By August March
Metalcore is the subgenre of rocanrol that features certain conventions of heavy metal, up to and including intricate 12-string solos, headbanging and a brutal and often syncopated rhythm section. Thematically metalcore shares the elusively dark conceits of its progenitor; that means you can count on songs about graveyards and associated morbid or occult themes. Metalcore diverges from this formula via the vocals produced. Vox are often guttural and crushingly toothy in the fashion of an angry dog. Singing isn’t part of this type of expression, and that can be damned distracting. Take for example the new release by Brit metalcore demiurge Architects. The playing is spectacular, and Tom Searle’s guitar work is impeccable. The melodies are crisp and urgently defined by double-plus-good production. But Sam Carter’s barking into the mic schtick gets tiring after a few tracks. Then again the opening cut is called “Gravedigger.”
Minimalism had a huge influence on postmodern art and music, touching artists as diverse as sculptor Carl Andre and jazzman Miles Davis. As far as rock and roll goes, the result has been mixed at best. Rock is mostly about excess, and even the stripped-down sound of The Ramones and AC/DC speak to some kind of decadence. Additionally art rock can come off as ponderous when not done well, so it's no wonder few rockers have migrated naturally toward the ginchy modes employed by the avant-garde. These New Puritans, a South England trio composed of Thomas Hein and twins Jack and George Barnett, does the oft-wandering genre justice with the US release of 2013’s Field of Reeds. Like most competent examples of minimalism, the group achieves its aims through commitment to the spare and succinct. This work doesn’t sound experimental, but it’s a thinly stated, challenging listen.
In early March, Carla Bozulich released Boy. Critics were quick to note this work as evidence of Bozulich’s ability to remake the blues—à la Nick Cave or Tom Waits—as postmodern objets d'art. A cursory listen to her work could result in such comparisons getting thrown around at closing time (when the blues rule), but it’s really an unfair matchup. Boy plumbs a deeper channel than the outings of Cave or Waits. For one thing Bozulich has a voice that's commandingly tender and fierce. There’s some Patti Smith in there and Winehouse, too, all without affectation or the cloak of artistic persona. The instrumentation—especially the use of electronics and ripping guitar tracks—is keen as hell and adds a searching quality to the proceedings. Boy is entertainingly varied, too, shifting from blues to psychedelic exploration to slow-burning rockers with an aplomb that puts to rest any question about what a postmodern blues album should sound like.
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