Ice Cream Cathedral

It’s very rare that band names completely nail the sound of the music they make. After all, one of the best practices is to make a band name that entices a potential audience in, but still reflect in some respect the vision of the sounds they make, that will last their lifespan. Some bands do it spectacularly, some bands do it to create a sense of mystery around them, some bands do it mostly to catch your attention, while others… simply don’t try. I’m not going to go into semantics here, as there are plenty of cases for all of these camps, some which may form the basis of an article for the future even, but for now we turn our attention to the antics of Danish synthpop outfit Ice Cream Cathedral and what lurks beneath their exciting moniker. You can picture it. A pristine monument of textures and swirls, chilled and tranquil yet with a grandiose presence that takes your breath away. While this is merely a fantasy, the reality is none too different. Formed in Copenhagen in 2011, the dream state of luscious, sweet but not saccharine pop movements has taken hold of those willing to succumb to the sheer beauty of this music created.  Part of the charm lies in the timelessness of the instrumentation, the satisfying plonks, clicks, warm throbs and bass from analogue synthesisers, married with a simple but quietened drums and a soulful 60’s vocal delivery, all unite to form an abstract, space-travelling gem from yesteryear, yet taken from five minutes in the past. Amber Sail, taken from 2013’s The Drowsy Kingdom, taps into this golden formula, a sunshine glazed stroll of jaunty but bright keyboards and smoky ambience, with the echoes of female dulcet tones front and center, guiding a settling path through the near five minute journey. A moment of time is given to showcase each layer of synthesiser and programming, building up a carousel of colours, revolving before your very eyes before letting the vocals take reign once more. The marvel of the ice cream cathedral visual has taken a change recently as most recent album Sudden Anatomy from last year is a darker, icier endeavour, but The Drowsy Kingdom is undeniably the dawn to Sudden Anatomy’s dusk. The points still stands however, that this collective from Denmark are crystallising a blissful realm of pop music, and adorning it into a spectacle that remains cold to the touch, but utterly delicious to consume.

The back catalogue of Ice Cream Cathedral remains torn between their own Bandcamp page and Riot Factory Records’ Bandcamp page, all you should know is if you enjoyed this, it’s all available for a very reasonable fee.

https://www.facebook.com/icecreamcathedral?fref=ts

Stinking Lizaveta

I don’t know about you but I have a friend called Lizaveta, well Elizaveta, known as Lisa for short hand. All I can and will tell you about her is that she didn’t stink, not by a long shot, although her room predominantly did. It wasn’t a horrific smell, just the constant burning of incense blending with the other smells of a dwelling containing four other mostly housebound students. There is purpose to this anecdote, as the phrase Stinking Lizaveta is actually lifted from Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov of which my friend will most likely be familiar with because she is also Russian. But not only does she share her name with a character from a Russian philosophical novel from the 1800’s, she also shares it with a highly unique instrumental hard rock trio from Philadelphia. Not only does the band have a career spanning over twenty years, but their approach to instrumentation makes their soundscapes an unmissable tour de force, blending a myriad and menagerie of genres from far and wide. In their own words, they describe their music as ‘doom jazz,’ not the first time the phrase has been coined, but the proclaimed label does have an air of truth to it. The free-forming and switching of tempos resembles that of jazz in its heyday, with the surprising size of strength behind the guitar in slower, concentrated jams certainly invoking a hazier doom spirit. But that’s where that label doesn’t begin to cover the vast spectrum of playing ability that Stinking Lizaveta are capable of morphing in their own eclectic manner. The highly cinematic Sacrifice And Bliss album from 2009, takes cues from Eastern Europe, noise rock, psychedelia, math, 70’s prog, funk, the blues and even modern metal in places, molding it all into a complex sculpture of tremendous artistic ability. Every song is its own tale with trial and tribulations. The title track for instance, shows that blues influence taking on an almost Spaghetti-Western persona, the sun rising on the backdrop of softer strums and more melodic notes, before drums work their way into the fabric, the constant crashing of cymbals giving power to an unseen protagonist, that once pace picks up, kicks into action. After a barrage of notes and drums, urgent and suggesting imminent threat, old school prog rock virtuoso soloing quickly comes into play, injecting an optimism and triumph into the proceedings as the protagonist has conquered all ahead of them. There is not really enough in just four and a half minutes to give you a full taste of how incredible these three musicians are. Steve Albini, Corrosion of Conformity and Clutch can’t be wrong to work with them. Although their name may not give much away, one thing you can be certain of is, if they had to stink, you can bet their stink would be an aroma of otherworldly proportions.

All of Stinking Lizaveta’s back catalogue can be found through most respectable music retailers, in physical or occasionally digital formats. In the meantime, if you enjoyed this title track, the entire album is available to listen to here.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stinking-Lizaveta/107546525942176

The Hex

Witchcraft, or at least modern witchcraft tends to be more of a spiritual sensation, the roots of it lying in earth medicines and botany, as opposed to having supernatural powers. Well, at least the real life incarnation of it was. The amount of flying women on broomsticks at least proven outside of Harry Potter I believe lies at exactly zero. If anybody has or can, then I apologise and kudos to you. The practice of cursing or hexing somebody however does still exist and can be more predominant in folk communities and shamanistic societies. What that actually means depends entirely on your definition of faith and whether you choose to believe in such practices. Personally, a hex I’d certainly choose to believe in if staring face-to-face with it, would be that of self-proclaimed arctic hardcore delinquents The Hex. Emerging from Trondheim, Norway, The Hex are a sextet billowing with the ferocity of the post-hardcore crowd, so hard in cases you can hear the dead soul of At The Drive-In gushing from their vocalist. That’s no backhanded compliment, The Hex are a formidable cavalcade of riffs, vigour and tight melodies that you can bathe in as much as be beaten to death by it. The addition of an extra percussionist, who serves as a synth player also adds a richer flavour into the mix of the riotous, buccaneering guitar piledriver, especially with the extra toms during breakdowns and shakers fleshing out the sound. This Is How Razors Dance (Rage United) from fittingly-titled 2013 album Bringing Guns To A Knife Fight is actually far more progressive and turbulent than you anticipate, opening with an all bets off bare knuckle fist-fight, that builds towards a surprisingly emotionally intense climax, similar of that to a bullfight. The altitude of energy spent never really dips as there’s always something constantly keeping the blood pumping in the collective heartbeat. While The Hex are lacking in the spiritual realm that they birth their name from, there’s a whole lot more made up for to be feared yet impressed by. Compiling the yelling that could tear neck muscles, intricate yet punishing guitars, bone-shaking bass and percussion with a cavern-like depth of ability and wonder, The Hex are not so much a spell, but a force of nature that has very little hope of being stopped once momentum is in its favour.

The Hex’s two albums, Bringing Guns To A Knife Fight and 2009’s Tyrannosaurus Hex can be bought from The Hex’s webstore, or from most respectable music retailers. Trust me, they’re there. Word also is they’re working on a new studio album right now, so any money towards that can only help right?

https://www.facebook.com/thehexrus?ref=profile

Sleepstream

How do you imagine what your dreams sound like? Or even stop to consider what they could sound like? The sheer insanity of mine at times compliment the eclecticism of my whole diverse musical taste, ranging from wandering around car parks, to being chasing by giant talking fish, to free-running around a shipyard made entirely of Lego, to being haunted by a list of the 100 creepiest Japanese girls in horror films… You get the idea, it’s pretty bizarre. However the idea of sleeping or settling to sleep is supposedly one of the most calming moods known to mankind, and as such, pictures a feeling of relaxation and contentment in body and mind before rest. Supreme relaxation in sound courtesy of Greek post rock outfit Sleepstream however takes this initial sentiment and heightens it with grandiose delivery. Specialising in orchestral-blanketed guitar journeys that unravel gradually from softer lullabies with a pinch of sorrow, to extended tremolos against a huge backdrop of sound, that capture the idea of freefall or floating superbly. A lot of post rock may transport you to another dimension entirely, but none will be as moving as the addition of strings to the core formula, of which the results sound far more human than many bands that have tried. Opening track of 2011’s A Waltz With The Seventh Crane, the melancholy titled You Gave Me Butterflies, I Gave You Loss, plays on the joy emanating from a person in the five minute tale, characterised by acoustic strokes, then combining it with the downcast nature of the other, brought to life by the introduction of the electric guitar and the largely more prominent violin and cello. Listening in on this embrace between star-crossed lovers, grants a sense of audience privilege and could almost invoke guilt at knowing these personifications of sound, are not fated to be. An absolute stroke of genius. Many groups can tell a tale, with or without words, only some of them can muster your emotional investment, but Sleepstream are a selective few that can make you feel the story unfolding and the drama touch the inner fibres of your being. The soundtrack of your dreams? Perhaps, but most certainly it is a cinematic landscape with such radiant beauty, it will stun but enthral you every inch of the way.

A Waltz With The Seventh Crane and last year’s They Flew In Censored Skies can be purchased from Sleepstream’s Bandcamp page for a reasonable sum, via Fluttery Records or from most respectable music retailers.

https://www.facebook.com/Sleepstream?fref=ts

Scarlet Soho

For myself, still somewhat as a beginner to the vast array of sights and attractions that London has to offer me, the district of Soho is still somewhat of an area of mythical proportions I have yet to experience. I imagine streets bathed in the warm glows of neon and shop windows adorned with the letter X aplenty, along the cold, cobbled paths you tread upon. The reality is probably not that exciting really, its real face best known by those who pass through or by everyday. In any case, incorporating this infamous area into a band name, of which the other half just happens to be the stage name of this group’s smoking red-headed bassist, makes for an eye-raising phrase most certainly. The Southampton duo are somewhat of a modern take on The Human League if they’d decided to become an indie band. Filled with the lavish modular synths and concise percussion of the 80’s that we’ve grown to know and love, there’s an attitude and sass to their songwriting that becomes inexplicably addictive the longer you’re exposed to their punchy beats and synth lines. That said, there are moments of menace in their practice, some of the slower-moving songs almost shifting into dark wave territory. I wanted to focus on I Dare from 2009’s Warpaint for this piece, which I hold as their best song, but YouTube lacks in decent quality versions, so I went with the next best thing in Speak Your Mind instead. A cutting wave of synth is blasted at you to begin with, a demonstration of that menace that lurks in the machinery of Scarlet Soho, before brighter keys take over, prominent vibrating bass backs it up and the stylised popstar performance almost apologises for the inconvenience. But the content afterwards is filled with the attention-grabbing hooks and delicious melodies that would fill the floor in your local discotheque 30 odd years ago. The ending even gets a little raucous to boot. Also, the lyric ‘Hook, line and lip sync’ is brilliant might I add. Synth-pop is in a great state of health, even if the demand for it is faltering, and its groups such as Scarlet Soho, taking a contemporary but confident tweak on a monumentally successful formula to pour as much passion and dedication over a decade into it as possible, to break down the door into commercial success once again.

Scarlet Soho’s three albums, this year’s In Cold Blood, Warpaint and 2004’s Divisions Of Decency as well as various EPs, singles and a best of and rarities can be bought either via their webstore or via most respectable music retailers.

https://www.facebook.com/scarletsoho?fref=ts

Ghost Idols

Hundreds, probably thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of people on this planet claim that they have seen a ghost in their lifetime. But despite footage and images suggesting there may indeed be paranormal activity in this world, the subject still very much stays open for debate. People make fortunes out of it, however sincere or exploitative they may be. The jury is out for me personally. Some claims look more authentic than others, but until I kinda see or experience it for myself, my guess is as good as yours. Hello fate, I didn’t see you there! But whether you want to dispute the authenticity of LA’s Ghost Idols however, you’d be entirely foolhardy to do so. They are an anomaly, but purely because their sound doesn’t fulfil a ticklist for given genre conventions. There are nuances of many sounds absorbed into their matter, perhaps so many that the original sources are all but unrecognisable. Here’s what I can tell you. At its truest centre, Ghost Idols are at best a super heavy indie band, at times pouring enough fuzz and distortion onto a guitar to drown out a building demolition, while keeping the poppy vocal melodies and harmonies present, injected with force straight into your brain. Every second of a Ghost Idols song never misses a beat, there is always something switching or shifting around to demand your attention. Take Heathens from their self-titled EP from 2013. There’s a tirade of thunderous drums, meshing together with roughened chords and optimistic vocal tones that would sit well in Bloc Party’s back pocket, later going into a hardcore style breakdown harbouring a infectious kick pedal pattern, full buckshot-impact sludge guitar accompanying it. There’s even a lovely, understated little solo atop both bass and drums going hell for leather And if they aren’t switching up the texture of the sound, then they constantly switch the time signatures too. Literally every note has meaning and purpose on an unprecedented level. Ghost Idols, unlike ghosts themselves, are something you should fully believe in, as their adventurous sound is so versatile and dynamic, they should be heightened from underground dwellings to mainstream music acceptance.

Their self-titled EP is currently available on a pay-what-you-want basis for a digital copy, or a reasonable sum for a physical copy, as well as their most recent single Monsoons which can be bought on vinyl, all on their Bandcamp page. These guys are also recording an album right now, so any money given to them will be appreciated. They have a killer sound, they deserve it.

https://www.facebook.com/GhostIdols?fref=ts

Sophie’s Earthquake

For some reason or other, hurricanes are allowed to have perfectly acceptable names to identify them. Does it seem less threatening? Hardly, if Hurricane Katrina has anything to go by. It only seems to be hurricanes that we focus on really, but maybe there’s time for a change of sorts. Say for example, landslides or earthquakes. We can take a landslide somewhere in the world and call it Jennifer. Because I decided Jennifer was a suitable name for a landslide. Joking aside for a moment, natural disasters are serious matters and have cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives, so for what reason does saying an earthquake belongs to a girl by the name of Sophie? Well judging by the sheer potential of a three track EP and sounding an awful lot like if Alice In Chains became a stoner band, you’d want to personify the power behind your earthquake. Stemming from jam sessions between three musicians from Germany, whose appreciations lie in grunge and psychedelic, the base of their songwriting ability lies in the sledgehammer of distorted guitar, with, or without vocals which can drift off into a spellbinding haze backed by prominent drums, very much the definition of an incantation. Final song La Ira De Los Tres very much focuses on an acoustic build up for three minutes that soothes into a plane beyond our physical one, before the electric guitar takes over for the remaining six minutes for a slugfest of riffs and pure exhibitionism that captivates for every minute that goes by. For an EP from 2013, Sophie’s Earthquake sound remarkably polished, no doubt as a result of the five years spent honing and experimenting with different guitar effects and sounds in that time. The gear switch between psychedelic release and a grungy, guitar free-for-all, and the quality of both sides of their sound, very few bands around have replicated and likely never will. Maybe this earthquake belonging to a girl emphasises the free spirit and the shades of devastation that can happen, which when married become a potent musical formula for success.

Sophie’s Earthquake’s EP is available on a digital pay what you want basis on their Bandcamp page, or there are vinyl copies of the EP also available too on Adansonia Records’ webstore. The album Zero Distance is expected to be out around December this year, so keep an eye on this one. Please give what you can if you have enjoyed this band, they are currently in the process of recording, and that process is expensive so every little helps.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sophies-Earthquake/833196446731760?fref=ts

P.S. I asked the band later on where the name came from, turns out they used to practice in the drummer’s basement, whom his wife was called… Sophie. Their story is better than mine.

Children Of Nova

I’ll be honest, my astrophysics aren’t very far advanced so when it comes to knowing what a nova is, I had no real clue despite having an overall fondness for the word for years but yet having some idea what a supernova is… I’ve never dropped it into everyday conversation and I haven’t needed to. A nova anyway is the thermonuclear detonation of the surface of a white dwarf which causes a brightening of the star as a whole. In simplistic terms, a huge expulsion of energy from a star makes it brighter at night. So if children can be birthed from this astrological phenomena, and they are capable of playing tremendous progressive rock that resonates with such wonderful radiance and burning passion, then why haven’t more come to this planet? In any case, Children Of Nova are settled in the domain that Coheed And Cambria reign over, but in a more contemplative light that their slower-burning songwriting is far more suited to. It retains the same magnitude of soaring guitar work, just with a more impressive vocal dexterity and a tone that strays just south of intense to stay relaxing. Harmonics can drift into sombre stretches and the throttle can be thumped however over the course of 2012’s Impossible Landscape, the ride remains a mostly gentle series of peaks that can be jagged on the way down. Kaleido, the second track in, certainly starts calmly before skyrocketing into some cosmos-reaching guitar playing, whether in perfect harmonic unison or as light and heavy compatriots. It also serves as the real introduction to the astounding vocal range of singer Teo Lopez, whose performance on this album propels the already astonishing musicianship to such magnificent heights. To stumble across a band that drives home such enchanting, heartfelt progressive rock is a true rarity and yet it is the bands like Children of Nova that could sit for months, years or even decades before their star bursts into light for the world to see. Nonetheless, the discovery alone is fantastical.

The band are currently on an indefinite hiatus unfortunately, so it’s unknown whether they’ll make a return, but at least both albums Impossible Landscape and 2009’s The Complexity Of Light can still be bought from their Bandcamp page, their webstore and at most respectable music retailers.

https://www.facebook.com/childrenofnova?fref=ts

Legiac

There was a phrase that started to emerge in early to late nineties when electronic music was branching into unfound territories and transforming into something so game-changing and ahead of its time, critics had no name for it. Little were labellers to know that the consequences of the name were attract such rightful backlash. They called it ‘intelligent dance music’ or IDM, which supposedly suggested that the producers making such outstanding music were of a higher intellectual calibre, or its listeners were an elite group who understood the complexity of the marvels they created. The label is still used today as a hype word, but there is still resentment around it. Legiac are in a newer breed of producers, inspired by the later works of Aphex Twin, formed as a collaboration between the brothers of Dutch electronic outfit Funckarma and composer Cor Bolten. Minus one brother come 2015, and their second studio effort The Faex Has Decimated (which I had to Google admittedly, faex actually means faeces, draw your own conclusions) is another stellar addition to the realm of evocative electronic music. The beats and sequencing here are absolutely sublime and immaculately produced, thriving in a whirlwind of organically shifting atmosphere and landscapes, icy to the touch, but ultimately settling enough to zone out to. Synths gleam and shimmer throughout, whilst programming sends the percussion into spasms, in an understated manner that doesn’t detract from the colossal scope of texture and atmosphere unravelling in front of you. Jefre Treminth, the third track in, is a serene, prosperous forest that revolves and rotates around its spacy ecosystem, before nightfall descends and the atmosphere becomes a lot more animated with additional beats and destruction of time signatures. As much as a surefire label escapes some electronic artists, often the words do as such also. This is a phenomenal piece of art, painted with a mechanical brush but as vivid and beautifully mesmerising as a human counterpart is capable of producing, perhaps even better. Electronic music continues to climb to the stratosphere and rewrite the limits of musical creation once again. Gorgeous music.

The Faex Has Decimated can be purchsed through Tympanik Audio’s Bandcamp page, for a reasonable fee or from most respectable music retailers. There is also a crowdfunding campaign for a vinyl release of the album so go support that if you like this. Their first album Mings Feaner is available via Sending Orbs webstore and most respectable retailers too.

There isn’t actually a Facebook or social media page for Legiac, so the next best thing was to trace its collaborators social media pages instead. That only yielded one result as Cor Bolten is rather difficult to track down going under numerous aliases. So have Funckarma instead: https://www.facebook.com/Funckarma?fref=ts