Hardscrabble – The Flashbulb (2012)

The Flashbulb

Album artwork for Hardscrabble

To be perfectly honest, this is probably one of the craziest albums of music I’ve listened to.  And I’ve heard a lot of weird, bizarre music.  Don’t let me scare you away with such a description, though.  It’s crazy in a good way!  Great, now I sound like I’m crazy.  I need to stop saying crazy.  Okay, moving on.

The point here is that in a world where it seems almost impossible to come up with any sort of new, original music, The Flashbulb has succeeded in bring us Hardscrabble, one of the most unique electronic glitch records to date.  I can only imagine how much time and effort must have been put into making this album.  And it’s all the work of a single man: Benn Jordan, a.k.a. The Flashbulb.  As it says on the website of Alphabasic, the record label he founded himself: “The only common quality that Hardscrabble‘s songs share is unorthodox time signatures, microtonal piano melodies, and the most accomplished synthesis that we’ve seen from Jordan, in both analog and computerized website.”

Are you intrigued yet?  Even if you’re not a huge fan of electronica music, I would urge you to check out this guy’s music for the sheer purpose of expanding your mind and hearing something that I can assure you you’ve never heard before.  The music on Hardscrabble isn’t just made up of a bunch of random noises (well technically it is, if we wanted to get esoteric here).  There is a level of familiarity present that helps us connect.  Although everything is digital synthesis, it’s easy to picture a virtual band playing.  There are clear distinctions between drums, bass, keyboard pads, and guitar, plus a large helping of other processed effects.  One track, entitled “The Basement Trio,” brings to mind a strong mental image of an actual trio playing music in – you guessed it – a basement.  In a way, we should actually give The Flashbulb an extra wave of applause.  Despite being limited to nothing but digital sounds, he manages to create music in a form that is absolutely recognizable and relatable to the common ear.

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An Autumn Evening – Loraine (2012)

Loraine

Album artwork for An Autumn Evening

I’d say that post-rock is definitely one of the more difficult genres to stand out in.  Although plenty of bands succeed in creating a worthwhile representation of the style, you would often be hard-pressed to remember any of their material.  Potentially great music, just not quite memorable enough. Today, I’m here to turn your ear on to Loraine, a band out of Atlanta that just released their first EP, entitled An Autumn Evening. Although the group, with just over 2,000 likes on Facebook, is still fairly underground, this five-track EP is a product that deserves a much wider audience.  Every note is played with great emotion, every song is a perfect transition from the last, and every moment listening is spent in blissful reverence.  Strong words to start out with, I know, but post-rock seems to have a way of calming your mind and bringing out the more sentimental thoughts.  The point is that it’s clear this is a band that has connected with their music on an deep and impassioned level.

Now before I continue any further, I’d first like to say that the album artwork (pictured above) is an absolutely stunning work of art done by modern impressionistic artist Leonid Afremov. It also happens to go beautifully with the design of my website, so major brownie points for that.  Now, to business.  A few weeks ago, I posted about the new album from the band Swans, which also has post-rock tendencies.  While that album focuses on the darker, more “noise”-oriented side of the genre, Loraine brings a much more ambient and melodic sound to the table.

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The Seer – Swans (2012)

Swans

Album artwork for The Seer

Alright, so I’m going to go ahead and give it to you straight.  The Seer, released in August by experimental rock band Swans, is a masterpiece.  It is probably one of the most brilliantly constructed albums I’ve heard all year.  It is a journey in meditation – a mental experience as much as an auditory one.  And it becomes more and more enriching of an experience with each new listen.  Every time I press play, I perceive it in even more detail, and pick up on more subtleties than I did the previous time.  According to the band’s frontman Michael Gira, the album took “30 years to make.  It’s the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I’ve ever made, been involved in or imagined.”  This is something that becomes immediately evident.  A seemingly carelessly-laid assortment of eclectic sounds, reexamined, becomes an elaborate array of intriguing sounds and samples, with each element in its proper place.

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Now, I know what some of you may be thinking.  You’re not really into the whole noise rock scene.  You might even rather listen to a baby screaming all night long.  But here’s the thing about post-rock.  It’s about composing soundscapes.  It’s not so much about writing catchy music or fast-paced songs.  It’s about the cumulative experience.  And with The Seer clocking out at the two hour mark, it’s definitely a thoroughly-thought-out experience.  Thom Jurek sums it up pretty accurately in his review: “it is not an endurance test, but an argument for compulsive listening.  It’s an exquisitely wrought journey through post-rock, electronic soundscapes, haunting acoustic songs, punishing noise, and (lots of) percussion.”  This style of music is not one that frequently attracts the casual listener.  It has a much more meaningful effect once you understand the philosophy behind it, and that can only be achieved by surrendering yourself to the music.  Take in everything that you hear with an unbiased ear.  Once you can do that, you can reap the pleasures of that artist’s creative mind.

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