Archive for September, 2014

Golden Voiced Interpretations

Posted: September 18, 2014 in New Indie Music

David Wakeling

Well Imagine That

Self-Released, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                                                    well-imagine-that-front-cover

David Wakeling is back. Just out is his latest CD, entitled Well Imagine That, a CD that features 10 songs from a variety of artists, reinterpreted by Wakeling, including such notables as Todd Rundgren, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, Nik Kershaw and Kenny Rankin, to name just a few.

Based in Portland, OR, this MD, when he’s not busy saving lives and making people well, has a great sideline making music, a sort of therapy for the mind. He is quite the musician, playing all the instruments as well as singing. On this album, he gets a little help from Candace Schimp, who sings backup, “harmony”, vocals and plays piano on James Taylor’s “Only for Me” and playing the upright or “stand-up” bass on the Harburg, Arlen, Rose-penned “Paper Moon” is Brad Wager.

Wakeling, who, as I wrote in the review for his previous release, Clutch Hits, Best of… has been making music for some time now, having played in Against Medical Advice, who put out a self-titled album in 2009 and he was also briefly in This, Not This, whose output includes a self-titled album as well as 2013’s Waiting for the World. In between these projects he also did several solo projects, including three CDs in 2013: You Gotta Start Somewhere, Gravity and Altadena Avenue. Quite a busy year for him. He’s also recorded several CD singles, including “Not as Bad as it Seems”, “Takeaway” and “Hero of ’44”, three that appear on Clutch Hits, Best of…

The songs he covers on Well Imagine That are more than just “covers”, but more like reconstructed versions that carry his own imprint. For instance, on his version of “Downtown Train” written and originally done by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Tom Waits, Wakeling does a great job of re-imaging the song and crafting something that is a bit more uptempo and comes off in a way that isn’t merely copying Waits’s original. Those familiar with Tom Waits’s style know what I’m talking about. Wakeling’s take on “Downtown” is a whole different piece, a different arrangement, which seems to be less plaintive; pining, with some verve to it; the way it begins is the first sense that David’s recreated this his own way: the intro and first verse are more upbeat and not as melancholy. For me, this version is far, far better than Rod Stewart’s 1989 version, which I never cared for; it’s just too saccharine. David has a much better feel for what to do with “Downtown Train” and he manages to keep it on the rails quite smoothly.

Moving on…Well Imagine That starts out with a song written by another favorite of mine: Todd Rundgren, doing his own incarnation of Todd’s “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference”. This is, as with “Downtown Train”, a song that Wakeling takes and makes his own. This new version is altogether different: it’s stripped down to its essence; gone are all the pop-music machines and in their place, David makes it quite pleasing with acoustic guitar and a hint of background vocal. The current version is a smooth, pleasing tune, played with an apt sensibility, not messing with its essential qualities.

There are many great new versions of songs on Well Imagine That which can each be deconstructed and in each, one will find something new and original which David brings to it. Another example of a wonderful new arrangement is Jackson Browne’s “Next Voice You Hear”; on this one, Wakeling seems to really get the feeling of the song pinned down while bringing his own essence to it. Then, there’s Lyle Lovett’s “Flyswatter/Icewater Blues”, a song with a crooning melody, combined with Lovett’s trademark witty lyrics. Another mention is the Nik Kershaw tune, “Already” which also showed up on Wakeling’s previous release, Clutch Hits – it’s a very good tune, in fact, “Already” is recorded in “full band” style, with a smooth-sounding electric guitar, bass, drums and piano. He really seems to like this song, which shows by how great this version is. “Paper Moon” is an acoustic, jazzy take on the old standard. The album closes out with Dave Grusin’s “It Might Be You”, another tune that takes an extant song and strips it down to its essence; by doing this, the fine points are even more evident.

The album as a whole is a great tribute to some great songwriters; songs that have been rearranged to have David Wakeling’s unique style; his strong voice, the razor sharp acoustic guitar as well as little extras here and there, like some piano, or a little background vocals. An album which shines as a way to reincarnate songs from the recent past and not make them mere covers, but altogether, new interpretations.   For more information and for ordering options, visit http://www.wakelingmusic.com -KM.

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Denial of Service

Totentanz (Official Bootleg), 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                                                       denialofservice

Totentanz (Official Bootleg) is the latest live album from Thessaloniki, Greece’s Denial of Service. Denial of Service is a no-nonsense industrial-type outfit which features somewhat dark, mysterious and sometimes ominous soundscapes that are layered and textured with various shades of black. I just came by this album recently, almost by happenstance. It popped up in my email inbox recently, as happens now and then, my email being connected to Independent Review.

I was intrigued by the whole concept and the album cover, plus, their aura just seemed so enticing that I wanted to hear what it sounded like and my curiosity did not let me down.

Actually, what really piqued my interest and made me want to listen was when I saw that the name of the first track on here is “Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch”, which is, of course, the title to one of the late, great, mind-blowingly awesome, Philip K. Dick’s classic novels. Myself, being a huge PKD fan, I saw the song title, which was also the title of PKD’s 1965 dystopian novel that takes place “some time in the 21st century” – which is ironic, in a way, since we are now in the 21st century and, unlike many of the forecasts of the future – the campy, wishful-thinking type to the more intellectually written essays/books that foresaw a much more advanced society. One of the traits these future experts didn’t account for was the unyielding force of greed, which, in so many ways, has kept progress at bay. That is another, long diatribe I could get into at some other time.

One thing about PKD, he was so much more than a typical “Sci-Fi” writer: he was brilliant. Although a lot of his stories and settings took place in the future where space travel has been, if not perfected, at least advanced to a point where we still haven’t reached. Yet, since reading so many of his books, I just don’t think of him as merely a “Science Fiction Writer” – not to denigrate other Sci-Fi authors, but when you get a label such as that, you instantly get stuck in a box from which you are expected to produce a certain oeuvre. Anyone who has also read a great deal of PKD’s work, I’m sure come to a similar conclusion.

Anyway, on to the album at hand: Totentanz (Official Bootleg) is a portrait of denial.of.service’s live work and it emanates, unlike many polished “live” albums, which are edited through and through and which edit out the audience sounds, cuts out the breaks between songs and basically is live album filtered through a studio, afterward, to be mixed, cut-up, arranged in ways to take out the “less interesting” (according to label bigwigs) stuff and fill it up with as much popular, widely known “hits”. Totentanz, on the other hand, leaves in the sound of the audience: the whistling, the hushed banter that takes place between people during the show, leaves in things like breaks between songs, etc. In other words, it gives a kind of snapshot, or, more correctly, a video recording, of raw footage. Samples of what it’d be like to go and see a show yourself.

A few songs that stand out for me include “Nightmare of Judgment”, “Treatment and Rehabilitation”, “Exercising With the Demons” and, of course, the aforementioned “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch”, which is perfect as the opening cut.

Denial.of.service is, at least, so far, keeping a low-profile, staying underground sort of. They have their cult-following, a loyal fan base, but I think that they’re happy with their current surroundings. I (at least would hope) don’t think I see them selling out anytime soon and hooking up with one of the remaining few corporate conglomerates who run the major-label music industry anytime soon (hopefully never!). On their ReverbNation.com page, they list a fellow musician, Dayglo Dave, who, according to his ReverbNation profile, has a sound that one would, no doubt, get into, if they were musical followers of Ariel Pink, The Residents or Can.

One more thing about “Treatment and Rehabilitation” – in the first part of that tune I noticed that it reminded me of Kraftwerk, at least with the first minute or so – something about that set-up that made me think of Kraftwerk’s “Numbers”, from their Computer Worlds album.

Check out more about denial.of.service at www.reverbnation.com or www.bandcamp.com or you can do a Google search and find more places that have bits and pieces of info about denial.of.service.

This is definitely a great live set – a perfectly tailored sound structure that evokes a concert in a venue, not too big, club-sized or a little higher; a dark, cavernous, place at which they utilize a multitude of high-powered concert speakers, so loud, the etherealness of the atmospheric sound combined with the billowing, booming percussion would make your ears quiver with a tinge of blissful pain. -KM.

An Ethereal Reel

Posted: September 12, 2014 in New Indie Music

Mike Strain

Let’s Dance Around Like Angels for the Neighbors Down Below

Ohana Media, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                                                                                       Mike Strain cover

The latest, full-length album from Mike Strain, native of western Massachusetts and current resident of Atlanta, GA, Let’s Dance Around Like Angels for the Neighbors Down Below is an interesting display of development. I remember Mike Strain from reviewing an EP he came out with in the spring of 2013. In April, 2013, I wrote up a review for Your Heart is Your Home Wherever You Go. On that one, there were four tracks: “Making War”, “TV Set”, “Negatives” and “Cigarette Burns”. I had to go back and re-read that review because, at least at present, there is barely anything available on the internet, biographical-wise, excepting a Facebook page and the new album, which is available for download on Bandcamp (http://www.bandcamp.com) and has a small blurb about him.

Well, as I re-read that review, it all came rushing back to me – Strain, as a kid, started out playing the trumpet and still has a knack for it; it shows up a couple times, both on the previous EP and this one, Let’s Dance Around Like Angels… Now he’s playing guitar, the acoustic guitar, which is the main accompaniment on Let’s Dance Around… and you do hear a little trumpet on “Rumors” and “Glow”, which I thought was an especially good song. It’s on “Glow” that Strain pushes the bounds a little and expands, both lyrically and musically. Another song to mention here is “Wonderfully”, which, like “Glow”, has an uptempo vibe to it. There is something like a spinning, reeling verve that you feel from these tunes. “Hand Me Downs”, on the other hand, is a more somber, self-examining song.

Another thing I noticed, comparing Let’s Dance Around Like Angels for the Neighbors Down Below vs 2013’s Your Heart is Your Home Wherever You Are is that on this new one, Strain, while maintaining a similar introspective vibe, relating the personal and inviting you, the listener, into his consciousness, for Let’s Dance Around Like Angels Strain adds a spiritual touch to some of his lyrics. On songs like “Counting on my Fingers”, “Hallelujah, All is New” and “Rumors”, Mike makes use of religious imagery; whether it’s a literal outpouring of faith or a metaphor wrapped around an interior outlook, I can’t tell. One thing, though, he isn’t proselytizing or be a moralizing holy guy, bible in one hand and guitar in the other.

Wherever he gets his inspiration, it is evident that Strain has been growing, developing in his songwriting. While the music still has that stripped-bare feel to it, I see no reason to change that. He plays with a passion that is a personal, introspective one, not feeling a need to punctuate that with bigger and more complex sounds. Just playing the guitar, the occasional piano interludes and his trumpet cameos, are the appropriate sound to go with his lyrics. The album is a confessional, of sorts. An open book Strain wrote with which to bare his soul and make himself transparent and vulnerable, something from which he gets strength. -KM.

Master Blaster

Posted: September 8, 2014 in New Indie Music

Azureflux

Mean Machine

Enough Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                  
azureflux

The latest release from Azureflux, Mean Machine, is a 5-song EP, which starts off with the intense, frenetic, epileptic “Wizard House”, goes next, right into “Graveyard Shift”, “Beastmode”, “Reckless” and finally, the last cut is actually Azureflux’s remix of The Prodigy’s “Wake the Fuck Up”.

The theme of Mean Machine seems to be a video game soundtrack, complete with the sound effects of what sounds like a ray-gun being fired and blasting the video game “enemy”. I don’t say that as a negative thing: the fact that it’s a perfect background to a futuristic video game with intensity and excitement is a lot better than a typical bubblegum pop song you’d hear on a “STAR” top 40 radio station.

It’s sometimes hard to tell where the seriousness tapers off and the fantasy humor begins. At only 14 minutes it’s a small record. But I do hear potential throughout these numbers: as they do a remix of a Prodigy tune at the end, I can see that taking other electronica tunes and adding their own spin to it, with a few zips, zaps and buzzes, they seem like a good “go-to” outfit for reformatting versions of club favorites. For example: “Wake the Fuck Up” takes a typical hardcore electronica, British techno tune, in this case a Prodigy song and, well, if you’re a big Prodigy fan, you’ll know the song of which I speak. Plus you’ll also know the super bad-ass thumping bass and whiplash frenzy they’re known for cooking up. Azureflux’s remix of “Wake the Fuck Up” is kind of like seeing The Prodigy performing this, say, on stage or, more aptly, in the studio and, by some sort of ‘sci-fi’ magic, Liam Howlett, gets zapped, shrinking him down and inserting him into a fast-paced, future-war-style video game and, while not changing the initial song, breaking it up into pixelated colors: yellows, reds, oranges, greens and purples – music which is moved up the spectrum into a wavelength of visible colors, yet, in a sort of lysergic way, still retaining the sonic quality, only reshaping it to fit perfectly with the blizzard of action going on – rockets coming at you, having to blast them before they get you first, moving up, down and around – going forward, linearly, but now and then dropping down (or bouncing up) to grab a “bonus” object.

The music itself is infectious, laden with layers of computerized bytes of digitized sonic datastreams. I’ve not heard anything quite like Mean Machine, outside a video game. But I’ve only heard this small sampling of their music; now I want to hear what they have planned next – some remixes? Original work? I do hope they can expand a little more and not have a duplicate follow-up. That just would not work. The sound, as I wrote, is intense, computerized, as if glazed eyeballs were staring at a computer screen, unblinking, keeping up with the fast-paced environment of gaming.

Using a computer as an instrument and not just a tool can bring the promise of almost infinite possibilities of pre-programmed a beat-and-sound sensation, only limited by the creativity of the person who shapes and molds it. -KM.

Things to do on a Sunny Day

Posted: September 8, 2014 in New Indie Music

The Lost Patrol

Chasing Shadows

Self-Released, 2014

Review by Kent ManthieChasing Shadows cover

The latest CD from NYC’s The Lost Patrol, Chasing Shadows, is a mesmerizing, dreamlike, silky package, with brilliant, textured layers that ooze out a kind of “noir-pop”. With each new release they seem to be reaching higher into the atmosphere for their music. Lead singer Mollie Israel has this angel-voiced hush that caps the dreamy combination of guitars, keyboards, drums, etc.

The first cut, “Creeper” is a delight. A great song to open with; it really draws you into it’s musical web. “Too Hard Too Fast” is a haloed effect that glazes the beauty of its creatively molded pop sound and is, also, hard to resist. This is great material. Between their last work, 2013’s Driven and their mid-2014 release Chasing Shadows, The Lost Patrol has matured a bit, taken a “musical Valium” and the effect is a chill-out, windswept, cosmological sound that will induce you to a dreamy space rush.

The fourth cut, “Trust Me” has a tinge of the “space cowboy” to it – in other words, it has the same ethereal groove to it, but is accentuated with the strums of an acoustic guitar and an upbeat percussion. Mollie never fails to put out a fabulous vocal on “Trust Me” or the rest. The album goes next, straight to “Treachery”, a more sleek and sensuous sound.

The more I listen to it, the more I figure out who it is I hear in the back of my mind as TLP piques my memory: The Church. Not that there’s any big similarity between the two bands, but in the way that the early albums from The Church had a soft, billowing breeze to their atmospheric dream-pop, on such earlier works as Of Skins and Hearts, The Blurred Crusade and Séance. Just like those albums, Chasing Shadows has a way of being irresistible, of keeping the listener plugged into the album; one just can’t stop the music mid-way through the whole. But I don’t mean to make any solid comparisons between the two.

Between Stephen Masucci’s input: guitar, bass, keyboards and Michael Williams’s 12-string guitar, the music takes shape with a rhythm injected by Tony Mann, who plays his drums in a “just right” manner, appropriate for this: not a bombastic or synthesized treatment, but, by using what sound like brushes and a toned-down beat, gives the rhythm presence without shaking it up too much. One other, more apt comparison I could throw in would be the space-pop of Mazzy Star, but with more emphasis on a group dynamic rather than a back-up band for Hope Sandoval, not to criticize Mazzy Star: I think they have their own, wonderful angle of the angelic-pop sound.

Further on down, the title track is a brave new direction in which to travel; then there’s “I’m 28”, which has Mollie singing a plaintive cry about her life: she’s 28 and wondering what life holds in store for her, the lyrics reflect a similar wonderment about the closing years:“I’m 28 and scared/What have I got to do?” captures it brilliantly – one who is getting on and closer to 30, that magic number, for which, those who’ve gone quite a way in life, from the beginning – at 20, up to 29, when they (at least, according to some artificial, societal norm) are supposed to be settled and fixed upon a career, not, as much anymore, already married with children, as that whole phenomenon is being put off later and later these days while both men and women get a career started and try to find their niche. But they do want to have something accomplished, if not be on the road to it, before hitting that scary point of 30 (which, actually isn’t so bad. After 30, you want to do all you can and time doesn’t seem to be rolling that fast – it’s when you reach your late 30s that you suddenly realize that 40 is just around the corner – and then 50 and so on…

The last two songs, “Hurricane” and “If I Could” round out the album, with two beautiful, sonorous melodies. “If I Could” really is a great song with which to end – it’s got an endearing, memorable melody that lingers for a bit, even after the album stops playing. Another sign of great production and continuity. Yes, I can say, with surety, that Chasing Shadows shows The Lost Patrol growing and not just a here today, gone tomorrow outfit, they have a drive which keeps them going further, exploring new ground, softening a bit around the edges – at least on this album – with the result that the sound is a gorgeous sounding album of precious whimsy. If you haven’t been exposed to The Lost Patrol and would like to hear their subtle metamorphosis, check out Rocket Surgery or Driven and then give Chasing Shadows a listen and see for yourself what it’s all about. -KM.

Ship to Shore Sham(an)

Posted: September 3, 2014 in New Indie Music

Jared C. Balogh

I am the Ship//I am the Sham

Nowaki Recordings, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                                    Balogh ship-shaman cover

   If you’re paying attention so far, you’ll have noticed that I recently posted a review for the new EP by Aniqatia, entitled Erratics. This is a band that features the extraordinary guitar work and songwriting/improv genius of Jared C. Balogh, who has also been a prolific solo artist, whose various albums I’ve reviewed here and there, on Independent Review. I doubt that I’ve reviewed every album he’s done, since, for one thing, he had made many before I was even hip to his brand of avant-garde, post-post-bop jazz guitar noodling, much of which has a feel of improv throughout. Anyway, around the same time that Aniqatia came out with Erratics, Balogh was also had at work on another solo recording, which is available now, for free (!) –simply by going to http://www.fma.org or http://www.archive.org from where you may download it! It’s a real treat that this truly, fiercely independent artist is not playing the music-industry game, seeking fortune and fame by sucking up to major, corporate labels who sign up promising young acts, i.e., bands who have a great sound, sometimes they’re really innovative, unique and bring a fresh perspective to the fore, which really piques the interest of listeners, who soon become part of the solid cult-like fan base and, which is, a lot of the time, enough of a spark to boost the confidence of the band or artist and, like a feedback loop, the artist(s) keep on putting out more and, ultimately, better stuff that, through the very wondrous effect of word-of-mouth, increases that fan base and by incessant touring, recording and without ever having to do silly things like show up on commercial radio stations around the country, to plug their major label release, so they’d show up, give a little interview at the local station w/the morning show DJs and maybe stick around after the interview and, as a little memento, would set-up gear in a not-being-used studio and do an acoustic version of one or two of their big “hits”. Then, over the next year or, at least until they became old news, the station would play these “exclusive” acoustic versions.

But, Jared doesn’t do local corporate morning shows (or any shows on those places) – neither does any self-respecting, unique band who doesn’t have to rely on hype or corporate PR promo. Like I wrote, word-of-mouth is a powerful tool and when the word spreads around a college campus or high school or even among certain groups within these institutions (or an office environment, etc.), a band can find that, between one tour and the next, they may be back to an audience twice the size.   All it took was the word spreading like wildfire that “these guys are great” and that “they kick ass live” and so on.

Well, consider this a sort of “word-of-mouth” gesture, if you will: I’ve gone through a number of Jared’s albums and each one has an amazing sound to it: a unique, unboxed style that you just cannot pigeonhole. I suppose the closest way to get to a “label” for it would be to say that it strikes a “chord” with those who are into stuff like Ornette Coleman or Pat Metheny or other jazz artists, but, mixed with avant-stylings of Brian Eno, Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew – and more. These are just names that come to mind, but I don’t mean to imply that Balogh sounds like them, per se. I just am saying that, if you dig some of those names, you’re likely to be turned onto Jared’s great guitar craft too.

With this newest three-song EP, Jared isn’t bringing us a long opus or anything, he’s just, possibly (I’m not sure, exactly), coinciding with the release of Erratics, the album by Aniqatia, the band with whom he played. (See review for Erratics here, on Independent Review, for more information on that).

The three tunes here are: “Nunquam Revolvo”, “Shifting Patterns and Challenge” and, to round it out, The Ship and the Shaman”. The first two clock in at 12:30 and 10:58, respectively, while the last track is only 1:43. So, while it may “only” be three tracks long, you get two drawn out tunes that feature Balogh’s signature frenetic, loose, improv-laden avant-jazz-style, while “The Ship and the Shaman” provides a kind of smooth landing for the ending, bringing you back down to earth easily.

Glad to see that he’s keeping busy and diversifying a bit, too, as with Aniqatia. So, whether or not you got around to hearing Erratics, if you’re a Jared Balogh fan (or even if you’ve not heard him), I’d recommend this, as a worthwhile vehicle from which to start – or continue. –KM.