Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Features: Whispering Sons, Magic Dance, TAUK, apbwas, Papadosio, Milkmen

A steady flow of new music releases arrive daily into this websites multiple email inboxes.  It can be overwhelming at times.  Making a renewed effort to investigate as many of these artists as possible, a select group has been chosen to receive the DaveCromwellWrites treatment.  The artists covered here are not limited to any geographic region or specific musical genre.

Straddling the lines between the darker side of goth-rock and what is more frequently referred to as “post-punk” these days, Whispering Sons are a Belgian group set to release their debut album “Image” this October on PIAS and Smile Records.

There's a distinct sonic lineage that runs through much of this material. While a starting point could certainly be the darker aspects of early Cure (with their seminal “Pornography” album serving as an initial reference point) other equally influential purveyors of late 80's and early 90's “gothic rock” like Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy can also be felt.

Much of that is found in this bands instrumental and vocal delivery.  Like those early pioneering UK bands, bass guitar becomes the dominant driving force, while guitars chime downward, allowing for a deep and resonant vocal delivery.

Opening cut “Stalemate” sees that bass driving everything along through a forceful motion that also acts as the song's melody, while vocals are delivered in a Peter Murphy-esqe cadence over simple and precise motorik percussion.  The guitars aggressively throttle singular notes as dark synths fill in deeper sonics underneath.

 “Got A Light” emphasizes a start-stop percussive beat that leaves open spaces for the rich, deliberately-moving bass guitar figures, chiming guitars and deep, passionate vocals. An anxious undercurrent emerges through lyrical references such as the “need to sleep” (but having difficulty getting there) how “everything seems less like itself” and “there was never meant to be clarity.” Ultimately the question is put forward - “how are you feeling good – and not losing it all the time?”

Alone” has the guitars moving forward to provide the prominent melody line hook this time.  The dominant bass is still very present, as more fractious drum patterns and on-edge vocals (echoing Ian Curtis desperation in Joy Division) create a sense of apprehension.

Lead single “Waste” rises up from pulsing synths and clarion bell guitar strokes.  A sense of foreboding is felt through the carefully delivered vocals.  As the track has yet to introduce any percussion at this point, guitars begin to fill in more defined melody lines.  Lyrics that tell a tale of internal struggles with s+m desires - “ I want to make you scream – the texture of your cries – pleasure me.  My own ideas – it's a perversity – that's slowly – spiraling down in me - and I don't know if I care,” is matched only by the bands intense instrumental delivery.

Check out the lyric video for "Waste"

The album is out on October 19th and can be ordered on vinyl or cd here.

Additionally, Whispering Sons will embark on a lengthy European tour beginning October 10th where they will support both The Soft Moon and Gang of Four at select shows.

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Magic Dance have just released a video for their first single “When Nothing's Real” in advance of the full-length album “New Eyes” scheduled to arrive in early December.  Recently signed to Frontiers Music Srl, singer/songwriter and band visionary Jon Siejka has created a heavy guitar and synth oriented sound that pays homage in part to peak-era 1980's arena rock.  While Jon wrote and recorded much of the record in his bedroom, Kevin McAdams drums were tracked at Virtue and Vice Studios in Brooklyn, with bass tracking at Tone Tent Studios in Stanhope, NJ.

Taking the currently popular lyric video to a new level, words are displayed in quick succession by two distinct alternating type faces against shifting cybernetic “tron-style” backdrops.  Arpeggio keyboards, whip-crack percussion, crunchy arena-rock guitars and rising choral background vocals (blended with sharp synthesizers) set the initial instrumental tone for this story of internalized frustration.  Jon Siejka's voice is rich and powerful, reaching levels attained only by an elite group of rock singers.  The songs production makes further use of these qualities by placing sharp emphasis on select words with a quick, shouted chorus of voices.  Whereby the lyrics “I want this noose to explode – that's wrapped around my throat. 'cause these bones I've cast in stone have shackled me far too long” – use that technique to accentuate the words “explode,” “throat,” and “far too long.” Riding the wave of precision drumming, chugging guitar guitar chords and a sizzling solo, the ultimate question (and central hook) is asked “how can I feeeeeeel – when nothing's real?”

Check out the track here:

New Eyes will be released on December 7th and can be pre-ordered here.

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It's been a few years since the progressive instrumental quartet TAUK were featured here on this site. While an instant appreciation and respect for their impressive chops and overall ability was noted at that time, brand new material exhibits how much their sound has evolved since then.

The band will release their latest album “Shapeshifter II: Outbreak” on Sept 28.   Continuing the thematic narrative of their early-2018 EP, "Shapeshifter I: Construct," concern over the human condition as it relates to society and our freedoms are touched upon through video depictions.

Muted bass pulses, a singular exploding guitar chord and stereo-panned synth shimmering kick off the band's 3rd pre-release single “Checkmate.” As syncopated drumming and piercing guitar melodies fold in with this progression, the accompanying video (streaming below) pans over an open suitcase. With the image slowing moving through a sparse and somewhat squalor room, jazz-inflected guitar lines advance its sonic narrative. An individual is spotted lying in bed while another sits on the couch preparing to watch a video screen (with a mound of popcorn in sight). The camera continues to move, sometimes panning further out or flipping the image upside down. The driving music continues to pick up steam, with quick cut changes coming at an accelerated rate. Those precise arrangements and overall tonal qualities bring to mind a myriad of fusion artists from over the years. Checking off the mental reference catalog suggests a modern day offshoot of Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, Al DiMeola and even some prog-rockers like Yes and Genesis.

As the video continues, the protagonist is seen out in a bucolic countryside, walking past a horse. Quick cuts to interior windows, close-up headshots and more in-bed reclining suggests much of this imagery is the product of dreams. The drumming becomes busier (with impressive snarework) and the melodies take on horror movie tones as the image of our man is seen maintaining his own arboretum that also houses life sustaining fluids like blood. The change comes (both sound and vision) just past the midway point when this individual casts off those elements while a hazmat-suit posse descends upon his house. A plateau of more sustained synth pads, guitar textures and propulsive bass guitar-drums interactions (echoing the brilliant rhythm work of Mike Rutherford's bass and Phil Collins' drumming on peak era Genesis recordings) establishes the soundtrack behind an eventual invasion of the house. Drawing narrative inspiration from your favorite kick ass movie, the homeowner sets out to defend himself. As the music drops into a post-event pattern, we see our hero has lost the battle and the invaders moving through his space. Amid the post-onslaught carnage, the initially shown suitcase comes into view (possibly containing some sought-after content) being taken away.

TAUK is currently on tour, with a big hometown show at Gramercy Theatre in NYC on Saturday, October 6.

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Having last encountered electro witchhouse occultists A Place Both Wonderful and Strange performing at a Subvert Secret Boat Party (a Brooklyn floating “venue” at the crossroads of "Nostrand" and "Nosferatu" avenue) on an appropriate Friday the 13th this past Spring, the announcement of new material released from this collective comes as welcome news.

Their latest EP release “The City Smells Like Cat Spit” brings together four distinct tracks that provide a fuller view of these artists' united vision. Along with the newly recorded tracks, a video accompanies lead off song “Kristae (The Strawberry Girl).” While fans of Siouxsie and the Banshees will immediately “get” the sly title reference, the track itself bears little resemblance (if any) to that classic “goth” recording.

Emerging out of the sound of running water (or perhaps rain), a muted trip-hop beat beat commences, accompanied by carefully dropped in bass guitar notes. Russ Marshalek's vocals begin almost immediately, and are altered with effects and lower register modifications. This creates a sensation of dark mystery, whereby lines like “Kristae has a heart, that kind of falls apart” are enhanced by percolating percussive undercurrents reminiscent of Brian Eno's seminal “Another Green World” track “In Dark Trees.”

Laura Hajek's bass adds a level of warmth to this sonic mix, laying down a steady pattern of notes that creates an alternating syncopated line against the busy percussion. Her whispered vocals soon enter the mix as well and are layered throughout in cascading overlays.

The video itself depicts the band in a similar dream-like state, where images of live playing are woven together with deep hue red lighting and swirling disco ball reflections. The overall impression is as if you're viewing through the prism of a strawberry. With the live playing shots filmed at that very same Subvert Secret Boat show mentioned above, the bands hybrid balance of computer driven tracking and in-the-moment improvisation receives an accurate portrayal.

EP follow-up track “W*tch (Mevius Tour Version)” enlists the production, co-writing, engineering, mixing and mastering skills of fellow like-minded artists Mevius (also covered numerous times here on this site). Rich synth pads and bell-like melody notes share equal space with bright hip-hop influenced percussion. With those 16 and 32nd note high-hat rattle percussive textures momentarily dropping out (before quickly returning), Laura's vocals move front and center for the first lyrical foray. As a subtle male voice quietly rises (then recedes) into the mix, an overall romantic quality can be felt throughout.

Stone (Version)” makes use of spoken word poetry to introduce i'ts initial visual imagery. That's followed by a hypnotic dance-trance rhythm that makes full use of synth enhancements and bouncing percussion. Soft male and female voices are employed in a subdued manner as the track begins to build in intensity. The vocal line “Kristae smells like cat spit” is heard, instantly pulling together this EP's overall themes. This over five minute psychedelic freak out ultimately concludes with additional spoken word statements of mysterious origin.

Closing cut “Hex and the City (Resonata remix)" exhibits the distorted electronic qualities that studio reinterpretations often breathe into existing tracks. Big, reverberated clock-strokes and rattle-y percussion becomes the dominant audio anchor, as voices, synths and other sundry noises compete for attention. Buried within all of that is a slow moving melody that ultimately serves as its hook.

The band is playing a number of select shows in the coming days and info about all that can be found at the usual social media sources, including their bandcamp here.

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Being a big fan of musicians who combine elements of rock, jazz and modern electronics into extended creative works (often referred to as jam or space rock bands), curiosity took hold after a notice about Papadosio showed up. The band has recently released their latest studio album “Content Coma,” and are currently out on a lengthy US tour that has them playing between 25-30 shows till the end of this year.

Having built an ever-growing, dedicated fan base over the years through six studio albums and dynamic live show, this latest release has the band taking on modern-day-problem themes of how to deal with our growing dependence on technology.

Opening track “Write Sing Play Mix” makes immediate use of that technology through electronic percussion and synthetic keyboard melodies. As more traditional bass and six string guitars enter the mix, surprising (and initially unrecognizable) “vocals” begin that give new meaning to the term “computer generated.” Heavily processed through vocoder-like masking (bringing immediately to mind the work of Black Moth Super Rainbow), only the inclusion of these lyrics on social media platforms provides awareness of their existence. “A musical life - big wide open sky - sing to the trees - take a sample of the night - a musical life - people sing sines - making ripples in the night.” The mid-point of this over six and a half minute recording gives room to fuller drummer, a variety of keyboard segments guitar passages and even a flute. There are further occasional breaks where suggestive subliminal messages like “accept it” are dropped in. The final sung “chorus” comes unadorned by any FX's at all.

Follow up track “Distress Signal” brings back the digital blips and bleeps, however the vocals are rendered in the more familiar human form. A dissertation on oil consumption and the potential of World War III, the lyric “we disagree on everything now” becomes an initial, revealing hook. “Liminal Daybreak” emerges slowly via it's mellow, subdued opening. Click clack percussion, gentle syths and jangly guitar slowly builds into a larger mix. The brief, one-line lyric “Dawn on the rise I just opened my eyes” is first sung in standard (traditional) form, followed by a complete reverse rendition of the words “seye ym denepo tsuj I esir eht no nwaD” - presumably created through computer assistance.

It's not until the fourth track “Skipswitch” that the full sense of what this band is capable of reveals itself. Doubling down on the clickety-clackety percussion and rising synths, jazzy guitar lines provide melodies. Traditional piano makes it's way into the mix, adding a welcome human warmth to the cybernetic atmosphere. Even the percussion begins to swing a bit, approximating the sound of tap dancing. Full drums, keyboards and electric guitar all make their presence felt in a series of ever changing segments, suddenly bringing to mind the clever jazz changes of bands like Steely Dan.

Eventually reaching the title track further down as a “deep cut” (does that expression still apply in today's digital age?) “Content Coma” evokes the softer pop vocal style of 80's hits like The Alan Parsons Project's “Eye in the Sky.” Those parallels don't end there, with the previous era's concern over big brother watching us (Parson's has said his work at the time was heavily influenced by George Orwell's 1984)and this current concern over social media' s influence (both positive and negative). While organic drumming powers underneath, retro syths and guitar textures of varying levels push the melody forward. There's a melancholy romanticism permeating this vocal performance and melody, where the message is clearly stated - “Nobody feels alive - * at least you were notified * - we've been conned – living content coma.” The clever lyrics continue with choice (and biting) commentary on the internet life so many of us now live. “Righteous at the right time – only when you're online – think your on the bright side,” and “The love of your life is found, it's too bad you were looking down” speaks volumes about the world we now presently live in.

To find out all of their tour dates, which includes a stop in New York City at Pier 17 on Sept. 28

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Reading the words “post indie rock pop jazz experimental punk” as the description of what a band does is more than enough to entice this writers interest. In fact the only other word not included among favorites is “prog.” But perhaps “prog” and “punk” can never be combined together, as they've always been designated as the antithesis of each other. That said, New Jersey trio Milkmen check off nearly all of the appealing expanded rock genre boxes. The recent announcement that Know Hope Records has reissued a remixed/remastered version of Milkmen's 11 song self-titled debut provides an opportune investigation into their sound.

The opening under two minute cut “Ramus” bursts out with equal parts enthusiasm, frantic chops-laden riffs and screamo vocals. “Johnny Dangerously” expands the previous formula by another minute with chunky (funky) guitar chords, counter-melodic bass and appropriately matched fevered drumming. The vocals continue with that partially sung/partially shouted hoarseness on lines like “somebody get me out of my head – it's a matter of time before I wind up dead.” “I Think I Know” places emphasis on tandem-vocals over an angular, quick cut progression. It's impressive how much fury is packed into a barely over two minute song. “Papa Gable” Gives the drummer some with press rolls and copious fills throughout a (believe it or not) one minute and a half song. “K.O.T.H.” Expands further on some precise and busy drumming, as guitars run roughshod throughout. Kudos to a bass line that holds everything together with it's solid, centrally positioned placement.

Circles Are Square” takes that contradicting title and wraps it in a pop song that embodies late 90's/early aughts Americana rock. “Grahamcracker” kicks that vibe up a notch, with long drawn out vowel vocals popularized by bands like The Strokes (that is until the screamo/emo outro). “Fruit Leather” drops everything down into a “cool cat” jazz mode, with intricate interplay between bass, drums and guitar. “Brown Pants” packs a complex structure of arpeggio guitars, busy drumming and melody-note matching bass under passionate, exasperated vocals. “Indian Red” provides a new melody incorporating all of the structural (and instrumental) qualities previously described. A vocal hook “running, running around in my head” is delivered with the now-anticipated semi-scream emotion. The record's final (and by far longest) track “Foreverday” clocks in at a whopingly excessive 3:22. Powered along by an always-appealing melodic “woooooo wooo wooo wooo” vocal hook, lyrcial storytelling moves to the forefront. Detailing mundane daily activities ultimately leads to a chorus declaring “I think I'd rather be dead – or at the very least, numb – 'cause I'd be lying if I said I was having any fun.”

Check out this high quality video recording of the band doing "Johnny Dangerously"

The record's overall feel and excellent quality is as if a ramshackle (and great songwriting) band like The Replacements actually bothered to practice their instruments more and developed a higher level of individual skill and chops.  A brand new record is expected in early 2019.

Connect with Milkmen at their Facebook Page here, and @milkmenband everywhere else on the internet.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sune Rose - Exclusive Interview

Ever since it was announced that Sune Rose Wagner would be returning to New York to live and work, the goal to conduct an up close and personal face-to-face catch-up interview with the man became an accessible reality. The long-time Raveonettes visionary has recently re-branded himself by dropping his last name, presenting new works as simply Sune Rose.

Arranging a time and location for an early Tuesday afternoon, I met up with Sune at his favorite local cafe in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood (Le Pain Quotidien on 7th Avenue) on one of those extremely hot and humid days we've been having for the entire month of August.

D:  So, why the move back to New York, after all that time in Los Angeles?

Sune: I know – it's a really good question. I believe I have what's called 'seasonal affective disorder' – but in reverse. Meaning that – most people get depressed if it's too grey or when the days are too short. But I have the opposite where I get depressed if every day is always bright and sunny out.

D:  Well you are from Denmark and were raised in cooler climates where seasonal changes occur through the year.

S:  Yes, I very much like seasons and the feeling that the year is rolling, and that can be a big blow when it's Christmas and it's hot out like this. The whole palm tree Christmas can be a bit confusing. So that was one of the reasons for the change. Another reason was that I do have a lot of old friends here that I missed and wanted to reconnect with them. But to be quite honest with you, I'm not completely enjoying the move, and I don't see myself living here for a very long time.

D:   Were some of the reasons for the change so you could get involved in different aspects of music? Perhaps other opportunities for more production work, radio, tv, film or things like that?

S:  Everytime I make a move I hope and assume that there will be other people you can meet and other jobs becoming available – and maybe other people that can inspire you.

D:   I understand you had been doing a bit of acting recently.  Tell me about this work you've done for Kansas Bowling and a film called “Cuddly Toys.”

S:  Kansas is a girl that I met right before I left LA. I wish I had known her for all the years that I was there, but unfortunately I only met her a few months before I left. She's a young budding actress, screenwriter and film director. I have no doubt that she is going to be huge one day.

D:  Has the film come out yet?

S:  I think she's still working on it. I wrote a song for the movie for a Russian young woman who is also in the movie named Sasha. Independent from this film, I'm also writing songs with Sasha right now.

D:   There's been a number of in-progress posts covering this activity on your Instagram account.

D:  Are those clips and pictures from your studio?

S:  Yes, that's my home recording studio. That's where I do everything.

D:  I did some research on Sasha Belyaeva and see that she's interested in numbers and economics, along with being an accomplished violinist.

S:  She's a great violin and piano player and a really good singer too.

D:  And you are currently co-writing material with her?

S:  Yes, we have quite a few now. There's no target date for releasing any of these at this time as of yet, however. We want to make sure we like a specific song first. She also travels a lot working as a model, and is presently back home in Russia visiting her parents.

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D:  Anyone who has followed your career is aware of the inspiration American “Beat Generation” writer Jack Kerouac has provided you.  Have you read all of his books?

S:  Actually, no. I still to this day have never read his very first book “The Town And The City.” I've read all the others, though.

S:  One way that I used to draw inspiration from him was, I would have a pen and paper next to me, and every time there was a word or sentence – or something that evoked some kind of imagery in me - I would just write it down. I would just take notes, and before I knew it I had multiple papers laid out. Sometimes small sentences and sometimes just single words that would lead to emotional reactions that would start an avalanche of writing. I still do that to this very day. That's how I write lyrics. I need words to set everything into motion.

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D:  The first song you released is “Ambush,” and I see you have a fuller video to go along with the lyric one you initially put out.

S:  I didn't really mean to do it, but it evolved out of something else. The day before I left Los Angeles it was one of those rare days in California when it rains. I remember waking up and thinking that I need some press photos and didn't want to repeat the beach shots we did with "Peahi."  I wanted to do the pictures within the hour and I called up the photographer we always use, Ashlie Chavez.

S:  I said can you meet me downtown somewhere and shoot some photos in the rain – that's my biggest dream. She agreed to meet and said she knew a great roof we could shoot them on. As I was driving in I thought maybe she can shoot some clips of me singing or walking around. If you look close at the video, in the first verse I'm standing up against the wall in the hallway of the hotel miming along with the words, but it took us 100 takes to get it somewhat right.

D:  That's cool. Well, as a writer and reviewer I'm a big fan of lyric videos for the obvious reason of having the words in front of me. I don't have to ask for them or try to figure them out myself.

D:  You recently announced a “new single and lyric video coming soon” and that “it's gonna get noisy.”  Is that going to be a real guitar heavy song?

S:  Yes, for sure!  I shot another lyric video up in Nyack for this next single “After All,” and the mastered audio from Sterling Sound is now complete, so we will be releasing that soon.

S:  It's very much way more of a Raveonettes type of song. That is kind of the style that I write. The response so far has been very positive, from all the PR and management people, Scott – are all absolutely loving it. So, I think this will really resonate with people a lot more and I think they will say – oh, great! We thought he was just going to start releasing some weird synthy stuff, but hey – this is going to be interesting. Now we can't wait to see what he's going to do next.

D:  Right. Because the final track on your last album (the Atomizer collection) - “Pendejo” was a weird, synthy, long, instrumental, swirling – almost film score music.

S:  One of my best friends Johnny was with me up in wine country and he speaks Mexican slang with all his buddies working in the hotel industry. At one point he just said flat out, why don't you do a 12 minute instrumental song called “Pendejo.” Two days after, I sent him the version that appears on the record, I didn't change anything. And I said “oh, you mean like this?” - and he was laughing, he didn't think I would do it. So we actually have him to thank for that.

D:  What's great about the video that goes along with it is you use this image of Jack Kerouac in his football uniform from his time at Columbia University. Which is a photo of him that wasn't all that commonly known. And you alter it so that it moves, with this shaky effect. Were you involved in the video creation of that?

S:  Yeah, yeah – I do everything – every single thing. It's hard for me to give that control away because – first off – I have ideas that are hard to explain. And I don't want to spend unnecessary time and resources on going back and forth with these things. I want to work quickly and I've taught myself how to use these programs for that very reason – how to make videos and how to do all that stuff. When I have an idea I just want to sit down and make it. Because that's the last thing I want to spend my time on. I want to focus on the music rather than spend two weeks with someone making a video. I've tried that before and the videos never turned out the way I wanted them to.

D: Sure. Or, they're these beautiful works of art that stand apart, in a way, from the actual song.  I'm thinking of the video for “Heart Of Stone.

S: Oh, yes! Well, there were two, because “Heart Of Stone” was almost like a steam-punk thing – but then there was the song “Black and White” which was very beautifully done with back and white animation – that one I was really crazy about.

S:   It almost looked like a Tim Burton film, so it definitely can be done. You have to remember that whoever they hired to do that video was extremely good, but they also had the money to do it because it was for a Gap campaign. Now when you are financing everything yourself, I don't want to spend all my money on that, I'd rather buy a new guitar.

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D:  Recently you produced an album for the band Gateway Drugs.  Has that been released yet? 

S:  No, I'm actually mixing it right now. 

D:  I believe a number of the band members are children of a musician who enjoyed a level of success, correct? 

S:  Yes, two brothers and a sister – Gabe, Noa and Liv.  They're the children of Prescott Niles who was The Knack's bassplayer and responsible for that famous “My Sharona” riff.  The band used that actual bass to record the stuff I'm working on now.

D:  You've done a whole album with them? How deeply where you involved in the recording? 

S:  We did ten songs.   As their producer I would make suggestions for their arrangements and to make sure they got their best performance.  I had ideas for backing vocals and extra guitar lines where I would say “why don't you go in and try something like this” just to make sure we had everything.  It's easier to have too much than too little.  I don't want to sit in the mixing process and all of the sudden go 'damn I wish we would have done those harmonies on the second chorus.'

S:  So we try to do as much as we can, and then we can start muting stuff – and get into what we actually need.  It the same thing when I write for myself.  I just do it, and then eventually I'll just start muting things and say "well, what do I actually need?”

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D:  Beginning with your 5th full-length studio album “Raven in the Grave,” you began including lyrical stories of recurring historical themes touching on war and combat. What is your fascination with World War II, Hawaii and the devastating effects of chemicals like Napalm?

S:  I just have a fascination with war overall, both past and present.  I think World War II can sometimes be glamorized a bit too much.

D:  I think all wars are glamorized too much, especially from a literary point of view – where there is a tendency to smooth over how awful in reality it actually is.

S:  Yes, of course. What fascinates me about it as it relates to music is the juxtaposition of evil and beauty.  Pearl Harbor is a great example of that.  If you sometimes look at a picture of the Pearl Harbor bombings, you'll see palm trees in the foreground and the sun is shining – it's all very idyllic – its very exotic - and in the background you have this massive theater of destruction.  That always interested me in how it was very strange you could actually have that, whereas other wars don't have that.

S:  If you look at the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina – the old Yugoslavia, it's just misery all around.  All wars are misery, don't get me wrong, it's just that the scenery can be very different.  Look at the Atom bomb and the trinity testing on bikini island.  If you look at that photo and scan it from bottom up you see a beautiful beach with little tree huts, palm trees, nice clear water and then suddenly this huge mushroom cloud – and you say “what's wrong with this picture?!”

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D:  I see that you and Richard Gottehrer have been doing other things together recently, like going to an archery range. How did that all come about?

S:  A couple of weekends ago I visited him up in Nyack - it was his wife's birthday, and we drove down to New Jersey to do some archery.

D:   Had you ever done it before, and how did you do at it?

S:  I had never done it before and actually did pretty good but I got a little bored of it. For me it's like bowling and golfing, which I see as similar activities.

D:  I know that in your early years you were very into tennis in your home country of Denmark. You appeared to be on that “tennis track” of going to tennis camps and schools, and basicially were being groomed to go pro. 

S:  Yes, I got very good at it. I actually was suppose to go pro, but my mom wanted me to go to school and finish my education, so I wound up doing that instead which put a stop on the tennis.

*  *  *

D:  You recently posted about producing a track by an artist named Casssie Gaffaney.  What is that all about?

S:  We did that one in Los Angeles, actually.  I believe Richard Gottehrer found her and asked if I could do a song with her.  So I looked at the list of songs available and chose Bruce Springsteen's “I'm On Fire,” which is one I've always liked.  It's a very stripped down version that allows for emphasis on her very cool voice. I did the backing track and she came in and sang on it.

D:  There had been talk of this project a while back, that songs written from a male point of view were going to be released by female vocalists.

S:  Yes, that's right.  I did the Beach Boys song “Don’t Worry Baby” prior to this with a singer named Rachael Fannan.

(and check out the unmistakable Sune Rose guitar sound on it)

D:  So, these songs are basically being released one at a time, and the primary motivation for presenting these songs to the world reverts back to the vocalists?

S:  Yes.  Each one at a time.  I currently have a track ready to go for The Knack song “My Sharona,” if we can find someone to sing on that.

D:  Is this primarily a Richard Gottehrer project? 

S:  There are different people involved.  I've done two now and have a third one ready to go.  When Richard does a song with people then he is producing those songs, yes.

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For further reading on the work of Sune Rose, check out this full track-by-track review of all 12 “Atomized” songs.

 Eight additional Raveonettes reviews can be found linked at the end of that.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

New Releases + Live Shows: Like Herding Cats, The Cold Seas, The Vandelles, Ume

Deep into the heart (and heat) of the summer, a series of back-to-back events made their way onto the Cromwellian ledger.  Brand new record releases come from Like Herding Cats, The Vandelles and Ume.  Other bands like The Cold Seas released material earlier this year, and continue their live presentations of those song.  In fact, all of the above-mentioned bands are currently advancing their live shows on stages both locally and out on the road.

It's been over four years since New York and New Jersey collective Like Herding Cats put out proper studio recordings of new material.  With the release of their much anticipated “Curious Faces” EP on July 13th, the band comes through with five creatively stimulating and impeccably recorded tracks.

Working this new material into their live shows over the last few years has offered a level of familiar recognition as well as a glimpse into what these already well-written songs could become in a careful studio environment. That promise has now come to fruition with the capable assistance of mixer/producer (and long time associate) Mod Alien (guitarist/keyboardist for Elefant and Radio 4) with mastering by Alan Douches (Mastodon, Grizzly Bear, Kurt Vile) of West West Side Music.

In addition to the new record, the band has released a music video for their single "Affliction."  Employing his own Carousel Media House video production company, frontman Dom P produced and directed this visually striking artistic accompaniment.

Filmed in a historic Catskills home, the imagery depicts a stylish but internally troubled woman in precise quick cuts and focused details. Much like Amy Adams in her current HBO drama “Sharp Objects,” attractively styled close ups and bucolic scenery share space with an uneasy tension.

The song itself is a brilliant update on the very best elements of mid-80's-to-early-90's alternative pop.  From the opening three snare-drum shots, warm keyboard pads, quick pulsing bass guitar and distinctive repeated sonic hook (echoed by overlaying guitar licks) every note has it's place and purpose.  Additional 80's-style pop techniques emerge like electronic percussive “hand claps” that signal changing moments within the structure.  Lyrically the tale has the singer questioning someone (a woman we soon find out) about their “troubled life,” asking “what's in your head?”  It all leads to a gorgeous chorus where the voice is now the woman in question's point-of-view, who pleads “I don’t want to be the one they talked about in the night she cries and says Mercy, upon my soul!”  It's a fantastic track overall with Dom's passionate vocals carrying the distinct and indelible melody.

Playing a celebratory show one day in advance of it's release on Thursday, July 12th, the band played a lengthy set of older tracks mixed in with everything from this new EP.

Sticking with that prime mid-80's-era feel, “Sacred Hearts” point to sonic aspects of The Cure, Echo + The Bunnymen and The Smiths as reference points. That extends into the lyrical delivery and vocal cadence, which dips into the McCulloch/Morrissey phrasing style. With drums thundering down on the deeper register toms, a powerful bassline and melody-driven guitar lines once again exemplifies the spacial quality of these recordings. It all rises to a big, glorious chorus that states “no I can’t be of any help to you when you’re silent and playing dead - No I can’t be of any help to you, when you’re pushing me away.” Those catchy mid-tempo hooks continue, while a curious and potentially macabre conclusion is revealed after the repeated lyric “In the night..Standing there silently looking over me” – “With a knife… in your hands.. Contemplating life.”

Midpoint track “To See The Morning Sun” opens with a curiously cerebral fifteen seconds of swirling atmospherics before the drums kick in.  That textural combination continues as clean guitar lines and slithering bass work their way into the mix.  A snare drum roll ushers in the main melody line that captures the bright and bouncy spirit of The Cure's happier songs.  While an inquisitive lyrical story of a “house on fire” may also reference the aforementioned band, the goal here is to “escape” and “see the sun.”  That snare roll/full band build-up returns, signaling the melody hook with a chorus that goes “It’s like a kiss underwater, a kiss underwater like the one you give.”

A brief, syncopated intro sets up the central progression for ambling, easy groove track “Easter Song.”   Melodies come churned out by quick strummed chords and distinct single note guitar lines. Cybernetic imagery (“plug your screen into my spine” and “your wires in my head”) come paired with religious metaphor (“hammer nails into my cross when the leaves turn green”).  High falsetto vocals on the outro are the product of bandmembers only (no guest female vocalist necessary).

EP closing track “It Falls Apart” showcases the finest elements of fully mature, arena-level alternative rock techniques employed by big bands like The Cure.  There's the gentle, digital delay opening guitar notes, butterfly-ripple high-hat flutters against beefy snare shots and fluid low-register bass guitar pattern.  Fully syncopated motion is established by the rising guitar counter-melody, completing this emotionally seductive progression.  The story told establishes a melancholy state where one half of a relationship is looking to move on.  In fact, they are “begging” the other not to talk as “there’s nothing left for us to say.”  A brilliant rumbling tom tom and synth pad section brings to mind the dynamics of classic early MTV heyday 80's songs like “I Melt With You” by Modern English and “Whisper To A Scream” by Icicle Works.  This emotionally wrought vocal performance is only matched by the brilliant song design, sound quality and convincingly passionate playing by each member of the band.

In addition to the new EP material, the band filled out their live show playing many of the much beloved songs from their debut record.

Once again Dom and the the boys played an inspired version of Echo And The Bunneymen's "Bring On The Dancing Horses."

Along with a similarly reverential rendition of "Years Gone" (dedicated to those souls who have recently left us here in the mortal world).

Good time meet ups and the social media afterglow continue to cement lasting bonds between friends and colleagues.

Like Herding Cats play next on August 9th at Coney Island Baby in NYC, and you can find out all the details on that show right here.

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Just prior to the LHC performance, this year's bright new discovery The Cold Seas played a full set of their own impressive material.

Having covered the most recent single and video for their breakthrough track "Retrograde" here on This Site and The Deli Mag, catching one of their live shows was only a matter of time - and that time had arrived.

The band played a seamless 10 song set comprised of the four singles and one EP released over the last two years.

Highlights included 2017 single “Oblivion,” which combines a big time modern pop feel with lyrics of heartbreak and loss. Stating that “dissecting memories, is all that's left for me,” the mood is direct and personal. “Show me oblivion. Take what you want and then – pretend you're there for me – constant and endlessly.” The chorus bursts like a huge emotional hook, with “all this wasted in my heart,” and “you're the poison in my blood.” While poetic subject matter mines the depths of anguish, the songs over-sized chorus is tailor-made for a first-love romantic film or MTV reality show.

Another 2017 single “Where Is My Head” is a minimalist electronic-synth psychological breakdown, where obsession with another (“I know I shouldn't crave you”) disregards the obvious damages (“you kill like a cancer, but it doesn't phase me – I'll still take my chances”).

While early 2017 single “Catacombs” starts out as a voice and guitar only intro (“secrets out – through the doors of an empty house you live no doubt”), it soon morphs into a deep synth-bass and trip-hop percussive groove. “I failed to be – all the things I said I would be. In a cold sweat dream, in the warmth of this – faded fast as I reminisce, how it came to this” provides stream-of-conscious storytelling paired to that lock-down rhythm. The beat momentarily drops out, allowing for an introspective, dream-like sequence that serves as a necessary bridge to yet-another large, hooky chorus. “I'm always alone – like bodies in the catacombs” delivers the requisite punchline song title reveal. Catchy melodies are delivered through alternating rising and descending flute-like synth textures.

Much of the set also included the four songs off of their "Bad Dreams" EP, with "Half Awake," "Lucid," "Feed Your Heart" and the title track.  They closed out the show with their current single "Retrograde."

Keep up on the latest from The Cold Seas on their Official Site, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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The very next night had the Crom-mobile heading a half-a-mile south to storied NYC rock venue The Mercury Lounge for a long-awaited live show appearance by two highly regarded bands.

Returning from a far too lengthy hiatus, New York's noisy surf-rockers The Vandelles recently released their first single “Techromancer” which will be included on the peculiarly titled forthcoming album "Hate Will Bring Us Together."

Working on other projects during the break did nothing to temper the bands penchant for twangy guitars and California beach vibrations.  The rhythm section comes on even harder this time around with a circular throbbing bass line and aggressive thrashing percussion.

Creating a new word for the songs title by combining modern video gameplay (Technomancer) with the groundbreaking sci-fi cyberpunk classic Neuromancer is intriguing on a number of levels. “I'd rather be dead than you, I'd rather be black and blue, I'll greet the darkness when it comes” sets the initial lyrical tone.

Those quieter moments serve to set up an explosive chorus that goes “so come and get it, come and get it from me – I 'm always ready,” accompanied by slashing power chords over pounding drums and bass.

In addition to a few other new songs (some having been played live at least once, others brand new) the band dipped deep into their catalog playing classic cuts from debut album Del Black Aloha.

Outstanding tracks from that album like "Get Down," "Fever Of The Beat" and "Die For It Cowboy" went down with expected enthusiasm from die-hard and new fan alike.

Other new, previously showcased (but yet to be officially released) tracks like "Beat You Up" has evolved into the type of powerhouse track that deserves inclusion on the bands next longplayer.  It's heavy driving groove takes full advantage of power trio bravado, with low rumble fuzz bass and guitars locked in unison over tom-tom laden jungle drums.  A momentary drop out of the rhythm section allows for the primary guitar riff to play through, before full forceful momentum is restored. “Beat, beat, beat, beat beat you up” is the pummeling outro that that suggest two possible meanings - the actual ass-shaking, head-bobbing “beat” of the song – with the more literal physical interpretation.

Rhythm section rumble n' ruckus

Singing telepathically, direct from the cerebral cortex.

Fun with The Vandelles post show

Additional new live material can be found here

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Headlining this show was another long-overdue appearance in New York by Austin, Texas powerhouse band Ume.  Touring in support of their latest album “Other Nature,” four years had passed since their previous record.

During that time off core members Lauren Langer Larson and her husband Eric Larson had a child together, which served as a catalyst for much of this albums new material.

Playing a 13 song set, 8 of the album's 10 tracks were mixed in among the bands classic live material. Opening with long-time favorite “Conductor,” the band hit the ground running with both Eric and Lauren doing their power-bass and guitar-pummeling/whirling dervish moves respectively.

The first of the brand new material played was initial album preview track “Two Years Sleep.” With it's repeated refrain “waking up after two years sleep,” a personal touch is conferred on what feels like being held in a lengthy state of inertia.   That sentiment is taken a step further with the hooky drop “I I I I cannot watch you sleep – nothing is forever” over slightly off-kilter guitar tones and synthy sonic washes.  All of that is juxtaposed against a chunky, mid-tempo rock rhythm on the verses containing a touch of mystery.  A gentle plateau of open note guitar figures and rat-a-tat military-style snare drum rolling leads to one more penultimate moment.

That was followed by another track from the new record, the popular-style vowels removed “BDY DBL.”  Digging deeper now into more complex and angular riffs, the track springs from a 6-note guitar figure, completing the cycle on the 7th.  With verse lyrics and vocals syncing up to that 6-note melody, Lauren's delivery is soft and sultry.  A less-fragmented bass pattern emerges underneath Lauren's open note chord structures and soft coo vocals stating “you are the girl I want to know, I want tooooooooo.”  That already rewarding slow buildup leads to full band momentum, with atmospheric washes under tandem voice and guitar melody lines.

Continuing with the new material roll-out, “The Center” builds off a driving bass pattern and hyperactive drumming.  Lauren's structured guitar lines ride over top, creating both melody and counterpoint to the rhythm underneath.  A breathless story unfolds like a dream, where one is “chased to the center” before declaring “I feel you – don't go digging down – as I crash – finding my way out.”  The sensation given is similar to a “chase” movie, where one is running fast through the jungle, searching for something -but – what?  “Take me in your madness - transfer all your sadness – take me out of my mind,” provide lyrical context that offer potential clues.   “Gonna sit this one out,” becomes a repeated mantra over a descending note progression, replaced by “No more weakness” on the dynamic outro.

With a recent full video release for next song “Crushed,” feature treatment was given here at the midpoint of the set. The songs opening lyrical incantation “Do – Not – Grow – Up” appears to exhibit a plea to freeze in time that special bond between parent and child.  The full band build-up of throbbing bass and echo'd toms comes to an abrupt halt for an intimate moment.   “Accepting catastrophe – everything you made me I am crushed” gives meaning to the single word title.  With an intense-yet-gentle strumming on guitar, the hope for a brighter future is declared, stating “I dream that you might see – all those heights I could never reach.”  While the poetic turn “If there's just one chance to speed through the shadows – the moment I met you my love turned to sunlight” fully underscores this newfound purpose.

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A delicate guitar and voice intro gives deeper album track “Stop Resisting” an early, soothing lullaby quality.  With the softly sung line “you wait for me – to stop resisting – stop resisting” floating momentarily, a quick tempo change doubles the cadence and engages the rest of the band more fully. Straddling the line between intimate reading and power ballad, “I could never be enough” is tossed out like a lament to the universe.   “I just want to feel it, I don't want to stop it” becomes the most forceful and passionate sentiment delivered just before the songs conclusion.

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Dissonant guitar lines over quieter strummed guitar chords introduces mid-point album track “After The Show.”  Held towards the end of the set, sweet siren vocals proclaim “tonight I heard you sing, all of those things, that sound like the one I mean - just for me.”  With the echo of those final words floating off into the mist, a series of ornate guitar figures are laid out with soulful purpose.  Those hypnotic-vocals-to-extended-guitar forays cycle through two more times before a brief calm sends the band off on a hard charge.  A final minute of dying-embers extended guitar tones and quiet feedback signal in post-revelry contemplation.

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Find out how to acquire Ume's brand new album and more here at their Official Site

Catching up with Lauren post-show

The band's own NYC Selfie

Perfect together

Previous features on Ume can be found on this site Here, Here, Here and Here

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