Friday, September 27, 2013

Born Gold-Braille

I finally got to see Born Gold perform live, an experience you truly need to see to believe. After the show, frontman Cecil Frena he told that the new album was sort of a combination of his last two records. The volatile, electro-intensity of Bodysongs, mixed with the airy atmosphere of Little Sleepwalker. And nowhere does that come out clearer than on the newest single "Braille". Murky, but twitchy snyths build quickly, tension palatable but contained. But the tension keeps mounting, especially as the anger and hurt leak out during the chorus. There's a lot of pain bubbling right under the surface of "Braille", which bursts with the robotic screech that punctuates the song's final section. "Braille" feels like it would be played in a futuristic night club, when the drugs are just turning bad but the neon is glowing brighter than it has all night. It has a dark energy that never stops pulsing through it, but also gives it a certain skewed life as well.


Born Gold's Website
Pre-order I Am An Exit here, from Chill Mega Chill Records

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Live: Hoax/The Impalers/Kurraka/Glue @ The Mohawk (8/28/13)

I realized after this show ended on that hot August night, how different hardcore is experienced in a festival setting than it is at an actual show. Looking back, I suddenly became aware of the fact that I had only experienced hardcore bands at Fun Fun Fun Fest or Choas in Tejas. Worthy flag-bearers for the genre, but also festivals that always contained the quality that you could slip away when you wanted, to see less intense bands, or some relaxing, peaceful area. A hardcore show though, this one particularly, the intensity and energy couldn't be avoided for a second. You came to experience something brutal, something vital, and no one, especially once Hoax had finished, left without some sense of that being fulfilled.


It always upsets me when I catch an incredible opening act, only to discover that they are in fact a local band. When incredible music is being made right under your nose, it can make you feel like you're failing as a music writer. Discovering that fact also helps to explain situations, like why the crowd went bonkers right when Glue took the stage. It was this blend of snotty and weirdo hardcore that only kids under 22 can make, every song less two minute blasts of not fury, not rage, but some some evil feeling mix of psychotic and pissed anger that could only expressed through gritted teeth. They only played for about 15 minutes, which is expected, but if there was any band I wished could have gone on longer that night, it was Glue.


Kurraka were definitely the odd band out of the night. They played this very steady but deeply noisy & raw form of post-punk, never moving, and pumping one song after another. While this obviously meant to convey some sense of subdued intensity, instead all the songs wound up blurring together, and their was this unintended lifelessness in the band, especially after Glue had just come off stage. Under different circumstances, Kurraka would be so much better (and their last song was great, the high point of the set), but there, they just felt like a placeholder.

The Impalers

The Impalers set came roaring in as the biggest possible contrast to Kurraka's set. The five piece were the most technically experienced of the night. They unleashed this torrent of blistering and heavy hardcore, the stuff composed of wreaked vocal chords, and music that hovered between trash and d-beat. The problem was that the Impalers kept shoving in these metal aspects; generic, metal guitar solos, and obvious you-could-see-them-a-mile-a-way breakdowns. Even the frontman's constant hair spinning felt put on and unnecessary. There was nothing really bad about The Impalers, just the confusion as to why there had to be so many cliché moments in their songs.


I had heard all the stories about how great/brutal Hoax were live. How they always played less than 15 minute shows that managed to be one of the most intense things you've ever experienced. After I saw them, I came to a realization; everything people said about Hoax live was a massive fucking understatement. Hoax fucking destroyed during their brief minutes onstage, even more screwed up and intense than they are on their records. As they set up, you could feel the almost evil tension that the band was going to unleash, something that was triggered by the first notes and a crowd that had laid relatively dormant during Kurraka's & The Impalers' sets. Before the first song, the frontman was already bleeding, self-inflected damage from the microphone or from throwing himself at the crowd, when he wasn't unleashing momentary bursts of torment onstage. By the second song, I'm sure most of the crowd was in similar shape. The show was such a sudden unleashment of fucked up energy, there was even a lull close to the end, of people so whipped out from the night. And then Hoax closed with "Fagget", and the last bits of anger that were reserved in the crowed were undo within that minute of just unbelievable hardcore.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Future Death-BATH SALTS

I personally have never taken bath salts, but I would imagine it would be comparable experience to what is felt while listening to Future Death's "BATH SALTS". While I know that's a bit of an easy comparison, but the twisted insanity and chaos within "BATH SALTS" truly not be explained in any other way. It feels like a Marnie Stern song, if Stern decided to record a song's vocals on codeine, but recorded the instruments after taking a hit of PCP. It's spazzy and manic to say the least, with so many frantic stops and starts within it that it starts to induce whiplash, with drums and guitars that feel like they're were speedup from the actual recordings because there is no way people can play this fast. And yet, stewing in all that chaos are the most absurd form of pop-hooks, demonic and seemingly inconceivable, but there nonetheless. "BATH SALTS" is just absolutely crazy, and is perfect because of that.


Future Death's Website
Download their self-titled EP here, from the band's bandcamp

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Album Review: Holograms-Forever

How does a band whose music was already rooted, defined really, by its anguish, turmoil, and loneliness make those emotions more powerful within their songs? How does a band not only reinforce the emotional core of their songs, but make them more earnest, in turn making their songs more powerful? If you’re the members of Holograms, you just build from situation. Coming back from their first real tour, behind their first album, they returned poor, unemployed, and emotionally removed and divorced from their home. While a situation like this would normally cripple a band, Holograms somehow used it to their advantage, channeling the batter of their lives into the ten emotionally charged tracks of post-punk intensity that make up Forever.

The shift in Holograms sound is felt immediately once Forever begins. The songs are moodier, and have an added weight to them, as if some unseen and dark force was dragging at the band. A good portion of this can be attributed to a change in the dynamic of the band’s sound, i.e. how the synths are utilized over the album. Previously giving Holograms’ songs bustling and charged up feel like a machine falling apart, here they have become broader, not so much an instrument the way the guitar/bass/drums are, but now almost like a coating to the songs, giving the songs a presence that straddles the line between melancholy and unease (though it does come roaring back at times, to great effect, such as the explosive chorus of “Rush”).

With this shift in play, the band concentrates on fine-tuning their songs in terms of emotional power, but expanding their sound away from just intense post punk. The ragged and tense energy of the band’s previous efforts are still in full effect, just listen to the fury of “Meditations” and its anguished cries as a chorus, or the driving bass and cries of opener “A Scared State” if you need proof. However, even these tracks are tempered in comparison to the band’s debut. There is weariness to them in a knowing sense, that the lyrics can sometimes convey more than a burst of energy. It can be heard in “Ättestupa” in the way it lurks and staggers before the chorus comes in with the pained but defeated call of “I’m so tired” again and again. And that’s what’s at play here. A band batter and bruised to such a degree it has altered their sound and perspective. That’s how “Flesh and Bone” can be four minutes of blistering punk, but conveys almost nothing but pure hopelessness. How a song named “Rush” can have a breakdown through its midway point in order for the band to pick up stream to get to its noisy conclusion. Or how the slowed down and moody Joy Division-esque confessional “Wolves” can be one of the best tracks on the album. The album ends with “Lay Us Down”, an musical cousin of sorts to “Wolves”, that is a slow, steady, and nosier march to the inevitability of death that seems perfectly fitting to close out Forever with. How else could Holograms go out on Forever then by facing totality?


Hologram's Website
Buy Forever here, from Captured Tracks

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Live: Ty Segall/Holy Wave/Hidden Ritual @ The Mohawk 8/27/13

I wore my nice, non-trashed shoes to the show, thinking that nothing would happen to them. I mean I had seen Segall four times before, with each time the crowd going absolutely bonkers, but this was Ty Segall's acoustic tour, to support the mainly acoustic Sleeper. How crazy could a crowd go for four guys sitting on stage, singing unplugged songs that were reflections on death? I got my answer clear as they walking back, bruised and with beer on my head, my previously pristine shoes covered in grime, and the laces blacked from white.

Hidden Ritual

However, the night started on less intense note with Hidden Ritual. Local guys who pumped out some very Velvet Underground influenced psych. They were actually pretty good, the songs pleasant for the humidity that filled the air, with dark undercuts that could just be made out. However, any of those positive qualities were lost from the band's actual performance, which looked like four men bored out of their skull standing on a stage, right down to the sunglasses worn by almost every member. The music was not to be highly emotional or anything of that nature, but the band could have done something, anything, to make their music more interesting. Instead it just sat there, feeling empty.

Holy Wave

Thankfully, Holy Wave didn't continue this trend, and showed how an actual psych band is suppose to play. Nice, pretty light projections that weren't distracting and band members that were actually enjoying (dare I say having fun!) playing their songs. Their music was psych filled, sprawling and delayed into oblivion, but with enough of a garage bite underneath to add hooks and energy, to make sure nothing ever felt boring or stale. The fact that the band didn't take it that serious, trading off instruments between members for various songs, but just enough to make sure the set didn't deform or go spiraling out of control. Holy Wave jumped in, played some excellent psych-garage, and jumped out, serving as the perfect pick-me-up for the night.

Ty Segall

I at least have to give credit to the crowd; for a good two-thirds of the set, they remained static and didn't go inappropriately crazy. The set was billed as an acoustic show, and the crowd respected that, despite the palatable sense in the air of everyone wanting to go crazy as soon as they could. Which was a little understandable, Segall and his cohorts were not the least bit boring in their reduced intensity. Two guitars, one bass, and one small drum kit were all that were used that night, and yet Segall made it not only captivating but powerful. The band played through most of Sleeper, it's darker and heartfelt themes truly brought to the front by the band. And if the set was the band just playing that, with more introspective takes on his discography, it would have been a nice and fine show. But even an acoustic set up couldn't restrain Segall, and by the time he played "Caesar" the crowd just went crazy like they always had and had wanted to all night. People were not only moshing, but crowd surfing to an acoustic show, and it made perfect sense. Ty Segall will always have that type of power, unplugged or not.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Arcade Fire-Reflektor

You saw the graffiti circle grids if you lived in a major city. Then came the appearance of a preview video, and the announcement of something happening on 9/9 at 9 PM. Then finally official confirmation as to what was going on and that it was indeed Arcade Fire behind it. Leaked cover art followed, soon by leaked tracks. Then not one, but two videos were released to coincide with the new song. One a mildly trippy interactive affair in the vein of what the band had done on their last album, the other one a deeply surreal rabbit hole constructed by Anton Corbijn.

If there's one thing that be gleamed from all this crazy promotion, it's that Arcade Fire intend to do something different with Reflektor. And after finally hearing the title track, one realizes how true this is. The song is a beast, a seven minute plus jam by the band diving head first in dance beats and disco sheen, and the results are startling. People have been quick to make "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" comparisons, due to that track's heavy synth presence and shift in style for the band. However, it's not a very apt. comparison; "Sprawl II" worked because it still had the same direct grandness that Arcade Fire had always placed within their songs.

"Reflektor" on the other hand is built on various peaks and valleys, letting the band stretch their legs and truly work with the new beats and synths that flutter through the song, along with Jame Murphy's production. And thanks to that time, "Reflektor" is manages to be something stunning instead of the potential mess it could have been (or sounds like on the first listen). The slow build up lets the foundation to be set, with Win Butler & Régine Chassagne trading off dark verses of falsehood and impermanence (the disillusioned themes that were present on The Suburbs have not left the band yet). And the tension mounts in the song, the band unleashing sweeping sections when their new bright, shinny world comes crumbling down. Butler's cries of "It's just a reflection/Of a reflection/Of a reflection/Of a reflection!" midway through the song feel almost angry as tries to make sense of what's spiraling around him. By the time David Bowie's booming voice comes during the song's end, it serves as the final mark that things will not turn back for the better. "Reflektor" could not serve as more direct or proper mission statement for Arcade Fire's next step. It will be more than interesting what the end result will be with the album, but the band is marching there with pure confidence and some sick beats behind them.  


Arcade Fire's Website
Pre-order Reflektor here, from Merge Records

Monday, September 9, 2013

Album: Tiger in My Tank-Cigarette Royalty

This is heaven. True heaven. Appearing out of seeming nowhere, Tiger in My Tank has come and delivered Cigarette Royalty, 15 tracks of lo-fi indie rock perfection. And when I say perfection, I do mean it. The whole album is a compression of ‘90s indie rock glory, bedroom shoegaze, dream-pop haze, broken drum machine beats, and Guided by Voices worthy tone hopping that melds to some of the most wonderfully warm and infectious lo-fi pop nuggets I’ve heard in a long time. It sounds like the Big Troubles’ Worry mushed into a more compact form (especially on the likes of “Inverted People”), which should be no surprised considering band master mind Sebastian Castillo used to play in Fluffy Lumbers and No Demons Here before. I had thought that that lovely, homespun type of DIY pop those bands had made in the late ‘00s/early ‘10s had been lost forever once those bands had packed up. But here is Tiger in My Tank, picking up the torch right where those guys left off. The “lalalas” on the swirling noise-pop of “Heat King”. The buried yet intimate yearn contained within the murk pop of “Cement Candy”. And the one, two final punch that is quiet strumming of the title track, followed by the slowly mounting, warped indie rock mini-sprawl of “Teenage Guitar Prayer”. Every track on Cigarette Royalty hums and emanates with all the massive amounts of lo-fi charm that Castillo has somehow managed to squeeze into one little album. Has it been done before? Maybe. But not this wonderfully in a long time.


Download Cigarette Royalty from Tiger in My Tank's bandcamp

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cassette Review: SUR-Dog Daze EP

Is it possible for a band to be all over the place, and for them to not only succeed, but have that be their strongest trait? The answer is yes, or at least I feel SUR have managed to pull that off on their Dog Daze EP. SUR are not noise rock, although their songs are in the red and distorted for harshness rather than melody. They're not post-hardcore, although they have the intensity that is on par with some of the best. They're are definitely not psych-rock, even though you can hear some of the influence in the way the guitars chime through the noisy haze. Instead, SUR of are a compression of all these things (and bits of several other genres), constantly interweaving between one another, making music that is unstable but unrelenting as well.  

Despite all that, there is some general direction to the tape. The first side is built around SUR's shorter songs, and in turn they pack much more of a sonic, blistering punch. The Dog Daze EP opens on "Shadow Puppet", with distortion crafted perfectly to sound like a raging hornet's nest before launching to a drug damaged mixture of post-hardcore and noise rock, like Lightning Bolt and Double Dagger thrown into a room together, fighting and recording a song together. The energy lasts in the rhythm section, but has been drained from the guitars and vocals once the tracks "Jail" & "Rumors" hit, creating this wonderfully disconcerting feeling that makes it feel as if everything is off balance and about to fall apart. It works even better because it allows for moments in each of the song for the band to launch into these noisy assaults that let the song burn bright for short time before crashing down in again. Even the sun damaged psych surf of "Shut Up", has moments of chaos to keep it from falling trap to convention.

The B-side is where the band really stretches their legs and let the sprawl take over. "Fox M" is an almost tribal tune, spacy and percussive, enhanced by the band's female member Danielle Moran taking over vocal duties. The track would almost be a Explode into Colors track if not for the drill like guitar within it. Dog Daze ends on "Great Plains/Synesthete", an almost pure instrumental track that is the tape's most straight forward song, a steady beat with grungy riffs played continuously through the song. That is, until everything shifts in the song's last minute to reveal a bright, melodic patch of guitar rock that had lay hidden underneath. And really, there is no better way for SUR to have ended the tape. If nearly everything about SUR's sound collided with one another, it seems fitting that the last thing heard by them is a momentary burst of catchiness, if only to contrast everything else that was just heard.


SUR's Facebook
Buy the Dog Daze EP cassette from Mirror Universe/Sleeping Giant Glossolania on September 16


Grab a copy from your local music store as a part of Cassette Store Day

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Household-A New Leaf

The heels of the just announced Neo Boys reissue/compilation that K Records will be putting out in the coming months, it seems very fitting that Household have announced their return. Household's debut Items was a testament to how sparse, lo-fi, but well constructed post-punk could still be just as excellent it was 30 years ago. Their new song "A New Leaf" is much less lo-fi, and in fact is almost driving, in the way angular guitar riffs and start and stop rhythms can be driving. Still, the song clearly channels the lyrics, a steady, unflinching take down of someone who has committed betrayal so great, the narrator refuses to give them another inch of understanding. It's a deceivingly simple song, one that never masks its intent, but uses restraint to better channel the anger & disappointment within. It is post-punk perfection.


Household's Facebook
Pre-order the Elaines EP here, from Dull Knife Records

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hand of Dust-Without Grace or Glory

Hand of Dust are another excellent band from the ever increasing musical oasis that is Copenhagen. They released a demo last year that I unfortunately was not enthralled with the way other people were. However, their latest song, "Without grace or glory" (from an upcoming 7" of the same name on Blind Prophet Records), has truly brought Hand of Dust into their own. The track is a little more than a minute and half minutes long, but in that short amount of time, manages to convey a bleak, nihilistic form of post-punk that echos with the same defeated angst as their peers. The song feels like it could have been taken right from Lower's last single, the staggered delivery and lethargic rhythm section matching almost in sync in the best of ways. "Without grace or glory" is a dark, unflinching, 97 seconds of emotionally turbulent music, of various post-punk sounds almost crashing into each other in order to convey the sorrow within the song.    


Hand of Dust's Facebook
Blind Prophet Records