Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I have to admit Portland area band Hausu conjured up strange images about their name. I wondered what does it mean? Where's it come from? How the heck do you say it? What's it all about? Listening to their album, Total, didn't improve the situation. Where did that come from? Who's it sound like? And why?
While I have no idea about the name, as it turns out, much of Total revolves around thinking about things on a musical basis and being shaped by the small, indescribable elements that make their influences special. Acting like a band of mad scientists, what Hausu comes up with is a noisy indie rock record that hovers some where around the mid-90's. While you might shrug at that rather cliched summation, what's really striking about Total is how effectively Hausu has taken a band like Dinosaur Jr. and let it make a guitar based mess over and on top of The Cure. If slackers wore eyeliner and goth's were slackers you'd have Hausu in a nutshell. Total is noisy, depressing, twitchy, and fairly lackadaisical. It's got walls of churning guitars turned up to 12, bashed drums and apparently Robert Smith on lead vocals. This is the sort of record where guitars are shredded into wood chips, vocal chords are left in a shambles, and songs are somewhere between collapse and not caring. It's all very passive aggressive stuff that's simply fantastic.
Total is a dense, complex and freaked out record. It is a nervous and edgy record that's the very definition of post-slacker rock. If Dinosaur Jr. were thirty years younger this is the kind of record they'd make and heck might even still be making. It's an impressive homage to the past that pushes things in a anti-depressant fueled way forward. They readily admit that their record is an assemblage of observations made by four different people and collected in one place. Total is that place and it's one heck of place to be.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Chance Wiesner is pitched as a freak folk kinda guy. You know the kind of guy that plays strummy acoustic stuff but gets weird while doing it. But the truth is his album Takin' A Chance On Love is more along the lines of old 80's indie pop records than anything freaky much less folky. If you can imagine old TV Personalities songs being covered by Lawrence from Felt you kind of have an idea of where Chance Wiesner is coming from.
With twee-ish strums and boy/girl harmonies Chance Wiesner creates this intimate environment that sounds yearnful and earnest. The songs Wiesner creates are shy and shuffly and it's almost like Takin' A Chance On Love is a statement of his philosophy rather than a record he's listen to. It's all pretty good stuff and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by it all because the second I saw that it was labeled as freak folk I almost tuned it out.
As it stands though, Takin' A Chance On Love is a funny, quirky, lo-fi ride through the trials and tribulations of Chance Wiesner. It might not be a big production but Takin' A Chance On Love is packed with honesty and heartache and what more could you want from a record now days? Here's hoping that Chance's chance never pans out...I mean we want more records like this don't we?
Saturday, April 13, 2013
It's hard to believe that The Bodies Obtained are on the fifth album already. Wow...that's scary but not quite as scary as their latest album Lower Than My Hand Will Go. This chaotic, noisy synth punk record is the sound of the early 80's beaten up with a mallet and the recorded for prosperity. Imagine Suicide in a knife fight with The Residents and you can kind of get a feel of where these guys are coming from.
This is synth punk and it's violent, random, and about as unmusical as it sounds. This of course makes Lower Than My Hand Will Go a fascinating record. The sheer difficulty of listening to the choppy rhythms, broken 80's synths, half developed ideas, weird song structures, and general disorder make getting through Lower Than My Hand Will Go a challenge. The whole thing reminds me of this sort of gothic synthetic theatrical event with a broken calliope attacking it's audience between the ears. It's strange and unlike anything you've heard. I'm pretty sure, in fact, it's the weirdest record I'll hear all year and I'm not quite sure whether or not I actually like it.
Lower Than My Hand Will Go is bizarre, dissonant, over the top and barely musical. Lower Than My Hand Will Go is the kind of record that befuddles, amazes, questions, and challenges. Is it music? Is it theater gone wrong? Is it listenable? It's worth a listen to try and figure those answers out and for the sheer craziness that's contained within but not really much more. In the end I was more intrigued by The Bodies Obtained and what they do than a fan of it.
British band More Like Trees are an interesting lot. Bursting out of the very competitive London music scene the band have only been together for two years and in that short time have made quite the name for themselves. Why? Well this three piece group do something very few groups manage to do...rock the heck out on acoustic instruments. Yeah, you read that right...these guys kill it on acoustic guitars.
Their album Roots, Shoots, and Leaves is an impressive effort that's so far away from what your thinking it's not even fair to think of it. The band and this record is beyond energetic and packed with sweeping drama and an almost mariachi like feel to it. It's quite jaw dropping when you think that all this ruckus is done with acoustic guitars and not much more. The band are exceptional musicians and their ability to strum the devil out of their instruments while playing like mad men is truly impressive. I don't know how many sets of strings these guys go through but I'm willing to be it's more than a few.
They might label themselves as strum and bass but Roots, Shoots, and Leaves sounds like a cross between The Coral and the Arctic Monkeys on a bit of a trip. I'm not really sure how else to describe these guys except to say that it's all slightly psychedelic with reggae, folk, flamenco and indie influences all crashing headlong into each other. I thoroughly enjoyed their approach and their ability to write songs that are emotional and kinetic is just awesome. Throw in their rather impressive cover of Intastella's hit, "The Night," and you have a record that touches on Britpop and coffee house cool all in one sweeping motion. They might only have acoustic guitars and might strum said guitars but this is one group who are seemingly mad fer it!
Roots, Shoots, and Leaves is an impressive effort that kicks the entire acoustic music genre in the butt and turns it upside down. This is what "folk" music should sound like. It's emotional but it has energy. It's thoughtful but has a sense of fun about it. It's music you want to listen to again and for a bunch of guys with acoustic guitars to do something like that is surely a sign of the apocalypse.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Io Echo are a stunning duo from Los Angeles who have stumbled upon their (dare I say it,) parents record collection, fallen in love with it, and pilfered as many influences as they could from it. Labeled as an industrial tinged group their album, Ministry of Love is anything but. Instead they sounding more like a Creatures side-side project mixed with bucket loads of shoegazing sheets of noise. The result is something that has this early 90's feel to it and really has more in common with the sort of things that 4AD used to release than anything Einsturzende Neubauten has ever done.
With the vocals of Ioanna Gika sounding like Siouxsie lost within a seemingly endless fog and the reverbed and washed out guitars of Leopold Ross crashing together, the band create this ethereal world that they're obviously absorbed in. The whole thing sounds like a modern update of the Cocteau Twins in an invisible fight with The Heartthrobs, The Creatures, and even the Dum Dum Girls. Packed with loud, gauzy, and gorgeous soaring pop the record is all about being lost in its own little environment and not being able to find its way out. It's riveting stuff that's so rooted in the records I listened to in my 20's it scares me. This record hits home, it pulls at my heart and reminds me of all the cool sounds that blew me away when I was a kid. As if to illustrate that point "Stalemate," at times, sounds so much like The Heartthrobs, "Kiss Me When I'm Starving," it could very well be them circa 1992; it gave me goosebumps.
Ministry of Love is worthy of your heart. It's an amazingly emotional and pretty record that tugs at your ears and soul for 55 minutes. It soars toward heaven on the wings of an angel and is welcomed with open arms when it gets there. This is the sound of a dream you don't want to end. It's the sound of the greatest love. It's the sound of something awe inspiring. Ministry of Love's songs are beautiful and Ioanna & Leopold have truly created something magical here. This is without a doubt this one of the best records of 2013 and might just be my favorite record this year.
The rather complicatedly named Redtenbacher Funkorchestra have created one the most seriously groovy funk records you are likely to hear this year with their latest album entitled The Cooker. To put it succinctly the thing is fifteen jazz funk greats played with such intensity and down home funktasticness that if you don't find yourself at least tapping along to the record you must be dead. Overflowing with jazzy vibes, funky grooves and late 70's atmospherics The Cooker is a scorching hot release that knows how to get the heck down.
Packed to the rims with awesome bass lines, guitar runs, and enough B3 organ workouts this the sort of record that shows just how good Redtenbacher Funkorchestra are at letting their musical imaginations get the best of them. Throw in some ridiculous horn work on top of that imagination and you have a record that's just on a whole different level than anyone else right now. These guys can play and play they do on The Cooker and they're so good that they even make Happy Birthday sound like the grooviest thing since polyester. The Cooker is filled with movement and action and the songs are swinging, catchy, and impossible to forget.
There's no denying The Cooker and with a name like that how would that even be possible. This thing rocks, rolls, but never loses its soul. It's the sort of album that's perfect for car chases with Starsky and Hutch or running through the Streets of San Francisco. It's filled with energy, grooves, and a musicality that's hard to ignore. This record had to be called The Cooker because what else could you call something that's filled with so much hot stuff?
Vandana Vishwas is an Indo-Canadian artist who takes the best of traditional Indian influences and blends them with modern techniques in a gorgeous brew of sounds that are both hypnotizing and fascinating. Her album Monologues is the result of a collaboration between her and her husband and reflect the talents of both artists pretty well. It's an meditative, intimate, and beautiful record that uses instrumentation you know and instrumentation you do not to convey its free spirited yet firmly rooted songs.
Monologues is a record steeped in history and custom but unafraid to let other non-traditional sounds permeate it's songs. While sitars and tablas are pretty much the basis for most of the songs here, several songs utilize jazz-like arrangements to give the songs added depth and a modern feel. I found it fascinating and imaginative how the two different worlds mingle simultaneously and co-exist relatively well. Monologues is a record at peace and lost in ecstasy and after a couple of listens it's very easy to become lost in it's world as well. The songs on Monologues cast a spell over your ears with their subtle pace and ambiance. Vishwas' songwriting is as mesmerizing as her trembling voice and the way she's able to hold the listener in a trance is awesome.
Monologues is a great record whose strength lies in it's ability to take the ancient and modern and make them sound unique and fresh. The intertwining of the two influences give the album room to breathe and develop and allows it to be more accessible. This is a simple record that utilizes very few instruments or production techniques and Vandana Vishwas' ability to give it an authenticity and purity is refreshing.