Monday, September 25, 2023

Mesmerizing Recognition of Recently Released Music and Video

Compelling new releases kick-off the Fall/Autumn DaveCromwellWrites music review feature. Long-time indie-legend dreampop recording artists share space here with newer experimental ambient creators, and post-gaze, power-pop psych-rockers. Deep dives are the order of the day, with an attentive ear for sonic details still the primary focus. Audio, photos and video continue to provide the inspiration for this careful analysis.

We American's who haven't been afforded the luxury of traveling abroad and traversing the globe occasionally are unsure of exactly where certain country's are. Take Estonia for example – where exactly is that? Trusty internet searches are the charm these days and one can see it is one of those former Soviet Union locales that borders the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland – now considered Northern Europe. The reason for this particular curiosity is a relatively new release from Estonian dream pop band Pia Fraus. Having heard about them for years, it was eye-opening to discover they've been at it (off and on) for 26 years! Their latest album 'Evening Colours' is out now on digital, with a vinyl release set for September 28th. The Cromwell focus on these artists work is long overdue.

Opening cut “French Exit” comes on with an instantly romantic feel (which will extend through all the songs). The guitar riff hook is of the descend-then-rise, start-stop variety, with drums providing a counter motion throughout. An advance promo promise of “shimmering layered male-female vocals” makes an immediate entrance, bringing to mind what Sune and Sharin did so well with The Raveonettes. Chorus hits and the dreamgaze feel goes into overdrive, with full ambient washes and melodic guitar figures.

Follow-up track “Fog on the Hills” is quicker, breezier – giving off a more gentle, wistful vibe. That is until the chorus hits and then it's full-on gazer-romance, tugging at that music-to-fall-in-love-with-someone feeling. Frequent use of minor chords shows depth and sophistication in the songwriting. The drumming is once again, fantastic – as are the synths and voices. Album title track “Evening Colours” continue the sugar-coated voices and add subtle pitch-bended guitars to compliment that Raveonettes-style twang. Soaring strings lift everything onto a cloud of angels. There are higher vocal notes hit here, and the bass guitar makes its presence felt in positive groove-oriented ways.   

Sunny Afternoon” combines slashing guitars, synth highs and sophisticated phrasing that incorporates major, minor, 7ths (4ths?) voicings in their easy breezy sentiment. For those who can imagine a joyous day of wind in your hair and warmth on your face. “Who's the Envelope-Man?” relies heavily on orchestral synth washes, as those familiar sheering tandem female vocals push everything forward. Angular pauses within the song structure creates space for cleaner guitar lines. Drums, bass and piano skillful lock to each distinct rhythmic change.

Regret Everything” comes on quicker in pace, adding flute-y synths for instrumental expansion. Driving bass and drums propel the tandem female voices along against a bed of synth ambience. “Confidential Information” adds a level of pitch-bended “gaze” guitar to the now anticipated Swingle Singers style vocals and rapid-fire drums. Chunky, chiming guitar chords and a bit of organ emerges into the mix as well. The curiously titled “Another Artichoke” introduces a subtle new dimension by adding occasional horn sounds to the mix. Clearly discernable lyrics state “please hold my hand at least for one more year – I'm so tired and the end is near – you know you're better than nobody else . . . don't let me go that's all I ask of you.”  

Cloud Winterland” veers back into the gazey warble guitar world, with placid open spaces intermittently staged for dramatic emphasis. “We Melt” picks the pace up once again, with unexpected and refreshing sharp turns and quick breaks. The central chorus and lush and bathed in a dream-gazey wall of euphoria. “Lost in Nights” closes out the album with it's most romantic and soulful groove. Subtle pitch-bended guitars share space with more traditional strings. Those alluring female vocals strike the perfect balance between nostalgia and longing.

Much respect to guitarist Rein Fuks for writing and arranging 99% of this masterpiece.

Check out this incredible album here:

Find out all the ways to acquire it here.

Follow their Social Media here:   Pia Fraus   -  Sek Sound

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Back in May of last year, DCW had the opportunity to dig deep into advance track “Normal” by Héctor Caolo Alvarez run project Sueño Con Belugas (I dream of belugas – whales). That ambient tour-de-force is now included along with five other cuts on the recently released EP “Memoria Cósmica.” A cast of familiar names like María Lopez (Malow) on vocals and synths, Gardy Pérez on Guitars, Loops / Delays are joined an equally impressive group of various other contributors.  A full review of all six tracks follow below.

EP opener “52Hz / Agua Atómica” emerges quietly, floating on gentle guitar strumming with overlying noodling effects. A singular synth introduces the next movement about two and a half minutes in. A minute late a full drum beat kicks in, along with distant vocals over top of a ominous, crawling progression. Heavier guitars begin slashing their way momentarily into the mix, before the percussion drops out and female vocals become more prominent. The groove kicks in once more, with a throbbing bass leading the way over drum crack and layered male-female vocal tandems. Soaring vocals drive this mysterious over nine minute epic to it's conclusion.

Follow up track “Caracol” combines nature field recordings with Spanish language spoken word. Distant ambience is blended with the sounds of birds tweetering along with a rising level of otherworldly synthesis. A bass pulse emerges gently, before fading out with this relatively brief reverie. As mentioned above, third entry “Normal” receives a full detailed review HERE.

Fourth cut “Fantasma” starts quietly, with soft acoustic guitar that is soon met by additional laid back half-spoken, half-sung Spanish vocals. Ambience begin to build up underneath with loops and delays creating a magical dream world. “Gris” returns to more traditional rock stylings, with guitar, bass and drums pumping out the rhythms and progression for maximum effect. The chorus hits quickly, with elevated lead female vocals driving it all along. Male voices take their turn briefly on a line or two, before the blended voices mesh with soaring guitars on lofty passages. Extended instrumental segments emphasize the melody progression, driven by that ever present bass guitar, drums and chiming guitar hooks.

Epic final entry (the EP's longest at 9:45 in length) “Detrás del Volcán / Memoria Cósmica” builds up from a quiet hum, as female vocals slowly begin to shed light on the proceedings. Drums enter quietly, along with additional layers of vocals and shimmering guitars. The midway, separation point moves bass guitar out front in the mix, as everything transitions to an ambient world where beluga whales swim free through the cosmos. A final third movement emerges with pulsing percussion, shearing guitar textures and a clarinet move forward for the final fade out.

Listen to this dreamy recording here:

Follow the band and label releasing this record here:

El Gran E Records: - Facebook - Instagram - X/Twitter

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Finding their way into the DCW mailbox is the Seattle based guitar-centric band Guest Directors. They've just released their first full-length album “Interference Patterns” that features nine songs drawing from the bands entire lifespan. Building up to the complete album drop, the band has given some of the tracks video treatments. Most of the audio was recorded in a beautiful old church in Anacortes, WA. Released by Topsy Records in conjunction with Snappy Little Numbers Quality Audio Recordings. Available on Bandcamp, a few choice indie stores, and streaming everywhere.

The more recent (second) video put out for deeper track “Nico” kicks off with straightforward four-on-the-floor drum thump that's soon met by chiming guitars. Chords shift quickly while a melodic guitar line rings along over top. Female vocals emerge with a doubling effect, that gives it all a timeless vibe of 60's era rock. As the video shows appealing patterns of vintage psychedelic floating projections, subtle human images are briefly embedded in as well. A gorgeous, instantly hooky chorus is then revealed, with full-band enhancement and lovely multi-tracked vocals. As the second verse moves forward, a noticeable change in the drum pattern shifts to more two-hand, tandem strokes on the toms. The bass guitar also becomes prominent, with the open spaces allowed for that instruments melodic movements. A burst of guitar soloing emerges at the mid-point, reinforcing that 60's psychedelic-rock vibe. One more softer verse cycle through with busier drums and bass, before a final glorious chorus and sparkler enhanced end-out.

Check out this great track and imagery here:

The album's opening cut “From This Distance” was first to be given a video treatment, kicking the whole record off with appropriate style. As the drummer counts everyone in, visions of lofty mountain ranges are superimposed against colorized images of the band playing their respective instruments. It's a slithery-gaze groove that employs expectedly sheering guitars and an out-front rubbery bass pattern. Opening male lead vocals are soon met with female counterpart harmonies. It's a harder, heavier version of the “gaze” genre, with down-pounding strokes via those essential rock instruments – guitars, bass and drums.

Groove into this badass video and song here:

Follow up track “Perfect Picture” quickens the pace with a more frenetic approach, and the lyrical hook line “trapped inside your head.” Stimulating forceful sonic breaks keep the listener engaged, avoiding any level of predictability. “Raise a Glass” ambles along with an easy groove vibe. Female vocals stand out front in this near-ballad offering. The minor key driven hook “but you fall apart, and the cold winds blow” and again “when the sun shines through your window” suggests any “glass raising” isn't necessarily celebratory. A heavy guitar mid-section adds crunch to the overall proceedings. 

Blackout Dream Blues” lumbers along with doom-laden underpinnings as impassioned female vocals lay out a tale where you “drown, drown, drown.” Tasty guitar figures are never far from any of this bands songs, and this one is no exception. “Skinless” emerges out of twisted guitar phrasing, one entering from the right, followed by the second on the left side of the mix. Heavy bass guitar and drums drive a thundering rhythm down the middle. Those female voices deliver the lyrics in higher register, with an elevated level of passion.

Dig into the complete album, with info on how to acquire this record here.

Follow Guest Directors on their Social Media:

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