Hi There.  Kent here…FYI:  King Crimson, along with, you know, Velvet Underground, Bowie, Eno, as well as Joan of Arc (as well as all the other Kinsella-based bands).  Anyway, listen to this little msg & maybe it’ll inspire you to go further (you can find a lot of these DGM concerts on YouTube!)  Enjoy! – KM.

Brandt Brauer Frickbrandt-brauer-frick-joy-cd-cover

Joy

Because Music, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                

I’m quite happy that I’ve been exposed to Brandt Brauer Frick, a trio of European musicians, whose disparate musical backgrounds, or, at least, the dichotomy between Daniel Brandt and Jan Brauer on the one hand, who come from a club music atmosphere, e.g., house, techno, EDM, and the like, on the one hand, and Paul Frick, on the other, who comes at this from a different musical background. The talented Frick brings to this – trio a classically-minded background. One rooted in the firmament of beautiful melodies, gracious harmonies and that wonderful, musical ear, one thing that is innate and, though it doesn’t – nor has it! – stop millions from getting into the music-making biz, so to speak.

Anyway, Frick trained for some time, at the Universitat der Kunste, in Berlin. There, Frick studied, amongst other important matters, classical and modern composition. Before joining up with Daniel and Jan, Paul has been making music in diverse corners: besides his several grand, experimental pieces for a variety of orchestral instruments, Frick has also recorded and released a few EPs of house music.

Daniel Brandt and Jan Brauer, on the other hand, come from a looser, more jazz-oriented school of music.

These sorts of trios with members that come from disparate (but not at odds with anything) musical backgrounds are a great breeding ground for the kind of music Brandt, Brauer and Frick play.

Also, for those of you who may think that, for the most part, modern music is dead, just remember that the type of person who would say something like that is someone who, obviously, doesn’t follow or at least pay some attention to the always innovative, creative melting pots for varieties of influences which come out of the whole process as a finished product; one which, despite their influences, any outright hagiographic to the point of almost being plagiaristic, won’t show up here. With deft skill and determination, the music comes out sounding as if there’s no precedent for it, which means that they’ve managed to concoct a heady brew of their own, one with a pleasant aftertaste, as well.

I’d think that an album such as this would attract listeners who’ve spent much time grooving with Krautrock, e.g., Neu!, Faust, Kraftwerk and Can, to name a few; maybe fans of Henry Cow and/or Fred Frith.

But, I don’t want to fill your heads with anything that could prejudice one towards or against Joy. I’d rather lay out some bare sketches of the sound and maybe a little bio info, but I don’t want to tell anyone that this is going to sound like XYZ or ABC…that could potentially turn off a segment of people and could possibly attract others, and those who think they’d be turned off by Joy might miss out on something so fabulous that, while eventually they’ll get it, if they aren’t pushed away by unnecessary comparisons, all the better, that way one can judge Brandt Brauer Frick strictly on the merits, at least for 98-99% of what they are or might be trying to do.

Anyway, whatever you do, give Joy a listen and get yourself a copy! -KM.

St. Lenoxten-hymns-from-my-american-gothic-cover

Ten Hymns From My American Gothic

Anyway Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

Just out a couple weeks ago, the follow-up to 2014’s Ten Songs About Memory and Hope, was released: Ten Hymns From My American Gothic. This is the second full-length album from St. Lenox, which, though mainly a vehicle for Andrew Choi and his songs, the band also features Chris Hills and Nick Fed on guitar. Choi, himself, is a multi-instrumentalist who can and has played everything on previous recordings.

By day, an unassuming, Manhattan lawyer, a Juilliard-trained violinist, Choi has his feet in both “worlds” – the eternal ephemera of music as well as the one which we call “the real world”, even though that’s as subjective as one can get. I mean, what is “real” for one group of people may be unheard of or even just a myth, to another group. For now, it seems, the musical, creative side of Choi’s dichotomous world seems to be winning out.

Trading in on skills he acquired and/or honed while at Juilliard, Choi is a rare figure in the pop music biz: someone who is, as the idiom goes, ‘classically trained’, someone who also has a knack for writing rapt, lyrics that beautifully waft over the listener.

I must say, that time between when you first see the album cover of this album and what you subsequently hear on the same album, you experience, at least, for me, a disconnect. I see this photograph of some Gothic-designed cathedral in some urban setting (not sure exactly where this picture was taken) and, well, especially because of, say, 95% of the music I receive for review, well, it isn’t homogeneous, but it isn’t monolithic, either, but for the most part, the bands I cover tend to be from urban areas. Whether that may be megalopolises like NYC or L.A. (megalopolises for the US, anyway) or smaller, but just as important areas like the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Minneapolis or Seattle. These “urban” bands do seem to have something going on I don’t usually hear from artists/bands who come from smaller, more rural areas. Over the years, Independent Review has reviewed indie music; that is, music not from some behemoth corporation that owns media companies and, along with the variegated other industries they hold or even control, the music and the film industries suffer the most: that is, the products that come out of places like that are enough to frustrate anyone who understands that what is most popular, ergo, in one’s face all the time, etc. does not come from the aforementioned, rather it is the myriad, underground hotspots, bristling with great talent, new directions in music, always forward-thinking (or usually!)

Choi, himself, the son of Korean immigrant parents, grew up in Iowa, someplace that one would think is full of white people, farmers mostly, yet, having been born there and grown up there, his experience growing up in the Midwest is, for him, his life story, his memoir, some of which Choi tries to capture on Ten Hymns For My American Gothic, songs on here that reflect much of what Andrew has experienced over a lifetime in America and his interpretation(s) of what and/or how this environment has forged his psyche.

Originally meant as a 70th birthday present for his father, Choi did write (not uncoincidentally) quite a few songs which touches on his life, growing up in the Heartland of the US, the son of Korean immigrants, which, from there, on, can make a basis and be a muse for Choi’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics for these songs.

This is one I’d recommend to those of you looking for something positive or at least with a not-yet-jaded outlook on things, to get your mind off the awful year 2016’s been (and I don’t mean music-wise, at least not indie-music; although, in the first three months of this year we lost a bevy of musical legends, and even after the one or two deaths a week for January and February, still, some big-name pop star would drop dead. Then, of course, we had the most depressing, dismal presidential election in American history! Dark times ahead, my friends, DARK, DARK times ahead. KM.

Feral Ohms

Live in San Francisco

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                                   feral-ohms-live-in-sf-cover

Well, all right! Another album in Castle Face Records’ Live in San Francisco series. Let me see, here, I first reviewed the White Fence one, almost a year before I started getting more. Well, in around February or March of this year I then got one by Bronze. I think there was one more in that series I reviewed, but, if so, I just can’t recall what it was and, I have this nagging suspicion I might’ve accidentally erased the CD in question from my WMP music library. Well, then, the most recent one I did was the Live in San Francisco set from Thee Oh Sees, which, as has been the case with everything I’ve heard, so far, coming out of Castle Face Records, which is the label responsible for the Live in SF series.

To get to the heart of the matter, Feral Ohms’ Live in San Francisco is another great album, documenting another great concert from San Francisco, a show which is, all the way through, a gripping, tight, rip-roaring good time. Of course, the fact that it’s on Castle Face Records is also a sign that it’s another fabulous creation by another indie band. One that makes music that grabs you by the lapels, shakes you, steering your attention towards the music which, once gripped, isn’t easily let go of until the end.

It’s the same thing with Feral Ohms, in general: a groovy, hard-charging rock band that makes songs which, from the first, catch your attention; each song so promising that you just have to keep listening; to hear what comes next, of course, keeps repeating itself until you’ve gotten to the end!

Feral Ohms is definitely a band you want to check out and one whose name you’ll want to write down someplace, so you’ll remember to keep your eyes open for that name. -KM.

ANDROGYNY RULES!

Posted: October 11, 2016 in New Indie Music
Tags: ,

Blonde Redhead

Masculin Femininblonde-redhead-masculin-fminin-1

Numero Group, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

After many years together, on and off, Numero Group is putting out Masculin Feminin, an anthology of BR’s brightly shining moments, e.g., their first two LPs, put together here, plus a number of previously unreleased material, B-sides, demo versions, outtakes, and so on.

There is a likeness here with Sonic Youth. Listening to Masculin Feminin (which, I must confess, is my first exposure to Blonde Redhead), about 1/3 of the way in I started hearing stuff that reminded me a lot of Sonic Youth, especially their mid-late 80s as well as the late 90s period: musically innovative and iconoclastic. “Swing Pool” is one example of this. Both the guitars sound a bit like Thurston and Lee jamming together and the singing sounded, at times, not unlike Kim Gordon.

Another example of how Sonic Youth seems to have rubbed off on BR is “U.F.O.” the way it starts off with this Sonic Youth-sounding guitar opener; however, “U.F.O.” soon settles into something else altogether: a rock-steady beat that pounds out a tight rhythm for a great tune. But, out of this mix, comes the, in my opinion, too short, but lush, quiet, beautiful, “Girl Boy”, showing, for one, that BR isn’t beholden to a one-dimensional sound; a cardboard cutout of their influences. “Young Neil” has a nice touch to it, as does “Amescream”.

If you’re already a hardcore Blonde Redhead fan, you’ll probably already have the two separately released albums represented here: their eponymous debut and La Mia Vita Violenta, which is what Masculin Feminin is, for the most part. But, to make this more than merely a re-release, Masculin Feminin has a big helping of a variety of singles, B-sides, outtakes, radio performances, demos, etc. So this album is a great place to start for those who are new to Blonde Redhead (I do vaguely remember having had one album by Blonde Redhead, something I found at my local library, then decided to check out and, of course, rip it to my WMP. Not sure which album it was; I’m thinking it was probably their self-titled debut, but, then again, it could’ve been La Mia Vita Violenta. I just can’t remember! But, Masculin Feminin is really, my first real exposure to Blonde Redhead and I like it. As for the similarity to Sonic Youth in some places, BR really has a sound all their own. What they’ve gotten out of Sonic Youth – as well as other bands, no doubt- has only added value to their own identity! –KM.

Male Gaze

King Leermale-gaze-cd-pic-4-king-leer

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

I come to this album a tad late; it just sort of slipped through the cracks, metaphorically. But, when I finally did get to hear it, I was quite taken aback by its power: the raw edge, the well-versed lyrics, matched with some great melodies.

I’m talking about Male Gaze and their recently released album, King Leer, on Castle Face Records, a label that has put out some amazing stuff by their foxy den of indie bands. Bands who, for the most part, have that raw, edgy, spirited style and the talent with which to stand out. That has been my experience with the various Castle Face bands whose albums I’ve reviewed off and on throughout 2016, so far: inspiring, loud bands, some with that wild abandon like MC5 or The Stooges; stuff that’s really amazing. And, so it goes with Male Gaze. They, too, have this raw, feral energy that they pour into their music.

Their new album, King Leer released over the summer, has been calling and calling to me like a siren singing her beautiful death song until, finally, I gave in and my attention was indeed grabbed until my brain was aglow with the electricity discharge flying off this album!

Anyway, Male Gaze hail from San Francisco, a city which has a lot of great venues and clubs to see bands/artists and pretty much every night of the week, somewhere in town there’s something good happening, live, worth seeing.

The new album King Leer starts off with “Got it Bad”, which reminded me a little of early Stooges stuff, what, with the buzzsaws that are the guitars churning up. The vocals are a bit deeper (pitch-wise) than Iggy, in fact he sounds closer to Ian Curtis, but more softly-spoken/sung. “Lesser Demons” is next and keeps the album going, rock steady. It’s got this low-fi, yet hi-fi, when it comes to the guitar solos!

When we get to about midpoint, songs like “Ranessa” and “Green Flash” both show off Male Gaze’s “softer side”. These are both ballad-esque, acoustic-tinged, reflective songs. Yet, that doesn’t mean they’re just fluff; filler to bridge the first few tunes with the last part. No, even though they’re slowed down and have a more “serious” tone to them, they’re still catchy and fit in well here.

Then, after those two aforementioned songs, it gets lively again, with “Easy to Void”; a song that…well, it has this seriously infectious groove to it. I hear at least two guitars playing here, each staying down, toward the low-end of the fretboard, plucking out these slick, groovy chords and so on. I may go as far as writing that “Easy to Void” is the best or one of the best tunes on King Leer.

Yes, this is truly a good, new, indie album. This is the sort of thing you’d whip out and play whenever some guy, probably in his 60s, by now, goes around declaring that “there wasn’t any good music at all, in the 1980s” or “today’s music is just awful; there’s no meaning to it; the corporate music industry is just like the state of the current movie biz: it’s all about making money for the parent company, whether that be Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Viacom’s Paramount, Sony Entertainment’s movie division making money for the company, back in Tokyo and, of course, Warner Bros. -the less said about them the better! Anyway, that guy would be partially correct; those people who share that sentiment, that “there’s been no good music since the 1970s” …well, first of all, they’re wrong. But the reason that they’re wrong is because they probably only listen to the radio and, for their own music collection, if they have one, consists of all corporate rock, typical stuff you hear on the radio all the time and these people soak it up; that makes them think that the only “real” stuff is the stuff they hear on commercial, corporate-owned radio stations, who play music on big, corporate-owned record labels, who routinely screw the artists on their labels out of as much money as they can or, put another way, they, by trying to save money, here and there, do whatever they can to get away with paying the artists under contract with them, as little as possible.

Meanwhile, there is a whole different subculture, I suppose you could call it, that has been thriving for…well, really, always. I’m talking, of course, about the independents: those intrepid, talented musicians who write and play music because they want to. They didn’t start a band so they could get “chicks and money”, they actually share a common bond: they love playing music, but, of course, if you get signed to some “major label”, your band is soon going to be pressured from the label suits to “just make a couple of changes” to one or two songs. If you relent and make those changes, you’re just telling these suits that you and your band are easily pliable and soon, there’ll be some asshole A&R guy hanging out in the studio when you’re recording there. Some dummy the label sent over to “keep an eye on things”. No way. Thank goodness for indie labels and the bands that have the integrity to make good music and not sell out to please some fleeting demographic, which really just makes it (that kind of music) ephemeral, at best. No thanks. I’ve got many independent albums by bands who control what kind of music they make; no apologies necessary! And these are albums that do stand the test of time. Just like this album, King Leer, no matter whether it sells a million copies or a few thousand, it’s still going to sound all right, in, say, 20 years.

So, bravo to Male Gaze for sticking it out and doing it the right way: as a labor of love (for music) and for doing it on Castle Face Records, who’ve been putting out great albums by some fantastic bands. Check out their Live in San Francisco series of CDs. Just check it out at https://www.castlefacerecords.com – a place to check out, not just this album, but to get a view at all the bands on the label and they’re all available for purchase, as well.

Anyway – Great album!  Great album!   –KM.

Hi everybody.  How was your summer vacation?  A question to ponder, this last week of September, as, by now, all K-12 type schools have started, but, after, typically, a later start date, colleges & universities get their fall gig going usually around the equinox – Sept. 21.-also the day where it turns into fall from summer, sneaking in at night, when no one’s watching.

Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know that after this post-which isn’t a review, anyway, I’m going to start condensing reviews down to a less wordy, but quite concise and reviews which get straight to the point – with the occasional exception I feel like writing.

Thanks for your patience, everyone -and support too!!  Some  new reviews of more great indie stuff just around the corner – I mean that, too!

But – I want to give everyone who reads Independent Review a little sneak preview of a new song by Romeo Crow, who’s been quite busy in the recent past, but who is now getting ready to get back in the studio and lay down some new, bitchin’ tracks.  Can’t wait!!  Meanwhile, for the moment, I hope you will enjoy this video for the new tune by Romeo Crow, “For the Weekend”.  More to come soon!!  Enjoy this, though, for now.  Thanks, KM. (Video to follow in 5,4,3,2,1…blastoff!)

Hi everyone.  I was made hip to this new song/video by Jen Gloeckner.  “Counting Sheep” is the name of the song.  It starts off with this angelic, mellow harp, playing a nice introduction.  Anyway, I hope you like it.  Feedback/Comments always welcome!!

KM.

Thee Oh SeesThee-Oh-Sees-Live-in-San-Francisco-513x513

Live in San Francisco

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

In another of the, so far, spectacular “Live in San Francisco” series of live gigs captured on these CDs which have been coming out over the last, uh…oh, three, maybe four years…(?)  I remember writing a review for the Live in San Francisco that Bronze did, some months earlier, this year as well as an older part of the Live in San Francisco set; (must be since I did this review, like, at least a year before I did the Bronze live CD review).  It was for the Live in San Francisco CD by White Fence, which was also very good and showed a lot of energy and enthusiasm, from both audience and band.

OK. So, let’s get to this one, the Thee Oh Sees live album, from, of course, SF (which, having lived in SF for almost five years, as well as catch quite a few great live shows there -only one time did I have to go outside of SF for a concert I wanted to see: Beck, in, like ’97 or so – it was the tour for the Odelay CD. Anyway, that show was at the Paramount, in Oakland.

As for this album, Thee Oh Sees recorded material from three nights’ worth of shows at The Chapel, in The City. DAMN, man…these guys are just off the hook! I’m about halfway through the album right now and, so far, everything I’ve heard has been delightful. The guitar is really good, here and their rhythm section: the bass and the drums, really are both out there, to be heard and felt; not just a vague time keeper in the background (at least the bass can sometimes be that way). Right now, “Man in a Suitcase” (no, not The Police song), has just finished and now, they’re going into this blistering, dynamo, “Toe Cutter Thumb Buster”. The more I listen to this album, the more I can hear just how good a guitar player John Dwyer is. Dwyer has dual roles, actually. Not only is he a phenomenal guitarist and one of the strong links which all make up the chain that are Thee Oh Sees. “Sticky Hulks” is a song that vacillates between being a kind of rock and roll dirge and a frenetic, guitar sandblasting away the tears. At seven and a half minutes, it’s the second-longest song on Live in San Francisco. The longest is the finale, “Contraption”, which, of course, is just dizzying with Dwyer’s incredible guitar as well as a tightly-knit band, altogether. Just one question: why do they feel the need to bleep out supposed words like “fuck” or “shit”, etc? This isn’t commercial TV or radio. Oh well, that’s a rather minor point compared to what sounds, underneath the psychedelic wash is some trippy surf-rock, but with distortion and in a bit of a Rockabilly pose. But there are a few more parts and, when Thee Oh Sees put them all together in just the right recipe, something mind-blowing is the result! Also, the live setting of Thee Oh Sees three shows at The Chapel give the neophyte T.O.S. listener a taste of what their live shows sound like.

As I mentioned, previously, that the longest tune on Live in San Francisco is the last song on the album, “Contraption”, five seconds short of 16 minutes. This is the perfect vehicle for which Dwyer to really show off his guitar chops. While the drums are interweaving their own rhythms which nevertheless, fit in, so you have to turn the bass amp, so, even though he’s noodling a bit, here and there he’s got his fingers (literally) on the pulse of the beat, via the bass!

If you want a quick summation of what Thee Oh Sees sound like, or, maybe, come across as, think of The Stooges’ raw, guitar-heavy, bombastic proto-punk, mixed with the Psychobilly fur-and-leather good times of The Cramps and that whole Southwestern “Whammy” mystique that [well – think of it: if you made a movie out in the AZ desert, you could do worse than The Cramps].

So far, this year, I have heard quite a few new releases that came from Castle Face Records, and now I’m at the point that whenever I get a new album to review, it’s always nice to find out it happens to be on Castle Face. Not everything I get, of course, is on Castle Face Records, nor does everything I review even sound like a lot of the bands on that label, but, well, I have a very wide range of musical tastes, and, on top of that, I can tell the difference between a band that puts a lot of talent and hard work into their work as opposed to some schlubs who’re just in it for the “chicks and the money”. Thee Oh Sees are far from being like that. They seem to have a knack for fiery, sometimes intense, yet complex tones, time signatures and maybe some secrets to their sound by way of their own special formula for guitar tuning. Whatever it is that makes Thee Oh Sees the special band they are, at least one of the most important, is their fertile imagination and (at least one hopes) all that as-yet-unwritten-down music to come. Can’t wait to hear what comes next! Oh, and go check out Castle Face Records’ website – here’s a link that’ll take you right to their Thee Oh Sees page. You can always go back and browse for other stuff, as well – http://www.castlefacerecords.com/collections/thee-oh-sees – Happy Listenin’ -KM

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THEE OH SEES LIVE, ONSTAGE

Adult Karate

LXIIadult karate cd cover

Plug Research Music, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

One of the latest indie albums to hit the street is LXII, an EP representing the latest release from Adult Karate. So: make tracks to your nearest independent, “neighborhood” record shop and look for it – if not there, ask for it! Walk up to the clerk at the counter and let him know that you want to buy a copy of the new Adult Karate EP, LXII. He will, no doubt, inform you that “you know, uh, that, uh, you can…you know, download this album from the internet, or, at least, most likely find a copy available for sale on www.amazon.com – but, after politely listening to the spiel, you, who are, like, quite aware of the fact that you could either find a downloadable version on the web or that you could go to Amazon. Jesus, tell me something I don’t know! That clerk is right, though, even if he shouldn’t be telling customers they oughta go shop online at Amazon, for better deals (ha ha ha) – Amazon and like sites on the internet are making the physical “brick and mortar” stores more and more irrelevant, as people don’t have to go all over town to find something. They can usually locate it online, whatever the online mart it is. Anyway, I’m digressing here. So, back to our band, Adult Karate and this new EP that has just come out: LXII.

Adult Karate is the latest project by KC Maloney, who makes up half of the duo that is Radar Cult. Starting from where Radar Cult leaves off, in terms of a minimalistic, cryptic hybrid of myriad electronic based subgenres. Atmospheric austerity would be one way to describe, at least, in part, the Radar Cult/Adult Karate style. Somewhere I read one description of AK as “Haunted House Music”, albeit, I’d add to that, “…haunted by a long-dead German or German-inspired minimalist (maybe tied to the Bauhaus school of German minimalism, circa 1919-1929.

The music on LXII washes over you like a cold but exhilarating shower of sound. For one, the title track grabs a hold of you with its pulsating keyboards and synths, Maloney providing some reflective, self-aware lyrics, his singing like a plasma that keeps all the parts stuck together.

Some songs worth mentioning include “Chased”, hauntingly exhilarating House music. “This is Never” also has a bit of a dark, yet groovy with the smooth synths, the “nightmare vibes” that course through this, as well as its magical attraction. The final track, “So Low” is a duet with Adaline. It’s a nice way to bring one down from the headiness of the album as a whole.

Interested in finding out a little more or are you up for buying a copy? Well, check out: http://www.plugresearch.com/2016/08/adult-karate-so-low-feat-adaline/ – that’s a link to the video for “So Low”, featuring Adaline. Here is a site I found where you can buy LXII: https://themusic.today/release/adult-karate-lxii/7808663 – Happy Trails! -KM.