Archive for February, 2015

Banned by the Beeb!

Posted: February 26, 2015 in New Indie Music

Here is a hip video from the previously reviewed album, Groundless, by Lee Negin.  The title of the song is:  “The Shadow Play” – I got wind that the BBC didn’t want to air it cuz they thought it was too “controversial or whatever…but, here, at INDEPENDENT REVIEW, there is NOTHING off-limits.  Here, there is NO SUCH THING as “censorship” – that word doesn’t mean anything except when describing an uptight, stick-up-the-ass prig who thinks they can police the world when it comes to speech, expression and the like.  So – I hope you enjoy – and, please, tell a friend! – give them the URL to Independent Review or send ’em a link!  Thanks – KM.

PS – just click on the link below and you’ll be transported to the land of You Tube.  Why do I link a YT video to this? Well, like I said, this video is not available in certain, “restricted” areas.

http://youtu.be/6mpoEvydBj4

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This Could Be the BEST ONE YET!

Posted: February 25, 2015 in New Indie Music

of Montreal

Aureate Gloom

Polyvinyl Records, 2015

Review by Kent Manthie
                                                                                                        Aureate Gloom (of montreal) cover

They sure have changed a lot since the Satanic Panic days!

After about a year and a half, of Montreal are back with Aureate Gloom, another straight-ahead, less glitter and glam and more rock-based production values; at least that is what it seems like at first.

When it is released on March 3rd, Aureate Gloom is going to cause some excitement and bring much pleasure to fans of both of Montreal as well as the indie rock crowd in general.  Why do I have such high expectations?  Well, because I have the album to back me up!  Aureate Gloom kicks ass!!!  This seems to be the second album of their “slightly different” approach which was started with Lousy With Sylvanbriar:  More guitar, a little less layering, but the funky, groovy, sexy aura remains!  When I first listened to it, I really didn’t know what to expect – these guys have put out so many albums and have generated several different dimensions of their own reality, existentially speaking, that after all this time, I was really ill-prepared for what was to come.  But, when I was about to write this review, I listened at least twice more and by the end of the last time I listened, I was really hooked!  I realized the old saying, “the more things change the more they stay the same” is true, as are most cliches or old adages – at least there are elements of truth to them (or why would they endure?) – what I mean is that even if they toned down the studio-enhancing-‘drugs’ (joke) and had more guitar on top, they still had a whole lot of superfunkysexythunder going on!. What I thought, at first, was going to be a matured, toned down, maybe “grown-up” version of of Montreal, turned out to be a stupid thought!  No, no, no.  Don’t be fooled into letting yourself ever think that!  Kevin Barnes is still in fine form. He hasn’t slowed down and this album is exhibit A in showing that Barnes has no intention of retreating to a softer, pea-green lea in Ireland (no – he’s going to stay in that sexy, funkified, day-glo castle in Norway! [another inside joke[).

The opening cut, “Bassem Sabry”is tight as is “Last Rites at the Jane Hotel”. There’s a little, tiny echo of The Beatles, not that they were even trying for that, but, when you think about what those four lads from Liverpool did, one can look back and recognize that you can still be obsequious and full of surrealistic lyrics without being mind-blowing. Another thing I noticed from “Last Rites at the Jane Hotel” was the mention of creating his own “season in hell”, something that I took as being an homage to the Jim Morrison of 19th Century poets, Arthur Rimbaud. “Empyrean Abbatoir” is an orgiastic, dreamy song with some very creative hooks and just a lovely musical late night dip in a multi-colored pool. But, when all is said and done, the real thing about Aureate Gloom is that, while it, too, is, as I mentioned, “stripped down” compared to the older, psychedelia, Aureate Gloom does have a little more joie de vivre than Lousy With Sylvanbriar. This one is more nouvelle musique, even the music itself has its own particular poetry. Of course, the lyrics are as esoteric as ever; that’s Kevin Barnes for you. He has a lot of interesting things to get across, but you have to interpret that in your own way. Sometimes you may be right on and get it, other times, you just have to go with what your first instinct is.

The smooth, great, songs, tinged with guitar and a steady beat, also has some hooks that really have you biting on them right away – the production on this album is angelic, the moon, the stars, the whole milky way seems to be harmonizing in some way or another on the songs here. “Virgilian Lots” really swoons and has a great, memorable aura, the kind that, after hearing it and really listening, will stick with you and the one thing that makes that different than other tunes that bug the hell out of you for not getting out of your head, will be a delight to have romping around in your head, when you’re daydreaming, for example. Another ecstatic, delight whose greatness comes from all the time signature changes and the mysterious lyrics is “Monolithic Egress” and I can’t leave out “Apollyon of Blue Room” – a song that has some more rock to it, guitars jamming, piano melodiously twinkling, and Barnes’s typical novelty to it. The singing has a kind of a rock-steady beat to it, albeit, drenched in esoterica, lyric-wise – but that’s Barnes for you – the lyrics, I’m sure, have some kind of meaning to them, but you’d have to either know Kevin well enough to know what he’s driving at or straight-up ask him yourself.

That is one thing that keeps up with all of Montreal’s albums: the lyrics are such that they have just enough sense to them so you can follow so far, but when it comes to trying to explain where it is these words come from, you get stuck.

Musically, however, this is a real high-water-mark: the shades of rock that are in here, mixed with space-time. Even the wonderfully exotic Skeletal Lamping, as great as that was, has been outdone on Aureate Gloom. Who’d have thought that by taking some of the extra stuff out and adding in more guitar they’d be able to make this album so fresh, so unique that I already know it’s going to turn up as one of the “Best of 2015” at the end of the year? Well, that is true. I’ve already heard a number of albums from 2015 and I can honestly say that nothing I’ve yet heard is as groovy and memorable as this one. Just when I thought that Lousy With Sylvanbriar was taking of Montreal into a more refined territory, here comes Aureate Gloom, to wipe away that notion. This is like, “Phase III” for of Montreal’s music: “Phase I” was the psychedelia that was a heavy part of their early work. Then, when they did Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer? and then Skeletal Lamping along with the 2007 EP, Icons Abstract Thee and even False Priest and the other EP, thecontrollersphere, that was “Phase II”. Now, we’re into the second album of “Phase III” – Aureate Gloom and, the one thing that all three phases have in common is that they have Kevin Barnes’s super day-glo, mysterious lyrical riddles, sometimes oozing with sexuality and a heady, circus mind, other times, a metaphorical, allegorical, hidden meaning.

You have just got to give this a listen: you’ll not be disappointed!! To buy it or at least find out more about it, visit https://www.polyvinylrecords.comKM.

Watch Your Step!

Posted: February 23, 2015 in Forecast: Fascist Future!

Death Zone” is a short film by Austrian video/media artist Monika Ulbrich. The ‘soundtrack” is by composer/musician Lee Negin. In Monika’s words: “The story is about the death zone of the Czech Republic. It was the land between the borders of the communist regime and Austria and West Germany. It was the zone, where the people, who wanted to cross the border, were killed. The first time I was there was in 1990, 5 months after opening the borders. The whole republic was modernized and westernized after the opening. Only the death zone remained the death zone. It’s a strange feeling to drive through this zone, because you can feel the suffering and death.”
Visuals Copyright 2014, Monika Ulbrich. All Rights Reserved.
“Groundless” Music Copyright 2014, Lee Negin/Passing Phase Music (BMI). All Rights Reserved.

Enjoy!…

The Amalgamated City of Birds

Posted: February 19, 2015 in New Indie Music

Electric Bird Noise

Unleashing the Inner Robot

Silber Media, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

Ahoy, another release by the fabulous Electric Bird Noise, out on the unique Silber Media, which has brought us other such interesting things as Remora, Slicnaton, Chvad SB, Rollerball and more; look out for a new review coming soon for Rollerball’s latest, Bathing Music and check out both Chvad SB’s latest, Crickets Were the Compass and a review for EBN’s previous release, Bird Noise, all here on Independent Review.

Well, EBN’s new release is Unleashing the Inner Robot, a very aptly named album for a electronic-based outfit versed in the art of mixing drone, ambient, “noise-rock” and combining that with some wistful, western, analog juxtapositions that really complement the electronic sparks. For example, one of the prettiest songs on Unleashing the Inner Robot is the second cut, “Lazy Tumble Weeds”. Then, man, did I get a tingly feeling upon hearing the next tune, “Japanese Toy Song”: the main melody that flows through it has a distinct similarity to the last cut on Julee Cruise’s debut album, Floating Into the Night, on which all tracks were written by David Lynch (lyrics) and Angelo Badalamenti (music). See, in Lynch’s TV foray, Twin Peaks, Ms. Cruise could be seen in various episodes singing these beautiful, dreamy, even ethereal, love songs. Well, around the time of the show’s cult success and the buzz around it, Lynch and the man who’s scored most, if not all, of his films, Angelo Badalamenti, wrote a number of songs, expanding on the few that we see Julee and her back-up band performing at this “roadhouse” kind of bar in the town of Twin Peaks, ID. Anyway, the whole album is entrancing, melancholy, even cathartic too: it’s so beautiful it could make one cry, if for no other reason, then because it’s so heavenly that it evokes something sad or painful in one’s past or a longing for something come and not to be seen again, etc.

Anyway, getting back to EBN, I was just so taken aback when I heard “Japanese Toy Music”: I don’t mean to, in any way, say that they were ripping off the Julee Cruise song, but it was just that that particular bit of music was tugging at me, as if I knew it and heard it before. It took me a little bit, but I finally figured it out. However, EBN’s tune takes a different tack: they’ve sped things up, they don’t focus on the ambiance of the Cruise song, it’s just a few chords put together; that doesn’t really mean anything in itself. What’s cool about it, though, is that they make it work as a total EBN tune. And, I think it’s nice how they take a melancholy melody and, although, sped up a bit, they do it “straight” -no funky vibes or discrete samplings. It’s a great ride.

I’m sorry, I think I’m getting away from the subject at hand: well, let me go on: Other tunes on Unleashing the Inner Robot have more of an electronic edge to them, but they aren’t the kind to eschew guitars, or drums or other analog instrumentation for the sake of being automated music robots. They are first and foremost, into making music that sounds like good music – to hell with what it is that they use.

Other tunes, like “Cloudless Sulfur” or “Number 3” are great works on which the digital and analog complement each other well. “The Shape of Clouds to Come” is a seductive, dreamwave with more on the electronica side. The same can be said of “Three Thousand and Two”, a perfect ambient score. It dazzles, it sparkles, but not in a gaudy way, more like a quiet flicker one may see from a distance; calling one closer and closer.

So, anyway, this is definitely, I thought so anyway, album that comes from Brian Mitchell’s Silber Media. I thought it would be a great example to use in order to show that not all of Silber’s music is drone, dubstep or “noise”-rock/ambient. Electric Bird Noise are a great talent and it’s Silber’s great fortune to have them on their label. The last album I reviewed by EBN was similarly different from the norm – Kind of Black had a bit of jazz to it – maybe even unconsciously, but there was definitely this dark, quiet storm of jazz and electronica which really titillated the ears. Like Kind of Black, I highly recommend Unleashing the Inner Robot. I hope you feel the same. KM.

Lee Negin

Groundless, 2015

Review by Kent Manthie

Whoops – looks like I missed this release, which may explain the confusion, in that this should’ve been reviewed before Terminus, which is Negin’s most recent release.

Groundless came out after The Cheeze Chronicles, Vol. V and before Terminus.

So, now that I got that straightened out…After the magical, sorcery of electronica wizardry and just plain fun all-around, for that special music lover who likes the challenge of a beautiful, mystical potpourri of your gift-wrapped commercialized world as seen through a looking glass, down a rabbit hole, as told by a bigger-than-life, sensual, musical kaleidoscopic, day-glo dossier, Lee Negin, who likes to keep busy, both in real life as well as in the output that are his albums, whipped up a shorter, five-tune album, Groundless. Here we slow down a little, as if Cheeze Chronicles was a circus-like atmosphere, where all is not necessarily what it seems and there never seems to be a place in which one can just hit “stop”, to step back or make a sandwich or whatever: no, once in, you’re as good as trapped in one of those “hall-of-mirror” funhouses at a carnival. The whole metaphor of “Circus” would work even better if I could borrow a song title from Genesis (when they were still good, i.e., pre-1974), “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging”, that is, if I’m on the right track and, if, in between the bitchin’ computer-love of Cheeze Chronicles was/is not only the fabulous “technopera” Negin set out to score, but, I was right in interpreting at least certain things in it as not-polemic, but a sticking-your-tongue-out at way-too-serious marketing departments, who micromanage every jot and tittle in the most banal of children’s toy commercials.

OK, so, let’s cut away from the grand technopera house in the midst of downtown circuit-board city and jump-cut to the chill-out room in the quieter, not so brightly-lit, but more-densely-packed (or so it seems from the outside) edge of downtown. That would be the upper-floor, beyond the multi-colored beaded “curtain” which leads one into the darkened, dimly-lit “Chill-Out Room”, upstairs from the all-night sushi house, downstairs (just whisper the password and you’re whisked over to a hidden spiral staircase that brings you to this place where dreams start or finish). Once inside the “Chill-Out Room” is where your ears start to pick up, then grow accustomed to the music that is Groundless. A serene, ambient, ethereal, electron-fueled wow place, for the “now!” face.  While sauntering through the place, i.e., making your way towards a table, grabbing the chair and sitting down, you are struck with some smooth cuts, like the one which starts out Groundless: “Forever (Never Never)” and “The Shadow Play”.  The music really has a sedating affect on you and, even before your drink comes, you’re feeling mellowed out; but euphoric, not sleepy.

More than just synthesizer-developed nuclear telephonics, there is also, as in the title track, some twangy, low note playing, guitar which, quite nicely, complements the textured, ambient dream machines.

As to its identity or notion, I’d say that a place like the “Chill-Out-Room” might be thought of as an “after-after-party”, where, at each stop along the way, the crowd gets thinner and thinner; people start to go their own ways, some head for their cars, others to try and catch one of the last trains home for the night, maybe one or two pick up a piece of love on the way, et cetera. So, by the time whomever’s left gets to the front of this all-night sushi house, there may be only a handful of souls left, ready and willing/hoping to get to what they’ll remember as the best part of the night.

Later the next mid-morning, when you’re shuffling around at home (first of all, how and when did I get home?), while you’re waiting for that pot of coffee you just started, to finish brewing, you think to yourself, “Wow, that was really a perfect night last night. I don’t think one could ever ‘plan’ something like that in a million years” and you’d be right. Spontaneity is the mother of the best, most surprising, exotic happenings. Then, again, while pouring your first cup, you again say to yourself, “…and-and-and…that MUSIC!! Oh, wow, that was heavenly. It’s all coming back to me now. Was I in heaven? Or some extra-dimensional cube? Now that I think about it, where was that music coming from?” It seems that this was so extraordinary (the music), so mesmerizing and so mystifying, that you don’t actually remember seeing whence those beautiful sounds came. Was there someone physically present who was playing it or was this spherical music emanating from some grand PA system, sonically surrounding you and at the same time, embedding its synthetic DNA into you, as if a benign virus?  One thing, though, that serves as a reminder of the party, is this song you can’t get out of your head, which turns out to be “Last Gasp”, and when you try to get the thing out of your mind, the next one to take its place is that title track, as well as its sequel, Groundless2.

You dwell on this for a period. Then, one day, while surfing the internet, as people were wont of saying once upon a time, you come across the answer to this question, which, it seemed, might be a question without an answer, as if some type of koan. There it is: what you’ve been thinking about. It is Groundless. A January, 2015 release by Lee Negin. But there is one particular part of that album which has really stuck in your mind: the final track: “(Elegy for) The Last Ship Leaving”, which really is a great finale for this album: smooth, exotic, translucent and luxuriously beautiful! Enjoy the trip. -KM

Room for both of Us Now

Posted: February 8, 2015 in New Indie Music

Damon & Naomi

Fortune

Ba-Da-Bing Records, 2015

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

    So, those of you who remember (and savor) that short but oh-so-lovely, time when the world was moved by Galaxie 500 – then the “spin-off” band, Luna, which, somehow, wasn’t quite as awesome as Galaxie 500 was, may remember Damon & Naomi, two of the other members of Galaxie (other than, like, Dean Wareheim, for example).  Well, color me impressed (not being sarcastic). Their new album, just out, on Ba-Da-Bing records, entitled, Fortune, is a nice, 20-plus-year-after-Galaxie, effort by two talented, intelligent, musically gifted people.  What Fortune is, according to Naomi, is an aural film, of sorts. And by that, I don’t mean a soundtrack, but a singular idea, exploding with sounds, colors, emotions and, dare I say it? – Sentimentality, of a sort, anyway.

Listening to the work of Damon & Naomi, for instance, previous stuff of theirs, like More Sad Hits, they don’t come across as trying to recapture the glory days of Galaxie 500.  Rather, instead of the dreamy electronically-stimulated reverb and behind the mesmerizing singing, Damon & Naomi play their moody, serene music with acoustic guitars, not relying, so much on studio polishing, but getting more down-to-earth sounds recorded and simultaneously, adding some enervating textural atmospheric layers.

As for the “film” aspect, well, Naomi did create a short film piece, by the same name; a sort of long(er) music video, that I read someplace, was like a “visual poem set to the metronome of a textural score”.  The music and, more importantly, I think, the short film piece, was a catharsis of sorts for Naomi to deal with the feelings, conflicting though they may be, of her father having recently died.   To boot, Naomi Yang’s father was a professional photographer, an artist himself and after he passed away, Naomi was left with an archive of her father’s photographs, the work he had been so passionate about in his life.  So, the influence of all that her father left behind as well as those conflicting feelings I mentioned, feelings about a somewhat flawed parenting she endured, growing up, are part of what makes up this great project.  Naomi refers to the film piece as a “silent” picture, although, bereft of dialogue and sound effects, etc. the film, itself is necessarily bound up with the music of Fortune, the album.

Let’s not push Damon all the way to the back burner now, as he puts in a lot of great work on the album; the two complement each other quite well and it all works out wonderfully in the end.

The opening song, “The Seeker”, is a mellow, soothing balm that sets the tone of the album quite well.  Track number two, “Amnesia” is a pretty song as well as one that has poignant lyrics:  “I want to be over/To touch and be gone/Forget this amnesia”, as an example.  Its two minute length is a nice way of saying what needs to be said and getting on with things.  On “It’s Over”, it’s Naomi’s turn to sing (Damon sings vocals on the first two cuts).  “It’s Over” is a haunting, but dreamy song about the end of those sad, confusing relationships.

The music, in general, is a beautiful and enchanting, ethereal love garden, full of purposely placed lyrics, over a wonderful musical background, steeped in acoustic guitar, a sound that rings out, plus a subtle electronic piano (or synthesizer with an electronic piano setting).  This is definitely something I could listen to over and over again.  I remember the Galaxie 500 album, This is Our Music, on which Naomi sang vocals on a few beautiful tracks.  Well, she’s got that same beauty in her voice here, on Fortune.  The album finishes off with a song called “Time Won’t Own Me”.  I suppose it’s a good closer; something to make the listener think about it long after it’s over.  The idea that we, that is, anyone, doesn’t necessarily have to be a slave to the clock and let appointment books or reminder notes run our lives (even if we sometimes have to deal with those things).  When you meditate on it, while in this serene moment, you can realize that the universe is such a macrocosm, while, all of our individual lives and the attendant troubles and trials in them are comparatively meaningless, even if they can consume our thoughts, to our own detriment.

I want to definitely say that this is something worth listening to and adding to your musical collection.  The beauty lies mostly in the melancholy, toned down etherality.  -KM.

Bliss in Wonderland

Posted: February 6, 2015 in New Indie Music

Lee Negin

Terminus, 2015

Reviewed by Kent Manthie                                                     leenegin-terminus

Well, after having worked so hard on the enthralling The Cheeze Chronicles, Vol. V. and then putting out another groundbreaking full-length album, Groundless, just in the last 2 months or so (for which, BTW, we’ll put up a belated review soon), Lee Negin’s back with a small thing to, at least, keep fans and potential new ears, alike, from having to wait for another “big” project. That project is called Terminus. Its songs are titled (there are only four) as in “Terminal 1”, “Terminal 2”, “Terminal 3” and “Terminal 4”. Each tune is, on average, five minutes, with the last tune coming in at just under six minutes.

Unlike the magical wonderland that was The Cheeze Chronicles, Vol. V, Terminus is a more laid-back project. It’s a kind of “chill-out” zone for “coming down” after the intensely highly displayed, fantasy-dream-world that was Cheeze Chronicles. With a psychedelicized, amped-up ambient sound to it, Terminus is, in its own way, another “dreamy” sleepwalk. I’m especially thinking about the first two tracks, wherein there are some crunchy, electric guitars in the foreground, complementing, just fine, the synthesizers and whatnot, that also contribute greatly. But when you get to the second half of Terminus the wigged out guitars and grooves give way to a more somber, more discrete kind of ambient music; a slow, smooth, mellow, meditative sound, but then, on track 4 the guitars come back again, but in a more “pastel”-colored sound.

At only 21 minutes in length, you obviously don’t get a huge amount of “mantra space”, so to speak, but, it’s still lovely to hear; something, as he wrote me (paraphrasing here) to bridge the gap between projects, so, at least there is still some music coming out of Lee’s talented and in-depth mind and so as not to seem idle or out of ideas (which, he certainly isn’t).

Now, after having heard the exotic and exciting Cheeze Chronicles, and this swooning, black-light, moonbeam, they’ve both lured me in and now I’m at the point where I can’t wait to hear his next album,wondering to what sort of places, mental,visual and/or aural.

No more Bandcamp for Lee!  He’s ditched them in favor of, at least, self-promotion and getting on track with a new service.  Right now, however, the best way that I know of to get in touch with information on Negin’s music is his own website, which is:   https://www.leenegin.com

One can also pick up a copy from the website, of one of his albums.

Enjoy!! -KM
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