Monday, August 21, 2017

Features: Frankie Rose-Cage Tropical, Tempers, Psychic Selves, Birds, gods, Autodrone

Making a triumphant return with her latest album "Cage Tropical," Frankie Rose delivers a veritable treasure trove of sonic amalgamation.

Drawing from classic 80's "new wave" rock sources (as well as the sci-fi movies of that era), the album presents 10 perfectly executed songs that still manage to sound fresh, avoiding the trapping of a mere nostalgia trip.  What you get instead are abundantly layered vocals and revealing autobiographical lyrics with enough auditory easter-eggs for those who enjoy pinpointing potential references.

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Opening track "Love In Rockets" describes Frankie's ultimately disappointing time spent attempting a residential move from New York to Los Angeles.  While poetic lyrical lines describe her "resting my head like a wilting flower," others stating how she's "done 500 degrees in my ivory tower" imply that at least some of the fault may not be all on the city alone.   The hook centers around a vocal chant ("ah-we-oh, ah-we-oh") stylizing the initial word to lyrics "a wheel of of wasting my time here."  Strong percussion dominates with an emphasis on rolling toms coupled with synthesizer enhancements capture the golden age of 80's "new wave" textures.

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"Dyson Sphere" is an interesting song on a number of levels.  For those who don't know already (or are curious) the title refers to a hypothetical mega-structure that completely encompasses a star and captures most or all of its power output.  It should be noted that this is a theoretical concept and currently far beyond humanity's engineering capacity.  Instrumentally, the track is driven along by a Simon Gallup-of-the-Cure sounding bassline (A Forrest being as good a reference point as any).  Frankie's voice on verses are processed with a sandpaper-smooth quality that morphs into a catchy "ah ah oh oh" bridge.  The chorus is a big bold hook that declares "Days long - when you live without the sun - Days long - and we knew this day would come.  Under skies of grey - never light (phonetically delivered as "La-Ah-Ah-ight") my way."  Melodic guitar licks, keyboard pads and meticulously dropped-in percussion all contribute to an extraordinary listening experience.

Built over a steady motorik drum beat and teutonic bass pulse, "Trouble" features enhanced layered vocals covering both the smooth midrange and higher end harmony stating "sometimes I want to walk, I want to walk, I want to run - away."  In addition to her keen sense of melody, Frankie has always been able to create vocal qualities that rises above nearly all of her contemporaries.  The chorus here is merely one more example of that, with it's combined descending ("trouble follows you") and rising ("you can't run no matter where you") dual harmony lines.

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Emerging via four curiously angular organ-like chords, "Art Bell" serves as a tribute to the cult figure who provided hours of entertaining theories about extra-terrestrial life on late night radio.  With it's big chorus stating "we'll never have to say goodbye" cascading down amidst huge guitar licks, synth bursts and thundering drums, the wonder of what might actually be "out there" goes on.

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Clocking in as the albums longest track at five and a half minutes, "Dancing Down The Hall" uses that extra space on an ambient, trippy, jazzy-percussive intro.  After a minute and a half, bass guitar textures enters the mix as Frankie sings "we don't have to go together, we don't have to stay forever.  In the end we fall together - dancing down the hall together."  While those sentiments furnish catchy rhymes and song title, lyrics "letting it go again - and you see another day" convey the songs primary hook and emotional core.  Icy chiming bell synth tones usher in rolling toms, bringing to mind the best sound qualities of 80's instrumental "new age" music like Sanford Ponder and Patrick O'Hearn.

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Title track and album centerpiece "Cage Tropical" demonstrates more than any other track on this album how a band like The Cure has influenced successive musical generations.  While that band may be better known for their gothic doom and gloom contributions, they've also produced a fair share of bouncy, upbeat melodies.  This song falls distinctly into that latter category, with it's perky intro melody and similar sonic textures.  However the author laments a "special kind of hell on a sunny day" (with stark piano chords underneath) - "cafe tropical, make it go away."   The lushest of hooks emerges as uplifting, cascading vocal melodies declare "on and on - you're on your own again."  Impeccable production weaves in 80's hand clap (hand clack) percussion and subtle touch synth buzzes that immediately brought to mind Duran Duran's 1985 one-off project Arcadia and the coincidentally appropriately titled "So Red The Rose."

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It's mostly keyboard ambiance and no guitars or any of the more typical rock instruments on the synthy "Game To Play."  However, once again the central focus is a strong, catchy sing-along chorus which is the title line.

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Another song to receive an interpretive video release is deeper cut "Red Museum."  An existential realization statement proclaims that "everything you know is a lie, and everything you have will die."  Regardless of those sobering thoughts, Ms Rose can't seem to help conveying it through elevating choruses with rich counter-melodies and vocal augmentation.

Immediate reactions, noted

Riding a wave of pitch-bended keyboard pads and succinct piano notes “Epic Slack” is a moody instrumental interlude for moments of calm introspection.

Album closer “Decontrol” could have been positioned much higher in the track order as its one of the best on the entire record. Once again tapping the appealing synth and bass guitar sounds of classic 80’s era British rock (a distinction necessary to make so as to avoid lumping in with American 80’s hair metal rock – also an influential sound source of that decade, but having nothing to do with this album) bright retro sine waves support chorused vocals. “And though I’m sinking fast, you run from me – one momentary glance, could set me free” are the lyrics to another glorious bridge. However, it’s the chorus (once again) that is most impressive. While singing the lines “De-Con-Trol – you’re not losing sleep,” the cadence and meter is punctuated by a clipped breathy vocal technique and pentatonic keyboard scale.

On Saturday, August 12th Frankie played her release show for this album at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn.  The set included four songs from her new album along with a number of her best tunes from previous records.

Festive post-show backstage banter made the whole experience that much sweeter.

Social Media Awareness

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Frankie Rose heads out on a Big Tour beginning in September with scheduled dates running all the way through November.

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Performing on the same evening just prior to Frankie, were the alluring duo Tempers.

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Having had opportunities to catch them live at various stages of their musical progression, front-woman Jasmine Golestaneh never fails to impress with her casually magnetic presence.

The duo work well as a tandem (reminding of the similarly synchronous Raveonettes) with guitarist / electronics generator Eddie Cooper driving the instruments.

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Earlier this year they released their "Fundamental Fantasy" EP which included four new songs and an extended remix.

There’s a slow-burn tension building on featured track “Tail Is In My Mouth” that deceptively masks chugging guitars and dance floor ready drum beats. Even the repeated “just for a moment” phrase feels like a holding pattern, floating above the overall rhythm. The bittersweet feelings of desire and the projections we place on others (to fuel our own illusions) comes together in a wonderful chorus that goes [Ahhh –Ahhh-Ahhh] “Oh and how I miss” [Ahhh–Ahhh-Ahhh] “who I wanted to you to be” “Oh and how I miss [Ahhh–Ahhh-Ahhh] what will never be” - “I thought you didn’t care” leading to the curious title line, all enveloped in an aurally spacious, melancholy longing.

First meeting - April 2013

First Dave Cromwell written feature on Tempers - on The Deli Magazine

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Having last covered the musical output of Brooklyn dream-psych collective Psychic Selves a few months back, the word was that new music would soon be on its way. The Pep G led collective has now delivered on that promise with a new cassette single (affectionately referred to as a cassingle) released on Time Castle Records.

Featured single "Rosemary" (which has been given the full video treatment here) emerges via a steady bass drum thump and ringing single note guitar progression. That quickly changes as vocals begin and the rhythm shifts to bass guitar and high-hat cymbals. It all eventually leads up to the catchy vocal hook that goes “I’m trying for you – you tell me – to sit myself down” - “time is wasting for you – you tell me – to sit myself down.” Numerous funky interludes create the necessary space between emotional high-points. There’s even a mini psych-out jam at the 2:35 mark for good measure.

Psychic Selves play live at The Knitting Factory on August 22nd as part of their cassingle release show

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Speaking of live shows and record releases, melodic psychedelic pop rockers BIRDS will be celebrating the release of their latest album "Everything All At Once" at this very same show.

Emerging from a two-chord progression similar to Iggy and The Stooges “Search and Destroy,” the albums’ lead single “Get Away” adds bass counter-melody and rising background vocals, positioning the track closer to a pop song. “I’ve been awake all morning, watching the light pour in. I keep away from stealing – I do my own healing,” describe the self-reflective lyrics.

Catchy melodies unfold via speedy guitar lines woven in and around emphatic vocals. “I get away so easy” becomes the ultimate key line towards the end of a power-packed two and a half minute song.

“Everything All At Once” is now available through Greenway Records and through most listening formats.

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Catching up on Asbury Park legends gods most recent output inspired this snapshot analysis of their of their epic proggy psych-out track “Wash.”

Another gem floating out on their Soundcloud is the creatively inspired track "Couch Ride."

With syncopated accent drum beats leading things off, a number of quick shifts in song structure make this track an unpredictable delight. Brief call-back guitar melodies and 60’s sounding organ becomes the focus while vocals perfectly mimic the spirit of the classic 1965 No. 1 hit “Hang On Sloopy.”  That’s followed by a plateau of quieter moments where vocals are sung as if in a dream.  It all builds back towards the initial clattering groove, making way for a tasty guitar solo and jam-out. The briefest interlude of calm serves only to set up the next furious drums, bass and guitar solo rave-up. Ending on the softer angelic sequence seems only fitting for this equal parts heavy and light composition.

While we wait to hear about upcoming gods live show appearances, parent band The Parlor Mob (including a number of the same members) are headlining the Saturday September 23rd portion of Asbury Parks Indian Summer Fest.  More info about all that (including how to get tickets) can be found here.

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Having spent a two year period recording, mixing and finally mastering 10 fully realized tracks (while performing much of the material out at live shows) gothic rockers Autodrone released their album “This Sea Is Killing Me” at the end of 2016. That long journey produced a number of engaging results touching on a range exploring psych, darkwave, drone and dreampop.

Opening track “49:51” is an edgy just over 2 minute ambient instrumental that leads into more structured follow-up track “Corvus.”  Making full use of classic buzzing synths and shimmering tremolo guitar chords, the stage is set for dreamy ethereal vocals. Even with the full band effect in motion via a solid drum track, the vocals remain angelic and unintelligible like the best of The Cocteau Twins.

Epic closing track “Thunderbolt” mysteriously unfolds through synth pulses, cymbal rushes and passionate reverberated vocals.   The band will be playing The Safari Room At El Cortez next on August 29th, and Pianos after that on September 6th.

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