Saturday, January 7, 2017

DMD highlights from 2016 Part One: Desert… Ambient and Rock

Welcome to the first instalment of the Desert Mountain Dust picks from 2016.

During my first ‘proper’ year as a blogger I have made some wonderful musical discoveries and would like to share them all with you in this trilogy of lists, comprising of full on reviews and hurriedly written shorter ones.


Thanks for reading!









HIP-HOP/ R & B
ealing.
An artist shrouded in mystery, but that’s just the way he likes it.
The release by ealing that really blew me away was Season One, an anthology of his 2015 singles, B-sides and collaborations with artists Hardy, Leaf beach and Pray4me. (Ok, maybe it's not from the same year but it was released back in January 2016.)

Read a full review of Season One (and his debut record Cleshay) along with an interview with ealing here 

The most recent emergence from the ealing HQ is a reinterpretation of the track ‘Dippin Dots’ by fellow Brisbane artist GNIGHTZ. 

Listen here 

Instead of barging in and scribbling out the blueprint, ealing has succeeded in enhancing the original track’s fluffy warmth. Of course there are changes afoot, the most noticeable being the slow down and key change towards the end (as if a few intoxicants have started to take hold) and it all becomes a starry eyed, giddy sway. Overall, a sparkling reminder that ealing is definitely one to watch out for.

Listen to the original track here 

I managed to catch up with E for a few words:
DMD: How do you know GNIGHTZ?
E: We linked up through soundcloud. It's a url connection. So even though we're from the same city our paths haven't crossed much. But hopefully in the future they will and we can eventually collaborate on something…

DMD: What does 2017 hold for ealing?  
E: Definitely a new EP. I have a few in the works at the moment so I'll continue working on all of them but if all goes to plan I'll half one in the first half of 2017. Also, looking to have merch out as well, top-tier T-shirts and clothing that looks nothing like a standard band T-shirt. In short, ealing in 2017 will be some of the old and some of the new stuff.

Also check out: cleshay (self released, 2015)



NIGHTPALMS
An artist I discovered through ealing who also happens to be a beat building, a cappella rap enthusiast, but the similarity stops there.

Released around the beginning of 2016, the ‘Oistros’ EP  is packed with plenty of old school west coast flavour applied with a modern twist, a real spectrum of emotional musical colours. ‘Jiggly Puff’ starts things off full of hope, while ‘I’m not your ex’ shambles around dejectedly. Like the historic woman in question ‘Helen of Troy’ reeks of power and seduction, while ‘Looking for Wifey’ (the only rap track) embodies the mentality of guys and girls out cruising everywhere.

You can download the EP for free and also see a micro film where both ealing and Night Palms travelled to Chile & Peru here: 



House / Techno
Aperiodicae
Released on: Kansas label Clajistix
‘Clajistix’ is a US Label specializing in genres such as footwork, garage, techno, lo-fi beats, vaporwave, ambient, and breakcore offering Unlimited runs of CDrs, at rock bottom prices. The label is always looking for submissions, so if you are a creator of such things, then send your music to: clajistixrecords@gmail.com 

Also based out of Kansas, minimalist house/techno artist Aperiodic released his debut with the label back in September. Like many from the genre ‘Untitled’ does have a feeling of 90’s nostalgia about it, but Aperiodic stands out from the crowd by remaining moody and unpredictable.

Opener ‘FAID4’ probably comes the closest in terms of 90’s dance worship, with that instantly recognisable drum sound which I recall blasting out of my parent’s car stereo way back when. ‘Woodworks’ is a light, thumping march with glum overtones and like the track before it, also goes into a light spray of surface noise like someone accidentally hitting the radio dial.

The off-kilter pulsing beats and fizzy drones of my favourite track ‘Murder Suicide’ prove that Aperiodicae’s mix tape isn’t mere dance floor fodder, while the processed vocals of ‘Fault’ remind me a lot of Burial. The closing song feels a lot like a hidden album track you would find at the very end of a CD (remember that?) and thus seals the deal. All in all, ‘Untitled’ is a strong debut from an artist I want to hear more from in 2017!

Listen and purchase a physical CD here



Vaporware
バーチャル ‘BOTANIS T’ 
by 桜の下で 
Released on: UK label SSN Technologies
With a futuristic, well-written backstory (included as a txt download) combined with song lengths and a running time more associated with a grindcore/punk album, 桜の下で (under the cherry tree) has produced a stellar body of work that captures some of the brightest and best sounds I have heard in my admittedly short stroll down the genre’s avenue.

B O T A N I S T is 12 short breaths of beautiful, atmospheric vaporware that disappear almost as soon as they have formed, so make sure to have this on repeat to achieve nirvana.

Listen / Download here


Also check out:

TIME ~ 断片 
Released on: Portsmouth, UK label Aloe City Records

The cover may look better suited on a faded vinyl jacket, but ‘T I M E’ is bursting with vintage sound clips, such as ‘年齢のCrossroad’ and ‘私と来て’ which both feel like they came straight out of an 80’s film soundtrack. There’s plenty of retro jazzy flourishes to be enjoyed (Track 4: 朝の散歩 ) and whiffs of power ballads (LOVE ~~ 狂ったように  and Track 11:知覚 ). Cassettes have long been sold out, so cross your fingers for another 桜の下で physical release in 2017 and be sure to get your hands on that.

Listen/Download here



New Age / Meditation Music
Sounds of the Dawn
‘Sounds of the Dawn’ is a Michigan based tape label dedicated to resurrecting lost classic New Age, Environmental, Meditation and Relaxation ambient cassettes as well as giving new artists in these fields exposure. If you need to detox for a while and switch off the stress, SOTD has you covered.
Also check out the Sounds of the Dawn radio show and their excellent cassette blog which can both be found on the official SOTD site.

Sign Libra-Closer to the Equator
A great example of what SOTD represents, this concept EP was written specifically for a contemporary one-act ballet at the Latvian National Opera. Based on the daily fight for survival and the tropical rainforest’s diversity of wildlife, ‘Closer to the Equator’ paints a musical caricature of the leafy ecosystem. 

First track ‘Intro / Tropical Plantarum' to me resembles daybreak in the forest, it contains soft beats like water droplets falling off leaves and the first use of many forest field recordings which help establish the setting. On ‘Mantodea vs. Furcifer Pardalis’ there’s memorable vocals mixed with laid back percussion while ‘Victoria Amazonica’ features some blissful sounding saxophone. 

The slightly more energetic ‘Teleopsis Dalmanni’ helps me imagine night falling on the rainforest, continuing into ‘Outro / Oophaga Pumilio’ which opens with a glittering drone and switches to a vocal led groove that feels illuminated by the stars, ending with a field recording of insects calling at night and the sounds of a running stream.

The closing track gathers the whole release into a seamless loop perfect for meditation. With ‘Closer to the Equator’ Sign Libra have produced a very calming, esoteric listen where you can shut your eyes and envision yourself dancing in the heart of the rainforest.

Listen / Download here

Also check out:

Inner Travels
S. Targo is a composer based in Wisconsin, and one of his 2016 releases that caught my attention was ‘Joyful Awakening’ 28 minutes of peaceful ambient electronic music. 

Track 1 ‘Awakening’ starts off with a slightly detuning synth, which evolves into a trance like an East Asian round, then Track 2 ‘Peaceful’ is a glittering drone, rising and falling like a sleeping person’s chest

Listen / Download here

Also check out: 
‘Phases of a Forest Moon’ and ‘First Light’ both self released in 2015 and 2014 and available at:

Prog Ambient 
Cousin Silas
With an eye-watering number of releases to his name, allow me to introduce UK solo artist David Hughes. Beginning writing under the name Cousin Silas 15 years ago, the days David can be found regularly putting out guitar-based ambient music which is devoured by his rabid online fans.

Living in the Liminal Zone
Released in February on New York ambient net label Studio 4632.

‘Living in the Liminal Zone’ The tracks are both reflective and relaxing, and don't stray too far from Easy Listening, Space ambient, Prog Rock guitar soling and Jazz. The slow grooves on ‘Casual Acquaintance’ and ‘Liminal’  both feature some exceptional brass instrumentation, while ‘Frankie’s tune’ is loaded with some beatnik percussion.

The Tick-Tock arpeggiated beat of ‘Hinterlands’ mix well with the guitar notes that are as much sorrowful as they are ghostly, and the synthesisers on ‘A Distance’ light up like the break of day. ‘Trio in E By Gum’ is a drone piece that sounds like it was taken straight from Ravi Shankar’s book of chants and replicated with tinkling piano and swelling chords. In fact if you’re reading this Dave, please make sure that your next album features some Sitar(!)

Above all else, ’LITLZ’  captures David’s excellent guitar performance, he doesn’t over embellish things or try to make it all about how many licks he can cram in, allowing enough breathing room for the other instruments so it all fits together nicely. In terms of sound-a-likes, in my opinion Hughes falls somewhere between Andy Summers, David Gilmour and Jeff Beck.  

Final track ‘Shadows at Dusk’ feels a lot like observing a star-filled sky on a moonlit night, with dreamy looped chords all helping to musically illustrate the spacey cosmos.
Listen / Download here

Also check out:
Dronescape 30, a charity release that raised £300 for Hospice UK
Listen / Download here

A Cousin Silas ‘best of’ compilation 
Listen / Download here

Also make sure to join the Cousin Silas Emporium on Facebook for exclusive content
There isn’t a Cousin Silas bandcamp that I know of, but the CS Soundcloud page is updated regularly.



Berlin School of Electronic Music
Michael Brückner
With releases in the triple digits, Michael Brückner has been composing since 1992 but only decided to unveil his musical works online a decade ago. At the beginning of this year, Brückner gave us Hikari (containing previously unreleased material and improvisations) which was released on US netlabel AmbiOfusion in aid of raising money for a friend’s medical bills.

‘Hikari’ is an immersive release and classic Brückner all over that delves deep into the darkness and bathes heavily in the light.
Listen / Download here

Other notable releases this year:
  • A full length LP ‘Muzikhala’
  • ‘The Giant Illusion’ a compilation of tracks released on differing albums between 2004 and 2015 
  • ‘Hoax’ the re-release of an EDM / D ’n' B themed album which originally came out in 2005 
  • …And as a Christmas giveaway, Michael is offering a Free Download of his 1999 album ‘eroonian-avady’ 
All of these titles are available at Michael’s official bandcamp here

But the very latest Brückner effort comes in the form of an album of studio recordings where he teams up with drummer/percussionist Tommy Betzler and guitarist Sammy David to form a Psychedelic Electronic Rock trio with the suitable album title of ‘Triplet’.

Released on and distributed by the Ron Boots owned Dutch label ‘Groove Unlimited’ ‘Triplet’ comes with a bonus DVD (suitable for computer use only) containing footage of the group’s performance at the 2016‘s e-live festival at Oirschot, the Netherlands with onstage visual FX provided by Ed's Amazing Liquid Lights. 

I caught up with Michael to find out more.
DMD: For those not in the know, who exactly are Tommy Betzler and Sammy David?
Michael Brückner: Tommy Betzler is the one with the most prominent music history of the three of us: in the 80’s he was a founding member of the German electronic / progressive rock band "Peacock" (later known as "P'Cock") who were on Klaus Schulze's IC label (while neither Saga nor Pink Floyd, they are still regarded as a ‘cult’ band among those who remember them 😉). Via that connection,Tommy also toured with Klaus Schulze and Rainer Bloss on several occasions, including their legendary long "Audentity" tour, and he also played (some) drums on "Dig It" (although uncredited) and on Schulze's "Stahlsinfonie". 
Shortly after that, Tommy quit the drums for many years in favour of running a hugely successful catering service that specialised in accompanying international rock stars on tour - there he worked for all of them: The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Paul Simon, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Queen - you name any of these rock circus guys who toured Europe in the 80’s, Tommy was their cook! 
However, these intense years took their toll and although it was successful as long as he was in charge, Tommy had to sell the business because he fell very seriously ill from the stress, so after that he continued to work for a major German TV stations for some more years. 
He returned to music making around (I think) 2007 and since then he has had guest drum appearances in many projects in our little European EM scene. The most prominent of these projects is maybe Picture Palace Music, the band of Tangerine Dream member Thorsten Quäschning. Then there was TMA, Sequentia Legenda (Laurent Schieber), Remy Stroomer and a few others…
As for Sammy, I actually don't know that much myself. He's a guitar teacher and  guitarist of quite a few rock / pop / jazz bands (with not a lot of connection to electronic music, if at all). One of them is called ‘Krautalarm'. He's an old friend of Tommy's (they both grew up in the same city, Darmstadt) but they lost sight of each other for a couple of decades until meeting again not so long ago via Facebook. 
Like Tommy, he had quite a long break from making music - he studied medicine and had a career as a doctor before calling it a day to fulfil his dream of seriously studying guitar at a music academy. By the way his first guitar teacher as a boy was Roye Albrighton of the British psychedelic / progressive band "Nektar" (who incidentally had settled down in Darmstadt during the 1970’s).

DMD: What can you tell me about Ed’s Amazing Light show? 
MB: Ed’s Amazing Lights actually use the same technique (and achieve a very similar effect) to those early psychedelic light shows in the early 70’s, especially the kind that "Nektar" were well known for back then...which links back to Sammy and Tommy's fascination and connection with that band - funnily enough, Nektar were once Tommy's neighbours…


DMD: How was the experience of recording Triplet and the live shows? Do you guys plan on working together in the future?
MB:Well, Triplet actually evolved from a case of emergency, so to speak (it's also true to say that it evolved from the rehearsals of the E-Live gig): we had an initial plan - to finish our "first" album "The Golden Peacock" (which has a long story of it's own which I will skip here) and officially release it at E-Live. 
We actually were almost  there already, but then had some bad luck: Sammy (who is in charge for mixing and mastering "The Golden Peacock") and his wife had to move to a new house weeks sooner than they had anticipated, and for that reason, Sammy had to interrupt his work on the album before it was finished (...it will be released at some point later in 2017). 
Now, we had announced the release of that album already several times before and then had to delay it, and I hated the idea to tell our listeners again that they had to wait - I wanted an album in 2016, and while we had the little extra attention we got from E-Live. 
So, first we considered that I finish "The Golden Peacock" myself, but soon had to realise that it wouldn't be possible - at least not at the quality level we wanted to achieve here...
However, during our concert preparations we had actually developed new music - or rather frameworks / vehicles which could be used as starting points for improvisations at the concert(s). 
We already had some decent recordings of several takes from rehearsals, the material was still fresh in our mind and our fingers, and it occurred to me that if we just use the same basic tracks as we did onstage and improvise to them in a studio situation where we could smoothen out the wrinkles a bit with post production, that would be - comparatively - easy to do, result in a nice album and even links back more to the festival where some people did see us. 
And we went for it, and it turned out even nicer than expected - and we had it ready in time for Christmas ;-) So, sometimes spontaneity wins! 
At some point I felt that the music would be even nicer if we had Fryderyk Jona (who also had guested on our previous album "TWO") again, and he added some of his brilliant Moog playing to two of the tracks.
About the actual shows I have slightly mixed feelings - but first of all and most importantly: in the end both the audience and the band had fun and enjoyed the event! However, along the road there were quite a few little troubles, mistakes, misunderstandings and such things which caused unease and tensions at some moments, and I believe if it all had been smoother and better prepared both on the bands and the festival management's part (and we had more luck with different pieces of equipment) we could have played for more people and we could have played better for them too. 
But I don't see any need to detail all those little mishaps here, because in the end everybody was happy (as far as I know at least) - I'll just remember that stuff and try to do it better next time around... 
However, it also had a positive side to it - because of some of the misunderstandings we decided to play three sets (two shorter sets and one longer one) instead of just two, as we had initially planned. And that extra set - which was completely improvised - it really was a gas (for me, at least). :-)
For sure Tommy, Sammy and me will continue the project! Next thing - as mentioned above - will be finally the releasing of "The Golden Peacock" (which has actually been in the works since 2013 already!). 
That said, there will probably be a break in the band activity for a while; I will slow down a bit anyway music wise in 2017, because I want (and need) to spend more time with my family, and also take better care for my health (and other important things).

Listen to a preview and an excerpt from a performance of the album’s tracks here:
Order a physical copy here

My Thoughts on Triplet
‘Triplet’ reminds me a lot of the extended improvised jams heard on such Porcupine Tree records as ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’ and ‘Metanoia’. You can really hear each player vibing off each other and there’s a real sense of co-operation rather than competition. 

Sammy David dishes out some tasteful soloing like the delayed violining and scale runs on ‘The Trip’. The wah-wah soaked bends of ‘Trilogy’ and the more furious flurry of notes on the record’s closing track also spring to mind.

Meanwhile Tommy Betzler fills the role of percussionist and drummer amicably, he isn’t trying to be some kind of Neil Peart copy cat. Instead he uses his e-drums/gongs sparingly, leaving plenty of space for Brückner and David to fill. So that when he does come in it has maximum effect, like on the ending to ‘Doublette’.

I’m not used to hearing Michael perform as part of a band so this certainly is a rare treat, he brings along plenty of his trademark morphing, dreamy synth lines and bags of cosmic keyboard power. His extended solo on closing track (Three) To The Flame Of Life is one of many notable moments on the record.

Fryderyk Jona also features a guest slot with the use of a Moog voyager as well as additional keyboards and sequences.

Overall, Triplet is a wonderful dose of explorative proggy ambient that is not an experience to be missed by Berlin School fans. Let’s hope that the paths of Tommy Betzler, Michael Brückner and Sammy David all cross again in the future to bring us such glorious results again.
More from the trio can be heard here

More Brückner:
  • 2014’s ‘Ombra’ revisited
  • 2003’s HP Lovecraft themed ‘The Outsider’ 
If you still haven’t had enough of Michael yet, then you can read an in-depth interview with him Here



Felix Perez
Speaking of HP Lovecraft, back in January Chile’s Ambient artist Felix Perez released an impressive 2 track EP covering monsters from the Cthulu Mythos.
But something that needs to be heard is Felix’s Debut LP ‘Canticles of Dune’ which perfectly captures the essence of the Dune universe, even if you have never even seen the film or read the book.
Read a full review of Canticles of Dune here
Listen / Download the album here



Owann-‘Eternal Return’
For his second release, Belgium based Ambient musician Owann has composed a concept album based on the period of time when the idea of ‘Eternal Return’ occurred to German philosophical writer Frederich Nietzsche.

For those not in the know, the gist of Eternal Return is that the universe and all existence has been recurring, and will continue to recur for an infinite number of times across infinite time or space.
Personal highlights for me include: ‘Frozen’ a large, sweeping Drone and ‘White Forest’ which expands the Drone by adding emotive strings. The 15 minutes long ‘Silvaplana’ is probably my favourite, I can see it being a bit too repetitive for some people but personally really enjoy getting lost in it’s haunting melody. 

‘Walking to Surlei’ replicates Nietzsche’s journey to the Swiss village of Surlei which is when the concept of ‘Eternal Return’ occurred to him. In the track’s first half it journeys into darkness, before opening up into a sweeping Drone similar in likeness to ‘Frozen’. Finally, it all goes out on the melancholic, dazed piano of ‘Memories’.

It goes without saying that this is a worthwhile investment for any Nietzsche fans out there but even if you’ve never read anything by the moustachioed philosopher, then Owann’s ‘Eternal Return’ is still a Progressive Ambient Electronic jaunt worth making.
Listen / Download here




Experimental Ambient (continued in List 3)
AMULETS
Austin TX’s Randall Taylor constructs the sort of Tape Loops you could trace back to William Basinski and with solo project Amulets, Taylor experiments with tape machines as well as circuit bending guitar pedals, and making his own homemade tape loops. 

On top of this, he designs the cassettes, artwork and packaging for his releases which truly is the icing on the DIY cake. 

After well received online showcases of his tape loops, Randall amassed a dedicated following and successfully crowd fund a 2016 Spring US tour of the South West to promote his September 2015 EP ‘Know your America.’ 

This year has seen a flock of releases from Amulets, and one I picked up was ‘Personal Power’. 
https://amulets.bandcamp.com/album/personal-power
Born after Randall stumbled across cassettes of motivational speaker Anthony Robbins while out thrifting, Taylor recycled and re-used every part of the original packaging by making a 2 cassette deluxe edition (now sold out) which also included Robbins’ official empowering message. Check out the video for ‘Financial Ruin’ here

Recent effort ‘Infinity Tapes’ (also sold out physically but still available for download) was a 2 part tape loop that came out last August, a tape that Randall encouraged his listeners to use in their own cassette based experiments.

One of the latest Amulets releases is ‘False Horizon’ which came out back in September on the UK label Vanity Pill 

Read an interview I conducted with Randall and my thoughts on ‘False Horizon’ here


Snowbeasts
After 5 releases (and one best of) on their own imprint Component Recordings, Rhode Island’s Snowbeasts managed to conjure up quite a habitable icy audio planet with album ‘+ -’ which was snapped up by French label M-Tronic Records back in September.

Read an in depth interview with Snowbeasts and a full review of ‘+ -’  here


Building Castles Out Of Matchsticks
‘Magical Thinking’ EP
Back in November, Canadian Ambient Electronic artist Anne Sulikowski released a collection of her previously released works in the form of an EP entitled ‘Magical Thinking’ on Toronto based Electronic label Paper + Sound.

I have also included some of the Castle Clips all filmed and edited by Anne.

‘Port Rowan’ is an uplifting opener, full of upsurging sounds and reverberating piano, for me the beats feel like trying to decipher a scrambled message (setting the tone for the record) but it easily sticks in your head. 

On ‘Two Of A Kind’ it’s contents seem to go against the title’s meaning, I imagined that the beats represent a free spirited person who wont be tied down, because they change pace a lot, while the repetitive synths and melody represent a person stuck so deep into routine that to lift them out of it would have disastrous consequences, with both elements working against each other it gives off a wonderfully disorientating feel. 


The solo piano on Track 3 ‘Magical Thinking’ sounds like its been recorded in an underwater booth which carries over to the next track.




As well as the aforementioned drowned piano tone, on ‘Lithium’ we see the arrival of what I only be describe as intense rushes of glittering glassy sound, there’s also my favourite drum track on the whole album which proves yet again that it’s better and more rewarding to write your own beats than just steal or copy someone else’s.

Shortest track ‘Screwdriver In My Pocket’ feels rather more frantic, like being caught in a scuffle. there’s a real clash of beats, noises, buzzing glitches, rattles and somewhere I can make out the ‘wrong answer sound’ from some long forgotten game show.

Despite the rest of material here being of a strong quality, ‘I have Been To The Bottom Of The Sea’ is the real gem on ‘Magical Thinking’. It’s a very engulfing soundscape, boasting whooshes that mimic the ebb and flow of the ocean’s currents along with these cavernous echoes that only hint at the depths of the blue abyss.

Closing epilogue of ‘When Birds Sing’ fluctuates so wildly that it detunes itself, ending the EP on a bit of a question mark, but that’s high calibre experimental music for you.


I think what I like the most about this release is that it doesn't do what is expected of it, the sounds used and the drum patterns are both prime examples of this. I’m hearing many a nod to IDM acts such as Flying Lotus and Aphex Twin, as well as dashes of more experimental rock bands like Tortoise and Radiohead.

In conclusion, this EP is both a well layered sonic bouquet and a fantastic collections of works by an artist who deserves to be heard by more people. Whether you’re new or well versed in the works of Building Castles Out Of Matchsticks, ‘Magical Thinking’ is a breath-taking experience you don’t want to miss!

Listen / Download here

The official Building Castles...bandcamp here

Read an interview with Anne here


Rock
Radiohead
The Oxford experimental rock pioneers return to separate the men from the boys with their 9th album ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ and when I first heard the singles ‘burn the witch’ and ‘daydreaming’ I knew this was going to be something special.

Yorke’s voice still soars like a wounded eagle, there’s much emotive coffee house acoustic pickings and also some excellent string/choral parts played by the London Contemporary Orchestra (arranged by guitarist Jonny Greenwood). The closing song ‘true love waits’ carries extra emotional weight due to the recent tragic news of the passing of Yorke’s former long term partner Rachel Owen passing away from cancer back in December 2016.

Like many a Radiohead album, ’A Moon Shaped Pool’ is an inspirational listen, and the group are still one of a few shining examples that being on a major label does not mean you should have to compromise your musical goals.

Also check out: The King of Limbs, OK Computer and Kid A
Purchase here




Math Rock
Zoo Strategies: Languager


Forwarding the sound of their first and second EPs, Math Rock quartet Zoo Strategies have finally unleashed their debut Full Length!
Although mainly an instrumental release, both the title track and ‘What Doth Life’ feature good use of vocals, guitarist/singer Daniel Baxter has a strong voice that suits the music well, but doesn’t impose himself too much and is much happier to let the band members hands (and feet) do the talking for the time being.

The addition of horns on ‘Pleasant Encounters of the Fourth Kind’ and saxophone on ‘Lethal Weapon’ both give the record a Jazzy feel. Meanwhile, there’s also a twin set of soft ambient tracks spread within the album’s contents to offer up short respite from the stop start tempos and crystallised guitar lines.

As heard in their previous works ‘Zeus Tragedies’ and ‘Separation’ no band member is lagging behind here, resulting in a well-oiled unit that is still yet to rust. The more technical tap happy guitar lines of Daniel and Trevor had me recalling their fellow country men Protest The Hero. While the rhythm section of Campbell and Chic are stuck together like chewing gum on the soles of your expensive new sneakers. 

Drawing the album to a close we have ‘California Coastline’ an uptempo rocker, which offers a minute of heart-pumping adrenaline before ‘A Single Hat Lost At Sea’ soothes in with an intro that flows like water hitting a sandy beach, leading into the band’s trademark guitar chops alongside speed swapping, lush washes of chords and key changes that only add to the euphoria.

In conclusion, if the American Football comeback record left you feeling unfulfilled and didn’t call you, then ‘Languager' is the guy waiting in the wings to whisk you off to the movies and be the loving album you truly deserve!

Read an interview I conducted with ZS back in February here

Also check out these ZS side projects:
Yesbear
Math rock group with ZS Bassist Brendan Campbell and Drummer Miles Chic

Polarhorse
Instrumental post/prog rock featuring ZS guitarists Daniel Baxter and Trevor Wong 

Either/Or
Newly formed two piece math rock band with Trevor Wong on guitar



Will Wood and The Tape Worms: SELF-iSH
(SELF-iSHLY released)

Enter the wonderfully wacky world of Will Wood and the Tape Worms, a rising New Jersey progressive swing-punk outfit who have secured themselves a rapidly increasing fan base in exchange for their memorable compositions and hectic schedule. The troupe’s second full length feels like a deranged musical with Will Wood as the ring master in this mad circus.

With production duties being handled by Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Kevin Antreassian (see if you can spot any related merch in the band’s videos) it’s not hard to see that WWATTT are cut from the same cloth as the math-core heroes, with both bands speaking neighbouring musical dialects. 

For instance, I’m hearing strains of such musical eccentrics as Weird Al Yankovic and Mr. Bungle. There’s plenty of twists and turns along the way but amidst all the madness there is a strong focus on fine tuned musicianship and sharpened hooks.

A man of many voices, Will Wood’s got it down from hushed soft tones to angry snarls and maniacal shrieks, plus he’s happy to jump high up the registers without sounding fatigued or add the odd vocal solo just for the heck of it. He also lends his blackened fingernails hands for tickling the honky tonk ivories as well.

But Wood isn’t one for hogging the spotlight, and the Tape Worms both individually and collectively shine oh so brightly, keeping the runaway musical train from de-railing.

Saxophonist David Higdon performs a bombastic solo in ‘Cotard's Solution’ while Mike Bottiglieri shows off his diversity as a guitar player throughout the record, earning his shredder’s badge on ‘The Song with Five Names’ a track that also features the trumpeting talents of Alex Nauth (Foxy Shazam) who brings in a striking solo on ‘Dr. Sunshine is Dead’.

Bassist Jonathon Maisto keeps the low end on lock down while Matt Olson's drum work is technical without overdoing it, and both musicians serve the songs well rather than treading on the other band members’ toes. There’s also a faint whiff of samples and electronics floating around, not to mention reams of guest vocalists with numerous gang chants.

It’s impossible for me to pick a favourite track here, but in order to get a feel of ‘SELF-iSH’ but I’d recommend first having a listen to 'Mr. Capgras Encounters a Secondhand Vanity’ as it captures most of the record’s craziness, plus the video mirrors a High School Drama club descending into debauchery.

A concept album with themes such as self discovery, and split personalities as a result of Prosopagnosia (also known as face blindness). ‘SELF-iSH’ is quite a journey inside the psyche of our plucky young hero where things can get a little deep, dark and downright weird at times, but that’s what happens when you open up Pandora’s box.

Above all else it’s a fun, theatrical listen and by the time ‘-ish’ rolls around you will be ready to cue a standing ovation and throw a shower of roses at the stage. 
SELF-iSH is currently going for ‘Name your price’ on bandcamp’ so dive in, ya WEiRDOS!

Listen / Download here

Also check out: Everything is a Lot (2015)

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