Music Review: Only A Visitor – “Lines”

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COVER

Only A Visitor is an upcoming Vancouver based avant-pop group that is known for their experimental music. The band consists of Robyn Jacob, Emma Postl, Celina Kurz, Jeff Gammon, and Kevin Romain. Having performed in a number of festivals including the Artswells festival, Campbell Bay Music Festival, The Field, and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the band’s debut of their new full-length album “Lines” aims to explore the possibilities that vocal harmonies posses in breaking the traditional roles of instrumentation in pop music. Their music is influenced by musicians like Bjork, Philip Glass, and The Dirty Projectors.

For all of the songs in their new album, the instrumentation was kept dry to foster a sense of intimacy. The listener feels as though they are sitting in the audience listening to a live performance. The sustain and decay of the instrument sounds and voice were also kept very short to make it sound punctual. These effects make a nice contrast to the bass, and occasionally the xylophone, which had a more sustained sound. The vocals were often kept plain without much vibrato, which helped with making harmonizing the different vocals easier. However, I found that this made it harder for me to enjoy the songs.

Listening through the entire album, I found it interesting not knowing where the next song would lead you. Every song had different harmonies and very different stories to tell. Because every song was different, it also made me think that a lot of the songs and melodies were quite random.

The musical elements in Only a Visitor’s single and title track “Lines” proves to be an interesting listen. The track begins with a haunting piano line that piques interest from the audience. It is at once noticeable that the piano plays a key role in the song as the vocals that join in a short while later seems to take more of a supporting role to the piano. The vocal line definitely has an avant-garde style to it, as the melody is quite unique.

Overall, I found that the arrangement of the song actually subtracted from the vocals and the message the lyrics were trying to express. I found that I was more preoccupied with listening to the instrumentation and unique vocal harmony to pay much attention to the lyrics. The enunciation of the lyrics with the melodic line also made it difficult to understand the message during the first listen as well.

Watching the music video, I thought some of the illustration was a little random. For example, during the chorus “brother, it will come together,” and Asian family dressed in traditional wear is shown. It is not clear as to why this image was chosen for this chorus.  However, although there was some confusion with the video, it did help with understanding the lyrics better as some parts of the video reflected the message clearly.

Only A Visitor’s new full album was release to audiences on June 16, 2017 and is available on their iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and their website.

Further Listening: Bjork, the Dirty Projectors

Websites:
onlyavisitor.com, onlyavisitor.bandcamp.com, facebook.com/onlyavisitor, twitter.com/only_a_visitor, instagram.com/only.a.visitor/

Only A Visitor high res trio cred Mayan Vered

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Review: HundredMillionThousand – LP1

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Album art by Victoria Diaz and Tobias Oliva

HundredMillionThousand’s new EP features a moody journal of the many faucets of mental illness and the producer’s experience with the subject. HMT is fronted by producer Noel Jon whose musical aesthetic touches upon a brooding and suspenseful atmosphere.

HMT’s debut album “LP1” proves to possess a dark and melodramatic core. Jon’s moody aesthetic is especially prevalent in the lead single “Yalda”.

The musical elements in “Yalda” are harmonious and prove to be an easy listen which is due to the careful composition of the instrumentation. HMT demonstrates his mindfulness when composing this single to make sure that the sounds are balanced and not too crowded.

In “Yalda”, HMT definitely wanted the bass to be the main component of the song. I noticed that they brought the bass to the front and every other instrumentation is put in the background to support it.

HMT’s “Yalda” features real, treated vocals with an added stutter effect. This stutter effect was added to the sounds on the vocal line at the beginning and the effect was similar in other parts of the single. This composition provides an eerie and unforgettable EP track. The vocals on “Yalda” are excellent because the song has a heavy bass line, but the vocals are able to cut right through them.

I think the reason why it sounds like the vocals were inputted is because HMT pushed the fader up quite a bit, which adds to the effect of the vocals slicing through the bass line.

Furthermore, reverb was added to the vocals to really broaden the kind of sound HMT was aiming for. So this adds to the song in an excellent manner.

I thought the transition (like 3/4 of the way through the song) was really well done because they were successfully able to introduce an almost completely new theme that changed the pace of the song. There were still some slight noises in that tiny section where everything was cut, however, that was just to help the listener know that the transition wasn’t the end of the song.

The use of white space was also extremely successful in this instance.

The melodic line also has some very slight pitch shifts which I thought were quite cool.

My experience of listening to the lead track is positive because I thought “Yalda” is an excellent composition and the vocals are unique. I thought the song was hauntingly beautiful.

Further Listening: Transcendence, Boards of Canada, Inward

HMT_Photo6_Photographer- Nicholas Yee

Press Photo by Nicholas Yee

Websites:
http://www.hundredmillionthousand.com/
https://www.facebook.com/hundredmillionthousand/
https://twitter.com/HunMillThou
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9wUhoUMtJb2dzw3xKfyy2A
https://www.instagram.com/hundredmillionthousand/

HMT_SongArt_Yalda_1425x1425

Song Art By Danielle Muntain

Review: Gert Taberner – Fallen EP

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Gert Taberner is a folk music singer-song writer who has roots in Germany and recently moved to New York after the release of his first album. With the debut of the “Fallen” EP, Gert Taberner is conveying the concept of intimacy, which is something that he believes is lacking or often miscommunicated in the millenial era. His style is Folk Rock meets Pop, which is a rare mix of music genre. The first song which came to mind when listening to “Fallen” was the track “Let Her Go” by Passenger. Taberner’s style is influenced by artists like Damien Rice and Paul Simon.

His debut EP “Fallen” was intended to convey feelings of disillusionment, which I felt by watching the music video. The video was shot at the University of British Columbia and as a local, there is a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity. I believe the warmth of familiarity is what Taberner was trying to convey in his work. Furthermore, the actors in the video conveyed the feeling of loss and hopelessness, however in contrast, the song did not convey these feelings.

The technical elements and vocal range of the song fell short of the depth that Taberner was attempting to convey. The sounds of the guitar is strange because there is a strum or pluck almost every second of the song, which might be an intentional stylistic choice. Furthermore, the electric guitar added in the background doesn’t fit with the ambience of the rest of the song. The melody is excessively repetitive as the song progressed and the chorus was repeated at least three times.

The production was a little bit dry because “Fallen” didn’t include many effects. The entire track is just the raw instrumentals playing in the background. He kept the drums dry with not much effect, which makes the track a little bit lack-luster in the technical elements. In comparison with the guitar, the drums sounded extremely like paper instead of having a more rounded effect.

Taberner’s vocals is lazy in this song because he adds no strength to the beat. He might be masking his singing abilities because the lyrics were repetitive and he seems to possess and limited vocal range. Moreover, he added reverb to his vocals which made him sound very echo-y.

At the end he repeats “oh oh oh oh” and the song abruptly ends. Overall, the song is something that has been heard before and lacks the depth needed to be inspiring. “Fallen” feels like a song that’s been sung many times in the past.

Listen to Gert Taberner’s single “Fallen” here:

 

Further Listening: Damien Rice, The Lumineers, Passenger, Kodaline, Hozier
Websites:
https://www.facebook.com/gerttabernermusic/
https://twitter.com/G_Taberner
http://gerttabernermusic.bandcamp.com

 

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Review: GEA – Pink EP

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GEA’s third album “Pink” is the result of her collaboration with music producer Mikko H. Haapoja. GEA is an experimental, indiepop artist who attempts to signify the richness and coolness of the singer’s native landscape of Finland. She brings about an interesting atmosphere of mysterious airiness. GEA has the potential is become the cascading, serene, and quality artist she aims to be, however “Pink” misses the mark in both technical achievement and vocal ability.

The title track “Pink” has several major problems in terms of composition and the lack of basic technical elements. The melody she’s singing in the song is too high as she suddenly goes up an unexpected octave during the progression. Moreover, in the chorus, there is a disturbing wailing sound which drones on until the listeners get annoyed.

The balance of the song is strange because there was barely any sound coming out of the left speaker. The “airiness” that GEA is aiming for in “Pink” causes her voice to slur and listeners will find it difficult to discern or even understand the lyrics. Truthfully, I thought she was singing in a foreign language and not English because of the intense slurring.

The production of “Pink” is dry because there isn’t any production except for the fact that Haapoja brought all the instruments to the front of the song, which in turn, construes the quality of GEA’s singing. There is a lot going on in this track and some foreign instruments were implemented. However, Haapoja and GEA bring all the instrumentals to the front of the song and that makes it challenging for any listener to focus on other elements of the song. “Pink” sounds chaotic and almost headache-inducing. Not to mention, the instrument in the background sometimes gets out of tune.

Listen to GEA’s single “Pink” here:

Further Listening: Bjork, Kate Bush and Sigur Ros

Websites
http://geaofficial.com/
https://www.instagram.com/geamusicofficial/
https://twitter.com/official_gea
https://www.facebook.com/geamusicofficial/
https://soundcloud.com/geasongs

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Review: Dark Model – Saga EP

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New York’s Dark Model (Tetsuya Oe) has the distinction of being a producer in beat-oriented, electronic music. The second album “Saga” follows its predecessor in the style of progressive, dramatic electronica.

The lead track of the album “Survivors” is reminiscent of an epic, progressive anime theme. For instance, “Survivors” reminded me of an opening for the Legend of Zelda, which doesn’t surprise me because Oe’s work has appeared in numerous advertising campaigns such as Xbox’s “Forza Motorsport 5”. Tetsuya’s roots in Hiroshima, Japan revealed itself prominently in this track as there is a great deal of traditional Japanese instrumentals woven delicately into “Survivors”.

Despite the prominent Japanese influence woven into this lead track, the melody sounds extremely disjointed. The electronic bass is too arresting and upfront. Moreover, the violins sound awfully electronic which suggests that it is not the genuine instrument, but instead the sound is actually done with a synthesizer. The purpose of electronica is for the artist to experiment with different sounds, however, “Survivors” sounds too artificial and crowded. Oe tried to pack too much into a song and it ended up sounding chaotic. The first listen made me think that it was definitely not an actual orchestra which produced this strange mix of instrumentals. I can sense a desperation from the Oe to make the sound as exciting as possible for his listeners. As a result, all of these prominent instrumentals confront one another which creates an immense distraction for listeners instead of a harmonized beat.

Moreover, the song’s production sounded dry (in a sense chalky) because of the apparent lack of effects in the music. In “Survivors”, there is a lack of reverb which makes the song “sound extremely close to the audience” when the audience is listening to it. The song has an “in your face” quality, which is not necessarily a positive when music should be harmonized to an easy listen. The beat would have sounded substantially more powerful if the snare at the beginning was not so prominent. As a result of this prominence in the snare drum, it made the song sound more fuzzy than tight.

The second lead track of Saga, “Storm Goddess” fairs a little better in terms of the input of technical elements. For instance, the song sounds tighter than “Survivors”, the snare isn’t as prominent, and the melody is clearer. The blending of these elements is better than “Survivors”. Oe tries to follow the actual placement of the instruments in an orchestra during the production process. An instance of this is when he trumpets solo starts further back than the violins and drums, which creates the illusion of an actual orchestra. However, at around the 2:50 mark, there is a disagreeable key change, which doesn’t mesh well with the overall aesthetic of the song. “Storm Goddess” is still a disjointed effort on Oe’s part because there is a clash of instrumentals and questionable transitions between the different sections of the song. The indiscernible background instrument does not help the composition of this disjointed effort either because it fails to give listeners a break. Unfortunately, Saga does not possess much to engage the listener’s heart and soul.

Further Listening: In Uchronia, Valentin Wiest

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Websites:

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