There’s a lot happening in the music world, and we here at Heavy Blog try our very best to keep up with it! Like the vast majority of heavy music fans, our tastes 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 bi-weekly column which covers noteworthy 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. This week, we’ll be highlighting a few albums and tracks that struck our fancy over the past few weeks. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:
Fever Ray – Plunge
It’s been eight years since Karin Dreijer’s lush, cold slow burn of a debut album as Fever Ray, and four since Shaking the Habitual, the latest and perhaps final dose of electronic mayhem from her and Olof Dreijer’s influential project The Knife. Lots has happened between then and today musically, socially, and politically. But one thing that has not changed is the manic creativity and songwriting talent of Karin Dreijer, who dropped her sophomore album as Fever Ray, Plunge, on Friday to little fanfare and with little warning. Perhaps it’s the surprise of it all, the lack of a traditional heads up, that makes this album such an exhilarating and jarring experience. I think that sells this wonderful album short, as Plunge is perhaps the most layered, textured, meticulously composed, and lyrically stimulating music Dreijer has yet produced.
Comparisons (though apt) to Bjork aside, Dreijer’s unique vocal delivery and lush compositions have placed her in the avant garde fringe of the pop world. While Plunge does not necessarily gravitate away from the most eccentric portions of her aesthetic and songwriting style, it does present many accessible entry points for the uninitiated without losing the core that makes her music unique, immediately recognizable, and memorable. Opening track “Wanna Sip” may be the one of the most rousing, thumping dance numbers of the year, with Dreijer’s layered vocals warring for supremacy against an infectious, slow build of a beat that gains momentum and power with each passing second. It’s a jarring and fantastic opener that sets the stage for the grandeur to come. And grandeur it is. From the dark, brooding sonic underbelly of “Falling” and the incredibly unique production of album stand-out “IDK About You”, to the political and sexual rallying cry of “This Country” and the personal and romantic revelations of “To the Moon and Back”, this is an album that offers so much without once losing its sense of propulsive, focused direction. It all feels of a whole without once becoming samey, stale, or boring, and maintains this eclectic energy all the way through the final meditative notes of finale “Mama’s Hand”.
Plunge is without question superior to its predecessor, which would be more than enough to consider the album a success. But Dreijer doesn’t settle for that. Instead, she has crafted a record that has defied expectations both musically and lyrically, creating something that feels vital for this particular moment in the world, as well as universal enough in appeal to have some serious staying power in pop music for years to come. A fantastic release that I cannot recommend highly enough.
L’ocelle mare – Temps en terre
Most famously recognized for his work in what I will describe as “acoustic Hella” – the experimental math folk band Cheval de frise –, French musician Thomas Bonvalet has since turned to more exploratory music with his solo project L’ocelle mare (free translation: The Ocellus Puddle). Temps en terre is the fifth album of the project, and its first studio one. This peculiar project is founded more on percussive elements, wind instruments, mechanical devices, and other amplified noises. On this latest experimentarium, the project’s instrumentation is expanded to welcome piano, banjo, bass guitar, claves, bells, concertina, drums, and many others. It is a strange album and it is mind-boggling to think this is the work of a sole musician. It is the unaltered and unbridled artistic output of Thomas Bonvalet, and it is quite an experience to let yourself be immersed in it, and Temps en terre is the best one to start with, with its crude studio lighting.