Mark Z80 is clearly making up for lost time, diving into the music scene in 2019 and churning out an impressive five albums and one EP in what seems like the blink of an eye. It's quite a feat, and I can't recall another artist releasing such a prolific amount of music in such a short span.
My first encounter with Mark's work was the track "Bad Break," a fusion of new age and '80s synth pop vibes. The song boasts a generous dose of ethereal synths, accompanied by a slightly robotic yet intriguing vocal delivery that evokes a futuristic AI presence. As the song progresses, it seems to expand and grow in grandeur. "Reflections" takes a lighter, more airy approach, once again blending elements of new age and '80s synth pop. This purely instrumental piece creates a lush, hypnotic atmosphere that leans towards tranquility rather than dynamic intensity.
The soundscape is enriched by a plethora of drifting pads and crystallized keys that weave back and forth, with no clear lead taking center stage. Moving on to "Unlucky Number," I couldn't help but notice its cinematic quality, making it stand out among the three tracks. However, I did detect some striking similarities to "Bad Break." Nevertheless, I found the distant guitars to be a compelling feature, adding a layer of depth to the composition.
While organic drums might have enhanced the experience, the track still holds its own, delivering a palpable sense of tension that I found quite engaging. All things considered, I must admit I'm impressed with Mark Z80's musical journey, especially considering how recent it is. It's clear that there's potential here, and I'm curious to see how his sound evolves in the future.
The Dreadtones make a compelling return with their latest offering, The Dead Frequency. They've aptly labeled it as indie-rock/horror surf, and that description hits the mark. In truth, it plays out more like a double album with a hefty eighteen tracks to explore. While it leans towards the longer side, the abundance of intriguing sounds makes it well worth the journey.
Kicking off the album is "The Unsound Mind Of Lily Liver," a tune that could easily find its place in a Quentin Tarantino film. It effortlessly blends elements of spaghetti western, surf and atmospheric horror, resulting in a captivating sonic blend that sets the tone. As we move through the album, "Sovngarde and the Hall of Valor" leans more into surf-rock, while "A Choir Of Wolves" channels a vibe reminiscent of The Doors, especially during its breakdown. "Wake The Dead" stands out with its impressive guitar work, showcasing the band's musical prowess.
"Heaven's Gate" takes a more experimental and subdued route, evoking comparisons to the likes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The return to surf territory in "Operation Terror" is a highlight, showcasing a perfect fusion of surf with a hint of horror.
At the heart of the album lies "The Conspiracy," a nearly eight-minute slow burn that becomes a personal favorite. It conjures imagery of wandering through the desert, reigniting the spaghetti western essence. A couple of tracks deserve special mention: "Shadow Self" ventures into experimental territory with its robotic-sounding vocals, while "Old Fears" emerges as one of the most dynamically layered pieces, drawing inspiration from the post-rock realm.
While one might argue that the album's impact could have been more concise with ten to twelve tracks, there's no denying that The Dead Frequency is undeniably a solid effort. Its consistent quality and intriguing vibe make it a must-listen. Dive in and discover the captivating sounds of The Dreadtones.
Hailing from Ossining, NY, The 3Bs emerge as a fervent blues ensemble igniting stages with their renditions of classic and contemporary blues, along with a dose of original material. At the helm is the formidable lead vocalist Elle Randall, whose remarkable voice takes center stage, harmonizing seamlessly with Tara Weiss.
Backed by the blues virtuosity of "Diamond" Dave Rinaldi on guitar and the keyboard mastery of Erin Weisenfeld, the band boasts an impressive musical arsenal. The rhythm section, anchored by bassist Kevin Brail and kit drummer Bill Votava, provides the solid foundation that completes the ensemble.
My initiation into The 3Bs' sonic realm commenced with "Like Etta Said," a track that exudes a smooth, midnight jazz ambiance. It's a seductive, almost sensuous musical offering, where the vocals are delivered with precision, and the band's synergy is palpable. Around the midway point, the rock influences begin to surface, culminating in a Pink Floyd-esque guitar solo, adding another layer of depth to this remarkably well-executed song.
"Hard-Times" wastes no time in grabbing your attention with its kinetic groove, a track that practically pulses with energy. It's a composition that fills the auditory space to the brim, and the inclusion of vocal harmonies enhances its live performance potential. You can easily envision this track as the perfect soundtrack to a Saturday night, with a drink in hand, letting the music take control.
Concluding my auditory journey was "I’m Giving Up On You," a slightly funky classic rock-infused number. While it adheres to a familiar classic rock structure, it's executed flawlessly, showcasing The 3Bs' ability to breathe new life into well-trodden musical territory.
In sum, The 3Bs stand as a formidable musical unit. Their songs possess an innate ability to connect with listeners on multiple levels, making them a noteworthy addition to the blues scene. I urge you to lend an ear to their captivating sound.
Jacob Donham's latest offering, "Leaves of Summer," unfurls like a languid breeze on a warm afternoon. This single, a testament to Donham's musical finesse, straddles the line between jazz-infused sophistication and velvety smoothness. The composition gracefully commences with fleeting guitar embellishments and instrumentation reminiscent of a xylophone's dulcet tones.
Underpinning it all, the rhythm section lends the track an understated funkiness that pulses through its core. However, it's when we approach the chorus that the song undergoes a transformation. Donham's emotive delivery of the lyrics, "I know the only constant is change / I’m just looking for something to hold onto," resonates deeply, while the inclusion of the saxophone adds an extra layer of sonic allure.
"Leaves of Summer" exudes an effortless, relaxed aura, its allure heightened by the bass's deft meandering between notes, juxtaposed with the silken allure of the horns. The transitions within the track are a testament to Dunham's compositional prowess, subtly shifting the mood with each beat alteration. In terms of originality, this song stands out as a distinctive sonic creation.
To truly savor its myriad nuances, I wholeheartedly recommend donning headphones, allowing you to immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of musical elements interwoven throughout. "Leaves of Summer" is a lush auditory experience deserving of a dedicated listen.
The Corrupted Hearts, hailing from the vibrant musical scene of Columbus, Ohio, were formerly known as INverso. Comprising the talents of the enigmatic singer/guitarist Bradley Schultz, the groove-master bassist Jeff Sionnach and the rhythmic dynamo drummer Isaiah Haynes, this alternative rock trio has recently unveiled their latest sonic offering, "We Dug a Ditch & Laid Down."
The track kicks off with a circular guitar riff that instantly grabs your attention, complemented by a tom-heavy drumming style and vocals that carry an intriguing monotone quality, which intriguingly aligns with the initial verse. However, as the chorus unfurls, there's a palpable shift in the vocal dynamics, and the song essentially erupts.
Schultz delivers the evocative lines, "We Come from Underground/We just mess around town/Another Fascist Clown/Another Day To Feel Down," with fervor and passion. For those of us who revel in the art of musical tension and release, "We Dug a Ditch & Laid Down" serves up a delectable treat.
The snare roll, gracing our ears a little after the one-minute mark, merges with a lingering reverb tail, ushering us back to the verse seamlessly. Pair this sonic journey with your morning cup of coffee, and you'll find your adrenaline surging, ready to power you through the day ahead.
The Corrupted Hearts has concocted a superb musical concoction, and we eagerly anticipate what more they have in store for our auditory senses. This track is a testament to their prowess, and it leaves us hungry for more from this dynamic trio.
Ambient jam rockers Terrestrial Animal come from Wilmington, North Carolina and have just released their new album titled Constant State of Decay. During the turmoil of Covid, founding guitarist Ryan Kennedy stepped away but the band soldiered on featuring Jason Ward (guitar), Sid Neel (bass), Tiff Ellis (keyboards) and AJ Moore (drums).
Constant State of Decay is a concept album based on “rebirth, on finding yourself after becoming so disillusioned and lost on the journey known as life.” The concept came about when bassist Sid Neel, bored at work, became fascinated with Buddhist themes and ideas on the internet. A rough outline was created with which to craft the music, along with extraneous sounds and song titles.
The band describes their music as venturing from “ambient soundscapes with driving bass grooves to walls of fuzz dripping with luscious reverb.” As I discovered from their release Laniakea, the band’s creative method involves extensive jamming, then refining those results into actual songs. Musical influences include Pink Floyd, The Ocean, Russian Circles, The Deftones, Isis, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, Mastodon, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard and Tool. Recording took place in the band’s personal studio and practice space. All songs were recorded, mixed and mastered by bassist Sid Neel using Studio One 5 along with Izotope plugins.
“Duhkha” literally opens the door on the album, beginning as it does with bird sounds and approaching footsteps atop a bed of drone-like synths and Buddhist chants. “Duhka” literally means “unease” or “suffering” and is an important concept in Buddhism. After several insistent knocks, the Seeker is allowed inside by way of a heavily creaking door. The footsteps echo down a hallway as a heartbeat fades in and the chants intensify. As far as “unease” the track pretty much lives up to its title. The opening, echo’d keyboards of “Law of Impermanence” rise up as “Duhka” recedes. The track is built on a fairly simple four-chord structure but of course the band uses these bare bones to explore the theme’s melodic possibilities over eight minutes. The guitar starts with a lot of sustained notes but then moves into a more Tex-Mex sound. It’s a thrilling moment when all the players lock in for a laid-back rock groove, and I can certainly hear the Pink Floyd connection.
Temple bells and more OM-like chanting herald the start of “Revivication” which has the effect of rooting this undeniably spacey music to Earth. The electric guitar picks descending chord patterns over tiny bits of electronic tics and pops, soon joined by bass, keys and drums. The pace and tonality does suggest meditation or hypnosis. Much like the previous track, the band kicks into rock mode about halfway through and clearly channels their built-up energy toward the extended, all-out climax. After a short rain interlude (I love water sounds!) we glide into “Atman Within Us.” Atman can refer both to the spiritual life principle of the universe, or the soul itself. You’d expect another dreamlike track, and it is, but the riffs themselves seem almost intelligent and witty (or maybe I’m getting “Contact Nirvana”). At heart this is really a jam band.
“Gateway Terra” begins very much like the opening track, with footsteps, chanting and drones. For the music, the band says it was “based on a random bass riff that was a first take. We then refined and re-recorded for the album.” The bass is definitely prominent and this track reminds me of the bass-based jam track I reviewed titled “Amorphous Sum.” The group takes us on a slightly twangy, echo-sweetened journey over open plains and dry riverbeds (there’s that “Contact Nirvana” again!). I know that Terra means “land” so maybe I’m not far off.
“Doctrine of Anatman” starts with a very cool guitar or bass effect, like a phase-shifted frog overlord. It’s a nasal, retro-sounding effect that frames the song. “Anatman” literally means “non-self,” and though I’d like to explain it to you, I still don’t understand what it is! However the general concept fits the band as the individual players often coalesce into a complete entity separate from themselves (and usually toward the end of a song!).
“Samsara” has an interesting meaning: “cyclic change” or “running around in circles.” Given that title I’d expect cyclical melodies (check) and gradual change (not there yet). The razor-sharp tonality of the bass and drums is especially evident here, and the keys sound extra ghosty and cloudy. Unsurprisingly the very loud addition of electric guitar turns this into a rock song (or maybe mellow prog!). This track actually takes on a slightly different arrangement toward the end, though it’s basically just louder, harder and simpler. “Sukha” (a settlement in Estonia) is exactly the ending I would have expected: actual Buddhist prayers or invocations, clear and beautiful, against a violin-sounding keyboard patch and the occasional slammed door.
Jam bands are not to everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy kicking back and letting a band discover and explore musical possibilities right before your ears, check out this excellent group!
In their recent Instagram post, La Need Machine proudly proclaimed their roots in Seattle and their development of a distinctive yet classically Northwest sonic identity, fusing elements of indie punk, pop and rock.
This descriptor couldn't be more fitting when we delve into their track "She Loves Rock and Roll." However, it's important to note that this song delves deep into the rich reservoirs of classic rock flavors. "She Loves Rock and Roll" boasts a lush arrangement, with vibrant piano keys and horns soaring gracefully atop the robust foundation of drums, bass and guitar. From the very first notes, the song welcomes you with open arms, instantly enjoyable and strangely familiar, like a long-lost friend.
As we transition to "Maria," we encounter a shift, not only in tone but in the vocal presence. This warm, tender ballad takes us on a journey through an old-fashioned love story, evoking sweet and tender sentiments. The orchestration here is a testament to impeccable craftsmanship and the chorus bursts forth with an explosive, yet irresistibly catchy charm.
Bringing the curtain down is "Negative," a track that storms in with colossal guitars and an unwavering, driving rhythm. This one is a return to the roots of classic rock, infused with the unabashed attitude that the genre was born to embody. The vocal delivery here is nothing short of exceptional.
While La Need Machine isn't out to reinvent the musical wheel, their skill lies in crafting songs that go down as smoothly as honey. Their sound is seasoned, confident and undeniably enjoyable. There's a timeless quality to their music that will undoubtedly resonate with a broad audience, making them a band that many are sure to appreciate.
Mansion on the Hill's sophomore album, EyeHustling, has been teasing its imminent arrival with the release of two enticing singles. First up is the eponymous track, "Eye Hustling," a vibrant foray into the realm of garage rock. The song exudes a relentless driving energy, with guitars that glisten and shimmer like stars in the night sky.
What sets this track apart is its unapologetic commitment to a raw, live sound, prioritizing the visceral experience of the performance over glossy production values. Notably, a scorching guitar solo reminiscent of the legendary J Mascis adds an extra layer of fervor. Vocally, it's an emotionally charged delivery, laden with cathartic intensity.
On the flip side, "When" takes a divergent sonic path, showcasing a different facet of Mansion on the Hill's musical prowess. "When" is a masterclass in atmosphere and warmth, a tender offering that wraps you in a comforting sonic embrace. Here, the band swaps out fuzzy distortion for reverb-soaked acoustic guitars, delivering a performance that's more measured compared to the fiery exuberance of "Eye Hustling." The song has an uplifting effect, leaving listeners with a sense of solace, underscored by the parting words, "feel alright."
Both of these singles display consistent songwriting prowess and tight performances that have left us eagerly anticipating the full album, set to grace our ears this October. Mansion on the Hill is certainly a band to keep an eye on as they continue to craft their unique sonic journey.
Become A Fan
Artaban, the electro sensation hailing from Luxembourg, embarked on their musical journey back in 2006, courtesy of the visionary duo Charles and Max Nilles. Their inaugural release, Landscapes (2008), birthed a captivating sonic fusion that critics have aptly likened to the offspring of Röyksopp and Boards of Canada.
Following an extensive repertoire of live performances, sharing stages with luminaries like Modeselektor, Apparat, Foals, Wax Tailor, Sebastien Tellier and M83, as well as an impressive array of remixes and cinematic collaborations, Artaban's sonic voyage led them to unveil their second album, Flow, in 2013. This sophomore endeavor imbued their sound with an analog essence, flirtatiously dancing with electro-pop while preserving an enigmatic allure, punctuated by intermittent vocal forays. Fast forward to their latest offering, Rec.Play.Rewind., a collection of nine instrumental soundscapes that beckon listeners into a cinematic realm of atmospheres and emotions.
Kicking off the auditory expedition is the enigmatic "A2," a track that immediately captivates with its distinctive blend of electronic elements. Evoking a hypnotic groove, it marries synthetic synths with the organic allure of live drums. The journey deepens with "Chazeman," where a relentless beat drives the composition forward, enveloped by atmospheric pads and the haunting strains of what could be mistaken for stringed violins. The profound bassline ensnares the senses, crafting an aura of enigmatic allure.
"Chevrotine" beckons the listener to traverse the corridors of memory, evoking the sensation of soaring through time and space—a sonic wormhole, indeed. "Spazzaneve" introduces a more grounded, subdued ambiance, bearing the potential to serve as the perfect score for a noir film. In the realm of imagination, it could very well soundtrack a cyberpunk noir, where the detective is an android. The tension escalates with "Barman," entwining further into the noir aesthetic.
“Moebius" surfaces in a hushed manner but astounds with dissonant bends that offer a mesmerizing auditory experience. "Tase" introduces vocals, intriguingly altered and manipulated, making it the closest one comes to encountering a lead vocal. This particular composition conjures reminiscences of the ethereal stylings of a band like Mogwai. "Melville" follows, a swirling, psychedelic fractal that shape-shifts and metamorphoses, evoking a sense of endless transformation. The journey culminates with "Skog," exuding a distinct funkiness that isn't too far removed from the sonic realm inhabited by a group like Primal Scream.
Rec.Play.Rewind. emerges as an exceptional album, replete with a treasure trove of inventive sonic textures and dynamically evolving compositions. This is an auditory odyssey best experienced through the intimate embrace of headphones, beckoning you to immerse yourself in its captivating sonic tapestry. Our resounding recommendation? Dive into this musical masterpiece without hesitation—it's an experience that promises to enthrall your senses.
About a year ago, we took a look at the Matthew Shadley Band and their album Emerald. Now, they're back with 1970 Something, an album that takes a different path from their previous sound, but one that plays to their strengths. The journey begins with "Panorama," a guitar-centric soundscape that gains momentum with the arrival of drums, featuring a subtle lead from what sounds like a wooden flute tucked into the background.
Up next is "Believe," a harder-hitting track that falls somewhere between the styles of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and The Spin Doctors. It exudes a lively energy that begs to be experienced live, especially during those moments when Shadley unleashes his vocal prowess with "I Can't Get Home."
"I'm Alright" brings a mid-level energy to the mix, steeped in Americana with a touch of country influence. The song shines with its syncopated rhythmic pattern, adding depth to the listening experience. "In The Street," originally performed by Big Star, receives a solid cover treatment, while "Heavy Traffic" introduces a touch of psychedelia and a calming vibe, providing a welcomed change of pace. "Don't Need a Reason" delivers a solid performance, but "Long Ride" emerges as a standout.
Their rendition of Steely Dan's "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" is a true highlight, showcasing their musical prowess. "Hashtag World" provides a well-executed commentary on social media, while they close the album with the funky and driving instrumental track, "Intrigue At The Disco."
To state the obvious, 1970 Something is an album that will strike a chord with those who have an appreciation for ‘70s music, especially classic rock. It's a nostalgic homage, but it also boasts a collection of well-crafted original songs that hold their own.
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