Friday, July 26, 2013

RECORD REVIEWS - JULY 2013

THE ATTIC ENDS "THE SKY BEGINS (PART ONE)"
This Brooklyn quartet stakes out moderately familiar ground, but in a rather striking manner. There are familiar indie elements with mannered post-punk guitar, moody psychedelic inspired keyboard, and expressive female vocals that wear several depths of moods. Somehow they combine these elements in a deeply satisfying manner with great skill and heart. They remind me a lot of an LA band called Midnight Movies or many of the other bands that look to the psychedelic days of old with a nod to post punk and modern electronic sounds. If you are a Lenorable fan here in DC, you would certainly like this as the vibe is similar, although there is more going on with well produced full band arrangements. They have six songs hearer making this a long EP or short album, but they manage to bring in different sounds, paces, and atmosphere in a manner that keeps you listening. The drum work is especially creative, but every member creates unique space and sound. They have played a great set in DC previously and I hope they make it down here some more. This album will give me plenty of happy listening until then.

Songs to try out first:

Garden - Lots of space between the intense guitar, floating keyboards and the vocals that marry the two, with the rhythm section keeping it rocking.

Somebody Found Out - A moody psychedelic ballad that could have played the AM band of Haight-Ashbury Radio.

The Real You - Brisk staccato guitar notes surround inventive drumming while the vocals and keys create a lovely melody--unique and intriguing.

BARBAROSSA "BLOODLINES"

There are a lot of bands trying to combine electronica with more rock and post-punk moves in a pop structure. If they have the hooks and creativity, they are well worth a listen. Barbarossa displays much of this and can occasionally nail down a classic pop hook in between the dreamier songs. What is striking is that this is the project of James Mathe, who plays in acoustic troubadour Jose Gonzalez's band. Yet here, there are many electronic shifts between light and heavy, leaning more to light. Everything is bright and fresh and there is even some David Lynchian mysteriousness in "Savious Self". While it may be a bit much for some, the eclectic style shifts suited me well. They lose just a smidgen of energy toward the end of these ten songs, but the dreamy finish is a nice way to fade out. I will likely go back to my favorite songs to hear this band at its best.


Songs to try out first:

Turbine - Just when you think it will be modern instrumental electronic pop, a chilly female vocal sends it soaring.

Pagliaccio - I like the stretching of the vocals here with some dense electronics providing the thick foundation.

Battles - This is a rather delicate dream pop numb with enough quiet percussion to keep you in REM sleep mode.


BELLS> "SOLUTIONS, SILENCE, OR AFFIRMATIONS"

Jawbox fans take notice--Drummer Zach Boracas has teamed up with J. Robbins who produces and plays bass along with a few other guys (including Robbins' Office of Future Plans cellist Gordon Withers) to create these seven instrumental modern progressive jammers. Oh, I suppose you could call it math rock, but unless you title your songs in the manner that Anthony Braxton and Clark-Hutchinson occasionally employed, I really do not care for that term. Yet there is an architectural precision to this music, that like good structures, that is able to evoke some emotions as well as being true to the importance of providing a comfortable and efficient foundation. They have a breezy style that the DC band Buildings employs with the basic sharp guitar lines and pumped up rhythm section. The strings on "Apostatic" is a strong touch bringing to mind some of the better fusion jazz work of a Jean Luc-Ponty. "Shrift" has some deep passages of dark psychedelia before the guitar rings in the light. There is enough power in the playing and melodic shifts to hold interest. It still sounds like it would be even more fun live and on stage(like I've never said that before), but if you like this sort of music, Bells delivers plenty of fine music on this release.

Come see them live at the Paperhaus on September 7th.

LUSHFARM "THE SUSHI WAS A WASTE OF NIGHTTIME"

This local band has some sort of hybrid old and new styling in its music. You can hear classic rock balladry with a gutsy sound merged with just enough indie rock feeling to place it properly in this day and age. The sound is rocking throughout the eight cuts, with just enough tempo reductions and acoustic moves to spice things up. They even have some post punk moves that operate outside the basic rock patterns. The vocals are intense in that later 80s Dischord sort of manner, and the musicians keep everyone pushing hard to keep up. They have all the pieces, althoughI think it still make some time to come fully together to be a fully realized sound. More gigging will help and the continued challenge of songwriting will be the real hurdle. But for now, this is a fine start in representing their sound and giving good evidence of a likely fiery live show.

Songs to try out first:

Only Son - Slower rock with only a touch of blues and a forlorn vocal.

Stories - Spacier guitar sounds give a little more air to this song which broadens the themes as well as the music.

Shelter - Post-punk guitars slash away at everything in their path to start the song, and then alternate with slightly more settled rock moments--slightly.

THE NEW SEASONS "9:30 CLUB"

It is evident right from the start, that this is a young local band finding its footing, although they have some experience in other bands. And these two have combined to dive right in and head to the studio with some early songs that they want to get down. In this case, it sounds more like a home studio (although telling the difference anymore is quite difficult). Most importantly, they keep things simple with guitars, drums, and vocals and not a whole lot of trickery. I find this album fun when it works, but more of a good way of finding out what these guys are capable of, as opposed to something that is to be treasured for all times. I have often thought that these two-person bands are merely good starting points unless the two are blow-away brilliant or doing something bizarre and twisted. So I hope these guys keep moving forward, as they are off to a good start with these songs, as they show some understanding of creating appealing rock music. And perhaps like Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion, they may end up headlining the 9:30 Club some day.

Songs to try out first:

Mind Control - This is an excellent example of of a young band finding some psychedelic magic when they harness the right sound and combine it with a heartfelt approach.

I'm Your Villain - A little bit of funk and R&B mixed into the formula, but it still rocks.

Record Store Days - Good rocker about the comeback of vinyl (as I listened to the MP3 on Reverbnation).

ROADKILL GHOST CHOIR "QUIET LIGHT" EP

This is one appropriately named band. Yes, it is fairly evident that you will get some sort of heartland Americana music here, and you do. It is the ghostly choir of the back-up vocals and distant sounds in the arrangements that add the supernatural flair taking this beyond the sandy soil of the American west. "Drifter" conjures up the mysteries of "High Plains Drifter" with the hot sun mirages creating ghostly apparitions riding onward. There are some lighter moments, which although do not work up quite the same magic, at least allow for some contrasts that most records need to keep the interest high. I am not sure I can tell in these six songs, if this band has a full command of a style that I want to dig into for future listens, but they have tickled my fancy and I would like to see a live show or hear some more recordings down the road. The highlights are big and allow me to suggest that you give this record a try and see where this band fits within your netherworld. I am hoping for a tour into the more prosaic environs of DC.

THE WARP/THE WEFT "THE WARP/THE WEFT"

This is quietly striking five-song EP that could easily have you wondering what decade this was made in. The vocals instantly command attention with their quivering intensity somewhere in between Pavlov’s Dog and Fuchsia. Musically, this carefully moves between light psychedelic rock and folk with a sense of adventure more gentile than that of the Incredible String Band. There are intricate tasty combinations of seemingly incongruous elements, not the least of which is the serious sound of a song entitled “Marry in Haste, Repent at Leisure”.  This is one of the more magical modern day psychedelic folk offerings since Espers or Faun Fables. I hope the future allows me to hear a lot more than five songs from this Poughkeepsie, New York collective. I hope they make it down to DC soon, as transportive psyche-folk music like this does not come around every week. This band is the real deal, as I do not get fooled when it comes down to the best of psychedelic folk music.

WE ARE TEMPORARY "AFTERTHOUGHTS" EP

The first song is gothic and chilling and has me reminiscing of Bauhaus, which only takes me a few seconds. They work in modern electronics into the chilling vocals and icy landscapes. The remaining five song all have more of a modern feel, but are every bit as dark and intense. The vocals are reminiscent to those of either Suicide's Alan Vega or Pere Ubu's David Thomas (as seen on Side 2 of The Modern Dance LP). The mood becomes more positive song by song and even the vocal intensity becomes more dreamily optimistic. This is a little short for me to know where they fit into my world, but they are clearly a band I would make way down to the clubs to see as well as listen to future releases.

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