Friday, November 18, 2022

Captivating New Interview and Cutting-Edge Music Reviews

 An in-depth Interview and hotly anticipated EP Review kick-off this month's DaveCromwellWrites Features. Experiencing their debut New York City arrival fueled a lively and insightful interaction. No less important are two full-length, track-by-track reviews from trusted labels and artists. With one returning and another first-time creator receiving detailed analysis on their latest recordings, the quest to make sense of it all carries on without limit. 

When press releases about a new band called The Buckleys started showing up via email over the last two years, an appreciation for the music and image they were producing was instantly felt. The ear (and eye) catching track “Money” (the band's first worldwide release) was simply too good to ignore. Keeping an eye on their progress from that point on, the band is now back with a new EPTake It As It Comes.” Hailing from the southeastern coastal town of Byron Bay, Australia, the hardworking sibling trio of Sarah, Lachlan and Molly Buckley embody a wholesome quality combined with a touch of glamour and timeless cultural appeal. Raised in a musical family, they were all taught instruments and began singing together at an early age. An enlightening introductory video “Meet The Buckleys” sheds more details on that.

Combining elements of Pop, Nashville Country-Western and Indie Rock, initial press began calling their style “Hippie Country.” With that designation referencing a new look on what came before, their sound is the epitome of modern creativity. They took an immeasurable step forward after signing to Chris Murphy's Petrol Records label in 2019. The former INXS manager encouraged them to emphasize creative freedom above everything else. Having traveled and recorded multiple times now in the Country Music hub of Nashville, the band has been allowed to further spread their creative wings under the tutelage of Grammy-winning producer/engineer Chad Carlson. With the band recently coming to New York, Nashville and LA for press stops and personal appearances, I was honored to catch up with them for a face-to-face interview.

Meeting for in-person interviews are often on-the-fly events, with locations switching inside a 24 hour window. New York City's University Place was the designated neighborhood, with final destination at Tortaria Mexican Restaurant. We were able to secure their street-side private enclosure, allowing for a completely-to-ourselves, no distraction environment.

Running first into Reybee PR rep James Boss and Lachlan Buckley outside the enclosure, Lachie (as he is sometimes called) remarked on how he liked my t-shirt, which had a skeleton skull with tophat on it. He asked if that was “skeleton Slash” but I let him know it was simply a more seasonal image. However, the guitar-centric member of the band confirmed he was very much a fan of the GNR guitarists playing.  Moving inside the intimate space, both Sarah and Molly Buckley greeted us with warm smiles and overall friendly demeanor. The conversation was lively and casual, as we explored a variety of topics regarding the bands inception up through and including their current direction.

The band were featured at the end of October during the Byron Bay Film Festival where they premiered their new documentary, Take It As It Comes. Capturing their time recording current EP of the same name at East Iris Studios in Nashville, the docu is dedicated to their mentor, friend and guiding hand Chris Murphy (who sadly passed away in 2021). Some of the songs were also written in direct response to the devastating floods their home country has been facing. “Have you ever slowed down – stopped to take a beat – listened to the sound – of two hearts in harmony. Could we all take a step back – be thankful for what we have – lend a hand and stand together- through times of uncertainty” is how the opening lyrics go on the title track. The band explained how this sentiment refers to their hometown community coming together in a time of crisis.

Co-written by all 3 members along with rising Nashville star Jared Hampton of the band LANCO, Molly explained “we wrote this track at the very end, a day before we went in to record.” Noticing what sounds like a minor chord on the changeover word “uncertainty,” Lachlan confirms it and adds “it's actually a minor 7th.” Such is the subtle sophistication of their compositions. Asking who's voice is doing the “1, 2, 3 go” count-up bridge between gentle acoustic opening and the song's mostly upbeat remainder, Sarah states “that's Jared on there – we kept it from the original demo.”

More positivity is revealed with subsequent lyrics that go “I don't know where the winds blowing – I don't know where the road leads – maybe left is right and right is wrong – but maybe all we need – is to hold each other closer – is to love a little longer, and stop searching for a reason to divide and disagree.” That leads into the BIG Chorus “Take, Take Take A Look Around – the Clouds are gone, the Suns Come out. Gotta Take, Take,Take it as it comes – cause you might not get another one.” [With vocal steps rising ] “oh, oh, oh, oh – as far as I know – nobody knows – we make it up as we go.” [resolving the musical circle] “Gotta take it as it comes.”

Listen to this gorgeous song and view the accompanying video here:

Initial single and the EPs second track “Oops I Love You” is a bouncy pop-country gem that showcases all of the bands appealing qualities. Sarah's vocals deliver universally relatable lyrics with lines “Our love is overrated, promises break, I don't like complicated, the movies are fake yeah. Ain't it so lame how they all end the same damn way. Now I never believed.” Moving quickly to a vocal hook, Sarah and Molly harmonize “But You ooo ooo – taking me down – I don't know what to do – nowwwwww.” Leading into the most-catchy, earworm Chorus: ““Oops I love you, don't mean that I want to baby – Oops I kiss you, don't pretend you didn't want it – my mistakes are yours to take so please do .”

Second verse delves into the natural laws of attraction in this modern society, stating “So where the hell you from? And what were you thinking – walking in, messing up everything. If it's true, then why'd you do - I bet you do it on purpose. You think it's so cool. You're probably worth it.” The accompanying video features footage of them performing at East Iris Studios in Nashville, with Lachlan playing an angular, inverted guitar hook on the upper half of his double-neck guitar. The second pass through shows him playing the riff on the lower half. Asking him if the combined guitar is actually needed to cover different sounds, he confided “sure, the 12 and 6 string halves each serve their own purpose,” plus he added “it's also looks pretty cool.” A nod to Jimmy Page as visual influence in this regard was cheerfully acknowledged, though he cites Jimi Hendrix as his primary inspiration.

Watch and Listen to THIS wonderful track here:

Deeper tracks like “What Ya Gonna Do About It” opens with a forceful drumbeat, chugging bass-heavy low-end notes and higher register guitar accents (that have some kind of wiry effects on it). There's even an organ chord dropped in there for good measure. Sarah initially sings in a lower-pitched, intimate vocal reading, before changing over to a fuller, passionate voice. A rising step bridge to the chorus continues the feeling with lines ““Would you believe me if I told you that I loved you – would you try and stop me if I let you in – put your money where your mouth is – your mouth on my lips – yeah, I want your kiss.” On to it's captivating chorus: “So what'cha gonna do about it” [sung in harmony with background “oooh oooh oooh's”]. “It took you long enough so listen – I wondered when you figured it out.” Enhancing this chorus are three big descending progression guitar chords, prominently featured in the changeover to the next verse.

Fool Me” is a country-western ballad driven along acoustic guitars and rim-clack percussion. “I wonder where you are and I know I shouldn't – everyone's asking what we're doing. I don't know what to say – how about you?Sarah sings. “Everything moves it's own motion, watching you move has got me holding my breath – and you are too” she continues. The bridge rises with lines “This flame, it keeps burning – is burning – perfect (with the final word stretched out “perrrrrfeeeect”). Right into the smooth chorus: “Foooool me again – I want you to fool me again. Baby we are what we are – we both know what this is. I can't not let you in - So Foooool me, fool me again.” A song for those times when the fantasy and illusion of something more is good enough for now.

EP closer “Love Me Wrong” (which is currently topping the Australian Country Music charts) emphasizes an easy, breezy style, with high-end bended/reverberated guitar notes leading the way. “I've been waiting for the real thing,” Sarah emotes, “and it feels like this is it, yeah it could be” she continues. Clever twists on traditional themes, like the line “trying to fit a square into a round heart” create an endearing sentiment on loves possibilities. “You can't take it baby if you don't break it – I will give you all the space in my heart” becomes the singalong hook. With the ultimate request that you “DON'T love me wrong,” the songs title is a subtle deception. The charming addition of film clip audio adds one more appealing element to it all.

You can listen to Take It As It Comes on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, etc. here.

Other miscellaneous topics covered in the interview were things like current books being read. Molly confessed to presently reading Keith Richards outstanding memoir biography “Life.” That lead to lively chatter about it since I had devoured all 547 pages of it on it's initial release. Sarah mentioned to also being a fan of biographies, with “Julie Andrew, Blondie and Carole King” being the most recent coming to mind. Molly put forward that “Lachie is a surfer” as one might expect from growing up in the Bay community. “Yeah, I'm a surfer boy - a surf rat,” he chimed in. Sarah mentioned how they're “into fashion” which Molly quickly interjected “yes, we looooove fashion.” This was immediately apparent from one look at their very stylish, but not necessarily practical for walking around New York City shoes. The ladies acknowledged indulging in bit of a “Carrie Bradshaw, Sex In The City” appreciation in that regard.

It was a pleasure to interview this bright and talented band of budding superstars!

Keep up with The Buckleys on all the popular Social Media as well as Their Official Website.

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Back in May of this year, ambient dreamgaze collective Sueño con belugas were reviewed here on DCW for their introductory track “Normal” in anticipation of upcoming album “Memoria Cósmica.” With the release of that full eight song album, a chance to dig deeper into their sound is now available. While collaborative in both writing and recording, the prime motivator behind these “dreamers of whales” is Héctor Caolo Alvarez (known also as bassist and key member of Puerto Rican dreampop band Un.real).

The full album continues with that experimental concept first heard on “Normal,” which emphasizes collaboration between a number of like-minded musicians throughout Puerto Rico's independent music scene. Designing the recording to flow continuously like a single piece, each of the eight compositions come together for an uninterrupted listening experience. Opening track “52 Hz” floats along a gentle strumming of electric guitar, background drone and additional layers of brighter guitar notes. 

 A singular synthesizer textures takes over for it's conclusion, bridging into next cut “Agua Atómica.” At nearly seven minutes long, the albums lengthiest track evolves out of a mysterious shimmering undercurrent. A slow, chugging progression emerges after a minute in, with solid, easy-groove drumming and clarion bell guitars. Soft, sensuous female vocals commence, and the feel is like a deliberate journey desert terrains. The beat drops out momentarily, allowing the voices to elevate skyward. As the journey commences once more, full beat, background vocal layers and rough-edged guitar distortion all come together for a final push.

Caracol” rises slowly out of natural field recordings that lead into a spoken-word segment. Deep humming tones are blended with the sound of ocean waves and loops of unknown origin, paying homage to Brian Eno's more experimental ambient pieces. That leads into previously reviewed cut “Normal,” which features bold electric guitars, throbbing bass and cymbal-wash enhanced drumming. Heavy guitar and bass interplay provide strong rock and roll hooks between female voiced Spanish language vocals. Belugas can be heard swimming in the tracks final minute. “Fantasma” changes course with it's opening strains of gentle acoustic guitar. A whispery, near childlike voice begins to sing, as a rising pitch ambience builds from underneath. A dream-like lullaby feel permeates throughout, from start to finish.

Gris” comes on like a proper rock song, bass guitar driven with clearly defined guitar chord changes and precise drumming to match. A male-female vocal duet takes alternating verse lines, before coming together in richly textured vocal harmonies. A deep bass and drums instrumental midsection thunders along with higher-register guitar lines soaring over top. Those guitars are given an additional bass-and-drum-free segment, sounding like the kind of break The Smashing Pumpkins build into their songs. All the instruments return for the driving conclusion.

 “Detrás del Volcán” changes the tempo considerably, with an introspective, soft-vocal presentation. Open note guitar chords provide initial musical accompaniment, before gazey, quick-strum washes and a steady drum beat fill-in midway through. The final (title) track “Memoria Cósmica” extends out those “interludes, field recordings and cosmic experiences” promised in the liner notes. That eventually morphs into fuller guitar washes with ticking time-clock percussion. Low-end notes seems to double-down further on what Beluga whales might sound like, if we could listen in to them out in the deep oceans of our planet.

Listen in and learn how to acquire this magical journey here:

Previous Features on this artist can be found Here and Here.

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Bookending Big Stir Records first major album release of 2022 (reviewed here way back in January) is their final release of the year, “Sounds In English” by Sweden’s Richard Öhrn. Best known as the guitarist and one of the songwriters for the indie pop band In Deed, this release serves as his solo debut. Taking the “solo” designation to it's utmost extreme, Richard wrote, arranged, recorded, played all the instruments and sang all the vocals. Coming together over a period of nearly a decade (while also working on other projects) out of a home studio in the Swedish countryside, a penchant for retro sounds spanning the '60s through '90s can be heard throughout the 12 tracks. The album title refers to what you hear when listening to songs – the sound of the words, rather than it's literal intended meaning. It also points towards the English and American bands that influenced many of the songs.

Opening track “Seal Your Move” dives right into an early 1960's pop feel, with chiming 12-string electric guitars leading the way. Sampled mellotron flutes inject a folky chamber pop quality as the track progresses. The title refers to a chess tactic where one seals their next move in an envelope, to be opened when resuming a paused game. The poetic parallel is urging someone to delay their actions until they can think it over one more time. A beautiful Simon and Garfunkel vocal-harmony inspired “5th Month Announcement” follows, with gentle finger-picked acoustic and deeper electric guitar accompaniment. The “announcement” comes as the result of discovering a pregnancy half-way through term. Shuffling percussion, bass and additional guitar licks contribute to an overall flowing river feel.

An agile toms and snare drum fill introduces the speedy power-pop gem “Time's Not Running Out,” an homage to the American Merseybeat-influenced style of the '90's. Referencing the aftermath of a breakup, “It never ends the way it started, the past is for the broken hearted” provides clever lyrical insight. Some sweet, ripping guitar solos commence midway through, enhancing the sweeping, forward driving experience. Piano and organ figure prominently on the 1-2-3 waltz time signature of “The Coolest Manners.” There's fascinating bits of Beatles-y nuggets (circa “White Album”) woven inside it's structure, and a tasty rough and tumble guitar solo throughout the final minute. “Someone To Forgive You” accentuates that early 60's Merseybeat vibe, with 12-string acoustic and organ prominent in the mix. A wordy tale of regrets and dealing with the fallout from decisions made.

An inventive hand-clap loop and gentle piano melody sets “Love and Friendship” in motion. As the positive story of reconnection unfolds, a string section plays in the space where a guitar solo might ordinarily occupy.  While The Byrds “Bells of Rhymney” is evoked on the intro of “Take This Bottle,” it's their mentor Bob Dylan (and a touch of E. Costello too) serving as touchstone for the bulk of this track. The 12-string chime is apparent along with old-school acoustic piano. The chorus is perfect for a pub singalong, while vocal diction on lines like “now you're just a little bit too close” channels Dylan-esque phrasing. A circular snare-roll-to-around-the-toms drum pattern and distant reverberated clack sets up “Every Shade.” Minimal accompaniment under the vocals allows for lyrical focus on verses, and emphasis on the lush background harmony chorus. Measured slide-guitar forges an emotive element within the songs structure.

Alternating rising and descending piano chords serve as the rhythmic progression for “I Chose You.” Lyrically contending with end of a friendship (and not really knowing why), the songs title and associated words make clear who it was that initiated this relationship. There's a brass band backing to the New Orleans-meets-Country vibe of “Could Have Loved You More.” A particularly favorite line (and one that hits close to home) offers: “I don't dream – I only think while sleeping.” 

 Flamenco-style guitar and reverberated piano also factor into the overall experience. The piano driven “If I Could Read Your Mind” has an initial torch song feel, along with elements of Jeff Lynne/ELO emotive vocal/chord changes. Edgy guitars snake their way into the mix, adding an epic quality to the overall production. Final track “Spanish Moon” combines keyboard plucked strings with acoustic guitar and progressively ascending military-roll percussion. A fuller string sound ultimately emerges accompanied by the wistful fade-out line “someday you'll know.”

Previous Features on Big Stir Records Artists are found Here, Here and Here.

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Friday, October 21, 2022

First-Hand Dissection and Insight on New Audio Music Releases

The month of October is well-known for Autumn leaves and Halloween parties. As some contemplate what costume to wear, or to simply prepare for trick-or-treaters outside their homes, the diversion of a new DaveCromwellWrites music review is now present. Familiar electronic artists who work in the synthetic realm are featured here alongside similarly situated creators. While some are equally focused on thoughtful lyrics and their vocal presentation, others opt for sprawling ambiance of epic proportions. The universal line connecting them all is the ability to make inspired tangible recordings.

It's been a year or two since new Lunar Twin music has entered our universe. The enigmatic west coast duo are now back with “Beyond The Sun,” the first single release from their upcoming album “Aurora.” Bryce Boudreau (vocalist/songwriter) and Christopher Murphy (multi-instrumentalist/producer) continue to expand on their sonic vision with this new material. A full nine track album will be released on the first of December. Until then we have this wonderful new track which receives a close listen and complete review below.

Regimented electronic synth-bass pulses kick the track off with Kraftwerkian aplomb. Modulating through a distinct progression, subtle explosive hiss leads in to the opening lines. “I watch you fly away” is delivered in that now familiar Lannegan-eque sandpaper rasp. “Shadows stay the same” continues the vocals, cycling the intro line once more before capping this time with “our love with never fade.” A mixture of electronic and traditional sounding drums enter the mix, expanding sonic parameters. Vocals become more expressive through elongated diction, phrasing and apparent sharp-edge layering. All of that creates a psychedelic sensation to the floating/flowing voices and instruments of synths and percussion. A plateau break of sorts emerges midway, pared down to only drums and voice, with those vocals extolling the virtues of “sun” and “sleep.” Trippy-somnolent voices continue on, and bass-heavy synth throbbing returns the full sonic palette. There's a Nine Inch Nails feel to it all, who have also been known to rely heavily on bassy synth-lines and obscured, whispered vocals.

Listen here:

Previous Lunar Twin reviews on this site can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

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Multi-disciplinary artist and singer-songwriter Ora Cogan is no stranger to the DCW review world. Having previously covered her psychedelic folk and ambient dream pop album “Crickets” a few years back, discovering a new EP "Dyed" has now arrived serves as welcome news. This latest music expands on her previously established hypnotic opulence and reflective elegance. These soundscapes touch on neoclassical themes, weaving together Gaelic folk, mantras and chant into unique art-rock compositions.

Commencing immediately in full falsetto-voiced motion (bypassing even a hint of slow-build instrumental intro), title track “Dyed” lyrically feels more autobiographical than fictionalized storytelling. “I woke up by the field, with a bee hitting the glass. You rolled your sequined eyes at me, as you pulled up your pants.” There's a floating sensation to the guitar and background voice elements, creating a dreamlike feel. A descending progression serves as foundation for the distinct chorus that goes “I am a fool in love and I’ve got nothing to prove.” Longer-held dive down notes and soft percussive flicks contribute further movement within this section. A brief twangy guitar interlude leads into the next verse. When the subsequent chorus section emerges, lyrics become more poetic, making comparisons to “love” as “an island forever losing its shore.”

A pleasantly surprising choice for the EP's middle track is a personalized reworking of PJ Harvey's 1995 song “To Bring You My Love.” While the original had only sparse instruments of guitar and organ, focusing predominantly on Polly's deeper vocal register, Ora adds percussion and a lively bass guitar to her higher pitched voice. Although the lyrical story is true to it's original - “I was born in the desert - I been down for years - Jesus, come closer - I think my time is near” - Ms. Cogan bathes it all in her familiar softly psychedelic sheen. Long instrumental passages between verse and chorus amplify the more musical qualities to this piece. Slight lyric changes appear in places, using “fell out” in place of “cast out” in both instances on the second verse. Ora speeds up the pace of the original somewhat as well, moving it away from Harvey's dirge-like progression to something lighter. Different too are the vocal ranges, with PJ's leaning more towards Patti Smith, and Ora falling closer to Joni Mitchell.

Final entry “Driver” is a lengthy 6 minute ambient meditation that stretches out time and thought processes for maximum introspective effect. Voices are flow in ethereal clusters, at first unintelligible like Gregorian Chants. A steady guitar churn creates a semblance of pace, as fragments of lyrical voicings emerge. “Black marble steps shining in the sun - And if anyone gave any reason,” can be made out through the undulating disquiet. “You’re growing out of your shadow. Every morning you hear It - So clear” the celestial story continues. An impactful rising guitar drone emerges near the midway point, providing a gritter element to the floating atmosphere. Layers of chanting are reestablished, infusing an avant-garde formation reminiscent of Lisa Gerrard's work with Dead Can Dance. Chiming guitar figures present snippets of melodies against a wind-rush field, enhancing the full sonic expression.

Info on how to acquire this EP and Listen can be found here:

Ora now embarks on month long tour of Ireland, England, Scotland and France, with all of her dates listed on her Bandcamp and other sites as well.

A previous feature on Ora Cogan can be found on this site here.

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Returning here for another review is the work of Baltimore-based recording artist Andres Alfonso, who makes solo music as Los Dientes Hundidos en la Garganta. While that phrase loosely translates to “the sunken teeth in the throat,” Andres composes his ambient works with guitars, bass and heavy looping. What comes out of that are wonderfully dreamy experimental ambient electronic soundscapes. The second single “Configurations” from upcoming album “Infinite Past” on Jak Jonson Tapes has recently dropped, and get's a full review below.

A dreamy ambience starts immediately in full flight, as gentle rising waves envelop a wide sonic spectrum. Powerful staring-into-the-void atmospherics create a sensation of awe, as if experiencing something otherworldly. With this initial glacially strong soundscape making a large impression, subtle movements ebb and flow inside of it. Higher pitched tones can be detected, elevating above the mass to create an almost-reverential quality. There's a depth to this audio composition that entices our mind to go on a vision quest. One in which hallucinations and/or dreams would have you flying over vast mountain ranges and deep unexplored oceans. A sensory experience that slows down time, affecting both the auditory and neural systems of mind and body. While comparisons to Harold Budd's “The White Arcades,” Brian Eno's “Apollo” and their collaboration on “The Pearl” all come to mind, a more obscure album by Vidna Obmana - “The Contemporary Nocturne” serves as a like-minded work as well.

Listen and be mesmerized:

This digital track can be acquired now on their bandcamp, as well as the artists entire discography.

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Friday, September 23, 2022

Primal Inquiry into Provocative New Music Releases

Alternative, electronic, dreamgaze, power pop and progressive jazz all share space here for this month of September. The artists chosen for review are not random, but selected via thoughtful consideration. Familiarity with the quality of their work and a willingness to take interest is what is being written about them is weighted heavier than other factors (like mass popularity or aggressively financed PR campaigns). Chances are taken on new stuff as well, but are ultimately held to the previously stated criteria.

Turning attention to one of Shoredive Records recent releases finds this site focusing on the recording project Xeresa. Simply titled “IV” (as in album number 4), the fully named Nicolas Pierre Wardell (previously only known as Label boss Nico Beatastic) serves as the bands primary catalyst. Painstakingly recorded between 2019 and 2022, each song features guest vocalists, some who have full releases on the parent label. Each track was built in the more common now than ever way of sending instrumental basic tracks to each respective artist for their creative additions (predominantly vocals).

Opening cut “Wish” pairs Wardell's basic track composition with first collaborator Daydream Deathray on vocals and guitars. Emerging out of synth tones and light percussive pulsing, classic-gaze pitch-bended guitars propel a fragmented time-signature chord progression forward. As the ticking percussion gets busier, melodic guitar figures enter the mix as an alternate foil against the initial tone. Ghostly voices commence over top as ticking, pulsing movements churn underneath. Dramatic breaks emphasize quick-burst-clatter stops, against those dual guitar melodies. This cycle morphs and evolves with dream-like qualities with a reverential nod towards the vague beauty of MBV's “Loveless.”

Deep buzzing bass-synth notes introduce “Untouched,” a co-write collab with vocalist Dorothea Tachler. “They say – don't touch – don't touch each other” are the first lines from this bewitching female voice ascending over synthetic hiss-clacks and open note guitar figures. As the rhythm continues to develop and fill out, further exhortations of “don't shake my hand – don't hug me” play against an increasingly busier backdrop. Additional developments present vocal lines delivered with quicker urgency, cleverly built on top of that initial basic synth-pulse intro. Guitars, higher-register synths and electronic drumming all share sonic space with this lovely harmonized voice that ultimately shifts the narrative to (post-pandemic) human contact again. Dorothea also delivers a cool guitar solo and optimistic vocal end-out over a rising synth backdrop.

Abrasive guitar textures usher in “Bye Bye,” a pairing with vocalist Hiacynta Szulc. A loping drum pattern lays out central movement against those modulating guitars, while yet-another appealing female singer straddles the edges of Liz Fraser/Cocteau charm with her delivery. The title-line chorus pivots away from harsher tones, emphasizing romantic overture, and contrasts well against the rougher guitar undercurrent on verses. A lengthy final minute coda merges vocal mantra (“I'm not as strong”) with hybrid melodic and drone guitar textures.

Rising swells and bird-like warbles (reminiscent of Yes's “Close To The Edge” intro) usher in the Omega Vague partnership “Burn.” The swirling void gets stretched out further, now moving deeper into The Orb's “A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain” point of reference. Voices ultimately emerge, with understandable lyrics “soon it all it ends the same – through it all we can't refrain – setting fires to the flames – just let it go to pieces.” What started out as a potential ambient music soundscape, ultimately evolves into lyric-heavy storytelling. “All you ever need is someone to be on your side.”

Plunky open note guitar chords and buzzing synths serve as introductory basis for “Fall Into Unknown” featuring Phil Wilson (aka The Raft) on vocals. “All I can do is wait for you,” Phil coos - “wait to lose control” over a bed of quick-pulse electronic percussion. Subtle changes oscillate through those beats, generating forward motion under Phil's soothing vocal style. A dramatic halting just past the midpoint emphasizes synthetic strings approximating full orchestra. Vocals resume with climbing stair-step cadence and gentle passionate payoff, ultimately fading out with a final :15 seconds of tubular bells-like tones.

It's not too long before shearing guitar distortion returns, this time providing the fade-in on “Ghost In Your Mind” (Ft Ural Mountains). Rat-a-tat drumming soon joins the fray as the fuzzy wall of sound pushes forward. It all suddenly drops back as the surprising romantic vocal style of the mysteriously named Ural Mountains commences. A pleasant mix of clean guitar chords and mixed-bag percussion provide undercurrent for a vocal style similar to the band Crowded House. When the wall-of-fuzz guitars return, both vocal cadence and rhythmic propulsion become more active. A quieter plateau is eventually reached, featuring spacious guitar chords, rumbling undertow, synth strings and further vocal recitations.

Gentle chiming guitar chords open "Where Could It Have Been" (Ft Aura Zorba). A syncopated electronic drum pattern soon joins the mix providing counter-rhythm. With ethereal vocals commencing, a pliant guitar figure bounces between those lines. Deeper bass synth enters in after the initial cycle, conjuring a rising step melody. Along with the title line, other fragmentary thoughts emerge like “what's on your mind?” The final minute presents a descending coda of instruments, “ooooh's” and spoken word.

The albums only solo-penned cut “Slavic Stars” is a tour-de-force of low buzzing synths, gentle guitar strums, electronic percussion and higher-register synth-melodies. With clearly defined chord changes and structured segments, this is no rambling instrumental soundscape. Vocals appear a third of the way in, adding to an overall wistful feeling. Bright clarion guitar notes are carefully slotted in open spaces for one more level of audio delight. “Where the sun you gaze at meets the water” becomes a thematic mantra in subtle changing forms (“where the sun meets the land meets the water”) of psychedelia.

A 1-2-3 time signature establishes the basic cycle for “Could Have Done Better Than That,” Ft Jackie Kasbohm on vocals. Alternating lyrical segments place emphasis on contrasting singing styles and associated rhythm cadences. Jackie's repeated title line follows that primary descending thirds pattern, while the second voice moves in contrast to it. A quieter centerpiece lays down one more counterpoint, before the circuit begins again with blended voices going forward.

Odd timbre spiky synths herald in the album's final offering “Retrospection,” which features the artist Glassmanet on vocals, strings, extra guitars, keyboards and programming. Bright drumming and a clearly defined melody soon joins the mix, setting the stage for the gossamer vocals that follow. The voices are soon amplified with layered harmonies, enhancing the listening experience. That primary melody line is meted out via a deep-hued synthetic horn texture. There's a violin quality to segments of the synthetic instrumentals along with open air wind-instrument tones supporting downy vocals. It all floats to a glorious conclusion of Cocteau-level beauty and wonder.

Listen to this glorious music here:

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UK Power Pop Rockers It's Karma It's Cool recently released the first of what is to be 6 singles over the next few months. Initial track “A Gentle Reminder” comes accompanied by an in-studio style video performance, providing visual imagery of the band performing. Along with James Styring on vocals, Martyn Bewick (Guitars / Recording / Production / Mixing), Danny Krash (Drums) and Mikey Barraclough (Bass) is the inclusion of noteworthy multi-instrumentalist Peter Holsapple (of The dB's, R.E.M., Hootie and the Blowfish fame) on keyboards.

The song opens with a gently reverberated acappella reading of introductory lyrics “We outgrow the ghost, and get gone - With our slogans and cold ones - Turn the stereo pop on.” The band then kicks in full throttle with thematic title lines “Here's a gentle - Here's a general Reminder for you. Don't you look up with vertigo, if so, the sky comes fallin.' Along with the basic guitar, bass and drums plugging away, you can clearly hear the Peter Holsapple keyboard additions adding a richness in those open spaces between. As the band bounces along with crisp precision, there are elements of Feargal Sharkey's well-known vibrato in Jim's vocal style. A cleverly turned reference to XTC also pops up in the lines “Drive into the city and the radio was makin' plans for Nigel.”

Reaching the high-point peak catchy chorus that goes “We all find our feet, when we run - And our shoes have come undone - Spark-out the circuit breaker,” finds the Holsapple touch churning organ tones and rhythms to delightful effect. The chorus continues with those opening acappella lines now fully embedded where they clearly belong. Multiple camera angles keep the video fresh and unpredictable, with shots of tapping feet and some really amusing “rawk” faces from drummer Danny. Also kudos to bassist Mikey for best overall hide-in-my-long-hair moves. Two minutes in drops everything out to a single guitar figure before launching into a full-on ride with rolling keyboards, distant-effect vocals and more distinct rising guitar melodies.

Check out this perfect slice of powerful pop music right here:

The song is available from all the usual digital platforms and direct from the IKIC Bandcamp.

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It's a rare occurrence when an instrumental jazz album inspired by the Sumerian mythology of ancient Mesopotamia turns up here for review. However, that is exactly what you get with pianist & composer Connie Han's latest release “Secrets of Inanna.”  Drawing inspiration from the 1900-1600 BC poem The Descent of Inanna, Han crafts 12 sophisticated piano driven compositions based on this detailed metaphor of femininity, grace, and poise.  To that point she's also mastered the art of stunningly gorgeous imagery.  Being young, pretty and physically sculpted is a great starting point for all that.  What follows here is a detailed track-by-track review of the entire album.

Opening track “Prima Materia” instantly establishes the modern jazz trio concept with graceful affluence. Lightly reverberated electric piano serves as initial melodic source, accompanied by an expected high level of bass and drums. A flute tone provides additional melody, with quick-burst piano lines woven inbetween. As a point of sonic reference, the overall sound design is akin to Angela (Theme From 'Taxi') by Bob James. The extended piano flights on this over 5 minute piece are next-level sophistication, however.

Ereshkigal of the Underworld” comes on quicker with an angular time-signature, driving deeper into the finesse of jazz trio interplay. The drums and bass are allowed to expand their repertoire under the free flowing piano improvisation. “Gilgamesh and the Celestial Bull” continues with a similar tonal quality, while incorporating that “hammering” technique inside the piano melody. An impressive left-hand lower-note rhythm creates counterpoint for the high-flying right-hand forays across the keys. A sense of similarity with the master Chick Corea comes to mind.

Morning Star” employs brushes on drums and a sensual saxophone melody, leaving the bandleader to support with block chords at first. Midway in the sax drops out for an extended piano solo, before returning to close it out. “Vesica Piscis” continues with the tenor sax as slower moving melody over active piano figures. The mood is melancholy and subdued, going without bass and drums that place emphasis on melodic instruments only. “Young Moon” returns to the Fender Rhodes electric as primary keyboard tool, with Ms. Han exploring melodic possibilities against attentive and accent-laden drumming. A bass guitar driven interlude provides space for that essential instrument.

Ninshubur’s Lament” is a half-minute tone poem on drums, with toms receiving up-front focus before closing out with a perfect snare press-roll. That leads into the buoyant seven minute piano and sax driven “Wind Rose Goddess.” With a sense of joy embedded in it's rhythms and overall vibe, ample room is given for extended piano improvisation, with equal emphasis on saxophone phrasing. “The Gallû Pursuit” revisits Corea's Return To Forever hyperdrive style, with fluid piano lines driving both melody and rhythm. The bass and drums hustle to keep up with a frantic pace that encourages the listener to hang on to this wild ride.

Check out this wonderful composition here:

Dumuzi of Uruk” doubles down on the Wayne Shorter-style saxophone, with shifting rhythms underneath. Momentary space highlights piano movements, before lurching back in to the full band drive. A walking bassline sets a pillar in which flowing piano lines can improv off of. A quieter presence initiates the nearly eight minute (and album's longest track) “Desert Air.” Brushes are once again employed on the drums and the extended time allows for a number of sub-movements within the overall framework. Space is once again provided for stand-up bass improv against that soft brush drumming. What remains consistent however, is the tinkling of keys on multiple flights of fancy that frequently pay homage to the inspirational influence of Kenny Kirkland. Final track “Enki’s Gift” is a relatively quick study with emphasis on flutes, bass, rim-clack drumming and (as one might suspect) quick-fingered piano.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Comprehensive Exploration of Recent Audio and Video Releases

The welcome return of respected recording artists provide the lion's share of review material for this August 2022 Cromwell Writes music extravaganza. While the endless quest for one more perfect beach day or concert in the park under a night sky beckons, new music releases provide alternate motivation for a focused listening (and viewing) experience. Accompanied videos add a visual component to the storytelling, further expanding artistic vision. One brand new to this site artist also makes the cut, completing a four-play deep-dive analysis.

As longtime friends of this site The Stargazer Lilies prepare their 5th studio album release “Cosmic Tidal Wave” on October 14 via Floravinyl Records, a video for first single “Bending The Lines” is now available for us to enjoy. Having recorded the album tracks over the last few years in a number of places (PA, TX and FLA) the promise of classic psych and gaze also incorporating elements of bossa nova, trip hop and experimental orchestral sounds fuels anticipation for the full release.

The video opens with images of the ocean behind band frontwoman Kim Field, shot through a prism in windswept reverie. Fragmentary audible tones rise up, sounding like the language of majestic sea creatures. Drums kick in via the bands latest beat-keeper Cari Gi and keyboards flash on the screen for a moment, indicating the source of this next wave of sound. As those keys mark out a descending progression, rubbery-funk bass and complimentary wah-wah guitar established a deeper rhythmic pulse underneath. As Kim begins her ethereal dreamy-gaze vocals, the imagery continues to focus on her cool-shades and red lips, combined with mesmerizing ocean views.

Studio footage is further woven in, with visual emphasis on the bass, drums and Kim's vocals – all the while this dream-funk r+b groove floats along under icy keyboard textures above. Those initial eccentric “dolphin language” sounds never really disappear, creating one more motion in a mix that deftly blends elements of romantic-soul funk with an uplifting title-line chorus. As the camera moves around the studio more, we get more lively shots of drumming, fingers stabbling keys and John taking off into the stratosphere with an abrasive guitar solo that features long-held extended notes. Played out against that funk wah-wah background strikes the perfect balance between structure and reckless abandon.

Special mention goes to the live-in-the-studio drumming, which emphasizes high-hat work both in the expected disco-funk realm (or perhaps the promised “bossa nova” groove) as well as looser application on all the drums when called for. Additional props to Kim (and John) for finding a visual clone (at least in style) to compliment Kim's established look and attitude.

Check out this wonderful song and video here:

The Stargazer Lilies now begin a tour and prepare more pre-releases before the full album drops.

Previous Features on The Stargazer Lilies can be found on this site HERE - HERE and HERE.

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The steady output from Philadelphia's Patetico Recordings assures ample opportunity for reviews here on this site. The latest is a new release “From the ashes” by Stellarscope, which features the single “All the lies.” The album title is significant, as a storm destroyed the bands studio and recording equipment as the record was being made. Fortunately a recovered hard drive survived the destruction, and with it the tracks that make up this album. The band consists of Tom Lugo on vocals and guitar, Bob Forman on drums and Rob DeFlaviis on bass. They have been making music for the better part of the last two decades.

Soft guitar strumming introduces the single “All the lies” with one clean pass through the chords, before vocals and full instrumentation kicks in. “Keep saying -we’re doing so well – Pretending - that this isn't hell” is how the initial lyrics go. Behind that are waves of powerful ambient sonics, marching beat percussion and chiming guitar chords. More space is provided on the next lyrical pass, with the drums pulling back some on the lines “All the things you swore you’d do, remain undone, now look at you - A waste, slowly fading away.”

The chorus jumps out with intensity as layered voices bring home it's overall theme “Telling lies how can you live with yourself. Your always blaming somebody else - for everything that you have done wrong.” A subtle bass-line emerges under the assiduous mix, providing additional lower tone movement going forward. This is most apparent on the lyrical segment that goes “Keep saying - that it wasn’t you – Pretending - like nobody knew.” At the 2:20 mark of this three and a half minute song a wiry electric guitar solo commences for a tasty 15 seconds or so, before returning back to the chorus.

Check out this track right here:

Where you can also peruse and obtain the full Patetico Recordings back catalog.

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Influential bands of the 90's continue to re-emerge with new material, which is welcome news to audiences who have missed them. Consider the Portland trio – No 2 – back with their third album, but first in a number of years. Fronted by Neil Gust who originally shared songwriting duties in Heatmiser (along with Elliott Smith), No 2 rose out of that bands ashes in the late 90's. Teaming up with singer/bassist Gilly Ann Hanner (Calamity Jane) and drummer Paul Pulvirenti (Eyelids), the band released two albums and were featured on noteworthy tours before moving on to other projects in the early 2000's. Reuniting in 2019, a new album “First Love” is set for a September 9 release on on Jealous Butcher Records. Advance single and video releases have garnered positive feedback and are now reviewed here, below.

Crunchy guitar chords open the song and video in classic chunky-rock manner and quickly pivot to cool overhead shots of the drums, specifically some solid tom-tom thumping. The reverse view Remo drum head becomes a visual focal point, as it blends with images of our own glorious moon in hypnotic slow rotation. “Come out tonight” starts the vocals - “put my plan in motion,” is delivered in that Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters way you hear during the softer (non-screaming) segments. “Lit up by the possibilities” it continues, while hazy images of movement along a highway are paired against those compellingly shot sepia-toned captures of the band playing.

A tale of cruising the streets – looking for adventure – release – maybe even love - “by the morning I'll be on my hands and knees.” Wiry guitar riffs snake through instrumental passages up against power chords, bass guitar and jungle drum rhythm. As the explosive chorus declares “I'm on a mission, come with me,” it pivots into a slinky spy-movie groove propelled by bass guitar, tom-tom drums and open-note guitars. That calm is soon shattered by heavier riffs and descriptive lines about going “from bar to bar.” The biggest hook emphasizes frustration rather than conquest, stating “Want to cry all the way home. Took all night and I'm still alone.”

Check out this cool song and video here:

A follow-up video for the single “Too Much Is Not Enough” was also recently released, exhibiting similar appealing qualities. Chugging guitar chords with complimentary bass kicks things off via colorful VFX imagery. With the drums looking particularly cool in x-ray exposure, a spinning mannequin head is visually woven in-between those instruments. There are subtle Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music inflections on the chorus that contains the title line, along with an extended guitar note behind it all. That note extends into an instrumental break that emphasizes heavier guitar and bass depth, forceful accents on sharp rhythmic turns – before emerging into a “hoo hoo” vocal section. Military-style snare drumming and coordinated rhythm guitar serve as the undercurrent for the final verse, before erupting into a vocal-heavy, harmonious ending chorus.

Dig into this video track here:

The band’s brand new third album was produced by Joanna Bolme (Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks) and mixed by Gary Jarman (The Cribs) and Tony Lash (Heatmiser). Recorded over 3 years in studios and basements across Portland, OR and finished in a boathouse in Connecticut, the album is available for pre-order right now.

Speaking of album producer Joanna Bolme – two features on her live appearances with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks can be found on this site Here and Here.

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Heavy blues rock has always been a particular favorite here at this site, and nobody does it better than Austin, Texas-based The Dizzy Bangers. Though relatively new here to the DCW orbit, a number of reviews have already made their way into prior features. The band is back with a new video release for their song “Painted Bruises,” earning additional commentary and analysis on it.

As shimmering guitar chords gently introduce the track, the image of a figure rising up in a forest is awash by the rising sun. A quick cut to a bedroom shows a woman lying forward, with emphasis on pensive facial expression. Her male counterpart is then shown sleeping, before images of the band playing their instruments against red clouds and dust, approximating some Southwestern (or even Martian) landscape. As the song's slithering-snake groove advances, we see the woman shutting off her alarm clock and fumbling for prescription pills. Images of the band playing in an amber haze commence the storytelling, about how she's “all so very high,” with visual evidence of pill consumption underway.

The chorus is large, bold and bombastic, emphasizing the lyrical hook “no she'll never pay for anything she's done - yeah she'll get away with everything she's done.” As the video progresses, the couple is now awake with the female meticulously putting on makeup. Cuts of the band playing and that mysterious desert figure reappearing accelerate the storyline. Much of the verses are delivered with a soulful, higher-pitch phrasing, which contrasts effectively against the hard and heavy chorus. Visually, the female protagonist seems pleased with herself as she takes selfies, while her partner looks on with a touch of skepticism.

A clever video editing technique shows the woman responding to her male counterparts casual inquiry with an insincere smile followed quickly by eye-rolling annoyance – before reaching once again for her pills. The chorus is in full-flight at this moment, with the lyrics “no she'll never say that she's the evil one” followed by “woman's will be done.” The instrumental break that follows is a joy to experience, with it's quick rhythmic accents and gnarly guitar figures. Video images of the woman offering pills to her man shows him declining. The camera shot view pivots to a direct shot of the couple on their bed – he looking chill with acoustic guitar, and she less-together with troubled thoughts.

Cut to the forest again and now three figures are in shrouded garb, in front of that blazing sun. The images zero in on a traditional “death” figure holding an armful of those prescription bottles. As the band thunders away through this crucial instrumental section, the vibe gets worse in the couples bedroom, with an increasingly aggravated female arguing with her dude. There's a biblical feel with the three figures in the woods, where an “Adam” is attempting to rescue his “Eve” from “death's” addiction temptation. More pills and alcohol are consumed in the bedroom, juxtaposed against “biblical Eve” tempting her “Adam” with the apple of sin. It all culminates with her painting “bruises” on her face (and soul) while writing accusatory messages in lipstick on the wall – like something out of a horror film. Now the social media pictures are used for this manufactured storyline, ultimate relationship destruction and even criminal repercussions based on a false narrative. It's a chilling, cautionary tale, and only the powerful music makes it palatable.

Check out this wild video here:

Keep up to date with the band via their Social Media at Facebook and Instagram

Previous Features on The Dizzy Bangers on this site can be found Here and Here.

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