Kevin's Music Reviews

Kevin’s Music Reviews: Sundrugs – Hidden Scenes

There’s ambient music that embellishes the background, and then there’s ambient music that consumes the atmosphere whole.

Sundrugs’ Hidden Scenes is an album that belongs in the latter category. In fact, I’d go as far as to call it a poster child for dizzy-minded poetry masquerading as music journalism (you know, that thing I do from time to time where I don’t make any sense). Here is music as a personal journey – ambiguous and malleable to the imagination, a free soundscape drifting in zero gravity. You don’t have to be feeling anything when entering the void of Hidden Scenes – it’ll ensure you’ll be feeling something else by the end anyway.

Sundrugs – Hidden Scenes

Built up from rich textures of dreamy, ethereal drone, Hidden Scenes poises mystique shyly from the vacant streets it hides within. It is both darkness and light, the process of wading through memories and striking oil in warm nostalgia. Pure, uninhibited murk floods the air: dark, breezy and constantly in gradual motion. Yet the time spent in the darkness isn’t a fearful one; though there is uncertainty pervading throughout the album, there’s equivocal peace of mind – this is the sound to a wandering mind, a traverse through the unknown and the hopefulness that tours you through it.

Every place visited in the sonic realm remains fluid, never settling or becoming truly defined. Revisiting the world feels like returning to the same place, only some details are missing or have been changed, and though the path is the same you still tread with caution, making every excursion feel brand new. Though the album is indeed made up of eleven “songs”, the perpetual state of motion more closely resembles one single, swirling piece, as individual tracks can barely be characterized from one another.  The exact nature of the music itself is also very vague (in the best way, mind you), and if “non-linear music” is indeed a thing this would be very close to fitting that descriptor – it spreads off into several unprecedented directions at once, and listening to it feels more like moving around freely in a given area than moving from start to finish. As such Hidden Scenes makes for an incredibly easy ambient piece to indulge yourself in, and rarely feels as long as it actually is. There’s atmospheric music – and then there’s atmosphere.

 

Full stream and name-your-price download via bandcamp

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Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5 – April 21st

5) Heroes reboot announced

The producers behind hit-and-miss TV show Heroes have announced they want to try again. The show hit good ratings in its first season, but when the writer’s strike of 2007 hit, the ratings plummeted. They now feel the show did not get the chance it deserved and are working on making a reboot of the series to correct all wrongs.
If this comes to be, we can expect to see the familiar everyday-men turned supermen on the TV-screens in mid-2016.

4) Boys don’t read

According to OnePoll, men don’t read as much as they used to while women read more than ever. The same poll revealed that men are more likely to wait for a televised version of a book, even if they are interested in the premise.
The most common cause given by men is lack of time or difficulty to enjoy written words.

It was also revealed that 20% of those who did say they read books did this to appear more intelligent.

3) Top 40 of 2013 revealed

The Official Charts Company has revealed the 40 best selling albums of last year. Surprisingly Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’ placed second and Robbie Williams’ comeback came third.
The top seller of last year was ‘AM’ by Arctic Monkeys.
The chart only looks at physical discs sold in record stores, which could explain the lower numbers on last year’s most talked about album, ‘Time’ by Rod Stewart, which came in at number 7. Continue reading

Kevin's Music Reviews

Kevin’s Music Reviews: The 4th – Auditory Bliss Maker & Social Club

“Experience a place, beyond time + space, where art and music unites us all.”

Do you find that your idea of sweet electronic tunes is a little different than most clubs’ idea of sweet electronic tunes?  In-one-ear-and-out-the-other-variety club staples not a part of your aural diet? Allergic to staying logged into SL while at prim-heavy venues thanks to a sadistically unreliable connection (not unlike yours truly)? Well, look no further than/make yourself home at/walk on over to (really, pick your idiom) the abstract intergalactic haven known as The 4th. Stationed somewhere between the ripples of interdimensional fabric and within a nova’s distance of the galaxy’s busiest interstellar transit wormhole, the venue fueled by characteristic “auditory bliss” never fails to deliver exactly that. On one’s journey through the universe (read: SL), finding a place that suits your unique taste and comforts can sometimes be a fruitless endeavor, but if you’re anything like me and the words “trip-hop”, “downtempo”, “uk garage” or any other decidedly uncommon music tags collect dust in your search history, it’s probably about time you took a look at this rather tasteful social club.

4168

Perhaps the most impressive thing about The 4th is it’s ambition. We’re not just looking at a space-themed club for the sake of filling in the space-themed club population in SL. Aw hell nah. A little late night brain picking with one of the owners has revealed some interesting scheme taking place. She says “the 4th was born of a deep desire to find a music based hangout on the grid that catered to an artistic community, which wasn’t steeped in medieval, gothic, or some other kind of old world culture”, and true to the aesthetic, she imparts “from all my readings about 4th dimensional experiences or the astral plane, it’s a place (in theory?) that is whatever the dreamer/projector conjures up for the most part, and SL is that too”. Simply put, there’s a clear artistic vision in place, a true labor of love. Even better, this artistic passion paves the way for a particular goal she wishes to accomplish. “When I have some time I want to pursue relationships with artists on the grid (who create in either life), ideally invite those whose work centers on themes around exploring human consciousness, alternate realities, out of body expeirences, multi universes etc – to exhibit here on a rotational basis, as well as incorporate interactive exhibits that allow ppl to read up on these concepts or even share their own ideas”, she shares with genuine earnest. There’s a lot to look forward to, and various artists throughout SL would not only fit in great with the venue’s unifying motif, but would benefit from an art club-esque community set to take off in the future.

When you walk in the doors (big gaping hole in the wall) you’ll likely be warmly welcomed by the venue’s considerate staff, hosts or the excellent DJs, if not then by the good shit playing on the radio. Regulars at The 4th share a genuine passion for music, and the music on display is often of a respectable pedigree. You’ll hear everything from milky silky deep house, feel-good electronic soul tunes, indie delights, old-school hip-hop, and the kind of high-energy bangers that even snobs jaded by the typical trance fodder (me again) can get a dose of adrenaline from.  Good vibes pervade through your computer speakers, with relaxing beats making home wherever you are situated in real life, and the music is varied and consistently of a solid quality.

You can expect your aural fixation to be satisfied indefinitely, but there’s more to the atmosphere than what meets the ears. Taking on a minimal approach to interior design, The 4th looks and feels like a legitimate piece of the greater abstract beyond, with walls bearing no semblance of traditional symmetry and geometrical subtleties going hand-in-hand with the simple color scheme. Despite the unique look, furniture and textures are an exercise in minimalism, and it procures totally stylish results. The building isn’t particularly large, but it’s this modest approach that allows even pitiful SL users like myself to stay connected for hours on end – even on busy days –without worrying about getting nipped in the butt with a cheeky viewer freeze and connection drop.

Of course, technical convenience isn’t the only thing keeping me glued to The 4th – it’s the unfailingly kind and entertaining bunch that hang out and work here that grant this venue a genuine homey feeling, abstract though it may be. Visitors and regulars are also of an appropriately stylish and mellow nature, while also keeping public chat lively without turning it into a scrollbar-diminishing word dump – it could be called the perfect size for some. Though still fairly new, you’ll find it to be a blossoming venue, and a day hasn’t gone by (that wasn’t at ungodly hours of the night) where I walked in and cool people weren’t partying their asses off to cool music. That said, The 4th is a cool place, and it makes a pretty cool case for why auditory bliss should be at the top of your downtime priorities.

Visit if you like: electronic, trip-hop, hip-hop, dance, house, deep house, indie, downtempo, chillout, artsy things.

Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5 – April 14th

5) Mysterious bank shutdown

On Thursday evening, all of Swedish bank Swedbank’s systems were mysteriously shut off. Neither customers nor employees could access anything that had to do with the bank for 5 hours, starting at 9pm local time. This included bank withdrawals, credit card services, the telephone services and even the website.

An investigation has been launched to find out the reason why all the backup systems failed at once, but so far no cause has been stated.

4) Peaches Geldof dies, aged 25

Actress Peaches Geldof, daughter of music legend Bob Geldof, was found dead of a brain aneurysm in her apartment in Kent.
Geldof is survived by her husband, Thomas Cohen, her father and her daughter.

3) GWAR raises monument

Thrash band GWAR will raise a permanent monument to the late lead singer Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus. Brockie passed away earlier this year, aged 50.
The statue will be accompanied by a foundation, the Dave Brockie Foundation, to promote advancement of music, images, letters and performances in arts as well as preserving the legacy of Dave’s works.
The foundation will mainly target struggling artists who, like GWAR themselves, have found it hard to survive through “mainstream channels”.

2) Kick-ass director remakes He-Man

The cinematic bomb that is Masters Of The Universe, the live action film about Mattel toy He-Man, has been cleared for a remake. Sony has been toying with the idea since 2009 and on the Wednesday it was announced that it will be done.
There were several writers in line to take on this project. Among them were Jon Chu from G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But it was Jeff Wadlow, most known for the Kick-Ass series, that managed to land the contract.

Masters Of The Universe is scheduled for a 2016 release.

1) Ultimate Warrior dies, aged 54

WWE wrestler Ultimate Warrior, iconic for being the only wrestler who ever beat Hulk Hogan in a fair match, passed away on Tuesday evening. The cause of death has not yet been released.
The energetic wrestler legally changed his name from James Hellwig in 1993. He had just been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Ultimate Warrior is survived by his wife, Dana, and his two daughters.

Kevin's Music Reviews

Kevin’s Music Reviews: Qypthone – Montuno No. 5

Qypthone has been on hiatus for quite a while now, but we’re getting to about that time of year where zesty, energetic summer jams are due for recognition.

Originally playing with groups like Pizzicato Five and Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, this little band enlists their bossanova-tinged take on the Japanese genre “shibuya-kei” to the scene, replete with all the vivaciousness and eccentricities that make such artists stand out. Their last full-length album, Montuno No. 5, will most likely be remembered as their most substantial work, even if it is a little on the short side.

Qyptphone - Montuno No 5 Album Continue reading

Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5 – April 4th

5) “TV-licence” extends in many countries

Sweden was one of the first countries to do it and now more countries follow. UK is about to do it as well.
We’re talking about extending the “TV-licence”, the fee put on every television owner in a country to fund the public service TV and radio stations, to include other devices as well. More and more public service stations have taken the leap into an online environment and with this, they feel that computers should be included as well.
Certain countries even include smartphones and game consoles into the licensable devices.

This is a sign that the world is going more and more into the virtual environment of the Internet for every day.

4) Bionic animatronic

German scientists have produced the first ever bionic animal, an entirely mechanical animal. The biomechanical leap was taken quite literally as the team at Festo created a mechanical kangaroo, capable of not only jumping and then recovering its balance, but also to store the energy recovered when landing for its next jump. This mimics the function of a real kangaroo perfectly.

The mechanical animal has no commercial use, but it instead used as an example to get more aspiring students interested in biomimetics, the study of mechanical applications of designs in nature.

3) Marvelous plans

Marvel has high ambition for their current series of superhero movies. The movies that center around the heroes in the team called Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy will be produced for a long time. The current production schedule extends all the way to 2028, according to Marvel Studio president Kevin Feige. Continue reading

aoba ichiko - utabiko

Kevin’ Music Reviews: The heart unplugged

Japan’s Ichiko Aoba is decidedly a straight shooter when it comes to her choice of songwriting tools and album artwork. Armed only with her guitar and her voice – and solid colors – she hits her target dead-on while eschewing anything more than the bare essentials, and she gets the job done quite well.
Her 2012 full-length, Utabiko, makes a valid case for simplicity. Covered in the thin, ambiguous veil of minimalism, Aoba delivers subtle brilliance in spades from the humble spaces in her heart in as direct a manner as the singer-songwriter ensemble can muster. Stylistically Aoba’s sound is minimal contemporary folk, with an occasional lean toward Nara Leao bossanova. Her voice is soft and breezy, breathing whimsy and bliss into the music at nearly all times, as delicately but as genuinely as foreseeable. Resulting from this is a sound that is occasionally haunting in its semi-presence, yet you undoubtedly feel engaged with the artist, even when her voice descends to a flickering, frail whisper. Equally soothing, her guitar strums are constantly in a state of motion. Her music glides from wonderful hook to wonderful hook like she has a million things to say in a very short amount of time, and never does the standard verse-chorus-verse structure come into effect. This is the soundtrack to stopping and taking a look around yourself in the middle of the day, both up in the sky and along the ground, yet it is also music to sit still to, as the music is so subtle and delicate it’s easy to overlook the minute graces that are interweaved in the fabric. An ideal setting is taking a wandering drive through the prairie on a dry spring noon. There is much to observe in these ever-changing environments, with a little serenity and patience.

Her choice of color to represent the music on display for Utabiko couldn’t be more concise. Representing the album in a fittingly dreary tone is nothing more than a solid canvas of faded green, nearly-beige; a humble picture painted in a single humble color. Though it can be perceived as bland, to do so would also mean missing the point of the music contained inside as well. This particular shade of green-beige is befitting of the atmosphere the music projects; sun-bleached sands mixed with salt water, where you dip your toes in and run your fingers through softly; birch wood trees tinged with the vignette of blurry green leaves in the distance; hibernating greenery quietly recoloring in the midst of early spring. Notice the green isn’t very thick at all; it’s only just discernible as green – the grass is dry but you can see its true color. Likewise, the music is soft and scarce but the life and warmth remains undeniable present. Aoba plays to the listener, her emotion is tangible and glides straight toward you. Those craving a song from the heart to accompany their upcoming morning spring strolls need wander no further than the prairies of Utabiko for that excellent, non-demanding chicken soup for the ears.

Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5, March 31st 2014

5) Minecraft retracts Oculus Rift support

After the recent announcement that Facebook bought Oculus VR, Mojang announced they will drop all development for the virtual reality hardware.
Mojang and Oculus were working on a virtual reality version of Minecraft but Notch Persson, owner and founder of Mojang, has decided to pull the plug. Notch stated on his blog that the reason behind the decision was his fear that Facebook might use the company to limit the development of games. He went on to state: “Virtual Reality and social media is not a bad combination, but I don’t want to work with social media, I want to work with games.”

4) Cerebral Ballzy frontman in musical horror

Honor Titus, frontman of New York punk band Cerebral Ballzy, will play the leading role in the horror film Condemned. The film is about a musician livinf in a condemned squat that gets overtaken by an infection that causes the residents to go crazy. The only thing that can save him is his skills with his collection of vintage bass guitars.

3) Ian Flemming’s love letters recovered

Earlier this week, James Bond author Ian Flemming’s letters to Edith Morpurgo, his first love, was found. The letters were written in the early 1930′s in Austria and contains many flaming descriptions. One letter was so rowdy, it had been torn to pieces and patched back together with tape.
An example of his early writing: “I would also like to hurt you because you have earned it and in order to tame you like a little wild animal. So be careful, you.”

2) World War I a century old

On Thursday March 27th it’s been exactly 100 years since World War I broke out in Soviet, now Russia. It would take another 2 months, until June 28th until the rest of Europe would follow, when the infamous “shot that was heard over the world” was fired in Sarajevo.
The centennial is commemorated all over the world during these two months with several global events.

1) Facebook acquires virtual tech

Social network Facebook bought the virtual reality hardware manufacturer Oculus VR. The company creates the virtual reality headgear Oculus Rift and was bought for 2 billion USD.
Facebook plans to use the headset for more than gaming and have expressed intention to find a use for it in social media.

Kevin's Music Reviews

Kevin’s Music Reviews – 8-in-a-row quickies

This week is a bit different. Instead of one review, Kevin brings you 8 quick reviews in a row!

Andras Fox
Embassy Café
~[Sounds from the marble dancefloor]~
One part minimal R&B, one part chic deep house. Mid-paced rhythms screwed by syncopated beats. Intelligently layered to keep things busy but clean. A slice of vanilla cake to down your dinner party.
“What They Say”

“Running Late”

Move D – Kunststoff
~[Welcome to the Neon Nights Casino]~
Beat variety pack. Includes ambient bliss, IDM, Detroit-style goodies, sub-aquatic exploration kit, and post-blackout melodrama. Soundtrack to the penthouse dweller’s late night game of Windows solitaire. Sleek and sexy.
“Amazing Discoveries”

“Eastman”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-QV4n-z-9k Continue reading

Obsessive over music

Kevin’s Music: An Obsessive’s Guide to Obsessing

Listening to music can sometimes be a needlessly complicated process. It’s not hard to see why; for some people, listening to music is an incredibly substantial part of their lives, tuning in day-in, day-out, as often as they humanly can, consuming just about as much auditory stimuli as they do water. Last.fm and Spotify accounts resemble empires built out of years worth of plays and a diverse spectrum of genres, proudly flaunting one’s most-listened to albums like symbols reflective of one’s personality. Music is more than an embellishment for one’s surroundings or mood-lifting, mood-altering landfill for silence, it’s a genuine passion, and like any other form of art, savviness in it is rewarded with a feeling of self-expression and self-discovery that is unrivaled. Even when it’s not pushing one’s own boundaries, the simple pleasures of uncovering a piece of music that moves you, either physically or otherwise, is enough a reward in and of itself. The hobby is fundamentally very simple: you like what you like, and you dislike what you dislike. Despite what others may tell you, opinions are not objective, but shrewdly rejecting the idea of understanding another person’s thoughts doesn’t get you very far if discovery is on your list of objectives. Hell, some of my favorite music I hated at first, but a modest advocate imparting a fresh perspective can flip you a full one-eighty.

The science behind what makes music “good” or “bad” is relative but again very simple at its core. Sometimes one spares but fleeting attention as to what’s making the pretty noise around them, while other times each listen is a more intimate experience, preferring perfect conditions in one’s state of mind as opposed to constant exposure. This simply boils down to how your mind works; does constant exposure ruin a song for you or make it more pleasurable? Is it a waste of time to deny yourself the need to listen to the music you’d rather save for a more apt climate, or a rewarding endeavor? Do your online play counts even mean a goddamn thing at the end of the day? Thirty-thousand plays is a proud lifetime stride for some people but a mere season’s work for others. Likewise, does the person who has chronicled 50 plays of a track over a period of time have any deeper a connection with the song than someone who has played it double the amount in half the time?

Recorded listens obviously aren’t everything, since they don’t account for anything you listen to away from the computer, among other things, but some of us (myself included) borderline on obsessing that everything you hear, everyone else should know about it. A huge amount of plays on any given piece of music says something about who you are as a person and your taste, who wouldn’t wish to share that with fellow music enthusiasts? After all, some friendships begin over a humble mutual interest in an artist, and fuck, spotting someone with the same band t-shirt on as you at a show gives you a feeling like you are already friends. The thing is recorded plays as a representation of your listening habits and your taste yield varying degrees of accuracy. For one thing, and as mentioned above, Continue reading