Music Reviews : Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It All Came Down (2014)

Music Reviews : Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It All Came Down (2014)

This one track LP from Wrekmeister Harmonies, including many guests (Riley Walker, Chris Brokaw, Wrest, Lydia Lane Stout, Chanel Pease, Kate Spelling, Indian, Mark Solotroff) , feels like an album its creator wanted the listener to continuously get wrapped into its more than half an hour long diatribe.

Passing through different stages of independent music with some more recognizable traits like the black metal presence or the female emule of The Microphones. WH named themself after the cult Hungarian film Wreckmeister Harmonies from Bela Tarr and their music is repeats the formulaic of Mulholland Drive by David Lynch. In the DVD release of Lynch’s film, it doesn’t have chapters and the viewer is forced to watch it from start to beginning. It is a deliberate decision from its director.

To continue with the analogy with Mulholland Drive, which is an ode to Hollywood, films, studios, the star system, Then It All Came Down is also a visit into music and its many genres. A cacophonous chorus of sounds and emotions. A musical piece that takes many listens to fully appreciate and get its surprising circumvolutions. At times only a little buzz is present compared to the total chaos of screaming and doom drumming.

With patience, the listener gets the reward for the wait. Like drone or noise music there are no comparable and the better judge for this album is the listener himself who will appreciate to different levels the blend of the obvious and many influences of Wrekmeister Harmonies.

As the author of those lines, my point of view is that I am greatly surprise by my first encounter with this collective and the mix of genres and sounds was a great experience for myself. There are some heavy riffs while some moments reflect a unexpected sensibility and a depth that few musicians would be eager to explore. For me, it is a nice discovery and an album that will accompany me at work in moments of profound concentration for a long time.


Music Review : Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestite (2014)

Music Review : Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestite (2014)

This companion piece to Celestial Lineage, the near-masterpiece from these Washington state black metallers stating that they are not playing black metal but are obviously inspired by Ulver and Burzum’s decadent yet beautiful mastery challenge of BM while saying their biggest influence is Neurosis. Living on a farm and praising a return to organic form and life, the members of WITTR have recorded two of the best American black metal records to date; the aforementioned Celestial Lineage and Two Hunters.

Their recent release is an instrumental exploration of esoteric textures and sonorities that reminds of interesting interludes in Burzum and Ulver’s most notorious albums. An entire opus solely concentrated on ambiance and musical odyssey is pretty ballsy. With all the ambition that WITTR enters in this territory, an artist like M83 would have killed it. But here, WITTR misses the mark and should have released this album under another name just to separate the band from the experimentalists. Just like Sunn O))), who explores many alleys with other musicians they sign with their co-artists. WITTR did an okay job with a difficult task. It feels like a challenge the wolf could not chew by himself. Maybe a collab with a more experimented drone/noise music artist could have helped them raise the bar.

With Initiation at Neudeg Alm, there are glimpses of hope and a nice sound that opens the mystery angle that black metal and instrumental music share. It doesn’t need to be raised to epic scales.

Celestite is not a complete disaster but don’t get into this and wait for black metal or even metal. It is interesting for fans of the band to follow this new direction but it could have been more transitional or even a part of a double album with Celestial Lineage more than a piece of itself. Sometimes an artist has to get it out of his system to continue its evolution and get to stronger levels. Let’s hope it was the case here. Because Wolves In The Throne Room still has many promising records in the belly.


Music Review : Alcest – Shelter (2014)

Music Review : Alcest – Shelter (2014)

Alcest takes his origins in black metal but slowly evolved into a shoegaze act playing on My Bloody Valentine’s field more than Burzum’s. The album Shelter is an entire dedication to trippy rock and shoegaze. Since Deafheaven’s Sunbather, which was a perfected version of BM and shoegaze in 2013, many BM bands have crossed the lined of purist kvlt BM.

Alcest is now far from its BM roots but still in a territory of its own. At first it is a bit surprising to find a bleak comparison other than the aforementioned bands. But I would reference Katatonia and its latest entries of rock infused with darker landscapes. It is the atmosphere and feeling as a whole that still makes this a somber record that could entice fans of the early Alcest.

It is an interesting record for its whole texture but its monotony and lack of flavour is too heavy in the balance compared with its ambition that is limited by the change of style that Alcest has occured. It is a grey album that transpire a melancholy and a spleen that is not elevated by its music and lacks in overall tenure and a monochrome structure that sinks slowly the record from song to song.

It is an entry into a genre that is difficult to master and a miss that could not be a hit but a lesson that experiences are permitted and an average album doesn’t sink a band but a series could.  



Music Review : Caribou– Our Love (2014)

Caribou– Our Love (2014)

Artist Dan Snaith’s Our Love release under the moniker Caribou, is another electronic/pop notable release of 2014. Being a metal monger before any other genre, I try to give a couple of listens to other major records to at least get a grasp of what is notable and that could make a top list of the end of the year.

This electro-pop-indie-rock mix of contemporary music but also very melancholic in a way that it isn’t that fun fun happy pop one would expect from an electro-pop album. There’s a sense of atmosphere and melody that can relate a bit to M83 without the epicness of the motion picture scale that is in Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming!. Our Love plays on pop fields and is a bit more commercial but still a well composed record.

With All I Ever Need, Snaith revisits pop and impose his vision. While with Our Love (the song), this is electronic that takes all the stage. However, songs are hard to split into genres and it is the blend of all of Snaith’s explorations that makes the record hold together quite well.

HIs delivery as a singer is a bit off and seems distant but also correct with the fact that the album sounds a lot digital and his robotic tone may or may not get the public. At first listen it makes it an homogenic record except on Second Chance which features Jessy Lanza on one of the best songs of the album. The music goes places you would not expect from the vocals and Lanza’s presence is refreshing and helps to balance the sad tome of Snaith’s voice and his vision of love.

Snaith composes songs about love and the different phases of love in a relationship. He seems to have lived a lot of events in his love life with his wife of thirteen years and his child born in 2011.

Our Love is a record that may not connect with the listener at the first listen. But it slowly grows on you and the order of the songs makes a nice structure that let an evolution that is considerate. Amongst the plenty of records in 2014, especially in pop music, Caribou’s Our Love elevates itself with its nice blend of electronic/pop/indie. An intimate record of grandeur.


The Goonies

The Goonies (Richard Donner, 1985)

A band of young boys find a treasure map and embark on a magical adventure.

Strong from the succes of E.T. : the Extra-Terrestrial, Steven Spielberg who is credited as executive producer and for the story of The Goonies, went on to produce Gremlins, Poltergeist and Back to the Future. Family movies that each had different levels of success. As The Goonies director, Richard Donner (original Superman franchise) was nice fit for the children play of no harm and full adventure. In fact, The Goonies is more like a play on Raiders of the Lost Ark for children without the edge that the Harrison Ford vehicule would carry.

It is also a case of film that targets a certain age and may speak to them. The targeted audience in this case is young preteen boys. Or if I want to be a bad mouth, the mental age of some of the comic book guy you would find in a comic book store. And by that, I think of an enthusiast Steven Spielberg’s towards this second class entertainment.

Second class, indeed, because everything is fake, the sets, the blue water, the acting, the blend of « cool » characters and annoying brats, the Asian Inspector Gadget and the over the top bold bad guys. The exterior scenes are those who have the best potential and give a break to the rest of the production. We are thousands of miles away from Raiders of the Lost Ark and still it feels like The Goonies wants so bad to be as good. However, it is too thin as a story and too impossible. As a kid, I know, I would have bored to death by this. Spielberg’s work as a producer has never been as interesting as his work as a director. Except for Back to the Future.

By saying all this I know I would hurt many people who vow a cult to this and I’m not casting my contempt on them, well a little. But, I can understand how a childhood memory can be hard to get criticized. Let’s call a cow a cow.

To me, The Goonies is a product made to appeal to kids and especially little boys who like to be taken into fantastic stories. Lately, I’ve watched The Princess Bride and reviewed it quite favorably but with a certain hold. With The Goonies I’m sure it is clear that I didn’t liked the film and felt it was too long, annoying, and took children for simple minded individuals. And I really hate when I feel a movie or the moviemakers take me for an idiot.



Music Review : Deafheaven – Sunbather (2013)

Music Review : Deafheaven – Sunbather (2013)

American Black Metal has gained respect since a few years and with the exeption of Absu from Texas, few BM acts have been recognized as worth the genre. In the recent years, Nachtmystium has been respected with their revisits of Pink Floyd’s Meddle atmosphere and textures with Assassins : Black Meddle, Part I. Put aside the crap from Blake Judd. There’s also Wolves in the Throne Room that are one of the most interesting BM acts from the US.

Lately, with easier ways to record, a bunch of talented and untalented musicians have formed Black Metal bands and the quantity of BM releases has increased considerably. Amongst this genre many imitators of Darkthrone, Immortal, Satyricon were appearing but few have taken elements of the genre to elevate them in a more personal approach to music and adapt it.

Deafheaven is a brighter star in the sky when it comes to the creativity of their music. They elevated their sound close to the elegance of the early BM releases of Ulver (Nattens Madrigal for example). Not afraid to indulge more than wrath and angerish occult and satanist lyrics. This era of BM is dead and now laughable. The most enduring acts of the genre have let Satanism and treat about humanity, nihilism, mythology, littérature, philosophy, and the darker side of the human mind. With Deafheaven themes are closer to a North American mindset and are introspective, melancholic, and less conventional BM.

Structured with four songs and three interludes, Sunbather is a beautiful yet dark journey into modern BM with elements of shoegazing and psychedelic rock. Unlike many American Black Metal bands Deafheaven is no carbon copy of its influence. Many people can make a BM record but few can master this music and actually make something refreshing and this appealing.

After a few listens it is easy to state that even if I missed this release in 2013, I would defenitely put it on my best of the year 2013 list.



La Haine

La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995)

After local youth Abdel is beaten unconscious by police, a riot ensues on his estate during which a policeman loses his gun. The gun is found by Vinz who threatens he will kill a cop if Abdel dies.

This major hit from the wunderkind director of the time in France, Mathieu Kassovitz and the now established star Vincent Cassel, La Haine might be one of the most notorious French film of the 1990’s. Almost twenty years later, still actual and even more right on its telling of the racial, social, political context in modern France, this black and white drama is, by far, its director’s best offering.

With a bright black and white cinematography that can relate to some early Jean-Luc Godard films, the mise-en-scène and visual effects calls for a sheer admirer of Martin Scorsese and a bit of Mikhail Kalatozov. Sometimes it is a little annoying when watching a young filmmaker and being able to pin point his influence and homage. They are clear and well executed in La Haine even if they feel a bit forced and like a homework to show that he can too do those tricks.
Surprisingly, I tend to like the first half of films and sometimes I think that the second half never quite delivers from a great original idea. However, with La Haine, Kassovitz throws a better second part than his first half. Once, the camera tricks are out of the way, the plot gets subtler and the characters are getting more and more into it.

In the francophonie, La Haine left a bunch of lines that are as important as some Pulp Fiction lines. For the teens of the time of its release in 1995, it was a groundbreaking movie that was talking to them and about them. It depicted without any filter a reality that too many immigrants and French were living. In France, there’s a long record of police brutality, riots, and racial crimes. It did not solve the problems that are presented in the movie but it reflected a reality that eventhe media were not able to present to the public.

It is a difficult genre because it is hard to not fall into the cliché and also to be too partisan of a side. However, the three lead characters are not really sympathetic and yes we are on their side, we know that they are teenagers who make mistakes and do the best they can with what they have. Kassovitz doesn’t try to make them look like they are saints. At the end, it is anyhow difficult to not have a certain contempt for the French policemen.

After all, Kassovitz was a young and inspired filmmaker on the rise and he probably got the best film he ever did with La Haine. Even if he could have tone it down on the visual trickery and let the strong story resonate with long takes and a subtler mise-en-scène. Still, it is very efficient and will definitely leave a mark in any cinephile’s mind.
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