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 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:
Mogwai Goes Atomic In New Track “Ether”
Last month, veteran post-rockers Mogwai announced their new album, Atomic, which features reworked pieces of music they used to soundtrack the BBC documentary of the same name about the history and science of the very cheery topic of nuclear warfare. They’ve already released the first single, “U-235,” which employs the retrowavey synth that’s become more prominent in their work of late between their soundtrack for Les Revenants and their last studio album Rave Tapes (I would argue not nearly enough in the latter, to its detriment). Over the weekend they premiered a second single on BBC Radio called “Ether,” which happens to be the lead track for the album.
“Ether,” while also making great use of deep synth tones, is also a much brighter track overall, particularly as the floating intro transitions into a gorgeous horn melody. It’s a fantastic spin on the more optimistic/hopeful Mogwai formula they’ve perfected over the years. If you’re more a fan of Mogwai’s soundtrack work and soundtrack-like albums (Happy Songs For Happy People, etc.) like I am, then Atomic should be high up on your list of anticipated 2016 releases. The album is out through the band’s own label Rock Action on 4/1, and you can listen to the new track for a limited time on BBC Radio’s website (starting at roughly 44:40) or purchase it through iTunes.
Sarah Neufeld’s Magic Lives Between The Notes
Sarah Neufeld is a name you should all know: besides being the violinist for Arcade Fire, she also worked with the incomparable genius of Colin Stetson. Her sophomore release is due in just a few weeks and we couldn’t be more excited. The last track released was an energetic escapade while this new track, “Where the Light Comes In,” is a phenomenal, morose and melancholic exploration of the spaces between the notes, the little touches that add power to the delivery.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/218983201″ params=”color=ff5500″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Right before the one minute mark you can hear a soft pick at a string, right in between the resonance of the main note. Later, the deeper string instrument beautifully echoes not necessarily the main line but its shadow, the space below it where the main instrumentation doesn’t quite reach. It also ends the track, ending what began with a lighter touch with a more defeatist yet proud timbre. The whole thing is Neufeld at her best: careful, precise and yet, strangely moving and powerful.
yndi halda Are Back And They’ve Painted A Huge Target On Your Heart
yndi halda might not be much of a name outside of rarefied post-rock circles, but their 2006 debut, Enjoy Eternal Bliss, is one of the genre’s seminal releases. In a time where Mono, Red Sparrowes and others were defining the genre, yndi halda erupted unto the scene with soft touches and a flair for the forlorn. Ever since then, fans has been anxious to here more: in true, fitting fashion, the band have been silent since, like a cold breeze which quickly fades away.
Well, the cold winds are blowing again as yndi halda prepare to release Under Summer. Set for release on 3/4, a lead single has now appeared from it. “Together Those Leaves” is nothing short of magic. Opening with softly spoken vocals atop dreamy guitars, feeding into achingly beautiful strings and piano coordination, spending time on a beautiful multi-voice choir segue, the track is a good reminder of why yndi halda are so admired.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/245276509″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
It’s almost as if this takes no effort from them: every single tone played on the piano, every single strumming of the backing guitar which echoes it throughout the track, seem right, natural, preordained, universal. In the years since that primordial genesis, perhaps post rock has forgotten something, in its obsession with build up and release, build up and release. Refusing to limit themselves only to the power of crescendo, although not foregoing it completely as this track can attest, yndi halda offer so much more. Longing yes but also hope, dream, heart and joy. With one track, they speak more than full albums.
Imagine what the album will be like. Our hearts are not ready.
Yuck it Up With “Hearts In Motion”
In 2011, Yuck took the wider alternative scene by storm, securing their debut self titled album as an instant classic. Now, after their 2013 release, Glow and Behold, Yuck is back, once again playing their infectious blend of shoegaze and noise pop, but with a new twist.
Based on lead singles “Hearts in Motion” and “Cannonball”, Yuck has decided to deviate from their fuzz drenched, wall of sound attack in favor of a more intense spotlight on their ear worm hooks. The singles bleed power pop, presenting as much of Weezer or Cheap Trick as they do Ride or Dinosaur Jr. The band’s newest album, Stranger Things, is due out February 26th on Mamé Records.
GoGo Penguin’s “Man Made Object” Is Acoustic Jazz For The Electronic Music Age
Although the band has popped up numerous times in several of our weekly playlists, we haven’t really talked about UK jazz trio GoGo Penguin before on this site. I don’t want to say too much about this group and this album right now as it’s going to be the focus of our next and upcoming Jazz Club column (Yes, we’re officially bringing it back!), but I will say this: IT’S GREAT. The band specialize in a type of minimalistic groove-based fusion that features killer drum and bass grooves and piano that jumps from jazzy to classical and elsewhere. It’s a combination that has drawn a lot of comparisons to another experimental acoustic jazz trio, The Bad Plus, but on their third album and first on the legendary Blue Note Records, Man Made Object, the band prove that they are a unique and special entity unto their own that should attract a ton of crossover appeal from fans of all types of music.
Despite being a group solidly grounded in acoustic instruments and sounds (piano, double bass, and drums), the band manages to employ and exploit them in ways that sound closer to breakneck electronic drum and bass patterns and grooves. Nick Blacka (bass) and Rob Turner (drums) are absolute monsters, providing a foundation more akin to electronic artists like Aphex Twin than what most would associate jazz with, particularly on the frenetic “Weird Cat” and the deliriously delightful and trancey “Smarra.” Pianist Chris Illingworth, meanwhile, generally takes a more classical and minimalist compositional approach to his playing, opting to build up complex soundscapes through moody textures and repeating melodies rather than technical solos. It’s certainly closer to the likes of the aforementioned Mogwai than any of the other jazz pianists and trios on Blue Note’s roster, which makes it even more interesting to find the group on there. In a time when jazz is, more than ever, struggling to find relevance and build new audiences in younger generations, GoGo Penguin and similar artists seem like an interesting new branch forward for the genre, one that jazz labels would be stupid to ignore.