Archive for December, 2014

Anima

Dreamheart

Enough Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                                   Anima pic

The new album from South Africa’s Anima, Dreamheart is a mellow, chill-out album with a combination of electronica and some instruments, such as a new-age sounding piano, an acoustic guitar which really cuts through the thickness of the forest of sounds here.

At 24 minutes long, I’d say Dreamheart is basically an EP, consisting of five songs. It begins with a very “new age” style electronic-piano-guitar mixture of a song called “Soaring Together”.

Aptly named, “Soaring Together” does give the listener a sense of flying high, going in and out of wispy clouds, and an overall tender texture. “The Beating Sun”, song number two, is an atmospheric, smooth whisper-thin electronic-based dreamy soundscape which is uplifting as well as having a surprise, which is vocals. I’d assumed that all, if not most, of Dreamheart was instrumental in its form, but somewhere about the three-minute mark there is a couple stanzas of lyrics to provide some lush character to it.

That song, “The Beating Sun” seamlessly settles into “Gli Spiriti”, a song with an ethereal electronic background, filled in with piano and acoustic guitar. The piano on here is quite good. A sort of free-floating, jazz-based piano that really grabs hold of you. Once again, “Gli Spiriti” just glides straight into the next tune, “Spirit of the Valley”, which was done in collaboration with another Enough Records artist, known as M-PeX, who hails from Portugal. “Spirit of the Valley” is filled with a gentle but awesome acoustic guitar which is picking and soloing throughout the song. This terrific guitar sound is layered over an electronic atmosphere which gives it a space-like quality, actually a kind of juxtaposition, the radiant underneath the magical, earthy guitar, which has a kind of Flamenco quality to it. “Spirit of the Valley” is definitely the cut that grabs me the most among this selection of tunes.

Last, but not least, is the cut, “The Waning Moon” a very chill tune, one that was aptly named. Perfect for a quiet, dark night, the stars spreading out their twinkling lights and the sky a little darker because of a moon which is on its way to a crescent, then a little sliver of white and finally a new moon would begin. In the middle the aforementioned guitar and piano play together in tandem, against a backdrop of a gorgeous, lush, tropical sounding electronic background.

I would not hesitate to recommend this album as being a perfect selection as an instrument of meditation or to just lie back, close one’s eyes and chill out for about a half an hour. One of the more relaxing albums I’ve heard come out in a while. Definitely, one of the most relaxing ones that I’ve reviewed in some time. As for the ending tune, “The Waning Moon”, when it gets to the end, it slows down and just as it’s closing out, you hear a bit of outdoor sounds: the chirp of a bird, a wind through the trees, et cetera. If you are a fan of anything this may be associated with: whether one calls it new age, chill-out music, meditating, relaxing sounds of the moon, then you should definitely give Dreamheart a try. For more information and ways to get this EP, visit http://enoughrecords.scene.org
or else you may also find it among the many things on hand at from our friends at archive.org. I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s a very smooth, relaxing, hypnotic listen. -KM.

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Monarch of Dumpsters

Posted: December 18, 2014 in New Indie Music

Hivehead

King Garbage

Self-Released, 2014

Reviewed by Kent Manthie                                                         King garbage pic

Hivehead has a great-sounding sample of what one can only hope is the future of rock. King Garbage is a 3-song “CD-single”, consisting of the song “King Garbage”, “Your Crooked Face” and “Tangerine”.

The title track – or “single” of this short work, “King Garbage” has a mellow groove to it: the “up-front” guitar has a smooth, jangle, “clean” sound. The song has a catchy riff that basically “defines” it. The riff consists of a smooth, “clean” guitar sound, with at least one other guitar distorted up a little bit, and a tough beat that moves things along.

The second tune, “Your Crooked Face” has a bit more of a kick to it. Vocals surrounded by swirling guitars. “Your Crooked Face” is a faster, with a certain “pre-grunge” sound you could compare to old Mudhoney or a less sludgy Melvins and even a tiny bit of Jesus Lizard in there that keeps you bobbing and weaving, shaking and shining. There’s also a little bit of punk ethos in their style. At just over five minutes, “Your Crooked Face” seems like the tour de force of the album, even though it’s really a CD-single for the song “King Garbage”. I don’t mean to imply one is better than the other, but that, really, all three tracks on here have something to offer.

They have a talent for keeping the music spirited and vivid, in an underground, “garage” sort of way that shows off a hard-work ethic, which Hivehead seems to be using to their advantage. They also don’t fit in any particular box, especially on King Garbage, which, in its three-song set-up, has three songs that come at you from different angles. This could be experimenting to see what fits in future endeavors. One can only hope that Hivehead keeps on surprising and never settles for anything close to mediocrity – there’s way to much of that, already, in the music biz. Their variety and the sheer talent that one can hear will be a plus in works to come. Hivehead’s a band that is unpredictable, but not so far-removed from song-to-song as to alienate people, instead, it’s a smorgasbord of great music that’s got some sort of foundation; one they can use as a springboard to go in different directions, but always keeping true to some tangible form.

Song three of King Garbage is “Tangerine”, which is only 1:42, is played with acoustic guitar instead of electric, which gives it a stripped down, almost “demo” feel to it.

For a short, CD-single, King Garbage shows off the versatility of the band. That they can go from a semi-pop rocker to a sped-up mode that makes good use of guitars to a short, sharp, shock of an acoustic tune which, nonetheless, has the same intensity as the other two songs.

I certainly look forward to hearing a longer, full-length album by Hivehead, one in which they can really cut loose and run free for a longer period – creatively, they seem like something that will creep up soon and surprise us. So, check this one out, King Garbage and then keep your eyes peeled for the next Hivehead release. -KM.

Tyler Sullivan

Soft Peaks

Self-Released, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie                                       tylersullivan1

The last album I reviewed by Tyler Sullivan was a unique one, entitled This Man. The cover picture, which, I did not know at the time I reviewed This Man (which is still available on Independent Review for all to read), is actually a composite sketch of what a wide variety of people from various parts of the country, who don’t know each other and come from various walks of life, have all described as a “character” in dreams they’ve had. One can even look it up on the internet. Just do a “Google” (or whichever search engine you prefer) search, using the words “This Man” and you will get not only the face which adorned Tyler’s previous work, This Man, but is also all over some websites that deal with this supposed phenomenon. When I did check, I found that there are more than just this one composite image: there are actually a variety of similar head shots of this face. Each one being a little distinct from the last, but all have something ethereal, otherworldly about the faces.

On Tyler’s latest, Soft Peaks, looking at the CD cover, I can see that it looks as if he’s taken to using that particular face which featured prominently on This Man as a kind of “logo” on Soft Peaks. It is on the front cover of the CD, but a smaller sized picture in the lower left-hand corner. The music continues in a similar vein: atmospheric waves of ethereal ambience in which his very distinct vocal sound can be heard.

The lack of percussion on here actually works well for what Tyler was doing with the album. His unusual, but recognizable and distinct voice makes the songs all the more haunting and mix well with the reverb and echo sound of the synthesizers and the occasional guitar.

To give an example of some of what the album is like, let me try to go through a few songs here: the opening cut is “Way Free”, which is soft, deliberate and almost Southeast Asian in its influence. Think of a simple, folk song you might hear while on holiday in places like Vietnam, Southern China or Tibet and then over that, layer some electronic ambient sounds which emit a very mellow point of view. Actually, what I was describing, really can be attributed to the album as a whole. “Judith Neelley”, “Deities Reign”, “Entropy” “Self-Help Tapes” and “No Wave Brother” all go seamlessly well together, each having the aforementioned atonal tone which can be bewildering to a newcomer, but when you listen to it over and over again you’ll soon be mesmerized by its overwhelming simplicity and how that can fool you into a false lull. The seeming simplicity is really a factor of Sullivan’s great skill at songwriting and producing.

This is another album one should listen to, all in one setting, so as to appreciate the whole, which is much greater than the sum of its parts.

The final song on Soft Peaks is a 56 second tune, entitled “What a Friend We Have ‘N JeSuS” [sic]. It is, as the other songs are, hard to make out exactly what the lyrics are. Of course, it isn’t impossible to decipher them, it’ll just take a few listens through, to get at what he’s singing. As for this last tune, it’s hard to make out just, exactly, what Tyler is trying to say or symbolize. Is he really just breaking down an old christian hymn, remixing it, in effect, giving it a space-age wax job? Or is it a kind of satirical/sardonic title, which takes its title, which suggests that all the sheep of christianity are never really alone, for they have a “friend in JeSuS” (as he spells it out in the title)?

This is the type of great, indie material that I love to receive for reviewing. Not only does it make it easier to review, when it’s a good album, but it’s also something I like to do: that is, to turn people on to new music, stuff they may not have heard before. I’ve had many a pleasurable moment, playing something for a friend by a band, like, say, Stereolab, to one who’d never heard Stereolab before and what makes it so rewarding is when that particular person likes it and from thereafter, gets more and more into them on their own. That is one of the joys of reviewing: sometimes you have to go through a lot of either duds or just lukewarm material before striking it rich with a vein of pure gold. Something that me, myself, I will listen to, on my own, over and over again, long after the review is over.

As in the previous review I did (for This Man), I was unable to find very much biographical information about Tyler. However, one thing that was made clear was that Tyler is (was?) a student at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. A good spot to be in these days, music-wise: there are, I’ve been finding, quite a bit of great and talented bands and artists who hail from, not just the Chicago area, but downstate, as well; places such as Champaign/Urbana (also a college town). There are some very great bands in that Chicago – Champaign axis which have fallen on my ears and have changed my musical tastes for a long time to come.

As for Soft Peaks, I suppose one would have to say it fits into the “EP” category, since it clocks in at only 20 minutes. Seven songs, that take up 20 minutes. Who knows, though, maybe Tyler is hard at work right now, coming up with the material for a new, full-length album. Well, I will be here waiting for it. -KM.