Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Damn Robot! - Jasurp

It is somewhere around the middle of this albums second track Close The Door that you should find yourself being swept up in the scintillating inventiveness that is Jasurp, the latest release from Hampshire duo Damn Robot!

Made up of Rob (Inachus, Oceanus) and Tom Honey (Good Weather for an Airstrike), Damn Robot! started life as a creative offshoot to their respective current projects and gave the brothers a different avenue to experiment with a more hybrid sound, which finds them dabble with a wide plethora of genres from ambient and metal to post rock and trip hop. On the whole this bold experimentation works extremely well. Tracks such as the aforementioned Close the Door while splintered with remnants from the Bristol Sound of the late nineties still offers enough of a uniqueness and freshness to make it musically stand alone. The metal tinged rumble of A Drop in the Ocean and the Orb-like ambience of I’m Trying to Freeze and (Good Morning) Electric Boogaloo, are further commanding evidence of this brilliantly executed experimentation.

The only real slight throughout the records extensive running time comes with the at times overly indulgent The Gentlemen Callers, which seems to sit quite uncomfortably with what is being endeavoured on the rest of Jasurp. This said, the duo revert straight back to harmonious form on its follow up and the albums closer This Things I Believe (Can We Accept That?), a joyful mesh of horns, silken guitars and wistful vocals.

According to the band the main inspiration behind Jasurp comes from life in general with elements of the brothers diverse tastes in music and film dotted across the albums spine in good measure and this manifests itself on the eclectic mix found within. Overall Jasurp is a clever and bold piece of music making and shows a band not willing to constrain themselves by the so called norm. 

Collapse Under The Empire - New Video 'Closer'

Ahead of the September release of their much anticipated new album Fragments of a Prayer, Germany's Collapse Under The Empire precede this with a new video for the albums first single Closer. Check it out below. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Interview with Kerry Muzzey (The Candlepark Stars)

LA based film and television composer Kerry Muzzey returns with Take Care and Safe Home, his sixth outing under the moniker The Candlepark Stars. Seen by Muzzey as the last of a three album arc that began with last years All the Little Things and continued with the beautiful We Give and We Get, the new album is yet another blissful collection of cinematic post rock. We recently caught up with the very talented composer to find out more about the new album, its inspiration and what the future holds for The Candlepark Stars.

Tell us about how The Candlepark Stars came about?

Kerry: I'm a film and TV composer, and the music I normally write is more in a modern classical vein, like most film scores.  A few years ago I heard the score from the movie "Friday Night Lights," and that's how I first found out about Explosions in the Sky, and their music blew my mind. After discovering them, I started finding all kinds of other post-rock artists, which then led me into other stuff like Sigur Ros and that fantastic Icelandic sound.  I fell in love with this style of music: it was electric guitars and traditional rock instruments being used in really unique ways, some of it felt really modern and new, and some of it felt like that beautiful washed-out reverb sound from the 80s, like Jesus & Mary Chain and the Cocteau Twins. It's like each song takes you on a ride and has a story and an emotion built into it. So back in 2009 I took some time out of my schedule to write some new material and challenged myself to do it using completely different instruments than I'd normally write for. That material became the albums "Shimmer and Gold" and "Very Big Sky."  I made up the name The Candlepark Stars as a pseudonym, so that I'd be able to write this new stuff separate from my other work. I didn't want to get the two confused, and I didn't want to confuse my regular listeners. Honestly, I just did this as a creative challenge because I was tired of hearing my usual stuff and I wanted to try something completely different. I put it up on iTunes thinking, "Well, maybe someone out there will like it" -- but I never imagined anyone would actually find it and listen to it. The fact that it somehow found some listeners was a complete surprise. But that motivated me to want to keep doing it, so I've now released a few albums as The Candlepark Stars.

What inspires you to create the music you create?

K: I have to be in a certain mood to write this stuff. A few years ago my mom was moving into a smaller place, and she gave me all of my old childhood photo albums that had been sitting in the attic for years. These were real moments captured on real film that had faded to look like Instagram or Hipstamatic photos, and they were beautiful. They were these amazing snapshots in time of me and my siblings and family members some now deceased, some still with us and looking at them was like watching an old super-8mm montage of my past. The feeling of melancholy was really overwhelming: it was nostalgic and happy but there was this overwhelming sadness attached to it that I couldn't pin down.  So the way this distilled itself into the music of The Candlepark Stars is that I wanted to capture that feeling of nostalgia and I wanted the music to feel like you were looking back on something, looking back on memories like they were faded old photos, and feeling happy about what you saw but still infused with that sense of melancholy that you just couldn't quite put your finger on. So every single CPS song is a happy one, but every single one is tinged with a little bit of longing or melancholy. Not enough to be considered dark, but just enough to make you feel a little bit wistful. Each song is like one of those slow-mo 8mm film montages that you see in movies now and then: a grainy, faded, diffuse-glowy memory.

How was the recording process for the latest album Take Care and Safe Home, different to previous recordings?

K: I hate to let you down on this one, but it was exactly the same. If it ain't broke, I ain't gonna fix it.  I have a rule that I use for recording new stuff, which is a simple one, if it's not as-good-as or better than the last album I don't release it. I actually end up throwing a lot of music away because it just doesn't pass muster for me. The stuff that makes it through my filter is the stuff that turns up on the album.  I never want listeners to say something like, "It's not as good as his last album" because as a huge music fan myself, I hate when that happens. When you're in love with a band's music and you're waiting and waiting for that new album, and then you finally get it and you're like "Huh? That's it? I expected better." 

Do you feel that Take Care and Safe Home takes your music in a new direction?

K: I don't think it does, to me it feels like an extension of the last 2 albums.  Like, if you could combine "All the Little Things" and "We Give and We Get" and "Take Care and Safe Home" onto one single CD I think it would play like a story from start to finish. I didn't mean it to be that way, but when I listen to these albums it feels like these last three albums are part of a series, and like "Take Care" is the final one in a series of three.  "Shimmer and Gold" and "Very Big Sky" fit together really well, and I think the last three albums fit together equally well. "Take Care and Safe Home" definitely feels like an ending to me... like whatever comes next, it has to be different.  There are two songs on this new album that are very different, super-upbeat, actually and those don't define any sort of new direction, I was just getting tired of doing the "contemplative" thing and wanted to write something that was straight-up happy! I think the Candlepark Stars music will always be similar to what it is right now. I don't want to suddenly add singers to it, or turn it into something different. I guess I don't want to make any radical left turns, I just want it to continue to be what it has been, and maybe instead of a new direction it'll just continue to evolve.

What has the reaction to the latest album been like in the states?

K: I'm not sure, honestly. I've gotten some nice feedback on Twitter and Facebook from some of the regular fans that stay in touch, and it looks like there are some new "Likes" on my CPS Facebook page, so I hope that means that people like it!  The audience for this music is pretty small, and I don't have a ton of ears focused on it yet. I think it spreads by word of mouth. But hey, that's how Explosions in the Sky started too, right?

Could you ever see yourself bringing the music to a live setting?

K: Unfortunately, no.  I do everything myself so me doing this stuff live would just be me sitting there and pushing "Play" on the CD player!  These songs are like buildings, I write them over time, bit by bit, layer by layer, and because it's just me doing it I can't perform live. I'm just a one-man operation in the same vein as artists like Eluvium, Slow Dancing Society and Startle the Heavens. I think all of us are just one guy sitting in a dark studio alone, writing music.

I find the music to be very cinematic, do you agree?

K: I love that and I do agree, and I love that this music can resonate with a total stranger. I love that you, a person who's never met me or talked to me before, can listen to this music and feel something and be moved by it, and that it can conjure up images in your head as you're listening to it. I'm a huge fan of going for long walks with my iPod, it changes the way you see the world and the way you experience things around you, and I think this music is really good for that.  It can be peaceful or energizing. I've even used it to fall asleep to.

If you were given the chance to do a score for any director who would it be and why?

K: That's a tough one. I'd love to work with Patty Jenkins someday (she wrote and directed "Monster" a few years ago) because she loves music and she's really passionate about it and the role it can play in a movie. And of course there are the other big names out there like David Fincher.  I'm a huge fan of contemporary Italian movies - most of them never get released here but I have a region-free DVD player so I buy them from Amazon Italy - and Gabriele Muccino is a director whose work I love. Some of his dramas are almost operatic in the way that they use music. I like a director who doesn't bury the music in the background, but who uses it to make a point. Music is such an emotional thing, and matching it up to an equally-emotional film can be a powerful experience.

Los Angeles has always been known for its vibrant music scene; give us your take on the current scene?

K: I've only been in L.A. for 2 years now, and I don't get out to hear live music very much. I'm definitely not into the club scene and loud music and dubstep and that whole scene.  But I've found some really fantastic new music by going to restaurants for brunch or dinner, especially in eclectic areas like Venice. You'll hear the coolest mix of trip-hop and old big band stuff and 60s pop songs and somehow it all works.  I always leave my phone on the table and the minute I hear something I like I turn on Shazam to find out what it is. So I'd have to say that I'm pretty out of touch with the scene here in town. I still feel like a newbie in Los Angeles.

What does the future hold for The Candlepark Stars?

K: I plan on writing more stuff as The Candlepark Stars, but my most important rule will always apply, like I mentioned earlier  I won't crank out an album just for the sake of releasing a new album. It has to be something that feels inspired and it has to be music that I really like.  Where some of my recent music has gotten really big and emotional, I think I might scale things back a bit in the future and maybe make something quieter and more intimate, but it's too soon to tell. Right now it feels like the well is dry, because this album clocked in at just over an hour's worth of music, and that pretty much ate up all my ideas.  But I'm guessing that I'll probably start writing the next album later this year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Appleseed Cast - Low Level Owl: Volumes 1 + 2

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of The Appleseed Cast's seminal, critically-acclaimed and most popular release ever, Deep Elm Records is releasing both volumes of Low Level Owl together for the very first time as a complete master collection of all 26 songs in hi-res digital audio including separate artwork for each song.

Massive in approach and epic in scope, Low Level Owl is a vast soundscape that lives and breathes on its own. Nearly two hours in total length and previously released on two separate volumes, these 26 beautifully orchestrated songs of lush melody, expertly paced dynamics and blossoming atmospherics will leave you floored. The Appleseed Cast' gives way to a more courageous exploration of sound and texture on Low Level Owl, experimenting with loops, echoes, instrumentation, inverting tape and changing speeds. They discover the sonic possibilities...the masterpiece in every measure. Each song explodes at the seams, overflowing with symphonics, crescendos, swells of feedback and electronics. Listen to slowly building waves of guitars and drums that ultimately crest, bursting into the shimmering tears of honest men. Music like this is neither calculated nor deliberate. It just happens. It just exists. It is the music to dream to.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


A 130 bpm kick drum, echo-driven guitars drowned in reverb, and a minimal groove. Gregory Hoepffner's (Radius System, TEMPL▲TE, Time to Burn, Painting By Numbers…) new project draws it's modernity from the space allowed to make us lose ourselves. Head straight into the rhythm logic, to its simplest and most efficient truth.

No song writing, no melodies, no vocals.
Don't think, don't loose the pulse.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

miaou - The Day Will Come Before Long

Japans mercurial architects of enticing whimsy miaou end their three year recording hiatus with the long awaited and very captivating, The Day will Come Before Long. Their fourth release and first since 2008s All Around Us, it finds the band immerse themselves in a much more electronic soundscape than on previous forays, conceiving arguably their most lavish and consummate record to date.

From their beginnings in 2001 as a university project, the trio of Tatsuki Hamasaki and sisters Mayumi and Hiromi Hasegawa have spent the best part of the last decade enduring to blur the lines between genres with their finely crafted dreamy vision of instrumental rock. A clearly defined progression is evident throughout miaous back catalogue but it is with The Day Will Come Before Long, that the Tokyo based outfit splice the finest of what has gone before with sophisticated synths, mashed up samples and glitchy guitars with impressive results.

The very brief intro Notnotnot heralds this more experimental side flowing majestically into the xylophonic swells and looped beats of the gorgeous Small Dream. A near perfectly crafted fluidity coaxes the listener through the unblemished opening half before the first of the albums two guest vocals emerges, the whispered vocal of Epic 45s Ben Holton on Endings. Adding yet more dimension to this already multi textured record. It is alas with the second of these guest vocals that the slightest of blemishes appears. Ben Coopers(Electric President/Radical Face/Ghost) voice it feels, possibly sits too uncomfortably with the music on track Lost Souls and doesn’t provide the spark one hears on the previous collaboration with Holton. This however is quickly forgotten as the transcendent Keep Drifting My Heart ever so gracefully brings this excellent album to a stunning close.

While for some the semblance to Icelandic pair Mum and Seabear may be unavoidable with The Day Will Come Before Long, in my book this can only be construed as a positive. For with their latest offering Miaou have made a blissfully absorbing record that drifts sublimely from its start to its end and I will judge it on this alone.

Preview some tracks below.

miaou - the day will come before long by Teto Records

Friday, September 23, 2011

Interview with Mike Tolan (Six Parts Seven/ Talons')

Over the past decade singer songwriter Mike Tolan has been nothing if not immensely prolific. Probably most famous for playing guitar with the hugely influential Six Parts Seven, he may also be the finest song smith you have never heard. As well as side projects Moustache Mountain and Trouble Books, Tolan has over the last number of years released albums under the moniker Talons’. The latest Songs for Boats released earlier this year is a heart wrenching album of love songs at the end of the world. We were genuinely privileged to catch up with him recently to discuss his extremely interesting career to date.

“I took piano lessons as a kid”, Tolan begins, “We were lucky to have a relative’s old Steinway grand in our house for a while when I was growing up but I gave up piano probably at age 10. I then taught myself guitar by playing along with my favourite 90s bands – Radiohead, Pearl Jam, R.E.M. I feel like I spent a lot of time trying to emulate Johnny Greenwood with my shitty Toronado and my DOD multi-effects pedal I’m not really sure how that possibly could be reflected in what I do now but maybe somewhere. I was in bands for as long as I have played guitar.”

His current incarnation with Talons’ may seem a far cry from these earlier influences, with Tolan citing 90’s and early 00’s post rock like Thrill Jockey, Kranky and Drag City and “noise music”, as more of an influence on his kind of “folk” music. “These movements examined traditional pop and rock music formats, structures, instrumentation etc”, he explains, “and took them apart and made new things from them. This is what I have always tried to do with folk music. I am not inventing a new style but I am taking apart traditional folk, trying to distance myself from its conventions and crutches whenever possible, and make something that is an evolution or devolution it.”

Having dabbled with a number of different styles on the different Talons’ albums Tolan feels that while the albums may vary greatly in style and production, they are all expressions of parts of what he does as a musician. “Ideally, I will make an album that will maintain its coherence but it is something that I have not been able to master yet. I don’t know if I am necessarily more or less comfortable with any style, it mostly just depends on what mood I’m in.” He continues “Some days I will want to write a song on acoustic guitar, other days I will want to work with programming or sampling. Some of my musician friends will lecture me for releasing this variety of music under one alias. They say it is “killing my brand”. I don’t really care about that though. I don’t want Talons’ just to be some sad guy singing about his life. It is me, and I am all of these things. I don’t expect anyone to like all of the things or anything that I make. I just have to make them.”

His latest album Songs for Boats with its end of the world concept was written while Tolan was living in Spain and was largely inspired by the financial collapse in the US in 2008, he explains “I was very far from my family and from Sommer (his wife), and pretty detached from what was actually happening in the US. I became very worried (overly so) that everything would fall apart and I would not be able to make it home to my loved ones. The album is about the collapse of our current society or the escape from it. With the “Boats” album, I tried to see this possibility from a number of angles, both positive (Ferry, Sailboat) and negative (Lost Ships, Catamaran).”

It is impossible not to speak about his five years with Six Parts Seven when conversing with Tolan but it is a subject he is very willing to discuss and reminisces fondly about his time in the band. “It was great just to work with a group of people who were serious enough to practice 2-4 times a week for 4-6 hours and maintain that level of commitment for years. Songs get polished in a way that I can never reach with my other projects. Looking back on it now, I feel like most of the highlights are from touring and mostly not from the shows but from other weird/cool things that happened.” When asked about stories on the road with the band Tolan smiling broadly, remembers, “Getting stranded in Minneapolis on tour with Richard Buckner and going bowling with him, he is a very good bowler. Terrifying night drives through the Redwoods in northern CA listening to ‘Master of Puppets’. Other terrifying night drives from Connecticut to Rochester, NY because the brakes we almost shot and we had to get to a garage in the early morning listening to ‘Things we lost in the fire’. Recording at Jeff Ament’s B-15 Studio in Seattle on our last album. Blah blah blah. It was a cool time. The music was good too.”

The current state of the music industry is another topic that Tolan speaks about with intensity, “It seems that the major labels are collapsing, which they should be in my opinion. I am much more of a proponent of the working musician than the rock star. I will always make music but I have no aspirations to support myself doing it. I get really uneasy when art intersects with money”, he adds, “once you decide that you want to make a living as a recording artist, I feel like you immediately start compromising, whether you realize it or not. I could not live with that. Music is too important to me to corrupt it with business.” He believes what the internet is doing for music at present is an excellent thing, “While it has opened the floodgates to a constant and sometimes suffocating flow of terrible bands it also takes away the egotism and pretention of record collecting. Now I can hear records that I never could have found or afforded, I can discover great bands that don’t care to pay a publicist or buy ads on Pitchfork. It is anarchic but not in a way that hurts anyone except those who are in it for the dollar.”

Currently resident with his wife in Chicago and working in a bakery which he loves, Tolan has no plans just yet to slow down in any way musically, “I am working on lots of music, playing a few shows locally and hoping to do some touring in 2012 (pre-apocalypse). I just finished an orchestral ambient album that will hopefully be coming out on Slaapwel Records sometime in the future. I started a psych-folk band with Ben (also from Tusco and 6/7) called Sky Burial, which should be pretty sweet. Also, I’m working on a new proper Talons’ album, to be called “Afterpop”. It is going to take a long time to make it but I think it will be my best record if I can finish it.”