Archive for March, 2016

Laryttalarytta-album-cover-640x640

Jura Libra EP

FoF Music, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                        

Coming out on April 15 is a new 2 song/4 version CD-single or, maybe it can pass for an EP…anyway, it’s Jura Libra from Larytta, a Swiss duo, comprised of artist-producers Guy Meldem and Christian Pahud. The two have, since their eponymous debut in 2005, been releasing a variety of stuff, like their next EP, Ya-Ya-Ya, in 2007 and on the Friends of Friends, Vol. 2 album along with Beauchamp. Finally, in 2008, Larytta released their full-length debut, Difficult Fun, in which they experimented putting together an eclectic mix of innovative yet inviting electronic-on-edge-music and quirky, sometimes just fun, lyrical wordplay and so on, which has earned them a good-sized cult following and a wide mix of fans. This did a lot to open Larytta to a wider audience, which has provided nothing but benefits, for the most part, anyway.

I think it must be the efficient creative team – just a duo, which helps weed out needless duplicity and redundancy, maybe closer control and better eye on things like continuity, etc. which is one mark of a great producer and they use many, this duo made up of “artist-producers”. The thing about Jura Libra is that I’m not entirely sure how far that song (“Sexy Front”, the first two cuts) is going, or rather, “is coming from”, would be more accurate, meaning, is it something from a longer, previous album, something from an upcoming album? And what about “Bota Mao Pra Encima” and the “Larytta Remix”? Are these originals? Made just for this release?

Or is it, like, this one-off single, with one remix, along with another song that also has a second version: a remix of that one too. The former of these two would really make it an interesting creative endeavor.

The music of Jura Libra, the two versions of “Sexy Front” and the two of “Bota Mao…”, well, the first one is a high-energy, dance-piece which has – both songs do – a Latin flavor to it, that adds much sensuality.

Their next full-length album, Jura, should be out sometime this year. Keep an eye out for it, you’ll be glad you did! Check out: http://creakedrecords.com/artists/larytta for more information, about the band, the new album and to purchase it. –KM.

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Hit Bargain

Hit Bargain

Self-Released, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                      Hit Bargain cover

The debut EP from L.A. Band, Hit Bargain is a bash, from beginning to end. It starts off with a powerful, enticing tune, “The Circuits That Cannot Be Cut”, a song that really pulls you in and doesn’t let go, for the whole 18 minutes of this EP. This song is supposed to be a sort of re-working of the Bruce Willis vehicle, Die Hard, reshaped into a wry social commentary on gun and police violence. Bruce Willis is their shaman, because he channels the “everyman”, the average, bottled-up, frustrated white guy in an ever-changing urban jungle, where things are not only becoming less and less familiar for him, which, really shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who’s well-adjusted enough, but it’s also foretells an ominous, out-of-control future that may or may not already be here. The ones who stand up and say “I can’t take it anymore -I’m gonna do something about it, dammit”, represent those who stand to be counted among those rare heroes who come forward when needed or called (or both).

In another call-to-arms, in a way, many of Hit Bargain’s songs shine an awareness on their feminist anthems, aimed at their listeners.

Besides being a great epitome of L.A. Indie rock that’s been tearing it up over the past 10 years, Hit Bargain also brings forth a new sort of sub-sub genre: “Queencore”: the intersection of Queer, Queening and Hardcore. Make no mistake, though, Hit Bargain are as much a part of LA’s underground indie scene as they are an answer to it.

Comprising Hit Bargain are Nora Singh, vocals; Mike Barron, guitar and vocals; Anton Hochheim on drums; and Mike Stoltz on bass. Both Nora and Mike really give those vocal chords of theirs a workout! Their music, in a little way, harkens back to those good ol’ days of the early ’80s L.A. Hardcore scene, a la Black Flag and the whole SST catalog but there is also more of a modern pathos to it, one that is exciting and full of great slogan-chanting, anthem-igniting, as well as the really cool saxophone squonk, heard on the last tune, “Queening”.

Other great songs that stand out in these 18 minutes of fast, loose, dangerous-sounding and wild, are “Songs for Fainting”, “Cheap Death”, “Major System” and “No Body”, which are all of the songs – you really can’t leave anything out in such a short album; they all go together, seamlessly, in a feverish pitch that, by the end of “Queening”, which must be their “call to arms”, your head is spinning and you either have to find some more like-minded stuff to listen to, play Hit Bargain again or, if you have to, switch to something of a chill-out nature and decompress.

All in all – great stuff. Seeing Hit Bargain live would definitely be an experience! I suppose, though, unless they have a number of still-unrecorded tunes which they could play, we might have to wait for a full-length CD to come out, before they hit the circuit. But, to get ready for that, get yourself a copy of Hit Bargain and get set to meet Queencore. Currently, Hit Bargain are without a label. They did this EP DIY, but, who knows, they may be playing an opening slot for another band or something and, next thing you know – they’re recording for a decent indie label (no corporate people need come by). See you at their show. -KM.

Sunup to Sundown

Posted: March 26, 2016 in New Indie Music

Chris PurekaBack in the RIng

Back in the Ring

Sad Rabbit Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

The sixth release from Portland, OR-based singer-songwriter, Chris Pureka comes after a five year hiatus, during which she lived her life, doing a variety of things that regular people do and, well, not rushing to get the next album written and recorded. A telling quote that Pureka made about this five-year wait between her last album, 2010’s great How I Learned to See in the Dark and her new one, which comes out next week, 4/1/16, Back in the Ring, is summed up by the following: “I’m not interested in releasing songs I can’t get behind or records I don’t love”, which shows the mark of someone who is wholeheartedly dedicated to her craft, in an almost perfectionist kind of way.

Also, Pureka is not strictly reliant on making music to get by in life, as she is an intelligent woman who got a biology degree from Wesleyan University and then went on to work at a microbiology research lab at Smith College. In the midst of her work at the Smith lab, she started writing songs, developing her musical chops and increasingly moving in the direction of going full-on into the music world, that is, the indie music world, where she’s remained, a fiercely independent, using her own label, Sad Rabbit Records, to sell roughly 50,000 records.

When she was 16, Chris would write song lyrics in her journals and use that as a way of self-expression. But, after graduating from Wesleyan and working in microbiology, a career in music really wasn’t something she had been dying to do, all her life, but, once she re-captured that songwriting knack she had been doing as a teenager at Post High School, in OR, it was probably on a matter of time before she got that yen for getting out of academe and into a very different area, where she now spends her time documenting her personal trials and tribulations, opens up her vulnerabilities, which has endeared her to many fans who like that kind of authenticity.

One thing that the music here sounds like, even though Pureka is from Portland, OR, is it has this somewhat desolate, flat, Midwestern feel to it; an air that gives an aura of seeing far into the disance, across those plains.

Chris’s personal unpretentiousness as a vocalist and songwriter has gotten her comparisons to Gillian Welch, Bruce Springsteen, Patty Griffin and Ani DiFranco, the latter, being someone with whom she’s shared the stage, along with others, including the Cowboy Junkies, Dar Williams and The Lumineers.

The first big track that is getting attention from Back in the Ring is “Betting on the Races”, which is a fiery, yet mellow, but plaintive and personal, all wrapped into one song. As it happens, there is a song on here entitled “Midwest”, which, seems to detail a memory of being in the middle of the country, where things are a little more slowed down, a little more laid back than the rat races of the two coasts. Also, the two “Crossfire” songs (“Crossfire 1” and “Crossfire 2”) have a taste of the aforementioned Cowboy Junkies.

Back in the Ring, I must confess, is my introduction to Chris and her excellent folk/acoustic balladeering and I’ve been quite bowled over by the “realness”of its cutting, wry and introspective/reflective lyrics as well as the haunting, quiet acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment that underlies it. In fact, maybe not so much the lyrics, which, I think, are a much more personal, hence original statement, some of the guitar which underlies many of the songs, reminds me of some of Bob Dylan’s early work, when he was still doing the “folk circuit”, i.e., still doing it acoustic, in the pre-electric days. Songs like “Bell Jar”, “Cabin Fever” and “Tinder” even make me want to get out The Free Wheeling Bob Dylan and listen to some of the genius contained on that album. Not to compare this album too much to Dylan, because, I wouldn’t otherwise bring it up. Back in the Ring is another great indie album that has come out, so far, in this relatively new year (only 3 months gone by so far), and that is a pretty good omen. Of course, the flip side to these great new albums popping up this year are the surprising number of legendary music greats who’ve suddenly and quite surprisingly, have died since early January and who are still being lost, seemingly every week or two, which is quite sad. Sad to realize that all these legends, who’ve influenced two or more generations, are starting to fade away now. The only consolation we can have in that is that their work has not been in vain and the proof can be seen in all the great things that are appearing in 2016, for one thing. I must say, I don’t remember having come across so many instances of pure greatness this time last year.

Check out Chris’s website, http://www.chrispureka.com/ where one can review some of her past music as well as find a way to purchase any of her, now six albums. Hope you check this out and are intrigued as much as I was. -KM.

Chris Pureka photo

Woods

City Sun Eater in the River of LightWoods City Sun Eaters cover

Woodsist Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                

This new album from Brooklyn’s Woods, City Sun Eater in the River of Light, which hits the streets April 8, 2016, starts off, from the first notes of the opening cut, “Sun City Creeps”, with this reggae/dub style, which, after about 28 seconds into the song, switches up and instead, goes into a less reggae-vibe and more of a neo-psychedelic, multi-colored sound, with bits and pieces of folk in there.

While City Sun Eater does have some elements of reggae throughout the album, i.e., beats, guitar riffs, bass, etc., there is fused into this album, more styles that show off what diverse talents and backgrounds Woods has. To tell the truth, these guys are new to me and, in a pleasant kind of surprise, I found myself enjoying the iconoclastic, in some ways and the juxtaposing of a few different sub-genres into what’s become the “Woods Sound”.

To show just how underrated this psych-folk-rock outfit is, since their debut album in 2006, they’ve released eight full-lengths (“and then some…”). And that doesn’t include this brand new album, City Sun Eater in the River of Light, all released on their own, indie label, Woodsist.

Lead singer, Jeremy Earl’s falsetto vocals have a sound, which is not unlike Jon Anderson of 70s prog-rock giants, Yes (I know they did some stuff in the 80s, but I’d rather just remember Anderson and Yes for what they did best, which ended in the late 70s. I just had to write that in, because, all throughout City Sun Eater…when he sang, he sounded like a dead-ringer for Anderson. Not that the band sounds anything like Yes, the only thing I’m comparing here is the way the Jeremy’s singing sounds like Jon Anderson. Beyond that one likeness, the rest of the music sounds absolutely nothing like any kind of art rock or prog-rock or glam rock, etc – i.e., nothing derivative of the 70s. There is a rather high noon, lazing-about mellowness which makes for some groovy zoning-out music.  Something which evokes an unhurried drive through town in your car, the a/c on as well as a cracked-open window blowing a breeze through your hair – that is, unless you’re driving a convertible, in which case, feel free to let it all hang out!

Jon Anderson-sounding, notwithstanding, Jeremy Earl’s warm falsetto voice, from the early stages of the opening track, “Sun City Creeps”eclipses, somewhat, the kaleidoscopic, colorful, jubilaeum music which really shines, once you get into its groove.

Well, getting into the deconstruction of the album, itself, there are some unique songs on here that escape comparisons and elude categorizations. I mean, City Sun Eater… is, basically, a rock album, one that falls into one of the many sub-genres into which “rock” has splintered since the 1960s.

Some great examples of this include the aforementioned opening cut, “Sun City Creeps”, then, the more uptempo, almost pop-style of “Creature Comfort”, the (again) reggae/dub-infused psych-pop that is “Can’t See at All”. With a loopy organ giving the song a nice driving push, backed by a dub-stompin’ beat, and a guitar which is playing concentric circles within the song, but not standing out so much as to dominate it. It’s got an infectious sound about it, it took about two or three listens, myself, to get a sense of what they were infusing their music with and how it all came together in such a way as to be captivating, original and spontaneous at times. They’re not always so predictable. Although, they’re not so wide-ranging that they go too far afield, but they do keep things interesting. This is another of, by now, many, bands as well as individual artists who I’m awfully glad don’t get commercial radio airplay (at least on a big, wide-ranging scale, maybe there are some college radio stations or some really hip radio stations in what used be such a vibrant place for music. With all the various “scenes” there were in NYC from the 50s, really, like Be-Bop, Post-bop and Avant-Garde or “Free”-Jazz, which was really a product of the 60s, to the anti-peace, love and flowers-in-your-hair of the West Coast, epitomized by The Velvet Underground and by Lou Reed, himself. And of course, you had the late 70s rise of CBGB and all the hardcore and punk bands who played there, like The Ramones, Talking Heads (which were more New Wave – not, what many think of as “New Wave”, which is really “The New Romantics”, like Duran Duran, et al. But, then, all of, or most of it was going on in Manhattan, mostly downtown, sometimes uptown. As for Brooklyn, although I would rather live there in the early 80s than now, after it’s been gentrified to the max and property/rents have soared to just about impossible-to-afford places to live for many up-and-coming artists, musicians, etc., not to mention the average, not-rich-but-middle-working-class people, who now, I suppose, have to find an affordable dwelling on Staten Island or Queens.

Woods is a product of Brooklyn and they’ve been at it, now for some time, having just finished their ninth album. Remember: Brooklyn’s just across the Bridge from Manhattan, it’s not, like the difference between Manhattan and, say, Buffalo (no disrespect to Buffalo, but, that’s not what I’m getting at).

Now, with Woods and their new album just about to be released, I hope there’s a steady cult-following that goes to all their shows, then spreads the word-of-mouth to their friends, etc and soon, you start to have huge turnouts for these gigs.

Staying underground is cool and, of course, keeping it indie is always the best way to go, but still, some bands would like to come up for a little air now and then, not necessarily to get popular and sell-out, etc. in order to broaden their audience and sell more CDs and make a little money. After all, just because you have artistic integrity doesn’t mean you’ve taken a vow of poverty!

I just don’t know what else I can say about these guys. Their music is terrific, they really know how to write a crafty pop song and seem to be peerless in this day and age of so many cookie cut-outs which ride on top of each others shoulders. Woods stands alone and sounds like a band apart. The next best thing I can do is to recommend to you that you go and give this album a listen. If you like it enough, listen to City Sun Eater, then I hope you’ll go back and dig up some of their previous work. It may or may not be available on Amazon, although, I doubt that. But, if you’re more into buying from independent sellers, go to: http://www.woodsist.com/ where you can read about and/or buy this new album or their older stuff. Hope you enjoy listening. -KM.

Princess Century

Rendezvous

Paper Bag Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                       princesscenturyrendezvous

Maya Postepski is quite the busy woman lately. One part of the Toronto music scene, she’s been at it for 10 years and is still going strong. Besides being a driving part of this three-song EP by Princess Century, entitled, Rendezvous, Maya’s also an active part of electronic pop outfit, Austra, which is also on Paper Bag Records. Besides this, she’s also an amazing DJ, a remix artist, as well as having collaborated with Robert Alfons, producing TRST, with Robert, in which they call themselves Trust, on Arts & Crafts Records.

This short, three-song CD is quite delightful and it’s actually a shame that it’s so short, since, once you start getting into the chemical atmosphere, the ethereal qualities of its pulsating beats, driving instrumental, electronic-based hypno-numbers, i.e., “Robber”, “Wet” and “Rendezvous”, suddenly it’s all over and you’re still just getting into that trance, when the music stops. Of course, you could put your player on “repeat” and just keep listening to it, over and over again, but that just wouldn’t be quite the same way a longer, more elaborate album would do it to you.

Maya herself put it this way, in a quote: “Rendezvous is an EP comprised of tracks that are a departure from what I normally do…” She was talking about this, I believe, in connection with the full-length album Progress, from which “Rendezvous” comes. “The tracks didn’t quite work on the album (Progress), but I felt they shared a weird, Krauty (e.g., Krautrock), EDM vibe… I love the concept they tied in with the single (“Rendezvous”): a meeting with someone that is arranged for a particular time and place and is often secret”.

Not having heard the whole album, Progress, I really can’t say whether or not I’d share her estimation of it. In fact, to be honest, I’m not really quite sure what she means by “The tracks didn’t quite work on the album…” – I must be missing something, e.g., the whole of Progress.

Anyhow, whether or not these three songs, on the Rendezvous EP or “CD-single”, are out-of-place on the full-length album, I was quite enthralled by them. If the rest of Progress has this sound or whether she was intimating that the three on here are an exception to what makes up the rest of Progress, I just can’t say. But, who knows, maybe Maya was just being modest. Oh well.

At least, though, one has the option to, before taking the plunge with the full-album Maya was talking about, one may get a hold of this 3-song EP/CD single, or whatever they’re calling it. I think it’s a beautiful sample of what she’s capable of and, if this is any indication of what a bigger project of hers sounds like, I’d be excited to give it a listen. Or, are you one of the loyal fan-base of hers who are familiar with the music, give this small one a try and see if it lives up to what you’ve come to expect from Maya Postepski.. This being my first time hearing her and reviewing her music, whatever band she’s operating with, I’m not all that full of comparisons to previous music of hers or from her previous collaborations, but I can say that, from what I’ve heard, I think she’s got something wonderful going for her and I hope she keeps it up.

May the club lights and speakers rumble with her music for some time to come!

Want some information on Paper Bag Records or Maya? Check out: http://paperbagrecords.com/artists/princess-century/ or, for information on Paper Bag in general, go to: http://paperbagrecords.com/ -KM.

Maya P pic

Deep Throats

Good, Bad, PrettyDeep Throats cover

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                          

Another quite fascinating album from Castle Face Records, which, over the last couple months, I’ve reviewed a number of shockingly great work. This one is not only a great album, but, if you scan the roster of Castle Face, you’ll see that they don’t have a stable full of bands that all sound the same or even necessarily come from the same place, musically and stylistically speaking.

This latest one is the debut from San Francisco’s Deep Throats, called Good, Bad, Pretty. One of the first things I noticed was the raw, stripped-down, knife-edge mix of punk, rockabilly and maybe a bit of surf-rock thrown in, for good measure.

On the opening song, which is also the title track, one thing that grabbed me was that loud, raw, gritty guitar which is not unlike Greg Ginn’s atonal slowed-down stuff from the good ol’ days of Black Flag. But it isn’t that way for the whole album. By the time we get to “Way I Move”, “2 Hot 2 Handle” or “Last Request”, there seems to be more than one guitar going, but I think it’s probably either an overdub or else I’m just dreaming(??).

Anyway, the lineup here features drummer Sugar Fixx, singer and guitarist, Tracy Lourdes (who is a guy, and, of course, if you paid attention to the spelling, NOT the formerly underage porn star, Tracy LORDS), as well as a guy who goes by the nom de guerre, Ron Draino, but known to his parents as Chris Johanson, who is a key figure in the “Mission School Art Movement” (hey, it’s a San Francisco thing- you wouldn’t understand [well, maybe]), which also includes Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen, who, incidentally, plays bass and sings on Good, Bad, Pretty.

Well, Deep Throats has had an interesting time, coming up through this whole Mission District-Area music scene: having been “excommunicated” from one of the big scene hangouts, etc., the Epicenter, after having, supposedly, “intimidated” people, “vandalism” and other petty or maybe even trumped up charges, with which the SFPD used to “forcibly remove” the members of Deep Throats from the Epicenter and banned from there, by the cops and, I’m sure the proprietors of said place had no problem with that. Their reply? “So, we were banned, by cops, from our scene and so we made our own scene!”

It was label head and leader of Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer, who saw Deep Throats playing a gig in Clarion Alley, one of these many little dead end, half-block-long “roads” – or, well, alleys, around The City. It was the fascinating “press release” that accompanied the Clarion Alley gig which Dwyer found interesting: it read, to the effect: “Drugs, Violence/General Snottiness/Elastic Paranoid Guitar/SRO drum kit/Coke-bottle-specs-sharp bass sounds…” which, when Dwyer read it, saw that there seemed to be potential there for some tinderbox-igniting chaos which had the veneer of excitement to it. That kind of premeditated mayhem is what’s archived on Good, Bad,Pretty.
So, for those of you familiar with the ever-exciting music that keeps coming out on Castle Face’s label: nothing that you could stick in a box and label “ABC” or “XYZ”, but rather a wide range of great stuff that has at least one thing in common: they’re all indie greats, they have a lot of anachronistic things about their music, i.e. that it doesn’t seem to be from 2016 (or even from 2010), so much of what I’ve heard that’s come from Castle Face has had delightful sounds but ones that could’ve just as easily come out in the late 60s or early-mid 70s and with this one here, Good, Bad, Pretty, it would’ve fit in just fine with the late 70s/early 80s Southern California hardcore/punk scene. In some places I can hear a bit of a hybrid of (SST Records honcho and Black Flag founder) Greg Ginn and Exene Cervenka (of X, for those of you who don’t know that name). In other places it’s harder to pin the music down to something as easy as a band you could compare it to, as far as what they sound like. I’ll tell you what they sound like: they sound like the future isn’t necessarily going to be bleak. Not everything (or everybody) is wearing the same corporate label tags, so to speak. There really is a LOT of exciting things happening in the whole indie scene – and when I say “indie”, I am not referring to a specific type of music, I’m talking more about a way of life – a nonconformist, noncorporate way of living, working, thinking and doing it.

To really drink it all in, you really have to hear this album to believe what I’m talking about – or at least to see what I mean! In fact, there is so much worth checking out from this label, you should really just visit there website and just browse around. To get to CF’s Deep Throats page, go straight to http://www.castlefacerecords.com/products/deep-throats-good-bad-pretty and you can read all about them, as well as purchase the album there. If you’d like to get a broader vista of the label itself and all they have to offer, just go to www.castlefacerecords.com – from there, you can see a variety of different acts and to read about them, it’s just a click away. Hope you enjoy it!! –KM.

Bronze

Live in San FranciscoBronze Live Pic.

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                             

The new, live album by San Francisco-based Bronze, Live in San Francisco, is an album that captures Bronze in their full live glory. Bronze has been making some rarefied music over the last nine years; music which consists of some grating dissonance as well as some, unabashed colorful, nonstop, ruminating lightning storms. Bronze is a trio, made up of Brian D. Hock, Rob Spector and Miles Friction. Bronze’s Live in San Francisco is one of several in a series of live albums, recorded in San Francisco by some of the great bands on Castle Face Records. Another Live in San Francisco CFR album which I reviewed about a year or so ago, was one by Tim Presley and the red-hot White Fence (you can still check that review out on this site, it remains in the archives of all reviews written over the past several years).

This new live album, a recording, obviously, of a gig, or gigs, in San Francisco, no doubt, one of many storied, legendary venues that are still operating, strongly, even though there used to be a number of great unforgettable joints in decades past to which one could go see any number of bills with what Bill Graham, the late, almost mythic promoter, used to throw together for one night’s show: something as disparate as, say, Miles Davis, Neil Young & Crazy Horse and the Steve Miller Band (yeah, but that, of course, was way over, on the other side of the US, at the closed-in-1971, Fillmore East, but still indicative of the sort of mixes and “mash-ups” who’d be thrown together to play to one crowd). Ahh – the good old days, before the advent of the corporate slave mentality that’s now permeated the mainstream of the music industry and why the only music that makes a real difference is so-called “indie” music, which, sorry critics, is not a subgenre; it is a definition of music made without the interference of greedy, obstreperous carnival barkers who throw their own, hired gun producers at you and practically babysit you, until you come out with the kind of album they want; something they have test-marketed and opinion-polled, and analyzed to death and when it does hit the streets, even the names sound ridiculous.

That isn’t so, though, with Bronze, another relatively new face and another great band from Castle Face Records, from whom I’ve recently had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing several new albums. This new release by Bronze, Live in San Francisco, starts of with “Dulcinea”, a wigged out jam, featuring haunting keyboards, with concomitant guitars, thundering drums, even samples of birds chirping! Then, singer, Rob Spector starts singing in a kind of flat, somewhat discordant, but not cacophonous yelping nor a viscous mumbling, but a kind of plaintive anti-melodic vocal, not unlike, say, Ian Curtis, but in an American, West Coast accent, or lack of one.

Castle Face’s John Dwyer, who is also a veteran of such bands as Thee Oh Sees, Coachwhips, Pink and Brown and The Hospitals, had this eloquent prose to write about Bronze and their ethos as one of the most interesting of modern indie bands today:

For 9 years they have been slowly simmering in a pot
For 9 years I have been seeing them usurp every gig they have been on
I’ve never seen a bad Bronze show…they range from smiling and hypnotized dancing crowds
to a man getting violated and urinated on at a yuppie bar (everyone still smiling)
Always the entertainers
Always drunk with mad skills
With dashes of John Carpenter, Silver Apples, Liquid Liquid, Birthday Party, Harold Grosskopf, Klaus Schultze, Cluster, and Brian Ferry with a field recorder taped to his tux jacket
Ultra bottom heavy dance beats a la Brian Hock (shirt off/ shirt on, it’s all good to me)
Super hand-wringing oscillations home brewed by Miles Friction
and the ever-great Robert Spector delivering homilies from beyond the dimensional wall.

they bought a limousine to tour in
(which may be the raddest fucking thing I’ve ever heard of)
but its been parked in the bat cave under a car cocoon like San Francisco’s best kept secret
These guys should be on tour, eaten alive every night by ravenous fanatudes
but alas, they are like a rare treat these days
SO we’ve waited outside the bivouac for the flap to lift
and after many nights and cold rations they appeared and performed the great and fabled Bronze happening
for us to trap to tape
a mix of absolute old faves and new gears grinding
a great night indeed
recorded and mixed by the castle face crew
adorned with photos of the night
You are well set to feast on this release” – 
John Dwyer

This paean to Bronze speaks volumes about this Bay Area trio from one who’s been in close proximity to the band for some time now. I just had to include this passage of Dwyer’s here, as I am quite new to Bronze and, having seen this loquacious and elegant beatitude on Bronze, I thought it would add some solid praise and painted a beautiful picture of what Bronze sounds like and how exciting and pleasurable they are in concert.

All seven songs on Live in San Francisco portray Bronze just playing blistering live stuff, their sound is captured quite well. From the opening song, “Dulcinea”, on which Spector’s distinctive vocal style starts off with a slow burn which keeps smoldering throughout the rest, all the way, through “Maniac”, “The Angle”, “Golden Handcuffs” and the closer, of this album, “Showdown of Sorts”. Brian Hock keeps up a great, booming beats which keep their sets bubbling with a great rock drummer’s sensibility: a great timekeeper as well as an effusive percussionist.

Just listening to Live in San Francisco makes me want to get to the next possible Bronze show to which I can make. This document of their great live shows really gets me fired up – of course, I’m also curious to hear what their studio work sounds like as well. But I have a feeling, that a band that has this kind of gusto is going to do a great job in the studio as well.

For more information on Bronze, check out their official website, https://www.bandbronze.com or, you can go to the Castle Face Records after the March 25 release, http://www.castlefacerecords.com. -KM.

Our Solar System

In TimeIn Our Time CD cover

Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

It doesn’t get a hell of a lot better than this new album. I’m talking about the new album, out 3/25/16, from Swedish powerhouse, Our Solar System, the album, In Our Time. There are two songs on this 43 minute album; two 20+ minute songs. First one, “In the Beginning of Time”, 20:26, and the second one, “At the Edge of Time”, which runs a tiny bit longer: 23:13. Both tunes are intense orbs of kaleidoscopic sonic fluidity.

The first track, “In the Beginning of Time”, really piques one’s interest, almost from the first note. It’s got a whirlwind style of jazz, ambient, drone, darkwave, and back again…a lot of saxophone usage really puts you in a kind of, well, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say “free jazz”, as in Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler, et al, I mean, that stuff is so far out, it would’ve taken over, but OSS don’t go that far. They are closer to the whole “Krautrock” vibe. Think Neu! or Faust or Can. Not so much Kraftwerk, they’re a little more on the drone/ambient/machine side of things, where OSS bring a humanity to bear in their music. This is evident even more so when you get to “At the Edge of Time”, which has less sax, which does come in around 11:40 or so, for a bit, and then ebbs away, for a slowed, quieted ambience. But, I did notice that this “humanity” I wrote of, just a bit back is really put forward on this track. Where “In the Beginning of Time” has a mechanical jazz edge with some wild piano jamming in there, it’s on “At the Edge of Time” where I started noticing similarities to Krautrock in general, especially Can, Neu! and Faust. But throughout the whole 23 minute opus, it isn’t all Krautrock redux, that’s just in, about, say, the 5-8 minute part. The second half, delves into some serious cosmic stuff that utilizes keyboards, it sounds, to me, anyway, that they’re using both analog stuff as well as complementing it with some digital enhancements. But, then, especially when you get to the latter part of the song, there’s that Krautrock-type beat, not unlike something from, say, Tago Mago or Ege Bamyasi by Can: a rhythm that stays constant, yet progresses with the music, if that makes sense, not going all post-bop on you, but keeping a steady beat; one that stands out, undergirding that super-cool last eight or so minutes. Yes, there it is – you have a wigging out process, to start with, on “In the Beginning of Time”, which seamlessly pours right into “At the Edge of Time” which keeps the bright flames of their music flickering for at least the first half of the song and then, after the peak, the fire may start to turn into a kind of smoldering burn, with burning embers, still aglow in the middle, but a haze of smoke billowing out as well – that’s the part I was writing about when I meant it gets back into the Krautrock thing – especially, as I said, between, say, 16:00, right on out to the end. It isn’t a static redundancy, but a carefully put together, played together, or rather – “tightly knit” jam which, with that steady beat which does stay fairly static, but in a way that works terrifically, works as a frame into which OSS pours a range of essences in there, adding a flourish here, some panache there and just letting go.

The genius at the center of Our Solar System is Mattias Gustavsson, a one-time (sometime?) member of Dungen. Reading the bio that came with the album, it tells of how In Our Time was actually the work of a total of 30 hands. That it was made with many collaborators who came and went and did indeed, leave some wonderful things.

I read a lot of things about the “interstellar” nature of the music and how this album can put you, in your imagination, in outer space, zooming at an amazingly high speed, speeding by planets, zig-zagging in and out of potential loose meteors out there, as well as navigating through the notoriously hazardous asteroid belt – the place between Mars and Jupiter, where, due to the immense mass of Jupiter, a planet not unlike the four rock and iron orbs, closest to the sun, was unable to develop because the gas giant’s gravity was in a sort of tug-of-war with the other gravity which was working to whip those asteroids – which at one point were nothing more than little bits of dust and gas, like the whole solar system was, 4.5 billion years ago, that’s how earth was formed, and that’s how Mars, Venus and Mercury were formed – but, as I wrote – we still have, with us today, out there, relatively close to us, that asteroid belt, many, many rocks of varying size.

So that’s the kind of mind-game you can play while listening. If you really get into the wild, astral swirl of the music, you might (and you might not) want to go back and listen to some really mind-blowing stuff from the 1960s, specifically, Interstellar Space or Jupiter Variation, for starters, by John Coltrane, some of his most experimental, really “free” jazz from around ’64-’66. Or, if you’re more into the quiet, meditative ambience, but like some vaguely sinister darkwave mixed in, you could lay your hands on either or both Volume One and Volume Two of Musick to Play in the Dark, the 1999 and 2000 releases by Coil, respectively (they put out one other album in between the two parts of this).

Anyway, I really want to bring this out and hope that as many people as possible can get turned on to Mattias’s awe-inspiring work here, this In Our Time. It is truly bliss to listen to.

 If you’d like to see Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records website for more information, or for purchase, go to http://beyondbeyondisbeyond.com/store or you could visit Mattias on Facebook or check out this press release: https://terrorbird.com/albums/in-time. See you in space. -KM.

Sunwatchers

SunwatchersCF-070jacketnotemp

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

If you want to hear what could possibly be the best record that will be released this year (and I know it’s only March), take a listen to the new, eponymous album by New York-based Sunwatchers. This thing’s heavy. A true thing of beauty, seven instrumentals which take you outside of time and let’s you forget where we are, what we’re doing, a dreamworld of bright colors, vivid soundscapes and wide-open vistas for your mind’s eye. From the first notes of the opening cut, “Herd of Creeps”, on through “Eusebius”, “Ape Phases” and “Moonchanges”, this album is truly awe-inspiring. It is rather anachronistic, in a literal, nonjudgmental sort of descriptive way, in that, this stuff does not sound like it just came out, rather, it has the ring of some of the jaw-dropping, endless juggernauts of greats like The Soft Machine, 69-71 era King Crimson, even a hint of Traffic, plus, no doubt, there’s some free-jazz mixed in with the influences that combine here, to make an album that is, at the same time, brand new, looking toward the future and one that harkens back to the days of all-night jams, broadening consciousnesses, and really serious experimentation.

The core of Sunwatchers is made up of Jim McHugh, on guitar, Peter Kerlin, bass, Jeff Tobias, alto sax and Jason Robira on drums. They have some friends sitting in with them as well, including two extra guitars: Ben Greenberg and Dave Harrington, who also plays some synthesizer. Also showing up are Cory Bracken, playing the vibes and some “percussion”, Dave Kadden on keyboards and Jonah Rapino on the fiddle. What really grabs a hold of the listener from this audacious, inspired album are the impressive, nimble guitar work of McHugh as well as Jeff Tobias’s great alto sax, grooving right there, alongside and at times above, others, just in the background, but still there. They really, together, stir up something that I’ve not heard in anything new in the past – well, I can’t even think of anything I’ve reviewed in the past that had this kind of energy, skill and unabashed, raw spirit. Sunwatchers are like opening up a time capsule from circa 1970 and finding some shimmering, hypnotic valuables, like untarnished gems that seem to pulsate in the light.

This is, I know I’ve mentioned this before, about certain other albums, but, it’s true, an album you just can’t sample bits and pieces of, one song here, one song there, as if it were your average pop album with singles, accessible “radio-friendly” fare to which you gravitate while politely ignoring the more rigorous, longer and (for some) complicated, many sounds coming at you at once, but in a smoothly arranged style. Yes Sunwatchers, must be listened to all in one sitting. With each tune going right into the next, in a seamless fashion where you sometimes don’t even realize there’s been a song change until you notice the numbers have changed on your player – on whatever you may be listening (well, except vinyl, of course, for which you have to look closely, at the spinning disc to see where the stylus is and on which groove it’s at.

We start off with the big bang attack of “Herd of Creeps”, which is a breathtaking, loud, beautiful herald of what’s to come. After “Herd”, the album slips into “For Sonny”, then “White Woman” and before you know it, you’re into “Eusebius”, which all make up a cosmological dream suite which doesn’t seem to relent, but just keeps up the attack, so to speak (an “attack” that hurts so damn good!). After this, comes the 8 ½ minute “Ape Phases”, on which some killer guitar licks are coming at you from all sides. Not just McHugh with his tight, titillating, quicksilver-fret-work guitar chops, but Ben and Dave joining in, to add fuel to this white-hot fire, flames a-flickering, lapping up all the empty spaces, filling them with a bright, multi-hued expression. The guitars just keep it up – six minutes in and you’re still being mesmerized by both the swirling guitars as well as Tobias’s serpentine sax which is keeping up with the guitars, mixing in perfectly, the two sounds: guitar and sax, intertwine and complement each other wonderfully. This keeps up for another two ½ minutes, when it finally comes to a close.

The next song, “Moroner” has essences of the old blues traditional, “Cat’s Squirrel”, a lively, loosened up improv that starts with a theme, then goes into a mid-section that, depending on who’s playing it, can go many ways. It was, most famously, done back in the ’60s by Cream and also, Jethro Tull, who did a version of it on their debut, This Was. The finale, “Moonchanges” has more crafty guitar work, you can hear some swooshing synthesizers in the background, and the alto sax is really laying it down.

All over this album, it’s the guitar and the saxophone which, together, make some of the best, most fluid, melting dreamscapes and just out-of-this-world musicianship that I’ve heard in a capacity as “brand new” material. I have to go back to something like Third by The Soft Machine, for one example, to be able to compare it to something. It’s not that there’s nothing from the past 20 years or so that I’ve found intensely stimulating as well as iconoclastic, filled with intense music that will be remembered for a long, long time, if not forever; there are some outstanding albums by some very talented artists and bands which have been steadily coming out, but as for this stunning hallmark of an album, I just can’t think of anything that has this sort of intensity, virtuosity, limitless reach in scope from the last, oh, forty years! I would also love to see Sunwatchers play live. I can see that one of their live gigs would be some sort of near-religious experience.

If you’d like to get more information on Sunwatchers or find out how to get yourself a copy of this album, check out: https://sunwatchers.bandcamp.com/music, where you can also get to some of their previous work or go to the Castle Face website’s Sunwatchers page: http://www.castlefacerecords.com/products/sunwatchers-sunwatchers. -KM