GADADU - And I See NIght
GADADU initially was the collaboration between Hannah Selin (viola/voice/composition) and Nicki Adams (piano/voice/composition). Within about a year’s time the band added Pat Adams (trumpet), Dan Stein (double bass) and Moses Eder (drums, percussion) and most recently released their debut album entitled And I See Night.
GADADU melds avant-garde tendencies with free jazz that also manages to interject poppy vocal melodies in the mix. Fans of Steve Reich, Ornette Coleman and Roisin Murphy should all embrace this music. The music feels so spacious as well as loose that I find it hard to believe there are people out there who wouldn't appreciate what this band offers. No one in the band rushes and they let the music breathe. It’s dynamic and so easy to catch the groove the band is in.
And I See Night is such a refreshing change to what is dominating the mainstream culture as well as indie culture. The reality is that free jazz isn’t all that popular with hipsters this day and age and I’ll be damned if anyone listening to FM radio knows who the Chicago Art Ensemble is. The really impressive part of And I See Night is that it is accessible and doesn’t go so far down the rabbit hole of the avant-garde that it would completely ostracize anyone. Selin not only has a good voice but the melodies are often infectious and get stuck in your head.
The band opens with “Green Cocoon.” The instruments weave into and out of existence as Selin showcases her voice. There is a change about a minute-and-a-half in that displays the band’s experimental nature. Subtle delay effects on the trumpet are a nice touch as the foundation of the song is barely held together.
The drumming builds the energy on “Someone” as a walking bass line creates a symbiotic relationship with the electric piano. Selin’s vocals are sporadic but effective. She harmonizes and then sings “Cause everyone needs someone.” The band gets into very interesting territory with “Oceansmell.”
They create a ambient soundscape that is dreamlike and fleeting. It’s layered with vocals and further demonstrates the band's artistic range. “Project Runaway” is arguably the centerpiece of the album. The song has more of a foundation than some of the others and the vocal melody feels like a focal center here.The band goes dark and minimal with “Strangeties” while the closer “Alone” plays into the band's strengths.
Suffice it to say GADADU is an exceptional band that is going largely unnoticed. Jump on this ship now and spread the word.
Mendelssohn - Years
Like indie and alternative, college rock was not an intensely useful sonic signifier; it was a place where the jagged edges of Mission Of Burma could rub up against the polished pop confections of Ken Stringfellow or the Paisley Underground movement in the UK. These fertile stratas of sonic influence - bringing in elements of folk, twee, post-punk, hip-hop and non-western musics would yield offshoots like R.E.M. They may have ended up as straight up radio fare, but were avid Wire and Television lovers, in their early days. They blended the arty concepts of post-punk to their down home Georgia soul.
Similarly Missoula, Montana’s Mendelssohn blends airy art rock with a roots Americana sensibility - like the tributaries of indie rock finally falling together and surging towards the sea. Mendelssohn starts with a skeleton of acoustic instruments and vocal harmonies, courtesy of husband-and-wife duo Jon Filkins and Sara Marker, which are then fleshed out with brass, percussion and woodwinds, without ever becoming precious orchestral pop in the process.
Instead, these are like bluegrass sculptures, materializing in thin air in front of your eyes and ears. Funnily enough, I was thinking of the mighty orchestral grandeur of Portland's Typhoon with their infectious sing-alongs and horn stabs, while listening to their release Years only to find out this record was mixed by Portland's mightiest sound engineer Larry Crane at his Jackpot! Studios. In a way, Years is like a combination of Missoula and Portland, a mishmash of the two that becomes something brand new and completely its own.
While much of Years is driving, fast-paced folk rock - "Little Sioux," "Holiest Acts," "Shake The Hair Off Your Head" - Mendelssohn also slows things down, getting pretty and letting the songs breathe, like on the breathtaking "Camp Song" where crystal-like feedback streaks across the fingerpicked arpeggios like the Geminids, while Filkins' and Marker’s voices blend and fuse like two shadows beneath a streetlight.
Honestly, I hate the artificial automation of genre-specific trends, which seem to exist more for marketers and critics than bands. I mean, I'm a critic, so I use genres as a shorthand and a launching off point, but the idea of "I only listen to shoegaze," is gut-shakingly laughable and getting less relevant by the second. I'd like to think the days of a "punk only" or a "bluegrass night" are eclipsing, with ALL of the tributaries coming back home.
This will make things more challenging, as well as more interesting and exciting, for those of us who write about music, as well as those who make it. Because we now need to decide for ourselves if we like something or not on a case-by-case basis. After spending some time with Years I ended up really liking it. The similarities to some of Portland's interesting music was a bonus for me, and cool to hear it coming out of Montana, no less. I also really like Filkins’ and Marker’s voices together, as well as the way they were recorded and mixed, as there is an airy spaciousness, without becoming too wispy or nebulous - still clean and clear, but ambient, in the real-world sense.
Ambient Americana might be a good tag for this, but we need less genres, not more. For those that like shoegaze and porch jams, driving across cornfields and hanging out under freeway overpasses, Years is a winner.
Chances are, when you think of Austin, TX, swaying hammocks and breezy palm trees are not the first things that spring to mind. But with temperatures frequently above 100 degrees, lakes, rivers, and swimming holes are a part of Austin's culture and perhaps even more mandatory.
Whatever the reasons, the seaside acts as a lasting inspiration for Austin's Tremble Out on Based On Our Situation, the band's first fully realized EP. Tremble Out plays a washed out, shoegaze-inspired dream pop, drenched in reverb. Tremble Out is definitely in the proud tradition of mid-00s dream rock, a la Beach House and My Morning Jacket, but they also bring in elements of experimental, atmospheric slackgaze, like you'd find on the earliest Wavves records, or the whacked out tropicalia of Sun Araw and Ducktails.
So, yeah, not necessarily re-inventing the wheel, huh?
Yes, Tremble Out may sound like bands you've heard before with one important difference - Tremble Out's diaphanous gauze frequently gives way to catherine wheels of intricate, spazzy math rock, like on album opener "The Shore." Too often, dreamy, shoegaze-y music is too distant, too removed - it sounds pretty, and makes for nice mood music, but doesn't convey any heat and passion. And, two, it is too easy to spin meaningless cocoons of irrelevant noise with a delay pedal or two and some power chords.
There was no impetus towards masterful songwriting or musicianship (which was also part of its charm, being punk rock in its own way). But following in the wake of so many tremendous musicians that have already done the experimentation for you, a band needs to push forward, to continue to refine their sound, for themselves, to find their own unique, distinctive skew on things and continue to push the musical mission forward.
While Tremble Out makes pretty, graceful, relaxing sounds that are still energetic and passionate, they have also clearly put the work in, being tight, focused and well-rehearsed, as evidenced from the unison guitar riffs of "Materialistic Paradigm" (although I could do without the shout along gang vocals at the end of that one).
So, whether you're headed to the beach or just need some white sands in your mind, Based On Our Situation is here to help you out. A very promising debut from a new band!
Fuzz Dog - A Poisonous Dream
Fuzz Dog’s A Poisonous Dream is just that, both dirty and dreamy. Heavy humdrum heartbeats fueled by swanky deep funk revival-like bass lines create a powerful synopsis. The backbone of drum and bass is showered with skinny effortless high screeched guitar riffs.
Pumped with plentiful transcendental musical moments bringing that dreamscape feeling into fruition. However, this album doesn't spend much time dancing in space and is more so deeply rooted in reality. Its struggles are felt with its core hitting power rhythms.
Take for example the opener “This Cage.” The lead singer Niklas Jennvik sings, “How can I enjoy living in this cage” as the instrumentation feels intense and heavy. The song is packed with a couple of notable guitar solos. On “In A Tree” Jennvik sings about an existential dilemma that he is trying to escape from. Vulnerabilities are confessed with lyrics like, "I don’t want to live like this forever."
Fuzz Dog lives up to their name on “Nowhere To Be Found.” The lyrics are borderline suicidal on this track and don’t offer much hope. As the song progresses the music becomes more intense. The album centerpiece goes to “Firestorm.” The song is seven-plus minutes long and rocks out pretty hard. They sound good and pissed off on this song which is always a good reaction when faced with self-hatred.
A Poisonous Dream is industrial yet has a softness that droops. It feels like a melting candle in a vintage dank velveteen room. At times I get a Portishead vibe, with that sexy sultry bass line. They definitely have a unique sounding vocalist who hits like a dose of audio morphine, and super skilled guitar riffs, which are often powerful and seldom beautiful. A Poisonous Dream is an album for a rainy reflective day but also works quite well if you feel like rocking out.
Feed Your Head is a rock/folk trio comprised of Laura Carver (vocals/guitar), Joe Barron (bass) and Geoffrey Randall (drums). Their recent release Waning with the Moon is an easily accessible album that doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to enjoy. The songs are relatively simple and serve to support the vocal melodies of Carver. That being said, Barron occasionally busts out bass lines that no novice could come up with.
Waning with the Moon starts with the song “Ladybug.” The ultra-literal lyrics speak to the overriding thematic element of sticking with transition through its uncomfortability. "Waning Moon "is about that feeling we have when we first experience change.
It appears to be a shrinking feeling but new growth is actually due to occur. " I'm not going to run away, the leaves have fallen and I will stay." Despite the inevitable scary barren feeling that comes with transition, she will face the unknown and she will stay. This concept shape shifts within the piece but remains the same potency.
The album encompasses rudimentary guitar strummings and a subtle accompaniment of kit drumming. The drummer and the guitar is the backdrop, as the highlight seems to be the main singer. She has a lullaby-like flowery voice that is soothing and gentle. All of the songs seem to flow into each other, as they all sound quite similar. It's homogenous, but also quite pleasant as one steady piece of music, rather than extremely distinct succinct pieces.
Overall, I think the album’s strongest point is its message through the lyrics. I feel like the vocals could be more congruent to the instrumentals and could afford to come to the foreground more. However the way it has been recorded, I appreciate its uniqueness and positive message.
The recent release from Jopator entitled Sheltered Memories and Other Melodies sounds like it is coming a transistor radio located in another room that is surrounded in dream. The one-man project from Joel Tourout is dissonant, inaccessible and not for everyone. Tourout doesn’t exactly have a good voice but you may not notice because of the copious amounts of reverb. There is very little low end on this album and a number of aesthetic issues that hold it back from finding its potential.
Sheltered Memories and Other Melodies contains some inspired moments and others that fall flat. He opens “Winter Getaway,” which sounds like a lounge song being ironically played while you are coming off a bad acid trip. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but luckily he supplies some lyrics on his Bandcamp page. He sings, “I'm stuck in a mess I wish I can go out to a place that's best Well what can I say Life doesn't get any better Until you'll be out on a winter getaway.”
“Generation Method” is a mild success only because of the ambivalent feelings I was having. It’s almost so bad it’s good. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way about “Dawnlight,” which had no redeeming qualities. The percussion in particular was frustratingly out of time and had no aesthetically pleasing tonal qualities.
“Golden Summit” sounds like a demo/practice tape for an Animal Collective song. He combines vocal harmonies and sloppily finds moments that work. Behind the lo-fi recording quality on “Struggle” lies one of Tourout’s best songs. It’s too bad the recording quality wasn’t about 50% better. Tourout loads so much reverb on “Drawn Awake” it almost doesn’t matter what he plays. Everything sounds like it’s being played about two miles away in a cave. I would have liked either his vocals or the music to have less reverb.
Tourout has some decent ideas and I like that he is doing something original but he will want to work on his delivery and implementation if he wants to compete with some of the artists he admires.
Matthew W. Charles - Roam
There really isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said about Matthew William Charles and his release Roam. Charles takes on pop punk and goes at it with acoustic guitars, a bass and a kick drum. If you like one song you most likely dig them all.
Roam sounds as if it was done completely live with one or two overdubs. Charles isn’t always in time but he makes it up with enthusiasm. His vocal delivery feels energized as if he can’t get out the words fast enough and also attaches enough urgency that it has a punk rock feel. Musically, the songs mostly revolve around basic chords but occasionally Charles showcases some impressive guitar skills.
Roam starts with “Nothing's Out Of Reach,” which is a one of the highlights on the album. The song sounds a few degrees off from something you might hear from Neutral Milk Hotel. For a punk song you don’t usually find lyrics that are this prolific. He sings, “I look back and see it wasn’t all in vein Through the endless wreckage the bonds have been sustained All the roads that have been forged have remained in tact Through the rivers overflowing I found my way back.”
The next song “Reliance” contains some solid lead work guitar, which adds to the emotional impact. I also thought the vocal harmonies were a nice touch. As much as I liked the lead guitar work on “Reliance” the next song “Roam” has it beat. I was really hoping Charles was going to build on that initial guitar riff but instead he somewhat awkwardly transitions into basic chords.
As the album progresses Charles gets in and out quickly. The songs with the exception of “Young Boy” are all under two minutes. Roam is far from perfect but it is consistent in terms of quality. If you are a fan of pop punk who occasionally yearns for something that won’t wake up your sleeping baby this may be your ticket.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Stonecraft The Quiet Truth 3.5
The Velveteins A Hot Second With The Velveteins 3.4
Royyy Mad Mary 3.3
Dead Tenant I Had To Shut My Eyes 4.2
Normal State The Weather 3.5
OptivioN Free Unicorn 3.7
Amongst Family Amongst Family 3.6
Richard Lomax Down There For Dancing 3.8
Scumbag Familiar Scatterbrain 3.3
Kerry Leigh Anger Grows 3.4
Caring Absolute 3.0
Safety Third Reveries 3.1
The Echo and Sound Buffalo Mouth 3.5
The four-piece band Californian Sleepovers consisting of Nick Paredes (electric uke/vocals), Charlotte Wright (vocals), Ryan Higgins (bass) and Wil Tecla (drums) recently released their debut EP entitled Back in my day. Back in my day showcases a band that utilizes the production aesthetics you would expect from a lo-fi shoegaze band and wraps them in pop songs.
The combination is utterly appealing and easy to embrace. White noise and reverb laced vocals swirl together in memorable melodies and point to a band with a surplus of potential. The vocalist reminded me of Jeremy Earl from Woods while the music itself lies somewhere in between Yo La Tengo and My Bloody Valentine.
The band opens up with a two-minute song entitled “Closed Circuit.” It’s held down with a killer vocal melody, which is ultimately the anchor that becomes the focal point of the song. Lyrically, the song is a success and avoids common clichés and tropes. He sings, “It all starts with a glimmer of hope that keeps on growing until it's blinding you're so blinded you're so blinded by your ideal.” The song gets in and out fast and contains no extra fat.
The centerpiece of the EP is “Ice Nine,” which is undeniably infectious and is also emotionally resonant. Lyrics like “I've been meaning to touch the sand when did it all get out of hand? Where's the land?” and “I tried so hard to sail alone and now I'm scared because the ice nine has me frozen to the sea” contain the residue of existential angst. Guitars are covered in distortion and effects and merge with the drums but the vocals are the only element that manages to escape the whirlwind of white noise.
The band closes with the nihilistic “Hitting the Grave” which works becomes of the delivery. It doesn’t come off as self-indulgent and is appealing in its own off-kilter type of way.
Back in my day is a little over ten minutes in length. It’s simply too short to point to any absolutes about the band. That being said, it is certainly an indicator that Californian Sleepovers is a band to keep your eyes and ears on. The band goes three for three here and if they continue on an upward trajectory you can assume that a lot more people will be familiar with them.
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Rattle Ok - Rattle OK
Rattle OK is an L.A. based band consisting of Len Amato (guitar, harmonica and vocals), John Richards (lead guitar and vocals), Tom Murray (drums and vocals) Matt Pensabene (bass) and Jay Roewe (keyboards). Their recent self-titled release Rattle OK is a straightforward rock album with solid songwriting but contains no surprises for those who have gotten past the very surface level of what the genre offers.
The band has figured how to write a catchy chorus and how to deliver it. An achievement that many bands are still trying to get to. That being said, their songs lack that X-factor that clearly defines why the band sticks out from the surplus of bands who can also write and deliver a decent tune, which is something that is harder and harder to achieve in this day and age.
One thing that helps the band and their music is the production. The band worked at Pacifica Studios and Carriage House Studios with Glen Nishida and Nick Viterelli. Everything in the mix sounds good and actually is reminiscent of production that was popular in the ‘80s - clean drums with a tight, compact sound that sounds as good in mono as it does in stereo.
Rattle OK is a consistent album that doesn’t contain any duds but also doesn’t have too many songs that stick out either. The band adheres to a formula and doesn’t deviate. You won’t find any one off piano ballads or ambient pieces here. The band delivers eight songs that fit in the genre of rock.
They open with a slightly bluesy number entitled “Above The Noise.” It’s a heartfelt song with an exceptional chorus. The organ is a nice, subtle touch. “Am I Strange?” is elevated to the above average status because of the harmonica at the beginning while you can picture “Gimme Gimme” as a song that would have worked with The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“Tongue Tied” combines some reggae in to the mix. Comparisons to The Clash on “Tongue Tied” is not unreasonable. They close with two highlights entitled “Remember When” and “Caroline.”
Rattle OK isn’t reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination but they offer fun, unpretentious rock that is easy to embrace. I can deliver two thumbs for this album.
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