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Monday, December 21, 2009

Live Music Parties For The Holidays

As the Holiday Party season rolled on here in the month of December, three more noteworthy shows were attended on consecutive nights.

First up was the Wired Magazine event at their flagship store in the West Village, featuring a performance from one of this years breakout bands Cymbals Eat Guitars



I had been enjoying their debut album "Why There Are Mountains" ever since the good folks at TellAllYourFriendsPR brought it to my attention.



Having caught the bands live show at Webster Hall back on October 3rd, when they toured with The Depreciation Guild and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, getting to see them again in this unique setting was something of a treat.




The Wired Magazine store is an exceptionally hip-yet-nerd-cool environment to hang and see a band in. Netbooks, toasters, shoes, phones, bicycles, high def televisions and all the latest techie-type gadgets are at your disposal. Plus, on this particular night, an open bar and all the energy drinks you could handle.



As for the CEG boys, their performance seemed a bit more relaxed and less rushed than their opening slot at Webster Hall two and a half months earlier.

Have a listen here and you'll see what I mean:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WBr3-GulL8




They played a spirited set, incorporating at times, frantic guitar strumming, impassioned vocals, a variey of blended keyboards - moving from quiet passages to all out blustery jams - all within the same song.

As witnessed right here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQp4YOg3kNI




I'm impressed with the way CEG have no apparent inhibitions about incorporating alternately noisy and/or atmospheric passages within their mostly traditional song structures.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixLYVkvzm3w

It's a sound I've become rather fond of.

Find out more about Cymbals Eat Guitars here:

http://www.myspace.com/cymbalseatguitars

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The following night my buddy Davey and I headed down to the more fashion conscious area of Soho for an in-store peformance by a Texas born and now Nashville residing singer-songwriter named Erin McCarley


It was held at the Eryn Brinie clothing store and also billed as a "Holiday Celebration"


Erin McCarley has an instantly likeable, easy going way about her - and I can't attribute that entirely to her striking good looks.



Her voice is note perfect, the songwriting meticulously constructed and the passionate delivery immediately intoxicating.



Erin was accompanied by a keyboardist/backing vocalist named K.S. Rhoads, who provided just the right amount of support for her.


Listen here to her performance of "Sticky-Sweet"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKBDN8PxnKk


Listen to her performance of "Blue Suitcase"




Erin's voice alternates between pure and sweet and a slightly more "smoky" rasp. The song "Blue Suitcase" has a particularly hooky chorus that sticks in your head all day long.


It's hard to say what is Erin McCarley's most outstanding feature. A wonderfully melodic voice, finely crafted songwriting and striking good looks all seem to compete for the honors. One is tempted to say that she is the total package here.

Listen as she performs her song "Pitter Pat"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cAO8jAERfY

Haunted by angels on her shoulder.



Yours truly - with the artist

For further reference:


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The next night is was out-on-the-town again for even more holiday shows.
This time experiencing the full band electric show of Celia Chavez at Rockwood Music Hall.



Celia - a native New Yorker who now resides in California - had been performing almost nightly since touching down on the east coast the previous week.



Having already experienced her acoustic show on her first night in town, I was eager to hear how it all sounded within a full band setting.




The band accompanying her was Steven Elliot on guitar, Chris Parks on bass, Daniel Mintseris on keyboards, J. Walter Hawkes on Trombone and Sterling Campbell on drums. All quite accomplished professionals who enhanced Celia's song structures perfectly.



As for Celia herself, she has the most amazing vocal quality. Her style is light and breezy, yet there is a serious depth to her nuanced phrasing.
Listen in to the opening song of the performance:




Celia presents a playful stage presence as well. For one song, she played a toy xylophone, which served the dual purpose of echoing the melody line, while keeping everyone delightfully entertained.



When she is singing, however, there is no mistaking the fact that a serious artist is at work here.



The Rockwood has to be one of the most intimate, high-quality sounding clubs in all of New York. Celia and her band took full advantage of the vibe and delivered an outstanding show.



Listen once more, as Celia plays her own composition "Going To California", which she amusingly prefaced as "not the Led Zepplin song." Though I'm sure she could have done that version justice as well.

___

Wonderful.

Find out more about Celia Chavez here:


http://www.celiachavez.net/

With Celia's set over, we hung around and chatted a bit - Robin, Neil, Anne and I engaging various band members in chats - while we waited for the next performer, a most entertaining fellow named Ethan Lipton to come on.

Mr. Lipton's show is something to be experienced - at least once. The songs are lyrically hilarious - and the music is a high quality jazz presentation.

You can year exactly what Ethan does right here:


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Not quite ready to end the night's festivities, Anne and I decided to head on over to Don Hills club on the west side of Manhattan for the Friday night Mondo Dance Party

They had a live band performing there as well.


A synth driven alternative rock band named The Ballet




Who knew checkered shirts could be so - stylish?

Somewhere in the twilight am hours, Anne and I decided to pack it in.
In the subway station, we stopped to ponder the artwork of Tom Otterness.


A surreal moment for sure - but then again - it was the Holiday Fun Season in New York City, so ultimately it made perfect sense.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Shores 11.18.2009 Union Hall:: Brooklyn, NY

Tallahassee rebel rousers, the melodically driven indie garage quartet of Holiday Shores showcased their brand of well-written American fables to the hipsters of Brooklyn. Dave Cromwell was there to catch the show and sit down for a short Q & A with the band's front man Nathan Pemberton.

The initial press releases for the band Holiday Shores were already full of impressive accolades. With heavyweight names like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and The New York Times singing their praises, it was certainly worth giving them a listen, if only to see what the fuss was all about. The pleasant discovery was a new, creative approach to songwriting and sound design. Enjoying the digital album right from first listen, it was then off to Union Hall in Brooklyn on the 18th of November to catch the band live.

Although the predominant creative force emerged from the mind of Nathan Pemberton, Holiday Shores now functions as a full band which includes members Josh Martin, Ryan O'Malley and Peejay Perez de Alejo.

The band opened with "Days Drag" and it was a delightfully unique interpretation of the album track. No guitars and a two keyboard attack, the glockenspiel driven melody-line captured the songs true essence. Putting the keyboards aside and picking up guitars, "Bradley Bear" was played, where you could hear Pemberton sing "get your hands please off my fable." The sound here progresses from light and jazzy to a near trashy rock & roll sound - and then back again.

Following that was the wistful album opener "Reruns." Again it's soft jazzy guitar chords for the first minute before the stronger rock feel bursts through. Next up was a real surprise as the band did a cover of the Byrds classic "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (from their seminal country-rock "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" album). In addition to it being a true to the original rendition, the more sophisticated guitar work gave it a near Grateful Dead-like feel.

Also played was a hopped up and spirited version of "Edge of our Lives," which kept the overall theme of jazzy rhythm guitar chords, sinuous guitar riffs, busy high-hat drumming and throttling bass ever present.

Wanting to learn more about the inspiration for this music, I peppered frontman Nathan Pemberton with a series of questions.

Q: It has been stated that your album "reads like a book of well-written memories." Yet due to the sonic presentation of the songs (murky and buried lyrics, which is actually what initially made everything more interesting to me - as we are dealing in *music* here- and not a literary work, like a book) it's difficult to truly understand what the subject matter of the songs are all about. Can you describe the literal intentions of the songs?

The songs all attempt to have some sort of story embedded within them. And I'm certainly not shooting for the "literary rock" tag of various other artists, I just appreciate when you can get a glimpse of the scene or world that a writer is trying to portray. Often, I feel as if the songs on this record are a little too over-wrought in terms of detail and not focused enough in terms of plot. That balance is something that I've been working on for a while. As far as intentions go, I suppose the main intention would be, as I just mentioned, to just provide a peak into another world or into someone else's story; to broaden some horizons. I suppose all music attempts to do this, in some sense.

Q: Many of the songs have background vocals that remind me of the pop/soul music that was popular in the 1960's. Was there a conscious intent to portray this?

Certainly. I can't express how much the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las influence my vocal writing. These two groups, in addition to the Beatles and Crosby , Stills, Nash and Young are like the Gold Standard for us in terms of harmonies and vocals. However, we're about a few thousand years away from coming close to achieving anything close to those harmonies.

Q: Growing up in your respective homes, what music was being played by your parents or older siblings? Did you enjoy listening to it?

We all had a very diverse musical up bringing. My father was a big proponent of us listening to the Eagles, CCR, and Tom Petty, oh and Edgar Winters. It was a pretty American rock upbringing. I believe Josh was fed a hearty meal of Beatles and CSNY as a kid. Peejay has mentioned to me that he just listened to a lot of Latin Music with his folks (who are from Cuba ). He doesn't speak too highly of that.

Q: What record did you love growing up, but now can no longer listen to?

I would have to say it's Billy Joel's "River of Dreams". My mother probably played that record everyday when I was growing up.

Q: Which recorded music medium do you presently use the most: vinyl, CD or download?

Digital and Vinyl would be the top two. CDs are just dead for me. I'm starting to get more and more into cassettes. I think the CD might just be too flimsy for this time period. Vinyl has such a hearty, visceral vibe to it.

Q: In the song "Dens" there are references made to "monsters" and "bears". What's going on here?

Dens kinda started off as a lullaby. Eventually, it shifted to song about lullaby's and bankruptcy. It got a little too dark for where I am now. You probably won't see too many more songs like that.

Q: "I'll Spend Money I Don't Have" is quite atmospheric and dreamy. The use of what sounds like a music box provides a unique texture. However, the piece is almost shapeless - like a Brian Eno ambient work. Is he an influence? Or someone like him?

Brian Eno is such an influence. I'd love for any of our records to sound anything like Another Green World or Taking Tiger Mountain . The song was written and recorded after a period of not listening to Eno for a year or two. However, once we started playing Another Green World around the house, Josh and myself did a double take and realized the parallels "Money" has with Eno's ambient side.

Q: "Errand Of Tongue" has a great drum and guitar intro. The organ then adds a deep soulfulness. A predominant sonic texture throughout your record is a "clacketty" percussive element - be it sticks on the rim, high-hat cymbals and tambourine. Additional tom tom work creates a sense of motion that keeps everything from being static and boring. Do you approach the writing from this percussive point of view? Additionally, the lyrics states that "I was left upon the tower searching for my native tongue." Is this then, in fact, the "errand" of the title?"

That clacketty feel comes up a lot throughout the record. Like you said, that sense of motion was a very important element to me. I didn't like the idea of songs not being pushed along by some other force. I feel the extra percussion just added another sense of depth to the songs as a whole. In some cases, I think they might've bogged things down, but in this instance the overall effect works. I was listening to a lot of Brian Eno during this recording. He had a habit of adding to two kits to his songs. Each would be doing these completely different things, yet they still managed to work so well together.

Lyrically, you're right on point. The errand also refers to language barriers. I suppose the over-arching lyrical metaphor in this song would be the Tower of Babel . (Yes, I got a bit biblical).

Q: What artist or band would fans of Holiday Shores be surprised to find out that you like?

We all like early to mid 70's such as King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis.

Q: The clackety stick on rim percussion is also quite prominent on "Bradley Bear." Again, a bear is mentioned. Does the "bear" imagery have a specific significance for you?

This rim percussion on this track was developed by the various drummers who used to play with me. Our band rotated drummers quite frequently and each drummer, when being taught this song, would all naturally play a beat quite similar to the one on the recording. I suppose this made me realize we had to use that beat. The bear imagery was borrowed from a story my best friend started writing with a girl who proved to be quite a bit of trouble for him. I used the story of them writing this story about the bear as the basis of the song.

Q: What solo artist or band would you choose to cover one of your songs?

Arthur Russell, since we covered one of his songs.

Q: At any given moment, what might one find playing on a member of Holiday Shores' sound system?

Huge question here. Afro-Pop compilations, Prince, The Byrds, and Dirty Projectors. Steely Dan, too.

Q: "Edge Of Our Lives" is probably the most commercial sounding song on the record. Almost like a Steely Dan song. Has there been any thought given to put this one forward at some point, as a "radio friendly" song?

Well, I can't say we really think of things in terms of radio friendly or not. We'd like to write crushingly good pop songs. And if commercial music and radio didn't have their heads up their asses, I suppose we'd be seeing a whole shit-load of indie artists on mainstream radio.

Q: "Days Drag" could be my favorite song on the album. I like the harsh carnival organ that drives it along. However, it is the dream-like and joyous "la, la, la, ooooh, ooooh's" with glockenspiel enhancement - like a marching band is celebrating how you "don't go out much" that is uniquely appealing. Is this some kind of daydream fantasy? All of this "celebration" only resides in your head?

Days reminds of that Kinks song "Sitting by the Riverside ." They both have this oblique carnival organ type feel. Both songs also seem to be basking in the acceptance of apathy, in my opinion. I just now realized this. It's more of a lament to lazy relationships, I think. The celebration of a realization...



The boys take off on a guitar and vocal exploration




then jam signficantly with the essential component that is percussion




Nathan Pemberton has an appealing creative musical vision.


Learn more about Holiday Shores at
 
http://www.myspace.com/holidayshores

and at their label

http://www.twosyllablerecords.com/




Friday, November 6, 2009

The Raveonettes live at Webster Hall, October 14, 2009

With the release of their latest album "In And Out Of Control," The Raveonettes have now embarked on a strategically placed tour of (first) US cities and then the rest of the globe, as they bring their ever evolving live sound to the people.



Having been fortunate to secure entry for their first official show of the tour (they would add one date a night earlier at Maxwell's in Hoboken) at the glorious Webster Hall in New York City, all was set for an evening of extraordinary live music.



Since 2003, every New York show attended (and I've been to them all) has become something more than just a concert. It has also served as a gathering of good friends established through a mutual love of the bands music. New Jersey 's Quicklime Tom and his brother Chris can always be counted on to be there. This time bringing an even bigger crew with him (Kelly for the first time!) Brooklyn 's cris never misses either. Lately I am now constantly crossing path's with fellow writer Lindsey, who seems to be always where the best shows are happening. Unique to this gathering was the first time appearance of Alan Rassmusen and his brother Frank who made a special trip from Denmark. Now that's dedication.



For the first part of the tour (east coast and midwest) the Raveonettes were supported by the wonderful Black Angels. Their music is epic, jammy, psychedelic and has an overal organic feel to it. It was their lack of precise and regimented song strucure that contributed to their ultimate appeal. In particular Christian Bland on lead guitar and Stephanie Bailey on drums stood out as exceptional driving forces in the band.




Support slot over, it was time for the main attraction. You could feel the excitement in the air as the packed house buzzed with anticipation. Even though I was holding a "VIP pass" which entitled me to the lofty viewing area the balcony, I chose to stay down on the floor (mid-to-back) with my fellow Raveonettes friends and experience the electricity at crowd level. Though you are more likely to get better photos and video clips from upstairs, the atmosphere on the floor is much better.



Photo: Tom King


They opened the show with "Gone Forever," one of the outstanding tracks from their recently released album. Driven by a classic Wagner riff and sweet maraca percussion shake, it gets right to the lyrics where Sune sings "baby baby I won't forget you, in the night when I drink my head off, memories of you and I, help me help me please." It's an instant classic, that becomes even more endearing to this New Yorker when you hear the name check of The Ramones and Rockaway Beach . Marvelous. But it's the hook where Sharin comes in and sings out front that really gets to you. "And when you said everything's a mess, I know you meant you and me, meant you and me. That's when I knew baby this is the end, this is the end." Yeah, it's a sad song - a break up song. There's lot's of 'em on this album. Clearly Wagner would rather actually write about universal themes that also most-likely happened to him over the last year or so, than some made up fantasy. With Foo's sweet voice adding an additional layer to it all, it becomes something even greater.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoSa94t-akU



Photo: Tom King

Not content to just roll out one new tune after another, the band quickly changed gears and dipped all the way back to the "Whip It On" period for an electro-charged version of "Do You Believe Her." One of the things I've always admired about the Raveonettes live show was how they managed to balance perfectly the use of pre-recorded voices and sound effects with their live playing. I have heard a few grumblings from time-to-time that too much of their show is "canned," but I believe that to be far from the truth. I think in songs like this, it is necessary to get those samples from the album (the "honey!") that add the essential familiarity. Sune & Sharin's vocal are sung in perfect tandem here - so crisp and clear. During the verses is just Sune's single guitar line, with stripped down bass and drums. Two minutes of pure pop joy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9nBTJuZue0



Photo: Tom King

Speaking of bass and drums, back with the band for this tour are the two outstanding musicians that played with them during their summer shows - Jens and Adrian from the Danish band Mellemblond. Hinted at prior to the start of this tour was that some things would be a bit different than what they had done in the past. Of course the obvious is new songs, but that happens for every new album support tour. I believe that what that referenced was how the songs would be presented. For instance, on another of their stand-out new songs "Break Up Girls," Sune & Sharin reversed the approach of how it appears on record. Putting their instruments down and picking up tambourines, both vocalist stepped to their respective microphones and began singing the lyrics in a near acapella form. With just the bass guitar line behind them, the dual jingle of their tambourine hits created a dramatic feel to the overall spaciousness. Of course the audience was clapping along, creating an additional percussive presence. As the bass line continued, Sune and Sharin put down the tambourines and picked up their guitars. Everyone who had the album already knew what was coming. A Strobe light flickered and then the guitar assault began. One thing I absolutely love about Sharin as a guitarist is how she'll immediately go for "Sonic Youth-style" effect. Hunched over and hand all the way up the neck on the frets, she saws away with precision and purpose, creating the sonic shards and wall of sound synonymous with this style of playing. Sune plays the single note riff that rides over top of it. It's a dazzling display of sound immersion. It comes to a sudden stop and everyone in the audience seems stunned and catching their breath.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYTHHjRa3Ac



Photo: Tom King

It has to be noted that the lighting for this show was absolutely spectacular. I was told that the band put a lot of financial resources into creating a unique, one-of-a-kind light show and it certainly showed. Some of the richest hues of red, blue, purple and yellow bathed the entire stage at crucial moments throughout each song. In addition to that were these heavenly spotlights that just shimmered like spectral shafts from above.



Photo: Tom King

Shifting gears again, the band then pulled a number from their previous release ("Lust, Lust, Lust") and the Foo sung "The Beat Dies." For this, another surprise as Sharin put her guitar down and headed back behind the drum kit. Now anyone who has followed the band for a while already knew that Sharin could play the drums - as witness when they toured a few years ago as a duo - and both Sharin and Sune would switch between guitar, bass and drums throughout the set. However, it was a bit of a surprise to see her take to the drum kit on this tour, as a full time drummer was already in place. It made for an interesting visual, as she was singing lead from this very position. In fact, she was the only vocalist for this entire performance. The song itself is quite romantic and beautiful. It's dreamy in a way that would not be out of place attached to a scene in one of David Lynch's movies (or his Twin Peaks tv show). I've always felt a special attachment to the lyric "the first love, you can't escape." Sune's guitar melody soared so triumphantly over it all.





Photo: Tom King


With Sharin still behind the drum kit, the band delivered another one of the outstanding new songs - "Heart Of Stone." Now bathed in a golden light, Sharin clicked out the time on her sticks while Sune played that unmistakable hooky riff. With an homage nod to The Yardbirds classic "Heart Full of Soul" Wagner hits the mark once again. The lighting shifted quickly on the beat going from the opening gold to blue, then red, to a dominant green, finally resting (momentarily) on a copper colored hue as Sune & Sharin began the lyrics in tandem. "I get away just for a while. I get to pine I get to cry. Being without you - I think my world is tumbling down." Now the lighting settles for a while on deep sea-like blue, while the song reaches the catchy change and phrase that sticks in your head - "You know the reason I can't hurt - I got a heart of stone." The central guitar solo Sune plays is particularly sweet as is the extended outro riff.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg9yxOFQY8w

Sharin now returning back out front on guitar the band lauched into another extremely appealing song from their latest release, the dance friendly "D.R.U.G.S." With it "woah, oh ee oh" vocal hook and a chorus that spells out its title, Wagner and Foo alternate taking the lead vocal on each verse. Sune's post-chorus guitar melody riff is typically melodic and strong. It's interesting to see as this band progresses and develops, how Sharin is taking more solo vocal passages within the songs. For instance, for this performance she sang the entire second verse by herself - "you're off your head, you look like a corpse" - with Sune coming back in to sing the "and I know you want it, and I know you like it" passage.

As they continued to roll out one great brand new song after another, it was "Breaking Into Cars" up next in the set. Again the visual presentation was stunning as the lighting quickly shifted from blue and gold, to a blood red hue - only to gradually soften in a near copper color. Yet-another incredibly memorable chorus goes "You drive me round and round, you drive me round and round until I crash into the stars."

Also played was Sune's powerful social statement "Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)". It is an impressive combination of harsh lyrical commentary embedded in a poppy sonic envelope.

Photo: Tom King

The last song played before going off the stage (for the first time) was the brilliant "Suicide" from their latest album. Another one of the new songs that I absolutely adore. The chorus is so big and thematic that you can't help but bounce and sing along. It is about rejecting the notion of suicide and getting "your fun in this trashy world."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfDHKE34Nv0

On returning to the stage for their encore(s) Sharin amusingly remarked that they "forgot to play their latest single". And so they did - the heartbreaking "Last Dance".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VOO-Yyv2fA

A beautiful song that is so sad and tragic. Designed for that crushing realization when you know the "magic" is over. Someone let it slip away.

They ended the show with a wired version of "Beat City," bringing the night's performance full circle and back to their original "Whip It On" sound.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OLGDXzA9LQ


Photo: Tom King

As the house lights came up, no one was left for wanting more. The band had delivered a show worthy of their headline status. As we were milling about on the main floor, Allan pointed out legendary Rolling Stone writer David Fricke upstairs in the VIP area. I recognized the gentleman he was talking to - even more legendary record producer Richard Gottehrer. Both men have long and storied histories with The Raveonettes, having been influential in the development of the bands career. Never one to waste an opportunity, I quickly flashed the VIP pass and headed up to chat with the men. I kept it respectfully brief and then headed back downstairs. I would find out later that fellow upstart rock journo Lindsey found her way up there from the other (less conventional side - a side I have used myself in the past) and had her own chat with Mr. Fricke.



Back downstairs, we made one final visit to the merch tables to pick up those items you didn't want to crush during the show. Now it was after-party time. Allan and Frank - the boys from Denmark - had gotten wind of it from one source. I had heard about it from another. Lindsey was down for it as well. Members of the Raveonettes and The Black Angels were rumored to be in attendance. So off we headed to a low-ceilinged basement club on Ludlow Street called The Darkroom. After a short while, the man himself - Mr. Sune Rose Wagner was the first to show up. He seemed in good spirits and we all toasted a great performance with him. Then I spotted Jennifer Fraser of the band Zaza waving at me. Jen played bass with The Raveonettes on their tour the previous winter. Heading over to chat with Jen, I nearly bumped into Sharin Foo. When I had told Richard Gottehrer that there was an afterparty, he said that "Sharin would never show up." But - there she was. Dazzling and chatting away. Then the DJ started playing some fun dance music and Lindsey and I headed over to join the other dancers. Soon Allan and Frank jumped in, and I spotted Jennifer Fraser dancing away as well. Well - what would you expect from a Raveonettes afterparty? It was the perfect ending to night where the Raveonettes once again, proved just how much they rule this town.

The Links:

www.myspace.com/theraveonettes

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Depreciation Guild - 10.03.2009 - Webster Hall :: NYC


Dave Cromwell gets insightful while covering the Brooklyn based Depreciation Guild. With blaring guitars and a wall of sound the band are captivating audiences with a thump to the chest. After the performance the ensemble's ringleader Kurt Feldman sat down for a few minutes to talk recording, free music, vinyl and life on the open road.



When multiple sources you've come to respect urge you to give something a listen, because they are sure you will like it, it would be foolish to put it off. Trusting their advice, I soon found The Depreciation Guild's debut album "In Her Gentle Jaws" to be one of the most satisfying music experiences I've encountered this year.




When multiple sources you've come to respect urge you to give something a listen, because they are sure you will like it, it would be foolish to put it off. Trusting their advice, I soon found The Depreciation Guild's debut album "In Her Gentle Jaws" to be one of the most satisfying music experiences I've encountered this year.

Having caught one of their live shows in a small club setting a month earlier, I was most excited to see how their show would play on the big stage at Webster Hall on October 3rd, touring in support of this years break-out act The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

Opening the show with "Sky Ghosts," the mood was immediately set. Looking most impressive on that huge stage, the massive crowd packed in tight at the front, and spilled all the way to the back bar. "Sky Ghosts" contains elements from more than a few sources and influences. The so-called "shoegaze" style is obvious, but underneath there is a soulfulness to the rhythm, chord changes and textures that bring to mind late 60's songs by urban groups like The Delphonics.

Following with the magnificent "Darklooming" the band was now fully in its stride. As their signature 8-bit Famicom provided a programmed digital undercurrent, the three musicians developed the sound even more confidently over top of it all. Drummer Anton Hochheim in particular sounded loose, organic and downright "jammy" throughout. Kurt Feldman (principal songwriter, guitarist and vocalist) and Christoph Hochheim's (Anton's twin brother) guitars pounded downward on the bridge section with controlled force. Kurt's gently sung vocals again evoked a certain soulfulness. At times the guitars sound slightly warped and twisted, - as if they had been developed in Kevin Shield's recording studio during the "Loveless" sessions.

The lighting at Webster Hall is always impressive, and on this night the slick, big concert level professionalism was in full effect. With the three band members spread out across the huge stage, Christoph was bathed in a yellow spotlight to the far left, Anton dead center up on a drum riser and Kurt to the far right, in a shimmering amber hue.

The band proceeded to work their way through the set, playing "Crucify You," "Blue Lily," and "Trace" - all perfectly executed under a variety of lighting enhancements. In addition to the more traditional concert lighting, the band brings their own unique imagery that is projected on the big screen behind them. A 9 panel display whereby colors change and textures pulse, this video game bit-theme is reflected in their t-shirt designs as well.

Up next was the incredible "Butterfly Kisses" which is a standout track on the debut album. Here the Famicom is prominently featured, as it creates a magical, percolating undercurrent for what the band does on top. A speedy song that always makes me think of running through the woods as fast as you can (or perhaps navigating some video game underworld) the boys run roughshod over top with a dual guitar assault and throttling live drums. Kurt's breathy vocals only add to its appeal as the verses build to the chorus. And what a chorus it is. A chill inducing, blissed-out highpoint that showcases the best this band has to offer.

They then played a new song called "November" that will be on their next album, and it was a most convincing jam where you could see the interplay between the three musicians evolving. For their finale, they played the magnificent "Dream About Me."

Frontman Feldman was talkative after the show, providing some insights into where they've just been, and what's in store for the immediate future.

"In the beginning of August I did a West Coast tour playing in The Pains of Being Pure at Heart." (Kurt has the unique situation of being that bands drummer, while at the same time fronting his own band as it's principal songwriter and guitarist) "We toured with a band called Girls which was really awesome. Then in the last month we started this tour combining The Pains, Depreciation Guild and Cymbals Eats Guitars," Kurt stated.

"We recorded most of our first album at the end of 2006, and released it in December of 2007," said Kurt. "It actually started out as a bedroom project for myself in 2005. I wrote a bunch of songs which I recorded myself with help from my friend Eric. We were all absolute beginners at that point. I had been in a number of bands before that, but had never really done anything with electronics. Eric had never really recorded any bands, but he was going to NYU in the engineering program. So we were both really inexperienced with the whole thing and did it flying by the seat of our pants," he stated.

"I attempted to mix the full length by myself at one point. What ended up happening was when we got our manager, John - he heard the songs and thought they were good, but realized the mix could be improved. So he pitched the project to an electronic artist that he really loved who hadn't previously heard of us. A great guy named Josh Eustis who himself plays in a band called Telefon Tel Aviv. So he remixed the whole thing and then the album was released a year after we recorded it."

"'In Her Gentle Jaws' came out just this month on vinyl. Prior to that we had made it available as a free download for nearly 2 years. Everything has now been remastered for the vinyl and it definitely sounds richer and fuller. Less high end. It works way better as a vinyl record, than we had anticipated. We had gotten used to hearing it one way, and this new version is breathing new life into it.

"We finished recording the new album and it's about halfway mixed at this point. We did the record entirely with Josh Eustis. He engineered and co-produced it with us at his studio in Chicago this past August. Half recorded at Josh's house, and half at Hefty Studio's, which is John Hughes Jr.'s recording studio. The son of the filmmaker has a label called Hefty. They have top notch mic's and amps there, and it's where we tracked the drums. This record has more of an organic feel. Our signature digital sound is still there, but now there are more synths, and more live bass, more acoustic drums in addition to the drum machines. We didn't actually stray from our initial sound, but just that our live sound is now more fully represented."

The Depreciation Guild are currently on tour supporting The School of Seven Bells, and will return to New York for a number of CMJ showcase shows, later on this month.


Addtional photos and videos are included here.


Christoph, Anton and Kurt playing to a packed Webster Hall


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYWDPfxruAM
"Blue Lily"



"Trace"

Christoph and Anton drive the rhythm and textures
"Butterfly Kisses"
--
"Dream About Me"

Photos from September 3, 2009 show at Bowery Electric, NYC
Kurt gets gazey

Blue lights for a Blue Lily

The hand is quicker than the shutter
"Dream About Me" at Bowery Electric

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