Showing posts with label shoegaze. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shoegaze. Show all posts

Friday, February 8, 2019

video review: 'astronoid' by astronoid

Well, this was a thing... a pretty good thing, but not one I see myself revisiting a ton, sadly.

Next up, though... yeah, let's get Ariana out of the way. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

album review: 'astronoid' by astronoid

So as all of you have seen in the past few years, most of my discovery and embrace of black metal has followed what I'd describe the 'hipster-path' into the genre. Yeah, I was listening to prog metal and power metal ahead of time that laid some of the groundwork, but it was the more atmospheric stuff that hooked me and even then, it was never 'pure' black metal that truly won me over, instead more material in the vein of Panopticon or Saor that was crossbred with other genres. 

But hey, that happens - you start building up your lexicon of what you like in the genre, you revisit the classics when you can, you do your best to avoid the more obnoxious of the fandom... and yet when I was prepping to review Astronoid and going back to revisit their 2016 breakthrough Air, I had a real sinking feeling, mostly because this is exactly the sort of accessible 'crossover' project that could have grabbed me three years ago, but leaves me colder now. The most common comparisons have been Devin Townsend and atmospheric black metal acts like Deafheaven and Alcest, grabbing the clean production and vocals of the former and the furious blast beats and tremolo picking of the latter... but there was something that felt oddly anodyne and calculated about Air, capturing the tones to serve as one of those bridge acts, but little of the instrumental dynamics or hooks that made their inspirations so special. And while its tones meant I was inclined to like Air - certainly explains the critical acclaim - it wasn't one that really stood out to me, or stepped into the realm of greatness.

So was this just a case of me only gravitating to the heavier, more visceral acts in black metal these days, or was Astronoid just not one of those acts that could resonate with me? Well, for further evidence I checked out their self-titled follow-up this year, which somehow is getting even more critical acclaim - did it deliver?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

video review: 'visions of a life' by wolf alice

Ehh... I have no illusions this review probably won't be received all that well - which yeah, is a bit disappointing, but hopefully a bit better than the last project of theirs, we'll see.

Next up... hmm, I've got a movie review coming, but I might have something very new on the horizon. Stay tuned!

album review: 'visions of a life' by wolf alice

I'm not even sure where to start with this one - and if you saw my last Wolf Alice review, you'll know why.

See, two years ago I did cover their critically acclaimed debut record My Love Is Cool, and unlike the majority of critics I wasn't really a fan, half because I wasn't convinced the band could differentiate themselves from their 90s influences like Hole, and half because when they tried to introduce modern elements into their sound I found them pretty underwhelming, not helped by a lot of overproduction and a lack of a defined edge, especially in the guitars. Yeah, the actual compositions and lyrics were easily the best part of the record, but good writing delivered without the raw presence or firepower to compliment the instrumentation can be a considerable letdown.

But again, the band won a lot of critical acclaim and if anything they were looking to get even more wild and experimental on their follow-up this year Visions Of A Life, swapping out producer Mike Crossey for Justin Mendel-Johnsen, a producer and musician with whom I've got the sort of history that doesn't exactly present a clean picture. Suffice to say he can have a bad habit of piling in distracting instrumental elements that can clutter the mix - and considering Wolf Alice had apparently put together a noisier, more eclectic record this time around, I had no idea if or how his style would click. But hey, the band won just as much if not more critical acclaim this time around, so I might as well talk about it two months late: what did I find on Visions Of A Life?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

video review: 'slowdive' by slowdive

So this... okay, I wish I really liked this more. It's not bad, I see the appeal, but honestly, shoegaze just isn't really my thing, sort of like a lot of death metal and reggae. Eh, okay.

But beyond that, I've got a movie review on its way, so stay tuned!

album review: 'slowdive' by slowdive

Do you ever have the feeling like you may have gotten into certain genres the 'wrong way'? 

I know, there's never any one right way to experience art - most people rarely hit the clean entry point into more obscure or indie genres and it's always a bit of search, but there is a part of me that feels I've only ever approached shoegaze completely wrong. Part of this is because I feel I jumped past the genre into atmospheric black metal and blackgaze, which means going back to these spacier, lighter tones just leaves me feeling underwhelmed. I get the appeal, believe me, but I'm going to listen to this sort of atmospheric, dream-like music, I tend to prefer a bit more muscle and backbone behind it, and from the shoegaze I've heard, I haven't exactly found it captivating. Even approaching it from ambient music... it made a little more sense, but my experience with ambient music has been more on the experimental side, and thus a lot of more conventional-sounding shoegaze just didn't grab my ear. Coupled with much of it feeling underwritten, for the most part I was comfortable saying it just wasn't for me.

But at the same time I didn't want to write off the entire genre without giving it a fair chance, so when the long-awaited comeback record from shoegaze/dream-pop group Slowdive showed up on my schedule, I did want to make an effort to explore it... albeit a few months later when the pressure had died down. So I took my time, went through the back catalog... and look, I don't know what to tell you, it's pleasant music but it just didn't really stick with me. Some of the melodies on Souvlaki were good, and I found some of the ambient electronics on Pygmalion intriguing, but beyond that... not much that really grabbed me. But hey, it's been over twenty years since that record, maybe in the mean time all of the band's experiences would add up to this comeback project being solid?

Monday, December 5, 2016

video review: 'kodama' by alcest

I'm happy I finally got the chance to cover this one. Entirely too late, of course, but still, it really was something solid, I enjoyed this. 

Of course, it's not the only record I'm covering tonight, so stay tuned!

album review: 'kodama' by alcest

So if you've been following my spiraling journey through black metal, one thing you've probably noticed is that I tend towards the more melodic and atmospheric brand of it - honestly, probably what I would recommend for most listeners trying to get into the genre. At the end of the day, I'm a junkie for great melody and tunes, and the black metal I tend to like falls in this vein.

And thus, it was only a matter of time before I had to talk about Alcest, the French experimental metal project that many consider one of the pioneering bands of the 'blackgaze' scene, blending black metal textures with shoegaze. And I'll admit while I'm not a huge shoegaze fan, early on I liked a lot of what I heard from Alcest. Even though in comparison with so many of their peers they weren't writing incredibly dark or bleak songs, there was a knack for melodic composition that I just found stunning, especially their debut album Souvenirs d'un autre monde - hell, I actually liked it more than their follow-up Ecailles de Lune. But it has always seemed like Alcest was much more drawn to the more ethereal, soaring tones that came with post-rock or shoegaze, and with each successive album the black metal tones receded more and more, before their 2014 album Shelter discarded them altogether.

in other words, there was a significant part of me that wasn't really interested in hearing more - I saw what happened when Opeth left black and death metal for old school progressive rock, and that was at least a genre I knew and understood more. And yet when I heard that Alcest's Kodama this year was actually pivoting back to black metal, reportedly inspired by the Hayao Miyazaki film Princess Mononoke, I was intrigued. As much as their shift in sound could frustrate me, they did write interesting material, so I wanted to check this out - and thanks to Patreon votes, I now can. So what did we get from Kodama?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

video review: 'new bermuda' by deafheaven

Well, this was outside of my usual comfort zone! Can't say I'm complaining, I really had a ton of fun filming and making this review.

Next up... well, I've got a few options ready and waiting, let's go for something a bit more obscure. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

album review: 'new bermuda' by deafheaven

I can imagine there are a whole load of people who are looking at me doing this review right now and rolling their eyes. "Of course he's doing this review - some pasty white guy who spends most of his time talking about every other genre besides metal now is going to talk about Deafheaven? What does this Toronto hipster who spends more time listening to hip-hop and country know about black metal, so of course he talks about the least kvlt black metal act, the type that gets all the Pitchfork brats squealing that they're redefining the sound when frankly Burzum was blending in post-rock as early as '94 and Alcest was doing it in the mid-2000s and Wolves In The Throne Room were doing for nearly their entire career until they went experimental towards drone on Celestite...

So yeah, I did some of my homework here, but here's the funny thing: for the most part none of it is wrong, and one of the reasons I've been so hesitant to cover this record. Of the genres that I've delved into this year, black metal is one that remains tough for me to appreciate - partially because I've a fan of lyrics and between the screaming and production they can be hard to parse out, partially because, as I've said in the past, nihilistic subject matter only goes so far with me, and partially because I wanted to make sure I grasped the history of the genre before covering this record. And while I will whole-heartedly admit I've still got a ways to go, I think I can speak to why the hipster set went insane for an act like Deafheaven when they dropped the critically acclaimed Sunbather in 2013: melodies, transitions, and production. Yeah, they weren't as brutal or evil-sounding in comparison with some of the heaviest black metal I've heard, and the lyrics tended towards poetic abstraction instead of bone-crunching Satanism, but when the melodies were this good, the transitions this smooth, the atmosphere this potent, and the marketing of the band this accessible, it's no surprise people jumped on board. Now admittedly I wasn't really one of them - I've always been more of a progressive metal guy - but I could see why people liked Deafheaven; they weren't reinventing the wheel, but it's hard to deny the compositional skill.

So when I heard their newest record New Bermuda was going to be more aggressive and heavy, it really seemed like the best of two worlds - win back the metal elitists who dismissed them as hipster bait, and scare away the popular crowd who only jumped on board for that reason in the first place. And given that I've never really loved a Deafheaven record - Wolves In The Throne Room and In The Woods... both hit me a little harder, although the latter is more on the prog side - I still wanted to talk about this. So how did New Bermuda turn out?