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It's been a week of electronic music of the experimental variety here on Immortal Reviews, and to send it off, we have a unique blend of two unlikely genres. Mica Levi hits heads with Oliver Coates to create Remain Calm, an odd album that is neither here or there.
Remain Calm combines classical music with electronic samples. It's an eclectic mix, but when balanced, they work well together. It's a short album, clocking in at under thirty minutes, but in that time there is definitely variety. The pair dabbles with different textures throughout the record, exploring minimalism amidst a seemingly shocking combination of genres. The dark sounds of 'Barok Main' contrast the upbeat, sampled vocals of 'Xhill Stepping,' really showing the divid of sound on the record.
It's hard to describe what exactly this album is. It's avant-garde, but it's also contemporary classical. Furthermore, it dabbles with experimental electronica and sampling. "Deep minimalism" is a term being thrown around to describe this record, and it works out well. Many songs find atmosphere amongst their simplicity: see 'Bless Our Toes,' creepy strings harmoniously sounding beneath weird samples without anything sounding too upfront. Oliver Coates is a behind-the-scenes collaborator with Radiohead, his strings being the contribution to their albums and this one. Mica Levi provides the odd samples and synths, creating the somewhat left-field sounds this record has to offer.
Our previous reviews have had much the same criticisms, but Remain Calm suffers from different problems. Ironically, one of the album's biggest problems is that it's just too weird. There are flashes of great ideas and dark textures that interlace themselves into each song, but the glitching sounds sometimes distort the atmosphere. The playtime is both a blessing and a curse; the song's are generally short and don't build to something that never comes, but it's laced with pointless, thirty second interludes that really don't add anything to the record.
Remain Calm has great ideas, but none are executed in the right ways. Mica Levi and Oliver Coates had the right mindset, but perhaps they can reconvene in the future to make something that's more substantial and has direction. Remain Calm just feels like a mess.
Favorite Track: Barok Main
Least Favorite Tracks: Interludes, County H
Rating: 43 / 100
2016 hasn't had enough weird yet. Melt Yourself Down is here to take care of that, with their newest album Last Evenings On Earth full of crushing bass combined with North African beats and jazzy spirals.
Right off the bat, we get some Lightning Bolt vibes with heavily distorted bass in 'Dot To Dot'. The song features frantic and tribal saxophones over a threatening beat paired with subtle electronics and huge demanding vocals. The wild saxophones run amok all over this record; 'Listen Out' and 'Body Parts' featuring prominent use of the instrument. Pete Wareham really outdid himself - the brass section on this album is killer. Vocalist Kushal Gaya lends his voice in a strong way. A lot of the vocal performances on the record sound bewildered and entranced, as if the music was backing some sort of ritual. Some of the lyrics are near nonsensical, at that, too. I'm not quite sure what language 'Yazzan Dayra' is written in (if it isn't gibberish). 'Big Children (Gran Zanfran)' sounds like French to me, but don't quote me. The vocals are as diverse as being sung in different languages! The percussion features a lot of tribal beats and even steel drums and bongos to add color and authenticity; 'Bharat Mata' and 'The God Of You' make good use of the North African vibes in the percussion. There are subtle electronics hidden throughout the track, except for standout track 'Jump The Fire', where electronics are brought to the forefront of the track. The electronic sound actually lends itself really well to the brooding and bouncy instrumentation of the song. It's probably the most normal sounding song on the record, which is saying something as it's still a pretty weird song!
Melt Yourself Down is pretty crazy. Their avant-garde jazz/tribal fusion is something that no one has ever quite heard before. Grand instrumentation fused with thick tribal beats and fat brasses give the album an interesting and unique sound that has much space for growth and forming a niche. The album does go a tad overboard with how fanatic it is, but that's part of doing something like this. There's no art without a little insanity.
Favorite Tracks: Jump The Fire, Dot To Dot
Least Favorite Track: Listen Out