Friday, March 29, 2019

Cassette Review //
Elizabeth Joan Kelly
"Departure 2019 (Live Set for Phantom Circuit)"

$4 //
Edition of 30 // //

Synths come through in this winding manner.   It sounds like there is a helicopter behind this or it at the very least is some sort of motor revving and then within all of this comes just this heavenly voice.   For some reason I feel like I'm either watching the really serious part of an anime- such as when a main character dies- or I'm witnessing a musical which is set in space because these synths just kick in now as keys like something else, something out of this world.

At times the keys play along with the singing and there's just this huge, symphonic sound to this song.   It doesn't feel like a single song so much as an entire movement-- a stage show with all of the characters in their respective roles and yet that sort of revving up sound back there as well.   The vocals at times can also remind me of a choir and I don't think it's just because of that time I spent in Catholic school.

As the other sounds fade to the background, the engine grows louder and more in the front before it cuts off and we switch to these magic crystal tones which make me feel like we're watching "Adventure Time".    Through ahh's and ooh's it feels like you could dance to this and then it has this trill, like a bottle being dropped but somehow lighter.   Some of the faster beats now remind me of Adult Swim bumpers and the vocals remain though there are no words right now.

There are a lot of sounds in here all at once- some slip beats and some static which makes it even begin to sound like a swarm of bees- and yet when you hear them all combined, in their formation together, it sounds like magic, like music more than what I'm describing them as in such crude terms. 

Those tones return to open up the flip side and it can feel like a fun carousel ride.    Times can feel like water dropping and other times can just feel like we're running and running until we start falling, but it is a moderately paced piece of electronic music that can also feel chill.   It strips down to this quiet, calming breeze which has these electronic synths slowly build into them, as if we're driving into something from the 1980's or an artist like Yves Malone.    The beats kick in now and this is a full blown dance number.

Higher pitched sounds like kids singing come through and there is this rhythm flowing with the beat which makes it feel like singing as well.    A sound like a music box comes next and it feels like a twisted lullaby.     This is how the cassette reaches its end and it only seems fitting as after all of the work put in prior to this, you're going to need your rest.   But while you have this cassette playing, be sure to think about it deeply and have fun with the beats.

Record Review //
Patrick Bates
"Salad Days"
(Verses Records)

$15 // //

Being a writer (and a reader) I've known for what feels like most of my life what the idea behind "Salad Days" means, as it is often used in literature.   However, for some reason whenever I see it I just think of someone turning vegetarian or just changing up their diet, trying to eat healthier and thus eating more salad.   There was a time when I ate nothing but salad for many months on end, but that wasn't for health reasons as much as I just liked the taste.    I go through really weird phases with food.

Growing up, and in my more formidable years than being actually young, I listened to a lot of the music you would call "emo".  There were certain bands I didn't like at the time but love now somehow (Some I still don't like) and that whole scene just holds such a place in my heart and formation I don't think anyone will ever realize it.    So it's funny when I say that my favorite album by The Get Up Kids is "Walking On A Wire" (which most people disagree with) and I hear a bit of that from Patrick Bates.

There is an intensity to this bedroom pop rock.    It reminds me of Time Spent Driving or a band like that which you've either likely never heard of before or simply forgot about.   With the songs being fast paced and melodic there are elements in here of All Get Out, who is one of those newer rock bands I really enjoy, and at the same time I can hear someone like Thursday in here as well.   There are great guitars on this record and just a driving drum beat as well to hold it all together.

"Jazzba" is a bigger, acoustic number which sounds more like The Get Up KIds' "Walking On A Wire" sound and "Right To Reason" has those oooooh's and at times I can also hear some older Portugal. The Man in here (Which I listen to "Waiters, You Vultures!!" a lot)  "Fits Like a Glove" has these electronics with the rock and backing vocals singing along.   There are emo undertones if it not outright stated and it gets slower and darker on "Shine", which is a bonus track and why you should listen to music in all formats.

When I listen to music I typically hear a lot of older influences- things from before I was even born.   Sometimes when things come from my era they aren't even things which directly affected me but I still enjoy and the artist still makes it work.  Patrick Bates, though, has this rare way of combining what I loved from 2000 to 2002 or so with something more modern and creating a sound which I would best describe as new nostalgia.

Music Review //
Jonas Brøg
"All Across The Sky" //

"All Across The Sky" starts right off with vocals and music where you can just feel the melody in it.   The music moves with the words and it's so smooth.  It reminds me of Prince, Queen, fun. and The Beatles' "Hey Jude".   There is this "ah ah ah ah ah" part which really sticks out like "Hey Jude", but overall this is just a fun rock song with elements of pop in it.

If you're feeling like this in influenced by The Beatles though, you might also feel like the idea of writing someone's name across the sky is more like another song by them, but I do feel this has that sound where it could be from the "Across The Universe" film.   There is also this indie movie vibe in here, like something I would've watched from Focus Films that had an actor like Jack Black in it playing a serious role.

My favorite part of this song lyrically says:

"You and me we rule the world, unstoppable
But this world is so big and we're so small
People think we are fucking unbreakable
But there's no one to catch us when we fall"

There is such an upbeat feeling to this song- it has those walking on cloud pop melodies- but yet even with the line "All that's left to say is goodbye" it still has such layers to it, not just within the lyrics but the music itself.   I don't use this genre as much as I'd like to, but I feel like so much pop music is one dimensional and that's fine (I dig catchy music when I'm in the mood) but this particular song feels like complex pop which is a whole different experience that I would like to hear more of in general.

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this song as well is that much like the artists previously named which I compared it with (especially Queen and The Beatles) there isn't really a feeling where you know what an album by Jonas Brøg would sound like exactly.   Sometimes you hear a song that's country, for example, and you just know if there's an album you're getting twelve tracks of country.  But if Jonas Brøg is capable of exploring genres just within this song like this then on a full length I firmly believe that the sounds would know no limits.

Music Review //
Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research
"Impromptus and Other Short Works"
(WhyPlayJazz) //

This starts with slow horns at first and then it kicks in dreamy like a cartoon.    Deeper horns now with those cymbal rides, it gets a little messy but it also breaks down and starts grinding.    This is such a wild album and "29 Shoes" is one of my favorite songs on it because it has this great pacing and just bangs.   The song seems to set the tone for the entire album as it seems crazy but in a way which you can love it.

"Kleine Figuren" has a slower, the party is over type of feel to it while "Lines" has more of a dance vibe to it.  It starts and stops, kind of like salsa for some reason to me and then it walks down that lonely road.   "Shifting" is sharp, like the cutting of strings, but also somehow dark like the bass in Jaws.   It's kind of twisting back and forth now as well, winding...

w i n d i n g

"Sticks" is a dark march.   Lots of cymbals and slow horns on "For Jim" and I think we all know someone named Jim, don't we?   By the last song I really feel like we could start dancing, like the way they did back when swing was really popular, but overall this is an album that breaks tradition, does what it wants and just comes out sounding like so much fun and raw energy. 

Music Review //
Patrick Ames
"All I Do Is Bleed" //

This EP consists of four songs and it's such a trip.   Musically, the style can change from song to song but still stay within that same overall genre where you feel like it's rock but don't really know who exactly to compare it with and that's also cool.   Right away, this has clapping and feels like Jimmy Buffett or Jack Johnson, which also makes me think of that Flav Martin & Jerry Marotta CD I reviewed once not so long ago.

On the first track it just feels like such a specific sound that it has to be done the correct way or else I end up not liking it but Patrick Ames hits every note perfectly.   There are these great backing vocals, complet with this "bu bu bu bu bu" type of thing going on and I almost dare to call it soft rock but I don't know enough about the genre to be sure enough to use it.

Acoustics and lots of words start the second song, which is called "I Want You" but has the title sung in it and I think that's cool.  I don't mind titular tracks, but I always like when the title is hidden away in a non-titular track as well.    There is a gritty feel to this, it's very raw and then on the third song we're swept away by the passion of what could be compared with Desperado or perhaps salsa music.   Though the words are in a language which I do not know, I still find myself trying to sing along with them.

Quieter acoustic notes and a choir of ohm-like singing starts up the fourth and final song.  The title is sung but otherwise the singing is without words.  It's relaxing, quite tranquil and at some point I also believe it to be rather trippy, which is quite the journey we've taken here from start to finish with these various, yet impressive overall, sounds.   The way in which they are connected tells a story and that is not something you often see in music as much these days.

Lyrically, to me, these songs feel conflicted.   He sings about how he wants a family, about how he wants her, about how he wants all of these things.  To me, it feels like these songs are about regret- at least the first two.  And there are some great quotes out there about regret and how you have to kind of go for it when you have the chance, but this feels like a different kind of regret.  It's not the "I really should've done that when I had the chance and I regret that I didn't" as much as "I did it and it didn't work and now I regret it".   It's when things don't work out and it's beyond your control, which can be the toughest pill to swallow but this music helps to ease that pain for me.

Music Review //
The Lobbyists
"Golden Mountain"

Perhaps my favorite kind of music is the type which makes you think of things other than music.   It's like listening to a good protest song and thinking "Yeah, this establishment is unfair!" rather than "Hey, this kind of sounds like..."   "Golden Mountain" is more of a feeling in that sense, a state of mind if you will, than a song to be compared with other artists.  If I had to name other musicians for the sake of it being music, I would say this sounds like a polished version of Sledding With Tigers and at times for some reason I even think of John Denver when I listen to it.

With acoustic guitar notes come lines like "I've been lost", but as the title suggest this is about nature.   It kicks in nicely sort of near the chorus and then there is a part about a sparrow as well (I like birds/birdwatching)  Singing about being a great man makes this uplifting to me and in some ways I think back when I used to spend a week every summer at church camp and there would be guys singing songs with their acoustic guitars.   You probably know the type and I am in no way saying The Lobbyists are that type because I wouldn't want to go back to that but this would be a version of that memory I would replicate as my current self.

There is another sweet breakdown with the strings and acoustic guitar.   It gets driving and then there is this "Hey! Hey! Hey!" part which reminds me of that Twenty One Pilots song that goes "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"   One of the most pure lines not only in this song but in life in general says that "The heart that soars is as good as gold".   I think too often in life, we lose sight of what makes us who we are and what makes us (and life) so special.   Hopefully this song will somehow serve as a reminder of that to you as you listen to it.

At work recently, everyone was chipping in to play Powerball (I did not) and they were all talking about what they would do with their millions of dollars when they won.  On one hand, I know enough to know that if they did somehow defy the odds and win, they'd likely blow all their money after they quit their jobs.  But at one point, when it was talked about how I wasn't playing, I wanted to tell them that I was already rich- I already felt like a million bucks- because I was living the best life that I could.  I hope people take that message, which The Lobbyists state much better than I could, to heart and share it with others as well.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cassette Review //
Marsha Fisher
"Chain Whisperer"
(Gay Hippie Vampire)

$6 // //

Loud distorted guitars ring through.   The distortion creates a droning melody and it begins to feel as if we're drifing, idle in space.    There is also that BBJr / Hendrix feel to this all as well.    Notes can be heard as the room fills with more static and it's right on that edge of where I feel like it might want to shake the speakers but it isn't quite yet.   It feels like one guitar making all this noise, but yet it comes through in layers- with such distortion- that I cannot tell if there is more than one or even other instruments, but that is the trippy aspect of being able to just get lost in it.

At times I feel like there is more than one guitar in this too because it can feel as if there are two fighting against each other, different notes swirling to work together but also breaking apart and not wanting anything to really do with the other, all whilst in this sea of distortion.    It gets really harsh now, like Hitchcock through the wavy static, and it goes from high sharp to a deeper tone and I just feel like the end of this battle has come and the two sides are both on the losing end because, well, there generally are no winners in war.  A slow lightsaber drone lulls us to sleep at the end.

Beats reverberate to open up the flip side.    Back and forth deep tones go behind this and I'm reminded of the game "Battleship" for some reason.   There is a strong feeling of intensity here, going back to that earlier idea of Hitchcock, where you just feel like something is going to happen.  It has that presence of something looming on the horizon, like "Jaws" but it doesn't sound as much like "Jaws" as things I usually compare with "Jaws", just that same general idea of slowly coming for you until one moment- blam- you're got.

Static comes through in loops and something like a field recording / audio clip can be heard behind it.   On the day I am not doing laundry I am listening to this, but it still reminds me of the way a dryer spins with clothes in it.   There is something mechanical in here as well, a bit of sharpness is added eventually.   What sounds like an audio clip (or field recording) in the background might just be the sound made of this device rotating in a circle and it having that sharp, squeaking sort of effect happening as well.   That is to say, it might be a sound produced somehow other than field recording / audio clip manipulation.

It can begin to feel like this fun ride, but I also feel like Side B has the same implications of war as Side A does.   That seems to be what ties these two sides together and on some grand scale I feel as if you played them together it would make for a great battle of sound- one going into each ear and working its magic on your mind at the same time.

Music Review //
The Irrepressibles
"International" //

"International" is full of big beats, spoken words and an overall eerie feeling with these keys.   It feels like the soundtrack to a film in an airport for some reason.     There exists a darkness within the keys and with more than one person speaking it feels like a conversation.   It grows more and more intense, like a plane preparing for take off, until it finally feels as if it will burst at the seams.

The video begins by telling us "This is a message sent from the future".    It feels like we're floating in space, like "Star Wars", but when you are reading the text in the video it will tell you to save us, much like a video game and I'm reminded of that arcade game in "The Last Starfighter".   Once it kicks in and the words are spoken, you can see the English subtitles underneath the talking heads and with all the triangles and "Tron" type of graphics this can feel quite trippy.

What I like about this music video is that it sets a definite tone for the song.   When I first listened to the song- before watching the video- I had this idea of what the song might be like in my head-- it started painting the visuals for me.   To hear the song by itself and then imagine whatever comes into your head isn't wrong, but it is interesting to see what the artists have of more of their actual intentions for their song than what plays in my head when I hear it.

Often times you can hear a song and then also find a music video for it and feel okay with both of them but don't really feel like they're connected.   I won't name names, but I have seen videos which are good and the songs are good but they just don't come together like others do.    "International" has that feeling of once you see the video it makes sense and then it might be the only way you see it.   Not to say that you might not still create your own images in your mind, but you will at least feel like the audio and visual have a deep connection.

Music Review //
"Versal" //

When this starts it's a piano sound with soothing strings in the background.   It kicks in a bit of the second song, with this LOTR/neo classical vibe.     There is a flute and it just has that feeling like we're going to fight a big battle.    It even begins to sing on "Dawn", as if we are in some sort of fantasy movie.   Perhaps not quite LOTR, but even something like "Willow" comes to mind and I'm rather excited about that aspect of this music.   In ways it also reminds me of something out of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves".

Though it is not in the delivery but in the tone of the music- the way the songs sing- it can remind me a bit of something out of Willy Wonka, which I think just gives it that magical touch.     Trying to imagine something in that fantasy sense which is set in the woods amongst the trees but also carries itself enough creativity of Willy Wonka... I imagine that what we see in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory- such as the trees you can eat- would cover an entire country. 

The strings pluck through on "Carrousel" and it doesn't remind me of the typical musical ride we take on one, but it has this great feeling of soaring through the sky within it and somehow that feels even better.     The horns feel like they're slowing things down on the next track and it can feel like it's getting sad, but the strings pick it right back up and I just imagine characters running through the woods without a care, something I could never do for fear of hitting a tree.

There are some great synths which come in here along with the strings on the final song and it almost seems to send the entire thing into space.   Whenever I listen to music which even remotely reminds me of being classical, as this does, I think to myself as to whether my Dad would like it or not, as he tends to enjoy a lot of classical music.   Given that he enjoys the movies I've named in this review, I think he would enjoy this EP by Versal and any music we can bond over is a win in my book.

Cassette Review //
(Absurd Exposition)

$7.50 //
Edition of 101 // //

There is this ringing.  It sounds kind of like a phone, but it also has this distorted static within it which makes me feel like it's coming through some other way.   Sharpness comes through as well, causing it to be somewhat harsh and then it's full blown wind.    That sharpness persists through the rippling wind.   The intensity can seemingly cut out from one side to another and it plays tricks on my ears.   Lots of static now.   Lots of wind.    It creates this harsh noise drone.

The static begins to start and stop.   Alien frequencies come through and as it gets harsher it reminds me a bit more of someone like Waves Crashing Piano Chords.    There is a definite modem vibe behind this static march.    The way this crackles though, just the way the static is manipulated is what makes it so special, so unique and why you must really listen to it, as it feels like the siren of a war raid is going on behind it as well.   Those alien frequencies channel in and out.

It can begin to change those frequencies, higher and higher in pitch, as the static crackles like a giant fire, growing and growing.    Through that static the sharp ringing can almost feel like the howling of a wolf.    For some reason, I am reminded of the film "Cabin Fever".     Ringing through more and more, this begins to sound like a metal detector or sonar.   Full tilt now, into video game glitch and then robotic sounds like Wall-E.     Stronger now, it can feel like a lightsaber cutting through.    Scrape, scrape, scrape, we slowly scrape through the static.

The static pushes through now, mechanical, on the flip side.   Starting and stopping, ringing and fading, this is a full on assault of the ears.    Through the skipping it somehow manages to create this distorted trill now.    The sharpness brings out a feeling of a helicopter blade turning and then there are crashes into destruction, doom, like bombs being dropped from the sky.     It's a lot of static and ringing in sharpness now.     While it cuts in and out, it also maintains a certain steadiness, which I know sounds like it contradicts itself but it really does work like that somehow. 

The loudness, the constantness of this cassette while having breaks and becoming sharp is what creates the magic within it.    By the end, it just seems like a free-for-all of static and no one will survive.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Cassette Review //
Body / Negative

$5 //
Edition of 50 // //

Words skip and cut through these sounds, an endless loop as the blade swings back and forth, cutting a little piece each time.    It has that slow and steady beat of "Rock On" but it has these whirrs which just make it feel like we're on another plane entirely.   This continues on the next song, as there is singing behind the abyss and speaking coming through the crackling static transmission.    In some ways, it reminds me of Ak'chamel.   It skips through the static, almost cutting off in a way, before the first side comes to an end.

On the flip side it feels like it's haunted when it starts and then kicks in quite louder, speakers shaking type of levels of loudness.   There is some singing behind this but it doesn't seem like words.    This goes into a darker place now, as it feels like it's trying to slowly climb out of it.   I feel like we're stuck in a cave and have to climb up with nothing but our hands and feet, being careful every step of the way so as not to slip or have a rock fall out so we go tumbling back down to our demise.

You can hear the drops shine through with the vocals which still are not making words but they do have a faint echo to them, as if they are coming from off in the background.    It has this almost sad feeling to it as well, like post rock or the sound of a indepedent film where someone has died or it's just that moment where the main character has that realization of just how terrible their life is and they must turn it around.   To keep with the earlier cave theme, you could say that it feels like the character has hit rock bottom.

"Epoche" is mostly ambient, something you can just kind of zone with and even meditate should you feel so inclined.   It's haunted at times but it also just feels like it can help pull you out of a bad place.   I've always thought music was the best medicine (aside from actual medicine) and the importance of this cassette is that if reflected upon deeply enough it really could turn your life around for the better.

Cassette Review //
Slow Normals
"Lazer Chatroom"
(Bad Cake Records)

$5 // //

This cassette begins with some robotic sounding grind that comes through slowly, methodically, in an almost sludge type crawl.   It grinds through so slowly, but it is so quiet and so loud at the same time.   I begin to hear the sounds of water splashing around now as the previous mechanical sounds begin to fade.

A darker wind now brings out some minimal soundscapes which can feel like those lasers being shot off into space.   Through a mechanical sound come beats and this begins to really kick in here, like we're on a mission and it's somewhere between "Run Lola Run" and "Hackers".    It feels like a car starting which also sounds like laughter and then we kick over into the next song.

Giant bangs on the steel drums and some rhythm like we're working on the line come out next.  There is a darkness in here, but mostly it feels like it's because of that feeling you get when you know it's Sunday night and you're about to start your 40+ hour work week.    Scrambled electronics are up next and this one just has all of the energy within it, even when it feels like it's so slow and quiet.

On the flip side we start with some wilder beats and electronics, like something out of Adult Swim.    There exists this ambient hue behind this all as well.     The sound now is of a steady drill, like a jackhammer which somehow transforms into more of a helicopter.   The whirrs pick up and there are synths where it begins to feel as if we can start dancing as the speakers shake.   Laser blasts create the vocals.

We stop and drop now with a sound which is sort of like a drumroll.  Frequency whirrs are through like alien laserbeams and we're tripping over these funky electronics now.   A quieter sound comes back up as it appears as if the aliens could be landing, settling among us.   We're definitely dropping off of the deep end now.   Everything rings through so loudly, and then there is the sound of shuffling- a rhythm set to a recording device left in a pocket for a jog.

Quieter whirrs now, barely heard in the background of it all.   This is all, of course, until there is just nothing left but the silence.

Record Review //
"What You've Heard Isn't Real"
(Dead Broke Rekerds)

$15 // //

Back in the early 2000's I became burnt out on music, around 2005/2006 to be precise.   I found myself listening to only albums I had heard up until that point in time and not really listening to new music.   Then, several years later, I stumbled upon Bandcamp which found me back into writing about music after listening to the shoegaze bands that When The Sun Hits taught me about.   I always feel like Porcupine has that special place for me, for when I really got back into music, but not only that they aren't that typical shoegaze band but was one of those rock n roll bands that I always felt managed to sneak in with that crowd.

Fast paced rock n roll, distorted vocals and big chunky guitars are what you'll first hear on "What You've Heard Isn't Real".   Porcupine feels like a combination of The Damn Personals and Kings of Leon, which somehow when put together is quite the melodic energy.   At times I can hear bits of The Killers and when they sing "Everyone's asking how you're fucking up" I can hear Gatsbys American Dream.     "Distraction" has echoes and is upbeat with a little bit of "That Thing You Do!" vibe with the oh whoa oh's and then "Standing By The Sea" gets rather distorted and deep, which reminds me of Green Day but also some sort of rock n roll band as well.

Porcupine reminds me of a band I might have seen play once back in the earlier 2000's with a band like The Stryder or The Exit, that sort of rock n roll scene.   There is some MPLS in here and "Tell Me" really has that "Sex On Fire" feel to it, that raw passion.    The final song is live and when you hear that applause and thanks after it you could almost imagine this whole record as being performed live because the sound quality is just that good but also it just has that certain way about it where it doesn't feel overproduced.    It's always bothered me when rock music sounds like it's been made in a studio rather than a garage or basement and that sound which first brought them to love music, to create music, still shines through with Porcupine.

I've been listening to Porcupine for as long as I've been writing about music (part two) but I just imagine, when listening to this record, someone hearing them for the first time.   It's not just that you're hearing this band for the first time, but you might be hearing an entire scene for the first time.    This is what makes Porcupine such a vital band.   If there were ten thousand other bands right now making a similar sound, Porcupine would still stand out for the way which they do it.   Their making this music in a time when not everyone else is and it almost feels like it's a forgotten sound makes it that much more essential, not just from an artist perspective but from music on the whole.