Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stoned Reverence To Doom

Like many I've been waiting patiently for new material by Seattle's Samothrace.  2008's Life's Trade is a phenomenal record - perhaps one of the best records of all time in the greater doom genre.  Needless to say, expectations are quite high for Reverence To Stone.
My vinyl copy came in from 20 Buck Spin yesterday and I am delighted.  All of the trademark elements of Samothrace's sound are still present five (perhaps slightly turbulent) years later. Furthermore there seems to be a deliberate and purposeful refinement in their songwriting. The two pieces that comprise the album bare an exquisite preciseness; I have no doubt that the band took their time to make sure these songs matched exactly their creative vision, and it is clearly audible.

The greatness of Samothrace is in the passage of riff to riff, motif to motif...each lavishly explored, beginning with a sense of self-manifestation and ending like a phoenix combusting into its next form - a drawn but beautiful series of auricular movements. Though these tracks clock in at roughly 15 and 20 minutes, they don't feel anywhere near that long. Completely capturing the undivided attention of the listener, they surround as they pass and effortlessly carry you along throughout their full run.  Riffs twist and turn up steep slopes, gaining speed as they approach a mountainous peak in a heaven of dense misty clouds and refracting sunlight setting against a broad colorful horizon...and then they dissolve into the dark and brooding depths of cold, damp caverns harmonically rich with feedback and noise, guttural wailing, and sparse reverberating percussion.  Reverence To Stone ascends and then descends, saturated in a profoundly awakened heaviness and affection for cathartic melancholic beauty - it is an intense experience, and highly recommended.

You can listen to the album online thanks to Pitchfork. I've embedded their uploaded tracks here for your convenience...enjoy!


Intronaut is busy working on material for a new record expected sometime next year. They released this short video earlier today, and while it doesn't give much away it definitely gets me pretty amped. Valley Of Smoke saw Intronaut treading quite a bit of new ground in exploring sonic possibilities; it provided a variation of Intronaut without compromising their core character or quality. What's in store for 2013? Is it bad that I am already expecting my mind to be blown? When I listen to this I cannot help but want to pick up my guitar and create copious amounts of loud.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Happy Belated Melodramatic Birthday To Me

I am in 90's shoegaze heaven thanks to my Mom and Dad; for my birthday this year they ordered all three Mazzy Star 180g vinyl represses: She Hangs Brightly, So Tonight That I Might See, and Among My Swan. These came out a couple of years ago around the time that Hope Sandoval spilled the beans that they were working on a new record, which is slated for release before the end of the year. My vinyls arrived this weekend and I must say that I am thrilled with the quality of pressing and packaging - the robust sturdiness of the sleeves is simply delightful; all high grade vinyl should come like this. I'm too often disappointed with 180+ gram discs that are housed in cheap, nearly paper-thin sleeves.
The music of Mazzy Star is a hazy summer afternoon of introversion - alone in a smokey and softly quiet room, the rustling sound of wind through trees reminiscent of the ocean. You look out further and further to what surrounds you now and what throughout the years has been the backdrop of life. As this eventually fades you inevitably meet yourself. Roles and dramas fall away...feelings well up and out. As you open, you empty. You stop being the proprietor of emotion, and instead become the releasing of it. Though initially intense, as you continue to deplete this magnitude diminishes...until you become nothing - inanimate and void of substance. Depressing? Sometimes. But nowhere can only become somewhere, and no one can only become someone. Nothing easily turns to anything and to everything. You can't grasp at past identity if you want to be free; you have to completely let go so that you can take hold of the reins once again. Mazzy Star is the cathartic fixed stare into the mirror that we all need from time to time.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Novel Tea For Etherics

I have not really explored electronic music for quite some time, so admittedly I am far out of the loop. That said, it did not take me long to turn up the latest release from Silent Land Time Machine, and it's blowing my mind. I am no longer alone with myself and can only artificially recall the scary and beautiful feeling of solitude is, as a title as well as a record, a tremblingly lustrous piece of poetry. Each track steeps within the senses, working into the fascia of the physical and ethereal bodies where it saturates into the solidarity of our experience. As the record comes to a close, it carries a know that feeling when you've just finished reading an incredible book - one that spoke so deeply to your heart that you truly felt understood - one that left you with heightened energy and the sense of perfect aliveness? You assimilate the reading of that literature into the fabric of your being; from there on out that book is intertwined with who you are and can no longer be considered merely a physical object on a shelf. Try this on for a while and see how it fits...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why wait until the last minute when...

June has been a pretty inactive month for TimbreLeaf. This wasn't intentional, but it also wasn't unintentional. Other corridors of my life have been given much more of my attention lately. What little time I manage to assemble for creativity has been optioned to music projects: one long distance endeavor with a long time dear friend, some local jamming with a newer friend, and some very personal solo acoustic work.

Things have been busy. My dad went in for surgery a couple of weeks ago. This was the second related to the aneurysm that ruptured in his brain last October. I am happy to report that the operation was successful, resulting in an expected increase in his strength, independence, and return of personality traits. Every day I am in awe at how resilient my old man is...he still has so much drive and liveliness in him even after all of this. Seeing and hearing him laugh is an amazing gift that I will never again take for granted.

I also recently celebrated my 31st birthday. I had a small group of friends over and throughout the night I insisted my guests choose vinyl from my collection to spin. I am sure that it was mostly due to my insistence, but they cooperated nonetheless. Here's a sample of selections from the evening: Jethro Tull's Stormwatch, Sleepy Sun's Embrace, Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues, Do Make Say Think's Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn, An American Prayer, some random Polish polka, and Jethro Tull's Songs From The Wood.

Last night I spent some time exploring new music ( to me anyhow). It was the first time in a long while that I had actually dedicated time for doing just that. It was quite a fruitful evening as I stumbled upon a few things that may eventually find their way to TimbreLeaf. For now I'll leave you with a track from Seattle's Anhedonist, whom I've discovered thanks to the dangerously fantastic blog that is OMG Vinyl. Hearing this was a reminder and a beckoning - long has it been since I've delved wholeheartedly into this sort of dark and powerful music...and long has it been since I've allowed music to flourish in my heart the way I once had. It is time for me to nourish what I can no longer ignore.

PS ~ You may have noticed the incredible new TimbreLeaf logo above the blog archive. This was created by the exquisitely lovely and talented Rosemary of Rosemud.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Thing V

The fifth Thing In The Spring came to a close the afternoon of Sunday June 10 with a very special set. To the surprise of many, Death To Tyrants had announced earlier this year that they would be performing a reunion show. I was disheartened when I realized that I was not going to be able to attend. Imagine my delight when their name appeared on the bill for this year's Thing. I'm extremely happy to have had a second chance and it was the perfect ending to an amazing art-filled weekend.

The festival kicked off June 8th at Peterborough Town Hall. The Town Hall's auditorium was the perfect step up as a venue for The Thing, featuring a large stage and ample space for seating, dancing, mingling, and merch. Later that evening entertainment moved down the street to Harlow's Pub for a late night dance party DJ'd by Redwing Blackbird's own Austin Wright. Saturday afternoon simultaneously featured both *broke: The Affordable Arts Fair and a Jem Cohen film marathon presented by The MacDowell Colony. In the evening we were graced with not 1 but 2 shows: one at the town hall, and the other at Harlow's Pub. If, miraculously, you managed to get up and out of bed Sunday morning Harlow's also featured a farm breakfast with cartoons - a mellow appetizer for the afternoon's grand finale.

Needless to say I was pretty spent by sundown Sunday evening. I relaxed at home reflecting on the festival, feeling refreshed and inspired to create. It sometimes just seems too good to be true to have such a rich art scene here in the Monadnock region, and even more so that every year we get to experience the showcase of talent that is The Thing In The Spring. I certainly never take it for granted.

I've deliberately chosen not to go into depth about each artist/band in this year's Thing post...there'd just be too much to squeeze in. Instead I'll let the music speak for itself. I have selected a single track from my bootleg of each indoor set. These tracks were recorded with a pocket voice recorder and thus are very raw, providing a fly-on-the-wall experience; don't expect sonic clarity, but instead let each track convey the atmosphere and energy of each performance. Accompanying each is a photograph by Elisabeth Fuchsia (her full set of photographs from The Thing can be found here). In some of the shots you can get a glimpse of Luke Ramsey's artwork as the backdrop for the main stage. Enjoy!

Friday - 01 - Mmoss

Friday - 02 - Daniel Higgs
daniel higgs

Friday - 03 - Woods

Saturday - 04 - PG Six

Saturday - 05 - Brown Bird
brown bird

Saturday - 06 - Nina Nastasia
nina nastasia

Saturday - 07 - Mail The Horse
mail the horse

Saturday - 08 - Coke Weed
coke weed

Sunday - 09 - Red Sled Choir
red sled choir

Sunday - 10 - Death To Tyrants
death to tyrants

Personally, my highlights were the centering and spiritual experience that is Daniel Higgs, the foot-stomping swampy sounds of Brown Bird, and the intense instrumentals of Death To Tyrants. My utmost thanks and appreciation go out to Eric and Mary Gagne, all of the contributing artists, and everyone who helped put this together. Thank you all for a fun and truly memorable NH weekend!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Voyages Of The Soul

Whilst Record Store Day last month may not have been everything that I wanted it to be, the day was later ameliorated with the arrival of a very limited edition pressing of Alcest's Les Voyages de l'Âme. I had been patiently awaiting this vinyl's presence in my collection and had been tying myself over by streaming the record on Spotify pretty regularly since its initial release.  This special edition is on 180g gold-colored vinyl and unlike the first pressing dons the original gorgeous album artwork:
Les Voyages de l'Âme is overflowing with beauty to the extent that is just not possible to describe with words; I've honestly been putting off this post because I'm rendered speechless every time I sit down to listen to it.  Les Voyages... is an observation and artistic representation of the eternal part of what it means to be human - our legacy of touching the earth - the immortality of continuous generational knowledge and growth.  This is not just a record, but an affirmation of humanity on a personal, intimate level.  Further, it's a journey that can only be taken after a fall to a low, dark place. Some form of clarity arrives and the ascent begins...the bittersweet rise from the ashes of the phoenix. Some part of yourself is gone - left behind and not to be felt ever again, but with this transformation comes rebirth and the immense energy of an empty canvas.
I can feel my heart break but also open could be a very confusing state for attempting to discern its reason or validity. Alcest's sound is the expression of this transfiguration of emotion from anguish and immense sadness to pure love and resolve to light; it's the wavering motion of emotional intensity and the understanding thereof with a clarity of heart. Through most of the record vocals are sung cleanly and comprised of delicate and graceful melodies set atop a strong foundation of varied guitar work and chord progressions. Occasionally brutal howls underly the deliciously lush vocal phrases and drawn melancholic instrumental motifs. Some passages border on shoegaze, others on blackened doom metal...and incredibly there really does seem to be nearly everything else in between at one point or another. Everything fits and flows like a natural and rocky stream - the whole record is delivered smoothly and with an organic confidence. It is also clear that Les Voyages... was meant to be taken as a whole, telling a sort of musical spiritual fairytale - chalk full of the mystery and majesty of life. It's a lonesome and well-needed wander through the wood: a meditation of the heart's song.

Speaking of walks in nature, Alcest has just recently released this lovely promo video for the title track...
The second side of the record opens with angelic choral vocals, immersing the listener in a dream state until blast-style percussion and driving guitars spill into the mix for one of the record's most powerful moments. When I hear this, I can only listen and not help but be swept away...
Les Voyages de l'Âme is easily one of my top picks for 2012; I have fallen in love with it.  All sung in French it is quite the sensuous treat - a sumptuous feast.  If you have not explored this masterpiece of an album yet, you are truly missing out on something quite special.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Meshuggah / Baroness @ The Palladium

May 19, 2012.  I just returned from Worcester, wired from Meshuggah's intense and lengthy set.  I could have done without so much man sweat everywhere, but it was worth it to see all of the headbanging stop and start again every 3 to 10 seconds when the band would change time signatures.  They stuck with mostly newer material but dug as far back as Chaosphere and even Destroy Erase Improve.  To say their performance was tight is like saying the ocean is a bit wet...and although there wasn't much movement on stage apart from Jens Kidman's robot zombie gorilla gesturing, the stage art and lights kept onlookers well entertained.  Tomas Haake's percussive precision had my eyes fixed for much of their set.
Baroness played a well-varied set including a couple of new songs from the forthcoming Yellow & Green.   Despite the lackluster bass-trap sound of the Palladium they were great - vocal harmonies and twin guitar licks were beautifully executed.  It was very cool to see them on this bill between Poland's Decapitated and Sweden's Meshuggah: a break from the brutality to lay down some serious rock and roll.  The crowd responded by dissolving the pit and opting for copious amounts of crowd surfing.
I was hoping to pick up a vinyl copy of Koloss, but Meshuggah had very little music to offer at the merch table - only a couple of CD's and no vinyl at all.  I was happily consoled by 5th represses of both Red Album and Blue Record.  Sure, 5th repress doesn't sound special, but it is.  They're high-grade 45rpm double vinyl editions, limited to ~1000 (Red Album) and ~500 (Blue Record) copies in 2011.  These editions where the ones in my wish list; look at them...gorgeous!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Thing Returns

I am very excited for this year's The Thing In The Spring.  In about four weeks I'll be spending the weekend in lovely downtown Peterborough filling my ears with a variety of sounds, and enjoying the hopefully gorgeous late spring weather.

This year's lineup is brilliant: Mmoss, Death To Tyrants (!!!), Brown Bird, Coke Weed, Klessa, PG Six, Woods, Nina Nastasia, Daniel Higgs, Tongue Oven, Ouroboros, Mail The Horse, Rock Flint Contemporary Ensemble, and David Kontak.  As usual on Saturday there's *broke: The Affordable Arts Fair featuring dozens of local artisans hawking their wares for cheap.  Is that not enough?  How about a music documentary mini festival, breakfast and cartoons at Harlow's Pub, a bunch of free outdoor sets, and an after party?  Go get your tickets here!

Poster art by Ryan Wilson

Sunday, May 6, 2012


I spent the day walking around Salem, MA with my Grandmother.  After asking at a few places we found the unassuming shop named The Record Exchange.  With no website and located well outside of the downtown and wharf areas, this place is quite the lovely hidden gem.  I was lucky to have enough time before they closed to walk away with a serious record haul.
All three classic Boston releases.  All first pressings.  Don't Look Back and Third Stage don't even look like they've been played.  These are not rare by any means, but in this condition are a very unusual find.
This copy of Patti Smith's Easter is an original and while the sleeve is quite a bit worn the vinyl disc is near mint!  The copy of Dream Of Life is also a first pressing and looks unplayed.
Cat Steven's Numbers: A Pythagorean Theory Tale.  The sleeve is worn, but complete with story book and inner sleeve; the disc is in very good condition.  A very interesting concept album featuring sides zero and one...very cool.

I brought all of this home for $37.  The Record Exchange just made my must-visit list.