Welcome back to Unmetal Monthly, fair readers. Have we mentioned you look hot today? You’re hot for reading this. Why? Because beyond the next divider, you’ll find everything

2 years ago

Welcome back to Unmetal Monthly, fair readers. Have we mentioned you look hot today? You’re hot for reading this. Why? Because beyond the next divider, you’ll find everything you need to round out a good weekend doing hot shit: Mad Max-themed synthwave to rage to, late night k-pop to turn your kitchen into a dancefloor, and some foggy lo-fi to nurse your hangover the next morning. Oh, and an intergalactic ambient sojourn via sanguine ritual or something, presumably for your Sunday night. Whatever, she goes here now.

Calder Dougherty

Top of the Pops

BaldocasterWar Rig (synthwave)

While there isn’t quite enough electronic music which interests me to keep writing Wave // Breaker, I will still take any chance I can get to write about Baldocaster. If you’ll recall, the project first captured my imagination with the excellent Visions. While that album was thoroughly of the “kosmich” sub-genre, and you can get read my post about it to dive a bit deeper into what that is, the new EP he released in February is much more outrun and synthwave oriented. Oh, and it rules.

Apparently, whether doing semi-ambient electronic symphonies on space or simply reveling in neon drenched, space-opera vibes, Baldocaster is equally at home. War Rig is a six track release which is simply a joy to listen to, both bubbly and direct in that way that good synthwave is but also intricate and rich like you’d expect from a Baldocaster release. I think what I love about it the most is hearing how many different tempos, and therefore moods, Baldocaster is comfortable enough to work in. On the title track, featuring the excellent Caspro, it’s the mid-tempo swagger of darker synthwave, all predatory vibes and sleek edges. “Mirage” has more grandiose sci-fi vibes and a faster beat to go with it, creating a more upbeat track that sets up beautifully for the album’s closer.

Oh, and I did mention this album is a Mad Max concept album? Come on, what’s not to love here! As I mentioned above, there hasn’t been a whole lot of electronic music that’s really grabbed my ear recently (although there are some upcoming releases I’m very much looking forward to) but leave it to Baldocaster to always release engaging, well thought out and well made music that keeps me listening. War Rig is simply a joy and I can’t wait to see what other electronic sub-genres and sounds this project experiments with.

-Eden Kupermintz

fromis_9Midnight Guest (k-pop, city pop, R&B)

Now-veteran girl group fromis_9 had a rough first few years of promotions. Navigating vote-fixing scandals at their genesis on Idol School (for which the TV network was sued) to good, but less-than-smash-hit songs keeping them lukewarm in the public perception, the nine women signed under PLEDIS Entertainment last year and immediately found the reinvigoration they needed. BTS’ HYBE acquired PLEDIS, an embattled legacy label, early in 2021 and had no hesitation in positioning fromis_9 as their new flagship girl idols – an opportunity the talented bunch gladly seized with single “Talk & Talk”, scoring their first #1 in almost five years as a group.

Musically, fromis_9 has always leaned into a more j-/city pop sound than their Korean contemporaries, eschewing big bass bops for fun, glitzy tracks more likely to end up on DDR than Just Dance. Their first full mini-album under new management, Midnight Guest takes this vision and laminates it with cool, effortless maturity. Lead single “DM” is the perfect distillation of this approach, imbuing their bubblegum disco with a more confident, adult theme compared to teenybopper tracks like “Love Bomb”. Vocalist Hayoung even throws in some ad-libbed whistle notes for color like it’s nothing, like that’s just a normal thing to do.

That’s about where the comparison to their prior work ends, with the rest of the album proving their ability to tackle more complex material in every regard. From the sultry, jazzy future funk of “Escape Room” to vocal ballad “Love is Around” and refreshing “Hush Hush”, written by members Soeyeon and Jiwon, Midnight Guest proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that fromis_9 are no one-trick ponies and only needed the right environment to flourish. While a little less exuberant than their prior releases, the EP makes for easy, enjoyable listening, and is a welcome, mature palate cleanser in the current k-pop climate.



Best of the Rest

Blood Incantation Timewave Zero (dark ambient)

It feels very strange to be writing about a Blood Incantation record outside the confines of Death’s Door. The band’s reputation as purveyors of cosmic death metal is beyond reproach at this point, but one of the more unique and enjoyable aspects of their records has always been their penchant for creating ambient soundscapes that enhance the atmospheric tendencies of their music. Hidden History of the Human Race exemplified this trend most boldly and to great effect, and with that emphasis in soundscape creation comes Timewave Zero, their most expansive, controversial, and wildly unique release to date.

To be honest, such divergences into ambient territory are not entirely novel in the metal world. Wolves In the Throne Room tried something very similar with 2014’s Celestite, and I feel fairly confident that Timewave Zero will receive the same befuddled and angst-ridden responses that record did. On the whole, Timewave Zero feels like a record that will appeal to Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream fans as much as it will their established fanbase, if not more so. Gone completely are the obliterating riffs and harsh howls, replaced instead with a sonic world that is wholly devoted to texture, ambience, and atmosphere. Consisting of two extended tracks (three if you purchased the physical CD version of the record), “Io” and “Ea”, the music progresses in eight separate movements, each building on the last with a slow burn clarity of vision that is commendable for a band that’s never released a full record in this style. Synths undulate and churn with a density and effortlessness akin to a Vengelis/John Carpenter film soundtrack, building and cascading in an ever-flowing stream of sound that is to a fault deeply immersive. Which is probably what I would consider the record’s principal attribute and strength. This is music built and intended to transport listeners to a very cosmic place, and accomplishes this mission brilliantly. It’s a slow burn for sure, but earns its runtime through gradual sonic evolutions that feel well thought out and meticulously constructed. I never would have guessed that BI would drop an album completely bereft of death metal, but if were to conjure what I thought that would sound like, this is pretty much it.

Far from a throwaway record, Blood Incantation present listeners with a sonic odyssey that feels appropriately moored to the foundations of their music, resulting in a record that sounds both very much like a Blood Incantation release and, well… not at all. It’s a feat of experimentation that succeeds by knowing exactly what it is, with a core of musicians fully devoted to creating a rich, surreal, psychedelic soundscape that expands pre-existing layers of their sound into new, boldly deliberate territory. Bravo, I say.

Jonathan Adams

Sad Eyed Beatniks Claudia’s Ethereal Weaver (lo-fi pop, fog pop)

Last November, the forever-excellent Bandcamp blog posted an article entitled, “San Francisco Isn’t Dead,” which profiled the rise of fog pop: a lo-fi, vaguely psychedelic subgenre of pop emerging from the Bay Area DIY music scene. The moniker was coined by Glenn Donaldson, the creative force behind The Reds, Pinks and Purples as well as the owner of Paisley Shirt Records, a primary distributor of fog pop albums. Achingly nostalgic and beautifully unfinished, several fog pop bands have made it into my regular rotation, such as The Reds, Pinks and Purples, Cindy, and April Magazine. But my favorite new-ish release has been Claudia’s Ethereal Weaver by the Sad Eyed Beatniks, a solo project by SF local K Linn. As the name implies, the album has an ethereal vibe that makes it feel like a single moment in time rather than a recording that can be played on demand.

Gentle guitars unwind over K Linn’s bittersweet vocals. It’s not a sad tune, but it’s not entirely happy either. We’re taking a journey down memory lane; one that keeps us afloat in strange times but also reminds us of what we’ve lost amid shutdowns and a global health crisis. It’s a bit reminiscent of old school pop, the kind that took us down California highways. K Linn is both sunshine and nostalgia, the perfect lo-fi pop experience for a Saturday morning.

Bridget Hughes

Calder Dougherty

Published 2 years ago