Thursday, September 30, 2010

SHINee - Hello (3 new tracks)

When I found out that the new SHINee tracks were out, I was practically tripping over myself trying to scramble home as fast as I could - I even considered skipping fro-yo for them! Let's just say that I didn't skip fro-yo, and I'm glad I didn't.


I like SHINee, I like them a lot, and right now Lucifer is one of the few frontrunners for my favorite song of the year. Lucifer (the album) is outstanding, and even if SHINee have managed to deliver superior material compared to all the other boybands in their "league", they have set the standards so high for themselves that Hello just pales in comparison, in more ways than one.

The production is strong, the vocals fantastic and the melody pretty - that's about all the song can offer and for a band like SHINee, that's simply not enough.

I like the arrangement and I'll be honest with you - the melody made me smile - but we've heard this all before, it's nothing new, nothing ground-breaking, and it most definitely won't start a trend. They're now past the stage wherein they have to cement themselves as talented singers and/or a band with outstanding material, this is the time to possibly revolutionize k-pop - and they most definitely didn't do it.

One is absolutely no match for Life or Obsession - the chorus is a surprise given the verses, which I appreciate, and you know I'm a sucker for a good string section, but this didn't give me goosebumps. I don't know if it's because their vocals lack emotion, or because the song itself is a little on the boring side, but it's most definitely not up to par with the other ballads.

And finally, we have the disaster of all disasters. I just don't get Get It. (OK I didn't mean for that to sound like a pun.) It's... yeah. Even I'm confused. It's like Britney with a bit of BoA and where have I heard those specific synths before? UGH. It's too slow and there isn't enough kick to the song that it doesn't make an impact, and then they just had to go and autotune the vocals. The song has no melody, no clear structure, and it's a mess of random parts of different songs thrown together with no thought or effort put into it.

Now I'm seriously thinking if I should wait for this version to hit Philippine record stores, or just buy version A, that's already out here. If all I'm getting in addition to the 13 fantastic tracks are three sub-par ones, I just might not wait for this new one to come out here.

For the three tracks - 4.1/5. Better than others, but not up to their own standards.

Proto-metal Report - Featuring Lucifer's Friend and Night Sun

What was going on in Germany in the early 70’s that they were able to produce such kick ass world class heavy rock? And what’s wrong with the world that the music of Lucifer’s Friend and Night Sun are not being played on your local classic rock radio station right now? The debut albums from both of these bands are required listening for all fans of the mid-tempo hard n heavy realm.

The debut album from Lucifer’s Friend was first unleashed in 1970 and the opening song “Ride The Sky” is something everyone needs to hear. Released the same year as Led Zeppelin III, the song was accused of ripping off “Immigrant Song” but it turns out “Ride The Sky” came first. Take a listen for yourself and see if the opening fanfare played on French horn sounds similar to Robert Plant’s wailing vocals. Zep has been known to pinch some riffs here and there, but this might just be a weird co-incidence. But you never know. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jimmy Page was intrigued by a band named Lucifer’s Friend given his interest in the occult.

Even though Lucifer’s Friend were a German band, they were fronted by British born belter John Lawton. His high pitched voice soars above the heavy, gloomy music perfectly. I must admit the first few times I listened to this his voice reminded me a bit of Mickey Thomas but luckily there are no cheesy songs like “Fooled Around & Fell In Love” or “Jane.” The heavy organ sound makes for immediate comparisons to Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, but Lucifer’s Friend are probably closer to early Atomic Rooster in their blend of doomy guitar/organ interplay and they rarely venture into full on Emerson, Lake & Palmer prog.

All 8 songs on the original album are great. There’s everything from creepy slow ones like “Keep Goin,” mid tempo groovers like “Toxic Shadows” and faster ones like their theme song “Lucifer’s Friend. The latest edition of the CD comes with 5 bonus tracks that vary quite a bit. “Horla” is from 1970 and fits in perfectly with the album. However, there are some songs from 1973 that are pretty lame pop-rock junk like “Our World Is A Rock N Roll Band” with horrible synths and David Cassidy style vocals. Just goes to show what happens when the record company demands a hit!

Lucifer’s Friend went on to make a few more albums but changed their style quite a bit from the debut, which is where Night Sun comes in. Another German band with a high pitched screamer and pounding organist, this sounds like it should have been the second album from Lucifer’s Friend. Their debut album Mournin’ from 1972 has been described as Lucifer’s Cousin or Lucifer’s Friend That Came With The Other Guy.

Album opener “Plastic Shotgun” is an insanely complex song that will make your head spin. Night Sun has a bit more ELP in their sound than Lucifer’s Friend but are too heavy to be a full on prog rock band. “Got A Bone Of My Own” and “Slush Pan Man” are dead ringers for Death Walks Behind You-era Atomic Rooster outtakes. “Blind” has a nice jazzy groove to it similar to Deep Purple’s “Lazy” with some nice guitar work. Fast ones like “Crazy Woman” and “Nightmare” use the “Speed King” template to excellent effect.

Sadly, both of these albums are out of print but used copies can be found in all the usual places. Both of these albums belong on your stereo if you love Captain Beyond, The Groundhogs, Hard Stuff and all of the bands already mentioned. It might cost you, but heavy rock this good is hard to find.  -- Woody

Buy here:  Lucifer's Firend

Buy here: Mournin' [2010 Reissue Vinyl]




Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Devo – Something For Everybody

I’m going to let you all in on a secret.  For a few months now I have been conducting a social experiment.  This experiment requires asking people the question “Do you like Devo?”, and then recording their answers.  Analyzing the collected data has allowed me to separate the population into two distinct categories.  We’ll call them Categories A and B just to keep things simple.

Category A consists of the people who seem almost offended by my question.  They refuse to respond with a concise answer such as yes, instead going on at length about the “great” and “important” Devo.  Reluctantly, I have been forced to stop a few of these marathon tirades when I ran out of tape in my voice recorder.  These instances only seemed to fuel the proverbial fire however, normally resulting in the interviewees launching into yet another fiery string of statements containing adjectives such as “amazing”, “fantastic”, and “visionary”.  Shockingly, although there is an almost overwhelming amount of passion on display in Category A, it seems that passion does not translate into a large percentage of the overall population.

Quite the opposite, Category B contains the vast majority of people interviewed.  Striving again for simplicity I have lumped similar groups of responders together.  Thus the people who responded to my question with “Who?” along with the people who had little working knowledge of the band, yet knew of their existence, are classified the same way.  Below I have included a sample conversation which effectively simulates my exchange with one of the latter people.

    “Do you like Devo?”

    “Yeah, no.  That song "Whip It" sucks.  Oh, and those hats they wore in the
video were soooo stupid.”

    “I see.”

Admittedly I belong squarely in Category A, but I have tried to keep my personal feelings from affecting the experiment.  My hypothesis is this.  I believe that if a person from Category B actually sat down and listened to Devo’s new album Something for Everybody, I could ask them a second time whether or not they like Devo and their new response would be a resounding yes.  Here is why.  (Alright, that’s enough of the academic nonsense!)

Something for Everybody is a fantastic album that rocks from start to finish.  How do I know?  Easy.  It makes me happy and invigorated every time that I listen to it.  Not good enough?  How about this.  Even though there have been countless imitators, the band still manages to produce a sound that is unmistakably Devo.  Guitars and synthesizers go to war with each other in a battle for supremacy alongside drums that alternate between sounding organic and computerized.  The vocals are playful, sincere, and unique in this age of growlers or ultra-polished, vibrato leaden sound-alikes.  And then there are the songs.  Oh, the songs!

Opening salvo “Fresh” is a fine introduction to the album, but for my money the real show begins with track number two.  “What We Do” serves as Devo’s mission statement, assuring the listener that they know exactly what they are doing with catchy mantra-like lyrics layered over pulsating synthesizers and a driving backbeat.  More standouts quickly arrive with the dual threat of “Mind Games” and “Human Rocket”.  “Mind Games” is so “Girl U Want” catchy it should be quarantined by the Center for Disease Control.   “Human Rocket” begins with a pre-liftoff warm-up, quickly ignites the engines to build speed and energy, breaks through the atmosphere with a guitar solo, and finally deploys the parachutes to bring the listener back to Earth.  Don’t feel a proper album is complete without a heartfelt ballad?  Fear not my friends.  “No Place Like Home” is there for you with it’s fatalistic social commentary evoking a range of emotions similar to the classic “Beautiful World”.  Truthfully, picking a few songs to highlight from the album is tough as each one is memorable and strong.

The bottom line here is that everyone searching for a fun, high quality, engaging album need look no further.  Take it from someone who was through being cool years ago.  You may think you don’t like Devo, but after listening to Something for Everybody you may just find yourself ordering your very own energy dome (those stupid hats).  Did you know that they come in blue now?

-- Penfold

Buy here: Something for Everybody



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dafni - Sweet Time

Music and chemistry are similar.  Both can be expressed mathematically.  Certain combinations of sounds or substances result in repeatable reactions.  The musician and the chemist experiment with elements to produce a desired result.  Both rely on measures.

One major difference between music and chemistry is chemistry lacks heart.   Chemistry’s measures are prescribed and the results are immutable.  It is an expression of matter.  Music, on the other hand, is an expression of the soul - it answers no questions but makes statements solely for the sake of human expression. The results are transient and subject to critique and widely different interpretations.  When you make something chemically it is what it is. It can be nothing else unless you add something or take something away.  Music is what it is to each person who hears it and its effects change with the listener.  Combine music and chemistry and you end up with musical alchemy.

What got me thinking of this is Dafni.  She sent us her upcoming album Sweet Time  (produced by Dan Janisch and  set to be released on October 19, 2010 on her own label “Daffer Doodle Music.”).  It was a lazy Sunday evening, after a very hectic Saturday and laborious afternoon, that I first listened to the eleven track CD. 

Dafni’s full name is Dafni Amirsakis, but, she goes solely by her first name “Dafni.”  I don’t know what it is with single name musical artists - Sting, Madonna, Pink, Slash, Meatloaf etc.  I never understood the need, or desire, of an artist to hide his or her true identity from the public. In Dafni’s case it might be a marketing choice to hide her foreign, difficult to pronounce, Greek last name.  However, her Greek heritage is part of a great back story. It was the beauty of her grandmother’s voice, inherited by Dafni, that saved her family from the Italian soldiers when the Italians invaded Greece during World War II. The album is dedicated to Dafni’s late grandmother.

Dafni’s voice is reminiscent of Norah Jones and Madeleine Peyroux. She also channels a little Billie Holiday.  Her music is soft, mellifluous and boasts a jazz Americana sound.  On a lazy Sunday evening it provided the perfect background music by which to relax on the sofa with a Martini.

Dafni does more than sing.  She also plays electric and acoustic guitar.  On “Sweet Time,” Mark San Filippo, a disciple of Billy Higgins, who played with Kenny Burrell and Herbie Hancock, plays drums. LA session musician Geoff “The Wolfman” Rakness thumps the electric and upright bass.  Studio hand Pete Kavanaugh strums the electric guitar on four of the songs and former X, Bob Dylan and Alice Cooper guitarist Tony Gilkyson plays on three.  Solo performer Dan Janisch shows up with guitar in hand on one song, and with guitar, three-string bass, percussion and background vocals on another. Michael Bolger, known for his work with Rancid, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tony Joe White and Jewel, adds accordion, piano and trumpet, and singer Lisa Finnie provides background vocals. Dafni wrote each one of the songs on the album and they all come across as very inspired and personal. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the album so I decided to read the press kit and this is where my mind started to wander toward the similarities and dissimilarities between music and chemistry.  Here are some excerpts that pushed me in that direction: 

As she was gaining a basis in classical music and jazz, Dafni was also pursuing an interest in science first studying psychology in Chicago, then pre-med at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  She switched majors again after falling in love with the bane of most med students’ existence: organic chemistry.While pursuing her doctorate in chemistry at UCLA, Dafni’s musical career progressed through a combination of hard work and serendipity. . . .

So how does one get from a doctorate in organic chemistry to writing and performing extraordinary jazzy, sultry, music?  The two disciplines, at first, seem so different.  Then it struck me. Dafni’s attention to detail is impeccable.  Each song is tight.  The vocals exacting.  The technical ”organic chemistry” side of Dafni shows up in these production values and in her attention to detail. But, humans are not robots. We desire more than technical mastery, especially in music.  In her singing and songwriting Dafni finds emotional release. That is also what makes this a great album and Dafni an excellent up and coming musical talent  She is a vocalist who pays attention to the details; she has an incredible voice and a brilliant mind; and she uses music as her emotional outlet.  Dafni has learned how to manipulate music and substances for their ultimate effect.  She is not just a chemist and not just a musician.  She is a musical alchemist and I hope she continues to experiment.

 -  Old School

Monday, September 27, 2010

Miss A - Step Up

I'm far too stressed to explain why I've been MIA for the gazillionth time, so let's skip that entirely and get to the review. I need to relax. It's my birthday tomorrow - I need to relax.

So Miss A are back with a second "single album" (how these terms were thought of is beyond me) and for those who aren't familiar with them, they're JYP's newest girl group under a subsidiary label, AQ Entertainment, and before they debuted they were set to be targeted at China - two members are Chinese - but so far it's only been Korean domination for them. And I mean domination - there was mild controversy surrounding their wins for Bad Girl, Good Girl on various music shows because people just aren't used to new acts winning. Whatever.

I wasn't a big fan of the material, but I acknowledge that compared to the bands that came out with them, *ahem* SISTAR *ahem*, they are very talented. They can't sing and dance complicated choreography as well as I'd want them to, but it's acceptable.

Now we have their second round of promotions, and to be honest I'm still not 100% falling over my feet with the material, but I see where they're going on this. Although the album is very gimmick-y on the verge of being novel, there's a concept to the 4 tracks and it's very clear why they were put together - for that alone they have my respect. Then add strong vocals to the mix and I'm happy. I'm not in love, but I'm happy.

Step Up, the opening track, is probably my favorite of the 4. It's fun and fresh - if you were to ask me to describe the song in one word I'd say it very funky, because it is. I like the addition of what sounds like a whistle part, and I like how the song goes a little further than just your ordinary loop-intensive pop song. Once again, it's the little things that matter and set songs apart these days. The melody of the verses is actually kind of pretty, but it still manages to blend in with everything else happening behind. The hook sticks, and although it's the return of the "eh eh eh"'s, at the end of the day the whole song falls into place - it just works.

Now the lead single - Breathe. I appreciate their effort to add the same whistles from Step Up and a few other elements as well, but you don't always have to be that literal when you want cohesion. Although I don't mind. Everything about this song was thought of, and pulled off, with a sense of conviction - they're sure of what they're doing and they know what they want. That shows in a song. It's catchy, but it's still melodic so it's not as annoying as it could possibly be - that's what you get when you have actual singers. I'm not the biggest fan of it, but once again it actually works, so who am I to say it doesn't?

A ballad in the form of 멍하니 comes up next, and it's your generic piano-accompanied with a string section and some computer-generated effects here and there before a drum part kicks in and the orchestration goes all-out. Yes. It's pretty and it's a very welcome break from all the catchy, fun uptempos. That and they can actually sing, so it sounds effortless. Extra points if they can pull this off live, and they better!

It's the end of the album, and they just had to ruin everything. 그 음악을 틀어줘요 DJ sounds like a cheap attempt at an uptempo, which is technically a novelty song. I don't like novelty songs. I've heard the percussion part somewhere else, and the melody something Koyote would probably have no problem singing. I'm not insulting them, it's just that novelty songs aren't really in my good books.


4.7/5 (my personal rating's different, but you don't need to know that. ;D)

Ripples Around the World - Featuring Elikeh, Janaka, and King Sunny Ade

 Final exams.  A beach.  A roaring fire.  Some mind-altering fungi.  And King Sunny Ade.

Such was my first excursion into the magical world of African music.  After a beach blow-out, I remember sitting on the floor of Greg's apartment, King Sunny's Synchro System playing at a low volume.  I remember floating within the music, levitating across the talking drum, drifting along with those amazing, serpentine guitar lines.  From that moment, I was hooked.  A near lifetime love affair that has only grown deeper with time.

Admittedly, African music, and world music in general, isn't for everyone.  Languages have to be overcome.  Unfamiliar song structures have to be overlooked.  But once you dip into that world, music will never be the same.  When you want to turn down the noise, when you want to dance, when you want something uplifting and buoyant, or aggressive and defiant.  It's there.

Even our good buddy Ray over at Ray's Realm fell under the spell of Amadou and Miriam's The Magic Couple, about as mesmerizing and haunting a release from any genre that we'd heard in a while.

With that in mind, and with the celebrated release of a brand spanking new King Sunny album, let us, oh waverider, drift on back down to that magical place and see what the world of World Music has in store for us this month.



Elikeh – Adje! Adje!


Afropop from Togo via Washington D.C., and let me tell you, we really got something here.  Togolese singer-guitarist Massama Dogo combines afrobeat, rock, roots, and jazz into one trance-inducing, pulse-throbbing mass of sound called “Afro-high.”

And high it is. Elikeh’s new album, Adje Adje! brings forth all the beautiful polyrhythmic passion that makes afropop so delightful, and blends in some serious guitar, some soaring horns, and some gorgeous vocal harmonies.  Jubilant, buoyant, festive. Dogo’s lyrics, sung in English, French and the African languages of Ewe and Mina are layered over the nonstop percussive festival that is afrofunk.

I don’t know what each particular song means.  In fact, my digital copy of the album doesn’t even have separate song titles, just “Track 1,” and “Track 2”, etc.  But this doesn’t bother me.  Rather than concentrating on each individual track, when I play Adje! Adje! I take in the whole album at once.  One joyous, rebellious celebration of freedom, percussion, rhythm and dance.   Beats blend into horns into guitars into vocals back into beats.  The entire album percolates and pulsates, as if it wants to jump out of the player and dance itself.   Even the songs that are clearly revolutionary mantras bubble with a totally infectious spirit of dance and life. Truly magnificent. 

If you are a fan of afropop of any kind, King Sunny to Fela to Toure Kunde, you will find lots to love here.  If you’ve never explored afropop before, but wanted a recommendation on a new album to go with the classics of the genre, look no farther.  Adje! Adje! has arrived. 

Buy here: Adje!Adje!


Janaka Selekta – Pushing Air

Incorporating Indian textures with downbeat groove and vibrancy, San Francisco DJ Janaka Selekta has created what may be the downtempo album of the year. 

Rich aural passages flow seamlessly like water gently cascading through a wild brook.  Beats add and accentuate the passages without ever overwhelming the overall effect, one of transcendental mediation set to the dancefloor.   Beautiful, evocative, rhythmic, seductive.  Just a few words to describe the airy, spirituality of the album.

"Awake" soothes with its bass heavy hypnosis, layered with the air of the exotic.  "The Escapist," is just that, a mind-bending, or mind-releasing journey out of the self, riding the sitar to nirvana.   Strident beats, a destination. "Reborn" sounds as fresh as it's name implies with angelic female Hindi vocals.

All of us, no matter how hard we rock, need to take a few moments now and then to chill, let the noise settle, the spirit soar.  For that, let Janaka be your guide.

A chill out journey worth taking.

Buy here:  Pushing Air


King Sunny Ade – Baba Mo Tunde

And finally we get to the master himself.  The man who began my entire odyssey with African music and then world music as a whole.  King Sunny Ade is a legend the master of Juju, a form of African music based on spiraling, snaking, hypnotic guitar lines, weaving and bobbing in and out of the call and response vocals, and the ever present talking drum.

Rhythm is the king here, punctuated with King Sunny’s mellow voice and serpentine guitar.  There really are no words to describe King Sunny’s music.  Going to one of his shows is a vast, undulating, meditative, hypnotic experience where music is the Lord, rhythm is the Church and King Sunny is the pastor.  12, 15 people on stage, who knows how many.  Drummers, percussionists, singers, guitarists, bassist, keyboard players.  And drummers, did I say drummers?  Lots of drummers.  6 hour long sets.  Sweat.  Dancing, swirling, spinning, and sweat.

It is a music to experience, to feel, not to analyze.  And as the first album the King Sunny has recorded in ten years, Baba Mo Tunde takes its place right along side his classics.  In fact, “Baba Loun Sohun Gbogbo” ranks right up with Synchro System as definitive King Sunny.  Just close your eyes and let it all flow over you.  Let your body loose, hips swaying, mind floating.  A heady, uplifting, aural orgasm.

--Racer

Buy here: Baba Mo Tunde








I couldn't find any videos from the new King Sunny album, but here's a classic older track to give you a taste.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Sunday Conversatin with Green Monkey Records


Don't get me wrong.  It's not that I'm jaded, but having been doing this Ripple thing for the better part of three years, I've heard a lot of music come through the Ripple doors.  And while a good chunk of that music's been pretty good, not much of it has been surprising. Most of it just fits nicely into the preconceived notions of genre and category.  That was until the Green Monkey Anthology came through my door.  To put it bluntly, I expected one thing and got another thing entirely.


And what I got was good.  Very good.  Garage, psych, powerpop.  Keen original post punk pop the likes of which went right to my happy zone.


With that, it was only a matter of time before we had to get Tom Dyer, the main monkey, to stop by the Ripple office, plop on down on the red leather couch and spill the beans on all things green and monkey.


You detail the entire history of Green Monkey Records in the insert of your excellent CD anthology, but for our readers, let's refresh.  How did you get started running an independent record label?

Well, traditionally there are two main ways people start labels. Either as business to make some dough off artists or as artists to get their skwak out. Occasionally there is something in between. For me it was definitely case #2. I was a late bloomer. Though always a music lover and a singer of sorts, I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 25. Had an art/punk band in Seattle around 1980 that was pretty cool in a tortured sort of way that really didn’t get too far – couple demos –but enough to convince me I needed recording gear. Did a bunch of one-man-band (me) recording and started recording my friends’ bands. By ’83 I had enough stuff of my own and other peoples’ that wasn’t getting put out anywhere I decided to start putting it out. Green Monkey was born and the next level of personal entertainment was up and running.


What motivated you? Did you tap into a particular local scene or were you aiming to capture a sound?

We were mostly limited to the sound we could get by the kind of gear that we used and the dinky studio space I had. That said, there was and is now an esthetic to my work. I have always had a greater leaning toward dissonance than your average American. When we were kids my brother bough Beatles and I bought Stones. When I was 17-18 it was all about Trout Mask Replica (drove my mom nuts). Later I was more interested in Ornette and Coltrane than Miles (Miles is great!), way more interested in Harry Partch and Stockhausen than Beethoven (z-z-z-z) and at one point I definitely wanted John Lee Hooker to be my personal savior. He was a guitar genius and had an even cooler voice than Johnny Cash.

Back in the 80’s when I had a little 8-track studio, I mostly got my clients word-of-mouth. Some of them like The Hitmen or the Fallouts became GMR artists for a while. Some folks I sought out like the Green Pajamas (after I bought their cassette) or The Life (got told about ‘em). Some would send me stuff like Glass Penguins that I liked and we would try to get something done on the cheap. I think the music we put out at that point was fairly inconsistent stylistically. It was just whatever was around that I liked.

I will say that over time there is a certain sound to my work that moves beyond the gear. It has something to do with intent and will.


Which was your first release?


GM001 Local Product (various artists) and GM002 Tom Dyer – Truth or Consequences were released simultaneously in ‘83, in a no doubt calculated manner to seem more important than we actually were. Both were totally recorded on Tascam 2340 4 track reel to reel with a little 6 channel Tapco board, a spring reverb, an analog delay and crappy mikes. We were totally living. We could overdub for crissakes! Kids in the Garage Band world have no way to understand how totally fucking cool that was to be able to do at that point.  Put ‘em out on cassette – 150 copies each – off to the big time.



Who's been your biggest selling artist to date?

The Green Pajamas by a mile. Book of Hours by the PJs is the top seller at around 5 thousand copies worldwide. It was released in the US, Germany, Greece and Australia – each version with different tracks. I just reissued it on CD after 24 years with all the tracks from every version, plus an unreleased track. Made me very happy. Still work with Jeff Kelly (PJ #1). I think he is doing brilliant stuff at the present.



There's so much to learn about running a label, share with us some of the lessons you've learned along the way.

Well, lesson one is it was always hard to get paid and still is. I became pretty conscious of cash flow back when as it really became difficult to keep funding the next project. I think it is a lot easier to get your music out to an audience in the internet age, but don’t kid yourself – it’s still work. As Andy Warhol said, it’s all about work. I like to work. I like to do things that I think have artistic merit. I think the trick is to know what you want to do and not get too sidetracked by all the silly extra stuff that will suck up all your time.



What's been your label's high point? Low point?


Two high points, one low point. First hight point, 1987 when we did the Green Pajamas - Book of Hours and The Life - Alone. It felt like we were in the verge of something in regards to commercial success. Wasn’t able to get it to go to the next step, which led to the low point, ’91 or so. It had become a chore. At that point I had put so much time and energy into it with diminishing returns, I was a dad, needed to back off, make a living and take care of life. Had to let it go.

Second highlight is now. I am at a place in my life I can do this at a level that I find satisfying. I am putting out my music and other peoples’ music I like. I don’t really care if somebody thinks it is crap or not, it is just what I am doing and I will let it get to whatever level it can get to.



What's inspired you to jump back into the ring and relaunch the label?


In the period after the initial output, I went back to school, got my bachelors, masters and doctorate while working full-time and raising kids. I never stopped recording (thus Songs From Academia, Vols. 1 & 2), but it was a lot smaller part of my life. Have my doctorate, have a job, kids are out of the house. Time to rock. Beside my gig as president of a small college, this is mostly what I do with my time nowadays.


The music industry has changed significantly since the pre-grunge days?  What changes have you seen and how are you approaching dealing with this changes?


Obviously the biggest change is the internet. It used to be that record companies were the filter to decide what was “good music” – people that were too crummy couldn’t make records. That started changing with the whole DIY thing in the 80’s – then the internet blew it up. Record labels don’t matter anymore. Anybody can get their music in front of the world. The filters used to be at the front – can you get stuff released – now they are at the end – how do you differentiate yourself from the 2 million crummy bands on MySpace. It is about reviews, PR, social networking and as always playing live, which by the way, I rarely do.

 

What changes do you see ahead for the music industry?


Well, the death of plastic seems pretty inevitable. There is still a shrinking market for CDs and vinyl, but your average person is pretty happy with their iPod and that seems irreversible.

On a more musical note, I see no more significant changes in popular music. Ever.

In the 20th century music changed as the technology to make it changed. First, there was the ability to record music. Changed everything, Then the ability to overdub made it possible to record music you could not perform live. Then the electric guitar changed everything again, making sounds that were previously impossible to make. Analog synthesis created the last batch of new timbres that popular music would require. Digital sampling was the final piece, as the hip hop guys brought John Cage’s notion that all sounds have musical validity to the mainstream.

In the past technological change in making sounds drove new music. I do not think there are any significant departures left on the kind of sounds that can be made. We can make them all.

I think what you have going forward is simply differing combinations of styles – personalization. Jazz is a great example. It runs a progressive course from New Orleans Jazz in the early century and by the end of the 60’s it has hit avant garde squawking and fusion. Sweet to scratchy – all been done. Everybody in jazz now works somewhere within that range. No place new left to go.

By the way, I hope I am completely wrong about this.



What's the biggest challenge facing you today as an independent label?


Just finding time to get things done. I’m pretty much a 1 ½ person operation. If I had greater ambitions there would be larger challenges, but at this point I am pretty happy to put things out at small but consistent level and let thing go where they go.



Are you working now primarily with your old catalog of artists?  Will you be looking for new artists?


My plan is to do a few things.

First, put out my own TD music. I’ve mostly got the old stuff out that I want out, so from here on it will be pretty much new. Second, is to re-release old catalog, just cuz I think it is great stuff that should be heard. Third is to put out new music from some old GMR folks, mostly Jeff Kelly/Green Pajamas, but we’ll see. Fourth is to put out completely new stuff by people that I’ve never done anything with. I’ve got a new band, Sigourney Reverb, that I like and may do some stuff with.

As time goes on I expect I will shift out of old stuff entirely. It will be all done. Probably take a few years though.



Are you a club rat, constantly searching live venues for cool acts?


Nope. Never was, always was a record guy. If I go out and see a band, it is very deliberate; I know about them from hearing something and check it out.



What are you looking for now?


The ecstatic experience. Music that makes me feel. Someone that can replace John Lee Hooker as my personal savior.



What would you like to see happen for the future of the music industry and your label in particular?


Well, I am of course perfectly fine with becoming an international superstar and having Jeff Kelly be bigger than Lady Gaga.

As for the industry, I think the decentralization of popular music that is ongoing is an unstoppable trend. I think digital music is here to stay, but I think due to increase storage crappy MP3s will go away.



Any final words for our waveriders?


Buy all our stuff. It’s better than everybody else’s.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Uffie - Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans


At the beginning of this year, Ke$ha became the new “it” pop sensation in the music industry. Back in 2006, there was a different snarky, hard-living, party girl that had a fresh voice named Uffie. Unfortunately, after a hectic touring schedule, a failed marriage, divorce, and taking a maternity leave, Uffie’s debut album, Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans, was delayed for almost five years before finally coming out this summer. Instead of looking like an innovator and inspiration in the mainstream music world, she appears as a copycat.

Uffie’s highly anticipated debut album is not a disappointment, but it does feel like a time capsule with dated lyrics and references. Since 2006, there have been several EPs, singles and collaborations released to fill the void for Uffie fans. Music has drastically changed when most of this material was recorded. The delays have made some of her references like MySpace seem archaic and “so five minutes” ago. Electronic, dance and synth music has had a resurgence thanks largely to pop acts like Lady Gaga and Ke$ha. Unfortunately, much to her chagrin, Uffie is often compared to the latter. Timing is everything.

“Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans” was produced by Feadz, Mirwais (producer and songwriter for Madonna on her albums “Music,” “American Life” and “Confessions on a Dance Floor”), J-Mat, and SebastiAn, Mr Oizo, and Uffie with guest appearances by Pharrell Williams and Mattie Safer from The Rapture. Filled with French techno, electro and dance-pop songs, the playfulness of Uffie’s vocals make her one of the most entertaining musicians out right now. With her catchy lyrics, banging beats and sweet voice she has captivated underground electropop, indie dance, and French house culture for years, but not mainstream music fans like her pop star contemporaries.

The album kicks off with the underground hit “Pop the Glock,” which is reminiscent of an M.I.A sound, but more danceable. The down to earth sound solidifies the perfect tone set for fun loving and crazy times. “Art of Uff” shows us the beautiful blasting bass that has made her an underground electro-pop princess. This is a song you could go out clubbing with and have a good time. Pharrell shows up on the third track “Add Suv,” which seems like a throwback to 1960s pop music polished with digital sound. This is a perfect example of an amazing collaboration.

More electro-pop follows on “Give it Away” showing a softer, sensual side of Uffie. Then comes the crème de la crème song, “MC’s Can Kiss” that is just as infectious as any pop song you can think of with a playful mood. The electro mishmash shows she does not take herself seriously at all and has a Cars’ mentality of “let the good times roll.” This playfulness continues with the opening of her next song in “Difficulty” as she sings “Don’t worry I don’t write rhymes I write checks.” Uffie’s sassy and tongue-in-cheek lyrics make her music infectious that you can’t help, but get up and dance around.

Ke$ha’s music sounds strikingly similar to the dance song “First Love” and a listener can’t help, but beg the question: What would Ke$ha be without Uffie? The titular song “Sex Dream and Denim Jeans” comes across as a rock song infused song with electronica and is an adaptation of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock & Roll.” “Our Song” is by far one of the most pop accessible songs on the album and shows Uffie’s softer side. One of the best tracks is “Illusion of Love,” featuring Mattie Safer that comes across as an early 1990s rave song slowed down. Underground music could not be any better.

Three of the final four songs “Neuneu,” “Brand New Car,” and “Ricky” shows more of the techno and electronica sound fans would appreciate it. One might even get a Justice vibe and that makes sense since they are also produced by Ed Banger Records like Uffie.

There is one song I continue to have mixed feelings on and that is the Siouxie and the Banshees’ cover of “Hong Kong Gardens.” At times it seems awkward and a huge mistake, but the more I listen to it the more I like it. Covers are always a touchy subject because it’s always going to have mixed reviews no matter what. The contrasting take and delivery make it a fun song to enjoy for the average Uffie fan, but for music lovers you will definitely have a different take. If electronica, dance club, electro-pop, and underground music is a genre you appreciate, it would be a travesty to not know Uffie.


-- Mr. Brownstone



Friday, September 24, 2010

Neurosis - Live at Roadburn 2007


I recently got a double burst of Neurosis dropped in my lap, a sensation not all that different than having a bowling dropped on your junk. But unlike the bowling ball incident, the Neurosis treatment was something that I enjoyed and wish would happen more often. Neurosis is a band that folks either love or just don’t get. I, for one, love them to death and quite frankly can’t be certain if I get them in the least. There’s just something about the primordial droning and hypnotic waves of distortion, the assault of sonic destruction that draws me to these guys like a woman to a shoe sale. The two albums that made their way into my possession and subsequent consciousness are the re-issue of the classic Enemy of the Sun (brilliant album in its original state, even better with the added tracks) and the more recent Live at Roadburn 2007. There’s nothing new that I could write about Enemy of the Sun, so I’ll just leave it as it’s a must have, therefore stop reading this and go get it before reading on. Live at Roadburn 2007, however, is new for me and something that I can’t stop listening to.

I figure that I have a few screws loose, I didn’t get the proper nurturing as a child, or I just don’t get enough sleep to make the extreme noise parade that Neurosis produces something I look forward to. It’s not the kind of music that I typically gravitate towards in that the music doesn’t have the ballsy guitar riffs or mighty mosh parts or variation of mood that makes me punch drunk. But, that’s not to say that this music is any less dynamic. In fact, the music that Neurosis creates is arguably more dynamic than the better half of modern music it’s just that these guys just do it with volume and tone. Filled with imposing phrases and dark words, the detuned, heavy music creates an element of dread and sorrow, hopelessness for the future on mankind, yet . . . I find it completely fascinating! Like when we’re driving and catch a glimpse of roadkill . . . no, we don’t think it’s beautiful, but we all take a long glance at the deceased if not for fascination then for the hope that we can distinguish the breed of critter. That sensation is about the closest analogy I can come up with for Neurosis.

Okay, on with the album. “A Season In The Sky” is a majestic, near ten minute epic of dread and despair. The bass line that creeps out of the fog sets the tone for this song right off the bat and one can easily get the sense that something ominous is upon us. As the vocals enter, the chills run up the spine and the mind races through the wild imagery that’s being strewn across our minds’ eye. This is one of those cases where a band doesn’t need to utilize thrashing drums and cutting guitars to be heavy. The subject matter, the performance, the vocal tones, the bass tones . . . all of it is done with such intensity that the heaviness is more of a matter of fact than studio trickery. It’s well over four minutes before the rest of the band chimes in to make their presence known, but when they do, they don’t pummel us into submission as one might expect, but rather compliment the tones that have already been set. In time, the detuned guitars take center stage and the overbearing weight of the Neurosis that we’ve come to misunderstand and love shine on.

“At the End of the Road” follows next and clocks in at about eight and a half minutes. This track opens with a pulsating drone and steady tom attack from the drummer, creating yet again, a sense of dread and impending doom. This is the Neurosis that I seem to like the best . . . a band that channels their primitive ancestors, communicating in a primordial sense, generating a dark tribal vibe. This intro always makes me feel like it should have been part of the Apocalypse Now soundtrack. I hear this song and I’m transported to the jungles of Vietnam . . . or Cambodia . . . or Laos, you pick, and I’m creeping through the dense foliage with only survival on my mind. Rain pours down periodically while shadows shift along my peripheral vision, always make me turn my head to catch a cleaner view of what’s out there and only finding more jungle . . . always knowing that I’m being watched . . . being hunted. Right around the 5:30 mark, the song opens up, finds a groove and we get that pummeling sensation that Neurosis mastered long, long ago. The bass notes come from various places on the neck of the instrument, the guitars carry the weight of ages, the drums like a heartbeat in a darkened room . . . deafening.

“Distill” is another gem on this album. There’s more groove to this song than most of the others during this particular performance. I love the chaotic burst that explodes as the vocals enter the mix. One guitar is creating a sustained droning tone while the second guitar emits flurries of distorted notes. Masterful! And then the whole thing collapses into ambiance. The guitars suddenly go clean and subtle arpeggios are plucked from the instruments . . . and then BOOM! Chaos ensues once again! When listening to Neurosis this is to be expected. You may want to hear the band go into a long, extended riff frenzy, but know that they’re not gonna’. Their always going to take their music in a direction that is so left of center that it almost feels like they have no direction. But that’s when we as listeners need to stop and rethink how we perceive music. The ambient portions of this song are flat out scary, the rocking portions are devastatingly heavy.

“Water Is Not Enough” is a classic. I’ve heard this song in my sleep for a million years, making me think that I’m must be related to this alien race of musicians in some way, shape or form. Brutally heavy and everything one would expect in association when the name Neurosis is mentioned. One of the band’s shorter tracks at almost six and a half minutes, “Water Is Not Enough” is darn near accessible. The riffs are condensed, but the textures that they create shift the brain fluid from one side of the head to the other, creating a dizzying effect. Slow and steady, hard and heavy, music Neurosis-style . . .

Most people won’t have the patience for a band like Neurosis because the music takes time to get the end of the tale. It’s almost like reading one of Stephen King’s 1,000 word epics, or any James Mischner novel, the story takes time to develop, always building upon itself, incorporating various levels of nuance, until we get to the very end and sit back breathless, thinking to ourselves, “Holy shit.” Live at Roadburn 2007 is a fabulous recording partially due to the bands ability to perform music from their catalog and still create the dynamic mood and tones almost effortlessly. I also like that the crowd noise is at a minimum on this recording. I don’t mind crowd noise on live efforts, especially when we get to hear them chant along with the songs a la Iron Maiden or Rush, but in the case of Neurosis, I like that the focus is purely on the band and their ability to pull off the performance in a live setting versus the relative safety of the studio. Live at Roadburn 2007 is a good starting point for anyone interested in learning more about the band and hearing what they’re all about. Beyond that, Enemy of the Sun is a can’t miss.  -  Pope

buy here:  Live at Roadburn 2007
mp3: Live at Roadburn 2007


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Field Report - Sleep Reunion in Brooklyn 9/8/10

 L-O-U-D!

The Brooklyn Masonic temple was erected in 1907 and sits in Brooklyn’s beautiful and historic Fort Greene section. About 3 years ago various promoters began renting it out and having concerts there. Everyone from Neurosis to Big Star have performed inside the historic space and was the perfect venue to catch one of the few Sleep reunion shows. Sleep’s unique blend of heavy music, spirituality and massive weeed consumption was well served on the majestic altar.

Sleep played 2 nights in Brooklyn, Monday Zeptember 6 and Wednesday Zeptember 8. The Wednesday show was the first one announced and sold out so quickly another show had to be added. The Masonic Temple also hosed a concert of Boris and Sunn O))) performing as Altar on Tuesday Zeptember 7. I was told that the Monday Sleep show was a complete fog of pot smoke and that the Boris/Sunn O))) show was cut short by a visit from the police, while others claim there was a problem with the power. The Temple has no air conditioning so it was pretty fragrant with the scent of b.o. and swampy air.

All of these events contributed to tighter security and stricter set times. It was posted that Sleep would start the Wednesday show at 10PM and they hit the stage at ten on the dot. The crowd went berserk as guitarist Matt Pike started the opening droney riffs of “Dopesmoker.” When bassist Al Cisneros and guest drummer Jason Roeder of Neurosis came thundering in for “Holy Mountain” the sound was truly overwhelming. As someone who’s been going to see really loud music for over 25 years, this was easily one of the loudest shows I’ve ever witnessed. I was towards the back of the venue near the soundboard and the beer stand. When it was time for a freshie there was no chance of telling the bartender what you wanted. You just had to point to what you wanted and hope they understood. Unfortunately the tighter security totally harshed the mellow of those trying to let Mother Nature fly free. A few people were kicked out but plenty of sneaky weedians were able to sneak a puff or two.

Back in Sleep’s original 1990’s heyday they were know for playing massive Green Amps but it seems that they were using borrowed or rented gear on this tour. Matt played his cherry burst Les Paul through two Marshall amps and four Orange 4x12 cabinets. Al’s Rickenbacker bass was powering two Ampeg amps with matching 8x10 cabinets plus a Marshall amp and two 4x12’s. The PA system was excellent allowing Jason’s drums and Al’s vocals to be heard over that inanely hellish crossfire of sound.

For the main set, they played everything from the classic Holy Mountain with some parts of the epic “Dopesmoker” mixed in. The band was very tight but took plenty of liberties with the material and stretched out on some incredible jams. The zonked out crowd loved it. Behind the band a huge screen projected space footage, pot leaves, fire and other hallucinatory images. It’s hard to pick any standout songs because everything was played so well but the jam during “From Beyond” was especially Grand Funk-esque.

After a short break, the band returned to play a cover of Ozzy’s “Over The Mountain.” It was a good choice since playing a Black Sabbath cover would be completely redundant since all of Sleep’s songs owe such a huge debt to them. It started off at Ozzy’s tempo before dropping to a slower pace for the verses. During the guitar solo the band got faster and slower a few times, but I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. The last two songs of the night were the unreleased “Antarcticus Thawed” and “Cultivator,” both of which were massively heavy.

Without a word, the band left the stage and the stunned and deaf crowd filed out of the Temple and went in search of munchies and fresh air.

--Woody

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ancestors - Of Sound Mind


Who ever said that metal couldn't soothe the soul? Bringing you to a higher plane of existence and bridging the gap between the body, the senses and the sounds that affect them. The art of Drone: A deep and continuous sound of unmoved pitch accompanied by a melody. The art of the patient, robust and meticulous Ancestors. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, with the exception of Englishman, Chico Foley. Ancestors has been sustaining the world of progressive/psychedelic rock/metal since their debut album Neptune on Fire (2006, Tee Pee Records). Ancestor's sophomore release, Of Sound Mind, (2010, Tee Pee Records) showcases the band's natural and maturing sound and demonstrates the creative capabilities of a band well worth noting.

Ancestors, Of Sound Mind, is a seventy-one minute and twenty-seven second journey into the deep and dark chasms of the psyche. Bringing you a little closer to yourself. From the very first tones of the very first track, “The Ambrose Law” you can definitely hear the Black Sabbath influence. The classic and moving distorted melody of the guitar, accompanied by the tremolo of the organ, and the intermittent snare, really brings you back to the day; for those of us who can't remember that far back, a definite feel for the times. Then, like a welcomed beating from a nun, at approximately seven minutes and thirty six seconds, we are briefly thrown from a emotionally moving world to the doom and agony that encompasses it, then bitter sweetly brought back into the world of the moving emotion.

Its almost uncanny, their ability to drag you from one musical direction to another. The second track, “Challenging,” is a beautiful and thought provoking instrumental piece, featuring a concert piano, showcasing the classical training that is apparent throughout the whole album. The track, “The Trail,” is an epic seventeen minute long song; from the very beginning hooking you with the hypnotic capabilities of the ambient guitar, throwing you face first into a groove latent rhythm, then topping you off with Kirk Windstein(Crowbar, Down, Kingdom of Sorrow) influenced vocals. The Track, “Bounty of Age,” begins with a Pink Floyd rhythm, a tempo increase in the middle leads the way for a moving blues guitar, with a pummeling doom influenced ending. The Track, “Mother Animal,” has to be my favorite on the album, it really gives us a sense of what progressive rock is suppose to be like, a blues/jazz influenced harmony with an smooth ambient body.

The album structure is very simple, four very long tracks intermingled with 3 very short ones. Honestly, I could have done without some of the shorter tracks like, “Friend” and “From Nothing.” Which really seemed like unnecessary filler to me.

Other than the little bit of filler this album will lead the way for other drone influenced, organ playing metal heads to follow their passions and dreams. This album is also the perfect accompaniment to a day sitting on the couch relaxing, pondering, reading or writing. Ancestors are breaking boundaries and moving minds. Support the musicians that you appreciate and look up to. Buy the album if you have the means to and spread the word.

This album comes in two formats, CD and Double LP(2XLP). There is no bonus material associated with this album. Art work by Derek Albeck.

Ancestors and The Fucking Wrath will be on a west coast tour starting late October, here are the tour dates:

10/20/2010, Zahn Zillas, Ventura, CA
10/21/2010, Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco, CA
10/22/2010, East End, Portland, OR
10/23/2010, Comet Tavern, Seattle, WA
10/25/2010, Jambalaya, Arcata, CA
10/26/2010, Nick’s Night Club, Chico, CA
10/27/2010, Jose’s Mexican Bar & Grill, Monterey, CA

--JD2

Buy here: Of Sound Mind 



 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mr. Bungle – California

Some music is made to be beautiful.  It can ease your mind with luscious vocal harmonies and arrangements.  Some music is made to be brutal.  It tears at your sanity with hellish growls and bone crushing heaviness.  Some music…well, some music is just plain weird.  It takes the listener on a journey through unfamiliar musical landscapes and expects them to keep up.  Mr. Bungle’s California manages to combine these three types of music in one unforgettable package.

Do you ever find yourself believing that no one on the planet could be as strange or eccentric as you?  Trust me when I say that listening to this album will quickly lay those fears to rest.  This band is not composed of mere musicians.  No, no, no.  Each member is a mad scientist who takes great delight in molding all of their musical influences into songs that resemble Frankenstein monsters.  Yes they can be frightening at first glance, but if you take the time to get to know them you will have friends for life.

The rollercoaster ride begins with “Sweet Charity”, a joyous song exuding sunshine and cheer complete with sound effects mimicking noises from the beach and bombastic vocal choruses.  From there the tempo picks up substantially for a song called “None of Them Knew They Were Robots” which is especially notable for
its combination of heavy metal riffing and intricate jazzy passages.  “Retrovertigo” changes course one hundred and eighty degrees, soothing the listener with music resembling a lullaby complete with notes from what sounds like an infant’s toy xylophone.  The end of the song brings the energy level back up perfectly leading into “The Air-Conditioned Nightmare”, a song which would not sound at all out of place in a vintage beach bunny movie from decades past.

I could go on and describe the other songs but that would ruin the surprises this album has in store for the listener.  Besides, I would run out of adjectives before describing the closing track.  Rest assured each song is
stylistically quite different from each other, yet in the end fit together to form a beautiful whole.  You won’t have any idea where the band is taking you, but the trip sure is a blast from start to finish.  Chances are once you’ve finished, you might just jump back in line to start the rollercoaster ride again.

 --Penfold




Monday, September 20, 2010

The Fucking Wrath - Terra Firma


Blood, sweat and anarchist vehemence seeps from the pores of The Fucking Wrath, who is back with a vengeance with their latest metalinfused punk rock release Terra Firma. What did I hear you say? Punk is dead? Shut up and get to the back of the line! Punk never died, itjust took short vacation down to Cambodia, where the people dress inblack. It's not dead. Not anymore. The Fucking Wrath's instrumental genius and style has not but one purpose: to create pure anarchy. And that, my friends, is what the punk is scene all about. So I say, “The punk revival is here!” A revival back to its roots: blood, sweat, anarchy and no bitching!

The Fucking Wrath will writhe your body with uncontrollable rhythm, a doom influence and a punk revival that will bring you back to the instrumental genius of The Addicts, the gargled vocal style of Keith Morris (Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, OFF!) and the current Matt Pike (Asbestosdeath, Sleep, High On Fire). The first track is a cover of the song '"Hurricane" by Pentagram, which will bring you into the rhythm of the band and its essence. Everything about the first track is nothing but pure garage brilliance; the trill of the guitar, the power of the snare and those classic bellowing bass solos have not but one purpose, one reason to exist; to create pure anarchy. The second track will throw you right into the middle of the emotional gargle of
the front man and guitarist Craig, who visually, and in terms of his characteristics, will seem welcomely unpleasant. This is one thing I can really appreciate about this band. They are not flashy, melodramatic, though just making music for music's sake.

The third track, "Don't Look Back," is a track whose intensity and rapid beat will throw any crowd into a frenzy, causing massive mosh pits; most definitely not for the faint of heart, or your christian household. The fourth track, "Fangs of God," will smooth-en out the emotion that you have just purged upon hearing the three tracks before it, with some good groove infused punk-laden rhythms, ends in a march like trance, that will raise the morale of any hardcore bruised and battered crowed. The fifth track, "The Beginning," is a great end to an intense journey that will not only leave you with a pleasant surprise, but leave you begging for more. "The Beginning" will drive you into a feeling of doom and despair, giving you the fuel to once more unleash anarchy upon your peers and ceases to disappoint to the very end.

A genre that rarely disappoints is what the scene has been waiting for, the punk revival! A journey back to its roots. A journey back to the sweat and mayhem that made the mid 80's to late 90's punk scene. I take off my hat to the brilliance that is The Fucking Wrath for doing just that. These guys are going places. If you love punk, if you lived in the day, if you love music for the sake of loving music, this album is a must buy. This band deserves a lot of recognition and a strong following for a well put together EP and a musical integrity that definitely kicks you right in the face. Hey but what would you expect from a band that released their first album the week of 06.06.06. Need I say more? I think not. Support the musicians that you appreciate and look up to. Buy the album if you have the means to and spread the word.

This album is available in EP format and is due for release October 15. The band will be releasing a full length album in 2011, so you have got some of time to digest. This band will also be on tour with Ancestors a few days after the release, the tour dates and venues are as follows:

10/20/2010, Zahn Zillas, Ventura, CA
10/21/2010, Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco, CA
10/22/2010, East End, Portland, OR
10/23/2010, Comet Tavern, Seattle, WA
10/25/2010, Jambalaya, Arcata, CA
10/26/2010, Nick’s Night Club, Chico, CA
10/27/2010, Jose’s Mexican Bar & Grill, Monterey, CA

-- JD2

Buy here: Terra Fire


Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Sunday Conversation with Mammut

It's rare that an album captures me so quickly, so completely.  But that's exactly what happened upon hearing the aggressive postpunk of Iceland's Mammut.  Sure it's all in Icelandic, that still didn't stop the album from shooting into my top ten Best of 2009.  So naturally, we cleared some space on our red leather interview couch and invited Arnar to come join us, shoot back some whiskey, and talk about the band.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.


What have been your musical epiphany moments?


I grew up in a home where we listened to all kinds of music. Both of my parents are very open to everything from classical music to hard rock (not metal though) so I've never really had any musical epiphany moments so to speak. But of course I have discovered some music which completely surprised my. The latest was the not-so-new musician Neil Young.



Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Usually some kind of a riff or a drum beat comes first. Someone comes to a practice with a riff from home or it happens by accident while we're rehearsing. Then we just slowly build the song around that particular riff or drum beat.



Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

We don't really look for inspiration on purpose but of course many things inspire us, weather we know of it or not. Our environment, friends, family, news, nature etc.



Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

We've been described as "Pitch black pop eating colorful Skittles" and I think that suits us quite well. It's graphic and somehow fits well while you're listening to the album.




What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

I'd say our purpose is to entertain and give value, both to ourselves and others. We don't have any special feelings we're trying to express, everyone can interpret the music they way they want.



In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

Usually the song making process starts with a riff which then slowly becomes a song. We try not complicate things in our songs. There's a lot of truth in the old saying "Less is more".



The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

It's true that this business has changed for good. It's not really anymore about being one of the very few to "get signed". Now everyone has the same chance after the internet came about. I think this change is very positive and I'd say it's easier now to make a living then before IF you are devoted to do that. We are constantly working on moving the band forward and we do that by making clear goals and working a lot turning them into reality.



Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Hehe we've had some fun moments. One of them was when we played with Kiefer Sutherland's band, Rocco DeLuca. Afterwards we partied with Kiefer and the band. He drank a lot and was much shorter then we thought!



What makes a great song?

A great song is one which stirs up your emotions, weather it's happiness, anger, love, hate or just any other.



Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

The first song we wrote is called "1. flokks exem" which means something like "First class eczema" (not very appealing:P). It's a long and quite boring song, but when we wrote it we thought it was great. We've often joked about releasing that song as a single just to see how people would react hehe. I doubt we'll do that though.



What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

I'm very proud of the songs "Í Leyni", "Ég Veit Hann Kemur Fljótt" and "Dýradóttir" because we wrote them under a lot of pressure in a very short amount of time. We only had 3 days until recordings and we wrote them all within that time.



Who today, writes great songs? Why?

I really like the songwriting of Fleet Foxes. They really now how to mix they're vocals together and also make really catchy melodies. I must admit that I also admire Coldplay for writing tons of amazingly catchy songs.



Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

I used to lie to myself that vinyl was the best way to listen to music. But for me it just takes to much time and I really like to be able to travel with a lot of music everywhere I go. That's why I choose digital, also because it's environmental friendly, I think...




We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

There's a small second hand record store called Geisladiskabúð Valda. You can find all kinds of music there. If you're looking for loads of mainstream then Skífan is the place to be. But the newest and most fresh new music would be found at Gogoyoko.com, but that's digital.




Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

We'd like to tell people about a TV show which was made about our Europe tour last November. It was made by our great friend and genius Bowen Staines and can be watched here: http://www.dontpaniciceland.com/?p=DontPanicTV

We'd also like to tell people that we'll gladly send them free songs when the sign up to our mailing list at www.myspace.com/mammut

Have a great year all of you!

A few random "new"-ish songs..

.. or songs I haven't talked about yet but so want to.

I still haven't found/though of a decent title for these posts with a few singles thrown together here and there. Although, in an attempt to make things a little spiffier here (emphasis on the attempt) and fill the archives with more posts now that I'm far too busy to write music show recaps, I'll try and write these more often. If you have any suggestions for a name whatsoever, the comments section is all yours. And I'm in dire need for them.


But before I start with all the songs, it's time, once again, for me to lay down my schedule for the next few weeks/months. My birthday's coming up (YAY!), among other things, but this month and maybe even next month, I'll be in "training" for this national speech contest I have to represent my school at. Why I was chosen for it is completely beyond comprehension at this post. BUT ANYWAY, me being "in training" means that I'll obviously have less time than the little time I have now, and when I do get the time, I might just go sleep or laze around reading fan fiction. Add the fact that I'm flying to China in November (And there's no Google there, so I've heard. Boo.) AND preparations for my senior yearbook, the last few months of 2010 are going to be hectic as hell. I'm starting to put together that "best of" list already, so don't worry about that, worry about the regularity of my posts! But now that we've cleared my schedule for the rest of the year, let's finally get to the music! I rant, I know, but you guys seem to like it so whatever!

Cheryl and Nadine Girls Aloud both have new leaks out. YES, THIS IS ONE OF MY MANY ATTEMPTS TO UPDATE MYSELF WITH NON-KPOP RELEASES. You should be proud of me! Cheryl's got Promise This, and Nadine's got Insatiable. Promise This is very Cheryl - very commercial and generic but well-produced. It's got what I presume is French in it, and it's catchy without going overboard. Solid effort, but nothing new or ground-breaking. I'm not feeling Insatiable that much though, even if I do think it's got a lot more character and conviction than the Cheryl song. These songs just don't appeal to me that much, but Nadine does sound fantastic. WHERE IS MY NICOLA SOLO ALBUM?!



Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu's rather controversial theme song for Yoochun's drama Sunkyungkwan and Scandal (they added and "and" to the title after it premiered - I'm so not used to it) is finally out in all it's glory. It's a nice, cheery, happy song with a pretty melody and a sweet piano line - a contrast to what's happening to them behind-the-scenes. I don't wanna talk about it. I won't. Their voices were gorgeous on the song. See? I'm not talking about it.

The Wanted. I never talked about them here, right? Well now I am. I. LOVE. HEART VACANCY. I really do. It's epic in all the right ways, but once again, it doesn't hit you over the head when it does get epic. Bring on the album - I'm in dire need of some Western boybands, and they might just do the trick.

It's now time to profess my love for the new The Sats video for Higher. I love it, I really do. What seems to me like choreography during the first chorus, the whole "we're a girl group, we're fun" vibe (that really should be mandatory on a girl group video) mixed with the brilliance that is Higher has just, successfully, made me want to start listening to more British stuff again. A girl group video at it's finest. With GA in limbo and all the members out doing their own things (like a certain Korean boyband.. *sniffles*), The Saturdays are probably they next best thing. And they're pretty damn good. ;D


Aaaaand we're back to Korea. My beloved BEAST released a ballad last Friday, and although I'm not head-over-heels over it to the point of me listening to it for entire dayS, it is a gorgeous song. And I mean it when I say gorgeous - it's still a risk for a band like them, I think, a risk that has worked. Even if it sounds a bit like a theme song for this romance drama on KBS, they pull it off rather nicely. At least they have the chops to do it. I'm slowly starting to like these guys, after their decent attempt at 4-part harmonies towards the end of promotions for Shock, they're safely my third favorite boyband.


I heard the JoJo mixtape, Can't Take That Away From Me, WAAAAAAAAAAAAY back, but I was far to busy to write anything about it. And you guys know how big a JoJo fan I am - she's practically the reason why I'm writing about pop today. I have my favorites from the package, and let me tell you, I'm head-over-heels for them, but there's a part of the mixtape that I'm not liking. Yet. They're the types of songs that take time to grow on me, but when that time comes you'll be the first to know. My clear favorites right now are Running On Empty, Can't Take That Away From Me, the Travis Garland duet, and Boy Without A Heart. Brilliance I say, brilliance. If you haven't yet, download the mixtape here (for free!) - and I suggest you do.