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 weekly column which will cover 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:
Animal Collective provides a tropical vacation to “FloriDada”
As much as I fucking adore Merriweather Post Pavilion, I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t ventured further into Animal Collective‘s discography. It happens to best of us: there’s an impossible amount of music to listen to, and something – or usually a lot of somethings – are pushed further further down the “Need to Listen” list. I actually took the time to listen to Panda Bear‘s latest solo album Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper early this year and didn’t care for it…at all, to be honest. All of this contextual drivel aside, I was stoked to see that announcement AC’s upcoming album Painting With and excited even further after listening to the album’s lead single “FloriDada.”
This may be stating the obvious, but this song is so fucking FUN. As someone exclusively familiar with Merriweather, this is a change of pace into an incredibly entertaining direction. “FloriDada” is an infectious, wonky slab of psychedelic pop that I’ve played countless times by now due to its unbridled catchiness. And while I can’t find official confirmation of this (he’s on the album but not explicitly given song credit(s)) , it sounds as though Colin Stetson‘s sax is sampled on the track, distorted in such a way to make it feel like a Dr. Seuss instrument. All of this verges on gaudiness, to be honest, but the trio have a clear air of self-awareness and pure enjoyment about them that it’s difficult to have a reaction contrary to head-bobbing and shouting along “FLORI-DA-DA” as loudly as possible. There are a myriad of releases I’m already anticipating for 2016, and this has now shot up to the top.
Painting With will be released via Domino Records on February 19th.
Endure The Wrath of Code with Dan Terminus
By now, it’s no secret that we are fully riding the retro/synth-wave. There’s just something about those heavy handed synths, shameless effects and overall aesthetic of the movement that speaks to the nerd in us. Whether it’s the usually brilliant album art, the science fiction feeling that is recaptured from dystopias of the 80’s or just the nostalgia dripping off of every track, there’s something here for everyone. Dan Terminus‘ The Wrath of Code is a pretty brilliant example of this: his sound moves from the heavier, darker influences that might echo Pertrubator to the much lighter, Golden Age science fiction sensibilties of, say, Nulabee. What emerges is an escapade through futurism that manages to skirt the right side of overbearing, presenting plenty of information to the ear while never overdoing it and leaving us lost.
Let’s get something out of the way first: this album, like most of its siblings, is synth heavy. However, instead of being regulated to the ominous background, the synths on The Wrath of Code act more like your traditional guitar leads do in metal or rock. That is, they provided the main musical line in many cases, serving to set the tone rather than the atmosphere in many cases. That’s how we get the difference between ‘Heavy Artillery’ for example, the most aptly named track on the album with its churning baseline and looming synths, and the more dreamy ‘Pegasus Pro Ultra Fusion’. The latter is “dreamy” exactly thanks to the main synth line, which is much more dispersed, nostalgic and majorly composed. Flying support are many other layers of synths, again channeling the more spaced out and light vibe.
That’s not to say however that only the synths are of interest here. The drums, sampled and re-recorded in true 8bit/80’s theme song fashion, also serve something outside of their traditional role in the genre. Like many of its contemporaries they’re not very complex. However, Dan Terminus utilizes fills and transitions in a much more interesting sense than usual: they serve to break up some of the monotony even when they’re not strictly “called for” by the traditional song structure for the genre. This serves to remedy one of the weakest points of the genre, the repetitiveness of the source material and overall composition.
Long story short, this is much more than just an album to get nostalgic to or to remember your favorite video games to. Like other luminaries of the sub-genre, Dan Terminus uses the basic retrowave structure to great effect, building on the basics by introducing interesting synth ideas and an overall penchant for off-key and unexpected composition. This enables The Wrath of Code to maintain our attentions over several listens instead of just playing it when we need a quick thrill or a specific use (try driving with some synthwave by the way. Thank me later). It’s an outstanding album that gives us hope that a phenomena which might often times be construed as played out, might still have some tricks to show us.
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Listen to the Voices From the Lake
Unlike the artists previously covered in this column, there is nothing that immediately grabbing about Voices From The Lake that connects them to metal. Consisting of two Italian producers long revered in techno and ambient circles alike – Donato Dozzy and Neel – their output under the VFTL moniker firmly stays within the boundaries of those same genres. A cursory listen to their self-titled debut may, then, puzzle a metal fan as to what makes it stand out in the endless swarm of atmospheric electronica.
If you immerse yourself in the album in its entirety, however, you will be rewarded with possibly one of the best-flowing, most sublime pieces of music ever made. In terms of its coherence and seamless transitions, Voices From The Lake is a prog nerd’s wet dream, one-upping pretty much any great concept album out there without shedding a single lyric in the process. In fact, it’s quite remarkable how much the duo can achieve using a decidedly basic palette of sounds. You won’t hear much on this album that is not a synth pad, bassline, or percussive element, but the sound design and use of restraint is what ties everything together. A single motif may persist through several songs without much apparent change, but the slightest pitch shift will suddenly cause it to take an entirely different meaning. Through this repetition and very deliberate pacing, what would otherwise seem like a mess of ordinary beats and basic melodies becomes an endless network of sounds each with their own identity, and each with an equally important role in controlling the album’s ebb and flow. When the release does come – which only happens a handful of times in the 70+ minute runtime – the emotional impact is infinitely more astonishing, and just as uplifting.
Voices From The Lake was released just three years ago and has already been established as a classic, and one of the most revered electronic albums to date. While it does demand its fair share of patience, giving in to it is easy due to its incredibly cinematic nature which, as cliché as it may sound, makes it a journey in the truest sense of the word.
-SM, EK & DA