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JFH Staff Blog | November 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Progress Report on Falling Up's 'Machine De Ella' (Review)

Last year, Falling Up released possibly their best album to date, Your Sparkling Death Cometh. Earlier this year, the band threw a bone to fans in the form of the hit and miss remix project Mnemos. Now, Falling Up is using their independence to release their newsiest endeavor in a unique way. Their Machine De Ella Project is broken up into two releases: Hours and Midnight to Earthship. Fans can subscribe to either one or both of the projects and acquire the songs as they are released (which are about three a month or so for each developing album). Each album is vastly different so I'm going to focus on Hours here.

Hours is one half an audiobook written and read by Jessy Ribordy and one half the soundtrack to the novella. Although the cryptic lyrics didn't appear to have much in the way of correlation with the chapters of the audio book, some of the lyrics are just starting to make sense.

The tone of the music draws from Your Sparkling Death Cometh, and there have been hints of an influence from Fangs as well. "The Contract" features much of the foundation that has defined Falling Up's recent music, and it works as a good experimental rock song. However, "The Climb" is a little dry by comparison, and the solid bridge isn't enough to overcome its largely uninspired tune. Your Sparkling… and Fangs meet in the electric guitar driven "Finn Hatches A Plan," and its high-energy chorus is great. Ribordy's vocals are more emotional in "The Rest Will Soon Follow," and the dreamy, softer music offers a welcomed change of pace. So far, "Aeva And The Waving World" is clearly the best offering on Hours. The haunting bass and vocals are heavily layered in synth, and the ominous atmosphere is among the best Falling Up has ever established.

From the album's first five songs, it's clear that the elongated endings that have defined much of the group's recent work are still very much alive. While I'm usually in favor of longer songs (especially when it comes to one of my favorite artists, like Falling Up), there are times when I wish they'd cut the programming and just end the song so we can move on. Also, with the exception of "Aeva And The Waving World," I feel like we've heard this before from Falling Up. I'm all in favor of a band remaining in their natural element, but the band has proven they have no natural element. Each project from Falling Up has been different, ranging from hard rock, alternative rock, to, now, experimental rock. All those genres have massive frontiers, and the band has done an incredible job carving out the genre wherever they go (sans Crashing which was a bit generic, and some of Dawn Escapes which was a bit repetitive). I'd like to see the seven remaining songs branch out a little more and stand more on their own feet.

Those interested in the paranormal novella will discover a world populated by children in an orphanage. Seth, the child prodigy and leader of the (very mature) six graders, is the protagonist who is chosen to lead his classmates into the mysterious north quarter of the orphanage. For a whole year, every year, the sixth grade class is allowed to do whatever they want in an empty gym for an hour without supervision. Each class before Seth has developed a dangerous game to pass the time, and now it's Seth's turn to come up with something. Although he forms the boldest, most daring plan yet, his game has a good chance of twisting out of control with the deadliest of consequences.

I've been a Falling Up enthusiast from the beginning, and I bought the subscription to Hours for the music. The audiobook was an afterthought, but each subsequent chapter has made me want to dive into the story first. So far, Jessy hasn't tried to develop the characters all that much, but they are interesting enough that we care about them whenever they encounter dubious situations. The writing isn't dazzling, but it doesn't stick out as a drawback either. It simply acts as the vehicle to tell the story. Some disbelief will have to be suspended to fully enjoy the story, as some plot points are just a little hard to swallow. For example, the unlikely romance among eleven year olds is a bit farfetched and did warrant some eye-rolling.

The intriguing aspect of Hours is the story, and the chilling paranormal elements that put the reader/listener on edge. Dark secrets, appearances of apparitions, and an ominous hole in the ground provide enough suspense, but it's the creepy soundtrack that plays in the background that does the most damage to someone's calm.

A word of caution. Although the cast features eleven year olds in the main cast, this is a YA (young adult) tale with some very mature elements. The supernatural occurrences are not at all consistent with God's Word. Just outside the gym, the children invent a machine that enables them to meet death halfway, and the results include teleportation, super strength, and flight of sorts. Then there's the ghost that's beginning to lurk around, and we're getting hints that she's up to no good. Graphic descriptions of dead or dying children are detailed and cringe worthy, and there is already one mild abuse of the Lord's name. The story is enthralling, but worth the plunge...?

A subscription to Hours is $15, and the one to Midnight to Earthship is $10. The packaged deal of both together costs $20, and right now there isn't any other physical or digital outlet to acquire them from. For a Falling Up geek like me, it's a no brainer, but, if you didn't love Your Sparkling Death Cometh, I'd wait until the project is completed before checking it out. It's reasonable to expect where the band is going with the musical side of Hours, but I haven't a clue where the audiobook is headed.

- Nathaniel Schexnayder (11/24/12)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

We Recommend - Glassbyrd, 'Open Wide This Window'

"God Of Wonders" is sung every Sunday morning somewhere in the Western world (and beyond). But not many folks singing it would know the great artistic histories of its two songwriters, Steve Hindalong of longtime Christian Music vets The Choir and Marc Byrd, formerly of Common Children and half of husband and wife worship duo Glassbyrd.

Glassbyrd's Open Wide This Window shimmers and shines with beautiful guitar textures that are a Marc Byrd specialty and weaves the voices of Byrd and his wife, Christine Glass (herself a veteran of alternative Christian music in the 90's) in an atmospheric display. Opening number "Open Wide This Window" invites the Lord into our daily lives with the metaphor of opening a window to let the Spirit in like fresh air into a stale room. "Tonight (I Want To Live In Your World)" repeats this theme comparing life lived for ones self to living in "an empty room with bare walls" (and the song was later covered expertly by Jaci Velasquez). Closing number "Peace To You" echoes the prayer of St. Francis who wanted to be an "instrument of God's peace." The haunting acapella choir at the end of the song (and record) cinches Open Wide This Window as a beautiful and overlooked worship classic.
- Alex Caldwell

Open Wide This Window (2003)

Click here for our review of the album.

Our synopsis: "A worship release made by folks with a history of artistic integrity and cutting edge sounds and textures." (Recommended by JFH's Alex "Tincan" Caldwell)
Perfect For: Worshipful moments of beauty and introspection that is just a bit more mature than the average worship record. Recommended for fans of Sixpence None The Richer, The Glorious Unseen, The Choir and the City On A Hill recordings
Song Highlights: "This Window," "Tonight (I Want To Live In Your World)," "Peace To You"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Open Wide This Window? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Featured Fan - Jesse R. Fleming

Jesse R. Fleming with Stryper's Robert Sweet

Favorite Band/Artist: Stryper
Featured Fan: Jesse R. Fleming
Location:  Union, SC
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken: LifeFest 2009, October
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: Stryper was the first Christian band that I listened to that boldly and straight out proclaimed the Gospel to me and that has lead me to starting a radio show from 2009-2010
Favorite Album by This Artist: Murder By Pride
Favorite Song by This Artist: "4 Leaf Clover"
Favorite Live Show Experience: First time seeing them at LifeFest!
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live:  ONCE!
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist: Stryper Fleece Jacket
Website: Twitter

Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

10 Years Later - Underoath, 'The Changing of Times'



I think it to be highly appropriate to write a blog like this about a band who has recently announced their break up, simultaneously breaking the hearts of many music fans (though with all the understanding in the world from said fans). 

Ten years ago, one of the best things that has ever happened to heavy music happened: a band called Underoath signed to Solid State Records and released what would be their grand introduction to the world at large, The Changing of Times.  The album captivated the hearts of kids who couldn't decide if they were emo or hardcore, giving them a third option: emocore.  This was in large part due to the duality of Underoath's music.  Before The Changing of Times, Underoath was hard and heavy, but with the signing to Solid State, and with drummer Aaron Gillespie's poppier preferences starting to influence the music, their sound became more ambient.  Dallas Taylor (who went on after this album to form Maylene and the Sons of Disaster and is also part of a two-man electronic outfit called Everett) still screamed a lot in songs like "Letting Go of Tonight" and "Never Meant To Break Your Heart," the latter of which also kept some of their hardcore tendencies intact, with double bass and chugging guitars.  But then there's the title track and, of course, the infamous first single "When The Sun Sleeps" (the single that made it known that these guys were something special), which expertly blended their harder side and their newfound softer side.  While the majority of the album wasn't very accessible, it paved the way for their groundbreaking follow-up record, They're Only Chasing Safety (but that's a blog for a couple of years from now!).  These guys have done a lot in the way of making Christian music more likeable for those of other (or no) faiths, and they grew and matured and made heavy music better with each and every album. 

As we say goodbye to Underoath, go back and listen to the album that really gave them their biggest push toward being legendary.

-- Scott Fryberger