Monday, April 23, 2018

Features: Heaven, Mahogany, The Ronains, Perfect Prescription, Damage Control, The Cold Seas, Mevius, Knifesex, APBWAS, Hexsys, FMs, Panophonic, Evolving NYC

As we attempt to navigate our way through the schizophrenic nature that early spring month April exhibits (bits of odd late season snowfall with the more anticipated “showers to bring flowers”) the quest for musical satisfaction continues on.  New record releases and local live shows attended create the necessity for deep dive investigation and subsequent documentation.  Conscientious song analysis shares space with the more chaotic surroundings encouraged at live shows.  Both studious recorded works and energetic physical presentation serve to complete the overall experience.

Long time friends of this site Heaven have recently released their second full-length album “All Love is Blue.” Opting to put it out on emerging Portland, Oregon label Little Cloud Records, the band finds themselves in good company with a number of like-minded psych-rock acts.

Witnessing the evolution of Heaven via multiple live shows and published features both here and on The Deli Mag over the last few years allows for a broader view of the work. What's immediately clear is how the central focus of frontman Matt Sumrow has remained consistent to his initial vision of how the band should sound.

That intention and sense of purpose was on full display at the bands album release show at rising Brooklyn hot spot Ceremony 224 on Tuesday, April 3rd.

Opening with lead single, "Never The Moment," familiar downward-gaze guitar chords and buzzing synth pads were joined by rich keyboard textures establishing the central melody.  “I know you've waited” are the initial words Sumrow emits in his cool and intimate style.   “I've been waiting too” he reveals.  The first vocal hook arrives just under two minutes in stating that “the heartbreak will pass” and how “you're never far away.”  That central melody returns, this time played by Matt via richly resonant sliding guitar notes.  The title theme is ultimately reached as Matt states that “I need a vision to call me home,” and how it's “never the moment.”  Ultimately one is assured that “you know in the morning, your heartbreak will pass” - establishing the sentiment that continued faith guarantees “you're never far away.”  The perfect blend of steady percussion, simple driving bass, rich textured keyboards and a superb guitar melody line lift the song to a majestic conclusion.

Check out the bands recent BTR Live Studio performance of the song here:

Sticking with the album's track sequence, “She's Closer Than Everyone” sent a spark through the eager audience with its quicker paced tempo.  The dual guitar attack with driving chords, bright melody-line over throbbing bass and singular pounding percussion feels like a long lost Ride single from the early 90's.  There's a psychedelic tinge to Matt's vocals, stating how he's “lost in the moment – floating away – she's closer than evvvv-eryone” (recreating the Mark Gardener vocal cadence). The huge guitar melody that follows is echoed by matching vocal “ahh ahh's.”

“Springtimes (And All My Summer Times Too)” dips into a 60's psychedelia vibe, only adding a more distorted guitar sound overall.  The chord progression and sonic presentation has a second wave British Invasion feel, like early Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd.  The pop song structure is evident, but overdriven guitars push it out of the realm of sweetness into harsher studio experimentation.

Title track “All Love Is Blue” brings back the deep buzzing synth while adding a piano-like keyboard line to the mix.  Chugging guitar (with matching bass throttle) further the forward momentum, setting the table for more soft, sandpapery vocals.  We soon discover “there's love hidden inside your darkest dreams.” “I know it's hard for you – through your eyes – all love is blue.” That leads to more interesting chant-like vocalizations, which ultimately morphs into a dramatic keyboard, vocal and percussive breakdown.   An additional dominant guitar line emerges to emphasize the overall melody. That sets up further passionate tandem vocals, projected over top of the full-on thundering rhythm and stand-out guitar line.

“Falling Hearts” features slow-strummed phased guitars against a double-time bass and drum pattern. The vocals are delivered in that softly declared chant style that runs like a sonic thread through the best of 90's gazey artists. It's those chiming chords, steady thumping toms and warm enveloping vocals that capture a perfect dreampop feel. A distinct melodic riff emerges, adding substantial weight to the overall sonic structural design. The kind of riff frequently employed by the great The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the comparison here is most certainly earned.

Eventually deviating ever so slightly from the albums track order, the stomping, angular progression of deeper cut “Firesky” was next.  While elements of My Bloody Valentine emerge in texture and execution, Matt's vocals are far more up front and audible. With it's ascending chord progression, one is reminded of the most recent (over a decade in the making) mbv album and a possible reference cut like “only tomorrow.”  However, Matt adds elements like the vocal hook that goes “I feel so alive – soooo true” against a rat-a-tat bass and drum pattern, creating it's own unique movement.

An epic rendition of “Darken Fields” closed out the set, emphasizing how all four instruments (and voice) fit so well together. Against droning keyboards, active bass pattern and syncopated percussion, descending guitar chords emerge, establishing the overall melody. “Run through the darken fields” is sung out, evoking imagery of an active dream scenario. As the rhythm section momentarily drops out, dramatic guitar riffs and keyboards serve to fill that sonic space. It all eventually explodes into a full band rave-up, harnessing the best elements of psych-rock and introspective head-trip vocals.

The band has recently released another trippy video for the equally psychedelic Pete International Airport remix of bonus track "Believable."  While the imagery depicts chainsaw horror flick gore (so popular now with Ash vs The Evil Dead), the original acoustic guitar + lyrically driven album track  has been transformed via multiple layered keyboards and heavily fx'd  backward loop vocals.  Check it out here:

Necessary tools of the sound design trade.

An extended family of musicians is always a plus for any working band.

Check out this sites other features on Heaven


The band is currently on tour and you can find all the dates along with how to acquire their album here.
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Creating an appropriate mood for a major part of the night was a DJ set from Perfect Prescription.

Julian has a unique collection of music that thoroughly covers a wide range of gazey psych rock.

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Opening the show was a stripped down two-man version of The Cabana Kids.

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They played a crisp set of lively tunes driven along by a dual electric guitar approach.

Friends catching up while enjoying the night's festivities.

And the local impresario making sure everything runs smoothly.

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Social Media Fun

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It's always cool when musician friends from overseas (and previously featured here on this site) get in touch for a visit.

So it was a pleasure to swing by a number of NYC clubs and landmarks with East Kilbride, Scotland's Murray Dalglish on Saturday, April 7th.

Along with visits to original CBGB's location (now John Varvatos clothing store, but still retaining some of the original venue structure inside) and current CB's-like venues Bowery Electric and Manitobas - we check out the hands-on Cube and new Rhino sculpture.

Although the sun was setting and things got progressively darker, we managed to take a few snaps by it.

The beautiful piece of sculpture has a serious ecological story to it, which can be learned about here.

While Murray will surely have his own unique NY experience tale to tell, my own individual history with (and fascination for the History of) this city includes the Grand Central Station area and in particular 101 Park Avenue.

The sidewalk outside 101 Park Avenue is lined with brass plaques depicting notable buildings in the area.  This six and a half minute Podcast explains the origins of all this, in the sculptors own voice.

Many of the architects who designed those buildings were once based out of the original Architects' Building, which formerly stood on this site.

Each bronze panel is a detailed portrait of a different building designed on this site.

Drawing of the Architects Building, northeast corner of Park Avenue and 40th Street in 1913.  Grand Central Terminal at the left.  The Architects Building; Built: 1912. Razed: 1979.  Located at 101 Park Avenue, The Architects Building housed the offices of the city's architectural elite.  The 16 story building was demolished to make way for a 49 story office tower.

A 1925 photo of the building's entrance.

A current night time view looking south towards 40th street, where you can see the plaques in the sidewalk.

Looking directly at the front of the building, April 7, 2018

Walking the streets heading south, a glimpse of previous decades now vanishing technology.

And the modern equivalent, currently popping up to take it's place.

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The following Tuesday, April 10th presented another opportunity for taking in NYC's downtown literary and musical culture.

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Already familiar with the music Jared Artaud makes (having previously written about much of that here, here and here) this night's new discovery was the literary works of author Tony O'Neill.

While Jared played improvisational guitar, Tony did a live reading from one of his books.

It's a format that actually works rather well, as the on-the-spot nature this musical form (combined with visual projections from behind) adds a new dimension to the printed word.

Written verse and music has always gone together (obviously the components of what is called a song) and NYC's long history of attracting poets and those inclined towards literary prose continues.

Jared's psychedelic style of playing provided an appropriate backdrop for this particular reading.

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Quenching multiple thirsts.

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Music and Words

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Taking a moment to chat with the author afterwards, a copy of Mr. O'Neill's celebrated novel "Sick City" was acquired.

A fascinating journey into the underbelly of life, it comes recommended by none other than superstar guitarist Slash who states how he "loved the whole f**ked-up journey."

Check him out at

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Following Mr. O'Neill and Artaud's performance was a welcome return to the stage by the dreamy music project known as Mahogany.

While the unrelenting vision of Andrew Prinz remains a singular line running through everything associated with this brand, variations continue to emerge.

For this performance, a new element was introduced via Alex Sniderman's 6-string Rickenbacker guitar.

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The two guitars complemented each other quite well, with Andrew's 12-string creating an orchestral wall of sounds, allowing Alex to play more defined chord structures.

Sound generators encased in quick access "stomp boxes."

Along with a more complete sound designed in mysterious "bunkers."

While playing a handful of recent, familiar songs, some entirely new material was also introduced.  Andrew's voice sounded better than ever,  emphasizing further his easy flow in a falsetto timbre.

The six songs played were "Keystone Sonata," "Commutator," "In White Rooms," "Resistance and Release," "A Third Prism," and "Lovebombing."

Find out about all things Mahogany here.

Previous features about the band on this site can be found here:

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One more band played on this evening, an "Alt-Country" outfit that goes by the name Almoon.

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Their laid back, female-fronted, easy going western vibe had a distinct Cowboy Junkies feel to it all.

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Along with a slight sultry, swoony feel that also brought a bit of Hope Sandoval/Mazzy Star to mind.

Balancing sound, on the fly.

There isn't much recorded music to be found at the moment, but you can hear a bit of what they sound like on this Instagram clip, and a bit more (from this very night's performance) on this other Instagram clip here.

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Three days later would find the superstitious date of Friday the 13th hosting two separate significant events.

 First up was a venture down to familiar NYC lower east side haunt Pianos, to catch a set from Scottish rockers The Ronains.

Not only did they play a blistering set, but this was their first ever New York show on this maiden voyage US tour.

They played an incredibly crisp and tight ten songs that drew heavily from their current record "Love, Drugs and on the Dole."

Equally balanced with two male and female members, a striking visual element also served to enhance the overall experience.

The catalyst and initial motivating force stems from songwriter and bassist Jim Reid.  Yes, there is in fact another Scotsman with that famous name.  The fact that The Jesus And Mary Chain's Jim Reid has given his approval to his fellow namesake (and Countryman) puts to rest any possible associated controversy.

The groups other lad - Shaun, makes the most of his contributions to the songs by ripping guitar passages with fire and determination.

Rock solid drummer Linzi brings both musical skill and a cutie-pie element to the overall proceedings.  Her sweet personality, lean tattoo'd figure and intelligent conversation all contribute to  the bands positive dynamic.

Lead vocalist Debi sings with a soulful raw power that brings the bands lyrical storytelling to life.  She is also quite animated between songs, delivering bits of info and insights about the band with a touch of humor and charm.

Album cuts like “Vampyre” underscore a heavy, classic rock style that runs through much of their material. Early in the set they played their introductory-rocker (and T-shirt slogan) “Who The Fu*k Are the Ronains.”  It's a slinky little number that emerges out of a forceful, thumping drum pattern and steady bass guitar pulse before ultimately exploding in self-conscious bravado.  While Debi initially sings “standing under the spotlight – do you remember my name?” the eventual hook develops into a “Who . . . The . . . Who . . . The” chant.

A John Bonham-esque bass drum, snare and high-hat pattern kicks off the mid-tempo stomper “Johnny Jones.”  This tale of hard luck junkie life on the streets unfolds in gritty lyrical detail.   “Shut the door, 'cause I need to score” establishes the repeated vocal statement, and protagonists ultimate point of view.  “Panic Attack” swings like a 1960's-era three chord raveup, with it's cleaner effects-free guitar progression and lead overlays.   “I can't breathe,” Debi sings - “my heart skips a beat can you help me please – a panic attack from my front to my back.”

Chunky guitar chords and a rougher edge feature prominently on the mid-set (and 5th album track) “Take It Back.” The band then surprised with a brilliant rendition of the traditional folk song (of uncertain origins) “House of the Rising Sun.” Most know the 1964 hit version by The Animals, and Debi delivered a particularly soulful and captivating performance of it.

Rock boots and FX processors.

They closed out the show with a blow-out version of their album closer "US Marine Corp."  It's a clever lyrical ditty that serves as part homage to that military institution, as well as travel log (ticking off destination stops in Baltimore, Arkansas, Tennessee and other points – mostly southern USA).  It was the perfect show closer that left the audience satisfied and wanting more.

A pleasure to meet and get to know this friendly bunch.

Stealth photo rolling through the venue.

And out on the lower east side's Ludlow Street.

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Their latest record "Love, Drugs and on the Dole" is well worth checking out.  Find out all about that (and all things Ronains) here.

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The second act on this very night occurred immediately afterwards via a short trip over the Williamsburg bridge into Brooklyn.  Hosted on the by-waters of Bushwick inside a historic ship, the night promised to "be foggy and dark, but the way lit with candlelight."

Promoted under the heading SUBVERT: ritual: pt 1. luck, the event was the first of a two night celebration "aligning to bring forth Spring and the end of the long cold darkness."   A number of musical acts and artists performed - some familiar and others brand new.

The first sonic performer (other than the ever-present DJ) went by the name "Ghost Stories," and filled the room with an overwhelming wash of ambient cacophony.  Visually making an impression wearing a marching band uniform jacket, this individual would return later keyboardist and sound wash specialist in host band The FMs.

Up next was the NYC-based female solo artist, producer, and DJ who culls all of that under the collective banner called knifesex.

Immediately establishing a striking presence in lengthy robe and intriguing mask, this artists collaborative work with other projects had been previously covered on this site here with The Harrow and Public Memory.

Newer solo material “Blood From Stone” builds off a deep, slow-moving percussive groove and distant, lyric-less floating voices.  A poetic narrative eventually emerges with the lines “I am the empress. I am blood from stone. I am the blindfold . . .the sword you hold . . . the charriot . . . I am judgement.”  The sensation is hypnotic as those lines are repeated like a chanted incantation.

“Mother” evokes the busy snakelike slither of Nine Inch Nails with it's powerfully fluid industrial beats.  However as one might expect with a female vocalist, the deep echo chamber elucidations slot much closer to prime era Siouxsie Sioux.

The iconic Christian imagery of Jesus on the cross is woven in with themes of spirituality, witchcraft and the occult.

Delve deeper into the world of knifesex here.

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Following that was a trio performing under the collective name Hex.sys, who describes themselves as such: Hex(adecimal)「再起動VデータSTRAINخللERROR」Sys(tem).

Frontman Zak has mastered a present day recreation of the original London Batcave goth imagery.
Additional respect was earned through skillful Theremin playing.

The three piece was filled out with Artemus on laptop and the notoriously ever-present (it seems) Daniel playing (alternately) electronic percussion and bass guitar.

Recent release “Pierid” combines a number of disparate styles, stitching together a gentle piano and synth intro onto heavy bass guitar and industrial percussion.  The vocals come on harsh and “screamo” right out of the Rob Zombie school of diction.  Not content to remain in that one particular zone, a more melodic and dare we say “romantic” passage is given equal time within the entire track. There's even a bit of spoken-word included that drops a nod towards hip-hop.

Eager photographers capture an enticing visual presentation.

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Adoration through the lens

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A number of interesting activities commenced at this point, including poetry reading, dancing and skilled acrobats.

New to this site (and this evening's host band) The FMs were up next, and proceeded to lay down a heavy mix of menacing stoner rock.

The audience packed in tight for this one, with bodies gyrating to-and-fro in a wanton and lascivious manner.

Deep red hues and billowing clouds of fog created mysterious silhouettes.

Which at times itself nearly threatened to incinerate the atmosphere.

Weaving together fully this bands "romantic nihilism with a debaucherous twist."

All the while, limber acrobats engaged in feats of precise balance.

Find out more about The FMs here.

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Moving now into the early post 1 a.m hours,  the Daniel K led nu-gaze, witch-house, emo project
me▽iu§ took things into a swirling, emotive direction.

Engaging in a collaborative sonic partnership with guitarist Michi美智 has added further creative elements of writing and live execution.

Dual guitars and tandem vocals rise to the occasion and seize their moment.

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A track like “Matches” underscores perfectly how electronic beats, poetic lyrics (delivered with understated emotion) and overall songwriting/production skills can spark a singularly delightful flame.

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A seamless blend of electronic backing tracks, live percussion (capably handled on this evening by super drummer Greg Giuffre) and Michi's considerable guitar skills allows Daniel to take the mic solo.

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Emotion in motion.

Listen to a number of impressive Meviu§ tracks here - as well as deeper dive into the additional works of Michi美智 here.

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Now entering the bewitching post-2 a.m hour, the night's final performance came at the hands (and voices) of a place both wonderful and strange.

While the single consistent thread running through this project continues to be Russ Marshalek's "white dude with a laptop and a microphone and some pent-up pissed-off-ness" (a direct quote from an early interview), the simultaneous desire to focus on "feminine energy" is also apparent.

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A considerable amount of that "energy" is provided by vocalist Laura Hajek, who's work was most recently covered here on this site with one of her other projects.

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While Russ stepped away from the laptop at times to go the solo vocalist route, Laura played bass guitar accompaniment inside the gazey, doom-laden mix.

As the show progressed and Russ continued to testify, Laura made her way over to the central platform that had previously hosted earlier show events (like the acrobats).

A level of physical performance evolved in dramatic fashion, that involved moving through the ships pipes and bars layout.

Ultimately winding up just outside the events "Cuddle Lair."

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To get an audio sense of what this band can (and frequently does) sound like, check them out on their bandcamp page here.

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A view of New York City from this Brooklyn docked vessel.

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Spaceship vehicle from a 1950's b-movie marks the passage way.

Because why not?

Fun cards, stickers and things.

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The southern New Jersey shore town of Asbury Park continues to produce a steady stream of new artists in both music and visual digital media.  The recent partnership between musicians The Cold Seas and video production company Carousel Media House on the bands latest release “Retrograde” is both a sonic and visually stunning achievement.

With the imagery depicted in a stark candlelit black and white, a rich modulating synth pulses behind somber vocals. A pretty face appears momentarily, accompanied by lyrics “I think of you at times, until it kills me on the inside.” The full band emerges and the mood is further established with the simple hook line “I'm feeling something for you. Can I get something from your heart?”

Check it out here:

The band is now set to play Pianos in New York City on May 4th, with another exciting new emerging band Memoirs of Addiction supporting.

The Cold Seas on DaveCromwellWrites Instagram and Facebook

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Philadelphia's Tom Lugo has been recording music under a variety of projects for quite some time now. He recently put out another full-length album under his most recognizable brand Panophonic titled “Endlessly.”

Eleven new tracks in all, a particular favorite comes at the midway point with collaborative effort “What Can I Do?” Enlisting Paul Baker from the band Static Daydream (and original Skywave member) to play bass and add some guitars, Tom hits the mark with this classic dreamgaze composition. While the guitars cascade downward in that quintessential My Bloody Valentine way, other atmospheric elements create the feeling you could be listening to some long lost Ride track. Tom's percussive programming moves things closer to that sample-loop 90's era that produced classic tracks like “Pearl” by Chapterhouse.

There's a poetic sense of wonder and hope with the lyrics “tonight, alright – the sound is breaking through the walls.” Things level up further with the full-on chorus of “what can I do? I lose the sense of time and space when I'm with you.” A truly beautiful extended note guitar solo emerges midway, lifting everything off to a higher stratosphere.   Listen to the track here.

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Previous features on this site that include Tom and/or his music can be found here:

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Find out more about Tom's entire music catalog here, and his independent music label Patetico Recordings here.

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