Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack – Slew

Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack is the solo electronic project of Tim R. de Reuse based in Denton, Texas who is also a contributing member of The Hai having released music and remixed the work of other members. ‘Slew’ is perhaps WGWGSA’s most realized work to date. There are a lot of sounds to be heard on this release and therefor there is a lot to cover so dim your monitor.

The style Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack has built throws so many sounds at you that upon the first initial listen it may be hard to process, it’s nearly cacophonic and overbearing but fortunately the distinct style and progression of the album proves to never be off-putting. Interjected between the more expected completely instrumental tracks are electronic epics complete with nicely performed vocals. The songs themselves have so much substance; a good example being the opener ‘Outlanderish’ that showcases so many changes in direction, each beat appearing to build off of where the last one ended, branching out, constantly morphing and spilling over into the second track ‘Fine’. Track two makes way for the introduction of vocals which have this distinct feeling of sincerity, a round quality to them, I would even go as far as to liken them to vocalist Peter Silberman of The Antlers.

With ‘Slew’ WGWGSA has created a work that pushes boundaries; the most enjoyable aspect is not only his ear for outstanding production as a producer but also some solid songwriting as a musician and his attention to the structuring of the album itself. The beats constantly change with songs crossing over into each other the whole album feels like one long piece of great electronic music. ‘A Good Fake pt. II’ is a 12 minute long electronic epic full tons of sounds that gives the feeling of the music operating like a piece of machinery, this cataclysm of sounds resulting in a mechanical feeling. Beautiful spacey harmonies float about adding depth while the ever evolving beats add movement that holds my attention throughout the entire track, a track the grows in intensity, multiplying in the addition of new sounds with every passing minute. The last 3 minutes are the most intense with the addition of this heavy baselines, sputtering synth, and a really killer drum beat that hits hard.

One aspect of WGWGSA’s style is his ear for shiny futuristic sounds, metallic beats, and most noticeably his use of glitch effects which can be heard on many tracks. One of the best examples is the sputtering effect on “Actiiisciv” which complements the already ever shifting choppy and eclectic beats.

I do enjoy many of the instrumental tracks but I however do prefer the cohesiveness, this feeling of completeness that the vocals provide on these more traditionally performed songs. Tracks like ‘ckers’ just don’t really do much for me, it is not that they are poorly written or completely unenjoyable for me but that they just don’t add anything to the album that isn’t already there and ‘Slew’ is quite a lengthy album. I do applaud WGWGSA for implementing his experimental stylings into the mix, the songs are not so much straight forward but can be more appropriately described as familiar; it becomes something fans of experimental electronic and those who are just looking for some good tunes to listen to can both enjoy.

Until now with the release of ‘Slew’ The Hai hasn’t really blown me away and its not that I think the music they have been putting out has been bad but that it just wasn’t suiting my tastes. It is apparent that the quality of their output; the great album artwork, and the consistency of their numerous releases show that they aren’t substituting quantity over quality and in this case, with Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack’s ‘Slew’ they’ve established that statement very well. There are just so many different things going on that you could play this over and over again in an attempt to digest it all and still never feel like you’ve completely explored the whole thing.

Overall rating: 9.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘Outlanderish’, ‘A Good Fake Pt. II’, ‘Out From Underground Alive’, Actiiisciv’.

Recommended: Tons of replay value. For more good electronic from The Hai check out Mattir.

Released: 26 March 2012

Links:

Seriously, go check this out on Bandcamp

Also follow WGWGSA on Soundcloud.

Redntoothnclaw

Qwertzuiop – Unending

Unending is the latest release from one man ambient black metal project Qwertzuiop. I became familiar with the project when I reviewed his full length, Dead Oak earlier this year.

Unending shows Qwertzuiop moving slowly away from the harsh black metal inspired dreariness and embracing more of the dark ambient attributes that were originally apparent with his first release; a natural transition given that black metal and ambient music hold firm ties with each other. With the raw louder elements of Dead Oak taking a back seat, much of the sonically extreme sections such as the distortion laden guitar are replaced with strings, textures, and generally a larger presence of atmospherics that forces the music to focus on composition resulting in an attempt to create something more organic than it’s predecessor.

Like many of these projects, the influence of black metal is not always apparent to the extent of openly wearing its inspirations on its sleeves but there are definitely pieces borrowed from the genre that are retained, although they are minor. The cold lumbering drums are still there, although oppressed and very low in the mix and some distortion makes it’s way into the songs every now and then. The orchestral arrangements are a vivid picture of the unending grey skies, heavy clouds, and dark forests that have become so associated with the imagery of black metal itself.

When compared to Dead Oak, ‘Unending’ is pretty quiet sonically, with the exception of the third track, ‘IX’, which is one of the more powerful moments on the album that features a sequence of uptempo drumming that sounds like it’s straight out of an early Burzum album. I love the intensity that builds up to the tracks conclusion; an enjoyable track that gives that does a good job of changing things up without compromising the grim impression of Qwertzuiop’s music.

As haunting as ‘Unending’ wants to be it can also be just as beautiful. On the fourth track ‘X’, the music is primarily made up of string swells that makes for a good contrasting piece bringing a little light into the dark picture that Qwertzuiop succeeds in producing. The final song continues the ambient style carried over from the previous track and utilizes field recordings of what sounds like rustling and twigs rubbing up against one another to create textures that give a bit of added depth to the song. I really enjoyed the last two tracks, they actually make me wonder what Qwertzuiop would be able to do with a longer track length. Being that these last two releases were rather short, all under 20 minutes in length I think that a larger track list or perhaps even longer songs times would open up possibilities.

Although this release sees Qwertzuiop progressing the same problems I had with Dead Oak are still present on this release. With many of the bedroom black metal projects and with these “bandcamp musicians” in general they have forced themselves into a niche where musicians mash together all of the popular attributes of different genres (i.e. shoegaze, ambient, black metal) in hopes of creating something new with the resulting output. Not only has this become formulaic but a lot of the time the result is a lackluster kitschy take on popular styles. Where as this would have been ok a few years ago with multi-genre projects like ‘Have A Nice Life’ gaining popularity in 2012 it just seems archaic and has become predictable. It isn’t a flaw that is going to make this album unlistenable by any means but I think it is a good sign that combining multiple genres together does not result in originality all of the time.

The recording quality on a few of the track could be better as well. On the first track the mixing on all of the instrumentation and textures sounds like they are at the exact volume and I know lo-fi music doesn’t have a great track record with equalization and proper recording techniques, which I would be ok with but when it gets to the point where it is detracting from the music it is time to take the initiative to tone it down and find other ways of incorporating an unrefined aesthetic into the music. I wouldn’t be this bothered by the mixing style if the music weren’t so linear; it isn’t nearly delicate or layered enough to where you would be able to revisit it and hear something new every time so I’m struggling to understand why the production is the way it is.

With this change in direction I’m intrigued to see were this project goes, the added orchestral sounds are a nice touch that add a lot to the mood but ‘Unending’ is pretty much more of the same that comes up a little short of with what it attempts to do.

Overall rating: 6.8

Favorite Track: ‘IX’

Recommended: Dark orchestral sounds with the attitude of Norwegian black metal.

Released: 13 January 2012

Links: Check out ‘Unending’ on Bandcamp

-Redntoothnclaw

Qwertzuiop – Dead Oak

Qwertzuiop - Dead Oak

Qwertzuiop is a one man black metal band from Nyiregyhaza, Hungary. ‘Dead Oak’ is the musician’s first release.

Like many of these bedroom projects, they often provide a kitschy take on a semi-popular trend in music. With the digital age, the influx of technology such as home computers, laptops, and smart phones along with websites such as Last.fm, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp come easier ways for musicians to see that their music is heard. Free programs such as Audacity give musicians an opportunity to record and self produce their material in a cost efficiently and easier fashion. Bedroom music, whether it be folk, shoegaze, drone and ambient, or perhaps the most popular being black metal, that of which often retains a fusion of the aforementioned genres is undoubtably the result of the birth of the digital age. All of the previously mentioned styles of music are similar in one way, that being that they are all lo-fi, able to be recorded at home without expensive equipment, favoring creativity over quality studio production and musicianship. Like many other one man black metal bands, especially ones that venture into music unrelated to the genre itself, the influence of traditional black metal is almost subliminal or not immediate in the sense that it retains some small elements of the genre while focusing more on experimenting on other sounds and styles of music.

The whole of the work is generally fulfilling; there are some cool sounds and some moments scattered throughout that may leave the listener pondering how a certain sound was produced. The first track is a colorful mixture of walls of sound and black metal that makes for a listening experience that is very much on a cosmic scale in terms of how big the music sounds which is impressive given certain limitations that come with the music. The body of ‘Dead Oak’ is almost entirely instrumental with the exception that there are vocals on the second track and although used sparingly the shrill tortured scream that is emitted toward the end of the track is a fantastic tactically placed element.

As different as this album tries to be I feel that ‘Dead Oak’ is not free of its many limitations. There are times where the music feels rushed, trying to bring together as many key factors from different styles of music as possible, stripping them down and trying to assemble them into something new based on what is left. At times it does work, the first and second track being a prime example of this while much of the time you can hear the music struggling to join together all of it’s different sounds to create a concrete piece. This leaves me to wonder whether this trend in music is truly the result of a surge in musical creativity and a will to experiment or rather laziness that has been hidden behind the gimmick of low-fi production; the tragic idea that if a piece of music is masked in enough reverb, fuzz pedals, all while being recorded with an Xbox Live headset the musician assumes that it can be called lo-fi and left at that. Fortunately this is not the case with most of the music on ‘Dead Oak’.

Qwertzuiop’s ‘Dead Oak’ manages to become something that is actually enjoyable while maintaining a creative and experimental style. Like other similar projects such as Murmuure and Mamaleek. There are some truly great moments on here, some that even act as strong examples of structured noise. There is one major problem I have with ‘Dead Oak’, one that is shared with many of it’s contemporaries; that being the idea of purposefully lumping together as many styles of music as possible in order to attempt to create an entirely new style of music instead of attempting to ultimately create something unique.  This is not a trend that exclusively identifies with black metal but unfortunately applies to all styles of music. The question is, how will Qwertzuiop establish it’s sound from those of projects such as Murmuure, Morose, and Heretoir in the future?

Check out Qwertzuiop’s music.

Overall rating: 7.4

Favorite Track: ‘I’

Recommended: Traditional black metal purists may want to stay away from this but if you are looking for a different approach to the genre than this may be for you.

-Redntoothnclaw

Deer Leap + The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die – Are Here to Help You

The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

Deer Leap

The ending summer, regretful past decisions, long overdue goodbyes; it is strange that bands like these don’t stay around for as long as one might expect, especially when the topics they sing about tend to be the eventual fate of the bands themselves. Release a shitty demo, a couple of EPs, and a full length, and it is over. At least that was the case with My Heart To Joy and Snowing, two of the bigger players in a small scene, who both called it quits this year. It makes me wonder, what will become of the other bands that pursue a similar style? The ones who write the same emotional songs, confessional lyrics, and deliver the same high energy performances. Not to worry though, Deer Leap and The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die “Are Here to Help You” with this split album. Deer Leap plays a style of dramatic post-rock sounding music full of reverb-heavy guitar and soft-spoken vocals, and, on the latter half of the record, The World Is a Beautiful Place plays a youthful, high-energy style of punk blended with volume swells and atmospheric ambience.

Deer Leap starts off the split with “Learned in People,” a short intro that seamlessly leads into the next track, “We Are Not Who We Are,” a song which shows their post-rock influenced sound from the beginning. The guitars create complex and dramatic melodies, accompanied briefly by vocals before returning to a wholly instrumental post-rock style jam. One thing that makes these guys stand out in a sea of similarity are the apathetically sung vocals; they’re delivered like a faint last breath of air leaving a dying body, and that’s something I enjoy in a vocalist. I know many people may feel the exact opposite, but apathy in music doesn’t really bother me. For me it only adds more to the emotional aspects of a song, and what is apathy but a byproduct of emotion? Although I really enjoyed the style of vocals, it definitely would have been nice to hear the vocalist cut loose, even briefly, and really take advantage of all of the intensity in the music. All-in-all, Deer Leap does a good job taking the post-rock sound and condensing it into 4-minute long songs without loosing any complexity, all while adding their own elements into the mix.

The World is a Beautiful Place has only released one demo and two EPs worth of short songs. Prior to this release their entire discography was only 37 minutes long, yet they managed to keep me listening to the same material for some time. Their half of the split starts off at a steady pace; twinkly ambience and volume swells take up the beginning half of the song before erupting into a high-energy burst of tremolo picked guitars followed by “bloops” of analog synth and emotion fueled vocals. The clean vocals on this release come through as confident as ever and contrast nicely with the frantic screaming. The energy they possess and their ability to focus evenly on every element of their song writing, especially the lyrics, makes this band special for me. The lyrics in “Bread For Brett” paint a perfect picture of an autumn night in the suburbs. They’re vague, but perhaps that is what makes them seem so familiar and relatable. I feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when I listen to them. The World is a Beautiful Place make it apparent that they have a lot of heart and have proved to be a consistently refreshing, uplifting, and engaging band with each release. They put all of their energy into every song without forfeiting the sound quality of the music to sloppy musicianship. Anticipating a full-length release from these guys in the future.

Both bands do a great job and although I checked this split out because of a band I was already into I ended up discovering another great band in the process. Give both bands a look at the links below.

Bandcamp: Deer Leap + The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die

Overall Rating: 8.8

Favorite Tracks: Bread For Brett, Coffee And Keys

Recommended: Those looking for an uplifting and youthful listening experience.

– Redntoothnclaw