Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Album Review: Howler - Mud EP

Apparently, after some introspection and working through some decision making on their music, Zucchini Drive is through. However, they make their triumphant return as Howler, quipped to lead their musical style "down a grittier, richer indie-rock inspired road". Their debut release under their new name is the Mud EP, which is a pretty dark, electronic, somewhat abstract piece of experimentalism / trip hop / post-rock. With a good half of the emphasis on mixing and synthesized sounds and beats, and the other on instrumental and vocal harmonies syncing together, the EP stands to be one of the more quirky pieces of music released this year.

The second track on the record, "Howler Than Thou", felt, oddly enough, more like an epic hip-hop anthem than anything else. There was some heavy vamping of low guitars throughout, while vocalist Marcus Graap, "Yes, I'm gonna be a top dog, baby / Yeah, I'm gonna make you so proud of me / Ain't nothin' in this world can stop me / Yeah, you gonna see me on the TV, honey", in less of a melodic and more of a shout choir style, while some mixing and a definitely ghetto backbeat breaks some subwoofers in the background. When the second verse breaks in, though, there's a really ground-shattering synth over the top, that changes the mood from the shallow, angry sound to a completely different and very reflective sound, with an acoustic outro that drops off suddenly at the end. The mood change near the end was really sudden and enjoyable for me, because I went into this song only really paying attention to the lyrics, but towards the end, I had noticed a lot of tonal change without realizing it, showing how well orchestrated the song really is, being able to do that.

In a completely different strain, the fourth song, "Bulldozer", started a lot like a combination of indie pop and post-rock, maybe something like M83. This song doesn't have any vocals whatsoever, but focuses a lot on creating layered soundscapes that show off tonal experimentation. At the beginning, there was an emphasis on an 80's glam rock style beat, with some cool synth sound and a powerful on-beat bassline, making the song sound bright and airy. However, by about two minutes in, the bass and drums had completely dissipated, with a synthesized concertina and a lot of spacy, electrical melodies all harmonizing at once. Around three minutes, the song changes again, back to the original rhythm, but with a soulful keyboard tapping very lightly over everything, adding the perfect layer between the fluffy synths and the forceful beat.

Just about every aspect of "Bulldozer" was layered, but that doesn't just go for the one song in particular - every track on the album is layered just as masterfully, and after pushing through to the end of the EP, layering was the quality that really held the album together. The songs might not have been very cohesively organized, but they were all orchestrated beautifully, with level after level of sound being mixed together perfectly. It was a hard listen, and it definitely wasn't something I'd recommend for just everyone, but there's a lot to appreciate for what Howler has composed and created. I expect a lot out of this band after this, I have no doubts that they'll be able to take off.

You can read about Howler on their website, and you can download it for free from Marathon of Dope.

Track Listing:
1) Colossal Show
2) Howler Than Thou
3) Rope
4) Bulldozer
5) Demanded to Dance
6) Coal
7) Tonight & Every Night

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