All India Radio – Red Shadow Landing
Martin Kennedy, the creative, Australian maestro/spaceman behind long-running project All India Radio, touched down with Red Shadow Landing in October. Martin is joined by Mark Wendt on bass, Kaz Seiger on keyboards, and Michael Evans-Barker on drums and percussion. Like its predecessors, this album is a subdued, but richly detailed wonder of evolving and involving soundscapes. Expansive vistas materialize before the eyes, as mesmerizing sonics filter through the mind. Martin builds up slow-burning and smooth-flowing instrumental atmospherics that are too highly structured and concise to be called ambient, but too enveloping and contemplative to be called pop or rock.
The Western noir flair of “The Original” is an exciting highlight, as sustained synths and picked guitar create a calm-before-the-storm aura. The mood increases in intensity with the introduction of a steady marching beat, piano notes, and hummed vocals. In true Ennio Morricone style, the tempo quickens with a blast of expressive horns and faster strummed guitar and drum beat. Eventually even symphonic strings join the festivities. While in theory this might seem like overload, Martin, as usual, strikes the perfect balance among all the instruments.
Steve Bug – Noir
Electronic artist Steve Bug recently released his 5th studio album, Noir, on Poker Flat Recordings and it exudes a subdued, but quickly shifting vibe. Standout song and album opener “Tell Me Why” is a subtle, surreptitiously groovin’ track that shakes and breaks in all the right ways. A simple, low-key keyboard refrain starts it off and then layers of instrumentation are added as it progresses. Shaken-sand percussion and a laid-back, bass line-heavy thump kicks it up a bit as sporadic, whispering male vocals mimic the rhythm line. The whole album is a balm for the nocturnal hour comedown from a club-induced high.
Birds In Row – You, Me, & The Violence
Birds In Row, the dynamically brutal French band on Deathwish, Inc. executes an aggressive smash ‘n’ grab on its punishing debut album. A thrashing clash of churning cymbals, pulverizing drums, and hard guitar frisson marks each number, shifting between an unrelenting tempo and briefly slowed down lulls. Lead singer Bart frustratedly shouts, in English, through the crushing milieu in a throaty, mid-range tone, but it’s difficult to hear his exclamations clearly. This is unfortunate, as the lyrics are an important part of the band’s raison d’être.
Crypts – Crypts
With a band name like Crypts and song titles like “Completely Fucked”, “Smut”, and “Sleazy”, it’s only natural to expect some kind of extreme grindcore horror show, but it turns out that it’s only a half-hearted attack. The ballistic missile to the eardrums takes the form of lead shouter Steve Snere, whose distorted, rapid-fire, short-phrase vocal rants blast through the synth-driven panoramas. The instrumental aspect is generally less calamitous, and more melodic than the vocals, melding strongly clacking to marching beats with buzzy electro-notes, and random noise. Fans of pre-The Fragile Trent Reznor who miss his manipulated vocal belligerence will find some comfort here.
Star FK Radium – Solitude Rotation
Contrary to its unwieldy moniker, instrumental band Star FK Radium moves smoothly through songs that are alt-folk in structure, but classical in sound. A mild, low-key mood exudes from the contemplatively picked guitar refrains and plucked or drawn violins. Measured drum beats with cymbal shimmer and triangle tings slow down the pace, bringing out the off-kilter nature of bittersweet waltzes. “Rhythm of Breathing” catches attention the most with its wavering, pulled violin lines that tense up into a sweet, but anxious higher register as the song progresses.