of Montreal

Rune Husk

Polyvinyl Records, 2017of-montreal-rune-husk-cover

Review by Kent Manthie

Kevin Barnes and company, hard at work as per custom, has just put out something new since they’re most recent output, Innocence Reaches last year. The new product’s an EP, entitled Rune Husk, a four-song sampler of what’s happening with of Montreal, pride of Athens, GA.

Rune Husk is a bit more subdued than is expected from an of Montreal disc, but, the songwriting, as usual, has the same charming, urbane wit fans of the band have come to expect. Think of it as a mellower, mature smattering of psych-pop with a dreamy, orange swirl gyrating around the middle.

The album begins with the low-key “Internecine Larks”, which will pull you in out of curiosity. “Stag to the Table” kicks it up a notch and for the second half of the EP, “Widowsucking” suddenly harkens back to the reason you like these guys in the first place. Definitely the highlight of Rune Husk, “Widowsucking” has a delectable taste you can’t get enough of.

Another thing about Rune Husk is the placement of the guitar licks in a bigger, more accentuated place. It fits in nicely with the rest of the musical electronica that envelops much of their music. Along with the same creative, sharp lyrical wit Kevin’s honed over the years; his skills haven’t yet begun to wane; the genius of it all fits so well with the underlying music; music that compels you to bob your head back and forth or tap your feet to the pulsating, disco-pop groove and it’s in “Widowsucking” that the music reverts back to a more sublime, surreal, psychedelic-club-power-pop, with clever lyrics and music, wedded together in a blissful union. The EP’s closer, “Island Life” is a great follow-up, yet it manages to unify the softer “Internecine Larks” with of Montreal’s signature sound quite gracefully.

I’m hoping to be back reviewing a new, full length of Montreal disc in the near future. What will be next? That’s always an interesting thing to think of, when mulling over the state of typical nauseating corporate pop slop so ubiquitous these days. But thank goodness for the whole indie network of small labels, DIY-ers and those who spurn the rheumy caterwauling one can’t get away from on the radio. Without outlets such as Polyvinyl, Jade Tree or Castle Face Music, to name just a few, it would be a lot harder to get in touch with the cream of the crop. Popular opinion be damned! –KM.

Hello Everybody!!!                                                                  learylead091815

C’est moi. I’m back!  Sorry, all you great people who read Independent Review and an extra special sorry to those bands whose new albums I’ve been putting off reviewing for much of the last month.

I figured, now that I’m back; tanned, tested and rested, so to speak, I’d better write a little something to possibly puzzled new indie music fans to let you all know that the craziness, the chaos, et cetera, et cetera, now passed, is going to allow me to get back to a better, quicker reviewing system.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           something to help you ‘tune out’

Just to make a note of it: 2016 was a horrible year.  It started off with so many beloved musicians, singers and even an actor or two dying left and right.  For the first couple months of 2016, there seemed to be about three deaths of people whose names many of us would recognize, some more than others, possibly, but I was surprised with the high volume and rapidity with which these people died; all within a month or two of each other. Then, the year ended on a really big downer:  Somehow, that “brash asshole”, the walking, rambling “human” joke actually won the election.  Of course, Russia had a hand in helping trump getting “elected”, the extent of it all is something that isn’t so obvious, but the new admin. is already spreading word around about possibly considering lifting the sanctions put in place on Russia for their interference and military taking (back) of the Crimea and nasty things in other parts of Ukraine.  The evidence of Russia’s involvement include a few things here:  the (undisputed, at least by US admin.) hackings, the disruption and interfering with Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, something which makes the whole “Watergate” scandal, from the early 1970s pale by comparison (for those who may be too young to know what “Watergate” means, well, in 1972, an election year for Nixon, the White House “plumbers” unit, put together by such brains as Haldeman, Ehrlichman and John Mitchell, broke into the Democratic Party HQ which was in the Watergate office complex (it’s a hotel today, I’m not sure if it had hotel accomodations back in the day)).   The break-in at the Watergate was a plot related to the upcoming ’72 elections, even though it obviously didn’t work out the way Nixon wanted it to (he still beat George McGovern quite handily).

Anyway, with things the way they are, contemporaneously, I’d give anything to have a Richard Nixon as president over shithead!

Dark times ahead, dark times indeed.  One way to help combat the ugly situation we, as Americans have allowed ourselves to be put in  – someone out there voted for this bag of dogshit!  Most live in states that would’ve had soldiers dressed in gray uniforms during the civil war, 152+ years ago – southerners.  In fact, only 27% of Americans actually voted for the bag of shit with the awful orange wig, far from a majority and definitely not any kind of “mandate” from the “people” – anyway, one way to ameliorate this mess is to GET ORGANIZED and VOTE, dammit, VOTE!  Sure, the Democratic party may not be the panacea that’s going to make everything rosy and perfect, but it’s going to go a long way in keeping the reactionaries in the GOP-controlled congress from being nothing more than a rubber stamp for trump, essentially, going along with every hare-brained scheme he comes up with.  The Democrats have to take back the senate.  Taking back the house would be great, but harder.  As for the senate, all it would take is a shift of just a few seats, e.g., get rid of, say, three or four Republicans and replace them with Democrats or Independents who would caucus with Democrats, thereby giving them the majority again.  Too bad that isn’t so right now; if it were, Jeff Sessions, that asshole from Alabama, would not have been confirmed as Attorney General and neither would that POS, Puzder, the current head of Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr., as labor secretary or the extremely unlikable jerk from Georgia:  congressman Tom Price, named to head the dept. of Health and Human Services.  He is the absolute worst possible candidate to head HHS.

I do concede, however, that OK, the Democrats didn’t have the best possible candidate in Hillary.  Sure, she’s well-known, popular and so on, but because assholes like Trey Gowdy, a former prosecutor from the worst state in the union:  South Carolina (don’t get me started!) who headed a subcommittee to “investigate” (I use that term loosely) Hillary and her use of a private email account when she was Secretary of State in Obama’s first term, instead of the email account she and all govt. employees use.  Nothing ever came of this long, drawn out “witch-hunt” (because that’s exactly what it was); for one, because there was no there there.  One Republican who sat on that subcommittee even admitted as much, “off the cuff”, when he was heard to say that these hearings and the subcommittee overseeing them, were purely political.  Now, just to hear that, coming from the mouth of a GOP was damning enough, but the fact that nobody else – GOP or otherwise -said or wrote (lol: “wrote”) anything, rebuking that statement.

But we’d just be deluding ourselves if we were to say that trump “won” “only through chicanery and appealing to base instincts like racism, sexism, jingoism/xenophobia; the sort of “My country, right or wrong” crowd; so-called “patriots” who only want white, English-speaking, affluent people to be in America.  With that idiotic travel ban placed on seven “Muslim-majority countries”, trump’s already sown the seeds of more hatred of America and ensured there be more terrorist attacks to come, by giving the disaffected, poverty-stricken, idle young people in the Middle East as well as other “hard-core”, self-styled “Muslims”, giving them a “cause” for which to fight.  Trump is a real asshole, but he can’t really be that stupid, could he?  I mean, well, I just heard that the appeals court has refused to reinstate this idiotic travel ban, but of course, the WH is not going to let it go and will next petition SCOTUS to have an emergency session so they can twist their arms into giving in to their xenophobic way of dealing with immigration (e.g., just shut it down):  trump must know these actions are going to inflame those already with an anti-American bent and that more terroristic attacks are sure to follow:  is trump baiting a terrorist attack in the US?  I wouldn’t be surprised; that way, he’ll have an excuse to exercise all sorts of made-up executive powers and a scared-shitless American public will be willing to go along with all this creeping fascism, just as long as they’re “safe” (from the “terror menace”).  Canada’s looking more and more like a viable option for a place to live.  Vancouver, B.C. is a great city, so is Montreal and Toronto as well as many other towns all over.

Anyway, with that, I want to just say:  “welcome to 2017”.  I hope your year is going well so far.  We’re at the bottom of the barrel, politically speaking, so it can only get better from here (well, that’s not necessarily true, it could get a lot worse, but for the optimistically inclined, we’re, indeed, at our nadir, after really doing nothing about it and letting trump just walk off with the presidency, thanks to help from Putin and his team of criminals).

Also:  going forward, just to let you – that is, both the readers as well as those who are awaiting reviews:  I’m going to start shortening the reviews I write: instead of long, sometimes drawn out articles, I’m going to start writing more concise, shorter reviews.  Reviews that will be around the 400-500 word mark.  Sometimes they might be a little longer than that and other times they’ll be around 300 words.  But, you’ll still get the maximum out of the reviews, you’ll just get the info in a compact yet concise review.  This way, with all I have at the moment, to catch up on as well as the new stuff I continue to receive, I can get, say, three reviews written with the amount of space it’s taken, in the past, to write one review.

OK, so I hope all you who’ve made “New Year’s Resolutions” haven’t yet given up on them.  It’s only February 10. Give it some more time, whatever the goal was.   One of mine is to get going on these reviews and start writing them shorter, so as to get more done as well as write in a new, less wordy style.  Hope you’ll stick around to see how things look over the next month.

Signing off for now…

Kent Manthie

 

Blues Ain’t Dead!

Posted: December 16, 2016 in New Indie Music
Tags: , , ,

Darren Deicide

The Blues Non est Mortuumdarren-deicide-blues-non-mortuum-cover

Berenice Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                    

Well, 2016 is just about to come to a close but not before we get a chance to check out this new CD from Darren Deicide, The Blues Non est Mortuum. Ive been a fan of Darren’s since I reviewed, I believe it was, his first CD, Rockin’ ‘Til The Apocalypse. Listening to it, the whole thing just grabbed me and really made an impact on me. I loved it! I reviewed, about a year later, his follow-up to that great debut. In the time since, I’ve started my own music review blog and I even posted a few videos a while back of Darren performing a few tunes in this graveyard in New Jersey.

Even listening to this new album, I noticed one thing hasn’t changed, at least too much: that voice of Darren’s. He’s got this distinct-sounding plaintive wail that really belts out the blues, mostly accompanied by a guitar, in some cases a drum or other percussion instruments, and the whole thing is fronted by the distinct, readily recognizable voice of Deicide.

The way Darren sings, that emotion he puts into it, is one of the things I like so much about Deicide’s music in general. What this album shows is that Darren’s been developing his sound over the past few years, but, listening to The Blues Non est Mortuum, translated from the Latin as “The Blues is not dead”.

Yes, this album is a delight to listen to. I’m glad Darren still sings with that rough, raw timbre.

With the slide guitar he plays throughout, both on the electric and acoustic guitars, it nicely complements Darren’s eerie, plaintive wail which can send shivers down one’s back. A good example of the acoustic slide accompanying Deicide’s voice is “Devil Woman Blues”.

A few other examples of outstanding tunes on The Blues Non est Mortuum, include “Static”, “Killing the Dead” and “My Star-Spangled Banner” sounds like one’s personal anthem, singing about one’s individual experiences living in the “home of the brave” and “the land of the free”(??). Then, we get a couple great tunes, in the form of “Boom Power Boogie” and the closer, “At the Sound of the Demon Bell”.  The best way to enjoy the album, though, is to just start it at the beginning and listen to it all the way through!

Did I pique your interest?  If you’d like to check out more information about Darren and the new album, along with some new songs one can listen to, from The Blues est Non Mortuum, visit: http://darrendeicide.com/, you can purchase the CD there too! Happy listening! -KM.

Just to put music to the review previous, I thought I’d post a video from Zavala for his new tune, “Roosevelt & Letting Go”.  Hope you like it! – KM. (also, read the review, just below). –KM.

mr-zavala-pic

His Master’s Synthesizer

Posted: December 14, 2016 in New Indie Music
Tags:

 

Zavala

Fantasmas

Fake Four Music, 2017

Review by Kent Manthie                                                                           fantasmas-zavala-cd-cover

Chicago-based electronica producer, Zavala has just come out with his latest work of his own: Fantasmas. It is a real coup de grace for Zavala.

The music takes me back a little way, back in the good ol’ days of the 1990s (say what you will about the 90s: but throughout that decade the US economy BOOMED. It was the 1920s all over again: instead of just richies or institutional investors, regular Joes and their wives were buying stock and, up until the bubble burst in 2000, buying internet/tech stocks was a sure thing. Look at all the millionaires that sprang up overnight!

Anyway, listening to Fantasmas reminds me of back in the 90s, when I was enjoying life, working during the week, and then, letting it all hang out, basically, between Thursday and Saturday night, taking Sunday to recuperate before starting the whole thing over again (i.e., it’s Monday morning again and the whole thing starts again (and it will forever)). It has quite a danceable groove to it. Even if you’re sitting at home and pop this CD on, you’ll still be shaking your head back and forth, bobbing up and down and so on.

That isn’t to say, though, that Fantasmas sounds like a dated work, something that, for today’s world, is just a little anachronistic. No, Zavala, being a seasoned music producer, has taken his talents for getting the most of the studio as well as the back-up singers, session musicians, etc.

On one track, Zavala gets some help in the form of Sara Z. singing vocals on “Chrysalis” and believe it: this is a groovy track. That and then “The IFS” is another really swinging cut. You can’t help yourself. You just gotta dance! It’s all good, but, to pick a couple good starters, check out the opener, “Mirrors”, or the dreamy “Floats Like Empty” or the ethereal, synthesizer opus, “ARPDreamth” (can’t say 100%, because they’re kind of outdated. Those ARP synthesizers, like Pink Floyd used on The Dark Side of the Moon, I haven’t seen or heard today’s musical prodigies using. That isn’t surprising, given the leaps and bounds taken as far as technology in general has come since 1973. Listening to it with, say, good headphones and turned up really loudly, you can really meld with the music! I’m telling you: if you want to be relaxed, turn the lights down low and lie in bed or on a comfortable sofa, then hit “play” with this CD ready and then close your eyes and I bet when the album finishes, you’ll feel at least somewhat relaxed. ENJOY! -KM.

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.