500 Word Review: Azuresands 大麻 “Inner Journey”

inner journey

A few weeks ago, versatile vaporwave artist, Azuresands 大麻, released his latest project, “Inner Journey”.  For those who might not be familiar with the prominent electronic composer, Azuresands 大麻 has established a reputation of being one of the most innovative artists in the genre’s fairly brief history.  With the release of varying projects that not only directly contrast one another in theme, aesthetic, sound, composition, and influence, but also push the limits of vaporwave itself by creating new subgenres and concepts only imaginable by Azuresands 大麻 himself, Azuresands 大麻 continues to impress the rest of the vaporwave community while simultaneously leaving them on the edge of their seats in anticipation with what he will release next.  That being said, it’s no surprise to see “Inner Journey” recognized as one of the most significant albums in the genre to be released this year.

For this project, Azuresands 大麻 is working alone to create an ambient, atmospheric album.  Despite his recent success with collaborative projects like “Compass Rose” and “American Truck Songs 8”, Azuresands 大麻 is returning to writing solo work, and being a huge fan of not just vaporwave, but Azuresands 大麻 specifically, I was very excited to see how the accomplished artist would approach the album as far as composition goes.

For starters, I really enjoyed the diversity of this project. Every single song is distinct and can be recognized within the first few seconds of its playing time.  For example, in the first few measures of the project “Inner Journey” itself, an ominous, nearly inaudible bass is the foundation of a space, and of course, meditation themed ambient track, as the album slowly fades in, making this first track, “Waveswell”, instantly significant and recognizable. From here, the prominent project by Azuresands 大麻 will quickly change and transform as each track takes on a different sound, influence, and even persona, leaving the listener completely clueless as to what is about to come next.  In fact, the sound of the album constantly jumps around from the more traditional ambient vaporwave sound, to multi-layered synths and soundscapes in the form of atmospheric tracks, to even tracks that feature just percussion or vocal samples, which results in a fairly interesting project.  However, while this is fascinating to say the least, I believe that if Azuresands 大麻 narrowed down the core sound of the album itself and shortened the project to only feature the most memorable and well composed tracks heard, the entire project would strengthen as a whole, easily making “Inner Journey” one of the best vaporwave releases of the year.  What is consistent, however, is the integration of prominent altered samples featuring edited tempos and pitch changes, heavy use of reverb, often heard soundscapes that are a staple for this project, and the slight addition of echo effects that give these songs the distinct vaporwave sound and influence.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the spoken samples, like those heard on “Tacoshimi” and “Bummerman”.  The overwhelmingly loud samples distract the listener from the superb instrumental tracks through the use of slow, nonsensical ramblings that the album really does not need to be successful.  However, where these songs fail, tracks like “Heartglow” easily exemplify excellence and redeem the previous, underachieving songs.  After “Tacoshimi” finally comes to a close, “Heartglow” enters with utterly captivating and mesmerizing internationally influenced instrumental tracks.  This use of complex composition combined with inspiration from South American culture and music creates an overall sound that is not only catchy but also unlike anything I’ve ever heard in vaporwave before.  Intricate layering of numerous percussion instruments to the point where it sounds like an entire village is recording the track live in one take with simple, unique instruments makes “Heartglow” one of the most memorable Azuresands 大麻 songs in his discography.

Overall, this is definitely a must listen to Azuresands 大麻 project.  While it’s unlike any of his recent material, his experimentation with ambient vaporwave, while also adding in aspects unique to his personal sound, results in a very solid release.  With a track list featuring everything from songs that are unique compared to one another and sound nothing like their album counterparts to a heavy layering of soundscapes, synths, and the occasional light and pleasant arpeggiator heard from the first few measures of “Waveswell” until the last few moment of “Charismaring”, it’s clear that every prominent aspect heard works together collectively to truly make this a relaxing and interesting album.  I will say that the sound quality is pretty low on this project (and not because I listened to the album primarily on cassette tape) compared to my favorite vaporwave releases.  Although, after seeing the aesthetic on the album cover, the muddy recording that features a lack of clarity in sound quality seems to fit the overall theme of the project and doesn’t deteriorate my overall enjoyment of the release.  I give “Inner Journey” an 8.1/10 and highly suggest you listen to the tracks “Waveswell”, “Brookwhisperer”, “Halo Cubed”, “Heartglow”, “Barkcloth Tapestry”, “Many Hands of Fate”, “WishWash”, and “Wholeing”, as these make up the vast majority of the highlights heard throughout the album.  Also, be sure to pick up a copy of “Inner Journey” on cassette (seen below), especially since the tracks “Heartglow”, Osmosis”, “A Dusty Vhial”, and “Many Hands of Fate” have only been released on the cassette format and cannot be heard anywhere else!  Listen to the digital version of the Azuresands 大麻 record below, pick up a copy on cassette, and stay tuned for more vaporwave reviews out soon!

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“Inner Journey” cassette:

https://azuresands.bandcamp.com/album/inner-journey

“Inner Journey”:

Track of the Day Tuesday: ELDAMAR Winter Night

eldamar

Recently I was browsing through bandcamp’s metal section when I came across an album that I have slept on for awhile now.  Eldamar’s “The Force of The Ancient Land” has some of the most breathtaking album artwork I have ever seen and it’s appearance alone instantly caught my attention and remained in the back of my head as a constant reminder to listen to this project.  I’m not sure why I never gave it a listen until now, but I’m extremely glad that I finally did.

After listening to the entire full length record it is, to put it simply, impossible to pick my favorite track, or even the most memorable song.  Each and every song heard from the beginning of this atmospheric black metal album to the epic finish is captivatingly beautiful.  That being said, I decided to choose one of the longest tracks on the project, that way listeners who have yet to hear anything off “The Force of The Ancient Land” can obtain a near perfect understanding of how elegant these tracks are.  Coming in at exactly 11 minutes in playing time, “Winter Night” is without a doubt the track you need to listen to today.  Melodic and harmonious guitars and backing instrumental tracks lay a solid foundation as distant, yet piercing screeching vocals and a dreamy, remarkable synth lead trailblaze through the project as a whole, like a mythical creature graciously flying through an awe-inspiring landscape like the one depicted in the captivating album artwork.  The occasional string sections and choir like vocal sections only add to this bittersweet sounding, melancholic melody that does nothing but leave the listener at a loss for words for how beautiful this whole album is.

Even though it is unlike the traditional style of recording black metal, I truly enjoy the high quality of recording and overall sound.  Branching off from the traditional lo-fi style heard in some of the most influential releases in the genre’s brief history, “The Force of The Ancient Land”, in my opinion, would suffer greatly from having anything short of a high quality overall sound.  In a similar way to how my favorite black metal band of all time, Saor, uses high quality recordings to strengthen the truly inspirational and melodic sound heard on “Roots”, “Aura”, and “Guardians”, Eldamar simply would not be able to achieve such excellence in recording “The Force of The Ancient Land” without the use of this high quality recording style.

Personally, I only have two minuscule complaints about “Winter Night”.  For starters, I personally love the choir like section at 7:02, which features a simply gorgeous lead sung by a female vocalist.  The only problem I have with this section is that it is clearly obvious that the vocal parts, especially the girl’s, are computer generated and artificial.  Even though these parts are sung as perfect as one can possibly sing them, it results in a section that sounds almost robotic as it is completely flawless.  This, of course, is a ridiculous complaint to have, but part of me wishes these sections were recorded with actual singers.  However, that is an outlandish request, especially for a one man band that has already produced one of the best albums of 2016 with or without a live choir.  Lastly, I was also hoping that some soundscapes would be added to the track to further build upon its ambient and atmospheric roots.  Even a sample of the wind howling through the Norwegian mountains, where Eldamar is based out of, would greatly increase the experience that listening to “The Force of The Ancient Land” truly is.  Again, these are very, very minuscule complaints and this track is still absolutely breathtaking.

I wish I could go on and on about “Winter Night” and the other 7 phenomenal tracks that “The Force of The Ancient Land” encompasses, but to be honest, I’m at a loss for words at this point.  I’ve clearly said enough to convince you as to why this is the Track of the Day Tuesday, now it is your turn to experience this monumental album and hear for yourself why I’m completely blown away by it’s elegance.  The song “Winter Night” is attached below, and the full album stream for “The Force of The Ancient Land” is also attached, as I’m sure you will not be able to resist listening to the rest of the project after hearing “Winter Night”.  Let us know what you think of these Eldamar tracks, and of course, don’t forget to say what track you think should be next week’s Track of the Day Tuesday!

“Winter Night”:

 

“The Force of The Ancient Land”:

Album Review: CHOTTO SUKI Mother Nature’s Silver Seed

Chotto Suki

Being a huge fan of No Problema Tapes, I often check out their new releases or releases I haven’t given a listen to yet.  That being said, Chotto Suki’s “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” is the latest release from the Chilean label, so of course I had to give it a listen.  At first listen, this project by Suki himself is not what I would expect to hear from an ambient artist, based off the experience I have with the electronic music subgenre so far.  The use of real life action-based samples along with polarizing tracks and song structures gives a different take on the ambient, atmospheric sound No Problema Tapes artists usually show in their releases.  “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” has many faces as the core sound of the project rapidly changes from track to track. I usually never break down an album track by track, but in this situation, it’s almost necessary to process this album by analyzing each individual song first then the entire project as a whole.

The album starts off strong with an instantly memorable song titled “Night Drive”.  “Night Drive’s” ominous sound made from steady bass lines and peculiar percussion, mixed with their sample of a guy getting in a car and the album art that depicts a Japanese city at night gives me a Bladerunner vibe while listening.  You instantly feel immersed in the music, artwork, and project as a whole, which instantly allows the listener to visualize multiple scenes while listening to this entire record.

“Landescape” quickly moves to a atmospheric, natured influenced track that imagines me getting out of the eerie city into a gorgeous, Amazonian landscape (pun intended) where all I hear is a calming synth, a beautiful guitar, and the nature around me.  I personally wish this track was longer as it is captivating, complex, artfully crafted, and above all, simply beautiful, and it’s mere 3:20 in playing time does not give it enough justice.  It’s hard to not declare “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” as an instant classic ambient album, even after hearing just the first two tracks, and “Landescape” provides enough proof on its own that this release is not one to be overlooked.

The title track, “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”, is very similar to “Landescape”, but the vibe transitions from a happy, nature atmosphere, to a more serene, atmospheric one. The new sound and vibe experienced allows me to visualize walking through the Amazonian land to now come across a deserted village that appears to be abandoned, with precious items left behind due to an abrupt desertion. The popping of what sounds like a vinyl record being spun heightens the pensiveness of this song and actually serves as a very smooth transition through this eclectic in sound album. The layered soundscapes also sound beautiful and help connect the use of similar sounding synths in the previous track to what you hear on this song, “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”.

“On the Way Back” also finds a way to bridge the gap between two polarizing tracks. Moving from the abandoned village pictured in the self titled track to what I envision would be a song set to stargazing, “On the Way Back” uses more bass heavy soundscapes that embody a similar structure and sound to what is heard on the previous track, but when comparing them side by side, the difference between the two songs is very prominent. However, this is without a doubt one of the most mesmerizing songs heard on the album as I instantly imagine lying down on an empty field and looking up at the vast, never-ending universe above.

“Subterranean Homesick Feel” does a stellar job at transitioning from “On the Way Back” to itself as it uses the rain sample heard in the last minutes on “On the Way Back”, but instead as the track starts, the intensity of the storm greatly begins to increase. The track then takes on an almost horror like aspect as chilling effects, builds, and soundscapes are used along with a sample of two individuals interacting, giving the track a suspenseful feel. A lighter lead soundscape intertwines with menacing instrumental tracks that give a feeling of eminent danger. The change from a relaxing, stargazing scene instantly switches to that of distortion and paranoia as the mood switches to that of walking through the city in the artwork with an eerie feeling of being followed. “Subterranean Homesick Feel” is a track that could easily be heard in a modern suspense-filled horror movie.

As “Subterranean Homesick Feel” comes to an abrupt close, which is only fitting with it’s horror-esque sound, “The Wanderer” eases in with sounds of a crashing wave only to bombard you with a chugging distorted guitar that parallels its predecessor in album track list succession. The intensity soon mellows out and fades into a relaxing sample of motorcycles going by and other various city sounds. The eerie feeling of walking through the city heard before has now turned into walking through a club, being smothered by the crowdedness, and of course loudness of the environment, only to wind up outside in a more calm, peaceful environment of the city.  If you are still wondering as to how diverse this album is, just listening to “The Wanderer” alone will give you a great perspective as to how fast the mood can shift.

“Urban Maze”, despite its name, has a composition of mostly isolation. Using primarily one hauntingly sounding soundscape throughout its short duration, gives a feeling as if the neon signs of the city are glaring down so intensely on the people walking below that the lights have almost become an artificial sun for the city streets. The idea of less is more is perfectly showcased in this song as a short composition with few tracks creates a powerful and memorable song.

“Looking For Corinthians”, like most tracks on this release, sounds nothing like the song before it. Using a combination of bells, lighter pads, and soundscapes, and of course smooth yet noticeable bass lines, helps create a peaceful atmosphere nothing like what was heard on “Urban Maze”. Even various arpeggiator synths help give this a lighter sound compared to the harsh noise heard in the previous track. You can picture the city in the artwork during the day and how the peaceful regularness of the environment can be therapeutic.

Not only do I think that “Landing Smoothly, Captain” should be the first song on the album, but I also believe that it should be an entirely separate project. Obviously each track is different from each other on “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”, but the unique sound and atmosphere heard in this track is vastly different than the rest of the album as a whole, not to mention that “Looking For Corinthians” would be a fine closer to the project if “Landing Smoothly, Captain” was separated and made into it’s own release. The entire buildup with the samples of footsteps and the computer’s voice, the slowly rising synths and basses, and the entire sound that is reminiscent of soundtracks heard on fantastic movies like “Gravity” and “Interstellar” make me believe that a song this unique and absolutely beautiful should be rewarded with a separate release. Not to take away from the rest of the album, as there isn’t a bad song on this entire project, I just personally believe “Landing Smoothly, Captain” seems a little out of place on “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”. Even the visualization, which greatly benefits from the computer’s narrated sample, depicts a futuristic space ship landing on a new, uncharted planet, which is extremely different than what is visualized throughout the rest of the album. “Landing Smoothly, Captain” is Chotto Suki’s “Palm Mall” and it has instantly become one of my favorite ambient songs I have ever heard.

In conclusion, “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” truly is a musical journey. This album is without a doubt an example of not only how versatile ambient artists like Chotto Suki can be, but it also shows the complete power and beauty that ambient, atmospheric music can truly encompass when done right.  A lack of percussion really brings the pads, synths, basses, and samples to the forefront of the music and exemplifies the power that instrumental ambient and atmospheric projects can have.  Personally, I will definitely look into what else Chotto Suki has released in the past, and I really hope that he eventually writes the soundtrack to a major film one day, as I believe his superb songwriting and composing skills would result in another fantastic piece.  I give “Mother Nature’s Silver Seed” an 8.7/10 and I have attached the stream of the album below for those to check out to hear how stellar this project truly is.  If you would like to purchase this album on digital format or even cassette tape, a link to No Problema’s merchandise store is also attached below.  While you’re on this site, however, check out what other albums we’ve reviewed lately and check back in for more posts we will have on the site soon!

No Problema store:

https://noproblematapes.bandcamp.com/album/mother-natures-silver-seed

 

“Mother Nature’s Silver Seed”:

Track(s) of the Day Tuesday: FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY Black Mammoth and TREEREFLECTION Morning

Last week we unfortunately missed the deadline to add a new post to the segment “Track of the Day Tuesday”.  So today, in order to make up for last week, we have two tracks that you absolutely need to check out!

The first track you should give a listen to today is Fit For An Autopsy’s “Black Mammoth”.  Fit For An Autopsy is a band that I have recognized for years as one of the greatest modern deathcore bands.  Their profound lyricism and bone-crushing riffs and breakdowns have separated Fit For An Autopsy (FFAA) from the average modern deathcore band.  That being said, my standards for any material released by FFAA is extremely high, especially after their third full length record, “Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell”, was a very subpar follow up to one of greatest deathcore albums ever to be released, “Hellbound”.  So, when Fit For An Autopsy released “The Great Collapse” last Friday, my skepticism for whether or not FFAA will be able to redeem themselves was very high.  To my surprise, however, they greatly surpassed these expectations, and the track, “Black Mammoth”, was one of the leading factors that influenced this positive impression.

“Black Mammoth” is a track that discusses the vast negative impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline and how the destruction of the environment for various, insignificant reasons in situations similar to the Dakota Access Pipeline case study are not only drastic and inhumane towards those who live in these areas, but they also directly result in negative and irreversible consequences that affect all humans and inhabitants of this planet.  Even though FFAA is known for their remarkable lyricism, I was still pleasantly shocked to see them discuss such a significant topic in one of their tracks.  Not only is it rare that Fit For An Autopsy will discuss environmental issues in their music, but it is also extremely rare for environmental issues to be mentioned in metal music period!  Using their platform and limited space on their fourth full length album to discuss this prominent issue that we face today on a daily basis has caused my respect for Fit For An Autopsy to grow immensely.  Lyricism and lyrical message set aside, the instrumentation heard on “Black Mammoth” is easily the best performance on the entire record.  The melodic, yet still heavy riffs intertwine perfectly with Joe Badolato’s great vocal delivery, resulting in both a successful track and a record that surpasses its predecessor greatly.  Today you need to give this New Jersey based deathcore band a listen starting with the music video for “Black Mammoth” attached below.

The only thing more polarizing than extreme metal is ambient and soothing, soundscape filled electronic music.  After you have listened to the brutally heavy track that is “Black Mammoth” you should listen to the simply relaxing track “Morning” by TREEREFLECTION.  TREEREFLECTION is yet another fantastic artist represented by the successful Chilean vaporwave label, No Problema Tapes.  TREEREFLECTION, like the other well known artists on No Problema Tapes, writes primarily in atmospheric ambient music that heavily relies on the use of soundscapes and various pads.  What makes TREEREFLECTION stand out amongst the other No Problema artists is the incorporation of samples of sounds heard in nature and even slight but noticeable beats that help give “Morning” an electronic music vibe.  This style of songwriting is soothing, relaxing, stress relieving, and in my opinion, helps greatly with focusing on work.  I unfortunately could not find a stream of the song “Morning” individually, so instead I’ve attached the entire album, “Overcast” below.  Without a doubt, “Morning”, along with any other track heard on “Overcast”, is something you need to listen to today.

Even though “Morning” and “Black Mammoth” are two completely different songs, they are both “The Track of the Day Tuesday” and you absolutely need to give them a listen.  Whether it’s the genre defining song writing or even the impactful lyrical content on “Black Mammoth”, or the relaxing, blissfulness of “Morning”, it’s fair to say that these tracks are phenomenal and easily the two songs you should listen to today.  Check our past “Track of the Day Tuesday” installments to see what other songs we recommend you listen to, and of course, let us know what tracks you think should be featured on future “Track of the Day Tuesday” posts!

Track of the Day Tuesday: CIRCA SURVIVE In the Morning And Amazing

on-letting-go-larger-image

This year, Circa Survive’s historic and monumental sophomore full length album, “On Letting Go”, turns 10 years old.  To celebrate this decade of excellence, the band and Equal Vision Records have released 10 year anniversary editions of the classic record on CD, Digital, and vinyl formats and Circa Survive themselves are currently on tour playing this album in full.  So, in order to continue the celebration, the track of the day and the track you need to check out today is the phenomenal “In the Morning and Amazing”.

“In the Morning and Amazing” perfectly embodies the distinct sound Circa Survive has established in their successful career.  Sweet sounding, slightly distorted guitars create a melodic atmosphere filled with creative chord progressions and catchy lead sections.  To accompany this, Nick Beard’s soothing bass guitar riffs perfectly intertwine with and compliment the artfully crafted guitar and percussion sessions.  Finally, Anthony Green’s impressive high pitched vocal performance ties together the faster, more rock oriented sections with the more calm, almost ambient indie rock parts.  “In the Morning and Amazing” pretty much summarizes the definition of a Circa Survive song.  However, this song alone does not speak for the entire album, “On Letting Go”, and I highly suggest that you listen to the entire project today in order to truly enjoy the brilliance of Circa Survive.

Like usual, I’ve attached the link to “In the Morning and Amazing” below.  Also, I’ve added the link to purchase the 10 year anniversary editions of “On Letting Go” for those who would like to own a copy!  As I’ve mentioned before, we’re having a slow start to the year here at Erik’s Album Reviews, but I promise the momentum will start to shift into a more progressive state very soon as we still have multiple reviews and other posts in the works almost ready to share with you. Stay tuned!

Circa Survive CD and vinyl:

http://merchnow.com/catalogs/circa-survive/music

Track of the Day Tuesday: OFF LAND Inertia

off-land

This week the “Track of the Day Tuesday” features Massachusetts’ own Off Land and his track, “Inertia”.  “Inertia”, the second song on the project, “Slow Waves”, is an ambient electronic song released through the Chile based label, No Problema Tapes.  The track is a prominent example of ambient vaporwave as it incorporates an atmospheric sound accompanied by various soundscapes, soothing samples, and harmonizing pads and other soft leads that make this song, and this project, an instant classic.  However, even though this track is under the category of vaporwave, I believe a more better fitting description could easily be music that is simply relaxing and calming.

I personally found this project while browsing through random bandcamp based vaporwave labels.  By discovering No Problema Tapes, I was able to find amazing artists like Off Land, Sangam, Rhucle, and many others!  Today, you need to check out “Inertia”.  Off Land’s signature sound and style of music is something that any music fan can enjoy.  It literally does not matter who your favorite artist is, or what genre of music you listen to, if you are a fan of music, you will be a fan of Off Land.  Check out “Inertia” on the stream of “Slow Waves” below and don’t forget to visit next Tuesday when we discuss the next “Track of the Day Tuesday”!

Vinyl and Cassette News: Burial’s “YOUNG DEATH / NIGHTMARKET” Accidently Gets Released Early On Vinyl

burial-2016

In case you missed it, Burial, the legendary English electronic producer and recording artist, recently released his latest project “YOUNG DEATH / NIGHTMARKET (HDB100).  The short EP, which was officially released only a few days ago, features an experimental ambient sound accompanied with reverb filled synths and multiple, altered samples that give the project an overall sound unique to Burial himself.  This new EP is very fascinating and is both relaxing and compelling, causing the listener to feel at ease yet never lose interest or focus on the material.

The release itself is stellar, and I will most likely follow up this post with an official review of the project, but the most prominent news to come from this release actually isn’t about the material, but how it was distributed.  Days before the EP was supposed to have a surprise release, it suddenly surfaced on Discogs.  Stunned, Burial fans quickly reacted to this update and wondered if this was a legitimate, new release from Burial and where they could get themselves a copy of this record.  It was soon realized that the Discogs update was made in response to a Toronto record shop, called Sonic Boom Records, accidentally selling the release early on Black Friday.  Sonic Boom Records, who received the new 12″ records by mail, assumed the new release was a Black Friday secret listing and because of this 5 copies were accidentally sold to Toronto customers.  This project, which was eventually officially released on Burial’s official Bandcamp page on November 28th, is the first solo project of 2016 by the British artist.  Once the vinyl EP was officially released it quickly sold out on Burial’s site and has since been selling extremely fast at local record shops in both North America and Europe.  There are still numerous places that have a copy left to purchase, including the 53 individual listings on Discogs selling the 12″ for as little as $8.57, however this record will definitely sell out completely eventually.

If you are an electronic music fan you need to listen to this release.  In my opinion, this will most likely be one of the best EPs you hear all year.  If you are unfamiliar with Burial this is a very good place to start, however his discography is extremely immense and filled with great material, so checking out any release from the South London based artist is highly recommended.  The link to purchase the 12” vinyl record from Discogs is attached below along with the full EP stream.  Give it a listen, check out the other electronic reviews and music content posted on this site, and be sure to visit often for more electronic, vinyl, and cassette news!

https://www.discogs.com/Burial-Young-Death-Nightmarket/release/9412422