Take-That, Lady Gaga, and why I haven’t done any reviews recently…

For those of you that have followed this blog thus far (that’s right I’m on about you three!) you would have noticed that despite my ‘One review a week’ aim, things have been very quite for a while now. Let me explain myself.

Writing, or rather writing regularly and objectively, always makes me feel good. What with University just around the corner (again! :D) it was good for me to get into the writing mood again. The reviews were a great medium to write creatively about things that mattered to me. After my last review I had a number of ideas about albums to review. But then something amazing happened. I started to write prose.

As soon as I got back from work every day I would write until I couldn’t stay awake. And you know what? I’m still writing. I’ve tried to write novels before (who hasn’t right?) but after about three thousand words I’d get bored with the concept, the characters, everything. I’d forget about it all completely. Then I stumbled across something I had started to write about a year ago, I read it with fresh eyes so to speak, it was pretty damn good. So I carried it on. I revived the characters, the plot. I designed the world with more detail and I got stuck in.

I have never felt this way about writing before. It’s like a story is clawing its way out of me. Half the time I don’t even think about what I’m writing. I sit down and let my mind wander and before I know it plot arcs are forming, characters are developing, all seemingly without me thinking about it. It’s a weird feeling. The words are flowing from my mind without any trouble whatsoever. And as it stands I’m nearing 50,000 words and it’s all happened in a fairly short amount of time. I’m aiming for 100,000 as a general goal but at this rate and with how much there is left to tell I imagine I’ll go over that amount.

I’m not saying that what I’m writing is perfect, it may amount to nothing in the end. But I can’t stop writing. There’s a whole world created, a whole set of people, an adventure, that exists now in words that would never have been there without me. In a rather twisted way it all relies on me to exist. To create a world, a whole reality, to have everything that happens there as your responsibility, it feels so exhilarating!

I have started talking to publishers, getting advice from published authors, and I even have artists ready to start working on the cover art and the world map (all good fantasy stories need world maps!), I don’t know where this will take me, but I feel good about it. It feels ‘right’.

That is my reason for neglecting this blog. I will try to sneak the occasional review in occasionally though!

But enough about me. I made this blog site with the aim of reviewing music so here’s a few music related things so that this post isn’t all about me!

First up, Take-That. I’m not fussed on them. Never have been. But one of their newer songs, and the video to this song, has been a pleasant surprise. It’s visually quite Steampunk, or at least some of the outfits are. This caused some outrage from the Steampunk community which I don’t think is fair. The song is really quite good, the video is entertaining, and the Steampunk outfits look good, rather than looking like a parody. This isn’t mainstream Steampunk, it was just an inspired off-the-cuff idea from one of the video directors that fitted the message of the song! And it works.

Which is more than Panic at the Disco can say about their foray into the genre.

So here is the video, Kidz, by Take That:

See? That wasn’t so bad was it? Anyone expecting Gary Barlow (yes I had to google the member’s names) to turn up at a Steampunk convention? No, because the video was just a bit of fun. And fun, coupled with creativity is what Steampunk is all about right?

Next up, Lady Gaga. I have avoided her this long simply because the music seemed to be going over the same ground that pop stars have been star jumping on for a while now. I gave one of her new songs a chance due to its name: ‘Judas’. I find religion incredibly interesting, as most atheists do I’m sure. So I was interested to see if the video and the song matched the name. And it really did. It was basically about a love triangle between Mary Magdalene, Jesus, and Judas. But looked at in a wider scope what it came across as was the human desire to embrace both the ‘good’ and ‘evil’ parts that make us human. In the video these three biblical characters and the disciples were a biker gang of sorts. It may sound lame but it works!

Here’s the video, enjoy:

After seeing this I checked out some of her other songs and got bored very quickly. But this song is still brilliant in my opinion.

Okay, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into my mind and into the more mainstream music area. Sure these songs need no publicity but I found them interesting discussion points when it comes to style genre’s and biblical teachings. You’re own opinions are your own and my opinions are mine. Make of it what you will.

Yours hastily,

-Zero Nine

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Review of KK & the Steampunk Orchestra’s album: “The Magic Lantern”

Summer is here! And as is always the way it is time to latch onto a particular album and claim that it is the soundtrack to your summer.

Well here is my entry: The Magic Lantern by “KK & The Steampunk Orchestra”, is the musical brain child of Kevin Kerrigan; a British based composer, record producer, and sound designer.

It is very rare for a song to really grab me and draw me in. Admittedly I was attracted to this album by its Steampunk connotations but after hearing “Pioneers” I couldn’t get it out of my head! So many Steampunk themed bands seem to be popping up of late and although I wouldn’t consider any of them to be terrible but there are only one or two that I can honestly say that I love.

The Magic Lantern brings back the feeling of adventure and mystery, in a way it reminds me of why I love Steampunk. It isn’t about goggles or top hats (although they are two very fun parts of it!). It’s about imagination. It’s about seeing a whole new world and allowing that world to (healthy) overlap into the real world. It is this sensibility that I feel The Magic Lantern evokes perfectly.

KK’s skill as a creator of music is incredible. In the past he has worked with: Brian Eno, Björk, Tim Booth, Dido, Natalie ImbrugliaJames Newton Howard and many others, he has also made many musical contributions for film, television and theatre. My point it, this man knows what he is doing. Your ears are in safe hands!

Although I will always be a fan of vocal led music it is quite often the case that an instrumental song will move me more so than it would had it included vocals. The lack of lyrics allow the music to truly act upon you imagination. Each song on this album feels like its own little world, each a little segment of reality that you are invited to, if only for a few minutes.

I couldn’t help but imagine scenes to match with each track, I could go on and on about each in particular but that wouldn’t be fair. This is a thinking persons album and although there may be similarities I doubt any two people will see the same world in the same track. I wouldn’t want to influence what you see! 

Naming no track names however I can tell you that this album could transport you to alien worlds, snow layered cityscapes, sad but beautiful wastes, thriving forests and haunted sci-fi amusement parks. Or it could lead you to totally different, even more amazing places.

 That’s another thing that I love about this album. It is so personal. It is your own individual experience. It is an album crafted to perfection but what it uses most is your own imagination; your own ability and willingness to work with the music rather than sit back and allow it to do all the work for you.

As readers of this blog will know, the soundtrack of my imagination is already a position held by another: You Know Who. But The Magic Lantern is most definitely the soundtrack to my summer, and in the running for the soundtrack to my soul! It is an album entirely expressed without words and I admit that I am having difficulty with finding the words to describe it to you.

Perhaps my inability will speak more for the power of this album than I could ever hope to type down here. But whatever the case I sincerely implore you to give it a chance. It deserves to be heard, and you deserve to hear it. In some ways you owe it to yourself. When was the last time you let an album truly into your mind? Get The Magic Lantern, dim all the lights, lay back and remember what it was to dream of more than what there is.

Personally, I’m halfway through “Pioneers” and I just set sail into the aether aboard an air-borne galleon.

I’ll see you on the return journey!

Zero Nine

KK & the Steampunk Orchestra can be found on:

Facebook

Myspace

and the The Magic Lantern is available from Itunes!

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Abney Park – Why they are the soundtrack to my imagination:

As a music reviewer it is important to keep a certain degree of distance between you and the music you are reviewing, objectivity is the key and without it all a review becomes is a  fan boy/girl rant. It is for that reason that I have never reviewed any album by Abney Park. It would end up being a 10,000 word essay on how bloody amazingly awesome cool they are (yes: ‘awesome cool’). It would be so flattering no-one would believe it and so long that even fans would get bored with reading it… and the band may take out restraining orders on me… even if they are an ocean away.

So I won’t mention their music in any great detail, nor review them as such. What I will do instead is lay them out on a visual platter for your eyes to devour. So without further ado I give you the Seattle-based band Abney Park. I promise you, as fantastic as they look, they sound even better ;D

The members of Abney Park have altered slightly over the years and although each deserves a mention I felt it made more sense to use only pictures of the current line up to avoid confusion. So, in the picture above, from left to right: Nathaniel Johnstone, Jody Ellen, Captain Robert, Kristina Erickson and Daniel Cederman.

Captain Robert: The band’s front man and undisputed leader (they don’t call him the captain for nothing!). Besides lead vocals he also plays: Darbuka, Diatonic button accordion, harmonica, bouzouki, bağlama and ukulele!

Daniel Cederman: Master of the Flintlock Bass and damn nifty on the acoustic guitar Daniel brings the firepower!

Kristina Erickson: With her keyboard and piano prowess Kristina provides the band with the atmosphere that has made them what they are.

Nathaniel Johnstone: Guitar, violin, mandolin, banjo… Nathaniel seems to have mastered them all… switching between them all during songs can prove difficult however! Fortunately there are always fans willing to lend a hand!

Jody Ellen: Vocals also, but by no means backing; Jody brings a new level of vocal diversity to the crew!

Out of all the Steampunk bands and stories created, none seem so complete as that which Abney Park have created around themselves….

Their attention to detail, both with their instruments as well as their outfits is astounding.

These are people who Live their music. It really is their world. And it shows.

And all the work they’ve put in is greatly appreciated; their fan base grows on a daily basis. There are very few in the Steampunk community who don’t know of them.

And don’t go thinking their instruments and clothes are shop bought! Steampunk is the style of the creative and as such almost everything in these pictures has either been made from scratch by the band themselves or bought and altered. All you need is imagination and will power when it comes to Steampunk. They have barrels of both. 

Their community is ever-growing, they have very active Facebook and Myspace accounts and all their music so far can be found on Itunes. Their website is also a great port of call for those of you that want to find out more!

If everyone dressed like this the world would be a better place… visually at least!

It is heartwarming to see a band so immersed their own lore. They are a force of musical nature.

Live they are superb; they care a huge amount about their fans and happily hang out before and after gigs. Personally I have never felt so appreciated for appreciating good music!

 I have yet to find a song of theirs I don’t like, and I have over a dozen that I completely Love.

 Goddamnit Abney Park, I salute and support you in all your endeavors! I was lucky enough to see them in London a few years ago, and even luckier to get the picture below:

I’m surprised I’ve been able to keep it as brief as I have! There is so much more I could say, but the rest is yours to discover.

As mentioned they are available through:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Abney-Park/312292093741

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/abneypark

And also Itunes

Their website is the best place to start: http://www.abneypark.com/

They are, as you may have guessed, my favorite band. And although some may disagree I think of Abney Park as being the forefront in music and style when it comes to the genre of Stemapunk. But more importantly they are making music that they want to make, and they are designing, making, and wearing clothes that matches their music perfectly.

They are a band that lives what they do, and loves what they create. And for that reason they have my respect, and my almost crazy level of fandom.

Till next time; I’m on the airship with the biggest guns… come get me…

Zero Nine

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Review of HUMANWINE’s album: “Mass Exodus”

Artist: HUMANWINE

Album: Mass Exodus

Genre: Gyspy/Steampunk/Rock

Those of you have followed my judgmental music ramblings so far may have noticed that I like music that tells a story; something that has a background or a theme that turns each song into a chapter of a narrative. In this respect HUMANWINE, or H.U.M.A.N.W.I.N.E. (Humans Underground Making Anagrams Nightly While Imperial Not-Mes Enslave) if you’d prefer, tell a dark and twisty story indeed with their album Mass Exodus.

Imagine, if you will, a scorched out landscape. The world as we know it has come to an end. Money means nothing, the government is little more than a vague nightmare and humanity is clinging on just barely in little tribes. Through this post apocalyptic world travel a small gypsy band, stopping at each little town and singing their songs that chronicle the fall of humanity, well that band is HUMANWINE.

“…We dine on all the stories of our kind…”

                                                                    You Are Free

With musical diversity and a range of styles Mass Exodus feels as much like an experimental album as it does a narrative one and fortunately for HUMANWINE they have the skill and vision to carry it off. Whether it’s the reading of diary entries in ‘Factory In A Burning City’ or the instrumental interludes of ‘Dance Of The Veil Nil’ and ‘When They Come In The Middle Of The Night’ or the haunting tribal flow of ‘Breathe’, HUMANWINE manage to maintain a single drive that ties together all their varied sounds creating an album that is as much an experience as anything else.

“…I look into your eyes: I see dollar signs…”

                                                                          Expense of Apathy

 

 

I wouldn’t say Mass Exodus is particularly easy to listen to however. That is something you have to get used to with this band: they are not aiming to be background noise or pop-song catchy. They want each song to mean something, to make a point, and if you aren’t able to understand that point then they don’t want you listening. This can be off-putting but it is certainly an original and commendable way of creating music. They don’t feel the need to dumb-down their music for mass enjoyment, nor do they feel the desire to dumb down their message to get their points across.

“… Support, support, your right to report…”

                                                                            1st Amendment (Live)

Focusing on a message has its drawbacks however. Occasionally tracks can seem preachy and somewhat blunt. This may be on purpose but when making a message blatant it can come across as condescending from the listener’s standpoint. Having said that it only happens occasionally and can be forgiven thanks to tracks such as ‘You Are Free’ and ‘Breathe’ to name just two, which perfectly balance HUMANWINE’s ability to create an incredibly well constructed song whilst getting their message across subtly.

“…can’t remember half the things that happened here, you disappeared…”

                                                               Dementia (Live)

What impressed me about Mass Exodus, and for that matter HUMANWINE in general, is that they seem unshakably REAL. They are not going for over produced polished tracks and, just as it should be, this never detracts from the music, if anything it adds to it! The live tracks especially give the album that feeling of authentic musicianship both instrumentally and lyrically. In doing this their music takes a life and a charm all of its own. Holly Brewer’s voice in particular is in a league of its own, and although her warts-n-all method of singing may put some people off, its power and dominance and ability to instantly create atmosphere is undeniable. If you don’t understand what they’re trying to do however then rest assured that you’re not their target audience.

“…paranoia rushes through your veins…”

                                                                           Our devolution is Televised

 

 

They are a talented and original band with a lot to say and the skill with which to say it. Although it took a few listens to truly appreciate Mass Exodus, now that I have I can honestly say I’m hooked. They are definitely worth a listen and if their style does spark your imagination then download the album!

To listen to Mass Exodus check out HUMANWINE’s Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/humanwine/music/albums/mass-exodus-17141783

Or follow them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/HUMANWINE/92012988332

Album available on Itunes.

See you by the camp fire!

Zero Nine

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Review of Suffering Silence’s album: “Revolution”


Artist: Suffering Silence

Album: Revolution

Genre: Hybrid/Metal/experimental

The London-based band Suffering Silence are a rare find, they seem to have found a balance between their influences and their own creativity that presents itself with a remarkably well thought-out and executed sound. With their third album ‘Intergalactic’ on the way now seems good a time to take an in-depth look at their second album Revolution.

The diversity present in their image, sound and message is a real pull for this band and one that they utilise well. I admit that the choice of representing the band members in an anime/manga styled way drew me in, pun intended, but it was the mixture of musical elements that kept my interest.

“…Concerned about, the thoughts running through your head…”

                                                                                                                        Let Me In

Well balanced combinations seem to be the bands forte in fact. The raw and clean vocals intertwine in such a way that they compliment and frame each other effectively whilst the other influences such as rap, metal, tribal drumming, experimental electro as well as half a dozen others manifest alongside one another without seeming to overshadow or consume each other. A feat which is commendable in itself, even more so when Revolution does all this whilst still managing to sound and feel unique.

“…What the hell are they to do when we don’t fucking compromise?…”

                                                                                                                             Free Your Mind

Among other things Revolution is an album based on paranoia, love, insecurity. The anti-establishment values present in tracks such as ‘Free Your Mind’ are pleasantly at odds with the desire to be accepted and appreciated in tracks like ‘Take Me Away’ and ‘Stay’. It is this uncertainty that make Revolution shine; it covers a wide range of ideals both personal and external whilst remaining true to the wide range of doubts and questions always present in life. Because of this it makes the album, and thus the band, relatable.

“…Your heart, it turns to stone. You’re all alone…”

                                                                                  Move Fwd (Your Time Is Now)

 

 

The rebellious tracks are not so overblown that they become cheesy, the tracks that could be considered love songs are more matter-of-fact instead of tacky and the insecure tracks never seem to be complaining. Because of this Revolution becomes an effective, successful and original means of showcasing thoughts, feelings and emotions ever-present in each of our lives. Not that this is all about thoughts and feelings…

“…I don’t Fucking think so!…”

                                                                        Human Eradication

Revolution is, as the name suggests, an album about an uprising. But against what? The steady build up of indecision, fear and authoritarian dissatisfaction comes to head round about track eight: ‘Revolution’. From there the tone becomes one of anger and fury, but also one of hope. The musical interlude ‘The Awakening’, as an almost meditative track which, although doesn’t lessen the tempo certainly symbolises a sense of calm. It perfectly sets up the album for its concluding three tracks. The last burst of rage in ‘Trigger’ clears the way for the album’s strongest track: ‘Read Between The Signs’, which in turn gives way to the pulsing, perfectly named ‘A New Beginning’. If the sound so far has been transitioning from uncertainty to rebellion then this final track is its rebirth; a rebirth that sets Suffering Silence rightly up for their next offering, which I sincerely hope will supersede all my expectations!



Suffering Silence have definitely got an underground feel to them, Revolution has just the right amount of grit, backed up with seemingly high production values, that marks the album out as something quite special.

It may take a little while to appreciate its little nuances but Revolution is definitely worth your time. I fully endorse the downloading of this album. Especially when they are literally giving it away for free! It won’t be for everyone but for those on their wavelength and for those who are willing to give them a try: I hope Revolution impresses you as much as it has me.

To download the album follow the link:

http://www.last.fm/music/Suffering+Silence/REVOLUTION

And to learn more about the band check out their myspace and facebook pages:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Suffering-Silence/10391856084

http://www.myspace.com/sufferingsilence

 See you after the revolution!

 – Zero Nine

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Review of The Cog is Dead’s album: “Steam Powered Stories”

The Cog is Dead are a Steampunk four piece hailing from DeLand, Florida. What with the Steampunk music scene still being as small as it is you’d be forgiven for never having heard of it so before I get stuck into ‘Steam Powered Stories’ I would just like to say that Steampunk as a visual style is hard to define and its music even more so. There is a great deal of debate over what constitutes as ‘Steampunk’ in the musical world; the bands vary so wildly in style and sound that all you can really do is pick your own favorite, or be radical and like them all!

But for me what makes a band and their music ‘Steampunk’ is just as much to do with their own back story as it does with what they wear and the sound they create. With that in mind lets look at ‘Steam Powered Stories’, the debut offering from The Cog Is Dead…

Perhaps I set myself up for a fall but I so wanted to love this album. The cover art work, the band’s fantasy back story (a group of musical time travelers from the year 1893 whose mission is to journey through time in an attempt to bring steam back as the world’s main source of power and replace all digital clocks with clockwork) and the track titles practically dripping with Steampunk influence caught my imagination completely! But after the first listen through I was more bemused than enthralled.

Not because this is a bad album, don’t misunderstand me. But because the quality song to song jumps about so much that I couldn’t get into the flow of it. Tracks such as ‘The Depths Below’ and ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ are almost perfect in atmosphere and construction whilst songs like: ‘Let Me Be Your Man’ and ‘Mechanical Menagerie’ seems childlike and clumsy in comparison. It was this contrast throughout the album that left me feeling frustrated.

I should point out at this point that there are a half-dozen songs in ‘Steam Powered Stories’ that are quite simply amazing, they captured my imagination completely and I can safely say that some of them are among my most highly thought of tracks. I do not make such statements lightly or without good reason.

However, it was only after I extracted them from their placements amongst the other tracks on the album that I was able to appreciate them, and in turn realise how talented this band is. Left where they are they become lost between what I consider the album’s ‘lesser’ songs. I’m all for contrast but not when it cancels out, or worse, makes a mockery of a tracks message.

For example: the track ‘I Want Only You’, a reggae style Steampunk love song, whist entertaining and certainly creative, completely ruins the transition between the righteous fury in ‘The Death Of the Cog’ and the heartbreaking heroism present in ‘A Letter To Michelle’. Not that I’m against fun songs, humour is great in an album when done correctly, but I think The Cog Is Dead have missed the target and that in this particular case these songs only serve to distract from the tracks that truly showcase their skill, depth and vision.

As a band they need to find their balance, if they do then their next release could well be something superb. At the moment they show a huge amount of promise, but I couldn’t suggest buying the whole album (available from Itunes). If you do get chance to hear or buy any of their songs then just know that the following show The Cog Is Dead at their best:

Blood, Sweat and Tears

The Depths Below

The Copper War

Time Machine

The Death Of The Cog

A Letter To Michelle

These are all well worth buying in my opinion!

And here is a link to their website for those of you who want to find out more: http://www.johnmondelliproductions.com/thecogisdead/index.html

I’ll be watching, Mr Sprocket, I’ll be watching…

See y’all next time!

Zero Nine

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Review of Ben Steed and The Orchestra of Symmetry’s album: “Anywhere But here”

 

Artist: Ben Steed and The Orchestra of Symmetry

Album: Anywhere But Here

Genre: Electronica / Experimental / Techno / Steampunk

Anywhere But Here, the second offering from Ben Steed and the Orchestra of Symmetry continues where the last album finished. There are marked improvements, whilst retaining many of the features which made the last album what it was.

A greater confidence is evident; the opening track “Anywhere But Here (Part 1)” jumps straight into a relatively fast paced melody, something that was lacking in Distorted Skies. Whilst the vocals seem far more at ease within the songs, showcasing both the growing talents that Ben Steed has both as a vocalist and as an all-round maker/mixer/ creator of music.

“…I wish I could be, anywhere but here…”

                                                                                Anywhere but Here (Part 1) 

 

The albums faster pace brings with it a sense of fun. This is an artist who is enjoying making and hearing his own music, and that really shines through. Not that this is by any means a comical album, far from it, perhaps a better term would be: ‘sinisterly eccentric’

“…I’ll even take your shoes…”

                                                          A Sight to be Seen

 

The frequent use of vocals, in comparison to his last offering, gives his sound far more of a purpose. “Anywhere But Here” puts forward songs that are catchy, well-balanced, and that have not lost any of the skill exhibited in the previous album. It is important to remember however that it is not Ben Steed’s way to instantly please his fans but rather to allow the music he creates grow of its own accord; constantly developing and rewarding the listener for his or her perseverance. ‘Anywhere But Here’ builds on this pattern by separating vocal heavy tracks from melody centred tracks. In the separation lies the albums strength: by the division both styles have become far better. Ben Steed is well on his way to realising his sound.

 “…Come dance with me, dance with me…”      

                                                      Mariana

 

At a track count of 14 it is a big album, with big ideas. Perhaps some will find this hard to get to grips with and for that reason not listen to every track from start to finish. Fortunately there are enough stand out tracks to make this okay: ‘The Town of Many Faces’, ‘A Sight to be Seen’, ‘Centre of the Earth’, ‘Something in the Air’, and ‘Mariana’ being among my personal favourites. And whilst there are a few forgettable tracks on the album such as ‘Folie a Deux’, and ‘Lullaby’, there is no denying Ben Steeds creativity.

“…We consist and exist solely on contemplation…”

                                                                            The Town of Many Faces

 

It is without doubt a thoughtful album, and bursting with film and game references in its scope and atmosphere. There is conflict between the tracks that to want to be a ‘soundtrack’ and those that want to be songs in their own right but not so much that it makes the album uneven. It is, in my opinion, successful in what it sets out to do. And as mentioned it is another step in the right direction for Ben Steed and his Orchestra of Symmetry. At the reasonable price of: ‘as much or as little as you wish to pay’ you have no reason to not give it at least one listen…

…I dare you…

http://bensteed.bandcamp.com/

For more about this music and its creator:

http://www.myspace.com/bensteedmusic

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ben-Steed/233683976107

Till next time!

-Zero Nine

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