Track of The Week: Mask Of Bees – S-P.K.Y.

This may sound an unusual start to a post on a brand new emerging band, but I have a tale to begin with. I hope it’ll make sense eventually. So a few years ago, I attended a barbeque hosted by my best friend, and for some reason or other, I decided to come in a neon yellow t-shirt, the equivalent of wearing a hi-vis jacket in the middle of the bloody day. It glows all on its own, I’ve been told it hurts people’s eyes. But this shirt attracted the attention of a local bumblebee, right before industry pesticides started threatening their existence and what not and it landed on the shirt, presumably thinking I must have been a pretty flower. Instead of shooing it away, I let it sit there, understanding it was probably trying to pollinate my shirt, but it wasn’t doing me any harm. It sat there until it stopped moving, of which I wondered had it died and then did I try to move it off my shirt. Some gentle force eventually removed it. It hadn’t died. The dopey insect had merely fallen asleep and took flight once again. I’ve always had an affinity for the winged stripy balls of fluff since that day. A similar affection I share with a band named after a mask of them.

When it comes to bees in music, they haven’t made much of a name for themselves, or definitely remain an under-appreciated musical force in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps the most famous example is classical masterpiece The Flight of the Bumblebees, the grandiose, expanding brass section now an iconic piece of musical history and natural fit for narrating any overcoming of the odds, or war charge. Some other examples include the Bee Gees, notable Anthrax rarities album Attack Of The Killer B’s, Danish noise outfit Beehoover, Insideinfo’s frankly terrifying but kick-ass neurofunk destroyer Honeybee and timeless Beatles tune Let It… actually that one is cheating. But off the bat, it seems a struggle to name several musical triumphs involving the humble bee. Unless you just guess that there’s a band called The Bees, which you’d be right in thinking as they live on the Isle of Wight. See also Grumble Bee from Yorkshire. This is where a great surge in progressive rock prowess advances forth and Mask of Bees can not only change the state of bees in music, but far more importantly, steer the course of a brand new wave of UK rock bands.

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Their debut album Beta is seven tracks of turbulent, sax-injected hard rock constructs whose paths co-ordinate the chaotic with the transcendental in a manner that’ll quicken the pulse of the rabid Tool and Faith No More hordes. How it must translate to a live environment is a dizzying prospect in the best possible way, for their acute craftsmanship certainly knows how to wring impact out of their music. From the opening time-signature havoc caused by Talisent, onto the battle between calm and calamity of Tendering, shifting to spellbinding, melancholic ambient phases expressed by Peacel Sloot, and concluding with the bruising grooves and vocal centrepiece of Carpet Burn, Beta’s 29-minute duration jostles with so much energy and creativity, you could market it as an alternative fuel source. Touching on the subject of impact, while its presence is inescapable, the saxophone truly elevates Beta as a seminal exhibition of talent, despite its already stellar foundations. While its inclusion is slowly becoming more of a mainstay in modern rock and metal, you certainly feel the passion, intensity and emotion blossoming forth from every ounce of music the saxophone touches, just as the jazz greats intended. But whilst the saxophone jockeys for the limelight on numerous occasions, absolute focus and the true shining moment stands out on personal favourite S-P.K.Y.

The only real moment of tranquillity on this album can be found in the beginning of this track with the saxophone whispering sweet nothings, the gentlest of delay emanating from these softer notes. It strikes a chord somewhere between a jazz ballad and New Age music, a sound of purest beauty. From there, it starts to go a little haywire. Gradually getting louder and more aggressive, the guise of a solo saxophone interlude does lead in drums and melodic picking, adding a tint of ominousness to the mood. Vocals sound as though they emerge from a mist, soaked in reverb and later stronger delay but the croon is an irresistible comfort to an uncertain atmosphere and stands alone as one of the album’s finest points. Pressure does give way and the full force of their brutish yet technically impressive instrumental might explodes onto the scene, along with a full restoration of the vocals for the chorus, animating the most mellow tone on the album. The song carries on with another submersion of the vocals back into the mist, almost acting as gatekeeper for the louder dynamics, the interplay between that uncertain calm and the fiery intensity of the band, before concluding in a surprisingly cathartic breakdown at around the five minute mark.

It needs not to be said much more, but like any collective hive, it can only be as good as its collective workforce, and as Mask of Bees go as a workforce, they are among some of the most proficient and musically exciting workers you’ll hear all year.

 

 

I’d like to extend my thanks to Mask of Bees for granting me such early access to their album, this album was an absolute pleasure to listen to and to write about. Beta is out now on their Bandcamp┬ápage in a digital and physical capacity, for a very reasonable price so go get that. They perform live frequently also. It shouldn’t be long until they perform very near you soon.

Give them the round of applause they deserve right here:

https://www.facebook.com/maskobees
https://twitter.com/MaskOfBees

And if you feel you would like to give me one too, via a like, a follow, or a subscription to the site, you can do so if you wish:

http://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark
http://www.twitter.com/The_Soundshark

The No-Nation Orchestra

It’s always exciting for me to gets my hands on something different instead of alternating between rock and electronic the entire time, as much as I do love writing about them both. I haven’t really gotten stuck in with more exotic flavours and soundscapes since starting the blog and that’s down to me settling into a nest of complacent comfort, and not spreading my musical wings as far as I could. Don’t get me wrong, I adore jazz and world music. I had the express pleasure of DJing an evening of jazz once. A local festival to me happens to be called Rhythms of The World and both the times I’ve been in attendance have been tremendous fun. Just my expeditions and forays into the gargantuan territory of world music have been limited and I’d be unsure how and where to start. I’ve given some exposure to culturally diverse musicians beforehand, Orange Tulip Conspiracy, International Diamond Thieves, Golem! and Hallouminati to name a few but that area has been lacking in company. So hopefully this collective I’m about to have the pleasure of reviewing will be the start of a more frequent genre of music and the start of that aforementioned expedition. For today, we focus upon The No-Nation Orchestra, an experiment put together by many Salt Lake City, Utah-based musicians, the union of which has crafted two EPs thus far of Latin-spiked, afrobeat-infused progressive jazz rhythms. As you’d expect, the combination of these elements make for an intoxicating feel-good wave of boisterous brass, intricate percussion, occasionally jerky yet funky guitar string swiping, all while adding a set of soulful vocal enchantments, with a surprisingly deep moral compass to them. The Coil EP released in November last year, houses the almost ironically sunshine-soaked conga of Past Shadows, a warning served to the hardships of war expressed from a menagerie of percussion driving funk-based jazz. What I enjoy most is the baton passing between each instrument section, switching from the glowing guitar notes and bass groove, to the decidedly shrill male and warming female harmonies, to the empathic brass greeting, the wall of beats and texture behind it maintaining that exotic zest that these musicians clearly are thriving upon. While there are words to ponder and reflect over, Past Shadows, with the help of an irrepressible Latin charm, lives its four and a half minute running time as one of the most sophisticated party compositions I’ve encountered in some time. Even nearing its climax, it doesn’t lose its composure, keeping the tempo steady but mellowing in tone ever so slightly enough to finish on a satisfying high. The collective of The No-Nation Orchestra is a collaboration, but there’s a chemistry here that defies meeting every year or so, almost woven by the threads of fate themselves. Suave but flamboyant in their mannerisms, their recordings invite political delegates from all over the world for a poolside barbecue and leaves all the party accessories out. Mature in intention and execution, but an utter delight of an experience to become part of.

The Coil EP and the More More More EP from 2011 are both available from the group’s Bandcamp page in digital or vinyl quality, both for a very reasonable sum. More More More can also be bought from most respectable music retailers in digital format. Go buy their music because it really is joyous listening.

Go show them some support because their social media numbers make me sad:

https://www.facebook.com/nonationorchestra?fref=ts
https://twitter.com/thenonation

And if you would like to support me to make me less sad too, then be my guest:

https://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark
https://twitter.com/The_Soundshark

Orange Tulip Conspiracy

Paranoia is something that seems to grip hold of a large portion of us at times, like a leash round the neck. The constant feeling of unease that somebody is watching us, or that there is a much larger agenda happening right underneath our noses. This state of mental chaos can be the birthing place of conspiracies, tales that hold weight as to why events transpired in the manner they did, more often than not focused around pivotal moment in history. As far as a band named Orange Tulip Conspiracy goes however, the jury may be out on that one. For this Los Angeles five-piece, their work remains focused on a deeply involving instrumental cinematic experience, drawing influences from Balkan folk music, lounge jazz, classical music and some heavier aspects of progressive rock at times. It seems odd yet rather fitting when you have a rich, smoky ambience of expertly woven strings, every now and again plunging into total dread from gigantic amounts of distortion entwined with the guitar. Luckily across the six and a half minutes of Fall Creek, that monster hides its ugly head. This stays as an extended jam of cultural magnificence, hypnotic in drums maintaining a steady rhythm the entire time whilst strings and saxophone recount the tales of days gone by. The atmosphere is sitting around a fire, in a tent that towers above you, whilst the haze emitted slowly envelops those listening into a trance of total relaxation. The conspiracy I guess then is this: how can five Los Angeles musicians create the sound of traditional Eastern Europe so perfectly and yet very few have experienced their astonishing craftsmanship? Keep an eye on those orange tulips, who knows what other wonders they have in store.

The band now go under the name of Atomic Ape, and apparently their album Swarm sounds a lot like a spy thriller. Fancy. Anyway, both that and Orange Tulip Conspiracy can be bought on the Atomic Ape Bandcamp page in digital and physical formats.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Orange-Tulip-Conspiracy/167129410109217?fref=ts
https://www.facebook.com/AtomicApeBand?fref=ts