Thursday, December 17, 2020

Cassette Review //
Brigitte Bardon't

Sold Out //

Edition of 50 // //

This cassette begins with a drumbeat one and a drumbeat two, but then it kicks into a flurry of machine drumming and it feels like pop from the 1980's or 1990's like you'd find on cassette (think NKOTB) only with just the beats and this haunted air behind it.   I listened to a lot of hip hop on cassette back in the day (including soundtracks to movies I forgot existed- shout out "Who's The Man?") but I don't remember there ever being instrumental beat tapes so this is not only fun but pretty unique in that way.   (Though, yes, I am familiar with modern beat tapes being made)

With a steady beat but not as heavy one the next song has this harmony about it which makes me feel like we're riding around on a carousel.   This makes me think about how there is a shopping mall about a half hour away from me with an indoor carousel- which this sounds like the music it would fit- and I wonder how that's doing since it likely cannot be used during the pandemic.   These deep voices like heavy breathing come into the song and if Scooby-Doo ever did an episode about a haunted carousel inside of a shopping mall this could be it.

Swirling around now, it feels as if we're stuck in a loop as the rhythm slowly builds up in the background.   This song definitely finds itself in a groove and it just seems to collapse and expand while creating a feeling of the ocean but in a way which you could almost dance to it.   There also feels as if there are vocals at the end of this song, in a chanting sort of way, but they cannot be made out as to what they are saying and they might be a sound other than a voice which sings but they just have that hypnotic way about them.

As the next song opens with pianos it reminds me of Charlie Brown, as these type of piano sounds tend to have a way of doing.  I imagine children dancing around, ice skating on a pond, perhaps even as part of an elaborate music box.   This song really just opens up in that way, where it feels as if the camera is close up at first but with each interval you pull further away and reveal a little bit more of the bigger picture.

Beats come back in harder now and it feels like instrumental hip hop, somewhat like the first song.   A deeper horn sound- maybe a sax- blasts along with this song though.  As it all comes together it can feel quite sublime, this walking way of being a character in a Hitchcock film and yet feeling like you also visit a cool jazz club without anyone you work with at your day job knowing.   I really like the way it all just jams together, like two musicians finding each other at different locations and playing together for the first time yet it just works.

A darker synth tone feel kicks things off on the flip side.  Sharpness comes through like the light reflecting off of glass.   This piece has a slower, ambient way about it which can help you relax.  I imagine driving in cars, looking at photographs passing by in black and white.   A slow beat comes in at the end, like a knocking, before it all just seems to fade away.   This takes us into the next song which has this way of strings being plucked about it.  It also reminds me for whatever reason of one of those musical boxes where you turn a crank until a jack in the box pops out, but for some reason every time I do it Curious George comes out instead.

Quieter now, the next sound comes through in short waves.   It begins to open up like a sunrise.    This can feel haunted, there is a suspense about the drone and other tones can come through but for the most part it just feels as if we are drifting through electronic space.   There is also this softer sound behind all of this which feels like sand shifting around.  This would feel relaxing in an ambient way but I feel the little pieces which come through sharper are what keeps me on the edge of my seat.   It's more of the suspense of a horror movie- like being lost in the woods- than I think of it as being a way to keep calm.

Reading that this entire cassette was created with a pink Barbie Jam With Me keyboard is impressive to me.  I feel like there would have to be several instruments used to create these songs, so the idea that they all came out of one (and what that one was) amazes me.   In some ways, I think we all have that gleam in our eye of wanting to go to a thrift store, find an instrument such as this and create with it.   And even though we all can if we have those means, the fact is the end result for everyone will likely not be as good as it is here with "Pink".

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Cassette Review //
Keith Hanlon
"An Eternity Of This"
(Scioto Records)

$7 //

Edition of 30 // //

There is a darkness when this cassette starts.   It sets the mood for there being no light as the sound is minimal and grows with these guitar notes which make me feel like we're in an ominous old western but also there is just something haunted about this, like a horror film along the lines of "The Thing".    Notes ring, like echoes in the emptiness.   The drumming comes in now and it feels like it's created a faster pace while the more minimal ambient sounds still stir behind it.   The guitar notes begin to burn through now and it feels like we're moving into an electronic rock song.   Those same solemn notes which have been here almost the entire time continue to drop though.  

We go now into a song which has guitar notes in a row like that one Metallica song everyone can play on guitar.   Then these blissed out chords join in and I'm think of Porno For Pyros, but also just place this in a sunny, tropical setting- which is such a departure from the first song.  While what sounded like a darker, almost sad type of sound began this cassette we have now made our way into a somewhat happier song- or at least more upbeat compared to the sounds which came before it on this specific cassette.   In the broader sense of music, this probably ranks up there with the likes of The Cure on levels of dark happiness.

Notes can drop off into distortion and this one has some melody in it as well.   It plays like a song which if it had lyrics would be slowcore, but it also makes me think of a rock band which heavily relies on having that blend of distortion and melody such as Weezer.  It feels like only overlapping guitars on this song but it still creates a sound big enough to fill a room and I like that about it as well.

A quieter sound of muffled noise now kicks off the next song.   As it somewhat grows it can sound like a motor starting up and then takes off like a jet engine.   This could almost be a landscape sound, like the field recording of a street which isn't busy but vehicles drive fast on.   A lone car on a racetrack.    More ambient tones come through in an almost droning way and then there are the sounds of percussion behind it.   We've created a semi-haunted sound which appears to be taking off into space.

We have a steady rhythm which is highlighted by galactic notes dropping off like shooting stars.   It's atmospheric and makes me want to just put it on while being in an open field somewhere late at night looking up at the stars and constellations.   It's chill, but the percussion is enough to keep you going.   There is a little bit of magic in there as well.    Then it all just drops off into the sound of the ocean- waves and birds.    With a little bit of talking, the first side comes to an end.  

On the flip side we kick things off with this ominous hue which just seems to glow.  There are guitar strums in here as well and it seems like we could drift off into a Pink Floyd song at any moment.   There is a little bit of ringing now, through some distorted waves.   It feels like we're at the beach but perhaps at the beach on a different planet so that it feels familiar but is not entirely the same.    As we wind through these ambient drones some deeper tones fill the background along those lighter guitar strums.    It can feel as if we're fading off into the abyss but with that it does also just feel as if we're floating, relaxing in an ocean without a care in the world.

Throughout all of this it seems like we hit this point where a piano can be heard that begins to make me think of "The Fragile" era Nine Inch Nails, particularly going into "The Great Below".   It seems like I go through a month or two of just really rocking that album during the winter time, so perhaps this cassette is also built for the winter and cold months out of the year.    

It sounds as if we have started the next track and there are a few sounds which echo and make me think of a horror film such as "Friday the 13th" though it could just be mechanical.   Guitar notes ring through now, loudly and a little bit shaking.    There is a triumphant feel to this darkness, like we've fought in a great war and have won but when you win in war you still lose something, you know?   Those "Friday the 13th" type sounds return behind this but it just feels like it has turned into a lovely piano piece somehow.

This takes on a bit of a hypnotic loop now, with the piano part, but it's nice.   It's relaxing and it can allow your mind to wander.    At times it can just feel like this one is walking, where you want to keep moving while you're listening to it even if the pace itself is not that fast.   I'm reminded of an old film in black and white from the silent era of movies.   Through static I hear some words I think and then the seagulls again so I feel like much like the first side this peaceful journey of a cassette has ended with the ocean.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Cassette Review //

$8 //

Edition of 50 // //

This cassette begins quietly, with an air about it filled with these tiny tones of harmony.   This builds up nicely to where I feel like we're going into big guitars like The Who.   Tones come through now in longer drones, somewhat changing the frequency.   It almost feels like a whistle- like a call for someone or birds.   There are a few small bass notes dropping in the background and then vocals come in but they are not singing any words.   If music without words is "instrumental", is there a word for music which has vocals but they do not sing words or would it still just fall under the instrumental banner?

A big drum roll and everything opens up now.   This sound has just become so huge and it feels like a war cry yet is at a droning pace.    Big percussion now, like one of those giant drums that sits on the floor and you hit it with a big mallet that has all that fur at the end for some reason.   Slightly sharper tones ring through, a little bit like a drawn out ringtone.   There is something majestic within this thunder.   It feels like the knobs are changing frequencies as we drift into the abyss as well.  

As this grows to feel a bit more haunted I am just taken back by how it can sound like something so slow and relaxing yet at the same time there is this urgency and big importance to it.  In some ways, the music is what you make of it yourself, at the specific time of when you're listening to it.   If you're driving in a hurry and feel full of energy, so will these synth based tones.  But if you want to relax with a bath and just zone out from all around you (which is not recommended while driving) then this could easily morph into that type of sound for you as well.  It just feels so versatile in the way that it can shape itself to what you need to hear.

Sometimes I imagine we're floating through space or simply taking that long drive through an independent film.   Other times it feels like we're preparing for a battle- like a scene from the movie "Braveheart".   Being able to bend to your mood and situation is not something which a lot of music can do, but Huvudbry has found a way to do it here.   Different people will describe this in different ways and that is really where the true beauty lies within it all.    This is not a sound to be easily labeled as fast or slow, so much as that it goes along at your pace with you.  

Monday, December 14, 2020

Music Review //
Inconvenience Store
"If I Was a Morgue, No One Would Die" //

A little bit of singing turns into these distorted beeps and electronic static.   On some level, this could be considered just a little bit of melody within the modem.   Everything quietly drops off into a series of beeps, which feel a lot lighter, and then the first track comes to an end.   Deeper beats and audio clips create the second song now.  A giant hole opens up like air coming into an airplane, as if someone opened the door and everything is getting sucked out.   There is something mechanical element to this as it feels also like shots are being fired.

An audio clip comes on about not being able to live in peace and there is a speech in here about an uncertain future.  Slowed down vocals now lead way to big breaking beats.  Onto the third song now we get some rhythm with this dark synth and it does feel like we're diving off the deep end into a Nine Inch Nails song here.   Words are slowed and spoken behind this.   They are informing us that we will not live forever, which is fair and accurate.  I think a lot lately how weird it is that a lot of people go to sleep for the last time every night without knowing it.

The third song ends with the sound of hip hop singing "give me some".   This takes us into the fourth track which begins with a clicking and then static comes through in little bursts as beats drop behind them.    This continues with beats like gun shots and there is slowed down singing about having teardrops in my eyes.   There is also an audio clip about a woman wanting to stab herself so that she knew her father loved her and, yes, it is quite disturbing in the words and the music matches.

Somewhat like an error now the last song squeals in a loop.   Someone asks what we are doing and the percussion goes crazy.   There are audio clips spliced into these fast paced drums.  Eventually some singing comes through and the overall state of the audio sampled within these beats just seems to be in pain.    A slowed down line about the end of the world now.  Talks of suicide, like from that 800 number that's always busy.  

At the very end everything stops except for an audio clip which asks "Are you going to kill yourself" and the response is along the lines of "I don't know.  Sometimes I think about killing myself and other times I want to live forever"  If this isn't the internal struggle of everyone it certainly is of me and for that this piece of music does hold a special place with me in at least knowing that I am not alone.  

Cassette Review //
Ubiquitous Meh!
"Fecund With Love"


£5 // //

One of my first take aways from this new cassette by Ubiquitous Meh! was that it felt like bedroom pop.   This is funny because there is an entire band feel here, not just the sound of one person playing all the instruments and recording them in a bedroom, but I guess I just imagined several people in the same bedroom making this one.   Throughout this cassette you will also find a strong way of punk about it as it seems like no matter what song you're listening to there are still those CBGB undertones of punk rock.

With synth keys and bass lines I've thought about what other artists this could be compared with, past or present.   I came up with only two names and they are not very helpful.   At times, this has that trippy feel like The Doors (which I have compared Ubiquitous Meh! with before) but something about that energy with the keys reminds me of this band called The Secret Handshake who I only saw perform once, got a CD-R from and did an interview with their singer.  Their music might be impossible to track down online but I should revisit that CD-R one day.

When I listen to instrumental music I think about what artists it might sound like if there were vocals.   With this cassette, I think about what it might sound like as punk rock without the keys to see if I can get comparisons and yet I still cannot even come up with "It sounds like <insert punk band name> but with keys".  I also think about other bands with a lot of energy who have keys and the first who comes to mind is Digger- which you can find music from via Hopeless Records- but this doesn't really sound like Digger so that doesn't really help.

Perhaps my best way of describing this is by telling a tale of a similar situation I was in back in the late 1990's.   I was (and still am) in love with a band called Goldfinger and it felt like I would see them live at least once a year.  I also happened to see them with Reel Big Fish a lot of those times.   Now, if you know anything about either of those two bands you know they have similarities- they crossover, which is why they tour together a lot.   I don't remember which show it was exactly but one of their tours introduced me to Blue Meanies for the first time.  When I first heard them it was like they were using the same elements as RBF and Goldfinger but in a different way.

That's what I feel is going on here with Ubiquitous Meh!.  Through the harmony and what could be possibly described as synthwave as well, they take this sound you might have heard before- one which you might feel like you are a little too familiar with- and they put it into a blender, chop it up and serve it back to you in a way which you haven't heard before.   This is truly the definition of "This sounds a lot like, but isn't quite" and in a world with more music being created than ever before to be able to say that about an artist is really quite special.  

Friday, December 11, 2020

Music Review //
(Dischi Amici) //

When "Harmony" first begins- for the first three songs or so- I'm not sure whether or not to take FORSE seriously.   There is a weirdo rock sense about these songs but even "Put your finger everywhere" (which is the second track) has lyrics about putting your finger in your nose which is odd.   So when I hear these three songs and when I first started listening to this album I heard them along the lines of someone like Raffi, as a children's performer, or perhaps even Dr. Demento, which is not at all a bad thing.

The more I listen to this album though and the further you get into the songs the more you can begin to take it seriously and see that it's more of just a weird album than a joke.    With hints of The Replacements I also hear a lot of that song which goes "Let my love open the door to your heart" (which has a way of showing up in Judd Apatow movies I think) especially in the first song.   There are also synths in a bedroom sense so we tow that line between synthwave and bedroom pop but overall it just feels upbeat.

To further my point that this feels like a more serious album, I also really begin to think about the lyrics.  "I'm looking for a job" is one of those songs which just works on so many levels.  You need a job to live because you need money and all of that so most people just settle working at a place because it gives them money.   Not nearly enough people are able to do something which they enjoy or could see as a career.   Truth be told, before being laid off during the pandemic I was employed, making decent money but still looking for a job because I didn't think what I was doing at the time was going to be something I did for the next however many years until retirement.

Something as simple as "I wanna dance with you tonight" can come out as the dance number while a song such as "Henry Flynt" wonders why the titular character is not as widely known as his friends (which is a good question).    On "Alright, sincerely" we get the mantra of "My life is rich and complete", which is something everyone should hopefully be able to say one day (even if it's just a matter of looking around at the good and not the bad in your life) and "Something you have to change" is a slower ballad type song which reminds me of Flaming Lips.  Almost bordering back onto that funny side, the album ends with "See you next time", a promise of more.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Music Review //
Tristan Welch
"Ambient Distress"
(Somewherecold Records) //

I think it's fair to say that no matter what your situation was in 2020, you have felt some sort of distress throughout this year.   Being laid off (as many Americans were) can cause financial distress or just what we like to refer to as cabin fever, where as if you were still able to go to work you might have the distress of being a frontline worker (shout out to all those in the hospitals making it happen) or even just being in fast food can cause added distress.   I'm hoping that this album can bring some sort of relief to your distress as if it can feel relaxing or at least you can find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

The first song is called "Employment Frustration" and I think more Americans have felt this now than in the last ten years.   There are these ambient tones behind this one, which feel quite relaxing, but then there is this sort of alarm beeping which goes along with it.   This makes me think of how messed up my sleep has become since the pandemic because I used to be able to feel tired and fall asleep at night and then wake up to the sound of my alarm- somewhat like what is heard in this song.   For a while, earlier on this year, I even battled with insomnia, which was not great.   So aside from the money factor in all of this, being laid off also causes distress in the way which is disrupts our daily habits and takes us- and our bodies- out of our routines.

On "Family Stress" two tones go back and forth with some magical wind chime bliss behind them.  The synth backing that up grows, expands, and then it crashes down like waves on the shores.   I'm not going to pretend like I had a great deal of family stress during this pandemic.   There were people out there not getting to see their nieces and nephews after being born and there were others not able to attend the funerals of family members.  Maybe I didn't see my family as much as I normally would during this pandemic, but there are people out there who had it a lot worse than I did and I can appreciate that I had family stress but others had it much, much worse.

I imagine, on "Family Stress", that we hear these sounds like the ocean as it is that calm which would have been a family vacation we might have taken during the summer.  In fact, during the month of September of 2020 I was set to visit Disney World with my son, mother and sister but for obvious reasons that did not happen.   As much as we can think of family stress as being local (in the way of not getting to see our families as much) it can also be that we didn't get to do things with them which we normally might do as an escape from the real world and stress which comes with it.   Luckily, I spent a lot of the summer watching baseball with my son, dad and uncle.

"Environmental Anger" comes out with this guitar part which makes me feel as if it is more post rock than anything else.   It feels like we're drifting through space without a care in the world, which is fitting because if something in the environment doesn't change we're going to have to find a new planet to live in.   Throughout this song I like to think about missed opportunities.  The whole shutdown was a way for us to hit the reset button- for us to comeback in a better way.   But we didn't.  Things are slowly coming back now as I type this and not much has changed.  I've changed things about the way I live though and sometimes that's all that you can do.

We get into this tranquil ambient sea with the song "Social Hopelessness".   Even if you're not someone who believes in going out into a crowd (like me) you have to at least have a little social hopelessness because of the way a lot of things have been handled in the past year.  The fact that we have history books to prove people wrong and yet they still want to be on the wrong side of history just baffles my mind.    Static waves come crashing through this song and it just feels like we're falling asleep at the beach, which sometimes we need to do at the end of the day after fighting social injustice.

"Recreational Anxiety" has these beeping tones mixed with that ambient feel of glass.   It's like the first song in the way that it has that calm about it but also it is fast moving.  I feel this is because a lot of what you can miss in a recreational sense can be as simple as going to see live music.  Recreational activities aren't always calming but not being able to participate in them when it is something which you are used to doing can cause great distress.   I imagine missing a certain artist performing that I wanted to see because I had something else planned and instead of just me feeling that sense of missing out, everyone is collectively feeling it this year.

When we go into "Economic Fear", I really have to listen to this song at least once a day to calm myself.   All too often I'll search for what is happening with the economy and it's never good.    And, in many ways, to me, the best way to describe it all is that if you were a business- if you were a bank, if you were an airline- then the government would have no problems giving you a bail out.  But the economy collapses and people are out of work because of a problem which the government caused (the shutdown, not the virus, just to be clear) and the government of the United States cannot help its own people.   It's upsetting, disappointing and I want to see change but sometimes I fear that change will come through violence.

These tones feel like I am centered.  I feel relaxed and at one with myself and the world around me.   This is when I am at my strongest.   This is when I am at my best.   No distractions.   This is the music we need to get us through uncertain times.   Again, I listen to "Economic Fear" at least once a day to calm my nerves and I think everyone else should as well because it just seems like something we all are in need of right now.   

The final song is "Educational Depression" and I think we've all felt this in some way.  Students could not have proper graduation's while other students were stricken with headaches from too much staring at a computer screen.   I will say though that when school first closed my son only had to do a certain amount of work per day online- which usually took him less than an hour- and then the rest of the day we did as we pleased.   That was nice.  Staring at a screen from 9 am until 3 pm or so is no way to spend your time, especially as a child.    As an avid baseball fan I also think of all of those not being able to play- missing a season- and how it impacts their entire life should baseball be something they wish to pursue into college or beyond.

Perhaps my favorite part of listening to Tristan Welch is that the music can make you think about so many answers without asking any questions.   Other artists can exhaust their words trying to say what these songs can do without any.   I'm going into 2021 with somewhat of a hope that we can get back to things we didn't get to do in 2020, but until then and just to help keep us all a little bit more level-headed I suggest we take the time to really listen to "Ambient Distress" regularly.  

Music Review //
cop funeral
"Feel Something"
(Already Dead Tapes) //

"Feel Something" consists of three new songs by Cop Funeral and it was released back in the summer of 2020.   Initially its release was a 7" Lathe, limited to 25 copies, but it is also available at a name-your-price download, with all the proceeds from that going to fight the power.  With everything that has happened in 2020, it is somewhat fitting that there would be new music by Cop Funeral, though wearing a Cop Funeral t-shirt in public now might be a different conversation than it was last year at this time (and that's okay). 

The music starts with a steady beat and heavy distortion.  As soon as you press play, it will wake you right up.   That beat seems to be tribal but it also feels as if we are exploring other planets in some sort of sci-fi way.   It gets harsher, with some grinding and just the way these electronics come through make it feel like such controlled chaos.   There is a brief bit of spoken word at the end of the first track but I believe it is from a movie.

With a slight static sound like wave larger bass beats come across like thunder to open up the second track.   This makes me think of AWOLNATION at first as well.  This feels like we're in an electronic jungle, like the movie "Predator", because there is this tension about this sound as well- like at any moment it might just break and either go into silence because we're dead or something incredibly loud which would be some sort of beast chasing us.   And right before the end of the track, those loud static bursts do indeed come through.  A few bass drops and you can still hear that rain.

As we seemingly dive back into space, tones ring back and forth as those electronics appear behind them, somewhat like the first track.   If the previous song was like "Predator" then one could argue that the first one was like "Alien" and this could be some sort of Alien vs. Predator situation.    Through a bit of screeching this somehow also can feel ambient behind it so there is this relaxing yet stressful way about the sound.   Previously when we also may have heard the beats come out more in a solo sense, this track seems to combine everything we've heard before into one solid blast to knock your socks off.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Music Review //
Andrew Weathers Ensemble
"The Thousand Birds in the Earth, The Thousand Birds in the Sky"
(Full Spectrum Records) //

Horns come fluttering in, a perfect jazz number.   It's a wild ride and then the vocals kick in, making me think we are in the mountains for some reason.   There is a calm power to this sound.   It's not just because it's in the title (but it is) that I feel like we should be out in nature somewhere while listening to this.   Could the Andrew Weathers Ensemble perform in the middle of the woods with only the select few making the hike to see it?   As the bass line drops, there are keys and percussion now which take the initial sound to another level.  

This music is trippy.  It feels like you could get lost in the woods listening to it and have an experience.  That being said, I really don't feel like this is the type of music to listen to while driving (especially during long drives) because it could be distracting.   It feels like the type of sound where you could rather easily find yourself hypnotized by it and then forget you are even driving.   But as these horns kick in towards the end of the first song- those deep, deep horns- I really feel like I want to drive.

On the second track we open with this video game sounding xylophone trill.   Strings emerge from behind this in an expansive way.    The singing returns and that trill now feels like an S.O.S.     This song is about dreams and dads and it just feels like something you would listen to while wandering but perhaps not while lost.    Keys come in now which just make it feel intergalactic.    Then a darker drone comes through this feeling of magic.    This also might not be the point of this song but it makes me think about how I've visited places in dreams more than one time yet in reality they don't exist.   Isn't that odd?

The twists and turns of synths bring in harmony and the third track begins with quite a pleasant feeling.   Through smooth grooves, this song somehow becomes hypnotic just as well as it is like a fun trip through clouds trying to catch the sun.    The vocals begin to feel robotic as we feel like we're fading out, listening to words like "the cruelness of everything" and they just really resonate with me.   This song can just put you in such a trance to where you feel like you're taken to a different place.

The final song begins with keys and delicate string plucks.   Little bursts of static and synth come through and this just feels like such a fragile song.    Quiet and softer, it feels as if the sound might kick in at any moment but it remains this slow, music box type of vibe.   Then this rambling guitar sound joins in on the left side and it just feels like we're really drifting.   As we near the end of the song- definitely on the second half here- the vocals come in and it still just feels like we're going to take off into space.    

Music Review //
(NNA Tapes) //

Throughout the four songs on "Mothertime" the one thing which Kalbells accomplishes is creating songs which can fall into the same genre but sound different.  I realize this might not seem like a big deal if you're listening to music, but just imagine a master chef using the same recipe four times over and getting different results.    The majority of the time, if you have ingredients prepared in the same way you're going to result in the same dish.   The sounds which these songs have in common makes it feel as if they should sound more similar- almost like copies of each other- but that is simply not the case.

In a broad sense these songs are electro pop.   They remind me of a Polly Scattergood song being remixed or something in the early days of Madonna.    Through synths come drum machines and it just feels so blissed out.   It gets dreamy and takes us high into the clouds.  I hear a flute at different times and it becomes a somewhat staple on this album.   Through those grooves on "Cool and Bendable" come a cool drive and the sound of water to start "Precipice".    All of the sounds heard on the first three songs can feel blended together to form the fourth and final song, "Tremble".

There exists a balance between electronic music where it can be fast paced- the type you would put on to either dance or go on a fast drive and then the slower, chill type of ambient electro which can often times be almost minimal.  Kalbells finds the perfect spot between these two tempos to create the music which you will hear on "Mothertime".   It's not slow enough to make you feel relaxed, but it's not fast enough to where you want to dance.   Of course, being that it is in between both of these things also makes it both of them in some ways so the choice of whether you want to dance or chill is up to you.  

Monday, December 7, 2020

Music I've Been Listening To But Didn't Write About in 2020 (links only)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Music Review //
Rusty Reid
"The United States of Selfishness" //

One of the reasons why I don't like discussing politics is because it can be frustrating and upsetting, but also I feel like once I start going on this rant it simply goes on for too long.   Right now, as I type this, while listening to "The United States of Selfishness" all I can think of is how many people are out of work because of COVID-19.   People who lost their jobs not by their choice.   And come the end of the year, twelve million people on unemployment will lose their benefits and have zero income instead of the small amount they might currently be getting.  On top of that, the rent freeze is set to expire potentially making even more people homeless in the coming months.

It's a lot to think about and how it has an effect on the economy (some people just care about it because of the stock market) but also it's human lives that the government is playing with.   And regardless of what side you're on in terms of the "R" or "D", the fact is both politicians are well paid and living better than most of us.  So instead of helping out people that they put into this situation, the politicians go off and sleep comfortable at night.   It's such a classic case of "us vs them" only it shouldn't be blue vs red right now but rather the politicians versus the American People because our country has just become so far from what it should be.

There is an entire lyric dedicated to people being "reduced to servants for the scam".  Isn't it funny how there are people out there making millions (and billions) while those doing the work underneath them are living paycheck to paycheck?  This entire song just really reinforces my ideas (which have been more in my mind lately for obvious reasons) that this entire country needs a power overhaul and more people should be paid what they're worth.   Isn't it funny how fast food stayed open during the pandemic, yet they are still making minimum wage while the CEO's live comfortably?   Seems kind of wrong that the people really putting their lives on the line at the forefront are not being equally compensated.

There is a folk way about this song, a winding country which reminds me of Neil Young.   It just has that "This is my land, this land is your land" anthem way about it where I feel like everyone should be not only listening to and singing along with "The United States of Selfishness" but also just really thinking about the words and what they mean-- the impact that they can have on your life and the lives of others.   If nothing else the lines "Don't hide behind tradition/We're long past due for something new" can leave us with a sense of hope.   Hope in knowing that we are not alone in thinking that this country needs a drastic change from the ground up.

Once again Rusty Reid is putting to song what I wish to say but couldn't do as effectively.   And if you don't understand why "The United States of Selfishness is a nation built of sand" then I suggest once the weather allows it you go to the beach and build a sandcastle and then think about that as being the USA.   How strong is that?  How sturdy and secure?   We need to be built better.  Perhaps everything shutting down during the pandemic is a good opportunity for us to start anew when things begin to open back up.   I'm not sure if anyone will have learned that lesson but hopefully if they hear this song then real change can come.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Music Review //
All-In Moment
"All-In Moment" //

Listening to All-In Moment makes me think back to when Victory Records had bands such as Dead to Fall, Between the Buried and Me, Scars of Tomorrow and even BoySetsFire.   In some ways, All-In Moment reminds me of these bands.   But in other ways, it feels like All-In Moment would have fit in well with that early '00's Victory Records scene because they don't sound quite exactly like any of those bands.    They feel similar enough to be on the label, to play shows with the other bands, but different enough to stand on their own sound.

In the late '00's I stopped listening to a lot of new heavy music because I felt like it all followed the same formula of singing and screaming.   I longed for the days of bands who were just straight up brutal and didn't have to sing through the chorus.  I felt like that melodic hardcore became a staple at Hot Topic and I needed out.   So, perhaps, it is best for All-In Moment to not have been on Victory Records in the early '00's so they wouldn't have had to go through that whole experience.

The key difference between All-In Moment and a band which I don't like is that All-In Moment has these hardcore/metal sounds with melody but the melody is blended right into it all.  It feels like Atreyu in that way.   It doesn't feel like the songs are going from heavy to melody within the verses and chorus as if they were flipping a switch, which some artists do and I don't like that.   All-In Moment makes the melody just flow so naturally and if you're going to have that within your heavy sound I do feel as if this is the best way to do it.

Through big metal riffs, breakdowns and guitar chords that become crunchy, All-In Moment just demonstrates how to rock when you're all about going big or going home.   The urgency on their songs can remind me of System of a Down while a song which feels more like a ballad, "For You", makes me think of Finger Eleven.   I hear elements of POD and there is also some of that hard rock/hair metal type of sound which I always relate with the Chris Jericho band Fozzy for whatever reason.

These songs definitely rock and will even have you singing along, but then the question becomes what will you be singing about?   The first song seems to be about the government and has the line: "If life's a game then we are losing", which I don't disagree with.  Then "From Chaos Comes Clarity" and "Not That Far Away" seem to be more about philosophy in their overall message.   Music can serve as an escape from reality but I do enjoy the idea that these songs have that overall theme of not giving up and making it through the hard times because the better times are just up ahead.

When I listen to heavier music now, I tend to try and find music which just feels like it's ripping your face off (Daughters, for example)  I've never felt like I didn't listen to heavy music with melody because I didn't like it, I always just felt like I wasn't into certain artists which a lot of people seem to be simply because I didn't like how they created the music.  But if you're going to create music in the way which All-In Moment does (and I'm told they're creating new music as I type this) then I'm always down to blast it out of my speakers.  

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Music Review //
"Behind the Wave"

Orava has a style of music which seems to either be full of many influences all at once or without compare, depending upon the song and which part of the song you're in.    When "Behind the Wave" starts I think of it as being layered pop rock.  It has the elements of Panic! At The Disco (but the newer stuff) and The Killers but it's missing one a certain dance aspect of those artists-- it feels like a more stripped down version of them.   The first song has these layered vocals too with synth, which would be at the bridge, and it just sounds great together, in harmony, as we are given the mantra of "Try your best".

Acoustic plucks make me think of folk music as spiritual, uplifting vocals take us into "Until Rain Stops".   The titular track comes up third and has a pop acoustic sound to it, being light and just full of energy makes it fun.  "Don't wanna stay stuck behind the wave" becomes the mantra not just for this song but for the entire album really.   As we get into "Trapped" I begin to think of an artist like Blue October who has a similar sense of combining elements of rock music with other genres and just creating something which has its own sound, much like Orava has done here with "Behind the Wave".

About halfway through this album we hit the song "Now I Know" which is the single for me.   When it comes to album placement for a single I feel like I've heard it all before: sometimes they're the first song, sometimes they're the last and often times they're in between.   For this specific album though "Now I Know" just fits so perfectly exactly where it is.   "Do You Care" hits in an electronic and scrambled at times way while "Don't" opens up more like "Unforgiven" by Metallica and then finds its way into distorted waves before the end.    

That particular pairing of songs also seems to go well together and really those are two of my favorites on this album because I feel I can personally relate with them.  The lyrics have this idea of loss and regret and though the first is titled "Do You Care", the song "Don't" actually seems to ask the question of whether or not the other person even ever cared about you.   It's powerful stuff.    As much as I feel like at times this music feels lighter and fun, the lyrics can still just make it overall feel that much more intense and serious.

"Quest For Hope" has a dance synth way about it to start, which is a slight departure from the two previous songs but still works within the general vision of this album.   It ends with some funky synths too, like a cop movie.   The ninth song is an interlude which has pianos and strings on it, which is just fun to hear no matter what you're doing it has that classical appeal.   This takes us into "Going Backwards" which is perhaps the most important song on this album as it somewhat seems to sum up what's wrong but also keeping in mind the mantra of being "Behind the Wave" is how you go about fixing it.

With sad pianos and desolate guitars, "Going Backwards" is a song about regrets.  You know, when you get older you look back at your life a lot and no matter who you are or what you've done I can bet you feel like you've wasted it to some extent.  When you get into your thirties, you think "I wish I had done this in my twenties instead" and it just builds like that, the older you get.   Through the build of choppy waves there is a lot of melody and truth to wanting to go back in time and try again but as the album ultimately makes the point of: we are who we are because of what we've done and not what we'd like to do.

Music Review //
Rusty Reid
"American Villain"

For a long while, I felt like you could listen to music by an artist regardless of their political beliefs and choose to like them for their sound rather than what they might do off stage.   This was, in fact, the plot of an episode of "Growing Pains" which had Brad Pitt as a special guest rock star.  But there is a difference between being a jerk (like that Brad Pitt character was) and being racist.   So, over time, I got to the point where I realized it is important to be political in some aspect even if you feel like you're just a musician or just someone who happens to write about music.

More so to the point, I feel like people ignoring the beliefs of the music which they listen to is why so many right wing idiots dance around to Rage Against the Machine (they sing the songs but they know not what they mean)   Once you begin listening to "American Villain", you can pretty much assume who it is about.  I don't know when the last time the United States had such a huge villain as this.   Then when you get to the lines: "A cheat, a creep, a crook, a thief/Traitorous commander-in-chief" you can be assured this song is about the one and only Donald Trump and his reign of terror over the United States.

There is a lot which can be said about Donald Trump.   There are likely people writing books about it.  But one line I did think was interesting in here was: "The history books will warn/Of conservative plague" and I hope they do because history books tend to have a way of forgetting a lot of the bad things which happened in history and paint it in a way which seems to benefit someone else.   So, if nothing else, if you have kids or plan on having kids when you're older, when they're old enough, let them listen to this song as a history lesson and way to have an open conversation about the "American Villain".

Through these words Rusty Reid does more justice than I could typing up paragraph after paragraph.  One of the differences between this song and me trying to type up how I feel as well is that Rusty Reid makes it sound good.   This is a dreamy rock n roll, which reminds me of Stone Temple Pilots to some extent but also a theme song from James Bond.   How I wish time aligned so that Scott Weiland could have done one 007 song.    But having the music of Rusty Reid might in fact be better.  He's the voice of a generation which everyone might not agree with but he's right and he's got loads of talent.  

Music Review //
"Depression on Tour"

Seeing the song title "Depression on Tour" made me think right away that this would be a song about mental health- which it is- but I was not prepared when listening to it for it to be delivered as a hip hop anthem and the lyrics are just point blank and honest.   As we're eight months now into the country lockdown in the United States due to COVID-19 and the holidays approach, songs about depression can be a tricky subject.   Whether or not you think the country will be in a better place in a few months or even this time next year depends upon whether or not you're an optimist or pessimist.  

The way LovelyOcean creates hip hop which sounds like Salt-N-Pepa (who really don't get enough credit for their non-radio songs), Linqua Franqa, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul just make me feel good about the song even though the lyrics are about depression.   On one hand, I feel like if you're going to write a song about depression and it sounds like doom and gloom then you're going to make something which people might not want to listen to or perhaps even shouldn't listen to as it might influence them if they have mental illness.

At the same time, I feel like the serious content of these lyrics paired with the rather upbeat and just lighter feeling of the music (that hip hop you found on cassettes with a slight hint of R&B) represents how a lot of depressed people are: smiling on the outside while suffering on the inside.   So, for me, the balance between the music and its lyrics is a line which you have to tread carefully but LovelyOcean does it perfectly.  

For me, part of living with mental illness that has helped me cope has just been knowing that there are others out there who are going through the same thing.   So when you approach a song the proper way, which LovelyOcean has done, it really can bring people together to know that we aren't alone and we can sing this song together.   It also will hopefully bring more light to a subject those without mental illness might not know exactly how to broach.   And as important as I feel that these lyrics are, I'd still listen to a full of cassette of songs by LovelyOcean because the music itself is that damn good.  

Wrestling Review //
MLW Fusion #110
"The Restart"


This has been one of my most anticipated comebacks in professional wrestling.   I have been faithfully watching MLW Fusion on YouTube for some time now because of wrestlers like Brian Pillman Jr., Tom Lawlor and Mance Warner being involved.  It is also a show which you can watch on YouTube for free so that helps.   This episode opened with a video detailing the history of MLW which seemed not only beneficial to those who might be watching MLW for the first time but it was just a friendly reminder of what some of us may have already seen and it isn't bad to see it all again.

The first match on the show was a squash match by Alex Hammerstone, who is really just one of the top wrestlers in all of professional wrestling right now.   The guy is built like a brickhouse but he can move like he's smaller.   When you have that agility and power, you're going to become dangerous.   After the match, Hammerstone says what we're all thinking: he's been dominating MLW so when is his title shot against Jacob Fatu?  For my money, if you're going to book a promotion around someone, Hammerstone has to be one of your top choices.

I see a lot of names in wrestling get thrown around a lot.  I'm not going to name them, but just go on Twitter or find a place where you can post and talk about wrestling and you'll see a lot of the same names as big names now and ones to watch.  I truly believe that Myron Reed doesn't get the credit he deserves though- he's easily one of the top wrestlers in the world right now but for whatever reason his name just doesn't appear as much as I think it should.   He defends his World Middleweight Championship in the second match against Brian Pillman Jr.

Myron Reed and Brian Pillman Jr have history and a video package shows this.  Myron Reed says that he is looking to the future while Brian Pillman Jr is focused on the past.   This was a good basis for this feud, really, and I enjoyed this match as well.   Brian Pillman Jr held his own but at the end of the day, Myron Reed won with the Cap'n Crunch.   Who doesn't love a finisher named after cereal?  You and the Cap'n make it happen.   Post match Myron Reed calls out Lio Rush and that would be such a huge match you have no idea.

We get a promo about the main event and then a promo for the Opera Cup, which has some really interesting names in it such as TJP (isn't he in Impact?) and the alternates.  The main event is for the title and it has a big fight feel to it.   How do you describe Jacob Fatu to someone who has never seen him before?  The guy is big but just flows so smoothly in the ring he makes it all seem so effortless.   I said Hammerstone is someone to build a promotion around but Jacob Fatu has been running this promotion for long enough that if you're going to take his spot, you better be worthy.    Many promotions out there have champions representing them that I wouldn't put at the top but that's just me.

Speaking of wrestlers to build a company around, Calvin Tankman arrives next week.  Richard Holliday is cutting a promo about being Carlito and how he's going to return eventually and spit apples at people.  I don't know.  Maybe not.  I kind of tuned him out.   The Von Erichs are also part of MLW and if you're looking to have a solid tag team division, this is a team to have as part of it.   MLW shows us the former World Heavyweight Champions and that really makes you feel like the title could change hands here.

I love that MLW has this second generation wrestling feel to it.   You have Davey Boy Smith Jr, son of the British Bulldog.   You have Brian Pillman Jr carrying on his father's legacy.   Jacob Fatu is part of the Anoa'i Family.   You have the Von Erichs.   But then also you have guys like Hammerstone, Myron Reed, Lio Rush, ACH, Violence Is Forever and Calvin Tankman, who all just feel so much like the future happening right now.   I really feel like MLW has something for everyone and even though Davey Boy Smith Jr didn't win the title from Jacob Fatu he is still someone you could build a promotion around.  

There are two things which I really love about MLW that I feel are areas where other companies tend to drop the ball.   For one thing, MLW had two men on commentary who talked about not just the wrestlers within the matches that they were calling but also the match itself.   How often does a commentator trail off and start talking about who knows what when someone else has to pull him back into the match?  Having the commentary team focusing on the matches makes the matches feel more important.  I know it might seem simple but I've heard some really bad commentary in my time that made me wonder if those calling the matches didn't care then why should I.

The second aspect of MLW which I feel makes it a must watch show is that they truly utilize every second of their hour long broadcast.  At some point in time, wrestling decided that it was a good idea to have something happen and then within the same broadcast show it ten more times.  "Here's what happened last hour in case you missed it".   This was not a good idea.  This, much like my commentary point, took away the importance of what you were watching.  And let's be fair here- I'll call it like it is.   You could go for an entire year without watching anything related to WWE and then tune into a random PPV and feel like you hadn't missed anything because of how much footage they'll show you before the match.

To me, a lot of what happens in wrestling is overkill.   How many times do I have to see the same clip?  Yes, there are a time and place for replays and I'm not saying it should never be done.   MLW has replays and has shown clips from their past during their show.   But it's about how much you do it that matters because eventually you lose opportunities to create new content when you're just showing replays.   There is a balance.   MLW has found that balance because I don't feel like the replays ever over stay their welcome. They show enough to keep you informed but not so much as to make you roll your eyes.

It seems scary to think about but we're almost a month away from being in 2021.   Professional wrestling took a hit in 2020 with the pandemic, as did everything, but you have to go into 2021 with hope.   MLW bringing back Fusion makes me hopeful.   Not just hopeful for MLW but for all of wrestling.   There is a lot of wrestling out there, that is a fact, and it's not always easy to decide what to watch and what not to watch.   But you should definitely spend an hour every week watching MLW Fusion.   To me, MLW is that promotion to watch in 2021.   And hopefully maybe they can also work out a deal for action figures (please?)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

CD Review //
Cosmic Convoy
"Together Again for the First Time"
(C-Side Records)

Of the three recent releases on C-Side Records, Cosmic Convoy is the most country out of them all.   Now, the word "country" can mean different things to different people.  I've always been into those which are called the outlaw country musicians but then you have the names like Garth Brooks and Randy Travis who I'm just not into (and there are obviously more modern versions of these as well, I just try to remain oblivious to them)  I don't know what it is exactly that I don't like about certain country artists but whatever it is, Cosmic Convoy isn't doing it.

When I first listened to "Together Again for the First Time" I made it to the third song, "Until I See An Empty Cup", which made me think about how it had those guitars like Johnny Cash.   It was that visual of Johnny Cash going with his band into a small recording studio and the people in there just being blown away.  (A studio which, for the record, I have visited before)  But then when I went through and listened to this album another time, right away I heard the Johnny Cash come out in "Rosanna".   

It's funny how music can hide things until you realize they're there and then they all open up for you like magic.    In that way, this album can also be somewhat philosophical, with lyrics about life and death.   Though some of the lyrics are a bit more light-hearted even if you have to pay close attention to hear lines like "And it was my displeasure to have known her for a while" in "Rosanna" (which makes it feel more like an anti-love song and I do enjoy that)  "Up For Grabs" has a slower, alt country way about it and I do enjoy songs of this nature.

From the deep and dark guitar riffs on "Anodyne" to the way "Fall And Fly Away" makes me think about John Denver, there is just a certain mood which these songs create, a certain scene which they set.   I imagine Cosmic Convoy playing in a bar with cowboys in it- you know, everyone in cowboy hats and cowboy boots (which is not how everyone in Texas actually looks)- and everyone is drinking Shiner while singing along with "Bound" and it's just such a good time.   And I suppose that I've always thought of country music as being sad, and even if these songs do feel sad they are just delivered in a way which makes them feel like so much fun.

Music Review //
Format Wars

This song begins quietly, with an ambient drone feel and it just seems like we're floating through space as it is such a calm atmosphere.   Notes begin to slowly come in, as if we are in a lull, but then the percussion joins in and it seems as if we've found ourselves in a jazz number.   There are these keys which come through with emotional synths and it gives me the impression of a genre I'd like to call electronic jazz even though that's probably taken by elevator music and this is far from that.

As the guitar notes come through you can tell this is blissed out.  The rock can feel like a -gaze and it has that dreamy way about it.  If it was a little bit more on the synth it could be synthwave and if it had just a little bit more of some unknown factor it could be jazz.   Somehow though throughout the entire song I'm still reminded of how it started and I still feel like I'm floating in space which gives it that ambient electronic vibe.   Those are three distinct sounds to blend together and Format Wars just make it work.

Whenever I listen to instrumental music I always like to think about what combination of vocals I could add to it which would help me describe the sound.  On some level, I like to think of "Gakuraya" as resembling The Cure, though it is not 100% there.   There are other elements which give it a different sound overall, so it would be more like "The Cure meets..." something which I do not know.   But there is not one specific artist I can compare with Format Wars- instrumental or not- and I do enjoy that about this song.

When I see the name Format Wars I think about how some people think records are the best way to listen to music and I prefer cassettes, that sort of thing.   But when I listen to this song I think of the name being more about the style of music.   You have this distinct style in one way and then it comes together with another and even a third, which just somehow is able to blend together so easily though it might appear without hearing it that the three would work against each other.  

Format Wars on Spotify :::

Format Wars on Bandcamp :::