Archive for the ‘New Indie Music’ Category

of Montreal

Rune Husk

Polyvinyl Records, 2017of-montreal-rune-husk-cover

Review by Kent Manthie

Kevin Barnes and company, hard at work as per custom, has just put out something new since they’re most recent output, Innocence Reaches last year. The new product’s an EP, entitled Rune Husk, a four-song sampler of what’s happening with of Montreal, pride of Athens, GA.

Rune Husk is a bit more subdued than is expected from an of Montreal disc, but, the songwriting, as usual, has the same charming, urbane wit fans of the band have come to expect. Think of it as a mellower, mature smattering of psych-pop with a dreamy, orange swirl gyrating around the middle.

The album begins with the low-key “Internecine Larks”, which will pull you in out of curiosity. “Stag to the Table” kicks it up a notch and for the second half of the EP, “Widowsucking” suddenly harkens back to the reason you like these guys in the first place. Definitely the highlight of Rune Husk, “Widowsucking” has a delectable taste you can’t get enough of.

Another thing about Rune Husk is the placement of the guitar licks in a bigger, more accentuated place. It fits in nicely with the rest of the musical electronica that envelops much of their music. Along with the same creative, sharp lyrical wit Kevin’s honed over the years; his skills haven’t yet begun to wane; the genius of it all fits so well with the underlying music; music that compels you to bob your head back and forth or tap your feet to the pulsating, disco-pop groove and it’s in “Widowsucking” that the music reverts back to a more sublime, surreal, psychedelic-club-power-pop, with clever lyrics and music, wedded together in a blissful union. The EP’s closer, “Island Life” is a great follow-up, yet it manages to unify the softer “Internecine Larks” with of Montreal’s signature sound quite gracefully.

I’m hoping to be back reviewing a new, full length of Montreal disc in the near future. What will be next? That’s always an interesting thing to think of, when mulling over the state of typical nauseating corporate pop slop so ubiquitous these days. But thank goodness for the whole indie network of small labels, DIY-ers and those who spurn the rheumy caterwauling one can’t get away from on the radio. Without outlets such as Polyvinyl, Jade Tree or Castle Face Music, to name just a few, it would be a lot harder to get in touch with the cream of the crop. Popular opinion be damned! –KM.

Blues Ain’t Dead!

Posted: December 16, 2016 in New Indie Music
Tags: , , ,

Darren Deicide

The Blues Non est Mortuumdarren-deicide-blues-non-mortuum-cover

Berenice Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                    

Well, 2016 is just about to come to a close but not before we get a chance to check out this new CD from Darren Deicide, The Blues Non est Mortuum. Ive been a fan of Darren’s since I reviewed, I believe it was, his first CD, Rockin’ ‘Til The Apocalypse. Listening to it, the whole thing just grabbed me and really made an impact on me. I loved it! I reviewed, about a year later, his follow-up to that great debut. In the time since, I’ve started my own music review blog and I even posted a few videos a while back of Darren performing a few tunes in this graveyard in New Jersey.

Even listening to this new album, I noticed one thing hasn’t changed, at least too much: that voice of Darren’s. He’s got this distinct-sounding plaintive wail that really belts out the blues, mostly accompanied by a guitar, in some cases a drum or other percussion instruments, and the whole thing is fronted by the distinct, readily recognizable voice of Deicide.

The way Darren sings, that emotion he puts into it, is one of the things I like so much about Deicide’s music in general. What this album shows is that Darren’s been developing his sound over the past few years, but, listening to The Blues Non est Mortuum, translated from the Latin as “The Blues is not dead”.

Yes, this album is a delight to listen to. I’m glad Darren still sings with that rough, raw timbre.

With the slide guitar he plays throughout, both on the electric and acoustic guitars, it nicely complements Darren’s eerie, plaintive wail which can send shivers down one’s back. A good example of the acoustic slide accompanying Deicide’s voice is “Devil Woman Blues”.

A few other examples of outstanding tunes on The Blues Non est Mortuum, include “Static”, “Killing the Dead” and “My Star-Spangled Banner” sounds like one’s personal anthem, singing about one’s individual experiences living in the “home of the brave” and “the land of the free”(??). Then, we get a couple great tunes, in the form of “Boom Power Boogie” and the closer, “At the Sound of the Demon Bell”.  The best way to enjoy the album, though, is to just start it at the beginning and listen to it all the way through!

Did I pique your interest?  If you’d like to check out more information about Darren and the new album, along with some new songs one can listen to, from The Blues est Non Mortuum, visit: http://darrendeicide.com/, you can purchase the CD there too! Happy listening! -KM.

Just to put music to the review previous, I thought I’d post a video from Zavala for his new tune, “Roosevelt & Letting Go”.  Hope you like it! – KM. (also, read the review, just below). –KM.

mr-zavala-pic

His Master’s Synthesizer

Posted: December 14, 2016 in New Indie Music
Tags:

 

Zavala

Fantasmas

Fake Four Music, 2017

Review by Kent Manthie                                                                           fantasmas-zavala-cd-cover

Chicago-based electronica producer, Zavala has just come out with his latest work of his own: Fantasmas. It is a real coup de grace for Zavala.

The music takes me back a little way, back in the good ol’ days of the 1990s (say what you will about the 90s: but throughout that decade the US economy BOOMED. It was the 1920s all over again: instead of just richies or institutional investors, regular Joes and their wives were buying stock and, up until the bubble burst in 2000, buying internet/tech stocks was a sure thing. Look at all the millionaires that sprang up overnight!

Anyway, listening to Fantasmas reminds me of back in the 90s, when I was enjoying life, working during the week, and then, letting it all hang out, basically, between Thursday and Saturday night, taking Sunday to recuperate before starting the whole thing over again (i.e., it’s Monday morning again and the whole thing starts again (and it will forever)). It has quite a danceable groove to it. Even if you’re sitting at home and pop this CD on, you’ll still be shaking your head back and forth, bobbing up and down and so on.

That isn’t to say, though, that Fantasmas sounds like a dated work, something that, for today’s world, is just a little anachronistic. No, Zavala, being a seasoned music producer, has taken his talents for getting the most of the studio as well as the back-up singers, session musicians, etc.

On one track, Zavala gets some help in the form of Sara Z. singing vocals on “Chrysalis” and believe it: this is a groovy track. That and then “The IFS” is another really swinging cut. You can’t help yourself. You just gotta dance! It’s all good, but, to pick a couple good starters, check out the opener, “Mirrors”, or the dreamy “Floats Like Empty” or the ethereal, synthesizer opus, “ARPDreamth” (can’t say 100%, because they’re kind of outdated. Those ARP synthesizers, like Pink Floyd used on The Dark Side of the Moon, I haven’t seen or heard today’s musical prodigies using. That isn’t surprising, given the leaps and bounds taken as far as technology in general has come since 1973. Listening to it with, say, good headphones and turned up really loudly, you can really meld with the music! I’m telling you: if you want to be relaxed, turn the lights down low and lie in bed or on a comfortable sofa, then hit “play” with this CD ready and then close your eyes and I bet when the album finishes, you’ll feel at least somewhat relaxed. ENJOY! -KM.

Brandt Brauer Frickbrandt-brauer-frick-joy-cd-cover

Joy

Because Music, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                

I’m quite happy that I’ve been exposed to Brandt Brauer Frick, a trio of European musicians, whose disparate musical backgrounds, or, at least, the dichotomy between Daniel Brandt and Jan Brauer on the one hand, who come from a club music atmosphere, e.g., house, techno, EDM, and the like, on the one hand, and Paul Frick, on the other, who comes at this from a different musical background. The talented Frick brings to this – trio a classically-minded background. One rooted in the firmament of beautiful melodies, gracious harmonies and that wonderful, musical ear, one thing that is innate and, though it doesn’t – nor has it! – stop millions from getting into the music-making biz, so to speak.

Anyway, Frick trained for some time, at the Universitat der Kunste, in Berlin. There, Frick studied, amongst other important matters, classical and modern composition. Before joining up with Daniel and Jan, Paul has been making music in diverse corners: besides his several grand, experimental pieces for a variety of orchestral instruments, Frick has also recorded and released a few EPs of house music.

Daniel Brandt and Jan Brauer, on the other hand, come from a looser, more jazz-oriented school of music.

These sorts of trios with members that come from disparate (but not at odds with anything) musical backgrounds are a great breeding ground for the kind of music Brandt, Brauer and Frick play.

Also, for those of you who may think that, for the most part, modern music is dead, just remember that the type of person who would say something like that is someone who, obviously, doesn’t follow or at least pay some attention to the always innovative, creative melting pots for varieties of influences which come out of the whole process as a finished product; one which, despite their influences, any outright hagiographic to the point of almost being plagiaristic, won’t show up here. With deft skill and determination, the music comes out sounding as if there’s no precedent for it, which means that they’ve managed to concoct a heady brew of their own, one with a pleasant aftertaste, as well.

I’d think that an album such as this would attract listeners who’ve spent much time grooving with Krautrock, e.g., Neu!, Faust, Kraftwerk and Can, to name a few; maybe fans of Henry Cow and/or Fred Frith.

But, I don’t want to fill your heads with anything that could prejudice one towards or against Joy. I’d rather lay out some bare sketches of the sound and maybe a little bio info, but I don’t want to tell anyone that this is going to sound like XYZ or ABC…that could potentially turn off a segment of people and could possibly attract others, and those who think they’d be turned off by Joy might miss out on something so fabulous that, while eventually they’ll get it, if they aren’t pushed away by unnecessary comparisons, all the better, that way one can judge Brandt Brauer Frick strictly on the merits, at least for 98-99% of what they are or might be trying to do.

Anyway, whatever you do, give Joy a listen and get yourself a copy! -KM.

St. Lenoxten-hymns-from-my-american-gothic-cover

Ten Hymns From My American Gothic

Anyway Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

Just out a couple weeks ago, the follow-up to 2014’s Ten Songs About Memory and Hope, was released: Ten Hymns From My American Gothic. This is the second full-length album from St. Lenox, which, though mainly a vehicle for Andrew Choi and his songs, the band also features Chris Hills and Nick Fed on guitar. Choi, himself, is a multi-instrumentalist who can and has played everything on previous recordings.

By day, an unassuming, Manhattan lawyer, a Juilliard-trained violinist, Choi has his feet in both “worlds” – the eternal ephemera of music as well as the one which we call “the real world”, even though that’s as subjective as one can get. I mean, what is “real” for one group of people may be unheard of or even just a myth, to another group. For now, it seems, the musical, creative side of Choi’s dichotomous world seems to be winning out.

Trading in on skills he acquired and/or honed while at Juilliard, Choi is a rare figure in the pop music biz: someone who is, as the idiom goes, ‘classically trained’, someone who also has a knack for writing rapt, lyrics that beautifully waft over the listener.

I must say, that time between when you first see the album cover of this album and what you subsequently hear on the same album, you experience, at least, for me, a disconnect. I see this photograph of some Gothic-designed cathedral in some urban setting (not sure exactly where this picture was taken) and, well, especially because of, say, 95% of the music I receive for review, well, it isn’t homogeneous, but it isn’t monolithic, either, but for the most part, the bands I cover tend to be from urban areas. Whether that may be megalopolises like NYC or L.A. (megalopolises for the US, anyway) or smaller, but just as important areas like the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Minneapolis or Seattle. These “urban” bands do seem to have something going on I don’t usually hear from artists/bands who come from smaller, more rural areas. Over the years, Independent Review has reviewed indie music; that is, music not from some behemoth corporation that owns media companies and, along with the variegated other industries they hold or even control, the music and the film industries suffer the most: that is, the products that come out of places like that are enough to frustrate anyone who understands that what is most popular, ergo, in one’s face all the time, etc. does not come from the aforementioned, rather it is the myriad, underground hotspots, bristling with great talent, new directions in music, always forward-thinking (or usually!)

Choi, himself, the son of Korean immigrant parents, grew up in Iowa, someplace that one would think is full of white people, farmers mostly, yet, having been born there and grown up there, his experience growing up in the Midwest is, for him, his life story, his memoir, some of which Choi tries to capture on Ten Hymns For My American Gothic, songs on here that reflect much of what Andrew has experienced over a lifetime in America and his interpretation(s) of what and/or how this environment has forged his psyche.

Originally meant as a 70th birthday present for his father, Choi did write (not uncoincidentally) quite a few songs which touches on his life, growing up in the Heartland of the US, the son of Korean immigrants, which, from there, on, can make a basis and be a muse for Choi’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics for these songs.

This is one I’d recommend to those of you looking for something positive or at least with a not-yet-jaded outlook on things, to get your mind off the awful year 2016’s been (and I don’t mean music-wise, at least not indie-music; although, in the first three months of this year we lost a bevy of musical legends, and even after the one or two deaths a week for January and February, still, some big-name pop star would drop dead. Then, of course, we had the most depressing, dismal presidential election in American history! Dark times ahead, my friends, DARK, DARK times ahead. KM.

Feral Ohms

Live in San Francisco

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie                                                                   feral-ohms-live-in-sf-cover

Well, all right! Another album in Castle Face Records’ Live in San Francisco series. Let me see, here, I first reviewed the White Fence one, almost a year before I started getting more. Well, in around February or March of this year I then got one by Bronze. I think there was one more in that series I reviewed, but, if so, I just can’t recall what it was and, I have this nagging suspicion I might’ve accidentally erased the CD in question from my WMP music library. Well, then, the most recent one I did was the Live in San Francisco set from Thee Oh Sees, which, as has been the case with everything I’ve heard, so far, coming out of Castle Face Records, which is the label responsible for the Live in SF series.

To get to the heart of the matter, Feral Ohms’ Live in San Francisco is another great album, documenting another great concert from San Francisco, a show which is, all the way through, a gripping, tight, rip-roaring good time. Of course, the fact that it’s on Castle Face Records is also a sign that it’s another fabulous creation by another indie band. One that makes music that grabs you by the lapels, shakes you, steering your attention towards the music which, once gripped, isn’t easily let go of until the end.

It’s the same thing with Feral Ohms, in general: a groovy, hard-charging rock band that makes songs which, from the first, catch your attention; each song so promising that you just have to keep listening; to hear what comes next, of course, keeps repeating itself until you’ve gotten to the end!

Feral Ohms is definitely a band you want to check out and one whose name you’ll want to write down someplace, so you’ll remember to keep your eyes open for that name. -KM.

ANDROGYNY RULES!

Posted: October 11, 2016 in New Indie Music
Tags: ,

Blonde Redhead

Masculin Femininblonde-redhead-masculin-fminin-1

Numero Group, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

After many years together, on and off, Numero Group is putting out Masculin Feminin, an anthology of BR’s brightly shining moments, e.g., their first two LPs, put together here, plus a number of previously unreleased material, B-sides, demo versions, outtakes, and so on.

There is a likeness here with Sonic Youth. Listening to Masculin Feminin (which, I must confess, is my first exposure to Blonde Redhead), about 1/3 of the way in I started hearing stuff that reminded me a lot of Sonic Youth, especially their mid-late 80s as well as the late 90s period: musically innovative and iconoclastic. “Swing Pool” is one example of this. Both the guitars sound a bit like Thurston and Lee jamming together and the singing sounded, at times, not unlike Kim Gordon.

Another example of how Sonic Youth seems to have rubbed off on BR is “U.F.O.” the way it starts off with this Sonic Youth-sounding guitar opener; however, “U.F.O.” soon settles into something else altogether: a rock-steady beat that pounds out a tight rhythm for a great tune. But, out of this mix, comes the, in my opinion, too short, but lush, quiet, beautiful, “Girl Boy”, showing, for one, that BR isn’t beholden to a one-dimensional sound; a cardboard cutout of their influences. “Young Neil” has a nice touch to it, as does “Amescream”.

If you’re already a hardcore Blonde Redhead fan, you’ll probably already have the two separately released albums represented here: their eponymous debut and La Mia Vita Violenta, which is what Masculin Feminin is, for the most part. But, to make this more than merely a re-release, Masculin Feminin has a big helping of a variety of singles, B-sides, outtakes, radio performances, demos, etc. So this album is a great place to start for those who are new to Blonde Redhead (I do vaguely remember having had one album by Blonde Redhead, something I found at my local library, then decided to check out and, of course, rip it to my WMP. Not sure which album it was; I’m thinking it was probably their self-titled debut, but, then again, it could’ve been La Mia Vita Violenta. I just can’t remember! But, Masculin Feminin is really, my first real exposure to Blonde Redhead and I like it. As for the similarity to Sonic Youth in some places, BR really has a sound all their own. What they’ve gotten out of Sonic Youth – as well as other bands, no doubt- has only added value to their own identity! –KM.

Male Gaze

King Leermale-gaze-cd-pic-4-king-leer

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

I come to this album a tad late; it just sort of slipped through the cracks, metaphorically. But, when I finally did get to hear it, I was quite taken aback by its power: the raw edge, the well-versed lyrics, matched with some great melodies.

I’m talking about Male Gaze and their recently released album, King Leer, on Castle Face Records, a label that has put out some amazing stuff by their foxy den of indie bands. Bands who, for the most part, have that raw, edgy, spirited style and the talent with which to stand out. That has been my experience with the various Castle Face bands whose albums I’ve reviewed off and on throughout 2016, so far: inspiring, loud bands, some with that wild abandon like MC5 or The Stooges; stuff that’s really amazing. And, so it goes with Male Gaze. They, too, have this raw, feral energy that they pour into their music.

Their new album, King Leer released over the summer, has been calling and calling to me like a siren singing her beautiful death song until, finally, I gave in and my attention was indeed grabbed until my brain was aglow with the electricity discharge flying off this album!

Anyway, Male Gaze hail from San Francisco, a city which has a lot of great venues and clubs to see bands/artists and pretty much every night of the week, somewhere in town there’s something good happening, live, worth seeing.

The new album King Leer starts off with “Got it Bad”, which reminded me a little of early Stooges stuff, what, with the buzzsaws that are the guitars churning up. The vocals are a bit deeper (pitch-wise) than Iggy, in fact he sounds closer to Ian Curtis, but more softly-spoken/sung. “Lesser Demons” is next and keeps the album going, rock steady. It’s got this low-fi, yet hi-fi, when it comes to the guitar solos!

When we get to about midpoint, songs like “Ranessa” and “Green Flash” both show off Male Gaze’s “softer side”. These are both ballad-esque, acoustic-tinged, reflective songs. Yet, that doesn’t mean they’re just fluff; filler to bridge the first few tunes with the last part. No, even though they’re slowed down and have a more “serious” tone to them, they’re still catchy and fit in well here.

Then, after those two aforementioned songs, it gets lively again, with “Easy to Void”; a song that…well, it has this seriously infectious groove to it. I hear at least two guitars playing here, each staying down, toward the low-end of the fretboard, plucking out these slick, groovy chords and so on. I may go as far as writing that “Easy to Void” is the best or one of the best tunes on King Leer.

Yes, this is truly a good, new, indie album. This is the sort of thing you’d whip out and play whenever some guy, probably in his 60s, by now, goes around declaring that “there wasn’t any good music at all, in the 1980s” or “today’s music is just awful; there’s no meaning to it; the corporate music industry is just like the state of the current movie biz: it’s all about making money for the parent company, whether that be Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Viacom’s Paramount, Sony Entertainment’s movie division making money for the company, back in Tokyo and, of course, Warner Bros. -the less said about them the better! Anyway, that guy would be partially correct; those people who share that sentiment, that “there’s been no good music since the 1970s” …well, first of all, they’re wrong. But the reason that they’re wrong is because they probably only listen to the radio and, for their own music collection, if they have one, consists of all corporate rock, typical stuff you hear on the radio all the time and these people soak it up; that makes them think that the only “real” stuff is the stuff they hear on commercial, corporate-owned radio stations, who play music on big, corporate-owned record labels, who routinely screw the artists on their labels out of as much money as they can or, put another way, they, by trying to save money, here and there, do whatever they can to get away with paying the artists under contract with them, as little as possible.

Meanwhile, there is a whole different subculture, I suppose you could call it, that has been thriving for…well, really, always. I’m talking, of course, about the independents: those intrepid, talented musicians who write and play music because they want to. They didn’t start a band so they could get “chicks and money”, they actually share a common bond: they love playing music, but, of course, if you get signed to some “major label”, your band is soon going to be pressured from the label suits to “just make a couple of changes” to one or two songs. If you relent and make those changes, you’re just telling these suits that you and your band are easily pliable and soon, there’ll be some asshole A&R guy hanging out in the studio when you’re recording there. Some dummy the label sent over to “keep an eye on things”. No way. Thank goodness for indie labels and the bands that have the integrity to make good music and not sell out to please some fleeting demographic, which really just makes it (that kind of music) ephemeral, at best. No thanks. I’ve got many independent albums by bands who control what kind of music they make; no apologies necessary! And these are albums that do stand the test of time. Just like this album, King Leer, no matter whether it sells a million copies or a few thousand, it’s still going to sound all right, in, say, 20 years.

So, bravo to Male Gaze for sticking it out and doing it the right way: as a labor of love (for music) and for doing it on Castle Face Records, who’ve been putting out great albums by some fantastic bands. Check out their Live in San Francisco series of CDs. Just check it out at https://www.castlefacerecords.com – a place to check out, not just this album, but to get a view at all the bands on the label and they’re all available for purchase, as well.

Anyway – Great album!  Great album!   –KM.

Hi everybody.  How was your summer vacation?  A question to ponder, this last week of September, as, by now, all K-12 type schools have started, but, after, typically, a later start date, colleges & universities get their fall gig going usually around the equinox – Sept. 21.-also the day where it turns into fall from summer, sneaking in at night, when no one’s watching.

Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know that after this post-which isn’t a review, anyway, I’m going to start condensing reviews down to a less wordy, but quite concise and reviews which get straight to the point – with the occasional exception I feel like writing.

Thanks for your patience, everyone -and support too!!  Some  new reviews of more great indie stuff just around the corner – I mean that, too!

But – I want to give everyone who reads Independent Review a little sneak preview of a new song by Romeo Crow, who’s been quite busy in the recent past, but who is now getting ready to get back in the studio and lay down some new, bitchin’ tracks.  Can’t wait!!  Meanwhile, for the moment, I hope you will enjoy this video for the new tune by Romeo Crow, “For the Weekend”.  More to come soon!!  Enjoy this, though, for now.  Thanks, KM. (Video to follow in 5,4,3,2,1…blastoff!)