Archive for November, 2014

A New Take on Old Crafts

Posted: November 20, 2014 in New Indie Music

Owen

Other People’s Songs

Polyvinyl Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                                             Owen-Other-Peoples-Songs-300x300

2014 has been a fruitful year for Mike Kinsella: earlier this year the one and only album he made with American Football, an eponymous CD, originally released in 1999, was re-released as a 15th anniversary commemoration. Another project Mike’s been a part of, Owls, released their second album since their 2001 self-titled debut. The new Owls album was simply titled Two. I had already been a big fan of the original Owls album when Two came out and, as I love Owls, I really didn’t know what to expect from a new Owls album, 13 years later. The one difference, in this case, though, is that the members of Owls have all been busy in various other musical projects, so it was just a matter of getting the right combination together and writing new material. When I did finally hear Two, I was so amazed, it just blew my mind. It’s really hard to say that one is better than the other, but I can say, without a doubt, that Two is one of 2014’s best releases, by far!

Between working with other bands and on various projects, Mike has a solo venture he’s named Owen, which is a much more personal endeavor. Starting in 2001, with Owen, Kinsella’s made eight full-length Owen albums, including this new release, which hits the streets on November 28th; aside from that, he’s also put out two solo EPs (the ep, and The Seaside EP). My personal favorite of all those is the one he released in November, 2004, entitled, I Do Perceive, which was followed up by my other favorite, At Home With Owen. After those two CDs and a bit of a hiatus from Owen, Kinsella came back, in 2009, with New Leaves, followed by Ghost Town in 2011 and then L’ami du Peuple, last year. Those three albums reflected a change; they were portraits of an artist who, as usual, with his Owen project, put his personal life on his sleeve, so to speak. All of the Owen albums have that quality to them: they are introspective, self-aware songs that explore the inner depths of Kinsella’s consciousness. It was around the time Ghost Town came out, or just before it, that Mike and his wife, Ryan, had a daughter. This new experience seemed to bring about a different sort of direction to his lyrics – no more was he the free-spirit who had some aching confessions that were peppered with wry wit and clever verbiage; now his music was reflecting the new phase of his life: that of new father and happily married man, settling down for a life of familial bliss.

So, mellowed out even more by fatherhood, Mike had some new emotions that were welling up inside of him and that was the basis for a lot of what went into Ghost Town. I think L’ami du Peuple was more of a looking back at his life at a younger time, different phases, et cetera. It seems like he was watching his younger self from a new perspective and it gave the songs a more melancholy touch.

However, on this album, a brand new CD, to be released on November 28, Other People’s Songs, Mike takes on eight covers by eight different bands. Listening to his interpretations of them and comparing them to the original versions, you notice that he’s taken these songs and made them all his own. The album starts out with a track by Lungfish, a band that runs in the same circles as the Polyvinyl gang, entitled “Descender”. That is followed by a cut from a band that goes back to the late 80s-early 90s: Blake Babies, the band from which Juliana Hatfield came and went, going on to be a relative success as a solo artist through the rest of the 90s. The album’s vision, the style and tone of the songs are pure Owen: soft, driven, slow; for instance, one of the covers is an old All song, “Just Like Them”, but don’t expect to hear any “skate-core”, Owen has re-worked it to fit his own style; it’s the same with Depeche Mode’s “Judas” and Against Me!’s “Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart”.

In fact, you can listen to the whole album and go through it, song by song and finish it off, thinking that it’s just another Owen album, full of Mike Kinsella-penned tunes. Well, of course, he didn’t write these songs, that was the whole concept behind the album, but he sure did re-arrange them to come out with the “Owen” sound.

Regardless, though, of his arranging the songs to fit his persona and not merely aping the originals, the tunes on Other People’s Songs reflect some of the music Kinsella favored, no doubt, in the late 80s and the 90s, while growing up. Even some of the more recent works he covers showcase his affection for contemporaries and music that continues to inspire and influence him. By that I mean his cover of the Lungfish track, “Descender” and “Forget Me” by The Promise Ring, a band that features Davey von Bohlen, an ex-bandmate of Kinsella’s from the early days, the forerunner of bands like Owls, Joan of Arc and The Promise Ring, Cap’n Jazz.

By taking a break from the songwriting duties for this album and focusing instead on interpretations of some of the music he enjoys has made a difference in the way Other People’s Songs has turned out. Unlike the quieter, deeper thinking of L’ami du Peuple, I think Owen has purged some of the melancholy, angst-ridden, self-reflective mien of that album, as well as Ghost Town and emerged with a more celebratory, carefree work which seems to have lifted a weight from Mike’s shoulders. Here’s hoping that Mike can be inspired again, by the music he grew up listening to and use it to craft a new mold for his next Owen album. -KM.

A Colorful World: Technopera

Posted: November 18, 2014 in New Indie Music

Lee Negin

The Cheeze Chronicles, Vol. V

Self-Released, 2014

Reviewed by Kent Manthie                                   cheeze chronicles cover

“Support indie music, or be condemned to ‘style’ without substance!” That is a wonderful motto, a slogan that happened to catch my eye on Lee’s website, the other day. Negin’s latest album is The Cheeze Chronicles, Volume V. It’s described as a “technopera”; a conceptual stylish album with a great cover. In my opinion, that’s a pretty ambitious project.

Just one listen to The Cheeze Chronicles really blew me away. There was so many aspects of what I was hearing that I knew I was in for a difficult deconstruction of the album.

The album’s opening track, “Scrying the Now”, reminds me of the opening intros to some Parliament and Funkadelic albums, which, then, took off at (especially Funkadelic) full-speed into the ether, bringing their cosmic-slop, funkified circus, via special delivery from the “specially designed Afronauts”. But, there’s so much more to what Lee Negin has pulled off here. “Scrying the Now” opens with a high-pitched voice, speaking to us in a kind of introductory way, then the song goes into a noisy, slow-rolling mode that sets the stage. “Just Saying…” starts the action full-force.

Lee’s been around for quite a while, he’s no newcomer. A multi-instrumentalist, videographer and producer/engineer, he began making music back in the early 1980s. He was a pioneering force in the Techno scene that busted out from Detroit. His recording were an amalgam of techno, new wave and some old school funk to add spice to it all. His influences are many, which gives him a wide variety of sounds from which to choose, not limiting him to sounding derivative, but actually more original. Currently, Negin resides in Seoul, Korea, where he continues to make music and is constantly working on his art.

After taking a break from recording, having slowed down to focus on himself and more personal things, Negin eventually returned in 2010, when he released the 1994 album song, “Balance”, after hearing that one of his songs, the techno classic “Nothing Goes Right” from the 1980’s appeared on a compilation released on a German label, Genetic Music. Since then, he has released seven full-length albums, several EPs, a few singles as well as nearly 30 videos.

One thing that sets Lee’s music apart from a lot of his contemporaries in the electronic music world is his use of real percussion, not just relying on a drum machine and/or synthesized percussion. This is evident on tracks such as “Janus Half-Baked”, which also features a trumpet sound – now, I can’t say for sure, but the trumpet may, in fact, be a synthesized sound of a trumpet. Either way, it adds a cool flavor to the track.

The deeper one gets into The Cheeze Chronicles, the more mind-blowing it gets. It’s not an album that has all the good stuff in the first half, only to get pulled down when there’s still plenty of music to get through. Later tracks, such as “Cogs in the Machine”, “The Bovine Tragedy”, the eclectic, Zappa-esque “Sterne Drek auf der Autobahn” and “Happy Trials to You (Until We’re Meat Again)” keep one intrigued and even mesmerized to where you just can’t turn it off, like a good book, you just can’t put it down; you need to know what happens with each turn of the page.

With The Cheeze Chronicles, Volume 5, Lee has placed so many bits and pieces of his influences into a crucible, heated them up and blended them together until out came a unique brilliance he could call his own. The sounds that emanate from this album have a somewhat lysergic, mystical quality to them, in that, while listening to this opus, one is overwhelmed by the visceral spectrum of color that can be seen in the vibrations of the music. You’re on a ethereal trip, discovering new heights and depths, all the while, never feeling pushed or pulled, but gently floating through the atmosphere of sound.

Then there’s the lyrics:  the lyrics are wonderfully woven together.  The libretto for this “technopera”, written by Negin, shows a gift for songwriting, both lyrical and musical.  Lee craftily mixes together an eclectic mix of subtle humor, satire/parody, poking fun at the overly self-important “BUY” society, which defines the modern era; all this and a groovy musical score to bring together a multi-faceted, unique creation.  Track number two, “Just Saying…” is introduced by a familiar figure:  a Mr. Paul Caruso, from radio station EXP (remember Axis:  Bold As Love by Jimi Hendrix, anyone?); the song is a satirical yet scathing indictment of the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, especially its hierarchy, starting with the priests who’ve been preying on young altar boys, aged 11-13, on average, for quite some time and goes on to decry the way the church is blinded by money, yet keeps the sheep in line by constantly banging the drum of the “wages of sin” (but, wait a minute, if you’re really a Christian, you don’t have the burden of “the wages of sin” anymore, since your resurrected Jesus, died and came back to life to absolve all believers of their sins.  This is part of the problem with Catholicism in the first place, their need to place priests as middlemen between the layman and “god”) and hellfire and damnation.  No wonder Protestantism sprung up and spread like wildfire when it did.  But, that’s something for Christians to sort out, since it is nonsensical in the least, to logical, critical thinking minds.

“Janus Half-Baked” is about the crazy things going on all the time down here, on earth, as seen by the “Aliens through Cheeze”.  Next we have a few somewhat instrumental tunes, with a bit of chattering in the background in English and in Mandarin.

Track number seven, “Acid Reflux” is a humorous, ironic take on the old drug culture and the “establishment’s” vain warning of the “dangers” of such harmless things as “marijuana”. That’s just the beginning. After that funny little introduction, you move through a Eastern, mystical musical koan, on which you could spend forever meditating, but then, things keep moving until they’re not, meaning Cheeze Chronicles has a musical version of the old Entr’acte of filmdom, back in the days of epic, Technicolor films, usually heavy stuff that runs well over 2.5 hours, which gives the people a chance to ‘stretch their legs’, go to the restroom, get a drink from the fridge/concession stand (depending on your location when watching/listening), and so on.  In this case, the ‘Entr’acte’ is “Enter Emission (Strumpets & Cheeze)”, after which Part 2 begins, starting off with “Let’s Go Shopping” which, along with “Cogs in the Happiness Machine” and “(Let’s Join) The Twit Parade” lampoon the corporate commercial dope pushers of consumerist pap and artificial happiness, instant gratification promised (or your money back)!

When you put it all together, you get an album of entrancing beauty and startling vision, both musically and by the variety of found sound voices and tinkering, metal cash machines, beeps and chirps and a sense of gratifying grooviness.

This is the kind of album that has come out at just the right time.  Something fresh and coming from a place far away (mentally & geographically).  The underlying, secondary take-away here is that more originality and excitement is desperately needed in today’s interconnected world; but keep the focus on being original.  The Cheeze Chronicles is not a template that should be aped, but a bit of inspiration; a sort of guide to bringing music, entertainment and the like, up to date with the current era: there have been giant steps taken in technology that allows for easier as well as better quality music; alas, much of the music is not evolving in step. With the complexities of the average, well-equipped studio and the plethora of digital devices with which to create anything you can dream up, the one piece of the puzzle that seems to be missing so often is the human factor that is the imagination.  With a greater and deeper usage of imagination, there is so many things that haven’t even been thought of yet, but will be and now, with the tools to make the once impossible or implausible now available, this should herald a new paradigm of music that fits the times and not the other way around.

There is so much more to this unique, technopera, that, really, the best way to get a feel for it is to actually listen to it. And, when you do, tell a friend or two or three, continuing the great word-of-mouth spreading that is one of the best ways of getting people listening. Ads are so phony, but the opinion of a trusted friend can carry a lot more weight, so one is a lot more apt to follow their friend’s advice than even pay attention to an advertisement.

If your interest has been piqued by now and you’re wondering where you might get a copy of this album, check amazon.com, on which you can usually find almost anything. Or else, you might look on Facebook, where Negin has a presence. There you can find a lot of posts of various songs, pictures and news about what’s going on with Lee. One other place you may find him is Reverbnation  http://www.reverbnation.com

Take a Bath, then Roll Over

Posted: November 13, 2014 in New Indie Music

Rollerball

Bathing Music

Silber Media, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie              Bathing Music cover

So, I was sitting in my big, Jacuzzi-outfitted bathtub, soaking in hot water and I put on this new album by Rollerball, Bathing Music. It was quite ethereal. It really took me away, the way you hear women plaintively cry “Calgon, Take Me Away”, in ads. But this was no fruity bath pebbles, this was avant-garde, jazz-infused, beat-heavy, bubbling, juicy spice.

Yes, that’s the essence of Bathing Music, a studio-as-instrument-recorded album, utilizing many colors, shimmering through the soundscapes within each tune. The album starts out with “Cockfighter”, a weird, sort of starting point in which you hear voices; you can hear them talking about ‘mules’ and there are other things being bandied about which are less audible, underneath a cacophony of avant-garde swishing.

“Wyoming” starts out of the ashes of “DJ Tecate”, itself, a menagerie of noise, drone and sculpted sounds that build up to a wild neap of beige noise, then suddenly, it stops on a dime and it goes right into “Wyoming”, a quiet, start: a lone piano plays out a series of melodies, really chill-out, then vocals come in about 2 ½ or so minutes, bringing in a muted beat that evokes pictures of this avant-garde, drone-jazz-noise band in a barn somewhere in the country; a lonesome sort of picture. Next, “The Knocker” goes someplace totally different. It begins with percussion that links together electronic and exotic drumming, with a bass playing in a slap-string kind of way, Steve Albini comes to mind when I hear that bass. “The Knockers”, in the instant it follows “Wyoming”, takes you, the listener, out of the sparse countryside of Wyoming to a night scene in some large, urban setting, either flying overhead, above the choking peasants and traffic or off to a high mountain side, from where you can watch as the city goes about its typical evening rituals. “Wet Food Twice a Day”, up to where singer starts singing, actually sounds like an Astor Piazolla song, sans the bandoleon, which, in its place is an oboe or bassoon and a piano. But that tango beat prevails, which is what really evokes the Piazolla-sound.

I guess what I’m getting at is that there is a delicious variety of songs on Bathing Music. I hate to keep having to inject the idea of “jazz” into some of these albums by bands who one wouldn’t think of as being at all jazz. But when it then gets to “Moundbuilders”, I really can’t help it, what with that familiar sounding trumpet and an accompanying horn, supplying a cacophonous sort of sidecar. What I’m trying to say, is that hearing that lonely, but clear trumpet sounds like Miles Davis’s ghost, come back to haunt these cats who’ve, somehow, called up the spirits of jazz, in various forms: avant-garde, weirded-out jazz, the Miles horn sound, and a little bit of John Zorn not to mention the syncopation.

But where it starts to part company with the jazz that hands out of it, there’s a spooky kind of vapor that’s hanging around in the background, to give the air an ominous sort of feel to it.

Since I plucked off the most recent batch of albums from Silber Media, I happened to pick, just by pure chance, about 4-5 albums’ worth of stuff that, as I’ve listened to them, over the course of the past couple of weeks, I keep coming back to one particular thing that turns out to have some sort of hipster connection to the masses of jazzbos out there: a particular way the drums are played, a tinkling of the keys of a piano, a bassline, et cetera. This is another one that has captivated my ears and my mind so much that I have to double check to see when it is that it came out, since I have noticed that a few of the recent finds I’ve made on Silber Media are re-releases of albums that came out anywhere from the late 90s to the last decade. So, in that sense, I can only say they are, for sure, new to me. The reason being, is that, since I like Bathing Music so much that I’d like to include it in my year-end, best of list, which will come out in late December.

But, if you’re reading up on reviews, trying to decide whether this stuff is for you or not and you don’t happen to be a big jazz fan (or you don’t particularly like jazz at all), well, don’t let that stop you from checking these albums out. Then again, if you’re a big Britney Spears fan or a KISS fan, you probably wouldn’t like this album either.

Just take it from me –Bathing Music is a relaxing, slick, box of cars. -KM.

Projekt Klangform

Character-E/Traumwelt RMX

Enough Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                                           Character-E cover

Running the gamut from electronica, neo-industrial, techno and IDM, the German collective, Laboratory (aka “Traumwelt”) remixed Character-E, the 2010 release from another German outfit, Projekt Klangform.

Character-E/Traumwelt RMX is a 10-cut album that features remixed pieces from Klangform, a minimalistic, cyborg, beat-heavy musical outfit. I must claim ignorance in not having heard Character-E in its original, un-remixed format, before this one emerged, so I cannot compare the two.

However, just by listening to its current form, I get into this trance-like state, not quite mesmerized, but, definitely, a feeling of grooviness and a textured atmospheric cloud washes over me. The album is an amalgam of drone, dubstep, techno, ambient and some industrial bits and pieces.

In the early part of the album, its ambitious soundscapes are really quite thrilling. There’s a kind of novelty to this particular album, even though, of course, the music is nothing new, but it’s the way that the pieces wax and wane, sometimes as a solid steel, object: heavy, yet, able to get off the ground and soar into the ionosphere and then ever higher; even made of such strong stuff as to be able to withstand the fiery path of earth’s atmosphere. This is an apt description for the first five cuts, whose unbound beats and buoyant, dynamic energy, keep the listener in throes of dervish-like manias that are, at times, irresistible.

Then, somewhere between the seamless, energetic wavelengths that pulsate, oh-so-erotically, exotically and with a headstrong passion, which would be between “Character-E ([revolting: Robot n])”, whose title suggests chaos, breakdowns, hysteria and “Traumwelt ([angstrom: Institute])”, the “Robot Revolution” seems to either be put down by outside forces or dies out of its own accord, or lac thereof, after which, the music takes a turn for a slowed-down, but steely, watchful eye of an electronic but intelligent sentient being that keeps a vigil for peace and security, the soundtrack turns to a more deliberate, driving and alert state, with a bit of drone thrown in for a calming effect (on the “robots”).

All this sounds like great science fiction – and who knows what the person/people making the music were thinking while composing this album?

Finally, we come to the last tune on the album, a 16:24 length tune, “Character Traumwelt-E ([mono: F])” which starts out with the same chill-out, drone state, but it’s almost akin to a suite: that is, it has several differing parts to the whole. After a slower start, the tune then gravitates back to the style of the beginning of the album but then proceeds to outdo, even that: instead of just regressing to a state of chaotic, throbbing, techno gyrations, this one gels into a muscular, pumped up techno jam, which takes us away from the drone part of the album and manages to spellbind the listener with a rhythm that backs a wonderful “finale”. Sometime after the 10-minute mark, you suddenly find yourself irresistibly drawn to its pulsating, rhythmic, synthesizer crescendo that builds up to a fever pitch: celebration, the evil robots have been destroyed, there’s a festive mood, combined with an almost martial stomp that makes you wanna dance, dammit! And, since it is the “finale”, it has to end, eventually, so after the grandiose bliss, the song spirals downward, into a milky essence that has a dream quality to it. The music lingers a bit, still moving, not static, but like a spinning top, it eventually slows down and by the time 16:24 nears, the sound has ground to a soothing, slowed tempo that it takes on out to the finish. And that is that.

I know, this is quite a fanciful review, one that is more sci-fi libretto than musical criticism. But, it’s one of those albums, a style of music, where you either “get it” or you don’t “get it”. As far as the merits, musically, I will say this: this was a masterpiece of digital proportions. It’s definitely not something for which you’d go to a live setting for, unless it was the backdrop to a theatrical setting. All synthesizers, computers, drum machines and a whole lot of studio tweaking. Another showcase where the studio becomes one of the instruments. Trust my reading of this: if you are good at filtering out metaphors and symbols, you should be able to make sense of what I’m saying here. It’s as if looking through a empty Kool-Aid glass, spiked with DMT…Darkly. KM.

Come the New Year, Come January

Posted: November 12, 2014 in New Indie Music

Meesh

January

Self-Released, 2014

Reviewed by Kent Manthie                                                January meesh cover

The last we heard of Meesh, Adam and Mitch had joined up again and released an EP, entitled May, which was the follow-up to their full-length project, Wall-to-Wall, the album that Adam and Mitch started work on before Mitch took off, to do his “thing” – some traveling around a bit, other personal things, et cetera. Their debut, MR-8, is the one Meesh album I haven’t heard.

Coming out of Cornell University, Adam Hachey and Mitch Chisholm, instead of sticking themselves with the label, “low-fi”, found their muse was in the “anti-folk” path; it was a better fit for them, since there is more to there music than the limitations that “low-fi” might put on you.

Then, in the summer of 2013, a self-titled EP was released that featured a full-band: besides Mitch and Adam, there was Max Petersen on banjo and Georgia Crowther, who sang backing vocals. Another review I read somewhere described the difference between the two (MR-8 and Meesh) thus: “while MR-8 had a feel that was reminiscent of the Beatles, Meesh has a quality that reminded him of Simon and Garfunkel, which he attributed to the addition of Crowther, who added an extra set of pipes with which to harmonize.

Then, when Wall-to-Wall was recorded, Chisholm left in the midst of the sessions, leaving Adam to helm the rest of the album. Hachey recruited his girlfriend, who is also an elegant singer, Jacky Munoz (for further information on Meesh, Wall-to-Wall and May refer back to previous review posts from February, 2014 and December, 2013).

Well, let’s fast-forward to the present (October, 2014): Meesh are back. They are taking it slowly, not over-planning or arranging for things that may change at the last moment, which was the case with January.

The first cut, “January”, has an intelligent pop sensibility to it. The song starts out with Adam’s voice, providing the opening vocal, then Jacky enters about 1/3 of the way through, to intermingle, nicely, with Adam’s vocal. “January” is 2:14 in length and right at the 2:14 mark, the song just cuts right off, as if taking the stylus off a vinyl record (sans scratchy noise) before any ending bridge can be played.

That takes us right into the next tune, “Start the Fire”, which features Jacky on top, vocally, a little more, while still dueling with Adam’s voice. The two of them have a great harmonic pair of voices which go together nicely.

I’m not quite sure what has happened to Mitch Chisholm, in the meantime, but, on January, the credits are: Adam Hachey: vocals, instruments and Jacky Munoz: vocals.

When asked if they had a full-length on the way that January was merely a sample of, Adam told me that they were, at this point in time, just working on shorter recordings; two, maybe three, next time out (if we’re lucky), at a time. Mitch, while MIA from January, is still a viable member of Meesh. He’ll be around, working with Adam, as they traverse the future together, making music and playing gigs.

If you’d like to get a copy of January, go to http://www.bandcamp.com/album/january and get yourself a copy of this beautiful pair of songs. -KM.

The Deicide Jersey Devil Shore

Posted: November 10, 2014 in New Indie Music

Darren Deicide

The Jersey Devil is Here

Ever Reviled Records, 2014

Review by Kent ManthieDeicide -Jersey Devil cover

Once again, Darren Deicide is out with an album that really kicks ass. The Jersey Devil is Here is the latest. Just as with previous work, Deicide’s new stuff is raw, stripped down; his singing has a plaintive cry; a mix of blues with a streak of something ominous, some sort of vague, yet tantalizing danger with a no-holds-barred, sonic intensity.

What makes Deicide even more raw is the absence of drums. It’s just him, acoustic & electric guitars and his singing. This seems to be his signature style. It was evident on his debut, Rockin’ ‘Til the Apocalypse, which, for me, really jumped out and had this infectious groove to it which immediately grabbed my attention. His second album, The Temptation and the Taboo (Part 1), was a continuation of the gritty, hardcore blues approach.

Now that The Jersey Devil is Here is here, Darren’s longtime fanbase and those he’s picked up along the way, will certainly revel in the new material on here, which doesn’t deviate at all from what he’s been doing so far.

Deicide’s music seems to have absorbed that storied city’s musical roots: the distinct “Chicago Blues” school of blues, which is different from the sound of blues that came out of the Mississippi Delta area, down South. The Chicago style has a little more of a bite to it, the average layman may not notice the difference, but a serious blues lover would. The one exception to the whole Chicago thing, though, is the rough-riding, raw power of Robert Johnson. Listening to Deicide sans drums, just him, his guitar and a microphone, reminds me a bit of listening to some great old Robert Johnson stuff, although, Johnson was a bit more laidback in his singing, he, nonetheless, had a tough, rugged guitar style that seemed to be a part of whatever tale of woe, heartbreak or Mephistopheles encounters he happened to be crooning about. Deicide takes that style and cranks it up a couple notches, singing with an intensity, a piquancy that yearns and burns in fiery outbursts of from-the-gut emotional depth.

Other than Johnson, Deicide has a bit of an East Coast flair, as well (hence the album title), a kind of NYC flair, a Jersey boy toughness with that flame-throated voice that rings in your head, even after the music’s over.

A few choice cuts from The Jersey Devil is Here include an acoustic, wake-up-about-noon tune about what goes through a man’s head after a long night of heavy drinking; I’m talking drinking-a-bottle-of-bourbon-and-a-12-pack-of-beer, heavy drinking (with the usual few shots of Jagermeister or Ouzo that one has about one am, after you’re already good and shitfaced), a tune called “Hudson River Hangover”. Anyone who has ever woke up after drinking so much the night before that you still feel tipsy in the morning, but your stomach is curdling, your uvula, that little thing at the back of your mouth that just hangs there, is swollen from dehydration that comes from alcohol, so when you wake up you, at first, feel like there’s something stuck in your throat, but when you realize what the problem is you just start drinking as much ice water as you can, not only for that, but to quench your thirst. This is a good soundtrack to those particular mornings. One other tune, that isn’t on the album itself, but was released as a 7-inch, which you can order on vinyl or as an MP3 download, is “Bomb This Joint”, a song that can rip the roof off! It’s backed with “Hudson River Hangover”. You can purchase the vinyl or the download at his website, http://www.darrendeicide.com.

Two other songs from the The Jersey Devil is Here to mention are “Cocaine Blues” as well as “Napalm, Fire and Death”, two songs that are dynamite and really stinging.

Deicide really is in a class all by himself; I can’t think of any modern act to whom I could compare him. He sings with a cool, wry intensity and backs it up with a jumpy guitar that, even without drums, emits its own “beat” in a fashion.

One more thing I want to mention, concerning Independent Review: the end of the year is getting nearer (again!) and that means there’s going to be another “Best of the year” article. My “Best of” lists differ in that I don’t make any “top 10” lists, et cetera. I don’t rank them, I only pick out anywhere from 5-10 albums from 2014 that made the biggest impact on me, albums that have great sounding music with a certain quality that makes them stand out as well as having “staying power”, that is, they are good or great albums that aren’t going to go stale in a year’s time, but will still have strength 10 years from now. I mention that, because, after listening to Jersey Devil, I’ve found another album that deserves to be on the list.

For now, though, enjoy this album! -KM.

Electric Bird Noise

Unleashing the Inner Robot

Silber Media Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                  ebnoise

Available in a new resissued form, is a 1999 album from Electric Bird Noise, Unleashing the Inner Robot, that was just re-released in 2014. Their most recent album, Kind of Black is (which was reviewed here and is available to read), is a more minimalistic album, yet it contains elements of jazz and avant-garde-electronica. Kind of Black (the title being, most likely, a take-off on the Miles Davis classic jazz album, Kind of Blue) feature a lone guitar, no accompanying instruments or sounds, percussion, et cetera. The guitar itself plays with a most interesting effect, which gives the music a somewhat warped, reverberated texture. Not that each tune sounds alike, far from it. The style is the same: just that effect-laden electric guitar, but each song has a distinct feel to it. “Nine” has a slow, kind of creepiness to it, as if wandering about in a large, unwieldy cavern, with barely any light, save any one might have in the way of a flashlight.

Anyway, getting back to the album at hand, Unleashing the Inner Robot, we see that EBN has been doing some brilliant music-making for some time now. However, both the newly re-issued Unleashing the Inner Robot is more like Kind of Black than it might seem at least on one’s first exposure to it. I think understanding the genius of this 1999 classic could make one appreciate their other output. On the bottom, it seems EBN comes from basically a jazz point-of-view, that is, a kind of free-form, avant-garde jazz, a style that would not be out of place in the collection of a John Zorn fan or even an Ornette Coleman fan (which, I’d think would be mostly the same, with a little overlap).

Kind of Black, being more minimalistic than your typical Zorn album, still has a similar consciousness to it. But when you hear 1999’s Unleashing the Inner Robot, you can see that, besides Zorn, there is a wider scope of sound: for instance, on the music in the mid-way point of the album, I could hear some kinship with the King Crimson of the late 90s and the 2000s – from albums such as Thrak, The Construkction of Light and so forth. But there’s still more to it; layers and layers of well-crafted textures that are so compelling as to keep the listener in a stasis, an almost hypnagogic state.

Unleashing… adds some color to EBN’s repertoire. “Lazy Tumble Weeds” is an aptly named cut: it evokes a Sergio Leone-esque landscape: a sun-beaten, arid desert setting, where, between the crescendos of tension, we get a few minutes of enjoyment, sitting in the shade, drinking a cold drink and lazily staring out in the distance, to whatever’s happening.

“Holdin’ Back the Tears” has a great ending, which drops down a couple ranges and gives an otherwise wandering, travelogue sound, somewhat of the beginning of a metamorphosis, soundwise, but that metamorphosis doesn’t get a chance to manifest since only after about 10 seconds, the song (and the album) is over.

EBN really did quite a job on Unleashing… The mixing together of electronica with a captivating drone as well as this zombie dance thing on “Number 3”, for instance. Not to be confused, however, with “Number 4” which is the opening cut on Unleashing…it’s an intro to the rest of the album. In fact, “Number 4” is a 2 minute overture that throws everything at you, soundwise, that is on its way, once you get into the album: the avant-garde jazz thing, the electronica-noise-drone accoutrements, et cetera. But then, as was mentioned earlier, it jumps right into the Leone-like “Lazy Tumble Weeds”. So, when you get to “Number 3”, don’t expect another potpourri of sounds. Instead, it’s got an electronica-dance-groove to it, along with a healthy dose of the underlying jazz vibe. “Japanese Toy Song”, at the beginning, reminds me of the opening of a song that was written by David Lynch and Angelo Badalementi, from the Twin Peaks show, sung by the lovely, angelic-voice of Julee Cruise; “Japanese Toy Song” has a nice, romantic air about it. And then, “Hum of the Moon” is a bit more rocking: a guitar-heavy, beat-laden sound with an echoing, distortion-heavy guitar that really grips you and keeps you in place throughout the entire piece, it is really something special, only to end abruptly, with a downbeat chord that takes you, seamlessly, into “The Cloudless Sulfur”, a serene, mellow, meditative work that is a good bridge from the mid-section of the album to the last half.

Yes, this is a brilliant work and in the final analysis, I have to say that “jazz” just doesn’t cut it. It’s definitely got a bit of jazz in its veins, but “avant-garde” or “neo-progressive” might even fit better. It’s one of the better albums I’ve heard this year, even if it is a re-issue, at least it gives those who haven’t heard the original, a chance to redeem themselves and have easy access to it right now.

If you’d like some more information on Electric Bird Noise and/or Unleashing the Inner Robot, check out http://www.silbermedia.com – there are lots of other interesting albums by a variety of drone-noise-experimental bands that you can take a listen to or albums you can purchase. -KM.

Yellow 6

Closer to the Sea Without Moving

Silber Media, 2014

Review by Kent ManthieYellow6-CloserToTheSeaWithoutMoving

Way back in 1998 (seems like a long time ago), Jon Attwood, a guy who’d been brought up on a steady diet of punk, hardcore and was grooming himself with musical aspirations of his own, he started Yellow 6. His main inspiration, besides the aforementioned, came from “space rock”, that ethereal, doped-up cloud-floating waves of bands such as Spacemen 3 (which, after breaking up, became Spiritualized. I myself, never got into Spiritualized as much as I did Spacemen 3), post-rock, such as Wire, Tubeway Army/Gary Numan, Joy Division, Bauhaus, etc, electronica, “shoegaze” music, then put him own imprimatur on it all.

Over 100 releases and 100 appearances on various compilations in the past 16 years, Yellow 6 has worked at creating their own, unique vision of ambient textures with undertones of melancholy and angst. Combining all that with quiet, droning sounds that derive from guitars, keyboards and drum machines, they’ve made it this far without burning themselves out or imploding from inside tensions.

So, to come to the present, just last month, in October, 2014, they released their latest, Closer to the Sea Without Moving, a very mellow, mellifluous and somber sort of album, with a big emphasis on an ambient sound. The first two cuts, “Looking Back Towards the Sea” and “Lighthouse” are nice, quiet openers that pave the way for what is the main idea of the album: a five-part, title-track “suite”. Songs three through seven comprise parts one-five of “Closer to the Sea”, opening with a sparse, isolated one minute, 20 second, piano solo; a slow-moving, Erik Satie-like structure, followed by an 11 ½ minute part two that brings the piece to life by adding atmospheric backgrounds, a light, two-guitar song that is evocative of a quiet ocean calm. Part three, at 3:42, is a sort of musical soliloquy which, with a louder, stronger-voiced instrumental tone, seems to be pouring its heart out in an apology or a confessional. Part four is just under two minutes and is a segue into the closing Part five, a four ½ minute minimalist epilogue that winds things up, not by bringing it back to the desolate desert of Part one, but to seemingly newly acquired knowledge, maybe self-knowledge, which the protagonist leaves the scene with, knowing that things are heading the direction they are: maybe it’s not the most wished-for outcome, yet it is the way nonetheless and it seems as if acceptance is the tone of this ending.

The last three tunes are a loose affiliation of dreamy ambient works that have a beautiful vista which is seen from the distant mesa their on. The guitar plays a perfect complement to the rich ambient textures of the synthesizers, with a clear, clean, cold winter’s light.

Closer To The Sea Without Moving, takes its inspiration from a real place: a lighthouse on the north coast of Norfolk, Virginia, which, with the slow, geologic progression of time, will one day tumble and its surrounding land be swallowed up by the encroaching Atlantic Ocean. This quaint 200+ year old lighthouse, with its enduring presence about to come to an eventual end, by now, seems to be a lovely relic for those tourists and ones passing through and probably a grand old monument to the locals of the area. I guess, in some way, Yellow 6, are putting forth a instrumental conundrum, which is: “is it better to survive, to continue as a novelty and a shell or to let it all end?” – that last interesting question is something I got from a press release which accompanied the download of this album, to give credit where credit is due.

If you enjoy the calming, soothing ambient sketches of Brian Eno then you will be right at home with this latest release by Yellow 6. -KM.