Friday, November 22, 2019

Record Reviews: Blushing, Trillion, The Suncharms, Lunar Twin, Stellarscope, Selenes

Deep dives into newly recorded works serves as primary motivation for this month's DaveCromwellWrites Features. While some new-to-this-site artists receive close listen analysis (inspired by the guiding hand production work of a respected, previously featured sonic master), others found their way in by simply reaching out. Oftentimes the most basic and sincere forms of communication and recognition yield the best results. That level of respect fuels a reason-to-care motivation leading to an ultimate appreciation of each individual recorded achievement.

Based out of Austin, Texas, Blushing makes modern dreamgaze music that pays homage to the 90's era sound originated by bands like The Cocteau Twins and Lush. Built around the female frontline of Michelle Soto (guitar, vocals) and Christina Carmona (vocals, bass) the four-piece band is completed with husbands Jake Soto (drums) and Noe Carmona (guitar). Their ten track debut LP was recorded, mixed and produced by Elliott Frazier of Ringo Deathstarr. Elliot's work with his own brilliant band has been featured on this site numerous times, with a complete review of their last album here. Employing his studio abilities with Blushing's songwriting, playing and vocals has made for a winning combination and receives a full track-by-track review now as well.

Opening track “So Many” starts out in an understated manner, with gently strummed, flanged guitar chords providing initial instrumental focus. Female vocals soon emerge out of wind-rush tunnels and celestial space, delivering lines “when the weight of the world is not enough to motivate.” Bright cymbals and drums enter the mix at a minute-and-a-half, providing a pulse under the lyrical story that continues to unfold. It all advances to build for another minute before a huge ambient expanse is opened, filling in across the entire sonic field with deep space guitar and punched-up percussion.

Stomping right out of the gate on tom-toms and more aggressively strummed, chorused guitars, “Dream Merchants” take an introspective look at the mind during (and after) sleep. “When you wake up - Feel your dreams around - They can change your mind - Leave it all unwound.” Extended note guitar squalls snake their way through significant segments of the track, providing a segue to overlapping vocals that approximate the quick fluctuation of a dream-like state. “Taking you places that you’ve never been - Not really sure if that’s what you intend,” ultimately leads to “Giving you what you needed to begin - They can change your mind.”

A churning percussive undercurrent and chiming guitars provide the instrumental springboard for “The Last Time.” There's a light and airy feel to the vocal presentation on the verses, while the choruses come on more forceful over a rubbery bassline and rat-a-tat percussion. Of particular note is the dreamy mid-point interlude that unfolds in cascading layered voices. Elements of the bands Lush and The Cocteau Twins come to mind while listening to this.

Chiming open note chords and thumping toms provide the opening textures for retro goth feel “Control.” Soft whisp female vocals float into the progression, stating “can't control you – You're not around. Can't escape the bind you found.” Bolder guitar strokes delivered in quicker time usher in the change “I'll wait for you – you cling to me – we look away – to set us free.” Opulent layers of voices cascade together in subsequent passes through, occasionally emphasizing flatter vocal notes (Minor? Fifth? Seventh notes?) revealing more complexity than initially anticipated. Bass guitar gets a featured moment just past the midway point, before rumbling toms and retro guitar textures join in.

Riding an immediate rhythmic curve that enunciates the first four syllables of each verse sentence (“we'll – for – get – they”, before the full band crashes in on the final word “know”), “The Truth” emphasizes big, bold strokes. Vocals cascade and blur into a swirling mix of instruments, with a clearly defined chorus stating “I know why you're like this. I feel how it returns. Can't say that I blame you. I know how this will end.” After two passes through the songs mid-point features a dreamy Lynchian passage (complete with ghostly background “Ahhh ahhhh's) declaring “Get used to it. Get used to the end. Just take the deal – and feel something real right now.” A brilliant guitar passage leads the song out to its conclusion.

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A beautiful, elongated e-bowed guitar line serves as the centerpiece on “Pressure.” Underneath that dominating sound, the band thunders along as dream-gaze vocals “going on – a run around again – looking for the answers” hover just above the submerged line. The pace and intensity quickens and a frantic guitar figure surfaces before the low rumbling fade-out.

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A gentle 1-2-3 waltz pattern introduces the Cocteau Twins influenced “Sunshine.” With vocal lines echoed in rapid succession (and lower toned, “flatter” harmonies) the nod of recognition to Liz Fraser and Robin Guthrie's innovative style is unmistakable. The layering and tonal quality of the female voices also bring to mind one of Ringo Deathstarr's own layered masterpieces - “Guilt.” A balance develops between specific guitar-bass chords alternating with floating lyrics “when I was down - you went away. Now you’re back - Sunshine stay.” A lovely minute-and-a-half instrumental coda lifts everything skyward.

Listen to that track here:

Regret and longing are the lyrical themes of the gently starting and powerfully finishing power ballad “Running.” Its carefully measured intro allows for a clearer vocal style on delicate introductory lyrics. A handful of weighty 90's era Projekt Records artists like Love Spirals Downwards, Soul Whirling Somewhere and Loveliescrushing come rushing back to mind while listening to this. This story of love never attained - “I'll never know – all that could've been – and the moment is gone – there won't be another day” is riddled with regret over “the words I didn't say.” A powerful chorus leaves some room for hope with the sentiment “If you want me to – I'll give it all for you. If you want me to – I'd lose it all for you.”

Romantic dreampop is the order of the day on the swirling”Me With You.” With shimmering downward strumming on it's dynamic intro, a spacious bass and drums only segment is soon met with brightly struck guitar figures before concise, poetic lyrics begin. “Could it be that you’re too far. Could it be that I’m not where you are. Pull me closer to you now. Holding on.”

A momentary dramatic pause is held as voices rise, before a more forceful chorus arrives. “Out of nowhere I fell in love. I don’t know why you couldn’t see. Out of nowhere I fell in love.I don’t know why I couldn’t keep.” Leading back into the downward driving intro chords. There an audible quality to the tone and combined females voices on this (mostly) pop song that reminds of (and this is meant in the most complimentary way) The Bangles. Yes, the Susanna Hoffs band. There was a distinct quality to the way that group harmonized, and elements of that are perceptible here as well.

Digital delay provides sonic effect on the introductory notes for final track “Her.” As the full sonic spectrum rapidly fills with a powerfully leading bassline and echo-canyon snare drum shots, extended length guitar lines fill in over top. Verses come in hushed tones, with percussion pulled back deep into the mix, leaving voice and guitar as primary focus. Those dynamics allow for fuller band enhancements under penultimate lines “there would never be enough time with you. I’ll take comfort in the days that we knew.” A final minute-and-a-half instrumental lift-off serves as the ultimate statement on the albums gorgeous sonic quality overall.


Catching up with old friends and making new one's too!

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Making it's way onto the DaveCromwellWrites landscape is the six song EPWhen I Wake” from Sydney, Australia's Trillion.  The five piece unit released this magnificent record in 2019, establishing a level of dreampop and gazey songcraft celebrating that style's enduring universal appeal. Each of the songs has been given a deep listen and now receives a detailed Cromwell analysis.

From the opening notes of intro (and title) track “When I Wake,” the listener is immediately immersed into a multiple layered guitar-centric dreamgaze world. One might expect this with the band listing not one, not two, but three active guitarists participating in this musics creation. Drums and bass soon enter the mix, providing a muscular undercurrent. Dual male-female tandem vocals deliver lyrics while a wall of pitch-bended guitars churn relentlessly underneath. The tracks midpoint ushers in a solid change, before heading back into the initial charging progression. There's room for riffing over top of that, creating ear-pleasing melodies before the eventual fade-out.

Reverberated canyons are the guitar texture approximations on the more deliberately measured “Slow Down.” Vocals come in that quieter, reverential style that Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead did (and still do) so well on those classic Slowdive recordings. Gentle floating waves of guitar riffs are fortified by a commanding bassline and strong drumming. A lovely downward progression change develops halfway through, leading to an aggressive instrumental segment that brings “Ummagumma”-era Pink Floyd to mind. As the original, shuffling progression returns, softly sung lines like “take the time to shine” surfaces against angelic higher register background vocals.

Buzzing bee guitars and quick paced percussion are the order of the day on “Circles Around Me.” Swirling like an angry hive bearing down on a field of flowers, space is given for some brief vocal lines before the colony sound returns. Snaking guitar lines are woven in over top, reinforcing the necessity of the bands triple guitar approach. There's an atonal quality to the meshing of voices and bee-buzz guitar wash that creates an additional level of satisfaction. Not content to stop there, a jacked-up instrumental segment features emphatic guitar lead forays over throttling bass and drums.

Open note chords and deep rumbling drone usher in the dreamy “Walk Away.” That low pitched bass is distinctive, giving the track a bit of Jesus and Mary Chain feel. The bass gets busier on instrumental interludes that feature sinewy guitar lines weaving their way over top. Female vocals are pushed more prominently in the mix, with the male counterpart providing the shadow harmonies. Clocking in a minute shorter than the previous three songs, there's an overall poppier feel to this one.

The My Bloody Valentine-esque pitch-bended, overdriven guitars return on “Gone In Your Smile.” Vocals roll out in similarly submerged fashion, with the bright snare drum and cymbals paying perfect homage to the brilliant Colm Ó Cíosóig. The track is somewhat closer to the just-before Loveless MBV, with it's structured pop leanings enhanced by coming levels of murk and mayhem.

Final cut “Houhui” takes a decidedly different approach with the tracks opening strains sounding like a high pitched violin-like instrument. Overdriven guitars come floating in underneath and slowly take over the entire sonic spectrum. It's orchestral in feel and beatless – with those initial high pitched tones reappearing in the mix, providing a melody of sort on top of modulating glazed and gazey guitars.
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Keep up to date with all things Trillion via their bandcamp, which provides links to all of their social media platforms.

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Contributing a newly recorded track to the Amsterdam, Netherlands label fadeawayradiate records latest F.A.R. OUT curated digital compilation (now their third), The Suncharms finds their song in perfectly matched company of fellow upbeat pop (with a hint of psychedelia) artists.

Exploding out of a whip-crack snare drum and cymbals-on-bass-drum intro, “Jet Plane” takes off on a instantly catchy guitar riff loaded with nostalgic charm. The kind of upbeat melody that immediately embeds in your soul, bringing to mind carefree days of sun on your face and the promise of new adventures. A briskly strummed acoustic guitar churns away underneath, adding depth to the bass guitar and drums already in full flight. Vocals come on with a touch raspy, life-having-been-lived experience, weaving a tale of flyover air travel and the stories embedded within them. The bridge change arrives a minute in, with the dominant melody guitar line matching the vocals in note-for-note equal measure. “I am watching sunshine as it bursts through the rain” serves as just one lyrical metaphor depicting a feel good sensation. While that can't-miss hook-laden guitar riff cycles through again, additional sonic elements begin to find their way into the mix.. What sounds like a pedal-steel guitar is audible on the following verse, where the vocals are delivered in a softer, more conversational way. The final :45 second instrumental end-out keeps that happy feeling going, capping off a near-perfect three and a half minute pop song.

For further info on The Suncharms, check out their bandcamp link here.

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Making their long awaited return to the DCW universe are the pacific coast darkwave duo Lunar Twin.  Having previously covered their 2017 record “Night Tides” here, advance tracks are now being released in anticipation of a brand new album. The Cromwell dive down into one of those tracks follows below.

Soft piano introduces the near five minute in length track “Electric Lights.” A deep, introspective voice begins to sing in that up-close-in-your-ear style that Mark Lanegan mines so well. “It's past 4 am, still sittin' here. Drinkin' in (held in elongated vowels) the atmosphere.” Orchestral components materialize underneath, initially with lush keyboard strings and marimba-toned, sharp-struck melodies. Another buzzy synth tone materializes into the mix, providing one more counter balance to an ongoing mystical lyrical story. Inserting subtle, but noticeable structural changes allows for descending chord progressions augmented by deep, distant percussion. However, those changing undercurrents serve only to intensify the continuing lyrical story over top. At three minutes in, a more traditional drum progression commences, providing additional balance via a bona fide “beat.” That soon drops out, returning primary focus to lyrics stating “you're still a stranger” and “there is no imminent danger.” With the beat returning, vocal lines still flow: “rest with the sunset – sweet like the ocean – you can live forever and dream – electric like me - Electric light dreams.”

The forthcoming full length album “Ghost Moon Ritual” will be released in Vinyl, CD and Digital formats on February 16th, 2020 via the duos new imprint Tropical Depression/Desert Heat.

Follow the lead up to that release and everything else about the band here.

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On Wednesday November 13, 2019 3 Robots Records and Popnoise Fest presented a night of ambient and sonic explorations by Puerto Rican artists at Muchmore's in Brooklyn.

Performing on this night was an acoustic set from Sin Tribu (aka Warren Santiago); experimental ambient soundscapes from Boston, MA's Federico Balducci; a post ambient acoustic project by Héctor Caolo of pioneering shoegaze band Un.Real dubbed Sueño con belugas as part of the Selenes collective; a gazey set from Panophonic - the noise-pop project by Tom Lugo of Philadelphia’s post-punk/indie rock band Stellarscope; and DJ Meviu§ playing shoegaze, dreampop, indiepop in between sets.

Stellarscope have a new album on the way, scheduled for a January 2020 release.  Their first single "Sweet Surrender" is available now, and the track impresses on a number of levels.

Quick rhythmic tom-tom fueled drumming sets the pace as deep resonant guitar chords chime down in bold strokes. “Waiting on something, other than the dark days of life” is the opening lyrical refrain. Guitar and bass kick in at a more frantic pace, with quick strum buzzing guitars in constant motion. In under a minute the tracks essential hook is reached with the lines “Oh, I will never tell you lies. Oh, I will never let you down.” Those vocals are stylized and delivered with a diction and processing effects that bring to mind Peter Murphy's classic output. The instrumental delivery is far more forceful however, driving forward to its hyper-charged conclusion.

Listen to the track right here, with links to the many other band related resources here.

3 Robots Records is making available for free download a newly released album titled SELENES

The album is a collaboration between friends and colleagues from the independent music scene in Puerto Rico. It was put together by the artists sending tracks back and forth over the internet, recording, mixing and adding ideas in this modern way music is now often made. The name SELENES comes from the word “Selas” which describes the light and brightness emanating from the moon. In ancient Greek mythology, Selene is the name used to describe the moon goddess.

There is a wonderful, dreamy atmosphere to all of the tracks. Gently strummed flanged guitars and dreamy female vocals come wrapped in vast surroundings on the particularly standout track “Lead the Fire.” A male harmony vocal joins in on the delicate chorus, providing counterpoint to it all. Comprised of ten tracks in total, many are purely instrumental sonic explorations into a dream-like state. It's introspective music, but there are enough structural changes on a number of lengthier tomes (with “Planet Vortex” and “Surface Vibrations” in particular) to more than hold the listeners interest.

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