In this review, I’ll be exploring ‘MAW,’ a rather compelling collection of experimental tracks by Givan Lötz that was released this last Friday, October 28. The elegantly presented record is actually available on vinyl, a rarity in the independent music scene. Clocking in with ten tracks, eleven if you count a secretive bonus one, ‘MAW’ is an endeavor unlike anything else. Is it good, though? Let’s dig into it and find out.
Lötz’s press-speak is most certainly fascinating. It details how Lötz utilizes the ‘potencies of space’ to craft sonic intricacies that ‘swell and distort’ and ‘shed waning light onto and into this post-scientific realm where meaning is unhinged.’ Ambiguity is Lötz’s game, which works both in his favor and to his detriment. ‘MAW’ is an experimental effort through and through in this regard, and it’ll likely only resonate with a very niche audience.
‘The Drowned’ introduces Lötz’s new sonic portrait as a heavily atmospheric escapade through unintelligible vocal croons and compositional meandering. It’s actually quite beautiful, though, and to be fair, that’s how one might describe Radiohead as well. ‘The Drowned’ offers a glimpse into a melancholy, mysterious landscape that Lötz occupies in a very Thom Yorke-esque fashion, melding traditional and electronic stylings into experimental aural themes.
In contrast, ‘Speak’ is a surprisingly intense journey. Lötz’s vocals are still entirely vague, but the composition is sharper than its predecessor. Walls of distorted fuzz rise up and down around a spine-tingling melody. Despite being a single performer, Lötz has the presence of an orchestra. The final moments of ‘Speak’ are sure to have listeners on the edge of their seat in bizarre anticipation for each elongated note.
‘The Last One’ is slightly more easier to understand, at least, vocally, and Lötz seems to toy with vocal distortion and key manipulation with increasingly regularity throughout the album. At times, Lötz’s vocals are reminiscent of Laurie Anderson’s dark, deep-throated manipulations on the iconic ‘Home of the Brave’ film and album. Around three minutes in, ‘The Last One’ reaches its stride with a waltz of sorts.
Something very important to note about ‘MAW’ is that it’s an album that seems to be designed to perfectly accentuate the backdrop of your life. It doesn’t command your attention in the way a gripping lyricist attempts to do so. It’s a sublime, even surreal experience that invites the listener to ponder their most introspective thoughts as it washes over them. Tracks like ‘Shame’ and ‘The Grandfather,’ for example, are very much like this. They’re droning in nature and very calming to listen to.
‘Tender’ is probably one of the more ambitious creations on ‘MAW.’ While atmospheric, the track moves along in a much snappier fashion as Lötz offers an intense vocal performance backed by bouncing electric guitars and some of the album’s more noticeable percussion. ‘The Wind’ then follows, a very short, but absolutely lovely acoustic track that highlights Lötz’s sound at its finest.
If one were to listen to The Velvet Underground’s ‘Ocean’ and then follow up that experience with Lötz’s ‘Sea,’ the parallel would likely be very noticeable. Even the percussion is similar, though ‘Sea’ is very much soaked in Lötz’s unique vocal presentation. It’s at this point in the record, though, that I came to the realization that a huge part of the experience is missing: written liner notes. ‘MAW’ needs liner notes that have the lyrics. Lötz is just too difficult to understand without them.
I’d also argue that one could fully experience ‘MAW’ without knowing the lyrics, though, because Lötz’s voice often acts as an instrument within the broad scope of the composition’s landscape. ‘The Ship’ for example, is a track where his actual lyrics are somewhat irrelevant in the scheme of the aural portrait he’s painting. Nevertheless, I’d love to know what he’s saying if I were to spend time with the album on a more regular basis, like many fans may.
‘Watchtower’ closes out the album with another minor key, experimental jaunt through Lötz murmuring with a very hefty vocal filter. To be blunt, though, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Anyone who listens as far as ‘Watchtower’ clearly enjoys the atmosphere Lötz crafts with this style, and in that regard, it’s the perfect finale. The bonus track, ‘Return,’ is actually one of the easiest tracks to understand Lötz on, too. It would have made for a nice inclusion in the full cut.
‘MAW’ is truly a beautiful record. This is an album you could put the turntable each evening and listen to while drinking a glass of red wine and reading a classic novel. It’s non-intrusive, but compelling to listen to. Again, I’d love liner notes that give us Lötz’s lyrics, but I understand the argument for their irrelevance, too. Lötz feels like a full-bodied instrument on ‘MAW’ - he is the sound. It’s as organic and surreal as you get. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s a piece of music very much worth checking out.
Musings on childhood memories, human connection, anxiety, the joys and perils of solitude, death - what it means to be in the world. The songs were written over a span of ten years. There is a song Anna Atkinson wrote for her father seven years after he died. There is a song she wrote for her mother three years before she died. Anna Atkinson is fascinated by endeavours that take a long time. Slow moving, sometimes imperceptibly slow. Like quilting, writing a novel, making an album. Things for which there is no virtue in hurrying. Baking bread, snowshoeing up a mountain, knitting, gardening, growing up. In fact, they are processes we cannot hurry, try as we might. The album was recorded over a period of five months at CBC Studio 211 in Toronto, and features the playing of co-producer and guitarist David Occhipinti.
Snowshoe - 04:03 Water - 02:59 Lovers - 04:23 When We Were Young - 03:25 Nobody Knows You - 02:13 Silver - 03:59 I'll Buy You Lunch - 02:33 When The Night Has Passed - 02:09 In December - 03:25 Winter Wind - 04:12
This new song "Bakkah: The History of Humankind", was initially just a poem about humanity as a whole. When it began to rhyme Emay basically just ran with it. It was also a great opportunity for him to experiment with his writing as he was always self-conscious about using a more poetic/metaphorical style of writing so with this track Ihe allowed myself to get completely lost in that form.
For the video, him and the director, Aaron Hall, bounced a lot of ideas off of each other and eventually Aaron thought of using riot gear for the video. The video is a battle displaying Emay's ideological development and the conflict of ideas taking over and building off of one another.
The Edward Furlongs are a New Jersey-based endeavor in American music, comprised of Dan Gugger and Nick Afflitto. The project is a tip of the hat to the pioneers before them, a reflection of their collective experiences and a bullish reaction to the state of modern music.
Although Dan and Nick grew up playing music in the same thriving New Jersey music scene, they didn't meet until performing together on the Vans Warped Tour in the summer of 2009. After spending several years performing music for other bands, they decided to create music of their own, with a few core principals in mind.
The most significant of these is the idea that there is a void in modern music that yearns to be filled. It is is a composite of old and new, a return to the clarity and simplicity of rock music from decades past while reflecting the experiences of those living in the world as it is today. If the band achieves its ultimate goal, the music should reflect a desire for something simple and familiar, but modern and unique; these are candid recordings that are, if anything, under-processed by today's standard but hold honesty and individuality that honors both the musicians creating it and the people and experiences that have made their lives better.
The winter is almost upon the Nordic countries. Time to dive into the darkness with WANHA. This is a project of Joni Vanhanen, a profilic producer/singer/hiphop-artist from Jyväskylä, Finland, known for his versatility above all. In addition to being one of the most respected underground hiphop producers in Finland he has worked with all kinds of music from metal to pop.
WANHA combines all of these influences with surprising ease. The Wait is a slice of trippy downtempo electronica, as dark as the northern days and cold as the nights, with haunting, pitch-shifted vocals that add an even more gripping tone to the distinctively Nordic song. WANHA is working on his debut album, so expect to hear more music from him very soon.
Even though the independent rock scene is quite inundated with new acts, there’s always a welcome place for an outfit that changes the formula enough to be consistently interesting and worth taking notice of. The New York-based alternative rock group Voices from Deep Below attempts to do just that, fusing together a variety of styles into a surprisingly coherent sound. Their new record, “I Want to Stand Where the Sun Himself Shakes with Fear”, is a five song album that navigates alt-rock, experimental, and borderline metal and progressive influences all at the same time.