After the unusual, and much less successful Adore Jimmy Chamberlain returned to the Pumpkins and they obviously began to dream big again. The Machina project was originally envisioned by the band as a double-album heavy on concept. However due to the poor reception of Adore the label only allowed it to be released as single-album. There was a whole concept crafted around the record which saw the band made into cartoon characters but the whole story was never fully completed and there are only bits and bobs floating around as to what this was all about.
Musically Machina marks a further departure in style from the music that brought them mainstream success and the sound is more electronic based than even Adore. There is, however, heavier music to be found here than on it’s predecessor. The opening track, The Everlasting Gaze, is one of the bands heaviest songs with a great guitar riff but it also shows how production has become the main focus of Corgan’s vision as the sound is much less raw and in a way less real than their old style and while still a good track it lacks a personal feel that they always used to have. There is nothing inherently wrong with Machina, it’s still an album that deserves to be heard but its clear that the record was made without a clear aim, as the band was falling apart during recording and the concept was never fully realised people were reluctant to buy into it.
While you could not call Machina a poor record it was made during troubled times for the band and is probably the groups weakest effort overall. However it was never given the chance to be released as Corgan had intended it to be and perhaps it loses out because of this, as Corgan is working on remastering all the old Pumpkins albums and promises that this Machina package will be re-released in its complete form we may have something much more interesting on our hands.
Atoms for Peace are a new supergroup that includes Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Flea of the Chilli’s, Joey Waronker of Beck and R.E.M., Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and percussionist Mauro Refusco. They’ve been around for a little while, orignally getting together for Thom Yorke’s solo touring then they released Judge, Jury and Executioner way back in 2009. No one really knew what was to come of them but they kept on going releasing the first official single Default in September 2012 having claimed they were finishing off an album all the way back in September 2011. But it hasn’t been until this week that Amok has finally materialised.
It’s not a world away from Radiohead, Yorke’s falsetto vocals are always going to create a certain feel no matter what band he’s in and with the inclusion of producer Nigel Godrich the impeccable, understated sound that makes Radiohead records so great is apparent here too. But there are differences elsewhere. Flea’s basslines bring a new flavour to the sound often forming the base of the tracks particularly in Dropped and Before Your Very Eyes… His influence on the record as a whole, not just in the bass parts, is clear too there’s a constant feel of funk that isn’t really there on a Radiohead record. It’s helped along by the combination drums and percussion both of which are produced to perfection as they ripple away underneath the sparse musicality that is over the top.
There is not one track that’s a let down, there’s not one track that isn’t a great song and it’s hard to pick out stand-out moments because it’s all so good, my only qualm would be that it’s only nine tracks long, it leaves you wanting more but really that can only be a good thing. An early contender for album of the year.
Dubstep is dead and gone, murdered and trampled into the ground by pop music and Skrillex taking the form and bending it into something it never should have been. However glimmering out from the gaps in the clouds you get a few artists who still take dubstep to new levels the best of which I have ever come across, conveniently for this metaphor, goes by the name of Pretty Lights. I’ve heard the odd track of his being banded around our house for the past six months or so and had always been impressed until yesterday I finally got down to listening to him extensively, so far I’ve listened to probably just over half his discography and pretty much every song has blown me away.
The first record I put on was his second album, a double LP called Filling Up the City Skies and I was greeted with something I didn’t quite expect. The album was a lot more chilled than his newer stuff that I’d heard before and it seamlessly combine hip-hop rhythms with warbling bass creating some of the most atmospheric tunes I’ve ever heard, the whole two discs of the album doesn’t contain one bad song and it creates a mood that I could, quite happily, just sit in all day every day with.
Then I moved on to some of his more recent EP’s all of which came out 2010 there was, Spilling Over Every Side, Making Up a Changing Mind and finally, Glowing in the Darkest Night. Every EP had it’s aura but all still managed to encompass the distinctive flavour I’ve come to love. Interspersing pumps of rhythm from electric guitars with dubstep bass and hip-hop beats, it literally doesn’t get better than this.
As I write this I am listening to his first album, Taking Up Your Precious Time, and am hearing a very different sound still. Much less electronic and much more jazzy with more rolling bass lines and synth tones being sprinkled over the top. It just begs the question why this guy is not huge? Why is he not a household name? He creates music unlike any other on the scene but yet it’s Skrillex who becomes the breakthrough dubstep producer, it just doesn’t compute but anyway before I go into a rant about the hideous state of the world go and listen to some Pretty Lights post me a comment to let me know your opinion.
If you’re a follower of the blog you’ll have probably picked up on my anticipation for this record. Electronic duo Alice Glass and Ethan Kath know how to create original and interesting music and Crystal Castles have somehow managed to make their way into my group of absolute favourite artists. Their first two albums offer a dark, sometimes haunting picture littered with dance beats and disco sounds. III is no different, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s own unique charm. It is their first album to be solely produced by Kath himself. The result is something which I think is more personal than their two previous works and at the same time more universal.
The first thing that struck me about III was that it sounds a lot more calm than their previous two albums. The tracks that came out before the album reflect this slightly more ambient feel. It shows an advancement in their musicianship the way they manage to incorporate the ambience while keeping the elements of their other work that was so effective. ‘Affection’ for example is a much softer song than almost anything you’d find on I or II but at the same time its echoing synth’s are just anthemic as anything the Castles have ever done, if not more so. On top of this there’s still this air of mystery and discovery as they experiment with new sounds, ‘Insulin’ is sounds like it’s been crafted by something completely new and different.
The band have also continued the way in which they manage to portray such complex emotions with music, particularly when the lyrics are actually inaudible. ‘Pale Flesh’ provokes in me a sense of being trapped in this electronic cell and takes me back to my days of adolescence where all I wanted to do was break out. This is all deliberate and it really speaks to their artistry that they are able to portray such angst and emotion with a genre that is usually known for being shallow.
III as a record is also much easier to listen to than their previous albums. It gives a more relaxed atmosphere even when it’s meanings are something much darker. With Kath producing I think it offers a much more organic sound, similar to that of Brian Eno, and they manage to envoke a similar atmosphere to some of his records while still holding on to their cutting edge, visceral emotions.
As II did I, III shows Crystal Castles making another giant leap into experimentation and come out the other side having discovered a new way to cut through your exterior and write electronic music with a human heart. This album not only improves upon the bands past achievements it surpasses that of any electronic group there has ever been. Crystal Castles are amazing
About a year or so ago I wasn’t enjoying life a whole lot, I’d been working a dull part-time job at Argos for months on end, didn’t feel like I had any real friends and was just waiting for the year to end so I could get out of this shitty town that I’m now residing in during my uni summer holidays. During that dreadful year I needed to find something that would keep me sane, I needed something that would help know that there was something more to me than the majority of people I was associating with at the time who had no ambition or concept of what was going on in the outside world. Crystal Castles became a band that somehow provided me that knowledge that I had something more than them. I could pick up real, genuine emotion from this electronic, distorted-vocal misfit act and I took pride in the fact that I knew none of the dead end personalities that I hung round with would ever understand.
While I fell in love with the band then it wasn’t until just this afternoon that I decided to listen to them again, in anticipation of their forthcoming third album, and it was just today I realised Crystal Castles genuinely are one of the greatest bands around at the moment, and for the first time realised what their music had done for me personally. I know all that’s going to sound like soppy adolescent gabbling to you and that’s why I want to encourage you to take a listen for yourself if you haven’t before or if you previously discarded them as being just too weird, so you can see for yourself if it is just adolescent gabbling or if actually this band are pretty fucking sick.
Their experimentation is spread neatly throughout tried and tested techniques which provides an all round pleasurable experience that has elements of mental partying colliding face first into deeply thoughtful vibes. All this and the ability to write tunes that will stick in your head for a good few days puts them on the map as one of the most uniquely diverse bands around, whilst never really straying from their signature style. Their second album provides a more refined and overall better listen than the first but that’s not to discount the fact that their debut has an air of true greatness about it. The band recently released the first single from their upcoming album on youtube, the track is called ‘Plague’ if you want to check it out and keep your eyes on the blog for a review of the record when it’s released, but definitely give these guys a taste and let me know what you think of them.