Catch-Up Reviews #2: Boards of Canada, oOoOO, Palms, Black Swan…

Boards of Canada – “Tomorrow’s Harvest”

Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest

Boards of Canada, if you’re moderately into your electronic/ambient music, is a duo that should be a part of your ‘A B C’. Probably thee perfect description I’ve ever read of them is “the Neurosis of electronic music”. The band has been known for releasing definitive albums that has captured fans from listeners outside the genre (Gyroscope and You Could Feel The Sky used in the black metal documentary “Until The Light Takes Us” is probably a big contributor). In other words: Boards of Canada are giants in the electronic music.

“Tomorrow’s Harvest” is another great release by the group, venturing even further into the pure ambient style that they have been known to venture into in the past. The opening track, Gemini, begins the album with a jingle that you’d expect from the early-80s cinema adverts, and then wavering into a brief use of strings and warped synths, as if channelling through a disturbed radio reception (the concept revisited later with Telepath and Uritual). This sets up the rest of the album like a post-apocalyptic broadcast, at moments picking up the pace but then retaining a sense of calm throughout.

If you were a fan of (or just listened to) Röyksopp’s 2010 release “Senior”, then it’s a very similar vibe here. If you’re willing to sit through 17-tracks of luscious ambient soundscapes and chilled beats (for the most part), then this is definitely for you. Boards of Canada just flow through song after song of blissful yet haunting melodies and progressions.  A real nice, solid release.

Favourite tracks: Nothing Is Real, Reach For The Dead, Cold Earth, Palace Prosy.

oOoOO – “Without Your Love”

oOoOO - Without Your Love

Over a year or so ago, a genre started to make some waves that was hard to ignore, especially for anyone into electronic music. That genre is (or was, depending on how relevant you might think it is now) Witchouse; a section of electronic music that dabbled heavily in the dark ambience and hip-hop beat orientation. Personally, a lot of bands were too much alike in the rise of this style, but oOoOO were an exception.

This is their first full-length release after a handful of EPs and singles that have all been very impressive so far, but how does oOoOO work with an album template? Not as well as you might expect from previous releases. While there’s some real nice moments on here – the throbbing bass and drums of Stay Here (slightly ruined, personally, by the male autotuned vocals – which actually work with On It) and the infectious and heavy trap The South – a lot of this is just decent. Never boring you but not grabbing your attention either (apart from The South).

Admittedly, it is an album that works better through headphones than in open space, unless you have a stereo system with a lot of bass boost. It basically sounds ideal for a night of intimacy with your partner. It has what makes oOoOO so seductive: the soft female vocals, the deep bass, the supernatural synths… but there’s a fair pop feel here as well. It really does feel like the standard quality of his EPs has been stretched for the full album and thinning as a result. Still there, but thinning.

Favourite tracks: The South, Without Your Love, On It.

Palms – “Palms”

Palms - Palms

Palms is the long-awaited collaboration between Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and the majority of the members of Isis – two very big names to come together and a concept to be excited about. This is their first release, a full-length album, and gives a different approach than one might expect of this meeting of minds.

If you’re expecting heavy moments, forget it, there is none – which does come as a big disappointment, personally. The majority of this album concentrates more on the post-rock side of things – sometimes the guitars a reminiscent of that the last Isis album “Wavering Radiant” . There are also moments where the band slides into Deftones’ atmospheric moments on “Saturday Night Wrist” pretty comfortably, but almost too much.

While this is far from horrifying or ‘bad’, it is pretty monotone. The pace is the same throughout and the album as a whole feels linear and tasteless. As a big fan of all things Chino related (Deftones, Team Sleep and Crosses) and a fan of Isis, this is a pretty unexpected disappointment. However, if you’re expecting the delicate textures that either have been known to utilize, then this will probably be a big welcome.

Favourite tracks: Patagonia, Future Warrior.

Black Swan – “Redemption”

Black Swan - Redemption
Black Swan is a drone ambient project… that’s pretty much all I could tell you about it because little-to-nothing is known about the person behind it, other than having released a good lot of stellar releases over the past few years. “The Quiet Divide: A Symphony of Misery and Sorrow” had a haunted feel throughout (in the same sense as Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel in The Shining – damned by memories from different time periods) that numbs my brain. “Aeterna” had a similiar feel, while “Heaven” was a more straightforward ambient ordeal, still mesmerising all the while.

How does the fifth release stand? Brilliantly. As mentioned earlier, Black Swan’s releases sometimes feel like audio images of different times and eras. “Redemption” on the other hand feels like a progression. Through what? Maybe dying, maybe living. In a lot of ways, it feels like it’s on the same plane as The Haxan Cloak’s “Excavation”. The opening track Redemption (Overture) starts the album on quite a positive note with quivering strings and a massive orchestral progression, played through an eternity of time and space. However, by the fourth track Evermore, things take a dark turn which smoothly strengthens over the rest of the album (lightening slightly over Black Horizon and Fading Glory).

Simply put: it’s a magical album. “Redemption” cements Black Swan as one of the most fluent producers of beautiful and transcending drone ambient music at this current time. It’s almost frustrating to think that this release may not be recognised or put on the same pedestal as works by fellow ambient masterminds Stars Of The Lid or Brian Eno often are… but hopefully one day it will.

Favourite tracks: Of Land and Water, Ascension, Black Horizon, Evermore.

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