Returning artists and brand new discoveries (via trusted label and direct contact sources) furnish the motivation for this early springtime edition of Cromwell music review writing. Dynamic releases from creators mastering multiple genres via technology, performance and devotion share space here with more traditional classic rock formats. The common thread running through it all is a high-level of skill and imagination embedded in all the songs.
Equal measures of industrial electronics, heavy rock, seductive vocals, black-clad fashion glamour and spirituality are woven together in the music of Turbo Goth. As popularity continues to grow in both their native Philippines and adopted home of NYC, the duo of Paolo Peralta and Sarah Gaugler have released a brand new album “Awakened Imagination.” Fresh from a return appearance at SXSW, the self-described “high gloss rock duo” now receive a detailed DCW review.
Lead off track “Ready For Something New” sets the albums initial vibe with a dreamy, trip-hop feel. Distant, muffled voices and ambient textures are the first things you hear, before Sarah's smooth, precisely-placed-in-the-mix vocals deliver the title line (and more) in cascading, dream-like manner. Shuffling electronic percussion undulates underneath subsequent vocals stating “let me know when you're on your way.” There is a distinct soulful emotion running through this as Sarah cooos “I wanna watch the stars with you.” As percussion expands to busier ticketty movements, the primary change hook exhorts how “it seems like we both like the same things – the same dreams.” The overall attention to detail exhibits an uncanny precision, with layered vocal asides and interludes meticulously placed. “Hold on to the sparkles in the air” becomes one more rumination within this magical mystery groove.
The following cut “Endless Blessings” begins with Sarah's voice up-close and in-your-ear (with subtle electronic processing) singing the line “youuuuuu – are devine – all good things take time.” Powerful drums soon start a heavy-metal thump, followed by Paolo's equally hard-rock guitar riffs. It's a quality down-and-dirty groove, with syncopated pacing between those drums and guitars. Synth keyboards make their way into the mix, soon followed by Sarah's softer-edged vocals. There's lots of space for the voice on top, as the Led Zepplin dinosaur groove thunders forward. “I'm not who I was before” Sarah declares, before launching into a riff-and-vocal tandem sequence that is as hypnotic as it is heavy. Bass guitar and piano-like keyboard lines emerge in a change section that lyrically implores you to “come into the light with me” and to “set your heart right now on fire.” The leaden groove returns, this time with extended rising guitar textures and opening sentiment “all good things take time.” Launching once more into the rhythmic vocal tandem sequence containing the song title leads everything out to it's ultimate conclusion.
Gentle ocean breezes can be felt in the ska-dub rhythms of third entry “New Realms.” Deep synth-bass is complimented by softer-chunking reggae-style guitars. Subtle background whistles, snare-drum-roll punctuation and distant horn accents all contribute to this on-holiday, Jamaican vacation sensation. Powerful guitar riffs and thundering drums return for the hard metal rocker “Diamond Spirit.” The guitar lines are as intelligent as they are forceful, creating strong figures out of a changing chord progression. Sarah begins her vocals in a high falsetto creating an otherworldly impression, with following lines bathed in a processed sheen. “Take it right now – make it right now,” becomes the smooth alternating vocal hook against those heavy-metal abstracts. Speaking of “spirit” (as the title suggest) you can feel the essence of classic drop-D down-tuned guitar pioneers like Black Sabbath and their “stoner rock” descendants.
Bass and drums electronic hip hop percussion powers along fifth track “Adventures Beyond.” Sarah's angelic vocals plead “Still – I want to be still with you.” Establishing location while “getting ready for a long drive” is presented with delicate levels of autotuned FX, creating an appropriate dreamspace. Singing about how they're “leaving” and “done with all deceiving” confirms the overall the spiritual theme. The sequence is repeated while backward-looped guitars color ambient spaces inbetween. Double-time lyrics stating “everything is possible with you by my side – I'm ready for a long ride” serves as an equal metaphor for both taking an actual trip now, and a full life ahead together.
It's back to hard rock with the measured, purposeful stomp and classic electric guitar sound on “Flow Like Water.” Sarah's voice is soft and high-resister sweet as she gently emotes over hard-edged guitar riffs and walloping drums. The hook fully grabs you with title line chorus (a play on Bruce Lee's “be like water?”) studio enhanced to a supernatural polished sheen. Some tasty guitar figures break out at the songs midpoint, riffing boldly against crunchy Keith Richards/Izzy Stradlin chords underneath. A lovely cascading vocal section immediately follows that, positioning dreamy ethereal vocals against guitar and drum punctuation.
Previously released (but further remixed again?) single “Quarantine Dreams” places emphasis on Sarah's sweetly-sung, straightforward vocals with minimal effects and sparse, twinkling background accompaniment. “Spun on your love, don't wanna wake up from these quarantine dreams – nothing's what it seems” comes on like a lullaby. Trip-hop percussion and deep-bounce-bass soon sets a sensual groove for the combined romantic and mystical declaration, “Bae, you know you're pretty amazing, your supernatural vibe is kinda hard to describe. Our constellations align, but I'm only semi-divine.” Vocal FX and echo-line layering become more prominent with the dreamy segment that goes “baby I'm trippin' but I'll be saving my love for you.” The hypnotic qualities are apparent, with the soft, seductive vocals more clearly asking “how many days do we have to wait? Gotta pull me out of this hazy phase.” Vibrant dreamlike segments feature enhanced angelic reverberation on line snippets like “my all, I want to give to you.” Emphasis is also placed on the magical lyrical segment “Galaxies are waiting – no more hesitating - we'll be star gazing under the dark, dark sky.”
Listen to this gorgeous track here:
Last years previously released single “Crystal Eyes” also makes it's way onto this album. Simply speaking the title out loud could easily have you pronouncing it as “Crystallize,” which turns out to be just that after listening in full. Clocking in at a no-excess only one-minute-and-a-half, the song gets right to the point with Sarah's softly appealing vocals kicking in right away. “If you're waiting for a sign – it ain't that hard to find” she states, as pulsing keyboards and hip-hop percussion create a positive bubbling backbeat. Soon “it ain't that hard to find” becomes a repeated echo line, while delicate vocals continue with the lyrics “within you is Divine – quit wasting your time.” The vocal cadence quickens with the lyrics “falling out of control? Getting all mixed up in the fear? Let me take you back to all that's now and here.” Subtle effects and harmonizing are added to each successive line, as slight sonic change occurs with lyrics “hold on to – uninterrupted cosmic – vibration.” Further segments state “you already know: where you will take yourself” - as the backing track momentarily drops out to add emphasis on that last line. “I'm ready to go – if you want to take me too.” Another cadence shift happens with the vocals and lines “and we won't forget what's real – we'll know to turn our sights onto the light.” Vocal overlays commence “with good vibration” now alternating over “onto the light.”
Check it out:
An adorable near-childlike sincerity can be felt in the babydoll vocals and lullaby dreamhop instrumental accompaniment on “Come Along With Me.” Tapping into the same qualities that a band like Kero Kero Bonito frequently explores, “never be afraid of falling, listen to your heart when it's calling” is merely one of numerous positive statements. A level up occurs with the lines “now – take my hand – we have all the time in the world – come along with me.”
Give a listen:
“Tell me how you feel” is how Sarah opens final song “Real Chill.” “Heart of gold – no one told you so – in the end it's what you give not what you get” are additional intro lines that ultimately serve repeated hooks. A keyboard marimba sound provides rhythmic undercurrent for the wave of cascading vocals that follow. Additional buzzing synth-horns emerge as both support and solo, sounding a bit like the one on Pink Floyd's “Welcome To The Machine,” as well as on numerous electronic funk tracks.
Previous Turbo Goth features can be found on this site here, here and here.
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The always busy Brighton, England based Shore Dive Records returns again this month, promoting their 111th release featuring Stockholm, Sweden's We.ThePigs. The band released this full-length album at the end of last year, highlighting a lovely collection of female vocal dreampop, harsh Sonic Youth-like guitar noise and even a JAMC “tribute” as well. It all adds up to is an incredible collection of tracks, which now receives the notorious DCW deep-dive review.
Opening cut and featured single “Anyway” charges right out of the gate with a ringing clarion call guitar riff that initially descends, before reversing course towards an upward melody. The full band jumps in right away with hard hitting drumming and active bass-guitar counter-melodies. Blended female fronted vocals come on with elongated phrasing, while those driving guitar riffs continue on relentlessly underneath. A solid snare-drum press roll signals the turn into a chorus that's equal parts gazey vocal wash and harsh guitar noise. With everything momentarily dropping out, the singular guitar riff ever-so-briefly stands alone, before a slightly less-chaotic accompaniment supports the following verses. One more ramp up to full-on noise, leads vocals (and repeated single word title) to a satisfying conclusion.
Listen to this marvelous song here:
Follow-up track “Truth Or Dare” also begins with an open note guitar figure, before the band charges in underneath with syncopated snare drum shots, power chords and rumbling bass. Heavily reverberated female vocals soar over the mix with ethereal appeal. There's a lovely change section that perfectly encapsulates why dreampop music is so adored (and endures year after year). Not content to simply be sweet, a noisy pitch-bend guitar solo adds a touch of roughness to it all. Third song “Drift To Sleep” changes course with more gentle instrumentation, allowing a softer space for the sweet female vocals. Like one of Cocteau Twins more vocally audible ballads, lyrics referencing “nighttime shadows on my wall, creeping further as time goes ” and “watch the shadows grow” emphasize the songs lullaby nature.
A few seconds of extended feedback introduces “Closer,” while a pattern of abstract drumming provides start-stop movement. A heavy two-chord, bass-driven movement enters the fray, before ghostly vocals float over top with purpose. There's a bit of a Raveonettes feel to this one, with dreamy gossamer vocals over a clearly defined rhythm. The chorus does nothing to dispel this perception, as classic dreampop vocal stylings are then followed by distinct melodic guitar hooks. Next cut “Sounds” leans on more traditional MBV-style slightly-pitch-bend strummed guitar chords, before full band entry with forward-momentum urgency. Entrancing female vocals waft in declaring “I had a dream last night” going on to describe the “sounds” and how “I was spinning round and round.” The Raveonettes vibe is even stronger here with sheering wall-of-noise guitars surrounding a precise melody inside.
Gentle unaffected guitar strumming momentarily leads off “Sharks,” before the full band enters the mix. The soft female lead vocals emphasizes held, extended notes at the end of each phrase. There's more of a Harriet Wheeler/Sundays feel to this one. The guitars are much noisier and “gazey” here, however. “Goodbye” taps into the spirit and early vibe of The Jesus and Mary Chain's wonderful Psychocandy tracks “The Living End,” “Never Understand” and “My Little Underground.” This is pretty much the highest compliment you can give, as the JAMC were (and still are) the greatest band ever.
A steady bass guitar rhythm leads into the gentle vocals on “Curtains.” The mood is driving, with a touch of melancholy, once again tapping into the allure a band like The Sunday's did so well. “What was your dream? I think you told me. Cherry blossom in the air,” highlights the tenderly ambiguous poetry being stated. The final minute bursts in an explosive elevation of combined instruments and voices. Snare drum rolls kick off the bluntly named “Fuck Your Songs.” Charging forward with mad abandon, things quiet down just enough for reverberated vocals to spin it's tale. “I just wanna – feel something” develops as the primary vocal hook, along with the title line itself as the track closes out. Intricate rising (then descending) guitar riffs add another level of quality to the overall proceedings.
Flanged effects are utilized on strummed guitar chords opening the placid “Carry.” With no drum beat, the vocal and soundwash ambience emphases a more formless shape, similar to My Bloody Valentine's “To Here Knows When.” Melodic guitar figures, dominant driving bass, pulse-pounding drums and Swedish language vocals are the hallmarks of “Vi Skriiker.” Like most “gaze” music, it's not really necessary to understand what is being sung to experience the power and beauty expressed.
Final track “Patterns” is a lullaby (of sorts) featuring open note arpeggiated guitar chords and the unexpected lyrics “you feel just like shit, but you go on anyway.” It's the “pattern of your life” even though sometimes “you smell so nice.” Two minutes in and the full MBV downstroke and cymbal bash assault kicks in for dramatic effect. With that head-smack in the books, the lullaby returns, but does anyone really think that's the end of noise? The final minute doubles down on the Shieldsian assault as vocals reiterate how this is all “the pattern of your life.”
Hearing from other bands out there who've read DCW Reviews is never a bad thing. In fact, it's probably the most common way things find their way onto this site these days. Enticed to check out the music of already established indie rockers Star Collector proved to be a prudent endeavor. Working in the classic 4 piece, two guitar, bass and drums formation, an impressive level of vocal harmonies lift them above rudimentary “garage band” status. A further analysis of their music follows below.
Their latest video single “Green Eyes” from current (and 5th overall) album “Game Day” exhibits a classic pairing of spirited imagery and hooky pop song. Opening with the sound (and visual) of tape recorder in motion, quick cut shots featuring steady drum beat, chugging guitar chords and speedy studio set-up are enhanced by reverse-image hue. With the opening vocals and subsequent seamless harmonizing (where it appears each band member contributes to) that seminal power pop band Big Star once again comes to mind, with elements of Buffalo Springfield as well.
Lyrically describing a “young child with dreams” who has an “imaginary friend” and how “we didn't get it” ultimately leads to a big The Who-style guitar-slash/drumroll-thrash bridge realization “now I got it!” That transition brings on an uplifting harmonized chorus stating “'cause it was there in your green eyes.” Subsequent verses reference how “the oil douse the flames” (with brief firey imagery over prominent bass guitar) and “smoky warm embrace” (bearded “wiseman” with pipe) on over to a board game called “29.”
That chiming, harmony-hooked chorus rises again, concluding with the mystical sentiment “and for all the stars that shine – there's one that passes through to our green eyes.” Like all great rock/power pop songs, a smoking hot lead guitar solo breaks out appropriately, embellished by proper rhythmic undertow from the rest of the band. A sense of go-for-it determination is felt in lyrics like “the moments out of reach – we try to grab it!" There's even a coyote making it's way into the mix (both in song and video) to the power of “all the stars that shine” - from – and through “our green eyes.”
Finally, the beloved genre known as "shoegaze" has been going strong since is arrived in the late 80's, early 90's. While many of us were instantly drawn to it because it was different (in an intriguing way), anyone who had ever had the misfortune of having to work in a factory alongside large grinding machines couldn't help making sonic comparisons. Even smaller household appliances or having to hear construction going on next door triggered points of reference. While much of this "gaze" or "noize" music seemed to incorporate the abrasive sounds of malfunctioning table saws or circular saws hooked up to flanger pedals, actual evidence of this was only speculation.
Fortunately, the fan community has taken things into their own hands to highlight what we have suspected all along. The below videos provide actual proof of what we instinctively knew.
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.