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Alog, "Amateur"

cover image Espen Sommer Eide and Dag-Are Haugan return as Alog for yet another fantastic album. They further refine their symbiosis of natural and electronic sounds, always sounding at once earthy and cosmic. Never utilizing weird sounds just for the sake of it, the dozen tracks on this CD are all pieces of music that sound more than beautiful. As expected from Alog, this is a remarkable album that reveals more and more with each listen.

 

Rune Grammofon

What I enjoy most about Amateur (and this applies to pretty much all the other albums put out by Rune Grammofon) is the attention to detail in terms of sounds and sound treatments. Eide and Haugan are not afraid to leave a sound as it is if it has the right character or to tweak it if it needs a little help fitting in with the rest of the sounds. Although I must admit, sometimes it is hard to tell what has been treated in the studio and what is a "real life" sound as there are so many unusual instruments used on and built for the album. Not only that but Alog approach voices from an interesting perspective, the vocal layering of "Write Your Thoughts in Water" sound like a living church organ (and from what I can tell, there no little digital trickery going on here).

Amateur has a dreamy, meandering feel to it. Many of the pieces (especially the aptly named "The Learning Curve") begin with random sounding noises, like the recording has started while the two musicians are trying to figure out what instruments they are playing. However, as if by magic, it all comes together to form a delicate and captivating whole. A good example of this is "The Future of Norwegian Wood," which for the first half of the piece is a cut up of the sound of nails been hammered into wood which makes for interesting listening on its own. When the treated piano comes in over this unusual percussion, the effect is startling and gorgeous.

Most of the album is fairly laid back but Eide and Haugan can bring the music to the boil when they want to, the powerful staccato of "The Beginner" and the middle part of the lengthy "Bedlam Emblem." While Amateur is far from a boring album, it would have been nice to have one or two more livelier pieces on it but that might be entering the realms of greed. As it stands it is a cracker of an album, a logical and fitting continuation of Alog's journey through sound.

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Einstürzende Neubauten

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Review of the Day

Hayden, "Skyscraper National Park"
Badman Recording Co.
Don't blame Canada. It just so happens they have some pretty damn fantastic songwriters. Current exhibit Hayden took the music industry by storm with his self-recorded and self-released debut 'Everything I Long For'. The storm was big enough for him to get signed to Geffen imprint Outpost. Woe to those on Outpost, though, after the Unigram merger, as the label was dissolved in the deal. Many of the artists were snatched up by other labels, but Hayden was left in the cold after the mixed-bag sophomore slump of his second CD, 'The Closer I Get'. So he hibernated. And waited. And went back to his roots, recording again in his home with some close friends. The results are this underrated album that was originally planned as a 1000 copy limited addition, but was snatched up by Badman after demand was high. Not a departure by any means, 'Skyscraper National Park' is instead signs of introspective growth as well as hope for this talented songwriter to finally get the attention he deserves. Where previous works have featured Hayden's low growl, this record has him singing quite capably, even touching Kurt Wagner territory on a few songs. The primary modus operandi hasn't changed, though. Slower, melodic folk rock songs with quirky lyrics are the order of the day, with electric guitar used as a squelch tool and noisemaker on such fare as "Dynamite Walls". And Hayden is clearly finding his voice again after almost three years away from recording. He's a little hesitant, and less than perfect vocally on these songs, but it's still refreshing compared to other home-recorded CDs being released these days. My only complaint is it's length - eleven songs at just over thirty-nine minutes is better than most, but after three years I wanted to hear more. All told, though, it's a great indication where Hayden is now, and where this wave might take him. Look for Hayden's recent live album in addition, as word is it's brilliant.

 

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