Archive for the ‘Echoes of Yul’ Category

Dave Cutbush’s Top 10 Albums of 2015

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

LIFE IS NOISE’s head honcho shares his favourite releases from 2015, with Elder, High On Fire and Shlohmo among the year’s best.

10. Sunn O))) – Kannon
The drone giants Sunn O))) return in 2015 with another crushing display in the form of Kannon. It is heavy, it is slow, it is fearful and it is imposing. My only criticism is that it is a little short. I wanted more than just the three songs. Who knows, perhaps this is just a tease for another Sunn O))) album in 2016. After all, six years is too long to wait for such epic majesty.

9. Echoes of Yul – The Healing
The Black Captain introduced me to Polish act Echoes of Yul. Ever since I have loved their work. You can read The Black Captain’s review here. I love the dreamy dark quality of this record. It is a melancholic masterpiece.

8. Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Windhand return with the their third record Grief’s Infernal Flower. As heavy as ever and featuring the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Dorthia Cottrell, Windhand have a great balance between the depth and crushing on one had and the ethereal and haunting on the other. Grief’s Infernal Flower is a consistently good album and confirms Windhand’s pre-eminence in the worldwide doom revival.

7. Church – Unanswered Hymns
My favourite debut album of the year came out of the blue from Church (or Chrch as they are now known). Unanswered Hymns has a musical bed of depravity and destruction with vocals that sound like a demon sacrificing a virgin on a satanic altar on top. An occult masterpiece from these Californian natives.

6. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Sufjan returns to his folk roots on record number seven. He gets to me when he is super sad, and on this album he is at times at his most serenely melancholic. ‘Should Have Known Better’ is my favourite in this respect. It is what folk music should be and most often isn’t. Stripped away from the overburdening production of previous work, Carrie and Lowell gets down to basics. It has beautiful melodies and thought provoking lyrics. Dare I say it — a return to form for Stevens.

5. Ahab – The Boats of Glen Carrig
Funeral doom/nautical doom/progressive rock/post-rock whatever. The Boats of Glen Carrig may be an interesting fusion of styles packaged in their ever expanding worlds of boats and krakens and wrecks but when you boil it down it is just a great heavy record. Super riffs aplenty, great clean vocals and brutal growls. Super catchy in a destructive way.

4. Drowning Horse – Sheltering Sky
The latest Drowning Horse album is totally crushing. Read The Black Captain’s review here. No other words need be spoken.

3. Shlohmo – Dark Red
Shlohmo is a consistently amazing electronic producer. His latest album Dark Red is no exception to this. He inhabits a dark and weird world most of today’s beatmakers dare not inhabit. But the final word on this should come from the press release for the album, where we are told Dark Red would sound like “if Electric Wizard tried to make an R&B record, or if Boards of Canada met Burzum by the River Styx” – maybe not true but certainly an interesting concept.

2. High On Fire – Luminiferous

Lyrically mind-altering and musically earth-shattering, the latest effort from High on Fire is another pummelling journey from the metal three-piece and a great addition to their great catalogue. All members are in great form. Des Kensel’s drumming is relentless, Jeff Matz’ bass work is as always without fault and team leader Matt Pike’s vocals and guitar work have reached a new pinnacle. But with all the Motorhead-style fast fury, it is the slower tracks that stand out for me. ‘The Falconist’ has a sneering menace, while ‘The Cave’ is the standout for me. High on Fire have developed as a band with Luminiferous. There is power aplenty but listen further and you can reach other dimensions.

1. Elder – Lore
In 2015 nothing beat the power riffs and melodic mastery of Lore from Massachusetts band Elder. It is a tip of the hat to the iconic rock legends of the 70s but Lore is a furious modern stoner take on all things psych and doom. I love how Elder meld various passages in their songs so seamlessly. At times monolithic and bludgeoning and at others beautiful and delicate, Lore is impressive from first to last listen. It’s an album I have punished but continues to give me great joy every time I put it on. Thanks Elder – you just keep getting better.

Honourable Mentions
Vhol – Deeper Than Sky
Glowsun – Beyond the Wall of Time
Hope Drone – Cloak of Ash
Sumac – The Deal
Dungen – Allas Sak
Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
Tangled Thoughts of Leaving – Yield to Despair
Kowloon Walled City — Grievances
We Lost The Sea – Departure Songs
Ecstatic Vision – Sonic Praise
Built to Spill – Untethered Moon
Fourteen Nights at Sea – Minor Light
Joanna Newsom – Divers
Wrekmeister Harmonies – Night of Your Ascension

Echoes of Yul — Healing

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

One could be forgiven for imagining that there is a raging fetish for Poland surging through what has been written here in the past. The regularity with which it has been necessary to express deep admiration for the utterly delightful music both experimental and more traditionally extreme coming from that part of the world has brought with it some degree of self-consciousness. However, it has never been the result of the need to gratify some specific fascination. Like any place, it is likely that the true quality is but a sliver amongst a great mass of the ordinary. What is undeniable is that the really good stuff is quite special in a global context. Artists such as Kuba Zio?ek, Rafa? Iwa?ski, Merkabah and Thaw have produced absolute magic with sound, and have already featured here (often more than once). Another who earned a brief mention previously is the band Echoes of Yul after the release of their song “Asemic” on a split with Thaw.

When writing of that split release, it was mentioned that Echoes of Yul were not as well known as they should be. Those who have missed out on their past records should be kicking themselves. Early on, there were whispers of delight across a few blogs that, with Echoes, something different could be found amidst the regular genre tags ascribed to hypnotic and downtempo heaviness. They were producing doom and drone that displayed genuine beauty alongside the weight of dirges. A generous infusion of electronics and strong flavours of dub gave them something clearly different from music usually described as doom, to that welcome point where the tags begin to lose their value. Their second full-length record, Cold Ground, remains an essential find for those who love doom and drone that severs the tethers to such genres’ conventions.

With each production Echoes of Yul have pushed themselves onwards to something innovative within their own context, never compelled to repeat themselves. When Maciek Szymczuk released his single “The Seer” earlier this year, the strongest hint yet of what was coming showed up in the form of two versions of his work by Echoes. The closing passages of “Asemic” had previously pointed towards this, but it would have been difficult to read much into that alone. The more voluminous waves of heavy distortion were starting to be wound back almost completely, dubby basslines more prominent, and the ambience more hypnotic, abstract, and spacious. So, as the band’s new and third full-length album, The Healing, has revealed itself to be even more singularly focused on the more tranquil and beautiful elements of their “vision of slow motion music”, in some form it is no surprise. What is exhilarating is to see Echoes of Yul surpass themselves yet again.

“Ester” makes the vision clear at the new album’s outset. Beautifully haunting tones and minimal percussion are as a ghostly design, as if Bohren had ditched their acoustic jazz noir to join forces with Forest Swords in a collective flirtation with minimal post-rock. Further comparisons to the latter continue early on in “The Trick”, until craftily understated distortion comes back into play for the first time on The Healing. Even as the volume thickens, this record doesn’t stray from the impression of its soul: to create a luxuriously comely form of moody intoxication.

Abstract beauty is here to rule on The Healing. Micha? ?liwa has gone for a much less direct and forceful approach with this new material. Those who find the heavy element of Echoes of Yul an essential ingredient, however, will not be disappointed. It is just that, as previously inferred, it is applied more as a detail rather than an overwhelming motif. “Apathy Rule” and “Organloop” are superb in this manner, with distortion adding to the contemplative elegance of the music rather than tearing it up into a mess of explosive inundation.

If there is any feeling of a nod to the past in terms of tone, it would be in the form of the album’s closing track, “The Better Days”. Even here, as bass and guitar buzz more forcefully along, the processed vocals, trip-hop style rhythms, and electronic flourishes keep the finale firmly within the new vision. To the very end, The Healing remains expertly steady in its expression of languid rapture.

It is difficult to connect The Healing to any referential pitch. Forest Swords have already been cited, with there being a clear reason for those who are into the more experimental side of trip hop and more thoughtful forms of electronic music to enjoy this album. But the album also remains connected to the spirit of heavier music like doom, without falling into its more blunt and excessive traps. Whether you are somewhere in the middle or situated at either of these poles, The Healing is an album you will love, filled with a sense of being at peace and profoundly haunted all at once.

The Healing is available on CD from Zoharum Experimental and available digitally from Echoes of Yul’s Bandcamp.

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THAW/Echoes of Yul

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Not for the first time, and assuredly not the last, you are reading here that Poland has been hemorrhaging great music in recent times. Last week, the OFF music festival took place in Katowice, featuring Earth, Deafheaven, Chelsea Wolfe, Fuck Buttons, and Slowdive, and was also notable for the number of acts from the roster of the label Instant Classic that featured amongst such illustrious ranks. The label’s latest release, a split effort between experimental acts THAW and Echoes of Yul, is yet another fine production to their name.

THAW’s debut full-length LP, released in May of 2013, carried with it the black metal tag. Whilst this is obviously the path some of THAW’s music takes, the self-titled album had enough ambient and drone elements in it to get the usual suburban gatekeepers huffing and puffing with complaints about deviations from the familiar (you all know the drill). The stylistic delineations began to dissolve further on a subsequent split release with Outre, with THAW becoming even more willing to incorporate external influences into traditional black metal.

‘Earth Grounded’ is the band’s contribution to this split, providing the most interesting development amongst their efforts so far. Set to the foundation of a mantra of percussion that is inferential to the industrial motifs of early Godflesh and Swans, THAW add layer upon layer of tension to form billowing plumes of sonic darkness. The track’s elements remain subtle and atmospheric in contrast with the dervish-like motion of the drums, before reaching a point of dramatic cacophony in the final stages of the 14 minutes. ‘Earth Grounded’ represents a dramatic progression in the band’s experimentation, a pinnacle amongst their music that proves very encouraging as to what may be coming next from these guys.

Echoes of Yul are not as well known as they should be, having produced a swish body of work that incorporates drone, doom, and noise with some rather gorgeous atmospheric post-rock. They have two LPs to their name, and released an EP earlier this year that was extended by virtue of some very interesting interpretations of artists such as James Plotkin, Different State, and Stendek, amongst others. Amongst the growing list of excellent Polish bands, Echoes of Yul are another special one.

Much like THAW presents on Side A, ‘Asemic’ provides something distinct from Echoes of Yul’s earlier work, emerging from the delicate intro of a rasping relative of the sitar to burst into dominating heavy guitars that could have oozed straight from the sludge of the bayous of the southeastern US. The song bides its time with these accents of doom, eventually slithering into a haunting melody underpinned by Yul’s excellent use of synths and samplers. The second half of this 25 minute epic is an unstoppable lava flow of drones interspersed with psychedelic flourishes and evocative sampler work, pushed on by a percussion loop that ties in nicely with THAW’s work on the previous side. Fans of Earth should enjoy this.

Instant Classic’s limited edition hardcopy releases are nothing short of spectacular; and, with luck you may still be able to get your hands on one of the 200 copies of this release from the label’s Bandcamp. Otherwise, you should make it your business to get the digital version of this excellent split release. THAW and Echoes of Yul provide another example of how Instant Classic can seemingly do no wrong.