Archive for November, 2013

Jack Wilkinson

Jackalope

Ocean Eyes Records

Review by Kent Manthie

Hailing from one of my least favorite places (sorry) – Salt Lake City. I once got stranded there for 3 days-no money, nothing to do, nowhere to hang out but one little square park in the center of downtown. This place is so squeaky clean, even the “slums” are nice. I suppose, though, if I had a wad of cash & wasn’t sick I might’ve been able to find something to do…Damn, EVERYTHING is closed in SLC on Sundays! Those Mormons really take their “sabbath” seriously! Whoa!

Enough about me, though. Jack Wilkinson – that’s the name on the CD that I received from Force Field – but, while looking him up for this review, on the web, I see that he’s actually a part of this band called Juan Wilde. Now, I don’t know which is which or if this is his solo CD or what? To be honest, I can’t find much at all on the ‘net about him or them. But I do have Jackalope to listen to. On Bandcamp.com it mentions Jack Wilkinson as the one with the album, but at the bottom it also mentions that “Juan Wilde is…” and lists six members including Jack and one Colton Nielson, who, I read, co-wrote a couple of the songs on Jackalope.

Wondering what to describe Jack as I see “tags” listed at the bottom of the Bandcamp page, which reads: blues/country/experimental/folk/free jazz/progressive/psychedelic/rock blues and Salt Lake City. I didn’t mistake any of the tunes for Ornette Coleman, so maybe this is more of a list of influences. What is “free” about the album is the associative talk between songs. The album starts off with a minute-long track called “The Dinner” which is just a group of people insanely bantering about during an ostensible dinner/dinner party. The music per se, though, I’d say does ring true to the blues. I suppose you could throw in the label “folk” as well. The penultimate song is, ironically (or not?) called “The Last Song”, which starts out in a folk setting, then speeds up a bit, adding electric guitar and a harder beat. The final tune is another minute-long tune, entitled “The Hunt”, which is, like “The Dinner”, not a “song” so much as a few dudes talking, it sounds as if they’re out in the wilderness, hunting for a “jackalope”, which, I suppose you could say, is the “theme” or “concept” of the album as it is something mentioned in other songs.

Speaking of the other songs – talking about the various genres they bend and twist together, “You Gave Me a Reason” is another folkie, which can’t really be pinned down as such, it has more of an ironic twist to it. “…Reason” goes right into “Lovin’ Machine”, which is a slick muted down rock tune, with some electric and acoustic guitars, a bluesy, ballsy vocal and, like a lot of this album, a free-form feel to it. They are indeed a loose-knit combo, but in the way a comedian can make it seem like anyone can be funny by telling jokes, when, in reality, a lot of work goes into the writing and timing, etc. On “B ‘n’ B” the band goes into a spiel that sounds as if they’re in a coffeehouse, being introduced and ready to go onstage. This stuff goes on for a bit throughout the next few songs. The irreverence on here is reminiscent of a Frank Zappa or a Loudon Wainwright III.

Ocean Eyes Records is the label that has released Jackalope. In the very near future, keep your eyes open for another band from the Ocean Eyes label – Fasba Fpel, who has a new album out that I’ll be reviewing very soon. Hope you understand what I’m writing here and enjoy. -KM.Jackalope cover

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Lost in a Groove

Posted: November 16, 2013 in New Indie Music

Makoto

Primitive EP

Apollo Records, 2013

Review by Kent Manthie

Makoto Shimizu, the fierce Samurai warrior of the electronica dance world is probably well-known for his terrific drum & bass kicks for LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking label, but with this new release, Primitive, an EP he just put out on Apollo Records, he shines on his own, with a range that extends beyond any one limiting pigeonhole. Electronic dance music, to be sure, but with the wide array of subgenres into which the electronica style has morphed, Makoto takes the drum & bass angle and expands on that theme into something of a muscular, beat-heavy, “gotta dance” vibe.

Way back in the 20th century; well, back in 1999 (that was still last century, technically), Makoto burst forth into the ears of the many with his ethereal singles “Far East” and “Enterprise” on the Good Looking Records label, alongside of some of his cohorts, Seba, Aquarius, Big Bud and Nookie, to name a few. In the intervening years Makoto’s gone on to enhance his sound and vision for some of the releases he’s done for various electro-indie labels, such as DJ Marky’s Innerground, Zinc’s Bingo Beats and now he’s gone and started up his own imprint, Human Elements.

Makoto takes, as a big influence, Ryuichi Sakamoto, the Japanese composer and front man for Yellow Magic Orchestra. From Sakamoto, Makoto’s embedded elements of texture and atmospherics as well as the structure of sounds and he takes his work very seriously, as does Sakamoto.

The result is a series of intricately layered tracks that cut to the bone. The five songs on Primitive go by quickly, so fast because they are seamlessly woven together into tracks uncluttered with extraneous noise. Each sound has its place here. The opening cut, “Primitve” features a sort of Brazilian jazz rhythm, that underscores the well-placed sharp bass lines; it also features some sampled horns and low-sounding synthesizers that are in the background. The whole of it can be summed up as an energetic call to the dance floor. I’ve heard it called “stripped down”, but I don’t get that at all. It’s got a moment where the rhythm pervades and encircles the listener’s ears, but after a short lull it inflates into a big moment and then goes down into a sparsely instrumentalized work – I wouldn’t call it “stripped down” at all – its funky drum & bass work are the perfect undercurrents for what’s layered above it. The Latin rhythms are really infectious grooves that you can’t resist and, to add even more flavor there’s a great little break in the middle where a keyboard comes in and noodles around for a bit, then gets gradually mixed out and comes back again to fill in gaps and such. Just as you’re getting into the groove of the title track, it starts to fade out and in steps “A Spiritual Thing” with its snappy snare and cymbal work at the beginning and after a – compartively – spare beginning, it opens up with a big sound: horns, keyboards, et al, all swirling around the main component which is that damned infectious drum & bass swirling around and around.

Things start to mellow out with the middle track, “Sapphire Eyes”. After the first two roiling, sweaty dance floor wonders, it chills out. “Sapphire Eyes” is a beauty, though. It’s a slowed down, dreamy, lush tune that has a sensual texture to it and makes for a nice bridge, a sexy mid-point. After “Sapphire Eyes”, “Planet-o” is another slower number. It moves away from the cascading club energy atmosphere of the first two tracks. Makoto seems to be trying something out on this cut; a Vangelis-like, new-age spirit envelops the mood and towards the end, is complemented with a laidback groovy guitar that noodles a bit in a smooth jazz feel and then fades out.

Rounding out the EP is “Ritual”, where things up a little, but never going back to the fiery opening two cuts. Of course, this is only a 23 minute EP, a pretty short showcase for someone like Makoto. You can’t expect five tracks that are all alike, for one thing and, unfortunately, there’s just not enough time to explore and evolve a theme. It would’ve been better had there been more time to develop a structure that comes full circle by the end. It’s as if, on Primitive, Makoto is unable to do this and gets cut off after a point, unable to make his way back, under the disco ball. But the mood of “Ritual” is effective. It’s a mellow, but funky dance number that, instead of working one up, takes you down, puts you back on your feet.

I do like what Primitive has to offer. I CMawould, though, like to hear an extended session of Makoto’s to be able to enjoy what musical galaxies he visits and to hear how he uses that expressive drum & bass technique, which is part of what makes this so damn infectious! If you’d like to explore more about Makoto or his fellow Apollo artists, check out www.rsrecords.com for more info (Apollo is a subsidiary of the Belgian R & S Records label). -KM.

The Beautiful Music Album

Posted: November 16, 2013 in New Indie Music

The Fucked Up Beat

Apparatus for Controlling the Mechanism of Floating Vessels

PickPack Netlabel

Review by Kent Manthie

A strange thing happened today – I was just going through the music on my music library when I happened upon an album that I’ve had for a time now, but, with the ton of other stuff I have as well, I’ve never gotten around to listening to it. But I can say that about a lot of the CDs I have on there – stuff I’ve gotten from labels or artists, things I’ve downloaded from the internet, or even CDs I checked out from the library and haven’t ever gone through.

This particular one sort of just caught my eye, for some reason, I can’t articulate it, but it was just a-grabbing at me – maybe it was the interesting artwork on the cover, maybe it was the name of the CD, or a combination of all of the things about it.

The band is The Fucked Up Beat, a self-described “Noir Trip-Hop” sound project by New Yorker Eddie Palmer and San Diegan Brett Zehner. The album’s title is Apparatus for Controlling the Mechanism of Vessels. At first, before I even hit the play button, I thought it was going to be one of those typical machine tool, noise and drone experiments, so I sort of braced myself for some angry beats and buzzing, crackling and crashing. Instead, though, I got a real surprise, for it was nothing like that at all. This is a beautiful album. The bulk of the tunes are made up of a piano – a regular acoustic piano, but one that’s been, as they say, “treated” or “prepared” – meaning it’s been worked over some to jibe with an electro-ambient atmosphere. That and the occasional far-off sounding drum, which in places, sounds like a basketball being dribbled across a gymnasium floor. If you want something to compare it to – especially the intricate piano musings, think of some of the more nightmarish, but quite muted, tunes by Nine Inch Nails – like say, the very end notes to “Closer” – when it’s just finishing and all the noise and pomp die off and you’re left with nothing but those closing notes played on the piano. It’s kind of like that – or to go further, think of the more mature Trent Reznor, when he did that double CD, Ghosts with Atticus Ross, with whom he also did the score for that film that was a transparently fictional biopic of Facebook founder Zuckerberg, The Social Network. I was stunned when it won all that critical praise (and didn’t it win some Oscar for something? I think the score might’ve one for Best Score, but I thought it might’ve won like Best Screenplay or Best Picture, which would’ve really blown me away, since, even though I’ve not seen it, doesn’t seem like that deep a picture. But that’s the Academy for you.

Anyway, getting back to the album in question: every song on this CD is a pure pleasure to the senses. It is mostly just that piano; here and there are a few ambient samples: street noises, a far-off voice, saying something that’s too far away to be understood, and the muted beat that pops up on a couple tunes. It’s for the times when you are stressed or wound up to tightly and need a come down. This will put your brain in a nice, warm place; a soothing, relaxing chill-out that is, on the same level, just slightly ominous, vaguely menacing, but never comes to anything. The opener, “Apparatus of Control” sets the mood for the rest of the album. If you’ve not heard this before or aren’t familiar with The Fucked Up Beat, you might not know what to expect. So you continue on, expecting, at some point to be pounded, figuratively, with a hammer, sonically speaking, but that never comes to fruition. After the first track, it goes into “Trapdoor to Escape Floods”, “Biorhythm (a Love Letter for Anonymous)” and other songs that all have a single thread they follow – not that it’s all the same or one long take on the same exact thing, but in a way, it does bear resemblance to a sort of conceptual framework that keeps on in the same musical structure.

What really juxtaposes the album are the song titles to the music therein: for example, further into the album, a few more song titles include “A Good Day for Raising Ships”, “Disaster Porn: The Nihilist Myth of Collapse” and “The Slow Death of Irony”, which is a song title that is fitting to this difference between the hardcore-sounding song titles and the soft, pure melodies from which they emanate. The closing track on Apparatus for Controlling the Mechanism of Floating Vessels is called “Come Back to New Orleans”, a sort of good-bye song, in which the message is a plea for a close one to return to a special place.

Well, that pretty much sums up Apparatus… I know it’s not a brand new release, having come out in 2012, but I’d bet that it’s still not a household name and I’d love to make it one. It’s calming, soothing effect is even reminiscent of classical piano sonatas from back in the day, maybe think Debussy or Satie or Penderecki, the latter of which, tFucked Up Beat Apparatus coverhough, indeed was an experimental source of new sounds and early Avant-Garde.

I’m just glad to be able to introduce you to such a mesmerizing soundscape that lacks a tight grounding and instead just sort of floats around, its meandering piano, emitting a faint light that doesn’t flicker. Hope you enjoy. Oh, and to find out more about this happening project, along with a few other like-minded works, check ’em out at Bandcamp. In fact, you can go straight to The Fucked Up Beat’s page by typing in the URL: www.thefuckedupbeat.bandcamp.com which will bring you right to the page where this album is available for download at the inexpensive price of $5.00. Also available through that page are a few of The Fucked Up Beat’s previous CDs, including A Bomb Shelter in Kansas, The Situationists, Hunting a Schizophrenic Wolf among others. In fact, the previous three I just mentioned are actually newer than the one being reviewed here. But, I’d say, that, for the uninitiated, Apparatus… is a good place as any to start. Pleasant dreams and happy listening! -KM.

Chuzausen

Awesome is Grey

Enough Records, 2013

Review by Kent Manthie

Chuzausen is a minimalistic-electro beat-heavy wig-out warp factor from Madrid (Spain). Their latest CD, Awesome is Grey is a seven-track album of instrumental, computer-mad science. These guys really are comfortable looping around in the studio and combining elements of a variety of “electronica” sub-genres. “Evil Penguin” is an interesting track – it starts off with a disembodied voice, making an announcement, almost a sort of recorded diary: it starts off with him stating “Near the end of October/Business is treasured [?]/War scare was over/More men were back at work/Sales were picking up/This particular evening, October 30th/Crosby Services estimated that 32 million people/were listening in on radios; and it goes on from there, with other voices chiming in, until ther’s a cacophony of talking, a nonsensical, almost, rambling, too many talking at once to pick up any particular point. Behind all this, from about 10 seconds in is a beat that repetitively drones on under the speaking. Then strange sounds emerge while desperate people are getting agitated. Then, suddenly, at about 1:15 or so, the song takes off, the full sonic treatment gets underway, a real dance mode, with synthesizers, drum machines, guitar and bass that all play in a perfect synch.

This is a good example of the album. The opening cut, “Golden Tales” is a kind of Middle-Eastern sounding tune – a sort of Sufi feel to it, mixed in with French discotheque standards – a soundtrack to a Whirling Dervish party remixed to add some Western bells & whistles in there. Think Beirut, you’re at a downtown Beirut nightclub late at night and the music’s thumping & bumping. It’s that kind of feel one gets from Chuzausen: an international nightclub scene that has inventive DJs who aren’t wedded to any one style. This is as opposed to American nightclubs, where they play all the same mixes and remixes all the time. Being from Madrid, Chuzausen comes from a different plane of existence than the typical American electronic mixmasters. It just goes to show you that music and good times and the sweaty late night dancing that pull them all together doesn’t recognize borders or ethnicities, except as indicated by the style of this or that catchy hook in a cut. The whole world could be a much better, more chilled out place if we got rid of stuffy old men running things – the foreign policies of countries, which usually means doing what the U.S. tells them what to do and how to keep American govt.’s hands off of whatever machinations they’re up to. All of this is really disingenuous, since it’s no secret what’s going on. No matter how “quiet” the spooks in the CIA or whomever, try to keep things, the people in these so-called “developing market economies” as they’re labeled for financial, investor purposes.

Awesome is Grey musicaChuzausen-AwesomeIsGrey2013-150x150lly denotes this kind of youthful exuberance that’s been sweeping nightclubs and discotheques the world over – where one can show up at 2 in the morning and dance until dawn to remixes and songs of all varieties – this is one of the few arenas where chauvinism – whether it be nationalistic chauvinism, religious and/or ethnic tensions, once you get inside that dark club it’s all washed away and for a few hours you and your fellow patrons are just fun-loving people. People whose identities don’t matter and for those brief times each night.

So, I’d recommend not only getting a copy of Awesome is Grey for your own collection, but think of it as a tool for the disaffected youth of the world – it is a tool in the arsenal for the incoming generations to use to say “screw the old system of hate and deterrence and threat and let’s let it all hang out. Soon enough, after a new awakening, the stolid bigotry and xenophobia will come tumbling down. Until then – KEEP ON DANCIN’! -KM.

80s Dance Party!!!

Posted: November 14, 2013 in New Indie Music

Body Parts

Fire Dream

Father/Daughter Records

Review by Kent Manthie

Hailing from Los Angles, Body Parts have just released their debut album, Fire Dream on Father/Daughter Records. I’ve heard their style of music described as “experimental pop”, which, I suppose could be a fair summation. But, where the “experimental” part comes from, I don’t know.

The most striking thing about Fire Dream is Body Parts’ use of a particular use of a 1980s-inspired New Wave sound. Think Human League, Ultravox, etc. While coasting on a wave of nostalgia for the “me” decade, Body Parts do seem to end up with a slick, catchy and groovy album.

The duo that is the core of Body Parts are singers Ryder Bach and Alina Cutruno, who, besides writing songs and playing guitar, bring their extensive love and experience of the theater to bear, especially to their live shows, which are enhanced by their knowledge of staging and setting. They are rounded out by the rhythm section of Raymond Proudfoot and Taylor Dexter, on bass and drums, respectively. The most recent addition to Body Parts is Derek Coburn who sparks things up with his synthesizer and keyboard playing.

Besides the aforementioned bands, Body Parts has a complex set of influences that show up now and again throughout the album. When I think of the 80s bands of whom they remind me, I think of the best of those mentioned – i.e., Duran Duran is another example of the sound that comes through, but not the syrupy latter stuff of theirs. No, I have in mind their earliest work, mostly from their first, eponymous debut and, as for the Human League, I have in mind the stuff of theirs that you wouldn’t remember from the radio or MTV – no, they take the best of these New Wave pioneers and build onto what they’ve gotten from them. Body Parts are certainly not a copycat band, but a talented, almost British-sounding band. They are awash in beautiful melodies that make full use of the synthesizers and keyboards that Derek Coburn brings to bear, almost, but not entirely, enveloping the guitar, which is played with great alacrity by Bach, who also, with his golden voice, really delivers a vivacious, mellifluous tonal clarity that, all through the album, keeps reminding me of someone from one of those early 80s New Wave bands, a bit like Midge Ure, but with a slightly higher pitch and as hard as I try to remember, I just cannot recall who it is he reminds me of.

Anyway, the songs on here all flow together in a great sequence of continuity and some worth mentioning include, “Be a God”, “Unavoidable Things”, “You Inside My Head” and the closer, “Wash Over Me”, all of which are part of a deliciously gorgeous sounding CD.

For those whose interest I piqued, I’d send you to www.bodypartsband.com. Check out their bio and also, one can purchase the CD there as well. -KM.  body parts

Prehistoric Grooves

Posted: November 9, 2013 in New Indie Music

Mount Eerie

Pre-Human Ideas

P.W. Elverum & Sons, Inc., 2013

Review by Kent Manthie

Coming out November 12th, on his new label, P.W. Elverum & Sons, Phil Elverum and his band Mount Eerie has released Pre-Human Ideas, an album that contains previously recorded tracks that appeared on two CDs released last year, Clear Moon and Ocean Roar.

The thing about Pre-Human Ideas, though, is that, although they’re not “new” songs, per se, they have been re-recorded, for one reason or another. Another different thing, for those of you who are part of the cult following that’s built up around Phil, you’ll notice that on the cover of Pre-Human Ideas instead of the usual abstract artwork or creative picture(s) that adorn the front has been changed this time to just a cover featuring a photograph of Phil and his computer. In a sense, I guess this picture may say something as well – that with this re-working of the songs from his albums from last year, he has done them over with the help of electronic tools, such as computers and synthesizers, et cetera.

Phil Elverum is definitely an interesting guy – besides the two CDs that he released last year, he also put out a 7” single on which the “A” side features all songs from Clear Moon, mixed all mashed-up, one on top of another, on top of another and so on, with the end result being a really wild cacophonous sonic experiment. Side “B” was the same thing, except the experiment was done with all the songs from the other album from 2012, Ocean Roar (or was it vice versa? -meaning Ocean Roar on side “A” and Clear Moon on side “B”? – I don’t want to have to come back and edit this later on upon finding out I got the information about the sides mixed up).

Anyway, back to Pre-Human Ideas: This is a smooth, mellow, electronic ride. Me, personally, I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing his previous work so I cannot compare this re-worked package to the original recordings, but just from listening to it and from what I’ve read about it on several musical sites and whatnot, I can only guess that this album takes the tunes from last year and electrifies them.

Apparently, according to various press releases and things, Pre-Human Ideas started out as “exploratory and instructional demos” meant to help teach the tunes to various incarnations of his touring bands. The album ultimately, though, expanded to a full-fledged CD that included crazy pitch-shifted and auto-tuned vocals, which really gives a touch of glass-like fragility to the CD. Phil’s voice, on the CD comes off as alien and unfamiliar with the electronic vibe. The electronic voice, at times transits between a feminine, robotic, sotto voce sound and a raspy voice that makes you think of cigarettes. Another change here is that many of the tunes have been stripped down, pared of excess baggage and minimalized, which gives it a different feel from what must have been a more humanistic feel on the originals.

Some of the re-done tunes that became familiar favorites to the faithful, including “House Shape”, “Lone Bell” and “The Place Lives” have become re-worked into something brand new but at the same time they should capture the minds of those who loved the originals. The final song on Pre-Human Ideas, “ORGANS (The Place Lives)”, a 2:38 instrumental tune, on this CD, made into an almost ominous, melancholy song has been stripped of all pretense and cover-up in order to do just what I mentioned: stand out starkly, bare and haunting. It is a perfect way to close out an album which is delightfully and wonderfully different from your average rock album. Then again, I find myself writing that same thing more and more these days – the fact that the album in question has a unique sensibility about it that doesn’t lend itself to comparisons to other bands or songwriters. This is a really promising sign, the fact that more and more these days, of the various new indie music CDs that I’ve been receiving for review, a lot of them either have gone in their own special, wholly original direction (well, it’s never quite wholly original: every artist, whatever the medium is: painting, sculpture, writing [prose/poetry/plays, etc.] or music, always has influences of some sort, it’s what he does with them and how he incorporates them into his work that make the difference).

For a preview of a song or two from the album, go to Soundcloud, where there’s at least one song that’s available for a listen – “Lone Bell”. And, if you get the chance, get the album! –KM.prehumanideas620

Post-Post-Post Punk Pioneer

Posted: November 7, 2013 in New Indie Music

Vex Ruffin

Vex Ruffin

Stones Throw Records

Review by Kent Manthie

Vex Ruffin, an “untrained punk musician”, which is what I keep reading on the web, in regard to what he’s all about. However, his music seems more deeply rooted than that. I’ve heard him called hip-hop as well, but I believe that neither label fit his unique style.

On his new, self-titled album for Stones Throw Records which comes out next week, Vex shows off this minimalist, drone, technique with dope beats and a panoply of instruments and sounds.

This 12-song CD is a pleasure to listen to. The music has a cerebral touch to it that opens up your mind and spills out the extra baggage until you can focus on the here-and-now. The fact that he is “untrained”, at least in typical musical instruments, such as piano or guitar, etc. doesn’t affect the outcome of this lovely record. It’s a mishmash of electronic equipment – synths, drum machine and a bass guitar thrown in for good measure.

The album opens up with “Living for the Future”, which is quite minimalistic, but in an inviting sort of way that piques one’s interest and, after listening on to more of it, you’ll find that it has a groovy edge to it. The beats on here are a real driving force that keeps the whole project going. “Prime of my Life” is a tad more upbeat, but still in that same funk-flavored minimalistic force that has a punk sneer to it. It goes on this way for a few more tunes until you get to “Be the Man” which really brings out the punk side of Vex more than the previous. His singing on “Be the Man” as well as the guitar noodling and railing set to a simple 4/4 drum beat reminds me of Throbbing Gristle on 20 Jazz Funk Greats. Listening to that one evoked T.G. right away. Then, after “Be the Man”, he continues the punk escapades with “Need More Followers” a song that sounds like someone who really wants to be loved and admired, not to detract from it, just an observation, mind you. It could be completely facetious too.

“Down in the Basement” sounds like he’s in the basement with a homemade percussion kit and a bass guitar, singing about being down in his basement.

It seems as if the further the album gets on, the more experimental, punk-inspired is Vex’s continuum. I must say that I find this review easy to write since the material on which I’m writing is so easy to like and has an easy way to describe and articulate.

Yes, besides the “dope beats” on the first couple of tunes, I fail to see the connection to hip-hop. Like I said, the further you get into Vex Ruffin, the more his punk roots show up, although, it isn’t punk rock that he’s playing. This is more like “post-post-punk”, something that could be compared to Bauhaus or Joy Division at their rawest live performances. “Won Day” is a perfect example of this. It’s dissonance really shines and one can’t get enough of this stuff. I’ve only listened to this album once, so far and I love it already. There is definitely nothing happening in the rock scene these days to compare. That is probably where Ruffin’s “untrained” musical sensibility comes to be a boon. He makes sounds that coincide with what’s in his head about what his music should be, in other words, he doesn’t have any preconceived notions about what one is supposed to do with one’s musical ability. “Forget It” is a bit of a departure from some of the previous, darker tunes on Vex Ruffin but is that bad? I think not. It just shows that he has a sense of not doing the same thing over and over again and trying to keep listeners guessing as to what’s coming next. It’s not hokey or a pop-style song – nothing could be further from the truth. “Forget It” is just like the rest of the album – it’s an experiment. A work in progress.

The album ends with a song called “Ruined”, a mellow, chill-out tune that has a twangy guitar sampled from a semi-scratchy LP and sampled so as to vary its tonalities; up and down. Not a big dip, but a quirky sound that is set perfectly to a lounge lizard crooner’s delight. It’s the perfect end for a great album.

Of all the stuff that’s been coming out of the woodwork lately, I definitely have to say that Vex Ruffin is an album that stands up and demands to be paid attention to. From its cartoonish album cover that catches the eye to the songs that all sound delicious. This is another album that will make my short list of the best releases of 2013. –KMvex-ruffin_12

United We’re Green

Posted: November 7, 2013 in New Indie Music

Woodkid

Woodkid

Green United Music

Review by Kent Manthie

Here is something worth sitting up and paying attention to:  the eponymous CD of  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.  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

Back to Brilliance

Posted: November 3, 2013 in New Indie Music

Of Montreal

Lousy With Sylvanbriar

Polyvinyl Records, 2013

Review by Kent Manthie

Kevin Barnes & Co. are back. This time with a new, mellowed down CD, entitled Lousy With Sylvanbriar. The tunes are smooth, groovy, laid back, a slight change from the whimsical wildness of Skeletal Lamping, or Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer. Still, though, there is a lot of the core of what O.M. is all about – many time changes, the same creative crucible of dada style lyrics and a wild self-expression.

The song “Belle Grade Missionaries”, for instance, is a catchy, toe-tapping, sing-along. It still has the typical surrealist lyrics and circus-like atmospherics that are the essence that of Montreal stand by. There are guitars and an organ featured very well on “Belle Grade Missionaries”, it fades out at the end with a sexy Rickenbacker-like guitar solo, with an undercurrent of an organ shimmering in the background.

After this one, “Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit” is a down-tempo, quiet yet (in of Montreal’s own way), it’s got its own complexities. What I mean is that it’s not just Kevin singing and playing an acoustic guitar or a piano, but a panoply of instruments chiming in and out, such as a cello, organ, synthesizers and other various cosmic sounds. “Colossus” is also a little on the mellow side, but not syrupy or hokey, but, as with the album in general, a unique, psychedelic-tinged album. It’s nice to see that of Montreal has not remained static in their musical output. Just for example, look back to 2004’s Satanic Panic in the Attic through the album that saw them shifting into a more whimsical outfit, Sunlandic Twins, in 2005, through their funky, musical interpretation of Magritte, Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer? (2007), which was followed by an EP also released in 2007, Icons Abstract Thee, which was a continuation of the ecstasy-filled romp of Hissing Fauna… Then with the release of 2008’s Skeletal Lamping, a sexually charged escapade of kaleidoscopic proportions of Montreal seemed to have hit their peak. I say “peak” because False Priest, which, when I first received it I enjoyed all right, but it didn’t take too long for it to, so to speak, run out of steam. It had its moments, but I think False Priest was made under impossible circumstances, such as, maybe they were trying too hard to come up with something that could top the theatrical, androgynous album that really spoke to a generation of youth who were alienated, felt trapped in a box and who detested labels of any kind. Not only that, but it was one hell of a great album, musically. It was completely unique and there was nothing to whom I could compare it to. Also, who knows, what was going on, personally, in the lives of Kevin Barnes and other band members, stuff that can affect artistic creativity and the sense of being on the cutting edge. Anyway, after False Priest came and went, of Montreal put out an EP in 2011, thecontrollersphere which was a sort of apology for the downer of False Priest, but which didn’t get very much notice, although it was a brilliant, yet short re-tooling of their “sound”.

Last year (2012) of Montreal put out Paralytic Stalks, which did produce a “hit” of sorts, “Dour Percentage”, which made its rounds on “modern rock” radio stations and then disappeared as quickly. I even remember seeing them as the musical guest on Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show, performing “Dour Percentage”. I must admit, that,while Paralytic Stalks had it’s moments, it, too, wasn’t a great album. After this album had been out for a time, it really didn’t click with me the way the three albums after Satanic Panic in the Attic came out (Hissing Fauna…, Icons Abstract Thee (EP) and Skeletal Lamping) did.

But now, with the release of Lousy With Sylvanbriar, of Montreal redeemed themselves with a great album, one that, indeed, was catchy and captivating, from beginning to end. Songs like “Amphibian Days”, “Triumph of Disintegration” and “Raindrop in my Skull” are just a few samples of the great, seamless way this album erases the mistakes of the past but it doesn’t go backwards, to recapture the greatness of those mid-career days, but it takes the good elements of them and adds present and future sounds that are brilliantly put together and by the end of the album, you’re just not ready for it to end.

Now that we have this great new album out to celebrate, I can put Skeletal Lamping away for a bit, while I focus on Lousy With Sylvanbriar, which will have my full attention for a time. -KM.

Lousy with Sylvanbriar Cover - of Montreal

One CD, Many sounds

Posted: November 1, 2013 in New Indie Music

Various Artists

I Need You Bad!

Polyvinyl Records Sampler

Review by Kent Manthie

This, the latest Polyvinyl Records compilation sampler, I Need You Bad! was put together by Sonny Smith of Sonny and the Sunsets. I Need You Bad! is a 15-song sampling of great pop-rock tunes. 15 different bands/singers, including one selection by Sonny and the Sunsets, “Those Drawings I Told You About”. Also included on here are tunes by Pure Bliss “Thine Eyes”, Cool Ghouls “Hot Summer”, Chris Cohen “Open Theme” and a beautiful reverb deluxe tune by The Sandwitches “Sun in Rain”, which is one of my favorites – just a gorgeous voice and a guitar played via a high-reverb amp setting (or effects pedal). The song reminds me a bit of the old, 1960s Fleetwood Mac – back when they were a really good band – 4 lads from England, singing white blues (later 5 members, with the addition of Danny Kirwan, a year after they’re 1967 debut). It really makes me think of Fleetwood Mac’s great 1969 work, Then Play On, a very hypnotic, albeit, blues-based record which shows them moving from a Bluesbreakers-type blues band to a more psychedelic-blues mixture. The only difference is that instead of Peter Green singing, The Sandwitches are made up of singers/songwriters Grace Cooper and Heidi Alexander, on guitars and Roxy Brodeur on drums. The blissful vocals on this tune is very catchy and makes me want to get a copy of an album of their own material, like their debut CD, How to Make Ambient Sadcake.

I Need You Bad! focuses on a lot of new bands on the Chicago-based Polyvinyl Records. Every year or two PVR comes up with a new compilation album, full of fresh, new music. Bands that are ready to break out and get some notice. This new one is a treat – as I mentioned, the CD is full of mellow, pop-rock tunes that ring, chime and make one swoon. It also shows that Sonny Smith did a great job putting these tunes together and did it with great continuity.

If you are interested and want to get yourself a copy, go to the Polyvinyl Records website, at www.polyvinylrecords.com. Not only will you be able to get this CD, you’ll also be able to check out the wide array of great indie artists that are on their roster. Happy Listening! -KM.

I Need You Bad