Disorder - Disorder
Disorder is a band from London that recently formed and just released a self-titled five-song EP Disorder. It’s dirty with grime. This isn’t the prettiest music out there and you have to be able to appreciate a little bit of chaos and dissonance in the spirit of bands like Sonic Youth and the Velvet Underground to appreciate what’s going on here.
The EP starts with an intro that’s literally called ”Intro.” White noise breaks along with an oscillating synth and a couple of cymbals. It works before the more than familiar sound of guitar and drums come into the picture on “Sum.” Right away it's as if the band is almost playing different parts but not quite. The energy is a low rumble hum that rarely comes together before feeling like it's going to fall apart. At six-and-a-half minutes long the changes are subtle. On my first listen it just felt like one long loose jam session. Subtleties and nuances start to reveal themselves the more you listen to the song.
The next song “Pieces” relies on a very similar energy as the band's sound starts to become established. Feelings of isolation and loneliness seem to be embedded in this song. I couldn’t help but think of Joy Division's more bleaker sounding tracks on Closer when listening to this.
I can’t say “Dischord” rocks out but it's about as close as the band is going to get. The drums lay really low in the mic - a little too low for my liking. The guitar sits on top of the mix here as the moderately catchy vocals are sporadically placed in the song.
The band closes with “Midtown South” On this track the main guitar squeals and trickles with notes. This may be the catchiest song of the five. I could barely understand a word of what was being said but the vocal melody was memorable.
It’s obvious to me that Disorder is a band that could care less about what music is popular at the moment. They are doing their own thing and have certainly built a sound for themselves. This is music that will reside in the underground and does have a certain segment of the population that embraces it. That may be you.
Grave of Thorns - Grave of Thorns
Grave Of Thorns is a band from Oakland, California that recently released a self-titled four-song EP Grave of Thorns. They play dark punk/rock that made me think of a band you might see in the club like the now defunct CBGB. Their music is raw, visceral and covered in goth. I was reminded of bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees and others of the same ilk while listening to these songs.
They open with “The Belfry” which has a good amount of energy while laying in a cocoon of darkness. It feels dingy as if you are dancing with vampires. This is the mood that prevails throughout the remaining signs. It’s certainly a niche and personally a style of music I have to be in the right mood for.
“Children of the Cold War” revolves around distorted guitars, feedback, hard-hitting drums and a strong female lead vocal. It's not the catchiest song I’ve heard this year but there are some great moments on the song. The funeral style organ feels fitting and fits the general vibe of the music.
“Desolation” has hints of bands like The Pixies and Joy Division. The flavor doesn't change much from the previous songs. When it comes to lyrics they reflect the general vibe of the music. An impending sense of dread and anxiety are created with the lyrics.
“Ephemeral Shiver” is no redemption song, The song is perhaps the most bleak sounding of the four. Waves of white noise take over the song with piano and vocals that sound as if they are being sung from beyond the grave.
Grave Of Thorns isn't reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination but not only have a very firm grasp of what they are doing but pull it off. This is the type of music that people are usually all about or just don’t get. Take a listen and you decide.
birdbird - Corporation Setup
Currently located in New York City, birdbird is a rock band with an eclectic mix of members who have been making music and touring around their city for over a year. Having been a psychedelic acoustic folk act turned electric, some of the psychedelic elements from their past have carried over into their current sound, a powerful mix of alternative rock and melodic hardcore. Their debut EP entitled Corporation Setup is poised to aid the band in broadening their listener base.
The album begins with the album’s title track, a hard-hitting, uptempo rock anthem that employs classic power chords, throbbing bass and driving percussion that provides a solid foundation for Cíllin McMahon’s aggressive singing and screaming. This song starts the record with a dynamic introduction to the band and their ability to convey overwhelming energy without compromising quality.
The stratospheric levels of energy continue in “Yeah, Right,” a grunge rock-infused track that incorporates vocal harmonies along with creative, lengthy guitar solos into this emotive anthem. An acoustic set employed in “The Octopus Song” completely changes the tone of the album, as guitar, tambourine, whistling and clapping all gather around floating melodies and harmonies in a carefree, brisk ditty. This song provides a strong contrast with the previous songs on the record, demonstrating birdbird’s versatile repertoire.
Returning to their characteristic sound, “I Love The City” features cynical lyrics and relentless pounding of drums and strumming of guitars. Arguably the catchiest song on the entire EP, the simple message of the song, repeated in many phrases within the song and in the song’s title, will undoubtedly replay in the minds of listeners long after the song is over.
“Pet Boyfriend” brings the record to a dramatic, theatrical close. Alternating between downtempo and upbeat sections, the track displays the technical abilities of the band as well as their musical and artistic aptitude. As a whole, Corporation Setup is a solid debut EP for a up-and-coming band, and many fans will undoubtedly be drawn to birdbird through this album.
Valeo - The Valeo EP
Jack Nichols, Sam Nichols, Laurie Thomson, Gary Hickin and Jamie Connelly are Valeo. As the story goes they are “friends from the same town who came out of heavy metal bands to do something different.” When I read that what I was expecting was maybe drone metal or something else that may be derivative. What I wasn’t expecting was pretty straightforward pop punk.
It’s impossible to argue that these four songs on The Valeo EP are not pop punk. I have to admit that going from heavy metal to pop punk seems like an odd transition in styles. The band delivers four songs which fit the criteria and tropes of the genre from beginning to end.
They have done their homework. Suffice it to say if you like pop punk this will be another EP you can add to your playlist. If you don't well this won’t make you have a change of heart.
The band opens with “Not Enough” which revolves around distorted guitars, a steady beat and pulsing bass line. It’s a catchy song but also predictable. The song is commercially viable and one for the masses. As the EP progresses the band utilizes a similar formula but has a number of inventive tricks up their sleeves. The highlight was “Falling.”
Valeo has some skill in a number of departments but the band plays pop-punk 101. I would have liked the band to experiment a bit more and try to establish a more unique sound rather than relying on a sound we have heard before.
Truth be told music in general is oversaturated and you have to bring something new to the table in this day and age. Valeo has the talent; now lets see if they can take it to the next level.
The band Dan Beaver & The Potatoes of the Night Dan Beaver is Dan Beaver (vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitar, upright bass, bass, shaker, synth, keys, drum machine pads, sample). There are three potatoes. Matt Snyder (guitar), Tara Ryan (background vocals) and John Kozitzky (Drums). The band's first EP on bandcamp is entitled MyLove Was A Lizard.
Some of the music is kind of silly. Silly in the same way Ween is. It's good fun and luckily backed up by some pretty solid songwriting. Up first is a highlight an personal favorite “Pink Shell”. The song is soulful and smooth. It’s one for the ladies except for what he is singing about on “Pink Shell". Maybe you kind of see how I was thinking of Ween. Great opener.
Up next is “Squaw Song” which has a distinctly different vibe but I this song is also pretty fantastic. There a bit of a CCR vibe here. Beaver deliver a solid vocal performance and Ryan back hims up brilliantly on the chorus. More successes is to be had with” King of the Forest”. I say this as a compliment but there was something about this song that made me feel like I was trapped a casino in the 1970’s surrounded by questionable company.
“Love Lizard” is all about a fuzzy bass and synths. The singing is on point like it is on all the other songs. I need to say something about this song reminded me of Beck when he released Midnight Vultures. Score. Next up is “Funk Inside the Eyes of the Moon” which is a great name by the way. This song is another smooth one relying on some great guitar playing and vocal harmonies.
He closes with the seven minute plus “Hey Bud”. The song has some of the best vocal melodies which felt Beatles-esque and sort of fades into white noise haze and dissonance.
I thoroughly enjoyed My Love Was A Lizard. It's a fun EP. My only complaint is in regard to production. I just wish the drums sounded better. That's really it. Overall, Dan and his potatoes have a good thing going.
Alec Sloane - As Others Are
As Others Are, the recent release by Alec Sloane, features the sad-sweet juxtaposition of bright, Beatlesque instrumentation providing a vehicle for dour, quivering vocals, in vein of Elliott Smith. And, while Sloane strongly channels Smith, the EP never treads into the territory of directly replicating the late singer-songwriter, rather it plays out as both homage and an inspired take on the beautifully somber style.
While Sloane maintains a mostly coherent tone throughout the EP, he varies the energy level and orchestration a bit throughout the album. The opener, “The Thoughts That Keep Me,” features a waltz-y progression accented by bright, clean guitar and driven driven by a simple, snare-laden drum beat. The song maintains a bit of a stop/start mentality, with the vocally driven parts finding the instrumentation at its most stripped down and sweeping movements emerging in the absence of vocals as a sort of thematic counterweight to the optimistically bleak lyrics. “Port of Call” and “Wrong Side of the Door” strongly channel Smith, with multiple, reedier vocals tracks stacked haphazardly to suggest a quivering sense of conviction, with said vocals leading the tracks, standing against simply picked out chords and guitar melodies.
“Some Days” follows suite and features similar vocals, but also draws in more in more intensity and conviction in the delivery, with lines like “Everybody knows, that I'm a habit, to be let go,” bleeding a resigned, sweetly bleak sensibility. The title track closes out As Others Are, projecting a sincere, pre-dawn feeling of faltering dreaminess with an eerie, descending minor chord progression picked out with bright notes. The vocals harmonies remain feebly layered together, but here also lined alongside the guitar riff, conveying a sense of resolute coherence and conclusion. It's a great track to end an album on.
The only thing that stands out oddly on the album is the track, “Young Boy,” which plays out like a romping folk-rock/classic country song in the vein of early Johnny Cash. There's nothing wrong with the song, but the upbeat nature of the driving guitar and pseudo-baritone that Sloane projects make the track feel like it could be a different artist slipped into the middle of the EP. Again, nothing wrong with going in a couple directions, but for an album so focussed on the delicate, cloistered sentiments, it kind interrupts the flow.
It's also worth noting that while Sloane channels Smith in many different ways throughout the EP, the overall impact is far from that of an artist trying to sound like another. The album is deeply personal, confessional and heartfelt—much like Smith's work—but here it feels like both artists are drawing from the same pool, rather than one following in the footsteps of another.
As Others Are was recorded and mastered by Chris Hunt (who also lent some drum and bass assistance) primarily using a pro-tools/DIY set-up. The production is perfect at capturing the intimacy of the music—while you know that production pains were taken to convey this, the fact that their not evident speaks to their success.
Overall, As Others Are is a gentle, delicate work that captures nuance and minutia while carrying on the legacy of Elliott Smith.
Drew Keenan - Walls
Drew Keenan has almost ten years of playing music behind his belt. Considering he's only twenty-two years old that's not too shabby. Back in 2012 he started writing his album Walls and it just recently got released. It’s a thirteen-song album with shades of rock, punk and post-punk. Bands Like The Dead Milkmen, The Pixies and numerous English punk bands come to mind.
Keenan has a unique voice. It’s high-pitched, often nasally and I swear on this box of Frosted Flakes it sounds as if he has an English accent. I’m not sure if this is natural or hyperbolic because he lives in the United States. Either way the more I listened to it the more I enjoyed it .
He opens with “Daniel Boone Park After Dark” which is a highlight and also one of the catchiest songs in the batch. The punk-vibe in the spirit of The Minutemen is apparent. It’s good fun and feels visceral. Up next is the title track which moves forward in time and has more in common with a band like The Pixies. A number of transactions mimic something similar to what you would have heard off of Surfer Rosa.
The album continues in a similar way with songs like “Back to the Future” and “Merchant of Venus.” The first notable deviation is “Young Hannah, Queen of the Vampires.” “Young Hannah, Queen of the Vampires” revolves around an organ, drums, bass and vocals. It also happens to be a highlight and his vocal melodies are addictive on this track. The song also has some great changes. Take for instance the ghostly reverbs and delays around the first minute and a half in.
“Suicidal Pigs” is psychedelic mayhem. I couldn't but help think of early NIN when hearing this track. There are some more weird one-off tracks such as the synth heavy “Repeat the Moves.” Walls has its mishaps but has some inspired moments as well. Keenan goes off the rails with some of these tracks but I enjoyed the album as a whole. Recommended
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Mixolydian - Entropy
Are you one of those strange individuals that likes listening to the atmospheric sound effects from horror video games and movies? The misty soundscapes of Akira Yamaoka's Silent Hill soundtracks or the clanking, dungeon FX of the Saw franchise? Get ready to step into the bilge pump of your mind with Entropy, the latest from prolific composer Mixolydian hailing from San Diego, California.
It's hard to believe these dank, somnolescent sounds come from some place so perennially sunny. Maybe Mixolydian is suffering from Serotonin burnout, similar to an ecstasy comedown, as Entropy is more like some disturbed dream than Magic Kingdom.
Mixolydian sets out to create aural dreamscapes, giving voice and form to ambient atmospheres and abstract visions. If ever you were wondering what the shadows of some deserted mental institution sound like, or wanted to give a face to Capitalist Winddown, here's your chance. Mixolydian's goal is to blend harsh noise and evanescent beauty, and I'd say they've pulled it off rather magnificently with this dark ambient dance floor fire opal.
Mixolydian cites industrial classics like Die Form as formative influences, meaning electronics are used to pummel and punish, rather than glow and sweat. This is cyberpunk, make no doubt about it. We've seen the future, and it's not looking good.
Mixolydian's blend of industrial electronics has been coming back in, via underground imprints like Downwards Records or Hospital Productions. Most underground producers at this point are working with some blend of live electronics and hardware, which may be then polished and perfected in a digital platform. Industrial techno is like a drop shadow of late capitalism's spectacle, in which we all reside. If vaporwave is the sound of the virtual plaza, of 24-hour shopping and hedonism, Industrial techno would be the shuttered factories on the edge of town or the sweatshops where all of our unnecessary capitalist comforts are produced. This is dance music for Morlocks, grinding their talons, growing sharp and hungry, waiting for revenge. This is the sound of the sins of the past, dredging up from the bedrock like some sonic nightmare, knowing our entire system is built on inequality and bloodshed.
As Sigmund Freud and John Fahey both like to point out, the repressed will return. The truth will out. Rather than being used as tools for further escapism and selfish decadence, drum machines and synths are subverted to become weapons of self-annihilation.
Mixolydian invites us to really pry off the surfaces of things, to peel off that shiny veneer and see if things are worm-eaten and rotten. Not everything is - many of us find a beauty in the ruinous, cavernous expanses of urban decay, as depicted on Entropy's cover. It's no bad thing that the factories and the asylums have closed their doors. That's no way of life, for anybody. Unfortunately, these corrupt institutions haven't been replaced by anything better - leaving legions of unemployed laborers and dispossessed lunatics wandering the streets like shades.
We simply must do better. We simply must do more. We simply must do SOMETHING. But that's not to say we can't dance and dream and love, while we battle in the trenches. For a lot of us, that's the only truth and the only reality we've ever known.
Welcome to the machine.
The Von - 3nity
Elisa Seda (drums), Luis Bonilla (vocal/bass) and Marek Schneider (guitar) are The Von. They formed in 2013 and recently released a three-song EP entitled 3nity. 3nity is a pretty straightforward rock EP that tips into various sub-genres.
The band opens with “I Know It’s Love” which has a contemporary mainstream rock production. It’s an uplifting song with a tinge of how U2 has sounded for the last fifteen years or so. The song is very anthemic, hopeful and grand. There weren’t many surprises in the song and I would have liked to hear a little more experimentation from the band. That being said the song is well written and fairly catchy.
I preferred the second track “Nature of The Beast” which had more grit. There is a slight Queen of The Stones Age vibe with a similar attitude. I especially liked the verse. It’s catchy and I enjoyed some of the atmospheric effects I heard. “Nature of The Beast” is a solid song but also like the opener I felt the song was pretty safe.
They close with “My Heart Machine” which is another deviation. This time there is a distinct ’80s rock ballad vibe between the synth and vocal delivery. All things considered this may be the highlight. The song has a couple of solid hooks and a killer bass line. They also go a little nuts towards the end in a good way.
This band isn't redefining rock with this EP but it does have its moments. The EP also left me slightly confused as to what I would expect from an LP. This is a rock band but it seems as if the band might be deciding what style they want to play. Overall, this is a case of wait and see. With only three songs the band still has a lot to reveal about themselves.
BatHawk - The Jono EP
Are you a fan of '80s horror movie hair metal soundtracks like Fright Night or Dario Argento's Demons 2? These soundtracks have the utterly beguiling effect of transforming otherwise atrocious arena rock into a kind of druggy, glammy, hedonistic score for no good deeds. It retroactively strips away the bullshit machismo underpinning most hair metal and plays up the femme-y, stylish, sexual glamour of fast cars, fast guitars, tight pants and big hair.
The Jono EP, from Adelaide, Australia's BatHawk, performs a similar function, polishing ‘80s glam rock into a stylish, tight, taut EP of raging guitars, flying V solos, operatic vocals and driving percussion. It's similar to bands like Danzig or The Misfits, or modern day spookabilly like Tiger Army. These bands take trashy, retro horror and polish it like a scalpel, making it sleek and stylish while still retaining the adrenaline and catharsis of true punk/metal.
Take album opener "Fear Itself” which owes a sonic allegiance to Tiger Army's "Santa Clara Twilight.” Tiger Army’s ode to The Lost Boys updated the '80s glam with timeless rockabilly riffs, which were captured in glorious, glowing hi-fi. "Fear Itself" achieves a similar effect, while still retaining a bit of raw, lo-fi grit. Infectious rhythm guitars and catchy vocal harmonies lodge in your brain like a fever dream, making you want to bash your head and break bottles. "Go" on the other hand, will make you stomp the gas pedal through the floorboards with your platform heels,on your way to the local graveyard. Can't be late! No telling what might happen then.
It must be noted that, for the most part, I totally hate anything smacking of hair metal in any way. It's usually too shriek-y and squealing for these ears, which prefers their guitars chugging like a Sherman tank and vocals to sound like someone possessed by some Ancient Evil. While I always strive to transcend my personal biases, when writing reviews, it's hard sometimes. It's always noteworthy when someone forces me to re-evaluate my position on a previously reviled genre. BatHawk strips away the irony of 2000s arena rock revivalists like The Darkness and play with a deadly earnestness. They clearly love this shit, and you will too!
Yet again, Australia reveals itself as one of the last holdouts for true rock n' roll! Maybe there's life in those old six strings yet!
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