Label: Independent Band: Laiva Origin: United States
The waves, the sea, the Balts
I came across this band from Seattle, because they use Latvian titles and themes for their shoegaze. Maybe a connection exists, but information is scarce on this group. What I can tell you is that they make great music. Music that overwhelms you with its calm cadence and free-flowing stream of the guitar.
The band appears to be part of the ‘dreamgaze’ scene in their neck of the woods. The band has been praised in announcements for their live shows, but more I can not say at t his point.
We hear the sound of the sea on ‘Pūt Vējiņi’, which has a sung intro performed by Edmunds and Valentine Rekevics in San Diego. The title means ‘Blow Wind’, which is a Latvian folk song. I’m not sure if the couple is part of the band or simply Latvian migrants that recorded their beloved songs. It offers a contemplative opening to this record with the beautiful song reverberating in my ears.
The band truly has an oceanic quality to them, completely submerging the listener in waves of tranquil guitar play. Wavery, warm sounds wash over you on ‘Come Now’, that beckons you to join in the water with its alluring, hazy sound. The flow keeps a steady pace, but never is it rushed. Vocals are used sparsely and even then they are hard to hear in the middle of the complete current of the music. On ‘Sea Legs’ we get a few changes, where the sound becomes a gentle trickling guitar for a moment before a complete haze overwhelms you again.
The EP is a beautiful record that feels like a whole that stretches on a bit much. Call it shoegaze or postrock, it has something haunting. It offers a feeling of swimming in the ocean. Completely submerging in the massive sound.
I’ve been looking forward to seeing the band GY!BE for pretty much years. Ever since my class mate Geertjan introduced me to them in my first year at uni. I was pretty much hooked on the band instantly and their label Constellation Records. I wouldn’t say I’m a devout fan, but I was a bit nervous in 013, while waiting for the band to start.
It was the ‘Dead Flag Blues’ that got me into this band. A song with the most harrowing spoken part I’ve ever heard.
We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
And the machine is bleeding to death..
Then the band fell apart, but like any group that has so much to say, these guys didn’t stick to their hiatus forever and took a break of about 8 years only to return completely reinvented and reinvigorated with ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ The sound is now much heavier and bass driven, but still pretty much the best band in whatever you want to call the genre out there.
So standing rather close to the stage I enjoyed the opening tunes of K/G/D, a noise musician, normally active with his act Total Life or Growing. The warm drones feel very natural and organic, only slightly deviating when the musician twits and turns some knobs. It’s a performance of only half an hour, but a very welcome start for a show filled with similar sounds. You don’t need to much appetizer before a band like GY!BE.
In a circle or semi-circle in a way, the band slowly emerges and starts on their opening tune ‘Hope Drone’, which swells with every addition to a full orchestration. This is Godspeed You! Black Emperor at their best, creating music that keeps you tense and excited throughout the listening experience. Obviously there’s no rock’n’roll banter, there’s just the music and the audience. Without skipping a note, the band continues on with ‘Mladic’, the opener of their return album with strange eastern elements woven into it. The band doesn’t even break their stride and continues ever onward.
The set is a mixture of songs from the last two records, which are just way more heavy and driven, leaving the postrock staples behind a bit. Sure, the repetition is still an essential element to the music of the Canadian group, but it’s changed with its time and that’s the best thing in this case. New song ‘Buildings’ specially dragged me along with its majestic visuals of towering sky scrapers and mild build-ups with warm tones.
As a desert a bit of the old back catalogue is played with ‘Blaise Bailey Finnegan III’, which stands apart on every level from the rest of the set. It shows the huge difference in sound between the band then and now. But still, they tower over anyone else in this genre.
I’m revamping and reinvigorating my sounds of the underground with cool releases in different genres. This time I’m presenting you Oake, Robyn Cage, L’Enfant De La Forêt and Nordic Giants.
Oake – Auferstehung
I’ve been reading a new magazine and it is exposing me to a lot of new music, that I wasn’t familiar with before. I’ve started listening to Oake, a duo that just happened to stumble upon cold electronics and industrial through a shared passion for the sound. Clinging to their hardcore and metal roots, they created a sound that has an uncanny resemblance to early industrial bands, adding a clear cut clean sound to that vibe.
The result is bleak and atmospheric industrial, leaning towards the experimental with scraping, slow elements but also the vocals of Bathseba Zippora adding an eerie vibe to the songs. The music is made by Eric Goldstein, who’s been around the scene for years. The music is repetitive, but always foreboding, creating a tension that feels like the climax is never far away. Pounding and splashing beats give that cold industrial feel to it that reminds you of Cocteau Twins and Coil, though the band claims to not have known about these groups. They evoka a mythic feel and organic vibe with their industrial sound, which is helped by the mysterious titles and vocals. A pleasure to listen to.
Robyn Cage – Tales of a Thief
Robyn Cage is a singer-songwriter from Utah, with a pleasant sound and nice voice. This EP has a thin layer of fantasy weaved in the lyrics, Generally the feeling of the music is mellow and folky. Then again carnavalesque and slightly haunting. This is not an album for singer-songwriter fans, but lovers of stories in song, because that is what Cage is doing on this record. Telling small stories in a theatric manner, showing of her voice at times.
Personally, songs like ‘Theatre Noire’ don’t appeal to me in that. For me ‘The Arsonist & The Thief’ is the nicest song, due to its wordplay. It’s very enjoyable. Somewhere this nice lady reminds me of the stuff I used to listen to, with the playful vibe of Regina Spektor and a dab of Florence and the Machine. Quirky yet never a joke, this is definitely a nice record to listen on your own when you need to relax to some Vaudevillean tunes.
L’enfant De La Forêt – Abraxas
Dark ambient filled with plenty of other influence, Abraxas is a dark entity. I picked this up as a random bandcamp I hit on the search field and this new release seemed to embody a bit of the black metal exterior that I enjoy. Found at the crossroads between industrial, trip hop and noise, this is an interesting find indeed. The man behind L’enfant Du Forêt is James Kent making this a one man project, which in a way even surprised me regarding the variety on the record.
I feel the vibe of some old, darker dubstep stuff and mayb a bit of that first the xx record in the laid back, throbbing vibe of the tracks. Ok, I did expect for a moment during the song ‘Pessimist’ to hear Falco start his ‘Jeannie’. The play with the quality is quit interesting in that track, taking it back to a bare sound, before launching into a fuller atmospheric sound with. The atmosphere at time is like that on the Burzum prison albums. That sound of desolation and mystery is quite amazing and captivating. Surprising finisher is ‘The Rope’, a bleak, soundscape twisting doom track with a blackened taste to it.
Nordic Giants – A Séance Of Dark Delusions
When a band can make you taste the Nordic wastelands, they are surely doing something right. It’s a part of their total art product, combining, film, performance, sound, costumes and vibe to a complete experience and I had never heard of them before. The duo hails from England and has been slowly conquering souls and minds with their amazing postrock albums since 2010. This is the most recent accomplishment, to be streamed on the more popular stations.
Orchestral and big, illed with detail, atmosphere and rising patterns, the vocals are samples that usually convey messages. It adds a layer of intensity, due to the nature of these samples. If they wouldn’t be there, the music still would be beautiful though. When the band does use vocals, they offer a whole new spectrum to the organic sound. Like on ‘Rapture’, which can be considered the peak of the mountain that is this record. Think Sigur Rós, think Explosions in the Sky and add a bit of Sólstafir to that mix and you have this excellent band. So when are they playing nearby? The album is one long journey through wide and spacious lands, haunting, impressive and beautiful. Don’t miss out on it.
Some new sounds from the underground, worthy a checkout: Cairo Pythian, Bigelf, Árstíðir lífsins and Toundra.
Cairo Pythian – Touched LP
The cold sound of Cairo Pythian is touching upon a more melodic interpretation of Joy Division-despair. An element of Soft Cell and the more swirling sounds of the proto-Goth sounds one could hear in the early eighties is added to that. The group from Olympia, WA has surrounded itself with mystery, which ofcourse adds to their image and credibility.
Musically there’s a combination of that coldwave sound, sampling and industrial. On tracks like ‘Down For The Crown’ there’s a shoegaze-like buzzsaw riff pushing the song forward. ‘A-Sexual Cake’ is much more droning industrial again, which shows the range between which Cairo Pythian is doing their thing. There’s an avant-
gardist streak to their sound, remniscent of the progressive postpunk bands that started implementing industrial elements, like The Residents and Devo. They may be 30 years to late, but their album is a testimony of the lasting fun that post-punk offers.
Árstíðir lífsins – Aldaföðr ok munka dróttinn
An Icelandic/German band that derives inspiration for their blend of folk and black metal from medieval literature from the land of fire and ice. They distance themselves strongly from the NSBM movement, which fills me with joy. Their music is peculiar, hauntingly natural at times and moments later a barrage of fierce riffing. I guess in a way this project sounds a bit like its inspiration. Deep vocals tell stories over fingerpicking guitarwork, violins seem to play and set down a haunting atmosphere.
The songs are long and more focussed on atmosphere then on brutality. Slow, cascading riffs move forwards, while traditional singing creates a powerful feeling combined with tremolo guitarpicking, soaring high above. Tradition and extreme metal meet eachother half way and that feels like the right matchup. The release itself looks amazing as well, this is definitely one of the records you wish to return to. The feeling of ancient wisdowm, the haunting folk music and blistering black metal segments (which are lesser than you think) are right up my alley.
Bigelf – Into The Maelstrom
I’ve started to get into the whole prog thing a while ago, after watching a documentary from the BBC. It’s not a big leap to start listening to a band like Bigelf after that, who incorporate the brilliance of their predecessors like Pink Floyd, Caravan and whatnot with that Cambridge sound. Just add a little swagger to it and some heavy fundamentals and you’ve got a metallized version. Listening to this Bigelf album I must express doubts concerning how metal they are. They’re not heavier than, say, King Crimson in my humble opinion.
Bigelf is the brainchild of Damon Fox, who carries vocal and keyboard duties. ‘Alien Frequency’ is a good example of how the group Americanized the sound, making it more accesible and down to earth then their progenitors. The sound is warm and technical, grand and like a great story the songs unfold with the necessary effects and structured elemens. ‘Control Freak’ is another repetitive and captivating track. I’m amazed at how enjoyable listening to this record is. Though complex, it feels as if it’s open and accesible. Probably a good one to listen to in bed with headphones on, for the ‘Alien Frequency’.
Toundra – IV
This Spanish band has just released their number four. I have no idea why its on the lists of new metal releases, but I’m glad it was. Gentle postrock with a folky feel to it, enriched with strings, right up my alley in many ways. Add to that some horns and you have an amazing trip, which might be the reference of the song ‘Strelka’, which was a Russian dog send to space. Also ‘Belenos’, which is a Celtic deity. The music is calm, languid and wavering on at its own pace. Musically there’s no point where anyone drops the ball and the continuity of this record is definitely one of its main strengths.
Think postrock with extra’s and perhaps thats what it should be labled as; postrock+? ‘Kitsune’, which means Fox and that is how fleeting the music sounds at times, like a fox running through the high grass. It almost escapes you as a listener but keeps circling you. It’s a record to immerse yourself in, to feel elated to, while listening to it on a long walk in nature. The track picks up a roaring sound, that swells up towards the end. I’ve totally fallen for Toundra, I hope you will too.