Usnea - Usnea (2013)

This debut excels in its variety.  While the majority of the record falls into the doom metal camp, black metal interludes occasionally make an appearance.  These are certainly genres of music where mastery of one doesn't imply a particular musical disposition for exceptional crafting ability in the style of the other; however, just like all good musicians, the group makes both "sides" of the album emotive and interesting to the listener, and the transition between each relatively seamless.  It's also relevant to note that even the doom portions segue between the majestic and oppressive (think funeral) to old-school, devil-worshiping Sabbathian jams.  For those who follow the scene, it may make sense to think of this as existing on the opposite side of the black metal coin as Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult's also good 2013 record (Necrovision), an album of unwavering second-wave punishment.  Usnea isn't afraid to mix it up a bit.   

Video Highlight + Q&A: Tzvika Force (2013)

Photo Courtesy of Alexander Kinik
This video was sent to us cordially by Tzvika Force, an Israelite singer-songwriter/musician who makes an impressive mix of powerful, soulful vocals, and unique and articulate instrumentation. We did a Q&A with him about the following video, which includes various playful and interesting imagery:

How did this video come about, and how difficult was it to put it together?
On the day we shot the video everything worked like a charm. We arrived on set and things just started to happen on their own. Everything synced and matched - the haunted studio that was once a factory of large iron drain covers in the old part of Tel Aviv, the broken, dusty piano, Joy, the Indian, who got into character perfectly and of course the song which was playing in the background throughout the day and inspired us. Also, we had a lot of fun working with the guys of Video De Lux, who directed and edited the video. These days, artists usually take care of everything and need to keep it all under control, but on our shooting day I just arrived on set, shot my part, had a really good time and went home. It was quite a refreshing change. The crew also really loved and connected to the song – which, they say, doesn't happen to them very often, so I guess that's probably why the video came out so authentic.

There seems to be a bustling music scene blossoming out of Israel when it comes to modern acts, and your music stands out in terms of both your voice, and how unique the music is, how do you feel about your place within this scene?
That's true, and the competition is tough but I'm really glad I have my ways to standout and be unique. I think that's all one really needs in any artistic field. Nowadays, when there are so many ways to get your music out there and with the variety of so many wonderful musicians around, you need to leave your identifying mark so the listeners can immediately recognize you and your work. Despite today's blossoming scene, there's still a strong sense that many people here are "afraid" or not yet ready to be exposed to different, less conventional things and prefer what's simple and familiar. But still, there's definitely a positive development compared to earlier years. You can hear it on the radio, on television and feel it in the audience's reaction, it's spreading and it's totally great. I hope to have an impact on this process by exposing more and more people here to new music and new musical styles.

The music seems to combine both a) strong, wonderful vocals and b) unique, and interesting instrumentation; did this decision come about consciously, or was it pure coincidence?
I've always wanted to excite and fascinate the audience so I guess this is a choice my subconscious made and I kept over the years. I always think about what would excite me and what I would like to listen to and I follow these thoughts, I act and write upon them. I also listen to a lot of new music and I'm very influenced by what's happening worldwide, especially technology wise. I guess the fact that I'm a guy who loves drama and theatricality is reflected in my music and my musical choices, but so many things also just happen by coincidence, like my connection with Ben Specter – the EP's musical producer, my work with the band and just random things that happen in my life which expose me to new musical directions. The music keeps bursting into my life by surprise. All the sudden I get this intense, uncontrollable need to write a specific song or compose a specific tune. It still manages to amaze me every time. This need I have to share things with the listener and the audience always fascinated me and it's there every step of the way.


Later on, we will do a review of his upcoming EP, Petite Nature, which is fantastic enough.

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Gasp - Drome Triler of Puzzle Zoo People (1998)

Drome Triler of Puzzle Zoo People is perhaps one of the more unique albums released under the hardcore domain.  The music here is an oddball mix of sludge influenced grindcore (an odd combination in and of itself) and ambient interludes; the caveat is that the two rarely intermix à la Iron Lung's White Glove Test, that artist's recent, perhaps contrived, mix of noise and hardcore.  Regardless, this psych-tinged Californian hardcore is worth sharing.  If you enjoy this one, here's Gasp's 2005 compilation, which contains tracks from numerous splits (Noothgrush, Deerhoof, Suffering Luna, Volume 11), along with unreleased and demo-sourced material.

Fire! Orchestra - Exit! (2013)

The latest in a series of releases from Fire, a trio made up of Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling, and Andreas Werliin.

In particular, Fire Orchestra is Fire plus twenty five.  The group delivers an excellent take on free jazz, though that may be pigeonholing the music actually contained on Exit.  Reminiscent of post rock, the album's two tracks both thrive on the gradual crescendo while centering around a steady backbone.  While the music does eventually let loose, the subtlety of much of the playing (and singing) is what gives the record its atmosphere which, in turn, may set it aside from what people normally think of as free jazz.  Highly recommended.

Disperse - Living Mirrors (2013)

Polish fusion-y djent in the vein of Periphery and Animals as Leaders -- tons of those beautiful melodies and wonderful atmospheres which differentiate Periphery songwriter Misha Mansoor's work 
from the other djent out there.  However, the music is really grounded in the impressive guitar work of Jakub Żytecki, whose tasteful shredding bears a stunning resemblance to that of Tosin Abasi on Animals as Leaders' self-titled.  The predominantly "scene" (think Spencer Sotelo) clean vocals can prove to be a damper on the whole experience, but they're usually tolerable, and even occasionally work.  Regardless, highly recommended to any prog-heads.