The Silence Industry
Brother Sing, Sister Shout
Enough Records, 2014
Review by Kent Manthie
Starting in 2007, Canadian rocker Graham J started up The Silence Industry. It’s a bit more than a one-man band, however. While Graham is the frontman, the one pillar around which others rotate – a revolving door of sorts, of musicians that show up on different recordings they’ve made in the nearly seven years The Silence Industry have been going at it. Their new CD, Brother Sing, Sister Shout is a seven-song melange of not-quite-goth, steady rock that reminded me a little of some 80s underground-ish bands such as The Cult, sans the shrill voice of Ian Astbury, or a less torpid Sisters of Mercy crossed with Christian Death, but with the nihilism turned down a couple notches.
According to Graham, it is not their intention to fit into any particular genre and he eschews labels that pigeonhole the band’s sound, which limits the reach they are capable of due to expectations that, when crossed or unmet, can break one’s fanbase. Instead, The Silence Industry are keen observers of the (music) world around them, which helps them steer clear of certain paths to ignominy.
Some of their recent albums include 2011’s Permanent Crisis, 2010’s The Teeth of Tomorrow and The Edge of Illusion which came out in 2009. The appeal on all their work is exactly the anti-genre stance they take toward their work, which keeps their fans in suspense, always eager to see what the next album brings. Now, of course, they aren’t completely without some sort of boundaries or a stability of their nature: you won’t hear a jazz record one year and the next a dance record, a la House music, with DJs and the like. But if they feel like toning down the goth and bringing in a mysteriousness one or jumping between a subset of flavors that is what they do.
On Brother Sing, Sister Shout they take us back to Manchester, circa 1984: goth with a bullet. It took a couple listens, but I got it eventually. On the first track, “Brother Sing, Sister Shout (We Shout Together)” Graham and co. set the scene: a beat-heavy blackness with an outer space ethereality that doesn’t hurry. One of the aspects that is a plus is the lengthy fermentation of each song. The average time being about 7 minutes, where one song may be 6 ½ minutes, another 8 minutes or 7:50, etc. The shortest tune on here is actually listed as a “bonus track”, the 4:00 “Beneath a Sinking Sky”. Bonus or not, it still is the right note on which to fade out.
This is definitely a case of the more you listen the more you pick up and appreciate. Too often, there are albums that have certain hooks and catchy riffs that pique one’s interest at first, but after too much repetition, will lose their appeal. With The Silence Industry, the fact that they aren’t stuck in a particular box in the first place, thus giving them plenty of room with which to experiment, the repeated listening of this, the latest album, Brother Sing, Sister Shout, brings up more and more enjoyability. The aforementioned title track as well as the following cut, “Your Skin, Celestial”, “Against the Gods” and “Breakin’ the Law of Value” all have a pull, a kind of tonal gravity that keeps getting stronger until you get caught in its orbit. That and the already described prolonged space of each tune exercise one’s imagination and the unfilled spaces eventually are colored in. There is a great bass streak through here that anchors nicely the atmosphere through which they go, such as on “Against the Gods”.
I’m not sure how closely this lineup of musicians goes with the new album, but The Silence Industry, in the past, has consisted of the guitar work of both Graham J and one called Laura; Hyuma does “some bass” (which leads me to believe that it’s Graham J, the leader, who fills in his own gaps by adding his talents where necessary). Then there is also Josh, who is, likewise, accorded the tag “some…” by pointing out he adds “some noise and synths”. Reading into this, it tells me that Graham J is in full control of his band and it really is his own direction that the band takes, but I’d imagine suggestions are welcome.
In the end, it really is a blissful album. A nod to the goth pioneers of earlier times with a hint of rock to it, but never in an “over-Americanized” rock. When I think of “Behind Plastic Eyes” I remember how it mesmerizes and emits warm jets of an alien atmosphere through its lovely bass-anchored, beat-heavy, slowed down, emotive peal. “We are the Final Crisis (a Remembrance)” is a song that, possibly, was meant as the real finale to Brother Sing, Sister Shout, if “Beneath a Sinking Sky” is indeed a bonus track that somehow made it onto the copy which I received. Whatever is the case, I do think that the latter is and should be the real closing track, since it has a difference from what came before, by being more sparse, a tad melancholy and shorter: only (as I wrote) four minutes, which would be the way to take one out and snap the fingers to end the trance. -KM.
Archive for February, 2014
The Silence Industry
Enough Records, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
This EP, Third Arm, by Poeticat, has a ragged, rough edge to it. What hit me at first was the Tool-esque (for lack of a better comparison) rugged bass line that underlies the song and, at first, was a force majeur that got the album off to a good start. But don’t let me mislead you, Poeticat IS NOT a Tool sound-alike. Not at all. They have an idiosyncratic style that is interesting to experience- frenetic time changes that come and go and go up and down, etc. Besides the bass being a heavy, stainless steel anchor that…well, anchors it, the guitars come in fast and furiously. A screaming, not-cacophonous steel-tinged power, expressionistic in its noodlings. Towards the end of the opening, title track, it starts getting really frenzied right before the end. Then, as if speeding down a straightaway in a car, the song slows down as the car does when the brakes are applied and you hear it winding down to a halt.
Unfortunately, right now, “Third Arm” is the only single that is available right now. Something is amiss with trying to download the whole EP. Maybe it’s just not available yet – it could be as simple as that. But, I get, from just listening to “Third Arm” a good impression that will hopefully bode well for the remainder of the EP. I really am anxious to listen to the rest of it. All I can say right now, is that if you like your music loud; ear-piercingly loud, then you will like Poeticat. Forget I wrote anything about Tool. The only time I really thought of Tool was when I heard that familiar rumbling bass line. Other than that, Poeticat has an imaginative sound all their own that has the potential for being the next band to show up on people’s t-shirts all over the country.
The music’s a bit more to the metal side than Tool, but definitely not as obnoxious as the here-today-gone-tomorrow aspect of bands like Korn and the death-metal KISS lookalike, Slipknot, who were big on style but shallow on substance. Maybe Pigface and Ministry, combined with a lack of drug problems – at least noticeable drug problems that lead to musical messiness.
Anyway, do be on the lookout for Poeticat’s Third Arm EP. It’s either here now or coming soon. Check out Soundcloud, Facebook or even, possibly, Amazon.com for information on where to get it. OK? Enjoy it and turn it up, dude! -KM.
Review by Kent Manthie
There I was. A-wandering off the path of “normal” (again) when I came across Calavera, a new album by Viktar Siamashka, this groovy cat, about which I knew zero. Of course, that’s no reason to ignore what may be the album of the century or may be just noise and trash (and not in the good way). Either way, I hit “play” and passively sat back to hear what was ahead of me.
Before I get into possible meanings, interpretations, “sounds like”s and more, let me just say that this album, Calavera only has three tracks on it. BUT – the three aforementioned tracks are 23:10, 20:07 and 22:07, respectively, which gives it about an hour’s worth of timing. That’s a longer time frame than any EP and a typical time frame for what one would call a “full-length” album.
I received Calavera via the artist himself or his representative (indie distributor or something). Calavera has not been sitting around my apartment, gathering existential dust; rather it’s been a relatively recent time since I received it. Well, as I’m going through my “to-do” list here, I opened up the album and again noticed that there are only three songs on here – but, unless one lives in the bubble(gum) world of pop music, where the three-minute, radio-friendly upbeat, hook-laden “catchiness” matters, then it doesn’t matter how long the songs are or how many there are. As long as the music stays afloat, so to speak, and has that essence to it that really grabs you by the throat and shakes you up in whichever way, to thrill, chill and fill (you up with pleasure).
Viktar Siamashka is a man of the avant-garde and he fills your head with long pangs of stylish noise, premeditated breakdowns of sound, groovy interludes and it just keeps building and building. If you compare listening to this while staring straight at the computer or stereo or from wherever the sound emanates to listening to it while doing other things, like “surfing the ‘net” so to speak or playing with your pictures on Picasa 3 and creating artistic images out of simple photographs, etc. or even playing it as you read poetry or literary critiques on such things, the time will speed up and the next thing you know, 23 minutes have evaporated – where? I do not know. But, suffice it to say, the mind doesn’t forsake it. Just because your conscious may be busy doing other things, while still following the music in an alternating primary and secondary fashion, your unconscious does pick it all up, uninterrupted, so whether you think so or not, your mind has infused your brain with the totality of the structures and vagaries of the music, which, while it may not be enough to write a comprehensive review is definitely a beginning – you can then go back and replay it and when you do.
OK, I’m drifting a bit here. The music itself is what I could only categorize as “avant-garde”, which really encompasses a good bit of stuff that is ahead of its time (avant-garde=advance guard) and, while this is not futuristic, it does have this vibe that blends arcane cultures with structures of advanced brain activity that a lot of Western anthropologists, ethnomusicologists and the like keep stunning themselves when they come across such things. Then there’s the jazz component to it, which is an extension of an African vibe, but one that seamlessly combines both. We’re not talking “white boy” jazz or Kenny G here, the closest analog I can think of from recent history is Ornette Coleman and especially the latter works of John Coltrane, e.g., The Major Works of John Coltrane – a mind-blowing double CD of some of a dualistic dichotomy between demoniacal vibes that create tension due to the discordant sounds ‘Trane was able to get out of the sax, but at the same time it showed a very spiritual side of ‘Trane which, the more you listen to it and get over your Westernized ear which at first may discourage you from attuning yourself to it, imparts a seriously complex spiritual sensibility unmatched up to then and probably since then.
History: Viktar Siamashka is a native Belarusian (ne Byelorussia in the years when it was part of the USSR’s empire) poet, broadcaster, as well as a very good musician. In his search for that “lost chord” he’s been seeking out a certain synthesis of “free jazz”, a la Ornette Coleman, (aka “post-bop”). Viktar has been trying to key into that synthesis of “free jazz”, folklore, mixing in an academic state of musicianship as well as blending in some electronica. His trumpeting really reminds me of some of the late 60s, early 70s editions of Miles Davis’s ever-expanding palate. One can’t help but to hear Miles in there, especially among the second song of Calavera, “Emak Bakia”. To put it in perspective, the first tune, the longest, at 23:10, is the title track and the last cut is called “Bolero” which may or may not be a wildly different improv based on the classical piece. But, I think not. It doesn’t even come close to Ravel’s Bolero. This is a completely original piece which is filled with repetition, improvisation and wild woodwinds that snake around and about, coming together, though, in a wonderfully rhythmic adventure. It may seem a tad discordant at first, but after a time experiencing it, one sees the harmony that does flow through it like a tame river.
For many years Siamashka played in a music and poetic group called Kuzniec, Siamania as well as an intuitively improvisational outfit Knyaz Myshkin. Along the way he has also collaborated with psycho-folk band, Nagual. Since 2012, however, Viktar’s been concentrating on doing it solo. He’s been dedicating his output right now, to solo projects, such as this one. During his creatively artistic career, Siamashka has performed in many European Countries and has released a variety of solo albums including one called G.M. (which was published by Russian label, Clinical Archives); he also did a collaboration with French le grand improviseur, Christophe Meulien. The result has been the Biotope album and other, shorter pieces.
For many entrenched in the music of the culture of the West – whether it be rock or pop, jazz, electronica, etc. Viktar may seem like an anomaly, but he’s anything but. Even now, after 25 years since the ripping down of the Iron Curtain, there has been a surge of avant-garde jazz outfits that have sprung up and, though, they may not be huge in the US, have a presence in Eastern Europe. Cerkno is one example of a very avant-garde, beautifully improvisational, from the Czech Republic. There are a few others too. This is easy to understand when one knows how popular jazz – American jazz, back in the 50s and 60s – has been. Charlie Parker was huge in Europe. He was treated like royalty over there, as were others that followed such as Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, of course, Coltrane and Ornette Coleman and many others. So, think about all those awful years of oppression in the tie of communism and the tyranny that clouded the area. All the while, there grew up a couple generations of jazz lovers who became more than just huge fans; they learned how to play and with the influences they had, they developed it into their own style which now, today, is available the world over and when it is heard, one is amazed at how ingenious it is. How unique and even the instrumentality of the bands are different but manage to fill spaces of lush, gorgeous bouquets of music.
Kudos to Viktar Siamashka and I hope to hear more of the experimental, avant-garde jazz, freely flowing out of a part of the world that has offered up artistic surprises a lot since the early 90s. A website you may wish to check out is www.foundamental.net – there you can find out more and find a way to get the catalog – that, or maybe see what Amazon.com has to offer. –KM.
Clutch Hits, Best of…
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
The great thing about DIY music is that you really can do whatever you want: any genre, any style, etc. and the tag “DIY” doesn’t have any musical connotations, i.e., there’s no expectation that it’s going to sound this way or that. DIY is only a descriptive that let’s you know that the artist/band wrote their songs, recorded them on their own and, possibly with a little help from a “buddy in the biz” or just plain hard work, released and distributed on their own. DIY is the apex of indie.
David Wakeling is one such example. He’s been writing and recording songs now, for the past 5 years at least. He played in a band called Against Medical Advice (David’s “day job” is as a GP doctor, taking care of the people up in the Pacific Northwest area, from where he hails: Portland, OR) as well as This, Not This, another band with whom he made some records. AMA put out an eponymous CD in 2009 and This, Not This also released a self-titled CD as well as one entitled Waiting for the World which came out in 2013. In between those projects, Wakeling did some solo work, recording a few full-length albums, such as 2013’s You Gotta Start Somewhere, Gravity and Altadena Avenue. He also released a few CD-singles in the same time frame, including “Not as Bad as it Seems”, “Hey Little Baby”, “Hero of ’44” as well as “Takeaway”, all in 2013.
This is where Clutch Hits, Best of… comes in. It puts together such singles as “Hero of ’44”, “Takeaway”, “Gravity”, “Not as Bad as it Seems”, among others. So, this really is a “Best of” album – the songs Wakeling thought stood out the most and so compiled in one album. The only song on Clutch Hits… that wasn’t written by David Wakeling is “Already”, an old Nik Kershaw tune, written by Nik.
He does have some help from some friends on here, including Gordy Johnson, who plays lead guitar on track one, “Panic Room” and “Today Might be the Day”; Frank Adrian on bass on tracks 1, 2, 4-6, 8 and the closing tune, “Takeaway (single version)” and Brad Wager picks up the bass on number 11, “Driving This Love Home”; Emily Lundgren lends her lush, lovely voice also on “Driving This Love Home”.
So, there are obviously other tunes on here where David himself plays guitar, which I found great, such as on “Maybe One More Chance” and “Hero of ’44”. Another stand out performance is the booming drums that punctuate, nicely, the songs. They don’t overpower the tunes, but act as great musical exclamation points.
The music on Clutch Hits… is a variety of mellow, laid-back Wilco-ish country-rock, with maybe a nod to Jackson Browne. Catchy tunes, no caterwauling overdubs, just a good, clean (musically speaking too) sound that has just the right kind of drumming and percussion.
Looking at his homepage, www.wakelingmusic.com, you can read his history for yourself and also go through the discography that is up there as well. In the “Bio” section of the webpage, it reads that Wakeling has been influenced by the best – it’s always good when you have a love and appreciate the style and work ethic of bands like Steely Dan, who have been one of my favorites, since way back when I was about 6 or 7, when Aja came out (1977) and I used to hear “Josie” a lot on the radio. I’ve been a big fan ever since, if you don’t count the crazy time of my early teens. Another great musician/songwriter he lists as an influence is the one and only Todd Rundgren, in my opinion, quite underrated, when you actually get a hold of a bucket of his albums, you can see the diversity, the craftsmanship and the use of the studio as more than a recording device. He put out so many albums throughout the 1970s and, while I haven’t heard everyone, I can say that the stuff I have heard all had their own special unique sound. Pat Metheny, another influence of David’s – I love jazz – is a good one to listen to if you’re looking for a good role model to heighten your own playing. The other one listed as an influence is James Taylor, who, all throughout the 1970s and into the 80s, wrote, co-wrote or sang Carole King compositions that he developed nicely into smooth, easy riding songs. I can see how David Wakeling can appreciate Taylor’s approach to songwriting and his style of performing. He does a great job of taking all the aforementioned influences and not copying anything they do, rather he’s soaked up the music and it’s been implanted to his unconscious where it stays and provides grist for the mill for Wakeling’s own music. In other words, you won’t hear this album and then say “oh, yeah, I can hear the influence of so-and-so in this song or that, etc.
I don’t completely know his schedule, meaning how he divides his time between the solo and the band experience, with This, Not This. But I hope he continues to make some more good stuff with both projects.
I am not completely sure how much of Clutch Hits is new, but I know that a good number of the songs are taken from various singles he’s put out in the past few years. Here’s hoping, too, that his day job won’t get into the way, too much, of being able to play live gigs as that is the best way to measure a band’s quality – by their live work. Of course, there is a lot to be said for being studio junkies who love to spend lots of time in the studio and are loath to take the show on the road (look at Steely Dan through the 70s, the majority of their existence. They didn’t tour. They were perfectionists who spent oodles of time with a vast quantity of session players, making sure everything was sparkling clear. And it worked! In comparison, I’d say Wakeling also did a superb job by utilizing the studio; the music comes out clear and precise, it’s got a great professionalism all through it. Can’t wait for the next, full-length album to appear! ENJOY! -KM.
Review by Kent Manthie
Tyler Sullivan is a “major music powerhouse”. He’s just released This Man, an admixture of woven, dreamy songs. The guitar is very pure and has an echoing reverb to it that adds a bit of the ethereal. That, along with the absence of percussion and his strange, tin voice that rattles off a lot of free-association style lyrics. I like this album. It’s not a copy of anything. As if he’d been in a box for the past 10 years and only hearing the sounds in his head that have come out now as the music on this album, from the opening song, “Ticks”, a discordant sort of song but with beautiful guitar backing it up to other tunes that seem to be significant in meaning more so to Tyler but that still have a great musical backdrop. Like a Samuel Beckett play performed at a lush opera house; things like “Dead Man Cummin’” a title that suggests a double-entendre. Or “Freedom & Freewill” to “Don’t Get So Down, Man”, a song that he seems to be singing to himself as much as to the listener. Then the last tune is a one minute instrumental, end-of-the-night, when dreams get even weirder, “Hedon”. After that, you wake from your musical reverie and realize that you just spent about a half hour in a hypnotic daze, made manifest by the aural translucence.
Originally from Tennessee, Sullivan now resides in Carbondale, Illinois. Illinois, these days, is home to a larger and larger contingent of great indie acts, everywhere from Champaign to Chicago and in between, I’ve been overwhelmed by the large amount of talent that’s coming out of the center of the country. Of course, I don’t mean big name “pop-rock” bands that you may hear on the radio (except maybe on a college-based, non-commercial radio station) – at least no radio station owned by the homogenization-intent Clear Channel.
Somewhat a man of mystery, there seems to be quite a dearth of information about Tyler. At least as far as the internet is concerned. He does go to school, currently, at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. But, when it comes down to it, do you really need to know the artist’s life story in order to have their work pique your interest? Probably not. Looking back in time, one can find out all sorts of things about their favorite band from when they were a teen or a lonesome singer they liked when they were in college, etc. They find out, in some biography or article, that the person in question was a serious dope fiend, which really doesn’t surprise me nor should it surprise anyone, so that’s not even an issue, but what if you find out that this singer you really dig or used to, turns out to be – oh no…GAY? Wow. Big deal, half of Hollywood is gay and who cares anyway? Maybe your favorite actor from the 80s was involved in a deadly car accident that was due to too much alcohol in his system, but it happened in some faraway land and with a good team of publicists supplied by the studio for whom you work, or your agent or the SAG, etc, it’s kept out of the news in the US -at least for the next 25-30 years, when the guy’s not vulnerable to such stories hurting his career. See what I mean? Not that I mean to link Tyler to anything like this, not at all. I’m sure he’s a fine guy. Quite an artistically-minded, motivated, DIY musician, photog, experimental artist, etc. So, don’t get too hung up on bios; they’re not all that important, really, unless the past reveals something of paramount importance to how he creates his art today. One’s childhood and the environment in which one grew up could be of consequence in the medium they choose to work, their style or subject matter. But, all that can come later, when he’s made a few more albums and if he chooses to share his past with this celebrity-obsessed culture of ours, in which, some guy, whose name we don’t even know because he uses a pseudonym, a silly one at that, can become “famous” just for… for “being”. There are too many so-called celebrities (people who’s name and face are seen splashed all over tabloids and trashy gossip shows) in the mix today and the line is becoming blurred between the ones who deserve to be recognized and ones who are only recognizable because of some sophomoric stunt they pulled – a slutty sex tape that went “viral” over the internet, a person who happened to be a witness to something bigger and more sensational which had nothing to do with this guy, who, because he looked funny or talked in a goofy way, is turned into a comically, yet, briefly, famous name or face. The real talents out there are the ones that aren’t all over People magazine or TMZ or Access Hollywood and other blasé crap. It’s just that you have to dig deeper to find the unique ones out there, singers, bands or artists of various media that are the real vanguard of what, in about 5-10 years will catch up to Hollywood’s meat grinder machinations.
Just take Tyler Sullivan at face value (and the scrawled face on the cover of This Man is a wonderful mood-portrait – of whom, I can’t say for sure) and listen to the album on its merits. Then, later on, you might figure more out. -KM.
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
Meesh is back in full form. This time, with an EP, entitled May. I say “full form” because on Wall Carpet, founder, Mitch Chisholm was only around for a short time during recording before taking some “personal time” off. This left Adam Hachey to finish things up by himself.
But Mitch came back on board – it must’ve been in the latter part of last year, when they put out another EP, simply titled Meesh EP. That one has six songs and clocks in at just under 20 minutes.
On Wall Carpet, Adam did a good job with what he had to work with, which included girlfriend Jacky Munoz.
I happened to read another review of May while looking around the internet for some more information to add to my review. In the review I read the reviewer seemed to be surprised at the difference between the “sing-along” up-beat tunes from Wall Carpet, which is a full-length, 12-song album and the new EP, May, which, I think (the difference) comes from the fact that, even though he’s the “founder” of Meesh, Mitch Chisholm “took a powder” during Wall Carpet, which left “new” member, Adam Hachey alone, to his own devices, so Adam took charge and, with Munoz, produced a remarkable, crafty and spirited album. Hachey & Munoz, together, put their voices to work and made Wall Carpet sound like there were more singers on it on some tracks, others featured Adam singing by himself and there were also a few instrumentals. The music was fresh, unique and laced with violins, horns, what sounds like a recorder, all over the ever-present acoustic guitar, which was played quite well, with great finger picking and intricate chord progressions.
So, Mitch came back and the two (Mitch and Adam) got back together and recorded this EP, May, which is quite different than Wall Carpet, whose vocals seemed to be mic’ed louder and/or closer or whatnot. On May, the low-fi duo changed the style a bit. The music was a bit more low-key, while the acoustic guitar arrangements were similar. No Jacky Munoz on May, unfortunately. The vocals were handled by both Mitch and Adam, with backup vocals by Georgia Crowther. The opener, “Survival Kit” sets the tone for the five rather short songs here. “I am the Dream” is an instrumental which features some fierce acoustic guitar jamming and toward the end a French horn is added, I suppose to give a highlight to the ending. Then comes “Let’s See Those Wings”, “October Home” and the closer, “Stop”.
On “Let’s See Those Wings” the vocal duet is seemingly purposely off-kilter a little bit, but then coalesces nicely. Then that French horn pops up again near the end of this tune. “October Home” features multiple instrumentation – acoustic guitar (of course), piano and what sounds like twin trumpets (or cornets?) playing in sync. “Stop” is a quirky ending tune – only a minute long, it’s like they’re just goofing off or something – while the background music is light and lush, but the two are basically talking back and forth to someone named “Bobby”, each telling him that he’s got to “take it seriously (Bobby)”. All in all, I’d say that May brings to light the diverse musical aptitude of Meesh. I also think that the return of Mitch Chisholm helped out too; he brings in his own unique style to the work and, although the album is really short – only about 10 minutes for 5 songs – it seems like the more you go back and listen to it, like I did, to keep trying to develop a taste for it and figure out what to make of it and what to write, I found that, even in this short of an EP, the duo really strives for perfection here. -KM.
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
Before Adam was left to his own devices, putting together the balance of Wall Carpet last year, before Mitch took a powder (he did come back, though, for their latest EP, May), Meesh did a self-titled EP in August of 2013. The music on the EP foreshadowed the uptempo, sing-along pop style on Wall Carpet, which came out later that year in November.
Unlike Wall Carpet, Jacky Munoz hadn’t appeared yet. In fact, the lineup for the self-titled EP was: Mitch Chisholm sang and played guitar as well as providing some juxtaposition to an otherwise acoustic guitar and voice sound by adding some French horn in spots (at least, I think it’s Mitch on the horn – it’s either Mitch or Adam, sorry, can’t say for sure); Adam Hachey also played guitar and sang vocals; also, Georgia Crowther (whom I, at first, mistook for Jacky) provided vocals as well; Rounding out the lineup here was Max Petersen, who played banjo. Max is a really good banjo player: the banjo and the guitars played together in sync a lot, not at odds, although, here and there Max does stick out a bit with a some solo riffs and whatnot.
Meesh starts out with “Skinny Legs”, which begins with a French horn riff over the banjo. As the song gets going, you hear the acoustic guitar strumming in there as well and Georgia harmonizes quite nicely with Adam and Mitch, who chimes in too. It’s kind of hard to figure out just what they’re singing about at first on “Skinny Legs”, but by the time you get to the chorus, it’s safe to say that the protagonist of the song, after having to go through some crap about his skinny legs, sings that “No one can run like I can…” which shows that he’s glad to have these legs that propel him faster than others. “One of Us” is a song that seems to be implying that in a relationship, each person- the guy and the girl, both seem to have idiosyncratic tendencies which leads to the refrain “One of us/One of us/One of us/Is going to get in trouble/With somebody” – now, I could be wrong, but that’s just my interpretation of it. The song “Perfection” poses the question, in essence, “where can one find perfection?” – “In a cereal box (probably not)/In a package of ground meat (I don’t think so)/In my birthday gift (I should politely say yes)/In a shopping mall (it’s hard to find)/In a closet hanger (I don’t remember)/In a baseball card (not anymore)…” and so on. It’s a humorous lyrical list of non sequiturs that evoke a chuckle, when all these things are sort of thrown out there as possible places to seek perfection, but to make it funny, it has to have some kind of juxtaposition between the (seemingly) serious question of finding perfection in one’s life and the banal responses/possibilities rattled off, each with a quick answer or explanation (“it’s hard to find”, “I don’t remember”, “not anymore”, et cetera).
“21” is a sort of birthday song for someone who’s just turned that magical age of 21. “Going to Peru is a fabulous example of Max Petersen’s talent on the banjo. He’s freed up to go at it and maniacally do a brilliant instrumental banjo. Not to detract from the guitarists, who are also quite talented at picking, strumming, complementing each other and Max’s banjo playing as well. The final cut on Meesh is “Sincerely, Paul”, the longest tune on the EP, at 4:11. It sounds like one reading a letter from a friend (Paul) who’s faraway, traveling and is describing his experiences on paper (or maybe email, in this technology age).
All in all, Meesh is a great intro for one who’s new to Meesh. Once you are indoctrinated into this, then it’s time to check out their next release, the full-length, 12-song Wall Carpet. Well done, unique, not derivative nor does it sound like 20 other bands. On Bandcamp, where you can go to download their catalog of releases, one of the descriptors of their sound is “anti-folk” which, I think is a clever way of putting it. Sure, it’s quiet, mellow and acoustic, but it’s not political or somber, it’s got creativity, wry humor and a lyrical inventiveness that leaves you scratching your head a bit, prompting you to play it again and again, to figure it out. Read the other two reviews of Wall Carpet and May here, on INDEPENDENT REVIEW. And – enjoy! -KM.
Review by Kent Manthie
Hailing from the UK (Coventry and London), Ken Jones has just self-released Hiding Places, a new, laid-back pop album which shows a lot more intelligence than most pop crap. In fact, at first, I was loath to use the word “pop” for fear of the stigma attached to it – most of the time, when “pop” is being talked about, it’s usually bowdlerized hip-hop, saccharine/bubble gum junk that makes me nauseated.
However, I really don’t know what other kind of “label” to give it – no fan of labels, myself, I still needed to give Ken’s music some context, I needed to call it something – right? So, “pop”, which is such a wide-encompassing term, anyway, was something I felt safe in starting out with.
BUT – when you get into the 12 tracks that make up Hiding Places, it becomes clear that it’s no brainless dance music, rather one gets a beautifully done package of love songs, personal lyrical ballads, hopeful tunes that inspire rather than foment angst and faux-existentialism, since pop stars wouldn’t know existentialism if Jean-Paul Sartre came up and smacked them across the face with a copy of Nausea.
OK, so maybe I’m wrong in calling it “pop”. But, then, the question arises, “what do you call it?” It isn’t metal, it isn’t avant-garde or experimental, ambient or hardcore or dubstep, so…? In the 1970s, though, this sort of cerebral stuff would’ve been in the class of “singer/songwriters”, which, indeed, it is. Ken Jones is a gifted songwriter and a talented musician.
On Hiding Places, Jones teamed up with musician friends Megan Evans, Jim Radford, Andy Jones, Paul Forey and C.J. Thorpe.
Back when he was 15, Ken began playing in a variety of different bands, but it wasn’t until 6 years later, in 2011, when he was 21that he began showing up at various small clubs around town on “open mic” nights, where he’d try out new songs he’d written for appreciative audiences. I don’t see how he fit into this, but, in the summer of 2011 Ken joined the London-based metal band, Corrosive Soul. If nothing else, Jones, who played lots of gigs with Corrosive Soul, throughout venues in London and Southwestern England in 2012 and 2013. Before the gigs with Corrosive Soul made him a busy man, he could be seen, down in various Tube stations or on a street corner “busking” (playing music on a street corner). I recall when I used to live in San Francisco “busking”, a term I’d not heard before (probably British slang), was all over the place – in BART stations, on busy streetcorners, etc. and a lot of these street musicians were pretty good. I recall hearing a talented sax player, that would go on and on, his blue notes bouncing all over the downtown office buildings and providing a nice soundtrack to anyone walking the streets. Los Angeles had its share of buskers too, but (unfortunately, since I hate it here), I’ve been living in San Diego for a while now and that is one thing you don’t see at all around here – I rarely ever see any street musicians, with an acoustic guitar or even an electric hooked up to a little Pig Nose amp, either run on batteries or plugged into an available outdoor outlet. With this setup, I remember hearing some really talented guitarists just sitting there jamming. Honestly, I would love to get back to San Francisco to live – the only setback is that it’s so damn expensive to live there – the rent is only 2nd to Manhattan and Brooklyn’s unbelievably high rents: how anyone can afford to live in an apartment in NYC without being rich, is beyond me.
In 2012, after getting some well-deserved attention, Jones was finally able to quit his day job and hen worked towards his goal of getting into the Music Academy, in London. Finally, last year he was taken on as a student at “TMS”, where he studied electric bass and starting in October, will be playing the bass in different bands for the practice and, I suspect, the exposure (?) but at the same time promoting this solo album. Besides playing solo acoustic gigs, he also performs with Megan Evans as an acoustic duo called Chasing Nowhere. Another project Jones has going is a Coventry-based pop-punk outfit called 99 Lives, featuring, besides Ken, of course, Paul Forey and David Gardner.
Another talent to ascribe to Mr. Jones, is one of an accomplished didgeridoo player and with that he is part of a community music project, called Unlock the Music.
Another project Jones has been doing is writing songs with Jim Radford, one half of the duo, These Curious Thoughts, who, coincidentally, I reviewed back in June of 2013 for their album, Building Mountains From the Ground. TCT is made up of Jim, who lives in England and writes the lyrics, while the other half, Sean Dunlop, who lives in the US, in Detroit and writes the music. The two collaborate via the internet and, after hearing their music, I see that it works just fine. If you were to scroll way down from this review, to the June, 2013 time frame, you’ll see the review. It’ll be interesting to hear what comes of the collaboration of Jim and Ken.
If I may, a few songs worth mentioning as standouts on Hiding Places include: “Falling Away” a song Jones wrote with Jim Radford. It starts as a lovely acoustic ditty and then pumps up about 2+ in, when the electric guitars chime in and the drums keep a steady beat. Also, “Postcard from Libya” is an interesting tune, starting off with arpeggiottic tom-toms, some “aw-aw-awwww”s and a Mid-East vibe mixed with a drum heavy song with acoustic guitars fiercely strumming away, Hard to figure out what they’re driving at except, maybe the nascent changes abounding in that beautiful North African country. Also worth hearing is the great, haunting “California Sun”, the penultimate song on the album, followed by the closer, a remix of the selfsame “California Sun (Code: Marla Remix)”. Anyway, the original is a quiet, acoustic song that has an edginess about it as well as a catchy as hell hook to it. The ethereal, atmospheric vocals give it that eerie quality to it. This is definitely one of the best tunes on the album.
But, the whole album is great! At about 46 minutes, it’s not too long and not too short. A “Goldilocks” album – “just right!” I hope to hear more from Ken Jones and his cohorts in the near future. Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for the next time he and his band play at a club near you. –KM.