Three recent releases from the Virginia based Custom Made Music label have found their way into my music listening sphere, each with their own unique take and update on venerable genres.
Emerging from the fertile North Carolina music scene, Free Electric State presents their musical ideas via traditional rock band structures. On "Yr Last Mistake" Vocalist/bassist Shirle Hale sings in a vocal timbre that falls somewhere between Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Rush ’s Geddy Lee . The instrumentation is classic guitar, bass and drums that evokes the late 70’s feel of U2 or even the aforementioned Rush . A sweet sonic interlude plateau to half step-up positions the track more firmly in the modern era, however.
Free Electric State - "Yr Last Mistake" from Duotone Films on Vimeo.
Ride cymbal, tom toms and bass drum drives the forward momentum on "A Matter Of Time," while triumphant guitar chords chime behind smooth blended vocals. Buzzing, foreboding ambient textures are provided via the barely-over-a-minute "Blue Outing," suggesting early Krautrock pioneers like Neu! as possible influences.
An angular, syncopated progression, pairing clean and harsher guitar patterns against tandem vocals are the stand out qualities of "All Done Before." Guitar layers take center stage as this one drives hard via a mostly instrumental raveup. "Better Planes" rides a ticketty-tacketty percussive high-hat pattern while guitars chime along aggressively. Lyrics about having a "destiny" hint at song title’s meaning.
"Mt Dream" starts out at a slow, dreamy pace, with rough hewn vocals singing about "drifting down the stream" to the "mountain dream." The intensity builds till it ultimately explodes into full throated bombast. The cleverly titled "We’ll Have A Great Funeral (When You Die)" stomps along pulsing a bass pattern and chugging guitar chords. Roughed up high end guitar textures shatter the stasis, creating an excited listening point that pairs successfully against the more controlled vocal passages. The bass guitar in particular takes a star turn during the end out.
"Angel" drives along a syncopated drum progression, with throttling bass guitar rumble and distorted guitar figures setting up a male vocal turn. "Song of Joy" closes out the album with Shirle singing over a mid-tempo rocker about how "I ain’t crying no more" because "my heart is breaking with joy."
Find out more about this album and band here:
Hypefactor have been making music for a decade, releasing a number of quality recordings along the way. Their latest project comes as a series of creative remixes to the single "Descriptive."
The bands own single mix pays homage to the Depeche Mode/Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD) school of sonic design. Bringing to mind that quintessential 80’s era of Duran Duran/Howard Jones/Thompson Twins – especially via the percussion sound (the processing on the toms), sequenced background keyboards and bassy keyboard melody lines. However, more modern pulses can be heard, evoking the Swedish electronic music duo The Knife.
"The New Division Remix" is immediately brighter. With background keyboard sequencing still firmly in the 80’s, it’s now even more upfront – like what's heard on The Eurythmics "Here Comes The Rain Again." The male/female vocal lines are presented in tandem at points, and then broken out separately at others.
"Screen Vinyl Image" remix focuses on an initial singular guitar melody line, before trading it off for a buzzy background texture. Softer string pads are introduced into the mix, along with panned left-right drum fills.
"baye + deckard" open their remix with the female vocal standing alone in a reverberated chamber. Both voices (male and female) soon emerge with similar FX textured qualities against sparse instrumentation.
Coming in as the longest track overall, "Clan of the Xy" mix focuses on an icy descending melody line. The vocals are processed and distorted, giving them a robotic quality. A myriad of potential sonic references run through ones mind when hearing this. Anything from Depeche Mode's "Enjoy The Silence" to everything Nick Rhodes, Simon Lebon and Roger Taylor did on their one-off "Arcadia" album (while John & Andy were off doing Power Station with Robert Palmer).
"Teff Teff" slows the progression down to a chillwave meter, while adding an additional female vocal line. The final remix by "Dossier" is more playful, funkier and dance floor ready, especially with the added "Ohhhh" vocal hook.
Last Remaining Pinnacle has been the musical outlet of Custom Made Music founder Dave Allison for over 15 years. Last year guitarist/recording engineer Dave Dembitsky joined on as a permanent member. This latest release - "Visitors" - delivers 8 tracks of gloriously dark soundwaves.
Opening track "7 Dollar Room" propels foward on a JAMC "Blues From A Gun" mechanized percussion track. "Don't want to see you die, don't want to watch you cry, don't want to say goodbye" is the lyrical sentiment expressed.
"Start" slithers along via a heavy, rubbery bass pattern. Guitars fuzz and moan above and below that. The vibe inhabits a place somewhere between The Velvet Underground and A Place To Bury Strangers.
"Lies" is a heavy goth guitar stomper that channels Andrew Eldrich's early Sisters Of Mercy visions. Before there was a "vision thing" - there was a minimal Dr. Avalanche driven, heavy menacing guitar process. Dave & Dave seem to have inheritied this spirit, at least here on this one.
"They Are Lost" presents a dark and ominous take of a "quest for gold" and how these searchers are "twisted and old." Lovely. The rhythm is clacketty-thin, allowing deep guitar tones to take center stage.
"Mantle Rotation 3" builds around a humming undercurrrent, while textured guitar patterns float above. Experimental in that Brian Eno sense. "Everynight" brings back the bombast via thundering tom toms and distortion powered guitar crunch. The jungle drums create lively patterns (which oddly brings to mind AC/DC's "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be") but the vocals are delivered more from the Ian Curtis/Joy Division school.
Though the state of mind presented in "Students Of The VU" may pay tribute to Lou Reed's legendary and still influential to this day band - The Velvet Underground never sounded this heavy. The deep guitar rumble on display here reside much closer to the aforementioned APTBS and even darker death-metal elements.
"Visitors" situates itself in the more mystical areas popularized by Jim Morrison and The Doors. "I think you're afraid of what you think you'll see," and "I know you're afraid of what you think I'll be" are the ominous, acid-enduced questions. Utimately summed up by the statement "still we walk and continue to dream."
Find out more about this band here:
And all the artists on Custom Made Music here:
Digging the guitars , and lots of info from DC to digest who has clearly done his homework so I don't have to. Well Done!
Clearly you have more than enough "homework" of your own, Andy!
(For those that don't already know, Andy writes the wonderfully informative "Von Pip Musical Express" blog.)
Yeah, there is plenty of 'guitar goodness' (and more) here.
i assume this label has some great bands under it's wing.
i could post thoughts about all of them, ut i may be to lazy.
so this is something about "hyperfactor": when i saw they make some sort of remixes i thought - sucks - but lucky i gave them a listen. :) don't want to compare, but they slightly reminded of "depeche mode", only "hyperfactor" sounds way easier and not that choke as depeche. their sound is more re like modern dance music structure - grows tension. only in the way unlike modern dance music - hyperfactors let us listen more of a pleasent sounds, not some ding ling crap stuff, like those other remixes some young pricks do.
al in all - this made me react, so job well done, dave.
Glad to hear that Hypefactor caught your attention, Mr. Smork. I completely agree that sometimes remixes can be lacking - fortunately that is not the case with these creative interpretations.
Interesting bands, especially hypefactor.
As I know you to be a fan of "The Knife," Anouk - I figured you might also like Hypefactor.
great to see a label that releases "new" music and actually supports up and coming artists- this is one of the benefits of course of the collapse of the traditional music business structure- Years ago I suspect a lebel like this may not ahve been possible- as for the music, i thought they were all quite interesting and brought something nice to the table- my favs were perhaps the last ones with their slight doors references being a latrge fan of the doors ;)
We certainly DO live in the age of independent home grown label's providing outlets for these creative, working musicians, William.
I'm glad to hear you found Last Remaining Pinnacle's particular brand of sonics to your liking.
pretty amazing Dave :) i really liked it !
Great to know, Ivanka. This blog and the reviews I put here are a labor of love. So it's always satisfying to hear when they hit the mark.
As i promised Dave. I took a moment and read your great review. I like them, "Yr last mistake" is a very nice song, but i love so much Hyperfactor, fantastic songs.
Taking a moment to read and listen is all anyone can expect (or ask). Thanks for doing both.
The Hypefactor remixes really flow nicely, don't they.
Dave, thank you for reviewing the EP and to everyone who is posting in the comments, it is REALLY appreciated and inspiring!!
Just to explain, I'm a remix junkie so I always want HF to have great remixes, but we are really careful who we select and what we release because it can get into very corny/repetitive territory. You guys should check out our last EP which is called CREATIONISM. We tried to do that there to and make these remixes diverse and interesting so no one skips tracks.
As always...thx for introducing me to some new sounds Dave.
As with most of the others who have commented here, I have to say Hypefactor probably peaked my interest the most...and they certainly wear their influences on their sleeve. I was immediately transported to the mid 1980's!
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