Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Slim Loris / Way Yes

June 5, 2013

slimloris

Slim Loris hails from Stockholm, Sweden, but you’d never be able to tell based on their sound. They play folky Americana with Shins-esque indie-pop leanings, which should perk up the ears of any longtime reader of this blog. The best example is “Clean as a Whistle,” which blends a tambourine, banjo/acoustic guitar strum, and a Paul Simon-esque flute for an incredibly satisfying verse. The chorus kicks it up a notch, adding in a tom drum, a french horn, and perky background vocals that you will want to shout along with. It’s the sort of the song that makes me sit up and take notice.

But they’re not a one-trick pony: opener “Fear of Flying” is a jubilant indie-pop tune composed of hectic percussion, bouncy organ, steady guitar strum … and timpani. It sounds effortless, just like “Clean as a Whistle.” If you want even more than that, “I Will Forget” and “While I Breathe” are quiet tunes driven by slow, stately piano. In “Domestic,” a gorgeous female alto voice is introduced as a counterpoint to the male tenor vocals. The charm of Slim Loris is that all of these sounds cohabit Future Echoes and Past Replays without sounding disjointed or erratic. The band inhabits all of their sounds, making them sound natural.

The overall effect of Future Echoes is an impressive one: it can easily stand up beside other indie-pop albums from much more well-known bands. Not every track is a home run, but there are a ton of high-quality tracks. If you’re a fan of thoughtful indie-pop with lively arrangements but also a pensive side, I highly recommend checking out Slim Loris.

tog pebbles

Way YesTog Pebbles is the sort of thing that comes along, blows my mind, and leaves me wondering what to write about. Tog Pebbles‘s unique sound blends tribal rhythms, shimmering guitars, horns, and impressionistic vocals to create a unique sound. It’s like a more grounded Animal Collective; instead of having a mystical quality that AC has, Way Yes has a concrete feel. It’s as if I am walking through a jungle, matter-of-factly, instead of with wide-eyed wonder. Maybe I’m sneaking a few glances of wide-eyed wonder every now and then, but mostly, you know, this is a thing that happens. It’s beautiful and excellent, but it’s not necessarily out of the ordinary (at least to the members of Way Yes). To us, of course, it’s kind of mindblowing, which is why I’m breaking from my usual reviewing methods and going all Pitchfork on this review. EXTENDED METAPHORS EVERYWHERE.

I could tell you about the individual songs, but the album is so tightly written and organized that I feel it would be largely useless. Furthermore, the band doesn’t have to get away from their core sound very often (because their core sound is so unique): if I described each of the songs, it would largely be the same descriptors. But the melodies are excellent, the moods are exquisite, and the songs are wonderful. If you’re into unique sounds but hate the phrase “world music,” then Way Yes has an album that will make you jump. Totally awesome.

Songs for the Sleepwalkers release beautiful, wintry tunes upon us

January 10, 2012

Here in Auburn, Ala., winter is a color and not a weather pattern. The 40-60 degree temperatures are not much colder than “fall” or “spring,” but the sky turns (and apparently stays) various shades of gray. From ivory to gunmetal, it’s all washed out, all the time. This, however, is the perfect situation to hear Songs for the SleepwalkersOur Rehearsed Spontaneous Reactions.

I’m willing to bet it’s gray a lot of the time in Lake Mälaren, Sweden, where bandleader Andrea Caccese and his cohorts probably see a lot more snow than Auburn does to create the color. The de-centered, dreamy feeling that comes from not seeing the natural color of the sky is at least an analogue and perhaps a motivator to these delicate, unusual tunes.

Fellow cold-weather dreamers Sigur Ros provide a fine starting point for discussion of Our Rehearsed Spontaneous Reactions. Beauty-minded arrangments, atypical song structures and uniquely transcendent moods are shared goals between them; while the tunes of Sigur Ros can ratchet up to an impressive roar from their starting point, the songs of SFTS often dissipate into a wispy haze. To that end, it’s probably more fair to call SFTS post-pop than post-rock; it does not appear that the members aspire to rock in any way, although people who are fond of post-rock will be quite understanding of what the band is trying to do. “Down the Line” is built off a gently strummed acoustic guitar, a shaker egg and strings; it measures its own weight by fading in and out through the song, then abruptly ending. It’s not constructed in any specifically defined way; it meanders about at its own pace, keeping its own counsel.

But where the gray winter provides a downward slope into disappointment, the songs of SFTS have a levity about them that precludes a doleful interpretation. Keeping the listener off-balance with the unique song structures is their first tactic, while creating carefully arranged moods is the second: note the use of barely-distorted electric guitar on “We Are Still Here” and the depth of field in the arrangement of standout “Tell Me How.” In an era where post-rock is defined by the dichotomies of loud/soft, fast/slow, and heavy/delicate, it’s refreshing to hear a take that blissfully ignores all pretense of what “should” be done. The wordless, cascading “Asleep” is the best example of this, and putting an acoustic guitar and voice track (“What If I Do”) at the end is certainly another tally mark under that category.

Our Rehearsed Spontaneous Reactions does feel spontaneous, but not in the hyperactive sense of my connotation. These are tunes that feel like the audio equivalent of drawing directly from subconscious: raw, but not in a calculated way; honest, but not in a truly focused way. The meandering aspect (Caccese describes it as “like a drunk man staggering over here and there”) is the element that most surprises and delights. Here’s to hoping Songs for The Sleepwalkers’ work never sobers up, and we hear more beautiful tunes like these in the future.

Long live the post-rock of Final Days Society

June 11, 2011

I’ve been getting heavily into post-rock recently, as Of the Vine, Colin Stetson, Industries of the Blind and Isis have all been in my rotation. Final Days Society is the latest post-rock group to be added to their number, and I may be most obsessed with it.

Y’see, I’m a sucker for crescendo. If you can take a tiny, clean guitar line and turn it into a raging maelstrom in about seven minutes, I’ll love it. This means that Final Days Society has tailor-made several songs for me on their album “Ours Is Not a Caravan of Despair.”

“Aeons” takes only twenty seconds to transfrom an arpeggiated, clean guitar riff into a raging wall of sound, but they spend the next 9+ minutes fleshing that idea out. And by wall of sound, I do mean wall: the Swedes (of course!) in Final Days Society have found the right combination of pedals to produce a humongous overdrive which, when strummed at high velocity, sounds like it’s about to crush the world/transport you to the next one. In fact, “Beauty” is all about showing off this pedal combo, as they just hammer the listener with it for approximately five minutes. It’s a revelation. I felt like I was going to lift off the ground the first time I heard it.

But this band isn’t all about destroying eardrums, as “60” and “To Calm Sea” revel in the moods created without going all aggro, as one of my friends would say. The sparingly-used vocals are employed to great effect on both tracks, using them as instruments. “60” heavily modifies the voice in a completely fitting way, while the vulnerability of “To Calm Sea” enhances the mood of the song.

The 7 songs on “Ours Is Not a Caravan of Despair” clock in at just shy of 56 minutes, meaning each averages 8 minutes in length. This is not a band that shys away from lengthy pieces. And that’s to the listener’s benefit, because any way that you get more Final Days Society is a win.

This band is poised for big things if they can keep it together. They’ve got the sound, the songs and the chops to make it in post-rock. Long live Final Days Society.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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