Archive for July, 2016

Here’s a link in which you can lose yourself.  The new one from Lee Negin.  Have a look below.  Also, check out this playlist for a wider selection of material and visually stunning material from Lee; https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHpbB7VBzptzr4SEzw4pnMaTrjyUtZKQT

-KM.

Vritra

Yellowingvritra CD pic

NRK, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

New, from Atlanta native, Vritra (ne Hal Williams), currently living it up in Los Angeles is Yellowing, some mellow hip-hop.

Vritra’s is a busy story, one which goes all the way back to when he was only 10. When in high school, Williams began NRK (short for “Nobody Really Knows”), a “hip-hop collective”, an engine for him to get his music out. It was in these early days that Vritra met Matt Martians, with whom Vritra started a friendship as well as a musical collaboration. The first project the two worked on together was the first project Vritra did for his fledgling NRK. Soon, Matt and Vritra joined forces and started Jet Age of Tomorrow. It was around this time Vritra moved out to Los Angeles to help Matt and Matt’s other band, The Internet, record their debut album, Purple Naked Ladies as well as to work with Matt on more Jet Age of Tomorrow stuff.

Bringing us up to 2014, Vritra, who, at this time was going by the moniker, Pyramid Vritra, recorded Indra and an EP, Palace, for Stones Throw Records.

Finally, we get to now: Pyramid Vritra has dropped the “Pyramid” and is just Vritra, a change which seems to represent more than just a cosmetic alteration; the new, clipped moniker seems to reflect a stylistic change to his music, as well as adapting his music to new, maybe wiser, more experienced place in life. This may be heard in the more intricate, mellow groove of Yellowing; its jazzy, suave feel, with elements of Drum & Bass, Jungle, hip-hop all grooving to a jazz-soaked backdrop. A perfect example of all this can be heard on the opener, “Fleeting Youth and Soundwave”. “PSA”, “Gumbi” and “Question and Demand” all are good examples of the coming together of years of experience, musical and otherwise.

Yellowing will be out on July 22nd. If you’d like to hear stuff from the album, go to https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/ . Hope you like what you hear. -KM.

Ghosts on the Road

Ghosts on the Roadghosts on the road cover

Self-Released, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

Let me introduce you to Justin Portz. He is the driving force behind Ghosts on the Road. This eponymously titled debut has just come out. On the album, it’s pretty much all Justin, playing the instruments, but, for live shows, he’ll put together a nice assembly of musicians with whom to work. I read a description of this and it read that the live shows are loose collections of willing friends

The opening number, “Dismal Midnight Hours” is the opening number and it works as a great way to start off the album. It really pulls you in; there’s a sense of excitement and as “Dismal Midnight Hours” is a fiery opener, it’s a great way to get people to keep listening (i.e., those who’ve never heard of Ghosts on the Road).

Portz was born in Southern Illinois and has, over the years, gone back and forth between Kansas City and St. Louis. So, basically, Justin’s a Midwestern guy. Not from some entertainment company-town, no, far enough away that he isn’t pressured externally or internally, from trying to be like what one sees on TV, etc. A lot of bands who come from various towns, dotted all through the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, or, Chicago -a lot of interesting, damn good bands have come out of Chicago.

Well, the songs on Ghosts on the Road are certainly different from the typical pop fluff one hears on the radio. While there is pretty much a “rock” band, they do have some interesting influences which make their way onto the album; a little bit of alt-country (i.e., nothing like the typical country stereotypes, eg, Garth Brooks, Randy Jackson (isn’t there an Alan Jackson too?) as well as someone like Taylor Swift, who can’t seem to make up her mind whether she wants to be a pop star or a country cowgirl. I’d say that the little bit of country licks Portz puts in here, work well because they seem to have close ties to blues-y music, giving the music a little extra “punch”

When you queue up the album and start playing it, the opening tune, “Dismal Midnight Hours” is a perfect way to get one’s attention. One of the things you can pick up from listening to Justin singing is that he has a strong voice – one that really helps to punctuate the song itself. He’s also a good guitarist, playing a nice, fluid solo, for instance, on the opener. But besides soloing, Portz is also good at maintaining a nice, crisp, rhythm guitar.

All eight songs on Ghosts on the Road are played and sung with sincere emotion. Portz’s alto (I think; it isn’t so deep as to be a baritone) voice is a strong one; his plaintive wails are part of what give the songs (e.g., “Blotto”, “Haunted”, “Sirens” and “Crash and Burn”). “Dead Letter” trades off crisp, clean guitar licks with Justin’s distinct voice, which has this natural projectionability – he’s able to reach from deep down in the diaphragm, to bring up a powerful, dynamic voice.

This is one album which, not having heard anything before by Justin, really impresses me. It also has some great production as well as superb engineering. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen and/or buy it, sound unheard. Take my word for it. If you want a good place to both give it a listen as well as purchase it, try http://ghostsontheroad.com/ – it’ll take you to their Bandcamp page, where you can thus proceed.

Keep an eye out for Justin Portz and Ghosts on the Road. More coming soon. I’ll try to keep abreast of what’s happening with Justin. Hope you get a chance to hear as much of Ghosts on the Road as you can! –KM.

Wow.

Posted: July 2, 2016 in New Indie Music
Tags: ,

Rafi Bookstaber

Late SummerRafi Woodsist084 cover

Woodsist Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

Here we have a new album from Rafi Bookstaber. Late Summer is a wonderful album. It just flows out like water. Late Summer starts out with the mellow, wah-wah-infused psychedelia, “We Can Find a Way”, which seamlessly goes into “You Get High”. The whole thing is a pleasantly soporific experience, with more of a focus on the music, rather than vocals qua vocals. The first two cuts are, for the most part, instrumental jams, with some abstract chanting here and there. When we get to “Ocean Above You”, the overall structure of the music is still there, but there are vocals here; lyrics that have been written. Although, Rafi’s singing sounds somewhat distant, as if it’s coming from far off, while the music, mostly a mix of swirling, enchanting guitars, is playing at full-throttle. “In the Shade” has a similar quality. He also does a great interpretation of the old standard, “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain”, made famous by Ray Charles.

As far as putting a label on Bookstaber’s music, I’ve read in a couple places where his music has been called “folk-ish”, “psychedelic”, and similar terms. I don’t know if I’d concur, though, with the “folk” thing, though. Listening to Late Summer, there are different vibes that flow through me, but a “folk” sentiment isn’t one of them. As far as the slow, psychedelia, the distortion, and that echoing effect, Late Summer reminds me of Spacemen 3, with their doped-up, shoegazing style. The electric sitar which wriggles throughout the album, also lends more to the dreamy, euphoric atmosphere of it all.

This is a great album. Really. I’ve heard some great stuff so far, that’s come out this year. Indie albums full of great music, the kind of stuff that gives one hope, that shows that not all modern “rock”, i.e., all the various subgenres out there, especially Top 40 bubblegum “pop” fluff. So many great, yet, under-marketed, DIY bands/singers out there, making some great stuff. But Late Summer is such a gem, so great, yet so different from most albums that have also come out this year, that people should be made aware of this disc.

The closing cut, “Make Up Yr Mind”, is eight minutes of bliss; a dust devil of music, several guitars all dubbed together, an instrumental that sounds a lot like the Velvet Underground, e.g., the pounding, steady beat on the drums, not unlike Mo Tucker’s drumming. And the serpentine, druggy arabesques with what sounds like an organ in the background, underneath the guitars; all of this gives it a bit of what sounds like the long, instrumental part of “European Son (for Delmore Schwartz)”. That is still quite a thrilling ride. “Make Up Yr Mind” is the ending part of what has already been a sensational, delightful fantasy trance. If you want to check out Late Summer, see what it’s all about for yourself, go and visit, http://www.woodsist.com/catalog/12/rafi-bookstaber-late-summer-lp/ – the Woodsist Records website page for Rafi Bookstaber. From there, one can purchase a copy, as well. -KM.

Rafi Bookstaber photo

Free Pizza

Berlin, DEBerin, DE free pizza cover

BUFU Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

OK, I admit it. The name “Free Pizza” is not something that really stands out and, by their name, do anything more than live up to the campy-sounding name as they branded themselves.

OK, but – if you suspend your sarcasm or your wit or your sour grapes of whatever kind, and just listen to the music contain therein, on FP’s new CD, Berlin, DE. This is a follow-up to their debut album, during which the kids from Boston hit on something that was widely embraced: hip, unencumbered (by corporate A&R automatons who are sent in the studio with some new, “next big thing” to make sure all the ingredients are there to make a big splash in the commercial marketing game that is the music industry), bent on doing their own thing and not following any stale formulae for making a hit pop record.

What Free Pizza has done, then, is an EP, 13 minutes in length, with seven songs on it, averaging about 2 minutes per song (except for “Juliet” and “Patience”, which come in at 1:34 and 1:40, respectively, bringing the 2 x 7 thing down to 13 minutes instead of 14 minutes, if you get my drift.

Anyway, what I wanted to be sure and mention is the fact that there is some damn good music happening here, on Berlin, DE, the name itself a kind of self-aware, play on the title of their debut, Boston, MA. Except, this time, since they spent about a year in Berlin, where they came up with the songs and (sorry, but IDK if they recorded there or not), so they decided to entitle this one Berlin, DE (the “DE”, of course, being an abbreviation for “Deutschland”)

There are pros and cons of putting out a short, 13 minute EP, of course, but one of the silver linings in this short album is that, for those who’ve not heard of Free Pizza, Berlin, DE is a good place to start. For one, there’s no commitment involved – i.e., you don’t have to take an hour or however long a full-length would be (and some can be as long as 74 min. while others are as short as 40 min.) in order to listen to it all in order to take in what they’re offering. Here, with only a 13 minute guide, you can get a relatively quick snapshot of what Free Pizza sound like and, by the time you get to “Slipping”, the final track, you should be able to make up your mind whether you either like these guys or you don’t like them. Of course, there’s always the second, third and other future times when you might play the album and after, say, having listened to it, not obsessively, mind you, but in a way where you don’t play it too much but are also not “neglecting” it to the point where you forget you even had it in a couple months.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple songs that are good barometers for what the rest of the album (in this case, the EP) holds. The opening cut, “Dancing” has this jingly-jangly pop guitar sound to it, making it sound a little like The Jam. But, when we get to the singing, well, they certainly leave The Jam behind, in that Jesus Vio doesn’t sound like Paul Weller. So, just making it clear here that I’m not putting The Jam down, etc. I remain, today, as big a fan of theirs as I’ve been for decades. Just making the point that Vio doesn’t have that softer, English voice of Weller.

Anyway, their closer, “Slipping” is a nice tune. I detect a touch of country in there, somewhere, mixed in with their own sounds.

All in all, I think Berlin, DE is a nice batch of pop songs that have deeper roots than 95% of the junk you hear on commercial radio stations, aka “top 40”, etc. Another parallel I’ve discovered while giving this album a few listens, is McCarthy, an English band from the mid-late 80s. While, you could argue that McCarthy was sort of the parent of Stereolab, in that Tim Gane, Stereolab’s guitarist, was in McCarthy and, at least, on their 2nd album, Laetitia Sadier had joined as a background singer. They had a lot of these 2-4 minute pop-infused songs that were overlaid with dark, dysphoric meditations on the state of things in Britain, mainly, I suppose, since that’s where they were from, but, one could put the same ideals in another context and, a lot of it would still be relevant.

Well – I’d be surprised if anyone remembered McCarthy. But, if you do know what I’m talking about, well, good for you, then.

Getting back to Free Pizza, then, I must say this new EP is a good gap filler, for those jonesing for something new from FP, and also, as I mentioned, a good intro to Free Pizza. Hope you get a chance to hear Berlin, DE.KM.