Last month, I had reviewed an impressive compilation entitled “Hawk Moon Records: Volume II“, which promoted some of the best up and coming artists in the post-rock genre. A few short days after receiving this compilation, I was informed that one of the artists on the compilation, Damn Robot!, were releasing their debut album on May 16th. After enjoying their song on the compilation, “The Great Landfill In The Sky”, I had to hear this new album. Damn Robot! is a project from Hampshire, UK consisting of brothers Rob Honey (Oceanus, Inachus) and Tom Honey (Good Weather for an Airstrike). Their sound is a delightful mixture of electronica, trip-hop, ambient, post-rock, and other genres in-between, which sort of reminds me of the music of Futuro Primitivo, one of my favorite artists who works in the field of post-electronica, except that Damn Robot!’s music contains real instrumentation along with the electronics. Their debut album, “Hunang Skrímsli”, which from translating the phrase through different online translators, I believe it is Icelandic for “Honey Monster” (if I am wrong with this translation, please let me know), shows a great beginning for this duo of brothers, showcasing their love for all of these different genres by combining them into one 33 minute album.
The beginning track, “A Smile Spreads Across My Face”, begins with emotional string and synth pads before a soft bass and downtempo/trip-hop electronic drums enter the mix. Strangely, this song reminds me of something that could have been played in the film “28 Days Later”, perhaps at the end of the film or so. Later on, a break reveals quietly plucked guitars and more ambience, before it heads back into the trip-hop mood, and eventually ending out with low arpeggiated synth lines, ambience provided by strings, and some other percussive effects here and there, before eventually leading smoothly into the second track, “The Great Landfill In The Sky”. This track was already provided on the Hawk Moon compilation, so therefore, I will repeat what I have said about the track from that review here: The track begins with soft ambient drones before going into an electric piano progression, soft electronic beat, and a spoken word sample that sounds to be in a foreign language. Ambient drones keep building on top of each other underneath this foundation before later in the track, guitar riffs washed in a lush reverb can be found before adding back in the beginning elements, as well as some more soft synth leads. Near the end, some people can be heard yelling, which then leads into the interlude, “(Pass) The Switch Over”. Here, the sounds of a radio being tuned to different stations can be heard, ranging from news broadcasts and talk shows to musical jingles. The fourth track, “No Slack, But Luckily The Seats Go Back”, contains some deep bass drones and reverberated percussive elements, along with some more guitar being heard in the background, which eventually leads into a beautiful and very emotionally played guitar solo. Eventually, this leads into a break, where the guitar slowly fades away while the ambient drones continue on. However, when the main beat comes back, some minimal vocals come in, along with some variations here and there, as well as some very trippy effects. This is a very soothing track that plays with your mind a little bit, but in a good way.
“These Plugs Need Adaptors” is yet another interlude featuring tuned radios, but there are so many different styles of music in this small track, featuring heavy metal, atmospheric rock, insane techno music, and chill-out music among other things. “Electric Sheep I Can’t Tell Whether Or Not This Is A Dream” is actually an ambient dance track featuring stuttered beats and synths, ambient arpeggios, and some delightful house-like chords here and there. It is a refreshing change from the ambient post-rock and trip-hop style that most of the album has. It actually reminds me of some of the tracks that Orbital and Aphex Twin produced back in the early 90s at times, in that it successfully combines house beats with ambient atmospheres. “Antics” begins with a finger-picked guitar lick washed in a beautiful reverb, in which eventually more guitars enter. A huge beat performed on acoustic drums, a light bass line, and some other ambient effects here and there can eventually be heard. Some vocal samples are present as well. Overall, this is yet another change in the album’s combination of pure electronics and guitars, though there is an electronic kick drum and bass present at times, but it is yet another relaxing track. The final track, “Errors of the Pacifist”, which is the longest track at almost 8 minutes long, begins with soft electronic chords, which seem to be played backwards, before eventually, the beautiful chords are played forwards. Some electronic trip-hop beats enter the mix later on, as does a very smooth bass riff, some guitar work, and a strange sample that sounds very similar to a didgeridoo. During the ambient break, some more strange samples can be heard along with the chords, before it eventually leads yet again into the trip-hop drums, along with a lot of varied glitch effects that breath life into the track. Near the 2 minute mark, the tracks ends out slowly with what might be 30 seconds of silence. At the end, a reprise of what sounds like the beginning track is heard, in which arpeggiated synths, trip-hop drums, and a strangely frightening processed vocal sample are present. This short track within a track builds up steam a little bit, but then ends out, thus ending the album.
Overall, Damn Robot!’s “Hunang Skrímsli” shows a promising beginning for this duo, in that it combines electronica, trip-hop, post-rock, dance, and other genres into one album. The production here is stunning, and the songwriting and arrangement at times is superb. However, I will admit that I was expecting perhaps a more dynamic album, so to speak. Usually, post-rock is minimal, but it builds up steam with its dynamics and density of sound. However, that isn’t present much on this album. This is more like an pure ambient album with occasional beats, smooth basslines, and stunning atmospherics. It’s hard for me to exactly know what to think of this debut album. Apparently, I’ve heard that Damn Robot! are planning to perform gigs, so I’d love to know how that will turn out, but by listening to this album, you really have to be into the style to enjoy it. I love all of the genres that are present on this album, but its combination seems to be more minimal than I had initially thought. If you’re a fan of these genres, you’ll find something to like on this album. There should be something for everyone to enjoy on this album.
Title: Hunang Skrímsli
Artist: Damn Robot!
Genre: Ambient post-rock/electronic/experimental
Released in 2011 by Hawk Moon Records
You can buy the album starting May 16th at http://hawkmoonrecords.bandcamp.com/ Also, you can pre-order an extremely limited edition CD (only 17 copies available in the world at the moment) at http://hawkmoonrecords.bigcartel.com/product/damn-robot-hunang-skrimsli-cdr