A Loss For Words
The toilet inbox is often filled with music that lacks a human voice, so I have hand-selected a few that at least have a musical one. Let’s look at Barrows, Cydemind, and Ghost Toast.
Barrows – Obsidion – Tonzonen Records
Barrows’ new album is exceptional instrumental post-rock that gets you in the mood. In the mood for what? a young naive person may ask. Fear no more “the talk”. Just make them spin the album once and they’ll be telling YOU about some kinky shit. And by that I mean cold war espionage, sly action sequences, mutually assured destruction, and the occasional side boob.
It tells a story through menacing soundscapes, distorted guitars, and sci-fi eeriness. “Entrada” lays down a wickedly groovy krautrock rhythm while electronics and excellent guitar riffs tell the story. It’s a chase through a winding and sprawling neon city that ends with the villain getting away near the beach. We get the first taste of surf-rock tones to wrap up the action, which then leads us to “Oblivion”, the first of three super-long songs. While “Entrada” is an action packed-overture, the rest of the album takes a little more time to develop their scenes. The plots thicken with screaming guitars, drums with effortless flourishings, and threatening basslines. The electronics add just the perfect amount of weirdness to the whole ensemble.
If you couldn’t tell by my making-shit-up, this is seriously evocative stuff. Save this band to your writing playlist and see some of your best work emerge. Potentially the instrumental album of the year for me, depending on the state of my patience. The empty dark spaces can test my attention, but it’s so thematically strong that I can’t complain about the mode. You can check out one more song now on their Bandcamp, and the whole thing upon release this Friday.
Cydemind – Erosion
Taking a turn for the nerdier is the Montreal-based Cydemind. Their new album Erosion shows obvious influence from the early eras Dream Theater and Symphony X (the keyboards especially) but modernized slightly with excellent production. Where I find this excelling over a lot of prog these days is that it doesn’t go back to the 70s to fellate those influences as well. While it certainly gets to Haken levels of weird on occasion, the majority of the album stays firmly glued to the ground. Erosion joke.
The thing that makes this tolerable as instrumental music has to be the violin’s natural ability to stand in for the human voice. The strings are perfect emotional guides, stretching the listener from sorrow to elation. Each instrument takes its turn, but not in a “look what I can do” sort of way. Instead, the lead is handed off for much-needed variance (especially in the 27-minute behemoth in the middle, a very ballsy move I would say). Still, they manage to make Erosion feel like a solid concept album with continuing themes and riff-filled “choruses” amid the impressive instrumentation. It may not encourage any new prog fans, but it might bring some back to remember what they liked about it in the first place. Be sure to check out the full album, also this Friday.
Ghost Toast – Out of This World – Inverse Records
Honestly, I am mostly sticking this one on at the end because of the band name, but this Hungarian progressive instrumental band isn’t unpleasant to the ears. The Tool influence is pretty heavy handed, but if you like Tool, it’s not the worst thing a band could copy. The cello is often a nice stand in for vocals, but I can’t say I’m in love with some of the electronic features. Atmospherics and weird textural sounds are good, but throwing in a dance beat is maybe a little much for me. Luckily that only happens rarely, so be sure to skip around these sci-fi and mythological themed titles.
Out of This World is sort of a mix of the two above bands, with sci-fi electronics and a stringed instrument to help guide the way. There’s also a lot of weirdness with vocal samples mixed it. It’s a fun time. Check it out on June 7.