Archive for February, 2010

Name and Pride: Sword of the Beast

Sword of the Beast is a strange one. On the surface, it seems a standard tale of swordplay and vengeance, but there’s much more at work here: namely, a meditation on what it means to live honorably as a human, hidden in the guise of an almost Ahabic quest for gold. What better vehicle for such heavy ideas than a samurai film?

The beast of the film’s title is a ronin (masterless sumaurai) named Gennosuke (Mikijiro Hira), disgraced and on the run after killing a counselor in his clan. He did this on the implicit orders of another superior, a man who then went on to betray him in order to wrest power for himself. Gennosuke’s act is thus murky in terms of morality, and it’s a good while into the movie before you’re able to get good read on him: Even as he’s called anything from a beast to a dog to a wolf–sometimes by himself–it’s clear that there’s a complexity to the character hidden beneath his disenchantment. This development is subtly woven into the 85-minute film; Gennosuke acts far more often than he speaks, and you almost don’t realize you’re getting to know him even as you are. It’s quite a feat, and adds layers to a film whose principal attraction is seemingly its swordplay. Continue reading

New Southern Lord Signing: The Secret

Southern Lord have announced their newest addition to their arsenal of bands, Italy’s The Secret. After two albums for Goodfellow Records and several line up changes since their inception in Trieste, Italy in 2003, The Secret will enter Godcity Studio in Salem, MA with producer Kurt Ballou (Converge, Cave In, Torche) this April to record their third album, Solve et Coagula, for Southern Lord Records.

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Album Review: Ken Camden – Lethargy & Repercussion

Central to the appeal of Ken Camden’s debut album is the fact that, with the exception of the last track, it was recorded without overdubs.  This real-time aspect of Lethargy & Repercussions gives the record a sense of vibrancy and intimacy – you can visualize the recording process, how elements are set to loop and new sounds are carefully introduced, how Camden reacts to the changing relationship between textures at that particular moment. It’s an album that, although it’s only been recorded once, feels forever embedded in the present tense when you listen to it.

Opener “Birthday” rises into a swirling mass of pretty broken chords, dancing with an endearing innocence, whilst a tanpura – which is brilliantly used here – lurks rather ominously in the background. Elsewhere, “In Your Ears” consists merely of whirring drones that overlap, interweave, converse; sometimes running in the parallel of gorgeous harmony and sometimes dissonantly crashing off each other, groaning on for a few seconds at a time before catching breath in brief pauses of silence. One great feature of “Lethargy & Repercussions” is that Camden hasn’t been tempted to saturate every track in sound and knows when to leave just two or three timbres to play out on their own. During its early stages, I was praying for “Raga” to stay as a simple duet, and it does – with tanpura anchoring the piece to allow a soaring guitar improvisation to unfold over the top.

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Southern Lord Doom Sale + Ascend Vinyl

I think this has been going on for a little while now, but seeing as it’s still going on and you might not know about it, I think it’s post-worthy. Southern Lord’s European distributor moved warehousing facilities and apparently found a bunch of out of stock/out of print stuff lying around in the process. So, Southern Lord are giving these doom relics to you for the low price of $7.

Check out the sale here.

Also, Ascend’s Ample Fire Within album has been released as a 180 gram double vinyl set which comes with two non-CD tracks. It looks like this is the exact same version of Ample Fire Within that comes in the Southern Lord Vinyl Subscription Series.

Click here to order the Ample Fire Within 2xLP. (It’s about half way down the page.)

Guest Review: Eluveitie – Everything Remains as it Never Was

Eluveitie - Everything Remains as it Never WasWhat once started off as what many believed to be a fad–dressing up in armor, singing of the days of your ancestors and incorporating obscure instruments alongside death growls and blast beats–has recently proven that it’s here to stay. Folk metal now has two annual tours, Paganfest and Heathenfest, along with the innumerable horde of fans growing at every show.

And leading the pack of what they call the ‘new wave of folk metal’ is Swiss octet Eluveitie (pronounced El-Whitey). Making just a ripple in the metallic waters with their first two efforts, 2008’s Slania and a tour alongside fan favorites Ensiferum, established their credibility as one of the most talented bands in the genre. Continue reading

New Steve Brodsky Album Here’s to the Future Out 03.23

The good people over at Hydra Head Records have announced a new release by Stephen Brodsky, due March 23rd. The full-length album, titled Here’s to the Future, will appear both digitally and as a cassette release.

1.Here’s to the Future
2. Human Contagious
3. @ The OSC
4. Mass Appeal
5. Spellng B
6. Halo 4A Hula-Hoop
7. Retail Therapy
8. Here In Spirit

Cynic – Re-Traced EP Sneak Preview

Here is a sneak preview of Cynic’s new Re-Traced EP. This EP has 4 reinterpretations of Traced in Air songs, plus one new recording, “Wheels Within Wheels.” The Traced in Air songs that made it onto this EP are “Integral Birth,” “King of Those Who Know,” “Space for This,” and “Evolutionary Sleeper.” Continue reading

Album Review: Kyle Bobby Dunn – A Young Person’s Guide…

A Young Person’s Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn seems to channel noise and reverberations that have always existed. So natural is the way in which these sounds throb and mutate that it’s hard to imagine any human thought lying behind the composition. It’s a double disc which, when listened to in the right conditions, appears to occupy no time at all, provoking a very dreamlike mezmerisation and causing all sorts of watery visuals to ooze into the imagination.

It’s a modest work, utilizing a minimalism to bring its daunting depth to light and a deceptive stereo field to make sounds appear from everywhere at once and nowhere in particular. The timbres of strings and brass are just identifiable in amongst the blur of reverb, but otherwise these sounds feel completely unattributable to standard instruments – they’re just thick streams of harmony, seeping out to the far corners and bouncing softly off of the walls. Comparisons can be drawn to Stars of the Lid in places; both artists seem to dip into the idea of infinite space and create a completely tranquil atmosphere in their suspended drones and warm chord surges.

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BAFTA ‘Best Film’ Posters

Illustrator Travis Coburn has created a series of posters highlighting the five movies nominated for Best Film at the 2009 BAFTA Awards: Avatar, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Precious, and Up in the Air. Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker took the top prize, as well as awards for directing, editing, cinematography, and sound.

All five of these films are nominated for Best Picture at next month’s Academy awards, as well as The Blind Side, District 9, Inglorious Basterds, A Serious Man, and Up. The Oscars will take place on March 7th, 2010.

Check out the other four posters after the jump.

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Mono – North American Tour + Live Album

Mono announced yesterday that they will be embarking on a North American tour, starting April 30th at Emos Outside in Austin, Texas. They’ll be playing The El Rey Theater here in L.A. again, which is a great place to see them. The opening act is a band from Scotland called The Twilight Sad.

Mono are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, so if this tour comes anywhere near you, you should go. This is not something you want to miss. Continue reading

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