Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Gathered Deliberation on Recent Audio and Video Releases

July is always one of the best months of the year around here. You are deep into the heart of summer yet still far enough from it being over to have any real concern with all that. Adding in multiple significant birthday and holiday celebrations all combine to make it arguably the top 31 day stretch of the entire calendar year. With that comes this month's DaveCromwellWrites Review featuring new and returning artists, all with brand new or recently released recordings. Dig in and expand your horizons with this eclectic collection of new music.

Perennial CromwellWrites faves GIFTSHOP are back with not one but two brand new tunes. Scheduled to hit the airwaves on July 26th, advanced previews affords the opportunity for a careful listen and comprehensive review.

First up is the freshly written “More Than That,” which packs more into it's barely over two minute frame than most of the repetitious, overlong excess churned out on a daily basis. Giftshop has mastered the art of the precision pop song. Opening with a Matt Santoro chunky guitar riff straddling the line in tone and delivery between classic-era GNR (“Sweet Child/Jungle”) and Bryan Adams (“Summer of 69”) sets an instant rock and roll attitude. That's quickly joined by Damian Eckstein's two-part ascending bassline and Jordan Kramer's tom-tom percussion before consummate belter Meghan Taylor begins the (Damian penned) lyrical tale. Current zeitgeist topics referencing “big pharma” and “gun control” appear to have everyone on edge as we go about our daily “modern living.” While Meghan delivers these lines with urgency over three-piece throttling rock rhythms, pathos comes via a harmonized bridge hook and title line payoff. “Mental illness is gonna kill us, yeah” is how the Meghan and Damian harmony goes, while the dynamic lead vocalist starkly states “And still I want more - Than that.” Not content to stop there, a dramatic third section pulls out the stops with explosive power chords, sugary “ah ah ah” background vocals and Meghan's passionate lyrical delivery “I'd stop the pain, I'd stop the tears, of wasted time and wasted years.”

The second new track “Kewl With Me” is actually a song that's been around for a number of years but never quite found it's way into the studio for a proper recording. Rectifying that oversight now is the right move, allowing for a fresh listen to this classic material. Once again opening with a dominant, resonating guitar riff, percussion works it's way in through cymbals this time before forceful toms go beat-for-beat with Meghan's vocal recitation. “You lift me up - And I know where I am - You put me down - And I know where I stand” come traded off between powerful rhythm-section and vocal accents alternated between guitar only chugging like some kinda Greta Van Led ZepBlack Dog” groove. It all comes together in bold stroke unison on the solid chorus “I don't mind when you come to me, I don't care you're still cool with me"(with tasty harmonies on “come to me” and “cool with me”). With guitar chugging forward, special mention goes to the syncopated snare-drum shots and precision-point bass notes creating a rhythmic pulse underneath. As Meghan emotes the intro verse and chorus once again, additionally offering to “help you find the thing you seek,” a tension-filled guitar line breaks out over that syncopated rhythm with tambourine rattle added on top.

Get your first listen to these tracks direct from Damian and Meghan live on The Rodent Hour.

Then pick up your own copy via all the usual places we now acquire music from.

Previous GIFTSHOP Features can be found in the DCW realm here and here.

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Making their way onto this websites radar are Brooklyn-based neo noire rock'n'rollers Toshio Band. Finding inspiration from a variety of film makers (Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch), poets (William Blake), jazz innovators (Charles Mingus) as well as literary rockers (Iggy Pop, Tom Waits) serves as a wide and disparate pool to draw from. Lead singer and bassist Tim Lavigne pilots the project through songwriting and sound design bringing all these influences together in a modern rock and roll format. Their recently self-released EP “Lock Your Doors” is a five song concept EP that explores themes of madness and melancholy in an unforgiving world.

Opening track “Cassandra” builds off of distorted guitar progression that is quickly joined by bass and drums in a busy, forward-moving progression. Vocals lines “maybe it's all – in my head,” “we're thrown into this world all alone,” and “so beautiful – must fall apart” all speak to the overall motif of post-apocalyptic isolation and demise. Rhythmically quick, bouncy and cool, the tracks overall sound softens those otherwise harsher lyrical themes.  Follow-up track “Scorpion” is a loud, over-driven stomper, combining smoother reverbed vocals with needle-to-the-red level instrumentation. With the author pointing to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” as a lyrical touchstone, the lines “I'm the scorpion / the false champion,” and “I address myself and amass my wealth / I'm so innocent, a flowered serpent” echo the bards poetic style. Seeking power for it's own sake so often leads to damaging psychological effects. The eventual vocal hook, however is a much simpler repeated line “I found a reason.” Seemingly pulling from a number of source points, references to “heaven's gate” and “end of days” can also be heard. A particularly tasty lead guitar solo turns up a minute-and-a-half in to this overall concise barely two-and-a-half minute song.

The Devil Is Chatting In My Ear” continues the stomp, though a bit more fragmented in it's seesaw chugging progression. “Every day – with each passing year – the devil is chatting in my ear” is how the smoothly delivered intro vocal line goes. Once again the guitars are loud and pushed in front, creating an element of chaos as the story unfolds. An unexpected tempo change appears just past the 1 minute mark, instantly changing the mood with coolly refined vocals and less-abrasive guitars. That momentary passage is soon followed by an elongated guitar lead effecting some kind of shamanistic presence. The initial progression is eventually returned to, before once again closing out with the cool mood segment.  “Cataclysm” alters the mood considerably with it's samba percussion feel and snaking guitar lines coming on with Carlos Santana appeal. The artist themselves references “Black Magic Woman” in their promo notes, and the spirit and feel of that classic track is certainly alive and well here. There's power and beauty in the extended instrumental passages, offsetting a chilled vocal approach on each verse. The “lock your doors” album title is delivered here within a verse that implores awareness against both natural disasters and political uprisings.

Final track “Forgotten Friends” presents a slice of wistful reflection in a perfectly packaged under three minute pop song. While elongated phrasing and vocal croon on the opening verse owes a certain amount of debt to Morrissey, subsequent passages move things beyond respectful homage. “And we fall – down, my dear – in the sea” anchors an essential change in both progression and state of mind.

Check out Toshio Band via their official website here.

Listen to and find out how to acquire their wonderful tracks here:


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Another eclectic collective weaving it's way into the CromwellWrites universe are a San Diego, California-based duo that go by the name Corduroy Institute. Having recently released a new album titled “Eight/Chance/Meetings,” the creative members adhere to an “institutional methodology” emphasizing improvisation. Additionally, their lyrics were formed using the cut-up method (or technique), which is a type of found poetry that has its roots in the 1920's Dadaists but was popularized by writer William S. Burroughs in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

Album opener “Everything's Wrong (And I've Always Loved It)” (like all the tracks) adheres to a process where a random number generator selects two albums (presumably from their personal favorite collection) as spiritual guidelines for the improvised piece. For this track the “rng” selected The Flaming Lips, “The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg” and The Golden Palominos, “Drunk with Passion.” What is actually heard is some extremely well-recorded light-touch percussion and bass, with passionate voices and icy synthesizer rushes. It's floating, meditative and trance-like. Follow-up track “With an English Raincoat” credits the rng with pulling albums by The Wedding PresentSearch for Paradise” and Eric ClaptonSlowhand.” What we hear are incidental space-age twiddles, open string guitar textures and a repeated, short electric keyboard line. The essential lyric states that "Defiance is where we can be our best selves." A third of the way in now sees “Of Splendour and Misery” pulling from two opposing sources, The Slits, “Cut” and Rick Springfield’s Greatest Hits. Emphasizing factory-chug percussion, multiple vocal layers serve up a near “doo wop” element to the proceedings.

Cover model Andrea Revilla

You Bring the Sunshine, We Bring the Blackout” adds a Squier Bass VI for contrasting analog warmth against harsher slap-crack beats, single note held synths and acoustic guitar strums. While the innovative band Magazine is referenced as an rng choice, vocals timbres and singing style bring to mind John Cale's solo work. “A Suburban Purity” emerges out of mechanized synthetic pulses before a slower, counterpoint bass pattern ushers in a series of overlapping vocals.  Deeper cuts like “An Interpretation of Our Own Story” had the rng pointing them towards Fairport Convention as inspirational launchpad. References to Richard Thompson's late 60's British folk rock band indeed can be detected in acoustic guitar emphasis. An underlying darker rhythmic element runs in alternate currents via deep percussive strikes.

These Variations of Grey” comes on quite bouncy, accentuated by popping beats, analog bass guitar and melody-driven electronic keyboards. Essential lyrical statement "As midnight approached we stood there staring at each other" underscores the uncertainty of the moment, questioning what it is that comes next.  Final cut (and album's longest track at 6:10) “In This Confessional” surfaces out of buzzy synth tones held over a submerged rhythm approximating some form of mechanized factory. Less foreboding keyboard notes materialize, building simple melodies before the vocals begin. “Joining me exalted in this confessional” is but one audible segment of the cut-up lyrics dispatched, as less mechanized light percussion and bass guitar weaves into the mix. Peaks and plateaus follow, with abrasive sonics enhancing more passionate vocal delivery before drifting out of focus once again.

Find out how to acquire this album and more about Corduroy Institute overall here.

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Psychedelic documentary film-maker Matt Levin returns with a new project in the works on the life and times of influential musician, writer and painter Will Carruthers. Most psych-rock fanatics know him as an innovative bass player in seminal bands Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Will has also carved out a niche for himself as a painter, with one of his works put to the “psych-test” here in Matt's narrative. With the clever title "Nobody Gets Fat Eating Music," Matt combines an informative live interview with brilliant animation and in-depth analysis for a uniquely immersive experience.

Among the numerous subjects covered, of particular interest (and the opening sequence) discusses a tryptic painting Matt commissioned Will to paint for him. Calling it “Gluggavedur,” that title refers to old Icelandic saying that means “window weather.” Where images outside may look pleasant and comfortable, but when you step out into it you are freezing cold. The artist insisted it be framed with two black bars between the panels, conveying the sensation of looking out a window onto the sea.

In addition to a live interview with Will conducted at the Liverpool Psych Festival is a series of brilliant animations illustrating many of the stories being told. This full motion imagery was commissioned by Matt and set into creative motion by the truly gifted Klarens Malluta. Much of the documentary benefits from Klarens depicting Will's interview story answers in a lavish and colorful way. It's a wonderful hybrid of Peter Max, Yellow Submarine and Pink Floyd's The Wall style imagery.

At one point Will tells a story about meeting Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre for the first time, and threatening to shoot him with a longbow. He states they actually bonded over that, as Anton found it quite entertaining. A clip covering that segment can be viewed on The Brian Jonestown Massacre Instagram page here.

Another short clip from the interview can also be found on the BJM Instagram page where Will explains that “the most addictive drug I ever took was music.” And how if he just “keeps going back and try it one more time, it will be alright this time. I'll just have two then I'll stop. I'll play two songs and then I'll stop.” But the harsh reality of being “back on the building site” and working soul crushing (and dangerous) factory labor has you giving in to the pull of music once more time.

Check out the trailer for this feature here:

Get more info on the Translove Airwaves series here

Previous features about Translove Airwaves on this site can be found here and here

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