Archive for the ‘New Indie Music’ Category

I thought I’d post this little treat up for fans of the sublime, rich aesthetically attuned Joan of Arc.  Here is the video for a song off their newest album, He’s Got the Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands.  It’s entitled, “Never Wintersbone You”  Hope you dig it.

PS -it’s got something to do with Phil Collins and his big hit, “In the Air Tonight” from his debut solo LP, Face Value.  That album was made right at the time Collins was going through a particularly nasty divorce.  I have and you too have probably heard that rumor that went around, mostly in the 80s & into the 90s that describes the story of this song & how Phil had set the “perpetrator” (?) up by sending a ticket for the front row, center so he could see him and expose him for some grave misdeed from years past.  Now, I don’t know if that’s true or to what extent it has validity, but, well, who knows?  Anyway, Tim & Melina are taking it to that end, it seems, in this tune.  OK?  Well, just listen & watch for yourself! Enjoy! and See you Really Soon! –KM.

Hi Everybody!! Hope you are enjoying this year, so far, which, for a minute there felt like a “new year”, the way it always is, you know. Anyway, I’ve been away from the blog too long lately but it’s not cuz I don’t want to write, on the contrary, I’d love nothing better than to be able to have all the time in the world to devote to nothing except writing (reviews and other things), but as it is, things come up “IRL” for me – sometimes things that are my own problems, other times it’s because I’m taking care of a sick girlfriend. Well, no, sick isn’t the word, really, more like distressed, suffering, in pain & it seems that the drs whom she sees are either incompetent, at least partly incompetent or they just don’t give a damn. I’m on the fence about that, kinda, but I’d probably say, if I had to, that it’s a bit of both. So, forgive my extended absence: all you lovelies whose great albums I’ve reviewed over the last few years, please feel free to contact me whenever you have a new CD coming out, I’d be happy to help. Until then…happy dreams! (BTW, up next should be a review for the smokin’ new album from WOODS, who, last year, brought us the interesting City Sun Eater in the River of Light, whose review you can also read here, just do a search for Woods or the album title & it’ll bring it to you or you to it, depending on your POV. Anyway, so, FYI (especially you, daniel g. -you know who/what I’m talking about- oh & sorry about that long-winded email I sent back, after you had just asked me what I thought of their new album (WOODS’s new CD, I mean). I hope to incorporate a bit of that into my review, or maybe I won’t… >smiles< OK, see you REAL(ly) SOON!

Lee Negin

The Falling of the Long ShadowsLee Negin Falling of the Long Shadows Cover

Passing Phase Music, Catalog # A2Z-2017

Released in 2017

Review by Kent Manthie

The new album by Lee Negin is a super electronic fantasy. Starting with the opener, “The Lesser Gods”, The Falling of the Long Shadows takes you on an astral journey; a trip through a kind of dream-space medium. It isn’t ambient, nor is it a techno-house-acid kind of electronica either; more of a hypnogogic dance through a viscous medium, like heavy water or corn syrup, i.e., slow-motion gyrations.

A little shorter than previous works (40 minutes), you, nonetheless, are exposed to a tour through unknown territory, maybe unreal territory, even. The music sucks you in, not unlike a black hole, except you can fall in without “spaghettifying” and even travel back, at the speed of light to come out at the end.

The stuff on The Falling of the Long Shadows is something completely new. I can’t think of anyone to whom I can compare it. On the album, Lee’s pulled out all the stops to try and discover the limits of imagination in a musical realm. Track number two, “Beyond (the Beyond)” is a kind of repetitive drone cycle, but not at all simplistic. The repetitions I’m writing about are layered over with a variety of sounds, feelings, even visions, especially if you’re listening with headphones and aren’t distracted. On “Between Thoughts” things settle down some; the song has this feeling of soundwaves washing over you as if you’re standing beneath a waterfall; cascading down on you and around you.

“Parvati” does have a little bit to it which reminds me of Brian Eno, to some degree, although only in a sonic sense, i.e., it doesn’t sound like this or that album or song, there’s just a certain feeling. But by the middle of the song it starts to get into Krautrock territory for a bit. I’m thinking here of Neu! or Faust, maybe some early Kraftwerk, as well, with some beautiful piano in there at the end, which continues on, into the beginning of “No Turning Back”, as well, in fact, “No Turning Back” serves as a kind of Entr’acte between two parts. The whole song has a really mellow, less otherworldly vibe to it, with a beautiful piano playing and strings backing it up (but that could be synthesized string sounds too). It finally ends in a quiet fading. “Warping Out” sounds like something one might hear from the modern incarnation(s) of King Crimson. A chaotic, somewhat frenzied, yet ordered all the same, melange of sonic delight. Seven and a half minutes of superb quality sounds!

Yes, this is one blissful album. By the time it ends, you’re so into it that you aren’t ready to leave this realm, so you might try to find something similar, older or new, or even a previous CD of Negin’s (http://passingphasemusic.com. is where you can find more of Negin’s catalog).  The album’s finale, “Requiem for Cheeze” is a nod to Lee’s previous opus, The Cheeze Chronicles, Vol. 5, which, itself, was a delightful odyssey into other-dimensional arenas.  Fans as well as neophytes alike will appreciate this paean to the aforementioned album.  Not only that, but “Requiem for Cheeze” also happens to be a great tune with which to close out the album.

So, to end where I began, The Falling of the Long Shadows is a superb album. I think it’s one of Lee’s best works. From having corresponded via email with him, I know he put a lot into making this album. It was a labor of love and a kind of test for himself; pushing the limits of the imagination with sonic intensity. He definitely passed the “test”!

One other thing:  I strongly urge you to get this album (that is, if you haven’t figured that out by now)  One easy way is to follow this link, to where you can find out more about Lee, e.g., anything not covered here as well as purchase a copy of this great groove that digs deep into your subconscious:  http://passingphasemusic.com.   Then, after getting your copy, maybe go back and leave Lee a message, letting him know that this is such a soothing balm, a perfect antidote to cloying, overplayed pop songs on your average FM radio station.  In other words, send words of encouragement to Lee to let him know that he is sorely needed in this era of ephemeral “alternative” radio flavors.  Remember, too, that word-of-mouth is the best kind of advertising:  it is genuine; you like it, you tell a friend or three.  You’re not getting paid for this, which is why telling a friend or friends, plural, about how great this album is is worth more than the most expensive ad campaigns!!   –KM.

Joan of Arc

He’s Got the Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands

Joyful Noise Records, 2017Joan of Arc He's Got... cover

Review by Kent Manthie                                                 

After one of the most depressing and awful years in modern memory (2016), 2017 is shaping up to be a better one (so far, anyway). The one good thing that has happened so far this year is the new album from Joan of Arc, He’s Got the Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands, their first since 2013’s Testimonium Songs, which was a soundtrack of sorts to the dance troupe, Every Door a Window and their dance piece, Testimonium, which was a re-creation, of sorts, of the trial of some labor leaders in the late 19th century.  That album, basically an EP, with just six songs on it, came on the heels of 2012’s wonderful Life Like, on which the worked again with legendary Chicagoan Steve Albini.

He’s Got… is not as stripped down as their last two were. This time they’ve brought Jeremy Boyle back, and Melina Ausikaitis too. The album starts out with a great opener: “Smooshed That Cocoon”, something that could only come from the wonderfully creative mind of Tim Kinsella. By the time we get to the middle part of the album, it goes into a kind of laid back, but “busy” mosaic of sonic gravitas. “Never Wintersbone You” talks about Phil Collins and his first solo hit, “In the Air Tonight”, from his first solo LP, Face Value, which was written and recorded around the time he was going through a particularly nasty divorce, which, ironically, provided some of the impetus of Face Value. Anyway, it’s hard to really know what they’re singing about unless one knows the context. Also, the last two cuts on the album, “F is For Fake” and “Ta-ta Terrordome” are great and show that JOA still have ‘it’.

As soon as I read that Joan of Arc had a new album out, I immediately went to work and, once I had it, I listened to it all the way through, of course, and was just blown away by its brave, forward-looking, fearless intensity. Every song really shines on this and I can’t think of anything I’d change about it. Oh, I suppose, if I were, say, Robert Christgau, I’d look and look until I found something negative about it that I could use to sound oh-so above it all, etc. but I’m not Christgau. I don’t live in that same world. Don’t wait around for some single to show up, get yourself the whole album. It’s a beautiful piece of music as a whole; it all fits together nicely. -KM.

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.