Three Album Reviews – Vetiver, Eskmo, No Spill Blood

Vetiver, Complete Strangers

es009_vetiver-completestrangersSan Francisco’s Andy Cabic has been putting new music out under the name Vetiver since 2003, a moniker that has produced more than a half-dozen critically acclaimed albums and EPs. The interval between 2011’s The Errant Charm and this record is the longest of their career, and that span finds the band exploring yacht-rock (“Current Carry”), soft adult contemporary (“Shadows Lane”) a touch of tense folk balladry (“Backwards Slowly”) and a few riveting pop gems (the glimmering seven-minute opening track, “Stranger Still”).

Vetiver has morphed over the last decade from their start as small label, freak folk icons. This record gives me the impression that Cabic was seeking to untangle his myriad of musical influences, playing each one out as a separate thread instead. In the advance press for Complete Strangers, Cabic called this latest work an anthem for insomniacs. Whether or not these ten songs were intended as accompaniment to the small hours (or this was coy hyperbole) I don’t quite see the resemblance, except for the predominantly soft production edge. Perhaps Cabic and I simply have different late night rituals.

I’ll admit this much, I put Complete Strangers on the stereo the other afternoon and just let go. The windows were open. A breeze cut through the house, airing out winter’s must. Mid-week and Vetiver’s acoustic soft jams, light on freak outs, made me want to invite folks over.

Check out Vetiver’s site for more on Complete Strangers as well as their entire back catalog.

Eskmo, SOL

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Los Angeles electronic music artist, Brenden Angelides (better known by his stage name, ESKMO) is a master at eliciting a myriad of highly textured sounds. His latest record SOL on Apollo Records alternates between jagged and experimental  (“Mind of War”), seething industrial-tinged dance (“SOL” and “The Light of One Thousand Furnaces”) and the spectacularly glorious (“The Sun Is A Drum”).

So many of the ten songs on SOL brought me around to David Bowie, those later records, beyond the Berlin period where he was seemingly done with rock and roll and had taken to experimenting with noise. There is an austere quality throughout that speaks to an attention to craft. Angelides has been producing an eclectic mix of electronic music since 1999, making him something of a veteran in a scene that feasts on youth. That experience, however, affords the listener a few mature, soulful moments, a track like “Blue and Gray” with simmering vocals about waterbirds overlaying a heart beat and drowsy rain sound effects. These are rare, stolen moments but show just what happens when a great talent has the opportunity to season.

Want to check out SOL and the rest of Angelides’ catalog? Check out his website for more.

No Spill Blood, Heavy Electricity

a1711026201_10No Spill Blood wastes no time at all, dispensing with short, thematic mood pieces in favor of a thunderous bass line for the introduction to “White Cut” the first of nine on their new album Heavy Electricity. Something cut and dried feels, at this point, welcome, considering how many heavy bands lately seem to be interested in setting moody context for their fury.

What initially enticed me to delve into the Dublin, Ireland band (whose name suggests either an obscure Oingo Boingo song or The Island of Doctor Moreau) was their synth backed heavy metal sound, sweeping keys set to compliment their fierce tempo. The opening track really runs like two distinctly different: first a raw metal song diverting to racing, spectral keys. The pace is the same but the engine changes half way through the race. Undoubtedly heavy, No Spill Blood plays up a sort of curious interstellar quality, softening the rough edge.

Thus my attraction starts to ebb. The constant synthesizer intervention, while curious and at fleeting moments, entertaining, really takes the grit away from what are some awesome songs. There are absolute jewels amongst the tracks, like “Now II”, the vulgar displays of brutality, “El Duurto” and my favorite, “Harsh Route” but the latter two emerge as favorites because they harken back to that first, savage line of demarcation: this is indeed heavy music. Warding off any potential listeners is not my objective. This is a solid record and for fans with tastes leaning toward the more spectacular heavy, it stands as a bona fide coup.

Record label Sargent House offers a bundle of the LP version of Heavy Electricity with a cool T-shirt. Check it out here.