What a week, both for music and for us at The Wandering Lamb. This week we debuted our brand new weekly blog post PRIME CUTS where we deliver to our picks of recently cut new tracks. We also deliver SIX New Borns this week thanks to some three new contributors to the group. Speaking of which, the selection of New Borns this week covers the usual huge scope of genres and new artists that we urge you to check out. From the commercially friendly dreamy sounds of Haerts to the unique drum and vocal offering from another Swedish offering, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, trust us you wont hear much like this duo. We would never have thought we would be reviewing a Pink Floyd but we have, the verdict, well we are not to sure really. Neil Young makes a return to folk and Dirty Beaches have us mesmerised in soundscapes but slightly confused. Over to you, hear what you think.
Album Title_ Believer
Genre_ Electronic, Experimental
Moments Of_ Boards of Canada, Heterotic
Stand Out_ Murderer, Bogata
Two years since 2012’s self-titled EP, Brooklyn solo artist Bill Gillam has returned with the airy and meditative ‘Believer’. Occasionally accompanied by keyboardist Kevin Uehlinger, bassist Dan Bates and drummer Michael Barron, this offering presents a sculpture of sound that is both beautiful and at times,disjointed and menacing. Swaying from eerie, almost ambient passages to denser, pop driven tunes ensures an interesting listen for anyone willing to take the journey.
If there was ever a soundtrack to the weirdest dream you’ve ever had, chances are it would sound a lot like ‘Believer’. On my first listen to the albums eccentric sounds and arrangements, I found it hard to not feel completely relaxed and at times, overwhelmed by walls of claustrophobic soundscapes. It invites you in lovingly and makes you feel at home, but as soon as you’re comfortable, it’ll creep you out just enough to question what the hell is going on.
The aptly titled opener ‘Beginning’ starts with a lone saxophone that sets a tone of uncertainty for the rest of the album. From this point it can be hard to guess where ‘Believer’ will go next. Bill’s soft, layered vocals provide perspective for the music and often feel like a meditative venture with a peppering of falsetto. There’s a real variety of sounds on offer here, with minimalist arrangements throughout that give way to denser, more electronically driven moments.
Track ‘Live In Grace’ lives up to its name, presenting a graceful duo of deep synths and vocals that feel almost like a lullaby. The lyrics on this feel quite personal and somewhat haunting. Lines like “even if you touch the sky, one day you’ll fall and come back down” are honest, raw and sincere. Standout track ‘Murderer’ really breaks away from the rest of the album with a more straight forward pop vibe, although it’s over as quick as it came, delving back into the uncomfortable and disjointed ‘Bogata’. Whilst the contrast in mood and texture keeps it interesting, I can’t help but want more of that moody beat, but like Lieutenant Dan returning from ‘Nam, he never comes quite comes back the same.
The album really has a sense of breathing throughout it. Calming instrumentals coupled with Bill’s layered vocals offers a comforting breath of air in, whilst tracks like ‘Leroy in Tongues’ feel like an anxious and shaky exhalation. An up and down of emotions that is both beautiful and slightly off- putting, but it works. There is more than enough diversity on offer to keep the listener interested from start to finish.
Each track has its own feel and purpose, but alone, means nothing. None of the tracks ever really eventuate into anything substantial and feel more like a snapshot of a bigger picture. I found this to be challenging at first, as you often feel cheated when you expect more out of a song, although with repeated listens, it makes sense. ‘Believer’ should be digested as a whole – a listening experience you have to commit to. If you are open to the experience, you will get a lot out of the journey. If not, you might just end up confused.
Artist_ Pink Floyd
Album Title_ The Endless River
Moments Of_ Pink Floyd
Stand Out_ Louder Than Words, Things Left Unsaid, Autumn 68
When’s a Pink Floyd album not really an album by Pink Floyd? When it’s “The Endless River”. The longtime London-based progressive and art rock giants remembered founding guitarist Syd Barrett via the release of 1975’s “Wish You Were Here”. Some 40 years on surviving members David Gilmour (guitar) and Nick Mason (drums) have polished, embellished and compiled a set of 18 re-worked ambient instrumentals originally written in 1993 for the “Division Bell” sessions as a farewell for keyboardist Rick Wright, who passed away in 2008.
First up, a disclaimer. I rather like Pink Floyd. So, anything vaguely promoted as new(ish) from these guys is worth a listen. But is this mostly-instrumental collection actually any good?
Well, yes-and-no. For a band that used to zoom off into the stratosphere on interstellar overdrive, “Endless River” is more a case of to infuriatingly over-tired. Across four (roughly) 14-minute movements, it’s a perfectly pleasant nostalgia trip but never quite achieves the sonic cohesion that you’d expect from such technical masters.
If you’re the kind who likes to wallow in a bit of nostalgia (and which Pink Floyd fanatic doesn’t?), then you’ll certainly find some terrific memory touchstones. On the opener “Things Left Unsaid”, voices recall the equivalent spoke intro to the classic LP “Dark Side Of The Moon”, while elsewhere there are obvious nods in the direction of (for example) “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, “Welcome To The Machine”, “Another Brick In The Wall” and so on. And if you like that sort of musical trainspotting (strictly for the obsessive anorak crowd, usually), then “Endless River” is great fun.
Built up from 20 hours’ worth of material considered as a satellite EP to 1993’s “Division Bell” album, Gilmour and Mason have harvested both the durable and droll, featuring performances from former studio partners Guy Pratt (bass), Jon Carin (keys), with 21st-century recording assistance from Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera and saxophonist Gilad Atzmon.
Throughout, there are moments that confirm Wright’s crucial addition to the overall Floyd sound. Even the cover art suggests Wright sailing off into celestial seas. And Gilmour has apparently told the BBC that other Wright melodies may make their way into the guitarist’s next solo outing sometime next year.
When “Endless River” works, it’s because Gilmour and Mason have bothered to finish things off properly, creating real songs that run for at least four minutes. Check out the likes of “Things Left Unsaid”, “It’s What We Do” and “Louder Than Words”.
The frustrating stuff is the fragments that seem to have been included just for the sake of ensuring a decent run-time.
The middle section is a terribly mis-timed lull, with six straight pieces that barely hit the two-minute mark. Most of what passes between “Lost Art Of Conversation” and “Allons-y” is delicate, pastoral stuff, but you get the impression that former bassist and singer Roger Waters would’ve barked at Gilmour from the mixing desk and told him to go away, think harder and try again.
“Talkin’ Hawking” pulls things back from the brink of potential boredom, as a companion to “Division Bell’s” superb “Keep Talking” (geddit?). Things improve even further on “Calling”, with some genuine outer-space sonic exploration happening courtesy of some cool, wonky keys.
Then the big vocal effort arrives at last in “Lost For Words”. And when it does, it’s pricelessly beautiful. The blending of Wright’s piano alongside some quality Gilmour strumming…ah, something to truly savour. RIP Rick. Samson constructs a tale of the men in the band, perhaps from her own perceptions. Gilmour sings of the personal battle-lines drawn between him, Mason and Wright (and Waters as well?), suggesting that “we could stoke the blame but we’re here for the ride…it’s louder than words, this thing that we do”. It’s a fitting finish to an up-and-down album.
Ultimately, this will become a nice way to spend an hour with familiar friends. Whenever Gilmour’s soaring guitar picks out notes over Wright’s soft, yearning keys, all underpinned by the stately groove supplied by Mason (and Pratt), there’s no shame in a smile coming across your face.
On this evidence though, let’s hope that the Floyd really don’t run endlessly. And I say all this as a fan. But this is still a competent commemoration of Wright’s contribution to a band that remain deservedly well known as giants of progressive music. One for the Christmas list to add to the completist’s collection, even if you may not give it the same amount of spin time as previous Floyd standards.
Artist: Wildbirds & Peacedrums
Album Title: Rhythm
Label: The Leaf Label
Genre: Experimental / Blues / Psychedelic / Pop
Moments of standout: Mind Blues
Swedish power couple Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin, or more commonly known as the experimental/psychedelic/blues/pop outfit Wildbirds & Peacedrums have returned to the scene, breaking a four year silence with the release of new album Rhythm. The two remain loyal to The Leaf Label, with Rhythm being the fourth album released through them. The last taste of Wildbirds & Peacedrums we had, Rivers, was released way back in 2010, so it’s brilliant to see that they’ve found their way back into the studio and consequently, back into our hearts.
Before being given the list of options as to which album I could review this week, I had never heard of Wildbirds and Peacedrums. If someone had of mentioned the name to me in conversation the first thing I would have imagined would probably have been something along the lines of a flock of pigeons trying to make peace with their natural enemy, the peregrine falcon (you’re welcome, you just learnt something) by banging on various percussion instruments. However, after listening to the journey which Rhythm will take you on, I now associate the words Wildbirds & Peacedrums with three words; chilled as fuarrk.
Rhythm kicks off with opening track, Ghosts & Pains. This cleverly starts with the distinct sound of bongo drums and rain sticks, taking your mind away from wherever you are, far away to a deserted tropical island, devoting all energy and attention towards listening to this album. The song’s primary message, which I gathered, are the repeatedly chanted lyrics “it ain’t easy nah, easy no, easy nay, easily aaahhhh”, which, I suppose, is hinting that, maybe, just maybe, vocalist Mariam, possibly is finding something not very easy, but I don’t know what gave that away, just a hunch. Possibly she’s referring to the day-to-day life which the Ghosts & Pains had delicately plucked you away from for the total three minutes and fifty seconds which the song lasts. Now that it’s been established that life in fact ain’t easy, and now that we’ve been given the better alternative (listening to the rest of Rhythm), it’s obvious that we’re gonna want to stick around to see what else these cool cats have to preach.
The standout song on this album for me was definitely track number four, Mind Blues. Simply from hearing the first forty-two seconds of this song it is absolutely 100% apparent that this is a product of pure creativity, truly validating the “experimental” genre Wildbirds & Peacedrums have been classed as. These sounds include no vocals, but a ‘hooting’ sound, similar to that of an owl in the night, these are accompanied by the sounds of almost too many percussion tools to name, the most distinctive being are cowbells, vibraslaps and the high-hat of a common drum kit. Around the forty-two second mark, Wallentin bursts out some very fast paced words, which seems more like a rap rather than the peaceful melodic vocals she exercises in all other songs, a quick paced flow which, might I add, she pulls of unexpectedly well. Other notable mentions for top song include; track three – Gold Digger, track six – Soft Wind, Soft Death, and lastly, track eight – Keep Some Hope.
There are two tracks which have an obvious faster tempo than the others, track five – Who I Was and track nine – Everything All The Time. These tracks are craftily placed at the halfway point and very end for a very simple reason. Since the start of Rhythm with Ghosts and Pains, we as the listener have been drawn in and are in a sense of peace and vulnerability, that these comparatively more aggressive pieces are a reminder to never get too comfortable with something. With the album finishing on Everything All The Time, even the title suggests a somewhat stressful theme, snaps us back into reality, remembering the responsibilities and duties we have in life when we aren’t chillin’ listening to Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ – Rhythm.
Whilst being cleverly constructed and overall relaxing, I would class the majority of songs on Rhythm as simply background music while doing something else, awesome background music, but background music nevertheless. I give Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ – Rhythm a total of 6.5 lambs.
Artist_ Neil Young
Moments Of _ Neil Young, Van Morrison
Stand Out_ Like You Used To, All Those Dreams, When I Watch You Sleeping
Few artists possess a back catalog quite as impressive or frankly, extensive as the formidable and endlessly charismatic Neil Young. At 69, Canada’s informally dubbed ‘Godfather of Grunge’ is still churning out new material, his latest offering in the form of Storytone, a definitive departure from his signature folksy acoustic shtick that’s probably more big band than we’re all used to but still inflective and endearing all the same.
For those die – hard Neil geeks, this offering may seem somewhat more, orchestral than we’re used to. Although, this isn’t the first time Mr Crazy Horse has pulled the ole switcheroo, it could well conceivably construed to be one of two things. The first, a risky, bold albeit pretentious venture into legend waters that essentially revives him or a flailing descent into elevator territory that perhaps should have been left out of the cannon altogether. But to decide which … Hmmm. Young is sedate and thoughtfully candid, embarrassingly so in some parts in fact. There are talks of the disintegration of his marriage to Pegi Young and also a torrid affair with 80’s Splash nymphet Daryl Hannah … in case you weren’t already in the know.
So tone actually highlights the whole undertone of … well, Storytone. To see it as really just an extravaganza of horns on crack would be to over simplify what Young has attempted to purvey. But for those who prefer the more sedate, an offering of a more acousticky persuasion is also on offer. (Its blues in part as well, just in case you weren’t already confused). Having been offered a so obviously flagrant cause of comparison, it might prove counter – productive to go with expectation. In any case, I would say that the robust, rounding out of an arrangement that horns can provide certainly worked a treat on me here, although at times brash. There’s an abandon, a whimsy and lightness that occurs because of their addition. Also the subject material may have proved succubusly fascinating in parts, only adding to the intrigue.
Plastic Flowers is a forlorn reverie that muses over lost love and the expectations we project onto lovers while the theme carries over into Like You Used To where Young laments the inability to satisfy a loved one (I have a fair idea who that might be) and its inherent burdens. It’s a confessional at its most candid, a kind of fleeting acknowledgement mixed with polite sorrow. In contrast, there is a gargantuan ‘What the hell did I just hear?’ moment in the form of Who’s Gonna Stand Up? A seemingly innocuous but sill thoroughly confusing song that pays homage to Young and Hannah’s mutual commitment to environmental discordance.
The real stars are the strings on here, they provide a dynamic that grounds the material with a wholesome dexterity. And we also get to see Young come out from hiding behind his instrumental prowess for a change. In short? Surprising but not in the way you might expect. Young is pensive, reflective and endearing as ever. It would seem he got the tone of this chapter in his story just right.
Artist_ Dirty Beaches
Album Title_ Stateless
Label_ Zoo Music
Genre_ Lo-Fi, No Wave, Experimental, Alternative Rock
Moments Of_ Ariel Pinks Haunted Graffiti, John Maus, Ela Orleans
Stand Out_ none…
Alex Zhang Hungtai has put an end to Dirty Beaches, but not before releasing Stateless, the final album made up of four extended instrumental tracks. 40 minutes of experimental, Lo-Fi, No Wave music, the album incorporates the viola, tenor sax and synthesiser. Essentially a one man band, Hungtai is the creative mind and passionate man behind Dirty Beaches, musically based in cities such as Taipei, Queens, Etobicoke, Honolulu, San Francisco, Vancouver, Montreal, Berlin and Lisbon. Although Dirty Beaches is no more, he assures his listeners that this is certainly not the end of his musical journey.
Each persons life is a collection of random events and subsequent emotions; a domino effect of actions and reactions, including joy, excitement, sadness, anger and doubt. It is my understanding that the product of Dirty Beaches is made up of experiences gained by feelings of exile and misplacement in the world, due to travelling long distances. Each album produced under this stage name, is somewhat a document of a particular chapter in the life of Alex Zhang Hungtai. Stateless is exactly that. The end chapter to Dirty Beaches.
Under Dirty Beaches moniker, Hungtai has released a number of EPs and instrumental-focused albums through cassette-only labels, before more recently producing three full-length albums including Badlands (2011), double album Drifters/Love Is The Devil (2013), and of course, Stateless. Badlands was the first promising breakthrough, launching him into the international music scene. The album is a reflection of his father, made up of sample based, 50s/60s dreamy, washed out rock and roll and post-punk music, some tracks sounding similar to Joy Division, featuring distorted guitars, and vocals depicting early-elvis. Capturing the emotions of another chapter in his life, the album is deeply personal. Although his Father does not express his feelings towards Badlands, Hungtai was told by his mother that his father first cried while listening to the album.
There is little I can say about this latest album release. Although the four, extended tracks stretch out over a 40 minute period, there is little change and very little stimulation, almost depicting a state of limbo. The whole album is a never ending fade in/fade out. The first track, Displacement, portrays exactly that. From start to finish, the instrumentals form an eerie vibration, never exceeding the edge or breaking. Track 2, Stateless, is atmospheric and meditative. Track 3, Pacific Ocean, is quite calming and inoffensive, demonstrating one of the Artist’s musical genre labels: No Wave. Absolutely no waves in this one. Track 4, entitled Time Washes Away Everything, goes for a whole 15 minutes of fading out and drifting away, before bringing the album to a welcomed close.
There has to be some creative genius in this album to warrant the hype and positive responses. Unfortunately for me, this underlying aspect or ingenuity is unidentifiable or unknown to layman, such as myself. There is appreciation and beauty in this piece and there are evidently listeners out there who understand his creative work and complexity of the instrumentals. My advice for the reader? Don’t throw this album on and wait for the result, or anticipate the sequence of sounds. There is substance, however there are no flood gates and there is no climax. Just look at your surroundings or within yourself and then reflect on how the music makes you feel.
And that’s all I can say about that.
Have a listen to this interview below if your interested in getting further insight into the musician and Dirty Beaches
Album Title_ HAERTS
Label_ Columbia Records
Genre_ Indie Pop, Dream Pop, Synth Pop
Moments Of_ Fleetwood Mac, Chairlift, Cut Copy
Stand Out_ Wings, Giving Up, All The Days
Brooklyn-via-Germany four piece Haerts release their highly anticipated debut self-titled album onto the world, following on from last year’s Hemiplegia EP and a string of tour dates around the U.S. supporting well known contemporaries Washed Out, St Lucia and Atlas Genius. Fronted by sweet-voiced Nini Fabi (who also features on the album artwork), and along with band-mates Ben Gerbert, Garrett Ienner and Derek McWilliams, the group have crafted a competent yet uplifting electro-pop album. That’s all well and good, but unfortunately it feels like they may have only just missed the boat.
The turn of the last decade was a dynamic time for electronic music. It’s influence was felt throughout a number of genres; bands were now incorporating synths where you would have never have guessed it, the idea of ‘indie’ is being stretched into new fields, while some of the year’s biggest festival headliners were from ‘groups’ where guitars are no longer the focus. People are still claiming rock is dead. Of course, it will never die, but it was the case that you needed to look away from the mainstream to find the real roots of rock and roll. Remember, this was when Arctic Monkeys were still playing club shows and bands like The Presents and Cut Copy were some of Australia’s biggest musical exports. It’s in this period of time that some of the most influential indie acts were focusing away from guitars, and it worked. Who can forget M83’s groundbreaking album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, just after radios have started to ease off on flogging MGMT’s Kids and nerds like Hot Chip were selling out huge venues all over the world. It is really this period that would have been the best opportunity for HAERTS to be a notable release. When ears are conditioned to a particular style, it is undeniably easier to just continue with this phase and for the group to slide easily into the ears of the mainstream.
In saying so, there is no denying that Haerts have produced a quality album of easy listening, electro-tinged pop songs, possible ear-worms and all. Standouts such as the EP featured song All The Days is a floating, bass bounce styled for sunny rooftop bars, but also sure to do well live on the outdoor stage. Similar effort for the singles Wings and Giving Up which both feel like a walk in the park for Nini Fabi’s distinctive, Stevie Nicks-esc vocal play. The comparisons are quite prominent over the blogisphere, with the Fleetwood Mac-leaning melodies also helping to cement the idea. The overdubs on Call My Name do their best to bring out the goosebumps, but the majority of the vocals on HAERTS don’t do a hell of a lot to really push her out of the comfort zone. Lyrically, it’s a typical mix of love and love lost, hence not winning any prizes there.
In essence, HAERTS has the potential to be a summer hit. Already being tagged as a ‘buzz band’ to watch, it is easy to predict a likely trajectory. Unfortunately, they might be five years too late. Where the idea and feel to their sound has already come and gone in a wave of musical trends, these guys and gal have only just started on the idea. In the age where the attention span for ideas is shockingly quick, there is no more of a need for uniqueness now than there ever was.