Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gig review: After Fluff Matinee - Round 5

Still being bothered by the exam a bit, plus actually not spending a lot of time by the computer these days. I took my time to finally write down questions for some long planned interviews and write some non-blog life depending reports, so all these bits and pieces really took away the time to commit to the blog. Yet, here is one more gig review from my July/August trip, the After Fluff Matinee show.

This won't be an actual review however, since by this time I really managed to charge my batteries as far as shows go, if you know what I mean, and drained all my energy so I was quite tired at the time. Since my travel companions wanted to go to this show, I just took the time to hang out and pay less attention to the show, especially since I am not the biggest fan of the lineup (prior to the show, at least). So in any case, this is more just a brief comment about the show and less a review, writing just to mark the show as visited and provide you with a short read. 
The gig was held on Monday, 25 July 2011, in "007" club in Prague. The club is located a bit out of the center of the city, so it was a longish walk there and back for my friends and me, yet it is quite cool that the venue is kinda secluded. "007" is a rather small venue, but with just enough space for everyone to feel comfortable. It is a basement like construction, since it is located underground, with a very nicely designed interior. Passing by the wardrobe, the extremely small stageless stage is located to the right with a rather limited space for the crowd, but again enough for everyone to fit inside, and on the left there is a bar, a lot of places to sit and a bands distro section. One other great thing not actually connected to the venue itself, but nice nevertheless, is a lawn located just outside of the entrance where everyone was laying around, hanging out and just having a good time. 
Most of the time during the gig I just circulated with my endless tour companion between the gig space below and the lawn outside, eating some delicious pizza from the bar, drinking and talking. We actually did go inside to see each of the bands, but my focus on music was not in abundance. On top of me generally being tired, I haven't listened to these bands before, except for "Beyond Pink", so the much needed concentration was not present a lot. In any case, the first band that managed to grab my attention a fair bit is definitely "Unveil", who had an excellent performance. The four piece hardcore from Switzerland took me by surprise with their wild aggressive set and they were the first band that night that I watched entirely. Quite an enjoyment to witness live, since not only are their tunes very strong and striking, but watching their energy on stage is a real view to behold. Some time after them, it was time for "Beyond Pink". I failed to see them at Fluff Fest, since I was eager to grab a good spot for "Swing Kids" at the time and luckily I knew that I will be seeing them on this show, so it was not a problem. Of course, I say "luckily" since their show was extremely interesting. The girl quintet provided a very dynamic, fast and crazy performance which in the end actually featured a cover of a song by Beyonce. Quite an amazing cover I might add! There was a lot of dancing on both the side of the audience and the band and it seemed that the atmosphere and excitement was just building up throughout the entire day, the pinnacle of everything being the "Unrestrained" performance. This was the last show of their final European tour, so everything went completely nuts once they took the stage. I was absolutely carried away by the entire atmosphere, from all the rapid movement through the venue while "Unrestrained" played to the amazing performance by the band and the sheer amount of passion and energy radiating from the stage. Usually I don't listen to this type of hardcore, but these guys managed to blow me away completely. Unbelievably emotional set with the venue being fully packed while they were up. Their songs had short pauses which Ryan filled with talking with the crowd and sharing some of the thoughts of "Unrestrained" and this created an even more intimate atmosphere. I was really touched by the whole set somehow and enjoyed every second of it, in the end just going to Ryan after the show and shaking his hand and just saying praises about his band. The funny thing was that the day after this gig my friends and I went to a picnic where a lot of people from Fluff fest came, Ryan being there as well and me not realizing it was him haha. 
All in all, it was an interesting day, had a lot of fun and these few bands really sparked a lot of enjoyment. Really glad I saw "Unrestrained", definitely a band worth the note. The dudes from "Tigersuit" zine, with whom I actually traveled with a lot, did an interview with them and "Beyond Pink", so keep your eyes open for that!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Circle Takes The Square - Decompositions - Vol I. Chapter 1. Rites of Initiation (2011)

Just a quick update on this nigh cataclysmic event, in case someone missed the news. After seven years of waiting, of rumors, of people losing hope that they will ever hear something from this band again, of some (undeserved) internet hate, the new material from "Circle Takes The Square" has finally grasped the light of day. Four new, incredible songs are being streamed on the band's bandcamp page, while the physical release will be out  in November. Until the entire release is out I will hold my thoughts for myself, but the important thing is that I consider this a release worthy of its predecessor. No words for now, just listen.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Troubled Coast - Letters (2011)


A few days of pause with writing due to me preparing my final exam, yet there  are still two more shows from my trip to be reviewed. In the meantime, once again I decided to splash a band between gig related posts, simply because all the band submissions are beginning to pile up a lot. And additionally, the fact that this band really caught my attention immediately once I listened to it this morning, so an extreme urge to share it exploded in my head.

"Troubled Coast" is a quartet from East San Francisco Bay Area, California. This melodic/post hardcore act has been active from the year 2009, yet despite their young age as a band they have been constantly active and pumping out releases. The initial year of their birth saw the release of their 10'' LP named "100 Miles From Home" which came out on "Creator-Destructor Records" in December. Only a few months later they returned to the studio and recorded "Vagabonds EP" which was self-released. Finally, in late 2010 the band entered the rehearsal room once again and by March 2011 this, latest, album was recorded and released.
As you can see, quite a turbulent and productive band history. Judging by Cory, guitarist of "Troubled Coast" and the dude who contacted me about a possible review, the band went through sound metamorphosis with each new album during which they added a more melodic tone to their music and adding additional layers of harmonies and depth that set them apart from being just a standard hardcore project. Sadly I didn't listen to their pre-"Letters" material, but listening to this album now really makes me want to check out their previous work.
So, what is it that you actually get to hear on "Letters"? Imagine a combination of pop punkish melodies from a band such as "Title Fight" and song structures like we can hear on "Touche Amore" releases, having the lyrical concepts of "La Dispute" yet with a more aggressive approach of "Verse". And this is all just talking in a nutshell. The cool thing however is that while listening to "Troubled Coast" you can witness just a glimpse of these influences, since most of the time the band sounds overtly different and unique. Additionally, this album is quite hard to grasp and describe in its entirety, since it is packed with songs that are various in style even to one another. It is enough to listen to a couple of tracks and you very well become aware of the fact that you will need to go over and over throughout the whole release to experience it fully. So for example, the opening track named "Amends" is a sort of buildup song featuring some coarse vocals and pack screaming, which melds toward the second song titled "Wolf Republic", which keeps swinging between being melodic and aggressive with the vocal calming down and becoming more of a half screamed, half spoken one. Both of these are less then two minutes in length, so "Breathing" kicks in and introduces a longer type of song and an even further change in the vocal which now becomes gentle and almost whisper like. So as I said, during the course of only a few tracks you get to hear that the band likes to experiment with their songs a lot. Throughout the entire album, featuring thirty eight minutes of music by the way, the song structures are complex and diverse without a single song being similar to another one. "Letters" even includes some guest appearances which manage to spice up the album even further.
As I have only a handful of bands within these genres, "Troubled Coast" came as a welcome addition to the basket and quite an entertaining one. My wish to share this release as soon as possible probably crippled this review a bit, since I am certain that I would actually need a few days of listening to have a solid critique opinion about it and point out all the highlights, which are abundant believe me. But one thing is for certain and that is that I really enjoy this album and it will grow on me even further in those upcoming days. Definitely check these guys out and judging by their performance thus far we are most likely for more surprises in the future. Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Festival report: Fluff Fest 2011, day three

24 July, day three

Yet another town trip and a slight delay made us late to catch "Gattaca", luckily we just missed the first song and soon found ourselves a place quite near the stage. Even while we were approaching the main stage it became obvious that we are in for an amazing show. The five piece crust band from the Czech Republic provided just an extremely powerful and epic sound, with an overall feeling of melancholy perfectly radiating from both their tunes and stage movements. I have been in love with their ex-bands, namely "Dakhma" and "Lakme", because of that specific dark and grim tone, but "Gattaca" managed to take it to a whole new level and seeing them play live took that experience even further. "Damokluv Mec", "Ve jmenu pokroku", "Chceme zpet svuj cas" (those songs being from their split with "Clamant") and all other tracks from their set had a superb clean sound and were just a flawless performance overall. I was definitely eager to hear them, but they managed to impress me even beyond my expectations. There is a very good video of their Fluff Fest show on youtube, so go ahead and check it out! Also, I will be doing an interview with "Gattaca" as soon as I grab time to write down the questions, but expect it soon.
Another band from the Czech Republic was up next in the tent, though sadly I did not pay much attention during their performance. "Esazlesa" played inside while I was outside talking to a friend, so both of us just threw a glimpse or two here and there. The post rock/screamo quartet had a truly massive sound which could be strongly felt even that far from the stage and they managed to make me enjoy those periodic moments when I was actually listening. I remember that I caught only the song "Zivoty" in the fullest and the quality of the sound was as if playing a recording, but with much more power and energy. Some of my companions that had their full attention toward the band inside said that it was a really great performance and I must agree with them, despite not witnessing the whole show.
From then on up until 6pm I just walked around and hanged out with people, saving all my energy and enthusiasm for "Raein" on the main stage. When the time finally arrived and they got up on stage, all chaos broke loose with energy and passion just exploding from the stage and the crowd. There is really no need for me to explain in detail the amount of euphoria while the legendary Italian screamo act performed, especially since most of the time during their show I felt completely entranced, as if my brain switched off and my body moved on its own. A clear example of your mind being completely blown away. Not only were the people in front of the stage crazed, but the stage itself had constant movement, both from stage divers and from the band members themselves who were a real enjoyment to watch, just shining with emotions. The audience was granted many songs from their latest record, including one of my favorite songs named "Raein rumore. tre", yet they spiced up the set list with other older incredible pieces such as "The King Is Dead", "On Air" and of course "Tigersuit". Wave after wave of sound just kept hitting the crowd, all building up to a climax intense ending and it was just a spectacular show. As I said, no need for details, bands like these you just have to witness to believe and experience for yourself, simply incredible.
Last band I paid my full attention to on this year's Fluff Festival was none other than "Rosetta", who were up next after "Raein". Okay, this is really strange to write about, simply because I don't know what to say. First to get things out of way, I really love "Rosetta" and enjoy them at home quite much. During their live performance they had the most clean and spectacular sound which was absolutely incredible. But aside of that, there was not much to it, since the overall experience seemed as though I was listening to them at home but with extremely powerful speakers. Maybe I was expecting too much from them or something, but to me their performance seemed somewhat blank and monotone. They failed to grasp my attention entirely and I was more fascinated to watch one of my friends on the ground who became one with the universe while "Rosetta" was playing. So, aside of me not having the "wow" experience, they did manage to provide a good show due to the above mentioned sound quality. They opened up with probably my favorite song from "Wake Lift" named "Red In Tooth And Claw", and later throwing songs like "Release", "Revolve" and if I remember "Renew" as well, all leading up to a great ending in the form of "A Determinism Of Morality". That last song is the only one that managed to see body movement and the screaming of lyrics from me, since the ending was quite epic. All in all, great performance, but somewhat lacking some aspects.

And that is it, my complete experience from Fluff Fest. Amazing bands, an opportunity to hang out with people I was so eager to meet, drooling distros and exquisite food, real enjoyment every step of the way. Several bands I missed due to various factors and we had some troubles along the way, but overall I had the best time ever during these three days. I'd like to say thanks to the organizers and everyone else involved for keeping such an amazing festival alive (especially to the food makers who actually keep us alive), to all the bands for their performances and shared passion. Special thanks and hellos to my travel companions for all the shared mischief/good times, to Lada, Melisa, Botond, Vuk, Zule, Luka, Gabrielius, Joost, Stephan (and his mate who's name I forgot because I suck), Mister Paan and all other wonderful people I managed to meet and hangout with and to Dabar for turning this into a trip of a lifetime. See you all next year!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Festival report: Fluff Fest 2011, day two

23 July, day two

After an unbelievable night filled with many ups, downs and remarkable twists of having nowhere to sleep, meeting people and finally sleeping in a car, the second day of the festival began and the lineup was just amazing. A trip to the town and some complications along the way halted us a bit, so we were really running late and hearing "Lemuria" playing in the distance. Felt bad about missing them, but then again I don't love them that much to feel sorry about it. Luckily we got just in time to settle up at a nice spot and get ready for "Trainwreck". To say that I was extremely impatient about hearing them live would be an understatement. The weirdest thing personally was the fact that I started listening to them not long before the actual Fluff Fest, yet I began enjoying their music so much that the desire to feel their tunes live increased extremely dramatically and fast. Their sound was as predicted, abnormally rushing and destructive, yet precise and passionate. The moment they started playing I just became so euphoric and excited that I have some memory gaps when it comes to their set. Some songs I can't remember, thought the pinacle of the set, pinacle for me at least, I can recall every minor detail about. "Piano Gigante" was the track I was most eager to hear and when it was announced near the end of the set, I felt like I was going to explode. And there comes the only "problem" concerning their show, that being the completely dead crowd. People were zombified, just mildly swinging their heads even at the very front of the stage, while I was the only maniac who wanted to dance and jump and scream the damned lyrics. I somewhat felt sorry for the band, since they got a really low amount of feedback even despite the fact that they were exceptionally good. Luckily, the band seemed happy doing their thing, getting on stage and blowing brains away with their music. Overall, excellent show.
After a minor break spent in front of the stage, "Battle Of Wolf 359" arrived and killed the audience without remorse. From the very first day I heard their tunes I fell in love with what they do, since there was something overtly unique about their sound and general mood which was invoked while listening. Their performance on Fluff Fest just skyrocketed and ultimately sealed my adoration for them, since the band managed to exceed all my expectations, taking their instruments and just smashing at the people in front of them without stopping. If I remember well from all the excitement, songs like "Apostasy", "In Search of Gaia", "Martyr O.D." were played and all of them sounding absolutely perfect. That above mentioned uniqueness and mood can be literally touched during their live performances and that is what blew my mind away the most. My favorite song was also played, namely "Cyberdine", and it is actually during this track that the crowd went completely insane and a sudden circle pit started. I was caught in the very middle of it and it was probably my first circle pit in ages, which was made all the more special because of the accompanying tunes. The audience finally became alive and the whole enjoyment was additionally increased thanks to all the movement during the band's performance. Definitely one of the best acts on this year's festival, unbelievably glad I had the privilege to see them live.
After some roaming through distros and food venues, we got back to the main stage to brace for impact with "Year Of No Light". Ok, with this band I have a very strange relationship. Back in the day of their release named "Nord", I was listening to them quite a lot, yet somehow as time passed by I nearly forgot about them, not even being aware that "Ausserwelt" came out in the meantime. I was, of course, quite happy when they were announced for this year's Fluff, yet I didn't know what to expect and was somewhat nervous prior to their appearance.As it turns out, they got up on stage and succeeded in completely stunning me. During their entire performance I was in a trance-like state, just soaking up every possible note floating from the stage. The sound they created was enormous, an unbelievably gigantic monster unleashed upon all senses. I was standing somewhere at the center of the audience and I clearly remember my whole body vibrating from the massive sound just hitting every inch of skin. The basses and double drumming were so powerful that the insides of my stomach pulsed. Their entire act was highly artistic since it was both an audio and visual spectacle. Each song the band members exchanged places on the keyboards, while the two set of drums and their players were extremely interesting to watch with their identical rapid movements. The string players were slow and at certain instances even not moving as if time stopped for them, which went extremely well with the sluggish pace of the beastly tones. Even the very climate obeyed, as the wind blew making the trees move and the Sun went away behind the clouds on several occasions during crescendo moments in songs, a glimpse of a grim mood following the tunes. I can't quite recall the songs played, but I presume they played the entire "Ausserwelt". Thinking about it now, I presume it is safe to say that "Year Of No Light" definitely snatches away the title of the best performer on this festival, simply because they surprised me on every possible level. Simply beyond amazing.
Taking a few moments to brace myself after their show ended, I realized I have to hurry up and catch "Reka", since their show already started in the tent. Sadly I managed to catch only a glimpse of their gig, maybe one and a half song or something like that, since "Year Of No Light" played a bit longer than expected. I don't even know which songs I heard, most probably from their latest release "III", but I can tell you that they were excellent. I never listened to them a lot at home and have only a vague notion of how they actually sound like, but they really managed to punch me in the face to pay more attention in the future. They had a powerful and overtly chaotic sound, quite different from what I thought I would witness. There were a few lineup changes as far as I hear, actually important ones since they have a new singer now, so the sound mutation was to be expected I guess. Those brief moments created by the Russians were very interesting and I feel really sorry for not catching their entire set.
After their show, I passed over to hear "Punch" on the main stage, but didn't quite feel impressed enough to stay long, which was actually rather disappointing. I love their recordings and enjoy listening to them, but live they were not really to my liking. The vocal somehow sounded way above the rest of the instruments, at least from the point where I was standing, and I really didn't have enough strength to listen to them a lot.
A long break ensued later, since there was nothing interesting going on for me. Even ended up completely alone without my friends at one point, so I randomly strolled through the festival space. Finally I moved to the tent stage, since I thought that "Beyond Pink" were next, but I was wrong. This was probably the best mistake turned golden situation, since instead I saw "Glasses" play. Prior to the fest I didn't listen to their tunes, so when they got up stage I decided to stick around, especially since I was still alone at this point. Oh shit, this was so good! With the first sound rolling over the tent from the stage, the crowd just exploded and didn't cease in activity until the very end. "Glasses" simply provided a nonstop audio beating and they had no intention to stop for a single second. Even the band mimicked the audience with constant stage movement, waving their instruments and jumping around. There is something in their tunes just driving you to go completely nuts and smash something. I feel sorry for not being able to provide the songs they played in this review since I didn't know the titles back then, but trust me when I say it is extremely unimportant. No matter the song selection, the band just ripped and provided one of the most intense shows I have seen thus far.
Some chilling out afterwards and being reunited with one dear companion of mine and later the rest of them, it was finally time for the last of the great three bands of the day on the main stage, "Blue Note" or better known under their original name "Swing Kids". Before their performance I talked to a lot of my friends and everyone had extremely high expectations for them. And yes, the band came up and kept sweeping everyone from their feet throughout the entire set. The screamo legends from San Diego made the whole stage just radiate with their spasm-like riffs and chaotic melodies, while staying cold and somewhat "professional" themselves. A lot of people criticized the behavior of the band during their performance, especially that of the singer who was exceptionally distant from the audience and appearing somewhat egocentric. In my head it was not really a flaw, since that provocative stance and glow of "we are a cult band" really added a certain flavor to the entire show which you don't get to see often. It was somehow special in a weird sort of way and I have to say that I enjoyed that visual part of their performance as well. As for the songs, all of their well known songs were played, like "El Camino Car Crash", "Blue Note", "Warsaw", "43 seconds", which had an unbelievably euphoric ending, and of course "Intro To Photography". Every track sounded perfect and all those choking tones were increased a tenfold during their act, managing to go along with all my expectations and even going above them. A perfect ending to a day packed with superb bands, this was tense.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Festival report: Fluff Fest 2011, day one

Everyone has heard about the amazing Fluff Festival, so I think there is no need for any special introductions or talks. Due to the fact that this was my first visit to the fest, I'll just take a line or two to write about the very place of the happening and we can move on to the bands. Located at the well known Rokycany Airfield, the fest and the camp circling it take up a huge space on the vast green field between a woodland area and the nearby town. In contrast to the extremely big and actually almost endless camp space, the festival spot is small, but packed with distros, a movie tent, smaller stage tent, eating place and the main stage itself. All in all, just the perfect place for an event such as this and it really is a nice sight to behold and the organization is great.

As I already mentioned in the previous gig review, my friends and I decided to skip the actual pre-Fluff gig and go to the "Anchor" show in Prague, thus our first day in Rokycany was on the 22nd. Strolling through the forest with a bit slower pace and taking our time to leave our bags and everything, we came a bit late to the fest, the sounds of "Hopeless" greeting us as we arrived. I wasn't that much interested to hear them play, except for the song "Warehouse" and it was really funny how once we stepped into the festival space the song started playing. After some running and witnessing the most important part of the lyrics ("Getting fucked in the warehouse out of sight") next to one very peculiar person, a small number of my friends and me decided to roam the distros instead of sticking around. We took it slow and spent a lot of time on that endeavor, also skipping "50 Lions" in the process.
So after ravaging, or much likely being ravaged by, the distros came the first band we actually watched fully on Fluff and it wasn't even on the main stage, but in the tent. Extremely chaotic and maniacal tunes drew us closer to the stage and in the next thirty minutes I watched and listened with pure amazement. Allow me to introduce "Nikki Louder". Forget everything you heard about their recordings, forget your experiences with them at home, this Slovenian trio is ready to rip your brains apart during live performances. Spasmic, choking and sometimes rending riffs, massive drum explosions and insane bass lines followed by all sorts of howls coming through the microphone, the sheer amount of noise and ear devastation coming from just three members is unbelievable. During their set it was extremely hard to think of anything else, since they are relentless and unpredictable with their tunes. I actually didn't catch the beginning of their performance and we didn't have a printed out time schedule, so I didn't know the name of the band until the very end. I approached the bass player and shamefully asked for their name, so when he said "Nikki Louder" my jaw rolled to the floor. Prior to the trip I took a listen to their tunes and they were intriguing, yes, but they can't be compared to their live manifestation. This was easily one of my favorite performances on this Fluff Fest, so if you ever get a chance to see them play live, do so, you are in for a remarkable surprise.
A break followed in the tent, so we strolled down through the distros again, still coming no way near the main stage which in my humble opinion had the weakest lineup on the first date in the three festival days. After half an hour "Owls Are Not What They Seem" started playing in the tent. I was really looking forward to seeing them live, since the moment I heard their tunes at home I immediately fell in love. This four piece screamo outfit from the Czech Republic managed to break free from the generally dark sound coming from the country and bring an interesting melodic and mellow creation. Their self-titled EP brought six songs bearing a high influence from some French screamo bands, packed with great nonstop pace changing songs and a peculiar vocal performance. And to my great pleasure, their set was as expected, just pure enjoyment to watch. Yet again we didn't know the name of the band, but once the first song started ringing through the tent I immediately recognized their music, since it has a strong dose of uniqueness within. It was planned for me to do an interview with the guys from the band after the show, but my brains were completely blown away, so that we talked and decided to do the interview online and you can expect that in the near future. All in all, amazing band and an even better performance.
We walked around again after "Owls..." finished, went to grab something to eat and overall nothing worth the note happened for us until 7pm when "Touche Amore" started playing on the main stage. I'll be completely honest with this one. Bunch of people are infatuated with them, bunch of people utterly hate them and personally I am found somewhere between the two. I enjoy some of their recordings, yet I had no real expectations due to previously watching a number of their live footage and each time they failed to impress. And to stay completely honest, they managed to really surprise me with their performance. Their songs seemed as a perfect copy of their recordings, just a great flow of sound coming from the stage followed by an energetic act and even constant singalongs and stage dives by the crowd. "Pathfinder", "Home Away From Here", the two tracks from the "La Dispute" split and of course, one of my favorite pieces, "Honest Sleep" are just some of the songs which flooded over the audience during their 45 minute set. Definitely entertaining to watch and listen, I'm somewhat glad that they managed to shake off my thoughts that they aren't so appealing live.
More food was needed, some more walking and hanging out with some people I was so eager to meet for the first time and after all that it was time to see "La Dispute", yet again on the main. Some of the people following my ramblings on this blog know my thoughts about this band, but for the sake of those who don't I will just repeat myself. "Vancouver" blew me away once I first heard it and I still love that release very much, but all their later work, excluding the "Touche Amore" split", is a bit too mellow and "artsy" for my taste. I have some songs I enjoy on "Somewhere at the....." album, but still their first release is a personal favorite and I disapprove of their later work. Of course, their set on Fluff didn't see a single song from "Vancouver", instead the band focusing on "Somewhere..." and the above mentioned split release. So songs like "Andria", "Damaged Goods, "Sad Prayers For Guilty Bodies" and "Bury Your Flame" were played, luckily the last two songs being tracks I like. Their performance was actually quite entertaining, since they sounded perfectly, as if listening to their music at home, a completely clear sound and no fumbles along the way. Although providing an excellent performance, I have to spill some of my thoughts about it, since I had a theory of sorts and it was proven correct. Thanks to the high amount of emotions, mellowness and general intimacy within their music, I was certain that the atmosphere wouldn't be so great during their performance and I was right. "La Dispute" is definitely not an open air festival band, much rather excelling at a smaller venue where the contact and interaction with the audience can be greater and more direct, which as I said proved correct when I saw them in Budapest for the second time. But more about that in another gig review which will follow shortly. All in all, their set was great, but nothing overtly surprising.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Animal Skins

I thought about writing the next gig review, actually a festival report from Fluff, but pondered that maybe it is better not to slam you all with yet another wall of text and add some interesting tunes in between to spice it all up. Plus, I am really infatuated by everything that I experienced on the said festival, so I really want to be in an inspired mood while writing about it. But enough about that, time for you to be introduced to an exquisite band.

"Animal Skins" is a quintet from Boise, Idaho, and that is probably the most information you are going to dig up about the band on first glance on the web. Thus far, the five piece has released two extended plays, the first one coming out on 25 January 2011. Named "A EP", the release brought five songs with sixteen something minutes of very interesting tunes. Just to note, despite their bandcamp page showing only four songs, five tracks are available once downloaded. Anyways, the thing you get to hear is a noise spiced mid tempo hardcore mixed with some psychedelic bits and pieces. Sounds weird and maybe randomly put together, but the thing that matters is that "A EP" is an extremely entertaining release and it provided much enjoyment for yours truly. While you listen to the songs, you get this interesting feeling as if sitting on needles, since the tunes hover in mid tempo, as mentioned before, yet at times start reaching toward a more faster speed though never getting too pissed off and wild. Basically you feel as though everything is about to go insane, but it never does, this really mustering a lot of tension while listening and it was exceptionally cool. Having two guitars in the band, most of the times one provides repetitive, but extremely catchy riffs, while the other is responsible for some noisy creations. The listener is constantly thrown between the two, with drums and bass providing just ambient support. Other times however, all instruments blend really well together and form just a massive noise amalgam and you just sense the beating upon your ears. The vocal performance is a complete contrast to the rest of the band, since it is just a constant raspy scream with almost no change in sound.  This is not a flaw however, since it creates the whirlwind effect, as if the vocal is just the only solid thing while the rest of the happenings are pure chaos and constant change. Rare are bands that manage to pull this off effectively and luckily "Animal Skins" jumps in that boat.
Following "A EP", July 2011 saw the release of "B EP" and a lot of changes for the band came in its wake. This time we are faced with four songs grasping us for almost twenty minutes and immediately we notice a drastic shift in their performance. First of all, the instruments became much more crunchy and noisy, which I love so much. Not only did the overall sound started being quite deeper, but the bass and drums don't provide just background tones anymore, this time I feel that they are also thrown into the spotlight on equal terms as the rest. The second thing almost instantly poking your ears is the change of style "Animal Skins" took. No longer slow going and psychedelic, now they carry a gloomy noise imbued hardcore. It was absolutely stunning listening to both releases in a row, expecting something similar and akin to the first one, yet being just completely slammed to the ground and beaten up by fast riffs filled with dread and sluggish behemoths waiting around the corner. The change in style took me by so much surprise that "B EP" just flew by me and left me pondering what the fuck just happened to my speakers.
The ultimate thing about "Animal Skins" is actually the fact that both of their releases are standing shoulder to shoulder with one another, both providing something highly interesting in their own way and right. Their evolution is really a sight to behold and I sincerely hope they won't stop with "B EP", since they certainly show what they are capable of as musicians and should definitely continue exploring their abilities. I honestly urge everyone to give them a try, listening to both of their records in one breath. You can get in touch with the band members over on their facebook page here. Enjoy!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gig review: Anchor, No Guts No Glory, No Omega, Stay Hungry, Col-lapse

The arrival of my friends and me to Prague was welcomed by raindrops and some pretty dark weather. That very day, namely 21 July, I realized that instead of going to the actual pre-Fluff gig in Rokycany we will see "Anchor" play in Prague. To be completely honest, I was excited for both gigs in the same amount since the bands playing on those gigs were completely unknown to me. Of course, I have heard of "Anchor" before, but never actually took a listen to them and this gig came as a great way to correct that mistake. Due to the fact that I haven't listened to a single band prior to this gig, expect this review to be a short one since I'm relying on  only a vague memory of what happened, despite the amount of fun I had on the concert.

So as I mentioned above, the show took place on 21 July 2011 in "Cafe Na Pul Cesty", Prague. Literally everything about that venue is amazing, from location and design to the very sound it managed to provide. The cafe is located in a park of sorts quite near the train station, so we needed no more then ten minutes to find the place. It is a small and enjoyable structure, with only a single floor and a longish porch surrounding it. Inside there are a couple of tables and a bar, while the walls are covered with big windows so everything is quite light filled. Well, as much light as it could be mustered from the brooding weather outside. Speaking of the weather, I heard that this was supposed to be an open air show, the band playing on the porch outside the venue, but sadly the climate sabotaged that idea. The dude who organized the gig expressed his concern about whether everyone will manage to get into the cafe due to its size and the number of expected people. It turned out to be quite great, the venue fully packed and a lot of people hanging outside, having fun despite the rain and constantly circulating through the cafe and the porch.
In any case, we arrived way to early, so some tea/coffee/non-alcoholic bear later the show started, "No Guts No Glory" producing the first live music sounds that day. The five piece melodic hardcore/punk band from France managed to provide an outstanding performance and completely grasp my attention. Their set was fast and explosive, the songs just speeding through the venue with their catchy melodies and great singalongs. I remember my head constantly swinging back and forth, since the tunes really send an impulse toward you to keep constantly moving and dancing. Even now as I listen to their recordings at home the wish to just surrender yourself to the sound is present. It saddens me thought that I can't recall which songs were played, so their part of the review must rely on these few words in order to get your attention and influence you to take a listen to "No Guts No Glory". You can get in touch with the band on their myspace page found here.
Following them, "Col-lapse" played. The outfit from Barcelona is composed of ex members of "Cinder", meaning they are bound to be heard about before. Their performance I didn't follow visually, since we decided to spend some time in front of the venue, catching some fresh air and getting a bit wet from the persistent rain. The cool thing was that the music could be perfectly heard even outside, giving me a chance to at least enjoy the audio manifestation of the band. Also found in the melodic hardcore/punk waters, "Col-lapse" could be easily compared to the first playing band, being a sort of rougher version of "No Guts No Glory". Maybe a stupid comparison, since I spend a low amount of time in that specific genre, so to save my reviewer reputation I will mention that "Col-lapse" has been compared to bands such as "Embrace" and "Dag Nasty", by others at least. In any case, I enjoyed their sound and they are definitely worth a listen, which you can do on their bandcamp page here.
After "Col-lapse", "No Omega" hit the venue. And when I say hit the venue, I mean completely devastate and annihilate. Following those melodic tunes produced by the previous two bands, the monster that is "No Omega" fell heavy on the audience with their thundering and massive sound which went perfectly with the dark climate hovering over Prague. The quartet hailing from Sweden managed to absolutely blow me away with their music, walking on the line between an immensely depressive form of hardcore, post metal and at times even crust. This combination of genres provided an excellent live experience since you get to be utterly slowed down by some sluggish, almost sludge, tones and in the next second you are faced with an extremely fast, beating and trampling tone. "Ravens Fair" and "The Design" are definitely signature songs for this band since they show you exactly what this band is capable of. Be sure not to miss out on this project, absolutely worth keeping an eye out for. Check them out on their myspace page here and their facebook page here.
"Stay Hungry" was up next, yet we decided not to stay hungry and go outside to grab something to eat. Whilst nomming and filling our bellies with some vegan food, the band played inside. Yet another project coming from Sweden, "Stay Hungry" brought with them the sounds of straight edge hardcore. Sad to say that this band caught the least amount of attention from yours truly, simply because I never enjoyed this type of music. This doesn't mean they aren't good of course, since as much as I saw they managed to make the crowd go wild with a lot of dancing, stage diving and everything in between.
Last, but definitely not least, "Anchor" took the stage and succeeded in punching me in the face for not listening to them earlier. From the second their set started and all up until the very end and final tone, "Anchor" sent so much energy and power throughout the venue, making the audience go completely nuts. Stage diving, moshing, dancing, singalongs and an overall positive vibe pulsing through the cafe during their performance. I was standing way back in the gig space and had an excellent view of everything going on, a real sight to behold. It was funny how I was standing back there and thinking about how I want to go climb up at the bar and stage dive from there. The very second I decided to do that, one girl got up and jumped in the same fashion I imagined and actually almost slipping on some drink on the bar. This made me laugh so much that I actually forgot to do it later. In any case, "Anchor" were just relentless with the amount of amazing tunes and pure passion they radiated toward the people in the venue, their performance being quite a surprise and a huge highlight of the entire gig, in the end leaving me with a wish to go say hi to some of the members and grabbing a piece of their merch. If you made the same mistake as I did, definitely check them out and don't let them slip from your ears. They will be touring with "Trial" and "Run With The Hunted" over Europe in a few months, so try to grab them if you can. Check out "Anchor" on their bandcamp page found here.
Overall, an extremely fun gig with great people and atmosphere, featuring some pretty interesting and inspiring bands. Stay tuned for more reports from my trips, gonna write more in a day or two.