By My Friend in Exile - Creator You Destroy Me
By My Friend in Exile – Creator, You Destroy Me. Already Dead Tapes & Records, 2015.

Last time I reviewed a Be My Friend in Exile release, I was just getting in to ambient music and had no idea how to talk about it. Now, I’m 1 1/2 years in or so, and I’m still not so sure I know how to talk about it, but I know that Be My Friend in Exile’e newest album, Creator, You Destroy Me is pretty much exactly what I needed to be listening to right now.

Again, right from the opening track, “Archon of the Demiurge,” this thing is ominous as hell. There’s a low, bassy drone punctuated by chaotic, atonal guitars. It’s desolate, it’s distant, and it’s perfectly captures the starry greyness of this winter we’re having in Ohio. This droning does’t let up, though it brightens a bit on the next track, “Ultima Linea Rerum,” before settling back into complete darkness in “Fever Dream.” That’s one thing I love about Be My Friend in Exile: many of these songs have the same elements, the same minimalist guitars, the same droning bass, but the mood of each piece is different. “Control Heartbeat Delete” somehow manages to convey a sense of urgency that the previous tracks don’t, while “Memories of Childhood, Feelings for the Future” sounds just a little like a cross between Caspian and Godspeed You! Black Emperor without completely jumping head-first into post-rock territory.

Like my review of The Silence, The Darkness, I have to say that what Be My Friend in Exile have done here is less an album of songs and more a single piece with multiple movements. While you could certainly enjoy any one track from the album, especially one of the longer tracks, such as “Floating Weightless Back to the Surface, I Imagine Becoming Someone Else,” Creator, You Destroy Me is best listened to in its entirety. It’s the perfect soundtrack to brooding over this bleak winter.

Creator, You Destroy Me is available on extremely-limited edition cassette from Already Dead Tapes and Records, and will soon be available for download from Be My Friend in Exile’s bandcamp page.

4/5 stars


The Star Pillow - All Is Quiet
The Star Pillow – All is Quiet. Paradigms Recordings, 2014.

The Star Pillow is Italian Ambient-Drone artist Paolo Monti, and I really can’t tell you much more about the band because the press release is in Italian. That’s OK, though, because in a way, I like the idea of listening to their latest release, All is Quiet, without any sort of context.

So, what is The Star Pillow? Well, when track 1, “no more beige sundays” began, I though, “Oh, this is just your standard, minimalist post-rock.” There’s a calming, high-register guitar riff repeating through the track’s 3 minutes, and not much else, but it’s pleasant, and it’s the kind of thing I listen to lately. Then, the second track, trap for freaks” begins.

From this point in the album, the post-rock guitar pulls back, and that droning feedback/bow/whatever-else Monti is using to create that bassy hum joins in. The rest of the album’s nearly 50 minutes sound like that: sparse post-rock-style guitars in the background playing bright, hopeful tones while the drone becomes more and more ominous. The dichotomy is striking, and while it does paint the usual musical soundscapes that I normally describe when talking about post-rock, it definitely makes me feel some kind of way, and I am totally down with it.

By track 4, “equestrian,” the hum has completely taken over. There’s a sort of melody, a sort of pattern to the hum, but it feels so wide, so open, with no real sonic landmarks, or even percussion, to denote movement through the song. Instead of moving forward, I felt like I was floating though the song, letting the sonic tides rock me gently back and forth.

The final two tracks, “we were all going to die” and “still together against the great darkness” are the most ominous, as the low, bassy drone slowly gets louder and higher before coming to a climactic wall of sound.

The Star Pillow’s All is Quiet is moody, atmospheric, and dream-like, and manages to pull of a sense of foreboding without getting loud or confrontational.

All is Quiet is available from Taverna Records’ bandcamp page, or on limited-edition vinyl though Paradigm Recordings.

3/5 stars


Svarta Stugan Aspects of Our Future Selves
Svarta Stugan – EP 3: Aspects of our future selves. Self-released, 2014.

Svarta Stugan actually released this EP back in October, but I took a hiatus from To Eleven, so I missed it when it came out. You might remember my review of EP 2: A Mutation and a Madness, in which I raved about how perfectly the band managed to capture the strange and ominous mood they described in the liner notes. These guys were doing some interesting things with post-rock, at times trading guitars and hi-hats for synthesizers and saxophones, and I loved that second EP so much that it made my top 11 list of 2013.

Had I been around to make a top 11 list for 2014, I’m sure that Aspects would have been on it. Once again, Svarta Stugan find the perfect balance between post-rock convention and non-traditional experimentation. The mood has changes slightly; Aspects is less sparse & cold and more retro-futuristic. The first two tracks (“neo-futuristic” and “street view”) have a strong Vangelis/Blade Runner vibe, more-so than the last EP. It’s still lonely, like the previous EP, but it’s a different kind of loneliness.

Track 3, “Damn good coffee,” finds the band back in standard post-rock territory, with the ringing guitars, hi-hats, etc., etc., but the syths are back, bringing a sort of M83-esque indie-dance-pop vibe to the whole thing. Svarta Stugan like to play with dichotomies, mixing elements that don’t seem like they should work together but that totally do. I mean, the they describe their sound as “twee-noise/post-rock,” so this kind of experimentation is kind of hard written into the band’s concept.

Tracks 4 and 5, “Drums in the light of christ,” and “Un-birth” are the most Twin Peaks inspired tracks on the EP, with “Drums” borrowing again slightly from Angelo Badalamenti’s “Laura’s Theme” before disintegrating into a cacophony of saxophone (provided by Christopher Thorén from Music is the Weapon) and drums. It, along with the jazzy “Un-Birth” serve almost as companions to EP 2’s “Re-Birth,” providing a sense of continuity throughout the trilogy of EPs.

The final track, “wE Are,” is a quieter, more hopeful-sounding post rock piece that brings the EP trilogy to a hopeful conclusion. It would seem that the character from EP2, after battling his demons and returning from his “Lovecraftian nightmare” has finally found a sense of peace.

Obviously, I love EP 3: Aspects of Our Future Selves, and when combined with the previous two EPs, it’s a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

EP 3: Aspects of our future selves is available at Svarta Stugan’s bandcamp page.


The Canadian doom/drone duo Nadja is primarily known for its epic slow-motion sludge crawls, but on Tangled they completely switch gears and crank up both the BPMs and the aggression. The six-song 7″ doesn’t have a song that tops three minutes (a stark contrast to 2012’s Excision, for example, which had eight 20-minute dirges). To be honest this record is what I was hoping to hear from the new Godflesh material. This is spooky in a way Justin Broadrick can never hope to be while at the same time capturing the drum-machine-fueled aggression of Big Black or Austerity Program. Throw in some proggy keys and guitars here and there and some tortured doom vocals and you’ve got a departure to be sure, but still very obviously Nadja. It’s another worthy entry in a forward-thinking and iconoclastic body of work. — Russell Emerson Hall



Welsh youngsters New Cowboy Builders just dropped a great new single over on Bandcamp. It’s snotty post-punk most obviously indebted to The Fall and Gang of Four. It’s got a freshness and swagger that can only come from the exuberance of youth. But under the veneer of UK austerity is what appears to be  more than a passing familiarity with American noise-rock, recalling nibs and nobs of Big Black and Amphetamine Reptile. Pre-order the vinyl 7-inch record now and revel in some real fucking punk rock. — Russell Emerson Hall