The Thomas Top Five: 2/1/16
Our Editor-in-Chief listens to upwards of 50 albums per week, so why not let him share the five, presented alphabetically by artist, he thinks are the best for you to hear on this week’s installment of the Thomas Top Five?
Darkspace – DARK SPACE II
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal, Dark Ambient, Black Metal
Favorite Tracks: “Dark 2.1”
Listener be warned: this album isn’t for the faint of heart. A perfect representation of the band’s name, DARK SPACE II is a bone-chilling journey through the deepest reaches of claustrophobic infinity. An overwhelming listening experience, the gargantuan and all-encompassing pacing and composition yield some of the most gnarled and nihilistic sounds to emerge from the black metal genre. However, what makes DARK SPACE II an unforgettable experience is the fact that the crushing sonic references to Burzum and Paysage d’Hiver are juxtaposed with pensive ambient passages indebted to artists such as Tangerine Dream. The richness of texture easily places Darkspace at an advantage over their peers, and soundscapes this masochistic have rarely been cultivated. Listen well past midnight.
EEK – KAHRABA
Favorite Tracks: “Trinity,” “Kahraba”
Man, oh, man. If ever there was an album that grips you and resolutely refuses to let go until you’re overwhelmed with transcendental ecstasy, it’s EEK’s KAHRABA. With physicality and kineticism dripping from each chiptune-indebted synth tone, KAHRABA is comparable to Anamanaguchi snorting a mountain of cocaine in the deserts of Egypt, learning the Phrygian scale, and soloing for hours on end. Rocketing by on heart attack-inducing percussion patterns, only the coldest of souls will be able to resist each track’s siren call. The repetition and cyclical nature of each song will have you in a trance before you can say “Omar Souleyman on speed.” Whether you need to burn a few extra calories at the gym or zone out at work, KAHRABA’s got you covered.
Free Throw – THOSE DAYS ARE GONE
Genre: Midwest Emo
Favorite Tracks: “Good Job, Champ,” “Tongue Tied,” “Kim Tastie,” “Let’s Get Invisible”
Those who keep up with our music department will know that we’re emo friendly, and hopefully we’ve made strides towards dispelling the negative connotations that surround the genre thanks to everyone’s middle school iPod. If you’re still not convinced, give Free Throw’s THOSE DAYS ARE GONE a spin. With vocals that are still emotive without the oft-maligned “emo whine,” the scant incorporation of pained screams is tasteful and perfectly complements the tales of love and loss that are to be found in the banality of everyday existence. In addition, although this may set off even more alarms off in the minds of the uninitiated, the energy of pop punk is added to the painter’s palette, injecting a preppy energy that is the ideal companion to the Midwest Emo atmospherics that we all know and love. Criminally ignored, THOSE DAYS ARE GONE leaves an immediate impression that drills itself into your being.
Takeshi Terauchi and the Bunnys – 正調寺内節
Favorite Tracks: “勧進帳,” “娘道成寺,” “元禄花見踊り”
Due to supposed cultural superiority, Western conceptions of pop music have dominated the global lexicon since time immemorial, which is exactly the reason why a record such as Takeshi Terauchi’s 正調寺内節 (THIS IS TERAUCHI BUSHI) needs to be heard. Easily trumping and lapping highly regarded Western contemporaries, this entirely instrumental album rocks and rollicks by on unstoppable waves of joyous surf rock and psychedelia. However, what I would posit as the most impressive is the fact that there is an ease and comfortability with improvisation and an embracing of technical ability that isn’t present in the already heavily commercialized Western music industries of the same era. Perhaps only such guitar auteurs as Eric Clapton and Tony Iommi manage to match the sheer personality Terauchi blesses each riff and lick with as he lyrically solos over pop structures that feel familiar (with the exception of the superb keyboard compliments of Tatsuya Ogino). A record that is doomed to be ignored by English-speaking tastemakers for the rest of time, I’m breaking with tradition to give this one Hell of a glowing recommendation.
Tangerine Dream – PHAEDRA
Genre: Berlin School, Progressive Electronic
Favorite Tracks: “Phaedra,” “Mysterious Semblance At the Strand of Nightmares”
The mastermind behind Tangerine Dream, Edward Froese, died roughly a week ago, and with him died one of the most innovative and important voices in electronic ambience. PHAEDRA, Tangerine Dream’s quintessential release, is just as immersive and mind-bending in 2016 as it was in 1974, and the gift of hindsight allows one to realize just how ahead of its time the album is. All other electronic albums purporting to take the listener on a “journey” are pale imitations of the cosmic pilgrimage Froese and company take you upon. Starting as the merest microcosms in the aural abyss, Tangerine Dream’s aqueous synthesizers pulse and striate through a life-affirming progression of astral acrobatics. There is no structured rhythmic backbone present, which may turn away the casual listener, but rarely has something so engineered sounded so organic. I promise you that if you close your eyes and allow yourself to be drifted away, you’ll find PHAEDRA an endlessly transportive work of art.