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Archive for August, 2016

Album review: “Eternal Horse” by Stafrænn Hákon

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In my time as a music journalist I have had the good fortune of coming into contact with some amazing music from Iceland. One more that I get to add to this growing collection is Stafrænn Hákon. Stafrænn Hákon is the stage name of musician Ólafur Josephsson whose most recent release Eternal Horse caught my attention.

Stafrænn Hákon’s music is described as “Alternative, Rock, Electronica, Ambient, Power-Ambient,” and nowhere is this more apparent than on Eternal Horse. Consisting of musicians Ólafur Josephsson (guitar), Árni Árnason (bass), Lárus Sigurðsson (guitar),
Róbert Már Runólfsson (drums), and Magnús Freyr (vocals & guitar); this record is the perfect definition of balance.

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Eternal Horse has so much going on at once in terms of sound, but it never overwhelms you. You don’t feel the blended styles trying to one-up each other, but rather working as a cohesive unit. From instrumental explorations to vocal compositions, Stafrænn Hákon presents an album that is just enough mainstream and just enough experimental to draw both schools of thought together.

The music on Eternal Horse can energize you, take you away to another world, calm your spirit, and make you think all at once. When I think of what an alternative rock band should sound like, Stafrænn Hákon presents all of the qualities I look for. Listening to Eternal Horse is a must for any alt rock fan.

Honestly it is a must for any music fan.

Stafrænn Hákon can be found at:

http://shakon.bandcamp.com/

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Album Review: Aaron Holm “The Boy”

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Aaron Holm is a Seattle-based composer and producer interested in finding the most from the simple. As I listened through his record this is the description that most starkly presented itself. Throughout the looping beats, the various ambient effects that wash over you, and repeating melodic phrases, you realize how committed Aaron is to the ambient ethos.

The ambient composer, and I should know, is about constructing various worlds of sound from the most simple, yet transformative, materials. As The Boy plays, this concept is shown ever so perfectly. You are drawn in to this soundscape and allowed to dream. You are allowed to free your mind and totally immerse yourself in the music.

As Holm’s PR team stated, “Deeply influenced by electronic and ambient pioneers like Jon Hopkins, Roger & Brian Eno and Boards of Canada, his blissed-out compositions make use of abstract field recordings, as well as low, shimmering electronic tones.” Reich and Eno especially stand out to me here, as their approaches to music are followed in so many ways in The Boy.

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Aaron is not afraid, much like Reich, to explore complex topics. The track Catch a Falling Star explores “the story of the father’s love for his child and his heartbreak on hearing of the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown.  On the morning of the shooting, Holm’s daughter’s first grade teacher sent out a recording of the children singing ‘Catch A Falling Star.  The recording is heard at the track start.  Aaron says – ‘As I heard the news of the school shooting, first graders were the victims, I pulled to the side of the road and cried.  The voices in this track soothe broken hearts and the loss of innocence and brings the boy full circle from childhood to fatherhood.'”

If you are a lover of ambient music, you really should consider adding The Boy to your collection.

The Boy can be found at:

http://dissolverecords.com/project/the-boy/


Album Review- “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!” by The Spitting Pips

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I remember when Gene Simmons, an over-the-hill rocker with a massive tongue, decided to declare rock music as dead. I was pretty surprised since my music journalism has introduced me to some incredible rock groups. Another group I get to add to this list is The Spitting Pips and their 2015 EP You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!.

Hailing from Rhyl, North Wales (since I’m Welsh here’s my obligatory “Cymru am byth!”), the band describes their style as “Acid Soul Rock n Roll” with influences from the 60’s and 90’s music scenes. You hear these sounds in You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!, with songs that remind you of groups like the Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Oasis, and others.

This band is not a derivative group, however, as the EP shows that The Spitting Pips are able to take you from the highest of reverb highs, to infectious melodies and grooves. The band is interested in making music that actually matters, in that, it is about good music over writing hits (and yes there is a difference).

Rather than chasing cheap sounds to make a quick chart topper, The Spitting Pips are making songs that are sonically deep and atmospheric. You are given the rock n’ roll sound you crave if you loved the 90’s UK rock scene and bands that were a part of it. The Spitting Pips have earned the respect of bands from that era, touring with Happy Mondays and the Inspiral Carpets (whose singer I interviewed here).

All in all this is a band I highly recommend as another reminder that rock is alive and well.

The Spitting Pips can be found at:

http://thespittingpips.bigcartel.com/

https://www.instagram.com/thespittingpips/