Album Reviews: February 15, 2017

Owen Maxwell takes a look at new releases
from Mother Mother, Sinkane, Vermont,
Bikini Deathray and March Break Club.

Mother Mother – No Culture (Vancouver)
Vancouver’s most dangerous art-rockers hit back with the surprising No Culture. Right of the bat this record establishes its voice firmly in a heavy but biting grit the band does so well, with some underlying sweetness hidden throughout. While the record is less single focused, overall it’s a tighter and more focused record than the band’s put out in a while, feeling like a complete unit rather than an uneven mash. Songs like “Love Stuck,” and “Family” carry the light side of the record while dangling darker notes in front of listeners. Alternatively tracks like “The Drugs” fall in line with the band’s dark, fast rock sound that’s led their singles for the past few albums while “Mouth of The Devil” lends the slow jamming, harmony driven pop the bands been slowly leaning towards more and more with each album. While it might have pushed the album over the top to have some powerful singles, the overall cohesion on the record is much more worth it.

Sinkane – Life & Livin’ It (UK)
Mixing elements of funk and jazz, with an elegant sense of African rhythms and melodies, Life & Livin’ It by London session king Sinkane is truly a unique record to say the least. Searing vocals tear through songs like “Deadweight,” while powerful percussion and improve rule the exotic jazz of “U’Huh” in more jam-like fashion. Some may find the jam style of the album hard to get addicted to, but it’s hard to not dance to the beats and pop of “Favourite Song” or have a funk freak-out to the Kool and the Gang styling’s most present on “Telephone.” Overall the album blends a lot of different styles into a record that’s exotic and familiar at the same time while maybe at times a little to jam or jazz heavy for those looking for more of a pop structure.

Vermont – II (Cologne, Germany)
German ambient act Vermont really craft imagery in their music, and their latest record II pushes that imagery to new heights. While some may be put off by more sparsely ambient tracks there’s a lot here that could easily score science fiction in a heartbeat, think parts Stranger Things by SURVIVE or Turbo Kid by Le Matos. There’s so much excitement and wonder to be found on the electronic soundscapes of “Norderney,” “Gebirge” and “Ki-Bou,” that it’s often hard to not imagine something to set the music to in your mind. The album offers throwback sounds on tracks "Unruh" and "Chemtrails" while offering sprawling and new sounds on "Ufer." While not for everyone, this album will offer the ambient soundtrack crowd something really worthwhile in its introspective beauty.

Bikini Deathray – Bikini Deathray (Ottawa)
Lo-fi surf-rock gets unbelievably distorted on the new record from Ottawa's Bikini Deathray. Mixing the guitars that are fuzzed to their limits and keys so bitcrushed they often sound 8bit, the album is a hallmark of the keep it simple style of writing. The guitars are constantly cutting and the drums drive ceaselessly, on these short but sweet tracks. The talking-style vocal delivery may not appeal to some but it fits the aesthetic well given most of the heavy intensity comes in instrumental breaks like the explosive "Creature Of The Deep." While passionate vocals may lend another angle to this record, it works regardless, and tracks are often short enough to not leave one thinking on it for too long. The band does however have some creative turns on the interlude of "Surfinterlood" and the experimental intro of "X–," which then proceeds to shred off into an abyss of reverb and echo.

March Break Club – Alligator Pie (Ottawa)
This little record from local midi-masters March Break Club is the perfect record for a relaxing evening. Their blend of pop informed piano melodies mixed with percussion and horns make for some of the best moments on the record. At the same time the overtly midi sound of the record may be too artificial or corny for some but those that don't mind it will find a very uplifting record. There's even an indie hip hop feeling on tracks like "flewellyn" and "dan the dwarf" that seem like one lyric away from taking on a whole new meaning. The other side of this coin is "joseph" and "thank you!" that feel like the score of a video game or indie project, with their sweet and emotive tone through piano and keyboard sounds. If you love midi this is one album that will really give you more than you bargained for.