Category Archives: CD Reviews

Ivadell

bcr-046-cover-hires-300Flow by Ivadell (Broken Circle Records)

While there are only three songs contained within Ivadell’s debut for Broken Circle Records, the auditory odyssey this South Carolina based band embarks upon will infinitely tingle the senses! Even the most finicky of music aficionados will surely be enraptured by the wondrously atmospheric sounds of Flow. References such as Hum, Failure and latter-day Cave In come to mind, and yet Ivadell manage to be thoroughly original with a trio of songs that will leave the listener thoroughly enraptured.

ivadell710The commencement piece is The Love Of Will, a gorgeous tapestry that will enchant the senses with its thrilling set of dynamics. Calming vocals mesh with a stunning score that alternately soothes and then pummels the senses. Breaking Light begins with its gorgeously hypnotic refrains before exploding into a dazzling wall of impenetrable sound that is epic in scope. And then closing out Flow way too soon is the wildly infectious Flickering, featuring all musicians weaving a sense of magic and intrigue throughout the entire composition.

Presenting its post hardcore reveries with a stunning amount of conviction, expect Ivadell’s upcoming full length to be nothing short of a magnum opus. In the meantime, check out Flow as well as their previous entreaty The Young Design, and let the resourceful musicians of Ivadell set your imagination in flight. Skillfully recorded by Kris Hilbert at Legitimate Business in Greensboro, NC.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Burnt Belief

burnt belief etymologyEtymology by Burnt Belief (Alchemy Records)

Jon Durant is an American guitarist and producer and is the owner of Alchemy Records. He’s played with the likes of King Crimson bassist Tony Levin and pianist Michael Whalen.  In 2011 Durant and Porcupine Tree founding bassist Colin Edwin  worked together on Durant’s Dance of the Shadow Planets album and joined forces as equal collaborators as Burnt Belief for their self-titled debut.  On their follow-up Etymology they are augmented by the drummers Vinny Sabatino, Dean McCormick and Jose Duque.

On opening track Chromatique the drumming is energetic, skittering and funky, Durant’s guitar work is textured and draws the listener in, building tension until almost the end when he really lets loose like a light rain turning into a violent storm.  Dissemble follows, with an interesting drum pattern and strings that evoke desert winds, Edwin playing a dubby groove.    Precis takes a minute to get going, Durant and Edwin circling each other on their instruments, Durant layering riffs and textures throughout.  On  Hraunfossar the duo include what sounds like a flute in their dubby mix, delicate guitars build tension and just when you think its all going to get big and loud, Edwin lays down a juicy bass line that just oozes out of the speakers and the song coasts to the end in a slow groove.

burnt belief band shotNot Indifferent starts out slow and quiet and for the first half of its 12 minutes threatens to fizzle out into nothingness if not for Edwin’s slithering bass.  But then the whole mood changes when clattering percussion and an electronic bass pattern are then introduced and Durant joins in with layered guitars: angry and vibrant and delicate and soothing, piling the various approaches on until you find yourself nodding along.

On Squall Durant and Edwin sound like they’re having fun riffing off of the various rhythms and each other, Durant providing one guitar tuning after another, all spinning and harmonizing with a violin sound giving the song an exotic yet funky air.

Etymology closes with Charlatan, Durant stabbing his guitar between treated hand drums and Edwin’s jazzy rhythmic interplay, getting spacey with odd synth effects. Durant’s epic harmonized guitar leads bring Etymology to a satisfying and uplifting end.

(by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Facebook
Alchemy Records
Colin Edwin’s page
Jon Durant’s page

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For All I Am

nohome2No Home by For All I Am (InVogue Records)

For All I Am has been through a world of change since Skinwalker was unveiled at beginning of 2013, including the loss of key band members and a surprise parting with Equal Vision Records. And while Skinwalker was well received, For All I Am was flying under the radar of many – in spite of relentless touring with live performances that would shatter the senses. No Home is their second full length recording – and first with their new label InVogue Records. And instead of encountering that legendary sophomore slump that has plagued many a band, No Home is a devastating accomplishment that should garner the band a good deal of attention.

In an interview with Highwire Daze, front man Aria Yava stated that the title No Home, “depicts the thought of you not being comfortable in your own mind.” The 11 songs found within take the listener on the journey through a personal darkness, and the results found within are definitively captivation. Six Souls kicks the disc off on an overpowering note, with vocalist Aria Yava screaming “I’m fucking losing it” with a shattering sense of urgency. Tunnel Vision then explodes into your psyche with a fiery sense of liberation followed by the darkness which envelopes the soul with the hardened reprieves of Out Of Line. “How do you think you could ask me for more?” rings out as a blistering account of friendship and betrayal.

foralliam2014_2Young Grave is performed with a remarkable amount of clean vocals and a melodic soundscape, showing a different side to For All I Am which still retaining the album’s vibrant intensity. The soul ripping then goes back into hypersonic gear when Yava muses “Today I do not have a heart” at the commencement on the fiery Slip-Up. Bad Nature features blazing guitars and a kaleidoscopic keyboard underscore that sends this wildly potent song into the stratosphere with the “what else do we have to lose” verbal expulsions. “Do we truly feel content living this way?” is the question the track poses, with no easy answers in sight.

The ferocity rages in Black Sheep, a thrashing opus that is relentless in scope with its “Put yourself in check bitch” recriminations searing through the sonic devastation. The pulsating Caring Is The New Currency then commences, further leading the listener into an intriguing despair. A calming release with the morose entreaties of Inward follows, exploding into a torrential wall of desperation.

Wake Me Up shows the art of falling apart with deeply personal lyrics combined with gripping performances from each and every members of the band. And then closing out No Home is the powerhouse Swallowed Alive, where the uneasy sentiments of “all these thoughts are filled with pain” ring within your mind long after the disc spins to its foreboding conclusion.

As in life, there are no easy answers to the bitter problems and personal demons that consume us all. And in spite of its many bleak conclusions, No Home is a wondrously cathartic piece of artistry that many a music fan will be able to relate with.  Charismatic front man Aria Yava’s delivers the emotional lyrics with a ferocious amount of conviction that is near mesmerizing. Tom Crisp supplies a dynamic wall of atmospheric sound on guitar while drummer Aaron Martinez and bassist Mario Roche drive it all home with an all-out vengeance. No Home is a gripping auditory adventure through the turbulence of the heart and mind that is not to be missed.

(Review by Ken Morton)

For All I Am on Facebook

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Luke Potter

lukepottersosugar1So Sugar by Luke Potter (Self-released)

At long last, Luke Potter’s first official full length album has been released onto the world at large, and it was surely worth the wait. Pure power pop rock complete with wondrously infect-ious choruses, the ten cuts featured on So Sugar would sweeten up the day of even the most sour of music critic. Based out of the UK, it won’t be long before the world discovers Luke Potter. Managed by Johnny Wright and Melinda Bell for Wright Entertainment (Justin Timberlake, Before You Exit) and Gina Orr of Orrigami Entertainment (David Archuleta, Crystal Bowersox), the star making machine is in place for this massive talent ready to break out into the big leagues.

The disc kicks into supersonic gear with the rocking refrains of the title track So Sugar – instantly hooking the listener in for a stratospheric ride into the heart of an up-and-coming singer / songwriter. There It Goes Again will remain in your head for ages with its delightful melodies and Luke Potter’s expressive vocals. Crazy Enough is a gorgeous ballad sure to captivate the senses of hopeless romantics and dreamers all over the world. Then it’s back to pop rocking when Sadie shows up to joyously set your imagination in flight.

lukepottersosugar2A definitely highlight on So Sugar is the poignant One Day, where a lush musical score and Luke Potter’s vividly emotional vocals render this piece an absolute standout. One Day would be the classic any artist who hope to write, and it shows Potter’s wonderful knack for delivering a truly timeless song. Terrified exhibits yet another side to Potter’s songwriting, complete with pensive lyrics and a magnetic chorus. It’s Okay To Dream is another top notch track destined to become a Luke Potter fan favorite.

I want to wake up every day in a different place, maybe today LA,” sings Luke Potter with a wide-eyed wonder on the spiraling Possibility. Chance Worth Taking is a wistful track about navigating through the grand puzzle known as love. And then closing out So Sugar on a gloriously positive note is the magnificent I’m Alive, a track that absolutely soars into the stratosphere.

The production work on So Sugar is first rate, featuring the superlative work of the noted Bleu (Demi Lovato, Jonas Brothers) sending the material into even greater heights. Be sure to check into So Sugar by Luke Potter, and catch up with rising star. With an album so exhilarating filled to the brim with radio friendly compositions, expect to see Luke Potter signed to a major label any day now!

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Erasure

erasure1The Violet Flame by Erasure (Mute Records)

I actually enjoy this whole CD, and the deeper you get into it, the better it gets. The Violet Flame is the 16th studio album from UK electro-pop duo which has lasted close now to nearly 30 years in the music pop business. The music will sound like the old 1980’s synth style we have become a custom to. You’ll still find Andy Bell’s crystal lush vocals ringing out over Vince Clarke’s upbeat lavish melodies. The album comes across as a lightness of touch which makes you enjoy the bass dance background beat to get you moving faster. Many of the songs are infectious. My favorite song on here would make for a great video which is: Under The Wave. Under The Wave would also work well for radio. This CD is one of those that grows on you with each listen. This was really a nice treat because I had to really listen to the whole CD this time around instead of only getting a couple of great tracks. Listen to other great songs on here as well such as Paradise, Be The One, Elevation and Promises.

The Violet Flame is a great comeback to last year’s great package Snow Globe for Christmas. As a matter of fact the same producer from Snow Globe is the one who is also producing The Violet Flame. The Violent Flame should get the best production and best overall produced album of the year.

(Review by Jonathan D. Wright)

Erasure on Facebook

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In Flames

siren-charmsSiren Charms by In Flames (Epic Records)

There’s plenty of bands that started out metal and went on to something else: The Gathering turned their back on metal adding influences from Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins to their style, Anathema evolved into a more atmospheric rock band and Cynic turned into a progressive, ambient, jazz, rock amalgam that is a thrill to hear. On their two most recent albums Opeth channels pastoral and psychedelic bands of old without losing their own past heaviness. And there are plenty of bands that incorporate pop elements into their metal.  In Flames want to be catchy and accessible and metal all at the same time.  After two decades of causing neck damage they continue to experiment with textures, vocal approaches and rhythms searching for that one (or, hopefully, an album’s worth) great pop metal song.

in-flames-2014-640x400On Siren Charms  the band sounds eager to bring in new ears. In Plain View balances heavy & hard with a softer side in Anders Friden’s varied vocals, swinging from anguished clean singing to gut-punching screaming in the chorus, it’s all crisp and shiny and razor sharp.  Everything Is Gone combines several tempos, Daniel Svensson showing off his skills, speed punk one second, double bass kicks the next, then slamming into an all-out brutal metal part.  Paralyzed sounds like In Flames’  version of a post-apocalyptic love ballad with Orjan Ornkloo’s buzzing synths and Friden’s singing about being out on our own in a wasteland.

With Eyes Wide Open begins with harmonized guitars leading to a very catchy rock ballad, the keyboards way in the background, Friden singing clear and strong, Bjorn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin’s guitars shining through for maximum uplift.  When Worlds Collide remind you In Flames can do dangerous and they don’t disappoint. Swedish opera singer Emilia Feldt joins in with her sexy croon and angelic fills to add a sense of wonder.

Creeping up towards the end of Siren Charms, on Monsters In The Ballroom, In Flames tempers what’s mainly a soaring and heroic rock song with screamed vocals and chugging and harmonized guitar riffs. The crunchiness and double kick drum finale is especially satisfying for the headbanging.  To wrap up the album, Filtered Truth features Peter Iwers’ bass, carrying the melody along with Ornkloo’s keyboards, Friden screaming about the rage inside as the guitars and drums burn and crash.

In Flames will be on the Siren Communion Tour with Red Fang and Opeth this winter and will play the Hollywood Palladium on December 9th.

(Review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Inflames.com
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Twitter

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Engineers

Engineers_-_Always_ReturningAlways Returning by Engineers (KScope Records)

Until speaking with electronic producer Ulrich Schnauss for an interview for the last album A Long Way To Fall, the music of Mark Peters and his band Engineers had flown under my radar. Little did I know how much I’d love his music.  The band is multi-instrumentalist Peters, Schnauss  and drummer/keyboardist Matthew Gilbert Lindley (who releases music as “Gilbert“).  Always Returning is full of pretty songs that would float off into the clouds if it weren’t for the talents behind their making. There’s a sense of sadness and longing permeating the album giving many songs a compelling emotional weight.

engineers band shotOne of the many incredible songs on Always Returning is Fight or Flight where synths swell and wash over the song, electronics perco-lating and dancing throughout.  One of the most blissful songs you’ll likely hear for years to come. It Rings So True showcases a mesmerizing guitar lead, lightly accompanied by keyboards, Peters’ close-mic’ed voice drawing you in and building suspense and mystery.  The final minute of the song is an understated prog rock masterpiece.

Drive Your Car begins with pretty piano and Peters’ quiet vocals, acoustic guitar and swirling synths join in, rising into a rocking climax with a buzzing electric guitar lead dueling with an energetic piano performance.   Innsbruck presents a tight and bright guitar pattern that is played off of by Schnauss’ keyboards and powerful drumming by Linley.  The song is reminiscent of New Order’s instrumental Thieves Like Us with its cautious optimism and colorful outbursts of guitar and piano.

Smiling Back is a hazy nostalgic song with echoes of early Pink Floyd in their slower more introspective moments.  On Smoke and Mirrors Peters’ piano and guitar and Schnauss’ motorik synth loops meld wonderfully.  A Million Voices is a straight-up rock song, though one coming from the corner of synth-pop, Peters’ whispy vocals float through a peppy beat, shiny keyboards and a thrumming bass guitar.

Closing Always Returning, the title track offers so many memorable melodies that I found myself humming the piano refrain this morning. The song somehow sounds both sad and uplifting until the final third where the guitars, bass and piano riff off each other fading into the heavens.

Peters and Schnauss have also collaborated on two albums under their own names.  Both albums released on Bureau B, link below.

(Review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
KScope
Facebook
Bureau B Records

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Slipknot

greychapter1.5: The Gray Chapter by Slipknot
(Roadrunner Records)

Slipknot

What can one say about them? Since their break into the music scene in 1999 with their genre changing Self Titled album, to the extremely sadistic Iowa, toning it down a few years later with Vol 3. The Subliminal Versus, to the there amazing comeback in 2009 with All Hope is Gone many people have asked what more they could do? With the death of beloved bassist and co-founder Paul Gray in 2010, and the departure of powerhouse drummer Joey Jordison in late 2013, many, including myself thought the band was finished and over with. I can’t even tell you how wrong we were.

A few months back after the drama had subsided, all of Slipknot’s social media had literally, gone black. There was nothing. Out of nowhere random words started to be posted. With this tease everyone began to regain hope that the Knot would return. On August 1st 2014, the nay Sayers sure had to bite their own tongue with the release of their first song in 5 years, The Negative One. Every Slipknot album to date has been extremely different from one another each having its own special factors. With the release of only one song, The Negative One takes every aspect of Slipknot that we all love and crams it into one song. The pure energy emitting from the lyrics sparks feelings of anger and sadness almost instantly. After a few more weeks, a music video was released for the first official single of the new album; along with a music video for the song The Devil In I which metaphorically punched everybody in the face. With heavy riffs to strong and meaningful lyrics the first single of the album is sure to make every new and old Slipknot fan happy. The music video also features two new members on bass and drums, the identities of which are still to this day unknown, and Slipknot plans to keep it that way. Although the bassist has been pretty much guaranteed, we will keep the name to ourselves out of respect to Slipknot.

A lot of times when reviewing an album it is hard to get through, not because the music is bad, but because ever so often the music sounds so repetitive and the same as the bands last album. With the release of Slipknot’s fifth album .5: The Gray Chapter, it is sure to shock everyone. This record has given me no trouble in writing about it due to how solid it is from start to finish.

slipknot2014The first song  XIX is more of an intro into the album. With bagpipes and what sounds like solders marching in the background, Vocalist Corey Taylor sings with such grief and anger that it immediately puts you in the mood to listen to a Slipknot album. With lyrics such as “Nothing appeals to me, no one feels like me, I’m to busy being calm to disappear”, the song is a perfect intro in the record.  Continuing with the slow sounding intro but this time with a soft guitar riff the second song Sarcastrophe begins, after a few seconds a powerful distorted band comes in. With a particularly impressive drum fill (WHO IS IT?!), the band comes in with a fast paced classic Slipknot riff. The emotion that comes to mind with Sarcastrophe is panic. The intense screams of Corey Taylor and the riffs by guitarists James Root and Mick Thomson, this song will definitely hit you in a way you would never imagine.

In the middle of the album a song by the name of Skeptic plays. This song is most likely very special to the band because it is obviously about Paul Gray. With lyrics such as “There will never be another crazy mother fucker like you” and “You were the best of us,” a dedication to Paul Gray this song surely is.

A song that stood out to me that was particularly different was Killpop. Emitting emotions of grieving, sadness and depression, you really hear the pain that this band is feeling. Towards the end of the album you hear some truly classic heavy Slipknot with my two favorite songs, Custer and Nomadic. These two songs really bring the band together as a whole. These two songs really bring the remaining members into the picture. With percussionists Chris Fein and Shawn “Clown” Crahan, and DJ’s Sid Wilson and Craig Jones, these two songs scream aggression. Going all the way back two Iowa, which many say is Slipknot’s most aggressive and heavy album, these two songs are as hardcore Slipknot as it gets. Prepare to go crazy when you hear them. Sid Wilson and Craig Jones surely add a side of crazy to this album. Any band can be 2 guitars a drummer and a bassist, but with these two it brings a sense of insanity to the music that helps define what Slipknot truly is.

All in all, Slipknot’s fifth album .5: The Gray Chapter is absolutely perfect. Front to back this album puts you through every emotion that is possible to feel. I will say that a lot of people were worried that the new drummer, who ever he (or she?) is, would not be able live up to Joey Jordisons style. Let me assure you that although it is not Joey, whoever this guy is the perfect choice besides Joey. This record takes old and new Slipknot and puts it together in sweet, sweet harmony. With amazingly heavy songs, heartfelt lyrics this will take you through a wild ride. When listening to the album, don’t be bitter because its not him, because trust me, this guy is great. .5: The Gray Chapter hits stores on October 21st. Be prepared for a ride through hell and back. This album will not disappoint and makes me proud to be a Slipknot fan.

(Review by Edward Brandon)

Slipknot on Facebook

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Exodus

exodus coverBlood In, Blood Out by Exodus (Nuclear Blast Records)

The tenth studio album by Exodus grabs you by the throat and throws you into the mosh pit from the opening minutes of their new album Blood In, Blood Out.  Guitarist and leader Gary Holt has paired down the Exodus sound and this is their best album in years, if not their whole career.  While Exodus hasn’t enjoyed the success of some of their peers they have sold over five million records in their 34 year career and they continue to create compelling and complex metal that is both visceral and violent and a whole lot of head-banging fun.  Original singer Steve “Zetro” Souza also returns to the fold bringing even more energy to the songs that Holt had written.  Souza’s vocals are a thrill to hear, as he wails, growls, chants and raps his way through the songs.  Sparks fly off the guitars of Holt and Lee Arbus, solos attack  you like the chest-bursting Alien, Jack Gibson’s bass sounds like he’s using bridge support wires and Tom Hunting excels at both a fast punk beat and the slower tempos, a powerhouse of a drummer.  Kirk Hammett offers a guitar solo for the anthemic Salt The Wound, Testament’s Chuck Billy roars over the end of BTK.

(Photo by Bruce Getty)

(Photo by Bruce Getty)

On Black 13, the title track, Salt the Wound, Body Harvest  and the rest of the album the band play like men half their age, seemingly revitalized and ready to prove to themselves, if not the rest of the world they’ve still got what it takes to blow minds and speakers.  This is driving music, metal to kick-start your heart, audio defribullators to remind you you’re alive.

Exodus get more complex  in their arrangements for the second half of the album, slowing down only a little, crafting a convoluted yet powerful middle section for Wrapped in the Arms of Rage, with also features many awesome guitar leads.  Food For The Worms is how you’ll feel after being battered and bruised by the last song on Blood In, Blood Out, a go-for-broke song that alternates between stupid fast beats and heaviosity that still remains accessible.

Blood In, Blood Out is a career high for Exodus, joining  fellow thrashers Testament and Anthrax who have both recently released their best albums to date.

(Review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Exodus’s website
Facebook
Nuclear Blast
YouTube

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Zola Jesus

zolajesustaiga1500_6Taiga by Zola Jesus (Mute Records)

Nika Roza Danilova’s Zola Jesus releases are works of a singular talent, made by someone willing to experiment with styles, textures, traditional instruments and a voice that shines through strong and has an emotional weight not heard often enough in modern music. Listening through Danilova’s back catalog of EPs and full length albums brightness shines through the dark, upbeat tempos burst out of seemingly gloomy mood music, pop songs are buried in goth/industrial trappings yet always with Danilova’s voice the prominent instrument, the ship you ride through the storm.

To ground  the music of Taiga, Danilova and her husband spent time on Vashon Island, a forest island in the Puget Sound near Seattle, only reachable by ferry.  She wrote the songs there in the peaceful, natural surroundings.  Taiga is a word that refers to Coniferous forests, the likes that cover over 1/5 of the northern hemisphere, specifically in Russia and Siberia.  Places removed from people and technology where the chatter of the modern world is replaced by the sounds of wind through the trees, the bending of branches, the chatter of birds, the melting of ice.  Danilova then took her songs and with the aid of co-producer Dean Hurley, who has worked as a sound editor and music arranger for the likes of David Lynch, crafted a collection of beautiful, mysterious and heartfelt songs.

(Photo by Jeff Elstone)

(Photo by Jeff Elstone)

Danilova also wisely couched some of the incredible songs on Taiga in the framework of modern music, mainly that of the dancefloor-ready pop songs of today.

The opening title track is our introduction: her heavenly layered voice repeating the word “taiga”, a blast of drum’n’bass, a shadowing of ominous horns.  Dangerous Days, is catchy and often light, yet has a delicious and dark undercurrent of churning and scraping synths that brings solidity to the song. Danilova sings sultry and soaring, drawing you into her world.  Dust is a torch song with horns that pepper the song, itchy electronics and a pretty breakdown at the end.  Hunger grabs you immediately with brash horns and pounding drums, Danilova growling “I got the hunger, I got the hunger in my veins/ I won’t surrender, still it takes me away” like a mantra.  Go* blends primal and earthly with heavenly and electronic elements, another cathartic chanted vocal delivery “And I say no, I say no one can stop me now/And I say no, I say no one can stop me now” that will have you wanting to follow her wherever she takes you.  While Ego does have sounds in it other than vocals, it’s Danilova’s voice that is front and center, clear and powerful, a Venus rising from the ocean.  Lawless starts up with clattering percussion and a creepy cool undertow backing soulful and searching vocals, then majestic strings join in and the song morphs into a brightly-colored butterfly.

Taiga closes with It’s Not Over, a song that combines Danilova’s love for both dark and brooding and big and bold, as she sings enigmatically about only she knows what, chanting “It’s not over tonight” at the end of the song making you believe that whatever she’s working through will have a positive outcome and she’ll be stronger for it.

The artist known as Zola Jesus is only 25 and Taiga took four years to make. Her new album reveals an intelligent and bold woman willing to bare her soul in her vocals even while her moving lyrics are pictures to be interpreted by the listener however they like.  And the music contains traditional and modern instrumentation with an ear towards the dancefloor while retaining a serious significance that will keep music fans interested and engaged for years to come.

Go was originally released in 2010 on the Valusia EP as Sea Talk.

(Review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Official Website
Facebook
Soundcloud
Youtube
Video for Orbital’s New France (with Zola Jesus)

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