2012.07.07

Cube – Cube (2012)

Cube - Cube (2012) album coverI don’t often write about Greek bands and for good reason. If there is one thing one can write about the rock underground in Greece is that it is unpredictable. Its rare highs exceptional, its frequent lows painful and the uncertainty surrounding the future of a band, person or even a release a dire constant, in this country devoid of the necessary cultural and economic foundations to support musicians (and, arguably, artists in general), unless they fall in that sonically and æsthetically narrow slice that spans everything between contemporary greek-kitsch and the multitude of offsprings of the archetypal oriental-meets-byzantine ‘folk’.

In the past decade I’ve followed, albeit from a certain safe distance, this hellenic rock underground; defiant, full of energy and with the appearance of Spinalonga Records in 2005 and several other projects like it in the years that followed — some not-for-profit, others commercial — organised, promoted, somewhat more efficient that what you’d expect from any ‘underground’ music scene.

Even in the rose-tinted 2000s, few bands ever managed to survive the Greek cultural decay (one that preceded the economic and political decay we live in), few artists went on to bigger and greater things and the good (and few amazing!) releases that came out were often followed by the harrowing silence of a breakup, leaving the audience stymied and disappointed. Cube, while never in the spotlight, at times verging on the border of dissolution, have maintained a constant understated presence that transcended the changing landscapes of its members and tastes.

Yet despite their perseverance, there was little on the record about their contribution to rock. Apart from a few bootlegs and ‘fan’ videos of live performances online, the last thing reminding the world of Cube was their 2002 EP, a release not representative of their evolving æsthetic, skill, maturity or, for that matter, lineup and a few tracks in diy, limited release, such as Spinalonga’s own ‘In the Junkyard’ among others.

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»  Brett Garsed – Dark Matter (2011)

Brett Garsed - Dark MatterIt’s nine years since Brett Garsed’s last solo album, Big Sky. And while his output has more or less declined in volume this past decade, his latest album, Dark Matter is a great example of contemporary Rock Fusion, along the lines of Big Sky as well as many of his numerous appearances and collaborations.

Although I only got the album a few hours ago, I have found it to be particularly interesting in that it literally ‘fuses’ (pun intended!) several familiar — at least to me — related styles: Vintage Satch, Liquid Tension Experiment, touches of Holdsworth, Fripp, Metheny and Shawn Lane.

The tracks are more upbeat and energetic than those found in Big Sky; jazzier at times, heavier in others, with a distinct bent on fusion. I particularly enjoyed Avoid the Void, Dark Matter and Enigma, although I cannot say that any of the other tracks were disappointing.

Dark Matter may be an interesting album, yet it is somewhat typical of the genre, which has been largely stagnant for years. It may lack the exceptional feel one finds at times in Big Sky — there are no tracks like Trinity or Drowning, for example — but includes many tracks with more uplifting, polished and — I might argue — technical deliveries of interesting compositions and improvisations that lean heavily on Garsed’s signature technique and sound.

For those enjoying rock fusion, progressive rock and virtuoso guitar instrumentals this is definitely an album worth getting and listening to. Those more familiar with Garsed’s competence and compositional skills (and more demanding of their music) may have expected a bit more.

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2009.03.16

Lanterna – Elm Street

Lanterna - Elm Street CoverThis past weekend, during coding, I opened last.fm and clicked on ‘My Recommendations’ and a short while later ‘B Minor’ from the 2001 album ‘Elm Street’ by Lanterna started playing from my speakers.

The track is captivating, its ambience, smooth and flowing — so different to many ‘guitar-based’ tracks out there, while at the same time more interesting sonically from the ‘electronic’ equivalents. It took little time after this before I visited 7Digital and bought the album in mp3 format.

The album, twelve instrumental pop-rock tracks featuring acoustic and — in general — clean electric guitars, strings and pads as well as playful basslines and up-beat drums is perfect material for those times when music needs to be subtle, yet more than just sonic wallpaper.

The music is hard to pinpoint, somewhere betweeen post-rock and shoegaze with a strong element of pop making it easy on the ears, yet at the same time more than your archetypal commercial variety.

The ‘band’ released a few more albums, since Elm Street came out. I’ll certainly be looking for them in the near future.

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2008.06.21

Truckers of Husk – Physical Education EP

It was completely by accident that I stumbled upon this great EP by Welsh/British band Truckers of Husk. I was trying to find a video on YouTube when I accidentally clicked on one of the popular videos titled ‘Sleeveface‘. While the video was mildly amusing, it featured music by Truckers of Husk which led to me looking for the band, visiting their MySpace page and then on to Amazon UK and finally 7digital from where I bought and subsequently downloaded their recent EP, Physical Education EP, for £1.79 (€2.26).

Apparently increasingly popular in Wales and specifically Cardiff, the band plays a structured, yet extremely pleasing style of math rock with several elements of post rock thrown in, with a mellow sound that’s outlined by clean guitar arpeggios, edgy drumming, slap bass and cello, occasionally complemented by stylised vocals. The results are a very pleasant and intense soundscape.

You can listen to much of their work on MySpace, although I guess €2.26 is definitely worth it for the music, especially if you enjoy instrumental math rock in general.

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»  ‘Indie’ Rock Συναυλίες αυτό το Σαββατοκύριακο

Αυτό το σαββατοκύριακο τέσσερα ελληνικά συγκροτήματα θα ανοίξουν τις δύο συναυλίες των Iron Butterfly στο Κύτταρο. Συγκεκριμένα, το Σάββατο τη συναυλία θα ανοίξουν οι Cube και οι Birthmark, ενώ τη Κυριακή οι Semen of the Sun και οι Low Gravity.

Τη περασμένη εβδομάδα ετοίμασα ένα ακόμη βιντεάκι από τη προηγούμενη εμφάνιση των Cube στο Κύτταρο ως support στους Earthbound στο τέλος του περασμένου Φεβρουαρίου. Αυτή τη φορά παίζουν το Seven Steps (το οποίο μπορείτε να κατεβάσετε από τη πρώτη συλλογή In The Junkyard εδώ) με εισαγωγή του instrumental κομματιού ‘Route’. Ακολουθεί το βίντεο.

Δείτε επίσης το παλαιότερο βίντεο με την εκτέλεση του κομματιού Oblique

Μπορείτε να βρείτε την HD/720p έκδοση του παραπάνω video στο Vimeo

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» Η Spinalonga στο “Βήμα”

Σήμερα, στο Κυριακάτικο ‘Βήμα’, υπάρχει άρθρο του Γιώργου Σκιντζα για την ελληνική ανεξάρτητη μουσική σκηνή. Το άρθρο, αναφέρει — μεταξύ άλλων — και τη Spinalonga Records, τις τρείς συλλογές που έχει κυκλοφορήσει στα τρία χρόνια της ύπαρξής της, το μη-κερδοσκοπικό μοντέλο καθώς και τη δραστηριοποίηση της στον χώρο των live δίνωντας έμφαση στο επερχόμενο live των Gevende την ερχόμενη εβδομάδα σε Αθήνα και Θεσσαλονίκη [Facebook Event][Last.fm Event].

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2008.03.03

OMNI: Ghosts

OMNI: Ghosts front coverAbout three months ago and just a few days after posting my review of OMNI’s Paint by Numbers album, I was contacted by the band and asked whether I could write a review of their upcoming Ghosts album. I tried to be as objective as I could in my presentation and criticism, after having listened the album several times since last Saturday, when I received it. This is my review of the new album and probably the first review of the album in general.

In the five years since the release of their first album, OMNI have undergone significant changes as a band. Vocals, once performed by Hans Twite, are now part of Chris and David. Pat Allen, their erstwhile lead guitarist seems to have left the band too, given the band member listing on MySpace (their website was down at the time of writing this review). The feel of the songs has, inevitably, changed too.

If one thing remains is the use of heavy-delay and continuous clean guitar riffs as a pad as well as the experimentation with the Warr guitar in many of the tracks and remains a main differentiating factor of the band’s music along with their varied influences. What has changed is the overall feel of the music, partly due to the considerably different vocals, the more mature composition and lyrics.

A significant variation between the music in Paint By Numbers and Ghosts is the moderate inclusion of progressive metal æsthetics of the type found in music by Dream Theater or Fates Warning in the 1990s. In particular, ‘End Game’, ‘Demon Haunted World’ and ‘Secret to My Success’ reminded me of a number of late 1990s – early 2000s progressive metal tracks.

The vocals in Ghosts are more aggressive and somewhat harsher than those in Paint By Numbers. While good, I found them detached from the feel some of the songs and the æsthetics of the band; for example, while Meridian was perfectly executed and the timbre of the voice matches the feel of the song, this is not the case in ,say, End Game. If anything, I felt that the vocals were a surprise for me and a clear departure from OMNI’s prior work, doing away wit the melancholy of Twite’s voice that shaped much of Omni’s work in the past.

The album has some excellent tracks that once again showcase OMNI’s technical prowess and varied influences. Of considerable musical interest to me were Der Bettler, a very short (1:37) melodic and atmospheric track that opens the album and introduces a musical pattern also found in Fingers Crossed, the final track of the album. Other great tracks were the excellent instrumental Out With a Wimper, Meridian, It Came Crashing Down and The Dead Sky. From listening to Ghosts, it is still evident that OMNI manages to combine a number of influences and still remain original in their sound.

I found parts of Ghosts very appealing in a way that reminded me of the reasons I originally became interested in the band. I must admit, however, that it was not what I expected as a follow-on to Paint By Numbers, five years since the latter came out. In spite of the clear evolution since 2002 and some solid tracks, I found the album often incoherent in style. While the potential is evidently still there — and my appreciation of OMNI’s music remains unabated — I feel that OMNI, perhaps in lieu of the change in the line-up, have yet to fully define their music and æsthetics.

Ghosts came out on the 25th of April 2008.

I would like to thank Chris for sending me Ghosts and asking me to write this review. I’m looking forward to more stuff by the band.

You can find OMNI online at:

OMNI Official Site
OMNI on MySpace
OMNI on Garageband

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»  Cube “Oblique” Live

Τη περασμένη Πέμπτη πραγματοποιήθηκε στο ‘Κύτταρο’ μια συναυλία των The Earthbound την οποία άνοιξαν οι Cube [on MySpace], σε μια ‘ατσαλάκωτη’ παραλλαγή του σχήματος, με ακουστικές εκτελέσεις αρκετών κομματιών τους καθώς και κάποιες διασκευές. Κινηματογράφησα τη συναυλία των Cube και ανέβασα ένα μικρό απόσπασμα αυτής και συγκεκριμένα το κομμάτι Oblique το οποίο αποτελεί και τη συμμετοχή τους στην συλλογή ‘In the Junkyard 3‘ της μη-κερδοσκοπικής Spinalonga Records1

Το βίντεο είναι κωδικοποιημένο σε H264/AAC και είναι hinted για streaming. Θεωρητικά θα πρέπει να είναι συμβατό με όλους τους βασικούς media players στις τρείς μεγάλες υπολογιστικές πλατφόρμες των ημερών μας καθώς και smartphones/PDAs/touchy-feely mp3 players κλπ συσκευές που δεν προβληματίζονται από τη μη συμβατική ανάλυση.

Μπορείτε να βρείτε το βίντεο σε HD στο Vimeo. Διατίθεται κάτω από άδεια Creative Commons 3.0 By Attribution – Non Commercial.

1. Full disclosure: Για όσους δε το γνωρίζουν, συμμετέχω στην οργάνωση της Spinalonga Records και επιπλέον γνωρίζω αρκετά καλά τα μέλη των Cube.

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