Tag Archives: indie

Rob The Music Snob: Sol Seppy

10 Jan

When I was in my late teens, I suffered badly from insomnia. Where possible, I tried to use this time effectively – by writing, reading, or finding new music. MTV2 was a goldmine. Late at night it would play tracks from a variety of unheard, independent-label artists. One of these was Sol Seppy, and I was immediately in love.

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Sol Seppy is Sophie Michalitsianos, a classically-trained pianist and cellist better known for her work with the sadly-missed Mark Linkous in Sparklehorse. There are a lot of similarities between the two – the ethereal element, a large but intimate sound, breathtaking lyrics and a deep sense of emotional empathy. The first album, The Bells Of 1 2, is one of my favourites of all time, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The Bells Of 1 2 is wonderful. Cohesive yet at the same time full of variety, it manages to bring out incredible levels of depth from a very minimal setup. The opener 1 2 relies almost entirely on piano, as does Enter One, Sol Seppy’s most recognisable track. It’s recognised for a reason. It’s absolutely beautiful.

But there’s more than that on show. Slo Fuzz was the first song I heard, pushed forward through – as the name suggests – fuzzy bass lines with floating synth work and excellent quiet/loud dynamics. Move features noisy, shoegaze-esque distortion and a discordant feel. Come Running is upbeat with a brilliantly catchy chorus.

It’s one of those albums that seems to never stray far from my grasp, never accumulating dust. Michalitsianos gave us a new EP last year, continuing the level of quality, and a promise of an album in 2014. I have high hopes, even after the seven year wait. Bring it on.

Rob’s Obligatory Top Ten Albums of 2013

20 Dec

Yep, it’s that time of the year! Here are my favourite albums of 2013. Music lovers have had a bumper crop this year, and it was hard to cut it down to just ten. But here they are, in no particular order.

 

Cloud Cult – Love

This was the first album of 2013 that I actually fell in love with. The Minneapolis collective – currently an eight-piece – released their tenth studio album in March of this year and it was a fantastic, poignant ride. Lush layering, heartfelt lyrics, and wonderful harmonies all helped to create what could be their magnum opus.

 

Kavinsky – OutRun

Love wasn’t the first album to be really, really darn good though. That falls to Kavinsky. Most well known for the use of Nightcall in the soundtrack to Ryan Gosling flick Drive, the French electronic artist released his debut album in February. It may lack emotional impact, but it more than makes up for it in songs that practically drip with 80s movie nostalgia.

 

I The Mighty – Satori

2013 was a great year for rock music, though, nearly making up for the damp squib of 2012. One of the best offerings was served up by San Francisco’s I The Mighty. Their debut, Satori, has it all. Great musicianship, varied and truly poetic lyrical content, and choruses that you’ll be singing for weeks – or months, in my case. This is a strong a debut as you’re going to get.

 

Houses – A Quiet Darkness

Speaking of strong lyrical content, A Quiet Darkness was ahead of the pack. Houses delivered a concept album with a wonderful, heart-wrenching story – two lovers, separated by a nuclear holocaust, trying to reunite with one another. It captures the post-apocalyptic tone perfectly, and the catalyst is not only the dreamy ambience of the music but the sparse, yet graceful, lyrics, which work beautifully with the dual vocals of Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina.

 

Enemies – Embark, Embrace

I’m not sure how, but Enemies have managed to do something very unique with Math Rock. Normally the sole haven of musicians and technical music enthusiasts, Embark, Embrace swaps the often discordant noodling with uplifting, soaring melodies without losing any of the complexity that keeps music snobs (such as me) hooked. It’s great, both for pretentious folk like me and for casual listeners.

 

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

2013 also saw the triumphant return of a few of music’s heavyweights. One of the standouts was Hesitation Marks. Trent Reznor had a busy year, also releasing the impressive How To Destroy Angels debut album, and the signs were good that another Nine Inch Nails album would impress. But it surpassed even fan estimations, with not only that unique Nine Inch Nails feel, but with a true progression on show.

 

Lanterns on the Lake – Until the Colours Run

There’s nothing not to love about Until the Colours Run: a huge sound, vibrant guitar work, the beautiful strings, and wonderful vocals from Hazel Wilde. Almost every song sounds absolutely massive, and when it doesn’t – such as one of the standout tracks, the ballad Green and Gold – it only serves to further augment the impact. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little emotional.

The First – Take Courage

Enough of that teary-eyed, twee stuff though. The First’s sophomore effort, Take Courage, is a beast of a rock album. Huge riffs, thumping choruses, and a rhythm section you could set your goddamn watch to all come together to form one of the most exciting albums of the year. Listen to this, and you’ll wake up the next morning covered in tattoos next to an empty bottle of whiskey. It’s that hardcore.

 

Jon Hopkins – Immunity

Immunity has been included in a large number of ‘Albums of the Year’ lists, and with good reason. The Mercury-nominated album, Hopkins’ fourth, shows the progression of an artist truly doing what he wants to do. Building on the unique sound of 2009’s Insides, Hopkins creates breathtaking, diverse soundscapes that just happen to be some of the best electronica to have been released in years. Immunity is great. Go buy it.

 

Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

You know what? I’m just going to say it. This is Queens of the Stone Age’s best album. Rated R has the bizarre, Songs for the Deaf has the heavy riffs, but neither compares to the variety on show here. From the slacker drawl of I Sat by the Ocean, through the psychedelic Kalopsia and the Prince-esque Smooth Sailing, to the delicate piano of the title track, it’s a journey of an album, with every song expertly balanced. A masterpiece.

 

So there we go. A little rundown of what’s been keeping me sane this year. Have a Merry Christmas and a ruddy great New Year!

Ten More Horror Movies You May Have Missed

17 Jul

Hey everyone! I’m back with some more underrated and unheard of horror flicks. Prepare for the spooky…

 

Leviathan

This is the film I hinted to at the end of my last horror movie post. Falling somewhere between The Abyss and The Thing, it tells the story of an underwater mining team that comes across a shipwrecked Russian vessel. Unfortunately, this ship, the Leviathan, happens to be infected with a rather nasty body-horror-beast-making virus.

What Leviathan lacks in originality it makes up for in gross special effects. The cast is also surprisingly effective and is made up entirely of people-you-recognise-from-better-things, including the dude who plays Robocop, Ernie Frickin’ Hudson, the bad guy from Home Alone, and Trautman from Rambo. The film was also directed by the late George P. Cosmatos, better known for Rambo Part II and the magnificent Tombstone.

 

Planet of the Vampires

One of the grandfathers of the sci-fi horror genre, Planet of the Vampires is one of the most hugely influential movies in horror. A space exploration team comes into trouble in deep space and is forced to crash land on an unknown world. There, whilst looking for their downed comrades, the crew comes across strange spirits that take over the bodies of corporeal beings.

Allegedly one of Ridley Scott’s biggest influences, Planet of the Vampires creates a real sense of foreboding and an almost unique oppressive atmosphere, particularly given that it was made in 1965. Although it’s not dated particularly well, this film is perfect if you’re in a nostalgic mood or are interested in seeing the movie behind the original Alien.

 

The Blob

I’m not talking about the Steve McQueen original here, for your information. As much as I love the 1958 original, I absolutely adore the remake from 1988. Kevin Dillon stars as tough-punk-kid-with-motorbike Brian Flagg in this wonderfully campy, outrageously gory version of the B-movie cult classic.

A box office flop, this film is nearly criminally underrated in spite of having some amazing and should-be-iconic scenes. Want to see a man sucked down a garbage disposal drain? You got it. Frat boy getting more than he bargained for when trying to touch up his girl? You betcha. If you go into this film looking for fun, you’ll find it. Just don’t expect Schindler’s List.

 

Ravenous

This is, undoubtedly, one of my favourite films. Why? Because it’s unique. Mixing together the story of The Donner Party with the Native American myth of the Wendigo, Ravenous is light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, yet still particularly terrifying.

Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle both give great performances, with Carlyle in particular at his disturbing best. That said, the entire cast is absolutely fantastic. What really makes the film, though, is the brilliant score from Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman. Give it a watch.

 

One Point O

Simon, a computer programmer, starts finding mysterious, empty packages at his apartment. In an attempt to uncover how and why they are there, he investigates his neighbours – including Lance Henriksen, Deborah Kara Unger and Udo Kier. What he finds at the end of his search is shocking and deeply disturbing.

Low on gore and low on monsters, this Cronenberg-esque cyberpunk movie is one of the most unsettling films I have ever had the joy of watching. Also known as Paranoia 1.0 or Virus 1.0, the movie is dense and impenetrable, and is all the better for it.

 

The Innkeepers

Surprisingly for a modern horror film, The Innkeepers is a real slow-burner. The Yankee Pedlar Inn is on its final week before closure. Inside, the two innkeepers care for the last few guests whilst investigating its supposed history of paranormal activity.

At first, there is little to report, and the employees spend their time telling ghost stories to bratty kids and looking up the hotel’s history online. But, it’s not long until the hotel’s ghostly past starts to reveal itself. This film slowly cranks the tension to great effect, and its terrifying finale and numbing epilogue are amongst the best of the lesser-known horrors.

 

Ghost Story

Ghost Story is horror done the old-fashioned way: a good, creepy gothic horror tale about a ghost after revenge. Based on the novel by Peter Straub, it is also Fred Astaire’s last acting role alongside other heavyweights like Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman, and Douglas Fairbanks.

It’s not exactly a classic, and some of the special effects haven’t aged well, but there are some great, chilling scenes along the way. You’ll guess the shocking twist before the end, but you’re bound to enjoy the ride.

 

Triangle

It’s difficult to write about this film without unleashing some annoying spoilers, but I’ll try my best. After a brutal, surprise storm, a group of friends in a yacht manage to get aboard an abandoned ship in the middle of the ocean. But is it abandoned?

Triangle is a brilliant, mind-bending horror/thriller with some great twists and a nice new take on the Bermuda Triangle legend. Pretty individual, some good performances, well-directed, and with a lovely plot where every strand falls into place. What’s not to like? Well, for one thing, the fact that every bloody trailer contains massive spoilers. Instead, please find a small clip from the film below.

 

Asylum

I bloody love horror anthologies. They’re always entertaining, even when they’re cheap and awful. Asylum, though, is first-class traditional horror. Big, dramatic scores, screaming women, English accents, the works.

The basic premise is simple: a psychiatrist makes a visit to a mental asylum. When there, he visits four of the inmates, each with a particularly horrific story. Each of the segments is great, but of particular joy is the second part, a mysterious story about a peculiar suit-maker.

 

Freakylinks

Finally, this isn’t a horror movie, but instead an entire series. Freakylinks is one of my favourite shows ever. It was cancelled after a single season, and joins the extensive list of brilliant shows given up on too soon by Fox. It follows the adventures of a group of investigators who run a paranormal website.

Switching between found footage-style camerawork and traditional cinematography, Freakylinks follows a monster-of-the-week pattern with light undertones of a larger plot that unfortunately never materialized. Darkly comic and compelling, it was a little too ahead of its time, and suffered because of it. To rub salt into the wounds, Fox have so far refused to release it on DVD.

 

And that’s a wrap. Surely there are no more horror movies I can write about?

Oh wait. Yes there are.

See you next time!

Ten Horror Movies You May Have Missed

5 Jul

Hi folks! I’m back with another list for you lovely people. It seems recently there have been a fair few above-average horror movies gracing the big screen, from Silent House to Chernobyl Diaries. So, in the spirit of these new additions to my favourite genre, here’s a rundown of ten horror movies you may not have heard of.

 

Dead Girl

Dead Girl has one of the most disturbing and unique premises around. Two friends, whilst looking around an abandoned mental asylum, find a woman chained to a table. Instead of doing what any sensible, sane person would do and call the police, they decide to keep her there. But they soon realise two important things; first, that the girl is feral – growling and trying to bite anyone who comes near; second, that she cannot die.

What follows is a unique and incredibly disturbing take on the zombie myth, with a truly heartbreaking end and some of the most downright evil characters you’ll see in film history.

 

In the Mouth of Madness

John Carpenter is possibly the biggest name in horror. He’s given us The Thing, Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, and The Fog. But surprisingly, In the Mouth of Madness is often forgotten when talking about the big man. Sam Neill plays an insurance investigator looking into the disappearance of renowned horror author Sutter Cane. Soon the world descends into an almost Lovecraftian nightmare.

Distinctly unsettling from the off, and with some absolutely spectacular set pieces, In the Mouth of Madness is a far cry away from Carpenter’s most famous movies and shows his real versatility as a horror director.

 

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

What if the world of the slasher flick was real? What if all that you saw when you sit down for your movie marathon is true? Those are the questions posed by this smart, funny deconstruction of the world of horror.

Nathan Baesel stars as Leslie Vernon, the next big thing in the murder scene. He invites a student film crew to follow him as he prepares to go on a killing spree, hoping to become the next great legend like his heroes Freddy and Jason. An incredibly clever film, it will change the way that you see horror films forever.

 

Pontypool

There is an outbreak of some kind of disease in an isolated town in Canada. It seems as though the people of Pontypool are becoming violent, feral, and even committing acts of cannibalism. So, a typical zombie film, right? Wrong. In Pontypool, the disease is spread by using certain words.

In the middle of this, a radio host and his small team try to keep broadcasting news about the event. Deeply unsettling, weird, and totally unique; Pontypool has it all.

 

Session 9

Want to know what David Caruso has done aside from putting on sunglasses and making awesome puns? Here’s your answer. Location can often make or break smaller budget horror films, and Session 9 has the perfect setting.

A cleaning team needs to complete work on an abandoned mental hospital. The only problem is that the mysterious past of the hospital seems to be coming back. If you like slow-burning horror that’s low on action but high on atmosphere, this is the film for you.

 

Club Dread

But, not everyone fancies something as deep as Session 9 above. Club Dread is a horror comedy with the emphasis on the comedy side.

There’s something afoot on a club 18-30 party island. By something afoot, I mean the killer-wearing-an-island-mask-and-poncho kind of afoot. Amongst the cast is Bill Paxton as a washed-up singer whose biggest hit was a song called Pina Coladaburg. I don’t think you need to know more than that.

 

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

As you may already know, I’m a bit of an aficionado of the Found Footage sub-genre. The Poughkeepsie Tapes mixes this style with mockumentary, including fake news bulletins and an overall documentary narrative.

Although short on big thrills, The Poughkeepsie Tapes creates a genuinely disturbing atmosphere. Prepare to squirm throughout. Add to that one of the most depressing finales in recent horror and you’ve got a real diamond in the rough.

 

Alone With Her

I might as well lump all the Found Footage films together. Alone With Her stars Colin Hanks as a man who becomes obsessed with a woman he sees in the park. He rigs up a set of hidden cameras in her apartment to watch her every move.

The most troubling thing about this film, though, is the way it’s told – via the stalker’s footage. You see how he uses what he sees to manipulate his real-world relationship with her. Hanks also shows real versatility by being completely terrifying.

 

The Tunnel

This is a tale of independent filmmaking done right. This Australian movie has gained huge plaudits for the way in which it was produced and distributed; the film was crowd-funded and then gained most of its popularity by being released, for free, to Bit Torrent users. The fact that it’s been such a huge success brings hope to a lot of young filmmakers.

As for the end product? A claustrophobic horror film that should win medals for having a scene so tense that even I, an emotionless robot of a man, wanted to look away.

 

Black Christmas

Most horror nuts have seen this film, but it’s surprising the number of people who haven’t. This 1974 horror film was one of the first slasher movies ever made, inspiring the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th, and still one of the most effective.

If you want to go back to the root of many of the huge horror franchises, this is the film to watch. It’s also scary as hell, and has one of the best final scenes ever.

 

So, there are ten horror movies you may want to watch. Problem is, there are about a hundred more that I’d like to talk about. So, I’m likely to revisit this topic again in the future (after I’ve seen a few other suggestions, of course). Want me to talk about a specific film? Any particular movies you feel I’ve left out? Let me know!

There’s a certain monster movie that I certainly need to talk about.

And of course, don’t have nightmares.

Tulpa

10 Jan

I’ve finally written the lyrics for the first Branches song. Branches is going to be my new music project in 2012, with a debut EP scheduled for release.

 

I sometimes suffer aches and migraines,

It’s only ‘cause I care.

For things that break through words and whispers,

I trust that they are there.

Just blueprints, maps and isometrics,

Skeletons to share.

 

So don’t be afraid, it’s just, I’m glad that you came.

Forget about truths, and hide, we all do the same.

It’s not just you.

 

I sometimes wonder, in the dark hours,

If we were right to see.

Those coils, those wires, and turning cogs that

Manifest in me.

They shape and form the lathe of heaven,

The place this world could be.

 

So don’t be afraid, it’s just, I’m glad that you came.

Forget about truths, and hide, we all do the same.

It’s not just you.

 

Hope to have a demo up sometime soon.