Category Archives: Ambient

Orchid Tapes Angeltown II Showcase

We all express a sense of uniformity when we discuss niches, eras, and begotten circles of social inquiry and debacle. Whatever the hell you would like to refer to the intestines of culture and mass society, these places and times and people are kept preserved in solid moments in time by certain people, collectives, and instruments to progressing this sensational philosophical shift, paradigm change. Orchid Tapes, a label who was created by the impeccable team of Warren Hildebrand and Brian Vu, has come a long way since its beginning and Saturday Night’s Angeltown Showcase exemplifies that enthusiastically. As people cued for a place inside the compact warehouse, a considerable amount of the goers were already inside as I journeyed to the back of the line. In fear that I wouldn’t get to see the first act I showed up about half an hour early and noticed a beautifully placid man standing outside by a tree. This man was none other than Mathew Cothran (Coma Cinema/Elvis Depressedly). A good way to gauge how a show might be is to see how the musicians look, and whenever I talk to an Orchid Tapes band they are more thrilled to be performing than the audience is to see them perform. When an atmosphere like that is spawned, it not only radiates positive creativity that should be harbored but, it also dissuades one from thinking that music has become something it has fiddled with being over time; Better than its audience, celebrating itself, and trying to be gaudy in intellect. The reason Orchid Tapes remains one of the most emotionally impactful and intelligible labels is due to its artist roster. Ricky Eat Acid, Foxes In Fiction, Elvis Depressedly, Alex G, The Bilinda Butchers, RL Kelly, Happy Trendy, to name a few, have all built repertoires around some of the most poignant, sophisticated, and profound works I have heard in my life. I have failed to not become emotional over any one of the act’s pieces. It is impossible, and I feel that sentiment is shared in abundance with the rest of their audience. Their musicians are so artistically captivating and intelligent that, dare I say it, Orchid Tapes has become the new 4AD. I’ve never salivated so much over showcases and releases since Captured Tracks was conceived. Saturday’s showcase was yet another testament to the foundation that Warren and Brian have built. It touched upon their prolific catalogue, and gave insightful compositions to their young audience; Who I’m glad to see have picked up the torch from the first generation of listeners that spurred when Orchid Tapes began. Four Visions was enigmatic, giving hauntingly devoted orchestrations that seemed to creep up with bombardment and subtly wash the painstaking gaunt of tortured mentality. Foxes in Fiction’s performance was more than just a fantastic set, it transcended and showed off Hildebrand’s music genius. Which so serenely fits in between Shoegaze, Dreampop, and indie pop. All of which create a verbose array of personifying tonal melodies that fill the room with warmth, glow, and self-reflection. The Bilinda Butchers kept the ambience flowing , with bopping, swooping Shoegaze that made the entirety of the warehouse begin moving like intricate mechanics. A traditionaly Shoegaze band who have the essence and minds for the genre. Something that fixs but, finds itself growing and experimenting with itself. The Butchers are a compliment to their Creation and 4AD contemporaries. They were so brilliant, it started to rain. To end such a beautifully etched night of music, Elvis Depressedly/Coma Cinema undertook a clenching set. Beautiful and short, Cothran orchestrated a wellcrafted set, for which matches the one he played almost a year ago at the first Angeltown Showcase. Thus, we now stand with our last two musicians of the evening. Rachel Livy and Alex G. Unfortunately I could not stay for Alex G, and I’m eternally in regret over that, luckily he may (heavy emphasis on the may) return to Los Angeles *hint, hint*. Rachel Livy is one of my favorite performers and seeing half of her set was still a privilege I won’t forget. Any time I see her she livens a room, and drags energy out of people. To this, I’m sure Alex G accompanied a great set after her’s. As I said once, Alex G is one of the best songwriters, comparably to that of Elliott Smith, James Murphy, Ian Curtis, and label mate Mat Cothran. Speaking in assumptions, I can only imagine that his set was nothing short of emotional and outstandingly impeccable. Thank you Warren, Brian, and the bands for curating, again, another Showcase which will be reminisced and discussed for many years to come.

Four Visions

Four Visions

Four Visions

IMG_1300

Foxes In Fiction

Foxes In Fiction

Foxes In Fiction

The Bilinda Butchers

The BIlinda Butchers

The Bilinda Butchers

Elvis Depressedly/Coma Cinema

Elvis Depressedly/Coma Cinema

R.L. Kelly

R.L. Kelly

Alex G

Alex G

Alex G

Photos: Destiny Moran

Digits: The Day You Fight Back

Digits - The Day You Fight Back EP Art

Digits: The Day You Fight Back EP - This past month newcomer Digits has played shows with both St. Vincent and Dan Deacon. Digits is a one-man electronic act, fronted by one and only Alt Altman, which admittedly sounds a bit like a fake name made to mimic a laptop keyboard. Nevertheless, Digits has broken into the melodic electronic scene (if one such exists) unapologetically, his breathy vocals whispering over the light synth and acoustic guitar riffs. Digits may best be described as a blend between ambient electronica and fellow Canadians Majical Cloudz-esque soul electronica.

Title track, ‘The Day You Fight Back’ begins in a pseudo-tropical melody fused with the tempo and feel of smooth jazz. Smooth may in fact be the best way to describe the music of Digits. Synths come in over the light airy acoustic riff and the beats of the drum machine.

The second track, ‘When You Look Inside,’ picks up the pace, with a more prominent drum machine beat and synths, the absence of that one acoustic guitar riff changing the sound of the song completely, from an ambient jazzy electronic piece to a strictly technology based serenade. Altman’s voice (unaltered and strictly un-autotuned) contrasts the heavy electronics of the music well, adding a soulful, human element to a genre that typically remains in the domain of robotic beats.

 

‘Stasis’ is the EP’s third track, which integrates Altman’s own acapellas in between the synths, creating incredible melodic dimension otherwise rather unheard of in electronic music. Digits will no doubt become an instant success, for their innovative use of electronic instruments next to the human instrument, that is, Altman’s voice. ‘Stasis’ specifically speaks to the desire to for stability in life, as Altman croons, ‘We’re all looking for some kind of stasis’.

The final track on the EP, ‘Brain Brain’ is my personal favorite. Its an anthem for all insomniacs, and Altman laments, “I just can’t keep my brain from working overtime”. This track returns to the pseudo-tropical sound of the first and title track, ‘The Day You Fight Back’. Dotted synths work around the airy vocals in a rain drop type dance, falling here and there.  As the song winds down, acoustic guitar comes in alongside an electric bass, adding layer upon melodic layer of intricately placed sounds that crescendo into the climax of the song before petering off again into silence.

If this high praise of Digits was not enough, the fact he released The Day You Fight Back as a free mp3 download on his website (which can be found here), may be! Look out for the name Alt Altman and Digits in the future, you are sure to see it…9.4/10

‘Brain Brain’

 

Barbarossa: Elevator EP

Barbarossa: Elevator EP — It’s a good day for electronic music. At least, that’s what I thought when I was drifting off to ‘Elevator,’ the title track from Barbarossa‘s newest EP. It’s simple and ambient, somewhere between the honest cries of a soulful synth and a deliberate minimalist statement, and while it’s less rigid and in some ways more intentionally worn than his first electronic effort, it’s truly something to enjoy. After all, developing artist James Mathé has been a constant surprise with the reinvention of his sound and his chaotic touring and recording schedule. With Elevator, he slows things down without actually toning anything down, and in the process, he once again makes something just new enough to be noteworthy.

Mathé isn’t exactly a novice musician, though his electronica career is still burgeoning. Before embarking on his current path, he had built up a name for himself as an acoustic expert, complete with soft folk guitar and bleeding singer-songwriter lyrical compositions. It wasn’t until 2013, with the release of Bloodlines, that he took on a more shrilling, electronic slant. With Elevator, high electronica gives way to more complicated compositions, full of popping, static noise that builds upon itself in layers of digital and orchestral composition.

‘No Glue’ and ‘Lupo’s Theme’ take a more experimental route than the title track, letting the decisive layering give way to the more electronically driven, with the latter at one point even letting Mathé’s distinctive, throaty vocals get distorted to the point of being indistinguishable, maintaining its soul but losing its poetics, letting the track become overwhelmed with an electro-ambiance that is both weary and determined. It’s not an unexpected choice from a Barbarossa release, his penchant for changing timbre is at this point no secret, but it is an interesting shift insofar as it sees the stripping down of those last analog features in favor of a fully digitized experience.

Beyond recording, Mathé is continuing his foray into cinematic work, and the release of Elevator is not so surprisingly tied up to the premier of the second film project of which he has been a part. The EP was written in part as a soundtrack for the Montserrat Lombard/Sean Harris short film, which seems to account for some of its sweepingly dramatic styling and transitions. Just how integrated the release is into the film has yet to be established, but if the pictures can work with the same level of distorted emotion and willingness to take chances, it will be worth at least one view.

Elevator might be a bit more sentimental than what we’ve come to expect from Barbarossa‘s new-found electronic chops, but it’s in no way more tame. Heavy with orchestral affectations and oozing synth, it still maintains a simple, streamlined demeanor that evokes a strength intrinsic to the artist, in all his forms. Working with a collection of some things familiar and others entirely new, Barbarossa manages to put out an EP that compliments his other endeavors as much as it stands alone, and he never stops experimenting in the process…7.0/10

Elevator

Dream Koala: Earth. Home. Destroyed.

Dream Koala: Earth. Home. Destroyed.- After the stress and excitement of the past week or so, I was brought back down to Earth by Dream Koala’s latest release, Earth. Home. Destroyed., a 5-track compilation clocking in at 19 minutes. I’m very partial to the 5-track format because while a full-length album tends to give you a dynamic perspective on an artist’s sensibilities and capabilities, the EP format narrows everything down to be a concise grouping of songs which all usually resonate at the same level of emotional energy. Such is the case with this album.

It begins with ‘Saturn Boy’ a clean song which retains a somber energy generated in part by the breathy vocals (which reminds me of the same delicate tone present in James Blake’s voice), reverberating picked electric guitars, and descending chord progressions. The song moves at a surprisingly intense pace via delayed electric kicks and a metallic clank on the back beat, giving off that post-rock minimal aesthetic while still being subtly detailed and layered, and ends abruptly with overdub vocals outlining the progression.

The next track, ‘Gold’, is also a stripped down song that is composed primarily by the watery guitars and vocals, tastefully complimented by slow IDM drums and psychedelic textures that take advantage of the stereo sound. Halfway through the song the drums cut out and the listener is left floating for a moment through emptiness before the heavy drums kick in and the energy is brought to a triumphant level of excitement. The only qualms I have with this song, and with the entire album, is is the transitions. I wish they were smoother instead of these quick changes of scene that take me out of the moment. Even so, the music has a beauty to it that also exists in many movie scores, telling a vague story for the listener to re-imagine in their own mind.

The middle track, ‘From The Sun’ shifts the mood from melancholy to serious and cold, this is mostly due to the unison sub-bass and kick beats that come in after the introduction wherein the guitar strums out a set of heart-breaking chords. This is by far, my favorite track in the collection because of the harmonic movement. It’s so pleasant and rich, and it juxtaposes well against the mechanical rhythms that drive the song. This same quality exists in the following track, ‘Earth’, which also feels like the score to some adventure-packed space mission.

Earth. Home. Destroyed. wraps up with ‘A Cosmic Landscape’, an aptly titled instrumental track that is pastoral and grand in nature. The whole thing feels like you’re standing in a field, just standing and feeling the air breeze past you in pulsing waves. In all, Dream Koala’s style manages to create scenes that are both very soothing and dramatically intense, sometimes all at once. It’s the kind of music that would be made better by listening to with closed eyes, perfect for those in need of a vacation away from hectic times… 8.6/10

‘From the Sun’

Triptides: Colors

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Triptides: Colors Triptides hails from Bloomington, Indiana – not the first place that comes to mind when listening to their latest EP, Colors, a six-track psychedelic symphony. Triptides consists of Glenn Brigman on vocals and guitar, Josh Menashe on bass and vocals and Josh Morrow on Drums. Colors is a substantial addition to the band’s discography, a set of shoegaze-infused tracks (it is also available on cassette tape, a relic of the past).

The first song and title track, ‘Colors’ kicks the EP off with hyper tempo and relentless drums. The vocals remain barely distinguishable throughout, and the song truly takes off when they submit completely to a tripped out bridge, full of feedback and reverberating echoes of Brigman’s guitar. ‘Destiny’ follows, a significantly slower song, reminiscent of the Flaming Lips circa At War With The Mystics. ‘Destiny’ may be the EP’s strongest song, and most indicative of Triptides sound – heavily ambient, a little rock and always a bit weird.

‘Throne of Stars’ continues the acid-washed sounds of its predecessor, a track of ambient psychedelia. Reverberating guitar riffs float over the steady drums, vocals carrying over the top like a cloud. A schizoid bass line rings throughout, the grounding force of the song as the vocals build in layers of echo and digital enhancement.

The EP’s fourth track, ‘Moonbeams’, earns its title with successful execution of ambient rock and shoegaze bliss. Drums hold their place in the song, but allows for the soaring bass and vocals to shine through, although like ‘Colors’ the vocals in this song are barely audible as words, but emerge more as an instrument itself.

The fifth track, ‘I Don’t Know’, steps away from the complacent ambience of the previous tracks and presents itself as a song of psychedelic rock purity. It begins with a lazy bass line and shiny guitar riff. The layers of sounds within the track individualize it from the rest.

Colors concludes with ‘Lullabye’ another track in the style of the Flaming Lips. The vocals sing, “Summer time can get the best of you” a melancholic testament to the dangerously lazy days of summertime. ‘Lullabye’ carries out like a lullaby, a sleepy track that speaks to the bittersweet sadness that comes with the end of summer, echoed by its place at the end of the EP.

Colors shows Triptides greatest strength: creating tracks that allow the listener to lose themselves within the music completely, to be fully submerged in the tripped-out ambient bliss of their music. A perfect selection for summer, Colors maintains this other-worldly sound throughout. It’s quiet beach rock, music to watch the stars or float down the coast…8/10

Lullabye