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Ocean, "Pantheon of the Lesser"

cover imageReturning with their second full length, the East Coast Portland (Maine) foursome manage to not only defend their reputation as capable purveyors of riffs most heavy but also to expand their sonic palette in an unexpected but welcome way. With greater control of dynamics, a female guest vocalist and songs played across time scales better expressed in geologic terms rather than minutes, this is one of the best metal albums of the year.

 

Important

With a crashing thud, Ocean start where they left off on their debut: doom played at a snail’s pace. While it is no great departure for them, it is still an awesome sound that sucks the listener in from the moment it starts. However, another album in the exact same style would be tedious considering the wealth of bands exploring similar musical areas (Moss, Trees, Wreck of the Hesperus, and so on and so on). Ocean avoid stagnation by actively breaking up their already tried and tested sound. Halfway through “The Beacon,” the volume drops out and the sound shifts significantly. Rolling back on the distortion and introducing a female vocalist (Yoshiko Ohara from Bloody Panda), the change in mood is remarkable. Over the second half of this immense song, the power builds up again before burning out exquisitely.

“The Beacon” could have been an album on its own but Ocean have spoilt us by adding another shorter piece to flesh out the album (although at 23 minutes it is still a bruiser!). “Of the Lesser” again returns to the over- amplified plod of Ocean of yore. At first disappointing after the majesty of “The Beacon” but as the piece progressed, an almost ecstatic feeling Godspeed-like momentum builds up before slowing right down again; it is dizzying stuff.

With each subsequent listen of the album I get more and more enthused about the whole thing. Ocean could have very easily just repeated Here Where Nothing Grows but they have pushed themselves further than that. It will be interesting to see where they will go from here, personally further exploration of the quieter sound they have employed here on “The Beacon” would be intriguing. It is here that Ocean have gone from a group that I have liked and would listen to occasionally to a group that I feel have real potential to break apart from their peers.

As a closing remark I would wager that as nice as the 2xLP version is likely to be (Important did a wonderful job on the first album), with the length of the two songs the CD version is probably going to give the best listening experience.

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Windy & Carl

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Alva Noto, "Univrs"

cover imageCarsten Nicolai's latest album returns to the themes and concepts that he explored on 2008’s Unitxt (which has been reissued in a limited, artist edition to mark the release of the new album). Combining the ideas of a universal language, repetition and the relationship between data and sound, Nicolai has come up with a stunning collection of electronic music that bridges another one of the gaps between audio and visual art.


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