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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ringo Deathstarr - Pure Mood - Album Review + Live with Stargazer Lilies & Dead Leaf Echo

A new Ringo Deathstarr record is always reason to celebrate. Their fifth studio album, “Pure Mood” released on home turf Austin, Texas label The Reverberation Appreciation Society, (with manufacturing and distribution by The Orchard) deliver twelve brilliant tracks that are arguably their most cohesive effort yet.


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Opening track “Dream Again” pairs a simple strummed guitar chord progression with layers of angelic church choir voices from Alex. What’s interesting here are the “flat” (or possibly 4th note) harmonies she sings (with her layered self) on the repeated lyrical pass “a way you were – the way we were.” Immediately following is an even more appealing vocal sequence with the lyrics “eats you up all the things you love” that serve as an audio representation of the psychedelic dreamlike state.

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“Heavy Metal Suicide” is built around a riff that echoes the hybrid alterna-metal that made producer Butch Vig famous. Less the looser Nevermind era Nirvana grunge, this places much closer to the breakthrough first two Smashing Pumpkins albums. That RD have toured with and established something of a relationship with Mr. Corgan and his band, the only outstanding question would be if this track is the product of subliminal influence, or an intentional acknowledging homage. The classic dual vocals of Elliott and Alex alternate between whispery cool on verses and shouts of “I don’t mind if you don’t love me, it’s alright if you don’t miss me, I won’t cry if you won’t let me, but you won’t know unless you try” on the chorus. The rubbery downbeat accent riff that punctuates throughout the song and ends it is the ultimate heavy headbang moment.


“Stare At The Sun” – Pairs a purposeful marching bass guitar pattern with industrial metallic clang percussion, as guitar static textures rise within the mix. Verses are delivered by Alex in a measured cadence that walks the line between sung and spoken. “Run - around - we need - to use it - let - it drip - but don't - abuse it - Ruff – enough - to make - it submit - run - around - you know - we can't quit - tear - it up - it does-n't matter - when - your mind - is a – disaster – hap-piness - can make - you sadder - when - you're stuck - inside - the pattern.” The chorus hits big with chiming guitars and percussive drum pattern reminiscent of early 90’s loops in songs like Chapterhouse’s “Mesmerize.” “Turn back to pieces when I saw you” becomes both a single line chorus and central vocal hook.







The sound becomes more stripped down on the second verse as the lines “Take – your car – and drive – it nowhere – turn – me off – you know – I don’t care” are sung in an even more clipped cadence. “Met - your friend - he's such - a cancer – touch - me when - you know - I'm not there.  Guitar textures behind that create a unique ambient progression with metallic scraping strings effects. The next lyrical sequence that goes “how - do you - know when - you're finished? - does - it feel - good to - diminish? - blow - it up - just to – replenish – dream-ers just - a stu-pid cynic” features a slightly warped audio texture underneath, in what has become something of a signature sound for this band. It’s not till deeper in does the song title come into focus, with the final statement – “your smile is a kind of torture - if you want something nice to look at - - stare at the sun and never turn back.”


Shimmering, flanged guitars introduce “Show Me The Truth Of Your Love.” Although primarily an Elliott vocal performance – with sincere romantic lines like “I want it all,” “I need to know,” “make me a vessel” and “I feel so special” – there is ample use of Alex’s softer, feminine counterpoint throughout. Overall the track gives off the feel of something The Cocteau Twins could have done. That is until a surprising and somewhat odd cinematic coda closes out the track, with an initial dreamlike buildup ultimately having some random Spanish music immersed within it.


The lyrically heavy “Big Bopper” serves as one of those songs where personal favorite pop culture, zeitgeist moments in both music and film are rapidly listed. Similar to R.E.M.’s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (although sounding nothing like either). Classic hybrid Alex-Elliott vocals with pitch-bend guitar support deliver the first verse: “Curtain with nothin behind it, Didn't lose a thing but I'm gonna find it, The tape is cued up but I'm tryna rewind it, Stuck outside but locked inside it, I've got a bad attitude, I'm tired of everyone in my crew, Waiting around for Hüsker Dü, To get back together and play some tunes” A centralized heavy chorus hook that goes “Bad trip - Someone tell her - Don't make deals with - the creep in the cellar” (played three times throughout the song) keeps the tracks overall wordiness sufficiently anchored. “You can't stop the cretins from hoppin” (first of two Ramones references).


“Died on a plane with the Big Bopper” (alluding to one of the worst airline tragedies in rock history, and obviously the song title. Was it just random to call the song this, or is there some deeper meaning?) The next lines “I saw your mom she's off her Rocker. I know a way to earn a dollar” seem simple throwaways that work out because they rhyme. However the following “I need a ride to the other side. Tripped on a sun beam, blew my mind. Close your eyes and try to drive blind” suggest self-discovery through the psychedelic experience. However, that segments closing line “feels like I'm going through an Eventide is something only those familiar with sound effects processors would get.


The musicians, songs, films and actors specifically listed in the final segment crosses more than a few decades, yet reflect things that most-likely only a Generation Y/Millennial would combine. “Walk me home Joey Ramone, Andy Wood, Motherlovebone, My Girl, Good Son, Home Alone Jeremy, Daughter, Even Flow, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Heaven's Gate was really a bummer, Neve Campbell and Liv Tyler, Oasis, Tony Blair, and Blur”



One of the first tracks initially released from the album, “Guilt” combines high production values with a looser, jammy drum track. Alex’s vocals layer the lyrics “Guilty/ it seeps through the ceiling/ a sinking feeling/ I'm kneeling” in a floating, overlay sequence, while drummer Daniel rips snare rolls, roughing up the sweetness. “Don't you see the colors are bleeding?/ your touch is misleading/ I'm pleading” (more mad drum fills). “Have you ever felt the prying?/ when nothings exciting/ stop trying.” Like many of the songs on here, the chorus is a simple phrase – “dumb angel.” The guitars throttle in hard downward strokes as drum rolls bridge between. What follows is a particularly snakelike guitar solo that shares a measured, professional quality to it. Inside liner notes credit “special guitar” to Jeff Schroeder (appearing courtesy of Gene Simmons) – an inside joke for sure as Jeff is the current Smashing Pumpkins lead guitarist, and has been since 2007.


Pumpkins friendships aside, the verses on this track shares a closer sonic lineage to female-voice-and-guitar-blend-wash 90’s UK band LUSH. Who coincidentally have reunited and are currently touring again after a 20 year hiatus. The concluding lyrics: “perfect/ a gift worth receiving/ now I'm believing/ I need it/ swallow/ your ideas are borrowed/ you fake all your sorrow/ you're hollow/ don't you love when everything's ending?/ and you're still pretending you're living?” You can listen to this song (where I first covered it back in November 2015) here:


Continuing the sugary-buzz female-male blend vocals is the curiously titled “California Car Collection.” Isn’t that something rich people like Jay Leno or Reggie Jackson are known for?

“I am waving goodbye” is the initial vocal refrain, supported by abundant synth and/or sample keyboard pads. Soon the mantra of “I waste away” takes over and is repeated over fuzzy guitar chords. Second pass through adds a bass guitar pattern providing unexpected circuitous motion. From the midway point until the end of the song’s three and a half minutes, it remains entirely instrumental.


Raw bass guitar notes introduce frequent live show favorite “Frisbee,” just before the full-on pitch-bend guitars and syncopated drumming arrive with force. “Free Your Head” is the alleged repeated lyrical refrain, although with so many of this bands repeated lines, they tend to float like amoebas. That is to say that with studio processing and layering, certain words or phrases take on an indefinite, changeable shape. However, the clearly enunciated Elliott vocals “Well I don't know if I'm wrong - I'd say I'm sorry but it's been too long - I don't feel it like I should - I guess it's bad that I think that's good,” leave little doubt as to the intended message.

The second verse (repeated as the third too) continues this theme with the words “I'm the same I've always been -But you still cling to my old skin -It's a feeling you can't shed - Don't expect to understand,” all while Daniel is free to cut loose with drum fills that make it all sound so lively. The subsequent guitar solo practically explodes out in an uplifting burst of elongated, sustained notes.


Heading into “deeper” tracks now, “Boys In Heat” has also been included in live shows over the last few months. Hyper-quick strummed bee-buzz guitars power over top of steady driving bass and drums. What distinguishes the track early (and repeated throughout) is the every 4 bar 1-2, 1-2 drum punctuation. “Having fuuuuuunnn – in the summer sun” give early indication as to which “heat” the song title refers to. Deep tom drum fills on the first change (and throughout) makes for a tasty headphone listening experience. So too for the bass guitar driven extended trippy instrumental break.


Also spotted on a written live show set list (a rarity in itself) is even deeper track “Never.” Emerging instantly at breakneck speed, the “deathstarr” is on full throttle until everything stops momentarily for quick, blended Elliott and Alex vocal statements. With the basic sentiment being “never should have let you in, and never let you screw me down again,” its lesson learned and not to be repeated. Another toms throttling, bass guitar rumbling change section delights as Elliott declares (with winking musical nod to a certain Scottish band who were an early influence) “I was on the chain – never had a brain.” The audio “argument” attached to the end is nothing short of hilarious. “You find yourself a place to work, girl!”


There’s a distinct “smooth soul” vibe to second-to-the-last-track “Old Again.” Opulent background vocals provide much of this sentiment, while a lively structured bass pattern anchors from within. Repeated lyrical refrain “feel old again” points out this sentiment can be experienced at any age. Verse two and three add shards of guitar driven “jet engine” sonics, keeping everything very much in the “noise rock” realm. A final tacked on coda of unadorned plunking guitar serves as a musical easter egg nugget for those who listened this far.


Final cut “Acid Tongue” closes out the album at breakneck pace with a nod to that classic Swervedriver sound. Speedy bassline and bendy-warped guitars power along under Elliott’s vocals. A hard heavy metal bridge segues into telling lyrics “don’t need a gun, but I got one – feeling dumb – like someone” with the final repeated phrase “and I was wrong.”

The album can be also gotten in the UK and the rest of Europe via their long time relationship with Club AC30, and in Japan via Vinyl Junkie.


Ringo Deathstarr headlined a triumphant return to New York performance at popular Brooklyn venue Baby's All Right on April 3rd.  All of the band live shots here are from that show.


Almost a month prior to that, they embarked on whirlwind European tour with shows nearly every night in different cities.  A safe holding place for their US touring vehicle was needed.


T-shirts, CD's and Love - are really all you need.

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"Good evening, Angels"


A gift from Piazzale Falcone E Borsellino Pesaro Italy


Fun times.  The Best times.

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Just prior to that evening's headliners, ambient dreampop purveyors The Stargazer Lilies delivered their own exciting live performance.


Having perfected creating spacious, dreamy sonic landscapes. theirs is a sound that continues to grow and evolve.


Innovative forces John Cep and Kim Field present enhanced studio recordings via effects-heavy guitars and sugar sweet angelic vocals respectively.


Impressionistic colors blurred across a windswept sky.


Technology may make the creation possible . . .


. . . but the artistic emotions behind it all are why it actually matters.

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Just a few weeks prior to this evenings performance saw them out in Austin, Texas for the SXSW festival with Cromwell coverage in The Deli Magazine Print Issue for that event.

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The band will release their latest album, "Door to the Sun" on June 3 via Graveface Records.



First single “When With You” can be heard (and viewed) via the below video.  Filmed and directed by LG from Dead Leaf Echo at Aloft photo studio in New York City, with editing by John Cep.




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Speaking of Dead Leaf Echo - they too played on this evening, opening the show with their own brilliant set.


Having last covered one of their shows here, the overall changing dynamic first noticed on that night seemed more clearly defined.


The current four piece until has been together for quite a while now (maybe longer than any of the prior lineups) and it shows in the confident execution of their material.


A full room at Baby's All Right drank in the waves of sound (with an emphasis on newer material) throughout their set.


Guitars now dominate what once was (at times) a keyboards heavy, electronic pulse driven sound.


The weeks following this show saw the band head out on their first European tour.


Their social networks kept a nightly stream of info and updates about those shows, indicating a rewarding experience and successful endeavor.

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Brand new Dead Leaf Echo music has now been announced as a 7" split single "child.glass.heart" is set to be released May 13 on Moon Sound Records.  On the flip side is the track "Dirty Minds" by complimentary darkwave act The Harrow.  A full release party will be at Sunnyvale Brooklyn on May 14.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Caught Live: The B-52s, Baby Acid, Sharkmuffin, Citris

Timing and opportunity is a frequent catalyst leading to attendance at compelling events. Living within a stone’s throw of The Space At Westbury assures that venue’s neon-flashing coming events marquee creates a level of “must-be-there” desire that might otherwise elude. So it stood to reason that the months long lead-up hype to truly legendary band The B-52’s appearance there on February 26, 2016 was certainly not to be missed.


Hailing from Athens, Georgia, the band formed in 1976.



Having paved the way for the entire Athens, Georgia scene that followed them at the moment they broke through the NYC club scene and eventually on MTV, the band carries on with original front vocalists Cindy Wilson (vocals, bongos, tambourine), Fred Schneider (vocals, percussion, keyboards) and Kate Pierson (organ, keyboards, bass, vocals),


The tragic death of initial band visionary (and Cindy's brother) Ricky Wilson and recent retiring from live performing (though technically still a band member) Keith Strickland has the band touring with a compliment of eminently capable long-time side musicians.


Walls inside The Space At Westbury are decorated with album covers from a vintage era of mid-1970's through 1980's that accurately reflects this venue's intended audience .


Since 12'' vinyl albums having emerged as a revived format among many of the current generation of new musicians, perhaps a future wall like this will exist in a venue 30 + years from now.


With its big open space and hanging spiral chandelier lighting, a large concert hall feel pervades the standing room environment.


Popular long-time local DJ "Larry The Duck" - who established his weekly "Party Out Of Bounds" radio show on WLIRR seemed as qualified an MC for this show as any.


What initially propelled this band from obscurity and out-of-the-pack was a visionary combination of kitchy visual styling and a sound blending dance music with surf rock.



Further setting them apart from generic copycat bands were guitarists Ricky Wilson and writing counterpart Keith Strickland's creative approach to guitar tunings.  Much like Keith Richards with The Rolling Stones, Wilson devised his own open tunings, creating a unique sound that can be heard here:




 Grouping the strings of his Mosrite guitar into a bass course (usually tuned to fifths for strumming) and a treble course (often tuned in unison), he removed the middle two D + G strings from his playing entirely, although there were times when he did play with five strings. Since the band originally didn't have a bassist, Wilson unified his tunings with a keyboard bass played by Pierson, creating a solid rock and roll sound without a bass guitar.


There's something about a band still carrying on what originally motivated them to play and perform after nearly 4 decades that is most satisfying to witness.


The current live band is as professional as you'd expect for an act that has had this kind of longevity and mass appeal.


Having over twenty million albums sold throughout their long illustrious career, attendance at their shows is a celebration of one amazing hit song after another.

Here is how they sounded on this very night:



Cindy and Kate took a solo turn halfway into the set, sing middle-period songs like "Revolution Earth" and "Roam."


Fred was his as-expected bubbly self, making funny cracks and telling amusing tid-bit stories along the way.

Including a most entertaining rendition of this song:



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Props to Kate Pierson for still looking hot and in fantastic voice after all these years.

An adoring audience

Cindy + Kate, flower power

Light Beams + Happy Heads

Swirling 52 light surprise

A dazzling, fun, party show!

"Thanks, Westbury!"


Full setlist played

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Social Network Celebration!


Opening the show was Country-rock, husband and wife outfit The Mike + Ruthy Band


Who also double as Kate Pierson's backing band when she plays her solo music.


The keyboard player in this band also played keys and guitar throughout the entire B-52's show as well.

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A week later it was back to the familiar stomping grounds of Brooklyn on March 3rd to check out a show at new club Aviv.


Decorative fan graffiti can often be found places where the public congregates.  All Brooklyn Band's have now been served the "Vince Neil challenge."


Grunge-gaze rockers Baby Acid took the stage early on, proceeding to deliver their familiar heavy bass and effects-layered guitar burst sound.


Vadim and Lindsey continue to provide the driving force behind a sound that combines deep riffs and swirling atmospherics.


Sonic structures run across a spectrum of defined bass-driven melodies and power-gaze guitar figures.


FX'd power force


Swirling in the "beautiful noise"


Photog zoom and fan appreciation


Lindsey delivers her message
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Headlining the night was the garage, punk, glam and grunge hybrid of Sharkmuffin


With this show serving as the kickoff to a March tour that traveled across the country - with a significant stop in Austin for the annual SXSW festival - and then back again.


Led by the unabashed Tarra on vocals, guitar (doublenecked now) and implacable promotion skills, their shows deliver high-energy excitement.


It would be difficult to imagine any other grunge-punk frontperson so casually playing such a conspicuously extravagant guitar.


Bassist Natalie continues to serve as steady foil to Tarra's frequently over-the-top, bombastic charm.


Drummer Kim completes this core trio with capable beat-keeping skills and an overall enthusiastic presence.


For this particular show they brought up a guest guitarists, providing an additional sonic layer.

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Which also allowed Tarra to put her guitar down and go the hand-held mic route


A roam out into the audience led to this eventual mayhem.


Much to the delight of an thoroughly entertained audience.


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Additional live Sharkmuffin show reviews can be found here - live at CMJ,  and here - live at CMJ two days later

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Saturday March 5th brought the live show periscope back into Manhattan's lower east side for a show at Arlene's Grocery.


Though technically it was actually early Sunday morning, the prospect of catching another live show from new found fave Citris was too good pass up.


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Primary songwriter and vocalist Angelina performed a solo electric set for this appearance.


Which she delivered with a seasoned confidence and skill that belie the relatively early stages of her musical career.


 Providing a spaciousness and clarity to the songs, allowing listeners to focus more on the lyrics and stories being told, as opposed to a bigger, full band show.


In addition being featured on the Deli Magazine website (written by yours truly) and Print Issue ad placement, there is also the recent distinction of winning that sites prestigious Artist Of The Month poll.


A true songwriter, Angelina exhibits an apparent natural ability that weaves insightful lyrics with creative chord structures.


Which keeps everything above a level of predictability and common repetition.


The debut album "Panic In Hampton Bays" can be heard and acquired here


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Post-show had a few of us heading over to a local bar to continue the conversation about everything and anything.


City denizens gathering during early a.m hours immediately following just concluded events fosters it's own unique form of interaction.


Doubling down on the experience matrix.

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