Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pelican - "What We All Come To Need" CD

Chicago's progressive/metal act migrates to Southern Lord for their 4th album, and this one follows much in the path of their past work -- lengthy, intricately-developed instrumental rock that takes aspects of heavy indie, doom metal, drone, and even math rock and adds a monumental heaviness that will endear them to fans of kindred spirits like Tool, Isis, Jesu, Mono, or Sunn O))). "The Creeper" features some guest guitars from Greg Anderson, himself of Sunn O))), but the music is purely Pelican. The twin guitar attack of Laurent Schroeder-Lebec and Trevor de Brauw interweaves delicate melodies below seas of monolithic riff. Pelican's heavy (and heady) music leaves behind any semblance of ego or pretense, as these players create songs that sometimes sweep and float, at at other times twist into a tumultuous firestorm of angst and thunderous momentum. Tracks like "Strung Up From The Sky" epitomize everything that Pelican stands for -- strong, muscular, and tight riffing, softer passages, a monstrous rhythm section, and melodies wafting around the gargantuan (song) structure. Nothing here is tired, rote, overplayed, or showy. Superb work, and perhaps Pelican's finest thus far. (Southern Lord)


Pelican page

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jeff Greinke - "Virga" CD

Over the course of some 25 years and 18 albums, composer Jeff Greinke has proven his mastery of fourth-world ambient sound. This new release combines his trademark spacious, exotic, and earthly atmospheres with more traditional instruments to form classically-structured chamber music, accented with cello, piano, and trumpet. During "Slow Rise", Christiana Morgan's cello plays a major role, grounding the sounds in an earthy, harmonic fashion. "Night Flyers" weds what sounds like field recordings of nocturnal frogs with treated piano and choral voices. "Abandoned Place" is a shadowy, almost sad classical/ambient piece, with mournful strings and piano. "Before The Storm" is beautifully self-explanatory, with an air of impending darkness. It's the calm before a potentially serious weather pattern, where the initial winds pick up to herald the oncoming storm. "Partial Light" also manages to convey a peaceful solitude, but not without some darker force underneath the fragile hull. It's this dichotomy that makes "Virga" so successful. Greinke balances the tender, fragile beauty of strings and shifting melodic strokes with undercurrents of regret, tension, sorrow, and uncertainty, without being cold or calculated in his approach or execution. To put in succinctly, this is ambient music with soul and feeling, and that makes "Virga" a real winner. (Lotuspike)


Greinke's site

Harley's War - "Hardcore All-Stars" CD/DVD

Harley Flanagan is a founding member of veteran New York hardcore band the Cro-Mags, and Harley's War is his outlet for, well, more hardcore fraternizing with friends and associates (some from other bands like Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Suicidal Tendencies, etc). That said, the music CD's first 12 cuts (the studio stuff) is pretty consistent -- streetwise, often violent, confrontational, and punk-oriented. Don't expect finesse, dynamic, or emotive songs that convey anything besides aggression or attitude here. The thuggy braggadocio of the nu-metal-style "Hardcore NYHC-OG" is pretty unnecessary, but the ramshackle bulldog-punk of "Last Days" is pretty intense, for example. This guy means it, even if nearly every song/assault is a carbon copy of the last. Harley's 1982 demos are cool, classic hardcore in the vein of Minor Threat, albeit with a slightly more metallic approach, perhaps. There's also a live CBGB show, exhibiting the raw, in-your-face aggression of Harley's War. The DVD has a load of live footage (from NY, Germany, and Japan, and with a variety of band lineups), a telling interview with Harley, in which he divulges a bunch of punk/hardcore history, a brief tour of legendary underground music mecca, CBGB's (with Harley and owner Hilly Kristal), a bunch of photos, and a promo video. It's really a huge amount of info, sights, and sounds, and successfully captures the steely, streetwise, and single-minded spirit of New York hardcore from one of the genre's founders. (MVD Audio)

Harley's Cro-Mags site

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Collide - "These Eyes Before" CD

This California group's fifth full-length shines a new light on the duo's darkly sensual grooves. Formed in the mid-90's amidst the industrial rock frenzy, programmer Statik and vocalist kaRIN have steadily built a solid reputation and audience, fully independently, and their work has been instrumental in diversifying an increasingly testosterone-laden electronic dance/rock scene. They have befriended and worked alongside artists like Tool, Skinny Puppy, and Prince, but fittingly, it's their own work that garners them the most attention. "These Eyes Before" is a collection of 10 covers, beginning with Pink Floyd's "Breathe", which is transformed into a lovely and fantastic soundscape with an appropriately spaced-out vibe, and of course kaRIN's smooth and ethereal vocals. The Moody Blues' "Nights In White Satin" is also respectfully updated, with a superb mix of organic instrumentation and sleek programming. Other standouts? Depeche Mode's "I Feel You" is trippier and better-produced than the original. Bowie's amazing "Space Oddity" is given a wonderful modern electronic cyber-grafting, with kaRIN's breezy vocals pointed to the celestial heavens. Chris Isaak's "Baby Did A Bad Thing" effectively brings some smoldering, gritty rock to the table, and Fleetwood Mac's percussive "Tusk" is recreated, with actual marching band, and it all closes out with another Pink Floyd classic, "Comfortably Numb". Normally, I'd shout "heresy", as some things are just sacred, but Collide admirably pull it off, adding a cool and deep layer of mood to the song's already-potent melancholy. A superb release, and perhaps their best yet. (Noiseplus Music)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yim Yames - "Tribute To" CD

Yames is a pseudonym of My Morning Jacket mainman (and Monsters Of Folk sideman) Jim James (itself a stage-name). So you know to expect some righteous, heartfelt Americana from the wilds of Kentucky (well, if Louisville can be called wild, anyhow). So no real surprises here. This is James solo, and it's an acoustic, laid-back, acoustic offering of 6 songs. As the title references, this is a re-interpreting of tunes, here all by the late Beatle George Harrison, shining a light on Harrison's oft-overlooked genius. "Long, Long, Long" is a lonely lament, and "Behind That Locked Door" is given a gentle, rural country vibe. "Love You To" is ghostly, with James' vocals drifting away in a dusty cloud, while "My Sweet Lord" resonates most with me, having heard it so often growing up in a Beatles' fan household. These tracks are very spare recordings, rattled off by James in response to Harrison's passing way back in 2001. They've only now been released. Admittedly, serious Harrison fans may scoff at these low-key re-interpretations, but to a new generation unfamiliar with this under-appreciated Beatle's contributions, this could be a perfect jumping-off point. (ATO Records)

Yim's site


My Morning Jacket

White Mice - "Ganjahovadose" CD

This is some seriously far-out, swollen, damaged stuff, from a group of Rhode Islanders who've been recording offensively for several years for a number of sub-underground labels. White Mice produce a potent cocktail of gross, tuneless and twisted mindfuck grindcore with enough rough edges to disorient even the staunchest death metal-head. "Ganjahovadose" features 10 tracks, though they blend together pretty well into one cluster of bent noise/beats and grizzled, agonized vocals. It's not blastbeats, though. White Mice's midtempo sound behemoth is hellbent on destroying through sheer overload. The mix and production here, by famous Skinny Puppy soundman Ken 'Hiwatt' Marshall, gives them plenty of space to throw their bloody furballs. The eighth track, "The Shroud Of Urine" brings on some proto-industrial sound loops to break up the din, but soon thereafter it's back to the hateful, psychedelic noise. Some of this even approaches a kind of free/out jazz, though jazz purists will scoff at that comparison. The point is, this is some seriously messed-up shit, for those with open minds (and maybe some ear protection). And the guys wear some sick white mouse costumes on stage, so I bet that's a sight to behold. You won't be hearing them on radio anytime soon, but this massive bloodclot of sound will clean out your ears, for sure. (20 Buck Spin)



Die Hard - "Nihilistic Vision" CD

Sweden's Die Hard 's debut openly recognizes it's inspirations -- classic thrash metal like Venom (who wrote the song "Die Hard", for which the band's name is appropriated), Celtic Frost, Slayer, and Sodom. Which is good, because that leaves comparisons and accusations far behind. As it is, "Nihilistic Vision" is full of solid, fast, and fist-pumping old-school thrash, with little time for any death or black metal accents, no sir. This is bold and strident thrash that harkens back to the days when this was the most dangerous music around. "Bloody War" is a gutteral assault of war-metal with multiple tempo changes that reminds me of viking days somehow. "Fed To The Lions" boasts some scalding guitar chug that could rival Slayer, even, and indeed sounds a lot like them. "Attack From The Back" is almost punk, though heavier than that implies. And on a trivial level, it seems these guys share a drummer with one of my favorite black metal acts, Watain, so consider that a recommendation. Good, strong, and faster-than-you classic thrash, Die Hard's "Nihilistic Vision" is a good, fearsome kick to the nads. Hail! (Agonia Records)

Die Hardspace

Die Hard site

D.O.A. - "Kings Of Punk, Hockey And Beer" CD

Vancouver's venerable legends of hardcore punk rock just keep on truckin', and they have not tempered their attack at all over the course of their long and influential history. This new selection of 13 tracks pay homage to some of the band's biggest inspirations -- punk, hockey and beer. There's anthemic sing-along choruses galore here, strong classic punk-style songwriting, and a requisite sneering sense of roughneck humor. "Donnybrook" starts off the face-off with a fast and fun-loving punk/hockey mashup anthem. I enjoyed "Beer Liberation Army", too, which needs no explanation. "Pencil Neck Geek" covers wrestler Classy Freddie Blassie to good effect, and the breakneck "Logjam" is full-on ragin'. "Coctail Time In Hell" is a good, old-fashioned drinkin' song, and the closing cover of BTO's "Taking Care Of Business" somehow fits. Rowdy, raucous, catchy, raw, and a good time all the way through, D.O.A. are at the top of their game here. (Sudden Death Records)

Merry Beer-mas!

It's time once again for a look at some of the season's ales, with some surprises in store. Yes, my favorite this month was from a macro! Alas, all biases aside, there is good beer to be savored everywhere. The ratings system goes from 1 being sickly swill to 5 being divine nectar. Fight the good fight, drink good beer, and support your local brewmaster(s)!

MICHELOB - RYE P.A. (St. Louis, MO) - 4.0
Deep red-amber with a rich, foamy head and nice lacing, this pale ale boasts of a fragrant hoppy aroma. Yum. Taste is a solid, bitter IPA with a strong rye spiciness - challenging and completely in line with what a sturdy IPA should be like. With the rye addition, this one's a real craft beer with higher aspirations. Superb.

Another clean amber ale, this one begins with a warm and comfortable aroma of clove and spice. The taste reflects this, with a strong spicy palate and smooth malty inclination. Unfortunately, there's little residual complexity. The sweetness is overpowering, rendering this beer decent, but not outstanding.

A dark red ale with a massive foamy head and super-sweet character, this one's got a punchy, spicy taste-character that gives way to a firm, alcoholic burn (it's 8.7% ABV). This one's definitely a sipper - strong, potent, and hearty. Approach with caution.

A winter tradition at News 4U HQ, this seasonal ale pours a clean amber, and tastes smooth and sweet, with a rich, molasses-like maltiness that would be more palatable if not for the overbearing vanilla accents. Nonetheless, this is a decent and drinkable brew, not outstanding but not altogether awful, either.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mogwai - "Burning" DVD

Here's something exciting and enticing...and head-smashing. It's a new teaser trailer for the forthcoming Mogwai concert film DVD, "Burning", as directed by Vincent Moon and Nathanaël Le Scouarnec. It's not due for release until 2010, and will accompany a Mogwai live CD called "Special Moves". I anxiously await both, and will purchase pronto as soon as I can. Check this out and see what you think.

And if that weren't enough to whet your appetite..Mogwai also make an appearance in the new "All Tomorrow's Parties" DVD, alongside such names as Sonic Youth, Battles, Nick Cave's Grinderman, Daniel Johnston, Slint, The Dirty Three, Akron/Family, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Shellac, The Mars Volta, and more.