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Album reviews

Discussion in 'Music Archive' started by Augmented, 1 Dec 2002.

  1. Augmented


    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,464

    Location: London Town

    [Album Recommendation]: 'Out of Season'

    [Album Recommendation] Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man - 'Out of Season'

    Out: Now
    Released: Start of November
    Length: 10 Tracks/43:48
    Label: Go Beat

    If the name Beth Gibbons doesn't ring a bell, then perhaps the name Portishead does. Gibbons is the vocalist of Portishead and this is her first proper lead solo release with Rustin Man aka Paul Webb. Webb has somewhat of a discography under his belt in various producer and musician roles- the most with mid-90s electro band Newcleus.

    The initial comparison of this album is to Portishead, but that's all too easy a target thanks to the wonderfully unique voice of Beth Gibbons. Haunting and serene but almost cracked at times it's one of those voices that can go like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. It's that warble sound she's capable of that push the moments for me.
    If you like her voice you'll love the album; it doesn't come across as a showcase of versitility. It's probably the opposite of a Moloko album, where you have Roisin Murphy belting out vocals in a thousand amazing styles with quirky backbeats and strange blips. Out of Season is, to use the cliched phrase, an 'organic album'. There's no evident electronic manipulation and drums get no louder than a jazz quintet with a bit of ride and brushed snare.
    Instrumental backing comes from acoustic guitars, sweeping strings, muted brass and faintly bubbling Hammond organs; it all has an real ghostly edge to it. The mood is Portishead through and through- just without the theremin sounds. Essentially pained and reflective, but no slit-your-wrists moment and certainly no pomposity.

    Of the tracks on the album, they all have good points to them to my ears. The start of the album, titled 'Mysteries' (probably an in-joke), is a really quite uplifting beginning with choir-like backing vocals and really soft lead accompanied by acoustic guitar and subtle keys.
    'Resolve' is the most simple, one of those beautiful moments. Just Gibbons and an acoustic guitar. Her voice is right at the front of the soundscape, pushing at your ears. Think of the beginning of 'Exit Music (for a film)' by Radiohead and you're almost there.
    Third track 'Show' is fantastic, starting off with a simple piano line repeating throughout the song, the only additions come at the finish with a flute and cello line. It moves at a very relaxed pace, letting the floating vocals take the fore.

    It's almost like an old jazz record, with a great vocalist and uncomplicated backing. Great production throughout, each instrument is where is needs to be, nothing overpowers and nothing gets lost either.

    A Haunting album, simple classic intrumentation and the fantastic Beth Gibbons on vocals; can't lose really. 8.5/10

    Recommended if you like:
    The quieter moments of Portishead
    Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain (Adrian Utley appears on both these records)
    Elysian Fields - Queen of the Meadow
  2. Augmented


    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,464

    Location: London Town

    [Album Review] Sigur Rós : ()

    Out: Now
    Length: 8 tracks/71:46

    There are times when you come across something that is of such incomprehensible beauty that it's physically stunning, holding you in its grip and not letting you go.
    This third album from Icelandic group Sigur Rós, simply titled '()' is one of those things that has that ability. Precocious or pretentious, you decide.... from start to finish the music put upon you is something not of this earth, the only constantly identifiable instrument being oft-lonesome piano and drum sounds.

    I'm always undecided if it's right to describe Rós as an instrumental group; words come once again in Hopelandic, a made-up language. The tracks are tentatively untitled, and the album packaging comes in classic white minimalist design, with a vinyl cutout sleeve to create the subtle () title. The inlay is made of vinyl tracing-paper with faint organic prints and the only writing is a small link to the website, where the 'lyrics' for the album can be found. I assume the ideology behind it being to avoid preconceptions about the music contained within, whether that works I'm not sure.

    The album as a whole is huge sounding, there are sounds and tones everywhere but nothing gets lost. It's complicated yet raw and simple. For fans of strange noises and lo-fi effect manipulation you'll love it. Bow-played guitars, overdriven organs, subdued yet creatively compressed drums. There are moments of calm serenity, just flowing along, explosions of noise, times of silence and then huge crescendoing guitars and crashing frantic drums. Guitarist/singer Jonsi Birgissons voice controls the flow and feel of the tracks, a moving tonal melody line as opposed to a conventional vocal. Some may find his usually falsetto voice grating and irritating.

    There's always a worry that sometimes Sigur Rós will slow down so much that they'll just stop and leave you with just one note hanging for eternity. Yet they still maintain strong progression and engaging music, without the need for common chorus-verse structuring. When they do up the pace it's these moments that can raise goosebumps and absolute euphoria. 'Track 7' is the longest on the album at 13 minutes long, but it moulds and mutates into different things as you move through it. This is no elves and fairies concept album; it's simply music in purest form. It plays with your emotions on a pretty intense level, the lack of intelligible lyrics gives the listener the chance to decide for themselves how it makes them feel.

    If you're unsure about getting it, try and get a spin of the first track... then I'll leave up to you.

    You won't be disappointed, but it also won't be a jolly sing-a-long.

    Highly recommended:

    Possible Comparison tracks:
    Björk - 'Cocoon' (Vespertine)
    Tangerine Dream - 'Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares' (Phaedra)
    Radiohead -'Treefingers' (Kid A)
  3. Augmented


    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,464

    Location: London Town

    [Album Review] leaves - breathe

    Out: Now
    Length: 11 Tracks/54:55
    Label: B-Unique Records/Bad Taste

    Prior to getting this album I'd only heard about 30 seconds of their first release before and wasn't really drawn in by it. But, I must say on listening to the album, I'm giving it a thumbs up. The 4-piece band hails from Iceland, but sing in English better than the average Englishman. Incidentally, one of the members I have been told is brother to one of Sigur Ros - all hailing from the fortunes of premier Icleandic label Bad Taste.

    On first impressions it sounds like a mixture of Coldplay, Suede and Radiohead, with a smattering of Interpol for good measure- but it has the feel of when indie was exciting and fresh. That could be down to the singer, who sounds like each of those bands vocalist and the harmonies are done very well. Not Beach Boys-alike, Radiohead 'OK Computer'-alike.
    Thus it's not inherently original or pushing the musical envelope to new heights, it's good quality all the way through though. Each songs sounds like the best song of another band, a highly influenced band it seems. But that's not a bad thing, because each track has its own individual slant and the album as a whole is quite an eclectic mix.

    However it does somewhat feel as if this album should have been brought out 10 years ago. One of those albums that still remains a regular in the cd player years after you first bought it. They rock out when they need to and pull back to wallow delicately in the ambience when the song needs it.

    Recommended, an 'ooo that sounds just like...' album. 7/10

    Recommended if you like:
    Radiohead - the bends
    Suede- suede
    Coldplay - Parachutes