Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Name: *shels
Latest release: Laurentian's Atoll [2007]
File under: Uhh...just read the article

When I'm bored with by-the-numbers music it's really good to listen to something different. *shels fit this bill nicely. At their heart I suppose you could throw a post-rock tag at them but that would be remiss because there are so many different elements to their music; one of those bands that you can't accurately pigeon-hole.

You'll find post-rock, sludge and a Middle-Eastern vibe to their mix. Add a progressive structure and an overall "experimental" feel to that as well. There's a very cinematic, symphonic feel to their music, and you'll spot some sounds where you think "what instrument is that?" which is all part of what makes *shels such a fantastic listen. Their debut full-length, Sea of the Dying Dhow is an hour trip through the unconventional and unexpected, and a very promising follow-up later this year is certainly on my list to check out in 2009.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in *shels?
Medhi: "Mehdi Safa, currently living in Southern California and I play guitar/write for *shels."

*shels have a very unique sound - there seem to be a lot of influences in your music. What are your main influences?
Medhi: "People (like yourself) we meet and interact with, movies, music, art... different perspectives - above all, nature..."

Part of the band is based in the USA and part in the UK. Can this be a problem with writing music?
Medhi: "Not so much with the writing - technology helps with our communication - it's basically just Tom [Harriman, drums] and I working on the writing anyway, so things aren't that difficult in terms of communicating - we send eachother music, and work on it, develop ideas until we're happy."

What are the challenges faced with being in a band AND running a record label (*shels music) at the same time?
Medhi: "Good question - mostly it's the lack of time available in the day - so you won't be suprised to hear that most of the new *shels album was written in the shower or while dropping the kids off at the pool :P - folks find it weird when they see a guitar and notepad in the bathroom. There's financial challenges as well, and when one of your bands NEEDS money for a release, whether it's to help with promotion, manufacturing, recording, touring or whatever... ultimately, that money comes out of one pool... so, it affects what you can do for the other bands, including my own stuff in *shels. But that's where budgeting and planning comes in - and so far we have no major complaints (knock on wood); all the bands on the label are awesome, and the people are all like family... there's a lot of love and understanding for what we are doing and what we're capable of - we're a small, DIY label and although resources are limited, we all help eachother in different ways."

What are your views on the Internet's role in music today? Not just the illegal downloading, but the exposure it presents to artists?
Medhi: "I think it's great. Whenever new landscapes emerge (such as the Internet) new voices get heard... but, eventually it all gets muddy with a lot of noise and advertisements, and something else will come about... I think for now, the technology has made it much easier for folks to produce, release and promote their music - and that's a good thing - there's more music than ever today, more folks expressing themselves creatively... and as other artists out there know, we all strive to find our own voice in the crowd... so as things get busier and noisier and more muddy, it will drive us to work harder and come up with something better, so we can stand out from the crowd and be as unique as we were meant to be."

Thanks to Mehdi for his time. Be sure to check out not just *shels, but the other bands on their record label at the link below - it's becoming one of my favourites.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Name: Mono
Latest release: Hymn to the Immortal Wind [2009]
File under: Post-rock
Venue: The Croft (Bristol, UK)

The Croft isn't the most comfortable live venue in the world. A small room which probably holds a couple of hundred people maximum, when I saw Red Sparowes there last July it was like a sardine tin - so much so that the door couldn't even be shut due to the mass of people packed in. Luckily, this time it wasn't as packed, and I had a good view from the front, to the left of the stage. With comfort not an issue this time, I was free to enjoy Mono's music alone, and I wasn't disappointed.

A show to promote their new album, they played every song from it except one ("Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn"), opening with the stunning "Ashes in the Snow", perhaps my new favourite Mono song. With no microphone on stage it was down to the bands' instruments and actions to do the communicating, so luckily the sound was perfect and Mono were on top form, sending chills down my spine at many points.

During "The Battle to Heaven", the band, especially Taka, really came to life. At the peak of the song Taka kicked the stool he was sitting on over and headbanged his way to his knees, all the while still playing - his cut and bandaged arm didn't stop him from being this animated throughout the night, at points playing his guitar upside down and on his knees. All of them were headbanging during the climactic sections and exhuded a real passion for what they were playing. They didn't need a microphone to convey that.

More cuts from their new album followed, along with a couple of older songs - "Lost Snow" being perhaps the best performance of the night, a near 20 minute rendition which left Takada slumped over his drumkit as the rest of the band set the room awash with guitar drone and noise to close the song. "Everlasting Light" ended the night, the band crescendoing to one final zenith.

The crowd cheer and the band leave exhausted (especially Taka and Takada), but not before giving some wry smiles and almost embarrassed bowing as if they weren't worthy of such a reception...and if they really did feel that way, then it was about the only thing they got wrong all night.


Ashes in the Snow
The Battle to Heaven
Follow the Map
Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)
Burial at Sea
Lost Snow
Everlasting Light