Reviews in this issue:
Bruit - Monolith
Based in Toulouse, Bruit (styled as BRUIT ≤) are a post-rock/modern classical band. They are a four piece who push to the front classical instrumentation, to give a different take on post-rock. Using cello and violin as well as guitar, bass, drums and synths, they produce wide screen, cinematic soundscapes. Soundscapes that would easily fit either film-noir or grungy science fiction dystopias.
This two-track EP Monolith is their debut, and it is quite a statement of intent. It moves from the plucked strings, to a pummelling wall of noise. Incidentally, Bruit is the French for noise.
The EP commences with Bloom. The sound of pizzicato, plucked violin bounces from speaker to speaker, as a melody reminiscent of the modernist classical minimalism of Steve Reich develops. It grows in complexity and intensity as other instruments join the fray. Sliding guitar lines, rising strings and electronics fill out the sound until you feel it will burst. And burst is what it does. Crashing to a closing coda of pure percussion. BRUIT ≤ fill Bloom’s eight-minute running time with ease. A track full of delicacy and power.
The other track, The Fall, uhm, falls into two sections, either side of a spoken word sample. The first section has pulsing synths with violin and cello, over scratchy electronic percussion. It sounds like a Portishead backing track that then morphs into a reverb-laden Vangelis sci-fi soundscape with added guitar. The second part has glissando strings and a plaintive melody that builds into a guitar-drenched, droning wall of noise before releasing the musical tension into a quieter conclusion. I find the drone structure less focused and interesting, and I don’t think that this track works as well as Bloom.
However, even with that slight miss-step, Monolith by Bruit, with its beguiling classical twist on post-rock, is a great listen. I look forward to hearing where these guys go next.
Jean-Michel Jarre - Equinoxe Infinity
In recent years, Jean-Michel Jarre has received much-deserved recognition as one the founding fathers of electronic music. This has resulted in a whole new generation of fans discovering his work, as well as enjoying his live performances around the world. It has also been a very active time for Jarre from a recording perspective. Equinoxe Infinity is his fourth new studio album since 2015.
A sequel to 1978's landmark, Equinoxe album, it is apparent that Jarre was inspired, because this new release is his finest musical statement in many years. What immediately struck me was how well Equinoxe Infinity captures the spirit of the pioneering electronic albums of the 70s, while blending that classic style with key modern elements.
These ten musical movements create the soundtrack to the story of 'The Watchers', who were first introduced on the cover of the original classic. Special mention goes to the two new album covers created by artist, Filip Hodas. They are stunning and like the very different moods that they display, Jarre creates a similiar musical range throughout this recording. Conveying through music, a story of the positive and possibly significant negatives of technology, the results he accomplishes are often majestic and always captivating.
The Watchers opens the album in an orchestral and appropriately dramatic fashion, while Flying Totems, Robots Don't Cry and All That You Leave Behind are together a masterclass on the sweep and granduer that electronic music can display. The charming Infinity (Movement 6) is the album at its most upbeat. Reflecting on 80s-90s era electronica, but with a modern edge, the song's infectuous melody is indelible.
Equally absorbing is the forceful, The Opening (Movement 8) which was memorably used as the introduction at Jarre's recent live shows. The album's closing title-track brings a somber end to the story and takes things in yet another diverse musical direction. There really isn't a daft moment or misstep to be found on Equinoxe Infinity. It is respectful to Jarre's musical past in a way that a sequel would demand, but there is always a modern sensibility on display as well.
To me, what sets this album apart from some of Jarre's other work, is the consistency. Never drifting too far away from a strong melody, I found Equinoxe Infinity to be engrossing and completely entertaining from beginning to end. As prolific as he has been recently, what is most impressive is the level of quality. I would dare say that unlike many musicians of his generation, Jean-Michel Jarre is now producing some of the best work of his career. In doing so, he continues to cement his standing as one of the all-time greats of the electronic music scene.
Krakow - Minus
Krakow are a Norwegian post-metal band that we have never featured in DPRP before, and listening to minus I can understand why. The quartet of René Misje (guitar, keyboards), Kjartan Grønhaug (guitar, vocals), Frode Kilvik (bass, vocals) and Ask Ty "Arctander" (drums, vocals) are pretty relentless, no holds barred, in your face doom-mongers that can shake your fillings lose at thirty paces. The group have released three albums and an EP since 2012.
The first two tracks are relatively brief noise fests, with Black Wandering Sun featuring a solo from Motörhead’s Phil Campbell. I freely admit that this is not my type of music at all. Maybe 30 years ago I would have found something exciting about it, but with age I have come to prefer a degree of subtlety. There are glimmers of melody behind the heavy riffs and wall of vocals, that are mostly shouted rather than sung.
The Stranger has a beginning that is slightly reminiscent of certain goth bands from the 1980s and is altogether a pleasanter ride, with a discernible melody and use of interesting effects, as well as a decent singing voice. Things are fine up to about four minutes, when a rather horrible guitar solo heralds the return of the big riffs and growling vocals. From Fire, From Stone is a much slower number and seems to drag on a lot longer than its 394 seconds, and to be honest it bored the pants off me.
The instrumental title track Minus is certainly a welcome relief and in complete contrast to all that has gone before, venturing more into post-rock territory with twin guitars stringing out a great melody line. The musical pleasure continues with Tidlaus, the bulk of the song being instrumental played at a similar, relatively sedate tempo as Minus. I wasn't so enamoured with the final vocal section, although at least it wasn't a shouting affair. Given all the initial boom and bombast, the ending of the album is rather week, as it just sort of peters out with no defining conclusion.
As I have stated, the music that Krakow produce is not something that I find favour in, but for any fans of the genre Minus offers up a level of variety that I suspect is not often encountered.
The National Orchestra Of The United Kingdom Of Goats - Huntress
The National Orchestra Of The United Kingdom Of Goats has a manifesto: to cure the pain and darkness from all the lost souls that mindlessly roam this world. They have set out to tell the "one true story". The one story that will save a great many and destroy the ones already far beyond redemption. Close all doors, light a candle, and kill the ones in charge.
Seems fair enough to me.
Their latest release, which, despite the relatively brief running time is labelled as their third album, is the musical expression of "the one true story". The story is hard to understand from the music alone, which is why the band have created a 36-page comic story-book to accompany the album, being a mixture of text and anime-style artwork. I have enjoyed the previous releases by the band but have to admit I was somewhat surprised by the new press photos, where they look like a steam-punk version of Slipknot! The photos were beautifully taken though, and do create very strong visual images.
But image is superfluous, it is the music that matters. And fortunately that is where UKoGs (the acceptable band abbreviation) come to the fore. For a quartet, they do make a lot of noise. The crunching guitar onslaught that one is faced with as the opener Beast gets underway, is quite a shock, but the song develops into a mighty extravaganza of melody, harmony, heavenly backing vocals and orchestral magnificence. Anyone who still thinks that the best prog songs have to be over 10 minutes should listen to this song, as it packs more into its five minutes than many lauded bands fit into a whole album.
Scent is rather more restrained and displays both the more sensitive side of the group, and just how well they can sing together. In some ways they remind me of early Bigelf but with less of a focus on keyboards, if you can imagine that! Thrill and Attunement could almost be considered as two parts of the same song, not that they are overtly similar but have a style and atmosphere that coalesce, and again, are replete with contrast.
The final track, Kill, is the weakness of the five, if only because of the staccato guitar section which I don't think works behind the vocals. This is a shame, as it is the vocals that are the highlight of the piece, big and operatic with an orchestration that showcases the musical ambitions of the band.
All in all, listening to Huntress is thirty minutes well spent.
North Of South - New Latitudes
Hailing from Spain, North Of South is the brainchild of guitarist Chechu Nos and was formed in 2017. Now, little over a year later he has released the debut album, titled New Latitudes which draws inspiration from everything from the melodic death metal of At The Gates to the pop sensibilities of The Police. Sounding like an interesting mix of influences, I felt this could be a fun one to have a listen to.
The album starts off at a quick pace utilising some fast tremolo riffs and heavy drumming to set the tone. An interesting break comes around halfway through, with a short solo on a Spanish guitar, before an almost Dream Theater-type bridge.
Nobody Knows keeps up the quick pace, with some catchy hooks and proper air guitar riffing. Despite the heavy repetition of the chorus and a lack of variation in the riffs (it seems to be mainly the same two or three repeated), it is a supremely enjoyable track that could only be described as a “floor filler”.
The diverse range of influences is showcased in the rest of the album, with a lot of catchy pop moments, wonderfully written in a progressive metal mindset. Some elements have a sound akin to pop punk, or even metalcore (Time Will Tell in particular sounding like early Funeral For A Friend), but all of it is enjoyable. A wide range of inspirations are shown and well crafted to merge together to create a very enjoyable album.
One downside would be the level of the vocals, unfortunately they sometimes drop down in volume so cannot really be heard that clearly. However, they aren’t bad, it is just a case of the mixing maybe needing some more work. But it doesn’t affect the overall enjoyability of the album.
If you are a fan of bands similar to Persefone and Symphony X, as well as Devin Townsend, melodic, heavy prog bands that pack a punch with a quick and technical feel to them, then give North Of South a try.