Melody-Werks, Explosions in the Sky

I intend to make this a sort of impressions on some of the bands that I’ve come across – but don’t have enough to make a conclusive review on any one work. This is somewhat an experiment and considering that I listen to an ungodly amount of music (over 80,000 tracks since 04 on Last.FM), and don’t necessarily listen to entire discographies; I find that this would be an interesting thing to do.

So, I’ve heard quite a lot about this little band from Texas, Explosions in the Sky or EitS for short. I know I’ve heard them a few times, but never sat down to actually take them in. So, I headed over to their website and took down a bunch of the free Mp3s that they have listed (at least one per album and an entire album that they no longer press).

It’s interesting in this day and age to do modern music without vocals. Especially for a band of very young ages as the members of EitS. However, this isn’t a hindrance at all. In the same vein as Godspeed You! Black Emperor the Post-Rock ‘genre’ – (thing?) has been taking off.

It’s, in actuality, fairly liberating to not have to deal with lyrics to tell a story, but the melodies and the feelings that EitS is trying to portray. It sort of reminds me of when I was a kid and my music teacher would give us some crayons and paper and play Moonlight Sonata and say draw what you feel (I’d always draw lines…).

They have an incredible ear for melody. One only has to listen to Your Hand in Mine (The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place) to truly understand. This really becomes apparent a two and a half minutes in. The Rescue evokes feelings of a cold landscape. And perhaps the only track I know of with actual speaking, which is the weakest in my opinion, but opening up to lush sound-scapes.

I’d like to see what the guys of EitS will be capable of in the future. How they will incorporate their sound-scapes in today’s music scene. Hopefully, they will be as sparkling and bright later as fireworks on a warm and clear summer night.


Bjork – Volta – First Impressions

A true review will be forth incoming. However, I wanted to jot down some notes about what I thought about during my first revolutions of this CD.

It’s very tribal.

Though, I think that was the point. Trying to make people feel with their more animalistic instincts in most of the tracks. Earth Intruders co-produced by Timbaland and Innocence also co-produced by him really get this point across. Declare Independence has also got a great sort of driving beat. I’m not sure about Hope while the Melody is great, I’m just not sure about the lyrics on this one — and it will get quoted a great deal.

Dull Flame of Desire is a real standout. Based on a poem by Fyodor Tyutchev. It is a duet with Antony Hegarty. The seven minute set-piece shows off both voices and has something of a melancholic feel that has become so pervasive in the last few Bjork albums.

A slight surprise though I’m not surprised if I like the surprise or not is the fact that she samples herself. A sign you have a massive body of work or have run out of ideas that you should cannibalize others. In the songs Declare Innocence and Vertebrae by Vertebrae she samples her song Vessel Shimanewa from the movie soundtrack she created Drawing Restraint 9. While used to great effect, I’m not sure how I feel about sampling herself… Maybe it’s just me.

Like I said, a real review will be forth and coming.

Upcoming Releases #1

Well time to think about the upcoming releases for the late spring, and early summer. Every two years it seems, there’s some manner of good music between all the Greatest Hits albums that seem to be releasing.

I already spoke about Nine Inch Nails’ album Year Zero seems a bit redundant to keep gushing about it really.

Coming up next is Tori Amos’ new album American Doll Posse. I’m enjoying the song Bouncing off the Clouds but as much as I enjoy the lyrics of the single Big Wheel I’m not so much of a fan of the Country Melody placed on it. I suppose I’ll have to listen in context to the album before passing judgment on it.

Finally, there’s Bjork’s new album Volta. Reading the bits of Lyrics on the Bjork lyric page I’m rather excited. It seems to be introverted but not as much as Vespertine more outword looking and moving forward. Hope seems to permeate the lyrics as well. I’m looking forward to hearing the melodies put with it.

Well, that’s what I’m looking forward to, in any case. There’s probably more to come, but yeah.

Anaphylactic Shock

  • Onitsuka Chihiro – Sugar High

In the Japanese music industry, it’s gets pretty difficult navigating around the tide of Idol Pop. Which is what most people associate as Japanese Pop Music. While Idol Pop has it’s place, it’s music with sustenance that’s somewhat hard to come by — especially when it’s for the foreign listener.

Onitsuka Chihiro is one such singer/songwriter with sustenance who has, unfortunately, has had an interesting career to match.

2001/2 saw the release of Sugar High Onitsuka’s third studio album. While short, a mere scant nine songs, it showed a growing confidence in the music and her own singing ability. The album itself has a quiet intensity that is hard to ignore; with songs such as Tiger in my Love and BORDERLINE that let the intensity bust forth into sometimes frantic stories of love and survival.

Melody wise, it’s not very much different from her second studio album This Armor where most were piano driven melodies. While arguably some of her best songs are on This Armor it is Sugar High that takes what works about the former album and grows with it. She has an ear for melody and together with Takafumi Haketa, they are able to well-articulate melodies that while not adventurous — engaging and unique to the Japanese Pop Music scene.

Song witting wise, Sugar High finds Onitsuka more introspective in her ballads. Forgoing the route of normal balladry she writes full of symbolic metaphors, a normal route for her to take, however most seem more introspective than the last. On King of Solitude she writes “But for the moment, using the best magic I have/ to change even the lying snow into wings,/ I shall keep warming your shoulders/ until you can go to sleep.” [*].

It’s an excellent nine songs. I wonder though, if she had forced another three would the mood have suffered for it? It’s probably well that she left it at nine songs. It’s quick, it’s sweet, introspective and well-sung. It is sad that although there have been single since then, Watashi to Waltz o (Waltz with Me), Beautiful Fighter, and Sodatsu Zasso (Growing Weeds) that this has been her last album. Vocal problems, management and record company problems has kept Onitsuka out of the public eye for quite a while. To the disappointment of fans all over the globe.

With the release of Every Home coming, many – including me – are looking forward to the long awaited return of this singer/songwriter and hope that she stays around for a long time in coming.


Songs to Listen To: Tiger in My Love, Suna no Tatte (Shield of Sand), BORDERLINE.

Braving the Internet?

So, here’s a bit of weirdness I came across the other day. The other day, or whatever– it doesn’t really matter that much, MSN put up an Artist of the Month thing. The Bravery (Geffen) and Nine Inch Nails(Interscope) was there along with Avril Laveigne (man I spell her name wrong, so what wanna fight about it?).

As many of us know by now, the Nine Inch Nails Community is rather regimented. Comes with the territory of being over 20 years in the business. I digress. So, they were winning by a healthy number and exploiting the system of voting, Geffen countered using BoTs to vote on said poll over and over. Now NIN community members are doing the same thing.

This raises a few questions. How important is this really? And how petty do you have to get to resort to a Bot War? Does MSN really care, or were they paid under – the – table? And I ask this question again, because it bears repeating, why is this important?

Is it something to do with e-honor? We know which band is awesome and which isn’t. Who cares if a record company does some underhanded trick to get votes? And on the flip side, how desperate do you have to be to get people to listen to your clients music you resort to bots?

Just Zeros and Ones

Well, let me first get through a little house-keeping. Penny had a few problems with the old server and wiped it. Now, while I’m going to have my personal blog put back on her server, I might as well bring Plastic Halo, brought over here since it’s not my most important blog. Oh well. So, for the new, welcome. This is a music blog, written by yet another elitist on the internet.

  • Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero

Year Zero If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ll know that Nine Inch Nails is releasing a new album. If you (not many mind you) read the old Plastic Halo, you’ll know I’m pretty much a fan. Now, I know not all of you are and that’s okay.

The album itself and the promotion around it has been a fascinating exercise in performance art; telling the story of our world 15 years from now, should greed and corruption keep their current course. The Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that has sprung up has told the back-story of the concept very well. The NiN Wiki does a good job of catching any of you up. I think that’s enough about the ARG and back-story, I’m pretty sure that other music critics are going to talk about it in more length.

Come to the present with me, Mr. Reznor – pissing off the RIAA – leaked the entirety of the album himself here. Definitely, worth listening to. The album itself, tells not just one story as is so prevalent with concept albums but vignettes that all somehow tie together. While this is an interesting way in which to take it, it works. Telling the multiple perspectives of people who willingly let go of their free will, the people who believe that it is their god-given right to ‘do God’s Will’ on Earth, the resisters, the people in between and the people who go from one end of the spectrum to the other creates a collage of stories with the world that has created to hold it all together. Without, I don’t know if it will hold together for those who haven’t been indoctrinated into the world of 0000BA. It’s a risk but is incredibly engaging for the indoctrinated.

The music itself, shows yet another growth in Mr. Reznor’s creativity. Somehow, he’s been able to take computer sounds and drag them through the proverbial mud. Walls of noise are balanced, finally, in a way that wasn’t seen in the last album With Teeth. Hidden gems are thrown about with reckless abandon making you listen to the album through a pair of good headphones. The beats drag you in, and lyrically they are perhaps the best since the Fragile.

A common complaint that I know will show itself, will be the fact there is no in-your-face walls of noise the likes of Gave Up or Wish, but I believe it’s intentional. To start up with a wall of noise in the song Hyperpower! complete with men and women screaming towards the end (listen on headphones), to have it slow burn — try and fail to climb — and then just fade out with Zero Sum seems more intentional and more attuned with the story than anything else.

Speaking of the instrumentals and the pseudo-instrumentals, they are the real standouts of the album. They work much like the openings and closings of chapters. And perhaps the best closer on any Nine Inch Nails’ album Zero-Sum feels like a funeral dirge.

The work is miles from With Teeth, and seems to be the spiritual brother of The Fragile. Sometimes I think I hear The Frail sometimes I think songs like We’re In this Together and Where is Everybody would work superiorly well. Finally I’m beginning to hear links between the songs on the work that are revealing their speakers (singers?) And the stories that they are trying to tell.

It’s a risky work, to be sure, but it’s a work that is evocative and stands out amongst the almost 20 year body of work that Mr. Reznor has accumulated. I’m not sure if it will be ‘understood’ without the background that the ARG gives, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be either. The music itself is a central piece to the puzzle, but it’s the central piece. Sometimes raising more questions than it answers, it is at least worth a listen.

Stand Out Songs: Vessel, God Given, The Warning, Zero Sum