Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Track Review: Body Count - Talk Shit, Get Shot

This band has been a great pleasure of mine in my album rack for a long time. After going through my Dad's CD rack when I was younger, I came across this album and got confused. I said to him: “Dad, I never knew you liked hip hop? I thought you hated that,” he replied: “Body Count are fucking awesome, give them a listen sunshine!” Therefore, I was expecting something along the lines of Public Enemy or Cypress Hill, but instead I got a fistful of metal along with my expectations. With tunes like their infamous “Cop Killer”, I enjoyed the fearless lyrics and attitude that Body Count have. With elements of thrash fused with hip hop and rap, this band became a landmark in my taste of music.

So, what did I think of “Talk Shit, Get Shot”? It's fearless alright, the music video is as brutal as it can get and quite funny too. The riff is a powerfully distorted chug throughout the song, and the chorus is insanely catchy and the lyrics are as solid as ever. This track takes aim at the keyboard warriors that live online with networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. The solo sounds classic as if it came from a Motorhead song, which is something that I have always liked about Body Count. It's great as you know so many people who act hard and sometimes deserve to be smacked down to crack their egos in bits, what goes around comes around. Body Count are definitely not posers unlike some metal bands today, they mean business and they sound better than ever. There isn't too much to this track, but it's just enough for me and it’s something that can get you through the day. What an absolutely pleasant return from Ice mother fucking T and his band. 
~Matthew Clewley

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Coldplay - Ghost Stories

Of all the mistakes, mishaps and despondently disappointed experiences I’ve had, credit is given where credit is due when I can install a revival of interest in myself; a means of which I can balance out my expectation again to that of neutral territory without it coming across as forced, or strained. Anyone who’s followed MRD’s ramblings on Coldplay over the years, will know of the criticism we’ve thrown at Chris Martin [mostly] and the band for lauding over the necessity to push their sound closer to that of the generalised mush of anthem rock-out’s and lighter-casted sways to and fro, with little detail put in the more important aspects of song-writing. Safe to say Ghost Stories - Coldplay’s sixth album - certainly gets tongues moving (if not waggling) at the prospect of it being this back-to-beginning’s retrace; a homage to Parachutes’ secluded retreats, as it is a fresh new take on the conceptual ground concerning love, loss, heartbreak and realisation. While concept albums of this context aren’t anything new, given the scale (and yes, media attention) Martin’s personal life has found itself at, it’s no surprise that - from what we’ve heard thus far - Coldplay’s retreat towards isolated, stripped-back, surveying is at least promising.

Certainly given Mylo Xyloto’s colourful stray of pop rock felt more the after-result of spewing up an underplayed trifle, the idea that maybe…just maybe…Martin has found the intrigue in something engrossing yet remaining personal to boot, definitely makes me come to a Coldplay record, worried less on how they’ll fuck me over (again). Could they possibly impress me full-through with the same song-writing (admittedly not perfect) that at least has garnered a few diamonds amid the rough of throwaway radio-friendly noise over the years? As a loft of female choirs and string ensembles introduce us on Always In My Head, the sonic territory reminds us, like the rest of the record that follows this, we are heading into far more afflicting territory - illustrated in introspective, visceral images of despondence and continued longing. ‘My body moves, goes where I will/Though I try, my heart stays still.’ Thankfully, this is not all Martin’s ground; panoramic guitar plucks and precise drum hits lighting up the dull retreats the song sinks into, but not going out of the way to blind us from the simple, stricken words Martin expresses. 

Thus Magic is the first true sign of Coldplay’s shift to new-found ideals the album often employs - crisp, sharp drumbeats and warming loops of bass sitting neatly beneath Martin’s breathy (and thankfully), unforced falsetto on initial passes. And while Martin’s standards for imitation poetics on love are more evident in their clarity - ‘Call it magic, call it true/Call it magic, when I’m with you’ - as are his forceful attempts to rely on repetition and ‘oo oo oo’s, there’s no denying the lack of any immediate crescendo in the wash of guitars, is a greater promise on closing parts than treating the assemble of instruments like a kid treats a puzzle piece that…just…won’t…fit, dammit! It’s this shift away from the necessity to ‘cap off’ a track that pleases, if not impresses. And in the case of Ink, the instrumentation finally feels like it’s been given that breadth to be felt and immersed in rather than be shackled and deplored over. Moreso, the nimble groove and rhythm that generates in the track’s mix of these crisp, bubbling drum beats, the acoustic strums and Martin’s vocal tone, provide a richer enticement to focus in on the track’s lyrical themes of remembering better times, and as a result, Coldplay’s enticement in melodies is a skill that pleases the ear as it does the imagination.

True Love unfortunately takes from that former requisite and returns to pushing favouritism of production over the instrumental qualities of guitars and drums alike. Though a peaking of the track credits will find Timbaland's name plastered among the album's horde of producers and accredited contributors, the fact of the matter is that by no means does this track feel wrong because it's overplayed or that it's too substantial given the context. It's wrong - if you can demote it to such a definition - because of Martin's sudden vocal emphasis and the backseat approach the instrumentation takes against this. While Martin himself attempts to evoke a sense of emotional strain and sympathy with his multistage denial-come-acceptance of a broken relationship - 'So tell me you love me/If you don't, then lie' - there's a demand for the music to stand as resounding in its desperation, rather than this swain of a casual tempo it drifts amid both in the percussion and the string assembles. But as much as there are points taken off, so too we there are some additions to the band's choice of ordering come the half-way point, and the mood of the record sinks ever deeper into melancholic sadness.

Midnight sits perfectly, fittingly, at the half-way mark of the record - its cloudy, fluid motion of echoey keys and whimsical synths that emerge near the track's end attempting to remind us of the innocence of Martin's vocoder-edged voice, and succeeding because of it. Martin's presence, as faint and broken in confidence it projects, syncs well with the track's directionless free-form shape. But it's with Another's Arms where that bewildered, lost state amplifies much more painfully back to personal ground; Martin's recollecting of 'late night watching TV/You used to be here beside me' requiring neither the bloated crescendos nor Martin's own excess of previous dramatics. Instead, the well of moping bass, female choirs and hefty smacks of drumbeats give the track's longing that additional pitiful expansion without coming across as amateurishly orchestrated or forceful. So in these circumstances, as simple in shape and these tracks are, Coldplay hit the theme of loss and longing cleanly on the nail, while at the same time making some respectful strides in new sonic territory. Oceans, following soonafter, is a welcome Parachutes-friendly trip back to acoustic guitars prominence above a ping of electronic beats, but unfortunately this instance proves less efficient with the sheer lack of aesthetic after-touch and overall development when compared to the album's middle section of introspection.

So on this, I have to admit - and without hesitance or even anything held back - that finding A Sky Full Of Stars, less existing but more laying wake on this album, is perhaps one of Coldplay's - and perhaps Martin's - gravest errors of decision. Whether it's down to the shallow horribleness of lyrics (and believe me, listening on first go, it won't be unique to someone to guess the corresponding rhyme on more than a few occasions), the congested bleeding of layering on production, or guest Avicii's bland pallette of drumbeats and's by no means a startle, but given what we've experienced on the album - in both sonic and textural strength - it severely lacks in any overriding appeal or attraction that demands a second or third listen. But for anyone willing to pull themselves out the record's uncanny valley, O is quite the peak to reach, and a reminder again as to the willingness Martin can sometimes display when he removes himself from the showmanship mentality he's enforced for some time. Instead, a chilly sequence of piano keys gives the singer's hope of meeting his former lover again one more time, a lasting sense of wishful, but convincing, thinking. There remains that compressed layer of bass filling the void of space around, but for the most part it's an interesting send-off Martin (as a person) strives for. And given the cautiously-optimistic tone the arpeggios throughout evoke, it's comfort enough to end on.

And this is, of course, how most (if not all) Coldplay albums end, with cautious optimism that perhaps, somehow, the band can build on the strengths of their current efforts without relying heavily on their own commercial appeal to make their gamble sound and feel less like this solitary pillar they're balancing on. Ghost Stories however ends up less some stretched-out, shallow pandering to other genres, and if anything, generates fond reminders of a band having debuted some fourteen years ago with a record respectably encapsulating the warmth and immersiveness of acoustic song-writing. Arguably, there remains those moments where Chris Martin, both as a vocallist as well as a song-writer - demonstrates he never will be the best when it comes to such areas...and in some cases brings out the worst in his folly of display by marginalizing the rest of the band's presence. But despite this solo effort illusion, Ghost Stories takes from previous records' positives - a la X&Y's broadening out and Viva La Vida's measuring of ambition in exchange for consistency - and provides the remaining member's (Jonny Buckland especially, whose guitar work remains as important and affectionate as it's always been) with space to accompany. In effect, this is by far their best effort for some time; not meeting the benchmark set by their debut, but without question one of their most interesting, and by far most engrossing listens for someone more used to feeling disappointed then reappointed with being impressed. That three year gap suddenly doesn't feel as hospitable to take comfort in, as it once did.
~Jordan Helm


Thursday, 22 May 2014

Interview: Cold Cave

Electronic music likes to take it's twists and turns when it comes to the human emotion. As I will be seeing Nine Inch Nails on Sunday, I noticed that the wonderful Cold Cave were supporting. Electronic music that has been described as a blend of darkwave, and synthpop, but as it does hold similarity to acts like Gary Numan and even Nine Inch Nails, there is a unique feel about Cold Cave. Wesley Eisold, the sole member of Cold Cave, chats to me thanks to the internet of what future holds for his music project.
~Matthew Clewley

Music Review Database: You're touring with Nine Inch Nails, how much influence have they they had on your music?

Cold Cave: NIN has been an influence in different ways. I remember hearing "Head Like A Hole" when it was first released and digging it... But Wish really connected with me. They were so raw and also a gateway to other bands. Then over the years they've been influential to me in different, inspiring ways. I appreciate the vision and the longevity of that vision. 

You have recently released Full Cold Moon, have you had a good reception from it? 

Yeah well, to me it's more of a documentation than an album.  It's a compilation of all of these vinyl releases from the past year or two. It's about five ideas on one CD for those who want it digitally together or for those who missed out on the vinyl.

What made you change your mind going from hardcore music to your dark synthpop sound? 

I started making music myself. My old bands were dark but I didn't write the music. I started Cold Cave with the intention to make crude and avant industrial noise but soon after discovered how to write a song.. Something that never occurred to me. 

Have you ever played in the UK before? Did you enjoy it? 

I've played here many times, with Cold Cave and other bands in the past. The first time was in 2001.  I always enjoy the UK. 

You have collaborated with people like Sean Martin from Hatebreed, would you use more genres to experiment with Cold Cave's sound? If so, which ones? 

I think that I would but it just depends on where I'm at or the songs I'm working on... What they call for. I usually work with people who I'm around at the time. 

Do you think remixing songs is important for music? What is your favorite remix? 

I think it's a good way to collaborate with other artists and to see their interpretation of a song, and vice versa. I'm really happy with my remix of NIN's "Running".

What do fans expect from the upcoming release Sunflower?

Well I'm not even certain if I'll use that as a title. I'm going to finish the record in the months after tour. Writing it anyway. It's looking like a 2015 release. 

How quickly did you get used to performing music with a prosthetic hand? Were there any performance difficulties?

So far I've only really used it aesthetically or in simple ways, like holding a mic. I'm practicing other instruments though. And yes there are difficulties - it's near impossible which is why I'm trying. 

Do you want to remain the only member of Cold Cave? 

I like collaborating but I started this to have a vehicle for my music. Amy is a big part of Cold Cave. I guess it's similar to NIN in that way. You know it's a singular vision but others work with you to fulfill that vision. 

In one sentence, what do you think your audience should expect from your live shows?

I don't care if my performances are conventional, that's for others, but I do care if they are passionate, and they always are. 

Track Review: Subburbia - MaLIFE

We would be doing ourselves a huge injustice if we fail to mention Subburbia's latest treat. The Brazilian trio are constantly featured here on MRD, and we've sort of been made the unofficial European correspondents for the experimental menacing musicians from Curitiba. After releasing a string of lo-fi punk music, Subburbia fronted by Emil Stresser and Marina Penny decided to take the next step - hip-hop with electronica influences, including the experimental lo-fi of their earlier musical stages. This new Subburbia sound is a work in progress, but I would rather it be a work in progress than a mess, or not exist at all. Keyboardist Ernani Jr has taken a more prominent role in creating the backbone to Subburbia's music, and the inclusion of a guest sure goes a long way as heard on the below track "MaLIFE", which features Brooklyn based performance artist Labanna Babalon.

"MaLIFE" is considerably different to the music of Subburbia's past. We've already established that, but if you've read and listened to Subburbia before, you probably know them for dominating guitar riffs, live percussion, and raw bass - not to mention the sampling and twin vocals. Now the Stresser / Penny vocal duel remains on "MaLIFE", and it definitely sounds better here. The vocals are produced well, distorted at times for Babalon's vocal parts, but purely intended to fit with the lyrical theme. Subburbia's biggest musical advancement comes with the use of an electronic beat and layered vocals - this actually creates a hip-hop / shoegaze haze of noise with clearly spoken verses by the Brazilian duel of voices: "Cocaine is just like honey." Lyrically, "MaLIFE" doesn't differ too much from songs of Subburbia's past, but there’s certainly a bigger focus on care-free living here, especially with the capitalised title 'LIFE', which only signifies the rebellion which has been brewing out of Subburbia since their early days. Stresser / Penny sing on the chorus: "I get high cause I love, get drunk if I want, it it's my life - I would die for it," further confirming this angst which has both fun and serious tones when read. There's more to Subburbia than their location in 2014, that's for sure.
~Eddie Gibson

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else

Cloud Nothings third album Attack on Memory was a joy to behold. From a reviewing opinion - initially, personally I didn’t rate it. But like many 2011 releases, it was a grower. Attack on Memory is now considered an early highlight in 2011 music, and it set up a road of expectation for fans of Cloud Nothings’ modern era of lo-fi punk rock / indie rock with a foot in grunge and a head in pop melodies - put that with Steve Albini, and you have a platform to build on. Here and Nowhere Else is Cloud Nothing's next step, and a step which will ensure their survival.

I've held back from putting out this review for weeks, mainly because I just wanted to enjoy the music. First and foremost, Here and Nowhere Else is for fans of Cloud Nothings' previous album, and that’s the way I approached listening to this, and eventually reviewing. It's easy to throw around wrong accusations, but I honestly didn't appreciate Attack on Memory compared to what I think now. It's coarse progressions and eagerly approaching layered riffs attracted both the indie pop fans of lead guitarist / primary member Dylan Baldi's past, and the grunge droolers of Albini's past. The influences were set in stone, and Baldi and his entourage played successfully to that influence, creating a standout sound, not too close to any genre previously heard, within the bounds of post-punk, post-hardcore, and noise rock. 

So I listen to Here and Nowhere Else with my arms wide open, as I did two weeks ago, as I do right now writing this. I and listeners alike can hear many aspects of Attack on Memory, but it's not a developed sound; it's progressed, but in a fast-paced, burst of passion way rather than a Captain Beefheart Safe As Milk to Trout Mask Replica way. The change of producer from Albini may have been the iceberg for many Cloud Nothings fans prior too listening to this album in depth, but I believe this change to be the right choice. Baldi employed John Congleton to do their finer work, Congleton has credits with Xiu Xiu, Swans, and Blood Red Shoes - a repertoire of variety, and more importantly abrasiveness which I’m sure played a major part in Cloud Nothings' desire to use Congleton over the experience and proven prowess of Albini. But it's in fact Congleton's contribution which has completed the toned down Cloud Nothings' sound this time around. 

Album opener "Now Here In" tells us exactly why we continue to listen to Cloud Nothings - it's exciting. There’s sounds of Baldi's past, but this introduction is mostly relevant to the music of their now, and how Here and Nowhere Else is different to Attack on Memory. There's a four chord intro which builds over powerful bass and a newly refined percussion sound - building even further in to the blood thirsty post-hardcore track you're expecting it to be: "I can feel your pain, and I feel alright by it," sings Baldi - "We're moving quickly to the sun / I feel there's nothing left to say / A simple life could be so strange." Energy is has been a big part of Cloud Nothings' ethos, and Here and Nowhere Else is no exception to the rule. "Quieter Today" has all the venom and angst you expect from a hardcore punk track from the 70s, but the sweet sensations of indie rock on the chorus. It's not the best track on the album, but it's by far one of the angriest lyrically and progressive, leaving small segments of silence to allow the chorus to enter with maximum effect - a great all-round punk rock track with features previously untouched upon by Baldi and crew.

This album is infectious, it's the music you expect from Cloud Nothings if they were recording at 6am after staying up listening to records of punk's past. Energising to say the least, but tracks like "Just See Fear" and "Psychic Trauma" are held in high regard because of their pace and ability to create a vibrating foot stomp. The former is recognised on Here and Nowhere Else because of the powerful lead guitar riff on the chorus, echoing around the bass and percussion like a post-rock band so far out of their depth in hardcore music - and the latter similar, but more controlled in a structural manner to be considered one of Cloud Nothings' stand out tracks so far. But "No Thoughts" takes the award for the standout punk track here - “You don’t really seem to care and, I don’t even talk about it.” Baldi's venomous vocals feature throughout alongside a rich percussion sound and an even greater guitar battle. This natural loud energy and screaming is welcomed and almost expected from Baldi and co, as the previous album was a pre-attack to the fierce touring schedule and lack of time the band have had to write, record, and complete this album. The process all comes together in the 30 minutes because it has to - ushered together like a Clash record without the sentiments. "Pattern Walks" is the answer to the critics question mark looming over Here and Nowhere Else. The lengthy (7.23) penultimate track is a sign of good things to come from the ever experimenting rock outfit. Instead of looming tome signatures and eventual breakdowns, Cloud Nothings embark on a straightforward punk rock masterpiece with progressive bass, spacious and (to me, the best sound to come out of Cloud Nothings so far) beautiful percussion work, turning an original four-chords bass led punk track in to dream pop / shoegaze start-up with delay on Baldi's vocals, and what appears to be a simple synthesizer line - three chords this time. It's.. it's beautiful rock music for the lost generation of punk fans, those that can sit through hours of GY!BE and still return to Cloud Nothings to clap your hands and say 'yes' to this 30-minute follow-up to one of 2010s biggest American rock surprises. 

"It starts right now, that's the way that I was before, but I can't be caught how I was those days anymore," sings Baldi on the album closer "I'm Not a Part of Me", the apt closer to a short but strongly sweet album. The Cloud Nothings' journey comes to a chartered stop on their long stretch to future platforms - "But I'm not, I'm not you, you're a part of me, you're a part of me," shouts Baldi on the hook, one of their catchiest on Here and Nowhere Else. As an audience participant, you're expecting a sudden stop here. Previous Cloud Nothings' album closers have been fantastic for providing a little relief, and an answer to the previous tracks of menacing thoughts and ferocious instrumentals to convey the feelings and emotions of front man Baldi - and "I'm Not a Part of Me" is another one of these relief songs which you find at the very core of Cloud Nothings' albums. Here and Nowhere Else doesn’t always convey the audience aesthetics of Attack on Memory, and it's a stretch from the "Weird Sons" of Leave You Forever, but this partially aimless lo-fi punk rock has something to it. The teen angst isn't as noticeable on this album like it was on Attack on Memory, and the musical quality without Albini (to me) sounds much finer and enthusiastic. It's a shorter piece with less experimentation in the boundaries of post-punk, but as a Cloud Nothings' fan, yeah, this is great stuff to hear and keep for 2014 and years to follow for American punk music taking on a natural edge - as a critic, there's flaws of course, like with the mid-album track "Giving Into Seeing", which although sounds like an Attack on Memory cut, comes across as a noise facade centrepiece gap between the anchored pop side of the album, and the latter louder and more admirable final few tracks. Overall, Here and Nowhere Else comes down to its closer - the pre-release single holds the key to Cloud Nothings' progression from their earlier stages to the Here, now. Expect Cloud Nothings to deviate from this sound and recording / production structure in the future if they're given more time and resources. They've done the best they could while working hard as a band, and it's come across as a hard-hitting punk album for the gritty noise rock fans of Japandroids' evil twin sister. 
~Eddie Gibson


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Track Review: Solomon Grey - Electric Baby

My summary of Solomon Grey as a cross between Bon Ivor and Vondelpark seemed true to the ear on their previous single B-side "Last Century Man", but that softness and simply blue comparison has been brushed aside on "Electric Baby" - a synthed up electronica track with echoes of "Last Century Man". But of course, Solomon Grey are no one trick pony. After listening to a few of their previous releases it seems almost certain their falsetto vocals would forever be drenched in reverb and spoken quietly, but no - "Electric Baby" alters this repetitive perception.

"Electric Baby" makes use of intelligent vocal cutting, sampling, and a fiery synth line acting as distorted bass. Electric guitars return to the mix to add depth, and it enhances the transition between the verse and the chorus, where the vocals eventually become louder and clearer: "Won't you get yourself a radical, won't you make yourself at home." There are seamless transitions in structure, and a pretty impressive sound - including raw percussion, looped vocal hushes, and a bit of ambience to take it through to the close. Solomon Grey proves they're still going strong with "Electric Baby" so early on in their discography.
~Eddie Gibson