Music Reviews

Artist: Wet Cookies (@)
Title: Soul Protection
Format: CD
Label: Cat’N Roof Records (@)
Distributor: Cat’N Roof Records
A good while back I reviewed Wet Cookies’ Earthling’ album. It was instrumental Nujazz in the vein with touches of Weather Report and Bitches Brew’ era Miles Davis. It was a positive review, even though not the kind of music we here at Chain D.L.K. usually groove to. I guess that’s why they sent me Soul Protection’ to review. That was a mistake. This is hard right turn for this outfit; dubby soul jazz with vocals on every track. What a disappointment. I can’t fault the playing or singers (for what it is, it is spot-on) but I had hoped Wet Cookies might go further out on the edge rather than take a much more commercial tack that caters to a whole different audience. I doesn’t help that I don’t particularly care for soul-jazz. Some of these tracks sound like the stuff on the This Is Acid Jazz’ series that I always skipped over. The arrangements and performances are good; it’s the material that lacks. I don’t think the world needs another version of "Word Up" either. For those that may into this sort of thing, vocalists include Betty Semper, Ken Boothe, Hubert Tubbs, Abisara, Ruffina Frontin, and Ola Egbowon. Two bright spots on the album are the sans vocals dub versions of "Something’s Changing" and "Unwind," primarily because there are no vocals. Still, I don’t think this album can hold a candle to Earthling’ but that was the group’s choice, and Soul Protection’ will probably sell better than their previous effort did.
Artist: The Project Pale (@)
Title: Our Inventions and How They Fail Us
Format: CD
Label: Ohm Resistance (@)
Distributor: Ohm Resistance
Rated: *****
The year is almost over and I’m clearing the deck of all the stuff I have left over to review. The CD must have fallen thru the cracks’ so to speak as it was released in early May, although I didn’t receive it until much later in the year. The Project Pale is actually the brainchild of Glitch (Jason Selden) from the D’n’B outfit The Chosen. Well, D’n’B it certainly ain’t. Glitch straps on guitar for this venture which eschews drumn’bass for a heavily shoegazer-influenced sound. He’s assisted by Ohm Resistance label-owner (Kurt) Submerged on bass and Sensi*star (Phillia Kim Downs) lending vocals to a few tracks. To top it off, Bill Laswell produced. Well, that was a surprise.

I used to love shoegazer bands. I even still listen to some of them occasionally. Lush, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and so many others created a genre of music that a certain enchantment and mystery to it. As for what we have here, there is no doubt The Project Pale is shoegazer-influenced, but I wouldn’t exactly call it shoegazer music’. The album opens up well enough with "Driving These Icy Roads," an atmospheric MBV inspired number with mountains of shimmering distorted guitar, a driving beat and ethereal wordless vocals that recall the Cocteau’s Liz Frasier. Even though it really doesn’t go anywhere, it sounds petty cool and sets a nice tone. Good intro. The following track, "Snowed In" begins with cool ambience and echoed clacks then after nearly a minute becomes a brooding tribute to early Ride and Jesus & Mary Chain. Brief track "It’s Not That I’m Uncomfortable" plays with prog-rock but really only has one trick up its sleeve. "Cleopatra’s Needle" mines the low end of the spectrum with bassy menace then ends up sounding like so many, many noisy alternative bands without bringing anything new to the table except some whistling sounds. Not even any vocals on that track. Now I’m beginning to see what’s going on here; there are a lot of ideas put forth, but they don’t seem complete. Too many tracks opens with some type of drone ambience. Also, the production has the guitar pushed way up and the drums sound squashed. This is beginning to sound like... a demo. And not a great demo either.

Vocals return in "Pulled Out to Sea" plenty gloomy, angst-ridden ones at that. The music has definitely settled into a heavy snail’s pace crawl, and "Another Day Without" continues in that vein. There are some sort of vocals wallowing in the swath of echo-verb but they seem more for effect than having anything to say. If you like songs totally obscured by dark clouds, you might enjoy this. "With Open Arms" begins with more melancholy atmospherics before it lurches into another plodding number with electronically treated vocals. I’ll give the Project Pale this much; there is certainly plenty of style in the shoegazer/noise mode; it just lacks substance. There is nothing to anchor the music to keep it from sliding down the drain of self-indulgence. For that, I blame Laswell. Yes, the man of a thousand albums, with a discography the size of a telephone book must have been out to lunch for this project.

"No Help Coming" is an aptly titled track, because there isn’t any. Oh wow, a heavy guitar riff with a ripping synth playing off it. Kind of sounds like a bad live recording. It just builds and builds in a repetitive progression until the end. By the time we reach the title track, I’ve had enough. There is little to save this exercise in excess. It started out as a good idea, but somewhere along the line Jason got so absorbed in the shoegazer sound, he forgot to develop the material into actual songs. Dude, you’ve got to give people something they can emotionally hold on to, some lyrics that can be understood. Maybe if hooked up with a real songwriter, he might have something, but as is, this sounds half-baked. And Bill Laswell, it’s hard to believe you had a hand in this. It could have been a halfway decent album if it had been given some direction, tempering, and sound advice. At least the CD cover looks kinda cool; but I learned a long time ago to never judge an album by its cover.
Title: all will change
Format: CD
Label: Earthen
Rated: *****
"All will change"... and all has changed! Above all from the age in which black metal sounded like Dark Throne or Burzum. Achenar is one of those musicians who's pushed beyond the boundaries of the genre and reminded me a lot of the first time I happened to listen to Ulver, well at the time they surprised me with their post-black metal atmosphere mixed with electronic, nordic music, Pan Sonic, freak atmospheres and who knows what else. Achenar work is located somewhere at a different (and symphonic) latitude, but you can bet he's as weird as them. There's a great abundance of electronic sounds and keyboards-alike melodies but what surprised me most is how Duncan Hemingway has structured some electronic beat really close to Aphex that revived the "Come to daddy" era. The average atmosphere is quite scary but sometimes it changes from obscure to weird, it's quite difficult to categorize a release like that since it would be a bit reductive even if there's no doubt this cd will be more appealing for some open minded black metal, experimental listener since I doubt an electronic-idm ambient aficionado would dig it. The cd is really well produced and technically Achenar is far from being a new-jack: everything sounds damn equilibrated and meticulously produced/pondered after many and many listenings. I can't say every track or every solution intrigued me in the same way, but sometimes I happened to think this guy has some interesting ideas: give it a try.
Artist: IZAH (@)
Title: Finite Horizon/Crevice
Format: CD EP
Rated: *****
This two songs mcd offers a morsel of an interesting band evolving "doom-sludge" metal and bastardizing it with different influences, coming both from metal, modern hardcore, stoner, doom, post-rock and from other musical areas. Both the sound and the production are top notch and if you add they definitely know how to play you can easily imagine it just needs ideas or at least good taste to catch your attention and sure, they have it. Slow tempos that make me think to an emotional version of Esoteric writing songs with Steve Von Til and Wolfpack and adopting that soft melodic rifforama a la My Dying Bride and Anathema. Vocals are ok and they know how to sing without resulting cheesy or too epic, but take for granted when they have the soft parts and the melodic explosions they are dead epic and they make you feel they're composing their music on the top of a fiord (... even if they're from Holland). While the first of the two track has a quite common structure, the second has some more interesting solutions that makes you think these dutch guys without changing the face of the genre never lacked ideas to assemble a song. Every track has an average length of eleven minutes, don't worry, they never get borings since they have a smart use of arrangements and never indulge with breaks. Nice work and despite the sadness of their music future looks bright for this band, let's see what happen.

Title: Digital Dancehall Series: Issue 1
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Vermin Street
Rated: *****
The new Digital Dancehall Series brings with its first issue CacheFlowe and Vinyl Blight. They mix ragga-jungle with dubstep using an experimental approach. Caring of the ambience created CacheFlowe on "Rahst" use deep drum'n'bass lines, raggamuffin melodies/vocals alternating atmospheric parts to vocal ones. CacheFlowe has releases out on Colorado label Plastic Sound Supply, remixes by Starkey and Machine Drum and currently flipping his all original Audio/Video performance all around Denver and beyond. The second track is brought you by Vinyl Blight and it is a remix of Bongo Chilli's "Everyday". Vinyl Blight is most known for his formulations of Digital Dancehall and Ragga Jungle and has forthcoming remixes of Kush Arora and MC Zulu. On this track reggae vocals catch immediately the listener's attention while distorted/deep bass lines ride free delineating the rhythm. Drums perform syncopated parts that enrich the whole result. I'm not into this genre, but this tune stands out! Available as usual through Addictech, Juno, Digital-Tunes, Amazon and iTunes.
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