The Balloons – 9:40pm – 3.5/5
Yes, it feels like it's time I should be writing something musical once more, and why not continue with yet another Japanese band. As much of a broken record as this probably feels now, I happen to simply be getting a lot of music of late from a place specialising in Asian artists – and believe me, there have been some pretty bad ones – but this one, well quite frankly I'm not sure if I clicked the right link, but I'm glad I did. I've always known about the significance of early math rock artists such as Slint, Don Caballero and Hella on the oncoming wave of mathcore and post-rock, but much like the latter it was not one I quite felt a part of. It all felt a bit too inconsequential; either intentionally difficult to like by the out of place technical aspect or done so subtly that it came off pretentious, the actual melodies themselves suffering as a result, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.
Much of the complexity arrives from the unusual beat structures but they're in no hurry to make them overly complex; it never feels out of place and flows off naturally with four musicians all managing to harmonise with one another perfectly fine, each transition feeling like nothing more than a change of pace; an increase the tempo and/or dissonance for the next passage lending an almost progressive feel to what otherwise would seem like slow and melodic indie rock. The post-hardcore and post-rock styles that it would go on influence are very much worn on its sleeves, contently showing no remorse at utilising soft vocals that wouldn't feel out of place with the former and meandering intertwining twangy guitar lines and smooth bass that would comfortably party with the latter.
And sadly the same issues I frequently find myself confronted with by bands in those genres is once again prevalent here: there's no real attention draw. So much of the music feels like easy listening, even despite it's complexity, that you fail to notice the detail that has gone into the composition leaving it feeling a little like a pop rock album that failed to provide a hook – or even a discernible chorus for that matter – which robs it of the albums greatest strength. As a result too many of the tracks blur together; the album will have ended and returned to the start without you noticing, which is as much a reflection on the replay value as it is the lack of a distinctivity between the tracks. Once this hurdle is overcome and you start to pay more close attention to the individual lines you realise how well worked they are; the vocals sound almost indistinguishable from any American vocalist – whether this is a compliment or not depends on which you prefer – and the guitars, whilst often utilising the same tone, always seem capable of creating an almost ambient atmospheric harmony with the bass. There's a lot to it, but it simply doesn't grip me, and how long it'll keep me interested is a very difficult thing to predict indeed.
Highlights: 9:40 PM, The Biggest Numbers Flotsam
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Blood Stain Child – Mozaiq – 3.5/5
I could probably only write this mildly drunk, so its fortunate I'm still at that level where I'm able to type words coherently. Couple that instinctive metal fans hatred for that dreaded combination of anything electronic de-sanctifying the purity of the metal with a personal distaste for a local genre pioneer (and you have no idea how bitter even typing their name feels, so I wont) and you have a recipe of despision, which just makes this all the more impressive. I'm far from the unambitious type and have no issues with trying out new sounds, but this always seemed like one idea too far, and I was often quite happy to mock them – along with anyone else – who thought it could work. But it does. And that's just a little frightening.
Now I'm not going to start ranting about the proficiency of the instrumentation; you could remove the electronic overtones and be left with something altogether not too different from Dark Tranquility or In Flames style of Gothenburg melodeath. You have the same riffs filled with palm mutes, those half-rasped and half-growled vocals all breaking for a slow chorus; the drumming never really feels like its trying and the solo's come all too infrequently, albeit when they do arrive provide ample opportunity for the guitarist to prove against all odds that he can actually play pretty well. But for the most part it's faceless, by the numbers and quite unimpressive.
It's only when you dive a touch deeper that you realise that the new element manages to revive a dying genre; by combining it with that danceable and catchy trance back beat, it manages to create a slow point for which to give the sudden aggressive burst extra emphasis. The dual vocal styles lend a diversity to the standard monotony; a “Machinae Supremacy” flair to coincide with the “Genghis Tron” vibe he manages to convey. I still don't entirely know how to explain how the unusual combination works; by virtue of the two elements that should by all rational minds conflict, instead they somehow morph into some absurdly catchy version of a genre I grew tired of years ago. By all means, hate the idea of it enough to influence your thoughts on the music – it would be hypocritical of me to suggest otherwise – but if this is the sound we can expect in the future, I don't think I'll be one of those complaining.
Highlights: Freedom, Metoropolice, Ez Do Dance
World's End Girlfriend – Seven Idiots – 4/5
So it's been a while since I graced this forum with my presence – mostly because I haven't been listening to much new – but this is one release that I'd been intending to get to for quite some time. Mentioned in the same breath as “Kashiwa Daisuke” and his phenomenal Program Music I, this post-rock release takes a leap from the more melancholic works I have of his and delivers something that through the use of glitch is transformed into a piece nonetheless beautiful but altogether more complex. This is not a one-listen release; with the exception of all but the most simplistic of offerings (and even they aren't that simple when you get down to the details) there's a good chance that you won't even comprehend half of what you're being bombarded with, trying to make out that base rhythm that other sounds seem to be leaping off like flippers in a pinball machine, bouncing around in a frantic and unpredictable manner.
Perhaps a trademark of someone adept at using electronic signals to his advantage; the stereo format supports his blissful chaos by having the various musical 'defects' come out of different speakers to emphasise certain passages and disjoint otherwise inherently simplistic passages of mournful keys or enthused violins. There are no vocals here (from an unverified source, I've heard this follows a last minute decision to have them removed, a bold decision made all the more so given the fact was the first to be released on his own record label) and the whole album plays off almost like a progressive piece in the manner it seems intent on 'telling a tale,' complete with its undulating themes and elements that come together to form the whole. There is no predicting the way things will unfold, no accounting for the style of music thrown in; that jazzy saxaphone suddenly being used as vinyl to be scratched, or the way a classical passage suddenly becomes juxtaposed by a drum and bass beat.
The beauty here though, is in the extraction; the frantic chaos of the glitch blips and electronic bloops, the guitar that's never able to quite get its signal across and then as if from nowhere, through the anarchic drum loops bounding between the speakers comes a simple violin passage or piano line that seems to make sense of it all; the contrasting beauty and hopeless chaos playing off one another in a manner that doesn't feel disjointed but rather the other side of the same coin. There are times where this is lost, and even after repeated listens to his “The Offering Inferno” parts make little more sense to me than Sun Ra's “Atlantis,” (which still tops my list as the most batshit insane nonsensical piece of music conceived), and yet even this isn't without its dark atmospheric charm. It's nothing like his past works; its all the more intense and electrifying, and whilst his experimental style doesn't always work, when it does it's like nothing else I've heard. Show me his past efforts and I probably wouldn't have heard much to my liking, but “Seven Idiots” has changed all that.
Highlights: Les Enfente du Paradis, Ulysses Gazer, Bohemian Purgatory