Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ans. Andur - Kiletron

Ans. Andur - "Kiletron"


Norman Kuusik

Ans. Andur is a four-man band from the heart of Estonia (the town of Paide) and Kiletron their fifth and ultimate release so far. The general consensus seems to define the band as 'indie-pop/rock' and if you are, like myself, confused at the musical characteristics behind the term, let's go and try to take this one step at a time.

From the very first notes, we are greeted with an upbeat, rather scratchy guitar melody, followed by even more upbeat vocals, singing about a guy dancing around with the listener, buying her(/him) drinks all Friday night long and going for a quick spin in the loo (the lyrics on Kiletron are exclusively Estonian, something we also look later on). The track ultimately fades out on the sound of some obscure electronic loop, which is another characteristic aspect of the album. The second track, Start Stopp, starts with a similar upbeat, scratchy guitar tone, except that the melody this time sounds something like a variation on the theme of Kung Fu Fighting. But this is rather a good thing, giving the song a hook to latch onto – something which was missing on the first track. The ending is again somewhat obscure, coming down to an improvised acoustic section not really having anything to do with the rest of the song. Like the melody in the beginning, this need not be a bad thing.

The main problem of Kiletron seems to be lack of depth. Particularly in dynamics, the production results in a somewhat flat sound. Considering there's actually quite a bit going on in the record, this is quite sad although it might just as well be the inevitable consequence of piling too many things ontop of each other. Still, composition-wise, there isn't much sense of redundancy.

Emotionally, Kiletron is equally obvious; the adjectives 'optimistic' and 'naïve' completely cover the whole spectre of the album's repertoire. And while there can be no doubt in the sincerity of this joie de vivre (much more than in the case of Id Rev anyway), the refined listener of the 21st century might at occasion find this simplicity wanting (tsk!).

So that's indie-pop for you, tried and true. Now let's take a look at the redeeming factors.

If you, like myself, have a thing for multiple vocal arrangements, Ans. Andur must sound like heaven. Unlike the norm of having a single dominating lead-singer, three of the four band members actually sing both on the album and on stage. And by singing, I don't mean a silent hum-along of an occasional chorus or two. Shifts of the lead vocal are frequent and seamless, backed by alternative vocal lines most of the time. In fact, so dominant are vocal arrangements that they tend to overshadow rest of the music, and thus the successfulness of each song is determined by how well they are worked out. In my own particular favourite, Melodraama, the leading vocal line is uncharacteristically low-pitched, which the backing vocals flood in wave after wave as the song reaches its culmination(s). Perhaps not as flamboyant as in some other songs, the verse/chorus contrast here is the album's most stellar moment. Of course, the singers themselves aren't necessary stellar on their own right, and rather have this impact only in the context of a larger frame. I would go as far as to say that it is not very outrageous for the audience of auto-tuned R'n'B radio pop to come to the conclusion that none of the vocalists can actually “sing”.

Although the occasional incomprehensibility does not help, the lyrical side well supports the band's image. No high poetry here (except for maybe the fourth track Praha kevad, which contrasts the events of 1969 with a modern spring in Prague. deep stuff!), but the whole album is a prime example that pop-lyrics in Estonian (without sounding cheesy) are indeed possible.

There you have it, 'indie-pop' from the heart of Estonia. And a rather good one at that – the (home-brewed?) recording quality is well compensated by the songs themselves. The first few listens might pass unnoticed (which is probably bad for the band's commercial success), but ultimately the band's love for vocal harmonies justifies a lengthier devotion.

One last thing to mention is the productivity of these guys. This is the fifth album of a band active only since 2002 (making it about... an album in every 1.4 years). Admittedly, the first two they themselves consider a demo recording than an album 'proper', but the quantity of music is still tenfold of – say – Axl Rose (tho' something like a hundred times less than Buckethead, so it's all a matter of perspective... and quality). Not that we should read too much into that sort of things, but this too works in favour of Andur when compared to some more polished counterparts from the distant west. Even more so when considering the anecdote how one of the band members accidentally managed to leak the unreleased Kiletron via Soulseek. Now that's indie for you.

01. Reede
02. Start Stopp
03. Melodraama
04. Praha kevad
05. Mu binoklis
06. 100
07. Marko Kristal
08. Ester
09. Puhkepäev
10. Sügisene meloodia
11. (sa olid mu viimase leveli) Lõpuboss
12. Suhkur

Monday, April 19, 2010

Review for Moon Wiring Club

Moon Wiring Club- „An Audience of Art Deco Eyes“

Lauri Peterson

19 April 2010

The debut album of the ambient artist Moon Wiring Club is an interesting case in the genre of background music. Run by the talented Ian Hodgson, who also creates visual art beside music. He designs all of his records, the majority of his Moon Wiring Club themed artwork can be seen on his Myspace page. The dark imagery is filled with retro extravaganza, using collages of long forgotten photos and recontextualised sentences. Using words ripped away from books written in the heyday’s of the British Empire, these collages take us into a place which at the same time seems far away and contemporary. „Moon Wiring Club- Old Wine in New Bottles“ states the Myspace page. Victorian age influenced sounds mixed with the electronic cadence of today. He draws illustrations of characters such as crows with ties and hats, mystical demons in army uniforms, Romantistic wanderers. All of this lets us access the aural phenomen of Moon Wiring Club, a trip to the familiar but esoteric world. After the introductionary track to the album stops, begins „Ghost Radio“ with a haunting message from an old variety show: „Long ago in an ancient and beautiful England...“. The record „An Audience of Art Deco Eyes“ is the radio programme of Byronic occultists, seeking to lure you in with promises of the good old days in the United Kingdom. But the Victorian or Edwardian age represented on the record is not a real place or even an authentic flashback of it. No more genuine than the alternate history anime „Steamboy“, a science fiction film about the industrial age. The concept exists only in the mind of Ian Hodgson, who vigorously presents it to the listener. His preferred alias Moon Wiring Club while producing music, refers to an arcane aristocrats club. The clique is searching for ways to control the incomprehensible moon, our eternal companion in the night sky. The darkness is where this music hides, haunting and harassing us with somber timbres. Romanticism and the belief in the arcane art sets the tone of the album. A dream of cold and wet England in the 19th century emerges, much thanks to the visual art and out-of-date samples. The track „Mademoiselle Marionette“ uses samples from a child’s music box, again reminding us of the retrospecive value of the record. The music box isn’t used as much on the foreground as in Aphex Twin’s B-side „Nannou“, yet the subliminal value stays. Dissonant loops and samples are common throughout the record, like jazzy and sometimes hiphopish beats, while at the same time eerie synth sounds remain. Many disturbed narrators appear in these ghostly musical pieces, most likely snatched from retro late-night TV shows. These characters seem to talk to us from an unknown distance, their dialogue is short and introductory. Echo effects manipulate their speech and cause a sense of worry. It is meant as if a warning and this is exactly the kind of mystical aura that drives people by tingling their curiosity. Makes them feel as a part of something big and special. Animates the idea of something beyond the world of our cognitive experience. Provokes visions of the paranormal. This is evident in track names such as „The Slip In The Forth Dimension“, „Roger’s Ghost“, „Underground Library“ to name a few. The underground library is an etheral sphere where nightmarish creatures call out to each other. Some sound like children in distress, others are adults lost in the intricate cobweb of the record. It’s a huge musical synthesis project, nothing sounds like it should but at the same time is recognisable for the human ear. Unlike inept artists who fecklessly mix dissimilar genres together, Moon Wiring Club’s project is a success. He masterfully takes an eerily intriguing subject matter and forms a gloomy music package. It’s a faux 19th century experimental electronic record and composed only for the ones who are interested in new experiences.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review: A Brief History of Love

Aare Undo
15 April 2010

A Brief History of Love is the first and to date only album of the band The Big Pink. In addition to this album, they have released four singles. The Big Pink itself is an ’electro-rock’ band, but one that is widely considered indie, consisting of two multi-instrumentalists Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell. This album carried a heavy burden of expectations before it finally came out in September 2009. In East-London The Big Pink is ’the real deal’, being one of the more popular artists. And judging from rankings of it on different charts, it turned out much better than it needed to be. The album offers quite a lot of diversity;

To take the first song of the album, (1.) Crystal Visions, as an example – it does have quite a psychodelic sound to it. It is something that could be characterised as modern Pink Floyd. Whereas the second song of the album, (2.) Too Young to Love, is a bit offputting compared to that – it has a dubset rythm. It is quite catchy, I cannot lie, but still not quite my cup of tea, and definitely far from rock. (3.) Dominos, the next track on the album, has also been released as a single before. I would say this is the key song of the album. It has such a catchy tune, ’These girls fall like Dominos!’ is still in my head. But to take a look at the next track, again a completely different one – (4.) Love in Vain has a classic tune to it. I really feel the lyrics scraping pieces from my heart. Touching and sad.

Now, (5.) At War with the Sun approaches another different angle. This song is faster than others. If I had to pick one track from the album to dance to, this would be the one. It does not even sound indie, sounds like rock. One might find his or her body moving to this tune without even noticing it. But the next song, (6.) Velvet, is another one with a dubstep rythm. Looks like the circle of different approaches has reached dubstep again. This is not something I would listen to on a day-to-day basis, it is slow and rather depressing. On the other hand, (7.) Golden Pendulum is of similar nature, but also completely different – it starts off like a night club dance hit, but it does go uphill from there, towards the end it sounds like something by Coldplay.

While at the same time the next track, (8.) Frisk, is a genuine example of true electro music. While listening to it, I really felt like I was taken to the roots of electronic music, listening to one of the first representatives of the genre. The next song, (9.) Stop the World, has a rythm similar to Queen’s Another one Bites the Dust. This is another song that sounds more like electronic rock, far from indie or dubstep. (10.) A Brief History of Love, the namesake song of the album is a slow, yet moving song. The female vocals here assist greatly. This is another song that made me sway along in the rythm.

Furthermore, the next song is titled (11.) Tonight. When listening to this song for the first time, I could picture somebody doing the robot dance – this shows how much diversity you can find on this album. It is also a song that made me tap my foot without even noticing. (12.) Count Backwards from Ten is a song that remind’s me of Placebo’s hit song. The vocal rythm does not follow the instrumental one that strictly – this is really enjoyable. The bonus track of the album is called (13.) Love Song, it is a The Cure cover. It starts as some scary trance tune, but then leaves the listener bored and unmoved. My advice would be to firstly get familiar with The Cure’s version of it, then try enjoying this one.

To sum up, it must be said that this album is definitely something the 21st century needed. A lot of diversity can be seen on this album – from rock to slight tunes of trance. Comparisons to Pink Floyd, Placebo or Sonic Youth can be drawn as well. The two musicians who compiled this album may be considered geniuses for making something so different and something that can be enjoyed by a variety of people with different musical tastes. This is an absolute eyeopener for people who enjoy decent electronic music. It is soulful and reaches into the hearts and minds of listeners.