXo7I

9. Gaz Coombes – Buffalo

Despite plying his Britpop trade around 20 years ago, Gaz is probably making the most profound and elaborate music of his career. Buffalo is to be a single off his upcoming album which is he is currently working on. If this track is anything to go by then he looks set to expand upon the firm foundations of his debut album from 2012. A dramatic and atmospheric glow as the song progresses through it’s stages of varied tone. http://youtu.be/xi8AH-peorY

8. Arctic Monkeys – Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?

They perhaps needed to do something bold and different after many saw their fourth album as their comparative worst effort. What I like about this track is that it’s not obviously crammed with reverbing guitars or with Alex Turner rapidly delivering his vocal around it. There’s no hint of desert rock here either. It’s driven by a different source which gives the song an indelible groove while giving it bags of space for a more developed and tuneful vocal from Alex. Perfect example of less being more in terms of production. http://youtu.be/2spbZbOPu_w

7. Daft Punk featuring Julian Casablancas – Instant Crush

This one of the best tracks off Random Access Memories and it best combines the 70’s and 80’s influences with the typical Daft Punk sound and style. Throw in Julian Casalancas and you have one of the most tuneful and melodic tracks they’ve ever produced. You’re left vulnerable to the plucked, churning of the rhythm much like Andy Summers of The Police produced with Every Breath You Take in 1983. The vocoded vocal is poised in perfect balance to the synths and you can still detect the character of Julian’s voice beneath it. A fantastic piece of electro pop and a change of direction that worked for Daft Punk. http://youtu.be/a5uQMwRMHcs

6. Bombay Bicycle Club – Carry Me

Bombay Bicycle Club

A great progression of their music was suggested with Carry Me. Retaining the elements that make them successful is key and they did that. But the re-evaluation was not only needed but works to great results. A mix of subtlety and sheer boldness. All the fine raw elements clashing with the bold industrial sounds while still forging a great spacious and floating harmony and atmosphere. The result of a complex song being instantly accessible through recording skill. http://youtu.be/OZCfqhRgJ0Q

5. Savages – Husbands

Dark, angry , gritty and everything else. This song features the deep rooted bass line which remains about the only constant throughout. Above it is the grinding and screeching guitars with the clashing percussion. Smashing through it are the snarling and bold vocals that evoke a real raw and emotive feel that is shoved right up into your face http://youtu.be/rmJ_mcvRQsI

4. TOY – Endlessly

TOY followed their debut with a solid second effort in Join The Dots. It gave them a chance to refine and let their sound grow with Endlessly being the prime example of that. That theme of organised chaos holds true again here, yet it is directed into a more distinguished melody which makes it all the more enjoyable. Wonderfully spaced out and atmospheric despite the various elements in action. http://youtu.be/o1Yre4Gmb-E

3. Jagwar Ma – Man I Need

Man I Need’ is one of the standout tracks from Howlin which instantly sets the tone with the psychedelic whirring along with the wide scope and relaxed urgency of the percussion which is pretty typical of a psychedelic style. The rhythm makes an indelible groove, the percussion plies at it too. Also a magnificent clash of influences to create something new. A standout track from a standout album. http://youtu.be/K8KCPw9kYpo

2. The Knife – Full of Fire

This brother and sister duo from Sweden took the traditional notions of song structure, style and context and shredded them into a million pieces. They didn’t just progress their sound to the next level, but to the next light-year. It’s deep, dark and gritty. The industrial grinding of the lower pitched synths and set against the flashing synths sounds above them. The vocals combine with the instrumentals in such a eerie and unfamiliar way that it is at times a wonderfully terrifying experience. The fact it is a ten minute affair only enhances it as you lay on edge at each development of sound. It is almost too advanced to contemplate for some. But at least we now have a possible avenue for musical progression instead of recycling the last 50 years to no end. http://youtu.be/DoH6k6eIUS4

1. Rose Elinor Dougall – Future Vanishes

I have to admit that I initially had this track placed further down the top ten. But only after I listened to all the tracks again did I realise that this song was still ingrained in my mind. It then hit me that this track actually fulfils all the criteria I asked for. It has melodies and hook at every turn, it has a magnificent atmospheric quality to it, imaginative in it’s forms and lyrics and innovative in terms of combining pop and electronic features to a psychedelic track. On top of all this is it’s beautiful contradiction of its self. It can send you into an atmospheric and psychedelic trip into the depths of your thoughts or can leave you at the mercy of it’s rhythm and deep rooted groove. It does everything you ask for. Why shouldn’t this track top my list? Is it because she doesn’t sell out arenas or headline Reading and Leeds, or grace the top of the charts? I don’t think so. That’s not what I’m about, but this song is. http://youtu.be/JUqVhh0kuNA

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual Review

This is The Knife’s first proper album since 2006 and wow what a return! Shaking the Habitual is the most confusing yet most amazing thing i’ver ever heard and im glad that they have created this monster of a record which feels like it’s been hiding away in a cave or something! Yeah i know… They have always wanted to challenge the music industry and challenge the idea of creating music with a structure that has been pioneered in the 50’s and 60’s to keep the commercial big wigs happy. Let’s face it… anything in the charts today follows the exact same structure of a song from the 50’s or 60’s. Take The Beatles as the most famous example. They are being recycled to the point of breaking even today and The Knife have dropped this with Shaking the Habitual. It couldn’t be anymore different from English Rain from Gabrielle Aplin which i reviewed last week and if im honest that was easier to review aswell! ‘Full of Fire’ is a song that some may not even consider a song but perhaps that’s the problem. Perhaps we are all being so very narrow minded about what a song is so if you’re going to listen to this song then do it with an open mind. It doesn’t have a chorus as much as just repeating, disstorted and manipulated lyric with different sounds. That’s what this song is. A collage of sounds woven together into nine minutes. The sounds border on a gritty and dark techno theme with some electronica elements thrown in but none of them used in a convential way. The vocals too are almost always haunting or just straight up creepy so i’d advise against listening to this in the dead of night if you are easily scared as the song plays on every sense and every new sound makes you a little nervous. But when you think about it, when has a song ever done that? Another great element with the song is that you never get bored with it despite it’s unconvential length. This is because there is always something new going on in the tune to intrigue. ‘A Tooth For an Eye’ is a very percussion driven song with the constant rattle of cymbals and an electronic rythmic beat going on throughout with a heavier electronic percussion sound at intervals throughout. This union of percussion sounds grows in volume as do the vocals from Karin Andersson and some subtle electonic synth sounds are introduced as Karin’s vocals take control of the song more in it’s second half. ‘Ready to Lose’ has a very low percussion like electronic sound that drives the song which again grows naturally with added subtle synth sounds and hand claps accompanying it. A more metallic percussion sound joins in as Olof’s vocals rise above the sounds and delivers a vocal that pulls your attention to the lyrics. ‘A Cherry on Top’ has a very minimalistic intro with an eerrie collage of manipulated and disstorted sounds. The song almost stops to restart again with an off kilter guitar sound as Olof’s vocals begin over five minutes into the song and last for around a minute. The general sound could be from some retro, underground horror film and like ‘Full of Fire’ it’s very thought provoking and you can be left hanging on every plucked string which is again something you can’t say a song has done before. All in all this album is great! Even if you don’t quite get some of the songs at first you should listen again and try to deconstruct the wall of different and varying sounds. Some of which fill the song but others leave the songs with lots of space to generate a real atmosphere and with this they have challenged the norm’s of modern music to the points where alot of people won’t appreciate it because they don’t understand it. Im not even sure if I fully understand it but i do recognise what has been done and I think the same old same old of music needs to be challenged but sadly, perhaps The Knife are too ahead of their time with Shaking the Habitual and it might only be appreciated more in the future. So if you’re looking for something dark, challenging and different then this album is for you!

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual = 8.5/10

Images from http://consequenceofsound.net/#&panel1-3 / http://www.abeano.com/tag/the-knife