NEW MUSIC: Pinball – Skies

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Post-rock is a genre that in its finest moments has boundless possibilities, multiple genres instrumentally intertwined to create moods and atmospheres that range from the intimate to the widescreen. Pinball are a France-based group comprised of Australian expats Melissa Cox (violin) and Alex Stuart (guitar), and French musicians Benjamin Body (bass) and Simon Clavel (drums).

‘Skies’ is a track that builds evocatively over four minutes, Cox’s violin making it impossible to avoid comparisons with fellow countryman Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three. The quartet employ a wonderful sway and gently propulsive motion, gradually lifting the music into a headier place without ever overplaying their hand. Lovely stuff.

Their debut album, recorded live in the studio in one afternoon, is due out March 27th.

EP REVIEW: Diving | Synesthesia

by Chris Familton

divingStar Rating DS 3Some bands sound like their names and in the case of Wellington duo Diving their chosen moniker makes sense as the point where you hit the water and enter a submerged world and an altered state. Your vision is altered, your ears hear things differently as sounds are filtered aquatically and the world on the surface feels like a distant place.

Diving’s modus operandi is post-rock, often instrumental music that doesn’t adhere to traditional song structures, though these are songs, particularly Entropy the second of the four tracks on their debut EP. Tension is sustained and released, not unlike the rise and fall of waves where the patterns are punctuated by large peaks and deeper troughs. Its first four minutes sounds like the distant echo of Bailter Space but then things fragment and the music’s field of vision widens before more traditional rock shapes re-enter the fray and the central cascading riff drops heavily and repeatedly. It is an interesting angle that the pair have taken when they could have easily settled for the quiet /loud dynamics where bands try too hard to exploit those extremes and end up sounding cliched.

Diving have balanced their approach to their music, playing with both structure and some of the key signifiers of shoegaze and drone music via screes of effect-laden guitar, krautrock rhythms and plenty of momentum. Hypervoid has a great feel to it courtesy of Nick Erickson’s guitar textures but it doesn’t feel fully realised, wandering in its tentativeness like a practice room jam searching for a focal point. They make up for that misstep with the EP’s closing track, a wonderfully immersive piece called Synthstrom that is heavily indebted to Tortoise with its jazzy patterns and circling guitar shapes that build a swirling mood before things turn nasty courtesy of a snarling wah pedal. They must have been tempted to really stretch and cut loose but they don’t, instead they pull back again, controlling the mood rather than exploding it.

Too often two piece bands betray their numbers by sounding skeletal and with something missing sonically. Diving negate that completely making the duo aspect irrelevant and though an EP doesn’t give enough time to get fully immersed in their sound it introduces them as an exciting new duo who can hopefully expand on what they have created with Synesthesia and produce a great full length album.

Synesthesia is available now on BANDCAMP

this review was first published on undertheradar

EP REVIEW: Sweater | Sweater

by Chris Familton

Dissonance and controlled aggression have always been hallmarks of rock n roll, it is just the context that has changed as the pop culture landscape has evolved. Over time the emergence of sub genres and sub sub genres has been an important factor in the continued relevance and progression of rock music. Post rock, noise rock, math rock, post punk – call it what you will but it has proven to have a long shelf life by virtue of its mutation and in New Zealand it has produced some seminal records from acts like Gordons, HDU, Die! Die! Die, Jakob and many more. The unassumingly named Sweater from Palmerston North are a new band who operate in the same realms as those mentioned and with their debut self-titled EP they show enormous potential as yet another jagged cog in the local music scene.

Across the EP’s seven tracks there is an unrelenting mood of claustrophobia and dread that manifests itself in clanging guitar chords, barked vocals and a rhythm section that knows the importance of their role in anchoring the music with precision and creativity. Cake is a particular highlight on the EP with its dark dancefloor-friendly beat providing the hook to the song in the same way that Gang of Four used the drum kit in the late 70s.

Though the band cite Die! Die! Die!, My Disco and Slint as influences there is also a clear line that can be drawn back to other New Zealand bands like Second Child and Love’s Ugly Children who, like Sweater, found a way to brilliantly combine noise and melody. In Sweater’s case most of those melodies come from the guitars rather than the vocals which are used judiciously and only when the  songs require another angle or layer. That attention to composition and structure is one of the reasons Sweater are so successful with the songs on the EP. They haven’t crammed all their ideas into every song, each one has space and dimension to it even though most are under the three minute mark.

As an introduction to a band’s music Sweater is an impressive debut in a genre that is often accused of po-faced earnestness. There is a controlled energy, maturity and vitality that makes you want to see them live and curious as to how future releases will sound. That is the key to a debut release and Sweater have nailed it.

Sweater is out now and available as a free download on Bandcamp

this review was first published on Under The Radar

 

REVIEW: COUGAR – Patriot

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CougarPatriotPost rock has become a many limbed beast over the last decade. From the early days of Tortoise and Mogwai it has branched out in a multitude of directions. Incorporating the extremes of ambient and metal it has veered dangerously close to prog rock territory, in danger of disappearing up its own arse through bland intricacy and pretentious song titles.

Thankfully Wisconsin’s Cougar spare us the dungeons and dragons nerdiness and focus on a fairly wide palette of sounds and dynamics on their new album Patriot. They have produced a clinical record that surprises constantly with its twists and turns.

Ostensibly an instrumental electronic rock band they start the album with Stay Famous and its monstrous surging riff that breaks away to reveal some intricate drumming and cascading guitar figures. They lull you into a false sense of sonic security for a few minutes before again unleashing the wall of electro-distortion that carries you back to the surface for the last minute of the song. It is engaging stuff and a perfect introduction to what Cougar are trying to achieve.

Florida Logic has a neat trick when it inserts a digitally chopped up guitar riff amongst the rock sounds, as if Squarepusher made a desperate grab for the mixing desk. It serves to remind you that Cougar are more than they appear to be.

Pelourinho is the band at the most abstract with fluttering effects-driven guitars and smears of dreamy static before an acoustic folky guitar settles things down and then morphs into a complex polyrhythmic knitting class. It is folk jazz filtered through some post modern genre randomizer and it is both engaging and fun. They later add some structure into this mood on Endings with its shoegaze glitch-pop stylings.

The flip side to Cougar’s sound is Thundersnow which as the name suggests is a charging bull of a song, all splashing cymbals, economic and tight riffing and a disregard for overindulgence which sees the song finishing abruptly after 2 minutes. Heavy Into Jeff is the electronic equivalent of Thundersnow, very much in a digital Nine Inch Nails fashion.

The album continues to pop up surprises and by the time the string section of Absaroka drifts into the distance you feel like you have been on some kind of journey, a rarity in this day and age of digital singles and short attention spans. Cougar are an amalgam of FourTet, Smashing Pumpkins, Tortoise and Battles yet they have combined those influences to create their own special niche among the crowded post rock world.

Patriot is out now on Ninja Tune/Inertia