Music

Between the Buried and Me: The Parallax II: Future Sequence

There's a great album buried somewhere in the overloaded 72 minutes of The Parallax II.


Between the Buried and Me

The Parallax II: Future Sequence

Label: Metal Blade
US Release Date: 2012-10-09
UK Release Date: 2012-10-08
Amazon
iTunes

Many have accused prog for being the genre equivalent of a Catholic wedding: it just goes on and on without any end in sight. Tell a prog fan that a seven minute song is long and she'd probably laugh at you. Between Dream Theater's "Octavarium" and anything in Neal Morse has ever written, the mean length of a given song on her iPod is probably somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes. After all, why just have one instrumental section where the guitar, keyboards, and bass trade off string-bending solos when you can have five, right? With Dream Theater breaking the Billboard Top 10 with their last album, A Dramatic Turn of Events, the popular perception of prog will continue to involve top-notch instrumentalists jamming on for as long as they damn well please. Length isn't inherently bad of course; Ayreon's The Human Equation and 01011001 both come close to approaching two hours, and they're pretty fantastic prog records. They don't lend themselves to a casual listen, but it's not wrong for an artist to demand a lot of his audience when his art warrants it. Sometimes pushing the envelope requires a little more than 50 minutes of one's time.

It's that idea Between the Buried and Me's career has more or less been working towards. When the group released their self-titled back in 2003, they were a band with undeniable strands of prog running in their DNA, but they never shot for the 10-plus minute epics that are the norm in prog. Alaska (2005) is the refined achievement of their early years; the group managed to seamlessly switch between different metal genres within a single song, all with the determination and skill of a band that has a true progressive vision. Still, during that time most wouldn't have lumped them in with the likes of Tool or Porcupine Tree; folks who identify as fans of prog at the broad level tend to be wary of the death growls that were heavily present on Alaska (vocalist Tommy Rodgers even does the thankfully abandoned pig squeal on "Croakies and Boatshoes").

After Alaska came the titanic achievement in 2007's Colors. I'm willing to give Between the Buried and Me grace in any future reviews of their work, because it is going to be brutally difficult to try and top a record like Colors. A single hour-long song may sound like a Tuesday for a prog band, but Between the Buried and Me's frenetic, constantly evolving sonic is not easy to keep up for an hour's time. Amazingly enough, they pulled it off, and to this day Colors remains a monumental achievement in metal music. It's an undoubtedly ostentatious work that commands every second of its runtime, and it's an absolute blast throughout. Anyone who found the death metal overbearing on Alaska had a lot more to like in terms of prog on Colors; as a result of that LP, Between the Buried and Me's career trajectory has been toward prog metal legends.

Unfortunately, with The Parallax II: Future Sequence, they've hit something of a roadblock. Future Sequence, the second of a bizarrely-structured half EP/half album sequence that began with last year's The Hypersleep Dialogues EP, is 72 minutes long. Having just discussed the prog fan's propensity toward lengthy compositions, anyone reading this view likely didn't bat an eye. Ordinarily, I wouldn't either; since I'd gladly sit through the entirety of Colors any day, and I very much enjoyed The Hypersleep Dialogues. Future Sequence is only 10 minutes longer than the former; that much time couldn't mess things up, could it?.

Well, it does. Very much so. This isn't to say Future Sequence is a bad album; at times it's as engrossing as their past material. The organ break a minute and a half into "Lay Your Ghosts to Rest?" Cool. Throwing in a dreamy piano waltz ("The Black Box?") halfway through? An unconventional choice, sure, but it actually works quite well. The riffs at the beginning of "Astral Body?" Pretty awesome. But the feeling that's left by when minute 72 has run up is that of sonic overload. With Colors, the music was dense and frequently shifting, but everything flowed so well together by some unexplainable quality that it didn't feel like a chore to listen to. Sadly, this is the most chore-like thing this group has produced yet, a case of prog's worst excesses taking over. In trying to be a Very Serious Concept Album, The Future Sequence lets the goal of being imposing run show, to the point that your watch is going to become atypically interesting by the time "Telos" kicks in. This all adds up to Between the Buried and Me's Michael Bay moment: there's a lot going on, it's all flashy and cool, but one would expect more from the people who have made works of brilliance in the past.

To watch a group of musicians as talented as Between the Buried and Me capitulate to overindulgence, while not unexpected given their requisite style, is disappointing. Fortunately there's enough in The Future Sequence to make one think there's a great album to be found somewhere amongst these 13 tracks. In fact, to a newcomer, this might be the mind-blowing metal album of 2012. The technicality of the musicianship is as impressive as it's ever been before, the fluidity of the transitions between the songs is well done, and there's plenty of pulverizing death metal riffs. But even in The Future Sequence's best moments, it feels like the work of a band comfortable in its own ambition. It's all too easy to be impressed, and that's the exact kind of complacency one wouldn't expect from these guys.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Noel Fielding (Daniel) and Mercedes Grower (Layla) (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back in time to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

People aren't cheering Supergirl on here. They're not thanking her for her heroism, or even stopping to take a selfie.

It's rare for any hero who isn't Superman to gain the kind of credibility that grants them the implicitly, unflinching trust of the public. In fact, even Superman struggles to maintain that credibility and he's Superman. If the ultimate paragon of heroes struggles with maintaining the trust of the public, then what hope does any hero have?

Keep reading... Show less

The Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop artist MAJO wraps brand new holiday music for us to enjoy in a bow.

It's that time of year yet again, and with Christmastime comes Christmas tunes. Amongst the countless new covers of holiday classics that will be flooding streaming apps throughout the season from some of our favorite artists, it's always especially heartening to see some original writing flowing in. Such is the gift that Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop songwriter MAJO is bringing us this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image