Archive for March, 2014

The Great Sacketts

Posted: March 29, 2014 in New Indie Music

Partner Artifact
Spark en Masse
Self-Released, 2014
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
This follow-up to Jacob Sackett’s musical side project, Partner Artifact’s, previous work, A Form Constant and their the third PA album altogether,Spark en Masse evokes film-noir visuals, brings up violent thoughts with a mellow mood and all with intellectual words to give it life.

Partner Artifact, as opposed to Sackett’s other outfit, The Finer Points of Sadism, a noise-drone-experimental working group of intellectual artisans, is one where they use acoustic guitars mixed in with some of the noise and electronics that dominate Finer Points’ work, but with vocals added, for one thing. The singing here has a baritone that reminds one of Nick Cave, with that deep, dark cagey one who’s just on the edge of psychosis. This is all good, of course.
Spark en Masse is a five-track EP that shows the versatility of Jacob and his wife, Ashley, who, can be noisy experimenters, bristling with grist for the mill. The Finer Points of Sadism has a good amount of albums itself that show off the bristling, noise/drone/advance guard of the neo-industrial sound. But here, where we’re talking about Partner Artifact, let me get back to that. The album begins with the title track. The first thing one notices is that it features singing as well as what may be termed “typical” instruments as well as electronic devices for emphasis and atmosphere. What jumped at me at first, when I heard the singing (Jacob’s singing) was “Nick Cave”. Sackett also has a deep baritone, a distinctive booming voice that sounds like Cave’s. What is so great about that is the thunderous, almost preacher-esque quality of the projecting of that boom, so that, of course he’d need a microphone at any gig he played live, but if he were to sing a solo at a small place, such as an “in-store” appearance at some indie record store, he could forego the microphone and just pick up his guitar and project to the audience in the room with great ability.
On “Predictive Programming”, for instance, the refrain chant is “ESP, ESP, ESP, ESP…” which then goes, seamlessly into the next one, “(Mental) Blocks”, the third track (the album starts out with the title track, which is a dissonant, but somewhat tuneful ditty). On “(Mental) Blocks” he (Sackett), belts out stuff about sutures and surgical things – fixing the broken body, the broken mind (?) and he keeps coming to the refrain “Blocks/Blocks/Blocks/Blocks/Blocks” and goes back to some more helter-skelter preaching, if you will. When we get to “Could Be”, what is the most mellow tune yet, a slow, dreamy, acoustic guitar-based ballad, with some atmospheric sounds floating around in the background, it’s a song about the possibilities of what “Could Be”; things that might’ve been or should’ve been, but have taken on the form of the new, dystopian world that we all inhabit at the moment.
This record could be the perfect soundtrack for that exact dysphoric feeling: the idea that the world’s a cold, steely cruel, uncaring automatonic thing run by machines in this cyber-atomic age. A sort of love song for what is gone for good and a protest of hate for the dark shadows at every curve. This kind of slowed down, acoustic meandering continues on into the final cut, “These Moments Are Ending” a 10 minute song that also seamlessly comes right out of “Could Be”, from one note to the next and you’re there.
Anyway, whichever of Sackett’s projects you like better, they both stand head and shoulders above their peers. The dark nihilism of Finer Points… is not totally lost on Partner Artifact, it’s only articulated in a different way. So, to be able to understand both halves of this duo, I’d recommend getting a hold of as many of both Partner Artifact albums as well as the ones by The Finer Points of Sadism. That way one can compare, contrast and see the similarities between them. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely for the brave and angst-ridden among us, looking for an outlet, a catharsis with which to write that manifesto, to think up that artwork, etc. So, onward and upward for Spark en Masse! -KM.

partner artifact spark en masse cover

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Big Worlds, Small Town

Posted: March 28, 2014 in New Indie Music

Feel No Other
Feel No Other
Silber Media, 2014
Review by Kent Manthie
This is a nice change of pace – smooth sailing ambient/drone-flicker shoe-gaze w/a touch of melancholy-baby to it.
Feel No Other is a band from the Silber Media family that’s been around since 2009, when Brian Lea McKenzie (late of Electric Bird Noise) started composing some instrumental music in his spare time, just sort of sketching out a sound that he enjoyed. He soon realized, however, that, to make this music of his complete, he needed vocals. Specifically, strong, female vocals. At first McKenzie got together with Claudia Gregory, who sang in the bands Exhaust the Fox and Claudia vs. the Queen of Hearts. It was during this period that the two, after having met and decided that they enjoyed each other’s style that they began to play some shows together, incorporating these new songs of Brian’s. But it wasn’t until 2011 that the “stars aligned” and things soon worked out and they ended up working together on a more permanent scale that Feel No Other was born.
Claudia Gregory has a background in “Americana”, while Brian has a big interest in things cinematic as well as creating dreamy, cinematic soundscapes. The two, quite nicely, complement each other and the architectural style which that envelops is one of a grandeur that swells as one gets further into the album. It may seem, at first, that “Americana” and Cinematic dreamscapes are somewhat disconnected, but If you want a good example of the marriage between Americana storytelling and cinematic soundscapes, a great example that fits right in is David Lynch. He is an archetypal American. If you’ve ever hear him speak, you’ll notice a sort of flattened twang to his voice that is almost tuneful, being born in Missoula, Montana. Two well-known classics of Lynch’s that explain what I’m getting at are: Blue Velvet, which takes place in “Anytown, USA” and, while the action and the depraved world that the characters Kyle McLachlan who plays Jeffrey Beaumont and Laura Dern, his soon-to-be girlfriend (when Issabella Rossellini isn’t getting in the way!) play are typical American teenagers – squeaky clean, curious and, Beaumont, at least, is determined to break out of this sheltered existence and dig deep and explore what lies beneath the surface, after finding an ear on his way home from school in one of the film’s first scenes. The whole film can be summed up as Lynch’s way of showing the underbelly of “white-picket-fence” America; the corruption of the “American Dream”, if you will. And this is how the “Americana” of Gregory and the Cinematic head of McKenzie’s come together. Another example of how Lynch pairs these two quite (seemingly) effortlessly, is in Lynch’s one and only foray into television: Twin Peaks, which was a breathtakingly beautiful series about another small town. One set in the Pacific Northwest. The splendor and everyday America that shows on the exterior of this town and the people in it belie much darker things that are happening inside the quaint homes, not only the jarring occurrence of the murder of Laura Palmer, but all the seedy goings-on that we, as viewers, come to see as how the people here really live and, by extension, I think, Lynch shows that appearances aren’t everything – which is a simple enough aphorism, but in this case the appearances mask quite a slew of deep, dark secrets and terrors.
Getting back to Feel No Other and Feel No Other, Ms. Gregory has a voice that really builds throughout the album. She has a quite powerful and beautiful voice. On the song “Altavilla Milicia” (sounds like something about a band of guerillas living in a shack up in the mountains), she whips out this almost operatic sound that really opens things up, as if her wide ranging vocals are evoking a panoramic vista. “Eclipse” is another serene, but sedate tune that has a bit of the stage to it – as if she’s belting out a solo in a surrealistic play or the soundtrack to a like movie. It’s about nighttime, stars, the night sky, and the goings-on below. Too bad it’s only 2:51. There is a keyboard on the song as a background, that’s it, just the synth. It’s eerily beauty is quite alluring. The next tune, “la fiance de l’eau” (the fiance of water) is sung in French. It has a ringing mandolin-type string instrument in it, as well as a regular acoustic guitar. No drums or electronics. It seems here that as one gets deeper into this album, the better it gets.
This partnership of theirs is a great match. From however different backgrounds they may come, they have one symbiosis that shines brightly and that is they both have a commitment to the perfect atmosphere, musically speaking. This could easily be a soundtrack to a road trip through the highways and byways of Middle America, or it could be a paean to the great films of the past 60 years that reflect, in a panoramic, ultra-modernist, magnified view of the grandeur in the surrounding beauty that is home to an almost infinite amount of personalities, quirks, truths, myths and legends.
Whatever the real meaning, it almost doesn’t matter, when, while listening to it for yourself, you’re able to be transported to distant, serene plateaux that sometimes sparkle with dizzying lights, other times makes you want to cry, it’s so sad but simultaneously beautiful.
The end of Feel No Other is made up of two, minute-long songs that start to lead you back to your own place but at the same time, embed memories of this incredibly buoyant album. It’s a bit different from the typical noise/drone/experimental craft that Silber Music is known for, but they do seem to know a gem when they come across one, which is why Feel No Other, with their shoe-gazing, nocturnal images and dreamy, empty film-noir streets, fits in quite well. For more on the band and to see more Silber Music titles and bands, visit http://www.silbermusic.comKM.feel-no-other-album

The DOKTOR is IN!

Posted: March 27, 2014 in New Indie Music

Herr Doktor
199X
Enough Records, 2014
Review by Kent Manthie
OK, well, that was interesting [see previous article below], wasn’t it? I just wanted to mention that, yes I am going to start doing more and more articles about various topics and not every post will be another CD review.
That said. I want to welcome Herr Doktor and his interesting brand of dark, synthwave ambient “space noise”. The good Doktor is originally from Brazil, but has been living in Portugal of late. It seems that there is this scene building up in the tiny nation of Portugal, on the southern edge of the Iberian Peninsula and the “average” American probably wouldn’t know this (I’m just saying what everyone knows and what studies and even random questionnaires show), but Portugal was, at one time, long ago, a very powerful country. Nowadays, when we, history-deprived Americans are asked to name a few one-time “world powers” (that is, world powers that existed before the US came into being) we, oftentimes, get answer such as “England”, “France”, “Spain” and sometimes a smarty-pants will say “Holland” (“The Netherlands” would be an acceptable answer as well). But rarely do we hear anyone mention Portugal. C’mon, people. Portugal was a colonial empire not much different from the aforementioned powers. Portugal had colonies all over the globe: in the South Pacific, here and there around parts of Asia, as well as the big one, Brazil, which, to this day, has a Portuguese-speaking populace and traditions of the culture that the Portuguese left behind. So, don’t scoff at Portugal (if you’ve heard of the place) – they also were quite adept at cartography and were behind some vital excursions around the seas that helped find new territory as well as map that land out in some very influential maps that still exist today, in museums, universities, etc. who keep them safe and secure so there will be extant, for some time, a record of their magnificent achievements!
So, what does that have to do with “the Doktor”? Well, like I said, he’s living in Portugal now, a native of Brazil, he’s, at least to the Portuguese, “come home” in a sense (or am I just making that up?) Anyway, this new release of Herr Doktor’s, entitled 199X, released by netlabel extraordinaire, Enough Records, is a somewhat short CD – they don’t call it an EP, probably because there are eight tunes on it, but when you add up the times of each song, you come up with a rounded-off total time of about 23 minutes.
Never mind that, though, it’s the quality of the music that counts the most. 199X starts off with a 54 second introduction, entitled “The Night Theme Intro” and goes right into “The Miami Call”, a sexy, booty call that has the potential for letting loose on a sweaty dance floor: “The Miami Call” is, on 199X, only 3:16, but if a couple clever cats got hold of it and remixed it within inches of its life, it’d be a legend to that carefree, wunderkind generation that always has youth on its side (of course, the demographics of this “generation” change from time to time, but the sentiments are forever young.
Next, “Inner City Lights” is a more subdued, electronic, pulsating, somewhat droning lament about (maybe?) wandering around the big city, unable to mesh in with all the party people; you have some weight, some albatross hanging around your neck, something that won’t let go of you, therefore “Inner City Lights” is your own private soundtrack. You play it in your car as you drive down the boulevard, secretly wishing you could join the throngs and just escape. But not tonight.
“Can You Kiss Me First (Synthwa)” is a bit more upbeat. A paean to fresh love, maybe. It’s a crowded, dark, danceteria tonight at one of your favorite night spots and, as your gyrating, spinning in that “devil-may-care” attitude that the music and that thing you took plus those couple of stiff drinks you had give you. All of a sudden, amidst your solipsistic danceathon, you suddenly realize that there’s a kindred soul who’s dancing quite close, who seems to be in the same throes of ecstasy passion and painlessness. At a critical juncture your eyes meet and before long you’re both doing your own thing together, which is odd, since it’s not a harmonic, old-fashioned time, when you’d be dancing, shoulder to shoulder, etc. Anyway, that’s what I got out of “Can You Kiss Me First (Synthwa)”.
“Interlude” and “Revenge” both play off each other, with the same riffs and sounds, two parts of the same song, in essence. These are more opened-up, hypno-gaga delights that are driving the kids in the rave to a frenzy. It’s like a disco-theme with House overtones and a 21st century spin to it. Lovely.
Then the album’s final two cuts are “Walk” and “So Close”. The former is a synth laden suite of sexuality and sensuousness. A very seductive beat, that can put one into a rhythmic walk.
“So Close”, the “finale” has a Gary Numan-esque beginning to it. The lone synth riffing that is eventually joined by some milky drum machine beats. Then, about a minute into it, the music is even more reminiscent of Numan, with that certain sound that you hear on a lot of older Numan pieces, back from Telekon or I, Assassin. It’s also a quite musically adept closing track. Of course, hardcore fans will always be left wanting more, more, more, but “So Close” is a great way to wind down this leg of the journey. There will be more, don’t worry.
So, now that you have this on your mind, if you want this album in your clutches, all you have to do is go to http://www.archive.org or http://www.enoughrecords.com and get a free download to this one. Plus, if you go to the latter, you’ll get hooked up with a lot more free stuff from the guys at Enough – you can pick and choose what sort of record piques your interest and grab it for your own. At least you’ll have it in your music library on your PC. Well, have a ball doing that and keep on keepin’ on -KM.Herr Doktor CD cover

Wow, what a brave – or not – world we live in.  I left out the “new” part of that cliche because there’s not that much “new” about things today.  “WHAT??” you may scream in disgust…”of course this a new and different world, a future that nobody ever imagined, even 20 years ago, so what the hell are you talking about?” – well, what I’m talking about is that, ok, yeah, sure, technology has so rapidly advanced – in fact, there’s even some “scientific”(?) theory about this that goes something like this:  “technology will rapidly improve, doubling every year…” or some such thing as that. Which, if you look back on the past two decades, sort of bears that thesis out.  Even in the early 90s, for instance, cell phones were still somewhat primitive, comparatively, of course.  I remember in, even 1997 or 98, that cell phones, for instance, had an antenna on each one.  Now, users of those will remember that one didn’t always need those antennae when making a call. You’d turn on the phone, then pull up the flimsy, plastic black thin thing that was pulled by grabbing onto the round top of it and raising it up, and you’d make your call.  Thing is, I remember using those phones and sometimes forgetting to pull up the antenna and – guess what? The call went through anyway!  So, they weren’t that important.  Maybe they helped in tight spots, say, if you started to get a bit out of range or something, it might help in picking up some needed extra radio waves, etc. But for the most part – just like if you still have an AM/FM radio – you don’t always need an antenna.  Well, actually having one does help for the radio, I know because I also remember disassembling an antenna altogether from one and then losing the reception altogether, but screwing it back into the base brought the signal back and you were able to pick up the radio stations again.  Tool Mind Teaser Angeles Pattern (from 10k days)

 

 

Once you at least had an antenna connected to the receiver in some way, you didn’t need to unlock it from it’s “down” position and pull it up – but, if you were trying to get one of the only (nowadays) radio stations worth listening to, i.e., college-based radio stations that were broadcast out of particular universities/colleges, the ones I was most familiar with were KUSF, in San Francisco, which was based at the University of San Francisco (as opposed to University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), just like there’s a UCSD in San Diego, but there’s also a University of San Diego as well).  The other great one that I remember was in Los Angeles, at Loyola Marymount college/university, which ran KXLU – like KUSF, both had the most excellent music programming from-get this:  2AM until 6pm (weird timing, huh?) and then, after 6 (BOTH stations did this) there would be Chinese-language (or sometimes Vietnamese) programming starting at 6:00pm.  Now, of course, I speak neither Chinese nor Vietnamese, so listening to their broadcasts would be fruitless for me, unless I just wanted to hear that foreign language as if it were a form of music, etc. (example: when I listen to a Wagner opera or Mozart, I don’t speak German, yet the music and the singing are SO beautiful that I actually, for some reason, prefer the way they sing in their foreign tongues.  Same thing with Italian operas: Verdi, Puccini, Rossini -just to name a few, I know there are myriad other examples.  Anyway, so that’s that- I tune out at 6:00pm and, since they don’t sing at all, but drone on in a completely alien language to me, I don’t have a reason to listen.  Of course, I never woke up at 2:00am to hear the college students start their first “new music” set, as they referred to it.  But, when I was working and I’d get to my office, if I didn’t have a CD player (this was before MP3) on which to play my own selections, I’d have to fine-tune the radio until I was able to get the very hard-to-get signal of these small transmissions of the colleges.  And, of course, they were always, as Paul Westerberg once noted in song: “Left of the Dial”, meaning their frequencies were always below 90 – once, in Minneapolis, there was one, KFAI, that was, I think, 90.1 or 90.3, but usually it was more like 88.9, 89.3 or 89.9 (KCRW, in Santa Monica has a frequency similar-I think it’s 90.1 or 90.3, but I don’t count KCRW as a “college” station, since they’re NOT a college station-they’re a “member-supported” station that has a few music shows that are, um, all right, but more in the direction of “world beat” and “neo-folk”, etc.  But beyond that, there was something that just didn’t sit well with me – no, they weren’t getting corporate money (as far as I know), it was pretty independent – meaning the DJs could fool around a bit and introduce new stuff now and again, but mainly, I think what it was, was that it did have a structure to it that turned me off – they’d have various, hour-or-two (or 3?) long shows, hosted by one particular chap; NO, NO, NO – it was not one of those obnoxious jerks who would make jokes about big tits and rag on callers, or do nutty things for attention, etc. (I hate Howard Stern!!) What I mean is that KCRW would have a “set” program each morning on which they’d play music by “new” bands. But they weren’t scrappy, unpolished, punk, DIY or even garage-rock bands.  These were songs by bands who were, for lack of a better comparison, not unlike Cowboy Junkies, Ani de Franco and Victoria Williams (although the latter, I respect for her verve).  Then, they’d have some other, structured show about 10 or so, and on it went throughout the day.  I remember having a listen a couple times, but I came to dislike it fairly quickly.  Now, if you wanted great, left-wing politics, as exemplified by the nationally known, now-on-tv and a truly great legend, Democracy Now! hosted by the legend herself, Amy Goodman, the place to go was your nearest Pacifica station, which, sadly, are very few & far between: the flagship, which was started back in the 50s, is Berkeley’s KPFA, 95.7 or something close to that, which is extraordinary to have a frequency as high as that. WMAP Data of the Cosmic Microwave Radiation Background (NASA)

 

 

 

 

In Los Angeles, Pacifica was represented by KPFK (90.7 FM), and they had some excellent stuff too – my favorite, though, of KPFK, LA, was the all-night show done Sundays through Thursdays (actually, it was really Monday AM through Friday AM), called Something’s Happening with your host, Roy of Hollywood.  This guy (whose real name is Roy Tuchman) was (it’s been 12 years since I lived in LA and I haven’t heard Roy or Something’s Happening in quite a while, so I don’t even know how they’re doing) a great host – he was kind of the stoic, network-anchor archetype: someone who was “objective” (although, regular listeners knew from where he came)-maybe “objective” is not the right word, but he had a talent for not hyping things or praising or damning things (at least not more than a bit of excitement on nights when there’d be Alan Watts recordings of Alan speaking and further into the night, other Eastern-sprituality speakers (I mean, who, in their right mind, couldn’t love Alan Watts?). But, for the most part Roy would be the guy who queued up tape after tape of recordings, both recent and vintage, which would make someone’s ‘overnight’ a joy.  Instead of blathering idiots on talk radio (Art Bell) talking about UFOs and conspiracies or cattle mutilations and having guests who were total crackpots, giving their gospels of aliens that built the pyramids or fake moon landings or that one lady who would phone up from time-to-time, oh yeah, Linda Moulton-Howe (real wacko) and give an update on the latest cattle mutilations that had been occurring in the last few weeks (this was in the late 90s or so, when cattle mutilations were (sort of, kinda maybe) a -well, a thing.  Something’s Happening was a much beloved alternative to the wasteland of talk radio in general but especially the wasteland of Art Bell and various Art Bell copycats in various, unsyndicated formats in local areas.  Each night S.H. was on, there’d be a different topic, same every week, like for instance, on Tuesdays, it would be stuff like health & fitness, etc. & one of the big guests would be Gary Null, a guy with this soothing, flat voice whose tapes would be played a lot on which he’d go on about various stuff that was anathema to the AMA and “establishment” medicine. He wasn’t a raving lunatic, but he’d really go after big Pharma, the corporatization of medicine and the way that many so-called doctors of “Western Medicine” were loath to get off the path of the aforementioned propaganda which dominates the US medical establishment, while at the same time, millions keep on dying and/or not getting better.  One of the things-simple,really, Null talked about was just eating the right diet; staying away from stuff that it’s common sense to stay away from, like refined sugar, fast-food restaurants, trans-saturated fats and so forth. He was an accomplished D.O. who had a thriving practice in NYC. He’d also do his best, each week (from his home in NYC) to call into the show, live, to chat w/Roy & take a few calls.  But he also had more to him than just the better-health-guru.  I heard lots of tapes and live stuff where he would excoriate the drug co.s who are (still) dealing directly w/doctors to try their new pills, give out samples to pts., etc. And also, even worse, the over-medication of children in the US-especially, or specifically, psych drugs for such nonexistent things as “ADD”, “hyperactivity” which is now part of ADD – called ADHD, etc.-in fact, teachers see these kids in schools and-well, they’re KIDS for chrissakes, of course they’re going to have some “disciplinary” problems, or disrupt a class here and there.  SO what? that’s all about growing up and being a kid – in fact, that is the only time in life when you have the chance to be that way – act out (to a reasonable degree-not kill people or be violent, etc) in harmless ways: being boisterous, running in the halls (oh no!), and all kinds of things that, when I was in school, 1st-6th-8th grade, was typical -not everyone, but a lot of kids were figuring out who they were, what limits they could get to, which ones to test, etc. and back then (when I was a kid in the 70s & early 80s), teachers didn’t tell the kids’ parents that their children were “mentally ill”, i.e., had “ADD” or “ADHD” or some kind of silly diagnosis by someone who had ZERO medical training-they’d tell the parents, since the teachers felt that they were around the kids more each day then the parents were (which wasn’t really true) and that they needed to see a shrink!!  – then the parents who were not-very-educated themselves or just gullible & worried about their beloved Johnny, brought them to a dr. who saw the kid for maybe 15-20 min. and almost always ended up giving the kid a prescription for either Prozac, Zoloft, etc. or else METHAMPHETAMINES like Ritalin, usually Ritalin, but Methedrine was also prescribed.  Of course, if you really have a brain that is hyperactive, etc., taking those speed pills will give you the opposite effect of what a “normal” person would feel (the former wouldn’t feel all spun out & wired).  It doesn’t matter – these kids are still getting the over-medication as a first resort!  Of course, now they’ve changed things so that SSRIs like Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, etc aren’t given to kids under 18.  This was really interesting to hear Gary Null talk about at about 3am on a Wednesday morning,  But sometimes he would really go further and start getting into really far-out things, like conspiracy theories, etc.  But, honestly, I usually fell asleep, involuntarily even, by about 3-4, since I’d be listening in bed.  Then there was Dave Emory, an almost robotic-sounding guy who would send in tapes of his talks every week or so and in those 2 half-hour talks he’d go on about the most bizarre things sometimes.  I don’t remember much of the stuff he said, but the one thing that I really agreed with him on was the thesis that all these kooky UFO people – the ones who swear they saw something or worse, the freaks who claimed to have been abducted, etc. were being duped, actually, by a secret arm of the govt. – the govt. was doing this to cover up what they were doing – stuff that was below-the-radar, shall we say.  Secret, experimental aircraft, but a lot of people know that whole story – that the Air Force has the UFO cover story to distract and discredit people from finding out what’s really in the skies.  It’s a whole box-within-boxes, doors that open to other doors, etc.-kind of thing – but the gist of it is that there is a conspiracy of sorts – but it’s more about being secretive and since it’s hard to keep secrets-especially today – just a few trusted men (women?) know exactly what’s happening and use the clever UFO ploy to lead all these gullible people down a totally different avenue and away from what is actually occurring.  Like Roswell, for example-I don’t claim to know what sort of games were being played with that whole bit, but I am sure it had nothing to do w/aliens crashing to earth and subsequently having the military find the wreck and recover the dead alien corpses & take them to a top secret lab somewhere and keep ’em on ice – dry ice.  What’s been the most recent, rational explanation may come closest to the truth, but still who knows?  Now they’re saying that this Roswell business was “nothing more” than a new, sort-of experimental balloon – but not the kind of balloon you’re thinking of, but a very elongated one, shiny, with reflections or lights, etc. whose sole purpose was to get to as high an altitude as possible and drift to just the right place in order to detect the presence of radiation of some kind – gamma rays, etc, I am not sure; basically they were trying to find out if the USSR was testing nukes.  OK -so if that is the final answer on this – and the public knows about it – you and I – you can bet that there was probably much more to the story than that – and it had nothing to do w/UFOs – and, no, I’m not saying that in this infinite universe that it’s impossible for their to be any other life – whether it be plant life on up to sentient beings, the point is that if there were sentient beings and they even had the ability – it would take generations, centuries, to get from one part of just this galaxy to us – because we’re talking light years here – so, say something is 1000 light years from here – that means that – going at the speed of light – 186,000 miles per second – it would take 1000 years to get from one place to the other and in many cases we’re talking about 100s of 1000s of light years or millions even. So the idea that some civilization could get here from that great a distance-so far that the human mind can just barely comprehend it-is pretty much impossible – the only possible way that could ever happen is if these beings traveled on some kind of ship that was basically equivalent to their home and, since it would be 1000s of years before they got here, they’d go through many, many generations of travelers just to get close.  That scenario just doesn’t seem all that plausible – and is it really worth it? So, think about it!

Audio Junkie

 

 

Sorry, I got off on a tangent.  What I started out writing was that, in essence, although times ARE a-changing, so to speak, a lot of things aren’.  In fact, you’ve heard the term:  “The more things change, the more they stay the same”, right?  Well, that is exactly what I am talking about.  Sure, the current generations are way beyond the wildest dreams of the people, even in the 1950s or 60s (or 70s)  – but that is technology.  I’m not quite sure that the human mind, that is, what some call “human nature” has caught up with all these new media, which Marshall McLuhan, referred to as merely “extensions of the human body” (that’s what media are) – for example -1st bicycles and then cars, etc. became extensions of our feet.  Instead of having to use our feet to get from place to place, we use a car now – which is something that actually has multiple media in it – but a simple bicycle could be the purest form of the extension of our feet.  A modern car, however, has so much to it nowadays, that there are many extensions of ourselves in it – not just for our feet, but -for a primitive example – a horn is an extension of our voice.  There are so many more complexities here that I won’t detail them all for the space I already took up.  But when you get to where we’ve been since McLuhan wrote his famous book Understanding Media (from where the famous saying “the medium is the message” came), he was then talking about the new electronic revolution – and this was in the early 60s – so we’re talking then about the comparatively crude computers to television, telephones, automated systems and so on – what McLuhan was saying about all this, in a simple way, was that things like the TV, the computer – very prophetic, because today what he said back then is even more relevant! – they are extensions of the nervous system itself – the brain,  And with the total plugged in, wireless but electronic life that we inhabit today this is more than ever something that we need to understand – and that is also something that a lot of critics of new media and what it has on it – aka its “content” – to outmoded ways of thinking, which are quite widespread, it’s not just dumb hicks who’s minds haven’t literally caught up to this new electronic paradigm where the nervous system has been the blueprint – or the waveform – of the media of today.  It’s not what we watch on TV or what websites we look up, it is that the different modes of communication – the electronic revolution vs. the old paradigm of print, which was an extension of the eyes, for example, represent the fact that not only has the media changed – that is obvious – but in creating new extensions of ourselves and by creating the extension of not only our nervous systems, but of our very beings in some cases, we’ve also changed the message as well!  – Anyway, there is something for you to think about.  PLEASE – send in your comments, questions, answers and feedback!! Thanks -KM.

Amenhotep III mummy skull

Spiritual Molecules Unite

Posted: March 25, 2014 in New Indie Music

Hew Time
Hew Time
Joyful Noise Recordings, 2014
Review by Kent Manthie
Today is March 25, 2014 and, well, it’s a Tuesday – and you all know what Tuesdays are, don’t ya? It’s “New Release Tuesday”. I don’t know the exact reason, but Tuesdays are always a day that many new CDs, video games, etc. are released – not films, though – movies still, for the most part, come out on Fridays – once in a while you’ll see a Wednesday release – especially around holiday times, i.e, the end of the year. Anyhow, the buzz about this “New Release Tuesday” is the debut “SuperGroup” of The Melvins’ Dale Crover, Joe Plummer, who’s played with Modest Mouse and The Shins and Coady Willis who’s also played drums in The Melvins as well as Murder City Devils, Big Business and a couple others. They’re project is called Hew Time and the album is eponymous.
What is unique about Hew Time is that it’s an all-percussion album. No instruments except drums, bongos, wooden blocks, cymbals, and other percussive materials. The concept of Hew Time came from an album by legendary jazz drummer, Max Roach, called M’Boom. Originally, Plummer’s idea was to do a straight cover version of the album, but Coady, with help from Dale, convinced him that doing a straight cover version would be near- if not totally impossible.
Right now there is a limited edition Gold Vinyl release – 1000 copies being manufactured – in fact, before today, one had the chance to pre-order the Gold Vinyl release. Actually, before that, there was a Black & Gold vinyl release, but that one has since sold out. If you want a Gold Vinyl copy, you’d better act fast, as they’re going quite fast as well.
On Hew Time, Hew Time does some fascinating work – each member is a drummer of their respective band and, so it’s a natural (to them) that they’d all stick to what they know best – or at least are known for.
For some example of the sounds are familiar, you have a lot of jazz grooves mixed in with familiar sounding rock rolls, but that kind of “paradigm” isn’t “hewed” to very long, if at all; they are all over the place in this thing. I think it’s really cool that these guys were inspired to do this from an older, well-known (to jazz enthusiasts, but ask your average pop music fan who Max Roach was and you’ll get a blank stare or an “uh, I dunno” right away.
I definitely wanted to point out the magnificent part on “Swung” where the meandering percussive inventiveness suddenly gets a notion to do a straight-ahead, jazzy drum “solo” – which is kind of funny, calling it a “solo” – ha ha ha… but what I mean is that one of the drummers (who? I’m not quite sure, as I don’t have the whole album in front of me) goes off on a really be-boppin’ jaunt, where he does a cross between extreme time-keeping beats as well as a funky jazz riff. That is a real thrill. Then, onto the next tune, “Bell Door”, where things get a little mystical. It’s almost got “Sun-Ra” written on it, what, with the space-y, underworld, ju-ju force of the toned-down rhythm, whereby there’s more percussion in the non-traditional-rock-drumming way, if you know what I mean. On “Swimming Pool”, this vein is extended a little, however there are a couple of bolts of drumming that bring a kind of cadence to the experience. There is, even though it’s a percussion-only CD, some kind of pipe-flute thing that, in the background, also not unlike Sun-Ra, is the source of any “melody” that you can find. This sort of thing also evokes images of a shamanic ritual, out in the depth of the Amazon jungle, etc. where the people are all entranced, with the help of Ayahuasca or Yage – hallucinogenic compounds that are derived from plants which are carefully prepared by the men of the tribe, stirring all the ingredients together in a liquid base in order to get it done just right (I’m obviously not a chemist, I’m just going by what little information I have on this). But, I’d say that for any middle-class college kids from the whitebread suburbs of New York or from the “Valley” (San Fernando, that is) in Los Angeles, CA who thinks that this sort of shaman-led, trance-inducing ritual that would be done in a circle, with a melange of primitive, percussive instruments and whatnot, would be a “hip” thing to try (maybe LSD is too harsh and besides the white kids want to get away from their square parents paradigm and
“Bell Window” has a more rock ‘n’ roll drum track to it – almost a John Bonham vibe to it, mixed with some of the other, useful tools, it’s kind of like a way to exorcise a demon or, alternatively, start with the heading back to the land of the living souls, metaphorically, sonically, speaking. But it’s not the end yet! With a few more songs to go Hew Time continue on their wildly experimental set of using a studio full of percussive instruments – it’s like everything – including the “kitchen sink”.
Coming next, “Sonny Bambo”, has a more familiar rhythm to it, but this is actually kind of a Latin American kind of groove that is overlaid with the average drum kit, used in jazz or rock, etc. but that is careful to not overtake it with too much rock ‘n roll. Kind of a laid-back jazz-infused, still mystical and very experimental work.
As much as I dig the crunch-fuzz-bluster of The Melvins and the unforgettable Buzz Osborne – their symbiotic unity just blows one away – especially at a live show(!!) – I can’t help but be awe-struck by Hew Time’s experimental foray into an all-star-all-percussive lineup which delves into more than just tricky drum solos, be they jazz-inspired or rocking solos. They delve deep into sounds that evoke the wonders of the psyche, mystical traditions which are still practiced today by serious, devoted followers of this kind belief system which utilizes rituals led by shamans who take the participants, in a trance-state, into a internal voyage, that is terrestrial-bound, but which can take the group far and wide into the deep psychic jungles of their own. Although, I may make it out to seem like this is an anthropology experiment, it isn’t; it’s much more. It’s a looser, sort of no-holds barred escape into the realms of “whatever” and whatever meaning it has for each particular listener, one hopes, will be a pleasant and awakening process.
-KM.Hew Time CD cover

Spreading the Disease…

Posted: March 22, 2014 in New Indie Music

Dyman

Infection EP

Enough Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

Dyman is a one-man-outfit. Hailing from Ermesinde, Portugal, he’s been around a while, just under the radar of the masses, which, if you can manage it and make a living, is great.

Infection marks Dyman’s seventh release to date. His first release goes back to 2007’s Atomic Sound EP which, as for most of his other recordings (a few were released on other labels), were released on the growing “netlabel” Enough Records. To make available their catalog of artists and their releases, one can download them from a couple different sources. One, of course, is the well-known www.archive.org and the other is also, I believe, well-known, www.freemusicdyman infection coverarchive.org site. One can also get to his own website by going to http://dyman-music.tumblr.com and you can always check out Enough Records on the web as well. In 2008 Dyman followed up his debut with a full-length, entitled Digital Nature. Then, the next year, he prodigiously released 3 albums: Insland and 7B5 17050225, both on Enough Records and one called Planner that came out on Abture Records. 2011 saw two more recordings: The Megazine, which came out on Enough Records and Spirits Wathing Humans Walking in the Forest (EP) [I’m not sure that was the correct wording, but it’s what was posted on the website-ed.], which was another non-Enough released CD, this time on Green Field Recordings. Before his latest, Infection, came out, on Enough, he produced two previous recordings, one on Enough: Suns of Neurons, in 2012 and Paralyzed EP on Mimi Records. So it looks like, with Infection, Dyman’s come back to Enough. Dyman also took some time out and produced, in 2012, an album for Lenfall, called Insomnia, on which he also sang. This was released by the British netlabel, Death to Music. In 2011 Dyman also participated in the short film, Lab_v.5 by composing the soundtrack.

On Infection, the four tunes are all instrumental, busy, mechanical and frenetic. Typical of the best of dubstep. The tunes bathe over you in a cyber-wave, at turns melting and building up of intricate walls of sound. Each song ranged from about 2 ½ minutes to 3 minutes in length, giving it about 10 minutes or so of total sound. It’s a nice fit, though, that can go between any number of other CDs – whether it be ambient, industrial, more dubstep or something darkly, mysterious and experimental.

Have I piqued your interest? Then go to the aforementioned websites and check it out and download it if you’d like to include it in your digital library. After that, if you’d like to dig deeper, check out his previously released catalog of works. And then tell a friend or two, maybe then they’ll tell someone else and on and on it can go. That is one the best ways of getting one’s music out there – word of mouth can be a much stronger influence than the most expensive marketing gimmicks. -KM.

Strictly Super

Posted: March 13, 2014 in New Indie Music

Owls

Two

Polyvinyl Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

March 12, 2014: the new Owls album is finally out! What a great thing to happen. I’m listening to it right now and I am absolutely blown away by the intricate arrangements, the strict structures, the bombardier bass, the steady-beat-with-a-jazz-kick-to-it drums and the magnificent guitar work.

So much has happened since 2000, when Owls came out:  LOTS of Joan of Arc releases, Mike’s work with Owen, plus Tim and sometime-JOA-members did other projects like Friend/Enemy, Make Believe, Love of Everything and Ghosts & Vodka; each one having something unique about it so as not to just sound as though they’re all just more Joan of Arc albums under different names.  Just a few months back Tim worked with LeRoy Bach of Wilco and Angel Olsen on a great musical interpretation of poet Marvin Tate’s words, entitled, Tim Kinsella Sings the Songs of Marvin Tate by LeRoy Bach Featuring Angel Olsen (see below for the review of that release).  So when the news came that Owls were really doing it – there’d been talk for a while about a possible “reunion” of Owls and an album of new material, but when it became a fact that it was in the works, it was being recorded, etc. the excitement began to build.

Constantly busy, Tim and company are not ones to rest on their laurels, not for long; just last year Joan of Arc released a six-song CD, Testimonium Songs, a soundtrack of sorts to Chicago dance outfit Every House Has a Door.  The project stemmed from a seminal work by Charles Reznikoff, Testimony, a record of courtroom transcripts of witness and victim testimonies from criminal and civil cases involving labor unrest and workplace negligence between 1885 and 1915 that Reznikoff turned into verse.  The result, for Joan of Arc, was this brilliant, but rather short, work in a similar vein to 2011’s Life Like.  Likewise with Owen:  Mike Kinsella’s been busy juggling family life and his musical work and has released a fair number of Owen CDs, my personal favorite being I Do Perceive, which came out in November of 2004.

This is only the second Owls album. Their self-titled debut came out in 2000. But it’s not as if we’ve all been waiting this whole time with nothing in between – there’s been myriad Tim Kinsella projects: the many Joan of Arc albums, the awesome Friend/Enemy album, 10 Songs, three Make Believe albums: two full-length CDs and one EP. But when you play the first Owls album, from 2000 and then play the brand new one, Two, right afterward, you can hear a very close resemblance. They’ve, of course, grown in that 13 ½ years or so, but what they’ve managed to do here is nothing short of amazing. This is definitely one of the best albums of 2014 and we’re only into the second week of the third month of this year. Still, I can just tell that there will be no other album that will surpass Two in terms of capability, honesty, brilliance and originality.

Joining Tim and Mike Kinsella is guitarist Victor Villarreal, who most recently, played on Joan of Arc’s 2011 Steve Albini-produced Life Like, which was a slight departure from the typical JOA album: it was succinct, it had that trademark Albini touch to it, it was terse and to the point and mostly straight-ahead, no frills, unlike some of Joan of Arc’s more experimental albums, such as Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain or In Rape Fantasy and Terror Sex We Trust or even the album that gets talked about a lot as being a landmark album in the use of the studio as instrument: The Gap. Victor also was in the forerunner of Joan of Arc: Cap’n Jazz, with Tim and Mike as well as Davey von Bo07592_Owls-Two-Blue-438hlen, who later, went his own way and formed The Promise Ring.

Sam Zurick and Mike Kinsella make for a great rhythm section – Sam on bass and Mike on drums.  Mike is a terrific drummer. He’s also a remarkably great guitarist. But any way you slice it, this album has much promise to it. This album was not as easy as it was 13 years ago, when it only took these guys 5 days to record the still-legendary self-titled debut album. On Two it was a bit more complicated and it wasn’t easy to get all the individual egos to connect all the time, but when they did and when the whole thing was finished it was worth it all. This is a work that is born out of four strong characters, four individuals who each have great talent.

It’s too hard to pick out a favorite song on here, they’re all so dazzling. A couple of honorable mentions, though, would go out to “Ancient Stars Seed…”, “It Collects Itself…” “I’m Surprised…” and the closing track, “A Drop of Blood…”

Ever since I first heard that Two had been recorded and was ready to go, I’ve been waiting and waiting for it to finally hit the streets. Well, this afternoon I got my first go round with it and I already know that I’ll be listening to this over and over again. I do hope that any tour dates they play will take them out to the West Coast, especially San Diego, so I can see them, get some good photos and write it up for you on a review here. For now, though – get your hands on this masterpiece. -KM.

Hauschka
Abandoned City, 2014
Review by Kent Manthie
After listening to a New Yorker “podcast” of a piece in the latest issue by the great David Remnick, the next thing that popped up was a pleasant surprise: an album of “prepared” piano solo pieces by Hauschka, entitled Abandoned City. Both the title of the recording as well as the accompanying “cover” art were very apt, indeed, capturing the essence of the haunting, melancholy, sparseness of this album. Abandoned City is a concept album, of sorts, an album of solo “prepared” piano pieces that are each named for a particular ghost town in areas all over the world.
It begins with “Elizabeth Bay”, a ghost town, of which I found a couple of photos that capture the essence of the place. And no, we’re not talking about the tropical Galapagos Island resort town nor are we writing about the city in New South Wales, Australia. This Elizabeth Bay is in Namibia. No doubt, it must’ve once been a thriving mini-metropolis in the middle of Africa, teeming with life, back in the good ol’ days of colonialism. Now, independent, this is the price they were made to pay. The colonialists, who had no more need of the place, packed up and left or were “helped” to get out.

Elizabeth Bay, Namibia, today

Elizabeth Bay, Namibia, today

Other pieces include “Pripyat”, another ghost town, abandoned solely because of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It is in the northern part of Ukraine, in the Kiev region, on the Pripyat River, not far from the border of Belarus.  If anyplace can be described as truly a “ghost town”, it’s the sad fate of Pripyat, a city in the Kiev region of northern Ukraine, not that far from the border with Belarus.  Because of what happened at the horror of Chernobyl – the nuclear power plant that exploded and has rendered a large swath of land uninhabitable for reasons of health.  I mean, who would want to live in a place that is a bubbling cauldron of radioactivity?  This is not the story of some one-time boom town that had a thriving industry of some sort, be it mining, manufacturing, tourism or even a combination of those things and then suddenly, one day the bottom falls out of the market for that commodity or the town company decides it can’t abide the restrictive facets of the rulers of the country, so they get out while they still can and re-locate elsewhere, taking everything with them and leaving the once thriving boomtown a desolate desert. No, this is not like that at all – Pripyat, on the banks of the Pripyat River in Northern Ukraine, was wiped out by a terrible accident that killed many Russians, mutilated many others, made innumerable sick and even 10-20 years after the initial incident, there are still, of course, people, now feeling the effects:  radiation sickness, cancers that have quietly spread throughout the human body and consumed the bodies of untold millions.  This is a terrible, sad chapter in the history of peaceful nuclear power.  I’ve collected a few pictures of  some of these places and I found two particularly poignant photos of abandoned buildings in Pripyat.  Pictures that could easily have been taken at dozens and dozens of the affected sites around Chernobyl.

 

 


Pripyat - abandoned bldgs.Pripyat - abandoned bldgs. #2

Victim of Chernobyl at Pripyat

Another abandoned city that is put to music by Hauschka is Agdam in Azerbaijan, one of the many former SSRs (Soviet Socialist Republics, which made up the full USSR) which, after the Hammer & Sickle came down and the Warsaw Pact countries all overthrew their puppet governments, my favorite “people’s coup” being Romania, where the vicious, vile dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, along with his wife, were both dragged from their “presidential palace”, or whatever it was called, both shot in the head (multiple times? I wouldn’t doubt it with the anger of these long-oppressed people) and then, Mussolini-style, strung up in the main town square of Bucharest, the capital. After places like Poland, Czechoslovakia (which soon split apart and became proper independent states – The Czech Republic which is a thriving country and the other, Slovakia, a place that, unfortunately isn’t doing as well), of course, East Germany was eventually absorbed by the bigger and much more prosperous West Germany under the 1990 reunification. Following the successes of these Eastern European countries, the various and little known, to the West, former parts of the Russian and Soviet Empire decided that they too wanted their independence, so during the 90s you saw the emergence of such nations as Turkmenistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan to name a few.
I mention these former fiefdoms of the USSR because another of the abandoned cities on Abandoned City that is a song here is Agdam. The song “Agdam” is towards the latter part of the album, where the tempo picks up a bit and one gets the vibe of sudden changes, via the juxtaposition of the music and the busy-ness of it. A little history: a relatively unknown place, extant for some 300 years, Agdam was a rather small, but peaceful town, inhabited by some 40,000 people. This was not some cosmopolitan Shangri-La, where jet-setters and globetrotters yearned to get inside, it was just an insulated little place that was home to the residents here and for centuries not much really changed.
Agdam was a relatively small town in Azerbaijan, but, on a more local level, it was inside the Nagorno-Karabakh area, a small, land-locked area enveloped in the southwestern part of Azerbaijan. Well, that particular region, Nagorno-Karabakh, was a disputed territory. There’d been agitation for independence for some time from both the then-USSR and, after the end of the Leninist Empire, Azerbaijan was the target of independence agitation from people in the region who claimed allegiance to neighboring Armenia. So, of course, it was a tinderbox, just waiting for something to set it off. Of course, that spark would come.

 

agdam-17

In 1993 the city came under siege during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Forty thousand people were forced to flee when Karabakh-Armenian forces shelled the town without mercy. Eighteen years later the town sits vacant, still a part of the Armenian buffer zone (with special thanks and a “shout out” to www.sometimes-interesting.com).

So, getting back to the music: I think Abandoned City is a superb and blissful relaxing piece of music. The fact that Hauschka’s album is a paean to a number of real-life ghost towns, each with their own histories and reasons for demise. The fact that it’s an album of instrumental prepared piano solos, sans vocals, i.e., it’s not filled with political rhetoric is an interesting facet; it could be a “protest” record – just like the history of myriad classical works: symphonies, sonatas, concertos and the like which were written with an undertone of anger in them; anger directed at the king (in whose country they may have been living which is why it wouldn’t have been an overt theme, yet is in there nonetheless). But, in the end, who can say for sure what was in Hauschka’s mind when he wrote the songs. My guess is that it was the question of why these places have ended up as ghost towns and are still extant in that sort of “freeze-frame”, where time has, seemingly, stopped and no one’s called attention to these areas – maybe it’s because there’s no precious natural resource(s) there, like oil or precious metals (gold, silver, copper, magnesium, zinc, bauxite and on and on). If there were such cash cows to be had would the IMF or World Bank rush in and re-build, put on PR shows all over and try to repopulate the place, attracting foreign capital in order to 1) attract people; 2) bring multinationals to the rescue, in terms of getting them in there to rape the land and 3) rebuild a handsome city with which to attract people to come and settle here and seek new opportunities, bring new, technological and environmentally sound opportunities that would sustain and resurrect a ghost town.

I’m not quite sure what the reason is for Elizabeth Bay to have become the ghost town it is today – the scenario just laid out could be what sealed its fate. As to the other examples – we know why Pripyat became the ghost town it is: the Chernobyl nuclear disaster made it uninhabitable for probably the next, ½ a million years or so, or however you calculate the half-life of radioactive decay. And the poor waste of Agdam was a casualty of a bloody and vicious war over boundaries, independence and who got to control what.

I hope that this album, Abandoned City gets listened to more and more as time goes by – not only because it’s a good album made up of good music, but also to educate a lot of people – especially in the west – in fact ESPECIAHauschka Abandoned City CoverLLY in the U.S. – who have never heard the names of these places and so have no idea what they are let alone why they are the way they are. Good luck with the whole project! -KM.

The Return of HAMMOND

Posted: March 9, 2014 in New Indie Music

ThLeif & Bjorn picerhythmisodd

Fly By Time

Self-Released, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

This is about as cool as you can get! A brand new album (albeit, only a 3-song EP) of modernized prog-rock/fusion/jazz. This duo from Sweden, Bjorn Egelius, bass player and self-described “groove inventor” and Swedish drum legend, Leif Fredriksson, who’s been at it for 30 years! They are the principals of therhythmisodd, but they do have a bevy of masterly session guys who play alongside. Both are multi-instrumentalists, journeying into some far-out places. It’s a damn shame there are only 3 tunes on this awesome CD – hell, there’s even a Hammond B-3!!! When done the right way, a Hammond Organ kicks mighty ass!

For some weird, totally unknown reason, when I started this up I got this little flashback of a sort of rare CD that I happened to get from a fellow-music freak – it was part of his own personal collection and had been burned onto a CD-R, so I don’t even know the name of the album, but I remember it was a trio of guitarists doing this same kind of music – Steve Vai, Allan Holdsworth and Steve Stevens (can you believe it?? That’s Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band). Who’d have thought Steve Stevens, whose known for his whipping, frenzied chops on Billy Idol’s tunes, back in the 80s, as well as that jet black, down-stroke haircut, could cut it w/these two guitar giants? But he did! And that was an amazing album. One of those many little surprises you find now and then-it comes from either looking really hard or just getting lucky. In my case it’s actually been the latter in both cases (that guitar trio CD as well as this EP I’m reviewing now-Fly By Time by therhythmisodd. I believe the prefer the lowercase spelling, so I’ll go with that.

The EP starts out with “Promises”, a groovy opener, which shows that they’re pacing themselves. While “Promises” is full of fabulous synthesizer grooves, the Hammond B-3 in there, a real treat to hear; something that just isn’t heard on that much new music. It actually reminds me a bit of some of the more serious jams that Frank Zappa has so masterfully done. There’s the orchestral feel to it – i.e. someone is leading the whole band in a particular direction and keeping it tight. That’s the way Zappa worked a lot-he’d surround himself with amazingly great musicians and let them do their thing-to a point: always letting them know that in the end, it was his music they were playing! Anyway, this Zappa-esque opener is a beautiful and dreamy song. The next to come is “Silver Body Angels” and, wow! It really goes full-force, pulling out all the stops. That Hammond is even more on top on “Silver Body Angels”, as I keep on reminding one, that Hammond B-3 organ really lights up a song. It has a certain panache that can never be mistaken for something else. It’s also got some terrific guitar work on it. Also, I must say here, that Bjorn really can play that bass! He doesn’t just use the bass as an anchor, but as a tool to keep the music going, from the ground up. Finally, the EP closes with the title track (“Fly By Time”) which is a continuance of bliss. A music lover’s dream. You can’t go wrong with these guys. It’s obvious just from listening to one of the 3 songs on here that they are seasoned musicians who really know what they’re doing and they do it well; very well, indeed. It’s played well, arranged well and produced well. On their bio page on the reverbnation.com website, they list bands like King Crimson, Zappa as well as Mahavishnu Orchestra (John McLaughlin’s post-Miles endeavor) -which are all apt comparisons as well as great influences to have – I mean, you can’t do much worse than listening to such heavyweights as John McLaughlin, Robert Fripp and Frank Zappa!

I would really love to see them play live at a gig in a small-ish, intimate club setting. I’m sure they’d really bring the house down, with, extemporaneous improvisations, frenetic soloing that just goes on and on and octopus like tentacles of sound, reaching out from all directions as they’re up on stage, jamming with serious faces and light-hearted joy inside. Please – someone let me know if they come around San Diego and I’ll be there! Anyway, don’t be discouraged by the shortness of Fly By Time. This is not their debut by any means. As I wrote earlier, drummer Leif Fredriksson has been playing drums for 30 years, albeit for other people, but he and Bjorn got together a few years back and have done some DIY work and put out Raw Material, Subway as well as an album under the name Trio, entitled From Nowhere to Eternity. So they have their chops whetted and they’re not newcomers in the least. If you’d like to find out more about them, listen to some of their other music,etc, go to www.reverbnation.com or bandcamp.com or maybe even Amazon.com – I can’t vouch for the latter, but knowing the shockingly huge catalog of music available through Amazon.com, I wouldn’t be surprised!

P.S. – you can also purchase their music on the aforementioned websites as well as listen to various tracks. So – I’d recommend doing it! Listen well…-KM.

Follow the Source

Posted: March 1, 2014 in New Indie Music

Aires

Aires

Enough Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

This lovely four song album, an eponymous EP by the Portuguese band Aires, is a beautifully, lifting sort of work. It consists of the first two tracks: a sort of “suite” – tracks one and two are made up of two different “Organico”s – #1 is “Organico I – Vozes Sem Corpo” and track #2 is “Organico II – Monolitico”. This is followed by a bridge-like work of only a minute, called “Isosceles” which then brings us into the finale, “Controplacado”.

Alas, I can’t say that I’m expert in Portugal. All I know for sure is that two countries continue, today, to have Portuguese as their national language: Portugal and Brazil, the latter of which is immense. It is sort of like comparing Tennessee, representing the size of Portugal and the United States as a whole, representing the size of Brazil – maybe not the perfect complement, but as close of one of which I could guess.

Anyway, this is an all-instrumental EP, 30 minutes in length and it is filled with a colorful beauty, that can evoke images in one’s mind of a pre-Renaissance Iberian Peninsula colonial power, who, at one point rivaled the Dutch and their neighbor, Spain, in worldwide influence and possessions. Nowadays, sadly, all that is left of the Portuguese grandeur is the gem in the Portuguese crown, that is, outside of the home country: Brazil, with its majestic rainforests, Amazon River, endless jungle, a veritable life-sized petri dish of myriad species, many, I’m sure, still unknown to us imperfect humans, no matter how hard Darwin worked to search and catalog so many flora and fauna. I don’t think any one man or even any army of men can ever completely catalog the absolute richness that inhabits the totality of the globe – which includes, in fact, takes up most of the earth, the enveloping oceans, that, for simplicity’s sake, humans have split into four or five, depending on how you classify them (Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and the Southern Ocean, which really is an ocean unto itself, a sea that is below both the Pacific and the Atlantic, with its own currents and winds which feed unto and out of the Antarctic continent. That itself is a fascinating, and tempting as it may be to do, endless source of wonder for study and meditation on.

But I get carried away here. With these four, somewhat simple tracks, which, by themselves may not contribute all the answers, the whole of it is a wondrous and endless cycle of a day-in-the-life of a 13th century peasant, living on the edge of Iberia. Far from Gaul, south, too far south, from Briton and its isles, the only connection it can have to outside would be the neighbor to its immediate north – Spain. Also, below is a boatride away from the northern tip of a world which is as different from Europe as night is from day and from where, much trade, migration and communication could’ve certainly existed. What then, is the mystery of Iberia? Does Portugal belong to Europe proper? Or is it the mystical gateway to North Africa, where the magic never ceases? These are questions one can’t really answer, at least not in this review. I am only letting you know from where I come vis a vis this mysterious album, the richness of its sound, the atmosphere that it carries with it and the drift that has come into it from who-knows-where.

I am surely making up my own fantasy as to the motive(s) of the band and as to how they came up with their ambient, musical eddy. But I never thought imagination could be assailed as “wrong”, since I make no claim as to the true origin of Aires. I suppose that is something better taken up by psychologists. What would Jung say? Am I transferring what I’ve heard and absorbed from Aires to my limitless mind and am I writing a narrative to fit what this “chill-out”, ambient wave of stillness and the anxiAires album coverolytic properties in which it breathes?

One can only wonder what was in the minds of the musicians themselves as they put together this work. Since I had no chance to speak with them or connect with them via email, etc. I can only say what I was able to feel and how the music connected with me.

Of course, as I try to make it known again and again, comments and/or feedback are not only welcomed but encouraged – by readers, fans, about whose band or singer I may be writing about or even the artists/bands themselves if they feel they’d like to offer up their own side or add something that was missed the first time around. Feel free to enlighten us! In the meantime, my best suggestion is to search for Aires on http://www.archive.org where you can download this for free(!) or search out Enough Records and find out what you can about their organization and get a foothold onto Aires.

For now, just close your eyes, sit back and let the music wash over you as you meditate an answer as to how deep it really goes. -KM.