Like the grand majority of modern metal fans, our tastes here at Heavy Blog are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a recurring column which covers noteworthy news, tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:
Unconscious Disturbance – “Eye to Eye”
We’ve covered the New York by way of Brazil rockers Unconscious Disturbance before. Last we heard from them they had released their debut full-length, 2014’s Shooting At The Moon, an adventurous album, albeit one that perhaps wound up a bit unfocused. Running the gamut from heavy Tool-esque prog, some older Opeth sounds, with a dash of alt-rock, the band clearly proved themselves deft at many sounds but with plenty of room to grow in cementing their own style. If their new single “Eye To Eye” off of their upcoming EP Let It Rain is any indication, however, they’ve done just that.
As you may have guessed by virtue of the fact that we’re covering this track in our “unmetal” column, they appear to have decided to lean into the lighter, proggy alt-rock aspects of their earlier sound, trading in Opeth for the likes of Coheed and Cambria, The Mars Volta, and The Dear Hunter. “Eye To Eye” opens with a cavalcade of upbeat Brazilian percussion and leads into some jagged chords and riffs before vocalist and guitarist Kiko Freiberg takes over with clean vocals and dense harmonies. It’s a generally slick, compact, and very fun track with just enough technicality and musicianship thrown into the mix to make it more than just a straightforward jam, though it certainly has some earworm moments in there. The chorus in particular is likely to get stuck in your head and bring you back a few times.
This is, of course, only one track, but if the other songs on this EP are in a similar stylistic vein and of this quality of songwriting, then I think it will be fair to say that the band have found their musical niche and can charge full-steam ahead as a prog-alt-rock machine. Let It Rain will be out September 1st. –Nick Cusworth
The Avalanches – Wildflower
It’s rather hard to believe that Wildflower actually exists. It isn’t a list of information collected from interviews/rumors or a speculative piece on what a new record from The Avalanches might sound like, but a living, breathing work of art. Having released their debut album Since I Left You on November 27, 2000 in their home country of Australia and releasing this album on July 8, 2016 worldwide, there is a nearly 16 year gap in-between their records. We barely know the musical identity of the group with this only being their sophomore release, yet the music on Wildflower feels immediately familiar for the group while concurrently being something fresh and exciting. It’s an experience similar in spirit to Since I Left You; however, this experience is driven by a free spirit willing to take you on a magical mystery tour that will instill a sense of wonderment in you.
The reason I call it a magical mystery tour is because this album is heavily reminiscent of movies from the 60’s and 70’s that were essentially variety shows with some sort of underlying theme or overarching plot. Think about the films The Beatles made where the viewer is taken from vignette to vignette to see wacky situations interspersed with similarly wacky performances, while a story that may or may not make sense unfolds. The tracks with vocal heavy guest spots are the vignettes of Wildflower, showing off cartoony characters like Danny Brown and MF DOOM on the hip-hop three ring circus “Frankie Sinatra” or Biz Markie on the vibrant and enjoyably strange “Noisy Eater,” which funnily enough contains a sample of an Australian children’s choir singing “Come Together.” The overarching story that’s told throughout the rich sonic tapestry of the album is not focused on any single person, but instead focused on a people of a certain generation and time, those being the flower children of the 60’s and 70’s. The scope of this theme allows for the music to wander without fear of straying too far and the record is better for it.
The music on Wildflower is colorful, gorgeous and catchy, but talking about it on a song by song basis doesn’t do the album any justice. I could go on about the subtle moments of beauty, the infectious bass line that won’t quit on “Subways” and I probably could mention that the vocal sample on “Sunshine” is enough to bring tears to your eyes, but, this album is all about the experience from front to back. It’s not that the songs aren’t great individually, it’s just that this isn’t a record you’re going to want to put on shuffle or really skip around unless you’ve listened to it all the way through enough times to get a feel for the whole package. Even if this album occasionally fails on a song by song basis, no matter how few and far between/possibly non-existent those failures are, it is still an experience that as a whole can sweep you off of your feet and transport you to a place of magic and wonder. If you absolutely don’t have some sort of way to listen to the album in full on your first listen, check out the singles and decide if you might like more of what you hear and if you do, then forget what you thought about the songs when you listened to them out of context as they will be much better when in their proper place. This is less of an objective review and more of a wholehearted recommendation to fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Wildflower, which is one that engrosses and grows on you with each listen. –Ryan Castrati
Daymé Arocena – One Takes
I hadn’t heard of Daymé Arocena until just a few hours ago, when I stumbled onto her work on a usual weekend Bandcamp trawl. I’m not entirely sure what I expected, but the incredibly smooth and beautifully arranged jazz on her latest EP One Takes — with impeccable production to boot — doubtless exceeded whatever I could have possibly had in mind.
Birthed out of conversations with her label’s boss Gilles Peterson, One Takes features the 24-year-old (!) performer putting her unique spin in covering a varied collection of songs, featuring everything from epic Horace Silver cuts (the brilliant opener “Gods of Yoruba”) to infectiously catchy dance floor numbers (“Stuck”). Arocena’s own vocal presence ranges from powerfully energetic to utterly ethereal, and the arrangements themselves are similarly diverse, albeit threaded together by the noticeable flavours of her Afro-Cuban musical background permeating each and every one.
With nary a dull moment, One Takes is absolutely fresh-sounding from start to finish, and a highly promising release that is hopefully indicative of only greater things to come from the young artist. From our readership here at Heavy Blog, fans of bands like The Reign of Kindo will find lots to love in the EP, but it’s worth a listen even for those with any passing interest in jazz at all. – Ahmed Hasan
Pity Sex – White Hot Moon
Overly distorted and monotone. Bright yet melancholic. Not the typical descriptors that harken good music. Pity Sex‘s White Hot Moon, however, embraces an indie-grunge aesthetic like no other. It’s perfectly moody filled with “close your eyes and sway” type jams.
It’s delightful to listen to this album. Britty and Brennan lend their vocals to a boy-girl trade off style on some tracks and feature on their own tracks. Some songs are brash and up-tempo with the band teetering on the edge of being grunge or even a straight rock band. Other tracks have Britty or Brennan taking the spotlight behind lightly distorted guitar ballads. Usually the bass and drums kick in after a minute or two on these ballad tracks which breathes new life into a melody or lyric that might have been weaker if it wasn’t picked up by the rhythm section.
Some great guitar leads and the occasional solo feels extremely tasteful here. Nice licks that are bridged together by dissonance or feedback in a way that’s very reflective of the song structures. Often, the guitars do trade off’s much like the vocals, one of them doing a prolonged chord in the background while the more distorted guitar emphasizes that chord and follows along with the beat. Then the soft guitar will transition into some leads while the heavier takes a back seat.
All this back and forth means that otherwise simple straightforward songs remain interesting. It sets a song through it’s paces instead of trying to have an idea carry it. The musicianship here is spot on, right where it needs to be. The vocal delivery is probably leaves more to be desired, but you can’t fault the band for leaning their vocals into the style of music they play. It’s still charming and pleasantly executed.
This album is great almost always, but it’s particularly pleasing road trip, summer night type music. Play it on adventures. Don’t think about it too much. Let it carry you and you’ll have an album to highlight sound moments in your life. –Cody Dilullo