Jambinai – “A Hermitage” Album Review

This Seoul, Korea trio is less a band in the usual sense than they are creators of moods, other-worldly sounds and heavy metal tapestries. Giving off a unique mixture of hard rock fused with unexpected Korean musical traditions, they make atypical twists and turns with regard to volume, tempo, atmosphere and instruments used. Songs rolling along with a biting, American industrial vibe one minute may turn into monastic soundscapes focusing on old-style Korean instruments the next.

Though there are a few splashes of peaceful beauty that guide us to meditative places, the overall feel of the record is that of a brooding darkness. This underlying darkness is well-controlled instrumentally and brings forth bleak images of various aspects of life coming completely unglued. The listener experiences drifting nightmares of sound precisely steered by a band who take charge of exactly how much emotional intensity is released, stopping on a dime to change moods.

Much of the rock aspect of this record gives nods to Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and other industrial/metal bands of that ilk. Jambinai go beyond the sounds of those bands with not only blending in the aforementioned traditional Korean instruments (haegum, piri, zither etc.), but also enabling the listener to truly take a trip and become absorbed into the music due to the absence of vocals. While a human voice usually take the front seat in typical songs, it is not missed here as the instruments are so vivid, detailed and more of a guiding force than in the average rock song. The results create a mood that mesmerizes the listener with epic results.

A drastically different sound from the internationally-familiar Korean sound known as K-Pop, Jambinai bring a fresh take on Korean as well as American music. Their talent for assembling, changing and morphing sonic textures is sure to attract listeners who appreciate unique, unusual musical approaches.

Top Tracks: Echos of Creation, The Mountain

8.3/10

Jambinai “A Hermitage” Album Review/2016 Bella Union/8 Tracks/

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Aloha – Little Windows Cut Right Through

“Signal Drift,” the first song on Aloha’s new record (out 6 May 2016) is arguably the most futuristic-sounding song, this side of the year 2050. The sonically quirky instrumentation create an automated piece of efficient pop perfection one would expect to hear over loudspeakers in a Jetson’s-era shopping mall. If sounds had hues, this would be bright technicolor.Aloha - Little Windows Cut Right Through

While the record is a huge overall nod to prog rock, there is a humanistic aspect that gives it soul in the form of Tony Cavallario’s often vulnerable mid to higher registered vocals. “Marigold” with it’s vague 70’s AM radio vibe and “Faraway Eyes” are among the standouts here where vocal melancholia works in great unison with bright sound washes of technology. For a high point in an unexpected place; check the background harmonies in the chorus of “One Hundred Million,” which sound like one of the catchiest hooks that ELO never recorded.

With such emphasis on the bleeps and waves of instruments which create sounds of tomorrow, the post-rock guitars and various elements of percussion often bang away in the back of the mixes. These more typical rock sounds add well to the cuts and despite not being the guiding force, there would be something clearly missing if they weren’t there. This plays a huge part in separating their sound from typical synth/electronic music which -lets face it- can at times be cloying.

Prog music for the modern indie rock fan is a basic description of the musical paintings Aloha have created on Little Windows Cut Right Through. With both bright and dark musical displays of sounds and lyrical self-examination, the tracks here are indeed atypical in a world where it is difficult to be.

Rating: 8.3/10

Top Tracks: Marigold, One Hundred Milion

Aloha – Little Windows Cut Right Through/10 tracks/Polyvinyl Records/2016

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Hospital Ships – The Past Is Not A Flood

Jordan Geiger (AKA Hospital Ships) has created a seemingly minimalist. meditative output with The Past Is Not A Flood. Minimalist, that is, until the we the listeners realize just how much is actually going on beneath the main piano or synths that are the foundations for this six-song record. Moving along at a pace best described as “drifting,” the songs bring us washes of guitars, drums, percussion and other sounds which seem to subtly appear before floating off into the ether.Hospital Ships - The Past Is Not A Flood

Geiger delves deep into his mind with contemplative, cerebral lyrics, many of which seem to point to emotional instability. But this contemplation is blissful making inner turmoil seem almost comforting. The record leads off with the sound of a Victorian Age piano offset by other strange electronic sounds on “You And I.” The wafting haze of the song’s instruments are complimented by Geiger’s troubled vocal inflections which often sound like a cross between Neil Young and Built To Spill singer Doug Martsch.

There is more to each song here than initially meets the ear. Progressions of synth and piano often reveal arrangements within arrangements.  “All In Time” is an obvious example with it dense layers of instruments and melodies happening simultaneously. The acoustic piano intro of “Little Flower” leaves one half expecting to hear Coldplay’s Chris Martin coming in on vocals. But we are treated to something as good (and perhaps better) and definitely less predictable in the warble of Geiger in one of the record’s brighter vocal moments. Smiths fans will appreciate the sudden switching from an electronic sound to an unexpected melancholy acoustic guitar ending on “Oh My Light.”

Hospital Ships take acoustic and electronic sounds and blend them together to create music which will likely appeal to people in both of those musical camps. Jordan Geiger half speaks, half sings lyrical content that is perfect reflection for rainy days and periods when we may be feeling a dose of gloom. To accomplish this and remain appealing rather than bothersome and annoying is a feat Hospital Ships pulls off well. This is not to say there are not some bright moments within these songs. It’s just that the underlying theme here seems to be the reality of sadness. Sometimes it feels good to hurt. It does indeed with The Past Is Not A Flood.

Rating: 8.9/10

Top Tracks: You And I, Little Flower

Hospital Ships – The Past Is Not A Flood  CD/Graveface Records/6 Tracks

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Living Hour – Seagull

The first single from Living Hour’s upcoming record (out February 19 on Lefse Records) can stack up against any band who performed this style of dreampop/shoegaze when those  genres were in their heyday. The uplifting, majestic vocals reach past heaven with a shimmering reverb taking the listener to a world of psychedelic bliss that is only present for a short time during our teen years. The two halves of the chorus are as good as you will find in a pop song going from great to beyond great. The word “gorgeous” would be a huge understatement.Living Hour - Seagull Continue reading “Living Hour – Seagull”

Cian Nugent – Night Fiction

On Night Fiction, Cian Nugent creates the exact kind of long-flowing, pastoral melodies one would think of when picturing the green Irish countryside. Be they fast and rolling or slowly minimalist, the achingly beautiful sounds display a bucolic quality that lets the listener absorb every detail of the deep audio reflections.

Cian Nugent - Night Fiction

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TW Walsh – Fruitless Research CD Review

For years, TW Walsh was a member of Pedro The Lion alongside his collaborator, David Bazan. With Songs of Pain and Leisure (2011) and now this, his latest upcoming record, Walsh proves to be a singer/songwriter of equally talented proportions who for reasons unknown, seemed to take a back seat to Bazan.

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Daddy – You Are Mine

Trance-inducing quasi disco beats; cold, monochromatic vocals and “drippy” synthesized bleeps and dots characterize “You Are Mine,” the first single from Daddy’s upcoming record “Let Me Get What I Want.” The spring 2016 release is a part of a multi-media project consisting of a record, poems, individual music videos and an hour-long film with no beginning or end.Daddy - You Are Mine Continue reading “Daddy – You Are Mine”

Apollo LTD – What Are You Waiting For

Apollo LTD’s obvious understanding of what makes a good “pop” song is highlighted in “What Are You Waiting For.” All elements are present from bouncy dance beats to hook-laden vocals (which include falsettos) that will make this song fit in at parties as well as on mainstream radio.Apollo LTD - What Are You Waiting For Continue reading “Apollo LTD – What Are You Waiting For”

Vandaveer – But Enough On That For Now

Washington, DC-based Vandaveer take predictable Indie folk/roots rock and give it a majestic sheen. “But Enough On That For Now,” the first single off their upcoming release The Wild Mercury waxes philosophical on the mortality of humans to the sound of Coldplay-meets-Emmylou Harris vocals.vandaveer Continue reading “Vandaveer – But Enough On That For Now”

The Mantles – All Odds End – CD Review

The Mantles paradoxically take somewhat tired musical genres and give them their own spin to make them fresh again. Walking that line is something many bands try to do, without success. With blends of new wave, neo-folk and other classic musical tones, singer Michael Oliveras wears his influences not just on his sleeve, but boldly emblazoned across his shirt. Continue reading “The Mantles – All Odds End – CD Review”