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Sunday 2 June 2019

Review: DeWolff, Port Noir, Temple Koludra, Nth Ascension (Matt, Alex & Paul S)

DeWolff: Live & Outta Sight II (Mascot Records) [Matt]

Dutch psych rockers DeWolff return with their second live album, which shares it’s title with their first. Live & Outta Sight II is culled from the bands tour of The Netherlands between 2018 and 19. The tour was in support of their 2018 album Thrust and rightly much of the setlist is made up of these songs, along with some fan favourites from their extensive back catalogue as well. The band have said as the more they played these songs the more they grew taking on a life of their own, this is only natural with a band like DeWolff who’s sound is very much one of a jam band, so live they are always going to be a much more impressive beast than on record.

I’ve mentioned before that DeWolff are made up of brothers Pablo (singer/guitarist) and Luka van dePoel (Drums) along with Hammond organist Robin Piso, it gives them that retro feel as the guitars and organs can mingle and duel throughout as the drums keep it all in time directing the changes where needed, if you can imagine those legendary Hendrix or Cream gigs of the 60’s you’d be on to a winner, though Medicine is very Zep. It’s on this live album you can hear how well they gel, fleshing things out with some soulful backing singers on Sugar Moon. This album makes you want to watch DeWolff live which is probably the point of a live record, you can hear that being on stage is what they are made for, until their next tour though I’d say crank this up instead. 8/10

Port Noir: The New Routine (InsideOut Records) [Alex]

Cultivating a style of Alternative which has the vigour of Classic rock, and the strut of underground Hip-Hop of all genres, The New Routine will likely take a while to grow on you. Strangely minimalist and cleverly infectious, I must admit not wholly knowing what to make of Port Noir. Simultaneously comforted by the familiar techniques utilised and baffled by some of the compositional choices, my mind was initially doing mental triangulations, in response to a work which is not all that complex – at least on a surface level. A driving guitar, which undulates from moments of commanding intensity to complimentary subtlety, intersects and dances with equally unpredictable synth melodies on Old Fashioned. Predictably then, the effect is an erratic yet stimulating type of intensity, which sets the album out on a frenetic footing. Flawless is equally peculiar in nature yet still very likable, the subtly dark undertones, the increased presence of the bass and the capricious keyboard and guitar duels, keeping the power from the first track intact.

Beginning on a pop-inspired note, at first listen Blow and Champagne are precisely normal. However, proceedings are rarely that simple, and as the anti-overindulgence themes escalate in drama, so does the music, the always ambitiously crafted instrumentals, spiralling to shrieking finales of clamour and atmosphere. Ultimately, this is a practice which the multi-genre three piece hone to perfection. They are incredibly good at taking the skeleton of a proto-typical anthem and using its bones to create something fascinating or strange. While they employ generic ideas, they use them as a take-off point, to explore more experimental concepts and notions. Continuing on the investigational path, Young Bloods fluctuates restlessly from sardonic trend mocking to chaotic angst. Wordplay is often vague and ambiguous, probably deliberately, yet if Port Noir were making a statement about the state of the music industry, the innovation and humour which they bring to the table would serve that message excellently. Define Us opens on a minimal yet quirky note, the mysterious electronic effects mixed with trombone touches setting one mood, before a gnashing riff hurdles out of nowhere, taking you off guard and breathing new life into the anthem.

Drive has a gigantic swagger in its delivery and execution, bordering on a more visceral, animalistic approach. Out Of Line closes, bringing the pop/rock infused meld to a succinct and meaningful conclusion, and giving the listener one last chance to wonder how these three musicians produce such a full and varied sound. While, as I admitted earlier, The New Routine initially took me back, I came to embrace its quirks and oddities. Sometimes, writing a review can actually put your thoughts in context and make you realise that you appreciate a piece far more than you initially realised. Here is a prime example of such a process at work – a work which initially strikes you as puzzling, yet which worms its way into your memory, compelling you to listen on and explore it for all its various twists and turns 8/10

Temple Koludra: Seven! Sirens! To A Lost Archetype (Transcending Obscurity) [Paul S]

Temple Koludra is a one man band project from Germany. The man in question is known as M:W, and has been making music since 2010, so far Temple Koludra have released 2 EP’s in 2013 and in 2019. Temple Koludra play a fairly extreme form of Black Metal, not bestial or extreme enough to be War metal, but definitely a bit faster and harder than your average Black Metal album. The band do a very good line in furiously fast blast beats, with savage tremolo picked riffs. The vocals are very harsh, but fit very well with the sonic armageddon going on behind them. It isn’t all savage and extreme, there are softer, more atmospheric parts as well. Temple Koludra do a good line in contrasting insanely aggressive blast beats and Tremolo picked riffs, with very quiet acoustic passages, or with very delicate keyboard segments. This helps to make the extreme, more extreme and the quiet and subtle, well, more quiet and subtle. There's a lot of good with this album, but there are problems as well.

The production is over the top, in particular it reminds me of 2005 Dimmu Borgir, and the massively over produced Black Metal that was in vogue at the time. It was OVERproduced in 2005 and it’s OVERproduced today. There is very little separation of the instruments, so it all feels like one huge sound, all compressed together. If this was produced in a more organic way, with proper separation, it would sound and feel much better. It has a sense of trying to make everything as big as possible, but it’s in an almost cartoonish way. The other way this doesn’t quite work is the structures of the songs. Yes, there are some nice juxtapositions, but on a few tracks the constant changing from LOUD to quiet, to LOUD to quiet and back again, makes the songs this happens on feel disjointed and fractured.

This is another area where taking a less is more approach would help, the final track While I Trance suffers from this a lot, I kept on being irritated at the constant chopping and changing. The real frustration with this album is that apart from the over production and the slightly fractured structure of some of the tracks, this is a very good album, but it could have been much better. This is a good album, that could have been great. It’s a great first attempt at an album, but if Temple Koludra can sort out a more organic sound and control the structures of the songs, then they could be a great band, rather than just being good. 7/10

Nth Ascension: Stranger Than Fiction (Metatronic Records) [Alex]

Knowing how to utilize atmosphere to stimulating effect, Stranger Than Fiction is indeed worthy of the often overused description of ‘musical journey’. While abiding by the principle of progressive music, Nth Ascension transcend genre expectations, to create an absorbing emotional voyage Ambient qualities and elusive oriental harmonies float in on a crest of blissful yet hypnotic instrumentals, a piece purely entitled The Opening. With passion already inspired we eloquently changeover into True Identity, a dramatized anthem, the tense transitions, subtle instrumental modulations, and flavourful verbal delivery lend a spacey, psychedelic sentiment. Fire In The Sky is new-Wave, focussed through the apparatus of prog, the cruising thud of the bass tone, mixed with the dark melodies lends an insatiability, while the synth and effect flourishes contribute yet more passion.

Reconciled proves reminiscent of classic rock, the fuzz of the guitars making a comforting intro to another song which refuses to be encumbered by repetitiveness, instead of soaring gloriously through a myriad of disparate moods and influences. Flaunting some of those muses – Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd – The Gathering has a distinctly arcane temperament, in points feeling revering or religious – the sheer grandiosity on display could be daunting to some listeners. To concede, these moments do bear a self-indulgent tinge, yet compliment the vast and multidimensional nature being embraced. For instance, Journeys End flows directly from the previous track and has a cascade of layers and moods on show, yet also has a deeply adventurous and audacious tone. Lament is nothing more than mournful strumming at a classical guitar, a longstanding trick yet one which feels appropriate and suitably placed.

Set aside notions of deriding ludicrousness, as oddness can be the indicator of innovation. When I describe what Nth Ascension are performing as a ‘journey’, I mean to say that they tread a lot of ground and do not often backtrack. Many of the tricks they pull have been acted out by other artists, some are seemingly original. Not everything is perfectly cohesive, yet there is a lot of ambition to be found 7/10

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