Thursday, July 27, 2017

Live + On Record: Stargazer Lilies, Dead Leaf Echo, APTBS, Dion Lunadon, Hellbirds, Buscabulla, Tall Juan, Caveman, Altocamet

The month of July 2017 presented 10 day period where a number of noteworthy live shows and recent record releases captured the attention of this site.  What follows here is a chronological recap of those shows, along with new record reviews from artists who's work deserves the attention of discerning music listeners.

Having last experienced a Stargazer Lilies show back on April 3, 2016, the evolution of their live show sound here on this night of July 13, 2017 at St. Vitus in Brooklyn was something of a surprise.

The overall impression this time was of a slower, more deliberately doom-laden experience.

Even the dark angelic presence of dreamy bassist/vocalist Kim appeared to be playing with a deliberately measured precision.

Ever the master of his electronic domain, John's guitar textures were mysteriously impressive as ever, while drummer Tammy throttled down in tight formation.

Pastel color lighting provided the appropriate backdrop for what a number of us agreed was a turn in sonic direction that is oftentimes dubbed "stoner rock."

Kim is a most impressive figure, having to carry all the vocals herself, while locking down the lower frequencies and looking fantastic throughout.  She's mastered the Morticia Addams look and adapted it perfectly to her band.

Hazy stoner doom dreamgaze - is that a new sub-genre now?

John, pedals and effects - because it must always be this way.

Pictures of Lily - made my life so wonderful.

There is in fact a door to the sun

You can hear it in the overtones

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Get this record Door To The Sun and immerse yourself in their weird and wonderful sonic bliss.

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Prior to that performance was one of the wildest Dead Leaf Echo shows witnessed, where close contact with the audience saw the band feeding off that energy.

The room was completely filled when they hit the stage, indicating word of mouth has been spreading about how exciting their shows have been recently.

As things progressed, LG's intense demeanor would have bearing on the placement of his trusty horse "Sparkle" within the rapt and attentive audience.

Ana and Kevin were particularly locked in on this evening, with bright guitar textures, clearly audible vocals and that powerfully loose, fluid beat we've come to know and love.

Sensing a heightened level of crowd engagement, LG and company delivered an edgier, more emotionally charged performance.

Initial set-up equipment issues can be frustrating when you are itching to play, however it is something of a genius move to channel that energy aggressively through the music.

The blue backdrop and laser lights look good on Kevin and Steve.

Ana looked particularly fetching on this night, wearing an outfit another attendee and I agreed could be dubbed "polite sexy."

Mood lighting for the quieter moments.

Stylish audience members experience it all in a loose coalition of peers.

Close enough to see, hear and feel it.

Building towards a climactic moment.

Sparkle tossed into the audience for the crime of breaking a string.  

A sacrificial offering that is held for energy as the band raged on.

Leading to some enthusiastic momentary participation.

What they played.

Never one to sit idly by any stretch of the imagination, the band now head to Canada to play more shows.  Link to more info about that here.

Looking back at previous features this site has done on Dead Leaf Echo, this dual show coverage at SXSW a few years ago depicts an inside look at those Austin shows.

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In the midst of their Summer US Tour, Argentina dreamgaze band Altocamet also performed on this night.

Although you couldn't tell based on their youthful appearance, this band has been at it for two decades, releasing five full-length studio album along with numerous EP's, remixes and videos.

Their sound is an intriguing mixture of electro-synth, indie rock and dreamy pop.


There is a enough going on visually between the dual female-male lead vocal tandem of  Mariana (who also plays electronic keyboards) and Adrian (guitar).

Early evening devotees take in the show.

Find out more about Altocamet here

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Two days later saw the annual July Summer Weekend Out In The Streets Festival begin.

Saturday the 15th featured a prime time performance from the always enchanting Buscabulla

Having previously been enamored by the wonderful hybrid sound on their contest-winning, Dev Hynes produced debut EP and subsequent visually enticing music videos, attending this show became a priority.

Known for their innovative blending of ambient textures, latin beats and tropical rhythms, the band has been quoted as self-describing their sound as "futuristic carribean music."

Fronted by the willowy, athletic and glamorous Raquel Berrios, her sweetly seductive vocalizing pulls you into an enveloping experience.

The synth beats are essential, along with the frequently dominant bass lines from co-leader Luis Alfredo del Valle.


The band released their self-produced follow-up EP II this year, along with an inspired self-directed videos showing off their creative flair.  Check out Tartaro on their YouTube channel.

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Working their way through a set of newer material and early tracks (like the eternally wonderful "Sono") Berrios and company had the warm weather afternoon crowd swaying to their hypnotic beat.



Connect with all things Buscabulla here
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Closing out this evenings show was a spirited (if somewhat abbreviated) set from heavyweight rockers Caveman

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The local boys hit the ground running and proceeded to kick it hard from the very first note.

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They play a classic style of progressive pop vocal music, at times similar to the supergroup Asia.

A solid crowd showed up and were totally in to the show.

In-demand drummer Mikey Jones (founding member of Heaven) locked down the beat in his inimitable style.

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Check out their song "Life Or Just Living," which perfectly captures their melodic sophisticated rock.

Beguiled audience members.

Disappointing to all was the fact they had to shut down the show abruptly - due apparently to "noise complaints."  It's a shame that both Caveman and Buscabulla weren't allowed to play their full sets.  Something both bands wanted to do very much.

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Sunday, July 16 would see the second day of OITS Fest sticking closer to schedule, which served to alleviate the "over run" issues from Saturday.

Headliners A Place To Bury Strangers did what they always do best, delivering their signature pummeling sonic assault.

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Amid billowing smoke and searing laser lights, Oliver Ackermann whipped, flailed and tossed around his guitar while the rhythm section throttled away.

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Fan favorites like "Deadbeat" (from 2009's Exploding Head) went down with a particularly intense ferocity.
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Another crowd pleaser performed was the track "We've Come So Far" from their most recent album "Transfixiation."

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While this band has always been first and foremost a musical act, the theatrical level to their performances completes the full sensory experience for those in attendance.

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You simply can’t get the whole experience from only listening to their records.

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Another unique element of the APTBS live adventure is the "bonus show" electronic set they perform in the middle of the audience.
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The mystery box viewed from behind Dion's bass.

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Crom behind Dion and Lia - photos by Tony Stanley
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Left hand touching the light.
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In addition to his role in A Place To Bury Strangers, Dion Lunadon has recently released an excellent solo album of his own.
At just over a minute in length, opening track "Insurance, Rent and Taxes" throttles and throbs with pogo punk mayhem and distortion. While it's difficult to make out the exact words being presented, the songs title is easily understood. Those are three things we all have to deal with, and they all cost you big time.

"Reduction Agent" conjures up the guitar sound from The Velvet Underground's "Run, Run Run” and a twist of the progression from "On Road Again" as lyrics state "much too young to get any older - "drop the microphone, cry on your shoulder." "Smashed, burned, beaten and stoned - I've got the mark of death and it won't leave me alone." "Feel The Pain" becomes the mantra for this raging tale of cross-country death trip thrill seekers.

The spirit of late 70's punk rock is powered through the tightly-coiled track "Com/Broke." Capturing the locked in raw precision of guitar, bass and drums bands like The Ramones, Dead Boys and The Damned, an aggressive nihilism unfolds. Centered on the hook "I got no reason to hold on," a desolate picture unfolds with the lyrics "drown in some dead end bar - might as well crash a car." "Build a home outside the city - set it on fire watch it burn without pity."

Drawing from the German motorik style pioneered by artists like Can and Neu!, "Hanging By A Thread" builds off a train-pulse rhythm matched to driving bass and bending sonic embellishments. Abrasive guitars emerge, firing off sheering waves, as if bursting through walls of metal. The tracks final 30 seconds strips down to a simple bass guitar and drum beat, where the title line are the only words spoken.

A big Black Sabbath-like groaning guitar bombast leads into mid-point track "Move."  Initially lumbering like the dinosaur stoner rock Sabbath-style bands are known for, the tempo suddenly quickens after a minute and a half.  A chugging rock progression ensues while frenzied vocals wail and squall amid stomping drums, slashing guitars and rising siren sounds.

Bass guitar takes the dominant driving position under even more punky guttural vocals on "Eliminator."  "Got no sympathy for you - got no love for you" makes clear the teetering-on-age state of mind here.  An expolsive instrumental coda caps off the songs final minute.

"Howl" jumps in a more traditional three-chord rock format.  A single note Farfisa organ tone adds one more sonic texture to the "gimme one more" change section.

What happens when you take Elvis' "Blue Suede Shoes," jack it up on speed and run that through a blusey shredder?  You get the unhinged track "Ripper."  Points given for the actual blues harp that runs through it all.

Another under two minute gem, "White Fence" is perhaps the most lyrically curious track on the record.  "I like it weird and wild - and that's the way it was" is just one of many cryptic lines delivered like an early Iggy and The Stooges cut.

Final number "No Control" builds slowly around a steady bassline, single thump drum beat and churning guitar embellishments.  There's a psychobilly element to it that brings to mind the Cramps moodier work.

A previous DCW feature on Dion, reviewing the first single from this record ("Fire") can be read here.

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Taking the stage just prior to APTBS during the Sunday portion of Out In The Streets Fest was the always entertaining Tall Juan.

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Having been written up multiple times in the Deli Magazine (both web and Print feature by yours truly), the opportunity to catch his live show on this afternoon became a prime time event.

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Starting off solo, members of his three piece band began to show up as the show progressed, creating two distinct halves to the performance.

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Eventually shirtless (like all good Iggy Pop style performers should be) he even covered The Stooges with a killer rendition of "Now I Wanna Be Your Dog."

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In addition to playing many of his own great songs, a classic Ramones cover was done as well.

The Dave Cromwell written feature on Tall Juan in Deli Magazine Print Issue No. 47 can be read here.

While a review of his most recent album "Olden Goldies" can be read here.

Find out more about Tall Juan here

Local figures relax and take in the show at picnic tables under umbrellas.

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Saturday July 22, 2017 marked two milestone events at Brooklyn's Alphaville as the band Hellbirds played their Record Release Show for debut album 12 Songs On Film in conjunction with The Special Without Brett Davis 100th Episode Celebration.

All live photos by Bruce Ashley

Releasing a full-length album simultaneously with a high quality video recording of each part as they were executed in the studio shows mastery of the modern technological tools currently at hand.

The video album opens with a laptop overlay viewing of “RuPaul being wonderfully glamorous at the Pyramid Club” from 9/26/85 on YouTube. Immediately making a statement on how we currently view much of our visual content (via embedded videos) and the necessary illusions fueling it all (pick your fantasy and fall into it), opening track “Catch a Grave” begins.

Speaking of visual illusions, the uniquely clever technique of multiplying band members to reflect actual parts played on each song both informs and entertains. While Abdon dominates the left side with full drum kit, and assortment of Neko’s and Jasno’s (three each) let you know exactly who did what at each particular point in the song. “Catch a Grave” works a ska rhythm on guitar and bass while Jas’s lead passionate lead vocals channel the greatness of NYC 50’s and 60’s ear Do Wop. Singing about a summer romance and how “our hearts separate” sweet, surf guitar licks somehow make it all feel better.

A deep groove bass line, bright percussion and chunky guitar chords serve as entry point for the “street hassle” tell-it-like-it-is urban tale “Lou Reed.” Combining that legends talk-lyric style with more traditional soaring vocalizing, a variety of percussive instruments and handclaps add pleasing sonic details. There’s an admirable boldness in declaring the choice to live in New York City “like Lou Reed and David Bowie.”

An unexpected transition to the next song shows a full-length mirror being held horizontally, reflecting a rooftop camera positioned in front of the Empire State Building. That leads into the emotionally charged track “Take Me Out” which in addition to multiplying Abdon’s visual presence (he’s now a percussive 3-piece all by himself) benefits from a quietly-busy melodic bass line. Another seemingly love song to NYC where one looks for their “place on the concrete.” The heart-tugging chorus strikes a universal chord with the sentiment “take me I will be yours forever, show me things I’ve never known.” The wide-angle mirror returns, this time showing a passing subway train being captured by the recording device.

“Back From Black” snaps to attention with a jumping snare and bass drum beat while multi-layered voices implore how “you better pray” followed by a litany of concerns. Those inner doubts and warnings exist to prevent the “killing in my head.” More snaking surf style guitar riffs cut through the airwaves before the intimate breakdown explains how “I’m out of the grave – I’m out of my head” and “back from a blackness.”

“Under the bright sun – out in the blue swell” provides the catchy vocal hook for message-laden cut “Big Hits.” While word-switch/word-play features early (is it “heat” or “hate?”) powerfully abrasive electric guitar roughs up the underlying calypso rhythm. The message couldn’t be clearer, however – you can “only be true – to myself – and to you.”

The images of blonde women on motorcycles (one jacketed, one sleeveless and tattoo’d) and a dog are added behind drummer Abdon for “Silence of the Glams.” It’s a crunchy guitar and forward throbbing bass ‘n drums composition where the lyrical sentiment declares “I choose to be free.” With singer Jasno moving out of view, we witness an up-close can of liquid refreshment with the word “America” on it being popped open. That’s followed by a really cool two (and then three) guitar tour-de-force.

Presenting existential statements like “If you always get what you want you’ll never know the pain that others feel at your loss” reveals seventh track “Hung Lovers” grappling with relationships. While a certain level of self-sacrifice may be necessary to make them work, the musical question repeats “am I your only love” with Abdon’s triple-time ride cymbal as driving force.

Dance party fever!

The 50’s Do Wop stylings on “Touch Me Like You Love Me” homogenize the best vocal era of rock with today’s sheer guitar power. In addition to modern six string force and four string bass foundation, particularly satisfying is Jas and Neko’s vocal harmonizing on the title line and hooky phrase “don’t you tell me how I feel, no it ain’t fair”

As the video album progresses, it’s worth noting that the color of Abdon’s drums change throughout. What starts out as a sea foam green moves to blue, emerald green, gold, red and now approximates the pink of Jerry Nolan’s NY Dolls kit by the ninth song “Bastard’s Brew.” (They will ultimately add purple and sky blue to that mix by the end). The rallying cry of “do not wait, do not whither – it gets better, it gets better” provides a positive message for success in this life. While a nifty guitar and bass interlude underscores how seasoned musicians enhance from inside the song structure.

Enthusiastic dance shenanigans continue

Jasno let's his falsetto voice fly during high-point moments on "A Day Spent At Sea." While the song's title might have you expecting a sea-faring shanty, like most of the songs on this album, those titles are poetic references to something else entirely. In this case "you say(ing) you want to move on" begets the vocal hook "I'm an actor." I'm guessing a sea-faring one at that! The tune itself runs the gamut of spacious pause-in-the-mayhem breakdowns through heavy churning guitar bursts and twangy-to-ferocious licks.

"Can't Stop The Waves" has made frequent appearances in the bands live show for a while now. Capturing the innocent pure joy of Brian Wilson's early 60's classics, the distinctive Jasno solo riffs keep the surf waves flowing as the pursuit of an endless summer goes on.

Reprising the lyrical refrain "from that moment when I knew, I could only be true to me and you" the final track "Sorry Mom and Dad" is delivered as a personal note of apology, acceptance and forgiveness. The kind of message one might write to those responsible for bringing you in to this world and raising you - in private.   Its a rare opportunity being able to present it publicly in the form of a song.
Album cover art by Kyle Gabouer

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