Review: Elephant Tree – Habits

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Label: Holy Roar Records / Deathwish Inc

For some bands, heaviness is a way of expressing negativity. Think of the likes of, say, Primitive Man, where volume is used as a means of putting across pain and suffering, with the results being incredibly uncomfortable (and also, in Primitive Man’s case, quite brilliant). But then other bands recognise the transcendent potential of playing really fucking loud and heavy, tapping into a sense of joy that can seem somehow contrary to such weighty music on initial inspection, but comes to reveal a kind of primal joy in time. Elephant Tree fall very much into the later categroy, with Habits being a prime example of how to harness the raw power of The Riff at loud volumes into something thrillingly life-affirming.

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Review: The Flesh – Vehicle of Ruin

Vehicle of Ruin album art

Label: Tartarus Records

A night of heavy drinking can lead to a lot of things, most of which will be things to be regretted and forgotten as soon as possible. Yet, when members of Dutch underground heavyweights Herder, Verwoed and Blood Diamond formed The Flesh after having several too many to drink, the results were anything but regrettable. New EP Vehicle of Ruin is a blast of devastation that lives up to its name, offering 20 minutes of relentless blackened hardcore, as if Cursed or Trap Them had tried their hand at writing black metal.

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Review: Christine Ott – Chimères (pour Ondes Martenot)

Christine Ott - Chimères (pour Ondes Martenot) - Cover

Label: NAHAL Recordings

A vitally important instrument in the development of electronic music, the ondes Martenot is nevertheless something of a curio; their distinctive sound is integral to the growth of sci-fi soundtracks in particular during the 60’s, but high cost (at around 12,000 Euros an instrument) means they would never be a common instrument. As such, it’s little surprise few records have been based around them, even if their use on parts of Radiohead’s Kid A might have brought their existence to the attention of a new generation. Yet that’s just what Christine Ott has done on Chimères (pour Ondes Martenot), with the album played entirely on an ondes Martenot, as the title suggests – the first time the instrument has been the sole presence on an album. It is a haunting, evocative listen, that inherently recalls classic horror and sci-fi soundtracks; but also demonstrates Ott’s own talents as a modern classical composer and musician.

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Review: Wretched Empires – Bloom

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Label: Self-released

Getting to hear a new project from members (past and present) of bands you respect is always exciting, especially if it’s something different from their current/previous bands. Such is the case with Wretched Empires, which is formed of Allfather vocalist Tom B. and former Redbait members Will J. (guitar) and Cody A. (drums). Yet whereas those bands strode the lines between hardcore and metal, Bloom is firmly rooted in black metal, particularly the Scandinavian second wave and more modern American incarnations, with all the grim majesty that implies. It’s an exciting, empowering listen, that achieves a lot in its short duration.

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Review: Jenn Taiga – Plight

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Label: Tridroid Records (cassette) / Self-released (digital)

There’s a certain strain of retro-futurism that runs heavily through most synthwave and its related genres. You know the type; all neon lights and action hero poses drawn straight from the 80’s, along with all the problematic politics that period could embody – the kind that thinks it’s being cyberpunk, but is just a cosplay version of the original ethos. As such, it’s a delight to hear something that’s totally different in its retro-futuristic and synth-heavy styles, that, whilst still recalling the late 70’s and early 80’s, it does so in a way that captures the most forward-thinking elements of that time. Such is the case with Plight by synthesizer wizard Jenn Taiga. Drawing heavily from the Berlin school of electronic music, with a heavy dash of psychedelica, Plight is a captivating record that simultaneously conjures up visions of technological dystopia whilst railing against such nightmares.

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Review: Alien Private Eye – No Programmed Instructions

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Label: Self-released

When it comes to a debut release, most artists will play it relatively safe. A teaser single, maybe, or perhaps an EP. What most musicians won’t do is release an 82 minute re-imagining of the soundtrack to one of the most important science fiction films of the past 30 years. Yet that’s just what Alien Private Eye have done with No Prorammed Instructions. Taking the original anime film version of Ghost in the Shell as the starting point, Alien Private Eye have created their own musical accompaniment to the story of self-actualisation and identity. The original OST, by Kenji Kawai, was a study in minimalism and restraint, and sounds ground-breaking even today. No Programmed Instructions, however, is very different.

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