Weekly Round-up: Alela Diane, Atmosphere, Explosions in the Sky.

18 Apr
Atmosphere Slug

Atmosphere - Not your average hip-hop crew

Alela Diane, Atmosphere, Explosions in the Sky?

“That’s not very metal! What kind of pussy are you Monkey?” I hear you asking yourself before deleting this blog forever from your bookmarks, never to grace these pages with your presence again.

Well, hold your horses, cowboy.


Quite apart from the oodles of Weedeater and Kvelertak, with which I have been liberally assaulting my aural passages, MDG is about all sorts of heaviness – not just drop-tunings and Sabbath-worship or tremolo-picking and blast beats.

Some of the heaviest shit known to man can initially appear soft and inviting, drawing you in only to leave you shell-shocked from the emotional devastation.

In their own ways, all three of the artists in this week’s round-up have got major previous in this department. In each of their discographies resides a killer album ranking among my all-time favourites.

Expectations were quite high then.

Alela Diane & The Wild Divine

Alela Diane & The Wild Divine - or a beaker of wine anyway

Alela Diane – Alela Diane & Wild Divine. Diane’s debut Pirate’s Gospel is one of those records that never fails to transport me into her world.

Sparse, timeless folk lit up by a voice whose high lonesome catch breaks my heart a little every time I hear it.

Three albums in and Diane has ditched the freak folkie look and sound for… country rock. Personally I’m quite fond of country rock (The Byrds, Arlo Guthrie, Flying Burrito Brothers et al) but with the fuller band sound, there’s no escaping the feeling that Diane’s lost something intangible that previously defined her.

The new record is certainly an enjoyable listen and there are moments when a little vocal inflection sprinkles a little magic dust on a song.

It could well be a slow burner but in these early days (it’s been out about a week), Alela Diane & Wild Divine mainly inspired me to cane the first two records and stare enigmatically out of the window. In a very manly way of course.

Atmosphere Slug

This man is a killer MC- Slug from Atmosphere

Atmosphere – The Family Sign. Some readers may think they don’t like hip-hop. Go listen to The Woman with the Tattooed Hands or better yet the whole of Lucy Ford. Then make your mind-up.

If you still say you don’t like a little of that ol’ boom-bap, I diagnose deafness to good music. You may need some drops for that.

Problem: Atmosphere went and peaked with that record. In the subsequent 10 years, MC and lyricist Slug has never quite topped that heady mix of caustic wit, anger, idealism and self-loathing that elevated his dissection of his car-crash of a life and damaged relationships into something special.

Behind the boards, while Ant has certainly become more skilled, neither has he ever achieved that same soulful synergy with Slug as on Lucy Ford.

Someone also needs to have a word with the Minneapolis duo about quality control. In three words: Too. Many. Records.

In 14 years: 7 full albums, 2 compilations, 6 main EPs (some of which were album length) and a further 13 EPs as part of an ongoing series called Sad Clown/Bad Dub.

Seriously chaps, slow down and bin a few songs rather than farting them endlessly out into the world.

Anyway, The Family Sign is Slug’s bitter take on father-son dysfunction. Over doom-laden arrangements that rely on live instrumentation rather than samples, Slug spins bruising, moving tales threaded through with painful reminiscences of violent fathers and mothers struggling to keep families together. Yet what’s perhaps more interesting is the agony of Slug’s realisation of his own shortcomings as a father despite his best intentions.

The Family Sign starts very strongly but Slug is too relentless in his self-loathing and  too monochromatic in his flow to fully maintain my interest over 14 tracks. Before the end of the album, I’m checking to see how long is left. Not a good sign.

Nevertheless, listening to at least a few songs is highly recommended.

Explosions in the Sky: Take Care, Take Care, Take Care 2011

Explosions in the Sky: Take Care, Take Care, Take Care 2011

Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. Yeah, yeah, I know. EITS are complete nancy-boys compared to the mighty Isis or Pelican or Russian Circles. The Coldplay of post-rock.

Well I honestly pity you if can listen to the The Earth Is Not A Cold, Dead Place and not feel anything. They may not be experimental or bring any kind of extreme noise terror but EITS do know how to do one thing and do it well.

That’s truly convey emotion through their music without recourse to vocals. Your Hand in Mine never fails to fill me with melancholy to the point where I can barely breathe.

Eight years on, TCx3, as I will now call it, is no radical departure. To paraphrase some twat on P4K, EITS were put on this earth to twinkle our arses off and twinkle they do. Check Postcard from 1952 for some serious high-voltage twinklage.

True, it isn’t an emotional knee to the groin leaving me retching in the gutter gasping for breath this time around.

But it’s stirring and uplifting and perfect when you want to pamper your ears a bit after abusing them with filthy shit like Buzzov*en.

Honourable Mention: Amon Amarth – Surtur Rising. Intrigued by Full Metal Atorney’s review, I checked this out. I’ve previously dismissed them as I don’t give a flying one about Vikings and I don’t like melodic death metal.

As Amon Amarth are Viking obsessed melodeath, it seemed a no-brainer.

But they are actually pretty good. Chunky riffs, windmilling hair and fist-pumping choruses served up with a side-order of fun are the order of the day. Nice.

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10 Responses to “Weekly Round-up: Alela Diane, Atmosphere, Explosions in the Sky.”

  1. Full Metal Attorney April 19, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Not finding myself interested in any of these. I thought perhaps you read my article on what heaviness is? When you focus on extreme music, it’s confusing to use the term “heavy” in a different way. You’re speaking of emotional heaviness, not the physical kind common to metal.

  2. Kuz April 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    Thanks for taking the time to check them out even if they weren’t your thing.

    I know none of this music is “heavy” in the sense your talking about. For me this blog started out as just about heavy music, ie sludge, metal, doom, whatever, but I realised that the thing linking almost all the music I like is “intensity” of one kind or another, either the oppressive weight of doom or the thick guitar tones of sludge, the bass weight of dub and its relatives, or emotionally intense music.

    Thus I have broadened the scope somewhat. I hope you like some of it but if not, I’ll still be posting mainly about what you – and most people – think of as heavy music.

    I did read your post some time back on heaviness and found it interesting. I agree with your definition in many ways but my own personal take on what heavy is certainly centred on but not restricted to metal-related music.

    • Full Metal Attorney April 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

      I didn’t actually listen to any of them. From reading your descriptions, I find myself unmotivated to use my limited Youtube time to check them out. But I DID read your descriptions. The first two you say are mildly disappointing, so it doesn’t encourage me. The second one in particular is hip hop/rap or whatever, which is another strike against it, and you seem to think lyrics are an important aspect of it, so that’s another strike. Vocals are a good thing, because the sounds of the human voice add a great deal to music, but understanding them is not important, in my opinion. So if enjoyment is dependent on the lyrical content, I’m not interested. The third one is, you say, lightweight compared to Russian Circles. I reviewed Russian Circles’ Geneva a while back and went on a long discussion of what I think makes for good post-metal. Turns out, RC isn’t it, largely because it’s too lightweight. When I reviewed Anathema’s WHBWH, I realized I get bored real quick when everything’s pretty, and when I reviewed Alcest’s Ecailles de Lune I realized just how important ugliness is to post-metal. In my book, anyway.

      Post on the issue of how I choose what to listen to coming soon.

      • Pete F April 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

        Wow. Just…wow. PRE-tentious.

      • Kuz April 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

        Pete – Full Metal Attorney is cool and means no disrespect, I respect his views and taste even if I don’t agree 100% of the time.

        FMA – shame you didn’t listen but man, life is short and there’s so much music it’s just silly! Thanks for reading though. When I said they were disappointing, it’s only in comparison to prior albums. They are still good records but probably not for you!

        Your point about vocals is interesting and something I’m thinking about posting on. I’m with you for the most part. In metal certainly, I don’t care about lyrics at all and tend to view them as a sonic ingredient only. It’s all about the sound of the voice not what they are saying.

        However in hip-hop intelligent wordplay and storytelling are often a key component and i really enjoy this aspect.

        I actually really like RC and Alcest but I can see why they wouldn’t be up your alley.

      • Full Metal Attorney April 26, 2011 at 6:10 am #

        @ Pete F
        I’m always puzzled that some people take me as pretentious and others take me as quite the opposite. I think the written word makes me come off that way to some people.

        @ Kuz
        I hope you read the post today. Anyway, I explain I only have about an hour (maybe two) a week to actually check things out on Youtube, so that’s how things get squeezed out. But because of my unusual situation, I have time to listen to a lot of albums, just not casually checking things out. Life IS short, though, so I try to use my time wisely. And now I’m up way too late, so I’ll cut this short.

      • Full Metal Attorney April 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

        I wanted to add that your writing saved me that time, and I thank you for that. In other words, I value your opinion, which is the opposite of pretentious. If somebody thinks I’m pretentious because of my language, there’s nothing I’m willing to do about that. I tried dumbing my style down once upon a time, but I think that’s pretentious. I assume people are smart enough to understand me.

        Yeah, that accusation got to me. Semi-rant over.

  3. Rich April 19, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Loving the new EITS album!

  4. Pete F April 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    I love it when I find new heavy music that doesn’t rely on detuning or growling to be heavy; it’s just so unusual, in my opinion. Thanks for that. FYI: there’s two Madelaine Peyroux songs (I know, right?) that I think are massively heavy: “Between the bars” and “Weary Blues.” Leaden-souled, you might call them.

    • Kuz April 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

      Hey Pete, welcome to MDG – I hope you liked an intend to come back. I’ll definitely check those songs you mention, thanks. Not an artist I’d usually check but you never know!

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