Posts Tagged ‘Castle Face Records’

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.

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.

Thee Oh SeesThee-Oh-Sees-Live-in-San-Francisco-513x513

Live in San Francisco

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

In another of the, so far, spectacular “Live in San Francisco” series of live gigs captured on these CDs which have been coming out over the last, uh…oh, three, maybe four years…(?)  I remember writing a review for the Live in San Francisco that Bronze did, some months earlier, this year as well as an older part of the Live in San Francisco set; (must be since I did this review, like, at least a year before I did the Bronze live CD review).  It was for the Live in San Francisco CD by White Fence, which was also very good and showed a lot of energy and enthusiasm, from both audience and band.

OK. So, let’s get to this one, the Thee Oh Sees live album, from, of course, SF (which, having lived in SF for almost five years, as well as catch quite a few great live shows there -only one time did I have to go outside of SF for a concert I wanted to see: Beck, in, like ’97 or so – it was the tour for the Odelay CD. Anyway, that show was at the Paramount, in Oakland.

As for this album, Thee Oh Sees recorded material from three nights’ worth of shows at The Chapel, in The City. DAMN, man…these guys are just off the hook! I’m about halfway through the album right now and, so far, everything I’ve heard has been delightful. The guitar is really good, here and their rhythm section: the bass and the drums, really are both out there, to be heard and felt; not just a vague time keeper in the background (at least the bass can sometimes be that way). Right now, “Man in a Suitcase” (no, not The Police song), has just finished and now, they’re going into this blistering, dynamo, “Toe Cutter Thumb Buster”. The more I listen to this album, the more I can hear just how good a guitar player John Dwyer is. Dwyer has dual roles, actually. Not only is he a phenomenal guitarist and one of the strong links which all make up the chain that are Thee Oh Sees. “Sticky Hulks” is a song that vacillates between being a kind of rock and roll dirge and a frenetic, guitar sandblasting away the tears. At seven and a half minutes, it’s the second-longest song on Live in San Francisco. The longest is the finale, “Contraption”, which, of course, is just dizzying with Dwyer’s incredible guitar as well as a tightly-knit band, altogether. Just one question: why do they feel the need to bleep out supposed words like “fuck” or “shit”, etc? This isn’t commercial TV or radio. Oh well, that’s a rather minor point compared to what sounds, underneath the psychedelic wash is some trippy surf-rock, but with distortion and in a bit of a Rockabilly pose. But there are a few more parts and, when Thee Oh Sees put them all together in just the right recipe, something mind-blowing is the result! Also, the live setting of Thee Oh Sees three shows at The Chapel give the neophyte T.O.S. listener a taste of what their live shows sound like.

As I mentioned, previously, that the longest tune on Live in San Francisco is the last song on the album, “Contraption”, five seconds short of 16 minutes. This is the perfect vehicle for which Dwyer to really show off his guitar chops. While the drums are interweaving their own rhythms which nevertheless, fit in, so you have to turn the bass amp, so, even though he’s noodling a bit, here and there he’s got his fingers (literally) on the pulse of the beat, via the bass!

If you want a quick summation of what Thee Oh Sees sound like, or, maybe, come across as, think of The Stooges’ raw, guitar-heavy, bombastic proto-punk, mixed with the Psychobilly fur-and-leather good times of The Cramps and that whole Southwestern “Whammy” mystique that [well – think of it: if you made a movie out in the AZ desert, you could do worse than The Cramps].

So far, this year, I have heard quite a few new releases that came from Castle Face Records, and now I’m at the point that whenever I get a new album to review, it’s always nice to find out it happens to be on Castle Face. Not everything I get, of course, is on Castle Face Records, nor does everything I review even sound like a lot of the bands on that label, but, well, I have a very wide range of musical tastes, and, on top of that, I can tell the difference between a band that puts a lot of talent and hard work into their work as opposed to some schlubs who’re just in it for the “chicks and the money”. Thee Oh Sees are far from being like that. They seem to have a knack for fiery, sometimes intense, yet complex tones, time signatures and maybe some secrets to their sound by way of their own special formula for guitar tuning. Whatever it is that makes Thee Oh Sees the special band they are, at least one of the most important, is their fertile imagination and (at least one hopes) all that as-yet-unwritten-down music to come. Can’t wait to hear what comes next! Oh, and go check out Castle Face Records’ website – here’s a link that’ll take you right to their Thee Oh Sees page. You can always go back and browse for other stuff, as well – http://www.castlefacerecords.com/collections/thee-oh-sees – Happy Listenin’ -KM

THEE-OH-SEES-Live 2

THEE OH SEES LIVE, ONSTAGE

Synthetic ID

Impulsessynthetic-230x230

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

This here, is an album that doesn’t come around every day. It’s like one of those really hip, modern art pieces – the kind where someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about makes a crack about “well, hell, I coulda done that…” – but guess what, guy? You didn’t!! That’s why you’re pretending to be indignant and come across as if you were some sort of “art purist” (whatever the hell that is), when, the truth is, you just don’t understand what those artists, mainly the post-impression period, onwards, meaning, the early 20 years of the 20th Century. Then, in the 50s, you had even more bold, forward thinking art that spanned the gamut from abstract expressionism to pop-art, that is, from artists like Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns as well as Roy Lichtenstein, to name three, in the 50s, to Andy Warhol, one of the (deservedly or not -that’s always been debatable).

OK, well, moving from painting to music, we have with us today, the new album, about to be released, shortly, by another San Francisco homegrown band. They are Synthetic ID and their album is Impulses, written about here and there, I’ve noticed, as “post-punk”. But, really, before even seeing those blurbs, here and there, as I listened to it, myself, I could feel more of a punk-punk or, at most, a peri-punk, but not a post-punk. Impulses has 13 tracks on it, with an average of 3:00 a song, though, some track are only 2 minutes, while others are three + minutes, and so forth, but when you do average it out, it comes to about a three-minute average.

The coolest description I’ve read of Impulses so far is one I read on the Resident website, http://www.resident-music.com/productdetails&product_id=41525, “…It’s a tight, fuzzy, underground treasure.” That certainly seems to encapsulate, in just a few, concise words, exactly my sentiments about this album.

Some songs worth checking out include: “Ciphers”, “Changing Frequencies” as well as the opening cut, “Blind Spots”, which starts off Impulses quite nicely. It sets the mood, sets up the scene and it’s about this early point in the album, that one can realize that they’ve scored.

The music on Impulses has a raw, punk ethos; a stripped down, no-wave type of sound, as in, James Chance & the Contortionists, but, then again, I would be remiss if I were to leave one with the impression that Synthetic ID sounds like James Chance & the Contortionists; all I meant to convey was that, since the labels “punk” or “post-punk” have been, over the past 30 years somewhat overused, I thought that something different might be appropriate. As I sat and tried to come up with something else to describe Yes, now that I think of it, “no-fi” might fit Synthetic ID better, rather than calling them “punk”, which, I think, gets overused a lot – or, rather, has gotten overused a lot over the past 20-25 years, not just in the past few years. That’s why I would rather use something else with which to label them, if I must; something that truly describes them, then I’d rather use something which would be more fitting.

Not as intense as, say, The Fall, like, in their earlier years,
but without the plastic-and-vinyl-lounge-style of James Chance. I guess, what I’m trying to convey here, is that Synthetic ID have this fast-and-loose style. They combine a number of musical devices that work well, the way they’ve done it. Just give it a listen and then you’ll know what I mean. -KM.

Useless Eaters

Relaxing DeathRelaxing Death -Useless eaters cover pic

Castle Face Records, 2016

Review by Kent Manthie

Here comes another new gem from Castle Face Records: an album called Relaxing Death from San Francisco’s Useless Eaters. This is another in an (so far, at least) unbroken string of great releases from Castle Face, which seems to have a collective great ear for great bands.

Useless Eaters have a sound that sticks out some for its intensity and the catchy hooks and beats which accompany it. When I first listened to it, after I got into it, about four or five songs in, I began to try and figure out what, if anything, this album reminded me of and something eventually made me think of the iconoclastic band that came out of the new wave, punk, etc. era and Suicide really adhered to neither, but rather, the hip, downtown, NYC environment was the perfect cauldron out of which Suicide emerged from.

OK, so, Useless Eaters. Another breakout band from San Francisco, Useless Eaters have just recorded and mixed, engineered, etc. a new album, Relaxing Death. One thing I can read and extrapolate from that is that the music will be pretty good, since Castle Face Records has consistently been releasing good albums by band after band; relatively new bands that sound nothing like their contemporaries in the vomit-covered, corporate music industry, which are, for the most part, flash-in-the-pans, one-hit-wonders, and/or total musical fabrications by any particular commercial label, e.g., The Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, New Kids on the Block, N’Sync and the likes of them. I think too, that, when someone says, in some situation or other, that “jeez, there is nothing that I know of I’ve ever heard on the radio that gives me any kind of hope the state of rock, post-rock, punk, post-punk, new wave, modern rock, or whatever labels you want to put on these many subgenres of rock which seemed to have really splintered into many different subgenres between the late 60s, the 70s and up through the 80s. Then, of course, in the early 90s (circa 1991), a seemingly new subgenre was a heroic position, since it happened to catch on with much of American youth (I’m talking about “alternative” and it’s own subgenre, “Grunge”). After “alternative”, mostly due to the feeding frenzy that came out of the whole “Grunge” thing, due to the popularity of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and then, the whole Nevermind album. That is how it got co-opted by corporate America: merchandising, like shirts, stickers, even things like dolls or now maybe a video game tie-in, showing up on a movie soundtrack now and then, etc -then it became “modern rock” and now “indie” seems to be, at least my favorite, the term to use. What’s so good about “indie” is that it doesn’t box some bands in to a label, even when said label has, within itself, other sub-sub-genres, so, it has a wider usage, but the main idea was that it was put out on a independent label or it could be a DIY release: self-recorded and distribution.

As is almost de rigueur for San Francisco-based bands, Useless Eaters have a great style; an independent spirit which comes across in the experimental-sounds that underlie some fascinating songs like “Motorway”, which is really a boss tune. Besides the industrial-tinged sounds that accompany the typical guitar, bass, and drums, “Motorway” just rocks.

Then, as I was listening further down, and got, uh…I think it was around “Cold Machine” or “Hogs in the Bush”, where, as I was away from my PC for a little while, washing a few dishes and making another little bit of coffee, that, while I was in the kitchen, and I could hear the music perfectly in there, as I was scrubbing out my backup coffee carafe, it suddenly hit me: “The Fall”!! That’s what Relaxing Death sounded like to me. I’ve been a big fan of The Fall for years. I recently acquired a whole bunch of early (earlier) Fall albums: Live at the Witch Trials, Perverted by Language,This Nation’s Saving Grace and Grotesque (After the Gramme) not including all the other Fall albums I already had. But it was when I got the aforementioned list of Fall albums that ranged from 1978 up to 1984 or 85, at the latest, that I became an even bigger fan of The Fall’s, due to the remarkable, relentless, in-your-face attitude and style. I got hooked on sitting and listening to all of Perverted by Language, for instance, all in one setting. So, when it hit me that this album, Relaxing Death, by Useless Eaters reminded me of one of those older Fall albums, I realized, “whoa, this is some good stuff here!”

Looking back, after giving a couple listens, I realize that this a great album all the way through. The last tune, “Goodnight to the Thieves” is especially cool. It’s this choppy, instrumental jam, about 3 and a half minutes long, but it’s just the perfect thing to end the album with.

If you were to ask me “What’s worth checking out, in this day and age of such hollow, vacuous drivel, well, first I’d set them straight and point them in the direction of the indie world, in general, but I’d, especially really closely listening to Relaxing Death, recommend this album as well as Useless Eaters, overall, as a new, or at least contemporary, band. -KM.

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.

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