Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beth Orton - Trailer Park (Legacy Edition)

London, in 1996, and the party is just growing in the central city and on the edges in Soho and beyond. The pubs close and you wander to the tube; with a bit of the drink in you, the sound of the tube echoing off of the tunnels, Doppler shifting down and out of site, is just a little different. Think back: Oasis was making the world safe not only for Brit-pop again, but so were The Verve. It was loud and noisy and fill concert halls with sound and fury.

And when you arrived back at your flat, weary but awake, perhaps you saw the world through new eyes, eyes that hadn’t seen the sunrise as opposed to the sunset in quite some time. 30 years past Joni Mitchell and Carole King, Beth Orton put on the best extended buzz album of so many years, seeing folk through the rave and techno and acid beats of the ‘90’s with new and inventive eyes.

The legacy edition of Trailer Park arrived at Ripple Central, long overdue and yet sounding as fresh as it did 13 years ago: a brilliant combination of Orton’s unique folk voice, dipped in echo and as lightly battered as fresh chips, and softly rising synth sounds that presage her delicate acoustic picking in the opening “She Cries Your Name.” The freshening up of the sound on the disc only serves to heighten the effect of the music coming towards you, slowly and inexorably til Beth is sitting front and center in your flat: Falling from the western selves/ To find yourself alone again/ Wonderin' where you have been/ Your lonely voice/ Calls across the star lit coast/ Reaching out to be see/ she cries your name. The effect is startling, her lyrics enthralling, the climbing bass line and strings complimenting the electronic effects is a delicious ensemble of sound. Beth’s voice is husky, without the sky rending effect that so many female vocalists have to have before they’re termed “angelic” by reviewers, yet has resonance and the power to evoke complex emotions with a simple turn of phrase, or a delicately sung chorus.

Building 'em up in order to find/ What's not lost but left behind/ My instinct got bruised, but I still see/ I was a victim of being no casualty/ Just like coming home she sings on "Tangent", and yet, as she sings the refrain of just like coming home, home recedes in the aural equivalent of a swirling galaxy: home is more distant than we think. The programming on the drums stutters delicately in the background but has nothing on the effect that the production has to lose us in a kaleidoscope of sound.

"Don’t Need A Reason" and "Sugar Boy" are more solidly from the folk tradition past, the violins adding a plaintive note to the lyrics on "Reason": Yeah we only hurt the ones we love/ While...we don't need a reason/ Only care for the thing we deserve/ And that's something to believe in. There is quiet beauty in "Sugar Boy’s" delicate acoustic picking and the rise of the band in the chorus. Do you want me to lay down for you? She asks, while fully intending to do no such thing.

"Someone’s Daughter" and "Live As You Dream" are uptempo numbers, lest you believe that the entire album is only for the slow, quiet and stoned. I'm someone's daughter, not a son but a sun/Can I ease your pain till the morning comes/ I'm no one's daughter revel on to the sun/ Gonna ease your pain till the morning comes, which is as beautiful an expression of loving and giving as you’ll hear in music; the moment of exquisite beauty in loving another. With a light and quick drumbeat, and entwined guitar parts, the song skitters along with its own internal energy.

"Touch Me with Your Love" builds, both with the repeating sample and drums, but also a bass line that never quite completes, leaving an air of tension that Beth’s breathy reading of the first set of lyrics does nothing to break. Now hold on hold out/ You're still thrown against a wall/ Never looking to be picked up or left alone to fall. The bass presages each line of the lyrics, and even the sweet melody of the chorus does little to reassure the questions asked by the words. The production makes Beth recede from us, and the distance is a little unsettling, the bass and pre-programmed rhythm almost hiding her from us. "Whenever" is equally complex, the chorus (Right words, you know all the right words to say/ You don't always mean them my way/ You don't always mean what you say) has a group of Ortons singing in complex harmony with a sound that will stay hooked into your head, as complex vocally in places as the guitar accompaniment is simple behind the lyrics.

Clocking in at 10:11, the closer to the album almost rewards those drifting, whether in reverie or slumber: "Galaxy of Emptiness" celebrates the birth of acid folk, perhaps inevitable when artists started to get hold of the entire Blue Note catalog to create acid jazz. It is almost 4 minutes in before Beth even takes a breath, for 4 minutes the slow rise and fall of the keyboard sample has been holding hypnotic sway, inhaling and exhaling, daring us to our breathing tempo to it. Stars light they sky in a gutter full of of broken dreams tonight/ Though how not content that's the way it seems to be/ Still I've been fightin' all week though I don't know what for/ Hopin' someone else, someone you used to score/ could you please knock me off my feet, for a while? Beth gazes both down to the ground and sees only the stars in the reflection; her gaze is both macro and micro at the same time. The music continues to breath, or settle in before withdrawing, like waves on the beach. And we are left, not knowing if we have been left behind as the dawn breaks or if it is only a temporary abandonment.

Unlike the original CD, there is a follow up disc here, and unlike most Legacy Editions, the second gets better as it goes along, although the live version of "Galaxy" (track 3) is interesting in that it shows a level of warmth that the original doesn’t come within a mile of. It is an entirely different take on the song. Your listening is rewarded by some of the later tracks, "Bullet", and two different versions of "Best Bit" that alternately show Beth at her rocking-est, as well as developing her songcraft.

Orton succeeds here because she takes one of the basic tenets of folk, the overwhelming vulnerability and directness, certainly the most easily satired elements of folk (see A Mighty Wind), and separates herself from it and from us. She succeeds by using a new palette of sounds to create distance and makes listen as a result. Drop by the Trailer Park to view the world in all its glory.

Back in this galaxy - the fearless rock iguana

buy here: Trailer Park (Legacy Edition)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dirty Power - S/T

Back in high school, I almost bought a 1969 Mustang fastback. Talk about a gorgeous car. Two-tone dark red and black. 351 engine (I believe) four barrel, four on the floor. Damn. Then later, I almost bought a jet black and gold limited edition 1981 Firebird Trans Am. Another real looker. The key word in those previous sentences is "almost." Never had the money. So instead of some fricking awesome chick-magnet, dude-open-mouth-drooling, muscle car to cart me through the formative years of high school, I drove my mother's hand-me-down 1974 Fiat 128. Now, this wasn't even one of the cool convertible, 2-seater Fiats, this was a square box positioned on top of a rollerskate, 4-door attempt at a sedan, 2hp engine that could only reach 50 mph on a brakeless descent from the peak of Mt. Everest. And even then, it'd still need 40 Sherpas pushing to get it up to speed.

So to make up for having the world's dorkiest car, I blew out the stereo and blasted the world's coolest music. When my friends were just beginning to listen to Journey, I blew their minds with UFO. When they finally opened their ears to AC/DC, I stunned em into submission with Saxon's Wheels of Steel and The Angels. I frightened their bowels into permanent paralysis with the first Iron Maiden platter. It became known pretty quickly, that if you wanted to know where the cool music was, you searched for that damn ugly, bright red, puttering Fiat. You'd usually find it off to the side of the road, with me under the hood.

I only wish Dirty Power had been around back then.

Blasting a retro-seventies, straight-up hard rock vibe through the forethinking minds of the current day, Dirty Power is one hellish, full-on assault of scrotum kicking rock and roll. Listening to these guys, you can almost see the extra-sized band posters taped up on their bedroom walls like a shrine. And they're all there. UFO, KISS, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Lizzy, Motorhead, and a nod to the prime madness of Nugent. Trying to describe these guys to the Pope one day as we lazed in the Ripple office, the best I could come up with was; these are a bunch of guys who believed that behind the make-up and explosions, KISS could actually write some kick-ass songs. So they went back to that period in time before the disco balls and glittering costumes, distilled the best and brought it kicking and screaming into the modern day. And God Bless em for it. See, I'm one of those guys too, you can play "She," for me any day and I'll argue it's merits with the best of em.

I can only imagine what the reaction would've been if I'd pulled up into the main circle in front of the school, "LSD" driving the Jensen Triaxle speakers into a spasm of charging, Motorhead-fast rock and roll. "LSD" ain't referring to anything as pretty or flowery as the drug. This ain't no fey psychedelic love-fest. "LSD" is "Lost Souls Day" and the song is just as mean and nasty as that title suggests. And let me tell you, this dog has got a bite. Starting off with a sludgy riff and a snarling vocal, it doesn't take long for mayhem to ensue. Bass and drums kicking in at the 9 second mark, the vocals take on a whole new level of sneer. Strong songwriting takes that intro through the bridge to the spit and venom chorus without ever losing any of the speed urgency. A mutated guitar solo drops right back down into that charging riff that would've scared the Hair Net right out of the cheerleaders hairdos. This song would've either made me a hero or a pariah around campus, and I wouldn't of cared either way. My middle finger would've been held way to high in the air to wait for their response.

"Asthma Pimp," harkens to shades of UFO with it's stop-starting riff and beautiful guitar interplay breaking up the end of the choral verses, and it's Schenker-styled solo. This song truly defines the Dirty Power sound. Dirty: mean, malicious, and mighty unclean, yet wielding the power to levitate my poor Fiat right off the ground. A non-stop blast of classic hard rock.

"Hey Superman," one of the album standout's follows a big chiming guitar, big-chord, intro right into a top-drop out, leaving only the bass and drums verse. What follows is a vocal performance for the ages, soft and smooth building to a perfectly impassioned pitch. Without a doubt, the boys listened to their KISS records well, cause this could shift effortlessly into any best of Paul Stanely and the boys compilation. Influenced, but not derivative, the song packs a double closed-fist worth of power even though it technically never really moves beyond it's mid-tempo speed. Show's you that the power of song is in passion, intent, and honesty, not necessarily velocity.

But, just to show that velocity can bring it's own head-smashing against the dashboard intensity, "Penny Eyes," rages next, going faster than my damn FIAT ever could. Raging at a Motorhead pace, flourishes of NWOBHM seem to echo in the guitar play during the breaks. A truly nasty blitz of charging hard rock. Playing this one on school grounds probably would've gotten me expelled, but I'd be so pumped up and ready to attack from the music that when the prinicpal started to yell at me I'd probably just eat him. One less principle in the world, one more happy rocker.

And the album goes on from there without ever pausing to catch its breath all the way to its raging closer "Gone." "Drag You Down," is just one fucking scandalous spit in the face, played at hyper-velocity and packing a mightier punch than Tyson in his heyday. All without ever losing enough melody to allow it to slide down the gullet. "Tastes Like Burning," another highlight brings on a fucking nice dual guitar intro before dropping it all down into a grinding groove. "Dirty Power," sums it up best. Over a driving bass and beating drum, the boys sing their mantra. "I just want to get drunk/and spend the night on the floor." Like KISS's "Rock and Roll All Night," every band needs to have a song that sums up their message, and there it is. Drunk and sleeping on the floor. Probably in a pile of their own vomit, but ready to go at it all over again in the morning. Unpleasant, dirty, and fucking rock and roll.

Nothing on this disc is new, but really, should it be? It's rock and roll. It's violent and angry and charging and intended to scare little children. This is outcast rock and roll, buried somewhere off the mainstream. We're not figuring out how to slice bread for the first time here, we're pumping adrenaline into male veins, kids who drive around in fucked-up, ratty little FIATs but frighten the pretty ones at school more than some perfect-haired boy jock listening to his STYX CD's ever could. Dirty Power are a band that could've even made that FIAT of mine cool.


Buy here: Buy the CD

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Prong - Power of the Damn MiXXXer

Nine out of ten times when someone tells me that there’s a remix album on its way I run the opposite direction as fast as humanly possible. You see, I generally associate the word remix with the music found in dance clubs or the stuff of a self absorbed DJ looking to imprint his own sound into an existing piece of art. Most of the time, the remixed musical release doesn’t really offer any new dimension to the original version, so really . . . why bother? But then comes along Field General Tommy Victor and a tactical strike force of producers and sound assassins with a remix of 2007’s critically acclaimed Power of the Damager album. My curiosity was peaked and I was prepared to run headlong into the fray, completely oblivious to the incendiary propellants that were headed in my immediate direction. Frankly, Power of the Damn MiXXXer shouldn’t be viewed as a new stand alone album as much as a companion disc to the original Damager. Some fresh ideas, some new takes, and at times, a completely different feel from the original. Yeah . . . this is something that I can get behind.

Right out of the gate, Damn MiXXXer grabs the attention with “Worst of It” remixed by Jon Clayton of Pitchshifter. Heavy, foreboding, and brimming with scalding amounts of tension, this tune is a great transition from the original mix of Damager to this more industrial metal sound. As the bass rambled and rumbled out of the speakers, I voiced a quiet prayer that they hold together for just another hour. My prayers must have been answered because the speakers made it through the entire album, though what they have left in them is still in question. My point? Make sure your sound system can withstand an onslaught of low end for maximum listening pleasure. As the tune grooves through four plus minutes of industrial tinged devastation, I noticed that this interpretation was working my abs into shape. Involuntarily swaying with the rhythm, my abs began protesting against this additional morning workout. Definitely heavy, unquestionably moving, “Worst of It” immediately made me rethink my earlier position on the whole remix thing . . . bring on more of the Damn MiXXXer!

As we make our way through this musical side street, take note how the various producers come in and throw in additional beats in a measure, and with the turn of a studio knob, add textures that create an almost different mood entirely. “Looking for Them,” tackled by Virus from the band Dope, has less of a club vibe than most of the other tracks, but the effects that he pumped into this are frickin’ awesome. The guitars come in beefy and playing a more staccato riff than on the original, played over a haunting synth melody, which gives the tune a completely new vibe. The way Virus managed to create such dynamics through this tune is amazing! The vocals layer upon themselves, the music suddenly stops, then everything explodes into a brilliant ball of sound. “Looking for Them” is one of the highlights on this disc. Is it better than the original? Man, y’all gotta’ be the judge on that. I’m just reporting on what I’m hearing and it’s like I’ve been beamed between the Enterprise and Malcor III on an empty stomach. My mind is spinning through this entire experience as my world has been absolutely rocked.

Power of the Damn MiXXXer features two interpretations for “The Banishment,” arguably the most intense song that Prong has recorded since “Broken Peace,” and both versions are brutal renditions. Brutal in a good way, folks. The first remixed by Rob Caggiano of Anthrax, barrels out of the speakers with a sound that reminds me of stepping foot in a dance club. Actually, when I hear this mix I get this weird mental image of the movie Xanadu with Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. I start to picture these two characters on roller skates, clapping their hands, snapping their fingers, all smiles and happy until they round the final turn and Tommy’s guitars coming crashing in. That’s when I picture the rival teams of the original Rollerball flick crashing into each other like a wave of bloodied humanity! The tune goes from a straight up 70’s disco vibe to an elbow smash to the bridge of the nose, and then back again. Tommy’s vocals come across a little more clear in this mix and the lyrics weigh heavier than on the Damager mix. High marks here. As for the second version on this collection, it’s provided by Clayton Worbeck of Revolting Cocks and that original dark intensity returns, and may actually be heavier than the original. The tempo on this one is more grinding as the bass pulses in the background of Tommy’s devastating guitar riffage. The dips, weaves, dives, and musical turns that are provided on this mix boggle the mind. How these guys think of tweaking the sound so dramatically is beyond me and deserving of a tip of the hat. These guys are truly artists in their own right.

I’m not going to say I’m a convert to the whole remix album thing, but I certainly will never simply dismiss the format again. The renditions of these songs definitely add a new layer of dimension to the music. The heavy metal intensity is still there and the overall message of the music shines clear, but what’s been added is a new groove, a rhythm that creates a different element to the overall sound, and an accessibility that could lead to hip shaking acceptance from the masses on the dance floor. Also, I found that I had a different attitude while I had the music bursting from my car speakers. The sound practically enveloped me and had me becoming one with the groove. My foot steadily increased its pressure on the gas pedal, I leaned back a bit more suave than usual, and I damn near had a cockiness to the way I weaved in and out of the morning traffic. Listening to Power of the Damn MiXXXer could lead to problems with fellow commuters, but frankly . . . I don’t give a shit. I’ve got the Power . . . Power of the Damager. Er, Damn MiXXXer. Ah . . . whatever. I have both! - Pope JTE

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rumors Heard in MySpace, Vol. II, Episode 4

Damn. Another overly hectic and superbly busy month has come and gone. In fact, it’s been so damn busy this month that I never found the time to surf in and out of the nooks and crannies of MySpace like I usually do. But don’t think for one minute that I’m gonna’ let you Waveriders down. Ho no. I was still able to spend some quality time looking under some of the cyber rocks and peer in those deep and cavernous virtual crevices. The flight plan this month is sketchy at best. I’m not gonna’ lie to you. We’re not going to be abroad as much as usual and except for a short jaunt to France, we’re staying Stateside. Racer’s checking the oil pressure on this old bird and it looks like . . . yes, we have the thumbs up from our goggled air fairy that we need to sit our asses down so we can get this sucker up. Contact!

Welcome back to France, my friends. We have been spending a good deal of time in this fabulous country, and with good reason. The underground metal culture in France is out of fucking control! The latest band to grab my attention is an outfit going by the name of Crankset with their latest album entitled, Graceful Delicacy. I’m not familiar with this bands earlier endeavors, but if those works are half as intriguing as this release, then by God! I’m going back into the catalog! Graceful Delicacy opens with a double bass drum onslaught, a veritable distorted six string bludgeoning, and a vocal performance that would run chills up the spine of the Dark One himself. These guys feature some excellent time changes and unexpected technique to keep each listen a fascinating journey. Crankset sound like they have a bit of death metal influence mixed in with a more straight forward metal approach, and it’s those aforementioned changes in speed and texture that keep me poised on the edge of my chair.

“Tesla’s Rotating Magnetic Fields” is a true gem. As the opening strains of feedback drift into the ether, the full on metal assault doesn’t take the cowardly, around the back approach to kicking your ass. Crankset walk straight up to you and with a meaty index finger cocked behind the thumb, and they flick you right in the forehead. And this isn’t just a casual flick in the head. Oh no . . . this is a flick in the head brought to you by a Titan. I love the double bass drums as they lay down a sheet of punishment all while the guitars are creating amazing up strokes of texture. The break in the middle is awesome as the band brings the tempo back down before unleashing the aggression one more time. Strong tune!

You’ll also want to check out “My Desired Prey” in all of its off time splendor. This tune has more in common with the experimental metal stuff that I’ve been digging on lately, mostly in song structure and the way the band uses a wide array of dynamics to achieve a vibrant wall of tone and mood. This may be the most kick ass tune on the release, but I don’t want to color your experience. Go to the bands MySpace page and I believe that you’ll still be able to download Graceful Delicacy for the economically pleasant cost of free. Once you’ve done that, drop the guys a line of appreciation, let them know what you think of their art, and be on your way.

As we make our way back to the States, Racer somehow or another strapped pontoons onto this old bird and landed us on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain overlooking the great city of New Orleans. See how we’re sticking with the French theme here folks? Uh huh. Anyway, there’s a great progressive rock band that calls NOLA home and they go by the name of Abigail’s Ghost. They have a new album that’s going to be release in May entitled d_letion and looks to contain eleven tracks. Pre-orders started in March and to my knowledge are still open to anyone who’s interested. This is a band that fits well with the In Absentia / Deadwing era of Porcupine Tree, so if you’re a fan of those progressive rock sounds swing by and check these guys out. Don’t take my word for it. They have a teaser for the album posted on their MySpace player, so giver ‘er a whirl. I personally dig how they mix up the ambient synth sound with the heavy guitars. The contrast of light and dark is mesmerizing. Kinda’ like the town they call home. Ah . . . New Orleans.

We’re gonna’ cross the better part of the country now and make a short stop in Denver, Colorado. Strap on your mosh boots and make sure your health insurance is up to date, coz’ this next band is gonna’ have us strutting in a counter clockwise motion, flailing our limbs for both personal protection and maximum potential damage. The Casket Crew has that old school 80’s crossover punk sound that fused the street edginess of hardcore with heavy metal. Heavily distorted guitars with a great sense of groove, mid tempo beats and pulsing bass lines, and the gravel grinding vocals create a sound that takes me back to when I wasn’t afraid of a plank of wood with four wheels bolted to it. I’m digging the distorted bass tones through the music as well. It gives the riffs another sense of heaviness, and almost adds a tone of grindcore to it. “Evil Act of the Day” has a great groove to it and should give the muscle in your solar plexus a good work out. Thrash ‘til death indeed!

Pullin’ in to the West Coast, Racer got word as we made our final approach for landing in the Bay area that the late 80’s metal/rap/avant garde unit of Faith No More have re-united. Oh yeah . . . and it feels so good! I loved FNM, as the Angel Dust review from last year should tell you, so this news made me spit my in flight Scotch and soda through my nose. I never thought it possible, so I checked the sources and it’s true. The band will be touring parts of Europe this summer and judging from the posted itinerary, they’re focusing on the festival circuit. Will they be touring the U.S.? Don’t know yet. Will they be recording a new album? Don’t know yet. Will they stay at my house for a month and allow me to make them breakfast? Again . . . don’t know yet. But keep it tuned here, Waveriders, coz’ if anybody is gonna’ know what’s up with these guys, it’ll be us. Or you . . . if you decide to hang out on their MySpace page for hours on end.

Through the dense haze of smog and into the heart of Los Angeles, we find our friends in Bigelf going down the checklist to ensure they haven’t misplaced any of their necessary belongings for their upcoming tour of Europe. Sure, it’s not until fall, but you can never be too prepared for traveling to foreign shores. Our heroes will be joining the likes of Dream Theater and Opeth on this year’s edition of the Progressive Nation Tour as they make their way around Northern Europe and the U.K. Apparently the bands on this tour were handpicked by Mike Portnoy himself. Portnoy just climbed about a hundred and six notches in my book coz’ no one deserves being on a ticket of this magnitude more than Bigelf. So says the Pope.

Sticking around in L.A. for a bit, let’s stop in with Clemente from Petty Crux and see what he’s been up to. You don’t say. You’re going into the studio to start work on a new single? Awesome! Oh, and you have a new web site up and running? Get out. You have a video that’s being edited as we speak? No kidding. Waveriders, if you’re missing bits and pieces of this it’s coz’ the lads of Petty Crux have been out of control busy since finding themselves in the City of Angels. God bless ‘em! I shouldn’t have to say it, but swing by their page and check out this poppy, punky, alt-rock, indie thing that they do, get mesmerized, and get the band’s name tattooed on your stomach. These guys are straight up good. No frills, no fuss. Just good melodies, tight arrangements, high quality performances. They’ve pretty much got it all, and that’s why we love ‘em.

Wrapping up this trip at our home base, there’s a band tooling around the San Diego area that deserves all of your love and attention. Very rarely do bands come around that can combine beautiful melodies with an air of edginess or combine well crafted tunes of love with songs that hold a mirror directly in the face of a society. War Stories is a band that is destined for greatness. You know us, Waveriders. Racer and I don’t frivolously throw around statements like that, and we’re not now. This band is the real deal, they just need people to stop listening to crap music and start listening to War Stories. I’ve already reviewed Vol. I so I probably don’t need to go into any details on that right now. What I do need to tell all of you about is that the band has released a new album called Arm Yourself. Now, I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, but judging from the select tracks that the band has posted on their page, I get the sense that it’s as good as Vol. I, and may be even better. The initial feeling that I get from listening to these songs is that, if it’s even possible, the songs have a more mature sound. Check out “Hangin’ On” and revel in the majestic sound of the melodies and let the lyrics percolate in your brain for a bit. I said it . . . I mean it . . . these guys are for real. See you next month!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Sunday Conversation with Hellmouth

When the new Hellmouth CD crossed over the Ripple transom, The Pope and I just knew we were in for a treat. We'd already been high on their sound, an amped up punked up slab of riotous thrash metal, and were eagerly anticipating this discs arrival. Needless to say, once Postman Sal dropped it off on our desks, we immediately tossed it into the Ripple player, where it has taken up permanent residence ever since. A dynamite assault of all things metal. With that in mind, an invitation to join us on the Ripple red leather interview couch followed closely behind. So sit a spell with Hellmouth, and let's learn what their hellish home is like.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkle, 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 epiphanies 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?

Jeff: I’m with you…KISS was my first musical epiphany, too. I got the Alive 2 record for my 7th birthday and have been messed up ever since! Other records that absolutely changed my life were Piece Of Mind by Iron Maiden, The Crew by 7 Seconds, Mommy’s Little Monster by Social Distortion, Kill ‘Em All by Metallica and a Detroit band called Shock Therapy’s first record. Without those records being in my life I’m sure I wouldn’t listen to and play the music I do.

Jay: Iron Maiden Live After Death record. That was when I was in 6th grade and just after that a friend’s older brother gave us a tape with Circle JerksGroup Sex record , The first Suicidal Tendencies record and Black Flag’s Slip It In record. That was like “what the fuck is this!”

Alex: I just wrote about this last night actually. Someone had blogged about 15 albums that changed their life. Some of the milestones in my musical evolution have been Billy Bragg, the Jam, the Clash, Joy Division, Miles Davis, Danzig, Mother Tongue, Rollins Band, Down By Law, Bad Religion, Sick Of It All, Metallica, Guns N Roses, Nirvana, Neurosis, N.W.A., Iron Maiden, Oasis, 4 Skins, Nephasth, Gilles Peterson… All those bands and more have altered everything that has came after them in regards to my life. When I first got into each one of those bands it opened doors and expanded horizons for me. Like going down the rabbit-hole.

Justin: The first time I heard Metallica and the first time I heard Operation Ivy. Unfortunately for these guys Op Ivy had a much bigger influence on how I play music, which is why we won’t be seeing too much double bass.

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?

Jeff: It depends. Sometimes we come with a whole idea and work out the details. Other times it’s just a riff that we build on. The great thing is that we work on the songs together as a band.

Alex: I have a concept in mind. I might listen to Electric Wizard for a few days straight and then sit down and write and see what comes out. I record it on my computer and we’ll jam on it at practice. That’s pretty much how the rest of the band works, too. Sometimes someone comes in with a great song from start to finish. But most times we all chip in and refine and reinvent what’s been laid on the table.

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

Justin: Each other and the state of music today. It’s fucked.

Jeff: I still get motivation from the same place I got it from when I was young…anger and music. I haven’t calmed down and I still love listening to and playing aggressive stuff.

Alex: Extreme situations, whatever they may be. We need to cull from extreme emotions if we want to be effective. We want you to feel assaulted. We want to effect you mentally when you listen to Hellmouth. This isn’t easy listening.

Jay: Are you kidding? Open your eyes. The world’s fucking spinning out of control.

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

Jay: It's the end of everything. The violent ending of it all. This band is the epitaph, not the warning. It's too late.

Alex: Destruction. Despair. Apocalyptic. Hateful. Explosive. Fucked up.

Jeff: Violent. Mean. Real.

Justin: Misanthropic

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

Jay: I will choke you or smash a bottle and stab you in the face with it.

Alex: I want you to be afraid that I might decapitate you with my headstock. We want fear and catharsis. Release. And we want to bang the head that does not bang.

Jeff: I want the audience to feel a sense of release, excitement and fun, but also the fear that things could go very fucking wrong at any time. That’s how I felt and what I loved about going to shows as a kid.

Justin: Exactly what Jeff said. Fear and fun. I used to be scared going to shows when I was younger yet they were the best ones. I’d love to be able to be that band for the younger kids. "Have fun but beware, Jay may throw a monitor on your head".

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

Justin: I love it all. We are all open minded to doing different stuff whether it be tech, simple whatever. I'm into writing a prog metal album for our follow up, with no double bass of course.

Alex: We don’t have rules. Hellmouth pulls the strings and the four of us strum the chords. We’ve got a Hammond organ on our album and we’ve got Charles Manson. We’ve got some shit that sounds like Entombed and some that sounds like later Black Flag. We’ve got shit that sounds like Danzig and other shit like Disfear. Hellmouth manifests itself through various styles, but when it all comes together it IS Hellmouth.

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?

Justin: Having a good time doing it keeps us motivated. Every band says it but its true. Once it stops being fun we will stop doing it.

Jeff: I think this band lives one day at a time. Hell, this band was supposed to be nothing more than a side project and became something we never planned.

Alex: That’s how it is with cults. I don’t know if Jim Jones ever expected to have such a following or if Manson expected such a following. Shit happens because you make it happen. Sometimes external forces push you in directions you never expected. We’ll see where Hellmouth takes us. Just don’t expect any big national tours. With kids, careers and mortgages, Hellmouth isn’t paying the bills!

Jay : If you make a living off of music you will end up a fraud.

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

Jay: I threw a monitor at a soundman. Wait, that’s not funny.

Jeff: I wish one of us would spontaneously combust on stage!

Where do you see you and your music going in ten years?

Jay: Dead

Alex: Fucked up places that we can’t even predict. We’ll have a séance and figure that out sooner or later.

Justin: Jeff will be in a wheel chair, Jay will be in jail, Alex will be in Europe and I will be dead. Hopefully the music will still be fast.

What makes a great song?

Justin: The up-stroking of an undistorted guitar.

Jeff: A hook.

Alex: Me writing it!

Jay; Anything that can make you feel an emotion and make you think.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

Jeff: The first Hellmouth song technically was “Praying for Plague.” Took us a whole 10 minutes to get it down.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

Alex: The last couple songs we wrote were the opening and closing tracks. Definitely the two stand-out for me. I’m excited and interested to see where we go from here. Our songs are definitely getting better has Hellmouth progresses.

Justin: I like that the album's not perfect. We didn't take a million takes on each song. Not everything was played to a click or over dubbed 20 times. We set out to make a punk rock album and that’s what we did. Flaws and all.

Who today, writes great songs? Why?

Justin: There are a lot of bands in the Detroit area these days that are writing great stuff. 2 bands that have just blown my mind lately are The Silent Years and Child Bite. They sound nothing like us but goddamn are they doing good stuff both live and recorded.

Jeff: The rest of the guys are gonna shoot me for this, but I admire how Billie Joe from Green Day goes about writing a pop song. I still think Kevin Seconds can write some of the best anthem laced hardcore songs around. I really like what all the post-metal/instrumental bands like Tides and Sleepmakeswaves are coming up with. I also like the new wave of doom bands like Ahab and Beast In The Field. I find where they take their music very interesting.

Jay: Green Day is a joke now. I do like Tim Barry's solo stuff and with Avail.

Alex: Noel Gallagher is the greatest living songwriter today. He’s a maestro. Most people would give their left testicle to write an anthem like he does. Yet he’s got two testicles intact and when he farts he farts out a number one hit. I think Watain are the best band in metal today. When I listen to “Stellarvore” I have to double check that demons aren’t literally about to get conjured out of my speakers. That rules.

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

Jeff: Vinyl. Music should be analog. Fuck CDs.

Justin: I almost feel like I should say vinyl to impress Jeff but CD. Damn iPod’s gonna make me flip my car some day.

Jay: Stolen!

Alex: I sold all my vinyl collection pretty much. I’m a digital nerd. I love technology. But I definitely think vinyl is the best way to listen to music. The packaging and the warm sound are just unbeatable. Iron Maiden needs 12” gatefold sleeves. It’s just not the same any other way. But I’m digital because of convenience. I bring my iPod everywhere. I wirelessly stream music around my house. What can ya do?

What's the best record store in your town?

Jeff: The Record Graveyard. All vinyl!!! Detroit Threads, too.

Alex: I like Record Time. Their used metal section is great.

Justin: Soulseek...I mean Record Time.

Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to sit with us guys. Thanks for not killing each other over the Green Day discussion, and perhaps most of all, thanks for not decapitating me with your headstock.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ripple News- Hypno5e New Project - A Backward Glance on A Travel Road

On return from its first American northern round, HYPNO5E reconsiders the front of the scene with its side project acoustic, A BACKWARD GLANCE ON A TRAVEL ROAD.

“True testimony of the melody range of a group more accustomed to transforming a scene into a chaotic place, A BACKWARD GLANCE ON A TRAVEL ROAD operates like an introspective voyage to deepest of the hearts. ” - Guillaume M, Eurockéennes of Belfort.

Confrontation enters the crystalline violence of guitars, the heaviness of rhythmic, the murmured despair of the songs and the coldness of the samples, A BACKWARD GLANCE ON A TRAVEL ROAD proposes a new immersion in the surrealist and cinematographic universe suitable for HYPNO5E.

On the boards, the formation of origin (Emmanuel JESSUA and Thibault LAMY) grows rich by a large range of acoustic instruments as well as electronic: guitars, violoncello, percussion, and more.

Always concerned about the whole dimension of a work, the group will offer a total spectacle whose core is the diffusion of an original video work, illustration of the universe created by A BACKWARD GLANCE ON A TRAVEL ROAD.

The release of the disc is scheduled for September 2009 and will be followed with a European tour over the same period. Stay tuned...

To discover on:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Punk, Thrash, Garage and other Assorted Madness

Psychostick - Sandwich

Ok, here's the thing. I approached this CD with the same amount of trepidation that a nuclear plant worker approaches an unsealed tube of radioactive waste. Wishing I could don a full body suit and protective facial shield, I wanted nothing more than to find some twelve foot long tongs so I could pick up this potentially mutating disaster-in-waiting, and properly dispose of it where it would have no detrimental effects on humanity. Why this much fear, you may ask? Because in all my years of spinning discs, I've found that "humorous music," is usually neither, humorous nor music.

Damn was I wrong! Psychostick is an absolute, slap the knee, gag on your soda, laugh out loud assault of punked up thrash madness. This is toilet bowl rock for the ages. I have to admit, at first, I didn't get it. Having missed out on what I've heard is their humor-core masterpiece "Beer," I was unprepared for what lie in wait for me. But within mere moments, the veil opened and I was thrust head over funny bone into what I can safely say must be one of the most brilliantly executed albums of all time. Topping off their comedy central lyrics is a singer who can actually sing when he wants to, some damn intense riffing, and more time changes than a clock factory the night of daylight's savings time. Sure, the mid song lethargy of "Caffeine," could be predicted by the early thrash rampage, but it still cracks me up to no end when the re-caffeinated blast blows the snot from my nostrils. "Shower," is a downright classic while "P is the Best Letter," is a mini-masterpiece of ego worship. What sets these guys apart from other "joke," acts I've seen is that they can really play. I mean REALLY play. Without a doubt, if they had a serious bone in their body, they'd be able to take their Court Jester of metal, Anthrax meets Faith No More, shtick in any direction they'd choose. But then, if they had a serious bone in their body, we'd be deprived of the hilarity of "Don't Eat My Food," or the simplistic beauty of "The Hunger Within." Damn, I wish I had a taco.

The Shanks - Big Feelin'

Another massive wall of terminally fuzzed-out garage trash this time coming from Boom Chick Records. This two song single is a cacophony of garage distortion molded into two barely discernible songs. Of the two, “Casino” is probably the better with a meaty guitar riff to start things off, before dropping into a head bopping roar of fuzz and vocals that sound like they were recorded by being sung into an empty gasoline can. Dig the bass breakdown half-way through and again that meaty hook. Ragged and raw, home-brewed punk. Just the way we like it.

“Dead Flowers” the second song, is so encrusted in the lo-fi production of the garage you can see the oil stains and smell the diesel. Somewhere, here, there’s a beat and a melody, but I don’t know if the band even knows where it is. A screeching platter of noise and rusted car parts, with the gang vocals of every mechanic in town. Ballsy in its raged glory, it sounds like it takes the listener more time to listen to it than it took the band to write it.

Overall, both songs succeed in ripping through the delicate membrane of your inner ear with shrieks of feedback and fuzz, bringing on a raunchy amount of amateurish fun. Quick and nasty, short and raw. Garage punk for the short attention span generation.

Swankers/Atomic Suplex Split 7"

A double dose of totally trashy garage punk from Death Pop Records. The Swankers lead this off with “Fuck Off,”- a balls out female fronted attack of pure garage adrenaline crashing at you like a surging hybrid of the Slits and the Come On's. Fuzzed out in it’s lo-fi terror, you gotta love it when she’s screaming “Get outta my life, Get outta my way, Fuck off!” Nice guitar licks, great melody and beat. Mean and not very clean.

Atomic Suplex follows with a massively distorted rage of garage rock, “Atomic Suplexed by a Girl.” Billed as what Bill Haley would sound like if you had the worst tinnitus in the world, unfortunately, here the lo-fi production or actually no-fi production works against the band. There’s a killer riff and some tasty guitar parts in there somewhere, but it’s all lost in a screeching sea of static and feedback. While that may appeal to some, I like even my fuzz rock to be a touch cleaner than this. It’s a shame. Sounds like a great song under the noise, if the guys clean it up just a touch, they’ll have a winner.

Count Von Count - Biggest Hits

For this release, underground sludge metal cretins, Count Von Count culled tracks from their first two buried under a rock releases, 2005’s S/T, and 2006’s Dark Side of the Dune, branded them together, included a tag that orders you to play them loud and intoxicated,” burned down the city courthouse then sat back to watch all the fun erupt in a maelstrom of anarchic chaos. Brandishing a Buzzov*n and Melvins songbook blasted through a mountain of Sabbath and a touch of Mastadon, this one is certain to singe your eyebrows.

Things get ugly in a hurry. “New American Folklore,” explodes as a chaotic mess of near-hardcore, math-fused sludge, dropping down into the perfect doom vibe of “Colt 45,” and near COC drowning in the southern manure of “Voltron.” Actually, the music on the entire S/T portion is pretty fucking incredible, with the guys blasting through riffs meaner, filthier and nastier than a five dollar hooker in a blowjob factory. The second release batch of songs doesn’t light my bong near as much, with the riffs more chaotic, less structured and the drums less charmingly sloppy. Through both sets, the vocals-- which can only be described as sounding like the singer had just swallowed his own throat-- verge on the tiring. Not that there’s anything wrong with eating your own throat, mind you.

Still a valuable effort and worth investigating for the first half alone.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Motorhead - No Sleep Til Hammersmith - Deluxe Edition

Music’s biggest middle finger is now double fisted and right in your grill. That’s right, the 2CD deluxe version of Motorhead’s No Sleep Til Hammersmith has FINALLY been released in America. This thing came out a few years ago in Europe but was impossible to find anywhere in the US at a reasonable price. All the deluxe reissues of Motorhead’s “golden era” (Overkill, Bomber, Ace of Spades, Iron Fist, Another Perfect Day) are essential purchases, but if you can only afford one, this is the one to get. Why? Because IT RULES! Ask any Motorhead fan to pick their favorite album and this is usually it. It’s faster, ruder, dirtier and LOUDER than any of their other records.

I remember reading a review in Creem magazine when this first came out in 1981. It said something to the effect that when Lemmy says “thank you” in between songs it’s kinda like when a mass murderer says “I’m sorry” after blasting innocent bystanders with a machine gun. I don’t even think I finished reading the rest of it before I was on my Schwinn 10-speed bike in search of this thing. Recorded on the notorious “Ace Up Your Sleeve” ‘81 tour (with Girlschool as support), Motorhead’s popularity in the UK had reached a peak. No Sleep Til Hammersmith entered the British charts at #1. And the band was famously against the release of this thing! I don’t know what they were thinking because this is by far the best live document of Motorhead, no matter what era. Oh yeah, none of the songs were actually recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, but in Leeds and Newcastle in March 1981.

If you’ve never heard this record I feel sorry for you. But I also envy you because you’re about to get your brains turned to oatmeal. Kicking off with “Ace of Spades” (a song they usually put at the end of the set now) you can hear the unruly mob lose their shit. You can practically smell the beer and body odor of the crowd and the band. Anytime I think I’m tired of this song, hearing the live version reminds me that I’m not and it’s time to turn up the volume. “Stay Clean” is next. Is there any other band that always features the same song 2nd in their set list? This has always been one of my favorites and it would be weird for them to put it anywhere else in the set list. The tempo dips just a hair for the awesome “Metropolis.” At some point in the early 80’s they re-released the film Metropolis in theaters. I went to go see it because of this song. The movie’s cool, but the song is way better. Believe me “The Hammer” is gonna bring you down! This violent musical outburst always makes me want to hurt people, preferably with a hammer.

They played “Iron Horse” on the 1981 tour but weren’t happy with the results so they used a version from the 1980 tour. That’s the only song from a different era. Back in the vinyl days “No Class” finished off side one in complete raucous fashion. These days, Motorhead ends their show with “Overkill” but back then it was in the middle of the set. The studio version is great, but the live version is a headbangers delight. Phil Taylor’s double bass drumming is totally pummeling. Fast Eddie’s guitar tone is rude and Lemmy’s bass gives posers an instant headache. This song could go on for half an hour and it still wouldn’t be enough.

Only a band that featured a former roadie (Lemmy worked for Jimi Hendrix and The Nice) could write a song called “(We Are) The Road Crew.” True tales from the road are shouted over a descending blues riff and everyone lifts their beer can to shout along on the chorus. Anyone who’s ever moved an amplifier loves this song. “Capricorn” is the slow one “so’s you can get mellowed out” says Lemmy. This is the closest Motorhead ever gets to Hawkwind territory as Lemmy testifies to the powers of his astrological sign. This song gives you a breather before the double whammy of “Bomber” and “Motorhead” force your brains through your nose.

That’s the main course. Here’s what you get for desert on this muther. “Over The Top” was the b-side on the live “Motorhead” single from No Sleep. This has been on most of the CD reissues. There’s nothing you can say about “Over the Top” except that it’s over the top. A frenzied Nugent style boogie blast that makes you want to throw chairs against the wall. Disc 1 wraps up with SIX bonus tracks recorded at the same shows but not on the original album – “Shoot You In the Back,” “Jailbait,” “Leaving Here,” “Fire Fire,” “Too Late Too Late” and “Bite The Bullet/The Chase Is Better Than the Catch.” If you’re a Motorhead fan just reading those song titles should make you wet your pants if you haven’t already from drinking too much Carlsberg Special Brew. (Fast Eddie says Special Brew helped take the edge off all the speed they were taking. I still order it whenever I can find it).

Disc 2 is basically all the songs on the original album from other shows on the tour. Are the duplicates an improvement on the master takes – not at all. Is it really necessary – HELL YES! It’s Motorhead on the 1981 tour! And it kicks fucking ass!!! The only song that’s missing is their version of “Train Kept A Rollin” that was on a 7” flexidisc given away with Flexipop Magazine in 1981. I have a couple of copies of it, but it would have been nice to finally have it on CD with all these other gems.

This 2CD version of No Sleep Til Hammersmith is the 5th time I’ve bought this damn thing. First was the US LP. Then I had to buy the UK pressing because it had the inner sleeve photos in color and the US one was in black and white. I bought it on CD as soon as it came out. Then bought it again on CD when it was reissued with The Golden Years EP on it. Now this, but I don’t care. I’ll buy it again if it comes out with something else on it. So should you. Don’t download it or burn a copy from your friend. Don’t play it through crappy little computer speakers. Treat it as the gem that it is and do it right. Play it really fucking loud on your home or car stereo or don’t bother at all.


Buy here: No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mountain Mirrors - The Immortal Deadbeats EP

Somewhere deep in the fog enshrouded mountains of Massachusetts, there is a dilapidated cabin that stands like an aged sentry who has watched over the surrounding area for a hundred years. When the ancient hunk of oak that acts as a front door is pulled open, the stench of mildew, mold, and dust waft into the air to join the spores of airborne madness that call this shattered husk home. We’ve seen this cabin before. A couple of years ago, in fact. It was our beacon through the fog on one particularly windswept night as we listened to the haunting sounds of the self titled Mountain Mirrors CD. Little did we know then that this is the home of the sounds, the haven of the creative genius, the warren for the mad creations of music. Within this dank cabin, there is a man. Huddled over a table, a pencil in one hand, a guitar propped against his leg, his skull surgically opened to reveal the inner workings of creative genius or psychotic misanthropy . . . you be the judge. On closer inspection within the fragmented skull, we see an elegant hand scripted note reading, Welcome Guests. Please make yourselves comfortable.

Unnerved yet? You should be, because this whole scenario is basically how I felt when I first played The Immortal Deadbeats EP.

I’ve known Jeff Sanders for awhile and was immediately drawn to his heavy acoustic sounds with that self titled Mountain Mirrors release. But, this isn’t news to those who wander the pages of the Ripple Effect. The follow up, Dreadnaught, took us listeners to a more brilliant and shiny destination yet retained some of those dark elements that drew us to the music in the first place. One might call it natural growth. The Immortal Deadbeats combines the two efforts and then propels us to a land of such psychedelic beauty and psychotic savagery that at times you begin to wonder if you’re listening to the same band. Waveriders, this release is a head trip. And what a glorious trip it is! I highly recommend that you all go out, buy yourselves the best headphones that money can buy, and leave your hallucinogens stored in a safe place. If you try to enhance the listening experience through artificial means, you may not come back as you originally left.

“Owned Again” starts the whole ball rolling by taking us back to some familiar territory. The heavy acoustic guitars ring out in a similar fashion as we heard on the last two discs, and then it happens. Subtle at first, but then it becomes more and more prominent that the acoustics are taking a backseat to some incredible synth work. Is it a mellotron? Could be. Is it a Hammond organ? Again . . . could be. Who cares about the gear? Immerse yourself in the sound, the rich tones, the intricate composition and interplay of guitars, bass, drum, keys, and vocals. And the vocals! Expressive, expressive, expressive! The guitar solo, pumped through an electric this time out, features some serious warmth and even a little shred. A lot of the sounds have a classic rock, 70’s hard rock vibe going on, and everything just begins to swirl, get hazy, and ultimately lifts the soul. There is true integrity in this music, and what a rarity that seems to be in rock n’ roll!

Our mad scientist changes pace ever so slightly by kicking off “Ascension Vibes” with a down tempo, almost somber guitar and piano intro. Then, like a cat who decides it’s tired of being in that particular room at that particular time, the song bolts across time and space, and drops us in a strawberry field with a girl named Lucy who happens to have diamonds in her eyes. Heavy on the keys throughout and just compelling as all get out, the tones are amazing and create otherworldly textures. The best part of the tune comes with the off time break near the midpoint. This is as proggy and virtuosic as it gets, folks. Bassist, keyboardist, producer extraordinaire, Per Ulfheilm came on board for this project and has added such an incredible flair and textural flavor to the legacy of Mountain Mirrors. There’s so much going on in this music that you can’t help feel like you’re being taken on journey of someone’s demented dreams.

Borrowing from the acoustic guitar riff factory of Days of the New, “Immortal Deadbeats” kicks out a hefty groove while Sanders lays down some haunting vocals conveyed with some great nuance. For the first time, it sounds like Jeff is completely at ease with handling the vocal duties. As mentioned earlier, they’ve become more expressive, they have a greater depth, and there’s a passion to the performance that feels like he’s just cutting loose. Again, Ulfheilm’s keyboard work is spectacular, especially over the bass breakdown towards the end of the song. Great melodies and tones bounce around the eardrums, and by the end of the tune, I feel like I’m experiencing something akin to elation. This is definitely the heaviest tune on the disc, but don’t confuse it with straight up metal. The weight of the tones and the musical undertaking is where the heaviness comes from.

Finally, “Wash Me Away” puts a cap on the whole trip. Featuring the most jarring transitions and most obscure musical influences, this song takes more than one listen to grasp the depth of the whole thing. Distorted and bluesy at one moment, stripped down to a beat, a cello, and bluesy vocals the next moment, riddled with polyrhythmic love provided by the wonderfully talented Magnus “Trummange” Brandell, and then add an odd rattle and a xylophone to complete the madness. The tune goes from somewhat creepy to almost hopeful to completely horrifying in the matter of minutes. The composition of this track will make your head spin and then lift you with its expressiveness and multi-layers of texture.

Four songs long, but these aren’t merely four songs. These are four individual journeys in the deepest, darkest, most foreboding catacombs of a man’s mind. Then again, these aren’t simply journeys into the mind of a mad scientist as they are reflections of a mad world that he lives in. Mountain Mirrors has become a brand that I can trust. With each new release, I’ve heard quantum leaps in musical growth, both in execution as in composition. If you’re a fan of Porcupine Tree’s more out there work, then The Immortal Deadbeats is going to sit like a mint on your pillow in your hotel room. - Pope JTE

buy here: The Immortal Deadbeats EP Buy the CD

buy here: Dreadnought Buy the CD

buy here: Mountain Mirrors Buy the CD

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This White Mountain - This White Mountain EP

Age is truly just a number. Racer mentioned a few weeks back about a band called Robbers, comprised of pre or early twentysomethings who have created a sound far more mature than their age would suggest. There must be something in the water, coz’ I just received a disc that actually stunned me to the point of being incapable to form coherent sentences. This White Mountain is a one man writing, performing, and recording unit that specializes in ambient blackened death metal that sounds like it could fit next to the classics of the genre. Oh right, the composer? He’s only seventeen. One year away from being viewed as an adult by the state, four years from being able to legally consume alcohol, and currently old enough to create moving pieces of music that captivate the imagination with touches of emotion and melody, and all in a very mature manner.

This is a disc that won’t call to all of you Waveriders, but then again, perhaps it will. If you stop long enough to let the waves of dissonance crash over you and embrace it as natural, the quieter moments that follow will sweep you to a land of the farthest reaches of your subconscious. Those noisier flurries of chaos will suddenly feel much more necessary. You can’t totally appreciate peaceful seashores if you haven’t experienced those same shores during a storm. This White Mountain is filled with moments like this.

Parts of this release remind me of the more ambient and moody moments of bands like Enslaved, especially as the distorted guitars drone over the beat and the haunting synthesizers hum menacingly in the background. There’s a definite dark imagery going on here, but also one of solitude and loneliness. This would actually be a fantastic disc to listen to while hiking along some mountain trails, all alone with nature, basking in the organic surroundings. Though dark and foreboding, This White Mountain isn’t necessarily cold music. In fact, the grooves and rhythms have a heaviness to them that provides much needed warmth in the desolation of the subject matter . . . subject matter that you’ll have to make your own inference on since this is a completely instrumental release. And maybe that’s why this EP could be viewed as a more accessible form of Black Metal. Historically, the vocals with their screeching insanity drive the faint of heart away from this form of music. But take away the vocals and we’re left with the root form of the art and the folk-y aspects rise to the surface to show the music in its truest form.

A little over twenty minutes in length, including a bonus track, This White Mountain is a quick dose of Black Metal that won’t drive away the peasants and may very well bring new listeners to the genre. The soundscapes that the young Kevin Narowski provides are filled with luxurious beauty that contrasts perfectly with the more abrasive passages of the EP. I can’t find a weak moment on here. The opening acoustic guitar passage on “Haunting Words” and as the music begins to swirl with a barrage six string distortion, the distorted delay textures of those same guitars on “”Steps on Air / Void” as they lay down a foundation for the spooky keyboards to add texture, the eerie melody running through “Seabirds,” man . . . I really could go on for hours celebrating the magnificence of this work. I have to keep reminding myself that this is one person creating all of this in their home studio. I’ll be keeping a close eye on young Master Narowski. His future looks bright even if his music isn’t! - Pope JTE

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Single Life - A Ripple Record Round Up - Seven Inches of Fun

Welcome to another installment of another of my favorite columns here on the Ripple Effect, The Seven Inches of Fun. We're blessed here to receive a great assortment of vinyl submissions, usually in the form of the delectable seven inch single. What a damn fine format. I've become such a fan of the seven inch that I've been buying em by the bucketload over on ebay, filling the coffers with blasts of 7" fun from the sixties on up to the present for future columns. But today, we're dealing only with new stuff, three glorious tidbits of 7" juiciness that our esteemed postman Sal humped on through the Ripple office doors. Now, when Sal brings in the vinyl, both Pope and I leap to attention. Here's a little secret for you, vinyl always shoots right up onto the top of the stack we have to review here at the Ripple. So without further ado, here's this month's offering of vinyl happiness.

The Omens - Look Away b/w Gonna Be Alright

It was back in January, that I started this column by plugging in my new turntable and being blown clear through the double pane windows by the concussion wave of fuzzed out garage rock exploding off the Omens single Make it Last b/w Won't be Ashamed. Well damn, if they haven't gone and done it again! What we got here are two pure on charging nitro-fueled bursts of classic garage rock. These guys share the same area code of all the classic bands you can name, The Seeds, the Sonics, the Standells. Go on, name more, you'll find it all here. Melodies that don't quit you until long after the song's over, organs swirling around the beat like an incoming tide, fuzzed out Rickenbacker guitars, lost 1960 backing vocal "Ah ha's," and a lead voice that carries the whole thing as effortlessly as a helium balloon taking flight. Oh yeah, and let's don't' forget that propulsive drum beat and crashing cymbal engine that propels this baby with the best of them.

Imagine Jan and Dean locked in a garage with a Sonics record collection for eight years, having to play their hearts out to get fed and you'll get the feeling of "Look Away," an absolute delicious gem of melodic retro-sixties garage pop. "Gonna Be Alright," is that same band after being told that despite the promise, they weren't gonna get out. Now they're pissed, snotty, and ready to eat their own instruments. A hyper adrenaline blast of nasty-fuzzed guitars flame under the lyrics "I'm so sick and tired of waiting for you." Glorious in it's punk energy and unbridled attack. Another true gem from a band that seems to have more of em than the local jewelry store. If you're a garage rock fan, don't miss out. The Omens got it going on!

Dwarves/Royce Cracker

Most Ripple readers won't need an introduction to the Dwarves, the legendary punk cretins have been plowing their sleaze-infested hardcore punk road since the eighties, hooking up with legendary labels like SubPop and Epitaph. Now, one of the unabashed master labels of garage trash punk, Zodiac Killer Records has the Dwarves and unleashes this 5 song EP of mental drug-induced brain damage on us with nary a snicker of regret. Known for 15 minute stage shows, legendary drug use, and live stage show sex antics, the last Dwarves album showed their disheveled, deviant punk game expanding to include such guests as Nick Oliveri and Dexter Holland and some hip hop/rap added into their dime back of smack tricks. This single picks up where that left off and is recommended primarily for those demented individuals who get the Dwarves joke. So, what do we get with this latest offering? A clusterfuck mocking tribute to the madness and insanity of all things methamphetamine

Side One starts with a pure metal/punk outburst "Speed Demon Live UK 1995,"downtuned heavy metallic guitars, bass low enough to be subsonic and a spoken/sung word introductory passage that paints a portrait of a drug city better than any you've heard since Jim Carroll. When the punk picks up, you suddenly remember how fucking good The Dwarves are when they got their game on. "Tweak," changes gears as suddenly as "Speed City," was raging. The punk is gone, replaced by DJ Marz spinning the discs, Blag stream-of-conscious, bordering on insanity, rapping over a looping bass heavy beat, a song of pure drug-induced paranoia and any other unstable mental state you can name that comes courtesy of that deadly powder. Side two picks up where side one ended, Rex Everything taking the mic and the beats in some barely discernible mountain of madness, dropping right into the urban throbbing angst-punk of "Meth Stop Calling." The carnival neo-rap of "Who Put the Methamphetamine in Mr. Everything," rounds us off with a surprise circus atmosphere melody that will stick in your head like chewed gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe. I've read some negative reviews of this disc, but in truth, it's brilliant in it's freaked out madness. Oh yeah, colored vinyl, a nifty Dwarves sticker, and limited pressing to 1000 round out the package. Don't miss out!

The Candy Snatchers - Doin' Time b/w Dead Wrong

Also on the Zodiac Killer Records label, we get this gorgeous (blue vinyl with white splotches) burst of garage punk terror from the legendary Candy Snatchers. What may be one of the last releases from these speed punk legends after the untimely death of Matthew Odietus, this slab is also offered in limited quantities and from what I understand, they're going fast. And they should be. The Candy Snatchers always specialized in a grimy, barely contained in the garage assault of low-fi punk and rudimentary playing at it's absolute best. Mixing a bizarre Cramps-esque quality to their sound, they sound almost like the unholy marriage of the Misfits and New Bomb Turks colliding heads over a feeding trough.

Two tracks here find the gang plowing a trashcan rockabilly vibe into their cacophony. "Doin' Time," revs and rages like some speed freak Eddie Cochrane outtake complete with gorgeously ragged backing vocals and a guitar solo that could shatter glass. The boys seemed to have matured a bit since their early broken bottles and blood letting days, turning all that raging fire of energy into the song writing process and put out probably one of their most melodic, yet still rollicking performances. "Dead Wrong," follows suit, slithering along on the back of a solid rockabilly guitar riff and the manic clashing of tin cans, er, I mean drums. Dig that crazy harmonica solo rampaging through the middle! Another snotty burst of whiskey induced punkabilly to stand with the best of em. Truly a beautiful package, and as I said, available only in limited numbers. So if these are your sounds of destruction, jump into the fire. You won't regret it.
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