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

Sea Breezes – Summer Demo 2011

Sea Breezes was a short lived band from Baltimore. They are made up of musicians Justin Marc Lloyd, Kyle Steely, Mike Hallett, and Derek Flynn. Sea Breezes fuses the aggressive nature of screamo with spacey, atmospheric, noisy, and experimental sounds.

Sea Breezes music is often full of chaotic, complex, and eclectic melodies providing an overwhelming energetic presence that is maintained throughout this short release. The band rides on energy and emotion but can turn the fuzz off, sit back and let beautiful spacey melodies take over.  There is a plethora of unique  sounds to be heard; volume swells, modulation, and rotary chorus type sounds, all drenched in reverb and a multitude of other effects.

Two of the three songs are fairly short but impressively, they do a great job implementing some epic and truly powerful builds into their music within a short timespan. On “Faint Young” the band is present in their most complex and energetic, dripping with emotion. Beautiful guitar melodies speed up and slow down in mathy progressions. The track then mellows out into airy drifting ambience. There are some cool sounds to be heard on the track “Nothing is Real But Blue”, featuring a low static-like humming that is present beneath the bands playing which shows off some of the experimental tendencies that are a big part of their music.

Although the musicianship is always spot on, beautiful and clear, the guitars sometimes sounds trebly and lack definition. There are times where the band sounds like they’re playing in a tunnel which could be attributed to the amount of reverb on the guitars. but being that this is a demo it isn’t really much to complain about given that this is a demo and the sound quality is beyond most demos.

Sea Breezes picks out of a variety of enjoyable sounds from multiple styles and genres of music and blends them together while maintaining a certain amount of cohesion in that everything runs together smoothly and clearly. It’s not just another collage of enjoyable sounds but a proper mixture. There are definitely some cool sounds to be heard but knowing what Sea Breezes is attempting to do makes me wish that they had went all out in experimenting as this would have been a fantastic opportunity to make something truly different. It seems like they were onto some good ideas but in the end restrained by formatting them into a template when they could be so much more. Its not really so much that there is anything wrong with the music but I think my disappointment originates from not taking the risk of doing things wrong. At the end of it all Sea Breezes does manage to outshine their few shortcomings in that they excel at creating music that is different yet familiar at the same time.

Last.fm Page

Overall Rating: 7.1

Favorite Track: ‘Faint Young’

Recommended: Looking for some different sounds in the form of something familiar?

-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

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

Strangelets – Summer Forever EP

Summer Forever is a shoegaze EP by some brit-pop influenced guys from Los Angeles. Whilst it is by no means the most refined shoegaze you will ever hear, it’s damn impressive for an independent release. Putting forward three chilled out tracks, and two that are slightly grittier and serious, there is enough variation to keep this EP on repeat without it seeming too samey. You can also expect some seriously great hooks and melodies, so don’t be surprised when you find one of these songs stuck in your head all day.

The use of male and female vocals works wonderfully for Strangelets. Never do they feel overdone or at odds with each other, and the harmonies are brilliant. The use of clean or hushed, breathy vocals in around equal measure also adds a pleasant new angle. These vocals fit perfectly with the catchy guitar riffs and thick, hazy bass. The instrumentation and addition of violin on the track Summer’s Forever is particularly inspiring, managing to meander and build wonderfully.

What really pulled me into this EP is the whole nostalgic, long lost summer idea it puts forward. I’ll admit I’ve always a sucker for this kinda thing, but this is a band that pulls it off really well. Many of the lyrics look back on those summer experiences and teenage rebellion we once thought would never end, with lines like:

 ‘We can perfect the perfect weekend/Let’s not fall in love’

And

 ‘There’s so many things I cannot tell my folks about/Well, here’s to the things we did when we were never allowed’

And so on. These lyrics give the EP such a chilled out and memorable vibe, making it a real pleasure to listen to. This is yet another reason to add this honest and catchy selection of tracks to your library. Overall a really enjoyable listening experience and an especially worthwhile download for any shoegaze fan.

Standout tracks: They are all fantastic, but New World and Summer’s Forever are particularly good

-Arran

SPC ECO – Big Fat World EP

Interesting musical ideas on the background, pretty cool female voice in the foreground. This just works. It doesn’t really sound a lot like Loveless, since it’s synth music, but the same feel is there and it’s nice and interesting, very atmospheric, it’s overall a cool musical journey. The musical structure is filled with breaks and changes of rhythm and sound, like abrupt build-downs that soon let go, it just never gets boring and sucks you in this feeling of being surrounded by music, like dolby stereo. There isn’t a world of difference between each track (again, the title track is sort of different), but they certainly convey one distinct sound without feeling like different parts of the same song.

The singing is what stands out the most and I am pleased to say it also works very well. It isn’t stationary, there is plenty of drama and feeling (specially in the title track), though it is mostly delivered in vague dreamy melodies that fit perfectly with the music behind it, always changing accordingly to it.

An overall on the best tracks. The two first are the basics, they are very well done and play the part of “this is what I’m here for”. The title track deviates a little bit from the others, but in a nice way that made me almost think it might be the best of the bunch – it’s the most radio-ready anyhow, naming the album after it was a good idea. The last track’s title, “Feels Like Flying”, is descriptive of the EP’s style as a whole and you might say that’s the feeling they aimed at. This track is also the most ambitious, not only because it’s the longest, but the synths go farther away from the “norm”, delivered with more abrupt breaks, while maintaining the overall atmosphere of the EP. It’s kind of the one that sounds less like rock and more like electronic (the first one sounds the most like rock, I’m still not sure if there isn’t a guitar down there somewhere). It plays the role of a closing track perfectly, a synthesis of what just happened, a little bit special and pointing towards something different, like a reward for sticking up until this point.

-Carpeaux

Underneath the Stars – Lucid EP

Feels like ambient, but always changing. There is a little bit of sampled spoken vocals, but mostly instrumental. Pretty stuff, messing around with synths, you know the type. Shows good taste and effort. The “shoegaze” shows in some tracks, but mostly as a “feeling”. Sometimes a laid-back guitar shows up, and they are always very pretty, but it’s mostly synth music, specially because that is where the constant changes are coming from, the guitar parts repeat a lot. Nice sense of dynamics also, always coming up or down, but tied together – most frequently by the guitar. Very well recorded and produced, It doesn’t sound amateuristic at all.

Very relaxing, fans of ambient music will like this.

-Carpeaux