Recent Reviews

I cut my right thumb last night using my incredibly dangerous euro bottle opener to open one of those electronic blister pack things.  Luckily I had a tetanus shot earlier this year.  Still, guitar & bass are probably out for a week.

Today I re-tuned my nephew’s guitar.  It was a little bit challenging as he uses tuning pegs as whammy bars & some of the strings were pitched up almost an octave & I really don’t know how they didn’t break or snap the neck.

I just realize I haven’t been posting up the reviews of stuff as they come out, which is probably not a good idea as far as promoting things, so here’s a bunch of stuff.

VARIOUS ARTISTS: WINTERIZING
You can tell it’s Christmas when the nights start drawing in, the days get colder (ok maybe not if you’re reading this in the southern hemisphere), the neighbours deck their abodes in enough lights to guide the Shuttle and Silber release their annual Christmas compilation.
This years compilation is full of the usual intriguing collection of Norwegian folk, shoegaze, nu-gaze, ambient and experiments in sound but with a twist. There’s a lack of covers of Christmas classics! But don’t let that get you down, if you want to hear the Christmas classics you can take a trip to the local department store. This year is also unusual as half the artists have never appeared on a Silber compilation before.
And, as every track can be downloaded for free from Silber’s website, the album won’t set you back a penny. At a time of year when the credit card goes into meltdown free is fantastic.
So sit back with a mug of eggnog in front of a roaring fire (or the southern hemisphere’s equivalent) for two eclectic hours of festive tunes
Paul Kerr, The Devil Has the Best Tuna

NORTHERN VALENTINE: THE DISTANCE BRINGS US CLOSER
Northern Valentine’s The Distance Brings Us Closer uses a familiar ultimate atmospheric minimalist drone aesthetic along the lines of Stars of the Lid to achieve its goal, but I can’t say that I mind as long as the results go this far into the eerie depths of the Atlantic Sea. The always-reliable Silber label that put this disc out claims that drone, love, honesty and sound are the key words to describe what they do and I am tempted to use the very same words to describe this disc. This husband and wife duo is apparently from Philadelphia, but judging by the sound this was probably recorded with the imaginary view of a never-ending horizon or the sea at dawn in mind.
~ Mats Gustafson, The Broken Face

Like the gorgeous, frozen landscape photographs (from their recent Icelandic tour) that adorn the cover of this Philadelphia husband-wife duo’s seventh album, Amy and Robert Brown’s music (supplemented by bass and two additional guitarists) creates an expansive atmosphere of loneliness. Like Stars of The Lid, Windy & Carl, and label mates, Aarktica, Northern Valentine’s music delivers a sense of floating in space or a communion with nature where the listener is enveloped in clouds of billowing sonics. The listener’s imagination can run wild creating images to accompany this ambient soundtrack and opener, “Born Yesterday” seems to capture the awe and mystery of an infant floating inside its mother’s amniotic fluid.
The heavily treated trio of guitars imbues “Dimanche” with a frightful, almost industrialized aura, which like much of the album could easily serve as a post-modern soundtrack to David Lynch’s underground classic, Eraserhead. The syncopated sonar beeps hovering in the background of “Escaping Light” add a Floydian touch, ca. “Echoes,” while Amy’s extemporaneous piano tinkling adds an air of haunting dread. The set ends with the melancholic-yet-hopeful, “Already Gone” that perhaps signifies that the titular couple in the album’s title have resigned themselves to the distances that physically keep them apart, yet their love strengthens their relationship and does, indeed, bring them closer. In sum, an awesomely hypnotic listening experience. 9/10
~ Jeff Penczak, Foxy Digitalis

Chilly spacious distance with random muted industrial movements in dense fog. Full and shrouded in supernatural mystery. Cold empathic visions of the beginnings and endings of the universe. Subtly warm reassurances of far away factories humming with artificial life. Ice as far as the eye can see, the wind murmurs like ghosts.
~ George Parsons, Dream Magazine

Over here in the UK Northern Valentine has been picked up for distribution by Cold Spring Records, a low key yet superior outlet for doom, drone, industrial and noise music. The cult following behind Cold Spring will no doubt bring attention to the group that may have otherwise been lost, and deserving they are of this attention too!
Consisting of Philadelphia couple Robert & Amy Brown, Northern Valentine explores soundscapes and ambient, otherworldly drones with minimal instruments (guitar, keyboard and on occasion Violin).
The first of these new recordings (‘Born Yesterday’) on ‘The Distance Brings us Closer’ is class A prime cut ambience, an icy and echoed piece that glides effortlessly like Phlegyas might on the river Styx and at fifteen minutes long, the group have more than enough time to muse over and caress every subtle utterance from the track for the listener to enjoy.
‘Dies Solis’ follows in a similar vein, with a minimal and haunting tone, both distant and meditative, that takes full power of the senses when listened to, working on a hypnotic level that would have the six minutes of transmission seem to last merely thirty seconds.
Likewise with ‘Escaping Light’ that while still as ambient and hypnotic as its predecessors carries and air of foreboding and surrealism heightened when via the haunting piano piece that slowly sneaks its way into the mix.
Silber once again are the unsung heroes of drone and ambience, taking up the mantle for these genres by adding another strong and experienced group to their roster, ‘The Distance Brings us Closer’ is going to be a palpable hit for drone fans everywhere.
~ Michael Byrne, Left Hip

Hailing from Philadelphia (USA) Northern Valentine is the brainchild of Robert & Amy Brown (who are married and partners in crime for this project). Armed with guitar, violin and keyboards they compose what has been called ‘post rocking ambient music’. I totally agree for the ambient part, which is for sure worthy of examination. While some of their compositions can move on the edge of experimental (cf. “Escaping Light”) the main tracks are definitely covering a wide ambient fields filled with icy tones. The guitar play is quite interesting for the cool effects on top of it and comes to reinforce and enlarge the ambient sonority of this composition. Northern Valentine has this little original touch in composing ambient music and that’s for sure what I like here! The “Dimanche”-cut is a real outstanding piece in an open-minded ambient style. After several albums on Baresongs Music this project now joined Silber Records and this debut-album on their new label is a fascinating piece and a real good surprise!
~  Side-Line

And Their Refinement of the Decline stands as the current high watermark in ambient/drone music as far as I’m concerned. What Stars of the Lid did on that album, more so even when compared to their past work, was conquer the most valid criticism of the genre. Often drone can become static and stagnant, even claustrophobic, but with Their Refinement, Stars of the Lid showed that ambient/drone can contain constant subtle movement and that with said movement comes a tremendous amount of expression; a soundscape so bleak that it’s entirely beautiful at the same time. Essentially, Their Refinement is a successful synthesis of form and expression.
So, approaching The Distance Brings Us Closer was a conscious decision to establish both where the expression lies and how it’s carried out. The form doesn’t make any great leaps outside of the established genre. Comparisons can be made easily to other bands like Hammock or Windy &
Carl, but really only on a track by track basis, as the whole of the album is something different. The rolling and sweeping movement of Their Refinement is not here, but the album is not static either. The expression of Their Refinement is that of rumination, almost a travelling through the landscape of memory and regret, times long gone, but The Distance it’s something more immediate, something in the present, distance itself perhaps, both a presence and an absence. At the forefront of each track is the droning guitar work – all consuming, demanding the listener’s attention – but behind it, at all times, there’s something bubbling and changing and brewing.
There are five tracks on the album, but it’s still a nice forty five-minute piece. Often, the real gem of each track is buried deep within it. There’s a real patience involved; waiting out the distance hoping it will bring us closer. Behind certain tracks there are subtle hints of tribalism, as if Grails were recording in the studio next door, and the walls didn’t quite stop the bleed through. It never fully develops, but it’s often there. “Born Yesterday” is the opening track and the longest at just over fifteen minutes, and just about halfway through this swirling miasma of guitar, the tiny clear voice of chimes cuts through. Similarly, the track “Escaping Light” has what sounds like processed flute work in the beginning and the tiniest hint of hand drums throughout. But, “Escaping Light” does a lot more too and is probably the track that stands out the most as far as establishing a Northern Valentine sound. Towards the middle of the six minutes piano keys starts fluttering through the drone and an upright bass plods through the background shadows as well.
If Northern Valentine set out to express the emotions felt in the face of distance, the anxiety, the helplessness, the way it is a giant burden made out of nothing, then I’d say they succeeded. The album is both immediate and elusive at once. It requires both patience and the ability to feel, and it can hold its own amongst the comparisons it’s likely to draw.
~ Michael Lutomski, The Silent Ballet

Thanks to bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, A Silver Mt. Zion and especially Sigur Rós the post-rock genre has grown up in the last few years. With every new album these bands reached for a higher level, and thanks too that the full level of this genre is now much higher than several years ago. The consequence of this change is that other bands also need to release better music. That means: if they want to follow these post-rock giants. Northern Valentine from Pennsylvania is one of those bands. The band, in which the married couple Robert and Amy Brown are the main characters, is now releasing its new album The distance brings us closer. At this album we hear post-rock in combination with ambient. You can compare this music with the music of Sigur Rós, but without the angelical singing and the energy that gives every Sigur Rós album a special complexion. Northern Valentine is not doing much more than playing nature like keyboard sounds, repeating soundscapes and a few guitar and violin chords. Although it would not be honest to say this is terrible music, it’s also not honest to say Northern Valentine is doing something very special over here. Even more, I think it’s right to say that, thanks too the lack of vocals, tension and creativity, this album is a little bit boring. That’s a shame, because listening to The distance brings us closer it does sounds like this band could do a lot more. If only Robert and Amy would experiment more, than this album could have been much better.
~ Gothtronic

Une mer désespérément vide qui s’étend sans limite jusqu’à se confondre avec le ciel menaçant. Un titre qui évoque un sentiment de solitude et d’abattement. La musique de Northern Valentine ne respire bien évidemment pas la joie de vivre. Et malgré son nom en chausse-trappe, le groupe de Philadelphie ne s’adonne pas au même bouillonnement tellurique que My Bloody Valentine. S’ils ont retenu une chose du génie de Kevin Shields, ce serait plutôt cette capacité à étirer une note de guitare à l’infini. Au jeu des références, il faudrait plutôt aller chercher un rapprochement du coté de Windy & Carl, Flying Saucer Attack et Labradford. The Distance Brings Us Closer est en effet une odyssée aquatique qui se décline en 5 longues pièces instrumentales. Born Yesterday, qui s’étire sur plus de 15 minutes, donne vraiment l’impression de voler juste au-dessus de l’océan, avec pour seul point de repère un horizon vide, à bord d’un avion d’espionnage. L’étendue d’eau défile sous nos yeux, sans y déceler âme qui vive…l’ambiance est tendue, les sens aux aguets, à l’écoute du moindre détail. Avec un minimum de notes (et quand même 3 guitares électriques !), Northern Valentine s’applique à instaurer une atmosphère, avec des nappes lancinantes en lieu et place d’une ligne mélodique intelligible. Réverbération et delays sont fort (bien) employés pour créer la matière sonore qui ondule au fil des plages vaporeuses, du roulis et des vagues qui incitent à la torpeur. Cette longue variation autour de motifs aquatiques entraine l’auditeur au cours de fascinantes dérives, au fil des courants et des rencontres inquiétantes (Dimanche, sur lequel se dessine la silhouette d’un navire à l’horizon, avant de disparaitre) et qui mènent l’auditeur jusque sous la ligne de flottaison (la plongée féérique d’Escaping Ligths) puis dans les profondeurs du grand bleu, avec Already Gone balisé par le sonar lointain d’un sous-marin furtif. The Distance Brings Us Closer s’achève, on remonte à la surface, on ouvre la fenêtre, à la recherche de l’équilibre et d’éléments stables.
~ Denis Frelat, Autres Directions

É nuovamente tempo di tuffarci nel mondo post-rock e lo facciamo questa volta immergendoci nelle sonorità rarefatte dei Northern Valentine. Gravitante intorno alla coppia sposata e formata da Robert e Amy Brown (rispettivamente chitarrista e violinista/tastierista), aiutati da altri chitarristi e bassisti, la formazione di Filadelfia ha sfornato un lavoro che affonda salde radici nella musica ambient.
Le cinque composizioni presenti sono immerse in riverberi e feedback generando un suono composito, i cui molteplici richiami compongono un mosaico omogeneo dove risaltano i quindici minuti siderali di “Born Yesterday”. La linea di demarcazione tra i singoli brani non è sempre chiarissmia, l’opera di per sé è una lenta colata lavica che scorre ininterrotta per quarantacinque minuti.
Delicatamente romantico “The Distance Brings Us Closer” è un’interessante fusione ambient/post-rock che si articola lungo molteplici strati sonori pur conservando un forte senso della melodia.
~ Alessandro Bonetti, Kronic

Marito e moglie nella vita di ogni giorno in quel di Philadelphia, Robert (chitarra) e Amy Brown (violino e tastiere) vivono da undici anni una curiosa storia discografica fatta di sei dischi ormai rari che un giorno mi piacerebbe ascoltare. I cinque lunghi brani del nuovo “The Distance Brings Us Closer”, registrati “live in studio” con due chitarre ed un basso aggiuntivi, navigano su e giù lungo i meridiani di quel post-rock ambientale e dronato che è ormai il tratto distintivo del catalogo Silber (“Dies Solis”, “Dimanche” e i quindici minuti di moto immobile di “Born Yesterday” sono esemplari in tal senso). Consigliato a chi ha perso la testa per le ninne nanne spaziali di Windy & Carl e Labradford e per i momenti più onirici del repertorio dei Sigur Ros.
~ Raffaele Zappalà, Rockerilla

HOTEL HOTEL: THE SAD SEA
What makes Hotel Hotel’s newest album, The Sad Sea, so utterly compelling is that despite the lack of lyrics, or spoken language, the album conveys complex emotions from every nook and galley. Filled with ocean sounds and heavily affected tsunami crashes, the record tells the tale of a nautical voyage in simple soundscape. Its eight tracks mimic the undulations in the ocean tides—in how they rise an
d fall through pulsing, dramatic mix—from a track aptly titled “From Harbour” through “The Captain Goes Down With The Ship (Drowning).” Like its inspiration, there is no sense of stasis.
From tip to tail, The Sad Sea is among the most listenable and accessible electronic/ambient music in recent memory.
From Austin, Texas, the cryptically named band members enmesh themselves in their oeuvre. Whether it is the deep water itself or the music inspires it, it’s difficult to tell. Billed as post-rock/ambient—even blues—the band transcends the ordinary from the shuddering open through depths (“Equator In The Meantime (Black Sabbath)”) and climaxes (“The Dirac Sea (High Tide)”). With their first full album (one EP, one live LP in their locker), this band should grasp a healthy lot of the latter.
~ Erick Mertz, Kevchino.com

Enigmatic, post-rock Texans, Hotel Hotel hide behind confusing pseudonyms like vortex/index, team/odessa, and chaos/trade union, but I have it on good authority that P.D. Wilder and Patrick Patterson may be amongst the culprits who recorded this concept album about the ghost ship, Mary Celeste and its fateful voyage from Galveston, Texas to its (alleged) discovery off the coast of Haiti in 2001. Packaged in a marvellous, die-cut, trifold cardboard digipak, the slow as molasses intro to “From Harbor” saunters into the room with the hesitant expectancy of fellow Austin snorecore agents, Stars of The Lid and Explosions in The Sky. Dual violins add a melancholic touch, yet the melody is bright and hopeful, as the Mary Celeste begins her voyage. An ominous sense of dread and terror envelops the listener as “The Dirac Sea (Lower Tide)” begins, and I’m immediately reminded of Jocelyn Pook’s soundtrack for Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, particularly the spooky “Masked Ball” sequence.
As with Windy & Carl, Landing, and label mates, Aarktica, my wife likens the listening experience to hearing a bunch of guys standing around tuning their guitars, so the listener is alerted not to come expecting Top 40 pop, but swirling, soothing, sometimes frightening atmospherics coaxed out of guitars, pianos, and violins. The swelling, sweltering chaotic maelstrom of “Equator In The Meantime” comes with its own parenthetical reference point, “(Black Sabbath),” while the delicate, dare I say, pretty, “The Shoreline Disappeared” finds our crew floating aimlessly, completely surrounded by an ocean-meets-sky horizon, as a lonely piano tinkles out a forlorn melodic motif and a weeping violin suggests something is askew. The album ends with two versions of “The Captain Goes Down With The Ship” (subtitled “(Sinking)” and “(Drowning)” respectively), so comparisons with the Titanic’s fate will also spring to mind as the listener hopefully, yet helplessly stands by as the Captain and the crew are swallowed by the ocean.
This would work as a perfect companion piece to Jonathan Geers’ 2005 debut, “Essex” (which also musically depicted the fate of a sunken ship), but certainly stands alone as one of the year’s strongest releases, regardless of your stance on the ultimate fate of the world’s most famous ghost ship! Fans of Godspeed! You Black Emperor and the late Jason DiEmilio’s Asuza Plane will also be enthralled by these exciting, emotional, at times, heartwrenching melodies and atmospheres. 9/10
~ Jeff Penczak, Foxy Digitalis

Far away in another time and place, as space luxuriates and there’s time for the world to unfold at an unhurried pace. This cool evocative moody ambience wafts through the lofty branches of the trees as they sway in an invisble wind. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, meets Stars of the Lid, with a little spacious krautrock thrown in for good measure.
~ Geaorge Parsons, Dream Magazine

Without words this album presented me 2008′s most vivid musical story, propelling me on a voyage upon The Sad Sea’s fragile Mary Celeste, first nearly soothing me into naïve complacency with the at once tranquil and foreboding ‘From Harbour’ and ‘The Dirac Sea (Low Tide)’, but finally destroying my calmness along with the doomed ship, drowning me in waves of droning guitar and crying strings, which seem to be struggling for air as feverously as the ship’s fated captain.
~ New Age of Heroes

Post instrumental rock in the style of GY!BE and A Silver Mount Zion, Texan four piece Hotel Hotel have conceptualised their newest release with a wonderful if suspiciously cinematic tale once told to them by a drunken seafarer who in 2001 tried to find the hulk of the Mary Celeste.
Regardless of how true this tale may or may not be it provides the perfect stimulus when listening to ‘The Sad Sea’ with each track title prompting the desired image. Take ‘From Harbour’ for example, which with its mixture of serene ambience and minimal percussion conjures up a sound that could be likened to Popl Vuh’s film scores, likewise with ‘The Dirac Sea (low Tide)’ that with poise and equanimity manages to place you right within the album’s conceptual narrative.
Once we are upon the track ‘Mary Celeste’ we are lead to assume that our music-lead story has reached its destination, with an intense and minimal use of violin overshadowing most other instruments in the composition, changing the album’s feeling dramatically from calm to disquiet .
‘The Shoreline Disappeared’ meanwhile takes on a sombre tone, with a composition which, while seeming more simplistic perhaps in its execution compared to the others on the album, is none-the-less still as a dramatic and powerful as its counterparts.
Likewise with the last two tracks ‘The Captain Goes down with His Ship (Sinking)’ and ‘The Captain Goes down with His Ship (Drowning) that together creating a bleak yet reflective atmosphere, the perfect soundtrack when facing death head on, sealing a tragic fate for our protagonist within the loose narrative that the album generates.
Indeed Hotel Hotel are not without their own melancholia and tragedy, having had their first drummer disappear at LaGuardia Airport, never to be heard from again.
In a strange way you could argue that the tale of seeking out the Mary Celeste is metaphorically meaningful to the group, a personal catharsis to come to terms with a truly haunting experience. That or you could simply say it’s a great and moving story and one not to be missed, either way Hotel Hotel have done that old sea dog justice, whether he truly existed or not, by producing a great post rock/ ambient album with a unique and palpable sense of purpose as opposed to rambling self interested orchestrations.
~ Michael Byrne, Left Hip

Few sounds in this world are less interesting to me than ones that fly under the banner “post-rock.” And even if I like the sounds of it, I’m usually really put off by something else, like overly complicated CD packaging, a band’s mysterious need to punctuate the middle of their name, or even just pesky reviewers who use the word “soundscapes” to describe a record. (Seriously. Can that word go away? “Soundscape” is as bad as “ringle”, as far as dumb music terminology goes.)
So I should have hated The Sad Sea, an album that just dares you to remove it from its form-fitting cardboard packaging without getting scratches and/or fingerprints all over the damn thing. And to make it worse, Austin five-piece Hotel, Hotel have a comma in the middle of their name. But the sounds on the album–and they’re not soundscapes, reviewers be damned–are really achingly lovely, and completely won me over despite myself.
A concept album about the wreck of a ship called the Mary Celeste, The Sad Sea drones along slowly, with lots of droning, two violinists and no vocals. On opening track “From Harbour” they sound like Low re-writing the theme music for Twin Peaks, and from there the album just gets lovelier. And as the ships slowly slips away in closing track “The Captain Goes Down With the Ship (Drowning),” there’s a sense of gloomy peace that defies cheesiness somehow.
~ Matthew Lawrence, Providence Daily Dose

Hotel Hotel is an American band hailing from Texas. In
Spring 2007 their drummer disappeared in very strange circumstances and hasn’t been seen since than. The duo P.D. Wilder – Patrick Patterson went on and helped by several guest musicians they’ve finally launched this new album. While they claim to compose post-rock music, I guess the definition of experimental and soundtrack music is probably more appropriate. They for sure have a very clear and explicit kind of psychedelic rock influence and the use of guitar and drums can definitely be linked to a wider rock genre. It can be really surprising to hear the way they play the guitar. The song “Equator In the Meantime” evolves into a sort of psychedelic-trance-rock. It’s totally surprising and definitely an original track. Hotel Hotel also brings more soundtrack relevant pieces, which can be even filled with some neo-classical impressions. The main thing with this band is that the entire composition remains pretty experimental and like often with this type of music it’s less accessible for a wider audience. You’ll either like it or not, there’s no where in between!
~ Side-Line

If true, it is indeed a fantastic story. A fantastic voyage, even. The Sad Sea was derived from Hotel Hotel’s expedition with a sailor/sea captain searching for a ghost ship. i am so high right now. i’m doing an interpretive dance to this.
~ Kenyon Hopkin, Advance Copy

Post rock is a genre that slowly but steadily is getting more and more attention from different kinds of music lovers. The often lengthy, complicated and melodic guitar pop with minimal vocals is best known from band like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky. Hotel Hotel are on the edge between ambient and post-rock, a little like Eluvium.
This is a disc for people that like very tranquil music. Where many bands use tension spans that erupt in loud climaxes, ‘The Sad Sea’ of Hotel Hotel takes it much easier. The music flows easy without any song grabbing your explicit attention. With several listening sessions this pool of music becomes somewhat clearer and then there are even songs that seem somewhat heavier than others, especially “Equator in the meantime (black sabbath)” and the diptych “The captain goes down with the ship”. Hotel Hotel is being manned by two violists, a drummer, a guitarist and a bass player who also added the space echoes on the record.
This melting of post-rock and ambient will definitely please some people. I do not, however, expect people to put on this disc when they wake up, but I rather when they go to bed, and are setting sail for Dreamland.
~ Gothtronic

Jamais vraiment remis de la séparation de Godspeed You ! Black Emperor, les amateurs de grandes envolées instrumentales épiques errent au gré de la production étiquetée “post-rock”, délaissant progressivement les sorties du label Constellation parti défricher d’autres terres. Silber Records et Hotel Hotel offrent un palliatif, dans un registre plus ambiant et aquatique.
Le collectif texan, constitué initialement en marge des activités principales de ces protagonistes, est devenu après son premier album en 2006 un véritable groupe, comptant deux violonistes, un batteur, un bassiste et un guitariste, soit 5 musiciens (épaulés par quelques autres) qui préfèrent se dissimuler derrière leurs instruments et leurs compositions – en guise de photos de presse, Hotel Hotel préfère des dessins de poulpes. Un univers maritime auquel semble attaché le groupe, The Sad Sea se présentant comme une odyssée épique sous le ligne de flottaison. Passées des pièces aquatiques qui bercent au gré du clapotis que n’aurait pas renié Sars Of The Lid, Equator In The Meantime est une belle version du morceau de Black Sabbath, démontrant les aspirations des texans, capables de faire vrombir leurs instruments : une déflagration de guitare s’assoit sur une section rythmique martiale pour ferrailler avec les violons omniprésents. Les compositions instrumentales du groupe jouent à l’élastique, entre de vertigineuses ascensions et l’apaisement des grandes plaines. Une suite sinusoïdale qu’on suivi bien évidemment avant eux GY !BE ou encore Tarentel à ses débuts, mais qui séduit une fois encore, comme sur le très réussi morceau de clôture The Captain Goes Down With The Ship (Drowning).
~ Denis Frelat, Autres Directions

Het Texaanse Hotel Hotel werd hier al eerder besproken met hun live album “Under Sea, Over Storm”. Nu is er dan hun eerste echte studio album op Silber Records, “The Sad Sea Year”. Volgens bijgeleverde informatie heeft het album sterk vertraging opgelopen toen hun drummer in april 2007 spoorloos verdween. Men kwam later een zeeman / drummer tegen met wie nu dit album is opgenomen wat verhaalt over het spookschip Mary Celeste.
Hotel Hotel – The Sad Sea
Hotel Hotel wordt door Silber Records als post rock / indie ambient neergezet, en dat is best een rake typering. Eerder werden hier al vergelijkingen getrokken met Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Voor mijn gevoel is het allemaal net wat minder heftig. Drums, violen, piano en gitaren zetten hier vrij rustige, instrumentale geluidslandschappen neer, die voor mijn gevoel inderdaad erg neigen naar shoegaze / ambient territorium. Op nummers als “Equator In The Meantime” of “The Dirac Sea (High Tide)” gaat men los, soort van, maar zoals gezegd blijft het allemaal vrij ingetogen, als golven die op een kust aanspoelen. Het album galmt en gonst en op het prachtige “The Shoreline Disappeared” zou ik zelfs het wordt “drijven” in de mond willen nemen. Rustige, soms wat melancholische, mood muziek neer. Muziek om bij in de branding te staan en eeuwigheid te overpeinzen. Ik merk dat het album mij als geheel niet helemaal weet te overtuigen, en mijn aandacht niet altijd vasthoudt. Tegelijkertijd is het er wel en vormt het heerlijke achtergrondmuziek. Voor mensen die niet vies zijn van wat experimenteler geluid en was rustigere en dromerige post-rock kunnen waarderen.
~ Ikecht

MWVM: ROTATIONS
“It..s Easy To Be Miserable”, one of the track titles of this album claims quite truthfully, so why not exert yourself and be happy instead? On his debut album, Micheal Walton from Durham in the UK proves to be a joyful, if restrained, guitar-teaser, stroking and molding it with delay pedals and other electric acoutrements, looping, seeking his own blissful ambience.
The soaring opener is a thermal-borne survey of the wonders of the sunlit landscape below. Watson strives for clarity of sound, as opposed to many colleagues who prize the overwhelming swarm of buzz and distortion. Some of these ten tracks, ranging from three to twelve minutes, are linear and narrative, others more static and ambient. There is a great variety of texture and permutation, though the mood remains constantly uplifting; even several forays into relative darkness, like “Negative Pole”, eventually emerge into the light. The album ends with a beatific coda, promising to be “Never Constant”.
This is thoughtful introversion that travels well, because it is based on the expression of a fellow human being..s “within”.
~ Stephen Fruitman, Sonomu

MWVM: ROTATIONS REMIXED
MWVM, dat is Michael Walton. Een Brit, op gitaar en effecten. Het album Rotations, dat uitkwam op Silber Records, bespraken we al eerder. Nu is al enige tijd een geremixte versie van dit album gratis downloadbaar. Maar hoe bevalt dat werkje?
Nou allereerst moet opgemerkt dat we Rotations al niet superspannend vonden. Gitaardrones en manipulaties die niet erg donker of spannend werden. Geleidelijk evoluerend, zonder echt spanning op te bouwen. Op Rotations Remixed blijft dat probleem een beetje.
De nummers zijn herbewerkt door vrienden van MWVM, zoals Sonicslice en de Astral Social Club. Dat levert versies op die flink van elkaar verschillen. Op het ene nummer wordt compleet nieuwe muziek toegevoegd, het volgende wordt vooral voller gesampled, het volgende juist leeggeplukt.
Overall blijft echter helaas gelden dat daar waar het basismateriaal niet spannend is, het erg lastig is om de remixes wel spannend te maken. Eigenlijk zou ik mensen die mwvm willen verkennen
aanraden te gaan voor het originele rotations album, omdat dat meer een album is dan een serie bij elkaar geraapte bewerkingen.
Voor hen die mwvm leuk vinden is deze gratis download ongetwijfeld een leuke toevoeging. Voor mij is het echter compleet overbodig.
~ Jaap Kamminga, IkEcht

HOTEL HOTEL: UNDER SEA, OVER STORM
Hotel Hotel are from Texas–the land of Koresh, armadillos, and home of the United State’s 43rd President.
Don’t let the amount of dreck to ooze from the Lone Star State frighten you–for all the preconceived bad, there’s a lot of factual good. Hotel, Hotel just happens to represent the latter with their unique guitar/violin assault on post-rock (or as label Silber puts it–and we agree–whatever it’s called this month).
The band is offering up a free EP in anticipation of the fall full-length, The Sad Sea. The 40 minute live performance of Under Sea, Over Storm was captured in October 2005 but is seeing the light of day for the first time. To listen or download the EP, just follow the link. It will be a triumph for the great state of Texas.
~ Electronic Voice Phenomenon

Het Texaanse Hotel Hotel is al sinds 2005 actief. In de tijd tussen toen en nu kwamen er een EP uit en dit gratis te downloaden live-werkje uit. Een werkje ter introductie op Silber Records, dat binnenkort hun debuutalbum uitbrengt. Op dit live-werkje een optreden dat ook al uit 2005 stamt en is opgenomen in J&J’s in Denton, Texas.
Wat brengt dit kwartet ons? We horen is experimentele post-rock, met twee violen in plaats van een bas. Met noise-invloeden en flink wat drones. Hierbij klinkt het alsof er ook flink op los geexperimenteerd wordt bij een live-optreden. Het geheel levert een erg vol geluid op, dat soms iets te veel een kluwen wordt.
Maar wat we ook door de kluwen heen horen is de grote invloed van Godspeed You Black Emperor en het feit dat ze dat geluid wel degelijk proberen te vernieuwen. Geen spraaksamples, regelmatig wel evenveel beklemming. Als dit de opwarmer is en het “oude” hotel hotel, ben ik erg benieuwd wat er van komt als ze de studio induiken en zelf al doorgegroeid zijn.
Helemaal lyrisch word ik hier nog niet van, maar onder de indruk ben ik zeker. Een aanrader, helemaal voor die prijs (helemaal gratis), zeer de moeite waard. Doch luistert u hieronder toch zelf, alvorens u het werkje download.
~ Jaap Kamminga, IkEcht

SLICNATON: THE NOISEFLOOR EP
Slicnaton is the work of bassist Nicholas Slaton, who combines electronic music and improvisation to create haunting, challenging slabs of musique concrète across this half hour EP. Compiled from live studio improvisations using mistreated electronic equipment, Slaton’s glitch samples and looped sound effects battle hypnotic repetitions from pedals and samplers to create ambient atmospheres that are equally at home in a horror movie soundtrack or in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. Perfect Halloween music, but not for the squeamish or feint of heart.
~ Jeff Penczak, Foxy Digitalis
ELECTRIC BIRD NOISE: LE VESTIBULE – VESTIBULE TRANSITOIRE
South Carolina guitarist Brian Lea McKensie’s fourth album under the EBN monikor is an ambient wash of haunting electronic soundscapes in the mould of Stars of The Lid and Windy & Carl, et. al. As the title suggests, the release consists of two sidelong tracks of soothing guitar lines, supplemented by ebow stroking and feedback looping. (The titles refer to the radio show, “Le Vestibule” with DJ, Jean-Francois Fecteau, for which they were originally recorded and they are here released on McKenzie’s own label with distribution through the fine folks at Silber Media.)
Fans of Eno’s ambient works will also enjoy these soundtrack style offerings, which paint musical pictures on the insides of your eyelids with their swaying processed loops that will have your heads swirling throughout. I can almost hear these sonic tones accompanying some Discovery Channel special on the origins of the Universe! Warm, enveloping, claustrophobic, yet as comforting as grandma’s arms on a cold Winter afternoon. Simply amazing!
~ Jeff Penczak, Foxy Digitalis

This is the 4th full-length album of Electric Bird Noise. This project set up by Brian Lea McKenzie is a special one, as it sounds quite different from his previous work. That’s because there’s a kind of concept behind the album. It was made for a radio show “Le Vestibule”. It results in 2 long duration pieces of music bringing us more than 50 minutes of ambient music. The main instrument of McKenzie remains the guitar and it’s totally amazing to hear in which way he brings guitar play into deep and meaningful ambient music. The opening cut (cf. “Le Vestibule”) is pure soundtrack like and I had to wait for more than 11 minutes to get some evolution in the song writing. A kind of disturbing sound emerges to the surface accentuating a darker part. Next comes “Vestibule Transitoire” which brings us 26 minutes of mysterious atmospheres. This track is definitely colder while the low keyboard tones only reinforce certain tormenting feelings. The guitar parts are once again amazing and it’s definitely magic to hear the way this instrument can be played and used! Electric Bird Noise is minimal, conceptual and experimental so definitely for a very restricted number of people! Well, I’m sure they will love it!
~ Side-Line

The latest from EBN (interesting enough, the same initials for Emergency Broadcast Network) is two tracks of about 25 minutes each. Because of this, instead of informing us of “key” or “recommended” tracks, the label gives us “recommended transition points.” I think this is a first. Brian Lea McKenzie’s experimental drones –produced mainly by guitar—are stunningly unearthly. If there are indeed cosmic soundwaves eminating from the depths of the galaxy, the Bird Noise is eerily close to its representation.
~ Kenyon Hopkin, Advance Copy

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