Tera Melos: X'ed Out
(Sargent House, 4/16/13)
It’s all too common for bands to betray their original mission when they embrace pop or “mellow out.” On X’ed Out, Sacramento post-prog trio Tera Melos proves it’s possible for even the most technically proficient artists to focus on conventional song structure without losing their edge.
Bassist Nathan Latona described some of the new material to ALARM as “toned down,” but in this case, “toned down” is a relative term. True, Tera Melos has never emphasized melody or space to this degree, but X’ed Out still falls quite far from the middle of the road, and longtime fans shouldn’t worry about this music landing on the radio anytime soon.
Even at its most spastic, Tera Melos has always demonstrated a knack for cohesion that’s rare among its math-minded peers. On X’ed Out, the band harnesses its prodigious chops with such skill and vigor that the restraint actually feels thrilling. If X’ed Out is any indication, Tera Melos won’t be out of new ideas or directions for a long, long time.
Ghost BC: Infestissumam
(Universal Republic, 4/16/13)
If there’s any evidence of Satan’s power, it’s the way Ghost BC manages to make the dark lord’s message so sweetly irresistible. On Infestissumam, the band’s second release, these occult-obsessed Swedes plunge their radio-friendly hooks even deeper, once again delivering glossy, sing-a-long experi-metal that isn’t afraid to be catchy.
Like the 2010 debut Opus Eponymous, the new record is spiff with harmonized vocal arrangements, cathedral synthesizers, and anthemic, groove-oriented riffs. Perhaps the biggest difference is the band’s willingness to go farther into uncharted territory for a more eerie, ethereal sound, adding prominence to its new-wave and classic-rock influences. That transition from dream to doom is seamless on “Ghuleh / Zombie Queen,” as it is throughoutInfestissumam as a whole.
Of course, Ghost BC sells Satanism with a straight face and, as such, remains lyrically and sonically dark even at its brightest. That’s what’s so fun about this band’s commercial viability: it could play a roller rink…or a church burning.
The Flaming Lips: The Terror
(Warner Bros., 4/16/13)
"Look...the Sun Is Rising"
For all the dread that the title indicates, The Flaming Lips’ new album, The Terror, maintains an airy tranquility that belies the fraught emotional tone intended by core members Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne. Drozd, who started the music by himself as a diversion during the mixing of the band’s Heady Fwends collaboration album, abandons conventional notions of harmony, tempo, and instrumentation. Most of the album is, in fact, devoid of chord progressions, guitars, and drums.
In fact, The Terror often verges on dissolving into a kind of sonic vapor as a ghostlike Coyne distantly ruminates on the personal uncertainties weighing down on him while the album was being made. Still, even at its most pointed, nothing on The Terror overtly challenges the listener to confront any of the anxieties that Coyne presents.
On the contrary, the music sounds utterly inviting (if somewhat eerie in spots). In the end, the sonic openness that Drozd and longtime producer Dave Fridmann carve out of the songs only heightens the power of what the band is trying to get across. Coyne and Drozd may be compelling us to face our fears, but they’ve created a most reassuring backdrop with which to do so.
Stephen Brodsky: Hit or Mystery EP
(Little Black Cloud, 4/16/13)
"Real Surreal Beauty"
Though the principal and founding member of post-metalcore behemoth Cave In, singer-songwriter Stephen Brodsky has maintained, across a multitude of monikers, a steady stream of solo material since 1999 that has reflected his acoustic and melodic sensibilities. Hit or Mystery, an eight-song maxi-EP, is a true-to-form beauty, his first release of new material since 2010.
Besides the usual folksy melodies and Brodsky’s ghostly, drawn-out vocal delivery, the new material comes intertwined with spacey effects and loops, fuzz bass, echoing hits of percussion, and sporadic synth lines. Minus the band-mates, it’s a sonic extension of the final three tracks on Cave In’s White Silence, which in essence were bulkier, beefier Brodsky solo songs — and not in the dirty, garage-rock vein of his Pet Genius project.
“Dear Luna” is a prime example of these acoustics on acid, with backing guitar that twists, turns, and reverses course while Brodsky sings an ode to Earth’s white satellite. As bass distortions, guitar twang, and reverberated tambourines accent the main structure, it’s apparent that Brodsky has hit a new solo high point.
-- Scott Morrow
1939 Ensemble: Howl & Bite (Jealous Butcher)
Anciients: Heart of Oak (Season of Mist)
Barn Owl: V (Thrill Jockey)
Cough / Windhand: Reflection of the Negative (Relapse)
Free Moral Agents: Chaine Infinie EP (Neurotic Yell)
Greyboy Allstars: Inland Emperor (Knowledge Room)
Iron & Wine: Ghost on Ghost (Nonesuch)
Life Coach: Alphawaves (Thrill Jockey)
Octaves: Which Way the Wind Blows (Bridge Nine)
Thee Oh Sees: Floating Coffin (Castle Face)
John Parish: Screenplay (Thrill Jockey)
The Thermals: Desperate Ground (Saddle Creek)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Mosquito (Interscope)
Zomes: Time Was (Thrill Jockey)