Casualties Of Cool (2CD/DVD)

"“The genesis of it was rooted was in the frustration of it all. Frustrated by the loud…”

For Devin Townsend, ‘‘Casualties of Cool’’ is more than just the latest release of a prolific career to-date. You probably know him as the founder of Strapping Young Lad, you might have Steve Vai’s Sex & Religion, which features the Canadian metal star on vocals, or the countless other releases he’s put his name to. But you can forget all that for now. For Townsend, ‘Casualties of Cool’ is an escape – from over 20 years of relentless productivity, of the pre-conceptions of him that come with being one of the biggest names in his sphere.
“When you’re younger you do these things and of course you become the product of them” he admits. “But as your life changes, your true nature comes through and becomes overlooked in lieu of what people view you as.” With metal a genre that’s resisted the cultural fragmentation of our age to remain intrinsically tribal, so the family you become part of remain the overbearing baggage you can’t throw off – how far do you have to go before you’re not, as Devin says, “the guy in the Motley Crue t-shirt?”
It turns out he hasn’t had to go far at all.

A project over four years in the making, largely at night when home from turning the dial up for the day job in the studio, ‘Casualties of Cool’ has seen Townsend look at himself in order to go forward. Digging out a battered old Fender amp and telecaster, he revisited the rootsy country and North American folk music of his youth. It provides the backbone of the album that’s eventually come to fruition, opening with ‘Daddy’s’ shuffling percussion and bluesy finger-picked motif, resurfacing during ‘The Code’s’ sultry twilight atmospherics and ‘Forgive Me’s’ hushed ambience. It’s a subtly applied but vital part of this record, providing the bones for the flesh to hang from. “My childhood was full of that type of music,” says Townsend. “At Christmas my grandfather would insist on the whole family sitting around singing uncomfortably along to Johnny Cash songs and Irish stuff like the Clancy Brothers. It was a big part of my childhood, it’s not like I’m putting on a new hat here.”

However ‘Casualties of Cool’ isn’t a vehicle for nostalgia either; instead it uses these familiar troupes as leaping off points. Tracks like ‘Moon’ wind off and away towards astral planes, soft-edged textures coalescing and separating around murmured vocals; ‘Bones’ relatively straight-up balladry sits side-by-side ‘Deathscope’s’ cavernous production, making for a sweet juxtaposition between that and the intentionally simplistic rockabilly that characterises its structure. Sometimes the quiet is burst open by a bright blast of saxophone or choral chanting, but always, always a sense of night-time and nature pervades.
“There’s such a specific environment around my current home in Vancouver,” Townsend ponders. “There are coniferous trees, it’s really rugged. I find myself more and more just wanting to move north away from people. I like the rain, and the dichotomy of dark and quiet. I like being near the water or the mountains. Spending time in hot, dusty Los Angeles – for instance – in a recording studio isn’t stimulating. Making Casualties I found more excuses to get in some kind of environment.”

‘Casualties of Cool’ is a chance to switch off from our hyper-accelerated world, its relentless rush of 24/7 communication, and the competing voices that jostle for attention as they threaten to submerge our own. For Townsend, the themes of the record surround what he believes to be a bridge in his career; an acceptance of the artist he is today and embracing the fear of leaving behind what people know of him.
“The song ‘The Bridge’ in particular is about transcending this period as opposed to succumbing to the fear and just reverting what I’ve done before,” he explains. “This whole album’s about fear; if you’re afraid of yourself or success it can be comforting to revel in that and let go - this record is like ‘go for it’”.

Driven simply by the desire to see how things unfolded, free of the usual recording contract constraints and subsequent limits on time, it’s apt that Townsend stumbled on a supporting cast of similarly wandering souls, all revelling in their own sense of outsiderdom. The luxuriant vocals of Che Aimee have draped themselves over a previous Townsend release – 2009’s Ki – and so it was perhaps no surprise that the two would find their way back to each other. Keen to keep spontaneity through every process of Casualties… creation, he refused to explain the meanings of the lyrics sent to the singer, while also encouraging her to pen her own for other tracks. “I liked the idea of the concept of the record being rooted in a duality where two people are meeting at a crossroads,” he explains. Recorded by Aimee herself on her laptop, her voice is as important as the shuffling folk that permeates the record, in acting as a glue for the whole thing - her wistful tones hold together constructs so freeform at times they might disintegrate.

Like Townsend, drummer Morgan Ågren is a country boy who’s found his career pinning him to the city. Having drummed for everyone from Frank Zappa to Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal - in a 25 year career beginning in his teenhood - the Swede found himself similarly keen for a respite from the relentless productivity that sessioning and professional collaboration required. In keeping with the spirit of the project, Townsend stumbled upon him thanks to a mutual acquaintance. With a remit to simply drum quietly (“I wanted this record to sound like an AM Radio playing in the background”), Ågren’s work over the record anticipates the gradual shifts in mood that shape proceedings, playing with the space of the record and slipping any rhythmical nuances underneath the surface rather than dominating the tone. The pair got together to record the drum parts at his rural home in Sweden – a happy parallel to Townsend’s own secluded Oregon surroundings.

Other guests feature too; Townsend cast back into his past in asking flutist Kat Epple to feature on the record – as a child he was blown away by her playing – while ‘The Bridge’ features a 50-strong Swedish choir, who come together to provide the surging climax of the album. As Townsend would readily admit himself, it’s Aimee and Ågren who complete the ‘Casualties of Cool’, ameliorating the moniker to a positive definition. It’s as a group that they renege on the trends of the music industry and the baggage they’ve amassed within it. This is a project set on a different plain, with space to breathe and explore unhindered, with an artistic freedom they thought they’d long since lost. “That’s the whole idea of the ‘Casualties of Cool’” comes the simple explanation of a project that – 20 years after his career began – introduces us to the real Devin Townsend."

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  • Quite fine new album from Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Knight. If you haven't heard Blackmore's Night before, essentially it's Blackmore's English folk/Renaissance meets rock band with his wife's gorgeous vocals on top. There are a few cover tunes sprinkled through out including a cover of Deep Purple's "Child In Time", Ralph McTell's "Streets Of London" but my fav is their reworking of Rainbow's "Street Of Dreams". This is the US edition which basically takes the bonus tracks from the more expensive Euro deluxe edition and includes them as well. One of the 3 bonus cuts is yet another version of "Street Of Dreams" but with Joe Lynn Turner. I'm a Blackmore fan and really enjoyed the disc - highly recommended to the similarly inclined.
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  • Here's a weird one.  Nightwish's mastermind Tuomas Holopainen has collaborated with Disney artist/writer Don Rosa to create a symphonic work based on a graphic novel about Scrooge McDuck.  Don't expect metal.  This is a tastefully done marriage of orchestral music and Celtic folk."Having spent 2013 writing and producing The Life And Times Of Scrooge, Tuomas’ first solo album is now upon us after fourteen years in the making and to say it exceeds all expectations is an understatement.To cut straight to the point, it’s a beautiful and atmospheric work of art that’s accessible to not only people familiar with his work in Nightwish, but also to a broader spectrum of music fans because it touches on a whole host of different genres and ideas that will appeal to casual or curious listeners as well.Telling the story of Scrooge McDuck, it’s definitely an album best enjoyed as one sole entity as it takes the listener on an exciting adventure from start to finish, with stunning epic pieces such as Into The West that’s full of beautifully thick instrumentation and breathtaking imagery, and the somewhat more simplistic Dreamtime, which only really features one repeating idea throughout but is so effective (not to mention how quickly it gets stuck in your head as a result!)There are also more vocal-heavy songs, which help to keep the storyline flowing and a particular standout performance is from Sonata Arctica frontman Tony Kakko on the song Cold Heart Of The Klondike – whilst the instrumentation is the main focus of the album, his voice gives that song in particular an extra sparkle.The Life And Times Of Scrooge is an extremely rewarding listen and one you’ll keep wanting to come back to – it just gives so much and is a wholly stunning album." - Soundscape
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  • Beautiful Japanese SHM-CD in a gatefold mini-LP sleeve."Thirty-two years after the fact, this live album presents a full-length version of the shows performed by Richard & Linda Thompson to promote their 1975 album Pour Down Like Silver, their third LP, following Hokey Pokey released earlier in 1975, and 1974's I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. They are accompanied by John Kirkpatrick on accordion and concertina, Dave Pegg on bass, and Dave Mattacks on drums. The recordings have not been released previously, except for "Calvary Cross" and "It'll Be Me," which were included on Richard Thompson's 1976 compilation Guitar, Vocal, but which have been remixed for this album. The selections come mostly from the Thompsons' three albums, of course, with special emphasis on Pour Down Like Silver, and the performances are often stretched out with lengthy guitar solos. A nod to Richard Thompson's tenure in Fairport Convention is made with a version of "Now Be Thankful," and since the instrumental lineup mirrors that found on the album of traditional music Morris On, the players give Linda Thompson a break and perform a set of instrumental reels. The cover songs are all American country and country-rock numbers, Hank Williams' "Why Don't You Love Me" (with Linda Thompson on lead vocals), "Things You Gave Me" (learned from a Rick Nelson album), the Jerry Lee Lewis hit "It'll Be Me," and Buck Owens' "Together Again." This was a recording worth excavating from the vault, and it confirms Richard & Linda Thompson's reputation as a major folk-rock act of the ‘70s, making it all the more regrettable that they broke up, professionally and romantically, in the early ‘80s." - Allmusic
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  • Texas based band that has gone through an evolution of styles over the years.  This 2010 effort is a gem of an album for anyone that is into British folk psych.  It has a real gentle melancholy vibe that really captures the sounds of the 70s.  Highly recommended."Midlake can be found somewhere in the curiosity shop of rock. That line might suggest an idea for a film script but we won’t rush to check Jack Black’s schedule right now. Rather we should consider the conundrum that is Midlake. The band started out as a bunch of jazz students at the University of North Texas and four of the present line-up initially functioned under the unlikely name of The Cornbread All-Stars, playing Herbie Hancock style jazz-funk, augmented by a female vocalist, keys and horn section. Ask now where you think the band it became has its origins and Texas would be one of least likely answers.How then they got to Midlake and a fine seven song debut EP in 2001, Milkmaid Grand Army, with its keen Radiohead influence is probably down to main man, Tim Smith, listening to OK Computer a lot and deciding he needed to trade the sax in for a guitar. A full album, Bamnan & Silvercork, followed in 2004, hallmarked by a style of song construction and delivery much on the lines of Modesto’s finest, Grandaddy. The band then went on to really make its mark with the 2006 release of the sublime The Trials Of Van Occupanther, a landmark recording in anyone’s book.Four years on and we have The Courage Of Others, a record that feels much more connected to the previous album than do the earlier two. The symmetrical imaged album cover even has a cunning echo of the surreal panther’s head from Van Occupanther in its design. Oddly the cover only features three of the band’s five-piece line up, mirrored almost menacingly in their sackcloth robes, amid a sylvan setting framed to reflect the animal head. The self-produced opus beyond the sleeve showcases some amazing, tight and precise musicianship, playing that is as emotive as it is solid. The band’s musical muse may have shifted from 70’s West Coast soft-rock back a wee bit towards end of the 60’s British folk-rock but the end result presents no great sea change, though a shift from keyboards to guitars at its heart.The delicate acoustic chord progression which opens the first song, “Acts of Man” recalls Sandy Denny, more so in her solo guise. Tim Smith’s plaintive baritone aided by soft harmonies laments the acts of men who “cause the ground to break open” and the song is delivered with a quiet passion. The tone is set for a contemplative collection, evoking a wish for solitude and flight from human interference with nature. Throughout, though, this is balanced by the sense of surety inherent in the cycle of nature.“Winter Dies” picks up this theme, continuing in a more intense vein with sparse verses punctuated with a fuller band sound, enriched with distorted guitar and crashing percussion through the choruses and instrumental breaks. Year by year, spring brings new life and renewed hope but the singer yearns for what he has lost.“Small Mountain” begins with a waft of flute, an instrument that features quite prominently on the entire recording, heralding a slightly softer treatment, interrupted by a crashing signature chord here and there. The lyrical poetry is harder to penetrate and words and music almost become one on this song. The lovely “Core of Nature” musically has shades of Van Occupanther about it. The song is built around a couplet taken from a poem by German writer, Goethe: “Into the core of nature/No earthly mind can enter” which seems to encapsulate the impossibility the writer Smith aspires to throughout the record.“Fortune” provides a breathtakingly beautiful interlude with a Simon &Garfunkel echo in the descending melody of the last line of each verse. At 2 minutes it is over far too soon but you sense that all that needs to be said is here. “Rulers, Ruling All Things” has hints of early Fairport Convention in its intro and the melody echoes the Van Occupanther vibe. The song has more of a celebratory tone, as the material world is rejected in favour of the natural order: “Thinking the world was mine to be lost in/I ran with freedom and sang in between/For I had the path of wonder, there before me.”Pentangle fingerpicking opens “Children of the Grounds” but the song develops into more of a mid tempo rocker as the subject matter shifts ground to memories of childhood and a plea for tolerance. This is one of the strongest and most accessible songs here. On “Bring Down”, guest vocalist Stephanie Dosen adds some tender harmonies alongside Tim Smith. She adds an interesting resonance that would work on more than this single song. The descending instrumental melody line reminds me of The Eagles’ “Hotel California”. No bad thing. Better to fly like an eagle than be brought down.“The Horn” kicks in with electric guitar straight out of late sixties folk-rock heralding a more full-on treatment of a song of everyman. Smith at times incants the lyrics as much as sings them and the result is a powerful reminder of our shared humanity. By contrast, the title track begins as a more stripped back and low-key affair, with the singer’s anxieties laid bare, before the song resolves in an extended, though not over-indulgent, coda. We conclude with “In The Ground” in which the imagery of death gives way to something more hopeful, mirrored by nature’s recovery. Musically this is as intense at is it fitful.The Courage Of Others is a beguiling record, which demands careful attention. Otherwise you might mistake subtlety for similarity. It suggests a band with the maturity and confidence to wear its musical influences on its sleeve yet with the ability to distill them into something wholly fresh and different. Rather than the wheel being reinvented, it’s like the wheel has yet to be fully worked out. There is beauty in something quite as timeless, organic, and composed as this triumphant recording. Not everyone will get this, but believe me it’s worth the effort." - Consequence Of Sound
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  • This band might be a bit of a stretch for typical Laser's Edge fare but I think they are great and definitely worth your attention.  You might not have a choice since they are about to blow up on a world wide basis and you'll have trouble avoiding them.  Smoke Fairies are the duo of Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies.  Their music fits into the "freak folk" category.  It has a mystical and melancholy feel - almost hypnotic.  They harmonize so well their voices almost meld into one.  There is a bluesy element present as well but I tend to focus on the psychedelic vibe I get off the tunes.  Its straight forward music but incredibly intoxicating.  These British ladies will draw you in with their voices and not let you go.  This edition is limited and comes with a bonus CD with five extra tracks.  Highly recommended."Smoke Fairies have been carefully gathering their influences like the ripe fruit of a summer’s feast. The British duo took their formative music experiences in New Orleans and Vancouver and settled with this combination in London, crafting ethereal mixes of wicked, sultry folk. Their second album, Blood Speaks, takes those same ingredients and pushes them to the brink. It’s no wonder Jack White picked them up as the first UK act to sign with Third Man Records. Smoke Fairies are at once entirely fitting of White’s trademark style and yet timeless in a very different way.“Feel it Coming Near” is an oscillating gem, its driving, bluesy bridges sonic gold. Opener “Let Me Know” may be as rocky as Smoke Fairies get, though it’s an apt introduction to the progressive melodies and rich harmonies. The band straddles a complex boundary between Yes sensibilities and Fleetwood Mac spunk throughout the ten-track LP. Nowhere are those two styles as starkly represented than in “Hideaway,” a surprisingly mellow call to arms against a heartless lover and their intoxicating spells. Even in the overly-elaborate “Awake,” the busyness of arpeggios clashing against vocals somehow grows on you. Smoke Fairies tend to be just as alluring as their subjects, and even in their missteps, you can’t help but listen." - Mxdwn.com
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  • Ryley Walker is an American guitarist/songwriter.  His previous album, Primrose Green, channeled the spirit of British folk with psychedelic tinges around the edges.  This new album carries on a similar course.  This is the 2CD "Deep Cuts" edition.  It features a second disc that has a 41 minute live version of the new track "Sullen Mind"."It’s hardly unheard of for artists to say negative things about their past output. It’s less usual for them to be mean about records that are genuinely great.As such, Ryley Walker‘s recent unflattering comments about his second album are somewhat surprising. A huge step forward from 2014’s convincing but undoubtedly derivative debut All Kinds of You, the hypnotic, circular grooves of last year’s Primrose Green catapulted the 27-year old much closer to a sound that’s genuinely his and his alone, even as tunes such as “Same Minds” and “Summer Dress” remained deep in debt to such formative influences as John Martyn and Tim Buckley.You won't have to spend that long in the company of Golden Sings That Have Been Sung to grasp why Walker's grown tired of his old stuff. Only the remarkably fluid yet showing-off averse - Walker treats guitar predominantly as a rhythm instrument - acoustic guitar-playing and the general musical milieu - a heady cross-pollination between folk, jazz, blues and psychedelia that was buried in the outer reaches of obscurity for ages but is now quite hip - remain unchanged. Everything else has acquired whole new levels of ambition, confidence and originality.Let's start with the singing. No one with functioning ears could have reasonably doubted Walker's abilities in this area, but there have been times when the over-generously administered ecstatic yelps have ventured worryingly close to mimicry, if not parody, of Tim Buckley's vocal mannerisms. Not anymore; from the hushed, dreamy delicacy of "A Choir Apart" to carefully phrased "Funny Thing She Said", the weary ache of which is accentuated by a scratchy violin solo that appears to have waltzed in from a wake, Walker sounds like no one else but himself. Worthy of comparison to the contemplative peaks of 70's Van Morrison (whose underrated slow-burner beauty "Fair Play" Walker has been covering recently), the latter cut must rank amongst the most startlingly intense and intimate performances committed to disc this year.Van Morrison is an apt point of reference in the sense that whilst it would be madly exaggerated to compare Walker's third album with the ageless wonder of Astral Weeks, it does represent a leap in creativity that brings to mind transition Morrison performed between the spirited but predictable rhythm 'n' blues rave-ups of Them and the meditative hymns of his first proper solo album. Walker's proven his merits as a singer and guitarist many times over, but it's now necessary to also rate him as a songwriter. Whereas much of Walker's past output is best described as jams that only fully ignite during unpredictably evolving high octane live explorations, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung comprises of actual songs. For example, "The Roundabout" provides an amusing glimpse into Walker's exploits in his adopted hometown of Chicago, where the album was produced by former Wilco member Leroy Bach, whilst the melancholy mystery of "The Great and The Undecided" unfurls with the weather-beaten weariness of Red House Painters whilst also hinting at the diary-writing methods of latter-day Mark Kozelek. There are some cracking one-liners here too, especially for a musician who's preferred to keep his lyric sheets minimal until now, such as "I don't read the Bible, baby/I think it says don't ask much" on "I Will Ask You Twice", the folkie directness of which sounds even more sparklingly pretty when parked next to the throbbing full band performances that populate the rest of the record.Golden Sings That Have Been Sung manages to catch the restlessly churning, improvisatory lightning of Walker's live shows in the studio, whilst wisely cutting out any idling that could grate in home listening. Witness how the manic middle bit that the ominously rumbling "Sullen Mind" - echoes of the dark churn of electric Miles Davis around Bitches Brew - erupts into is brought back to earth just before it loses it freshness, or how the thudding crawl of "Age Old Tale" is decorated by clarinet and droning harp (which will sound deliciously familiar to fans of Alice Coltrane) to keep up interest during its unhurried journey. The band's performances throughout are extraordinary; "The Halfwit In Me" consists mainly of acoustic instruments, but its relentlessly shifting, interlocked riffs and rhythmic complexity resemble the likes of Sonic Youth and Tortoise (with a drop of vintage folk/jazz cult heroes Pentangle, too) much more than house-trained finger-pickin' fare.What's really great about Golden Sings That Have Been Sung is that for all its unquestionable merits, there's a suggestion that Ryley Walker is only just getting started, and the next album or the one after that might be his masterpiece." - The LIne Of Best Fit
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  • "“The genesis of it was rooted was in the frustration of it all. Frustrated by the loud…”For Devin Townsend, ‘‘Casualties of Cool’’ is more than just the latest release of a prolific career to-date. You probably know him as the founder of Strapping Young Lad, you might have Steve Vai’s Sex & Religion, which features the Canadian metal star on vocals, or the countless other releases he’s put his name to. But you can forget all that for now. For Townsend, ‘Casualties of Cool’ is an escape – from over 20 years of relentless productivity, of the pre-conceptions of him that come with being one of the biggest names in his sphere.“When you’re younger you do these things and of course you become the product of them” he admits. “But as your life changes, your true nature comes through and becomes overlooked in lieu of what people view you as.” With metal a genre that’s resisted the cultural fragmentation of our age to remain intrinsically tribal, so the family you become part of remain the overbearing baggage you can’t throw off – how far do you have to go before you’re not, as Devin says, “the guy in the Motley Crue t-shirt?”It turns out he hasn’t had to go far at all.A project over four years in the making, largely at night when home from turning the dial up for the day job in the studio, ‘Casualties of Cool’ has seen Townsend look at himself in order to go forward. Digging out a battered old Fender amp and telecaster, he revisited the rootsy country and North American folk music of his youth. It provides the backbone of the album that’s eventually come to fruition, opening with ‘Daddy’s’ shuffling percussion and bluesy finger-picked motif, resurfacing during ‘The Code’s’ sultry twilight atmospherics and ‘Forgive Me’s’ hushed ambience. It’s a subtly applied but vital part of this record, providing the bones for the flesh to hang from. “My childhood was full of that type of music,” says Townsend. “At Christmas my grandfather would insist on the whole family sitting around singing uncomfortably along to Johnny Cash songs and Irish stuff like the Clancy Brothers. It was a big part of my childhood, it’s not like I’m putting on a new hat here.”However ‘Casualties of Cool’ isn’t a vehicle for nostalgia either; instead it uses these familiar troupes as leaping off points. Tracks like ‘Moon’ wind off and away towards astral planes, soft-edged textures coalescing and separating around murmured vocals; ‘Bones’ relatively straight-up balladry sits side-by-side ‘Deathscope’s’ cavernous production, making for a sweet juxtaposition between that and the intentionally simplistic rockabilly that characterises its structure. Sometimes the quiet is burst open by a bright blast of saxophone or choral chanting, but always, always a sense of night-time and nature pervades.“There’s such a specific environment around my current home in Vancouver,” Townsend ponders. “There are coniferous trees, it’s really rugged. I find myself more and more just wanting to move north away from people. I like the rain, and the dichotomy of dark and quiet. I like being near the water or the mountains. Spending time in hot, dusty Los Angeles – for instance – in a recording studio isn’t stimulating. Making Casualties I found more excuses to get in some kind of environment.”‘Casualties of Cool’ is a chance to switch off from our hyper-accelerated world, its relentless rush of 24/7 communication, and the competing voices that jostle for attention as they threaten to submerge our own. For Townsend, the themes of the record surround what he believes to be a bridge in his career; an acceptance of the artist he is today and embracing the fear of leaving behind what people know of him.“The song ‘The Bridge’ in particular is about transcending this period as opposed to succumbing to the fear and just reverting what I’ve done before,” he explains. “This whole album’s about fear; if you’re afraid of yourself or success it can be comforting to revel in that and let go - this record is like ‘go for it’”.Driven simply by the desire to see how things unfolded, free of the usual recording contract constraints and subsequent limits on time, it’s apt that Townsend stumbled on a supporting cast of similarly wandering souls, all revelling in their own sense of outsiderdom. The luxuriant vocals of Che Aimee have draped themselves over a previous Townsend release – 2009’s Ki – and so it was perhaps no surprise that the two would find their way back to each other. Keen to keep spontaneity through every process of Casualties… creation, he refused to explain the meanings of the lyrics sent to the singer, while also encouraging her to pen her own for other tracks. “I liked the idea of the concept of the record being rooted in a duality where two people are meeting at a crossroads,” he explains. Recorded by Aimee herself on her laptop, her voice is as important as the shuffling folk that permeates the record, in acting as a glue for the whole thing - her wistful tones hold together constructs so freeform at times they might disintegrate.Like Townsend, drummer Morgan Ågren is a country boy who’s found his career pinning him to the city. Having drummed for everyone from Frank Zappa to Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal - in a 25 year career beginning in his teenhood - the Swede found himself similarly keen for a respite from the relentless productivity that sessioning and professional collaboration required. In keeping with the spirit of the project, Townsend stumbled upon him thanks to a mutual acquaintance. With a remit to simply drum quietly (“I wanted this record to sound like an AM Radio playing in the background”), Ågren’s work over the record anticipates the gradual shifts in mood that shape proceedings, playing with the space of the record and slipping any rhythmical nuances underneath the surface rather than dominating the tone. The pair got together to record the drum parts at his rural home in Sweden – a happy parallel to Townsend’s own secluded Oregon surroundings.Other guests feature too; Townsend cast back into his past in asking flutist Kat Epple to feature on the record – as a child he was blown away by her playing – while ‘The Bridge’ features a 50-strong Swedish choir, who come together to provide the surging climax of the album. As Townsend would readily admit himself, it’s Aimee and Ågren who complete the ‘Casualties of Cool’, ameliorating the moniker to a positive definition. It’s as a group that they renege on the trends of the music industry and the baggage they’ve amassed within it. This is a project set on a different plain, with space to breathe and explore unhindered, with an artistic freedom they thought they’d long since lost. “That’s the whole idea of the ‘Casualties of Cool’” comes the simple explanation of a project that – 20 years after his career began – introduces us to the real Devin Townsend."
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