Saturday, May 2, 2020

New Record and Video Reviews - May 2020

As we enter day one-thousand-whatever of social distancing lockdown – six must review features have wound up here now in the ever-evolving (mutating?) DaveCromwellWrites pantheon. This chosen path of descriptive analysis and “writing about music” is now more than ever a repeated selective process on what (and who) to write about. Once those decisions have been made (a non-scientific juggling act of purposeful choices and random chance taking), the actual joy of putting words together in a satisfying manner flows rather quickly. With that, we dive in to the early May 2020 DCW reviews.

Having previously explored the separate creative work of Gardy Perez and Tom Lugo on their recent projects with Cielo Oceano and Un.Real, the duo now team up under the name MAYU with a new collaborative track “Theia.”

Slow building atmospherics introduce the piece, generating a rising-out-of-the-myst impression. There's an extended swirling wash all around with extended tone notes that sound like keyboards, though liner notes only credit guitars. A subtle bass-guitar is detected :45 seconds in, with an easy-groove drum track soon following that. Vocals commence at that point as well, delivered with a dreampop delivery and sheen that never overtakes the primary guitar whirlpool. “Burn me with your light. Touch me with your eyes. I want nothing more. Than to be forever yours.”

The drum programming stands out with clarity and depth, where bright cymbal and snare patterns contrast against deep and resonant toms. All the while those churning, ethereal guitars create a rising wave of celestial melody. Halfway through the percussion drops out, leaving a plateau of spaciousness where vocals are given a central moment. “The rain keeps coming down. In the tears I drown. To madness I descend. Fall on… my skin again. ” With that the gentle rhythmic propulsive drum track reemerges, along with more exalted guitar textures. While the backing drone continues, a distinctive melody is carved out in rapid-strummed succession. The tracks final minute serves up a wash of of exquisite vapor trails into a final fluttering pattern.

More info on how to acquire this track, along with the entire Patetico Recordings catalog here.

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With the release of their latest full length album “What We Started,” Canadian ethereal alternative/electro-pop duo Paragon Cause deliver 10 new songs (and first single “Lost Cause” radio edit) less than a year after their “Lies Between Us” EP. Once again enlisting the Production (and now co-songwriting) skills of Raveonettes mastermind Sune Rose Wagner, a veritable treasure-trove of new ideas have come to fruition.

Lead track and first single “Lost Cause” builds out of measured electronic beat percussion that makes use of bass-drum, snare and high-hat approximations with strategically placed deep echoed singular shots. There's an orchestral element to it all as well, providing a stylistic anthem backdrop for lyric dealing with difficulty and loss. Second track (and first listing Wagner as co-songwriter) “Silent Prayer” builds out of a twinkling keyboard part before rapid-paced looped percussion provides energetic motion under a traditional vocal delivery. An alternating rising-then-descending bass keyboard line adds another element of sonic fluctuation, as does a distinctive guitar part two minutes in. Poetic lyrics referencing “obsession,” “temptation,” “desire” and the need to question what “is real” echo timeless, universal themes.

Something New” also comes with a Wagner co-write credit, and is framed off a 1950's “stroll” progression through fuzz bass and static percussion. Central vocal hook “don't ask the questions you don't want the answers to” is followed by a lovely descending guitar line that pitch-rises on the very end. Nimble songwriting design inserts an emotional lift on the lyrics “try – try – try – try something new.”  The Jay and Michelle self-produced and mixed “Give It A Chance” pairs twinkling electronic keyboards with slow-groove trip-hop-style drums. Keeping the focus on Michelle's impressive vocal performance, an obvious Motown-soul vibe permeates through it all.

The Wagner touch returns on “Without You” via driving pop-rock production and the never-far 50's-60's song arrangement. Guitar and fuzz bass serve as the dominant instruments, with a distinctive melody-line securing the necessary hook. An emotional high-point is reached with the lyrics “let me be ME” at the two and a half minute mark of this three minute song, underscoring precision songwriting. A minute and a half atmospheric instrumental interlude serves as a mid-point break in the album flow with “Master of My Thoughts.” Piercing, ambient guitar tones set the pace against expanding background resonance, before a timekeeping percussive track completes the mix.

A gentle acoustic guitar introduces the Michelle and Jay (only) penned “Fantasize.” Orchestral strings and a distant vibraphone sound provide additional support for Michelle's passionate vocal rendition. A rhythmic change commences with propulsive guitars taking over as the driving instrumental force. The desire to break out of “a haze of normality” is the motivation for this escape fantasy.  The illustrious Mr. Wagner returns as song co-writer on the guitar twangy, finger-snap click-tracked “Time For Action.” Recurring lyrical themes repeat (“master of my thoughts”) along with the overall sentiment of getting away from a bad situation. A more agitated and frantic nature permeates the sonic landscape, with numerous, wirey guitars modulating in varying intensity. The halfway point drops a sonic plateau (“my priceless treasure”) and start-stop percussion to dramatize the repeated title line.

A throttling bass-heavy guitar and crisp trap-drum approximation groove powers “See You Suffer” right out of the gate. As the lyrical story unfolds, interesting atonal keyboard stabs emerge, adding further emphasis. The sonic chaos peels back to only drums for the initial lyrical break “will you get what you deserve?” before rough-edged guitar reemerges. One more breakdown on the repeating (and echoed) title line – complete with whistling dive-bomb effects. “Let Me Be” doubles-down on the 1950's “stroll” spirit with it's continuous loop of slow progression arpeggio chords and deep tom drums. Tinkling bell enhancements flutter around front-and-center harmonized vocals, with tandem bass guitar and those aforementioned tom-toms building to the “please let me be” denouement.

Find out the myriad of ways to acquire this record HERE.

Previous Reviews of Paragon Cause on this site can be found HERE and HERE.

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Every once in a while something new shows up that captures the imagination to the point of making it impossible to ignore. The sheer sonic overload and multi-genre appropriation of 100 Gecs have put two twenty-something sound manipulators on a current rise to the head of whatever class this is. Combining a level of computer and engineering skills with DJ and gaming savvy, their 2019 breakout album “1000 Gecs” has set a new standard for Computer and autotuned vocal cyber-pop.

A recently dropped video for the "gec 2 Ü" remix (featuring Dorian Electra) from their forthcoming album “1000 gecs and The Tree of Clues” is a hyper-charged look at the anxiety of immediate communication gratification culture we now live in. Filmed remotely by each of the artists during this present state of isolation, clever humor shares equal space with the nightcore sonics.

Opening with bright piano notes and deep-bass synth rumble, the illusion of a porn-call-in line is established. “Hey – thanks for calling 100 gec-2u. Please hold while I connect you to a rock hard wet gec – who's just dying to talk to you.” As guest-remixer Dorian Electra is dialing in, their impossibly auto-tuned vocal states “I hear, your sighs, but I can't see your eyes” - at which point the screen splits 3 ways and the glitch party begins. Pushing the dubstep/nightcore/speeded-up-and-autotuned vocals even further, Dorian goes on “I don't know what your real name is but I want you so bad. I don't know how to be alone – I'm always picking up the phone.”

The bright piano notes serve as an anchor for the klicketty-percussion keeping time then frantically building to the over-the-top, oozing romantic chorus. Meanwhile, primary gecs Laura and Dylan move to (or in Dylan's case, already in) their respective spaces. “Wizard” Dylan appears to be the least obsessed with the phone, preferring instead to read an actual book printed on paper (my dude!). The myriad of sounds on said chorus where Dorian is “sitting here alone and I call you on the phone, I need love can you get to me now” incorporates rubbery bounce-ball-beats, shouting “Hey's!” DJ-scratch-approximations (on “can you get to me”). While that is happening, left-side-panel Laura is baking coins in the oven that “cook” into iPhones! While right-panel Dylan does his own cooking (a mushroom on the stove wearing wizard robes) Dorian hits the next hook - “but I like to pretend that you love me- everytime I imagine that you [ ] me – close my eyes I almost feel you hug me.” As Dorian gets more frantic – throwing phones in the toilet and peeing on them – left-side Laura gets mystical while right-side Dylan sits by his cinder block and sews his wizard hat, then does some trippy-trails juggling.

Nightcore/video-game sonics ratchets up until Dorian does their signature smash-glass-in-their-own-face move complete with “Dorian E-gec-tra” punch in. Phones are now being destroyed and urinated on at an alarming rate in all three panels enhanced by the sound of a crashing trap-drum set and whip-crack. The final segment show all three participants thrashing their hair wildly as the chorus repeats in yet-one-more manner of tempo and distortion.

If THAT appeals to you (it certainly amused and fascinated me) check out the video here:

Connect with 100 Gecs HERE and Dorian Electra HERE

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It was an absolute pleasure turning an analytical ear to the just released solo album by essential Yuck founding member Max Bloom. An often stated axiom that heartbreak and loss can be a powerful catalyst for making quality art is once again confirmed on his latest record “Perfume.” Crafting ten tracks that emphasize strong songwriting, a wider range of instrumentation is now heard on this artists work.

Opening track “To Be Alone” bursts right out of the gate with a thick orchestral synthesizer sound. That backs off for the verses which are better served with open space, piano accompaniment and solid power-ballad drumming. “You are the girl – that I love the most” is sung in a vocal style reminiscent of John Lennon's post-Beatles work (“Watching The Wheels” being prime example). The storytelling benefits from subtle rhythmic accents that both emphasize and prevent any static predictability. Ruminating on the condition of “being lonely,” the lyrics approach it more questioningly (“tell me how it feels?”) as opposed to any kind of pity party. A tasty guitar figure emerges near the songs mid-point, echoing the dominant melody like another vocal line. With those initial lush synth-strings making a brief return, another element emerges, tweaking the alarm-clock and piano break from the BeatlesDay In The Life.”

Cold Hard Light” drops clearly defined electric guitar riffs over acoustic strumming and full rock band pacing on what one might call a “cheerful” progression. The songwriting is crisp and precise, with a variety of quick rhythmic moments. While synths slowly find their way back into the mix, a long-and-wiry guitar solo outro caps off a perfectly joyous pop song. “Call Me When It's Over” positions closer to the surf-guitar alternative indie rock of previous band Yuck. The high register single note guitar lines paired with tandem bass notes and live sound drums float everything along at a measured pace. Melancholy permeates lyrics about being unable to replace clothes that are “warn and dirty” because of “memories sewn into the pockets.”

Thinking 'Bout You” injects some optimism into the mood with it's uptempo rhythm, usage of horns and remembering about “the good times that we had.” “Forever Now” introduces tremolo-guitar as a previously-unheard sonic element on the album, enhancing this straightforward four-on-the-floor chugger.   An inspired psychedelic guitar solo rips and curls, leading into bright horn section accents. “Bottle” doubles-down on the multi-layered guitar textures, first with a Smashing Pumpkins-like rhythmic opening, before laying in a rubbery melody-line on top of that. Singing about how awful a breakup feels - “where did we go wrong?” - “all those tears I cried” - lead up to a hook that references the album title - “when I smell your perfume – it pulls me under.”

Hooks abound on the laid back “It's Alright,” with it's acoustic guitar underpinings and melody driven easy going pace.  Friends always seem to think they “know what's best” and how everything's going to be “alright.”   “Happy Alone – Into Eternity” echoes the cadence and structure of The Beatles “Dig A Pony” - who Lennon himself appeared to be referencing Buddy Holly.  As expected this track meanders off in other directions, with a strong chorus and sparser guitar noodling against a purposed bass and drums.  A final, twangy western motif takes the song to it's conclusion.  The album's title track lays out a sentimental pop riff against mellotron ambiance while imploring one to “think of me when your drunk on Christmas Eve.” The theme of “lingering perfume” is a timeless one, and the pathos on display here gets right to the heart of it – as does the brilliantly passionate guitar solo.

The 10th and final track “Will It Last a Lifetime” is also the album's longest at 6 minutes in length. That allows for a slow build of confessional lyrics and the uniquely tailored instrumental passages to support that. While the song itself concludes shortly after the 5 minute mark, a curious reverberated piano piece is leads out the final :45 seconds.

Simply put, every song on this album is an impeccably crafted gem, and each one deserves to be heard in their entirely.

Follow Max Bloom on his social media here, where you can find out how to get this album.

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Making sure to check out recommendations from trusted sources more often than not opens your ears to something new and interesting. Such is the case with dream-pop duo Drab City, who combine an intriguing mix of dub, hip-hop and jazzy vibes into their aforementioned dreamy vocal sound. While the complete 10 song full-length album “Good Songs For Bad People” is scheduled for release on June 12, three tracks (complete with videos) have been released in advance.

Initial late February release “Working For The Men” is described as “a degraded service worker’s revenge ballad, imagining male tormentors brought to a violent end.” Reading the lyrics (helpfully pinned by the band on their videos) certainly back that up, describing a waterfront scenario where “the men hand me a silver penny, and watch me cleaning.” Dreaming of sail boats loaded with canons to blow the place up.  At slightly over 2 minutes, there's still enough audio diversion to make anything longer unnecessary.  Distinctive jazz-inflected guitar, abrupt flute accents and distant bell chimes support ethereal ghost-like vocals. Video imagery shows the duo (separately, cut together) in various stages of jittery behavior. A flamenco guitar solo ushers the track to it's conclusion.

Hand On My Pocket”comes wrapped around a hip-hop beat, vintage sine-wave synths, organ pulses and clean strummed guitars. Sandpaper-soft vocals tell a tale of poverty-driven motivation for a quick strike on the rich.

Late March video release “Devil Doll” rolls out a word-heavy fable at a measured, hypnotic pace. Drums,bass and vibraphone make up the primary audio components, although exotic instrumental breaks with warped flutes also find their way into the mix. The video itself is a single fixed camera black and white view of the band in a room with hanging bits of laundry and a bright floor light creating ominous shadows on their faces.

Late April (and current) video release “Troubled Girl” dips into the subject matter and vocal sound of early 60's girl group pioneers The Shangri-Las and seemingly runs it through a David Lynch/Twin Peaks filter. Video imagery adds brighter color to the female half, while her male counterpart mugs into the camera conveying an element of bizarre amusement.

Watch and listen here:

Connect with Drab City HERE

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With the release of their three-years-in-the-making first full-length album “Ghost Moon Ritual,” moody pacific coast duo Lunar Twin now share their electronic dream vision with the world. Over the course of that 3-year time period, Bryce Boudreau (vocalist/songwriter) and Chris Murphy (multi-instrumentalist/producer) crafted 13 songs in all, working from their respective locales of Hawaii and Salt Lake City.

First single “Slow Down” comes accompanied by a companion video adding imagery well-matched to the songs hypnotic, mystical nature.  Bass, drums and carefully-placed melodic instrumentation establish the initial rhythmic dynamic.  With a syntheszier introduction, the vocals begin: “lord knows – places that you've seen – paradise is emptiness – raindrops on your skin – slow down.” Delivered with distinctive, stylized phrasing – the mood sets in like a calming mantra.  Gorgeous imagery shot in the Sonoran and Mojave’s deserts of California and Mexico by director Juana Lopez complete the experience of mystery and wonder.  Additional home-movie style footage is also worked in, creating a nostalgic sense of memories with the family from a half-remembered past.

Other standout tracks like album opener “Drunken Sky” set the tone with elongated keyboard textures, hissing percussion and measured bass notes. With a slow-burning trip-hop groove underneath, vocals are delivered in a hushed whisper, reminiscent of the Jesus and Mary Chain's slower, more experimental work. “Leaves” emerges out of deep buzzing synths and a more active percussion track. Vocals come on with a sandpaper hue and natural tremolo at the end of each line, eliciting additionally pleasing similarities with the frequently compared to Mark Lanegan. “Hawks” builds out of rising electronic pulses, creating a sensation of fluttering wings before the unfolding poetic story that follows. “Free against the wind. High above this wilderness. Shadows on the rise. High upon your feral wing. Spirit never dies.”

Pick up the entire album HERE

Previous Lunar Twin reviews on this site can be found HERE and HERE.

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