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Blackbody Vol III review (25/7/10)

Compulsion Online - Tony Dickie

With Blackbody Vol III The Lava Experiments appear to consolidate their sound refining the elements that feed into their sound. The songs on Blackbody Vol III are far more guitar oriented more often than not based around familiar quiet to loud structures but The Lava Experiments fills the quieter moments with atmospheric keyboards and lush, melodic vocals. The opening track here, 'Never Been Lost' opens with light keyboards quickly bursting into smooth gliding guitars before falling into light tumbling guitar notes and the wallowing hushed melodic voice of Fraser Rowan, picking up on keyboards layers and cellos bathing the multi-layered vocals before the guitars take flight, once again, to tremendous effect. On the basis of 'Never Been Lost' it's surprising that they're not better known.

The Lava Experiments are by no means generic post-rock, electronic treatments abound within their song structures with guitars that are evocative and ethereal. 'Gas Moth' is quietly evocative and atmospheric with a Japanese narrative couched in shards of ringing guitar notes. Building gradually accompanied by some martial snare rolls it surges, falls away and rebuild. Sombre piano notes and synthetic strings offer a backing to couch Rowan's mournful vocal ache on 'Liquid Pig', before it lunges into surging controlled guitar chords. The electronics that underpin much of Blackbody Vol III come to the fore on 'Autumn Light' with its droning synths and ice-cold electronics. Here though they're joined by chiming guitars and a billowing vocal, catching something of a rhythmic groove before the inevitable blissed-out guitars kick in.

With Blackbody Vol III there's as much emphasis on subtlety as there is on force, and this the third and final piece in the trilogy of Blackbody releases is definitely a highpoint for this Glasgow based trio.






Peenk Interview - Scots Way-Hay(16/5/10)

Peenko Blog - Lloyd Meredith

For any of you that have been reading my blog for a while now, then you might well remember that I already ran an introducing feature on these guys. Thankfully this time you will have the benefit of having something sensible to read, rather than my rambling attempts to describe the band. Their second volume of their series of 'blackbody' EP's was a cracking wee voyage into the world of psychedelia, so when I must admit I was pretty excited when I got sent a copy of the Volume 3, the last in the series. Needless to say it didn't fail to impress, they continue to bring innovative ideas to the table and grow in stature as band at the same time. Ladies and gents, the Lava Experiments.......

Would you care to introduce yourself?

Fraser Rowan – guitar, vocals, laptop programming

Rory McGregor – Bass

Alan Wond - Drums

How would you describe the music you make?

That one used to be a real toughy for us, until Lisa-Marie Ferla (Under The Radar Blog) came along to one of our gigs. She reviewed us and suggested that we are breaking new territory and re-defining genre’s. We didn’t feel the need to argue with that. She described us as “Dark Evolutionary Shoegaze” and “Heart-Achingly Beautiful Post-Rock”. We think that’s spot on. Some Shoegaze can be a bit poppy and formulaic. ‘Dark’ hopefully removes all ambiguity as to which side of the fence we sit on there and the use of ‘evolutionary’ hints towards something new; not the resurgence of another My Bloody Valentine clone. In the same way, there’s a fair amount of Post-Rock that’s just bland. ‘Heart-achingly beautiful’ again clarifies where we sit within the spectrum quite eloquently.

How did you start out making music?

Fraser - I picked up the guitar when I was 13 and have been playing in bands since. I got my first 4-track when I was 19 and started experimenting with sound manipulation. I thought I invented saturating sounds with reverb reversing them and slowing them right down. Gutted to find the Beatles got there first. Aphex Twin’s “Selected Ambient Works 1” got me into electronic music in a big way. I’ve been messing around with organic/analogue sounds ever since.

Rory - Reason I picked up the bass: I liked a girl at school, she liked guys in bands. Found out later she preferred guitarists, but by that stage I had fallen in love with playing. Like Fraser and Alan, I’ve also played in a good few bands, both in Aberdeen (my home town) and in Glasgow. Fraser asked me to step in on bass duties till he found a permanent replacement for the previous bassist. I was only supposed to be on loan from my other band, The Sleepwalkers. However, after we played our first gig together (Blackbody Vol II ep launch) Fraser and Alan asked me to join permanently and that was that.

Alan - Music has always been a big part in my life, growing up I was always interested in playing drums. Both my uncle and brother are accomplished drummers. I got my first kit when I was 8 and started in a pipe band when I was 10. I’ve played in a few local bands, but this is the first time I’ve been in a band playing the type of music I really want to play. There’s a real creative feel to what the three of us are doing right now.

Fraser - The Lava Experiments is a project that’s been around in one form or another for about 4 years now, with me starting off writing ambient electronica (mostly with a guitar, a moog and Ableton on my mac) for my own enjoyment. When a mate forced me into playing a gig it was just me playing guitar and singing and the laptop banging out the beats, bass, strings, etc. (Rory was actually at that first gig so I’m surprised he joined the band after hearing it like that). After a few gigs a mate joined playing bass. It wasn’t until Alan joined about 18 months ago that The Lava Experiments started to resemble what we have now. When Rory joined about a year ago our sound transformed entirely. Alan and Rory gelled immediately. A more innovative drums and bass duo I’ve yet to come across.

What process goes into the way you write songs?

It used to be that I would produce rough but complete tunes on the laptop, remove the drums and sometimes the bass and fill in the blanks. Now the process is far less prescribed. We are writing new stuff at the moment and it’s a very different process; one which all three of us are heavily involved. I’ll create a soundscape – just a backbone of a piece then we all set about engineering a structure round about it. This process is far more collaborative than before and, in my opinion, the results are more creative.

Who are your big musical influences?

Fraser - Michael Gira, Boards of Canada, Dextro, This Will Destroy You, UNKLE, the record label Type (eg. Helios, Xela, Deaf Centre, Machinefabriek, etc).

Rory - Bruce Foxton, Chris Squire, New Order, Swervedriver

Alan - Deftones (Abe Cunningham & Chino), Sigur Ros, This Will Destroy You, Taking Back Sunday

What are you all listening to at the moment?

Fraser - Deftones “Diamond Eyes”, The National “High Violet”, UNKLE – “Where Did The Night Fall”, The XX “XX”.

Rory - Arbouretum “Song of the Pearl”, Pale Saints “In Ribbons”, Quack Quack “Slow as an Eyeball”, Soft Machine “Seven”.

Alan – August Burns Red “Constallations”, Deftones “Saturday Night Wrist”, Mew “Frengers”, This Will Destroy You “This Will Destroy You”.

You are currently up to Volume three in your series of EPs, why did you choose to release your music in this way? Do you plan to continue to put stuff out this way or can we expect an album at some point?

The Blackbody trilogy was created as a challenge to my self. It’s hardly original to release music this way but I wanted to do something a little bit different. I’ve always been into ‘collections’ of music and I suppose it was an ambition of mine to create something like that. It worked out better than I had expected to be honest. There’s a real maturation in the quality of the work from I to II to III. I’m delighted with I and II, but I’m most proud of III. Volume III sounds like a band that’s found its sound and identity and probably more importantly is comfortable in that place. We are already writing new stuff and will release that as an album early next year.

What can we expect to see/hear from you in 2010?

The next 12 months will be really important for us as a band. We have a few exciting propositions in the pipelines for live outings later this year but nothing has been confirmed at this time. The key aim for us is to up our profile and get into the festival circuit next summer.






Blackbody Vol III review (30/5/10)

Aye Tunes - Jim Connick

Roughly a year on from the release of Blackbdy Vol. 1, The Lava Experiments have completed their promised trilogy of EPs with the release of Volume III. When listened to back to back you can really hear progress with each release. Blackbody I was good, Blackbody II was better generally with a couple of real standout moments and now Blackbody III has arrived and takes another step up. I love my music to be atmospheric, and The Lava Experiments deliver in spades. They make dark, at times cinematic, shoegazey soundscapes that are just dripping with atmosphere. Like previous releases (and funnily enough The Release from Blackbody II in particular) the songs on this EP draw you in and trap you in their midst as they swirl around and wash over you as you listen. Atmosphere is all well and good, but of course there needs to be a bit more about songs than just that to hold my attention. Lurking amidst the darkness there's no shortage of hooks and melody, spine tingling riffs and drumkits being beaten into submission, while listening to this EP there's little danger of my mind wandering. Great stuff, from a band that seemingly keep improving.






Blackbody Vol III review (29/5/10)

Glasgow Podcart - Halina Rifai

The Lava Experiments are no stranger to the Scottish music circuit, having established themselves in 2005 they have gone on to build up their reputation as much as their consummate sound. Podcart's first live introduction to this cluster of talent was in 2009 at Glasgow's V Club. Since then front man Fraser Rowan has remained the nucleus, however, his line-up has changed to create a rapturous membrane around him. Glasgow Podcart's Artist Of The Week goes to The Lava Experiments and I will now attempt to tell you exactly why! The Lava Experiments release Blackbody Volume III this week and in my opinion it goes a phenomenal way to showing the potential of this band. Over the last year I have seen and heard the band grow in sound and that essentially is what Artist Of The Week aims to show and represent. The Lava Experiments create music that sucks you in like a tourbillion. Songs build and before you know it you are within a sonancy that is like putting on the best headphones you can find and the music becoming part of you.

'Never Been Lost' is the opening track to Blackbody Volume III and creates visionary psychedelia in places. As the track progresses all its individual eclectic accomplishments add up to create something truly enthralling. The entire EP moves in a way that like most excellent short collections of music, tells you a story from start to finish. Blackbody Volume III is patterned with ethereal beauty and can lift you to giddy heights when crescendos hit their highest peaks. I just urge you to take the time to listen.

The Lava Experiments are a powerful machine; they have taken a massively significant step forward. They pull sublime sounds from the most core recesses of their imaginations and turn them into transport mechanisms for you and I to experience. I cannot wait to see what is next.






Piecing Memories Together (Remixes) EP Launch 29th Jan 2010

Under The Radar Blog - Lisa-Marie Ferla

Once the clutter of synths is removed, the stage looks almost empty for the three Lava Experiments. But they needn'€™t rely on much hardware to make some of the most beautiful and powerful noise to have ever graced the [13th] Note: guitar, bass, some samples and a drum kit battered to a membrane. Frontman Fraser Rowan doesn't say much, but what he does almost doesn'€™t matter - his voice is another instrument to be bent to his will in the creation of his atmospheric soundscapes, echoing like a scream in a haunted crypt among the clatter of drums and guitars.

'Piecing Memories Together' is of course the reason we are here. The set pivots around its understated, haunting melody, and as the song builds itself into a powerful, desolate frenzy I swear my heart actually hurts. By the end of their allotted half hour, the audience are as emotionally battered as that snare.




Blackbody Vol II EP Launch Nice n Sleazy 4/9/09

Glasgow PodCart - Sean McCann

The Lava Experiments are a band I have been watching with interest for some time now. Anyone who hasn't caught the band live for a while will have missed their evolution as they are barely recognisable to the band I first saw nearly 2 years ago. Sure, the laptop is still there, as is guitarist and songsmith Fraser, but the addition of drummer Alan and the passing of bass duties from Roddy Pooch to new boy Rory has transformed the Lava's. This massive physical and aural overhaul has turned The Lava Experiments into a sonically powerful, 6 legged groove machine.

The launch of Blackbody Vol 2sees the band in fine form. Sweeping soundscapes dripping with reverb laden guitars hang in the air, floating above full on beats that focus the mind and the feet. There were times at the gig last night were I had great difficulty preventing my shoulders and ass from comming off the leash! I really was battling to contain myself but I was fairly isolated in Sleazy's and with Alpha Hidden Master sitting to my left and Kirstin and Laura Pooch just in front of me, my shape throwing dance style could have been distracting for everyone. Luckily I wound my neck in and enjoyed the Lava's brilliant set.

I am loath to compare bands but I reckon if you are the sort who likes a bit of Boards Of Canada, or the Beta Band, or even the Primals at their most groovy then you could do a lot worse than checking out The Lava Experiments. The EP is available through their myspace and also from iTunes, Napster etc.




Blackbody Vol II EP Review 2/9/09

Compulsion - Tony Dickie

Glasgow's The Lava Experiments appear to have come a long way from the ambient soundtracks and downbeat electronic of their initial releases. Originally the solo-project of Fraser Rowan the past year or so has seen the Glasgow based group expand to include a bass player and a drummer. With new members has come a new sound, and although they deal primarily with ethereal downbeat electronics, there's a distinct move towards elements of shoegaze and post-rock. Blackbody Vol II, follows the initial sold-out volume on Antimatter Music, and should help expand their profile outside of the ambient electronic scene.

By far the highlight of this EP, the second in a planned trilogy, is the captivating 'Piecing Memories Together'. Opening with a windswept drone, it gently unfurls through lush repetitive acoustic guitars, framing the hushed, melodic tones of Fraser Rowan, as it continuously swells to incorporate keyboard chime and haunting atmospherics before bowing out on distorted guitars and windswept atmospherics. It's a beautifully arranged and mature track with a hazy Spiritualized feel, which taps into post-rock mannerisms and even carries feint traces of the fabled Glasgow sound.

There's a distinct eighties sound to 'Sun Flies'. Even though it opens with ambient electronica I can't help but hear tinges of Depeche Mode in the rhythms, bleepy electronics and massed vocals. The guitar lines seem to smack of New Order. These aren't lightweight pop melodies though as The Lava Experiments are dealing in textured, moody atmospheric music. The instrumental piece, 'River Shape' snakes through stuttered electronic rhythms and atmospheric synths. 'Ring To The Dark Place' places Rowan's calm, earnest vocalisations on loneliness against clean rhythmic electronics and atmospheric synths. There's a layer of synthetic strings and a gentle recurrent processed guitar motif woven through the moody arrangement that adds an element of post-rock/shoegaze to the overall electronic sound.

Just listening to Rowan sing "Set my soul free" on the darkly seductive 'The Release' you realise his deep and soothing tones are perfect for this sort of music where ringing electronic guitars and mammoth slabs of buzzing electronics slide off into shoegazey guitar territory.

With a sound based around guitars and analogue synths The Lava Experiments quite often appear to be looking back, but listening to 'Piecing Memories Together' and 'The Release' it's obvious that this is a band who are at their best when looking at their shoes rather than looking behind.




Blackbody Vol II EP Review - 22/10/09

Is This Music

With an almost glowing neon blue butterfly, juxtaposed a jet black background gracing the cover of Blackbody Vol II, the chosen image proves to be somewhat apt, as the following mix of natural delicacy (acoustic guitar, sincere fragile vocals) are enshrouded in synthetically appropriated melancholy (swathes of dark electronic ambience) to mesmerizing effect.

The opening and most engaging track ‘Piecing Memories Together' begins in an ominous almost industrial fashion, before giving way to a steady calm flow of delicate piano and acoustic picking, underpinned by the equally steady bass and warm vocals, with a stunning ethereal backdrop of soaring angelic beauty. However these peaceful overtones masks the troubling existential questions and personal demons that lie within the lyrics “I've no idea what I did last night, it's happening all over again, - Can't stop theses feeling destroying me, there tearing apart my insides”, reinforcing that no matter how soporific the music becomes, these songs were never intended to be surrogate lullabies.

The whole album floats along effortlessly never quite peaking, but at no point boring or tedious. At points the captivatingly brooding soundscapes, trip hop beats, sampled strings and swirling synths wash over you like a refreshing spray of sea air, calling to mind Air's lush pocket-symphonies, there's also a strong Beta Band influence, permeating throughout, while final track ‘The Release' leans more heavily on the electric guitar riffs, calling to mind Death in Vegas and Vanishing Point era Primal Scream, without loosing the moody electronic character that holds the album together. The Lava Experiment offer a remedy to an often hectic pace of life, prescribing a sonorous, sonic reverie, leaving you feeling dazed and wondrously woozy as you gradually float back to consciousness, parting with whatever tranquil solipsistic vision this aural tonic conjured in you mind's eye.




Blackbody Vol I EP Review 2/10/08

Cyclic Defrost

So really, anyone who's read a few of the reviews I've written already knows that I'm going to like this EP. It verges on retro, yes, but glorifying one of my favourite eras well is obviously a good move. We're in early 90s shoegaze territory here, but not as pastiche, more as distinct influence. Some fizzing static gets us moving, a nod to the technology that The Lava Experiments has at his disposal, which is where he mostly differs from the guitar dominated originators of the field. Over the next 25 minutes, various washes of synth, guitar, bass, vocals and processing build and fall expertly. A key to succeeding with this kind of music is to have some decent melodies in order to keep things from just becoming pretty walls of sound, and Fraser Rowan, who is The Lava Experiments, can concoct these as instrumental motifs or as vocal lines. Reverb is used, as can be expected, but never as a lazy default, and it is constantly contrasted with flows of close-up static, or the sounds of acoustic instruments in a small room. The highlight track of the EP is undoubtedly ‘Organise The Box', which builds from plaintive piano and glitch into a morose, epic minor key synth dirge.

The closest touchstone I can think of would be something like Underlapper, with their building and sustained atmosphere, and especially in the use of vocals. Unlike that group, however, The Lava Experiment's main weakness is a reliance on fairly insipid drum programming - where drum machines seem to just make a beat, trying to sound vaguely like real drums. I'd much prefer to hear either real drums and the humanness of their groove or the exploration of the sonic possibilities of synthetic percussion, as is done on the intro to ‘Check The Eye' before it settles back into generic-ness midway through.

Having said that, though, it's only a small element of everything that The Lava Experiment is doing. I'm enjoying the EP a great deal and will definitely be looking out for the second and third installments of this promised trilogy.






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