Archive | November 2014

(New Album Review) Amos Val- A Foundry [EP]

This next submission comes from within Portland: A Foundry, the new EP from the post-rock group Amos Val.

Though I prefer the first-wave stuff, I listen to a lot of post-rock. In the past decade, the Pacific Northwest has housed more than a few excellent post-rock groups– I particularly like Seattle’s Joy Wants Eternity and Portland’s own Waver Clamor Bellow and Grails. With their last two releases, (this new EP and their full-length album from last year, Ratiocination) Amos Val have inducted themselves not only into the pantheon of quality post-rock, post-hardcore, and ambient musicians to have come from Oregon and Washington, but into the always-growing worldwide list of quality third-wave post-rock groups.

Like Gregor Samsa, Amos Val work from a blueprint that was perfected by Mono, Explosions in the Sky, and The Evpatoria Report to create earth-shatteringly emotive soundscapes, but they make sure to deviate from that blueprint and assert themselves with some vocals and fatalistic lyricism. The decision made on Ratiocination and albums such as Gregor Samsa’s 55:12 to divide album space between pieces with vocals and cinematic instrumental pieces reveals the connection between “heavy emo music” and “post-rock”, but I think that it also gives this music a sense of intimacy.

A Foundry is a crucial release for Amos Val, as vocalist/guitarist Nathan Jurgenson and guitarist James McGaha have recruited a new rhythm section, bassist Cameron Clowers and drummer Sam Applebaum since their last recording. This brief but hard-hitting EP, of which the highlight is the ringing single “Determinism”, may very well have been recorded to showcase the new muscle behind the band. Ratiocination began with an impassioned explosion, then slowly dissolved into mysteriously beautiful ambience. After having listened to A Foundry, I am eagerly awaiting their next full-length to see the full-range of the revamped Amos Val, though you will no doubt catch a glimpse of it on the beautiful “Rest”.

Amos Val make devastating music that stays faithful to the aesthetic familiar-points of the third-wave post-rock idiom: slow-motion crescendos, ambient spaces, and anguished vocals. If all that has brought you back time and time again to post-hardcore, slowcore, and post-rock, you’ll want to watch them. You can support Amos Val by attending their show on this Saturday November 29 at the Tonic Lounge and purchasing their new EP on Bandcamp when it’s released next Tuesday, December 2.

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(New Album Review) Laura Luna- Isolarios

Isolarios is the debut recording of Prague-based artist Laura Luna. I happened upon this release more or less at random. Almost immediately, I was drawn into this richly textured and hypnotic collection of tracks.

Luna described her pieces on Baba Vanga’s bandcamp page for the release as meaning to evoke brief scenes from her memory. This contextual information makes tracks like the meditative-but-not-quite-calm The Woodsman” and the slightly dissonance and foreboding atmosphere of “Ennui Hours” all the more engrossing. I was also particularly impressed with the development of the piece “Nor Slumber No Sleep”. These are memories of being in transit, memories of worry. While listening to a piece like “Oxytocin”, one cannot help but feel like there are two representative layers to many of these tracks: there is a serene drone, representing the surface level of the memory, then the rattling, chirping repeating figures and strange samples of voices and other sounds, representing the interior level of the memory. Another response I had to this music was feeling as though it reminded of those feelings one has on the threshhold of consciousness, and I am not sure if this was intentional. The image which often came into my head was one of a lone figure in a waiting room late at night.

This is an album in which the light and dark mesh together. There are many releases like it in the world of electroacoustic music, but this is one of the better experimental releases of the year. I highly recommend looking into it, and I will monitor Laura Luna’s soundcloud to see what else she may produce in the future.

(Show Preview) Andrew Endres Collective @ Valentines 11/16/2014

Last February I saw Andrew Endres Collective for the first time, at the Firkin Tavern in Southeast Portland. I really enjoyed this performance, and while I have not yet seen the Collective perform again, on multiple occasions I have unexpectedly ran into Andrew at some shows where he was playing with Ghost to Falco. I found him to be very friendly and polite, and I made a note to attend another one of his shows, as, since the Collective is a jazz group after all, the direction that his group’s ecelectic music takes no doubt varies from show to show. Andrew Endres Collective is at the core a trio made up of Andrew on guitar, Sam Hallam on bass, and James Ford on drums– when the group is expanded to a quartet, David Valdez on Alto Sax or Reid Neuman on Tenor Sax will join in to fill out the Collective’s sound. The main influence for the group is Pat Metheny, though these cats also look to some contemporary artists, such as guitarist Mike Moreno and bassist Janek Gwizdala, for inspiration just as much as the tried-and-true classics. Andrew actually sent me a brief list of recommended jazz albums from this year from lesser-known contemporary artists that I have made a note to catch up on! I am very much a mostly entry-level appreciator of jazz, so you can imagine that I appreciated the recommendations.

If you have not checked out his music since reading my write-up from last February, either stop by Andrew’s bandcamp to download the music he has offered at “name your price”, or, if you’re a Portlander, attend the Collective’s show tomorrow night at Valentine’s. Andrew recently reached out to me to promote this show, and it feels good to promote in conjunction with him. When he is not bicycling, or gigging with Ghost to Falco or the Collective, he keeps his nose to the grindstone as a highly regarded sound technician and music instructor. Given Andrew’s involvement with Ghost to Falco, which is an interesting experimental rock group which sometimes sounds like a Spaghetti Western soundtrack, other times like post-hardcore, and the ambient experiments that he’s posted to his bandcamp, I am very curious to listen to the Collective’s soon to be released debut album. I cannot help but wonder what sorts of sonic exploration will accompany the excellent musicianship of the Collective. If you’d like a taste of what’s to come, make sure to be at Valentine’s tomorrow night at 9!

Photo by Seth Mower

(Re-release Review) Philip Johnson- Youth in Mourning

Here is a forgotten gem from 1982 that was recently re-released on the superb archival label Superior Viaduct: Philip Johnson’s Youth in MourningFrom what I’ve been able to infer from digging around looking for information on Philip, Youth in Mourning was his only LP release among an impressive array of self-released cassette albums. Though not much is known of Johnson, he has left behind some singularly fascinating music from a strange and uncertain time in British music, the heyday of Throbbing Gristle and This Heat.

Youth in Mourning is a dismal and metallic album that makes abundant use of radio explorations and discordant synths. The images which are inevitably brought to mind are those of a grim tour through grey and broken streets. Much of the titular “youth” of the record is reflected in Philip’s acerbic monologues, the most compelling being that on the strange epic “The Karate Kicking Girl Of New Invention”. This sadly forgotten album in many ways delivers the artistic experience that elderly punks so often like to ascribe to Joy Division records: it is a very visceral snapshot of a hard-bitten time and place, seen through the eyes of the embittered young. And in fact, Johnson outright says on the album, “This record is for the disaffected, for those who can’t win”. This completely thrilling synthesis of disembodied radio voices, spoken word, and noise deserves more attention and I’m very glad that Johnson and Superior Viaduct came together to dust it off for those who may have never heard of it otherwise.

This release comes highly recommended to all fans of noise and musique concrète. I hope you check it out soon!

(New Album Review) Aires, Earthly Beasts, and Rui P. Andrade [Split EP]

This particularly excellent reader submission comes from Portugal: a split EP from Aires, Earthly Beasts, and Rui P. Andrade. All three artists work mostly with drones and field recordings. Rui P. Andrade is an alumni of a black metal group named Ecos. So right here, we have another interesting snapshot of a music scene from an exotic location– I could hardly wait to begin studying.

Aires sets the dark tone of the EP with the unsettlingly inorganic atmosphere of “Soviet Cosmos in Favilla”. This piece is all robotic, warped voices and softly chattering radios competing for space over the background of a wavering, very slowly-shifting drone. I’m reminded somewhat of SleepResearch_Facility’s Stealth. Aires’s style, ever-so-slightly dissonant tones on the synths and distinctly machine-like sounds in the background, make for very engrossing listening. The tension that builds up in his pieces really sucks one in.

However, Rui P. Andrade’s shadowy, ebbing “Turdus Merula” is the high point of the EP for me. Perhaps Rui’s willingness to use his real name betrays his status as the most experienced of the three artists, but I would also say that his music does as well. “Turdus Merula”, the longest piece of the three, is everything I like about dark ambient and drone– layer after layer of velvety murmurs, rumblings, and distant, murky chimes rolling over each other, slowly dissolving into an gradually-increasingly harsh attack of white noise. I strongly appreciated the mixture of guitars and analog synths on Andrade’s work, and I urge you to check out his 2012 release Vessels.

The contribution from Earthly Beasts, “Erebus”, is the most rhythmic piece out of the three. It is percussive dark ambient that reminded me a little bit of The Haxan Cloak and Emptyset. The ominous, throbbing energy of this piece makes it a worthy closer, and moreover also gives me the impression that Earthly Beasts is probably a hell of a live act– I like the creepy, ritualistic atmosphere that this kind of music can create.

Though I could not find a bandcamp page for Earthly Beasts, both Aires and Rui P. Andrade have offered their music at name-your-price on their bandcamp pages. Give back to underground artists like this and give them all the listens and thank-you donations you can afford. Take care and hope you enjoy this.