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Battlestations - In A Cold Embrace CD (album) cover

IN A COLD EMBRACE

Battlestations

Post Rock/Math rock


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Andy Webb
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5 stars I've never been a huge fan of the post-rock movement, as the atmospheric rock sentiments and generally watery sound never really appealed to me. However, some time last year in 2011 I went out on a limb and reviewed a new Belgian post-rock outfit named Battlestations. I did not have high hopes as I first spun the album, but over time I quickly realized what a genius piece of art the mysterious group, whose identities (or identity) has yet to be revealed, had created. The haunting atmospheres, chilling ambience, and starkly depressing sound was both revolting and attractive at the same time, making me an almost instant fan of the music. It didn't take long for the band to produce a new album, and by early/mid-2012, the band's next album, In a Cold Embrace, was already released.

One thing I feared before listening to the album is that I would find the same thing as the last album: cold (which was hinted at by the title) unforgiving atmospheres, some depressing and socially frightening audio clips, and a droning, haunting music base. Of course as I had enjoyed those same elements in the last album, it wouldn't have been such a bad thing, but I wanted the band's impressive musical vision to expand into something more.

I didn't have to wait long.

While the album is, in essence, made of the same stuff of the last album, the band has added so much more to their sophomore effort. The band does an excellent job of skirting around a concrete genre tag again, as the music is not wholly post rock nor wholly ambient nor wholly drone nor wholly anything but what it is, which is of course one of the genius aspects of the music. I immediately noticed that much deeper and richer texture that had been put into the album with numerous delicately placed instrumental tracks and ambient soundscape additions. While that chilling, imposing atmosphere remains, it is not held back by a single spoken word concept like the former album, but rather free to roam the avenues of sound, curving and exploring through various emotions and feelings, turning this album into a superb musical experience.

The format still features a number of lengthy, sophisticated and multi-movement pieces that give the album its meat. The two sections of the album, however, split by the intermission, have two very different modes. The first is rooted in their first album's style, a cold, haunting mix of ambience and post rock that is chilling yet draws the listener in for more. The second half, however, is far warmer, composed of not necessarily a happier outlook but rather almost comforting, as the enveloping sounds surround the listener and provide a peaceful end to the band's excellent sophomore effort.

In the end, this album is a journey. While the story-like song titles and beautifully made packaging lead you on a general "path," for the most part one can truly explore many feelings in this very cinematic music. Musically, it is beautifully crafted, with numerous layers and a wonderfully textured sound all contributing to an overall musical experience. While it doesn't really fit into post-rock like Sigur Ros or Godspeed You! Black Emperor might, it without a doubt adds a new dimension to the genre that many a band in the future should take influence from. No doubt In a Cold Embrace will go down as one of the better post rock releases of the year. 5 stars.

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Send comments to Andy Webb (BETA) | Report this review (#751588)
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'In A Cold Embrace' - Battlestations (9/10)

Coming off as a futuristic combination of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Ros, Belgian post-rock act Battlestations made an impressive statement with their debut last year. Most importantly- and though one would not think it when I've just compared them to two of their genre's biggest bands- Battlestations had a fresh sound, and that was more than enough to sell me. 'In A Cold Embrace' comes not a year since their first spin, and as is usually the case with sophomoric albums, Battlestations have tightened and matured the themes they innovated the first time around. In their case however, these Belgians have managed to shift their music from mere excellence into the realm of mastery. Although this ambient expression still contends with some of the debut's shortcomings, Battlestations have never sounded so powerful.

Although 'In A Cold Embrace' has been broken into five tracks, this seems more for the sake of listening convenience. Much like the self-titled Battlestations, 'In A Cold Embrace' flows as were it a single, unabated journey. Perhaps where Battlestations most distinguishes themselves is with their devotion to ambiance, or subtlety-focused expression. There is a delicate touch of melody, but the glory of Battlestations lies in their attention to texture. Even at their most mellowed and relaxed, there is a wealth of sonic layers, each wonderfully mixed upon the other. Despite this depth of arrangement, the composition restrains itself from taking the traditional, 'explosive climax' approach with their build ups; even the dramatic pay-offs feel introspective and subtle! Granted, this meticulously moderated approach to songwriting will find some listeners yearning for a busier sound, but it makes the moments when the music does 'explode' all the more meaningful and thunderous.

Compared to the debut, Battlestations have sharpened up their compositions. Although the ambient doctrine has been maintained as pure as ever, the music of this band feels more memorable. Each track is a majestic sequence of episodes, taking the listener to a different shade of a vast soundscape. Post-rock in recent years has rarely sounded so fresh. Admittedly, their craft takes a fair investment of one's time to properly appreciate; 'In A Cold Embrace' makes little effort to be accessible to a listener unprepared to sit down and digest the atmosphere. The journey may be quiet, but there's more depth here than I've heard in post-rock in a long time.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#755882)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It may be presumptuous or even melodramatic of me to say this as June is just beginning, but here it is: this is the best album I've heard yet this year. In fact, I'll go as far as saying that unless some absolute humdingers are released in the near future I strongly suspect I'll be saying something similar come December. Fully instrumental, "In A Cold Embrace" is able to manage that which so few albums can: it comes off as a perfectly unified whole, a single unbroken journey that maintains an exceptional level of quality from the first note to the last. "In A Cold Embrace" is, in my mind at least, undoubtedly a masterpiece, radiating beauty and transporting the listener to another world for its entire length.

"Prologue: Nature Morte/You're Not Welcome Here" begins with a rather sedate guitar part over some unusual backing music that sounds like a combination between psychedelic post-rock and trance electronica. The effect is simply breathtaking; despite having a very subtle development the track is nuanced and far deeper than merely the sum of its parts. In fact, despite a good percentage of the sound consisting of repeated motifs that are slowly developed and blended together, the track is utterly compelling throughout its hefty 13 minute runtime. All of the different parts blend together perfectly to create music which defies and transcends strict classification into one genre, and is all the better for its unclassifiability (if that's even a word).

"Comrade/The Way We Grieve" follows seamlessly from the first track, and in much the same vein. An acoustic guitar part that's almost reminiscent of Agalloch (though in a wholly different context here) quickly takes the lead, and the track begins to take on a slightly heavier, more rhythmic edge which nonetheless maintains the trancelike dreaminess that so permeated the first track. In fact, despite the bleakness of the instrumentation and the vibe given off by the track's title and the album's artwork, I can actually detect a kind of hopefulness in the music here, even if it is a rather melancholy hopefulness. Regardless of what emotions you can find in it, however, there's no doubt that this second track is equally as beautiful as the first. With passages that are by turns familiar and incredibly strange, it's an amazing journey that's never less than stellar.

"Interlude: Time Stands Still" is the shortest track on the album by a good margin, but it nonetheless carries a great deal of drama, with no shortage of cinematic dynamic changes and a pseudo-melodic guitar part that serves perfectly in the track's role as "Interlude."

"Breaking Bad News/The Faces We Remember" starts off on a rather minimalistic note. A spare guitar part taking center stage against a beautiful ambient backdrop that utilizes a huge variety of musical textures and drones to create a shimmering, rumbling atmosphere capable of conjuring up incredibly powerful emotions despite its relative sparseness. Spectacularly used minimalistic percussion and bass give the track a very unique feel, and as with the other tracks on the album the pacing is brilliant; when the mood intensifies with about a minute and a half left in the track the band is able to create one of the finest musical moments I've heard in recent memory. If the previous three tracks somehow weren't convincing enough, "Breaking Bad News/The Faces We Remember" should provide ample proof that as composers and performers, the members of this band are masters of their craft.

"The Semblance of Fate/Epilogue: Citizen Creep" begins with more of the shimmering atmospheres and unique guitar work that have appeared all over the album. It's truly a testament to the band's skill that despite most of the tracks utilizing similar instrumentation there isn't a single moment on the album that feels same-y or recycled; in fact, at risk of overusing the word there isn't a single moment on this album that is less than breathtakingly beautiful. A haunting piano part is an integral part of the beginning of this track, working wonderfully in and around the track's atmospheres to again conjure up strong emotional feelings. Guitar takes over for the track's middle third, utilizing the same kind of brilliantly slow-paced build as many of the other tracks and bursting forth in a cathartic wash of emotion right before the 6 minute mark. Stellar orchestral accompaniments and atmospheric rumblings help bring the track to a close, while piano and guitar continue to play beautifully understated roles. As a slightly distorted piano part brings the track to a close, there's once again a faint but extremely audible ray of hope among the melancholy strains of the rest of the track, and it's a spectacular end for one extremely spectacular album.

I really can't praise this album enough. It isn't often that I have the opportunity to listen to music without doing anything else at the same time, but this is the kind of album that simply demands you close your eyes and give your entire attention. If you want my recommendation, get this album, throw it on a nice stereo system and just let the music carry you away, because it isn't often that music this good comes along.

5/5

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#762657)
Posted Saturday, June 02, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Battlestations' album "In A Cold Embrace" provides some rather striking artwork that conjures up some very disturbing atmospheres even before the music starts. The cover depicts a nightmarish image of a demented doll open armed and uninviting with an umbrella hiding its secrets. The booklet is a real master touch, totally cryptic and compelling; it seems to convey the dark shadows of madness, death and the blurry undefined decay of corruption and fear, and is totally open to interpretation. Inside the lavishly illustrated booklet are images of blurred silhouetted figures in isolated forest settings, a corpse in a coffin, a woman in a bath, a child facing her shadow and details of flowers, a mirror, and a vase with glasses. With the type of imagery that I have seen associated with the music of Opeth, Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Steven Wilson's solo albums, one might expect the music to be bleak and dark also. However, this music is more of an ambient lucid journey; organic and ominous yet beautiful in its 44 minute running time.

It begins with the 'Prologue: Nature morte // You're not welcome here' that clocks 13 minutes and builds slowly into various shapes, with a tension that threatens to break out into mayhem but never does. Instead there is a melancholic mood throughout, genuine shoegaze music, and the atmosphere is thick with a wall of mournful desolation. I particularly feel drawn by the tranquil keyboards embellished by acoustic vibrations. There are some startling voice intonations to break the musical passages, and they enhance the experience.

'Comrade// The way we grieve' is another musical interpretation of despair with a faster cadence but a steadily building intensity. The modulations of guitar and rhythmic drumming are repeated motifs that have enough variation to create interest before the music breaks at 5 minutes into a new feel. The music becomes softer and blanketed with real ethereal tension; hypnotically conveyed with a slow measured delivery, and the deep bass sounds are portentous and fitting to the bleak imagery. The sadness in the music is unmistakeable but it doesn't feel pretentious but more a genuine attempt to convey loss and depression. The music drips down like honey, very slow and crawling patiently and inexorably to the Interlude.

'Interlude: Time stands still' is a short break highlighted by backwards keyboard violin sounds. The creepy feeling of being trapped in time is strong with tantalising visions of utter frailty.

'Breaking bad news// The faces we remember' features a steady cadence of guitar notes and a heavy reverberated drone. The music evokes the emptiness inside the protagonist as he or she hears bad news, perhaps of a death; bleak to be sure but so powerfully executed. I especially like the sparseness of the music, the way the guitar is allowed to breathe over that menacing drone. The ether is charged with a haunting nuance. This is perhaps the best track as far as my ears are concerned. The simplistic playing is understated to provide some effective dense atmospherics.

'The semblance of fate // Epilogue: Citizen creep// The end' is another lengthy track at about 12 minutes in length, and there is a real atmosphere of isolation. The piano is gentle and forlorn and the sizzling keyboards evoke paranoia. The music becomes darker at 3 minutes when some ghostly voices are heard. The music is spacey in the next passage with reverb guitar and howling wind sounds. It feels like walking outside on a cold frosty afternoon alone and deep in reflection. The icy music builds into heavy drumming and layers of keyboard. It changes at 7 minutes with violin sounds and beautiful piano. So the albums segues into peaceful hopeful music, before a barrage of low chilling thunder effects and more preternatural voices.

Overall Battlestations' music is otherworldly and sprinkled with dreamy ambience with heavy stormy atmospheres. It is like a more accessible Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and in this sense easier to digest as far as RIO music goes. The almost subliminal droning guitar sound that is at times unearthly and sonically ethereal is well executed. There is a dark beauty of guitar notes that compete with delicate embellishments of keyboard. The music patient and is ideal to chill out to after a long busy afternoon, it perhaps encompasses quiet reflection about the frailty of life and the sadness of loss.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#762913)
Posted Sunday, June 03, 2012 | Review Permalink
memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Brilliant!

Last year (2011) I was introduced to the music of Battlestations with their debut album, a very good example of the atmospheric side post rock with three long songs full of nuances, changes and progressions that made me have a great time; since then I was caught by the band's magic, so now this 2012 I knew they were releasing a new album I really wanted to own a copy soon, and fortunately I have it now. With such a positive debut, I was expecting an album with the same quality at least, and now I can say the quality is the same yeah, but the music here passed my expectations and I am really happy with it.

For those who don't know them, Battlestations is a young band from Belgium whose music belongs to the progressive rock realm, but more particularly to the post rock one. This is their second studio album which is entitled "In A Cold Embrace", it features five songs that together make a total time of 44 minutes, ¾ of an hour full of brilliance, beauty, calm and tension at the same time, offered in this conceptual album with a great and somber booklet.

The first track is the longest one with almost 14 minutes of music, "Prologue: Nature morte / You're not Welcome Here". It opens softly, with the inherent atmospheric sound, then little by little new elements are being added, we can listen to electric drums, guitars and keyboards making the background. The music flows, there are several changes but they come perfectly without making so much noise, I mean, they are not forced at all, they simply come and everything is ok. After six minutes there is a part I really like, the structure is repetitive but here the role of the acoustic guitars is more important, it produces beautiful nuances that perfectly complete the atmospheric base.

The music continues with that calm sound until minute 9:30 when drums appear for the first time, so the intensity increases and the rock element is more present than ever. I really like this part because it is still soft, beautiful and ambitions, but with a touch of tension and nervousness provoked by keyboards and the electric guitar. The last minutes are slowing down little by little until the guitars disappear, the music is vanishing and just a distant noise can be heard.

Some five seconds later "Comrade / The Way we Grieve" starts with a guitar noise that sounds far at first, but later it is becoming closer, then it disappears and a new structure is being built. A minute later a repetitive but really intense and emotional sound begins with clear reminiscences of GY!BE but with a very personal touch. This moment really moves me, my senses are open, receiving feedback but at the same time spreading the pain. I don't know if I can explain myself, but what I feel with the music of this particular passage is really touching, an example that the music can understand you better than the humans. Five minutes later it changes and calms down, so I calm down as well, now I am in a more relaxing moment, recovering and finding peace. The guitar is beautiful, and the textures created are full of nostalgia. Great!

"Interlude: Time Stands still" is the shortest track of the album with only three minutes. It is like a moment of change, like the transition of a life, leaving this world and entering to a new one, it is like giving a new opportunity that we have to take. I recommend you listening to this album with good headphones, so you can truly appreciate everything it offers.

"Breaking Bad News / The Faces we remember" continues with that soft and atmospheric side of post rock, with slow structures that flow and progress while new elements are being added. The strings are essential in this track (as in the whole album), they bring images and colors, one is responsible of its destiny. At minute four the rhythm changes a little bit, the electronic side appears as a distant background. The last couple of minutes are more dynamic, the intensity increases and the song becomes a puzzle with countless pieces that are essential to complete its form.

The last song is "Epilogue: Citizen Creep / The End" whose eleven minutes bring diversity of atmospheres that goes from somber and desolated, to mellow and disarming ones. The first three minutes are composed by delicate strings around dark synth background; later the music slows down and becomes totally atmospheric and relaxing for a minute, until drums appear a minute later and the rhythm changes. Here, in moments, the guitar reminds me of Talk Talk's Laughing Stock. More intensity is implemented later for a brief time, and then the music slows down again adding a beautiful piano that makes a dreamy sound. Wonderful. Minute nine is darker and somber; later the music vanishes and everything is quiet for at least three seconds. The music appears again, first with the same dark touch but later is calmer and nostalgic. And so the album finishes like this.

What a wonderful album, I am really pleased with it because it provokes several things on me, it is impossible not to feel moved when I listen to it, and that's its charm. Big time for Battlestations, hope they keep this high level which to my ears (and heartstrings), deserves a five-star rating.

Enjoy it!

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Send comments to memowakeman (BETA) | Report this review (#766655)
Posted Thursday, June 07, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars A Cold, yet, fulfilling Embrace.

I don't rate or write reviews about albums on this site, unless i feel really compelled to. Therefore, most of my ratings are 5 stars. That doesn't mean I think every album i hear is genius; It means that the albums i take the time to write about have been the soundtrack to my life at some point. This album has moved me enough to the point where I wanted to write about it, and posting it on facebook wasn't enough.

So basically there's this completely unknown band from Belgium (what's with Belgium these days? There seem to be so many promising musicians coming from there like Quantum Fantay, Gotye, Aranis, Battlestations, to name a few, not to mention the singer for my band Ocean Architecture is from Brussels) called Battlestations who create a surreal, unconventional post rock landscape in A Cold Embrace. Forget the guitar driven Explosions in the Sky-like American style of post rock that is flooding the interwebs (which I am guilty of emulating with Until Sunrise) because this style of "post rock" integrates the best moments of GY!BE, older Porcupine Tree, Tangerine Dream, darker, slower moments of Anglagard, and Maudlin of the Well's folk moments. It's a new, ideal electronic/folk/ambient construction of post rock.

Here are some things that Battlestations does right, that a lot of bands in the same genre do wrong/some points that make A Cold Embrace a masterpiece:

1. The build-ups, when they exist are tasteful, without dragging on. 2. There is a wide range of instruments used, and the delay pedal isn't always on. 3. The song structure flows beautifully without being predictable. 4. The emotions are not stagnant, a.k.a. there are moments on the album that range from beautifully uplifting to drudgingly dark. 5. The use of synth isn't pathetic or cheesy. 6. The album gives the ear a break every once in a while, and without dragging out the quiet moments at the same time. 7. There is very little cliche here, and when there is (like spoken word) it's still done really well. 8. This is one of the most innovative albums i've heard this year

This should be enough to get you, as the reader, interested, so I wont spoil any information about the individual tracks. I will say, however that tracks 1,2, and 4 are my favorites if I was forced to pick. PLEASE check out A Cold Embrace by Battlestations on BANDCAMP if you haven't already. It won't appeal to everyone, but those music enthusiasts out there with an open mind will very likely find it to be one of those rare hidden gems that makes them oh so excited.

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Send comments to pianoman (BETA) | Report this review (#784294)
Posted Saturday, July 07, 2012 | Review Permalink
1 stars I had very high expectations for this album given the number of 5-star reviews by so many PA reviewers. Unfortunately I have come away from this album very disappointed. I have several Post/Rock-Math/Rock albums on my mp3 player and I'm not sure how this band (at least this album) fits into this category when compared to bands such as Don Caballero and GY!BE. To me this is not really prog, at least not in the way I have defined it for my own listening tastes. It was a real struggle for me to listen to this the entire way through, I found myself tempted to skip to the next track for the entire duration. When I hear this I get more of a 'new age' feel with a dark twist, combined with a lot of melancholy atmospheres that just drone on & on. The usage of sound FX was generally okay but at times I found them a little obtrusive and contrary to what it seemed like the music was trying to accomplish.

It's not entirely a mellow album as there are slight edges to to the music here at times, but these are few and far between. I found many sections of the album to simply drag on far too long, just not particularly interesting arrangements. I kept waiting for the album to take off and go somewhere, but the songs play it safe throughout and stick to the same droning melancholy moods with scattered bits of tempo change here and there.

I'm also having trouble with the mix itself, I hear a lot of clipping particularly when there are bombastic moments of percussion and bass...I'm certain this wasn't intentional (hopefully it wasn't anyway), but the clipping is really noticeable. The worst occurrences of this are during heavier sections of "Comrade/The Way We Grieve" and the final track " The Semblance of Fate/Citizen". I really hear the peaks flattening which could suggest it was mastered too loudly or perhaps individual tracks were simply too hot when originally recorded. Unfortunately I would not recommend this album to any prog fan I know.

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Send comments to MarcellusDarson (BETA) | Report this review (#795701)
Posted Friday, July 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars I originally gave this album one star when I merely gave it a rating. Now that I've digested the album some more and have time to write down my thoughts...I can only bring myself to give it one more star, sadly.

There's nothing musically wrong with what is played (as a matter of fact, the acoustic guitar playing in particular is very well done). It just doesn't move me. It's obvious that this is supposed to be a dark record - one look at the cover confirms that - but instead the overwhelming feeling I get is of boredom.

In a nutshell, these five tracks sound like overstretched introductions to songs that never happened. This is unfortunate, since I think Battlestations obviously have some talent for painting a musical picture. I just don't think I've seen the whole painting.

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Send comments to pearty (BETA) | Report this review (#797129)
Posted Monday, July 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars For anybody familiar with the 2011 self-titled debut offering from Belgian post rock act Battlestations, it should've been made immediately clear that this was a band with a lot of potential. Their sound came across as strikingly original and mysterious on their first observation, especially in comparison to the stagnant nature of most post rock acts in recent years, and the group's strong sense of atmosphere made their debut one of last year's most notable releases. Less than a year has passed, and this anonymous collective already has another album up their sleeves in the form of In a Cold Embrace. The band's chilling grasp on post-apocalyptic despair has been fully maintained on this album, and this time Battlestations has also improved upon their sound from almost all fronts. In a Cold Embrace is a stunning refinement on an already chilling formula; the end result is an observation that every atmospheric rock fan should experience.

While In a Cold Embrace could simply be characterized as 'post-rock' (and, don't get me wrong - there are plenty of nods in the direction of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, or Sigur Ros), I think that wouldn't really be doing Battlestations very much justice. The band's sound borrows a great deal of inspiration from dark ambient textures, and although the instrumentation may often align itself more with post rock than ambient, the compositions are much more atmospheric than your average post rock song. I think this is largely due to the meticulous attention to detail and subtlety that Battlestations exhibits on In a Cold Embrace - most of the album stays at a calm, quiet, and soothing level, yet still manages to display extremely detailed arrangements and subtle atmospheric builds. It's these calm, yet elaborate textures that makes In a Cold Embrace such a great listen, and while the album contains very few climatic crescendos, these few moments are even more powerful in comparison to the general restraint shown throughout the rest of the observation.

In a Cold Embrace flows like a single song rather than a collection of tunes, and while it may take a number of listens for most listeners to 'get it', I found each listen of this album to be extremely rewarding and exciting. Battlestations have moved into the top-tier of ambient/post rock acts with this release, and In a Cold Embrace is quite obviously the result of professional musicianship, remarkable attention to detail, and high compositional craftsmanship. Those who prefer their music to be upbeat and energetic may find little to enjoy on In a Cold Embrace, but listeners who crave something dark (yet strangely uplifting), soothing (yet strangely dynamic), and challenging (yet strangely accessible) owe it to themselves to check out this magnificent effort.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#800058)
Posted Friday, August 03, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is the second album from these Post-Rockers from Belgium. This is dark, ambient and melancholic music that clocks in at just under 45 minutes. Nice. By the way the music isn't nearly as disturbing as the album cover. Just sayin'.

"Your Not Welcome Here" is dark and atmospheric to start and it slowly builds with piano then a beat before 2 minutes. It's experimental 4 1/2 minutes in. It's building before 7 minutes but then it settles back quickly before kicking into gear around 9 1/2 minutes. Some brief spoken words 12 minutes in. "The Way We Grieve" opens with atmosphere as a beat comes in and takes over. It's building until it's louder 3 1/2 minutes in. It settles right down 5 1/2 minutes in then slowly builds again.

"Time Stands Still" has these sounds that rise and fall over and over throughout. "The Faces We Remember" is enveloped by a dark atmosphere fairly quickly as sounds slowly come and go. The Tempo picks up before 5 1/2 minutes with a beat. "Citizen Creep" opens with atmosphere and other sounds. keyboards after a minute. Bass 2 minutes in then it picks up. A calm follows then the piano is back 4 minutes in. A beat follows. It kicks in before 6 minutes before settling back with keyboards and atmosphere. It's experimental after 9 minutes with vocals and an earth shaking atmosphere. A calm takes over late to end it.

Certainly if your a fan of melancholic music with a dark vibe you would do well to check this album out. I may not be as thrilled as many are on this site about this record but it's well worth the 4 stars i'm giving it.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#807845)
Posted Monday, August 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Thus far I have found 2012 to be a less-than-stellar year for new music. With In a Cold Embrace, BATTLESTATIONS has synthesized a true masterpiece of progressive rock music, only the third of the year, according to my reckoning (Anglagarde and Kotebel being the other two).

Very cinematic, a bit trip-hoppy à la MASSIVE ATTACK, with a little COCTEAU TWINS shoegaziness thrown in, and then, of course, follow Post Rock/Math Rock formats, and you have the formula for the majority of In a Cold Embrace. I think what I like most about this music is that if I were still creating music, this is exactly the kind of music I would want to be creating.

1. "Prologue: Nature Morte/You're Not Welcome Here" (10/10) is my favorite song on the album. This song sounds as if it could have been taken straight off of an old LOBOTOMY BROTHERS CD, probably their first one, Live! But Just Barely or their second, the out-takes EP, Partial Lobotomy. "Prologue" begins like a wonderful Spaghetti-Western soundtrack. At the 4:25 mark the song shifts with the introduction of a repeating sequence of two 'orchestra hit' chords from the synthesizer around which the other instruments (rolling Cocteau Twins- like bass, treated acoustic and electric guitars, programmed drums, and percussives) dance. At 7:15 things change again. A baribou-sounding instrument sets the pace of the new equally slow rhythm and is accompanied by fast-oscillating flanged guitar strums, voice samples, slow-picked guitar melody, and, later, drums (they sound live but could also be programmed) and background synth sounds. This is cinematic, meditative, background music heaven.

2. "Comrade/The Way We Grieve" (10/10) could be another very effective cinematic theme song. Military march drumming lays the groundwork over which guitars and synths are added, layered, throbbing, buzzing, and zinging their melodies. At 5:10 every thing slows down, fades away to allow the establishment of a new lineup of instruments playing in a new key, watched by a whale-sounding guitar, before a melody-supporting chord sequence is formed, over which a delayed guitar plays a very beautiful, very emotional melody. Synths and additional guitars join in after the eight minute mark to fade. Stunningly gorgeous.

3. "Interlude: Time Stands Still" (9/10), at two-and-a-half minutes in length is the album's shortest piece, but it is a beautiful one, with heavily effected guitar crooning out another slow but emotional melody. Once again, it sounds like it came right off the 1988 Partial Lobotomy CD.

4. "Breaking Bad News/The Faces We Remember" (9/10) is a very spacey, airy song sounding almost like an ambient Fripp/Eno or Eno/Budd experiment with the interplay of various effects and delays--until the 3:40 mark when a synth wash chord progression and electronic drum track enter and establish some drama. At 5:15 a full drum and bass rhythm section join in sounding very much like a COCTEAU TWINS instrumental. Awesome. Ends with the same sparse ambient themes and instruments of the beginning.

5. "The Semblance of Fate/Citizen Creep/The End" (8/10) begins with some piano (treated à la HAROLD BUDD et al.) in yet another cinematic theme. At 2:30 piano stops leaving some atmospheric synths to float around in the background while what sounds like the treated (reversed?) voice of a female London Underground PA speaker voice makes some (to me) unintelligible announcements. Once she stops, a new theme with new instruments is developed, coming to full force with a fast-paced drum program (I think) livening things up quite a bit. At the seven minute mark, the music stops leaving a repeating piano arpeggio to bridge into the next section which does, in fact, sound like the band--or film--is trying to say good-bye (except this is the second section, "Citizen Creep"). Beautiful, like a French romance. The final two and a half minutes are very much like each instrument is going to sleep--or trying to put you to sleep.

Each of the past five years has revealed a stunningly beautiful album from the Post Rock/Math Rock sub-genre which gives me faith that the sub-genre has not been 'played out' that, in fact, fresh ideas and creative variations are being made to keep the Post Rock/Math Rock sub-genre alive and moving forward. In 2008 Hamburg's DATURAH gave us Reverie, in 2009 came APPLESEED CAST's Sagarmantha, in 2010 we had not one but three brilliant Post Rock/Math Rock releases: COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE's The Sirens Sound, MY EDUCATION's soundtrack tribute to F.W. Murnau's 1927 silent movie, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, and GIFTS FROM ENOLA's Gifts from Enola, and last year, 2011, we had Australia's SLEEPMAKESWAVES' ...and so we destroyed everything. I am so thankful for these beautiful albums--and for the Post Rock/Math Rock sub-genre.

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#815979)
Posted Thursday, September 06, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars In a cold embrace. The title of the new album of the post-rock innovation called Battlestations is screaming darkness, melancholy and, since we know Battlestations, musical experimentation. The band's self-titled album took the whole post-rock scene by surprise with its uncliché and untypical genre fusion into their post-rock whole, full of chaotic dissonance and anti-melodies. The second band's recording, an EP called Return / Mr. Abject, represents a bridge between the chaos of the first album and the more wholesome concept of the new album, In a Cold Embrace.

The members of Battlestations are still unknown. With this move the band shifts the focus from the individuals and their potential fame to their music. The Belgians without a face reflect their mystic-selves through their music, but they reflect through it much more than only that ? their music is still something that cannot be identified, that can be known as such, something that is so fresh and new that you can't really put a finger on it.

In a Cold Embrace is divided into five parts - »Prologue : Nature morte // You're not welcome here«, »Comrade // The way we grieve, Interlude : Time stands still«, »Breaking bad news // The faces we remember«, »The semblance of fate // Epilogue : Citizen creep // The end« - but, like its debut predecessor, works fluent as a whole, like one composition. It would be therefore pointless to indulge into describing each of the five tracks as a separate part of the album.

The album itself is, despite its diversity, fluent through and through. It's not only connected in some kind of a musical story, the thing that connects it goes deeper than that. I would be difficult to simply say that the whole album is made in a similar fashion, because it's too dynamic, too diverse to say something like that. The fabric that connects the music on the album is rooted so deep that it transcends your usual conceptual albums. The somewhat chaotic minimalism is always around, and this is tied in a larger concept of psychedelic and post-rock sound, influenced by such different genres as classical music and electronic music. Battlestations' music simply takes its material from so many musical genres that seem to be completely unrelated and unmergeable, which makes the job harder for the music critic. Therefore I can only rely myself on my feelings when I listen to the music and trust the word associations that pop-up upon hearing the band's work.

It is obvious for In a Cold Embrace to be an album that really plays on the listener's emotions. The whole musical construct has such a huge influence because of this suppressed dynamics and really unusual and diverse compositions that leave the listener at least uncomfortable upon hearing a certain part. There are many unexpected musical turn-outs that really attract the listener's attention. But the most intriguing are these little pieces of the musical fabric that stand out. These little details are practically infinite, but they are connected in such a way that they result in an ambient music par excellence. Because ambiance is what Battlestations are all about. They take the seemingly ugliest and noisiest and combine them into a whispering beauty of a post-rock minimalism.

In a Cold Embrace is another Battlestations album that is going to sweep you off your feet. Their ability to compose the uncomposeable, to put passivity into a rhythm and to make a noise sound like a whisper is beyond this world. But the most surprising thing is that there are no obvious band influences, nothing to reference. Battlestations stand alone in their music. They are the future of this era of innovation, of possibilities, of musical discoveries. They are everything that is right in today's music scene.

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Send comments to kole (BETA) | Report this review (#827552)
Posted Monday, September 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars As ambient music goes, this is a haunting, beautiful, and altogether admirable quintet of pieces. Without ever becoming intense or forceful, they ebb and flow, swirl and stay. In a Cold Embrace is, however, an album of music that loses its listener throughout; it is excellent while engaging in some other experience (like writing fiction).

"Prologue : Nature morte // You're not welcome here" In a Cold Embrace begins with a disquieting rumble , like some nefarious creature of the deep waiting to emerge. Yet this beast is not so wicked, as the music settles into a smooth, chilled passage of sound. Leaving the terrain of traditional post-rock, the prologue moves through psychedelic textures. Much of it is like the quiet middle section of Yes' "Awaken."

"Comrade // The way we grieve" It's easy to get lost in the soft, graceful, yet icy scenery this second piece paints.

"Interlude : Time stands still" This is indeed an interlude, a terse piece of cinematic, synthetic tones.

"Breaking bad news // The faces we remember" In keeping with the overall mood of the album, a somber and meditative passage provides soft, clean guitars and low keyboard backing.

"The semblance of fate // Epilogue : Citizen creep // The end" Distant piano and electric guitar swirl around dominant bass notes. Like a lighted hearth on a winter evening, there is a warming sensation that emanates from the middle of this piece. In the end, it reverts back to the glacial and secluded bitterness, finishing with a tranquil piano that sounds like the graceful acceptance of dying.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#857510)
Posted Monday, November 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
4 stars The black and white cover - as well as the similarily dark and sad photography inside - makes one expect something much harsher and disturbing music, metal perhaps. But thank god (since I'm not a metal fan!), that's not the case with Battlestations, a new band from Brussels, Belgium, whose line-up chooses to remain unnamed. The music speaks for itself.

First, it's not music to be easily categorized. I'm very satisfied with the choice of Post Rock though. This instrumental and abstract-natured music has some similarities with SIGUR ROS for example, without sounding the same at all. Battlestation has found a voice of their own. Other connotations I got are linked to the term Dream Pop, COCTEAU TWINS and the PA addition DEAD CAN DANCE, with one notable difference: as Sigur Ros, also these bands have vocals (Elisabeth Frazer and Lisa Gerrard, respectively) as an important part of the overall sound even if recognizable lyrics and song-form are less used. The total absence of vocals helps Battlestations to avoid many comparisons.

Also I felt this music to be very cinematic, in a way that your own imagination can paint scenes. And I believe the musicians have attempted to receive this effect, leaving all the explaining, informative words out of the package (except that the music's recorded at night-time). Even the title tracks leave a lot of space and openness. 'You're Not Welcome Here', The Way We Grieve', The Faces We Remember', 'The Semblance of Fate', etc. If this was a film, it would be very artistic and atmospheric with minimal dialogue, emphasizing on (sad) emotions. Maybe some conflict on the background that costs lives. But the major difference with film music is that here we have long tracks whereas film music usually has short segments.

Another term that must be mentioned is Dark Ambient. The mood is somber but not disturbing or aggressive. There's surely beauty in this music. The sound is very organic, the separate instruments are usually not getting a visible role. Often this kind of instrumental ambient music is done by a sole musician (such as Robert Rich, Roger Eno, Harold Budd or Vangelis) and it would be interesting to know the exact line-up here. If this music is done in a collective way as a band, they have a wonderful spiritual unity! Easily worth 4 stars, almost five from me too.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#864969)
Posted Friday, November 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars This was an album I was skeptical of reviewing due to the fact that it was a new release getting a lot of 5 star reviews. That to me either means it's the greatest album ever or people are way too liberal with their 'masterpiece' ratings. In my experience, if I bought a highly rated new release on PA I ended up disappointed; I felt my money would have been better spent on crack cocaine. This second album from this Belgian group(the number and identity of the members apparently unknown) was a grower for me. This generally is not my favourite kind of 'post-rock' but it is very good for what it is. There are elements of ambient, dark ambient, shoegaze, space rock and electronic music...not typical post-rock but in reality there is no such thing.

To make comparisons, the music here sounds like a vocal-less Sigur Ros (but less optimistic sounding) mixed with GYBE (but less bleak and dark sounding). Sometimes it sounds like film soundtrack music, specifically a sci-fi or horror flick. Unlike the first album there is few vocal samples here (which the first one had lots of). Both albums were recorded at night (they most likely have day jobs) over a span of years. In A Cold Embrace opens with "Prologue: Nature morte / / You're not welcome here" where a looped something (keyboard?) lays the groundwork for instruments to join on top, mostly acoustic guitar and an electronic drum pattern. The loop goes away and everything turns more dreamy sounding. Some cinematic synth sequences replace the electronic drum pattern. Acoustic guitar dominates for awhile. Distorted guitar strums away in the background before what I assume is 'real' drums enter the picture.

"Comrade // The way we grieve" begins with soundscapes by a guitar I'm guessing before a very GYBE-like guitar figure appears and leads the other instruments into a GYBE style crescendo. Unlike GYBE, I don't think these guys use any strings or brass instruments. It sounds like electronic drums are used but it may just be the way the drumkit was mixed. Everything dies down and then we get some acoustic guitar over ambient soundscapes. A little bit of keyboards and some subdued, almost Fripp-like guitar playing join in. "Interlude: Time stands still" being the interlude is of course the shortest track. Some cinematic sounding synths, some of them looped, along with some fuzzed guitar playing almost random notes.

I like the beginning of "Breaking bad news // The faces we remember"-very post-rock sounding. Echoey and reverby guitars and keyboards(?) play single notes which form a long, stretched out melody. The background cinematic soundscapes become louder and more dominant as the acoustic guitars get looser and more improvised before returning to the single notes. All of a sudden everything gets more brighter as the music turns into some kind of electronic ambient. Sounds like altered choir sounds but that could just be a keyboard. Full band comes in and does an ambient groove. Just more single notes till the end.

"The semblance of fate // Epilogue: Citizen Creep // The end" opens with soundscapes and some slightly altered piano. The bass has a nice deep tone here. This part reminds me of something else but I can't quite put my finger on it. Just soundscapes and altered talking (to the point where you can't understand what's being said) for awhile. Very gently goes into some kind of Krautrock/post-punk/alternative vibe. I'm almost convinced they only use electronic percussion at this point. The music gets more post-y sounding. Some cinematic soundscapes and guitars before it goes cinematic dark ambient with more altered talking. A drone leads to echoed guitar chords and more soundscapes before ending the album.

I actually don't like the way the album ends too much; the first few times I listened to the album I thought: "why the silence? oh, it's over." Instead of just abruptly ending(another thing I don't like), everything just sort of fizzles out. Otherwise this is a very good effort. It has a great sound to it and the playing is good for what the music requires. Recommended to those who enjoy the more easy-going yet cinematic and atmospheric end of post-rock. My final verdict will be a 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#869184)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars When I read the words Post Rock/Math Rock, it's normally my cue to avoid that album, but in this case I received a message from the guys from BATTLESTATIONS and after checking the positive reviews by people who share my taste, answered them and accepted the album and offered an honest review and rating (from 1 to 5 stars as usual), but incredibly, I enjoyed the dark acoustic atmospheres created by this Belgian guys who refuse to give their real names.

I love a band that can transmit strong feelings, so the claustrophobic and full of desperation opener Prologue : Nature Morte // You're not Welcome Were,captured me from the first second. Somebody described the song as "a long introduction for a song that never happens ", I agree with him, but that's precisely the reason why I enjoyed it so much, being that suspense uis the key element of a good album, it's easy to make a dark intro and explode in a burst of sounds to make everybody happy, but this guys have enough talent to prepare the listener for something that never occurs, but still keep the interest of the audience, being that the performances (specially the acoustic guitar) are incredibly beautiful. A great start for a great album.

If the first track was very soft and oriented towards Ambient, Comrade // The Way We Grieve is much more aggressive, with a strong and constant percussion and bass and a subtle guitar work plus mysterious choirs is delightful. The constant dissonance enriches the musical experience. As the track advances it goes in crescendo somehow reminiscent of Tubular Bells but never explodes, it's like a controlled and addictive chaos, simply brilliant.

Interlude : Time Stands Still is a really weird track, with a haunting organ and the engineer playing with the volume, I was at the edge of the seat all along the track with a creepy feeling of being trapped in the middle of nowhere.

Breaking Bad News // The Faces We Remember is like a very long introduction where the band experiments with cadences, and explores the possibilities that the different instruments provide them, the Mellotron choirs are extremely haunting and frightening, spectacular, specially when blending some soft jazzy elements.

The guys of BATTLESATION kept the best for the grand finale, The Semblance of Fate // Epilogue : Citizen Creep // The End is amazing and has everything a Prog fans loves, from melodic piano sections to obscure creepy passages and a couple experimental moments with strange sounds a short heavy rocking instant and a lot of drama?Pay special attention to the drumming and the acoustic guitar, both are out of this world.

Until today I haven't reviewed a single Post Rock/Math Rock album, simply because I don't care for the style, but In a Cold Embrace has impressed me, to the point that I'll rate my first album of this sub-genre with four solid stars that should be 4.5 if the system allowed it.

Almost forgot to mention the booklet, which is extremely beautiful and melancholic, the sepia pictures hava some kind of magic that compares with nothing.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#869226)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars First of all, I must say that I love bands from Belgium; my favorite being Quantum Fantay. For some reason some of the best modern space rock comes from this small European Nation. I consider this release Post Rock with a Heavy Space Rock influence. For some background, I really only like a narrow spectrum of post rock that includes Sunlight Ascending, Sigur Ros, Talk Talk, Until Sunrise, Explosions in the Sky and a hand full of others; pretty much the ones that cross over to the progressive spectrum and Battlestations falls squarely into that category for me . There is a Tangerine Dream quality to this music. And I grew up with Tangerine Dream as my favorite space rock band; so the reason why I really like this release. So let's get down to the songs now.

Prologue : Nature morte - You're not welcome here - opens the CD and is appealing from the very beginning. The opening ambiance sets an ominous tone of helplessness and despair. The introduction yields to a marching beat taking us ever closer to the mood of suspense. That suspense flows into a rock solid climax with a jazz element and stable hook that I really like. Comrade - The way we grieve ? continues the theme of the first track giving the listener a sense of hope that builds and continues into the next track.

Interlude : Time stands still ? has an epic opening with a reverse symphonic orchestra. It pulls the listening into a time lapse reminiscent of the tracks name.

Breaking bad news - The faces we remember- this song seems to have little direction or structure, but at the same time has some beautiful movements.

The semblance of fate -Epilogue : Citizen creep - The end - This might be my favorite track as it has that strong Tangerine Dream sound; painting distant landscapes, futuristic scenes and alternate realities, but concludes with a sense of solid in-this-world grounding..

The music is talented and unique, and ties together the sounds of the 70s space rock with the contemporary progressive metal of 2012 with a nice layer of post rock. At times the ambiance drags on a little too long without substantive structure or changes for my taste. However, overall, it is a fine release for a second album from a relatively unknown band. I have not seen any live material from the band. It would be interesting to see if that can reproduce the material in a live setting. In any case, give this a 3.5, and round up to a four. 4 Stars

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Send comments to TechnicallySpeaking (BETA) | Report this review (#880604)
Posted Saturday, December 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It's amazing how a few mild changes in instrumentation and texture can be transformative. Battlestations breathe vivid new life into the post-rock subgenre by making greater use of keyboards and synthesisers than many predecessors in the field, with a delicate production that invests these instruments with a rich, lush sound, and by applying this to standard post- rock compositional conventions they end up producing a sound which is at once familiar and enticing to post-rock listeners (and those who like the idea of post-rock but don't like how it's often executed) whilst at the same time being quite original. Far from being as monochrome as its cover art, In a Cold Embrace offers a diverse range of moods and shows Battlestations to be a name to watch in post-rock.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#991685)
Posted Thursday, July 04, 2013 | Review Permalink

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