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:
Gibonni – Mirakul
Much of this column focuses upon recent releases; however, this time I’ve decided to dig back through the archives and highlight an older album that’s been in my rotation. If the name Gibonni doesn’t ring a bell, that’s probably because he’s a Croatian rock/pop artist largely unknown to those outside of the Balkans, let alone outside of Europe. As is often the case
with artists from small countries singing in their mother tongue, their lack of notoriety has nothing to do with the quality of their music. If you’re an open-minded listener who enjoys world music, smooth vocals and fantastic composition then I urge you to give this a spin – it might just
Opener “Oprosti” helps english speakers ease into the record, with croatian verses mixed in with an english chorus. The track opens with tasty guitar noodles, lovely choral vocals and an assortment of heart-warming background sounds, giving the listener a sense for the variety of sounds they’re about to encounter. Indeed, the guitar flitters in and out of the track with aplomb, each lick noticeable and memorable alongside a solid rhythm section and strong vocals. Before the bridge we get a taste of klapa, traditional Croatian a cappella choirs, before a fantastic guitar solo and the final chorus. Things go from great to better with the following track, “Libar”, arguably the highlight of the record. Again, we get brilliant lead guitar, emotive choirs, and elements of traditional Croatian music, this time with the addition of tamburas (a type of
acoustic guitar). A massive chorus guaranteed to get stuck in your head then elevates the song to a whole other level and ensures the record gets off to a flyer.
“Ne Odustajem” then begins as a typical pop-rock ballad and, whilst far less interesting than its predecessors, is not to be discounted. This piano-driven tune is a duet between Gibonni and Italian pop artist Gaetano Curreri, with the latter’s gravelly vocals adding another dimension to the track and, indeed, the album. The remainder of the record then falls into one of the two categories of song we’ve already encountered. They’re either fantastic (“Oprosti” and “Libar”) or they’re a solid song with a little something added in to make it stand out (“Ne Odustajem”). Whilst the latter category includes the likes of “Tajna Vjestina”, with its Spanish guitar, and the sexy jazz feel of “Svi Moji Punti Kad Se Zbroje”, it would be remiss of us not to discuss the brilliant title track in detail.
“Mirakul” kicks off with a short intro composed of African beats and an enchanting baritone choir, before making way for a beautiful violin. Vocals, drums, bass and tambura join throughout the verses, the track building nicely into an open chorus where we once again see Croatian and English trading off. As with the opening two tracks, extraordinary composition sees disparate elements and instruments from different countries and cultures welded into an expertly crafted whole. Nothing seems out of place or excessive, each component adding to the track and tying in nicely with the remaining elements. Just as it would have been remiss of us not to discuss such a masterful song, it would be remiss of you not to give this record a try. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s predominantly in a foreign language. Be curious, give it a go and enjoy an incredibly well put together record which undoubtedly holds something for everyone.
Preoccupations – New Material
The post-punk gravy train continues to roll here on Unmetal Monday, this time with Preoccupations’ third record, New Material. 2018 continues to be a stellar year for one of modern music’s best subgenres, and this album does nothing to change that trajectory. After releasing a very solid record under the band’s previous moniker Viet Cong and 2016’s fantastic self-titled offering, it’s safe to say that expectations for New Material were sky high for me. While the album doesn’t quite reach its stratospheric heights in the way I was anticipating, it presents a stylistic turn into more lush, melodically rich, and emotionally hopeful territory that expands the band’s sonic horizons while maintaining the core tenets that make their sound unique and vital in this corner of the music world. In short, it’s really good stuff.
Opposed to the dark, jagged opening of the band’s previous record, New Material kicks off with “Espionage”, which feels pulled directly from the 1980s punk scene with its cavernous percussion values and sparkling synth lines. It’s an immediately noticeable and jarring differentiation from the band’s previous material, and ultimately one’s response to these changes in tone and tempo will define overall enjoyment of the record. If this track is not your cup of tea, the remainder of New Material will probably prove a disappointment. If you, like me, find yourself enchanted by this tonal shift, prepare yourself for a good time throughout the album’s duration. “Decompose” continues this sonic trajectory with some jittery/dreamy guitar and propulsive drum work as Matt Flegel’s vocals breeze by in his typically sonorous, listless fashion. All of this early energy leads to “Disarray”, perhaps brightest and most melodically triumphant track of the band’s career to date. But not every cut on the record keeps to this brighter, instrumentally diversified musical approach. Preoccupations’ more jagged and nervous edge resurfaces in the latter half of the record, with “Antidote”, “Solace”, and “Doubt” heralding back to the more menacing and less-immediate tones of the band’s self-titled record. All of the above elements culminate in the aggressive, dark, harrowing instrumental closer “Compliance”, which finds the band digging deeply into the tones found in their work in the now defunct and much-missed Women. It’s a fantastic closer to an album that refuses to sit still throughout its duration, and finds the band pushing itself into bold new sonic territory.
Not every post-punk or Preoccupations fan will enjoy New Material, and this is without question the most divisive album the band have yet produced. But give it the time and attention it deserves and its multi-layered pleasures will unfold themselves in stark and beautiful ways. A bold new direction for a band unafraid to mess with expectations, and one of the post-punk highlights of the year thus far.
Reformat – Astrograms
There’s a niche where post rock meets electronica that’s just my favorite thing. It was famously spearheaded by 65daysofstatic, who slowly moved from their more noisy origins and into the dreamy spaces that take place when delay, beats and synths meet. Reformat works within those spaces; his upcoming album, The Singularity, has everything a fan of the genre needs. The guitars are chunky and pronounced, the beats move between dreams and futuristic aggression, and the synths are incredibly lush. Don’t believe me? Just check out the first single from the album below.
“Astrograms” is a really good showcase of why this album is great. From the eerie intro of the track, through the introduction of those huge guitars, and right down to the more ambient, sample heavy segments which follow, this track is just a hell of a ride. All sounds are in their place and produced to a tee, birthing the kind of expansive soundscapes which both electronica and post rock are capable of. These successes can be found in abundance on the album; it explores the heavier sides heard on this track but also leaves space for some more vaporwave influenced explorations, synthwave and more.
In short, if you like electronic music that kicks hard, The Singularity is a debut you want to watch closely. It’s some of the best stuff we’ve heard in the genre recently, a well rounded and explored piece of music. Turn on your implants, hook into the web, and let the mechanical yet somehow human sounds of Reformat take you away.