Æ: Aglet Eaters

Nightmare Air – High In The Lasers

Posted in Album, Review by R on March 27, 2013

NA HITL

So I just wrote this review, right, where I bemoaned the fact that my elitist status was at stake since the music I listened to (throbby droney noisy pneumatic drilly) was more accessible than I had anticipated. Nobody wants the music they like to be universally appealing – if everyone digs what you’re into, how can you be all snobby about it, and if you can’t be snobby about music, then what’s the point of living.

Turns out, I can’t expect elitism with High In The Lasers either. Nightmare Air, feat. Dave Dupuis of Film School (you remember them – they had that superb album, Hideout) is a trio led by a duo (hey man, I’m just reading the onesheet here), and if you thought Film School were easy on the ears, prepare for a whole new level of almost-pop with Nightmare Air.

Don’t immediately distance yourself from this album because I used the P-word. Their video for ‘Icy Daggers’ has Brian Aubert cameo-ing, which should be all you need to understand what kind of ‘pop’ we’re talking about here.

Cameos aside, High in the Lasers is all kinds of ridiculous in the repeat-factor stakes – at least up until the fourth track. ‘Escape’, the opener, makes it abundantly clear that it’s an album all about the production. On last.fm they’re proudly tagged ‘under 2000 listeners’ (542 at last count) (this is a TAG?), but the sound on this album is no small-label-local-band production – it’s sonic crystal.

One again, I turn to the onesheet:

“Mixed by Dave Schiffman (Nine Inch Nails, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Mars Volta, Dead Meadow) with mastering by Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, The White Stripes),”

Go figure.

‘Escape’ and ‘Icy Daggers’, already given a massive boost on account of the stellar mixing, ensure their own moreishness by using that clever device – contrast. Floaty female coos interrupted and aided by crude male yelps (not as unappetising as that sounds). Noise-soaked walls etched with perfectly defined riffs and percussion. And your standard loud-soft: delicate intros, outros and verses offset by crumpled, chaotic instrumentation in the chorus.

From the first track to the fourth, High in the Lasers rises steadily, peaking at ‘Sweet Messy Riff’, a track which , in addition to all the above, possesses the most frustrating of qualities – a slippery hook. Unable to hum it back to yourself to satiate a craving, you find yourself putting the track – just the track – on repeat till your neurons are satisfied/self-destruct.

What happens after track 4? No one knows why, but the curve that had already hit its peak and plateaued right at the outset starts to turn downwards. ‘Sun Behind The Rocks’ is peppered with a completely unnecessary 8-bitty buzz through the track which climaxes in an incomprehensible two minutes of beeps, vibrations and thumps. ‘Eyes’, which follows, is a redeemer, as anything would be, but it’s not nearly of the same calibre as the first four tracks. I’m also going to tactfully avoid saying anything about ‘Wolf in the Wood’, apart from ‘Where have the producers/mixers gone?’.

So don’t be alarmed if you start losing focus midway. Go back a couple of tracks, get your momentum back and plough on. Alternatively, take a break, let the phantoms of what you just heard melt away, and start over from ‘Brightest Diamond’.

And hey, since I already brought it up, Hideout is as yummy today as it was the first time you heard it. Pay it a visit again, if you can spare the time.

Echodrone – Mixtape For Duckie

Posted in Album, Review by R on March 3, 2013

MfD

Hardworking is the band that records one album while writing another album.

While working on the follow-up to Bon Voyage, Echodrone took some time out to unwind by creating a collection of cover songs. As you do.

The heads up I got for Mixtape for Duckie had me even more excited than news of their follow-up album will.

Unless, the announcement of their next release ALSO contains the words ‘George Michael‘.

George Michael was my first famous-person crush/love. My first memorised discography. My first mailing list. Even now, in the more advanced and progressive (or primitive?) stage of my musical life, I would put ‘Soon’ on pause just to have 6 uninterrupted minutes with ‘The Strangest Thing’.


[you can tell the inclination towards shoegaze started early]

Now, cover songs – there’s an art form. When Eugene wrote to tell me about Mixtape for Duckie, he made it sound like recording an album’s worth of cover songs, each from a different era/genre, was some dinky paint-by-numbers scene. Good lord, successfully executing a cover version of a song is often a bigger achievement than pushing out all-new material. When working on your own stuff, your benchmark is yourself. When making a cover version, you are well-aware you’re going to be compared to whoever you’re choosing to reinterpret. And Higher-Power-Of-Choice help you if you pick a well-loved track to operate on.

Not one but SIX beloved songs sit happily in the digital grooves of Mixtape for Duckie. What are you DOING, Echodrone? I ask, simultaneously eager and apprehensive. ‘WE FEAR NOTHING’, they declare as they wriggle into ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’, deftly replacing Numan’s capitulation with…

with..

what IS that?

HOPE?

Yep – no longer a vanquished sigh, Echodrone’s version is less wistful and more curious. Less jaded, and more genuine.

Even more astounding is their version of ‘Cry Little Sister’. Immaculate – it doesn’t lose its conviction quite as much as it loses its solitude. It’s an irrepressibly beautiful interpretation of the original which now appears to only have been brought into existence so it could live to be transformed into this more liberated, more elevated, less isolated mantra.

And then, Echodrone chose to tackle GM’s ‘Praying For Time’ – the despondent narration of the demise of humanity (or, more precisely, humaneness). In their version, it’s the instrumentation that carries the apocalypse. The bridge “the rich declare themselves poor/and most of us are not sure/if we have too much/but we’ll take our chances/because god’s stopped keeping score” etc. is swirled around, sucked into, and spat out of the noise around it. The essence of the song isn’t lost – it’s just being carried by waves instead of words.

It’s a few years ago now that a, presumably unofficial, three-part mixtape hit the online airwaves. In it, shoegazers covered other shoegazers. While I have my favourites from that collection, the futility of the exercise was apparent. Even the best of tracks were black and white xeroxes of untouchable originals. Learn from Echodrone – Why imitate, when you can adopt?

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