Mini-reviews: Hidden Orchestra, Algiers, Torche, Baroness

a0381917933_10Wingbeats is the song that Hidden Orchestra‘s sound has been a perfect fit for from the start, and one can wonder why they didn’t simply start with this. I didn’t think something was missing from their previous work until I heard this. What turned out to be missing was slow, deliberately paced songwriting that somewhat resembles post-rock, but not quite. This kind of songwriting, with wide arches that often take many minutes to build, is a snug fit with Hidden Orchestra’s chilly, jazzy sound, and it makes for a captivating 12-minute track. The rest of the titles on the EP constitute a kind of exploded view of the titular song, with the different elements being taken apart into separate tracks. It’s an interesting approach to structuring a release, and it goes over surprisingly well; each of the tracks is interesting in its own right, and I’m especially fond of the drum track. Wingbeats has Hidden Orchestra’s best music to date, and I’m more than ever excited about their future plans.

algiers-algiersAlgiers is one of those lovely bands that defies genre classification. I could tell you that they’re a gospel- and noise-influenced post-punk band, but that wouldn’t bring you any closer to their true sound. One of the things I love about them, is how effectively they portray anger. In fact, they out-anger many a band playing grindcore, powerviolence, or whatever genre has the reputation of being the most extreme thing ever now. Algiers doesn’t channel their anger through aggression and speed, but through restrained, elegant songwriting, passionate vocal deliveries and noisy instrumentation. The whole thing merges into a lovely blend of sounds that shouldn’t work together, but they somehow do. Definitely give their self-titled debut album a try.

torche-harmonicraft-cover-hi-2100x2100Harmonicraft, a 2012 release by stoner band Torche, is one that does things a little differently from other bands in the genre. They classify themselves as “stoner pop”, and although I think that doesn’t quite set the right expectation, their music does have an undeniable upbeat poppiness to it. Their vocabulary is what you might expect from a stoner rock/metal band: heavy guitars playing heavy riffs, a rumbling bass, a shouting vocalist and loud, banging drums. The twist is in the songwriting, which is melodic, elegant and catchy. Just listen to a song like Kicking and imagine how well the vocal lines could work in a cookie-cutter 21st century pop song. If this sounds like a detriment to you, then you might want to skip this record. But if you’re like me, and you’re intrigued by bands like Ghost and Devin Townsend Project which incorporate pop influences into their metal sounds, then look no further and blast this album at high volume through your earholes.

baroness-purple-albumYes, yes, I know that I already talked about Baroness‘ new release Purple in my Major in Metal post. But I won’t let this post go out into the world before recommending it just one more time. After this I’ll shut up about them, pinky promise. Baroness is a stoner/sludge band that can easily be compared to Mastodon; they share a preference for grandness in their sound, with hints of post-metal never being far away. Where Baroness diverts is in their approach to songwriting, which is more optimistic, gleefully melodic and triumphant. The first song on the album, Morningstar, is a great example of their ability to combine a very typical (and again, Mastodon-esque) sludge riff with their own brand of colorful guitar leads and a bright, almost sparkling chorus. Another thing I love about this record is how well you can hear the band behind the music. The instruments sound warm and the performances human. The mix is just earthy enough to be full of character without becoming dirty. If aliens would come to earth and command “give us an example of humans making music!”, I’d give them Purple.

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