Archive for July, 2013

Th.e.n.d.

Annodam 94

Enough Records, 2013

Review by Kent Manthieth.e.n.d. cover

This was a nice treat: I got an email a week or so ago from someone, I assume, at the netlabel, Enough Records, which had a link to a free download of the new album by Berlin’s Th.e.n.d., which I was able to get from Archive.org’s website, filled with lots of free music – including related netlabel releases as well as lots of live shows from various artists, but, probably, most famously, is their collection of Grateful Dead shows that pretty much cover the whole of their existence, from the mid 1960s, right up through until 1995, when Jerry Garcia died. Besides that treasure trove, though, there is the aforementioned library, constantly updated, of brand new releases, put out by all these new “netlabels” which distribute their music via the internet. It makes good business sense – very low overhead – you don’t need all the stuff that would be necessary to run a typical record label. Most of these bands/artists are brand new, very underground, so, necessarily, they don’t get much attention, which, of course, has no bearing on the quality of whomever it might be. It might be great or it might suck – you never know until you listen.

Anyway, this album, Annodam 94, is electronica, Berlin-style. Basically a one-man project, Th.e.n.d is made up of one guy, Norman D., whose pseudonym, Th.e.n.d., is his musical nom de guerre. A description of his music I read on the web mentions how he listens to as well as creates many styles of music. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, who enjoys playing the piano, guitar as well as drums & percussion. On Annodam 94, though, Norman goes electronic – mixing in some chiming keyboard sounds, a kind of old-school electric piano vibe that is intensified and whose notes chime like a bell, with minimalistic, programmed percussion as well as some real drumming mixed in. There’s also some disembodied voices that appear on a few tracks. As one example, on “In Times of Fading”, a Tom Waits-like voice chatters up some lines, lyrical samples, spoken at the very start of the tune and again in the middle. This against the backdrop of a groovy but laid back hypno-jam, which seamlessly melts right into the next tune, “Rakso Iksnorb”.

There really is not much information on Th.e.n.d. I could find on the internet. The few things I did see, had very little biographical information on the man, himself, other than that he’s from Berlin and is quite the versatile musician. I wish I could tell you more about where he’s been and any other pertinent personal information. The other thing I found was that Annodam 94 is not his first album. He’s done a few others as well. The best thing, if you get an itch to hear what he sounds like, is to Google “Th.e.n.d. – Annodam 94” and you’ll get some hits that direct you to at least two sites – Archive.org being one and Free Music Archive (FMA), the other. Or, you could do a search on “Enough Records” to see what pops up for them.

The album is very hypnotically ambient. It can fill the room with a perfect background or be the focus of one’s musical meditation: you can really lose yourself in the icy, cool and very Nordic electronica-ambient at work here. There’s no “drone” to this stuff, it’s all very fluid and un-static, so you don’t get the intense “ambient” element you find a lot, which tells me he probably finds influence more from Kraftwerk than Brian Eno’s ambient works, but there are still elements of those and more. So, you probably heard it here first – check it out! -KM

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Loving the Dream Machines

Posted: July 25, 2013 in New Indie Music

Chris Cook

Chris Cook -The Lemniscate frontcover web

 The Lemniscate

Womb Records

Review by Kent Manthie

Chris Cook is a solo artist in the strictest sense of the term: he plays all the instruments, produces all the sounds, via computer, synthesizers, et cetera. He comes from a little town called London. His latest album is The Lemniscate, a delicate, very ornately textured album full of an inner flame that burns brightly, without burning out quickly.

Cook’s ensemble of instruments include a sitar, various percussion items, sounds worked up with a computer, various other things that come and go throughout the album and he does all the singing too.

One thing I noticed while listening to The Lemniscate was that Chris, whose soft, dreamy voice permeates the disc, reminded me, at least on a few tracks, of Syd Barrett, the late founding member of Pink Floyd and the one whose love for the blues led him to name the band Pink Floyd, out of homage to two GA bluesmen: Pink Anderson & Floyd Council. But that’s another story…During Syd’s short-lived stint with Pink Floyd, he sang with a softly-spoken voice, one he could make louder when the need arose. Those familiar with Barrett’s career will be aware of the two great solo LPs that he released in the early 70s, Barrett and The Madcap Laughs. They were both wonderful psychedelia that had a nightmarish cartoon quality to them. They showed that he could be, and was, still an innovative, unique songsmith.

Anyway, while listening to songs like “The Dark Room” and “The Gospel According to Dale”, I was flashed back to the days of spinning old Barrett LPs. Beyond that, though he integrates the sitar wonderfully to the work. It’s worked in, with a variety of casual sounds, whether from a computer-based atmosphere to various other melodic, sonic varieties. But it’s towards the end of The Lemniscate that the sitar starts to build and build, until you can’t escape it’s rapturous, mesmerizing glow. A case in point is the terrific “Place Like No Home”, a stylish meditation on new surroundings, new meanings, feeling new sensations and the like. More toward the beginning of the CD, “Two Squared” makes a more sparing use of the sitar, but it’s still there, unmistakably. His singing also reminds me a little of Donovan’s mellow melodies. I suppose you could, if you had to, label this as “neo-psychedelia”, with the groovy sitar and the quiet, yet memorable vocal, not to mention the great harmonics that Cook overdubbed in the studio, harmonizing with himself, making it sound like a 1960s-era British acid soundtrack. Another splendid, sublime song is the title track; itself, a beautiful, ballad with rich harmonies. The next cut, “The Dark Room” starts to bring the sitar out a little more, but it also brings in some more future sounds, a mixture that works well.

Cook did a superb job, mixing together the various textures, sounds and harmonies in a psychedelic crucible with a touch of modern soundwaves included – drum machines that fit in well as a substitute for tablas and a whole host of software sounds in the mix. A fantastic, dreamy album, The Lemniscate is definitely new release that very much stands out apart from so much mediocrity embedded in a music scene, in general, that lacks a focal point or direction. FABULOUS!! -KM

fuck the government!Living in Hell

July 18, 2013,

Hunting down truth-tellers (“leakers”) who blow the lid off of secret government spying and basically having trashed the 4th Amendment, force-feeding Gitmo hunger-striking detainees who’ve been deemed to be no threat and have been cleared for release but who are not released and still linger there, with the only option they have, to control their own bodies and not eat so that the world can see what’s going on or at the least, that the president can see what’s going on and fix it.  Obama’s done nothing to inspire any “hope” and he’s certainly not made any substantive “Change”.  The status quo is alive and well in Washington,  D.C.

I can see that Obama, for whom I voted – twice – has really let me down; not only me but the whole country.  Now, since all the “hope” and “change” has turned to “‘Ho and Chump” as nothing has been done to benefit the majority of Amerikans, we’re still killing civilians, still operating the prison at the Guantanamo Naval Base and now we find out that Obama’s been letting the spooks off the leash – we’re all being spied upon, our emails gone through.  Who cares if the “content” of our phone calls and emails, etc. aren’t being surveilled (in real time, anyway)?  The government, now, has access to all of the content.  All they need to do is get a warrant, show some friendly judge – using one that Obama appointed wouldn’t hurt – and say they have “probable cause” and with the splash of some ink, BAM, they can read transcripts or listen to tapes of all the phone calls they want.  Don’t believe the government henchmen when they mutter platitudes like “the NSA takes every precaution to ensure citizens’ privacy…” – what incentive(s) do they have to do so?  With the new bogey of “terrorism”, they can scare people into giving up their rights:  “If you don’t let us read all your mail and listen to your calls and be able to come in your residences anytime we need to (and we’d only do that if there were a serious, imminent threat) than there’s going to be an attack here in the US that is much bigger than 9/11”  – “9/11” – that’s the new buzzwords:  Just say “9/11” and “terrorism” over and over and over again until you have the country hypnotized with fear and you can do what you want.  I hope I’m dead by the time we get to where we’re headed:  a full-fledged police-state, with no other (stated) concern except “national security” and of course “money”.

So – what is the answer?  Just take a look around the world and see the examples set by Libya, Egypt (which was a great takeback of their country. but the people lost, though, when they mistakenly gave power to theocrats who only care about their religion and not getting the secular business of running a modern country and, of course, we’ve all seen what Islamic theocracies come to when left unchecked (Iran) – I say “Islamic” theocracies because I don’t know of any modern day theocracies of any other religious persuasions.  Anyway, after giving Morsi & Co. a chance, the majority of Egyptians got sick of his inept rule and rallied and protested – again – because that’s what works!  It took a few weeks, but eventually, the army, of all things, actually did what the people wanted, for once – it took control of the situation and booted Morsi out of office.  All the pro-Islamic Brotherhood factions called it a “coup d’etat” and said that the army was taking the power away – again – from the people, nullifying a democratically elected president and blah, blah, blah.  But, if you look at reality, the army, in the person of General Sisi, saw that this guy, Morsi, was betraying the trust the public put in him when it voted him in in the first place.  Now, technically, one could say it was a military “coup”, since it was the army who took the initiative and ousted the corrupt, foolish Morsi and, as a temporary measure, installed – NOT another military  ruler, but:  the head of Egyptian’s Supreme Court Adel Mansour, as president pro tem, until as such time as a formal election can be set up.  So, when this action was taken and Morsi was removed from power, the mass protests, much of them taking place in the famous Tahrir Square, the place where previous protests against the late Hosni Mubarak went on, ended.  The only whining and bitching came from the supporters of the Islamic Brotherhood and Morsi; they were the ones crying foul, calling it a “coup” and all that.  The majority of Egyptians, who were extremely disappointed at the president who was elected, did not continue to protest after General Sisi took action.  In fact, they were happy to have the army on the people’s side, finally.  In the end, the lesson is that, yes, you must do what you can, the “right” way and vote, etc. – to try and get things done in a civilized manner.  But when your voting leads to ushering in someone who turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing and there seems to be justifiable reasons to want him out, you do what you can to stop the  madness – all the usual democratic means, being exhausted, not listened to, ignored, you take to mounting general strikes – work stoppages, demonstrations, appeals to those in power to listen to the people and do their will and when those pleas go unacknowledged then what left is there to do?  Assassination?  That probably wouldn’t do, something that drastic would bring down some harsh reprisals – most likely, the military would come in and take over, full force, with the justification that things are dangerously out of order.  So, that is not the way to go,  You go back to what works:  mass, angry protests.  Fiery rhetoric and constant pressure.  Never let up, never give up.  And that is what the people of Egypt did when they saw their country being wrecked by Morsi, the theocrat, who, yes, was voted in, but a lot of dictators get into power via the ballot box.  They’re like foreigners who come into a country “legally”, meaning they have a passport and the proper visa when they arrive, but when said visa and/or passport expires, they continue to stay in the country, “illegally”, after having been there awhile, they’ve gotten a job, made many friends and have blended in perfectly with the scene.  This is a perfect metaphor for the ruler of a country who tries to justify his power by pointing to the fact that he won it by a “free and fair” election.  Yeah – one election.  After that he cancels all future elections, usually dissolves whatever parliament exists and consolidates his power among a clique of loyalists and cronies.

Obama has turned out to be a pale ghost of what we were promised in 2008 and again, in 2012 – after he won re-election in 2012, things are actually worse, because now Obama doesn’t have to pander to the right anymore.  He can come out of his liberal shell and start getting things done for the country, especially with his allies in the Democratic-controlled senate.  But none of that has happened.  If Obama were really true to all the rhetoric he blew at us, this would be a different, better administration than the first one because he doesn’t ever have to worry about getting elected again.  So why are there still people who think things are going to change?  It’s been seven months now, since he was inaugurated for the second time.  He’s not the person for whom I voted.  I would never have voted for someone  who hunts down “leakers” – people who have found repugnant, the secret policies of the administration – the rotten conditions of our prisons abroad, the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo who are on a hunger strike to protest the fact that over 80 detainees still trapped down there have been deemed to be no threat to the US and deserve to be released; but they’re still there, just lingering away, with no power to do anything about it.  The only control they have is over their own bodies – or so they thought.  These hunger strikes were supposed to be protests to open up eyes around the world to the abominable conditions they are in – they’re not even supposed to be there:  they’re cases have all been deemed to be of no consequence to the US and they ought to be released.  That is what the government itself said.  But they’re still there.  So what do the sadistic bastards at Gitmo do to these people, who are trying to get the world to hear their stories?  They shut them up and stick needles in their arm to force feed them.  That is a terrible tragedy.  Ironic, though it may be – it is the prisoners’ choice to go on a hunger strike and if they wish to fast out of protest, the government has no right to force them to do otherwise.  I say that is ironic because if it were opposite -if the prisoners were not being fed by the prison personnel, there would be a huge uproar.  Still, the government knows that this is wrong, to force feed people on a hunger strike.

The one really good thing about electing Obama two times to office is that the Republicans were twice denied the White House.  That is almost worth it.  Especially Mitt Romney – I wouldn’t want to live in a country with Mitt Romney as president!  -KM

wish you were here

 

Stealing Away the Night

Posted: July 18, 2013 in New Indie Music

The Blueflowers

Stealing the Moon

Analog Terror Music

Review by Kent Manthie

Back in 2004 the husband and wife duo of guitarist Tony Hamera and singer Kate Hinote began their musical odyssey: the Detroit-based couple began back then, while Tony was working as an engineer and a session musician at local studios. Mrs. Hamera, aka Kate Hinote, an apt surname for a chanteuse with a fabulous voice, was an emerging singer just waiting to burst on the scene. The two first appeared together in a short-lived act called Ether Aura, a nice band name, to be sure. Kate showed her stuff in Ether Aura, making known her innate singing talent, while complementing her beloved Tony, on the guitar. Ether Aura, independently, released two albums between 2005-’07, a time during which they paid their dues, music-wise and got some experience.

Fast-forward to 2008 when the couple would take bigger steps and find some talent to fill in the gaps that, when filled, made up what is now The Blueflowers. The maiden voyage of The Blueflowers included drummer Marvin Shaouni, bassist Erica Stephens as well as acoustic guitarist David Johnson. Together, this lineup of The Blueflowers released their debut Watercolor Ghost Town in 2009. This album was a colorful collage that mixed so-called “alt.-country”, (think: Steve Earle, Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, etc.), gothic Americana, psychedelia as well as indie pop. In reviewing Watercolor Ghost Town, the Metro Detroit Times wrote: “Watercolor Ghost Town is a genuinely beautiful and touching piece of work, from the opening title track to the melancholy “Helpless and Hopeless” album closer. Hinote’s voice remains note perfect and goose bump-inducing throughout; the musicianship is finely executed and lovingly arranged.

In 2010, The Blueflowers’ lineup was changed a bit and before they released their sophomore effort, they took on new drummer, Jim Faulkner as well as keyboardist and backup singer Erin Williams. With this new lineup, The Blueflowers put out their follow-up to Watercolor Ghost Town, 2011’s In Line With the Broken-Hearted. Just like their debut, it was independently released and produced by guitarist/songwriter Tony Hamera. Also – In Line With the Broken-Hearted was named “Best Indie Release of 2011” by the aforementioned Metro Detroit Press.

Finally we come to the album at hand, Stealing the Moon, which came out last summer. Hamera has cited some classic influences such as Roy Orbison, The Zombies and The Walker Brothers, out of which the fabulous Scott Walker emerged and who continues to make hauntingly beautiful music today. Besides these older influences, Hamer also points out that he is inspired by Mazzy Star, Neko Case, as well as the legendary crooner, Nick Cave – in an interesting comparison he says: “Think Phil Spector meets David Lynch” – now a combination like is very enticing indeed, especially being big fans of both. Not everyone may know this, but Lynch isn’t just a genius, iconoclastic filmmaker, but he is also a songwriter and musician, himself, having, along with his film scorer, Angelo Badalamenti, written the lyrics (Badalamenti wrote the music) for the heavenly voiced Julee Cruise’s Into the Night, which features what was used as the theme for the amazing Twin Peaks TV show, which was unbelievably original and couldn’t have been done by anyone else (the only problem Twin Peaks suffered was, after the Laura Palmer murder was solved, in its very Lynchian way, the show kept going, but without the original plotline to follow, the show sort of went astray, which is what doomed it, not that it was too “hip” for TV audiences).

Some songs I feel compelled to mention here include “Over You”, a plaintive, swinging, country-tinged song that feels like a Gothic Cathedral. Not unlike Mazzy Star, for sure; one of the best tunes on the album. Simple yet complex. “The Plan” has a Southwestern US-feel to it. This is one of the David Lynch moments: it could be used as a song during an important traveling sequence in a film or, as the song a band might be playing in a bar, in the background, while the characters interact. This has a slow, creeping, cold romantic quality to it. A surf guitar solos on top of a “Southern drawl” sound underneath. Kate Hinote definitely has a powerful voice and uses it well. There’s also the album opener, “My Gun”, a melancholy look back at what was a great relationship but has now run its course and its time for the principals to each get into their own light. Listening to these songs, I can easily see where the David Lynch notions come from. The music is very evocative of the picturesque. If you are fans of any of the above mentioned artists or bands, you will appreciate The Blueflowers for sure.

Since it’s been about a year now (I only received this CD a month or so ago, so, go figure…) since Stealing the Moon came out, I hope there is another CD in the offing by these guys. They would be best heard and seen at a medium-sized, dark, smoky but surreal club – maybe on the outskirts of town for added eeriness! At any rate – enjoy this fabulous album. -KM.Blueflowers stealing the moon coverBlueflowers band pic

 

Rollicking and Rolling…

Posted: July 15, 2013 in New Indie Music

mantles coverThe Mantles

Long Enough to Leave

Slumberland Records, 2013

Review by Kent Manthie

“The Mantles — a sweet yet gritty San Francisco-based indie pop outfit rooted in 1960s garage rock, paisley underground, and the C-86 sound — started out as a three-piece consisting of frontman Michael Olivares, drummer Virginia Weatherby, and bassist Jermaine.”

That’s from their bio I found on their MySpace profile page (I’m actually surprised that there are still MySpace pages out there!)  Anyway, The latter left the group early on, and bassist Matt Roberts and guitarist Drew Cramer were subsequently brought on board to round out the Mantles’ lineup.  So, from there on, you have what you’re hearing about now.

Their new CD is Long Enough to Leave, a wonderfully jingle-jangle, gritty-garage pop band with a sound not unlike the mid 1960s Los Angeles scene, i.e., The Byrds.  The Mantles do have a retro sound to them, but it’s not stale or dated.  It’s a fresh breath of life that has needed to be injected back into a dying art form.  They aren’t pretentious or self-important and don’t try to be something they’re not.  Rather, they’ve put together some great “Rickenbacker”-sounding pop songs (even though Rickenbacker guitars may not play a role at all in their instrumentation).  Besides just California – L.A., San Francisco, etc, there are seeds of the hipster scenes throughout London from the same time frame.

From the very beginning, The Mantles exude a light, airy, toe-tapping sound that one just can’t help feeling a ray of sunshine in an otherwise deepening darkness of isolation, political disasters that threaten to keep humanity divided for the foreseeable future.  Long Enough to Leave is a well-crafted CD that will maybe not change the world, but it sure does show that there’s still hope for the future of something that is extremely important:  music.  Without music, what would we do for a way to recharge overtaxed minds, escape from meaningless babble and depressing political rhetoric that, even though the majority of people despise it, still manages to hang on to power because of a mixture of public apathy, crafty ways of quietly controlling and corrupting as well as uninformed and undereducated people who vote against their interests again and again.  Thinking about stuff like that is SO depressing – you can sit there and dwell on how bad the future is going to be because of the policies that the creeps who do bother to vote are enabling right now.  Our only hope is that, maybe in 20-30 years, a lot of the jerks who keep the death-loving religious fanatics and earth-hating fear-mongers will have died out (it’s really already started, since, if you think about it – the biggest voting blocs tend to be those of older people – once you retire and have nothing better to do, you watch C-SPAN all day and rue the day that things like the McCarthy hearings and even the Salem Witch trials ended).  So there’s hope – once all those angry old people die, then the ebullient young generations can eventually get their voice heard.  It’s just too bad that, at the moment, most of those young people who could make a difference just don’t care-they’d rather be getting high and going to clubs and having as much sex as possible.  But hopefully they’ll grow up enough to realize they need to do something about things – maybe when their ways of life are threatened in some fashion they’ll finally step up and things will start to change – hell, we have the technology nowadays to communicate around the world in seconds, why not use that and more to achieve the political goals that we want??

Anyway, sorry, I digressed there…This CD is a really groovy set and I just loved my first listen to it.  I was actually flabbergasted by the cross between the Clash and bands from the 60s like Moby Grape, The Byrds, The Kinks and more.  There’s the Clash’s tight, punk ethos that was always couched in major chord structures and irreverent song structures and the looseness of the 60s bands, especially the ones that evoked L.A. in ’66:  Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Sunset Boulevard and what was a completely different world than what those places are today.

Some examples of what will get you up and dancing from Long Enough to Leave include “Marbled Birds”, the Carnaby Street, London sound of “Raspberry Thighs”, which, also, by the way, reminded me a little of the not-so-well-known pop art of McCarthy – a very laid back sounding band that had some really hard-hitting political overtones in their cute-sounding pop tunes.  “Brown Balloon” is another London attitude, circa 1967 – mostly it’s the reverbing guitars, the crafty love that is in the music.

But the title track and “Reason’s Run” are both totally like hanging out with Brian Wilson and David Crosby (in his pre-Woodstock, free-wheeling days).

I want YOU to add Long Enough to Leave to your music collection!  Of the stuff I’ve reviewed so far this year, this is another one that I would put on my list of “the Best of 2013” – that’s “best of INDIE 2013”, of course.  A list I am keeping track of and at the end of the year –KM

Summer Teaser…

Posted: July 11, 2013 in New Indie Music

Lone Airglow FiresLone

Airglow Fires

R&S Records

Review by Kent Manthie

Just a little tease here, Airglow Fires is a 2-track single by Manchester (UK)-based Lone. Electronica maestro/producer, Matt Cutler has this single ready to go as a follow-up to his Galaxy Garden LP.

This CD single contains two heavy club mixes that remind me of 808 State, with a similar sonic strategy, updated a bit, though, for the times. The two tunes on here go seamlessly together, each clocking in at around 6 minutes. The spacey, ethereal textures on here make it sound like summer no matter what time of year you may be listening.

The mix starts out with the “title track”, which is punctuated by the occasional, sampled voice that says “WHAT?” now and then. Then, after an undulating, body-moving time, it slips into the other of the discs two cuts, “Begin to Begin”, which picks up where “Airglow Fires” leaves off. It’s a great little summer fete. Something that you can bounce to on the beach or contort on the dance floor to at the local danceteria, downtown, late, well into the night time.

It may sound just a tad dated, as may be gleaned from my referencing 808 State, but it doesn’t sound like it’s left over from 20 years ago, it does have a “now” sound quality to it. But to me, that really doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t care from whence it came or how it may have been derived, I’m only interested in the quality of the music. Well, yes: does it sound like 100 other things going on right now? Or is it unique in some way? Is there anything iconoclastic about it? Or is it just recycled radio dogmatic bullshit? Sometimes it’s hard to really “say” something about an album or a band that, on one hand, doesn’t sound awful or too derivative or is saccharine, it’s a workable thing on one hand, but from listening to it, I don’t get a real rush from it or lose myself in its own blissful radiance; instead I’m just able to go through it without it grating or being aurally obnoxious, i.e., I can stand listening to the whole CD and not feel like I’m “forcing” myself through it.

A truly brilliant gem will be something that doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard or something that takes elements of different genres or eras and synergizes the output with something special.

Airglow Fires is, of course, only two songs, so I can’t really judge it in full as I would a full-length disc, but I do like its groove, the swaying, pulsating, sweaty atmosphere it emits. I hope this s just a teaser and Matt is going to, in the not-too-distant future, give us more. Not just more, but more new music with which to dive in to the bay of sybaritic fluid.

Until then, make do with this. But also, beware, that Lone is showing up elsewhere as well, in the form of remixers, having taken apart and put back together songs by Radiohead (along with others) as a part of a set of Radiohead remixes of a few of their recent tunes as retooled by names such as Pearson Sound Scavenger, Four Tet and more. You will, no doubt, also find a track or two here and there, popping up on the occasional electronica/dance various artists compilations. Enjoy! –KM.

Free Offer!!!

Posted: July 6, 2013 in New Indie Music

Jackson Scott Melbourne CoverJackson Scott

Melbourne

Fat Possum Records, 2013

Reviewed by Kent Manthie


This new vehicle for Asheville, NC native, Jackson Scott, Melbourne, has a representative taste – some “Upper South” roots are inevitably present, but with a fine melding of atmospheric space textures that wave across the mind like ether.

The album starts out with a minute ½ “Our Eternal”, an instrumental, ambient prelude to a graceful set of glossy, starry-eyed gems. Tunes like “Tomorrow”, “Never, Ever” and “Wish Upon” feature wistful strums of acoustic guitar overlaid with synthesizer-driven, dreamland pop candy and “Any Way” is a cute, high-pitched, romp around the toy-store, followed up by “Together Forever”.

On the latter (“Together Forever”) Scott features the guitar – electric, this time – more prominently; it’s a mid-tempo, beat-heavy trip that starts to unravel into a chaotic electric storm towards the last minute and a half. “In the Sun” is a tiny bit reminiscent of the late Elliott Smith – a simple, acoustic ditty that has a plaintive vocal which is hummable and catchy.

Hard to pigeonhole, that’s for sure. But one could argue that Jackson Scott is an American Marc Bolan figure for the future, something that only a really die hard T. Rex fan might appreciate, I say this because of the fascinating ways that Scott comes up with these complex but lovable musical structures that permeate the various songs. This is really worth sitting down and listening to – in fact, I suppose the argument can be made that even though there are 12 songs on it, Melbourne is only about 30 minutes long, which is the typical length for your average EP. This is Scott’s debut, so maybe he didn’t want to put too much on here right away, possibly scaring away potential fans and wanting to impress with a minimalistic approach, numerically speaking, that is.

One other fact about Melbourne is that, since it is his debut and Jackson probably wants to endear himself to listeners – especially in this day and age where so many people are loath to purchase stuff like music, news, books (well, maybe books haven’t lost their value), et cetera, someone’s more likely to say “oh, a free album. I’ll check it out!” rather than “a new album: by – who? And they want HOW MUCH for that? No thanks…” – that is, sadly, an attitude all too common in this A.D.D. age, where so much is ephemeral, there’s not a lot of intangibles out there anymore that can find a foothold and reach solid ground, thanks, mostly, to the internet and all the free stuff associated with it. That has proved to be a very, very good thing – for me as much as anyone. But, I can see, from the artists point of view, how it can be frustrating to be passed up for something that doesn’t deserve a penny of yours (any picture of bimbos who are famous for no reason and have zero talent, never produced anything, never done anything noteworthy, won’t be remembered for any contribution to society at all – you know the ones I mean (the names aren’t worth mentioning-they only muddy up my document).

So, take full advantage of this free download – just type “Jackson Scott – Melbourne” on your Google search bar and you’ll get to where you can download this terrific debut. It’s a great deal, honestly. 20 years ago, something as good as this wouldn’t be sitting around on the web, waiting for people to find it and download it for no cost. Yes, if only Fat Possum Records could do some marketing for this guy and help spread the word – this is a work that deserves some earnings. Let’s hope this giveaway sparks some interest and that he comes back with more, possibly even better stuff soon and next time, no more free stuff! Whew! –KM

Listen Up!

Posted: July 2, 2013 in New Indie Music

Heliotropes

A Constant Sea

Manimal Records

Review by Kent ManthieHeliotropes a constant sea album cover
Heliotropes is a band that is based out of Brooklyn. Made up of four women, though who come from all over the US – wildly differing places such as West Virginia, California and New Jersey. In 2009 they got together in NYC when vocalists
Jessica Numsuwankijkul and Amber Myers placed an ad on Craigslist, looking to find “like-minded Brooklyn musicians to play Brian Eno covers”(!) Now that, right there, sounds like a very auspicious beginning. The rest, I guess, is history-in-the-making.

When the quartet ultimately got together, Heliotropes ended up ditching the whole Eno-cover idea and turned into a heavier, more rock-pop-oriented band with a golden sound. In 2011 they released the first of three seven inchers, honed their sound a little more and then, in 2012, Los Angeles label Manimal Vinyl signed them, Manimal is a

n indie label that also features such names as Bat For Lashes, Warpaint, Sister Crayon among others.

2013 has been a rather busy year for this burgeoning, young but intense and powerful band. They recorded what is going to be released in late June as A Constant Sea, their debut full-length, at Converse Rubber Tracks Studio in Brooklyn, they appeare

d at SXSW in Austin, TX as an “official Red Bull Sound Select Artist” (how’s that for some corporate-insinuation?) and after the “indie/unsigned circus” in Austin, Heliotropes started off on a tour of their own around the US, with Esben and The Witch on the bill.

Well, first off, I want to say how amazed I was when I hit “play” for this new CD. From the first, A Constant Sea has this really enveloping sound that somehow pulls you in, it’s something about the structure of the chords, the atmosphere of the production, the rhythm and a synergy that takes them all and makes something great out of

the parts. The opening cut, “Everyone Else” is what kept me listening. It’s ana

logous to reading a new book – when you open it up and start reading from page one, you almost instantly get a feel for the way it’s going to read here on out. That’s the way “Everyone Else” was for A Constant Sea. It was the opening few pages of a book that turns out to be a real “page-turner”, so to speak. I fell in love with that sound right away and tho

ught to myself, “great, I’ve struck gold, amidst a lot of bronze in this new music quarry”.

After the first three songs or so the music started to branch out and it was then I realized that there was a lot more to them than the evanescent foam of the opening. T

he album gets pretty psychedelic and it’s all just done with guitars, drums and bass. No tinkering with computers or synthesizers, etc. They didn’t need to in order to make a lushly, diverse artwork. Song number nine, “Psalms” is a guitar-driven tune with a tigh

t-sounding realm, but a style that had no bounds, no set standard, which made experimenting easy. On “Joy Unfolds” one can hear a little Kim Gordon being unleashed, vocal-wise, especially toward the end of it. Then, take “Ribbons”; track 10. It too is a bathed in neopsychedelia, painted with a black brush on one end and a multi-colored-dipped stick in between and all-around. Then on “The Dove” there are even a couple guitar riffs which recall Black Sabbath at their apogee (circa 1972). The albu

m ends with the beautiful, lullaby-like “Unadorned”; an apt title for a song that only features harmonized vocals, an acoustic guitar, except for the last few measures of the song, when a twangy electric is brought in to kiss you to sleep.

As of this writing the band consists of the two aforementioned vocalists: Jessi

ca Numsuwankijkul, who plays guitar as well as sings and Amber Myers who, 

besides singing, also provides “percussion”; also in the band are Cici Harrison on the drums and Nya Abudu on bass. It is the classic “rock” lineup: vocals, guitar, bass & drums (plus assorted percussion). With this range you can’t go wrong, especially when you have the talent to make whatever limitations get in your way work fo

r you as opposed to against you.

This album is definitely going to be one that sticks out well as one of 2013’s best, most memorable and well-made albums. When you have to go through mountains of new CDs by indie artists who are doing their own stuff either DIY or on a small(er) l

abel, there’s always going to be a lot of them that fall into the “OK, I guess…”-category. That is like, the average. But, every now and then…BAM – something you listen to just hits you right in the face with a pleasurable pain. A Constant Sea is one of those: it is catchy – infectious even – and it has a real groundswell of edgy poptones wh

ich just captivates you from the start. This one will be a great soundtrack to your summer this year, whether it’s sitting inside your air conditioned pad, beating the heat or diving into it and driving around or kicking it at the beach, A Constant Sea will definitely please. So far this year I’ve had a lot of stuff to review but not all of it has been this good. It may sound corny but I think one could say this is a “feel-good” album. Make of that what you will, but I know I came away from it feeling better than I did before I listened to it. Heliotropes might not have done any whiz-bang electronic jitterbugging on A Constant Sea, but I think Brian Eno would still be happy with it himself; and I know I, for one, am happy that Heliotropes decided not to be an Eno cover band. It sounds good on a bar napkin – for a minute. But when you think about it, wouldn’t it be better (than doing covers) if Eno, himself produced it? Or better yet, just do the music that comes to you. Create, don’t emulate! -KM
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