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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