Tag Archive: Blackfield


2011 – Music Year in Review


Well, what a bloody good year for music, if I do say so myself. Yes it’s that time of year to look back over the last 12 months and reflect on how all those sound waves reverberating off of my eardrums have done!

We’ll do the awards in reverse order starting with the ever so predictable individual awards before looking at the runners up and then the big top 5!

I will also post links to my recommended song on each album, so with one swift click you can check some of these babies out, sound good?!

So here we go then…

Most Disappointing Release

Opeth – Heritage

I’ve tried so much to get into this album, I love Opeth. Now when I say it’s a bit of a disappointment I’m by no means implying it’s rubbish. There’s a lot to like here, heavily inspired by 70s progressive music, it’s jazzy in places and technically fantastic. However if I wanted to listen to King Crimson, I’d go and listen to an album like ‘Red’. Therein lies the problem, it sounds like Opeth trying to not sound like themselves (they still do, but it sounds forced).  Surprisingly for me it is the lack of death growls and heavy guitar passages that let this album down, and I’m not usually a fan of heavy for heavy sake.  I will admit having a soft spot for the track ‘Folklore’ though!

Check out: Folklore

Best Album of 2011, not from 2011

The Cooper Temple Clause  – Kick up the Fire and let the Flames Break Loose

Indeed. This album was released in 2003 and the band have subsequently split up, so what relevance does it have on this list? It is the album that I’ve been listening to for the past couple of weeks that’s practically become the background music to my life as we close off the year. Not a bad song on the album, and I find myself relating to every single tune on the album, it’s spooky!  The first time I heard the melancholic opener ‘The Same Mistakes’ and the electro driven ‘New Toys’, I knew this album would quickly become an instant classic for me.  I will certainly be checking out their other two albums.

Check Out: New Toys

Best EP

Amplifier – Fractal

4 tracks of pure instrumental Amplifier genius, probably the only chance to catch them improvising extremely tight prog-goodness. The excitement a song like ‘The Chase’ creates is in complete contrast to the EP closer ‘Solaris’ which is more like music akin to listening to whilst sunbathing on the Moon.

Check Out:  Executive

Band we didn’t want to see spilt up

Sad times. Well it is if two of your favourite bands decide to call it quits:

Oceansize called it quits in February (very quietly) not citing a reason for the split, entirely bizzare set of events considering their 4th album ‘Self Preserved Whilst the Bodies Float Up’ was a masterpiece of melody, texture and emotion.  To speculate; I’m convinced that it may have been down to them not getting as much media exposure or popularity as they deserved. I’m of the opinion they are the best band to come out of Manchester (Oasis? Who are they?) it would seem they were just very unlucky with timing. I will lament their passing but I can always listen to their 4 albums and 2 EPs knowing they were one of Britain’s best kept secrets. Oh and Steve Durose has gone onto join Amplifier so not all is lost.

Check Out: Oscar Acceptance Speech

 

Pure Reason Revolution in the other hand announced a very amicable split citing it was just time to move onto other projects. Fair Enough. They did a farewell tour around the UK which I attended which was fantastic. I will miss not hearing how their sound would have probably continued evolving especially as they had started to incorporate more electronic elements. Still I can always go back and listen to a track like ‘Deus Ex Machina’  and smile lots!

Check Out: Last Man, Last Round

Runners up

The following 5 albums came very close to entering my top 5, therefore they are all subsequently tied in 6th place you could say. These are the albums I’ve enjoyed thoroughly this year, but faced very stiff competition. I recommend them all HIGHLY.

Blackfield –Welcome to My DNA

There’s a lot to like about Blackfields 3rd attempt, whether it be the Arabian metal tinged vibes of ‘Blood’, the orchestral drenched ‘Dissolving with the Night’or the energetic acoustic arrangements in ‘Waving’.  Not as strong as the first 2 albums though as explained in my full review here.

Check out: Blood

M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming

Multi-layered, beautifully composed soundscapes with chilled vocals, I fell in love with ‘Midnight City’ the first time I heard it, the electro beats and childlike humour of ‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’ are awe inspiring and the album finisher  ‘Outro’ is perhaps one of the soothing ends to an album I’ve heard.

Check out: Midnight City (Official Video)

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Delightful, delightful, oh delightful Mogwai, they deliver something different on every album, and this one is no exception. Listen to a song like ‘White Noise’ and it’s hard not to fall in love with the ethereal vibes. Having a song like ‘Rano Pano’ on the same album certainly helps gear things up a notch, and the video (see below) is pure genious!

Check out: Rano Pano (Official Video)

Anathema – Falling Deeper

Running this risk of sounding like a complete girl, I listened to this album once on the way to work and by the time I arrived I wanted to quite literately weep.  By taking old classics from the early albums and reaaranging them with such deep emotional changes (the addition of an orchestra  helps) it’s hard not to be moved by tracks  like ‘Sunset of Age’ and ‘Kingdom’.

Check out: Crestfallen

Lunatic Soul – Impressions

Mariusz Duda (The frontman and bassist from Riverside) certainly delivers with his 3rd solo album,  it’s dark in places, beautifully haunting yet carries a positive optimism about itself in tracks like ‘Impressions Part 4’ and ‘Impressions Part 8’.  Stick your headphones on and turn the lights off.

Check out: Impressions Part 4

HERE WE GO THEN – MY TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2011!

5. Mastodon – The Hunter

Perhaps the heaviest band on my list, I’ve always been aware that Mastodon are fairly prolific, but not a band I’d previously invested much time in. Let’s get one thing straight ‘The Hunter’ is a metal album, you’ll hear chugger-chugger riffs, metal screams and thundering flurrying drumming but it also has mellower moments. You’ll also hear some of the most refreshing progressive music of our generation, technically the band are on fine form here and also at their most experimental. Take a track like ‘Creature Lives’ for example that starts with the most crazy mindblowing bit of synth manipulation I’ve ever heard. ‘Blasteroid’ grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let up for 2 and a half minutes, ‘Stargasm’ is a personal highlight with contrasting heavy counter melodies dominating the track and then the relative gentleness of the album closer ‘The Sparrow’ proves that Mastodon are a band that think about the dynamic range of their sound.

Check out: The Sparrow

4.Thomas Dolby –  Map of the Floating City

Well it only took him 20 years to release a follow up to his last album ‘Astronauts & Heretics’, but the man best known for electro-pop new wave hits in the 80’s with ‘Hyperactive’ and ‘She Blinded me with Science’ has finally returned. The reason for his long hiatus probably stems from the fact he created a company back in the 90’s now known as Beatnik Inc, they were the ones who created the .RMF  (Rich Music Format) format for electronic music distribution, he’s largely responsible for creating the technology behind just about every ringtone in existence for mobile phones, a very profitable endeavour no doubt.  His new album is spilt into 3 sections each covering a different musical genre (electro-pop, bluegrass & ambient) with  songs like ‘Spice Train’ and ‘Evil Twin Brother’ certainly harking back to his glory days. Despite not being a massive fan of Bluegrass music, you can’t help but smile when you hear a song like ‘Toadlickers’. The albums most moving moment comes in the form of ‘Oceanea’ which is structured to a carefree perfection. The album also features guest appearances from many popular musicians such as Mark Knopfler, Regina Spektor & Imogen Heap.

Check out:  Oceanea

3.  Amplifier – The Octopus

The first of two double albums in this list, and bloody hell, what a double album! I’ve known Amplifier for a fair few years; I own their first two albums which aren’t half bad, just not masterpieces. ‘The Octopus’ most definitely is though and contains some of the best music I’ve heard all year. ‘Interglacial Spell’ contains magic by the tonnes, the title track ‘The Octopus’ is a pulsating odyssey with a killer bass line but the albums high point definitely reaches a climax with ‘Interstellar’; a song I guarantee would motivate the most lazy of individuals and get them air guitaring during the high peaks of musical pathway it soars. Sel Balamir and Co. really deliver on this release to say there’s only three of them, each one sounding brave and bold on their respective instruments. Atmospheric soundscapes, heavier bridge sections and lots of guitar effects make for quite a trip. Now that Oceansize have folded, Manchester’s best band? YOU BET.

Check out:  Interstellar

2.  Steven Wilson – Grace For Drowning

You may be surprised to see Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) in 2nd place on my list, however that’s just the way it is, considering I think my number #1 album of the year is well deserved for the artist. It’s obvious though to anybody who knows me, that this album would make the list. Sounding completely different to his debut attempt (Insurgentes) for his double album Steve has embraced 70s progressive music and used influences learnt to create something rather refreshing in this decade. Full of jazz influences and free form movements thus witnessed in songs like ‘Sectarion’ and the epic ‘Raider II’, the album also contains more self contained pieces such as the deliously dark industrial sounding ‘Index’, the gentle to heavy ‘No Part of Me’ and the beautiful sadness of ‘Postcard’. As is typical of anything Steve releases, it is very well produced, it has a certain charm and warmth to it that endears me to the album everytime I play it. That and I got him to sign it when I met him earlier this year! It’s a great sophomore effort, and his best solo work to date. Can we have some new Porcupine Tree next year please Steve?!

Check out: No Part of Me

…and the winner is:

1.Tides from Nebula – Earthshine

This album IS 2011 for me, might come as a surprise, I wouldn’t imagine many post-rock albums by relatively unknown Polish bands would make the top of any Englishman’s list, but it’s in at number #1 on mine. Music for me is very much about how it makes you feel, and music to party to aside (for that has its place also) can also be an extremely private and personal experience. Everytime I listen to this album, nothing else matters, it’s like I’m floating in a tranquil sea, completely at peace. This is powerful music, entirely instrumental yet in this case the absence of lyrics enhances the experience for the music can be interpreted in so many different ways each time around.  A Track  like ‘Caravans’ was written to be listened to in the dark on your headphones as you float away laid on your bed. The guitars here are often used dynamically to build up layers and to set the scene, yet moments of ethereal heaviness come and blow all this away in moments of breathtaking clarity. This is not the most immediately accessible music, yet upon repeat listenings the most rewarding album of 2011. ’Siberia’ really does conjure up desolate arctic settings and ‘The Fall of Leviathan’ sounds like a battle of hearts and minds forever fighting and winding down. I actually reviewed this album in full  here. I highly recommend investing in 60 minutes of your time, to get relaxed, turn off the lights and LISTEN – pure bliss.

Check out: Caravans

…and there we go folks, I hope you enjoyed seeing the musical word of 2011 through my eyes for a little while, certainly a year to remember for me. Lot’s more to discover next year no doubt, and I look forward to all the upcoming new releases with my usual excitment!

D.P

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Genre:  Art Rock

Year of Release: 2011

Record Label: Snapper

Recommended for fans of: Steven Wilson, Aviv Geffin, Porcupine Tree

Track Listing:

1. Glass House
2. Go To Hell
3. Rising of the Tide
4 . Waving
5 . Far Away
6 . Dissolving With the Night
7 . Blood
8 . On the Plane
9 . Oxygen
10. Zigota
11. DNA           

Review:

NB: This review contains swearing…

I felt compelled to write this review due to unfortunate passing away of Steven Wilson’s father whilst the band were touring North America. Indeed testament to Steve as he performed the show in Toronto knowing this fact and many fans (who were unaware of the events at the time) have commented saying that he and the rest of the band put on a fantastic show.

The rest of the North American tour has been postponed whilst Steve flies back to the UK for more than obvious reasons, so my maximum condolences go to Steve and his family at this time and I write this review in honour of Steve’s father.

This album marks the first time where Aviv has been responsible for most of the songwriting, in fact Aviv wrote all but one of the songs. The reason for this seems to be that Steve has been very busy working on his 2nd solo album. I’d say that the album sounds quite different to the first two entirely for this reason.

The album opener ‘Glass House’ lacks the punch that ‘Once’ did on the Blackfield II, and for this reason it’s one of my least favourite songs on the album, I always tend to skip it. It’s a rather slow and laborious affair that builds up but never seems to reach the grand heights it perhaps could of. It does feature some rather splendid strings though, what seems to becoming fast a Blackfield staple.

‘Go to Hell’ is next, and in complete contrast to the first song we have something far more edgy. Musically this song is fantastic, I have no complaints, the guitars sound fantastic and the build-up pays off; it’s the lyrics that bug me on this one.

I’m not totally against profanity in songs, the rare use of a swear word can be very effective in conveying the songs message, for example how Roger Waters from Pink Floyd might throw in the occasional ‘Fuck’ to make a point particularly poignant, it works. What I’m not a big fan of is when it’s everywhere. (See generic RnB/Hip-Hop/Rap for prime examples of how to sound like a moron)

The lyrics in ‘Go to Hell’ consist entirely of one line repeated over and over:

‘Fuck you all, fuck you, I don’t care, anymore, go to hell, go to hell’

Well, seeing as I’ve already thrown the word around as above, can I just say ‘What the Fuck?’

Was there any need to have the lyrics like this?

 The problem is that Blackfield aren’t a teenage angst emo band, so when they write lyrics like this, it sounds unnatural and forced. I think we’ll chalk this up to some experimentation, and like I say I love the music on this one, just a shame the lyrics ruin it for me everytime!

Steven Wilson putting foul language to a better use then in 'Go to Hell'!

‘Rising of the Tide’ is classic Blackfield that showcases a nice Wilson guitar solo near the end, and the vocalisations are decent especially when Steve and Aviv harmonise with each other, they really are getting good at doing this.

‘Waving’ is the only song on the album that Steve wrote, and (probably as a result) is my favourite on the album.  A gorgeous acoustic guitar leads the piece accompanying Steve’s vocals, the chorus is sublime and electric guitars enter the fray midway into the song helping to pick up the piece. Love the outro, sounds like something Kula Shaker might have written!

‘Far Away’ is a quiet melancholic number that’s obviously about loneliness, features one of my favourite bit of lyrics on the album, love this:

‘Maybe I’m free, but freedom just means that I’m lost, it feels like I’m driving, without ever arriving, I really don’t know what it means to put my smile on…’

‘Dissolving Away with the Night’ is another highlight. Aviv starts off singing over some sparse sounding piano as the song builds up into what could be described an orchestral climax blitz; you need to hear it really, but conjures up the orchestral pieces from the James Bond films believe it or not!

‘Blood’ is very middle-eastern sounding, punctured with distorted guitar chords, this is the most metal sounding song that Backfield have written and I like it a lot, has a real energy to it, the band have been opening their sets with it at the moment and makes perfect sense why. Has some excellent drumming and riffage!

‘On a Plane’ is more classic Blackfield, not quite sure what the lyrics are about ‘Daddy’s on the Plane?’ but nevertheless the guitar solo is pretty chilled and overall the song keeps the flow of the album going.

Up next is ‘Oxygen’ which is screaming out for a single release, this should be on mainstream radio. It’s a great pop song that was actually produced by Trevor Horn. It’s slightly dreamy and distant sounding.

‘Zigota’ starts off sounding like a No-Man reject but soon turns into something so much more satisfying with some great sections intertwining each other, and features the best outro of any Blackfield song to date. The main problem being is that I think it closes the album perfectly, or at least what I’m trying to say is that ‘Zigota’ should have been the last track on the album.

As it turns out ‘DNA’ is the last track, and I would have switched the running order around because whilst DNA is a good song it doesn’t have that closing track feel to it, it’s a very mellow quiet affair and then the album just finishes…

When I reviewed Blackfield II a few years ago, in my closing remarks I mentioned that I thought the 3rd release would be the one to get them the recognition they deserve, do I still think this?

Well the answer would be Yes, I do think their fan base will increase based on the success of this album, however I don’t think it’s their strongest album to date. I think that this is largely due to the fact that the song writing duties have been weighted heavily towards Aviv on this one. He’s a good songwriter, but the beauty behind Blackfield is when Steve and Aviv write material together and I think the 4th release will need to go back to this format to hold my attention.

Good album, but weakest one yet to summarise my thoughts on this one.

3.0/5.0  

 Lineup:

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, keyboards
  • Aviv Geffen – vocals, guitars, keyboards
  • Eran Mitelman – piano, keyboards
  • Seffy Efrat – bass
  • Tomer Z – drums

D.P

September Update #1


Hi all!

Should have the third Rush album ‘Caress of Steel’  review up later today, my intention is to get all their studio albums reviewed before the release of their new album ‘Clockwork Angels’ in 2011. So only 15 more to do! I’ll try and get a review of album #4 up later this week, seeing as its one of their best albums, should be a pleasure to review, so expect ‘2112’ sometime soonish!

Also, I’ve been listening to the new Oceansize album ‘Self Preserved Whilst the Bodies Float Up’ and its rather good, review coming in next 2 weeks!

In other news, Pure Reason Revolution have a new album out in October entitled ‘Anvil & Hammer’ and Steven Wilson is hard at work on the 3rd Blackfield Album, his 2nd solo album and an exciting collaboration between himself and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth.

Lots to be excited about!

D.P


 

    

 

 

 

 

 

Genre: Rock/Pop

Year Of Release: 2007

Record Company: Snapper Music/Atlantic/We Put Out Records

Recommended for fans of: Coldplay, Keane, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree.

Track Listing:

 1. Once (4:03)
2. 1,000 People (3:54)
3. Miss U (4:13)
4. Christenings (4:37)
5. This Killer (4:06)
6. Epidemic (4:59)
7. My Gift of Silence (4:05)
8. Some Day (4:22)
9. Where is My Love? (2:59)
10. End of the World (5:13)
 

Review 

Backfield are one of those bands that don’t get the coverage they deserve in certain countries, in this case I doubt if many people in the UK will have heard of them so let me clear a few things up.

Blackfield is a collaboration between Porcupine Tree’s front-man Steven Wilson, and Israeli superstar Aviv Geffen, and by superstar I mean it, this guy is huge in Israel, like Robbie Williams huge. Whereas Porcupine Tree music could be described as having progressive leanings, Steven Wilson uses his Blackfield outlet to explore the world of light rock with a pop twist to great effect; I dare say it works better then the likes of Coldplay and Keane. What I mean by this is that Blackfield’s music is easily accessible to listen to, and any of the tracks they have produced would fit in on commercial radio stations with ease.

This is Blackfield’s 2nd release, the first being in 2004 with ‘Blackfield I’; indeed the Led Zeppelin methodology of naming albums is being followed here with the 2nd album being called ‘Blackfield II’. I can heartily recommend the first album, however this 2ndalbum is a much more polished affair, whereas in Blackfield I the tracks whilst atmospheric, seemed a bit sparse in places.

So the 2nd album opens up with a track called ‘Once’which features some well placed drums and guitar before some soothing vocals, the popish element to the song writing is noticeable straight away yet the addition of a thundering guitar riff within the song is perhaps something bands like Coldplay and Keane wouldn’t use, yet Blackfield take the tempo up a notch and it works. ‘1000 People’ works on so many levels, not only because it’s a simple pop song, but also because it has depth in both its lyrical content and instrumentation, it’s a relaxing soothing 4 minutes with a darker chord progression.

The next track ‘Miss U’opens up without warning to some marvellous guitar work before Aviv Geffen takes lead vocal duties, the song which features some rather impressive orchestration is absolute ear candy during the chorus, and even though its only 4 minutes long, there’s time for a short guitar solo at the end which is perfectly placed in the song.

‘Christenings’ is a bit of an oddball, the song was originally written during the Porcupine Tree Deadwing’ sessions, and for some reason which is probably because it wouldn’t have fitted into Deadwing very well its ended up on ‘Blackfield II’. The plus point of this move is that it sounds more like Blackfield then PT, however I was quite curious to learn that as it appears on the album it’s the version that PT recorded, couldn’t Blackfield have re-recorded it? Seems simple enough to me, they play the song live on stage! Regardless of this criticism the song is a musical delight, and one of the best songs on the album, apparently the lyrics are based on the downfall of Syd Barrett [Pink Floyds original guitarist and songwriter who died in 2006] and work really well.

‘This Killer’ is probably the sleeper track of the album, meaning that whilst it might not strike you as particularly delicious on the first listen, it grows on you and gets better every listen, ambient and full of vocal delight. ‘Epidemic’is a good a choice as any for a single from this album and I have to say my all time favourite Blackfield track, its full of energy from the opening piano playing to the excellent guitar fuelled bridge, most of all the addition of a little shouting [you’ll understand if you hear the song] in the middle of the bridge by Aviv Geffen is quite marvellous, could be an absolute hit if it got regular airplay.

‘My Gift Of Silence’ continues the album focus on lyrical content, swarming in beautiful layers of keyboard melodies and quite breathtaking harmonies, I have a feeling this track is really moving when performed live. ‘Some Day’ is a straightforward affair, with the last 2 minutes of the track being particularly strong with its orchestration and the layering of guitars, ‘Where Is My Love?’was originally included on the first album as a bonus track in the form of a rough demo, this version is far better being more polished in every-way and the build-up to the ending is far more pronounced.

The album closes with ‘End Of The World’that is sure to become a live classic as an encore at future Blackfield gigs. It closes the album perfectly in a rather positive manner, despite the name of the song.

Overall this is the best Blackfield release yet, and its sounds far stronger and more mature then their first effort. Their audience is bound to grow within the UK quicker then they might expect seeing as Porcupine Tree are becoming bigger news every year , Blackfield will be discovered by a whole new legion of fans, indeed times look good for this band, and their 3rd release could be very much the album that gets them the recognition they deserve.

Lineup:

Steven Wilson – Guitar, Vocals
Aviv Geffen – Guitar, Vocals
Daniel Salomon – Keyboard, Piano
Seffy Efrati – Bass
Tomer Z – Drums

Score: 4.0/5.0

D.P