Archive for April, 2014

Cloud Person

Monochrome Places, 2013

Review by Kent Manthie

Pete Jordan is the Cloud Person. At least that’s how it was in the beginning. When starting out, making demos, etc., Jordan used “Cloud Person” as a pseudonym on his “lo-fi” sounding demos. Shortly thereafter, it grew into a trio, featuring Betsey Johnson on violin and Cameron Arneson on bass. A year and many live gigs later they added a drummer (Steve Straney), a keyboardist (Mikkel Lee-Meyers) and a guitarist (Mike Fisher).

The sextet finally got going and with Pete Jordan’s songwriting, just came out with their first full-length CD, Monochrome Places. It’s an interesting amalgam of styles: Monochrome Places starts out with a couple Celtic-sounding folk tunes (“Lighthouse” and “Robber Barons”), which are punctuated throughout with Betsey’s violin which really adds that Irish countryside vibe. “Old Demeter” is more of a bluesy, edgier jam, followed by the slow, somewhat melancholy “Clenched Teeth”, a slow, but catchy tune which has a sort of R.E.M.-ness to it; introspective and existential musings with something ethereal about it that is hard to capture, but enjoyable nonetheless. “Same Old Totem” follows. This one’s got more of a kick to it, with the drums providing a strong punctuation and a bigger sound. The difference between the first couple songs with the middle and the last few is a good example of the variety of music styles with which Cloud Person experiments.

In general, though, Cloud Person belongs in the “indie rock” category, there’s no doubt about that. Jordan’s got a good knack for songwriting and the aforementioned songs are shining testaments to that. At 40 minutes long, this nine-song album is a potpourri of ideas, sounds and its genre-bending, marriage of styles is sure to keep the music fresh and not nine variations on the same sound.

Monochrome Places ends with “Men of Good Fortune” (no, not the Lou Reed song from the great Berlin album) which, with its plaintive, hopeful yearnings, leaves the listener with a sated appetite. One of the constants of the album is Betsey’s violin, which is a ubiquitous background but she plays in a way that is complementary to the song.

It’s a good, mellow, contemplative album which isn’t weighted down to heavily by overwrought mediocrity, but rather a breezy, laze-in-the-grass sort of album. You can find more information about Cloud Person and hear some tracks at www.bandcamp.com. Just remember that, what you hear at the beginning of the album is not representative of it as a whole, so give it a chance and just keep going. The title of the album is somewhat apt – Monochrome Places is reminiscent of an overcast day, walking around under gray skies and quiet streets. -KM.

cloudperson-300x300

Kye Alfred Hillig

Real Snow, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

So, I got this new album emailed to me as a download from the artist and his label or promo people. For me, this is my first exposure to Mr. Hillig. From what I read about him in the bio that came with the download, I gather that this new album, Real Snow, has been done in a kind of an “alt.-folk” vein. That may not be exactly what they described it as, themselves, but as I listen to it, that’s the vibe I’m picking up.

Actually, as I get further and further into Real Snow, I find myself wondering who the hell thought this was “folk” or had anything to do with “folk”. Remember back in the early 90s, when bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana came out of the woods and blew everyone’s mind -especially ones who listen, faithfully to FM commercial radio, which changed everything – after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became a big hit and soon turned into a “teen-angst anthem” (something that Kurt Cobain hated!) This new “grunge” subgenre did one heroic thing just by being pushed onto the radio: it got rid of the phony, talentless garbage “hair bands” – dudes with long hair that they teased with lots of hair spray and they wore more makeup than my girlfriend does! Anyway, the point is that, even before Nirvana and cohorts like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden (which was a better band than both Nirvana & P.J. put together – just to digress a minute – the very 1st time I heard Soundgarden was probably about 6 months to a year before most people even heard of them, this was before they were radio darlings-I was at a party, well, it was more of a medium-sized “get together” and it was a house in which lived a friend of a friend, anyway, we were drinking beers, etc. and the guy who lived there had all this great music there and we were listening to stuff, talking, etc and all of a sudden he says – “hey, check THIS shit out…” and proceeded to put on Louder Than Love – I think that was Soundgarden’s second. Anyway, it was still when they had Yamamoto on bass, before Ben Sheppard (who I like too), well, he had the vinyl edition and put it in and, never having even heard of Soundgarden before, I was blown away! I thought, “these guys kick ass and I want to get me some of this!” – Pretty soon, after Badmotorfinger came out, Soundgarden started getting more and more into the spotlight – they had a string of “hits” on that one – my favorites are “Jesus Christ Pose” and “Rusty Cage”. Then you know what they did? They cut their friggin’ hair! Well, Superunknown was definitely no Ultramega OK but I really, really love Ben Shepard’s “Head Down” – described somewhere as “Beatle-esque” but that wasn’t a good enough description – no, it was really psychedelic but a dark, leather-clad psychedelia. “Fourth of July” and “Like Suicide” are also good tunes.) – sorry to go off on a tangent there. Anyway, grunge propped the door wide open for all sorts of sub-genres of Alternative, which, back in 1992-96 or so was a real good thing to be known as – less than five years later, the term “alternative” was nothing more than a corporate marketing device which led to the signing (to major labels-a bad sign right there) of myriad bands of dubious quality.

Let’s get back to where I was before I totally get lost in thought. I guess nowadays you can’t just label a band “alternative” and expect that to be enough of a description – I mean, that term has been so overused and used in terrible ways – to make shareholders in corporations that own record labels money. It’s use as a descriptive term, which used to mean “different from the crap you hear 10 times a day on bland, nauseating top 40 stations”. I don’t even think that “alternative” is used anymore. So, bands, labels, etc have to get creative and come up with new ways of framing their sound.

OK, now I’ve been washed over with this album (Real Snow) and, no, it’s not “folk” – it’s that kind of stuff that, in, oh, 94 or so, was coming out by various “adult contemporary” style “alternative” – say, like those Crash Test Dummies or Subdudes – or maybe Hothouse Flowers – they had different vibes from typical pop crap, to be sure and instead of drifting into post-industrial (NIN, Ministry, KMFDM, RevCo, etc), they would come from a more “mature” (whatever that means) vein- i.e., while you were in your late teens, listening to Pigface, your older brother or your dad might’ve been listening to this stuff, which shouldn’t take away anything from it. Only an observation, not a judgment.

Like, if dubstep gave you a headache or emo made you feel nauseated (as it can with any age group) from the insincerity, then you’d be in heaven with Kye and the likes of him.

Before I forget – a couple songs worth mentioning, ones that epitomize the whole, include “Bells of Doom” – a song with a electric percussion rattle and some flaming organ vibes. “The Night Obscene” tells the tale of one man’s experience with the after dark world and “When You Were a Waitress” is a pretty ballad, that works well as a post-modern love song. It’s not one of those corny ones from the 1970s, (anyone remember Ambrosia or Player or England Dan & John Ford Coley??). One more song worth mentioning is the danceable “Ice Age XVII”.

Anyway, when you feel like you’re coming down and want something mellow to alleviate your aching head or to just help you unwind, Real Snow is a good balm for that. Check out http://www.bandcamp.com for more information and to download the album (a limited time offer).  -KM.

Kye Alfred Hillig cover

Bring ’em All on Over

Posted: April 8, 2014 in New Indie Music

Rob Crooks

Me and All of My Friends (EP)

Review by Kent Manthie

After a busy 2013, having collaborated on three albums with three different projects, Rob Crooks started 2014 out taking it easy. His first release since his previous solo work is this short work, entitled Me and All of My Friends (EP), which is really a CD-single, complete with a “b-side” whatever that means anymore, as well as two remixes of the title track and one remix of the so-called “b-side” (“Saturday”).

The other song is called “Saturday”, which has a seven minute “Medicine Remix” as the last cut. So, what is really a 2-song CD-single has been magically sneaked into a 5 tune EP, thanks to remixes. The variety of the remixes, though, provide both a kind of continuity and a lack of sameness. I still don’t know who, exactly, it is that is singing the vocals, unless it’s a woman with the name “Rob”.

What I can write, i.e., what I’ve learned, is that, after having collaborated, in 2013, with Birdapres, Sugar Pill Gang and Magnum KI, Rob Crooks has released his first solo outing since 2012’s Hearts. Me and All of My Friends is an extension of Rob’s fascination with “post-rap” and indie-pop. The two sub-genres manifest themselves as an amalgamation, both danceable and heartfelt and existential. The title track is an ode to Rob’s peers, who, just like him, are starting to reach that age where fear and doubt start to set in, first in small pieces, here and there, almost like a dream. Trust me, though, you 30 year olds or 31-33 y/os – in 5-10 years you’ll be saying to yourselves “where the hell did all the time go? It feels like I was just at the club dancing the night away, now I’ve (either) ‘got a family to support and for whom I have to work to earn money to pay the bills and feed them and myself too as well as buying the kids stuff, like toys, video games, and, you know how kids like to “keep up with the Bobby’s and the Stevies” in their schools, so you’re constantly hounded to get the coolest toys or games or hoodies or toy Uzis, etc.

Actually, I’m actually kind of happy that someone finally decided to do some introspective work, not just personal, solipsistic-leaning introspection, but, rather, generational introspection. I’m sure there are plenty of books (most of them cheap, pulpy crap you’d find at the checkout counter at Safeway or Target or Rite-Aid’s “Literature” department, aka “books, etc. department. Then there are the more scholarly things one could locate by checking out Google searches for university press websites. Oxford University Press, Harvard University Press, which both have rather good reputations for publishing quality material. There are plenty of other types of publishing arms. The point is, you can read pointy-headed authors pontificating on the preponderance of adults, especially in the US, who are in their 40s now, some in their 50s and they don’t seem “old” anymore, the way 50 year olds did, back in the 50s or 60s or 70s (or even 80s). Now that “Baby Boomers” are beginning to get into the “golden years” – aka, 60s, 70s, etc, they’re kids are about to hit middle age, which means that the “second named” generation – “Generation X” is now becoming middle aged! With Kids! Families! Houses that have mortgages (unless they inherited them from mom & dad, who, having paid it off, moved to Florida and gave the house to you & your wife or girlfriend, lover or whatever it is.

Anyway, it’s no longer 9-5 Monday through Friday and party hearty Thursday through Monday anymore. Now it has to slow down. Just the weekend, thank you very much. Leave Sunday nights and the weeknights to college age kids (now known as “the millenials” – a stupid, stupid name that I never liked from the first time I heard it!).

Getting back to the record – the other song featured, “Saturday” is also about the same generation of people that the title track sings about – To Crooks, “Saturday” is kind of an “anthem” for a generation whose “weekends are vanishing in one way or another”. It’s open to interpretation, but the idea is common more and more these days: the harder economy is forcing more people to work longer hours and sometimes take on a second job to help make ends meet and pay down credit card debt. This signals that what everyone’s familiar with as a “weekend” is more of an “ideal” than a reality. Also, for some lucky bastards, every day is a Saturday-like day. Early retirees, disabled people – and there’s a wide gamut of the definition of “disabled” before you start pointing fingers. The messages are poignant, spirited, brought about in a slick, post-modern sound sense.

The fourth cut on this EP, the second remix of “Me and All of My Friends” (the third, overall, including the original) is also a “cover” of the song, by folksy outfit Nomad. Following Nomad’s cover version, we get a remix of “Saturday”. The first, original tune is only two and a half minutes long, but the remix, as I read somewhere, clocking in at 7:18, is in a style that would be great at your local Danceteria. If only, right?

That is the whole point. But, somewhere in this whole argument, I detect a flaw. Just because a certain segment of people are reaching a particular age-bracket, does not mean they have to automatically conform to society’s snapshot of what they should be. Are YOU 40-something? Are YOU married and have a kid (or two or five)? NO? Me neither. And not everyone else is either. That means that there are still plenty of people who are willing and able to “get down” as the song says and stay in “the game” – you don’t have to go around hitting on 21 year old chicks still – that’s kind of creepy – to them. If they were in high school still, they’d probably be into the whole “older guy” thing, but once you get out into the real world, you realize that “older” is a very relative term when you’re only 15-16 years old. But, of course, the dilemma – they’re children; jailbait. You don’t want to go there and you shouldn’t. It’s just wrong. But then, a long time ago, in ages past, child brides were quite common – men who happened to be in their 40s or 50s at least, sometimes got hooked up with, basically, children. They got married, had kids and lived as any other family would. Seems odd now, but it wasn’t even blinked at in the Victorian era, but neither was the fact that 5 year olds were working at factories and shipyards and steel refineries, etc.

Well, this whole thing really does bring up a real “can of worms” as it were. Quite a conversation starter. A great thing to have at your next get-together, next time you have a dinner party or just a few friends over for coffee and whatever. Plus, the remixes are a real kick and make great dancing fodder. -KM

me & my friends cov

Keep Glowing

Posted: April 7, 2014 in New Indie Music

Nick Foster

The Glowing Heart

CD Baby Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

This brand new release from Seattle, WA’s Nick Foster, entitled The Glowing Heart has a completely different sound than the previous things you’ve read about. It’s much earthier, a little rock, a little country, a dash of folk here and there. The resulting mixture is surprisingly pleasant. Without leaning too heavily on the “Country” part of his roots, Foster manages to pull off a smooth, mellow and personal/introspective album.

The first “single” that he’s sent around to get promoted was the opening cut, “All You Are To Me”, which is a pretty good tune. It’s got a nice lift to it, great for an opener, it’s got a bit more punch to it than some of the others, a little more “rock” to it. The next couple tunes (“”Days” and “Letters”) are softer, slower ballad-esque songs, good for a slow dance or sitting by the fire, etc.

Later on in the album, “The Runaround” is a sexy, deliberate attack, backed by a sexy female singer. One of my favorite tunes, actually, is “Better to Swim”, a sparse, soft acoustic ballad that has a melancholy flavor to it. It sheds the pop strains of some of the other cuts, strips away the country veneer and just goes straight for that moment. Following “Better to Swim” is “The Throne”, a longer version of the same, but with drums added. It’s a more refined sound, as if Nick had figured out the right direction to go halfway through, by trial & error. Not to take away from the rest of it. It is, overall, a well-done production.

Right now, if you’re interested, The Glowing Heart is available as a free download. Just hop over to http://nickfosterseattle.bandcamp.com to get your copy while you can! It’s also up on Amazon.com for sale, which is a testament to its popularity.

Foster just finished up a couple gigs in Washington – one at the Chinook Fest launch party at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle last Friday. The next day, the 5th, he played the Season’s Performance Hall, in Yakima.

This is one of those albums that will change and deepen with further listenings. You can’t expect to absorb all of the clues dropped everywhere at once to get it all in one setting.

I’d say give it a go-round, come back in a day or two and listen again; you may find that you missed out on certain aspects of certain of the songs that you didn’t catch the first time around.

Look out for Nick when he comes near your neighborhood. Definitely, an act that would be appreciated live. -KM.

Nick Foster the glowing heart cover

The Finer Points of Sadism

Ambersands

Self-Released, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

Just off of their other project, the Sacketts’ Partner Artifact latest project (I’m not 100% which came out 1st this or the Partner Artifact) is The Finer Points of Sadism’s latest album, Ambersands. The way I like think of the two bands is The Finer Points of Sadism being Jacob’s TOOL and Partner Artifact his A Perfect Circle. In other words, the former has a harder, edgier, louder, more ballsy type of feel to it, while the latter (in both cases) are a bit more sedate (not too much in P.A.’s case, though) and feel free to explore wider reaches that their respective “day job” bands (so to speak) dig into.

After just saying that, though, I’ve been listening to the 1st tune of what are only four tunes on this EP by TFPS. The title track, coming in at almost seven minutes, is a bit on the softer side, a la Perfect Circle, what with the acoustic guitar, the un-distorted, Nick-Cave-like vocals, etc. OK…but then, when “Travels & Observations” kicks in (song #2) I hear what I came to hear – a blistering, noisy, effects-laden mic, worked over as if it were hooked up to a distortion pedal. Of course, I’m sure it’s much simpler than that these days. (Imagine, though, trying that, as an experiment, back in the 60s or early 70s? Wonder if you could pull that off credibly-but then, it’s experimental, so “credibility” goes out the friggin’ window.

The third tune “Wolf Spiders Are Such Total Bros”, is twice as long as the previous tune-2:30(!). It just sears through in a fast and furious way not stopping for a single breath until it quickly pulls the plug after a minute ½. The final tune, “my Symphony” also has that eerily similar voice akin to Nick Cave’s, even though Jacob is not from England, as far as I know – he’s from somewhere in the states. But then, when Nick sings, he sort of loses the accent as well. If I’m going to do any kind of comparing to Nick Cave, especially on “my Symphony”, I’d say it’s reminiscent of back in the Birthday Party days crossed with L.A. hardcore. It’s a fast & furious number that starts off with Jacob talking about what he wants from this, etc. and then the action kicks in.

I like it, I like it! I wish it were longer, though. I do hope that Partner Artifact isn’t taking over Jacob’s time and that he’s going to start putting less and less time into TFPS. Let’s hope this is just a sample of what’s to come. The previous few TFPS CDs I remember, were full of extended songs with endless fireballs of lusty pyromania and pill-popping madness.

Let’s hope there’s more nihilism like Full of Hooks or A Deeper Appreciation for Hatred. Two, now classic TFPS albums. I still dig Partner Artifact and wish him and Ashley all the best on that project and future endeavors. Ashley is not only straying afield for Partner Artifact, but is also involved, with Jacob, in The Finer Points of Sadism.

Also, if you’d like to give Ambersands a free try, go visit our friends at http://www.archive.org and you’ll be able to get the EP there, for free (try Free Music Archive too, they usually have the same things there too).

Anyway, I give you my go-ahead, to go ahead and get this teaser of an EP to keep you tided over until their next album comes crawling out from the depths of hell! Ha ha ha ha ha! But do enjoy. -KM.

Finer of Points of Sadism -AMBERSANDS cover