Thursday, 24 February 2011

Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow [2005]

Today’s review goes with birthday best wishes to my dear friend who really wanted to read about Devendra;) So on the example of his first popular album – Cripple Crow – I take a wonder whether or not he is just extraordinarily handsome man or a talented musician as well;)

Cripple Crow was released in 2005 when  Devendra was just 24. He already had 4 full albums and one ep on his musical account (and on each album there is from 16 to 24 songs) proving to be one of the most efficient modern musicians. Yet it wasn’t until Cripple Crow that he got popular in wider circles.

This album consists of 22 songs and lasts over 74 minutes, so going into details with each song would kill you, my readers. That's why I will describe it quite briefly. When it comes to music, it’s easy to notice, that Mr Banhart became a more conscious, picky writer. No longer do we get simple quitar-and-me songs, so characteristic for freak folk – the genre that Devendra’s music is most often associated with. The young artist takes a lot from other genres – we can hear jazz, blues, psychedelic and folk inspirations – he is also not afraid of building up more complicated songs. Whereas the first two albums had an average song length of 2 minutes, Cripple Crow makes it in 3 or even 4 (and I can tell you – next album will have even 8 minutes long song!)

Lyrically, Devendra likes to tell simple stories, often a bit fairy-like or touching every day’s happenings. Sometimes he may sound a bit controversial:
Even when the sun ceases to shine
I won’t care, I’ll still have on my mind
So many little boys I wanna marry yeah yeah
I see plenty little kids I’ve yet to have
But we know, he likes being weird;) He also uses spanish which is – I guess – a natural consequence of the fact that he grew up in Venezuela. Well, I have to say I love his latino-spanish songs, like beautiful Quedate Luna. His singing is particularly original, even though sometimes it brings to my mind early Bob Dylan.

I guess everybody can find here a song to like a lot. Personally, my choices would be Santa Maria da Feira – a lovely, dynamic folk song addressed to Devendra’s long time girlfriend and CocoRosie singer – Bianca Cassidy, swinging, slow Korean Dogwood, trance-psychedelic-western Lazy Butterfly, already mentioned Quedate Luna (and of course our common favourite Chinese Children, Juana mia;)!)

Not prolonging, I assume Devendra has something else to offer except for his beautiful eyes, stunning black hair&beard (recently lost!) ... ok, I won’t start naming all perfect parts of his body!  But instead – close your eyes and enjoy his overwhelming optimism and the beauty of those simple and enchanting songs!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Isis - Sawblade [1999]

Put your headphones on. Open the door and leave. Give yourself 30 minutes of walk with Isis. Let the Sawblade pierce your soul and help you lose sense of burdening reality – for a moment at least.

Emission of the Signal is indeed a cutting blade. The growing pressure and metallic distortion opens your head. Somebody wants to check your brain?

Streetcleaner (Godflesh cover) follows this impression with a very aggressive, pessimistic sound. To me it resembles urban night atmosphere – lights, cars, modernity mixed with omnipresent danger, fear, disgust. Filth and dirt surrounding you. Now, they hammer your head and take all thoughts out.

Hand of Doom – they feed you with psychedelic pills. Welcome to the bluesy-stoner drive originally coming from Black Sabbath. Weird how covers of this band may be so awesome every time.

House of Low Culture. Yes, the earth lacks culture. Suddenly you're all alone. The city is dirty, sad, almost abandoned. The snow is coming down and you hear a train coming. You can’t move and it passes, while you’re still waiting in a mental coma. Isis that we knew it till the end.

Time to get back home. Switch off.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit [2010]

I wouldn’t call myself Agalloch fan, although I know all their works and I love this kind of music. They were always ‘good’ to me,  some songs even “very, very good” but they never managed to make me scream “oh yes! That’s it, that’s my agallochish eargasm!” Well, I was hoping that Marrow of the Spirit would be an album I’d love in every minute, but is it?

They Escaped The Weight Of Darkness aka they escaped the metal music and jumped into the forest to sit by the rivulet with a cello and mourn! Or less metaphorically – a beautiful classic-stylised intro in a minimalistic Philip Glass type, but accompanied by a shimmering water. Played by Jackie Perez Gratz known – among others – from Grayceon and Giant Squid.

Into The Painted Grey we will be led by hammering guitar. That song is like a definition of Agalloch style – fast guitar riffs and growls between long, calmer instrumental parts - but somehow it seems a bit more condensed, intense than their earlier works...

The Watcher’s Monolith is again backed up by extra artists – Vindensång keyboard player - Jeffrey Neblock and Steven Wray Lobdell on vocals. The doubled vocals (also clean), keys and more acoustic guitars build a lovely mysterious atmosphere. Also post-rockish breaks can gain your attention (or help you focus if you tend to lose it). Sighs, laments, these are all well known & loved band tricks. And here we are to end with another lovely classic-forest solo...

And move to the droneland of guitar. Black Lake Niðstång that is. Drone- because our guest is Nathan Carson coming straight from Sunn O))) and ruling the army of keys, vibraphones and glockenspiels. Land- because Niðstång is an object coming straight from ancient Vikings’ kingdom. It’s a kind of a pole (ladies, DO NOT even think of jumping on this one!) used for cursing the enemy. So the title can be easily interpreted as a cursing pole of Black Lake’s nation;) But let’s give it back to its owner and speak of music. As I said, we’re welcomed by a drone, not really so Agallochish atmosphere, although later on they try to explain themselves to orthodox fans. But the amazing, heavy instrumentals don’t leave us! Hail the cursing pole, it’s a really evil, doomy song. An over 17minute giant that to me seems to pass faster than any of the other songs on this album. A plenty of well synchronised, innovative motives.

Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires rised a real fire inside my heart. It doesn’t have really much in common with metal – but the ghost of it is packed  into stunning post-rockish frames (even post-metal at times). Lots of positive energy that doesn’t need much words to be described.

They escaped the weight of darkness
To Drown in another...
So the heavy doomy darkness and the lovely post-rockish darkness drowned in a pesymistic, acoustic song with some strings – again in a very classic style. And nice exotic drums added by Veleda Thorsson. Lovely, almost catchy song.

This album gives me a lot of doubt. It is really amazing, a good piece of great music, but have I became finally satisfied with them? It makes a huge impression on me, but doesn’t give me the thrills I’d like to feel. I guess I am not able the question if that’s my most favourite work of them. But maybe for you it will become their magnum opus?