CromsWords

1

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Consolidated Reviews on New Music, Video and Pop Culture

Wading through the constant barrage of entertainment options (and information in general) can be a daunting task. The choices made are driven by everything you know up to this point, along with where you'd like to direct your experiences going forward. Included along with the impressive new music reviewed here in this month of April are references to “pop culture” influences that have also captured the imagination. Three separate recorded works receive this sites distinguished individual track analysis alongside noteworthy (and insightful) divertissement.

Finding their way into the DaveCromwellWrites universe is the Burbank, California music label Big Stir Records. Fielding contact messages from multiple social media directions (IM's, emails), recognition of their worthy output was a near immediate experience. Based out on the West Coast USA, the label features artists from all over the US, UK, Sweden and Germany.


Initial motivation comes by way of label runners own band The Armoires and their full-length album (18 tracks!), which was initially delivered in a series of mysterious single releases culminating in the collection aptly titled “Incognito.”


Leading off this fully pulled together collection is a cover of John Cale's 1973 album title track “Paris 1919.” Where Cale's original relies heavily on orchestral instrumentation (string quartet, French horns) along with his customary piano chords, the Armoires quicken the pace and lean on guitars, drums and a more driving violin for a punchier sound. Additionally, Cale's densely layered lyrics are now delivered via the bands signature dual harmonies of lead vocalists Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome. That tandem vocal quality is instantly appealing, providing a unique thread throughout all of the tracks.


A quick-strum acoustic guitar in three-quarter “waltz time” kicks off follow-up cut “(Just Can't See) The Attraction.” With Rex out front on the opening lyrics, Christina harmonies fall in quickly on this quirky tale of “he and she” relationship. That strong violin helps drive things along once again, provided here and throughout the album by Christina's daughter Larysa (decidedly more “country” than “classical.”) “It's a recipe for disaster, but that recipe tasted too sweet” is how the lyrical hook goes, underscoring an overall theme of an unlikely pairings ultimate success.

The humorous and biting commentary on present-day social media issues is duly noted on the proggy “I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site From Orbit.” Ticking off the now often repeated acts of “unsubscribe, un-trend, unlike, un-care,” evolves into “anti social media – anti social structure – I need to tag and tag again.” Eventually posing the ultimate question - “if I go viral, do I win?” As the track progresses, swirling vocal layers create the sensation of “lifting off” from the planet, while clever use of the lyrics “listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise” (the opening lines from Fleetwood Mac's “The Chain”) are dropped in for good measure.


Additional covers of note include the 1970 hit am radio single “Yellow River” by British band Christie. Moving a decade ahead, the Armoires do an interesting take on 80's “new wave” progressive pop hit “Senses Working Overtime” by English rock band XTC. On that particular update, the band replace Andy Partridge's initial acoustic guitar with Christina's piano, as well as fleshing out the originals reedy solo vocal via signature dual harmonies. This being one of those universally popular “number count” songs, Partridge credits the 1964 Manfred Mann hit song “5-4-3-2-1” as inspiration.

Another stand-out track (that comes with an official video release) is the song “Great Distances.” Built around Christina's piano chords, thundering tom-tom percussion, dual layer acoustic and chiming Rickenbacker guitars, a tale comparing physical travel with life's internal journey unfolds. The lyrics are sharp and witty, with a memorable line “we didn't wrap our heads around the truth because heads don't bend like that.” Instrumental passages are further enhanced by Larysa's emotive violin and a driving bass guitar that create counter-melodies of their own. The limiting of people's mobility over the last year makes lines like “we could have traveled great distances together – if we had only known” even more poignant. Repeated phrase “but you were beautiful then, and you'll be beautiful now” is ultimately inverted to “and you were beautiful now and you'll be beautiful then” for the songs final sentiment.



Find out more about The Armoires and their label Big Stir at their Official Site, Facebook and Instagram.

*  *  *  *  *

Certain things can tickle the mind, fascinating on both a humorous and investigative level. Having an interest in history, legendary lore and pop culture films (along with having to endure an advanced math class or two over the last few years) made discovery of the “juicedratic equation” appealing on a number of levels. For those as of yet uninformed, the reason Starburst candy's are so juicy is due to a secret equation that is kept inside a safe, inside a vault, inside a volcano.


Why are there three nested containers for the juicedratic equation? One must look at the previously established quadratic equation: “a” times “x” squared plus “b” times “x” plus “c” is equal to zero. Three terms. And “a” cannot be zero. You end up getting a parabola if you graph a quadratic equation. In Physics, we see a parabola in the path that a projectile takes (one launched, thrown, or fired, but not self-propelled), assuming no friction loss. (Think: Angry Birds without the boosters.) Another example is Einstein’s famous equation of “E” equal to “mc” squared, just with terms moved around. The quadratic equation can be useful, and not just a frustrating equation to be solved in an Algebra class.


We know why the juicedratic equation can never be proven. It’s locked inside a safe, inside a vault, inside a volcano. And who is going to the volcano to retrieve it? First, which volcano? Who has enough free time to check all the volcanoes out, and what of those under the sea?


When viewing the clip below, one can relate to the sense of satisfaction the worker (on break here – but you can tell he's a hard worker) has with his stated recognition of both wonder and relief: “Ahh – juicedratics.” OF COURSE!


*  *  *  *  *

Reading the promotional material for a band calling themselves The Forty Nineteens and their album “New Roaring Twenties” peaked a level of curiosity that continued incrementally, wading through it all. Having worked in law firms for many years, the revelation that two criminal defense attorneys front the band created additional motivation to check them out. Forming the band while working in the San Diego courts, they landed on a name that is something said by every judge in every courtroom in the state of California. That term is "Forty Nineteen," and a 4019 credit is time off the sentence of a detainee who behaves in jail.


That clever notation aside, what does their music sound like? It's definitely rock music, but we all know there are many sub-genre's of that illustrious hybrid sound (the 1950's collision of Country with Rhythm and Blues). Opening cut “It's For Fun (That's All We're Living For)” taps into that favorite bar band feel, sounding like Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes (or even Springsteen) in their early club playing days. Follow-up cut “Tell Me” takes the “I Want Candy” drum beat and turns it on it's head. The chorus is catchy and there's even some cool slide guitar enhancements in-between repeated vocal hooks.


Late Night Radio” has a chugging downward chord progression similar to the 1967 hit “Bend Me Shape Me.” However coincidentally (or perhaps not so) this recording features contributions from The Standells legendary guitarist Tony Valentino, who's own mid-60's hit “Dirty Water” is as popular in some circles today as it was back then.


We're Going To Las Vegas” successfully blends the spirit of Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley is a good time just over two minute rocker. “Go Little GTO” doubles down on the above while shaving six seconds off the previous tracks total time. “Time Marches On” serves up a stomping rhythm under a tale about growing older through the prism of “old friends.” “You've Got Stardust Eyes” packs a number of rhythmic hooks and changes (including it's catchy chorus) within a tidy two and three quarter minutes.


Somewhat surprisingly, the tracks actually get stronger as the album progresses. “I'm Always Questioning Days” embraces a Tom Petty energy, with insightful lyrics about how misleading so much of this life is. “Some have the answers, or so they say – but they don't give all the secrets away. They don't tell me – what I need to know.” For sure “they” don't. We have to do the hard work and figure it out for ourselves. The following cut “It's The Worst Thing I Could Do” is a hard charging rocker that showcases the best of slashing power chords, tambourine rattle, harmonious vocal interplay and good-timey piano.


You're The Kind Of Girl” rolls all of the previously mentioned influences above into a pop song that bridges the decades between 50's and 80's rock and roll radio. Eddie Cochran's “Summertime Blues” (marvelously covered by The Who, especially on Live at Leeds) right up through The Romantics.


Final track “We Can't Change” makes quality use of the tremolo guitar effect on this chugging mid-tempo rocker. “I don't want it, you don't want it, we don't want it” becomes the primary sing-along vocal refrain.



The full album is out on April 24 and can be found here.

*  *  *  *  *

It's rare that too much time passes before another Shoredive Records release turns up in a DaveCromwellWrites review. This time a Russian collective calling themselves Secrets Of The Third Planet (which we all know from Jimi Hendrix's “Third Stone From The Sun” - is Earth) has recently reissued a 10th Anniversary Edition of their EP “Lost In Reverie.” Originally recorded and released in 2011, the new-to-this-writer tracks encompass that timeless sound of all the great “gazey” bands.


This now makes the second Shoredive Records reissue of Russian gaze covered here, with the wonderful COSme getting detailed feature writing a year ago, and ultimately included in the annual Best Of collection. This particular group (who also refer to themselves via the abbreviation “S3P”) started out as a solo project of Eugene Frankevich, eventually evolving into the fuller band represented here.


The near seven minute opening cut “Still” emerges out of singular droning hum before cymbal-and-snare-shot heavy percussion, steady bass and a driving guitar line set the proper melody in motion. The combined guitar and bass emphasize each of the progressions chords, quickly establishing a classic dreampop romanticism. As rising guitar layers are added, sensations of what The Cure at their dreamiest has done comes to mind. The track plateau's a minute and a half in, where all drops out, leaving a singular keyboard pad. Arpeggiated electronic keyboards then begin, pushing the composition into a motorik direction, while additional keyboard and guitar melody lines provide slower moving counterpoint. Layers continue to build as drums let loose in a jammy-in-the-studio way, while gazey guitar rhythms push to the fore, creating an ambient swirl of pure blissed-out cacophony.


Follow-up track Дыши (and it IS fun to cut and paste these mysterious, unreadable titles) combines angels-on-clouds ambience, ticking high-hat percussion and the first vocal performance from Eugene. While the voices serve only as another “instrument” (unable to decipher what is actually being said), lovely dreamlike passages exemplify the universally timeless appeal of dreamgaze music.  Third cut Диафильм(Feat.WEO) introduces a female component with vocals and lyrics by Daria X. With it's introductory thumping heartbeat percussion and single-note ambient wash, Daria's vocal achievement commences with ardent motivation. More traditional pop-rock figures are put forward, giving the song an appealing balance between haze and harmony. Emphasis is firmly placed on the mysterious (to this listener) vocals, however the passion conveyed transcends any language barrier. Explosive moments of full-sonic-field fireworks are pitched against quieter moments, culminating in a gazey liftoff to the heavens.


Drone, buzz and distant angelic voices are joined by more motorik percussion on fourth track “Tonight.” Pulsing keyboards create counter-melodies to Eugene's static, chanted and heavily echoed vocals, giving the song a Jesus and Mary ChainBarbed Wire Kisses” feel. “Autumn Song” leans on bass guitar for rhythmic structure, allowing keyboards to delineate melodies that morph between major and minor key. Peter Hook era New Order would approve. Final cut “E-A(Lost in reverie) Feat.WEO,” brings back vocalist/lyricist Daria X to add her magic to this EP title track. With the two vocalist delivering their parts separately, flutey keyboard lines juxtapose against shimmering guitars.

Check out this wonderful EP here:



*  *  *  *  *

Returning to the axis where music, pop culture and inventive creativity converge, one of the flat-out best shows going today – The Boys – has given us all an anthem for the ages. Of course I'm referring to the gorgeous (and current crush) Erin Moriarty in her role as super hero “Starlight”. Watch and listen below as her incredible musical tribute to a fallen comrade tugs at ALL of our heart-strings. Because – “No – YOU guys are the real heroes!



*  *  *  *  *

Friday, March 19, 2021

Immersive Reviews of New Music and Video Productivity

The evolution of how we use Social Media to connect with others over the last decade has been a curious one. For those of us who are musically driven, the early aughts gave us MySpace as a place to interact. That morphed over to YouTube, Facebook (still hanging in there as far as topic specific groups go) and ultimately over to Instagram. Although aware now of other emerging platforms, for this writer - FB and IG for the most part remain more than sufficient. Not particularly interested in perfecting “dance moves” or being a product-hawking “influencer,” most of the new “take silly videos of yourself” outlets are of little interest. What does that have to do with this sites current crop of music reviews? Quite simply, you never know who you will eventually run into again a decade later. With that cryptic aside, we now commence with the March 2021 DCW Feature.


It's easy to see the appeal of Queens, NY-based edgy power-pop duo Yo Kinky. Having only established themselves a year ago, the duo of Laura Wight and Tom Unish have created an enticing five song EP that is accompanied by a number of attractive, cleverly realized videos. While guitars, keyboards and drum machines provide the musical foundation for each excellent song, it is the confident intelligence, charm and determined energy of front-woman Laura that sets them apart from many other male/female duos.


However the recorded music is more than just an individuals stylistic image, as EP opening track “Wire” attests to. With a minimal percussive beat setting things in motion, an angular, descending guitar progression takes over with rich tonal quality. Laura immediately establishes a distinct personality with soft-to-forceful vocal phrasings (often within one line) while busier bass-guitar patterns emerge underneath (“anyone can tell I'm in love with you.”) Bubbling keyboard effects soon join in adding one more sonic element. Repeating the same lines throughout a song can become static if the vocalist lacks expression. Fortunately that is not the case with Laura who finds multiple ways to recite them (“the last thing I wanna do is fight with you,”) capping it all off with the universal “Ooh, Ooh, Oooh!”  A brand new video for this song has just emerged and can be viewed via this link.


First single and video “Someone I used to know” shows the band putting their best foot forward in every way. Kicking off with long-view nighttime city lights, buzzing synth-bass and drums have a near-techno-house feel. Quick cuts to a glamorous face, form-fitting gloves and jacket (with punk-rock skull and crossbones pattern) has the voluminously coiffed Laura delivering come-hither lines while strutting seductively-fun down the street. With each line carefully delivered “I know you, and I are gonna have a rad time - Full of bad taste, of neat humor - We'll kick the rat race, enjoy the rumors”- credit goes to the performer and director for this perfect synchronicity. As deep tom-tom drums lead into the title-line chorus, an amusing (to me, anyway) overlay of Tom's head provides a “gazey” background vocal face while Laura continues the flirtatious pull with lines “all there's left is you” (pointing her blue-leathered glove right at you).


All of the lyrics and vocal line deliveries are most-enticing, coming on with a street-smart lingo and attitude. However, this writer is particularly fond of the line “I'm a glutton for typeface boys and girls.” Two minutes in (on this three-and-a-quarter minute song) Tom gets his “rock star” moment, standing solo in the street with guitar in hand, dropping that heavy hook riff. The final near-rap-like boastful lyric “I've heard the gunshots right below my window panes-I've always spit out: one day I'll make it rain” sound more believable coming from the casually-confident person delivering them. One video commenter said Laura reminded them of Anna Kendrick, and I can see that. Big personality and pretty face in a diminutive frame. We all have our points of reference. Since I'm presently binge-watching every season of “The Americans” (a show I continually planned to see but conflicts always prevented it), I can see similarities with Keri Russell – a much younger version.

Check out this super cool video here:


At under two minutes long, “Lonely Love” gets to the point right away in classic punk-rock fashion. Hard charging distorted electric guitar with pummel thumping drums and bass set the way for Laura's crisp vocals over top. Laying out a story where rhyming couplets “the might is right” are paired with “the dark goes light” soon spins into a double-time prison yarn (didn't see that coming). With mentions of “sing sing,” “rikers” and potential breakouts, images from Escape At Dannemora come flooding back into view.


Another track benefitting from an accompanying video release is the bouncy guitar-driven “Resistance.” Chiming, indie-clean chords are matched against machine-driven trap-drumset approximations and appropriately synched bass (sounding like – well, a complete three piece rock band). The sweetly alluring (and frankly, dazzling) smile of Laura (not to mention those cheekbones) come presented in three distinct visual scenarios. The first has her sat at kitchen table wearing a robe and character defining wig (wavy and pyramid shaped) from decades ago. Next is a more modern style – almost go-go-girl-like with white lacy dress and long straight hair – but she's trapped in a box inside a dirty warehouse. Last shows the time-honored 'damsel-in-distress' – tied to railroad tracks – with 1920's-era fingerwave hairstyle – bringing to mind the look in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.


A subtle buzzing synth joins in behind they lyrics “Everybody's just around the corner now. Everything I need is just a short walk down the street.” A this point the scenarios begin to change, becoming more distressed. We see the 'go-go-girl' is chained at the ankles with water slowly filling the container she's trapped in. Morning coffee and cigarette robe-woman now has flames coming up from underneath – cleverly recreating that popular “this is fine” meme. Damsel on the tracks is already “in distress,” but we get to see more close-ups of that pretty screen-icon face and listen to the sweet vocals. But what is the song actually about? “Sight got back, I feel different, a flicker in the distance. More like you, more like him, more home- sans resistance,” is how the minor-key hook-chorus goes. So - “sans” resistance- that is to say - “no” resistance. As Laura let's loose with impressive vocal range “Oooooh's,” Tom unleashes more aggressive, harsher-toned guitar lines. Clever use of cardboard train coming at the damsel, and all three victims meet their demise (burn, drown and presumably run over by a train) – that is until the coda image of robed breakfast woman lighting up her cigarette from the burning flower on her table.

Watch the whole fun video and listen to the equally great tune here:


Final track “Stretch” kicks off with an angular percussive pattern favoring altered snare and tom-tom tones (oddly bringing to mind Mick Fleetwood's bizarro marching band thumping on the Fmac track “Tusk”). Choppy FX's-free electric guitar and bass engage in a descending progression before Laura commences her extremely-wordy vocal presentation. Morphing between a friendly-sneer street-lingo style and longer held notes, the effect bears similarities to Lene Lovich's delivery on her late 70's/early 80's era alterna-hit “Lucky Number.”


Telling a tale about coming-of-age females growing up in LA, (hitchhiking, etc) – that scene from “One Upon A Time In Hollywood” where Brad Pitt's “Cliff Booth” eventually gives some flirty and forward jailbait a ride to the Spahn Movie Ranch comes to mind. The chorus is one of those “number count” songs where “30 40 50 60 70 80 90” are recited in succession, followed by “Ain’t no way the best year got behind me.” Twisty synth tones join the fray, adding an element of chaos to it all. The second verse acts as one of those “travel log” segments where every notable neighborhood in the area (and eventually other global cites) are mentioned. The songtitle eventually reveals itself with the summation line “You’re gonna bend, you’ll fold, you’ll stretch.”


Find out about everything this band has to offer via their LinkTree here.

On an alternately related note - check out a cool feature on The Raveonettes this site did a few years back.

*  *  *  *  *

A much needed (now more than ever) new organization called Freedom Of Creativity has connected this website with an excellent band out of Austin, TexasThe Dizzy Bangers. Fronted by guitarist and vocalist Jimi Dharma (surely a relative of Blue Oyster Cult's Buck Dharma) the music combines rock and roll with grunge, blues and psychedelica.


One of their recent releases “Under The Sorrow” comes complete with an impressive live-in-the-studio video that is enhanced by animated effects. An initial chugging chord progression is soon joined by bassist and drummer, quickly establishing the off-to-the-races “kick-ass” sound. The visual enhancements are immediate, taking live action players and morphing them in and out of a cartoon-like sheen. Jimi comes into focus, looking somewhat like a bearded Joe Satriani. In between the head-bobbing (and band jumping) hooky signature riff, crystalline vocals lay out an intelligent lyrical storyline. Referencing songtitle in the chorus, Jimi concludes with “I'll be with you at that moment we say – goodbye.”


All three musicians are impressive with chops galore, and who doesn't love a 5 string bass. Drums are delivered with that four-way independence and simultaneous synchronicity of a seasoned pro. Very cool angular guitar line serve as interludes and bridges to subsequent sections. Jimi ultimately lets rip with a killer guitar solo at the songs midpoint, putting just the right amount of emphasis on it, without excessive “J Mascis levels” of noodlery (which would have been ok too!). With that penultimate hooky chorus embedding itself firmly in your head by this point, super slo-mo effects are applied onto the developing cartoon-anime bandmembers.

Check it out in all it's glory right here:



*  *  *  *  *

Following the success of last years pandemic influenced single “Quarantine Dreams” and subsequent full album release “Masterforce,” the self-described “high gloss rock duo” Turbo Goth have now recently dropped an exciting new track “Crystal Eyes.” Simply speaking the title out loud could easily have you pronouncing it as “Crystallize,” which turns out to be just that after listening in full.


Clocking in at a no-excess only one-minute-and-a-half, the song gets right to the point with Sarah's softly appealing vocals kicking in right away. “If you're waiting for a sign – it ain't that hard to find” she states, as pulsing keyboards and hip-hop percussion create a positive bubbling backbeat. As “it ain't that hard to find” becomes a repeated echo line, alternating imagery of a vinyl record playing is spliced against walking footprints and brief glimpses of the bandmembers.


Delicate vocals continue with the lyrics “within you is Divine – quit wasting your time” as beautiful images of nature (sunsets, sky, sea, birds) are cut together with a protagonist slowly being revealed wearing a spacesuit.


As we get closer looks at the “astronaut” exploring the new landscape they (obviously) have just landed on, the vocal cadence quickens with the lyrics “falling out of control? Getting all mixed up in the fear? Let me take you back to all that's now and here.” Subtle effects and harmonizing are added to each successive line as they emerge. A slight sonic change occurs at this point as darker outer space imagery is joined with (also darker) “inner space” fish-in-tank, with lyrics “hold on to – uninterrupted cosmic – vibration.” A purple color walkway then appears with the lines “you already know: where you will take yourself” - as the backing track momentarily drops out to add emphasis on that last line. “I'm ready to go – if you want to take me too,” continue the lyrics.



Another cadence shift happens with the vocals and lines “and we won't forget what's real – we'll know to turn our sights” (complete with green-hued “office desk” imagery (stapler, paper clips, pencils and computer keyboard) “onto the light.” Vocal overlays commence “with good vibration” now alternating over “onto the light,” and that word “crystallize” making an appearance.

Check out this enchanting song and video here:


Previous Turbo Goth Features can be found on DaveCromwellWrites here, here and here.

Not that long ago, when meeting in person was still a thing.

Find out everything else about Turbo Goth at their Official Website.

*  *  *  *  *

Entering the DCWrites sphere via the most advantageous way (a direct message notify), Rob Clarke and The Wooltones hail from the UK Liverpool suburban village of Woolton. Among other things, the area is noteworthy for John Lennon's childhood home as well as he and Paul McCartney's first meeting place. Rob Clarke incorporates elements of this history into his music, along with a variety of other influences as well. On the bands latest album “Putting The L in Wootones,” a heady mixture of 60's psych, UK/Mersey and American West Coast vibes permeate the album's eclectic tracks.


The album's introductory track “Big Big Bad Bad John,” also comes along with a video treatment presenting numerous famous John's as possible songtitle reference. The descriptive accompanying text states “down in the swamps . . . lived a man they called John . . . Big Big Bad Bad John – but, which John?" Clips of JFK, John Lee Hooker, John Wayne, John Bonham, King John (or maybe that's John The Baptist), Johnny Rotten and the one any only Mr. Lennon himself are all shown in quick succession. The associated instrumental groove is a stomping, bluesy, acid-rock progression, with longer-held psychedelic guitar riffs capped off by a bold guitar-bass+drums accent finish. Coming to a full stop to deliver the lyrics (the way Led Zepplin's “Black Dog” does) the lyrics go “Big bad John, he's been gone too long. Sing 'wah-diddy' with his glasses on. Many things have come and gone – dead and gone but the beat goes on.”


A variety of cool clips from films and live musical performances roll by with a new series of John's including Travolta, Cochran, Voight, Cash, Fogarty, Gielgud, Doe, Southside, Wesley Harding, Elton, Depp, McEnroe, Cleese, Deacon, LBJ and a few assorted English Footballers and Politicians who are unknown to this writer. However, feel free to pick out the one's YOU can spot that were missed here. Meanwhile, the song continues to stomp along like some deep American South jungle-blues with tribal tom-toms, wailing harmonica and chanting vocals.

Check out this clever video and song here:



*  *  *  *  *

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Advanced Study on New Audio And Video Releases

As we continue on into the early parts of a new year fraught with uncertainty, questionable information sources and increasing attempts at deception – four must review features bloom here in the ever-expanding DaveCromwellWrites universe. The act of writing is a solitary pursuit that requires inspiration to make it work. The artists covered here have provided ample amounts of that, allowing sentences to spark and flow from a rewarding listening experience. With that, we dive in to the mid-February 2021 DCW reviews.


Pulling together a collection of songs written and recorded over the past two years, Indiepop veteran Tom Lugo has now released his latest Panophonic album “AWAKENING.” The Philadelphia based musician has been running his own independent Patetico Recordings label for a number of years now, putting out a steady flow of albums, EP's and singles with a variety of bands and collaborations.

Under his Panophonic brand, Tom works as a solo artist (with only one single collab on the final track), writing everything, playing all guitars, bass, drum programming along with producing, mixing and mastering the tracks. Quite an impressive feat, even in these more accessible home-recording times. Opening track “Shine” comes out blazing, with razor-sharp slashing guitars, counterpoint bass melody and synthetic hissing high-hat percussion. Vocals are pitched low, reverberated and delivered in that William Reid style heard on early Jesus and Mary Chain recordings. After 45 seconds the chorus erupts with additional guitars layering over a sea of vocals creating the blissful sensation more aligned with the band Ride.


Follow-up cut “Drive” changes gears with bright, chiming acoustic guitars leading the way. The drum track is fuller and more traditional trap-set oriented, while an extended note melody line emerges out of the mist. Vocals come on in middle register tone and romantic-pop phrasing with key phrases like “we'll forget all the pain as we drive it away.” Third track “Evermore” introduces tinkling glass-bottle textures as the introduction to what eventually evolves into a bass and acoustic guitar progression. Vocals are processed and delivered with a careful diction not unlike much of John Lennon's work. There's even bits of Beatle-y bass and 'Walrus' inspired rising cello approximations sprinkled in. “For the rest of our lives, living like it's paradise,” is the repeated hook refrain.
 

Ethereal dreamgaze guitars leads the way into the mechanized beats and floating melody-line of “Formless.” A strong bass guitar progression provides more solid footing for the MBV-inspired vocals and overall feel of this composition. “Never gonna let this go,” combines spacious atmospherics, buzzy, syncopated paired bass and guitar melodies with rat-a-tat percussion. A pervasive sense of melancholy is felt throughout the verses, bringing to mind Neil Halstead's classic Souvlaki-era work with Slowdive. “Radiate” continues with the overall dreampop feel, bringing together swirling, phased guitars and easy groove trip-trap percussion. Vocals are purposely less-defined, buried behind the sheen of effects and layering.


A wall of distortion envelopes the opening chords of 7th track “Solitude.” Clean, straightforward bass guitar and drums soon emerge, along with a distinct pop melody on guitar. The Jesus and Mary Chain influence returns as Tom once again does his very best William Reid homage on vocals. While Jim Reid has always been the better singer between those influential brothers, one can't deny a certain charm to the occasional track Willy has put his voice to. Tom has done his homework here, with most impressive results. The “last one on earth” lyrical theme touches on the sobering topic of mass annihilation.


Resigned” momentarily dips into an ambient percussion pool, with that quickly overwhelmed by peculiar guitar figures. As the track progresses, an overall meditative feel emerges through the lyrics, vocal delivery and amorphous guitar wash. A stand-alone bass guitar figure provides the opening tones for “Nothing that we can't do.” Bright tat-tat-tat snare drumming and hissing cymbals soon join in, with FX'd open-note guitar chords filling out this progression. Measured vocals mark out the songs theme, eventually giving way to extended amped-up gazey guitars, busier drums and that ever present dominant bass line.



Final track “Unhinged” serves as the only collaboration on the album with indie pop singer/songwriter/producer Dani Mari of the band Primitive Heart writing the lyrics and handling all vocals. Acoustic guitar is brought back for the brief intro, before a fuller compliment of guitars, bass and percussion sets the stage for Dani's voice. Gentle phrasing is applied over lighter-touch brush-stroke percussion on verses, before multi-voice harmonies and sheering guitars signal an emotional lift. “Maybe I was wrong – maybe I was right” is the repeated, thematic phrase hook that leads this dreamy song (and album) to it's conclusion.

The album is now available on all digital platforms, including this one:
*  *  *  *  *

Another influential underground music label frequently found recommending artists in the CromwellWrites mailbox is Los Angeles based A Strangely Isolated Place. Their recent release “Iridescence Of Clouds” by Illuvia is a marvelous sonic journey that immediately called for a deeper listen and exploration into the audio world created there. Serving at the solo project of Swedish musician and composer Ludvig Cimbrelius, all of the tracks were written and performed by him. Working in the ambient instrumental genre often referred to as “drums and bass,” a wider array of drone, electronica and modern-classical techno is also explored.
The essentially album-title referenced opening track “Iridescence” slowly rises out of the mists with billowing delicacy. With each passing minute of this 8 minute composition (nearly all of the eight tracks are 8 minutes or longer – creating another form of symmetry) additional elements are added to the rushing waves of ambience. Flute-like melodies emerge along with quick-paced percussion rising up from underneath, only to submerge, and then repeat the cycle over. “Sea of Crises” shares a similar slow-rise-from-the-depths intro, which allows the composition to breathe at it's own pace – a luxury afforded to it's eight and a half minute length. When the bright keyboard chord make their way into the mix along with speedy, rippling percussive undercurrents, a sense of kinship can be felt with the incredible body of work Tangerine Dream alumni Ulrich Schnauss has innovated.


The gentle ambient introductions continues on “State of Emergence,” with it's start-stop pulsing from some seemingly distant locale. Cymbal rushes, deep thumping beats, wood-clack-approximations and ticketty high-hats are the percussive forces sharing space with brief vocal samples and a variety of keyboards. Extended flute-like notes brings to mind the modern-era chillwave of Tycho (minus the static predictability).


Veil of Mist” is something of an outlier on the album, as the only cut clocking in under 8 minutes with it's more modest 7:26 length. Measurements aside, there is a distinct stylistic change here with emphasis placed on angular percussive elements suggesting dub and jungle patterns. While steady textures create a slow-moving background, floating vibraphone and sampled voices glide in and out of the mix.


Natural elements (wind – waves) appear to share sonic space on the opening to “Titicaca,” along with swirling synths. A motorik timeclock (or is that a heartbeat) pulse emerges from underneath, counterbalanced by speedier ticking percussion. This two-separate-speed pace takes further hold, with the initial slow-moving keyboard pattern offset by hyper-drive beats. “Wanderer” places early emphasis on icy synths and twinkling edges on those pulses before voice-enhanced jungle drums and bass shatter the serenity with busy chaos. Deeper, lower-toned keyboards enter the mix, along with rapid-fire arpeggio riffs, all serving to expand the sonic spectrum.

 

An even slower, more deliberate build-up is experienced on “Nirmala II.” With subtle natural-sounding components like dripping drops and twittering birds, it's not unlike early 70's prog-rock band Yes and their imaginative intro to “Close To The Edge.” While that band came in thundering after a minute with fragmented jazz-like figures, this track holds off :30 seconds (or so) longer to introduce quick-paced percussion and other mysterious tones. The effect and sensation is remarkably similar, although no actual prog-melody opus eventually reveals itself here. It's as if that three minute intro (total time) goes on here blissfully for over eight and a half minutes (and even ends in similar fashion).


The final and longest track on the album (something of an outlier as well, coming in at a scandalous over 9 minutes) “Sky Beyond Sky” materializes out of cloud swells and distant regal horns. While a casual listener might be tempted to make comparisons with the “new age” music of an artist like Vangelis, overlapping compositional layers posit it closer the slowly disintegrating variations of Brian Eno's “Discreet Music.” As for the song's theme – what exactly IS the sky *beyond* sky? Outer space? Heaven? With this album of brilliant, seamless compositions, a soundtrack is now provided to contemplate all of those heavy questions.

The album can be acquired here:


*  *  *  *  *

Another recently released album finding it's way into the DCW realm is the retro psych-pop “A Dream Without Color” by Long Island's own The Crushing Violets. The record features six new original songs as well as a cover of the 1966 hit “A Groovy Kind of Love.” Placing emphasis on vocals and storytelling over any kind of extended instrumentals, most songs clock in under three minutes in length, with one each cracking three and four minutes respectively.


There's a charmingly nostalgic feel to opening cut “Sugar Cookie Sunday,” with it's uncluttered intro guitar chords and simple-pulse bass-drum beat. Vocalist Antanina Brooks delivers lyrics with a diction and nuance that taps into Patti Smith's style. Harmonies emerge, with tambourine and organ filling out the quickly developing sequence. Subtle wah-wah pedal guitar adds the element of “psych” for the title-line repeated chorus on this vocal-emphasized pop song.


Embers” comes on with a grittier feel as the chunky guitar chords weave around a busier bass-line and percussion. Antanina digs deeper into the NY poet muse with lyrics about “when the darkness haunts you,” and “shadows speak your name.” The song's progression and overall feel has an early-era David Bowie feel to it – akin to someone off of “Hunky Dory” or “Man Who Sold The World.” The track's final 30 seconds serves up it's high-point coda (title-check lyrics “embers in the flame”) and a quality guitar solo behind the vocals.


A thoughtfully measured bass-guitar figure and singular keyboard stroke produce necessary foundation for the slower-paced “Topaz.” Introspective in both chord selection and lyrics, room is carved out at points for some tasty, soulful guitar runs. Poetic references to being “lost inside a dream,” “velvet skies,” “sun on melting wings” and “pools of rain” all contribute to a sense of mystery and wonder. “Spirit Box” evolves out of a bass-drum emphasized beat where the vocal line and heavy guitar riff mirror each other in cadence and melody. Bluesy guitar figures are set loose and a chorusing effect can be detected on various vocal passages. A quieter bass guitar and drums only passage leads into chiming guitars on top until the concise track's final notes.


Guitarist BP Brooks takes a vocal turn on the arpeggio chord driven “Day After You.” Providing the lead vocals on this gentle ballad, Antanina joins in with harmonies throughout. Drums eventually make their way into the mix just past the tracks mid-point, as the two vocalists sing “yeah when I dream, you'll be there.” In contrast, “3 Days” serves up a raw, swampy blues progression, once again built around Antanina's vocal storytelling. Cinematic lyrics like “you're feeling suicidal, reaching for the gun” suggest a film noir scenario. BP's guitar is given room to shine here on the albums longest track (over 4 minutes) with some blistering blues licks. That's followed by a well-constructed descending-riff turnaround and more tasty guitar soloing.


Selecting a song to cover is often a personal one (as there is every song ever recorded out there to choose from) and this band applies their touch to The Mindbenders 1966 hit “A Groovy Kind of Love.” Updating the opening riff guitar sound from the original's clean chime to a chorused, buzzier haze, the tempo is also slightly reduced. Reaching the classical music hook “when you're close to me, I can feel your heartbeat” additional guitars and harmonies add a richness that the original only hinted at with it's simpler, studio-hired generic female backing vocals. Guitar riffs also replace the echoed “groovy kind of love” background voices (a considerable improvement to that 60's era cheese). The central guitar solo is also much improved here with slide and wah-wah work tapping into all the greats who ply those six string tools. Fun Fact: The melody to this song is from the Rondo from Muzio Clementi's Sonatina, Opus 36, No. 5. Even though Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager claim full songwriting credits, they mainly wrote the lyrics and just slightly modified Clementi's music.

Listen to and find out how to acquire this record here:


*  *  *  *  *

One more artist finding their way into the CromwellWrites mailbox is the Italian-based music project Dead Rituals. After releasing an impressive second EP back in October of 2020, band driving force Andrea Caccese now shares an intimate acoustic take on one of those tracks “When The Lights Are Out.” Recorded live and solo in a Brooklyn stairwell when the artist lived there for a time back in 2016, the natural ambience of that spacious enclosure are all the effects needed.



Where the finished product recording on the EP enhances this composition with synthetic keyboard pulses, cymbal rushes, full-band guitar, bass and drums – gentler acoustic fingerpicking and voice are the only musical elements providing support. While both versions work quite well respectively, it's interesting to note there is hardly any tempo change between them. That is to say they are both performed at the same pace, despite having what appears to be a four year difference between them.



Another noteworthy track appearing on that EP, accompanied by a thought-provoking video is “Broken Memories.” This brilliant track projects a feeling of prime era The Cure music with its driving bass-line, powerful tom-tom drumming and piercing open-note guitar figures. With three distinct hook-laden sections, the smooth and introspective vocals complete this carefully crafted song. Ethereal female vocals arrive at the tracks mid-point, lifting emotional content further. A dreamy ambient section ultimately emerges, leading the song out to its conclusion. Adding a final element of unsettling mystery is the creatively realized video associated with it. Well worth a listen and viewing – check it out here:


Find out how to pick up the latest Dead Rituals music here:


*  *  *  *  *