Right Hand Left Hand is a two-piece band: Andrew Plain (drums/guitars) and Rhodri Viney (guitars/ vocals/ drums) from Cardiff, Wales. “2 members playing 2 guitars, 2 drum kits, centred around a loop station”, as their official bio informs us.
2015 is almost done and dusted but there are still a couple of loose ends to tie up. Here’s a couple of Singapore instrumental albums released this year that you might want to examine a little closer.
Now here’s something completely different!
Victor Low (formerly of Concave Scream and The Observatory) has recorded and released an album of short instrumental tunes (mostly under 2 minutes), that he says were inspired by his own childhood and the bedtime stories shared with his young daughter, Ee Shahn.
These ten tracks are delightful and thoughtful experiments into songwriting targeted for children or the young at heart. Mostly neo-classical in tone with acoustic guitars (steel and nylon) at the fore, assorted percussion and the occasional cello (courtesy of Zhong Ren Koh), it’s easy to simply play through the duration of Songs of the Well and revel in its rustic sophistication.
My personal favourites are “Drip Drop”, “Swallow” and “Geckos of Eastwood” – which highlight Low’s focus on naive charm but the arty “Song of the Well” recalls Low’s time with art-rock ensemble The Observatory. It’s an atmospheric ambient song whose origins, Low was kind enough to elaborate on.
“When I was writing the songs in this album. I would often bring my guitar out of my studio to sit in the stairwell where I live, just to get a bit of a natural reverb. This really helped me to ease into the ideas and finish writing the songs (or the main bulk of it) rather quickly. A thought occurred to myself that these songs seem to be coming from “the well”, and it ended up being the title of the album. Ironically the track “Song of The Well” was the only song not written from the stairwell. Instead it was done in my studio, using music boxes, cymbals and effects”.
If there is one obvious complaint, it is that the songs are too short! I mean, once a enthralled listener really gets into the piece, it’s over!! Hopefully, Low will see fit to expand on the artistic success of Songs of the Well to give us fans more in the years to come. Please encourage that possibility by purchasing Songs of the Well.
… still there’s more …
There may be no shortage of instrumental rock bands in the S-ROCK scene but it’s fair to say that Babushka has opted for a different path from your typical ‘Post-rock’ fare. The trio play a combination of jazz, folk and world music that one could imagine being utilized on the appropriate movie soundtrack. On its debut EP, Flights of Fancy, the styles range from Spanish flamenco inflections (“K2”), English folk cum shoegaze references (“Sherpa”), Space Age Bachelor Pad ambience (“Luxury Apartment”), easy listening jazz-folk (“Collide”) and even a Tex-Mex Mariachi vibe (“Pocket Rocket” – which film buffs might imagine in a Quentin Tarantino cowboy flick even!)
I AM SONIC RAIN Between Whales & Feverish Lights (Deep Elm)
Between Whales & Feverish Lights is the latest album from I Am Sonic Rain, an instrumental band from Italy. The album is well.. sonic, and very powerful and the emotion that emanates from it is fearless. On the entire album, the five-piece band is unafraid to push the boundaries by being loud, and very dark at the right times. Listening to an album is generally a journey, but in the case of Between Whales & Feverish Lights, every track is one.
RED SPAROWES The Fear Is Excruciating But Therein Lies the Answer (Sargent House)
The band known for their ridiculously long song titles (e.g. The Great Leap Forward Poured Down Upon Us One Day Like a Mighty Storm, Suddenly and Furiously Blinding Our Senses) has reined in such penchants somewhat leaving fans with a lengthy album name instead.
What has not changed, however, is Red Sparowes’ gift in expressing narrative concepts in instrumental rock passages that are laced with dynamic traces of progressive metal, atmospheric shoegaze, old school post-rock and even Americana! On The Fear Is Excruciating, Red Sparowes’ third full-length, eschews the sheer visceral violence of the post-metal set (like Russian Circles) and finds the payoff in considered mid-tempo pieces, alternating between soft and loud sequences for maximum impact.
In certain senses, Red Sparowes has gone back to basics, almost “dumbing” down the instrumentals to highlight more clarified melodies rather than epic grand-standing. Its all in excellent contrast to what is happening in the instrumental rock scene at the moment and for that, the band should be applauded.
Free download: Giving Birth To Imagined Saviours
SOUTHERLY Champion of the Noisy Negativists (Self Group)
Truly original instrumental music is hard to come by nowadays in the modern rock arena but dark-pop proponents Southerly (aka Krist Krueger) has certainly achieved that with this new EP.
Employing none of the post-rock cliches, the music on Champion of the Noisy Negativists is closer in approach and tone to a soundtrack for an imaginary sci-fi horror film. Primarily employing piano, synths and electronic sounds/effects Krueger embues these memorable songs with atmosphere and attitude to create a heady experience. Highly recommended.
RUSSIAN CIRCLES Geneva (Suicide Squeeze)
Post rock is a rather contrary beast at times. It tends to be the modern rock version of the popular instrumental songs of Shadows and the Ventures, back in the day. But instead of catchy melodic lines, post rock tends to trade on mood and atmosphere and in the wake of pioneers like Mogwai and Cul De Sac, employed the soft-loud dynamic of the Pixies, which subsequently became a post rock cliche. Which is ironic as post rock bands – as defined by music writer Simon Reynolds – were set up to use rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, with guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures rather than riffs and power chords.
Thus, it is refreshing to encounter Russian Circles, a power trio based in Chicago and consisting of Mike Sullivan (guitar), Dave Turncrantz (drums) and Brian Cook (bass). Whilst retaining many of the staples of post rock – the “soft-loud” dynamic, the guitar textures and frenetic rhythm section – Russian Circles are a much heavier proposition from their peers. In many ways, the band echoes epic prog, dark metal and post-punk in much of their material.
Quite often, I’m almost expecting growling metal vocals to be shredding my speakers when I hear a couple of bars (like on the wonderfully headbanging title track) but of course, it never comes. And it’s a bit of a relief because one gets to immerse oneself into the ambience of the music without the vox distractions. Not only that but the band utilizes minimal strings and horns to heighten the tension on songs like the opening Fathom to great effect.
The album closes with two atmospheric albeit harrowing pieces – When the Mountain Comes to Mohammed and Philos, which collectively take up almost 19 minutes of this sublime effort. I must confess that I am not a big fan of post rock (or modern instrumantal rock, if you will) but I’m glad to report that Russian Circles kept me intrigued and interested throughout the duration of Geneva.
Check out a live rendition of Geneva below.
THE SCALLIONS Sounds of Vinyl and the Past (Self-released)
What to make of this? 30 minute instrumental album that is available either on vinyl or download only. Deliberately obscure? Avant garde power pop? Honestly, even when taken as an instrumental album, Sounds of Vinyl and the Past is rather difficult to understand and appreciate. For me its always about melodies and this is just a collection of sounds and noises without direction or tunes.
Sorry guys, I just don’t get it. Or maybe that’s the entire point.
OCEANS Nothing Collapses (Copper Lung)
Can I be candid? Post-rock instrumental music by and large sounds like a complete wash, especially in the wrong hands. You know, as a melody-junkie I get terribly bored of music that consists mostly of endless passages of white noise. To be fair, this genre does have its fair share of worthwhile artists notably, Tortoise, Mogwai, Album Leaf, Explosions in the Sky.
Where does this leave Oceans, hailing from Urbana and Chicago? Well, this debut full length I must admit is easy on the ear and relies more on pleasing melodically than your usual Velvets-inbued droning noise which tends to bite after a while. With clever titles like Boy Detective, Sound of Static and City At Peace, to help you to distinguish between songs which may end up a little samey on initial listens, it may take a rabid fan or a person who is intrested to know more about this post rock instrumental genre to venture that first taste.
Worth checking out!