New Keepers of the Water Towers – Infernal Machine

I love this album. It is a mostly instrumental album that occupies that hard-to-define space between hard rock and heavy metal. Fans of psychedelic music will love it for its tones. Fans of groove metal will love it for its occasional head-bobbiness. Fans of prog will like it for its patient buildups. But most of all, and I think this is why the album works for me, fans of good old rock will just really enjoy the experience of listening (or drifting off) to the album.

Let me just take you through the experience of listening to Infernal Machine.

Song 1, The Forever War, sets the mood, preparing you perfectly for the rest of the album. It’s a meditative experience, and is one of the few tracks with vocals. Once you have been set up for the show, popcorn in hand and all, Tracks over Carcosa kicks into gear with a rumble filled with anticipation. A steady bassline rises – this is promising, you think – the drums kick in, tantalising drones surround you. It’s happening, you think. It’s happening, it’s happening, it’s happening. When the lead guitar hits… Oh. god. What is this? You are just being carried by this album’s undercurrent. You hit Tachyon Deep, the vocals are back for a bit, there’s some oddly tribal drum-beating. It’s all good; you shut your eyes and let the music wash over you. This album was made to be experienced full-force. Misantropin Kallar is a good interlude and all, but you are hankering for the next pick-me-up. And then… oh my GOD what is this? (Escape Aleph Minor, by the way.) You nod your way through to the anticipation-filled Jorden, instrumental motifs start to become more apparent, and a narrative starts to form. You google the album and discover on some obscure music review site (perhaps this one) that the album is a soundtrack to Joe Haldeman’s 1974 novel The Forever War (a novel I haven’t read or researched). Ah, the motifs make sense. It makes total sense. The album closer, This Infernal Machine, revisits many a motif; it sounds both familiar and unfamiliar – it’s going to tie the whole album up neatly, you sense. It’s all going to add up now, you sense.

And it does. It totally does. This truly is an album-lover’s album. It’s a delightful listen – a great experience from start to finish. I highly recommend it.

Here are some links:

  • The album’s bandcamp page.
  • If you like Apple Music, you will love this link.
  • A video for The Forever War.

Have a good time.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

 

I’m on my third listen of the new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album. Professionals will moan that I haven’t had enough time to accurately judge the merits and demerits of the album given it’s just a few days old.

Well, I’m not being paid to do this, so here goes.

My general gripe with Nick Cave albums is that I find it hard to stay focussed on them. I’m the kind of rabid post-punk fan that loves the driving bassline and drumbeat tropes of the genre. Every time I put on a Nick Cave album, I am aware of its import, but I’m not always enthralled.

That’s probably my fault.

This hasn’t been the case with Skeleton Tree. I really quite like it. Personally, I love the album’s dreamy major-key moments on Skeleton Tree, Distant Sky, and Rings of Saturn, which has the album’s most memorable refrain:

And this is the moment, this is exactly what she is born to be / And this is what she does and this is what she is

This is not to say that the rest of the album is not just as great. My favourite song of the album is I Need You, which, to me was just a sad, sad song. It ticked off all my melodrama boxes, leaving me filled with regret about a dead relationship (Score!). At the end of every listen of the song (there have been several), I usually find myself agreeing broadly with its almost-cliché premise:

Nothing really matters.

There’s no doubt the album is a shade of blue, but unlike the other Nick Cave albums I have heard, it isn’t pitch-freaking-black. There’s an all-pervading sense of loss through the album, and on tracks like Girl in Amber, I get the sense that if you let yourself go, you’ll find yourself fighting back tears, but overall, the sadness does not overwhelm you.

And I think that the album generally avoids ^that pitfall is the reason why this is the first time I remember looping a Nick Cave album. Yes, Nick Cave is intended to be a purveyor of dirge-rock, and yes, I enter every album expecting dirge after sludgy dirge, but in this album, there seems to be a certain positivity (that I’m sure I’d find in all of his albums, if I were capable) in the form of  acceptance – a light to the usual black.

Overall, I recommend this album strongly. It’s more proof that 2016 has been the best year for music in my life so far. I will be listening to it often. But be warned, it is a sad album with the potential to be heart-rending under the right circumstances. Keep something cheerful ready in case it gets too much.

PS: Jesus Walks and I Need You are brilliants tracks to release as singles, but also probably the most depressing singles of the year. Here they are.

Jesus Alone

I Need You

Edit:

What El-P thinks: