Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ascension Of The Watchers - "Numinosum" CD

This is the first proper solo release from former (?) Fear Factory frontman Burton C. Bell, and it manages to move pretty far from the thrashy, electro-tinged death metal of Fear Factory. With John Bechdel (ex-Prong) on most of the musical programming, "Numinosum" is Burton's attempt to show off his more melodic vocals in a more subdued, song-oriented arena. To some degree, it works, but not entirely. Songs like the almost-epic "Evading" are synth-heavy, and almost new-wavey, but not wimpy or fey at all. Think Killing Joke's more 'pop' songs, and you won't be too far off. It's sad, sometimes mellow, and only effective part of the time. "Canon For My Beloved" almost reaches some dizzying heights, but just never quite makes it to these ears. Maybe it's the dated drum sound/programming...maybe it's Bell's limited vocal capacity. I hear a great album from Bell, but this is not the one. I admire his gutsiness in possibly alienating many of his metalhead fans. "Moonshine" is a pretty, shimmery, minor key pop song, for example. Perhaps even more surprising is the group's cover of "The Sounds Of Silence" (yes, that one), which could/should have been catastrophic, but Bell and Bechdel and company keep it faithful and close, and thus this is an unlikely success. Bell's lofty aspirations haven't quite been reached with this unsteady album, but it's a good place to start, and hints at some greatness yet to come. (13th Planet)

The Watchers site

PBK / C. Reider - "Discorporate" CDR

Ten years (off and on) in the making, this 7-track, 46-minute collaboration between drone composer C. Reider and abstractionist PBK is a curious and immersive set of noisy, textured, alien soundscapes, with a very proto-industrial feel. Beginning with the befuddling, loopily surreal opener (we'll call it 'Track 1'), the album gels into a far-out set of abstracted sounds, textures, and sound collages. Track 4 is a densely-collaged mass of squelch and what sounds like manipulated and layered field recordings. Track 5 is more woozy, like waking up from a horrible anesthesia experience with your head spinning and throbbing. Track 7 wakes from the dream to a lilting, ambient journey at the beach, complete with what seems like distant waves and seagulls (or was I imagining that? Didn't hear it the second time through). It's a fitting conclusion to an otherwise disorienting journey, and a marvelous one, at that. (Impulsy Stetoskopu)

PBKSound blog

c.reider's Vuzh Music blog

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mid-Summer Beer Lowdown

Here's my impressions of some of this season's beers. My tastes are growing to appreciate every kind of beer, and those with unique or standout tastes are more likely to impress. I do have issues with generic American lager-styles, for they taint the novice's impression of what diverse flavors, consistencies, colors, and complexities a good beer can have. Damn you one and all, macros! Keep beer local, or at least independent! Hail beer!

My ratings scale goes from 1 being absolutely detestable hogwash to 2 being tolerable, 3 is average/drinkable, 4 is exceptional and worthy of praise and purchase, and 5 is a masterstroke, an artisan ale/lager/cider that deserves your support NOW!

For more info on these and other beers, visit this site (where you can find my reviews archived):

Beer Advocate

St. BERNARDUS ABT 12 ABBEY ALE (Watou, Belgium) - 5

Ah, this is the real deal. A true abbey ale from Belgium, this one pours a dark amber and is characteristically spiced, rich and heavy. It's opacity demonstrates the large amount of yeasty sediment, and this is one beer that would be even better aged. It's 10% ABV, so St. Bernardus is a sipper, and with a complex and fairly unique flavor, it's a sure winner.


Nice foggy appearance, and tastes like, well, a sweet, farm-fresh cider should (albeit with a fermented nip). Seriously, this is some tasty stuff, and ideal for a sweltering Summer's day. And it's organic! No headache-inducing sulfites here, just pure apple juice and yeast. I've always been partial to Woodchuck brand ciders (Dark & Dry, please), but this one dispenses with that notion. I'll be picking some of these up for the lady and myself, pronto.

HOEGAARDEN WITBIER (Hoegaarden, Belgium) - 3

Another Belgian this month (a treat)! This one's a white ale, with a clouded, pale appearance and plenty of spice, hinting at citrus and clove. It's kinda sweet and malty, definitely easy on the palate. Can be compared to Blue Moon, though Hoegaarden has more of a spice edge, and does not require a slice of orange to balance itself. Enjoyable.

BASS PALE ALE (Luton, England) - 3

A nice amber ale with a thick head, this Bass is a mildly-bitter pale ale, pretty well-balanced with a much lower acidity than India Pale Ales. I detect faint tastes of caramel or maple filtering through. Tasty enough, not too complex but certainly satisfying.