August seems to always come with a slight twinge of melancholy that we've now entered the third and final real month of summer. Oh, sure there can be some balmy beach days in early September, but for the most part this time of year is when you want to make good on summer-fun plans. Along with this pursuit of one more perfect beach day comes a new batch of music releases from various corners of the globe. While hometown New York City counts for half of what's reviewed here, there are still two others hailing from continents ranging over the most extreme northern and southern locales.
There is a distinctive quality to the rock and roll that rises out of New York City. From 50's era “doo wop” through the late 70's punk rock and beyond, the feel and vibe of building front stoops, electric guitars, subway cars and crowded bars all permeate it's sound. Blues-rockers New York Junk evoke all of that and more on their latest record “Dreaming,” which is out now on Tarbeach Records. Recorded at Golden HIVE Studio in Prague, Czech Republic at the end of 2019, it was mixed and mastered in February 2020.
Primary vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Joe Sztabnik's history traces back to those mid-1970's punk rock days, emphasizing it's poetic and literary side (sometimes overlooked when referencing “punk.”) Bassist, backing vocalist and songwriter Cynthia Ross shares a similar historical timeline as a founding member of The 'B” Girls. That band toured with The Clash, The Ramones, The Dead Boys and Blondie, and Cynthia also provided back-up vocals on Stiv Bators' “Disconnected” and Blondie’s “Auto American.” Similarly, drummer Gary Barnett's roots trace back to legendary NYC clubs like CBGB's, playing significant shows there in the mid-70's.
Lead off track “Gutter Angels” developed through a collaboration between Joe and poetPuma Perl, who's lyrical writing serves as the inspiration for this gritty tome. Chugging along like a mid-70's east village classic, Joe's raspy vocals spit out the lyrics in Lou Reed/Jim Carroll hybrid fashion. “Angels on the subway train - Angels in the rain. Wings of fury in the street - Halos melting in the heat. Gutter Angels up in heaven - Looking down upon us all. Bless the homeless, Bless the dope fiends, Bless the sidewalks where they fall.”
The Jim Carroll “people who died” vibe intensifies as people who are no longer with us (angels up in heaven) get name-checked with this verse: “Danny’s nickname was “Guerrilla, Linda’s was 'The Stick,'
Tito climbed through windows, Minerva made him pay. Lenny popped the car trunks - All on Christmas Day.” It's a powerful opening track leaving no doubt about what this record is all about.
“She Don't Care” comes on like a long lost Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers rocker. Based around a tandem guitar and bass riff melody line, Joe sings out lyrics combining serious and somewhat humorous appeal. “Hey little girl – what'cha tryin' to do? With your dirty red hair. You little 2-bit whooore. Hey little girl – oh you're drivin' me wild. Cause you talk too much – with your 2-bit smile.” Chugging guitar chords lead into the head-bopping chorus “Everybody calls me up to say – you're insane. Everybody tries to tell me- you're deranged. Tell me tell me what do you want when you – feel the pain. The way you scream and shout so loud you know you – drive me insane.” Quick Thunder-esque licks snake between each section, punctuating the cool.
It's delta bayou 12 bar blues for the record's choice cut “Walk My Dog.” Well, “delta bayou” that's been run through an early 1960's Rolling Stones filter. “If you wanna, you can walk my dog – come on baby – put a leash on me. But if you want my love – girl you better run!” There's also a touch of The Cramps swagger-n-raunch with it's slithering bass-guitar driven rhythm, and lines like “if you wanna you can ride in my car, and if you wanna you can be my star.” 60's Fender guitar tone and steady shimmering ride cymbal emphasize the blues licks in-between verses.
“Don't Cry For Me” keeps that 60's Stones (by way of Chuck Berry) vibe going with double-time drive, self-descriptive lyrics and conversational vocal style. “Workin' real hard in that midday sun. I'm never slackin' off just to get my job done,” Joe sings with early Jagger feel. While “the boss man is sitting there, sippin his iced tea,” the workers know “you better hurry up if you want to leave at 3.” Over a bold rising bassline the chorus hook “don't cry for me baby” (with filligree guitar licks in-between) punches out on “until I'm gone.” The spirit of Berry's “You Can't Catch Me” and “Memphis, Tennessee” live on inside these grooves.
Cynthia's audible “2-3-4” count-in and immediate heavy pounding tom-toms out front of a dirty low-down propulsive guitar rhythm introduces the Ave B side opening track “Scared.” Serving up graphic lyrics with impassioned vocals, Joe sings: “This is the way, which way the wind blows – learn something nobody else knows. I (ah I ah I) want your mind. When you hear the wind blow, yeah you know which way to go – when the guns are pointed at you. Blood all over my clothes, blood all over the floor. I'm fucked up – I don't care – I'm scared. Why wouldn't I worry? Of what I see in my tv set. Hey watch out, it's jumpin' out – it's trying to catch me.” Those levels of paranoia are understandable with everything that's going on (especially these days). However, the only way out of this state of mind is choosing to (as Joe sings) “let my heart and soul be free.”
Bright, angular guitar licks pierce the air, leading in to a sweet shuffle groove on deeper track “Passion.” Rolling out this lyrical tale emphasizing relationship challenges (both at home and on the road), the vocals exhibit a world-weary sincerity. “Well I've got the passion, but I ain't got the bucks, to fill my heart with another shot of your love. Hallways filled with your makeup on the walls. You got all the junk, so I guess I better crawl.” With all that going on (including “dirty hotel rooms”and “posters on the floor”) what holds it all together is the turn-around line “cause your love keeps me on the run.”
Title track “Dreaming” closes out the EP in grand style with a ballad penned by Joe back in 2008 (as detailed inside the record sleeve). Relying on basic guitar chords and a laid-back rhythm section, primary emphasis is placed on personal lyrics and raw vocals. “I'm dreaming of you – why you went away. The roads all turned blue – since you left me here. I'm all alone.” There's a folk-song quality in how the progression holds steady for a time while each new line is delivered. Ultimately there is a shift downward with an unanticipated chord change on the words “oh baby.” With the final words delivered (“as my world fades away”) a series of euphonious toned guitar lines begin, adding further musical emotion to the candid lyrics that precede it.
Carrion is an Industrial Rock band from the northern forest lands of Norway, coming together in 2014. Founded and fronted by the bands only constant member Adrian Kjøsnes (working under the moniker Hide Beliya`al) with additional contributions from musicians Dave Diamond and Sam Dusk. A new single has now been released titled "The Blood Ov Saints," which is the first new material since last years full-length album “Iconoclasm.”
Created on modular synths (no digital numerical presets here) one is immediately drawn into foreboding low register tones that introduce “The Blood Ov Saints.” Industrial music has always derived an element of it's defining qualities by recreating the sensation of being inside a factory surrounded by humming machinery. Even more mainstream rock artists like Pink Floyd (It's factory segment on the “Animals” album) or Iggy Pop and David Bowie's collaboration on “The Idiot” (the track “Mass Production” in particular) served to capture the hypnotic drone of mechanized assembly. Those impressions are here as well, along with other details like a slow chain-rattle percussion alternating with a deeper tone thump. It all serves to set up a dramatic lyrical reading that the artist describes as a “dark, alternative path to salvation.” To that end, there's thoughtful poetry in lines that state: “So cast the first stone, and watch their heavens fall - Into the maelstrom - Hear the trumpets call.” As the track progresses, audio textures of what sounds like high-pressure air driven manufacturing devices add to this dystopian imagery. More forceful tom-tom drumming emerges underneath significant moments with the ultimate lyrical declaration: “We'll wash away our pain – with the blood of the saints.”
Also included with the release is an acoustic version of “The Light,”which first appeared on 2019's “Iconoclasm” album. Here the track benefits from the spacial qualities open air strummed guitar chords provide. With a disquieting synth pulse running underneath, more poetic imagery emerges via the lyrics “holding on to the umbilical noose, I'll make my way back up.” The vocals are delivered in rough whispery style that evokes the work of a similarly like-minded artist like Mortiis. It all leads to the pivotal vocal refrain “give me your hand – I'll give you my heart – on my knees to feel your light.” An unexpected extended-note guitar solo (of sorts) arrives in the 3rd minute (of this 4 minute rendition) echoing the melody line and bringing the track to it's conclusion.
After 10 years with the influential NYC noise-rockers A Place To Bury Strangers, bassist Dion Lunadon announced he would be leaving to pursue a solo career. Truth be told, Dion had already begun his solo recordings while still with that group, releasing singles in 2016 and 2017, before putting out an 11-track full length record in '17 (fully reviewed on DaveCromwellWrites here). Now in these changing times and current social crisis issues, Dion is back with a new track “When Will I Hold You Again.” Released as a duet with vocalist Kate Clover, the track is dedicated to everyone whose been separated from loved ones as a result of this current worldwide pandemic.
With Dion playing all the stringed instruments (guitar and bass) along with drummer @griffin_kisner, the track thunders open on a crisp percussion figure, throbbing bass line and melodic guitar riffs. Duet vocalist Kate Clover and Dion share a sense of urgency on opening lines “TV television New York shut down. I’ll hold you closer again. All alone I’m in the dark.” A palpable level of intensity can be felt in the aggressive guitar riffs slashing in and around each vocal passage. Kate's vocals move up in the mix on the Covid influenced lines “Freezing cold I feel the sweat. Filled with fear as I disinfect. I can’t see the enemy I can’t see it come.” As the track careens forward with increasing ferocity, each vocalist repeats the title line in alternating call-and-response style. It all culminates with a final 30 seconds throttle like The Stooges “Fun House” era mayhem.
The track is now available at Dion's bandcamp where you can name your price.
All donations will be split evenly between City Harvest (who help feed New Yorkers in need of food) and CampaignZERO. Dion will match all donations up to $1,000.
Previous DaveCromwellWrites Features on Dion can be found HERE and HERE.
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Returning to the DaveCromwellWrites universe are Sydney Australia's gazey, dreampop and psych-rock collective Trillion. Their previous six song EP “When I Wake” received an extensive track-by-track review this past November here (which immediately garnered “Best Of” placement in the following month's year-end accolades). The band is now back with their recently released current 5 track EP “Move To You,” and a debut video for the single “Soft.” Recording their individual parts separately as one might suspect during these harrowing times, the end result shows a determined creativity in spite of those challenges.
Opening track (and single) “Soft” (along with it's accompanying video) immediately explodes off it's quick drum cue-in. No longer content to envelope all with 3 guitar layers (as was their previous incarnation) we now have four (4!) guitarists doing their very best to fill in every inch of the sonic spectrum. It certainly makes for a powerful buzzing wall of down-stroke strummed mayhem, while somehow allowing the throbbing bass guitar and whip-crack drumming to penetrate and be heard. With images of sparklers overlaid on top, close-ups of each instrument is afforded their feature moment throughout the video. Male and female vocals are blended together as a melodic force withing this Spector-sonic wall of sound. Hard pummeling percussion emerges as intensity levels rise, with voices, and guitars inserting melodies inside the overall structure. The video is a total trip that occasionally breaks up into digital cube blocks looking like previous decades media (VHS tape?) and other elements, like floating amoebae. Kudos to the bassist for wearing an adorable cat-themed t-shirt stating that “The End is Meow.”
The EP's second track “Out of Your Mind” initially emerges at a more measured pace, with guitar shimmer rising up as if out of the mist. Soon enough a dominant bass-line and solid drum pattern begins, accompanied by wah-wah guitar textures. A series of intricate guitar melodies weave in and around each other before a solo female vocal begins. Those voices come at the track from different angles, blending in seamlessly with the instruments melodic forays. There's a hypnotic element to the rhythms and things get quiet in places, allowing for dramatic focus via those layered voices. As the track progresses it blows up into a full-on psych-rock tableau,before falling back into that hypnotic groove.
Third cut “Don't Be Sorry” develops out of a tom-tom driven drum pattern and distant swirling guitar embellishments. As the full progression establishes itself with sheering guitar chords and buoyant bass-line over top, male vocals appear in a contrasting effects-free manner. The 4 guitar formation allows for plenty of background wash while one plays a distinctive hooky melody line, paired against the bass guitars low-end harmony. Vocals return with previously established clean delivery, while another guitar melody snakes its way over that. The title line ultimately materializes with female voice enhancement and billowy guitars.
Rising up out of swelling atmospherics and faded in drum pattern, “It's All I Need” serves as the first of the final two longest tracks [6:01 each] on the EP. Returning to that buzzing-bee-wall-of-sound, the multiplied tandem guitars would surely evoke a nod of approval from Rhys Chatham. With an ever-steady bass guitar once again holding its structural center, the drums are free to explore a variety of accents off of the primary beat. Male vocals with ethereal female harmony evoke that 90's-era MBV/JAMC/Slowdive style. Sonorous guitar riffs abound in-between vocalizing, impressing how an “orchestra” of guitars can produce an appealingly controlled noise. The final minute injects an intensifying step-up before pulling back to a dreamy spacious conclusion.
Final entry “When it Comes to You” appears to begin mid-progression, as if fading the mix in as the recording rolled. There is a decidedly different element to the guitar sound, as slightly off-kilter “warbling” tones appear. Shearing, pitch-bended guitar chords soon make their way up front while the ever-present driving bass and percussion lock it all down. A distinctive guitar melody surfaces over top of combined “shear,” “warble” and rhythm-section. More paired boy-girl “Halstead/Goswell” vocals arrive, blending in seamlessly with (and sometimes submerging under) the roiling instrumentation. Momentary quieter plateau's serve to set up another round of explosive turbulence. It's all adds up to a brilliant composition of dreamy-gaze bliss, and a fitting closer for this excellent EP.
Trillion's tunes and more can be found using the link tree below:
Dave Cromwell has been writing about music since the dawn of the internet age. In addition to the steady flow of features here on this site, he has been a regular contributor to The Deli Magazine (both Print and Web) since 2010. With numerous Print Issue cover features and weekly contributions on the Deli website, scores of artists have received the Cromwell point of view. Along with ongoing contributions to this site and The Deli Magazine, Dave has written for Dingus, My Social List, The Waster and Soma website magazines.