Cosmo’s Midnight – Surge

Cosmo’s Midnight is an electronic duo comprised of twin producers from Sydney, Australia. Being their debut original release, Surge was mounted with a bit of hype (at least for me), and I think it lived up to every bit of it. I discovered Cosmo’s Midnight through a video by the glover Ahuh on the EmazingLights channel where he used the single preceding this EP “Phantasm feat. Nicole Millar”. After hearing the song I instantly looked it up only to find it was their only original track released but an EP was coming out soon. The day it came out (yesterday at the time of writing this I believe) I snatched it right up and gave it a bunch of listens.

I would describe the sound as chillwave but with a little bit more emphasis on the beats than is typical and I love it. It’s got everything one might love about a good chillwave release: the floaty vocals with memorable melodies, the sidechained keyboard and basskicks, phasing background synths, and it’s all executed with great cleanliness and professionalism. When the title track begins it starts with a flowing beatless ambient section before the beat kicks right in and the realization washes over you that this is going to be an awesome EP, even assuming you hadn’t heard Phantasm already (which is one of my favorite tracks of the year so far). Something I noticed that I thought was nice was the melody tie in from Surge to Phantasm with the plinky keyboard, which gives some nice flow to the ideas of the EP right off the bat and you can immediately tell this is going to be a concise and well put together release. The production is spot on and the songwriting is catchy and feely, the perfect combination in my opinion. My favorite aspect of the EP is probably just how well all the different sounds are layered and put together to create the final product, which I’ve got to give mad props to Cosmo’s Midnight for simply for that in itself, not even taking into consideration all the other great things about this EP.

I recommend Cosmo’s Midnight to pretty much anyone who likes anything remotely chill, but to be more specific; if you like XXYYXX, Blackbird Blackbird, or MillionYoung you might like this, those 3 artists just being 3 that I thought of off the top of my head.

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Overall Rating: 9.2/10

Favorite Tracks: ‘Phantasm’, and ‘Lover’s Shadow’

Released: 7 June 2013

Links: Cosmo’s Midnight on Soundcloud

-Eric

The Hai – In & Out

Review of their previous album, Pop Songs, here.

Just recapitulating, The Hai is a sort of internet music supergroup, a handful of people from all over the world who met by posting their music on the Internet and being some of the very best at it. It’s unfortunate that I can’t review their output as fast as they can release it. After this album there has already been another one called Temperatures, and that’s not talking about the individual albums that keep coming up. The always wonderful A Problem Like Maria has just released Saudade, a very touching album, some of the best music I have listened from her. Before that, Mattir, The Flying Batteries, Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack (reviewed here) and other members of the group have all come out with interesting albums that I can’t recommend enough. It’s all in their website.

Now let’s start the proper review.

The theme of this album is sex. As usual, it doesn’t mean that every track will be straightforward about it, specially the EDM tracks. Something has to be said about the track order selection in both albums I have reviewed though, it is optimal in balancing out the different styles of the musicians, in such a way that even if the EDM tracks don’t clearly deal with the overall theme, they always sound like an intercession, they just fit nicely in the overall progression. Perhaps this is one of the most subtle qualities of the group’s output: how can all these different people from these different places come up with something that feels whole and balanced? It can’t be a simple affair. And that’s not dealing with the same happening in the tracks themselves, carved by multiple sets of hands apart from each other.

These guys are bursting with creativity and they keep it in a tight leash of perfectionist music-making practices, every synth that comes and goes is perfectly tailored, specially in the EDM tracks. It all sounds anything but home-made. StratosFear’s Approaching Summer is a shining example,  as well as Rekapper’s When and MaximiliaN’s chilling track, adorned with equally chilling vocals by A Problem Like Maria. I was also impressed by her own track, Slow. It’s about sex alright.

Meanwhile, every single one of the straightforward songs has a satisfying feeling of inspired, well-made mainstream music. Somnitone’s closing track might be the winning song this time around, I figure it’s absolutely radio ready. Musically, there’s no reason why these people couldn’t take over the world. Everything is so fucked up in music though, who knows what will happen. If these times were like up to the early 90’s, they would be selling millions by now. It’s already good enough to be released by a regular label, that’s for sure.

-Carpeaux

Almost Technicolor & A Problem Like Maria – Europa

A Problem Like Maria is a singer and songwriter, internet radio DJ, and hip-hop MC who’s music ranges from trip-hop style synth pop, to hip-hop, and pretty much everything else. She is part of the musical collective, The Hai and has worked with the likes of Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack and Radio Wire Empire, with this release seeing her team up with producer Almost Technicolor. A Problem Like Maria’s sound is hard to pin down, it’s not like her music is genre transcending or overtly experimental but that it combines a multitude of genres together in subtle ways to where you’re getting an even blend of sounds from a diverse range of musical styles which I think is most apparent on her collaborative effort with Radio Wire Empire. Almost Technicolor is the solo electronic project of Aaron Dawson, a musician from Rochester, MN who’s solo album, ‘Planet Altech’ was release last year which saw him infusing genres such as industrial, classical, and hip-hop with the glossy shine of contemporary music. ‘Europa’ is a remastered compilation of singles from 2011 featuring a collaboration between the aforementioned artists.

The first track ‘Deliberate Existence’ started off the EP on a negative note for me. The main downer for me were the vocals, Maria’s style of rapping is poetic and lyrically entertaining but her flow, the way the words come out felt clumsy. The appeal is there but its definitely going to be specific to certain people while it will isolate others. I was impressed with the beats that Almost Technicolor provides on this collaboration, particularly on the title track. The production features plenty of bass, some bold beats, synth and spacey background noises that pulls it all together nicely. There is a lot of depth and textures that help envelop the listener in the music. Maria comes through with some great singing, although I will say I could do without some of the vocal effects on her voice. It became more distracting for me than it was enforcing and at some points they just seemed to be thrown in without reason. The last track is a remix of ‘Never Sleep’ by Nights of Rizal. This track actually happened to be my favorite on the EP. The production style is very simple, at times glitchy with this shimmering synth coupled with Maria’s expressive vocals that makes for a flavorful track.

There were some good sounds but I did have some trouble coming back to the EP. There wasn’t any particular song that I really disliked, the EP as a whole just did not capture my interest as much.  The content  was rather linear leaving little room for the music to really grab your attention and it often felt like the music was clashing with Maria’s singing style as though she was just singing over the beats as oppose to singing with them. Although not a completely engaging series of songs, this EP showcases A Problem Like Maria expanding on her vocal abilities and Almost technicolor working with both conventional beats as well as experimental.

Overall rating: 6.4

Favorite Track: ‘Never Sleep (Nigts of Rizal)’

Recommended: Beat lovers will feel at place here while those looking for a bit more will find a home as well.

Released: 14 February 2012

Links:

A Problem Like Maria: Check out APLM on Bandcamp

Almost Technicolor: Visit the Bandcamp page

Redntoothnclaw

Mont Saint Michel – Sediment

Mont Saint Michel is the solo experimental music project of Tyler Stupalsky. ‘Sediment’ is the first release under the project name which according to the last.fm page is a collection of songs featuring a variety of guest production. Sediment is a series of five songs that pays tribute to the wall-of-sound characteristics found in shoegaze combining it with ambient music in even tasteful applications all in a compact and friendly span of 3 to 5 minutes.

The Ep begins with ‘Tributary’, a track brimming with guitar melodies and glowing ambient textures, one that starts off safe enough with but soon transforms into monolithically large pulsating slabs of psychedelic noise. The textures are so vibrant, melodic even, a concept that is carried on throughout the EP, specifically on ‘Midnight Special’. One of the most enjoyable aspects of ”Tributary’ is the unorthodox beat that randomly comes into the song, a risky and unexpected move that feels perfectly in place, one that shows that Mont Saint Michel is not afraid to take chances with a few unusual ideas. Seeing as this is the only track that includes beats, it is an idea that works so well in its application that I wouldn’t mind hearing more of it on future releases. Although experimental, ‘Sediment’ does not stray so far away from familiarity that it becomes completely alien. This familiarity is demonstrated on ‘Streets/Tears’, a slow moving ballad that begins with a considerably larger amount of traditional guitar playing further brings in a sense of musicality.

‘Sediment’ comes off very much like a mixtape, a collection of interesting ideas and experiments that gives the listener an idea of what to expect in the future which makes this experimental enough for the weirdos while staying formulaic and familiar enough for your average listener who has a bit of a sweet tooth for experimentation. Mont Saint Michel brings a stimulating pallet of familiar sounds and blends them with an adventurous amount of experimentation. The tone is bright, featuring a thin but present underlying layer of dreamy pop melodies; it is all very warm and welcoming while being mysterious enough to make you feel like you have discovered something new. It is like a summer day at the beach, just before it is about to rain; a strong and refreshing introduction to what is hopefully to come in the near future.

Overall rating: 8.8

Favorite Tracks: ‘Tributary’, ‘Midnight Special’, ‘Streets/Tears’

Recommended: Like attempting to remain conscious while being submerged in a pool filled with cough syrup as you are serenaded by local rock musicians.

Links:

Visit the Bandcamp page

Mont Saint Michel on Soundcloud

-Redntoothnclaw

Mylets – Colossal Grin

I discovered this a day ago on /mu/ from the dude advertising it and I downloaded it but didn’t listen to it until this morning. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the quality of this release. It’s pretty nicely written, has a nice vibe, (when shouting vocals come in) packs an emotional punch, and this album slowly gets more depressing as you move from the beginning to end. If I remember correctly, the guy said this consists solely of him and despite sounding like a full band project.

This album makes good use of guitar looping and layers, along with some effects applied to both the guitar and vocals, but none of it sounds out of place because it’s so well executed.

The first track “Márikoriko Pond” is a short intro track with the vocals and guitar subjected to glitchy loopy sounding effects, which quickly moves into the second track “Hubeli” which sounds like a nice indie pop song and is quite catchy. The third track “Easy 80’s” starts with a distorted guitar and has a bit of a heavier sound than the previous song, while still being pretty poppy but starting to get a little more depressing, not only from the lyrics and vocals, but also the tone of the instrumentation as well.

I won’t go through everything so I don’t spoil it completely for you guys.

Basically this album/EP or whatever it is is really good and you should listen to it

Rating: 8.3/10

– Trelt

Heavy Strife – Synthétiseur

Synthétiseur is unfortunately an incredibly short release, but one that manages to do so much in its 25 minute run time. Although it is primarily a synthpop album, Heavy Strife goes beyond this label by incorporating elements of shoegaze along with an often moody undertone. Vocals have a particularly noticeable shoegaze influence. They are generally hazy and drawn into the background if they are even present at all – some songs are completely instrumental. The vocals appear to act as more of an addition to the music, rather than an aspect that takes centre stage, as with most artists. This is no bad thing though, as it lets you truly experience the excellent synth work that Heavy Strife has to offer. As you might guess, it is the synth that really shines through on Synthétiseur. Whilst it may not have any of the intricate complexity of more renowned synthpop outfits, as an independent artist Heavy Strife works brilliantly with what he’s got.

Synths on Synthétiseur range from shining and cerebral melodies, to deeper and thicker effects that seem to almost completely fill your head (if you are taking advantage of listening through headphones, that is). Each track brings something new to the table, such as the dark, spaced out sound of Pursuit, or the more upbeat, whistling Damask Beat. In addition to synths, you can expect to hear some well placed guitar here and there. Whilst the guitar is sometimes surprisingly placed, it is always for the better and really adds a more substantial edge to some of the tracks. Even from the opening track, the guitar works perfectly with the brooding atmosphere that is present. Particularly great, however, is the almost tropical melody that can be heard on the track Silver Din, alongside high organ sounds, fuzzy synth and sparkling effects. This sort of variability is not uncommon either, as most tracks have a range of interspersing sounds and effects, creating a surprising amount to keep you interested in such a short release. All in all, a tightly constructed and enjoyable release.

Standout tracks: Damask Beat, Silver Din, Ringtail

-Arran

New Orleans Swim Team – To be Something, to be Anything

Do you ever find yourself listening to a band or musician that comes along with something so original that you find yourself asking, “how are these guys not famous yet”? Well, New Orleans Swim Team happens to be exactly that. New Orleans Swim Team is the solo recording project of Alberta based musician and multi-instrumentalist, Jacob Ulickij and this release is the second under this project.

When it comes to self recorded music, typically, punk rock is a signifier of the success one is able to achieve without a record label and for that matter a professional recording studio. Bands recorded and distributed their own demos, EPs, and full lengths, made their own t-shirts, posters, and created their own press though the distribution of zines and word of mouth. It was a genre of music that showcased the hard work and dedication that a generation of young creative people were capable of producing independently. With the rise of the internet, artists have taken advantage of file sharing sites, utilizing mediafire and megaupload to share their music. Now, with the success of Bandcamp and Soundcloud it has made it even easier for artists to independently put out their own releases and allow their music to be heard. It speaks volumes with just how much a band or even one person alone is capable of without the outside help that, labels, expensive recording studios, and “producers” claim to be capable of and Jacob has articulated this fact with the release of ‘To be Something to be Anything’.

It is clear that Jacob has a lot to say; ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ is 21 tracks of short songs, filled with delicately executed spoken word poetry and tender singing. This music is honest as hell and lately, with everything that is happening in the world I feel like a little bit of honesty is exactly we all need. It reads like a novel written in a stream of consciousness and I swear words have never been more perfectly spoken. ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ has an overarching folkish sound, albeit, there is much more to be heard than just one style of music here and instead of making the mistake of pigeonholing the music into a set style, Jacob strove to create a sound of his own.

With the opening track, ‘Overture (Dreamer)’ I was immediately under the assumption that the guys in Sigur Ros had begun a side project. The track plays out like an opener, it is short but it sounds as though the same care that is displayed throughout the rest of the album was applied just as evenly here if not more so. It is as if entire orchestra is warming up; cymbals build and crash while the drums roll on and the winding strings play randomly giving one a sense of fidelity, building anticipation for the next track. Its not just this portion, the entire album is full of a variety of lush instrumentation and sound, spanning from guitar, piano, violin, drums, bass, flute, and horns. What makes it even more impressive is Jacob, as a multi-instrumentalist and his collaborator’s ability to compose and play these instruments proficiently. The dedication and minuet attention to detail is what makes all of this work out so well.

The vocals are distinct and and are generally the focal piece of the music. For some, the vocals may be a turn off considering  how raw they can be, perhaps even in a juvenile sense; although, for me this is not so much of a negative thing as it is an important aspect that effects the music positively. As I said before, there is a lot to take in, especially lyrically. Jacob speaks in a manner of rhythmically constrained poetry similar to a stream of consciousness, as though making up the words on the spot which is where the vocals perfectly communicate his words even if I am unable to catch what he is saying all at once. Because the vocals are raw in this juvenile sense it is very easy to identify what emotion is being conveyed, whether it be angry, compassionate, or caring; it is universal in that way. At times his voice quivers indicating something like a nervousness or perhaps a loss of breath in the wake of all the words that are spoken but as soon as the singing comes in he is as confident as ever, not to say the spoken word sections that make up most of the album aren’t just as rewarding. The singing can be heard at the most emotive right from the start of the song, ‘Degrees’ which quickly leads into more of the spoken word vocals just as the track wraps up with a burst of strumming and passionate singing. Sometimes Jacob comes off as sincere as the poetry he speaks while at other times his words communicate a menacing message. ‘Prairie Winter’ is a statement of biting cynicism, one that is dark and heavy without being loud; a sharply executed track. On ‘Wanderlust’ Jacob showcases his ability to access a more aggressive sound in terms of vocal dynamics, one that exhibits his capabilities of screaming, which is achieved surprisingly well considering the primarily reserved nature that is practiced in his craft. The final and longest track, ‘Whatever You Want to Be’ is an epic full of cymbal crashes and builds. All of the Instrumentation eventually cuts out and the listener is left only with Jacob’s articulate and masterful poetry before the instrumentation eventually makes its appearance again as the track finishes up. It could not be a more perfect finish to this album.

Although ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ was recorded in the back of a house it does not show any signs of a loss in sound quality. Everything comes through in so crisply, it is obvious from the masterful recording and mixing and the attention to the clarity of all the instruments coming through that nothing was sacrificed at the expense of a lo-fi set-up. At times the lo-fi nature of the album is apparent but otherwise, if I were unaware of the background regarding this release I would have been under the assumption that the album was recorded professionally. That said, if one person is capable of composing, recording, and producing all of this it leaves me to question the legitimacy of what is considered “professional” recording. Whether it was intentional or not this piece of music speaks beyond the limitations of sound, working as a statement; one that indicates a distinct work ethic within the individual.

There is a lot of experimentation that shows through in this release but even so I would not go as far as to call this an experimental record at all seeing as the experimental elements work out in a very unified way being that there is a sense of direction here and to label it experimental would be doing it a disservice. ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ is a tale depicted in the most sensual way with a certain familiarity and yet, at times so distant that just as soon as you think you have tackled it you find yourself swallowing your words and throwing out all of those Listener comparisons, searching for something other than “beautiful” to describe it by. This is inspirational; an enjoyable and refreshing listen, one that I cannot recommend enough. Thank you.

Visit the Bandcamp page

Overall Rating: 9.3

Favorite Track: Degrees, Wanderlust, Prairie Winter, Whatever You Want To Be

Recommended: Fans of Listener; something to accompany you during the fall season. A piece of music to watch the leaves fall to.

-Redntoothnclaw