Friday, November 4, 2016

Features: Mahogany, Astrobrite, Infinity Girl, Hellbirds, Lost Kingdoms, Vivienne Eastwood, Forth Wanderers, Navy Gangs

With a choice selection of compelling live shows to attend and recently-released music for review, the early autumn months covered both familiar and new in noticeably equal measure.

Catching another live performance from the enigmatic Mahogany was undoubtedly long overdue, making Sunday night October 9th at The Mercury Lounge a welcome reconnect.


Headlining a night that also featured genre pioneers Astrobrite and relative newcomers Infinity Girl, Mahogany took full command with a technical tour-de-force of sonic density and stimulating visuals.

The sheer volume of visible plugs and wires connecting mysterious looking electronic boxes perched on improvised tables (fashioned out of road-worn guitar cases) evoked images of 1970's era Brian Eno.


The sound these artists make is such wonderfully odd hybrid of electronic music.   At times percussion heavy like the motorific Kraftwerk approximations of trains moving forward.

Other elements reflect classical music training, with organic instruments like real cellos embedded into the mix.


A rudimentary web search turns up much on concept creator Andrew Prinz and his now two decade affair with this art form.

The addition of performance artist Jaclyn Slimm to the current incarnation, and working as a duo over the last few years has enhanced the overall creative direction. 

Trained as a ballet dancer (who's work as both dancer and video director can be seen here in the 2013 single release for "Phase Break"), Jaclyn provides wonderful vocals (some sung in French) and atmospheric guitar.


Along with the multitude of keyboard textures (both extended note pads and delicate twinkling melodies), guitars frequently layer on walls of sound.


A truly mesmerizing live performance that made the most of Mercury Lounge's always great sound and roomy stage (especially for a venue of this size).

Mahogany continues to promise a new music release at some point, but until then listen to (and view) their wonderful short film featuring Pinkshinyultrablast "Holy Forest (Waldeinsamkeit Remix)" Produced by Andrew Prinz Directed by Jaclyn Slimm

"The North Remembers"

Mahogany will once again appear at The SXSW Music Fest in March 2017

Previous features on this site about Mahogany can be found here:


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An additional level of excitement surrounded this show as influential guitar-gaze pioneers Astrobrite would be making their long-awaited New York City debut.

The Chicago-based project created by lovesliescrushing's Scott Cortez had surprisingly never played a New York show.

Conceived and begun synonymously with the more recognized loveliescrushing in the mid 90's, the band went through a number of personal changes which now includes guitarist/vocalist Sophie LeighN.

Presented here on this night was a blissful wave of warm guitar distortion coupled with angelic vocals.

Cortez gave a nod to fellow guitar contortion practitioners Ringo Deathstarr with his t-shirt while unleashing his own six string overdrive.

The combined forces and alternating lead vocals of the duo provided a necessary balance throughout the set.

While Scott dominated the early lead vocal turns, Sophie came on in the later stages, delivering atmospheric qualities with a near reverential tone.

Perhaps best known for their “Loveless” inspired 2005 release “pinkshinyultrablast” (which is so revered in some circles, that record in turn inspired a new generation of dreamgazers to name their band after it) a majority of the material on those tracks were actually recorded in the mid-90’s.

Initial awareness of Scott's creative work came via his mid-90's  loveliescrushing  release "bloweyelashwish"

Ordering the cassette release at that time from mail order label Projekt records, this idiosyncratic blend of compressed feedback noise and fragmented female vocals created a soundtrack frequently returned to repeatedly for the better part of two decades.

A wonderful howl of alarming beauty, even the names printed on the inner sleeve created additional layers of mystery.



Layers of shimmer in a cathedral of sound

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Opening the evening's festivities were recent familiar review material artists Infinity Girl

Having released their second full length album “Harm” this past summer, the Brooklyn quartet have been spending most of their time hard at work on their third record.

Although no release date has been announced as of yet, the band occasionally step away from the studio long enough to play select live shows, such as this one.

While “Harm” shifted away from than their previous noisier work, elements of the C86 jangle pop sound emerged.

Recently re-featured track “Dirty Sun” underscores exactly what was (and still is) so appealing about this timeless sound.

A blissful joy is felt within the convergence of rapidly strummed guitar over melody driven bass and tom-tom heavy drums.

The vocals provide the emotional release through a harmonic beauty evoking feelings of both nostalgia and present day comradery

While waiting for new music to be released “Harm” is available on Top Shelf Records in a variety of popular formats.

Check out the video for "Dirty Sun" here

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Previous features on this site about Infinity Girl can be found here:

and here:

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Earlier that very day innovative music curators Noise Love presented an early afternoon show at Our Wicked Lady

Arriving just in time to catch the always entertaining Hellbirds, a collection of newer songs were showcased.

Never content to simply rely on familiar, previously established material, a steady flow of freshly created tunes are heard at each subsequent show attended.

A really catchy one that surely must be titled "What's Up?" is a recent addition to the set that has immediate appeal.

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A dynamic pop group in the classic power trio mode, the evolution of their sound is quite noticeable from earlier output.

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While guitars pulsate between extended tremolo note figures and power chords, space is provided for the backbeat, sophisticated basslines and always those compelling vocals.

Fun with Hellbirds

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Previous features about this band can be found here:

Live + On Record: The Veevees, Hellbirds, Cosmicide, The Vandelles, Heaven

Hellbirds-Pet Peppers, Baby Acid + Live and Record Reviews

Live + On Record: Holiday Mountain, Hellbirds, Evolfo, Blue+Gold

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Lost Kingdoms played next and proceeded to deliver a thoroughly impressive show.

Having met front-man Terry earlier this year, a level of curiosity had already been established via the bands recorded tracks.

However, this live show far surpassed what can be heard there through  more complex rhythmic structures and overall instrumental virtuosity .

90's power pop in the Seattle grunge style is certainly a starting point for what they do. Structurally the songs are more complex, placing them closer to Soundgarden than the simpler constructions of Nirvana.

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Modifying the brand name of an iconic British fashion designer largely responsible for bringing modern punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream, Vivienne Eastwood appear more focused on sound than image.

Recently released new material “Messy” explores slow-motion ambient landscapes that ebb and flow without any percussive beats. With densely layered fuzzed-out guitars leading the way, the influence of Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine and much of Slowdive’s catalog immediately come to mind.

Like those classic gazey bands, the track reveals more nuance with repeated listens. There is a driving bass line embedded within, along with silvery jingling around the sonic edges. Vocals come in backward masking waves, swirling up in the mix as if taking in a huge breath of air. The entire combined effect is both enchanting and mesmerizing.

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There’s a loose, easy going vibe in the ramshackle rock of Montclair, New Jersey quintet Forth Wanderers two track, EP “Slop.” A twangy two guitar groove on the opening title track sets an unhurried pace evoking Neil Young’s finer electric-country moments.

Vocalist Ava Trilling shifts the focus with the lines “I know I’m slow – I’ve been told – things change, I’m still young” and “I’ll breathe through your lungs.” As the track evolves into a straight ahead chugger, Trillings oddly poetic lyrics and vocal delivery fluctuate between resignation and hope.

“Know Better” moves at a quicker pace, enhanced by clicking stick percussion and Americana Folk vocal stylings. “I hope one day you’ll see, just what you done to me” leaves little doubt someone has been wronged. “I can be this naïve anymore” becomes the self-help mantra over double-time snare drum hits and coiling guitar figures. “I need to grow up, I need to be tough” is the ultimate realization as driving bass guitar accelerates to the end. The band play their EP show Friday November 11 at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn.

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Having created an early buzz via their raucous live show, New York City’s Navy Gangs self-titled debut EP captures a similar raw appeal. Piercing extended vibrato guitar melody lines and sludgy bass-drums accompaniment create a feel comparable to Dinosaur Jr.’s early days.

While “Special Glands” may exhibit requisite “slacker rock” attitude, its central hook depicts a surprisingly direct vocal refrain. “Instant Play” bounces along in that J. Masic covering The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” way where it straddles the line between serious and ironic. A guest female vocalist provides tandem vocals, smoothing out the rough edges.

“Mondays” stomps with Americana inflected group chorus vocals while their instruments capture The Replacements ragged attitude. EP closer “That Party Sucked” alternates between Mascis-level burning guitar figures and softly sung verses, creating a heavy-light atmosphere enhancing the impact of both.

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It is a rare occurrence when multiple artist features come full circle within a single posting on this site.  However, that is exactly what happens here as another Mahogany show was attended on October 29 at the above mentioned Shea Stadium.

After inquiring about certain pieces of stage equipment, the band reveal how their performances are rarely played the same way twice.

"Keystone Sonata"


"In White Rooms"

"A Third Prism"

"Phase Caress"

"Express Clean Power"

Voyage par jour — retourné a la present Doucément combiné — l'amour pour la luxur


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