Elara - Soundtrack For a Quiet Place 6.6


                Elara’s ‘Soundtrack For a Quiet Place’ is extraordinarily hopeful. The songs are happy. Sounds used indicate a vast knowledge of the positive side of Post-Rock. Post-Rock as a genre can be somewhat tortured with its obsession with darkness. Here Elara moves more towards the airy textures of ‘Explosions in the Sky’. Yes it is inspirational. How it takes its time in evolving is greatly enjoyable. Aspects of it too employ the orchestral ‘giant’ sound of things ready to simply take off. Thankfully they also master the importance of letting things build up gradually rather than trying to rush things. Throughout this EP they often take that quieter, slower approach. 

                ‘Me and You Under the Aurora Borealis’ manages to surprise the listener. Beginning with a deliberate glitch it blooms into color. Eventually they temper this explosion down and get into the slow-moving gentleness that pervades the rest of the album. Here the drums are even relatively restrained. At the end of the track when they inevitability ‘go for it’ with a massive crescendo it feels justified. For ‘We are Infinite’ they take the reverse approach. Things start out extremely emotional. Piece by piece they dissect the song until it remains pure calm. ‘Seljalandsfoss’ the closer sounds positively giddy by the end. Upon the very end of the track they don’t stop either. Instead the gradual fade suggests they could go on with this for a prolonged period of time.

                ‘Soundtrack For a Quiet’ is a sweet tender EP.

Elara - Soundtrack For a Quiet Place 6.6

                Elara’s ‘Soundtrack For a Quiet Place’ is extraordinarily hopeful. The songs are happy. Sounds used indicate a vast knowledge of the positive side of Post-Rock. Post-Rock as a genre can be somewhat tortured with its obsession with darkness. Here Elara moves more towards the airy textures of ‘Explosions in the Sky’. Yes it is inspirational. How it takes its time in evolving is greatly enjoyable. Aspects of it too employ the orchestral ‘giant’ sound of things ready to simply take off. Thankfully they also master the importance of letting things build up gradually rather than trying to rush things. Throughout this EP they often take that quieter, slower approach. 

                ‘Me and You Under the Aurora Borealis’ manages to surprise the listener. Beginning with a deliberate glitch it blooms into color. Eventually they temper this explosion down and get into the slow-moving gentleness that pervades the rest of the album. Here the drums are even relatively restrained. At the end of the track when they inevitability ‘go for it’ with a massive crescendo it feels justified. For ‘We are Infinite’ they take the reverse approach. Things start out extremely emotional. Piece by piece they dissect the song until it remains pure calm. ‘Seljalandsfoss’ the closer sounds positively giddy by the end. Upon the very end of the track they don’t stop either. Instead the gradual fade suggests they could go on with this for a prolonged period of time.

                ‘Soundtrack For a Quiet’ is a sweet tender EP.

Good Weather For An Airstrike – Lights 7.2



                Good Weather For An Airstrike remains calm. On ‘Lights’ they try to be reassuring. The snippets of audio suggest a world going on outside of the infinitely mellow music. What this appears to symbolize is the ability to handle it. Considering all the terrible things that can happen at any given moment and don’t this is a good feeling. Over the course of the album Good Weather chooses to focus on that positive aspect of life. The narrative of the album references certain faraway conflicts and enthusiasm ‘those are my brothers’ is said on ‘The King XXVI’ yet the general mood is hopeful, that perhaps an end may be in sight or a peace somewhat can be achieved. 

                In the first section of the album Good Weather expresses a certain level of contentment. This is shown on ‘A Quiet Day’ complete with guitar, occasional percussion, and lacks the audio clips that mark the rest of the album. ‘Storm Fronts Collide’ begins rather dramatically with a clip about the Paris Peace Accords. From there the album breaks down into its uneasy middle section. With the short clips the level of tension is increased considerably. Only with the final two songs do things begin to settle, with audio clips mostly gone as the music becomes completely smooth. Indeed in these final two pieces the sound is almost translucent. 

                These are comforting songs. It feels less like a series of songs than a narrative. Little details (guitar here, slight inflection there) give the sense of an ongoing story. Overall it is a strange but human approach to ambient music.

Good Weather For An Airstrike – Lights 7.2

                Good Weather For An Airstrike remains calm. On ‘Lights’ they try to be reassuring. The snippets of audio suggest a world going on outside of the infinitely mellow music. What this appears to symbolize is the ability to handle it. Considering all the terrible things that can happen at any given moment and don’t this is a good feeling. Over the course of the album Good Weather chooses to focus on that positive aspect of life. The narrative of the album references certain faraway conflicts and enthusiasm ‘those are my brothers’ is said on ‘The King XXVI’ yet the general mood is hopeful, that perhaps an end may be in sight or a peace somewhat can be achieved. 

                In the first section of the album Good Weather expresses a certain level of contentment. This is shown on ‘A Quiet Day’ complete with guitar, occasional percussion, and lacks the audio clips that mark the rest of the album. ‘Storm Fronts Collide’ begins rather dramatically with a clip about the Paris Peace Accords. From there the album breaks down into its uneasy middle section. With the short clips the level of tension is increased considerably. Only with the final two songs do things begin to settle, with audio clips mostly gone as the music becomes completely smooth. Indeed in these final two pieces the sound is almost translucent. 

                These are comforting songs. It feels less like a series of songs than a narrative. Little details (guitar here, slight inflection there) give the sense of an ongoing story. Overall it is a strange but human approach to ambient music.

Walrus - Soft Hands 7.8

                Walrus recall a nicer time in indie rock. This is from the time when being indie meant caring less. Here the singer sounds completely out of it. Most of the time guitars barely focus on anything as they waver to and fro. On ‘Soft Hands’ Walrus aims for and succeeds at the best kind of rock: the kind that feels completely certain of itself without any form of posturing. It simply exists as a mood with some extraordinarily catchy melodies. 

                ‘Intro’ begins the album on a strange electronic note. Nothing relates back to the Intro’s choice in sound besides the ‘Outro’ song. Otherwise there appears to be little reason to include the two. Basically both serve as bookends for the wonderful morsel of casual rock held between. ‘It’s No Myth to Me’ is reminiscent of the Meat Puppets’ take on rock. Early 90s, mellow, rather bizarre, nearly nonsensical with a kind glimmer of lo-fi, it is easily the best song on the entire album. ‘That’s What Happens’ continues with this lovable, sweet form. Acoustic guitars strum pleasantly as the singer reaches out to the listener through so much distance. Finally on the largest song (and proper end) Walrus ends it with the goofy ‘Tender Buttons’. 

                This is the album that gradually gets stuck in one’s mind. Why, it is hard to say. Figure the casual attitude and general mood of the pieces works out well. Additionally the lo-fi incorporated in the recording is less of a gimmick and more of a necessity. Hearing the songs drenched in lo-fi give a certain sense of authenticity. And more than anything, Walrus is completely authentic in its ambitions.

The Internal Tulips – Mellotorn Offline 8.5

               Fractured pop rarely sounds this good. Nestled away from any specific trend this is as idiosyncratic as it gets. ‘Mellotorn Offline’ is full of slightly off sounds: the assorted noise, various glitch-laden effects, these quirks give it personality. The Internal Tulips play sad delicate songs. At any moment it feels like the song could simply collapse. Emotionally it is rather rich. Interplay between the electronic and the acoustic work wonders. It is hard to tell the difference between the two or that the two live symbiotically. Vocals add to the atmosphere creating something accessible from this often challenging album. 

                ‘Attempt’ introduces the method: quiet rich atmospheres. It is immediately catchy. Most of the songs on here are memorable. ‘a/m weak day’ takes the approach of Akufen and transforms it for chamber pop. In fact more directly Akufen is referenced in ‘fold’ where little samples run past in the background. One of the best parts of the album begins with ‘under haynesville’ which flirts around with the conventions of traditional songwriting. When they deliver on the traditional pop song it feels completely deserved if a bit fleeting. From here until ‘Xuan lea nw8’ things are about as perfect as they can be. Every song fits into the next. Together they create a sense of a slight sense of disappointment conveyed perfectly. At times it almost seems to reference Jon Brion’s approach to song writing with a greater willingness to experiment. 

                Experimental yet still pop, the Internal Tulips pull off a feat that should be impossible: challenging yet still touching music. Many wish to accomplish this, few do. The Internal Tulips are a rare band indeed. ‘Mellotorn Offline’ is a short, sweet, to the point album. Everything is in its right place.

Be My Friend in Exile - Passive/Negative 6.8

               Be My Friend in Exile lives a solitary life. None of these pieces show any sign of a happy impulse. These are dark brooding things. Ominous noise comes from afar. Good thing they stay a proper distance. Rather it is the drone and the liveliness which threatens to derail the whole proceeding. With these few glimpses into a more terrifying world Be My Friend in Exile shows the power of restraint. Sans the restraint this would be a far less interesting environment. Negativity permeates the entire album with no sunlight allowed. 

                ‘Passive/Negative’ begins it with a sound that rocks back and forth. It is an unsettling view, of a ring that never stops. Voices come from far away but fail to be fully recognized. On ‘The Night of This Vague Desire Has No Morning’ a vague outline of a melody emerges. This is not fully developed but part in pieces for the listener to put together. It has an intensely oversized sound which is nearly spiritual in nature. ‘Beneath Steel Skies’ is inhuman sound. There is no indication humans were involved in the creation of this piece. An immediate sense of dread comes over the track. From there it burrows itself deep into the mind. Instead this may be the most unsettling track of the entire album. How it ends is with the longest piece with the longest title ‘On the Ceiling Beam There is a Representation of a Hideous Devil Spying on a Miserable Human Being’. The bleak title is completely fitting. 

                Isolationist drone music never felt so good. This is perfect music to feel completely alone to.

Charles Valois – Girls 7.5

                Charles Valois brings together a well-rounded little album. While small in size (under thirty minutes) it manages to be maniac-depressive, at one moment overwhelming happy, the next absolutely depressed. Nor does Charles hide where he’s from; indeed the closing song is dedicated to his roots in the University of Toronto. This is a strange, fluorescent, electronics-laden album full of emotional twists and turns. Occasionally ‘Girls’ even manages a sort of exhausted grandeur. 

                The opener begins with a lonely guitar before exploding into a series of synthesizers and drum machine beats. How it flows so effortlessly into the second song is incredible, Charles does a good job of creating the ‘blink miss it’ segue. A dance-like beat anchors the song as Charles sings ‘We are the girls’ despite the fact he does not sound female at all, but rather quite masculine. ‘Run to Soybomb’ has been out for a while as a single but it still remains infinitely entertaining. Here Charles creates the sound of a dying dance song; it is epic, sound and somewhat self-destructive. It may be one of the best tracks on the album. ‘Autumn (where are you?)’ asks what happened to the his favorite season or favorite person. Either way it appears to be on the sad side of things and is one of the less electronic tracks on the album. For the University-dedicated closer he lets the synthesizer build up over the course of the song before it overtakes his humanity. 

                Overall this is a strange approach to pop music, unstable and heavily emotional. It is a good album.

The Widest Smiling Faces – Rituals 8.0

                If vulnerability ever needs a soundtrack, The Widest Smiling Faces should suffice. ‘Rituals’ is a whispered from far away. Aviv never raises his voice, not once. This works to his benefit. By keeping the whole thing at a hushed whisper, he’s able to basically tug at the heartstrings. The Widest Smiling Faces is a tender, touching work, dealing with the morbid curiosity of childhood.

                Maybe it is Aviv’s voice, but the vocal style is reminiscent of a morbid child. It is hard to completely explain. Even the instrumentation behind these songs is sparse. Nothing is particularly ornate. Yes, the work is informed heavily by post-rock (you can hear Explosions in the Sky influencing the opener ‘Green (for Piet)’ and the dreamy, mellow closer ‘Sponge’.

                Benoit Pioulard would be another close comparison. Unlike Benoit’s work though, The Widest Smiling Faces isn’t particularly experimental. Instead, the music benefits from Aviv’s straightforward approach to songwriting. The best two songs are the simplest in execution: ‘Water Underneath’ which is tragically beautiful and ‘Strange Animals’. ‘Strange Animals’ is as low-key as a song can possibly get. This is probably what so many Emo artists tried doing years ago and failed. Everything is so simple and low-volume’ the vocals whisper and mumble, the guitar goes at the pace of molasses. It is the most touching piece on the whole EP.

                ‘Rituals’ is a delightfully low-key affair. The Widest Smiling Faces seems to be a strange name for the group, especially with the tragic mood going on in most of the pieces. This reflects the hope after sadness, the release after crying.

Spooky Cheddar – I’m Not My Body and neither are you 7.0

                Spooky Cheddar is a strange band indeed. If you aren’t convinced by the band name, there’s also the utterly bizarre cover art, some hand. Most of the songs on here possess that same level of whimsical charm. The melodies are fun, infectious. A few times Spooky Cheddar even samples some rather goofy clips, most notably Seinfeld on ‘More Music for Airports (What’s the Deal w/Airplane Food? Mix)’. The double joke (first on Eno’s famous album, the second with Seinfeld’s monologue) is representative of the album as a whole. For the music stays uniformly bright and shiny through the nearly 80 odd minutes. 

                A few different styles are present on the album. First, there is homage to the komische music sound, a la OPN or Spectrum Spools on the opener ‘Toothsome Fancy’. On other tracks, Spooky Cheddar employs a slow funk, reminiscent of Com Truise. These slower tracks are some of the standouts, particularly ‘Mountains Felt’ and the woozy ‘Weave/Unweave’ which veers from sampled ragtime to an infectious groove. ‘Weave/Unweave’ is one of best tracks on the entire album; it just references so many other genres and combines them into such a delightful whole. Even the melody is a beautiful cut-up of that ragtime piece. IDM rears its head too, in a Luke Vibert silliness sort of way. 

                This is a fun, sprawling album. It reminds me of early 90s IDM and electronica, before it became too serious. Spooky Cheddar injects these genres with a sense of fun. Plus, they appear to have a good sense of humor with the many, many puns all over the album. ‘I’m Not My Body and neither are you’ is a breeze of an album.

Contact Lens – Mega 6.9

                Contact Lens is one of those random, strange discoveries I enjoy so much. “Mega” is brimming with nothing but the absolute hookiest of songs. Anything that’s not a hook has been edited out. You’re left with the pure essence of pop. Is it a tad ridiculous? Yes, but Contact Lens has no problem jamming you full of sound. 

                How does it sound? Whoever is behind Contact Lens clearly enjoys his sampling. The samples are only barely manipulated. Among these pieces are some true nuggets of greatness. Nothing on here gets remotely intense. Think of it as a giant kaleidoscope of pop pieces and you’re halfway there. “Mega” does rely on Contact Lens managing to add the lightest of touches to these things. In that regard he’s completely successful. You are exposed to an adoration of funk, pop, and tiny fragments of songs on this thing. At times I’m reminded of a more carefree version of Prefuse 73. A few of these tracks are particularly excellent, such as the groove of “Pelican” or the iridescent glow of “Lawn”. 

                Pretty much if you needed a cool soundtrack to any party, this would be a nice addition. It’s playful, a bit silly and a blast. The beats are well-constructed. Even the effects are absolutely tiny; sometimes nothing more than a slight tempo change here, a pitch shift there. Since there are 27 tracks on here with most under two minutes, no loop outlasts its welcome. Whether or not Contact Lens could maintain this fluid movement on longer tracks, I’m not sure. All I know is Contact Lens knows how to have fun.