Friday, July 22, 2022

Authentic Examination on New Music and Video Releases

Four exciting new releases serve as the comprehensive focus here in the July DaveCromwellWrites Feature. Along with trips to the beach and numerous free live shows in the park (one of the truly great thinks about summertime around these parts), time has been carved out to investigate and ruminate on some of the more thought-provoking new music releases. Old friends and new share space here, with descriptive representations fully accompanied by the music they choose to share with the world.

The good folks over at Big Stir Records have a new full-length album release by LA psych-pop rockers Maple Mars. Titled “Someone's Got To Listen,” it's the band first album in over a decade, and debut for this label. Playing to their strengths honed from years as recording artists and legendary live performers, soaring harmonies, layered guitar interplay, lock-down rhythms and deft songwriting run through all ten of the album's song. What follows here is a track-by-track analysis and commentary on each one.

Punchy power-pop and soaring vocal harmonies feature prominently right from the start on opening track “Useless Information.” “Twisted truth – they just confuse” perfectly encapsulates tracks titles and overall sentiment. Lead single “Gliding” emerges out of piano chords and harmonica before launching into the songs driving thematic melody. A serious Beatles/Badfinger vibe is felt through a harmonic styling that emphasize multi-tiered vocals, blended guitars and urgent percussive undercurrent. Tempo changes create emphasis on verses, while open space guitar figures provide necessary instrumental breaks.

Initial album teaser “Goodbye California” falls into an easy mid-pace groove, with lyrics stating how “everything is bright – everything is shiny -every sin is disguised – hiding in clear moon sunshine.” Even a “warm breeze” won't help you “when California falls to the sea.” A tasty guitar solo leads the track out to it's conclusion. “Anchors Aweigh” jumps to a quicker progression, with double-time snare-drum shots and downward driving guitar line. “I wonder if the winds of change will become a force” and “the salty dog will stay the course” bookend the metaphor of this cuts overall theme. Busy drum fills, rubbery bass and bouncing guitar figures all contribute to an integrated musical accompaniment.

Someone Take The Wheel” bursts out of a chaotic psych-rock feel, with forceful clattering drums and FX-laden guitars. While vocal harmonies over top attempt to harness a level of control, the “Helter Skelter” instrumental approach underneath threaten to shake everything wide open. Points for the lyrics “can't see the forest for the sleaze.” A syncopated snare, bassdrum and highhat beat kicks off “Teenage Dream” as it drops into a chugging, good-timey groove. Sweet call-and-response harmonies drive the hook that goes “wasting time – try to make the scene – moving through those weekend dramas – chasing the teenage dream.” Melodic guitar riffs ride over top of crowd noises, adding a cinematic effect to it all.

Sleepwalking” comes on vocal heavy right from the start, with a lyrically dense storytelling prose. Conjuring up imagery of “dark dreams” and “standing in a forest wondering what it all means.” The guitars emphasize harmonics over the now-expected hard charging drumming. Ethereal textures introduce “Silver Craft” exhibiting an initial floating sensation before the main progression commences. Morphing between a more cerebral sonic approach and the energetic power-pop already established previously creates an interesting mix of atmospheres. The space travel references appears to dovetail nicely with the album covers imagery.

The organ, piano and synth driven “Crooked Smile” touches on a softer psychedelic approach. With no percussion, acoustic and electric guitars are carefully woven into the mix, blending seamlessly with the lush vocals.  Album closer “Redemption” benefits from a single guitar and voice intro, before launching into the full band progression. Initially touching on the topic of “deception” and “trust,” hand-claps punctuation is sprinkled in at points for catchy hook benefit. “Is there any justice for the sacrificial lamb?” is juxtaposed against “the corruption of the damned.” While pondering those issues, elevating guitar figures rises to the stratosphere and land on a melody driven turnaround. An unexpected keyboard-synth interlude emerges with a minute to go echoing BeatlesI Am The Walrus” vibes. Even the vocals that follow take on a Lennon-esque feel, leading the track out to it's denouement.

Listen to their song "Gliding" here:

The album is out now as a deluxe vinyl LP and CD at Big Stir Records, as well as streaming worldwide.

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Andres Alfonso Lugo is a Baltimore-based recording artist who's work has been featured here on DCW numerous times. While those previous reviews focused on the bands he belongs to, the current work here being delved into is his solo project Los Dientes Hundidos en la Garganta. With that phrase translating into “the sunken teeth in the throat,” the music created is less ferocious (though still quite powerful) than that expression would suggest. Inspired by Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie and minimalism, Andres provides guitar, loops, programmed drums, bass and synth, while enlisting contributions from Ferran Pont Verges (Die Noia Futuriszka) with guitars, voice and mixing on "Loops of Energy."

Rising out of a distant ambient mist, a singular bass guitar begins to rumble with purpose. Gentle synth waves ebb and flow around this central throbbing texture before the thump of snare, bass-drum and high-hat percussion enters the mix. Two minutes in and a sudden rush of shimmering distortion floods the sonic field, adding an uplifting quality over the already-established rhythms. With the centrally placed bass guitar providing both driving force and melodic changes, glistening guitars and looped atmospherics continue to expand audio horizons. A minute in further introduces voice-as-instrument via celestial choral layers. That is soon met with higher-register guitar notes, continuing the measured pace melody rise.

At five minutes in more lush chorusing fans out across the auditory spectrum, with keyboard synths becoming more prominent in moving the melody forward. What remains ever constant is the steady vibrating bass guitar right down the audio center, complimented by clear elemental percussion. The midway point sees the progression modulate back and forth momentarily, before continuing what feels like an ascension into the clouds. An overlay of incandescence emerges in the seventh minute, serving-up the quick-strum guitar that gaze-music aficionados love. Further on, a descending melody line finds it's way into the mix providing a complementary alternative to what has already come before. After nine and a half minutes, everything drops out except for the bass guitar and percussion, creating a momentary plateau. As the other elements return to the mix, strong guitar figures establish descending melody lines along with one more round of ethereal voices to the tracks final conclusion.

Listen to this sonic exploration here:

The track is available as a free download on bandcamp.

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Receiving news about a new project involving long-time fave David J (of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets fame) is always welcome. Busy as he's been over the last few years with revived live shows, hearing about brand new songs and group collaboration peaked curiosity. The debut album “A Free Society” by newly minted combo Night Crickets also includes Vincent DeLorenzo (from Violent Femmes) and multi-instrumentalist Darwin Meiners. Drawing their name from a conversation about something David Lynch said, the recordings came together via audio files shared between Los Angeles, Milwaukee, London and San Francisco. The band has now released a new music video for the song “The Unreliable Narrator,” which receives a full review below.

Opening the video with a silhouette image of three antenna-headed “night crickets,” those of us familiar with Love and Rockets can't help think of “The Bubblemen” from L+R's early history. A deep voice recites the song's title line as hypnotic drone, cavernous jungle drums and clacking percussion play behind images of three men slowly passing by. That familiar David J bass guitar presence is soon felt as black and white images of the band rise mysteriously upward. Color soon enters the visual mix in form of psychedelic backdrop, as more band figures are shown moving their fingers in slow-motion. Vocals commence in full this time, spelling out how our “unreliable narrator gets his intel second hand, from disreputable sources.” Slow moving pictures of bandmembers alternating between black and white and color combined with billowing clouds of smoke add mystery to the unfolding story of having “an axe to grind and a cache of theories – the conspiratorial kind.”

An engaging instrumental respite emerges at the song's midway point, creating the sensation of a dark ride through mystical lands. An eyeball with flames shooting out the top of it serves as yet-another graphic form in the video. As the song's title is repeated hypnotically, you can feel the music shifting underneath with suble changes in rhythm and melody. Impressive snare drum accents and bass guitar runs are soon followed by more dynamic guitar chords. Putting a close to the whole story with final lines “you can't believe a word he says, so you're foolish if you do,” puts a bow on the whole package, as does actual night cricket chirping attached to the very end.

Check out this curious video and song here:

The Vinyl Release of A Free Society is out on July 29 via Omnivore Recordings

Two Dave's share a moment after the show.

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An inquisitive individual who records and plays live music under the moniker 77 Apes has caught the attention of DCW through their steady persistence. It is a solo artist endeavor where lyric-heavy songs are accompanied by acoustic and electric guitars, fleshed-out with background rhythm tracks. Brooklyn born and now Connecticut based, the songwriter sings about desperation, hope, love, sex and life itself. Their recently remastered and released track “Devil Knows Devil,” now garners the full CromwellWrites deep dive analysis.

Steady, chunky percussion and plucky chugged electric guitar introduce the seriously determined “Devil Knows Devil.” Bright strummed chords accompany opening lyrics “I wake up this morning – walk out into the rain. Gotta get to the city – on that downbound train.” A gritty tale of life today from a storytellers point-of-view, structurally sound melodic chord changes enhance lyrics about “souls” in “pain.” A twist comes on the title line reveal of not needing “to tell this to you because – Devil know Devil babe.” This resolution implicates at least one individual, or perhaps a part of us all. A rise in both vocal and audio intensity commences on the next pass through with larger society concerns pairing “old man poor” with “young man's crime.” While we further discover there's “no absolution” or shot at a “second chance,” a piercing, steady guitar solo cuts through the midpoint with appropriately dramatic effect. Pivoting to acoustic guitar for a more intimate reading, literary references to “Bacon's Triptych” and “Poe's purple pain” draw together “the words of the sages.” The final push makes effective use of extended electric guitar notes behind acoustic strumming leading to the closing line “Guess I'll see you coming – there on judgement day.”

Check out this track right here:

Follow all things 77_Apes via their Linktree.

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