Indie Rapidfire Roundup – La Sera, Nicolas Jaar & Preoccupations

With Heavy Blog having changed the kind of content we publish and how we publish it, we’ve decided to retire our recurring Unmetal Monday column in favor of more ongoing/mercurial coverage of unmetal genres like indie rock, alternative, EDM, and more. One of the side effects of this is that we no longer had a central place to write about new music and albums from these kinds of artists/bands in a more informal way - things we might want to talk about but not necessarily in long-form. In light of that and our tradition of combining certain metal releases into groups to form “Rapidfire Reviews,” we've established this semi-regular column to take three recent or upcoming releases from the world of “indie” in the pejorative sense and offer some quick takes on them. In our latest Indie Rapidfire Roundup, contributor Mike McMahan and editors Nick Cusworth and Scott Murphy offer their thoughts on three very different, yet all well-anticipated albums: La Sera's Queens, Nicolas Jaar's Sirens and Preoccupations self-titled debut.

Wrekmeister Harmonies – Light Falls

A collective in both genres amassed and sheer body count, Wrekmeister Harmonies has made good on its multifarious ethos. Founder and principal member JR Robinson has enlisted a slew of metal and experimental musicians over his past three records, including Jef Whitehead of Leviathan; Lee Buford and Chip King of The Body; members of Indian, Corrections House and Twilight; and Marissa Nadler, among several others. Robinson's fourth album under the Wrek-Harm name - Light Falls - arguably contains his most high-profile ensemble yet, as he's joined by three members from seminal post-rock pioneers Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Thierry Amar on bass and contrabass; Sophie Trudeau on piano, violin and vocals; and Timothy Herzog on drums). Yet, despite the notability of this trio's inclusion, it's not the most striking feature of Light Falls, an album which changes a crucial aspect of Wrek-Harm's compositional approach up until this point.

Swans – The Glowing Man

The Glowing Man caps off a four album musical victory lap from a reinvigorated Gira, who convened a group of new and old collaborators at the turn of the decade to culminate Swans' mission statement. A moderate re-introduction arrived with My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (2010), an admittedly great album that struggled with its reliance on ideas from Gira side-project Angels of Light. Yet, any early detractors scurried away once Swans unleashed The Seer (2012), easily one of the greatest albums of the decade and century thus far. Gira and crew's experimental capabilities and limitless mindset led to a magnanimous statement of mood, sound and anti-structure that leveraged every aspect of Swans' three-decade career in the most effective way possible. The Seer seemed inimitable, and To Be Kind (2014) proved that point correct - by demolishing Swans' already desolate structure and rebuilding it in an adjacent, bastardized fashion.

Zhea Erose – Icosahedron

Side projects are a funny thing: mostly, we go into them with a curiosity as to how exactly the result will be different than the artist’s “main” band or musical output. That’s not to say people don’t get excited about the music, just that typically the main draw for new projects from artists we’re already familiar with is to see how they take what we know to be their strengths and shape them into some sort of new sound.

Hey! Listen to Mirrors For Psychic Warfare!

There have been a few recent HLT articles I’ve done about bands that sort of take the metal aesthetic and reshape it in really cool and funky ways. Forndom and Goatpsalm both take a folky approach to metal, and then add a sort of mysticism to it that sounds like some pagan sacrifice in the woods of Scandinavia. Mirrors For Psychic Warfare—the side project of Neurosis frontman Scott Kelly and frequent collaborator Sanford Parker (Buried At Sea, ex-Nachtmystium)—does something similar to the latter artists, in that their sound very much relies on buildup of sound using a sparse amount of instrumentation and a slow but steady beat, much like a Neurosis album.

The Room Colored Charlatan – The Veil That Conceals

It's time for another review that throws everyone's favorite trigger word around with reckless abandon. A word with so many meanings that using it is akin to farting during a job interview or calling your significant other the wrong name. Progressive. Yes, The Room Colored Charlatan are a progressive deathcore band. Or are they? Over the course of the last few years and releases, the band have pushed square riffs into isometric structures - somehow coming away with something pretty cool each time. The Veil That Conceals is the next part of this band's journey and it definitely goes somewhere. It's just unclear what the scheduled destination was/is.

Mamiffer – The World Unseen

Typically, having Aaron Turner on a band's roster is a sign of unquestionable success. His work in Isis alone is deserving of endless admiration, let alone his output as a solo artist, collaborator and one third of the phenomenal Celestial-worshiping Sumac. Yet, Mamiffer may be an exception to this standard, but not for the reasons apparent from a surface-level understanding. Mamiffer's music most obviously solidifies this observation, as the project's headfirst foray into organic, droning ambiance resembles only the fringes of Turner's typical work. But more importantly is the fact that Mamiffer is a duo, with Turner's actual other half truly dominating the conversation. Faith Coloccia pours herself into Mamiffer, which is especially true on The World Unseen. The ambition of the album emanates from sonic and emotional channels derived straight from the depths of Coloccia's soul.

Hey! Listen to Goatpsalm!

I’m not incredibly knowledgable on folk metal, but I have noticed a recent trend of bands that have done a great job putting folk elements into their music. Wintersun and Saor are the first to come to my mind, but even other, lesser known groups, like Forndom (which will hopefully find its own HLT in the future) have done incredible jobs reinventing the folk metal sound.What Russia’s Goatpsalm brings to the proverbial folk metal table is, in my opinion, incredibly original, at least in presentation. It’s as if the band has been able to strip folk metal down to its barest elements—the sounds of nature, the occasional acoustic guitar, and an assortment of ethnic instruments—and sort of build their sound up from there.