Monday, January 29, 2024

Intriguing Reviews of New Full Album and Single Releases

A new year and new locations provide the backdrop for this month’s DaveCromwellWrites Feature. Introductory singles from new artists on the cusp of releasing their debut full-length share space with returning artists who’ve previously received deep-dive reviews. The collective result are audio journeys encompassing a wide range of fuzzy dream pop, dynamic changes, progressive electronics, improvisational recording, along with a more precisely structured indie pop.

Hearing that fuzzy-gaze dreampop band Phantom Wave are preparing to release a new full-length LP “Bonfire Secrets” in the coming days is exciting news. Having met the band last year at a Ringo Deathstarr show, it comes as no surprise they’ve enlisted that bands sonic guru Elliott Frazier to mix those tracks. Diving right into the advance stream provided for review, some thoughts immediately flow from the mind and fingertips.

First single and featured track “First Light” initially floats out of a mist in the most dreamy way. A tom-tom driven drum pattern and measured bass guitar provides movement underneath soft shimmering guitars and clean delivered vocals. That softness is abruptly shattered by following passages of hard charging drums, bass and a wall of guitars. All the while, passionate vocals implore you to “hold out the first light.” Downward driving accents add punchy power under vocals delivered with urgency.

Listen to this slow burn fuzz right here:

Promised next single and album opener “Chimera” comes on quick and a bit poppy. Is that 80’s era Cure? Clearly not once the big noisy hook is reached, as a wall of sheering guitars run roughshod over everything. The bass guitar is busy, providing melodic movement, while the drums thrash and bash their way throughout. Vocals are soft and conversational. Is it about a grotesque monster having disparate parts? An apparition, dream, illusion or vision? Who knows – it sounds fantastic, though!

The full “Bonfire Secrets” album is currently scheduled for an April 2024 release.

Keep up with Phantom Wave via their Social Media for updates and new release info.

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Back in July of 2021, DCW did a deep-dive review of the San Diego-based research and development collective Corduroy Institute and their musical duo’s full-length album “Eight/Chance/Meetings.” That creative outlet is now back with a new long player “Take the Train to Manchester.” Consisting of 9 new compositions created between December 2019 and August 2023, this intermittent crafting is the longest span of time spent on any of their albums. Once again using their institutional methodology of cut-up lyrics pulled from print media, the music was created through multi-tracked improvisations.

Opening instrumental track “Take the Train to Manchester” emerges slowly from an electronic substation. Train track-like clack percussion gives weight to the theme, before submerging behind ominous synth pulses and forward driving bass guitar. That percussive clack returns and is joined by higher pitched synth textures. It feels a bit like early Kraftwerk and their pre-mechanized “Trans Europe Express.”

First vocal song “[A] Girl Named Philosophy” moves along mysteriously, adding subtle twangy guitar lines over a deep thump bass and percussion. It’s fascinating how a full story can be conjured together with found, cut-up lyrics. Vocals are delivered with a resonant baritone, while closing lines “in a deal with absurdity” suggests more “folly” than actual “philosophy.”

Say Something Gentle” brings back the clacking, train-like percussion, enhanced by solid bass guitar and filigree brighter-toned six-string figures. Vocals are dispatched now in a higher pitch, closer to a tenor. Horns (or the synth approximation) are an added element, with repeated lyrical line “the true colors of the machine” standing out. The title line eventually appears with the composition reaching it’s conclusion.

An angular bass guitar pattern provides the musical structure for next cut “Uncirculated Knowledge of the Universe.” Dueling vocals appear throughout, adding to it’s overall ethereal feel. Both vocalists present those cut-up lyrics frequently in echo-repeat fashion. “She can do whatever she wants” serves as one focus vocal line. “(An) Intimate (Tension)” bubbles up ominously via violin-like strokes and stressed textures. A slowly descending bass guitar provides the most rudimentary framework for this instrumental only tone poem.

A bright, clicking percussion pattern kicks off next entry “They Don't Even Know.” Long-held keyboard pads lay out a chord structure over distant, driving bass guitar. There’s a soulful, near-funky feel to this one, combining an electric “drums and bass” vibe with a melancholy mood.  Completing some kind of thematic arc with the previous cut, “No One Ever Knows” pivots to gentle acoustic guitar for initial instrumentation, while layering on unintelligible tape-recorded voices. A deeper Cello-like texture saws back and forth in a gradually decaying pace that Brian Eno employed on his 1975 masterpiece “three variations on the canon in D major.” This composition is more acoustic guitar-centric, however and the light textures those strings add contrast playfully with those taped found sounds.

Our Former Places of Worship/Luminous Chaos” combines synth textures, bass guitar, stirring vocals with hiss-crack percussion. Synth chords and bass guitar breaks offer up spaces between vocal line readings. Rising synth textures evoke Eno once again, but this time his early work with Roxy Music. Final entry “You Always Loved Everything…” adds echo to the dual vocal rendering of these particular cut-up lyrics. “I was worried about leaving” followed by the song title.  Driving bass guitar, sparse electronic percussion and a smattering of synths all contribute to an overall Joy Division-like feel.

Listen to and find out how to acquire this innovative recording here:


Follow Corduroy Institute on their Social Media:   Instagram   -  Facebook

A previous feature of this band can be found on this site here.

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It’s been a while since new music from Chad Sabo has made it’s way onto this site’s radar. It was July of 2018 when a combined live show and previous release retrospective was covered on his band The Cold Seas at that time. Enjoying a seamless 10 song set comprised of the four singles and one EP released over the previous two years, an appreciation for the talent on display was realized. Now Chad is back with his debut solo album “joyride,” inspiring a new DCW deep-dive review.

Choosing to open the album with an amusing short “intro” of upbeat electronic rhythms and spoken word, Chad invites the listener to join him “on this sonic joyride.” That leads into the albums title track which advocates the virtues of going for a cruise in your favorite car. The production is impeccable, with soothing higher pitched vocals that bring to mind high-gloss pop bands like 10CC.

Every instrument is precisely placed, with each percussive and stringed note avoiding excess. Voices are intertwined and pitched to varying levels. Follow-up track “Still Mine” relies on strummed guitar for rhythm, adding off-kilter ambient instruments for oddball effect. Lyrics “saw your name pop up on my Instagram – I know that face well” references the way we sometimes carry on relationships via the internet only.   “Sunday” doubles down on the warbly strummed guitar, adding a funky bass pattern and soulful background vocals. “I’m no good for love (pronounced LA-ove)” is the essential lyrical refrain. Sweet, sentimental roller-rink style keyboards completes the audio picture.   “Catholic” morphs over to dreamy with a Beatles-esque vocal cadence, and well-placed tambourine accents. Dealing with embedded influences, lyrics “I don’t know if I believe in something greater – or at least myself,” questions early religious training.

Holy Ghost” seems to hold onto the previous theme, while pivoting to other potential sonic influences. The in-your-ear, casual spoken word style employed so effectively by The Strokes is noticeable, as are those choppy guitar rhythms and single run melodic fretwork lines.  Clever lyrics provide strength behind the whimsical musings of “Our Love.” Understated guitars and a driving bass offer up the appropriate accompaniment for witty rhymes like “just look at us – making out in our electric chairs – and the coroner said he the saw sparks come flying from our hair.”

Another Show” laments being “too hung up to go down easy” but will “hang around till I know your leaving,” making this “show” about a failed relationship all too real.  Regretting spending time “chasing rainbows in a thunderstorm” furnishes appropriate imagery for time squandered.  Bass guitar continues to drive everything throughout the curiously titled “Single Use Plastic.” That title reference becomes clearer with the lyrics “the wind has changed – a thousand ways – a plastic bag caught in the sky.” Points given for the madcap instrumental break at the songs midpoint. In fact, this composition offers up multiple distinct passages, making it one of the more densely constructed offerings here.  The album wraps up with a brief "outro" where Chad thanks this listener for "hanging out."

Check out this fascinating pop album here:

Keep in touch with Chad via his Socials

A Feature on this artist previously posted on this site can be found here.

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Near the end of 2021, DCW wrote a detailed review of Adam Lippman’s featured single “Sunblind,” from the later released full-length 'Some Things Cast Long Shadows.'  That track later earned placement in the year-end “Best Of” annual wrap-up. Adam is now back with a new single “Wasted” which delves once again into the pop-indie-rock genre. Written and performed by Adam, the track was recorded and produced by James Mauri at Strawberry Hill Studios in Norwalk, Connecticut. Showing off his visual arts skills as well, he also painted the album cover.

A spirited snare shot, high-hat and bass drum beat kicks the song off as melodic six-string and bass guitar quickly joins in. Adam’s reedy vocals soon commence, telling the universal tale of how people meet at “the bar right down your street.” A subtle xylophone is detected underneath the following lyrical theme that references the songs title – how so much time can be “wasted” in these pursuits. “When you gonna come around?” is the repeated questioning expressive inquiry and hook. “You didn’t have to run and hide from me” ultimately leads to “we don’t have to look too far to see that it’s wasted.” At the tracks midway point the rhythm guitars and bass drop back leaving percussion and more open spaces. An ambient descending guitar texture and simple bass lead the way to a pleasing rhythmic interlude, before repeating the primary vocal hook, leading to its overall conclusion.

Listen in and find out how to acquire this track here:

Follow Adam here  -  Facebook  -  Instagram

A prior Feature on Adam's music can be found on this site here.

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