Thursday, April 25, 2013

3 from St. Marie Records – Nightmare Air, Panda Riot, The History Of Color TV

Garnering much respect these days for their partnerships with high quality emerging musicians, is the burgeoning music label St. Marie Records.

With offices in Fort Worth, Texas, Seattle and Los Angeles, their catalog of recording artists is as impressive as they come. In addition to familiar friends like The Sunshine Factory, Bloody Knives, Elika, Resplandor and Drowner, three artists have new albums this year that deserve special attention.

First up is the wonderful Nightmare Air and their recently released “High In The Lasers”

Leadoff track “Escape” establishes a pattern of sweetly sung female lead vocals and alternating shouty punctuation counterpoint. This rhythmic song structure reappears throughout the album on a number of tracks, blending seamlessly into the records overall high quality production. Hard driving guitars are mixed under the vocals until the instrumental break, where they take center stage.

Recent video release “Icy Daggers” (streaming below) at times echoes the bygone but still much beloved and frequently referenced 80’s alterna-rock-dance ear of Missing Persons (Dale Bozzio vocals, Terry Bozzio percussion) and Duran Duran (“Planet Earth” highhat percussive rhythm, but sans the commanding bassline).

“18 Days” exhibits a more easily discernible lyrical understanding, while dipping into the same deep waters The Cure swam for textural ambience and guitar lines. The amusingly titled “Sweet Messy Riff” actually continues to place emphasis on the vocals, as the ‘call’ between smooth, seductive female lead revisits the counterpoint male sung ‘response.’ Her repeated line of “in your eyes you wanted me” strikes a universal chord with those tuned in to the laws of attraction.

“Brightest Diamond” gallops along like a Dothraki horserider, placing emphasis this time on male lead vocals. It’s chorus embeds a tasty guitar riff underneath more shout-like vocals displaying both creative songwriting and mastery of the studio recording process. “Sun Behind the Rocks” moves over into psychedelica, with textures, pulses and sonic filigrees floating above a dominant toms and bass heavy drum pattern. Violent guitar chords emerge and meld with this forceful drumming, bringing to mind the best that a band like A Place To Bury Strangers has to offer. “Eyes” drives along a commanding bass pattern with vocal effects and enhancements not unlike much of what Jane's Addiction presented in their heyday of the early 1990’s.

Find out more about the band here:

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Panda Riot have already produced a number of memorable songs over the past few years, however they reach new heights of excellence on their latest full length "Northern Automatic Music"

Opening track “Amanda In The Clouds” immediately brings a whirlwind of wonderful feelings through its melody, sound design and the historic sonic references conjured. Weaving swirling vocal beauty reminiscent of The Cocteau Twins (the chorus) and somewhat more rigid cadence of School of Seven Bells (the verses), drums rat-a-tat out front in the mix like best of Broadcast.


“In The Forrest (some kind of night fills your head)” continues the regimented vocal pattern, while deep piano chords block out the progression, allowing a looser military style percussive pulse to clatter inside humming guitar textures. Gorgeous melodies emerge, creating instant waves of emotion.

“Serious Radical Girls” bounces along an upbeat rhythm with emphasis on beds of buzzing bee guitars. The percussion track has that trip-hop mechanical feel of the Madchester era dance raves. If, in the 1990’s you took The Soup Dragons, Chapterhouse and The Farm and added My Bloody Valentine guitars (with its subsequent female vocals) this could be one result. Surprisingly, the track ends on a gentle, stark piano riff.  Title track “Northern Automatic Music” is both intro’d and outro’d by way of placid psychedelic flutes and keyboards. The bulk of the song dips deeper into MBV guitar texture territory however, with pitch bended waves melting into backwards-tracked sonics and synth beds. “Golden Age” rises from misty depths of a Brian Eno underworld and blossoms into waves of mysterious beauty. “MTWM Glass” continues the soul music for stargazers who still remember the feeling of falling in love for the first time. “All of these times that I can’t remember” is the universal lyric of staring into the void – and not being frightened by it.

“Black Pyramids” rides along happy hand claps and sugary “ahhhhh, ahhhhh” vocals. Reaching a pivotal moment it all goes quiet as a questioning statement is presented: “If you think that you can tell me what the point of everything will be, then you should take the time to tell me why. If you’ve got it figured then I hope you’ll tell me how to make it when I have forgotten all my dreams.”

Find out more about Panda Riot here:

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German digitech drone and noise-pop rockers The History Of Colour TV have released an amazing album titled Emerald Cures Chic Ills

“Let’s Get Sick” comes right out of the box with dense layers of keyboard sampled guitar intonations, pointing directly back to the musical heritage perfected by My Bloody Valentine’s watershed album “Loveless.” Voices blend with the icy textures, leading up to a guitar-strings scratch conclusion.

Like much of “Loveless,” many of the tracks blend immediately into the next, and so it is with “I Knew It Was Wrong But I Did It Anyway.” A solid snare shot and high hat percussive track provides structural cohesiveness to the swirling guitar textures, blended voices and more keyboard ambience floating above it.

 “Suddenlines” builds around deep tom tom rhythms and softer keyboard strings. Despite the bass guitar driven crescendos within, the overall feel is one of ambient introspection.

“Selisse Estates” exhibits far more urgency as clarion call guitar pairs off with clacketty percussion against vocal counter-melodies. Gorgeous keyboard washes turn everything psychedelic and you find yourself staring (once again) into the void. It is both beautiful and somewhat unsettling. “Interference” provides a necessary minute long interlude of drifting calm, after so much emotional discharge.

 “1-800-Badnite” is bass guitar driven, with lush keyboard textures that would not sound out of place on The Cure’s “Disintegration.” Vocals are delivered much smoother however, with far less angst than Robert Smith is known for.

“Mend” serves as the epic length track, clocking in at nearly 8 minutes long. Opening with what could be described as the sound a brutal storm makes, the sonic wind slowly clears to allow for a survey of what damage may have occurred. When vocals do start, it is the traditional instrument of acoustic guitar minus any percussion at all that marks out its progression. Lush keyboards fill the sonic spectrum with cathedral-like reverence. “Sxrx” surprises initially with its gentle approach of soft vocals and minimal keyboard accompaniment. Harsher sonics are introduced soon enough, as radio static shears through the relative calm.

“2x1x” doubles down harder with deep, buzzing keyboards fit for any budding Phantom of the Opera. Radio waves flutter in above that like winged angels (or perhaps demons?) jockeying for position in the cathedrals darker corners. “Going To Stay” shimmers up quietly from misty fields before exiting the way it came.

Find out more about this band here:

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For all other artists on the wonderful Saint Marie Records label, be sure to visit them here:


Misty said...

i agree, all three of these bands are really amazing! its so great to hear bands making this kind of music right now. i came of age in the 1990's so this will always be my favorite sound.

Ivanka said...

ooh this is cool
First thing first - Nightmare Air - I am in love with this name. Really creative!
The song that caught my attention is Black Pyramids and I also quite like the Icy Daggers
Thanks for sharing Dave!

DaveCromwell said...

I say it over and over - but for me - the 1990's was the "Golden Age" of Rock & Roll! I never get tired of what the dreampop and psych artists created in that era. So, I love that new bands are channeling that sound today. I agree Ivanka - Nightmare Air is an awesome name. Both "Icy Daggers" and Panda Riot's "Black Pyramids" blew me away on first listen!

William said...

Panda Riot are very cool! They remind me of Beach House songs if they were played by the Raveonettes which is a very good thing...

I have to spend a little bit more time with the others- but seems like a cool little label and some really good bands who could do big things in the near future

DaveCromwell said...

Ah, interesting comparison, William. I've been totally into Panda Riot for a number of years now. I love that sugary female vocals and pitched bended guitar sound. I always think MBV as point of reference, though. (Which - is an awesome influence).

William said...

yeah totally a mbv thing going on there as well- definitely an awesome influence


Patricia Mena said...

Very nice bands! About songs, "Icy Daggers" what a cool rhythm, love it, also great vid. "Suddenlines" and "Badnite" cool songs too. Great job Dave!

DaveCromwell said...

"Icy Daggers" is a hit here! There's nothing like a great song paired with a hot chick and fast cars to get your blood rushing. Good to read you've checked out The History of Colour TV's wonderful songs as well, Paty. That stuff is top notch.

Mirror said...

here's another great nightmare air video, for their song 'escape' said...

Nightmare Air is really growing on me. I like that call-and-response vocal they do so well, and which you cleverly highlighted.

The History of Color TV is sick! Badass name too! The songs Sxrx and 2x1x are great and Mends is a lengthy gem. Digging this with both hands. Thanks for the thorough introduction to these guys.

The 90s

DaveCromwell said...

Awesome to hear you are all over this, drid. Yeah, you really can't go wrong with the songs you just mentioned there. All three of these bands have made masterful records.

Anonymous said...

Interesting review Dave, I really like the 'Icy Daggers' song!

DaveCromwell said...

Everyone is loving that song, Anouk. I'm glad to hear you like it too. The band themselves got a kick of the descriptive language I used here for their song “Brightest Diamond” - where I say it "gallops along like a Dothraki horserider." They called it their "Fav press quote of our album this week!" ;-)

Mr Smork said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr Smork said...

nice entry.

panda riot and the history of color tv is good. match all standards of music direction they play.

though nightmare air - they has that "wow" factor. they sound kind of strong unique. they make you stick and listen.
i even did some digging - and they are totally cool best of my new discovery.
and female singer is not ugly.
for what it's worth - could go on for hours about this. :)

nice entry

DaveCromwell said...

I love it when something I present here hits the mark. Clearly Nightmare Air has done it for you, Mr. Smork. Your continued good taste is showing.

Unknown said...

Ah I know Panda riot and like them a lot , but I'll be checking out the others ... A great selection again! Cheers

DaveCromwell said...

Wonderful to hear you are already wise to the "soul music for stargazers" that Panda Riot delivers, Andy.
I'm rather certain you'll soon be appreciating both Nightmare Air and The History of Colour TV as well.

The Midnite Rambler said...

Dave how do you manage to find all these cool new bands?? Well, I am glad you do because this is valuable information for my hungry ears. With exception of the vocals The History Of Colour TV, which I LOVED sounds right off The Cure at their best - though I'd say more closely to "Pornography" era then "Disintegration Era". Haha someone here said "why do you listen to music that sounds like airplanes landing?" and I can't stop laughing. Girl - go back to your trashy pop station & leave me alone!!! I have to get the album! Too bad there is no LP edition. Thanks for your blog - I appreciate it.

DaveCromwell said...

Ha! I know what you mean, Midnite Rambler - although I do enjoy 'trashy radio pop' from time to time - if I don't listen to some skewered rock after a while (what you so amusingly call 'the sound of airplanes landing';-)) - I start to get antsy.
Glad to hear you have caught the vibe that A History Of Colour TV presents. For sure 'Pornography era Cure' is one of my all time faves.

NYCDreamin said...

I always enjoy reading your passionate reviews of bands I've (mostly) never heard of Dave - thanks for continued exposure to new sounds - always a good thing! Look forward to much more music and many more photos throughout the upcoming summer music season!

Davey said...

Another great read Dave. I wasn't familiar with any of the three bands...but after reading your blog I definitely have a feel for them. Not bad at all. You continue to give me more ways to spend my money!