Saturday, May 2, 2020

New Record and Video Reviews - May 2020

As we enter day one-thousand-whatever of social distancing lockdown – six must review features have wound up here now in the ever-evolving (mutating?) DaveCromwellWrites pantheon. This chosen path of descriptive analysis and “writing about music” is now more than ever a repeated selective process on what (and who) to write about. Once those decisions have been made (a non-scientific juggling act of purposeful choices and random chance taking), the actual joy of putting words together in a satisfying manner flows rather quickly. With that, we dive in to the early May 2020 DCW reviews.

Having previously explored the separate creative work of Gardy Perez and Tom Lugo on their recent projects with Cielo Oceano and Un.Real, the duo now team up under the name MAYU with a new collaborative track “Theia.”

Slow building atmospherics introduce the piece, generating a rising-out-of-the-myst impression. There's an extended swirling wash all around with extended tone notes that sound like keyboards, though liner notes only credit guitars. A subtle bass-guitar is detected :45 seconds in, with an easy-groove drum track soon following that. Vocals commence at that point as well, delivered with a dreampop delivery and sheen that never overtakes the primary guitar whirlpool. “Burn me with your light. Touch me with your eyes. I want nothing more. Than to be forever yours.”

The drum programming stands out with clarity and depth, where bright cymbal and snare patterns contrast against deep and resonant toms. All the while those churning, ethereal guitars create a rising wave of celestial melody. Halfway through the percussion drops out, leaving a plateau of spaciousness where vocals are given a central moment. “The rain keeps coming down. In the tears I drown. To madness I descend. Fall on… my skin again. ” With that the gentle rhythmic propulsive drum track reemerges, along with more exalted guitar textures. While the backing drone continues, a distinctive melody is carved out in rapid-strummed succession. The tracks final minute serves up a wash of of exquisite vapor trails into a final fluttering pattern.

More info on how to acquire this track, along with the entire Patetico Recordings catalog here.

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With the release of their latest full length album “What We Started,” Canadian ethereal alternative/electro-pop duo Paragon Cause deliver 10 new songs (and first single “Lost Cause” radio edit) less than a year after their “Lies Between Us” EP. Once again enlisting the Production (and now co-songwriting) skills of Raveonettes mastermind Sune Rose Wagner, a veritable treasure-trove of new ideas have come to fruition.

Lead track and first single “Lost Cause” builds out of measured electronic beat percussion that makes use of bass-drum, snare and high-hat approximations with strategically placed deep echoed singular shots. There's an orchestral element to it all as well, providing a stylistic anthem backdrop for lyric dealing with difficulty and loss. Second track (and first listing Wagner as co-songwriter) “Silent Prayer” builds out of a twinkling keyboard part before rapid-paced looped percussion provides energetic motion under a traditional vocal delivery. An alternating rising-then-descending bass keyboard line adds another element of sonic fluctuation, as does a distinctive guitar part two minutes in. Poetic lyrics referencing “obsession,” “temptation,” “desire” and the need to question what “is real” echo timeless, universal themes.

Something New” also comes with a Wagner co-write credit, and is framed off a 1950's “stroll” progression through fuzz bass and static percussion. Central vocal hook “don't ask the questions you don't want the answers to” is followed by a lovely descending guitar line that pitch-rises on the very end. Nimble songwriting design inserts an emotional lift on the lyrics “try – try – try – try something new.”  The Jay and Michelle self-produced and mixed “Give It A Chance” pairs twinkling electronic keyboards with slow-groove trip-hop-style drums. Keeping the focus on Michelle's impressive vocal performance, an obvious Motown-soul vibe permeates through it all.

The Wagner touch returns on “Without You” via driving pop-rock production and the never-far 50's-60's song arrangement. Guitar and fuzz bass serve as the dominant instruments, with a distinctive melody-line securing the necessary hook. An emotional high-point is reached with the lyrics “let me be ME” at the two and a half minute mark of this three minute song, underscoring precision songwriting. A minute and a half atmospheric instrumental interlude serves as a mid-point break in the album flow with “Master of My Thoughts.” Piercing, ambient guitar tones set the pace against expanding background resonance, before a timekeeping percussive track completes the mix.

A gentle acoustic guitar introduces the Michelle and Jay (only) penned “Fantasize.” Orchestral strings and a distant vibraphone sound provide additional support for Michelle's passionate vocal rendition. A rhythmic change commences with propulsive guitars taking over as the driving instrumental force. The desire to break out of “a haze of normality” is the motivation for this escape fantasy.  The illustrious Mr. Wagner returns as song co-writer on the guitar twangy, finger-snap click-tracked “Time For Action.” Recurring lyrical themes repeat (“master of my thoughts”) along with the overall sentiment of getting away from a bad situation. A more agitated and frantic nature permeates the sonic landscape, with numerous, wirey guitars modulating in varying intensity. The halfway point drops a sonic plateau (“my priceless treasure”) and start-stop percussion to dramatize the repeated title line.

A throttling bass-heavy guitar and crisp trap-drum approximation groove powers “See You Suffer” right out of the gate. As the lyrical story unfolds, interesting atonal keyboard stabs emerge, adding further emphasis. The sonic chaos peels back to only drums for the initial lyrical break “will you get what you deserve?” before rough-edged guitar reemerges. One more breakdown on the repeating (and echoed) title line – complete with whistling dive-bomb effects. “Let Me Be” doubles-down on the 1950's “stroll” spirit with it's continuous loop of slow progression arpeggio chords and deep tom drums. Tinkling bell enhancements flutter around front-and-center harmonized vocals, with tandem bass guitar and those aforementioned tom-toms building to the “please let me be” denouement.

Find out the myriad of ways to acquire this record HERE.

Previous Reviews of Paragon Cause on this site can be found HERE and HERE.

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Every once in a while something new shows up that captures the imagination to the point of making it impossible to ignore. The sheer sonic overload and multi-genre appropriation of 100 Gecs have put two twenty-something sound manipulators on a current rise to the head of whatever class this is. Combining a level of computer and engineering skills with DJ and gaming savvy, their 2019 breakout album “1000 Gecs” has set a new standard for Computer and autotuned vocal cyber-pop.

A recently dropped video for the "gec 2 Ü" remix (featuring Dorian Electra) from their forthcoming album “1000 gecs and The Tree of Clues” is a hyper-charged look at the anxiety of immediate communication gratification culture we now live in. Filmed remotely by each of the artists during this present state of isolation, clever humor shares equal space with the nightcore sonics.

Opening with bright piano notes and deep-bass synth rumble, the illusion of a porn-call-in line is established. “Hey – thanks for calling 100 gec-2u. Please hold while I connect you to a rock hard wet gec – who's just dying to talk to you.” As guest-remixer Dorian Electra is dialing in, their impossibly auto-tuned vocal states “I hear, your sighs, but I can't see your eyes” - at which point the screen splits 3 ways and the glitch party begins. Pushing the dubstep/nightcore/speeded-up-and-autotuned vocals even further, Dorian goes on “I don't know what your real name is but I want you so bad. I don't know how to be alone – I'm always picking up the phone.”

The bright piano notes serve as an anchor for the klicketty-percussion keeping time then frantically building to the over-the-top, oozing romantic chorus. Meanwhile, primary gecs Laura and Dylan move to (or in Dylan's case, already in) their respective spaces. “Wizard” Dylan appears to be the least obsessed with the phone, preferring instead to read an actual book printed on paper (my dude!). The myriad of sounds on said chorus where Dorian is “sitting here alone and I call you on the phone, I need love can you get to me now” incorporates rubbery bounce-ball-beats, shouting “Hey's!” DJ-scratch-approximations (on “can you get to me”). While that is happening, left-side-panel Laura is baking coins in the oven that “cook” into iPhones! While right-panel Dylan does his own cooking (a mushroom on the stove wearing wizard robes) Dorian hits the next hook - “but I like to pretend that you love me- everytime I imagine that you [ ] me – close my eyes I almost feel you hug me.” As Dorian gets more frantic – throwing phones in the toilet and peeing on them – left-side Laura gets mystical while right-side Dylan sits by his cinder block and sews his wizard hat, then does some trippy-trails juggling.

Nightcore/video-game sonics ratchets up until Dorian does their signature smash-glass-in-their-own-face move complete with “Dorian E-gec-tra” punch in. Phones are now being destroyed and urinated on at an alarming rate in all three panels enhanced by the sound of a crashing trap-drum set and whip-crack. The final segment show all three participants thrashing their hair wildly as the chorus repeats in yet-one-more manner of tempo and distortion.

If THAT appeals to you (it certainly amused and fascinated me) check out the video here:

Connect with 100 Gecs HERE and Dorian Electra HERE

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It was an absolute pleasure turning an analytical ear to the just released solo album by essential Yuck founding member Max Bloom. An often stated axiom that heartbreak and loss can be a powerful catalyst for making quality art is once again confirmed on his latest record “Perfume.” Crafting ten tracks that emphasize strong songwriting, a wider range of instrumentation is now heard on this artists work.

Opening track “To Be Alone” bursts right out of the gate with a thick orchestral synthesizer sound. That backs off for the verses which are better served with open space, piano accompaniment and solid power-ballad drumming. “You are the girl – that I love the most” is sung in a vocal style reminiscent of John Lennon's post-Beatles work (“Watching The Wheels” being prime example). The storytelling benefits from subtle rhythmic accents that both emphasize and prevent any static predictability. Ruminating on the condition of “being lonely,” the lyrics approach it more questioningly (“tell me how it feels?”) as opposed to any kind of pity party. A tasty guitar figure emerges near the songs mid-point, echoing the dominant melody like another vocal line. With those initial lush synth-strings making a brief return, another element emerges, tweaking the alarm-clock and piano break from the BeatlesDay In The Life.”

Cold Hard Light” drops clearly defined electric guitar riffs over acoustic strumming and full rock band pacing on what one might call a “cheerful” progression. The songwriting is crisp and precise, with a variety of quick rhythmic moments. While synths slowly find their way back into the mix, a long-and-wiry guitar solo outro caps off a perfectly joyous pop song. “Call Me When It's Over” positions closer to the surf-guitar alternative indie rock of previous band Yuck. The high register single note guitar lines paired with tandem bass notes and live sound drums float everything along at a measured pace. Melancholy permeates lyrics about being unable to replace clothes that are “warn and dirty” because of “memories sewn into the pockets.”

Thinking 'Bout You” injects some optimism into the mood with it's uptempo rhythm, usage of horns and remembering about “the good times that we had.” “Forever Now” introduces tremolo-guitar as a previously-unheard sonic element on the album, enhancing this straightforward four-on-the-floor chugger.   An inspired psychedelic guitar solo rips and curls, leading into bright horn section accents. “Bottle” doubles-down on the multi-layered guitar textures, first with a Smashing Pumpkins-like rhythmic opening, before laying in a rubbery melody-line on top of that. Singing about how awful a breakup feels - “where did we go wrong?” - “all those tears I cried” - lead up to a hook that references the album title - “when I smell your perfume – it pulls me under.”

Hooks abound on the laid back “It's Alright,” with it's acoustic guitar underpinings and melody driven easy going pace.  Friends always seem to think they “know what's best” and how everything's going to be “alright.”   “Happy Alone – Into Eternity” echoes the cadence and structure of The Beatles “Dig A Pony” - who Lennon himself appeared to be referencing Buddy Holly.  As expected this track meanders off in other directions, with a strong chorus and sparser guitar noodling against a purposed bass and drums.  A final, twangy western motif takes the song to it's conclusion.  The album's title track lays out a sentimental pop riff against mellotron ambiance while imploring one to “think of me when your drunk on Christmas Eve.” The theme of “lingering perfume” is a timeless one, and the pathos on display here gets right to the heart of it – as does the brilliantly passionate guitar solo.

The 10th and final track “Will It Last a Lifetime” is also the album's longest at 6 minutes in length. That allows for a slow build of confessional lyrics and the uniquely tailored instrumental passages to support that. While the song itself concludes shortly after the 5 minute mark, a curious reverberated piano piece is leads out the final :45 seconds.

Simply put, every song on this album is an impeccably crafted gem, and each one deserves to be heard in their entirely.

Follow Max Bloom on his social media here, where you can find out how to get this album.

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Making sure to check out recommendations from trusted sources more often than not opens your ears to something new and interesting. Such is the case with dream-pop duo Drab City, who combine an intriguing mix of dub, hip-hop and jazzy vibes into their aforementioned dreamy vocal sound. While the complete 10 song full-length album “Good Songs For Bad People” is scheduled for release on June 12, three tracks (complete with videos) have been released in advance.

Initial late February release “Working For The Men” is described as “a degraded service worker’s revenge ballad, imagining male tormentors brought to a violent end.” Reading the lyrics (helpfully pinned by the band on their videos) certainly back that up, describing a waterfront scenario where “the men hand me a silver penny, and watch me cleaning.” Dreaming of sail boats loaded with canons to blow the place up.  At slightly over 2 minutes, there's still enough audio diversion to make anything longer unnecessary.  Distinctive jazz-inflected guitar, abrupt flute accents and distant bell chimes support ethereal ghost-like vocals. Video imagery shows the duo (separately, cut together) in various stages of jittery behavior. A flamenco guitar solo ushers the track to it's conclusion.

Hand On My Pocket”comes wrapped around a hip-hop beat, vintage sine-wave synths, organ pulses and clean strummed guitars. Sandpaper-soft vocals tell a tale of poverty-driven motivation for a quick strike on the rich.

Late March video release “Devil Doll” rolls out a word-heavy fable at a measured, hypnotic pace. Drums,bass and vibraphone make up the primary audio components, although exotic instrumental breaks with warped flutes also find their way into the mix. The video itself is a single fixed camera black and white view of the band in a room with hanging bits of laundry and a bright floor light creating ominous shadows on their faces.

Late April (and current) video release “Troubled Girl” dips into the subject matter and vocal sound of early 60's girl group pioneers The Shangri-Las and seemingly runs it through a David Lynch/Twin Peaks filter. Video imagery adds brighter color to the female half, while her male counterpart mugs into the camera conveying an element of bizarre amusement.

Watch and listen here:

Connect with Drab City HERE

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With the release of their three-years-in-the-making first full-length album “Ghost Moon Ritual,” moody pacific coast duo Lunar Twin now share their electronic dream vision with the world. Over the course of that 3-year time period, Bryce Boudreau (vocalist/songwriter) and Chris Murphy (multi-instrumentalist/producer) crafted 13 songs in all, working from their respective locales of Hawaii and Salt Lake City.

First single “Slow Down” comes accompanied by a companion video adding imagery well-matched to the songs hypnotic, mystical nature.  Bass, drums and carefully-placed melodic instrumentation establish the initial rhythmic dynamic.  With a syntheszier introduction, the vocals begin: “lord knows – places that you've seen – paradise is emptiness – raindrops on your skin – slow down.” Delivered with distinctive, stylized phrasing – the mood sets in like a calming mantra.  Gorgeous imagery shot in the Sonoran and Mojave’s deserts of California and Mexico by director Juana Lopez complete the experience of mystery and wonder.  Additional home-movie style footage is also worked in, creating a nostalgic sense of memories with the family from a half-remembered past.

Other standout tracks like album opener “Drunken Sky” set the tone with elongated keyboard textures, hissing percussion and measured bass notes. With a slow-burning trip-hop groove underneath, vocals are delivered in a hushed whisper, reminiscent of the Jesus and Mary Chain's slower, more experimental work. “Leaves” emerges out of deep buzzing synths and a more active percussion track. Vocals come on with a sandpaper hue and natural tremolo at the end of each line, eliciting additionally pleasing similarities with the frequently compared to Mark Lanegan. “Hawks” builds out of rising electronic pulses, creating a sensation of fluttering wings before the unfolding poetic story that follows. “Free against the wind. High above this wilderness. Shadows on the rise. High upon your feral wing. Spirit never dies.”

Pick up the entire album HERE

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

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Feature Reviews For April 2020

In these times of heightened awareness on dealing with isolation and how to cope with it, no one is better prepared for this solitary pursuit than the writer. Already familiar with spending long hours by themselves, researching a chosen topic and then putting it to words, the current worldwide suggestion (requirement?) to “self-quarantine” seems almost redundant. With that in mind, the haven of newly released music from emerging artists takes on greater importance – now more than ever – in these times of careful distancing from casual human contact. Four new bands make their way into the April 2020 DaveCromwellWrites analytical universe, safely arriving through a digital shield.

The golden age of hazey gazey dreampop continues to inspire new generations of musicians looking to make their mark. An evolving interactive relationship with niche label Shoredive Records now provides a steady pipeline of current releases from the best of these artists. The latest from them catching this sites attention (their 42nd release) is London, England's Velveteen.

With the release of their latest EP “Bluest Sunshine,” the band shows a clear affinity for the early 90's developmental years that brought us all those incredible albums from My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Cocteau Twins, Boo Radleys and Swervedriver.

Opening track “Get Real” jumps right to it with a swirling wash of dissonance, before bass-note guitar strums, bright synth-bursts (with dramatic cymbal crash accompaniment) is met with explosive pitch-bended guitar melodies over syncopated percussion. Belinda Butcher-like vocals commence and the already converted (me) are instantly swept away into that blissful romantic confusion this sound never fails to provide. There's a dragging sensation to this track, doubling-down on a time-space-continuum feeling. It's gorgeously lush, with all spaces filled in nearly all the time. Multi-layered male and female voices float in, out and over each other as an alternate universe melody drives a dagger into your heart.

Follow-up track”You Got It Down” comes on a bit heavier with thicker drum underpinings and male vocal emphasis. The guitars saw harder here as well, with punchy root-note bass guitar holding the explosive chord progression together. Vocal lines get delivered in a rising style where the last word in each line is held longer. A mere :40 seconds in and the first change is hit with gorgeous blending of spiraling downward voices and subsequent words “lift my feet off the ground.” The 2 minute mark (of a relatively short 2:42 length song) drops in a growling, wah-wah pedal solo, leading out to the final :22 second ambient coda.

First single “Fall Under” takes it's cue from the classic MBVLoveless” tracks “When You Sleep” and “I Only Said” for spiritual inspiration, rather than any direct copying. While that signature sound of high-pitched guitar melody ushers in this new track with inverted familiarity, enough care is taken to ensure a legitimate stab at originality is undertaken. It's a beautiful hook that's presented, showing a clear affinity for the masterwork that continues to inspire on a daily basis, without ever devolving into simple copycat structures.  Low key blended vocals make you wonder if elements of Kevin Shields' revealing admission that certain vocal tracks sounding like boy-girl were simply one voice slowed down paired with the same one speeded up to create that dreamy effect, might also have been employed here as well. This cut makes impressive use of minor key changes that create a melancholy feel in places. At 4:35 in length, there is ample room for soothing “oooooh's” underneath that dominant composition hook. Another level of sonic washes enters the mix at 2:45, complete with descending chord progression. A final minute and a half of “mini holocaust” ensues, wrapping up quite nicely this homage to greatness.

EP title track “Bluest Sunshine” falls closest to the “dreampop” genre, with it's shapeless shimmering guitars and rat-a-tat snare drum intro. Floating changes fold and meld into segments that alternate between romantic sensations and slightly off-kilter moments. It's overall slow-motion feel is enhanced by angelic chorus vocals that repeatedly emphasize lines with a rising tonal note. While the guitars double-down on formless ambiance, steady marching percussion provides a grounding point for it's forward motion. The final minute has the percussion dropping out entirely, with the guitar and bass now playing more clearly defined structures.

To acquire this EP, go here:

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With the release of their full-length album “Agitprop Alterna,” Peel Dream Magazine - the collective fronted by NYC musician Joe Stevens shares it's latest single “Is It My Body” as an additional reference point to a sound that is both unique and appealingly familiar.

While previous singles “Pill” and “Emotional Devotion Creator” paid homage to a sound most associated with genre creator My Bloody Valentine, third single “Is It My Body” leans into that period's softer side, which featured bands like Stereolab, Broacast and Lilys. With a percussion track sounding as if borrowed from an early 1970's living room organ, clean unaffected guitar chords strum out a sentimental melody. As a single male voice delivers the title line, female vocals enter the mix adding airy countermelody. A descending keyboard line follows, with further movement provided by twinkling synth textures around the edges. Those alternating (yet layered) vocal lines play off each other in a manner suggesting the timeless appeal of legends The Swingle Singers. The tracks mid-point introduces one more vocal segment where quicker-paced voices in a third melodic variation layer progressively, reinforcing that “swingle singer” effect.

As for the song's subject matter, the author describes it as an “anthem against people who want to exert power over you and make you feel small… a reminder that you don’t owe anyone anything.” The whole album speaks to a broader theme of personal freedom and the need for constant vigilance against manipulation and misinformation. The album cover references critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who examined "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception."

Acquire this album on all the streaming platforms here:

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A recent discovery to this site is the Toronto based Canadian acid-punk / post-hardcore / progressive-screamo band Pilcrow.  Their most recent recording to date, 2018's “Fever Dreams” serves up five tracks of hyper-charged aggression that is equal parts meticulous and chaotic.

Opening track “Doves” is an aggressive full-on assault with sharp, angular precision guitar work playing essentially non-stop while a rhythm section of bass and drums batter away with ferocity. Vocals are delivered with the type of screamo intensity suitable for smashing whatever it is bothering you to pieces. With lyrics depicting a potential post-apocalyptic scenario - “time's swollen gluttony eats you alive - trade your blood for fuel,” it appears this “dove” has been cornered and is fighting back with intensity.

Lungs” continues with the above formula, adding more angularity to feverish guitarwork intertwined with busy, note-heavy bass guitar and mad-scramble drumming.  A particularly angular buzz-note figure slices through the rhythms as melody-free vocal screams add the necessary level of existential angst. Alternating lines between two vocalists suggests possible inspiration from fellow genre operatives Blood Brothers.

Intricate guitar figures usher in the third (and longest) track “Shapeshifter,” juxtaposed against poly-rhythmic bass guitar and percussion. While the band frequently uses the word “punk” in their self-descriptive tags, the composition and playing here is far too sophisticated for that simpler three-chord genre. This leans closer to prog-metal, or one of their other more accurate self-descriptive tags: post-hardcore. A tempo change occurs midway through, speeding everything up – while underscoring the authenticity of three advanced rock musicians playing together in a studio with minimal (if any) overdubs.

Crash The Bus” builds off of a vibrating bass guitar pulse before the drums and guitars jump quickly into the fray with feverishly jagged figures. With vocals more shouted (rather than screamed) this time, a dominant bass guitar powers everything forward. A surprising (and amusing) pause under a minute in bubbles like a ray-gun blast before the band and vocals lurch in once more. Sophisticated rhythmic changes emerge underneath at the minute and half mark, with well-defined guitar licks interspersed between the chord progression.

Final cut “Hackfraud” serves up another three and a half minutes of combative rhythms, guttural vocals and speed-note guitars. Oftentimes lead riff guitar and bass are locked in tandem with cymbal-heavy percussion throttling away underneath. Sharp-cornered tempo-changes emerge for 10 seconds or so, before dropping out to a solo bass guitar moment. That leads into one more level of rigorous and oblique guitar and bass riffage.

This is not pretty music and certainly not for the meek. It is, however, presented with a high-level of musicianship.

Listen to and acquire this music here:

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It had been a little over four years since Austin, Texas rockers Ringo Deathstarr put out a new full-length album, however the recent release of their latest self-titled effort now offers up 13 new songs. Having featured the band 10 times here on this site dating back to 2011 (with live shows attended as early as 2009, and most recently this past November) the opportunity to dig into these current tracks provides it's own unique adventure.

The under two minute opening track “Nagoya” is a beatless exercise in ambiance and twilight (or early a.m.) mindset, surely inspired by the bands numerous Japanese tours (being the largest city in the Chubu region). “God Help the One's You Love”- the first to receive a video release – emerges out of Alex Gehring's bass progression and Daniel Coborn's muffled-toms drum pattern – before centering around multiple layers of Alex's voice, pitched into an angelic chorus. A classic two-chord back-and-forth rhythm and Alex's busy bass line drives along the humorously ironic titled “Gazin.” The second song (so far) to be paired with accompanying video, the 'might-as-well-go-with-it' attitude here has not gone unnoticed. “Once Upon a Freak” taps into the artificial world of studio recording with it's backward tracking intro. A bright snare-drum shot adds balance to the pitch-bended guitars and alternately smooth and then oddball vocals. Momentary stop-start breaks and rising motion segments further contribute to the tracks nearly 4 minute length.

Unfortunately now a song for our times, the gentle Alex solo-sung “Disease” takes on a more universal meaning along with the artists initial sentiment. “Just Like You” returns to the style more associated with their recent trash-can sound and alternating boy-girl vocals. The tandem-sung rising chorus has “classic RD” stamped all over it. “In Your Arms” delves into odd textures of fuzz, hybrid-percussion and more sweet rising Alex vocals. If we could get this track to Eno, he might call it “the NEW vaguest pop song” he ever heard. “Heaven Obscured” picks up the pace somewhat, while dipping the bucket back into the (apparently bottomless) well of dreamy, angelic Alex vocals. A more structured vocal melody in the back half present clearer lyrical predilection. “Lazy Lane” pairs solid deep-tom drumming with warped-vinyl guitar textures, clutter-bombs of vocals and nursery-rhyme lyrics about takin' it easy, y'all.  “The Same Again” (another ironic title?) doubles-down on the warped-for-no-good-reason sonics, while master sticksman Daniel Colborn does his best jazz-combo tribute underneath.
Be Love” dips back into that mechanical percussion period of “madchester loop drumming” while sugary Alex'n'Elliot's harmonize with “makin' sweet love down by the fire” vocals. Props must be given to Elliot for a particularly gritty, callous and all together much-too-rude guitar solo. Apparently the table-saw next door was malfunctioning and the lower frequencies from that mishap leaked onto this track. “I Don't Want to Lose This” employ those reverse-loop-violin-sounding guitars that Mr. Shields made a name for himself with, lo these many years ago. Alternating vocals morph from breathy-to-sung-out-fully with angel Alex floated down from the cloud (everything's stored on “the cloud” now, right? Wherever the hell that is) from time to time. Some low-pitched spoken word narration adds one final level of weird. Early commentary fan-favorite “Cotton Candy Clouds” opens with Alex singing in 1-2-3 waltz cadence, before the full dinosaur stomp of the band crashes in. At over five minutes (the longest track on the record) there is ample room for FX-enhanced guitar heroics, making mirror-posed air-guitar participation almost a requirement. Momentary gentle passages provide breathing-room relief from the lumbering sludge preceding it. Not too worry as piercingly precise guitar riffage returns to the fray, leading into another round of thunderous muck (and mire). It's all capped off with a final coda of “angel Alex (TM)” chorused like Shelley Fabares on “Johnny Angel.”

Overall Fave Track:  "Be Love"

This album is out now and streaming worldwide.   Consume it here:

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

New Music Releases - March 2020

The relatively early stages of new year 2020 forges onward, and with it comes enough global fears of pandemics and economic turmoil to rival what were once considered too far-fetched to be true doomsday scenarios. It's as if the T-Veronica virus depicted in those outlandish Resident Evil movies are merely months away from consuming us all. So, while many now hunker down in their homemade bunkers in a desperate attempt to avoid contact with the “infected,” it seems only fitting for this months DaveCromwellWrites feature to focus solely on recordings from the more interesting (and still surviving – at least as of this writing) musicians.

Originating out of the Western Australian city of Perth, psych rockers Mystery Tapes have now released their new single “Cold Habit.” Described by songwriter/producer/guitarist and vocalist Zack Yusof as an attempt at modernized blues/country-style lyrics enhanced through the sonic prism of today's pedal-board FX accompaniment, shows insight with the creative process.

The track slowly rises out of churning, overtone-floating guitar chords and singular stomping beat, as bass guitar slithers in with the fuller percussion accompaniment. This complete, three-piece electric rock band lays out the progression with an initial bursts of doom-laden flair, before dialing it back for the opening vocal salvo. “I don't remember – got no recollection – I never hear the words you say. I can't connect you – I don't believe you.You had your chance to walk away.” The progression runs through again and it's melody becomes that much more strikingly noticeable, with those forward driving guitar chords adding upward tonal movement. Clean, poly-rhythmic drums and cymbals hit punctuation points, locked on with the bass, creating an appealing undercurrent to the melody happening over top.

Dialing back the instruments once more, the lyrical story continues: “I don’t really get you- I don’t really want to - I’ll turn your flowers into clay. I will reject you - But I don't regret you - I live to fight another day.” As the band intensifies with its underlying groove, a series of guitar filigrees are unleashed over top. The emotional vibe of old blues storytelling continues with these essential hook lyrics: “You got played right from the start. You would have known if you were smart. I stuck around just to tear you apart. It’s made of stone, my frozen heart. Pierce your soul with my poison dart. You should have seen it right from the start.”

As the percussion momentarily drops back, guitars chime with tension that leads to re-entry by the rhythm section and a series of vocal “ahhhh's.” With those vocals floating above, the band churns on with even more ferocity, before a final 30 seconds of psychedelic backward guitar looping.

Wisely employing the Creative Mastering skills of iconic 90's producer (and so much more) Kramer made certain this track can now be heard in it's best possible condition.

The digital track "Cold Habit" by Mystery Tapes is now available on all the major streaming platforms, including HERE.

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Alternative rock is a genre designation that includes a wide range of styles under that singular heading. The mid-western US locale of Canton, Ohio serves as the home base for I Fight Fail, a three piece emo/hardcore-melodic-pop unit that have recently released their latest single “All I Am.”

A universally appealing clarion call riff on the tracks introductory hook soon gives way to measured bass guitar notes and the emotionally delivered vocal lyrics that follow. “Find my heart, and rip it out. Everything is quiet now - one last kiss, so make it count” comes wrapped in an affecting sentiment. Busy drums jump into the mix, adding an excitable element underneath this unfolding story of how “I dreamt of a girl with one blind eye, surrounded by clouds and falling skies. Some how I knew I had, I had to make her mine”.  The dream world is so often a nightly source of our creative thoughts, and that particular imagery alone presented in this song is an insightful example of it.

The central hook and thematic statement “We're never awake till we wake up, we never feel till we feel numb” is first arrived at in a more sparsely ambient audio state – allowing that sentiment to initially sink in before subsequent pass-through's come delivered with full-force intensity.  That explosiveness first arrives on yet-another hook (in a song full of many) referencing its title “All I am is gone. All I am is lost.”

Deeper, tom-tom heavy percussion underpins a second verse that references “trenches,” “pacing figure eights” and “infinity” with vocals progressively enhanced by shimmering higher-pitched harmonies. While the two dominant hooks cycle through again with alternating spaciousness and fury, a centrally located sparse instrumental break sets the stage for one more build-up, culminating in a triumphant hook-heavy conclusion. The final 20 seconds sees the vocals increasingly obscured, as if slipping back into the the dream state once more.

The track is now streaming everywhere (including HERE) and you can connect with the band here:


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The Brighton, England independent music label Shore Dive Records is always good for a steady stream of intriguing new music. Specializing in limited edition releases, they provide a treasure trove of worthy material otherwise obscured by larger entities hammering away with oftentimes less creative (but more heavily financed) promotion. One such band finding it's way onto the DaveCromwellWrites landscape is the Russian collective COSme. While the announcement of Shore Dive reissuing the band's debut album came a month or so back (release number 34), the positive impression made on first (and repeated) listen(s) requires this deeper analysis. The principal members of COSme emerged from 90's era dreamy noise-gaze band PLASTICA. The 10 track album “Lost Generation” was initially released in 2018, with this Shore Dive reissue at the beginning of 2020.

Video single "Newclear" is a sonic and visual tour-de-force, melding its brilliant dreamgaze guitar, bass and electronic percussion track against imagery alternating between beautiful creation and total world annihilation.   Devastating atomic destruction shares equal space with the exploding beauty of flowers bursting into bloom.  Classic gaze guitar imagery comes superimposed with sizzling sparklers and celebratory fireworks.  Add to that an idyllic blue-haired chanteuse singing sweetly, further serving this juxtaposition of heavenly bliss with total Armageddon.

Clever placement of politicians and their frighteningly sweet smiles are blended together with world-destroying mushroom clouds.  Rockets blast off, flowers bloom at hyperspeed while the instrumentation holds in a bridge-like pattern for emphasis.  As engulfing billowy textures fly away in reverse motion (representing nuclear winter?) the blue haired beauty returns to sing and swoon with a seductive charm.  An interesting keyboard melody emerges at the songs mid-point, and skeletal arms strum downward on those pitch-bended guitars. The song and video combined is a truly creative masterpiece.

The band has just released a brand new track “Adore You” which employs similar levels of quick strummed guitars, pitch-bended whammy-bar techniques and mechanized percussion.  The combination of those elements position the track along the same lines as the classic My Bloody Valentine track “Soon.” Vocals are delivered by a male voice and come wrapped in a gorgeous processed sheen. The tracks mid-point doubles-down on that sheering gaze-guitar effect that has always blurred the line between musical instrument and some kind of industrial machinery. While the lyrics are written and sung in Russian, the single line designation: “dedicated to the one I love” (and the tracks title) pretty much says all you really need to know.

Check out this track RIGHT HERE.

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Canadian duo Paragon Cause have been working feverishly on new material since putting out their wonderful EPLies Between Us” last Autumn (and fully reviewed here).  A brand new single titled “Lost Cause” is now set for official release on March 20th, with DaveCromwellWrites lending an ear and analysis to the inner workings of this track.

Scheduled as the first single off imminent full-length “What We Started,” the song's meaning emerged from songwriter and vocalist Michelle Opthof's frustration over the difficulties women sometimes face in dealing with the criminal justice system. Combining that with the more universal element of a relationship coming to an end, and the realization that the individual responsible for the damage done truly IS a lost cause. Working seamlessly with bandmate Jay Bonaparte and producer/fellow-musician Sune Rose Wagner, Paragon Cause will also include a sci-fi graphic novel story along with the record.

The track itself builds out of measured electronic beat percussion that makes use of bass-drum, snare and highhat approximations with strategically placed deep echoed singular shots. A classic synth-flute sine wave enters the mix which quickly fills in with additional keyboard-driven notes and a deep low-end synth bass. The alternating rising, then descending melody line coupled with these synths tonal qualities hearken back to the rock-dance music of the golden early 80's era. There's an orchestral element to it all as well, providing a stylistic anthem backdrop for the lyrics that follow. “You've taken more than your fair share – It doesn't seem to bother you” is how the story unfolds, against sparser backing of stripped-down percussion, single-note synth stabs and a deep-rumble rising bass-synth line.

The instrumental passage following essential lyric “Crushing souls to replace things you've lost” brings back that lush opening orchestral layered-keyboards hook, adding subtle percussive details in the process, such as reverberated tambourine strikes. It all builds towards the dramatic vocal reading (and tracks emotional center) “The scars remain – you should have to pay – more than them.”

Listen to the radio edit of this song HERE.

And check out the video made for it HERE.

You can Pre-Order the soon-to-be-released album "What We Started" HERE.

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