December 11, 2013
Today's Hotness: Burning Alms, Markus Guentner
>> It feels like a conspiracy. Whenever any one of the three bands that make up the Birmingham, England cohort of Calories, Burning Alms and Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam does something, it increasingly has become the case that one or both of the other bands follows suit, and in doing so overwhelm hapless music bloggers the world over. Or at least us. And so it was last month we were minding our business one morning when Burning Alms floated a new track, the bludgeoning anthem "Matadors," out into the digital ether. The very next morning Calories dropped a bomb, announcing that it had released for free to the Internerds its hotly anticipated third long-player, III. We've finally caught our breath three weeks later, enough anyway to tell you about "Matadors" (we'll leave a discussion of III for next week). The song charges out of the gate with a bright, open chord that drones into the greedy embrace of a galloping rhythm section. A second chord is momentarily applied at the end of each verse, and then the sprint is on again. In lieu of a chorus, Burning Alms -- which is apparently presently composed of 3/4 of Calories, namely Thomas Mark Whitfield, John Robert Biggs, and uber-producer/former Sunset Cinema Club guy Dom James -- offers only scraping, discordant guitars. It's an exciting exercise despite its minimal approach to melody; instead pace, energy and tension take center stage. If there is an irony here, it's that of the three interrelated rock acts mentioned supra, Burning Alms has heretofore provided the most quiet music (although all of the older tracks have been scrubbed from the Internet), and the most reserved Internet presence (which is an achievement in itself, given that Calories and Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam do very little to promote themselves). With Calories' III and Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam's self-titled full-length now out, it would seem the next to drop has to be from Burning Alms. Given how exciting "Matadors" is, we have very high expectations for the full-length, which has apparently was a year in the making and is called In Sequence. Mixing of the album was to have been completed Nov. 30, and we're told the album is done and the band intends to tour to support it in 2014, so now we just wait. Stream "Matadors" via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to download the track for free. As an aside, we're dying to know why Burning Alms tagged "Matadors" with the word Pennsylvania on Bandcamp... as that is our home state... and they are from England. Always intriguing, these guys.
>> We’re becoming increasingly familiar with the Brooklyn- and Ann Arbor-based electronic label Moodgadget, as their well-curated roster and releases continue to match our tastes well. The label's latest digital release features German ambient artist Markus Guentner, who we have somehow managed to not write about in more than five years. Mr. Guentner's new collection is titled Shadows Of The City, and it is a stirring and introspective set populated by endless, synth-toned skies. While most of the compositions follow a similar route, layering harmony after harmony over several simple chords, each one stimulates a different mood. A highlight of the set, "Ashes," adheres to the drone formula with a steady, unwavering series of icy harmonies that slowly churn and cascade over one another in a peaceful meditation. The full and resonant production leverages well Guentner's facility with blending tones and frequencies, so that circular melodies and rhythms emerge from the gaping expanses that initially confront the listener. As on the title track, Guentner adds a steady drum pulse that tethers the tune to some Euro-house roots -- further abetting the sound of train tracks and swooping flange-synth that glide through the song. Shadows Of The City is best experienced in a single sitting; its 48 minutes are the perfect length for a morning jog, reading break, or headphone experience, with just the right amount of digital, electronic precision and intelligent ambient composing. Purchase the album on iTunes, here. -- Edward Charlton