Music Reviews

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 12/4/19


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music roundup Slowly

Slowly – REVEAL

Genre: Shoegaze

Favorite Tracks: “Bridges,” “Drive,” “Inside Out”

If whatever small digital footprint the record has is to be believed, Slowly’s REVEAL is truly a work of sheer endurance. Every aspect of the project (short of the mastering of the record) was the work of one man: Charlie Berger. And yet to listen to REVEAL is to marvel at how massive and detailed and textured it is while being nothing but a genuine singular force—knowing it’s all the work of one singular person makes the whole listening experience almost unbelievable. Obviously influenced by vintage shoegaze, the album is a thorough and thoughtful examination of the massive melodies bands during the genre’s heyday were churning out effortlessly; albums like Slowdive’s SOUVLAKI or Swervedriver’s RAISE come to mind pretty quickly, but the canon is well explored across this release, and you can hear the rushing romantic urgency of Chapterhouse on “Bridges” or even bits of the Cure in the windy, gothic guitar blusters of “Now and Then.” Berger is clearly a student who worships at the altar of the source material to a degree that makes REVEAL a fascinating pseudo-greatest hits of sorts, a painstaking reinterpretation of sound that nails the genre’s idiosyncrasies so perfectly you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for the bands its being influenced by. You can turn “Inside Out” up loudly in the car and hear something that could pass on, say, Lilys’ IN THE PRESENCE OF NOTHING, without sacrificing anything. The temperature has likely dropped beyond comfortable sweater weather and into full-blown hats and scarves, and that means it’s time to toss on some grey skied shoegaze music—might I recommend REVEAL. Give the record a listen over on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

Stenny – UPSURGE

Genre: Breakbeat

Favorite Tracks: “Blind Corners,” “BFRB,” “Swordfish,” “Whyrl,” “Psygraph”

If you aren’t listening to Ilian Tape, you aren’t paying attention. The Munich label, founded by Dario and Marco Zenker, has been churning out stunning releases since 2007 but have soared to new heights at the tail-end of the decade to establish themselves as the best imprint in the business. Ilian Tape’s latest gem comes by way of Stenny, whose long-awaited debut LP finds the Italian producer firing on all cylinders.

UPSURGE was produced over the course of three years and that patience is pronounced across the record, but especially at the start. It’d be overstating it to say “Water Maze,” “Detraction,” and “Sensitive Habit” are slow burns, but the pace at which Stenny eases you into the album is warranted, and the reward soon realized. “Blind Corners” kicks off one of the best five-track runs in recent memory with production that’s equal parts scalpel and bludgeon. Stenny settles into a pocket with “BFRB,” a track that does more with less, digging a little deeper with each loop to create one of the dancier cuts on the album with minimal flash. But the best bits of UPSURGE come when Stenny flexes his drum programming prowess atop menacing synth punches. “Swordfish” does it best with heavy haymakers that blare through the mix with more force than anything else on the album and leave a memorable-enough mark to rank it among the finest track in the Ilian Tape catalogue. There are psychedelic moments, too, like the wonky unevenness of “Whyrl,” which more than earns the “broken beat” tag.

What sticks with me with each listen of UPSURGE is the resolute confidence exuded on every take—even the less-than-stellar ones. There are a couple of tracks that you’d expect your mind to wander during, namely “Dew,” but Stenny manages to make these quite engaging as he fills the space with tertiary characters that force your ears to browse the options, almost mimicking the feeling of walking through a record store. It’s an unexpectedly kinetic listening experience for a track lacking a percussive foothold. Stenny’s debut will rightly be remembered for its most frantic cuts, like when he throws everything including the kitchen sink on “Psygraph,” but the delicate moments are what set Stenny apart. Few producers could so neatly wrap a bow on a record (much less their debut) as he does with “In A Distant Light.” No doubt that number will shrink with Stenny’s sophomore record. Check out Stenny and the other incredible Ilian Tape artists here. [Ryan Moloney]

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