The Long Awaited Showcase for Saint Marie Records

SMR

This’ll be one of many catch-up posts that’ll be coming. You can thank a series of reasons for this, including broken toes, five jobs, being poor and starving, and working on various wildlife education projects for two different research/conservation groups…   So while it may take a while, there will be more posts coming. So for now, let’s catch up on twelve releases from Saint Marie Records.  This will also serve as my personal introduction to the label.

Blindness – Wrapped in Plastic

A darker sound indeed. By all accounts, this is the debut LP from the all female indie rock band.  They offer up a supreme mixture of darker rock with elements of electronic, shoegaze, blues and maybe a dash of goth.  Think Siouxsie and the Banshees meets a darker Eurhymthics.  There’s no part of that I don’t like.  Melodic!  The songs here are haunting, catchy and beautiful. Lyrically, this is a fine set.  I was kind of surprised to hear such a strong debut. This is really worth picking up!  (4.8 out of 5)

Bloody Knives – I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This

Loud and wonderfully distorted electro/rock/shoegaze is infused with lyrical floods, half submerged in static and echo, like a shimmering psyche gem that’s been melted down by angst and heartache. That about sums up this wild album from start to finish.  Its sound matches its cover art: if ever there was a soundtrack for a burning flower, this would be it. This is their second release for this label, I believe, and I can see why they have a following.  There’s such a force behind their sound! Only eight tracks appear here but each is strong, bright and intense.  Think M83 at their loudest and most distorted meeting up with Primal Scream at their most psyche, finishing off with a dose of blissed out darkness. Prime! (4.8 out of 5)

The Blessed Ilse – Straining Hard Against the Strength of Night

This is the band’s debut LP, following on the heels of a few singles. Relaxed toned vocals swim gently through the sea of slightly distorted shoegaze, bringing a forest of buzzing guitars and light electronics to life, intertwining them with light bits of pop rock, jangle and indie rock.  I think I could draw closer comparisons here to M83 or something off of Jigsaw if they wen a bit more electronic in their jangle…  At any rate, this is rather engaging and fans who have been waiting for this over the last five years will be quite pleased.  (4.8 out of 5)

Jeff Runnings – Primitives and Smalls

The man being For Against debuts an album of solo material, blending post rock with shoegaze with elements of ambient, dreampop, dark pop, and very subtle hints of early goth.   The opening track is certainly a strong choice, showcasing his knack for creating melodic, hypnotic and dreamy darkness. This tone and genre mixture continue to stay strong through the album as a whole, perhaps a bit more melodic in some spots than others.  I did like that instrumental: a nice surprise in the middle of things.  I’ll admit, overall, the melodic vocals drew me in, especially on “Premium,” which is only the half way point of the album.  Sold.  Fans of his other works will be  happy with this. I know I was. (4.8 out of 5)

Deardarkhead – Strange Weather

A rare reemergence of a band that’s been around since 1988! Leaning on post rock and shoegaze mainly, I can also pick up hints of new wave, psyche and electro-rock. This album is made up entirely of instrumentals, a first out of my pile of albums from this label thus far.  Think Ozric Tentacles meets the Cure with dashes of psyche and a lot more shoegaze… this is what you’d get.  And really, it’s pretty good.  Certainly a surprise.  (4.7 out of 5)

The High Violets – Heroes and Halos

I noticed about three CDs into my stack that this label sure likes its shoegaze. This album leans into that genre as well but does not rely so much on distortion in its sound.  Powered more by clearer and refined synth, guitars and strings, this album puts more focus on the vocals and lyrics as they seem to be way out front as opposed to hiding within the layers of sound that some of the other LPs tended to do. Again, not knocking on that, but this one is different in that respect.  It’s gentler but does not lack in power.  It feels like Ladytron met up with Mandolay and mellowed way, way out and made this incredible gem together.  Just stunning.  (5 out of 5)

SPC ECO – Dark Matter

It’s pronounced Space Echo. Moving on.  This project features Dean Garcia of Curve fame (among numerous other projects), and Rose Berlin, his daughter.  This album was described as a trip hop album, which kind of excited me. It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything new from that genre land in my pile.  I’d also say that the music dabbles a bit in downtempo in parts but that’s not the main focus.  The collaborative effort of father and daughter here is dazzling… well, as dazzling as trip hop can be. It’s a gentle genre as far as sound goes with the power coming from the audio textures, vocals/lyrics and of course, that relentlessly steady yet slow beat.  I am picking up traces of Portishead, Sneaker Pimps and a slew of others but this album comes out on top as fresh, modern, new and something we should be paying attention to.  The duo play a bit with autotune and some vocoders, but they largely leave the vocals untouched, letting them shine through, only adding texturings or other techniques if it fits the track.  And I think that is what makes me so excited about this. Well, that and the vocal/lyric work.  This isn’t “just another female vocal trip hop album” that we’re dealing with.  This is new and yet somewhat familiar in all the right ways.  You will not be disappointed.  (4.9 out of 5)

Thee Koukouvaya – This is the Mythology of Modern Death

We move into more ambient/IDM territory here. And I am digging it.  This album leaps and zips in many different directions without losing any cohesion between tracks.  And the fact that things can jump from ambient one track to something experimental and yet dance oriented is rather intriguing.  Nothing is compromised here.  Lush and energetic synth meet up with soundscapes and well-constructed beats to create wild yet controlled experiments of sound, depth and deep subconscious rhythm.  I really can’t compare this to much of anything really; this is fairly unique and a nice surprise to come out of my massive pile of discs from this label. (4.9 out of 5)

Presents for Sally – Colours and Changes

Moving back into the indie rock/shoegaze world, here comes this three piece band from the UK.  The sound here, compared to the other albums I’ve reviewed from this label so far, is fairly mild. I mean that in the best way possible.  Where many of the other albums were also shoegaze, they also delved into noisier domains, branching into noise pop or experimental or even a bit into goth.  This album seems to stay a short distance away from the noise pop style but keeps its roots firmly in shoegaze.  Vocal duties are split amongst members, which is kind of nice.  The tracks themselves are neatly constructed, lyrically sound, forcing me to find nothing too big to really complain about…. The vocals could have been brought a bit closer to the surface but maybe I’m just being nitpicky.  Have I used the word “catchy” yet?  It’s kinda catchy. It feels like it’s been a while since I could say that.  Again, it’s difficult to draw too many comparisons to this one but I’d say that if you like shoegaze or any of the other albums from this label, you will no doubt enjoy this one.  (4.7 out of 5)

Snow In Mexico – Juno Beach

A short four track EP of the gentler side of shoegaze.  It feels like this EP relies a bit more on atmospheres constructed of synth and simplistic beats to create its sound, a hazy one though it is.  And I’m actually really liking this one.  Just when I thought I was burning out on the genre, this kind of rekindled my enjoyment of it.  This little EP works well as an intro to the modern form of the genre and for the band itself.  Very nice! (4.9 out of 5)

Static Daydream – s/t

Shoegaze but building more on vocal harmonies… I guess this is what it might be like if the Vaselines went shoegaze. Like the other albums here, this one tends to lean more into the electronics… I am guessing that this is what the genre evolved into since its early days. I really need to pay more attention.  I find the sound her a bit more accessible and less noise oriented than some of the other CDs I’ve played lately.  It still haz that nice, hazy vibe to it, which is always a good thing in my book.  And as an added bonus, the band doesn’t settle on slower tempos, which gives this an extra boost of energy in spots.  Rock on!  Nice album altogether.  (4.8 out of 5)

 

Mark Van Hoen – Nightvision

You read that right, the guy from Locust and Seefeel releases this new album of ambient-ish music. I would, at first listen, describe these tracks as moody, perhaps touching a bit at times at the shoegaze attitude but branching into darker, more composed works… something I might hear on a soundtrack to a horror themed video game.  And that’s not a bad thing.  Dark, almost drone styled atmospheres come to live with brilliantly composed melodies, gentle haunting beats and a plethora of odd sounds.  The synth and instrumentation itself is fairly unique, going out of the realm of what I typically hear on ambient records and diving more into its own uncharted direction.  And I swear those reversed vocal samples sound familiar…  Anyway, the album as a whole is pretty good.  It does venture into lighter patches so it’s not dark for too long.  Fans of Van Hoen’s moodier work will be quite excited by this.  Hell, even if you’re just curious, pick this up.  I actually quite liked this. (4.9 out of 5)

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About Nick H.

I'm a geek for music whether it be on vinyl, CD, 78 or whatever. My goal is to sniff out the greated music on Earth, specializing in the obscure. I make music myself as well, mostly ambient and sound collage (1 album out and a few remixes so far). I work full time as a professional mascot (it pays the pills) but will soon retire, i hope.
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