Cyclamen – Memories/Voices

[06/06/12]
[Self Released]

The Japanese voice is powerful. There is a very alluring aspect about the Japanese language and how it influences the consequent English of Cyclamen mastermind Hayato Imanishi. It creates a very interesting dynamic in the beautiful and mathy soundscapes that infect Cyclamen’s catalogue. Having taken notes from Explosions in the Sky and the post-rock scene, Hayato has established himself by adding ambiance and post-rock flourishes to his background in djent and mathcore. Cyclamen has always been a two-pronged aural attack with lulling ambient sections and visceral hardcore backlash. His previous releases have shown a very deliberate balance of Cyclamen’s different approaches and it made it easy to cherry pick favourites that cast shadows over the other tracks. This factor contributes to the success and fault of Memories/Voices. Hayato makes a greater effort to blend these elements together in a more concise manner and to his credit, he has succeeded. The distinction between styles remain, but this time it’s not as easy as skipping a track to get one or the other, so if you’re into a more calm post-rock approach or the exotic technical sections then you might be better off listening to Cyclamen’s older material. However, if you’re a fan of both approaches and how they interact in the dynamics of a single track, than this is definitely Cyclamen’s best effort in that regard. In this climate, you could do far worse than Memories/Voices. -CD

3.5/5

 

Astra – The Black Chord

[03/27/12]
[Metal Blade Records]

It’s easy to get lost in the modern so-called prog scene that is currently saturated in directionless djent groove and wonder why they don’t make prog like they used to. As with any new iteration of a genre, there will always be people who beg for a return to collective form and reflect fondly on their favorite genre’s heyday. In this case, the 70’s progressive rock movement has given us the likes of Rush, Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson, leaving a profound impact on the music scene for generations to come. In all fairness, it’s difficult to push music any further thirty years later, and to re-tread the realm of our theatrical forefathers seems like the opposite of true ‘progression’, but California’s Astra does a fine job at filling the classic rock void while bringing it into modern light. This band of criminally ignored time-traveling wizards manage to channel and saturate the essence of the word ‘Prog’ and deliver an ethereal exploration into strange and stoned-out territory. Angular guitar leads, swirling synth pads, jazz instrumentation, and a disregard for standard song structure makes The Black Chord a glorious call-back to anything-goes progressive rock and psychedelia. Certainly an interesting and admirable feat, but there’s not much innovation on the sound, almost the the point of being entirely in avoidance of a modern touch. The Black Chord is an excellent release, yet it feels quite dated in both sound and production. If one had not known that this record were released in 2012, it’d be easily confused for a record released back during the genre’s peak output of influence and creativity — but therein lies the charm and entire point of Astra’s The Black Chord. Mission accomplished, but one can’t help but imagine what a greater contemporary influence in Astra’s presentation can hold for future outings. Perhaps it can bring them out of the realm of obscurity and into a position of great influence. – JR

4/5

 

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