Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cassette Review //
"The Home of the Headhunter"

$18 //
Edition of 50 //
https://lynxx.bandcamp.com/album/the-home-of-the-headhunter-deluxe-edition //

Dark, zoning drone starts this and it just makes the speakers shake like the distortion of a guitar.   Notes come in higher, then drop down deeper.   There is a certain level of feeling like you are isolated in space and as such are going mad.   It just builds and builds.    It's not quite synthwave or synthpop but it's synth-something.  Can we call it synthdark?  Then these guitar notes just come echoing through and it feels like it could turn into a metal opera.   It bubbles and grows through the darkness, the magic, like something on the radio but without words.

There is a ticking and video game drop downs which remind me a bit of Magic Meru and not just because I listened to them both for the first time on the same day.   Distorted guitar notes cut through now and you can hear vocals in the distance.    This takes on a real serious tone where you know something is going to go down, like in a Tarantino film.   Drums come in and this is from some soundtrack I can't quite place ("The Crow"?)

Magic tones start things off on the flip side and behind them you can hear the birds.   This has a deliberate feel to each note but also can seem like a church song as well.   The birds fade and this begins to bring up this electronic organ vibe with synth crashing behind it, like some sort of symphony or soundtrack out of a movie from the 1980's/1990's like "Flash Gordon" but I think closer to the lesser know Buckaroo Banzai.

Chanting comes in now and it feels a bit... haunted.     Big strings come through now, like huge plucks somehow.   It feels like a banjo or giant elastic band, but in that way that Tom Hanks danced on the piano in "Big" on with guitar strings being plucked.  There is this sharp, almost glass-like sound, coming through at the end here and it seems to really make the point this cassette is trying to demonstrate.

While I would say I receive download codes with maybe 83% of the cassettes I review, I very rarely actually go through and download them because I always feel like, hey, I have the cassette to listen to so why do I need to download.   There is a 30 page artbook though which comes with this download and I definitely recommend that when you get this cassette you also pay attention to that aspect of this overall art.

Music Review //
Pete Santos

https://soundcloud.com/pete-santos/heroes-1 //
https://open.spotify.com/album/7ABQQroxDnmBDOUmW1MEBf //

Pete Santos has a refreshing hip hop sound on the song "Heroes".   It has this beat and you can sing along with the chorus, which I feel is important, and keeping with the title as a theme it feels a lot to me like the type of song you could hear at the end of a movie.   I think back to that Fall Out Boy song from "Big Hero 6" and this just has a similar vibe and I feel like it could be on that big screen one day as well.

Keeping with the idea of this being related to that kind of comic book vibe, this song could easily be considered Pete Santos' origin story and as such is a great place to start listening to his music.   The first verse on this song is about how labels won't sign him and want him to be d.i.y. and then later on want to take the money.   It's something I often ask in interviews- how labels play a role in 2019- and it does seem like a lot of them (not all) are only interested in you when they see you making money and they want a piece.

The idea of "We are heroes / We are warriors / We are heroes / We reach for the stars"" which comes out in this song quite a bit is not only a great mantra to have but it makes this song less of a single and more of an anthem.    The music is also fresh, not like what you typically hear on the radio (or in general) these days, though this song could definitely be on the radio.     It's just nice to hear something which stands out musically but also has this positive message that everyone should be singing along with at some point during their day, every day.

At one point, this breaks down into singing as well and that seems to be the way songs are done these days but it's just the difference between hearing what is already out there right now and then hearing Pete Santos.   "Heroes" just has a little bit of that extra something, which isn't as much about it being better than other songs (as all songs have their merits, right?) but it just really helps Pete Santos to stand out from the crowd.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Cassette Review //
Thee Reps
"Minimal Surface"
(Gold Bolus Recordings)

$8 //
https://goldbolus.bandcamp.com/merch/thee-reps-minimal-surface-tape //

We begin with this bass line, which adds keys and then the sax comes in and it just turns into this upbeat, walking type of jazz number.   You can hear those organ keys echo through as well as the best word to describe this is just boistering.    It just has this loop to it where they play this merry-go-round type of vibe and it just feels like so much fun.

Synth notes begin the second song.   Strings wind in and the drums give it this dreamy hip hop feel.    In some ways it reminds me of "Paranoid Android" but the strings and keys just add another level to it.   But I'd expect an equally trippy animated music video for this song if one were to exist.    If you could think of that particular Radiohead song being played by an orchestra you might be onto how this sounds.

The bass/guitars really pave the way as the strings shine and then we get into this more intense song which has a video game way about it.   It's this combination of traffic horns, a helicopter and something much more serious than all of those.   It really just lifts up and feels like it's going to take off with what sound like ohms behind it as well.

Longer, softer strings pave the way for something more calming and then it just kicks in much faster paced to the point where it almost feels like surf rock now but does have that instrumental math rock idea going for it as well.   The way the strings mix with what feel like banjo plucked strings just creates a sound not quite like it's coming from a symphony and not quite like it's coming from a swamp, but it's somewhere in between and it's a place worth visiting. 

On the flip side things start off a bit slower, almost like this winding country song before they really kick in and start banging.   It takes on this driving way with the strings, guitar, bass and percussion.    The beeping of the keys and motion created by the strings compliment each other perfectly.   This has an electro-jazz feel to it but it's just carving out a genre all its own.

We then begin to fall up and down with the organ sound and it really feels like a carousel ride.    The strings and keys take turns playing the same riff and we then shift into this softer bass line.   It feels like Smashing Pumpkins, like we're floating around on clouds.   Strings begin to slowly squeak on in behind this all.   It's so peaceful.

The percussion comes in like walking now, clacking to some extent, as the guitar strums along and the way the strings wind now definitely make me feel more like we're in a country song than at any other point on this cassette.     This all just culminates in such a huge way which loses the country and begins to feel more like space rock.    This all minimizes down to drum sticks hitting on a mat and it is just the perfect way for this to all come together and end.

Music Review //
Thin Lear
"Death in a Field"

https://soundcloud.com/thinlear/death-in-a-field-1 //
https://thinlear.bandcamp.com/track/death-in-a-field //
https://open.spotify.com/album/473jmdYHMoftc1MDC0NJ2m //

"Death in a Field" begins with this almost folk sound.   Acoustic guitars and melody has this winding way about it which makes me think of someone like The Wallflowers.   A piano can be heard as well and it can seemingly take on its own sound but remain in that genre on some level throughout.

Closer to the chorus the drumbeat really picks up and it builds in a way which reminds me of Of Monsters and Men, as it has that light melody to it, that type of getting heavier but becoming weightless at the same time.  It's something which if you don't understand it based on my words, when you hear it you'll know and it will make perfect sense.

The guitar work just needs to be taken and listened to once through this song on its own as it is that good.   I particularly enjoy the line in this song: "Yes, I'm grinning again / Here with all of my friends" because it can just be taken in so many different ways.  On one hand, you can think of some kind of gathering like a birthday party and that would make the most sense.

On the other hand, they say you are reunited with those you love in death and this song is called "Death in a Field".    But, for me, I like to think about how I don't really have a lot of friends but I'm always saying things (or typing them) which perhaps only I find funny.  I'll comment things on Twitter and even if it only makes me laugh it's okay.    I also think of that Nirvana line about his friends being in his head, so this is just a lovely song you can get lost in while examining the lyrics.

CD Review //
"The Sick Room"
(BLIGHT. Records)

$10 //
Edition of 300 //
https://the-tadzio.bandcamp.com/album/the-sick-room //

When I first heard Tadzio late last year it was on cassette.   Now, they have this CD out and it makes me think that by the end of the summer they'll have a record out as well somehow.    I hope that through my previous review I covered a lot of "why you should listen to this" and if you did read that review and think that then you're reading this one knowing you now have a new CD to listen to unless you're ahead of me timewise because I always seem to be struggling to catch up.

Delicate plucks and big vocals are the way of this one.   I enjoy lines such as "Creation for creation's sake overtakes the body that dies".    It is something which, if prompted, you could probably write quite the large essay about, just trying to dissect every piece of that statement.   Creation for creation's sake is easy enough to figure out-- a lot of musicians do that-- but how would that overtake the body that dies?  Well, you could argue that once great artists who are now just churning out pointless bullshit are shells of their former selves and in that sense they are dead-- the great artist aspect of them, not literally.

There is a little cool jazz breakdown with pianos on the second song and I get into the line on the third song "I filled my void by being one in you".   Wow.   This is one of those situations where if you haven't had this happen to you then you've probably done it to someone else.   Bonus points if you're like me though and have both done this and had it done to you before.   It's quite the experience but I can certainly relate way too strongly with it.

"The Cripple" has these upbeat xylophone feels to it, as it just feels pleasant and really brings Tadzio into a sound all their own.   "It's getting easier now to forget the shape of your face" is a line I really like and the fifth song has dark pianos to open it up.   "Lily" is quite the sad song and on the last song, through some organ synth keys, we hear the mantra "Sacred breath and sacred heart", which is really what you should take most from all of this, not only while you listen to this CD but in your life in general.

Cassette Review //
Magic Meru
"Eerie EP"

€7 //
Edition of 35 //
https://verydeeprec.bandcamp.com/album/eerie-ep //

Tick tock.  Tick tock.  Like the back and forth of a clock.  Then the xylophone comes through in a loop.   There are elements of video games and electronica as well as Doogie Howser.  You can hear the drum machine beats behind this as it picks up the pace and just begins to feel like it has this rhythm somewhere between tribal and where you can get up and really move to it.

While it can sound like the song "Sail" it then switches gears into this different set of tones, somewhat darker but just more serious feeling overall as well.   With the steady beat behind it all it can feel like chillwave.   It feels a bit like an instrumental version of Tony Njoku as well, which I'm totally cool with. 

The third track comes on with this revolving loop and then drum machine cymbals strike in the background like thunder clapping.    There is a slight X-Files vibe in this as well and then these hollow tones come through, shifting to whirrs and it just makes me feel like we're in space all that much more.   It can also become quite hypnotic in here as well.

Hollow high keys- like raising it up an octave- come through with what could be described as a series of clicks and this just comes out on an entirely new level of acoustic electronics.   Then the drum beats kick in and it's on another level.    At some point it even begins to feel like a carnival ride. 
Quieter tones, like minimal horns, slowly sneak in now before the beats emerge even louder.   There are some heavy Phil Collins vibes here.     This turns into a video game feel, like Super NES style.    But in some ways it feels like a pinball machine as well, but in a more modern way than what you might think of in your mind. 

Quieter drum beats now, more isolated like echoing, bring out this driving synth which makes me think of Pole Position.   Those synth keys come in and it's the beginning to a television series from the 1990's all over again.    The way the beeping and other sort of similar sounds just grow and mesh together is truly remarkable here.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Cassette Review //
"The Challengers"
(Under the Counter Tapes)

$6 //
Edition of 100 //
https://underthecountertapes.bandcamp.com/album/the-challengers //

The name Bandy makes me think of that character Bendy that all the kids love these days (he has some ink machine or something) and then I also confuse Bendy with- in name only- Baldi, which is this trippy YouTube character I should not know exists (It's time to sweep sweep sweep)    There are probably some other references I can make in here like Bender from Futurama and Bendy the Last Airbender, but, you know, I'll leave those for other people to make.

There is this pure rock sound on this cassette, something which reminds me of Dinosaur Jr but also fast paced like punk.   "Need For Reefer" has that surf punk / Elvis sound and yet somehow it gets a little bit evil.   If there is an Evil Elvis genre this would certainly fall into it.   Wild rock n roll turns into elements of The Mr T Experience on "Don't You Dare".    "The Adjustment" has that clanky rock n roll sound while "Passing The Rhyme" is dreamy, a little bit like That Thing You Do! even.

Killer guitar riffs and la la la's take us into "Cool Boys" which has an early MTX feel to it and I've never really heard a band quite capture that MTX sound like this before so I'm into it since as far as I know Dr. Frank isn't making music anymore (or if he is I apologize but I haven't listened to anything past "Alcatraz" I believe.  I should look it up on Discogs but I think it might just upset me)

When it comes to anthems of 2019 (and maybe even all-time) "I Dream of Trash" is up there and I'd like to see some political videos set to it one day.  But yes, it is one of those songs you either get or you don't.    It gets a little darker like Buck Gooter and then there is just that great sing along rock feel on "Trying To Reach You".     "Ghost Love" is also a unique song in the way that it's about not wanting to fall in love with a ghost, which is both deep and something which I can relate with as well.

By the end of the cassette, on "The Truth is a Lonely Place", we get into that "Alcatraz" era MTX sound and it feels like we've gone through their discography at different times during this cassette, which is quite nice and feels like nostalgia.    And yet oddly this cassette reminds me most of two different scenes combined together.   One was what was started by The Replacements and the other was started by Fugazi.  If you could somehow find an alternate universe where those two scenes overlap, that's where you'll find Bandy and it's a fine place to be.

Cassette Review //
Tom Terrien
"Be Glad"

$5 //
Edition of 100 //
https://tomterrien.bandcamp.com/album/be-glad // 

A wild piano ringing sound begins this cassette.   It then drops off into distorted beats and there are even these growls like vocals you can make out in the background.   It maintains some of that harmony from the pianos but also just feels like it could turn into a much darker electronic sound at any point-- somewhere between The Prodigy and Fire-Toolz with hints of video games.

There is a certain level of distressed ohms as well, like we're in trouble somehow before the static kicks in with the fade of distortion turning into that sharpness.   Somewhat trippy video game beats begin the next song and it feels upbeat in a way but there is also this sense of running around in a video game on a time limit with these R2D2 beeps and boops as well.

Vocals seem to come through but only for a brief moment and then it dives into this fast paced electronic bliss which is just so much fun.    What I feel like most about this is something like Tetris, but at the same time it could be a fighting game, like TMNT arcade style.   Of course this all drops off into some smooth grooves, like jazz or instrumental hip-hop.  Such wild tones and loops now. 

Slip beats take us into more droid electronics and then the pianos come out, grand.  Big synths feel like we're driving, like Yves Malone, but there are these funky beats in here as well and it's just so cool.   A sound like a jackhammer ends that song and we start into this piano riff with beats ala 2Pac's "Changes".    There is still this all too commanding video game feel to it though, like Double Dragon now.

We slowly come back into those pianos and then the beats just come through all wild like things are crashing.   While it has a strong video game glitch vibe to it, that isn't really a fair take on it so much because there is still this rhythm to it which makes me feel like it isn't really glitch at all.   It sounds like bells now too, like the xylophone, and this just takes on such a wild ride.

Quieter tones come through now, a little sharply, and things just have this alien way about them as this next song starts up.   Vocals come through now but it's like they're chopped up and put in this loop where they kind of make sense and they kind of don't.   Sounds kind of like strings (a violin?) but also the radio changing come through now and the static does that video game kind of glitch thing again as well.

Darker piano notes now come in solo and feel like we're going into a ballad.   It maintains that pure piano sound and it has this nice feel to it, though sometimes it kind of twists and turns which might be the tape more than the song itself but I still dig it.   Even quieter, more minimal tings come through now with these darker synths like from some sort of underwater organ.    This feeling builds more intense and eventually kind of waves out before we get into these commanding piano keys.

Pieces of vocals come through as it grows louder once again and this just has that perfect balance between loud and soft, fast and slow, electronic and hip hop and just the other vibes you would come to expect based upon how I've described it up until here.   It's that feeling of the "Run Lola Run" soundtrack mixed with "Trainspotting" (shout out Underworld) and a little bit of "Resident Evil", which maybe shouldn't all be together but this just works.  

Record Review //
Weep Wave

$20 //
Edition of 200 //
https://weepwave.bandcamp.com/album/s-a-d //

Ever since I received it, I've been listening to "S.A.D." and in some ways I feel like I get more lost in it than I actually think about what to write about or how to begin typing anything.   In some ways, I wish I could just sit down and take the time to write several paragraphs about each song because this is not only my favorite album of 2019, it's my favorite album in quite some time.

"Columbia Calling" is the first song on "S.A.D." and it is a song in the way that maybe someone like Local H would create a song for an album that feels kind of like an introduction but also just seems like an amazing song all on its won.   Acoustic guitars and harmonicas just blare on through the darkness.   It's something that- if you listen to only that song on this album you might think it sets the tone and that could help you decide whether or not you like this entire album, but the fact is it gets much different after this.

"Welcome Home" kicks in much louder and faster.   There is a punk element within this rock and it reminds me of bands like No Motiv or Ten Foot Pole (who remind me of each other)   The thing with this is that when you listen to it the first time, you might go "Whoa, that was a jump" but after listening to this even twice or three times, you know that it's coming and you expect it which just makes it so much sweeter when the music shifts from calm to chaos on song one to two.

On "Welcome Home" there is also this part which breaks down into the lines: "Thanks for listening / I said / Thanks for listening / I know my moan is defeaning / But / Thanks for listening"   This gets stuck in my head at least twice a day, sometimes to the point where I have to put the record on and listen to it.   This line of "Thanks for listening" also reappears later on the album, during the song "Losing Sleep", and that makes me love it even more.

What comes after those first two songs is a sea of rock that ranges from fast paced to slower and it crosses those lines between punk and alternative.   The songs are complex in the way that they aren't all just verse/chorus/verse and they seem to have more layers than your typical rock song.   The length of this album also feels important because sometimes you can listen to a thirty minute album that feels like forever and other times you can listen to a ninety minute album that seems to go by in a flash.

With "S.A.D.", Weep Wave manages to create an album which feels heavy-- it seems to take up a good amount of time-- and yet at the end you don't feel like you've been listening to it for as long as you have.   You don't get to the end and go "Oh, that's it?"  It's like watching a three hour film that feels like it goes by in an hour and there is still a lot that happens so you still feel like you have a lot to talk about afterwards.   The more times you listen to this, the better it becomes and, yes, I can tell you that based on experience and the number of times I've rocked out to this one already (and more to come!)