It’s pretty much inevitable when you go to a large festival that you won’t see all the bands you meant to and such is certainly the case with Iceland’s Ásgeir at SXSW – a musical act I was attracted to based more on name and country of origin than through actual listening habits. That was a huge misstep on part though as if I had made time to listen before my Texas excursion I certainly would’ve made time to see them perform.
The brainchild of singer/songwriter Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, the band are most likely to draw comparisons to Sigur Rós due to their shared homeland but other than that the similarities end there. Where Sigur Rós are atmospheric and ethereal, Ásgeir is much more direct; embracing pop conventions but by no means solely defined by them. On In The Silence (the English language version of debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn and US debut), Ásgeir manages to create a cohesive collection of songs that elude any concrete genre descriptors incorporating elements of electronica, chamber pop, and folk in good measure without getting bogged down by their inclusion.
“Torrent”, the latest single from his debut, is perhaps the most telling of the band. Surging forth like its namesake, “Torrent” is a deluge of melodic grandeur – from its thundering drums to its piano pop flourishes, Ásgeir effortlessly invokes wide open expanses with a life-affirming brilliance. Ásgeir’s vocals are silvery and pristine but there’s no deny they’re elevated by a knack for melodic songcraft – lending them a necessary insistence, a heightened state of drama that renders the track’s 3 minute length tragically brief.
Sometimes the best discoveries come just from following your favorite bands’ movements to perhaps an obsessive degree. Case in point, when Mutual Benefit announced that the support for their current in progress European tour would be Montreal’s Seoul, I was intrigued. I had never heard of them before but both the bands’ excitement to be playing together and Seoul’s self-descriptor as ambient-pop could’ve been enough to sell me, the fact Seoul manages to absolute nail what they do with that descriptor is all the better.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Seoul is they don’t revel in the beauty of their own soul like other ambient artists seems to do – there’s a definite sense of motion felt, a forward push toward an eventual conclusion. That Seoul manages to be both gorgeously scenic but artfully concise speaks to the clarity of their intent and the confidence in their musicality. “White Morning” is a sweeping, ethereal yawn; cavernously hollow but exhilarating in its multi-layered rush towards the finish line. Seoul’s song construction is pristine, effortlessly svelte, and almost bewilderingly understated in its complexity – enough so that while they’re never lacking in a clear, distinguished sound, it’s anyone’s guess just how many hands are in the pot.
Bedroom pop extraordinaire Emily Reo contributed this fantastic cover to Odd Castles’ stunning new cassette mixtape release, those who were once friends are now fam. Full mixtape is here, but let’s put the focus on Queen Emily for a minute:
Reo’s vocals were always the strongest part of her 2013 album Olive Juice, bewilderingly arranged and harmonized, adding intriguing complication to the songs’ sparse instrumentation. Since that album’s release we’ve been the beneficiaries of two of her best ever productions: her cover of The Pretenders’ “Birds Of Paradise” and now this downtempo, auto-tuned spectacle in the form of a Fleetwood Mac cover. Reo’s vocal modulations pierce even brighter than the manic synths that dance throughout the tracks’s 4.5 minutes, abetting the self-parodying cheesiness of the electronic drums with aplomb.
She’s just toying with us now… I really can’t wait for that next album.
Grab the Odd Castles cassette here »
In a way, the latest single from Brooklyn experimental pop quartet Conveyor is a return to form of sorts. Not to the vibrant, quirky rock pop of their debut self-titled full length which they’ve never really veered away from but the earlier days when Conveyor was far more electronic based in songs like “Twin Bank” and even some cuts from their Sun Ray EP. “Theme I (Edit)”, the first single from their upcoming instrumental album Prime, sees the foursome dipping their brushes in a bit of ambient coloring but not quite dulling their extensive textural pallet. It’s an interesting foray deeper into the world of electronics once more that the band manages to imbue with their unpredictable spirit. From the twangy lead guitar line that would not be at all out of place in Conveyor’s standard pop gems, “Theme I (Edit)” is more or less a development on a simple theme. A development that just so happens to include a swath of rising brass as it undulates forward a la perpetuum mobile before coming to a sputtering finish.
Conveyor’s instrumental full length Prime is out July 15th on double 12″ via Gold Robot Records.
Today NPR premiered the new video for The Acid’s insanely gorgeous song “Fame” from last year’s self-titled EP, featuring a beautifully choreographed dance routine from duo WIFE. Watch below: