We have the intention to bring you our opinions of new albums each week but sometimes LIFE gets the better of us. We’d like to think that when we do offer our opinions on fresh New Borns, that our words resonate from our musical hearts. In breaking the silence, we listen to the much anticipated offering by The National’s front man, Matt, and his side project EL VY. Perhaps it wont win the heard of National fans but with the unmistakable voice of Matt’s, it makes for an interesting listening with some cracking tracks. Jarryd, takes it to the dance floor extreme with the new offering from Armin Van Buurin, a thumbing album but does it pull the rank? Ben, pays tribute and gets immersed by Dave Gilmour’s new album and also turns his ears to the instrumental new born by Bethel, less of a band, more a writer’s collective. So much music, so little time!
Album Return To The Moon
Moments of Tom Waits, Nick Cave, The Smiths
Stand out Paul Is Alive
Matt Berninger, front man of The National, has released a debut studio album under EL VY with Brent Knopf from Menomena and Ramona Falls. Never ones to phone it in, they have collaborated to bring us an album that both mocks and revels in structural paradigms and thoughtless stigmas.
EL VY’s husky, ‘devil may care’ attitude is certainly nothing new but their commitment and production makes it believable. Matt Berninger’s music feels genuine and honest.
The Juttered guitar rhythms, plucky atonally distorted riffs in ‘Return To The Moon’ ‘Paul is Alive’ ‘Happiness Missouri’ are ridiculously gorgeous and powerful.
Moving into more ballad moments with ‘No Time To Crank The Sun’ and ‘Sad Case’. It would be fair to say that perhaps these tracks are not as well executed as their degenerate rock. They are, however, still moving and a welcome change of pace. Their use of southern church choral inspired choirs were wonderful.
Return To The Moon feels like you’re at a party and you’re sharing a cigarette with a person you’ve known for no longer than a few hours. You’re both drunk and you start sharing more than you would in sobriety. Before you know it they are telling you in a nonchalant, macabre tone some of their darker experiences. Instead of being shocking, you find their self-aware honesty refreshing to experience. Their dark wit and politics, imbued throughout this album is inescapable and a welcomed addition.
Label Bethel Music USA
Moments Of Radiohead, Pink Floyd, The Church, YES
Stand Outs Eminence, Ultramarine, Ever Be, Heaven’s Song
Hailing from Redding, California, Bethel is less of a band and more of a writers’ collective. Comparatively recent arrivals in the music world, the group has released an acoustic vocal album, two instrumental records and two studio efforts. “Synesthesia” is the second volume specifically composed without words to follow on from 2013’s aptly-titled Without Words.
Bethel has crafted more than an hour of soundtrack-style instrumental pieces on “Synesthesia” that blend into one. Named after the description given to those who can, often as a result of a neurological difference related to autistic traits, hear or see colours in sound, the LP is never lacking in interest or value.
The songs are a mix of newly-created and re-imagined – with some inspired from previous vocals-based tunes. Bethel has a certain style – combining acoustic guitar, chiming percussion and sweeping, pulsing keyboards.
The tracks that best exemplify the group’s dynamic range here include “Eminence” (drop-in piano and bass that reminds one of Radiohead keyboardist Jonny Greenwood’s solo material), “Ultramarine” (low-end strings) and “Ever Be” (shifting time-signature drums).
There is, admittedly, something of a mid-album lull, but “Heaven’s Song” and “Synesthesia” go totally in the Rick Wakeman super-sized church organ-a-rama mode before the big synthesizer ending. More like “synths-I-seize-ya” in the hands of Bethel’s keyboard duo Luke Hendrickson and Gabriel Wilson. The group contains up to eight performance contributors at any one time, involving multiple percussionists led by Joe Volk at the drumkit and guitars from Dan Mackenzie, Mike Pope, Chris Greely and Bob Strand.
Occasionally feeling like it lacks a lot of variation, and dare I suggest slightly over-long, the record could’ve been trimmed for sure. Probably 14 tracks over 45 minutes – instead of 19 across 66 minutes – would’ve sharpened things.
But there’s no denying the top quality production on this recording. And no denying that Bethel has once again put together a substantial set of sounds.
Label Amada Music
Moments Of Dash Berlin
Stand Out Embrace
Embrace starts with a smooth symphonic intro that paints a picture of dream time tales circa an 80’s movie soundtrack. Quickly, it spirals into an 8 bit rave fest that was rather less inspiring and captivating. Contrasts after drops are sometimes a bit of a hit and miss which can be jarring and remove you from the energetic and pulsating experience.
The album than takes you through spanish guitars with extra-terrestrial ambience in ‘Face of Summer’, ‘Strong Ones’ is soft acoustic rock on top of dance tracks. Along with a myriad of less noteworthy but expected commercial musical tropes.
The album has a lot of varied influences and is an interesting journey from start to end. This does nothing to take away from the obvious fact that Embrace is a reactionary album. It has no interest in contributing towards the discourse around art, music and culture. It has no interest in its own cultural significance as a musical footnote. It simply wants to tap into a pre-existing, highly romanticised idea of being a teen or young adult and profit from it.
So, if you want to enjoy this album. Turn off the critical elements of the brain, get on the dance floor and let it just pump on in the background while you enjoy the moment. If you want to really experience music, stay away. This isn’t the album for you.
Album Rattle That Lock
Label Columbia Records UK
Genre Art Rock
Moments Of Pink Floyd
Stand Outs Rattle That Lock, In Any Tongue
Ten years after his previous solo work On An Island, the well-known (nay, legendary) lead guitarist and vocalist from Pink Floyd has compiled an hour of new music with studio friends old and new. Musing on mortality and morality as he himself heads towards age 70, Dave Gilmour also shares some poignant lines that seem to deliberately recall the passing of Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright.
Simply put, this is who it is, unashamedly being who he is. Dave Gilmour – generally pacing himself in moderation through familiar places before periodically unleashing that unique blues-drenched string-bending that is his trademark.
The first record since the death of former Pink Floyd bandmate Rick Wright has given Rattle That Lock an extra edge for die-hard fans, and for everyone else it’s an example of what most albums should at least aspire to these days. Chart-topping? Maybe not. Solid and satisfying listen? Sure is.
Gilmour is joined again by longtime collaborators Guy Pratt (bass) and Jon Carin (keys), with fellow travellers from 2005’s On An Island returning in the form of Steve Di Stanislau (drums), Phil Manzanera (yes, he of Roxy Music on guitar) and newcomer Kevin McAlea from Barclay James Harvest on keyboards.
Opener 5am deals out the old tricks with assurance. Think much of Mark Knopfler’s post-Dire Straits work, too. And the precision six-string picking is, as always, of a top notch standard.
First single Rattle That Lock follows, based around British Christian thinker John Milton’s 17th century epic poem Paradise Lost. It’s an attempt to imagine what might have gone through the minds of Satan, Adam and Eve as they were banished from heaven and Eden (respectively) as told by Moses in the Genesis narrative of the Old Testament. A fascinating treatment of a fascinating subject, with words by Gilmour’s wife Polly Samson. And they work.
Other standouts include A Boat Lies Waiting (suitably solemn echoes of previous Floyd release “Endless River”) and In Any Tongue (a seven-minute epic on mental anguish delivered in classic style in an impressive anti-war piece with a smack-in-the-face guitar solo worthy of being placed alongside Gilmour’s best – think “Sorrow”). Three instrumental interludes also dot themselves around the LP, each deploying Carin’s considerable talents on the synthesizer. Maybe it was a conscious decision from Gilmour and Carin to sound closer to Floyd on this occasion? It certainly sounds more like a core group of musicians than “Islands” did.
The two notable departures for Gilmour here are Dancing In Front Of Me and The Girl In The Yellow Dress. Jazz? Yes. Jazz. Not sure if it’s really his best side but kudos for trying something new. And any excuse for Carin and Pratt to get funky on piano and stand-up bass is fun. Gilmour blows the sax while Di Stanislau deals out the brushes on the snare.
Amid all the delicacy and swing, and occasionally naff lyrics, and Gilmour sounding a tad strained in the vocal department, it ain’t a flawless album. But it is, thankfully, very good. And a nice companion to the Floyd farewell Endless River. A nice sequel to Island. A nice way to sign off. And really, you could honestly listen to this bloke solo electrically for twelve ice ages, couldn’t you?