The Audictive Bunch
Spring Break 2019 / Session B
OLDEN YOLK. living theatre. Trouble in Mind (17.05.19)
Fran: Olden Yolk’s new album, Living Theatre, is a very mellow and innocuous record, sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst. The general problem with crafting lackadaisical sounding music is that it might come across to listeners like you don’t care too much for what you wrote. And while I don’t believe that to be the case with Olden Yolk, they nonetheless seem intent on riding the fine line between easy-going and monotonous. “Living Theatre“ certainly has its high points, it’s just unfortunate that they are followed by quite tedious ones. For every Violent Days - a strong song with complex melodies that drives right into the modern psychedelia characteristic of Jim James - there’s a Meadowlands, a tune that in its dullness can only be described as soundtrack-y in a bad way. Though there’s nothing objectionable to having a quiet time every now and then, the lack of bite and general unworried nature of “Living Theatre“ will get on your nerves after a few songs - which I’m guessing the duo realized, as the album is pretty compact. Running at 35 minutes short, there’s meat lacking in Olden Yolk’s bones, but at least they understood that more in this case would’ve just been self-indulgent.
Forty: What’s wrong with being mellow and all niced out? Olden Yolk sound as if influential Aussie bands such as The Go-Betweens or The Church entered a time machine to record this album in Big Sur in the late 60s. Loving it. 8.5/10
PRINS THOMAS. ambitions. Smalltown Supersound (out now)
Fran: With “Ambitions“, Prins Thomas gifts us a narrative experience. An album coherent unto itself, there always seems to be a conscious evolution happening from song to song. The escalation in the general mood of the album is only matched by the de-escalation of melodic intensity - through the rising beginnings of Foreplay and XSB, the album takes a nice turn with the title track towards a psychedelic break, which, if only shorter, could have been the crowning achievement of the record. Regrettably, the Norwegian producer didn’t seem keen on taking more risks, and the lull we experience in the middle of the album, only ending with the last tracks. Though his originality can’t be contested, Thomas’ subtlety got the best of him this time as he paid the price with an album that sounds simply safe.
Forty: C’mon Fran, basically every piece of music designed for the dancefloor is playing it safe for rather obvious reasons. You wouldn’t necessarily find a power ballad on a punk rock album, right? Anyway, in my humble opinion “Ambitions“ presents Prins Thomas at his most flawless, even though he flirts with pop and lounge and psych and everything in between. “Ambitions“ sounds fresh and exiting and bold, like the fierce debut of a newcomer you haven’t heard of before. 9/10
HOLLY HERNDON. proto. 4AD (10.05.19)
Fran: “What the hell did I just listen to?” is probably the question you will be asking yourself after experiencing Holly Herndon’s new album.
Electronic music can often be boring, especially when artists decide to rest on their laurels and stop innovating. A lot of times it seems like there’s too much parity within the genre to elicit inspired breakthroughs, nevertheless Herndon is still able to smack us right across the face with the exceptional display of creativity that is PROTO.
What really astounds me about this record, is her ability to layer voices like instrumental waves mixed in between the electronic synthesizers. Following along the model that made us love Kanye, the human voice appears in this album as an incredibly versatile instrument that guarantees original sounds through its many nuances. Now as lovely as that all sounds, be forewarned that PROTO is not for the faint of heart. The album will lead you to as many horror inducing tracks like Crawler, as it will to the borderline spiritual in the floaty Eternal, where the main singing mashed in with the choir-esque base leads to a track building itself vertically, with all its melodies crashing against each other from different height planes. At the end of the day, PROTO is storytelling at its best. Through galloping wild horses along inexorable landscapes in the epic Frontier (my personal favorite track), to the confusing intermissions of Live Trainings, Herndon is taking us on an electronic adventure of vocal layering. So I’d recommend fasting your seatbelts and allowing her originality to take you wherever it can.
MIKE DONOVAN. exurbian quonset. Drag City (24.05.19)
Fran: With his new album, Mike Donovan shows himself a quite capable musician, even if not always the most original. Much like so many other artists these days, he seems very drawn to a different time and place, with the pervading characteristic of his music being a post-Revolver Beatles psychedelia. He reaches high points with songs B.O.C. Rate Applied, and Digital Dan (very reminiscent of the instrumental work Oasis liked doing, i.e. F*cking in the Bushes). But overall, even at 28 minutes, the album could use a little trimming, especially of its more forgettable tracks, like Stone and Hate Mail Writer. What Donovan showed us in skill, he perhaps lacked in innovation for Exurbian Quonset. While trying to match an aesthetic, he forgot to put his own self before it.
Forty: I can see how this is a tough sell - it’s way too quirky for the pop kids, too idiosyncratic for the indie crowd, too much of a genre-bender for the rest of this world. I have to admit that I like it for exactly these reasons. 7/10
BENJAMIN FRÖHLICH. amiata. Permanent Vacation (10.05.19)
Fran: Benjamin Fröhlich certainly dances to his own rhythm. Caught in between making tracks people can actually dance to and innovating his genre, he arrived at the promising, but often bland compromise that is “Amiata“. High points come in the form of the opener Forty Trees, and the closer Saturnia. The last one in particular, brings forth a futuristic-sounding electronic track reminiscent of Tronthaim, that is nonetheless original in its own right. The trap the record falls into however, is a lack of continuity while going from song to song. Even though every track is incredibly consistent in their own formulas, there is no rhythmic coherence between them, which in this case, leads to tired listeners by the end of the album. All in all, Fröhlich achieves a solid record that shows signs of potential it never quite fulfills. Amiata is amiable and repetitive at the same time, which unfortunately end up expressed through a passiveness of spirit in the listeners.
Forty: I get your point, Fran. What I really like about this album though is that it might lack any kind of continuity in terms of stylistics, but manages to hold everything together through a weird kind of nostalgia - the good kind. It’s as if a close friend is playing you all his favorites from the last thirty years. 7/10
COM TRUISE. persuasion system. Ghostly International (17.05.19)
Fran: Do you often find yourself hoping to get more of Vangelis’ Blade Runner music in your life? Well, if the answer is yes, I think you found your man. American electronic artist Com Truise has firmly plunged his new album, “Persuasion System“, in the synthesizer filled world of early 80s electronic music. There’s something very serene about his record. Songs like “Ultrafiche of You“, or “Worldline“ call upon an aesthetic that is quite uncommon nowadays, with the biggest exponents of this sound living mostly in the realm of soundtracks. Listen to the album while walking in the city without a specific goal in mind, or perhaps when you’re gazing out into grey-ish landscapes, and you will be sure to find some sort of transcending peace of mind. But if you’re seeking something a little more exciting and less niche from your electronic playlist, then this might not be what you’re looking for. 5.5/10
Forty: What I always loved about his output is that it couldn’t care less about the latest antics under the mirrorball, regardless how danceable the majority of tracks actually are - it always felt more like adding a new chapter to a fairly weird, lo-fi yet epic sci-fi saga. The latest storyline he’s offering is a surprisingly melancholic one. 7.5/10