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Category: Electronic / Post-Rock

Purity Ring, Shrines: Album Review

Album: Shrines Artist: Purity Ring Year: 2012   As a genre, experimental rock isn’t particularly descriptive.  With sub-genres including everything from house music to math rock to what is essentially instrumental post rock, albums placed under the experimental heading often struggle to define themselves. Case in point is the trippy and somewhat magical-sounding album Shrines from the Canadian duo Purity Ring.  Comprising the angelic and wispy vocals of Megan James and the deep-house beats and electronic tracks of Corin Roddick, Purity Ring has the dark, gothic feel of a witch-house album, but could almost just as easily be compared to the...

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DIIV, Oshin: Album Review

Album: Oshin Artist: DIIV Year: 2012   The Brooklyn-based post rock / indie rock band, DIIV (formerly Dive) is getting a fair amount of attention for it’s debut LP, Oshin, and rightly so. Oshin is a delicate, uplifting little album, the kind of music you play on a lazy Sunday afternoon but then find yourself listening to over and over again, even as you go into your week. DIIV is primarily the work of one man, Cole Smith, who started his musical project alone in a bedroom, cut off from even the internet.  Changing his nom de plume from Dive to...

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Tim Hecker, Dropped Pianos : Album Review

Album: Dropped Pianos Artist: Tim Hecker Year: 2011   When an electronic composer is bad, it is very very bad, but when it’s good, it can create something really wonderful, something that music with lyrics just can’t touch.  This was my reaction to the new Tim Hecker album of sketches, aptly titled Dropped Pianos. Electronic composer Tim Hecker simply called the tracks on Dropped Pianos “Sketch 1”, “Sketch 2” and so forth and sketches are exactly what they are.  In fact, the sketches on this album are the actual rough material that became Tim Hecker’s sprawling album, Ravedeath, 72, released earlier this year.  Where that album seems to fill any space in which it’s played, Dropped Pianos seems to do the very opposite.  Rather than fill the space around it, Tim Hecker forces the space to shrink, pulling the listener in to his tiny, intimate world. These tracks are less than sparse, but they are truly lovely and more than that, they take your mind to an alternate plane.  The world of Tim Hecker on Dropped Pianos is cold and gray, but like a crisp winter day, there is something enlivening about spending time within it.  Tim Hecker doesn’t offer much to hold on to on this album, but what he does offer is well worth...

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Album Review: Balam Acab, “Wander / Wonder”

Album: Wander/Wonder Artist: Balam Acab Year: 2011   The artist known as Balam Acab takes his name from a Mayan myth about a demi-god who shot an arrow into the clouds to relieve a drought.  In the version I came across, the arrow pierces the cloud and draws out a rainbow, along with the rain. This story is significant in this case, as Wander/Wonder, Balam Acab’s latest release, is an album that comes back, time and time again, to the fundamental life force of water.  “Welcome”, the LP’s first track, starts with the sounds of dripping water over scratchy vinyl.  Sounds of splashing, trickling, bubbling and so on are heard throughout the 36 plus minutes of music, creating a sonic theme that ties the entire album together. While stretched and modified vocals are liberally sprinkled across the 8 tracks, they are never truly the focus of any song.  Instead, Wander/Wonder used the manipulated vocals along with other sounds, both musical and otherwise, the create a kind of dreamscape.  To be clear, Balam Acab is conjuring a space for dreams, not nightmares, as the micro-genre of “Witch-House” might suggest. Again, the myth of Balam Acab comes into play here.  Like his namesake, Acab is taking the drought that is so much of the dark and sinister sounds of his genre and churning out rainbows, in this case sonically dense rainbows. Wander/Wonder is...

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Album Review: Little Dragon, “Ritual Union”

Album: Ritual Union Artist: Little Dragon Year: 2011   Little Dragon has been around for a short while, but this is first I’ve heard of them.  It appears that I may have jumped on their bandwagon a bit too late.  From all reports, the groups first two releases were mostly overlooked and underrated, but those who had discovered the band were extremely optimistic about the group’s future.  Unfortunately, while Ritual Union isn’t without its charm, it is certainly not going to be Little Dragon’s breakthrough album. Ritual Union‘s first track, the title track, is its strongest by far.  Little Dragon’s unique mix of neo-soul and electronica is catchy, powerful and smooth and if this track were any indicator of the strength of the album as a whole, it would have been an exceptional treat. Sadly, the good times pretty stop after track one.  “Little Men” and “Brush the Heat” are essentially forgettable, the electronic equivalents of elevator music, and while “Please Turn” and “Crystalfilm” provide a great bass beat, Yukimi Nagano’s vocals just sound kind of bored, or worse-frigid.  Whereas on track one, she sounded strong and sexy, Nagano’s singing goes off into dome distant place far removed from both her audience and her band for the rest of the album. Overall, this album was a pretty big disappointment.  As on overall work, it will make great ambient music for some...

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