And now for something completely different! Given a certain proclivity on the part of our promo pit to offer up the most chaotic and tortured exemplars of extreme metal, a little relaxation and recuperation goes a long way 'round these parts. Enter Chalk Portraits, the one-man ambient project of one Greg Kennelty.
Most ambient music carries the burden of assumption that it is primarily background music, designed specifically to fade out of the foreground. Chalk Portraits, in contrast, has served me quite well over the past year or so when it comes to focusing on the task at hand. This expansive and otherwise open-ended ambient approach provides the optimal soundtrack for the organization of hectic thoughts. As such, I'm quite pleased to present, in its entirety, the forthcoming Chalk Portraits EP. Entitled Memory, this latest effort is most certainly worth checking out if you're in need of a little calm--and, frankly, I dunno who isn't. Check it out below, and, as always, we'll see you on the other side!
Try-not-to-get-relaxed-challenge, amiright? The assorted elements that contribute to the overall landscape are simple and crisp, never requiring the brain to play catch-up, so much as revel in every passing moment. While sparse by nature, I wouldn't exactly call Memory a minimalist piece--there is always something of significant intrigue humming or chirping through the ol' headphones. It is, notably, a very sensory experience, and big step forward for Chalk Portraits in terms of making the most out of an intrinsically limited sonic arena.
The entire affair is best enjoyed in full--"Memory I" through "Memory V" effectively act as a single piece broken into acts with distinct moods. That said, my favorite individual tracks are "II," for the bright sunny aura, and "III," for the subtly somber and melancholic air, punctuated by poignant arpeggiator glimmers. For an ambient track without a hook in the traditional sense, the latter is surprisingly earwormy--the kind of music that follows you around all day. It's a pleasant sensation, to say the least.
Says Greg Kennelty in regards to this latest effort: "It's here! Memory is streaming in full and now everyone gets to hear I've been listening to pretty much all month. I'm so proud of this album, if only because I've made something that I really want to hear on repeat. Now go get some headphones and chill out. Memory is heavily inspired by the works of Light In The Attic-type ambient artists like Hiroshi Yoshimura, the synth magic of Mort Garson, some of the chiller Arp stuff, and the music you hear in the non-country portions of EPCOT. Memory is an adventure into another space where sounds shimmer all around you."
Chalk Portraits - Memory will be released May 7th, 2021. Find it on bandcamp here (for a remarkably fair price!)
Given the fact that it seems a better description of an ethos than a particular sonic quality, using the intentionally ill-defined "avant-garde metal" as a jumping-off point is a bit of a fraught exercise. Today's band in question is a wholly unique beast, and so any preemptive attempts at categorization must immediately be defenestrated. A more appropriate starting point, then, might be Bornwithhair's previous work. This is their third(!) album in, like, less than a year, so the intense maturation has been pretty darn compressed in regards to time frame.
Their debut Radical Moon was marked by a fresh breath of weirdness, particularly in the compositional department, while sophomore effort Smoleńska upped the stakes, leaning into angular riffage and angry distortion on one hand, and starkly gentle ambiance on the other. Both provided a wildly tumultuous approach to experimentation. Both were well-received, with the latter getting some quite impressive press. Both represented a mad-cap cacophony of ideas, and, as such, made for pretty damn intriguing listening experiences. The only way to go was up, and follow-up Someplace to Haunt is, dare I say, this duo's most enjoyable and most cohesive work yet. Needless to say, we're pleased and honored to premiere Someplace to Haunt here in full. Throw on a pair of headphones and fire it up. As always, we'll meet you on the other side.
Look, I know. It's December, which means you'd much rather be catching up on all the music you missed rather than being clobbered with a continuing surge of new releases. But bear with me: the debut effort from grind duo Populace lasts for all of 9 minutes--and the tracklist is 10 tracks deep. Running those numbers indicates a certain disdain for unnecessary filler and fluff. We're dealing with brevity at its most blistering here. Bread and Roses, in other words, certainly ain't going to take much of your time today, and what little time it takes is wholeheartedly worthwhile.
Without further ado, we inksplattered scribes are pleased and honored to premiere Populace's first outing in its entirety. In the search for music that wakes us from slumber, it really doesn't get more effective--nor enjoyable--than this. Dig in below, and we'll meet you on the other side!
Like unto the best that the world of grind has to offer--i.e. Discordance Axis, let's be real--this two-piece excels at delivering ideas, both sonic and thematic, in their most succinct form. Like capturing a fleeting thought in amber, Populace use a single sample, howl, or churning riff as the basis for an explosive diatribe. Take opening track "Pollutant," which swiftly introduces the abrasivity with rolling drums and ranting vocals over intensely crashing guitar. Even though Populace pump the brakes very briefly to deliver a little extra emphasis, the forward momentum is utterly unstoppable. And so it goes for the remainder: a thrashing freefall through chaos-imbued guitar 'n' drums, blips of samples from a veritable bevy of sources, and omnipresent raging vox. Even when they do slow things down a tad--take, for example, midway through "Cocoon"--the consistently unhinged delivery never feels restrained or contained. At the end of the day, Populace balances dynamic composition and outright emotive rage in a fashion that is pretty damn nuanced for grind.
I hesitate to ascribe a "political" label to Populace, being of the firm belief that music, art, and life in general is intrinsically political. But, as a general rule, the instrumentation itself serves as a vehicle for the lyrical content, which, in unrelenting fashion, decries "fascism and all of its ugly friends." It is the thematic content that grounds Populace in the chaos, and topics such as pollution, ableism, and the churn of capitalism similarly find a strong foundation in the pure visceral anger of the instrumentation. It's a well-executed balancing act between form and function. Both thematically and sonically, nothing here is delivered gently--and that, of course, is by design.
Given the brevity on display, discussing individual tracks feels like a moot point. That said, lead single "Pangea" and the aforementioned "Cocoon" are, in my book, the strongest individual showings here--but listening in isolation from the remainder is hardly recommended. Rest assured: with Bread and Roses, there is never a dull moment.
Populace - Bread and Roses will be released on Dec. 4th, 2020, and can be pre-ordered here! Artwork by Misha Mono
You may ask yourself, hitting play on the track below: “When did Ancient Hand start writing Absolute Fukkin Bangerz? Question of the day, folks. On previously outings, as I noted over on the Village’s Instagram outpost: “Ancient Hand dwell[ed] in an intriguing space between electronic sounscape'd ambiance, and the delectable dark synth one finds lurking in dungeon depths...expertly balancing an ominous air with a feather-gentle touch. Muggy claustrophobia meets ethereal ungroundedness.” Not so much anymore, as the artist in question takes a hard left turn at the corner of “continuing to do things the same way” and “shaking it up quite a bit, actually.”
"ORAL" is Name Your Own Price over on bandcamp, and if you throw down a buck today, March 20th, bandcamp will give 100% to the artist. Just sayin.' Listen to it here:
One of the more significant hurdles in adult life--or so I've been told--is the oppressive inevitably of the mundane. The dull monolithism of same old, same old. Day in, day out. I'll be the first to admit that, as a guy in my mid 20's trying to claw, with nail-bitten fingers, a little security in this overwhelming world for me and mine, my primary concern isn't mundanity, but rather reaching the tail end of these turbulent times in the first place.
The point? If you find yourself at a stage in your life where the self-doubt, bewilderment, and constant sadness of early adulthood are less than crystal clear, Florida's own Empty Joy are here to offer up a little vicarious grief and agony. These guys are in the thick of it, and the emotive intentions of their first track--to "convey the complicated nature of sorrow in a traditionally happy time of the year"--are refreshingly genuine. In that unhappy spirit, we're happy to present today said debut track, the appropriately entitled Drowned.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.
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