Thursday, September 3, 2015


In case you hadn't noticed, Andrew Listens has been pretty quiet for the past few months. I've decided to take a long break from writing reviews. Trying to keep up with them had reached a point where it wasn't really enjoyable for me anymore and felt more and more like work than anything else, and was impacting my enjoyment of music overall. This break has been good so far, though, and I'm slowly ramping my way back into listening more.

I don't know when I'll start writing reviews again (if I even will do so regularly anymore). I apologize to the small handful of artists who had requested a writeup but never got one. If I do start making more posts here, you'll be at the top of my list.

I apologize for going so long without saying why the blog has been quiet. Thank you for your readership over the last few years.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Record store haul: May 23, 2015

It's been just under two months since my last haul—I wasn't planning on going but I was in the area and had some free time. And, apparently, cash to burn. Despite the increasing stock of crappy, overpriced represses (I try to never pay more than $15 for a typical record, and neither should you!), I managed to snag a pretty decent selection of music.

Ballast – Fuse (LP, $8)

Remember these guys from the last haul? They had both albums there, and since I liked the first one I picked out so much I decided to grab the second. More of the same slightly-melodic, slightly-crusty hardcore. Not sure which one is better yet, as I've given each just a spin or two, but these guys are still really good. I doubt they're still around (it's hard to say for sure) but if not, at least they left us with two fantastic albums.

Snowblood – The Human Tragedy (LP, $4)

This is a random obscure sludge metal band I discovered a couple years ago; they're not fantastic but their music is pretty decent if you're a die-hard sludge fan like me. For some reason there were three copies of this one in different parts of the store; they were all in disappointing shape but at the price it was hard to pass up, if not just to play once or twice and see how they sound on vinyl.

Cloud Rat – Cloud Rat (LP, $3)

I had actually heard of this band before—I got one of their splits in a mail-order haul from an online distro and they were decent enough, and $3 for an LP (even a shorter one) is a good deal. And they're great on this album, too; furious, relentless grindcore that tries (and succeeds) to push a few boundaries and stand out. These guys are worth checking out.

Muslimgauze – Deceiver (2×CD, $9)

I've been meaning to check out Muslimgauze for ages, hearing about his stuff here and there on the Internet for years, and I suppose it's finally time. I generally like middle-eastern-influenced music (maybe because I listen to so little of it so it's usually new and interesting), and Muslimgauze combines traditional Arabic tribal music with heavy, glitchy, and very-'90s-sounding electronic beats, combined with ambient sound collages and some stuff that sounds like noisy hip hop. It's pretty neat stuff, though I'm not sure how he managed to keep up the same shtick for the dozens of albums he did; even these two discs start to drag on after a while (after all, it's over two hours of material). Still, a cool novelty and I'm glad I eventually got around to looking into it.

Atheist – Elements (CD, $7)

Atheist – Jupiter (CD, $5)

I don't listen to much older death metal, but when I do, it's usually Atheist. (Maybe because they're only sort-of-death-metal—there's a lot of proggy jazzy stuff in there). I discovered these guys only kind of recently but I have been loving all of their albums; even though the first two are usually considered the best I think Elements is my personal favorite, and Jupiter is still good despite being the odd one out (released after a seventeen-year gap). Elements is a 2005 remaster from Relapse and, while I'm usually not thrilled about remasters and represses, I think I prefer this edition. You get some nice bonus tracks and it sounds amazing in the car—something I can't say for most older metal. One of those bands that, if you're into death metal at all, you should listen to at least once.

Robedoor – Rancor Keeper (CD, $5)

This is the third time I've gotten Robedoor from the record store even though (like I mentioned in an earlier review) I'm pretty sure I don't really care much for it. Drone can be good stuff but Robedoor is usually kind of boring. But this album is actually pretty good, and it had been so long since I listened to it that I forgot all about it. No, it's not amazing as far as drone goes, but there's some interesting stuff going on and not just indie-avant-wankering like I usually get with these kinds of releases. Even if the music isn't noteworthy the packaging on this album is really cool—the vertical cardboard gatefold has this neat angular-cut housing for the CD with a foam liner. Unique, if nothing else. Plus the Cthulhu wizard guy on the cover is pretty rad, you have to admit.

Various artists – D;O;UXF? (CD, $3)

Supposedly this is a compilation of local Columbus bands, though I wouldn't have known since I've never heard of a single one of these bands before—but the extra sticker teasing "OLD, WEIRD CBUS COMP" was hard to resist. Even the cashier told me I was in for a treat. There's a really bizarre mix of music here—going from noise to weirdo minimalist electronic to funk rock to cybergrind (and those last two were even the same band). Compilations like this are usually neat in concept but provide average music; this one isn't much of an exception. It's neat, and I'm glad it exists, but I probably won't be listening to it much at all, though there are a couple standout artists.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Beyond Creation – The Aura

April 4, 2011 • PRC Music

I've been listening to a lot of death metal lately. Don't ask me why; I guess it's just one of those phases (though I might have to blame Inanimate Existence). Beyond Creation is one of the many new modern-tech-death bands I've been pumping into my ears, and I have to say they're probably one of the better ones—and further evidence that Quebec has some of the best extreme metal out there.

It's tough to point to a specific thing that Beyond Creation does well, but I guess when it comes to death metal it's all about the riffs, isn't it? and this album has them in spades. The band does a great job of setting up nice groovy parts left and right while fitting all the parts together just right, and everything sounds very clean and meticulously-composed. Even the breakdowns are good—death metal breakdowns are all too often hamfisted and cheesy, but on The Aura they're actually done tastefully and don't overstay their welcome. There are also some nice pseudo-progressive, pseudo-jazzy clean parts to break up the intensity, and they're also done very well. All in all the band does a great job of not dawdling on one thing too long; they'll jump from crunchy headbanging riffs to furiously-paced wheedly guitar to energetic blasting, all at exactly the right moments. (Also, some fantastic bass work throughout—which I'm happy to say isn't rare in this kind of music, but it really shines here. They even have bass solos.)

Of course, like many other similar albums it does seem like it drags on a bit long, even at just fifty-two minutes. Maybe I'm noticing it now when listening a bit more closely instead of just jamming along while doing other stuff at work. Then again, I don't really notice much of a drop in quality anywhere—it's pretty consistent the whole way through—and that's always a good thing.

I won't say this album (or this band) will ever go down as some kind of classic. But after listening to what may be dozens of similar 2000s–10s death metal albums over the last few months, this one has managed to stay near the top of my list, so that's gotta be a good thing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cestine – Rugosa

April 24, 2015 • Hacktivism Records

Another followup EP this week: Cestine's Rugosa, a fantastic sequel to Other Half / Bright Encounter.

It's more of the same droning ambient, but again Cestine does it in a very effective way that few similar artists can do. While the music is relatively simple, it's produced in a way that is both engaging and relaxing. It has a hazy, fuzzy aesthetic created by huge, monolithic slabs of synth waves (or whatever they're using—it's always so hard to tell) and reverberation, layered up and sent cascading down. Although it's a bit slow-burning and takes its time getting the listener absorbed into it, if you have the patience for this sort of stuff it absolutely pays off—especially the EP's ending: a bittersweet string and wind ensemble over choppy bass rumbles and a bit of field recordings. A beautiful way to wrap up.

My only disappointment with it is that the tracks are far too short; three to five minutes is nowhere near long enough for this style of music, and that's something Other Half / Bright Encounter didn't have a problem with. On Rugosa the first three tracks seem like they're over before they've even started, and spooling them out to ten minutes or longer would have been simple. I could be very happy with these same four tracks in a longer album format.

Still, as they're presented they are wonderful to listen to and I'm glad I got this EP. Cestine (as a group) has sadly ended but hopefully the members' solo work can stay on the same level (I just have to remember to keep up with it!).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Inferni – The Doctor Is In

March 10, 2015 • self-released

Inferni is back with a slightly different name and a much different sound; though I've covered this band before they deserve a revisit after putting out this new release. They've ditched the old acoustic pop melodies for something more on the post-punk / emocore side. It may be my own genre bias talking, but I think the change suits them really well and this EP is a really great listen.

I'd call the music on this EP some kind of emo, but there are a lot of different influences getting mashed together here to pin it down well. However there is a sort of minimalist approach here which works very effectively—only one guitar keeps things from getting to messy, and the vocals are sparse to both draw attention to the music when needed, and to have a healthy emotional impact. But my favorite thing about these songs is that they have hit on just some really awesome riffs; my favorite is probably the progression in "Ondine's Curse", there's some great interplay between the choppy guitar playing and smooth bass on that track (although the arpeggios and such in "Stockholm Syndrome" are up there as well).

Among these five tracks there isn't a single weak one, and I'm personally really happy with this release. Maybe we can see another EP or even a full-length sometime in the future? hmmm? Anyway, definitely give The Doctor Is In a try. Great stuff.