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Sonic Boom: Reviews: Yakuza, School of Seven Bells

The July Pirate Guide: Yakuza's Of Seismic Consequence and School of Seven Bells' Disconnect From Desire.


Over the past couple weeks, I have written in this column about my favorite songs of summer 2010, as well as my favorite albums of the first half of this year. Considering the structure and design of this column, those were both worthy and timely topics, and I’m glad I wrote about them. However, doing so put me in a weird position this week: In those pieces I wrote a little bit about some of the records I would otherwise be covering here—in the “Pirate Guide,” the monthly “Sonic Boom” feature wherein I review a handful of new albums. So, rather than write about the same records for several weeks running, I offer a slightly truncated “Pirate Guide,” and a rundown, with scores, of those albums that have been should be here had they not been covered already. They are: Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty [9/10]; Sun Kil Moon’s Admiral Fell Promises [8/10]; Best Coast’s Crazy for You [8/10]; and Delays’ Star Tiger Star Ariel [7/10]. I promise, August will bring a more robust “Pirate Guide” and maybe even a few bad grades.

Yakuza—Of Seismic Consequence (Profound Lore)

Right now, there’s no other label in metal—heck, there’s no other label in music—releasing such exciting, boundary-expanding, uncompromising records as Canada’s Profound Lore. Their roster is like a who’s who of extreme metal’s best bands: Cobalt, Krallice, Yob, Amesoeurs, Portal, Altar of Plagues… It’s unusual today—at a time when record labels have less influence than ever before—to see one independent label making such an incredible impact and establishing such a signature voice. Of Seismic Consequence is the fifth album from Chicago’s Yakuza, and it is another major triumph for the label. It’s also a pretty substantial statement from the band. Yakuza don’t really sound like anything else in metal, or anything else, period. Vocalist Bruce Lamont—who mostly sings in a dark Layne Staley-esque croon here—also contributes hypnotic saxophone work; there are heavy jazz and Middle Eastern influences guiding the writing and performances. Recorded by Sanford Parker, the sound is sharp and clean but devastatingly, almost suffocatingly heavy. Much of the record proceeds at a doom metal-esque gait, which only accentuates the precision and exhilaration when the band shreds (and when they do, it is truly a thing to behold). Most importantly, the songs here are songs—not virtuosic wankery; not empty ambience. At its frequent best, Of Seismic Consequence appears to belong to no genre: Yakuza could almost just as easily be a jazz band with metal influences. But even that seems to ghettoize the work—in a weird sense, Yakuza are making true “world” music, finding sounds in disparate genres across the globe, and blending them to create something both new and old, something genuinely unique, something that is in fact pretty goddamned amazing. [9/10]


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School of Seven Bells—Disconnect From Desire (Vagrant/Ghostly)

The ’90s revival crops up in the weirdest places and ways: the excellent forthcoming debut from California’s Best Coast reminds me of Liz Phair’s 1993 classic Exile in Guyville; Southern grungers Dead Confederate (whose new album comes out in August) sound like Nirvana circa In Utero (or maybe even a little like forgotten grunge also-rans Paw). With their honeyed female vocals and Space Age Bachelor Pad bloops and bleeps, School of Seven Bells recall the dreamy post-rock of Stereolab, the warm shoegaze-y glow of Lush, and the blissed-out alt-techno of Seefeel. School of Seven Bells don’t do much to update those sounds, but I’m not sure any update is necessary: Disconnect From Desire may be referential and retro, but its influences always sounded a little otherworldly and out-of-time anyway. Disconnect From Desire is (presumably) designed with getting high in mind, but it’s tightly and expertly constructed; as much as it drifts and glides, it has a center, a soul, a reason to exist, and even if you don’t care about its careful and meticulous attention to detail, it is melodic, engaging and lovely enough to appeal to those of us who quit drugs back when these sounds were first in vogue (or not long thereafter). [8/10]

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