Archive for October, 2013

Here, Run With It

Posted: October 30, 2013 in New Indie Music

Matthew Conley

Help Yourself EP

Self-Released

Review by Kent Manthie

Just out is the self-released debut by Matthew Conley, Help Yourself.  It’s a five-song EP that is filled with instrumental, electronic, atmospheric tunes that seamlessly go from one track to the next.

It’s a hypnotic delight.  Conley has great talent.  This is a self-made EP that shimmers with a multitude of layered electronic sounds.  Not only is there lots of slick synths glimmering, but behind that there’s sampled “found sounds”, voices and a smattering of various synthesized horns, strings, and even choir-like chants in the background.  The latter is especially prominent on “The Hierarchy”.  But on that tune as well as all the rest of them, nothing is static; it goes from programmed sound to sample to keyboards back to synth-ed jams.

The aforementioned “The Hierarchy” is a 5 1/2 minute busy electronica anthem that pulses and pops in and out of various bits and pieces that Conley has woven together.  Another great tune on here is the last tune, “Drone VI”, a heavenly, brilliant floating-on-a-cloud meditation.

But I can’t really say which one is the best tune, as they all go together to create a suite of electronica for the current decade; not looking backward, copying House music or Techno but wiring together a forward looking computer love letter.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, then I’d keep a watch out for Matthew Conley.  He’s just beginning his foray into a new wave of crafty, electronic music; made entirely from his own imagination and composed and performed solely by himself.

If you’d like to watch a video of Matt working on printing up copies of CD and vinyl record jackets, with a sampling of the music from Help Yourself, then click here to check it out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FshtMh_epe8

 Help Yourself CD coverAlso – if you’d like to get more information on Matt, visit his webpage, at http://www.matthewconley.com

Have a spooky Halloween everyone!!!!

KM

I woke up today and got on the web to check out what’s going on, etc. and one of the 1st things I saw was that Lou Reed just died.

Lou had liver disease and about a year ago he underwent a liver transplant.  After the transplant Reed did all right – for a while.  But then, about a month ago he returned to his doctor, complaining of recurring liver troubles.  Again he was hospitalized for a time, the doctors trying to do what they could to revitalized the singer, but in the end nothing was responding and finally Lou said that he wanted to be released from the hospital and at least spend his last days at home with Laurie Anderson, with whom he had been in a relationship for the past 15 or so years and just got married in 2005 (previously, Reed was married to Sylvia Morales from the late 70s to the 1990s.  Before that he was briefly married in the early 1970s).  After about a month back at home from that last visit to the hospital, Reed finally succumbed to this liver problem,  It was made known, when Reed first went public with the liver ailment that eventually killed him, by his wife, Laurie Anderson, that they both knew how serious this was and that Reed probably wouldn’t survive this bout.

Despite that depressing prognosis, he continued to work,  His last album was a collaboration with Metallica, in 2011, Lulu, an album that some compared to Reed’s legendary experimental album from about 1977, Metal Machine Music, which was a double album that was an experiment in feedback, noise and generally a cacophonous, yet, artistic piece that, as with his VU songs and early solo albums, was  influential, especially to another NYC band, Sonic Youth, the legendary alt.-noise-rock band as well as many other bands of similar ilk.

In an interview with legendary rock critic Lester Bangs, Lester quipped:  “Lou Reed is the guy that gave dignity and poetry and rock n’ roll to smack, speed, homosexuality, sadomasochism, murder, misogyny, stumblebum passivity, and suicide,”  That is a good summing up of the Reed of both the VU and his solo work up to about 1977.

After the end of the wild party that was the 1970s, Reed released a number of mediocre, at best, records in the 80s and just about the time that he’d been given up as a burned out has been, Reed came back in a big way with his 1989 album New York, in which he expounds on the city he called home and which was a backdrop of much of his work in the past.  New York deconstructed various things going on around that time in the city, people who were in the news, including then-US attorney, Rudy Giuliani, Pope John Paul II, Kurt Waldheim, many of the freaks, drag queens, party people and art-types, who also happened to be friends of Lou’s and these people, mentioned in the song “Halloween Parade”, had all, in the past 8 years or so, died of AIDS.  This song was a beautiful elegy of the loss he felt from losing so many good friends, so many creative, artistic types who really made life colorful and took art to new heights and brought color and humor to all around them,

Lou Reed Pic

He was 71.  What a shocker – and, no, I’m not being facetious, dammit.

Brian Eno made the comment back in the early 80s that the debut Velvet Underground album (The Velvet Underground and Nico) may not have sold that many copies (at least when it first came out) but everyone who did buy it started a band.  While that was high-praise hyperbole, the sentiment behind it was absolutely right:  many, many bands, from the 1970s up to the present day have been influenced by the way-ahead-of-their-time sound and the superb lyrics of Reed’s.  

To be honest, my least favorite VU album was their last one, Loaded.  While it contained a couple of Reed’s most famous tunes (“Sweet Jane” and “Rock and Roll”), it showed that they, or at least Lou, just didn’t have his heart in it anymore, thus their split shortly afterward.  

In the 1970s Lou Reed put out some great albums.  His debut, eponymous solo effort, in 1971, was a bomb, but, luckily, he kept at it and in 1972-73 he and David Bowie (who plays the sax on the end part of “Walk on the Wild Side” and sings back-up vocals on “Satellite of Love”) put together his first great solo masterpiece, Transformer.  

Not content to continue in the same vein, Reed took his time, spent a while around Europe and next came out with the stunningly personal, edgy masterwork, Berlin, which, when it came out, was greeted with terrible reviews and less-than-stellar sales.  Let’s face it – the critics who wrote about it just didn’t understand it and failed to appreciate the beauty of it.  

Fast forward about 30 years later and it’s considered one of the best albums of the 1970s.  A truly landmark album that was, like the VU, way ahead of its time – proved by the fact that it took so long for it to be fully appreciated.  “Caroline Says”, “Berlin”, “Oh Jim” and “Sad Song” are just a smattering of what is on this precious gem.  The live album that is the most well-known, Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal, recorded at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1974 featured, not only some VU classics:  a killer version of “Sweet Jane” and a 14 minute “Heroin” as well as a more electric, edgier “White Light/White Heat” and closes with “Rock and Roll”, it also features tunes from the just finished Berlin:  “Lady Day” – and, on later, re-released versions of Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal there are two other songs from Berlin:  “How Do You Think it Feels” and “Caroline Says I”.  

A couple years later, on Lou Reed Live, he really shines, doing a great “Vicious” (from Transformer) and my favorite version of “Oh Jim” that seamlessly goes right into “Sad Song” – “Oh Jim” is about 10 minutes long, with guitarist Steve Hunter doing a crazy-awesome solo”.  After hearing the live “Oh Jim/Sad Song” it’s hard to go back to the studio versions!  

The next great album was 1977’s Street Hassle, the title track of which is a tale of heroin addiction, depravity, all set against the backdrop of an unforgiving New York City – also, at the end of the title track you hear an uncredited Bruce Springsteen making a cameo, speaking a few lines and then fading back to New Jersey.  

Unfortunately nobody’s perfect and Lou made a few stinkers, but even they had their moments (New Sensations and Mistrial), but he came back in a huge way in 1989 with his seminal ode to his city, New York.  This album, as Reed even writes in the liner notes, is meant to be listened to in toto, in one sitting – its songs all go together and it’s true, the best way to enjoy New York is to listen to the whole album in one sitting.  

And don’t forget the relatively unknown works he put out in the latter 1970s:  Rock & Roll Heart, Growing Up in Public and The Blue Mask as well as a double-live album called Take No Prisoners, on which you can hear Lou at his most loaded, for example, on “Walk on the Wild Side”, in between verses he tends to ramble on in a stream-of-consciousness way.  One example that I can recall is when he breaks into this little tale about being at some party where he met Norman Mailer, who, says Reed, “had a drink in each hands and was asking me if I wanted to box with him.”  It’s kind of funny – an unvarnished live recording, as opposed your average live album, edited so as to take out all the stage banter, the between song tuning and/or changing of guitars and whatnot.  It’s kind of like having a bootleg.

Anyway, those were the days, weren’t they?  No matter what anyone says, the world is on a one-way arc and nothing even close to the crazy-wild great times of either the 1960s or 1970s will ever happen again.  Nowadays, everything has to be sponsored by some beer company or computer maker or phone carrier, etc.  Of course, this kind of money-money-money world we live in now, where economic news is front page news and (at least in the US) things that actually matter, such as events across the world like wars, resistance organizing, political unrest in countries other than the US, if at all, make it on page A26 or some back page.

Who knows, once all the sell-out baby boomers grow old and die off, maybe the now-adolescent generation can set things right and get priorities in order.

But, then again, that’s not really what Lou Reed was about – he wasn’t all political and about rising up, etc.  No, he was about self-expression and tolerance and holding on to what you’ve got now because people can suddenly die, things can change in a heartbeat and if you don’t take pleasure in the moment, pleasure in the ephemeral, the ethereal and stop worrying about materialistic nonsense, because when things do change and/or when you lose someone in your life, you need to have plenty of memories of the good times and, of course, pictures, letters and other tangible items help as holders of the good things they represent.

Anyway, thanks for all the great songs, the “don’t bother me” attitude toward fawning, phony hypocrites.  We’ll miss you!!!  There’s no one else that can ever take your place!

RIP, Lou Reed (1942-2013)

-KM

A Blissful Tide

Posted: October 26, 2013 in New Indie Music

Lonnie Holley

Keeping a Record of it

Dust-to-Digital Music

Review by Kent Manthie

Here’s one that needs to get into your music collection: the just-released follow-up to Holley’s debut, Just Before Music. Keeping a Record of it features tracks recorded in 2006, 2010 and 2011. Cole Alexander, from the Black Lips and Bradford Cox of Deerhunter both lent their musical chops to this album.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before I listened to Keeping a Record of it for the first time, not being familiar with Holley. I pulled it up, started it up and listened to it, with a puzzled feeling. I liked what I was hearing, but I just didn’t know what you’d call it. That doesn’t matter anyhow, because the best bands/artists don’t let themselves get put in a box. Think of Neil Young to see what I mean, or the diversity of styles and sounds that Bowie pulled off, up until his last great album, at least, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). So, actually, this no-genre style that Lonnie Holley had going was a plus to me. I always am impressed by artists/bands who aren’t derivative and don’t purposely (consciously or otherwise) try to sound like all the other bands who are in vogue at the time.

Anyway, getting back to the album at hand, Keeping a Record of it has an earthy quality to it. It’s a potpourri of R&B, folk, a little gospel, stirred in a pot, to which is added some avant-garde, jazz-laced surrealism. For instance, the opener, “Six Space Shuttles and 144,000 Elephants”, is a sparse song: it features Lonnie singing with just an electric piano accompanying him. Just those two sounds, input together, emit an output that’s a synergized, hypnotic artwork. “Six Space Shuttles…” weaves itself, seamlessly, into the next tune, “The Start of a River’s Run (One Drop)”, also very spartan, musically: this time Lonnie sings to the accompaniment of vibraphone. The 45 second “Making a Joyful Noise” is a spoken word rant, a sort-of mini sermon or something that precedes the album’s longest tune (13:36), “From the Other Side of the Pulpit”, which has a gospel edge to its bluesy, rambling jam session. It runs like a cryptic hymn of sorts. The album then closes with the title track, an instrumental, featuring more vibraphone licks, a syncopated rhythm structure – and really, that’s about it, as far as instrumentation goes. At the end of the tune, you hear some background voices that fill up some empty spaces and it helps take the song to a fitting end.

Sixty-Two year old Lonnie Holley has had quite a rough and tumble upbringing. In a recent interview with music writer Duncan Cooper, Holley recounted being “adopted into a whiskey house, locked up and beaten in the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children”, eventually finding sculpture to help him express his emotions and the demons which must have raged inside of him. No spring chicken, Holley. He’s had quite the life. Once he was old enough, he had already gotten the “art kick” and spent his time creating sculptures and other works of art.

His musical influences, while I can’t say for sure what they are, are reflected in his work: the bluesy feel, the R & B sound, that gospel flavor all mixed in with avant-garde hooks that have somehow been translated from his sculpting to his singing and songwriting. Although Holley has only just released his second CD at age 62, he certainly hasn’t been just pushing paper or stuck in a rotten, dead-end job all these years, granted, he must’ve had to work here and there, to make ends meet, but with this new artistic endeavor of his is a way to compile as well as juxtapose, all the experiences he’s been through, the places he’s been, the people with whom he’s interacted and it turns out that he certainly does have a knack for it. Keeping a Record of it is one hell of a great album. It bursts with energy and experience.

-KMLonnie Holley CD cover

L’Age D’or

Posted: October 23, 2013 in New Indie Music

Woodkid

Golden Age

Green United Music

Review by Kent Manthie

Here is something worth sitting up and paying attention to: Woodkid, the nom de plume of Lyon-born Yoann Lemoine. Born in 1983 in the Southern France town of Lyon, Lemoine was always a precocious, artistic kid. He eventually attended the Emile Cohl School, where he studied illustration and animation. After that he moved to London and attended Swindon College for a special screen printing process course. In 2004 Lemoine settled in Paris, where he currently calls home.

In 2005-06 he briefly worked with French filmmaker Luc Besson’s crew and worked on the project Arthur and the Invisibles. A year later he found himself working with a real up-and-coming filmmaker – Francis Ford Coppola’s brilliant daughter Sofia (Suicide Virgins, Somewhere and Lost in Translation). When Yoann worked with Coppola, he helped her with her film Marie Antoinette. For his part, Yoann directed a series of “roughs” for her.

Lemoine has also directed some music videos and still carries a strong interest in the film medium. Lately, however, he’s been focusing on his musical skills. Since 2011 he has released a series of singles and EPs. He also put out an EP a few years ago, Run Boy Run.

In between all this, Lemoine has used his cinematic skills to make videos for vapid popstars Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and someone named Lana del Rey as well as the Mystery Jets’ video “Dreaming of Another World”.

It’s a good thing that, as Woodkid, he has finally come out with a full-length CD, Golden Age. This album is a real iconoclastic work. It’s a unique piece of art. The baritone vocals are backed by classical music. In some cases it sounds like you’re about to enter into a symphony or sonata, but then he starts singing and – well, it actually works!

The first few songs have a heavy classical presence. The introductions to the songs start out with lush orchestrations, lovely strings, etc. Then he starts singing in a quiet way that complements the music nicely.

The opening track, “Run Boy Run” brings the listener into that classical aura and sets the stage for the album to come. Then “Ghosts Lights”, “Iron”, “Conquest of Spaces”, for example, are nice ethereal vocal sonatas.

Towards the end, the mood lightens a bit, almost to a post-classical, Gershwin-esque crooning that is good for a change-up so as not to weigh listeners down – songs like “Stabat Mater”, “The Shore” and the closer, “Falling”, which ends up the album quite nicely.

Anyway, if I were you, I’d keep an eye out for this slick Frenchman. No Daft Punk, he, Lemoine may cater to venal, yucky pop slop, but don’t let that impair your judgment of what his music is. Also – for those interested in seeing more of his cinema work, you can always Google him with the word “film” or “filmography” to see what comes up. Bon Appetit! -KMwoodkid-golden-age-cover

Lost in Space -YEA!!!

Posted: October 21, 2013 in New Indie Music

 

Celestial Shore

10xcelestial shore 10x cover

Stereogum Records

Review by Kent Manthie

This great, psychedelic noise & sludge-fest, 10x, by Celestial Shore is a diverse work of a few different milieux, But, in the end, the result is like a mighty tasty cocktail – one with quite a kick to it! The great work that has glued together 10x, put together a really brilliant work of joy. It’s got some really mind-blowing slow stuff that, suddenly lifts up into this rocketing jam for a few minutes and then they come back to earth and back to the theme of the tune at hand. This is what makes it so good to play in his band: he demands as much out of you, in fact, more than you, yourself could ever do.

At first, the opening cut, “Stairs Under Stars” and the second song “Valerie” as well as “Coming and Going” reminded me a little bit of Athens GA’s traveling circus act, of Montreal (BTW, that’s a compliment), the latter, “Coming and Going” marking a departure point, where Celestial Shore dive into a deeper part of the pool. But don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean to say that these guys are doing anything derivative. The things that reminded me of Kevin Barnes’s traveling psychodramas were the fast and frequent time changes and the kaleidoscopic atmospherics. When the album first started playing, of Montreal was the first thing that popped into my head. Only a coincidence, though, mind you, only a coincidence.

The latter tunes, “Rabbit Hole”, “Sleep”, which is really groovy, mind you, not to mention, oh hell, I’ll just run through ’em all – “Even After”, “Car Car” and the closer, “Swimmer’s Sinking Feeling”: they all have their own uniqueness as well as a collective fit that ties them together for a fabulous album, the kind that is best listened to in one sitting, such as a whole symphony or opera (but not as long!)

I wouldn’t ever deign to call it “dance music” but that certainly doesn’t mean one can’t get an infectious groove within and go from a mere tapping of the toes to working up a gyrating sweat on a dark, cavernous dance floor – no plastic discos here, please.
One other reason this is a great work to listen to, all in one setting is that the album itself clocks in at approximately 30 minutes, which, 15-20 years ago would be considered an “EP length” album. Nowadays, though, having gone through so many new indie releases, I’ve noticed that so many new bands are now, for one reason or another, keeping their albums terse. I remember back in the late 80s and the 90s, when the CD was the king of music media that a lot of CDs coming out by various rock bands – of various subgenres – were cutting discs that had 15-18 songs on them and since, with the “new” and longer format of compact discs, one could fit up to 75 minutes of music and most of the time they would! This whole phenomenon resulted in some mixed results. In a few cases there were some genius works that had over an hour of interesting orchestrations but in many others, the CDs that some not-as-inventive bands would just fill up this new, longer-format medium with as much stuff as they could – many had some good or even great tracks, but after what should’ve – for lots of these guys – been albums that were the same length as the old paradigm of 45 minute records because after about 9 or 10 tunes, they still had a lot of space to fill out so they’d take advantage of it and even if they didn’t have anything great to round them out, they did it anyway, which made for a LOT of overdone, self-indulgent introspection or grandstanding.

But with the rise of the iPod and other MP3 players, which can fit, in some cases, a whole CD collection, it seems that all of the former music media – vinyl, cassette tapes and even CDs (at least manufactured, store bought CDs) are obsolete, yet quaint and now we seem to have come full circle, back to a shorter form of album. EPs are 3 or 4 songs, running about 18 minutes or so and a full-length can be anywhere between 30 minutes and 45 minutes. But what has turned out is that now music aficionados can be a lot happier with the higher quality instead of the high quantity.

Speaking of Of Montreal, they do seem to be an exception to the shorter album lengths I mentioned – my favorite of Montreal album, Skeletal Lamping, is a bit over an hour in length. But it is one that really works out fantastically in that way.

Anyway, to get back to Celestial Shore: they are really something and I want to hear more. Listening to 10x was exciting, invigorating and a real rush that tells me all’s well in the indie world. There’s definitely no shortage of inventive geniuses who can really put some great sounds together.

Go to http://www.stereogum.com for information on Celestial Shore as well as the rest of Stereogum’s roster. You can get your copy of 10x from the website as well or you can check Amazon.com instead. Somehow, though, you really gotta check this out! -KM

The Hole With No End

Posted: October 21, 2013 in New Indie Music

Bottomless Pit

Shade Perennial

Comedy Minus One Records

Review by Kent Manthie

What can I say? These guys ROCK. Bottomless Pit’s latest work is being released on vinyl, but with a CD version for you people who, in a twist – 30 years ago most people still had turntables and CD players were less ubiquitous – actually, they’re actually sort of obsolete nowadays again, what with MP3 players and such, but you know what I mean.

Shade Perennial is the title of this LP. It’s a stripped down, no frills rock and roll animal jam that cuts like a razor. They do their best on the opening track, “Fleece”, to set the stage for what’s to come after. It’s got some carefully constructed chords and riffs that grab you by the lapels and scream into your face: “I WILL NOT BE IGNORED, DAMMIT!” Well, no, that, actually sounds too “metal”. Maybe the better metaphor would be to say that it’s a smack across the top of the head to get your attention. It really doesn’t even take that much if you’re listening to it for the sake of listening to it.

What gets me is the gritty and Neil Young/Crazy Horse-era distorted virtuosity that just doesn’t let up.

In case you’re not familiar with Bottomless Pit, a quick history lesson: Singer Tim Midyett and guitarist Andy Cohen were once members of Silkworm, another indie band who put out nine albums between 1987 and 2005. Drummer Chris Manfrim used to bang the skins for Seam and bassist Brian Orchard also plays with the band, 22.

There are so many songs I can pick from to point out highlights of Shade Perennial, but I have to mention “Null Set”, a tune on which the guitars get the spotlight, a big part of their sound. It’s not just blah-blah, sing-song guitaring but blistering, roaring and raw guitars that try to strangulate you, in a mental sort of way. “Full of Life” is a lyrically great tune, built on the lyrical emotings of Tim Midyett and, saving the best for last – which is apt, since it’s the last tune on the album, “Felt a Little Left” is an awesome, killer distorted, acetylene-hot jam that just whips one into a frenzy, hearing just how great it is. I can’t think of much more than the feedback/distortion/attitude, etc of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse period to compare it to. Maybe a tiny bit of Monster Magnet at their best or Dinosaur Jr.’s first three albums, after which they went way downhill (And, coincidentally, or not, Sebadoh burst forth as the epitome of “Lo-Fi” masterwork).

Since I’ve heard, over the years and I’m inclined to agree, that the whole vinyl vs. digital thing where vinyl wins is because with a mint condition vinyl record, played on a good turntable, you can hear, if you turn your stereo up really loud, a more concrete locomotion that is a little absent on the digital media. While a CD can give you certain extra volume (volume in this term, referring to weight, not the sound),etc., that is usually when an album is made to be a CD, rather than older stuff that was originally on vinyl and has been digitized for CDs, all the work that went into some of the more fantastic that came out in the late 60s and in the 70s (yes – there were a lot of really great stuff to come out in the 1970s-it wasn’t all Bee Gees, Disco and bland AOR crap). Get this album-either format!-KMBottomless Pit CD cover

Where My Bay-bay lives…

Posted: October 16, 2013 in New Indie Music

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

Stones Throw Records, 2013

Review by Kent Manthie

From the moment I started listening to this debut CD by Los Angeles duo Boardwalk, an eponymously titled affair, I was filled with visions of mellow, angelic, ethereal and, at times, melancholy images in my mind. Not unlike the dreamy pop of acts like Mazzy Star, the angel-voiced Julee Cruise and a whiff of the legendary Galaxy 500 – minus the psychedelic atmospheric somatic loveliness as well as the sound of legendary indie label, 4AD. The scene was the summer of 2012, the place: L.A. Mike Edge and Amber Quintero were introduced by mutual friends at a get-together. At that moment, the two were both working on separate projects – Mike doing some production work and Amber lending her dreamy-angel voice, backing up other indie projects, there was no denying that some creative spark was ignited that summer evening.

The big test came via an “impromptu” road trip that Mike and Amber took together, a spontaneous cruise up the coast. One great result to come out of that first “collaboration” was the song, “I’m Not Myself”, the first tune they wrote together. So, the road trip comes to an end, but, the experience itself was merely a beginning of a friendship and the start of Boardwalk. It took a small bit of time, what with Mike’s desire to focus on building the perfect sound. That is actually something that is harder than it may seem, at least in this day and age, what with the fact that just about everything’s been done by now. But the best bands or artists that come along and have staying power are those who understand this and, since, unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in Utah – hahaha) you’re going to have influences – conscious or otherwise. Different bands use their influences differently. Some, whom I won’t name here, can be myopic and not take the longview and take into account what they will be doing, etc., 10-20 years hence. The ones who break the mold or melt it and re-form it into something that contains subtle nuances that work on their own thing yet, simultaneously, drop little hints here and there that have a somewhat similar tone; on one hand, staking a claim on their newly developed creations and on the other hand, avoiding complete alienation by adding a few familiar sonic scenes.

This debut is a light, sunny day, vivid work of beauty that seamlessly goes from track to track, enveloping the listener into a trance that keeps you rapt all the way through this 34 minute, 10 song CD. The aforementioned, very first song they wrote together, “I’m Not Myself” is the album’s opener which is followed by the forlorn, dreamy “What’s Love”, which has a heavenly vibe to it, a reverb’ed twangy, slow guitar noodling, using the bottom, low strings. “Crying” is a bit more “upbeat”, it has a certain cross between the lovely pop tunes of the 1950s with a modern architecture to it.

Of course, I could go through each and every tune on Boardwalk and deconstruct it, but let’s just say that the whole album is great. It’s a meditative, translucent and wonderful beacon to isolate with.

The production and musical “sourcing” is the work of Mike, while Amber’s astral, spherical voice glosses over it all, making this a fabulously perfectionist debut. Besides being a disc to sit alone with your thoughts or trying to escape them, Boardwalk is a great album to put on if you have your boyfriend/girlfriend over for a romantic evening: a candlelight dinner, dim lights, a bottle of 1994 Rhone wine and this CD playing plaintively, as an ambient backdrop.

Boardwalk is set to hit the streets in mid-October, being released on the terrific indie label, Stones Throw Records. If you are lucky enough to have an independent record store in your area, since, as far as I know, pretty much all the corporate chain record stores have gone out of business – just like the falling away of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and most other video stores (except, again, for those independently run stores that specialize in hard-to-find titles, cult classics, etc.), the same has happened to once familiar names like Tower, Sam Goody and The Wherehouse; this was all due to the effect that online stores like Amazon.com have had on the music/book/DVD marketplace. Now that one can purchase just about any CD, book or DVD that you can think of, online and have it shipped straight to your mailbox, there’s really no need for overpriced record stores anymore – that is, except for the still-thriving independent stores – a couple examples: San Francisco has (or at least, had, back as recently as 2000) two locations of the very, very excellent Streetlight Records and one of the best indie record stores -period, whose anchor/flagship store is on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA, Amoeba Records – their store in Berkeley is HUGE – it’s a giant store with a huge abundance of music. Next door to the Amoeba store in Berkeley is Rasputin Records, another giant indie store which, like all indie stores buy and sell used CDs and DVDs as well. But in 1999 Amoeba finally decided to branch out and they opened up a second store in San Francisco, on Haight Street, just next door to the McDonald’s which is right at the end of Haight Street, where Stanyan Street forms a “T” and one in a car has to turn left or right because straight ahead is the beginning of Golden Gate Park. But then – and how fortuitously – after I’d been living in Los Angeles for about a year and had just moved into the Hollywood area, Amoeba opened up a third store in a perfect spot: right on Sunset & Vine.

So, if you have one oboardwalk cd coverf these gems in your town – or near where you live – you’ll probably be able to find Boardwalk’s debut in a month or so, otherwise, just go to Amazon.com – they seem to have EVERYTHING – whenever a particular title pops in my head – something I used to have years and years ago but lost along the way, or just something that I’d recently discovered, I just go to Amazon.com and type in the album title/artist and invariably it shows up as available (the way Amazon.com works is that you find what you’re looking for, see it, then click on the picture of the cover and you’ll see all the various copies available at the wide network of independent music stores around both the US and even one or two in the UK – so when you order this or that album (or book), you can read from where the product will come from, which is the reason that there is literally a virtually unlimited group of suppliers that always seem to have the one you’re looking for.

Anyway, getting back to Boardwalk, this breath of cool air, this dreamscape that washes over you like a gentle breeze is a welcome addition to this fall’s lineup of new releases: check it out! –KM

OUTSIDER MUSIC

Posted: October 13, 2013 in New Indie Music

Pat Todd and the Rank Outsiders

14th and Nowhere

Saustex Media

Review by Kent Manthie

Pat Todd shouldn’t be a stranger to those hard-core fans of the dark bar-band scene. From roughly 1984 all the way through 2004, The Lazy Cowgirls, Pat’s old band, was a Southern California sensation. The Lazy Cowgirls weren’t in the SST class of So-Cal hardcore/punk bands like Black Flag, Minutemen, Husker Du (who disdained the label “punk”-they called themselves “rock”, but that’s another story), etc. Think more of Social Distortion as a template: the sort of on-the-edge, hard-drinking, hard-living, early 1970s Rolling Stones sound (I know that sounds strange, throwing in a band from England, but really, by then, the Stones were closer to Americans than Brits).

14Th and Nowhere, their fifth album, follows up a roster of a group that hasn’t gotten stuck in a lazy sort of rut and put out the same thing over and over again. But, having matured and grown into a wider berth of output, the Rank Outsiders’ stuff also adds a tinge of Texas-style country to the So-Cal rock and roll. When I say “country”, I sure as hell am not talking about the syrupy, flag-waving crap you hear on the radio today, but real country, like it was made back in the 60s and early 70s by legends like Buck Owens, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. But as well, don’t expect to hear a replica of any of these guys. Their sound is purely their own and it’s more rock than anything else. The whole “country” part is stuck way in the background.

Listening to it, I get a mental picture of downtown L.A. at night, when the streets are deserted, not being anything like the Sunset Strip or over by 11th & Grand, etc., but rather, I’m thinking, like 4th-7th and Spring Streets, 5th & Los Angeles Ave or 3rd & Main. After about 6pm, the streets around there get very quiet, walking around there around 8 or 9 pm, it’s almost like walking around on a deserted movie set, made up to look like an urban area. Even the air has this feeling to it. Now, not too far from this part of the downtown area, in isolated spots in a few different parts of the DT area, there are great, small-ish clubs such as The Smell, The Mayan, Tatou or Karma. Those are a bit closer to Staples Center, around Broadway and in between, on side streets.

Some stand-out songs on 14th and Nowhere I noticed were “I Won’t Forgive You”, the title track, “Small Town Rock Ain’t Dead” and then, to spotlight one on which the Country licks show up, there’s “Known To Stumble/Known To Fall”. “You Sugar is All I Want” is a sexy rocker. Then, closing up this 15-song CD, the penultimate song, “One More Tank of Gas Revisited” is a straight-ahead, ass-kicking tune that has a slight country twinge to the vocals, but a rock-steady rhythm and a stripped down and raw musicality, like a bare bones, ’69 GTO. Then, to close out the album, “The Ambulance is Here” is an acoustic ditty that turns things down a notch or two. It’s kind of like an “end of the night” tune, the kind you put on at closing time, when people, after a hard night of drinking and dancing, full of sweat and liquor, are milling about, at first aimlessly, then eventually finding who they came in with and head towards the exit door.

This release is a marriage between Rankoutsider Records & Saustex Media. On the CD sleeve, I didn’t see Saustex mentioned, I only saw the Rankoutsider Records’ website listed. So, I would guess that Saustex are distributing this at the very least. I know it’s that at least because I received this CD straight from Saustex.

I wish I could fill up more with some history of the band, but to tell the truth, I’m brand new to these guys. But, like a lot of bands for whom I review for Saustex’s roster, I dug it from the get-go and like the whole attitude, the style and the music.

To get more information on the whole relationship between labels or to find out more about Pat Todd & The Rankoutsiders, check out Saustex’s website: http://www.saustex.com or go to Pat Todd & The Rankoutsiders website: http://www.rankoutsiderrecords.com.-KM.

pat todd and rankoutsiders cover

This Will Cure Yr ILLLS

Posted: October 13, 2013 in New Indie Music

ILLLS

Hideout From the Feeders

Aloe Music, 2013

Review by Kent Manthie

Steven Ross, based out of Oxford, Mississippi, is the main man of ILLLS. The interesting thing about the close-knit indie-rock music community in Oxford is that it’s not all about “Southern-Fried” rock. But then again, that stereotype has been sort of thrown to the wind, if you look at places like Athens, GA, the home of REM, who was once a great band; their last great album being the first release they recorded for a major label (Warner Bros. Records); up until then, REM were on I.R.S. Records, when they made some awesome music: Reckoning, Murmur, Fables of the Reconstruction making up their best efforts. Similarly, the B-52s made a few decent records in their early career, but really fell far, most likely, after the tragic death of guitarist and brother of singer Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson. In the here and now, Athens, GA has brought us the remarkable of Montreal, whose brand new release, Lousy With Sylvanbriar, just out on Polyvinyl Records, will be reviewed here, on INDEPENDENT REVIEW soon.

Well, that aside, I want to focus on the pleasing aura of music on Hideout From the Feeders. I started listening to this album from song one all the way through the end in one sitting and the whole thing was a seamlessly put together 10 songs. “Our Shadow” starts it out, which, not from any unique or jarring sounds, pricks up one’s ears and it keeps on going in that vein.

I wouldn’t say that Hideout… is a unique or archetypal album; there are definitely a few sounds that harken back to sounds of various bands and music that have come before. Not that it goes WAY back, like to the early times, where terms like “unique” were used in the way it’s supposed to be used – viz. there is no way to modify the word “unique” – you can’t say “very unique” or “more unique”, etc. Something is either unique or it isn’t. Unique means, literally, that there is nothing else like it, no matter what it is you’re assigning that descriptive.

Other songs on here like “Coma” as well as “Wales”, “Interlude” and the closing tune, “In the Woods” are good examples of the greatness of this albums.

About a year ago ILLLS released an EP that was on the now-defunct UK indie label, The Sounds of Sweet Nothing. Then, after a little change up in the band’s personnel, Steven got his stuff together ready for his moving up the ladder and what eventually became Hideout From the Feeders on Aloe Music. I really can’t write any opinion on that EP, not having heard it. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a great portent of things to come.

What really rings through Hideout… is the ringing guitars that shimmer throughout as well as 4AD-sounding, “hushed” tone vocals, but, of course, done by Americans (gee, I really miss those days, mostly in the 80s, of the fascinating music that came out of the wonderful English label, 4AD.

Now, that’s my take on it. Why don’t YOU go out and get a copy? If you are going to try to find it in a record store, well, thank goodness, nowadays, you’re only choice is to go to independent record stores, since all the chain record stores – Tower, Sam Goody, The Wherehouse and any other ones because of the rise of web-based stores such as Amazon.com, which counts on the aforementioned indie record stores to bring you, the music lover, just about anything you can think of. Whenever an album I used to have or have wanted to get for a while now that is a really obscure release and would be very hard to find at any of the former chain stores (except, maybe for Tower, which, I must admit, did have a good selection, unlike the other mentioned ones), I just go onto Amazon.com and type in the search area the album and artist/band that I’m looking for and 99 times out of 100 (at least) are there.

If you want to go somewhere else, I’d recommend CDBaby.com or Aloe Music’s website, which would be http://www.aloemusic.org –KM.

ILLLS CD cover

Kickass Buzz

Posted: October 9, 2013 in New Indie Music

Hickoids

Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit

Saustex Media

Review by Kent Manthie

Austin, TX’s Saustex Media has proudly just released the newest from South Texas legends, Hickoids, a band whose history goes way back to 1984. Their original “run” went from ’84 to 1991. It was in those heady days before technology and robots took over things, when there was still genuine spirit in the arts. But that’s another story…

Now, three albums into “Hickoids Version 2”, the long-awaited Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit has just hit the street. The Austin Chronicle observed, of Hickoids’ continuing adventures in music, that they’re “still as badass as ever”

The album starts out with a bang-up job on “Fruit Fly” a rowdy, beery, hazy rock, like a brick through a plate glass window. “TJ”, a “balls-to-the-wall blast” harkens back to the days of “version 1”, since, at least, the first bit of the tune was started back in the mid-late 1980s days, by singer/songwriter Jeff Smith, who was the primary songwriter back in the good old days; he’s also one of the links from the past to today’s Hickoids – the song was also written with Pepe Lopez of the Dallas-based Loco Gringos. The song keeps showing up in Hickoids live set list over the years and with that kind of practice, it’s finally been “put to bed” so to speak, sparking up the raw, pull-no-punches, kick-ass rocker that it is today.

Today’s Hickoids consists of the aforementioned singer, Jeff Smith, Tom “Tony” Truskovic on guitar, Davy Jones, also on guitar and vocals too, Rice Moorehead on bass and vocals and Lance “Slowpoke” Farley on Drums and percussion.

The music on Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit is made up of raw and gritty rock, some country-rockabilly hybrids and they add a bit of Tex-Mex spice here and there. Besides the opener, “Fruit Fly”, another real rocker is “Stop It, You’re Killing Me”, a guitar-heavy pistol that runs to just under seven minutes. “TJ” is a kind of mix of rock ‘n’ roll and country: Texas-style, that is. “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me” and “Cool Arrow” have more of a country vibe to it, but in a good way. What’s great about Hickoids is that they don’t sound dissonant or inconsistent by changing up their sounds, each tune is in just the right order and, fast or slow, they’re all smoking hot. In fact, some of the guitar licks are reminiscent of Greg Ginn’s pacing, sometimes frenetic grunge (Black Flag and SST Records founder Greg Ginn, I mean) and sometimes I’m reminded of the groovy pre-punk killer Stooges albums, like Funhouse, on which the jams just go on and on, seamlessly to the end. “The Working Man’s Friend” is a slowed down rocker, but don’t dare call it a ballad, because it isn’t close!

One thing that Hickoids have which a lot – or even most – bands who have the history they have, or even more, is that even though they’re in what one might call a “comeback” vein or, as was mentioned, “versionHairy Chafin' Ape Suit cover two”, they still have “it”. They are not washed up dudes who used to be great and now are only going through the motions in order to have an income, they still have their hearts in it and, though their lineup has changed a little since they first formed back in 1984, their new stuff is damn interesting and I would LOVE to see them play live at a club – some dark, smoky place, where people are jumping up and down, the drinks are being poured and once they hit the stage, I can see these guys wanting to play on and on – up to or maybe past closing time. They really have that moxie in them.

Besides having one of the best album titles I’ve heard in a long, long time (Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit), the CD cover is done well too: a must-see. With the demise of just about all chain record stores, the only places you can go are independent record stores nowadays – but that’s because of the internet-based ways of buying, such as Amazon.com and similar sites, but there’s also Saustex’s site, which I’d recommend visiting – you can get it through that too. Their URL is: www.saustex.com. Definitely a delight and worth the wait! Check it out! -KM.