Music Reviews

Artist: Magnetic Ghost (@)
Title: Loss Molecules
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
“Loss Molecules” is a dark mini-album that merges shoegaze with drone, and attracts a lot of genre labels that begin with ‘post-’. It’s guitar and effects-heavy, with meandering and often indistinguishable vocals throughout most of it. It’s expansive, atmospheric, but unfortunately at the same time, a little bit drab. It’s the sound of raw but resigned emotion in a lonely, windy place.

The filmic tone of “Sleeping Is Believing” is a highlight, whereas tracks like “Landfill” sound like they’re weakly fighting the urge to transform into rock songs. At best there are hints of Ulrich Schnauss-like widescreen thinking, at worst it dips into muddy meandering lo-fi.

Magnetic Ghost is the one-man band project of Andrew Larson, and there’s a typically shoegazey sense of self-indulgence in parts, inviting the listener to either admire the melancholy, or listen to something else. Each of the pieces is in sections, eschewing the “one idea for seven minutes then stop” approach you sometimes get with drone work in favour of occasional mild drama.

The one-man-band approach can lead to modesty (false or otherwise) at the mixing stage, but a mix from Neil Weir has dealt with the danger that sometimes arises from people mixing their own performances. Nevertheless, there are points such as in “Grand Canyon” at which the vocal still sounds a little low in the mix and a little dry in places. Apart from that it’s a mostly exemplary and polished production, but of an album which merges broad influences into something that ends up slightly grey.
Artist: Svarte Greiner
Title: Moss Garden
Format: LP + Download
Label: Miasmah Recordings (@)
“Moss Garden” comprises two twenty-minute soundscapes that are as darkly beautiful as the cover art suggests.

“The Marble” is a moderately cold atmosphere of long sustained string sounds, echoes and mechanical hums, as though a familiar but melancholy melody has been stretched beyond its elastic limit. It’s hard to dissect the sources, the underlying bed could be industrial machinery or the sound of a sleeping lion, or both.

Second track “Garden” is a slightly more sinister, faintly more discordant affair. Sparse but loud percussive moments, that possibly once resembled piano sounds, sustaining at length and gradually echo away into an emptier version of the space of the first track. The variation in volume is gradual but extensive to the point where listening in anything less than a soundproof environment makes the music disappear into your own environment. In the final three minutes, new and more synthetic elements arrive to shake off any complacency.

Svarte Greiner recently supported Jóhann Jóhannsson in a live performance, which is apt; some of this work is reminiscent of Jóhannsson’s but minus the central score, leaving only the ambient surrounding space, so as such it would have made a very appropriate scene-setter.

This is a high quality, bold and in some ways strikingly simple soundscape that, despite being so sparse, still manages to demand your attention.
Artist: Kratos Himself
Title: Stay True
Format: LP + Download
Label: Youngbloods (@)
Kratos Himself’s second album “Stay True” is a collection of 13 warm, jazzy organic electronica pieces. They’re mostly under the three minute mark and some are more like sketches than fully-fleshed out standalone works, but there’s a consistency throughout that makes it a smooth 46-minute listen.

Much of it has a leisurely, lounge-like flavour, with the Rhodes piano and vibes feeling cosy, relaxed and loosely improvised in parts. The rhythm programming is generally a little sharper but not so much that it plays against the rest of the mood. The mood of it, rather than the sound, reminds me strongly in parts of Cinematic Orchestra pieces, but in a smaller ensemble (Kratos Himself, Jethro Hopmans, is a one-man band besides the guest appearances on two tracks).

Highlights include the partner pieces “For Me” and “For You”, and the slight ethnic flavours of the title track “Stay True”. Copasetic’s guest vocal on “Float” lasts barely 90 seconds and is something of a teaser of how brilliant it could sound if Kratos Himself explored the possibilities of vocals more fully. “Your Body” is something inbetween romantic and sleazy, in a good way. Bev Lee Harding brings soft vocal layers to “Bits & Pieces”, as well as very faint, not-entirely-sure-if-it’s-there hints of the kitchen sink instrumentation that she employs in her solo work.

If this album hadn’t already got a solid home on the Youngbloods label, it could easily have found a home on the Leaf label or even the jazzier side of Warp. It’s out December 9th as a pay-what-you-want download as well as on vinyl, and this is absolutely a release worth clicking more than a ‘0’ button for.
Artist: Guillotine Dream (@)
Title: Lemuria
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
The sound of an English Gothic rock band is unmistakable which shouldn't be surprising considering the Brits led the way in the genre. They don't sound like German Goth, American Goth, French Goth, or any other Goth. They don't even all sound alike. Bauhaus sound nothing like the Cure, Sisters of Mercy nothing like Sex Gang Children, and Killing Joke nothing like Killing Miranda. Yet there is a certain commonality that distinguishes them from the rest. Okay, so you must have guessed by now that Guillotine Dream is an English Gothic rock band, from the nethermost regions of Somerset they say. This band goes back to the mid-80's, but their output was slim (a cassette demo was about it) due to personal, and other circumstances. Now though, they have sprung this six-track EP and it certainly hearkens back to the glory days of Goth. Members are Arc - guitars, vocals; Lake - bass; Mapk - drums, vocals. Their identities are "a loosely guarded secret" but they all admit to having played in the Gothic Death Doom Metal band My Silent Wake. I'd have to say Arc is obviously Ian Arkley, while the others, I'm not totally sure of. I'm guessing that the raison d'être for Guillotine Dream is that Arkley wanted to do something more straight ahead gothic rock. To a degree what they sound like is Fields of the Nephilim with the tongue-in-cheekiness of Spinal Tap. Arc apparently has the Carl McCoy raspy vocal style down pat. But there are other influences here as well - The Cure, Sisters, Mission, Joy Division and more. And yes, it's derivative, a throwback if you will, but while more, newer so-called gothic rock bands are indulging in elaborate production and striving for a hit single, these guys remain true to their roots and put forth the kind of dark music you loved in the 80's and 90's. Nothing fancy, just solid, intense goth-rock. I'm sure if this album was released in 1986 this band would have made its mark at the time. While I can't really pick a "best track" on 'Lemuria' I'm somewhat partial to the Nick Cave-ish "Man on Fyre," although the songwriting is quite good across the board. If basic goth-rock with attitude and atmosphere is what's been lacking in your life, let Guillotine Dream fill the void.
Artist: My Silent Wake (@)
Title: Eye of the Needle
Format: CD
Label: Stone Groove Records (@)
Rated: *****
I don't believe My Silent Wake has ever gotten more than a passing mention (usually in connection with other artists) here at Chain D.L.K., that is until now. My Silent Wake, from the south west of England, is a Gothic Death Doom Metal band who have put out 11 albums since 2005, and most of them (I gather) are Gothic Death Doom Metal, but not this one. 'Eye of the Needle' is indeed something else. The current (regular) line-up of MSW is: Ian Arkley - vocals, percussion guitar; Addam Westlake - bass; Gareth Arlett - drums; Mike Hitchen - rhythm guitar. The line-up for 'Eye of the needle' though is Ian Arkley - vocals, percussion guitar; Addam Westlake - bass; Kate Hamilton - keys, vocals. Also, Martin Bowes of Attrition guests on synth (boy, does that guy get around!) and also mastered the recording. Mark Henry guests on percussion. 'Eye of the Needle' is very different than just about anything I've heard from MSW previously. This is NOT METAL! let me say that again, no metal, no metal, no metal. This is more along the lines of dark ambient, or more precisely, atmospheric psychedelic dark ambient. It's the kind of recording that might have popped up on the Cold Meat Industries, or other similar small label years ago. What's really amazing about it is not chock full of of electronics and sampling. Obviously there there was some employed, but it's understated here. The music is somewhat minimal but still very full-sounding. Right from the beginning you will know you're listening to something completely different. The musical structure is rather loose but often held together by Westlake's bass riffs. Some passages are very, very dark, while others merely exhibit a morbid melancholia. Primarily instrumental, there are some vocals by Ian and Kate that fall more into the recitation than singing category. The slow hypnotic effect through the repetition of some music lines gives a gloomy psychedelic aura; stoner music for the woebegone. Although there are lighter passages, the pervasive atmosphere is dense and heavy, like a dark grey pregnant sky that waits in ominous oppression before giving birth to a storm. Only on the final track, "Three Furies" is there any hint of metal with the muted slabs of distortion emanating from Arkley's guitar pushed to the background, more for ambiance than any power ride. 'Eye of the Needle' is a wonderfully well-conceived and well-executed work that will appeal to doom and dark ambient enthusiasts alike. It was originally released in 2014 as a digital download only to deservedly great acclaim, but only more recently as a CD release. IF MSW chooses to go down this path in the future again, count me in.
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