Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ripple Top Albums of 2010

Pope's Top 10

The basis for making my Top 10 list is on how much I wanted to listen to the music, how much I thought about the music when listening to other music or when doing mundane day to day tasks. This list has nothing to do with which album has the greatest impact on its individual or specific genre, but purely on how much love I gave the particular recording. Let it be noted that there is very little separating this year’s top three choices. All three albums have spent extended periods of time on the turntable since making their initial impact on my ears.

1)    Stone Axe – II
2)    Les Discrets - Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées
3)    Hypnos 69 - Legacy
4)    Dark Age – Acedia
5)    Lair of the Minotaur – Evil Power
6)    Opeth – In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall
7)    Charles The Osprey - Consider
8)    Shadowgarden – Ashen
9)    Necronomicon – The Return of the Witch
10)   Downslave – Cost of Freedom

Racer's Top 10

I agree with everything that Pope wrote, I'm just too lazy to write all that.

1)   Stone Axe - II
2)   Fen - Trails Out of Gloom
3)   Ape Machine - This House has Been Condemned
4)   Black Bone Child - Take You Blind
5)   Jet Black Berries - Postmodern Ghosts
6)   Rob Blaine - Big Otis Blues
7)   At the Soundawn - Shifting
8)   Darklight Corporation - S/T
9)   The Beautiful Mothers - Chikara
10) The Egocentrics: - Love Fear Choices and Astronauts

Woody's Top 10 (in alphabetical order)

The Brought Low – Third Record
The Budos Band – III
Electric Wizard – Black Masses
Josiah – Procession
Poobah – Let Me In
Otis Redding - Live on the Sunset Strip
Stone Axe – II
The Stooges – Have Some Fun: Live At Ungano’s
The Sword – Warp Riders
Ufomammut – Eve

Horn's Top 10

10) Roareth - Acts I- VI
9)   haarp - The Filth
8)   Dawnbringer - Nucleus
7)   Centurion's Ghost - Blessed and Cursed in Equal Measure
6)   Nefarium - Ad Discipulum
5)   Conan - Horseback Battle Hammer
4)   Cough - Ritual Abuse
3)   Howl - Full of Hell
2)   Salome - Terminal
1)   Sloath - Sloath

Penfold's Top Ten

1.    Mudocks – Distortionist
2.    Megaran and K-Murdock – Forever Famicom
3.    Freak Kitchen – Land of the Freaks
4.    DEVO – Something for Everybody
5.    B.O.B. – The Adventures of Bobby Ray
6.    Greenhouse Effect – Electric Purgatory Vol. 1 and 2
7.    Look What I Did – Atlus Drugged
8.    The Rakehells – Please Yourself or the Devil in the Flesh
9.    MC Frontalot – Zero Day
10.    Cee Lo Green – The Ladykiller

Mr. Brownstone's Top 10

10) Local Natives- Gorilla Manor
9)   Bruno Mars- Doo-Woops & Hooligans
8)   MGMT- Congratulations
7)   LCD Soundsystem- This Is Happening
6)   Neon Trees- Habits
5)   Titus Andronicus- The Monitor
4)   Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse- Dark Night of the Soul
3)   Gaslight Anthem- American Slang
2)   The New Pornographers- Together
1)   The Black Keys- Brothers

Honorable Mentions
Watain – Lawless Darkness
Exemption – Public Cemetary Party
Hank III – Rebel Within
Janelle Monae – The Archandroid

Don't forget to check out these sites and their Top 10 list of 2009
All Metal Resource
Bring Back Glam
Hair Metal Mansion
Hard Rock Hideout
Heavy Metal Addiction —
Heavy Metal Time Machine
Imagine Echoes
Metal Excess
Metal Odyssey
The Ripple Effect
Hard Rock Nights
Layla’s Classic Rock
The Metal Minute

Top Ten Lists Of Top Ten List Lists - by Old School

I simply despise top ten and “best of” lists.  They are never enlightening, and even less informative, especially those that discuss music. 

Is  “Taylor Swift” by Taylor Swift a “better” recording than  Guns N’ Roses’ “Greatest Hits” merely because of the number of weeks the CDs spent on the Billboard Music Charts? I hardly think so.  Staying power on the charts is a product of (sales + publicity + fanbase) which is always related to gross sales.  It doesn’t even reflect how financially successful a recording might be.  To determine that you have subtract all the costs associated with producing the product,  Even then, financial success does not mean one recording is better than another recording.

Ahh!  But you say,

I like lists.  In fact, I love them.  Sure, you can’t compare the artistry of Taylor Swift to that of Guns N’ Roses in financial terms - it has to be in “artistic terms.”  We have to narrow the field a bit. We can make categories of lists and compile them.  Taylor Swift is a better Pop singer so we can compile a top ten list of 2010 Pop Music and we can compile a list of the 2010 Metal and Gun N’ Roses would be on that one.  We could choose ten categories say, Pop, Blues, Punk, Alternative, Metal, Classic Rock, Country, Jazz, Soundtrack and World Music.  You could then compile the number 1’s of each list and there you have a fair ultimate 2010 music top ten list.  

Dude! You’re missing the point!  There are thousands of great bands out there that lack either sales, proper publicity or a great big fan base.  There are even some that rather ply their art in semi-obscurity, semi-retired, known to only a few, or just popular in a city, region, circuit or on the web. Consequently, it is inherently unfair and disingenuous to say that one recording is the “Best” or better than another.  I can assure you that you haven’t heard all of them; that, if you did, you could never make up your mind; and, if you did, you should really get your hearing checked.

Every top ten music list ever compiled fails in another respect.  It is totally subjective and why should I, as a music listener, really care about your opinion?  I know what I like.  Don’t you listen to your music and not give a damn what others think - you might even sing Barry Manilow songs in the shower, who knows or cares? It is your music and you are the only judge of “Best” that matters to you.

Look, Old School,

I understand what you’re saying, but, don’t you think that as music consumers we ought to know what we are buying?  I mean, doesn’t sales + publicity + fan base measure popularity? So that means, as a consumer, I’ll know what most people are listening to by referring to a traditional top ten list.  Doesn’t that have significant value to me as a consumer?

So, if lots of people were jumping off a high bridge you would too? Even manure attracts a lot of flies. 

Don’t give me this whole consumer service thing.  Today almost every artist has a healthy web presence and offers at least a free taste or two.  You are better off spending your time searching the internet for the music you like than being a lemming to 2010 Music Top Ten Lists of Top Ten Lists.

Yes, Old School, I understand. But, couldn’t you compile a top ten list of just the music you heard this year and it could be your own personal 2010 Music Top Ten List? You could use it to explain to people your own musical tastes.

That argument lacks foundation.  Do you really think other people care about what music you like - other than the artists who are trying to sell it to you?  Look, I write 50 or so music reviews a year.  I listen to thousands of new artists and releases and point out just a few.  I get a half-dozen comments a year from readers in response to my reviews.  I write because I’m vain and love to share my love of music, even if no one cares or listens.  I’m in no position to tell you to favor Lynwood Slim and the Igor Prado Band over Brian Setzer, Modern Day Moonshine over The Doobie Brothers  or Heavy Glow over Steve Vai, or any other artist or recording over any other.  I wouldn’t dare say to you that James Cotton’s 2010 return - “Giant” is better than any other Blues harmonica album in the past decade.  You have to find out for yourself. 

- Old School

Electric Wizard – Black Masses

There are many (too many, in fact) doom metal bands out there but I will always make time for Electric Wizard. Black Masses is the Dorset, England band’s 7th album and is pretty much business as usual but there are a few different audio elements to keep things from getting too redundant. The Black Sabbath/Pentagram foundation remains as well as NWOBHM creeps like Venom and Witchfinder General but there’s a stronger psychedelic feel than on some of their previous records. It also sounds a bit like the influence of fuzz-guitar maestro Davie Allan is in the mix, too. Not surprising since Electric Wizard love all the violent 60’s biker movies that Allan did music for just as much as the horror/cult films they sometimes sample.

The twin axe attack of singer Justin Oborn and wife Elizabeth Buckingham is very thick, fuzzed out and layered with trippy effects. Justin’s vocals pop in and out of the mix to bleat his bleak views and call upon Satan to help him navigate this wicked world. Shaun Rutter’s drums plod and thud accordingly in a most Master Of Reality way and blend well with new “necrobassist” Tas Danazoglou. It’s worth noting that Tas has some really intimidating facial tattoos.

For a band so heavy and negative, the songs are surprisingly catchy. “Black Mass” will have everyone yelling “hear me Lucifer” loud and strong at the live show. “Venus In Furs” is not a cover of the Velvet Underground classic (although I’d like to hear them tackle it) but does share the S&M subject matter. Clocking in at 8 minutes, my favorite song might be “The Nightchild” just because of the strong Witchfinder General feel.

The entire album is solid and flows together really well. The tempos are never too fast, and they really excel at the real snail crawlers like “Satyr IX.” There’s even an instrumental dirge called “Crypt Of Drugula” with some very cool atmospherics that’s cooler than anything Eno’s ever done. This is a great one to play late at night in a car full of people you don’t know very well. They’d really freak! Unless they’re already freaks, then they’d love it.

-- Woody

Buy here: Black Masses
Buy vinyl: Black Masses

Buy from All that is Heavy here

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Meads of Asphodel - The Murder of Jesus the Jew

Admittedly, I love a challenge every once in a while.  If you don’t set a seemingly lofty goal for yourself on occasion, you never push yourself and will end up wallowing in misery.  Well, what I had just set out to do certainly falls into the category of major challenge.  After listening to the newest album from the band The Meads of Asphodel entitled The Murder of Jesus the Jew, I was inspired to help broaden their audience.  My idea was simple enough.  Get the band to play a single concert that would be written about in the annals of music history as the stuff of legend.

It turned out that this was easier said than done.  First of all, the band was notorious for never playing a live show.  Ever!  I took this in stride however as in my research I heard the group’s vocalist, Metatron, explain in an interview that the band would consider performing if all the right conditions existed.  That was fine.  It would be up to me to make the stars align.  The second problem was finding the right time and place for the band to show themselves off.  My personal requirements for the concert were as follows: 1. The show had to occur in the United States (being a British band, playing a show in the States would help add to the mystique), 2. There must be a great number of people there to see the band (the more witnesses, the better the promotional opportunities afterward), and 3. The venue had to be unique (no matter how great the act, it’s hard to get casual observers pumped up about a band playing the same old stadiums, clubs, theaters, etc.).  Fortunately, I had an epiphany.

What would complement the musical and visual aspects of this band perfectly?  I know!  They can play at a Renaissance Fair!  It’s perfect!  A little research online came up with a list of all major Renaissance Fairs and Festivals around the US, along with how many people on average show up every year to each event.  It turns out that the biggest festival of all, The Texas Renaissance Festival, is held in Plantersville, Texas on Saturdays and Sundays beginning October 9th and running through November 28th.  The festival is held on a ‘900 acre open air theme park’ and entertains around 400,000 people every year.  All my requirements would be met if I could somehow finagle the directors of this festival into allowing a band they most likely had never heard of before to perform.  It was time to get in touch with these folks and do the Penfold name proud.

At this point, I feel the need to assure you waveriders that I did not actually lie when I made my proposal to the fair directors.  I answered every one of their questions truthfully.  Yes, the band is actually from England.  Yes, the name is an allusion.  It refers to fields of flowers in certain mythologies.  Yes, their music (especially lyrically) deals with medieval times.  Yes, they have received high praise for their music from several print and online publications.  Yes, those publicity photos in fact show three of the band members dressed in armor.  Yes, they would most likely perform wearing assorted pieces of armor.  Yes, this would be their very first live performance for the public.  Yes, they would need electricity for their instruments, but I know that you have the capability to provide the energy needed since there are ATMs and other electrical devices scattered around your premises.  Surprisingly, after just a few more questions they agreed to allow the band to perform on Halloween Sunday, October 31st.   Oh my, this was going to be good.

The Meads of Asphodel is an English black metal band.  Okay, now that the gross understatement of the year is out of the way let’s be serious.  Strictly labeling this band as a black metal outfit should qualify as a felony offense!  This is some of the most adventurous music I have heard in my life.  Is it bizarre?  Yes, it most certainly is bizarre.  It is bizarrely awesome!  I absolutely love the fact that from the very first minute of this album the listener fully comprehends that this band is a unique entity that for all intents and purposes will not be playing by the rules.  In fact, they relish writing down all the genre rules and conventions in a book, and then incinerating that book in extreme heat so as not to produce smoke or ash.  The rules simply cease to exist.

The Murder of Jesus the Jew is the fourth full length album from The Meads.  Not surprisingly, the lyrics revolve around the last days of Jesus and the people around him.  The vocals are suitably gruff and grisly but unlike many other black metal frontmen, Metatron never allows his voice to become screechy (at least on this album).  For the most part, and thanks in large part to the somewhat conversational vocal delivery, I like to imagine an old, bitter, gravelly-voiced storyteller working himself into a fury.  Also, it is important to note that Metatron cares very deeply about his lyrics.  Anyone who wishes can read a 60,000 word explanation of the concept for the entire album or the meaning of lyrics from each individual song.  All I can say is wow!

Trying to explain the sonic variety on offer here is a daunting task.  The album of course offers up black metal tunes with hyper drumming, mighty riffs, and foreboding atmospheres to spare.  Check out the tunes “My Psychotic Sand Deity” and “Jew Killer”.  What is more interesting to me however are the songs that either branch out to incorporate elements from other genres into the strong black metal backbone, or simply break the mold entirely to add more flavor to the proceedings.  “Man From Kerioth” adds some serious hardcore punk elements.  “Genesis of Death” could easily be sequenced on any modern progressive metal album if clean vocals were substituted and a few slower moments of the song were removed.  The clean-toned guitar solo that begins shortly after the sixth minute of this song is phenomenally epic.  Listening to “Of Tempests” I believe I am listening to a group of traveling minstrels performing for me in front of their parked wagons.  The acoustic guitar strumming and female background vocals are intoxicating and make me want to dance a jig.  Look I could go on and on, so I’m going to stop before I get too excited.

The bottom line here is that you need to investigate this band and get a hold of this superior album.  Do you like black metal?  Check out this album.  Do you like adventurous music that will take you places you likely have not been to before?  Buy this album.  Do you like music that will challenge your preconceived notions about modern metal music?  Buy two copies of this album and give the second to a friend.  Trust me, they will thank you.  If this album had come out in the US before the end of the year, it would have challenged for a very high ranking on my top ten list.  That being said, thanks to its January 2011 release I already have an early favorite for next year’s list.  Now back to the Fair performance.

Local news, both television and print, had a lot to report on Monday morning after The Meads played their concert.  Spectators fell into one of three camps.  There were the people who thoroughly enjoyed the performance, had their faces melted off, and left with the biggest smiles anyone had ever seen.  Then there were the folks who could only express absolute horror at the overwhelming display before them.  It should be noted that these people were nonetheless transfixed, and remained for the entire performance.  Lastly, there was a small portion of patrons that simply scattered.  In effect, they ran for the hills.  People from this last group formed the majority of interviewees after the fact, and they certainly added to the mystique I wished to generate.  No one knew where the band had come from, or where they had disappeared to after the concert.  Metalheads spoke in reverence about The Meads and their triumph.  Even casual music fans had now heard of the English band that played the Renaissance Fair.  With a solid foothold in the musical consciousness of the American people, my work was done.

-- Penfold

Buy here: Murder of Jesus the Jew

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Saltwater Gypsy - 190 Proof

Manitoba. 110,000 lakes, 250,900 square miles of prairie. A little over 1.2 million people, half of which live in the capitol, Winnipeg.  The province is a leading producer of potatoes for Wendy’s and McDonald’s, sunflower seeds and dry beans.

Nova Scotia.  An eastern Canadian maritime province of  21,300 square miles with less than a million people mostly of Scottish ancestry.  An economy based on fishing, lumber and mining.  It has one of the lowest per capita incomes in Canada .

These don’t sound like hot beds of rock ‘n’ roll talent, do they?  Yet, Manitoba is the birthplace of Randy Bachman, Neil Young and the Crash Test Dummies. Sarah McLachlan, Anne Murray, April Wine and LL Cool J hail from Nova Scotia.  When you realize that the January average high temperature in Manitoba  is 9 degrees F (-13 degrees C) and the average low temperature is -4 degrees F (-20 degrees C), and the Nova Scotia winter ranges from average highs of 41 degrees F (5 degrees C) to average lows of -4 degrees F (-20 degrees C), you begin to understand how they can produce such musical talent.  It’s so effin’ cold that they stay indoors, write music, practice their craft through the long icy winter.

When I received a six track EP CD called 190 Proof (sounds like a Canadian prairie winter hobby) from a Calgary-based band called Saltwater Gypsy, that billed itself as “Canadian Roots Rock Music,” I was intrigued.  The founding members Kevin Schmitke and Justin Spearing list their influences on the band’s Facebook page as:

"Growing up without a toilet or running water in Manitoba or a hard knocks mining town on Cape Breton Island. Moonshine shin-digs on the homestead. Kitchen parties. Raising a child on your own. Moving across the country. Good friends and good times. Good music with good groove."

Schmitke is from Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Spearing was born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia..

Saltwater Gypsy is, in the founders’ own words, “a studio project based out of Calgary Alberta Canada[.]”  Ah, Alberta, Canada. 255,500 square miles of prairie and mountains with a little over 3.3 million people, 80% of which live somewhere between Calgary and the capitol, Edmonton. Calgary’s January average high temperature is a toasty 27 degrees F (-3 degrees C) and the average low temperature is a balmy 5 degrees F (-15 degrees C).  It sure beats Manitoba without indoor plumbing and a mining camp on a rock in the North Atlantic . Calgary also provides greater rock ‘n’ roll  opportunities with its hoppin’ live music club scene. Still, it is not the first place I think of as a bastion of cutting edge blues, pop and folk-based rock ‘n’ roll.  But now, after l listened to 190 Proof, I have come to believe that Canadian winters provide the perfect combination of hardship and loneliness to produce stellar rock for this unique musical duo.

All of the tracks on 190 Proof are “radio-length,” ranging from about 3 to 4 minutes.  This “studio project” moves the band in a commercial direction (to the “big city” and into the mainstream.) Here are my takes on the cuts:

“New Horizon” - a folk-rock country-esque amalgam of acoustic guitar and banjo with driving drums and bass.  The vocals are sung partially harmonized for emphasis.  The overall effect is one of a folksy wall of sound.

“Everything Heals” has a harder edge than “New Horizon.”.  Electric guitar is interwoven with acoustic guitar. Drums and a heavy bass line punctuate unexpected vocal harmonies and counter melodies.  It features a bit of a Carbon Leaf feel that crosses over into Dave Matthews territory.

“Help A Man” has much of the same feeling that is found in “Everything Heals” but has a heaver emphasis on the drums and reverb.  The electric guitar interlude comes across like bag pipes providing an obvious Nova Scotian touch.

“Crazy Lady” moves into the genre of hard rock blues. It combines heavy bass, distorted electric guitar and processed lead guitar in a slow drag of a song.  The track brings to mind the sound pioneered by Bad Company on the song “Live For The Music” only without the speaker to speaker stereo play and with a much slower tempo.

“Remember The Ride” features rhythm guitar and drums. It made me think that this is how the North Mississippi Allstars would sound if they only played acoustic guitars. A distorted droning electrical guitar enters halfway through the track to add background texture. 

The final cut, “Little Jack’s Corner,” returns to the rock blues style of “Crazy Lady.”  With intermittent ethereal and clipped vocal accompaniment the tune evokes the strutting esprit de corps of mid-1970’s rock ‘n’ roll.  The lyrics are just what you think - fairy tales and nursery rhyme take-offs.  It worked for Stevie Ray Vaughan with “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and it works for Saltwater Gypsy.

Schmitke and Spearing have found a warmer climate in Calgary with Saltwater Gypsy.  I suspect it won’t be long until they are on the move again in the search for something hot.

- Old School

Could not find video but the songs are available for purchase and streaming on their Facebook page

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Single Life – 7” of Fun featuring Lou Siffer and the Howling Demons, Space Probe Taurus, White Wires, and the Pack of Gurus

Lou Siffer and the Howling Demons – The Mosher  b/w Bitch De Luxe

I mean really.  What do you need in this world besides fast cars and heavy rock and roll?  Ok, there’s beer, sure.  Some Knob Creek Whiskey, ok.  Toss in some cold pizza and 99% of the world’s male population just reached mental orgasm.  Lou Siffer and his howling band of demons ain’t gonna supply the beer, whiskey, or pizza, and you’d be damn foolish to be caught standing anywhere near one of their cars.  But the crew will supply the rock and roll, heavy, loud, fast, coated in diesel, amped up on bennies, Red Bull, and nitrous.  This is high octane, V8 powered, four-on-the-floor rampage rock perfectly suited for late night drag races and gang fights. 

Forget that this music comes from Sweden, this is a Detroit-fueled, mega-tons of muscle car, head-on collision to the face of brutal punk-infested garage stomp.  Exhaust blows out of the bands nostrils like some devil-spawned hot rod revving at the green line.  Hide your daughters, your girlfriends, your neighbors . . . crap, hide your whole town.  When Lou Siffer and the Howling Demons come to town nothing but carnage and skid marks will remain.  And beautiful carnage at that.

Space Probe Taurus – Insect City b/w Mescaline/Dirt Cult ‘72

Keeping the Swedish hell-stomp fired up and spewing, oil-stained venom, we got this delicious platter from long-time Ripple favorites Space Probe Taurus.  Released in 2000, I dropped a dime to snag this baby off ebay and couldn’t wait to let the needle drop onto three distorted blasts of fuzzed out, grease-stained, acid biker rock frenzies.   Musically, SPT are Siamese twins separated at birth by some demented doctor with our friends Lou Siffer and the Howling Demons. But whereas Lou Siffer gravitated towards Detroit muscle, Space Probe Taurus jumped onto a fuzzed out, hellbound Harley and joined the ranks of some smoke-billowing biker gang from the river Styx.

Each song squeals and winces in the pain caused by it’s own massively fuzzed out assault.  Ola’s vocals and guitars never sounded better while the band chips in with brass knuckle bass and lead chain drums.  Acidfied guitar punk madness at its best.  See if you can’t find this one, it’s just wickedly bad!

Mean Jeans/White Wires – RU Mental b/w Please Write

Speaking of punk rock (we were, weren’t we?), next up is this frenetic 2-song split dalliance of hyper guitar, and staccato drum driven agit-rock from Mean Jeans and White Wires.  This is raw and ragged rawk, just waiting for you to come by and sink your teeth into.   And I mean that in the best possible way.  Energetic, refreshing, vibrant, and deliciously raw.

We got two songs here that show off different aspects of the bands, with Mean Jeans' “RU Mental” sniffing glue over a Ramones-frenzy, and “Please Write” revealing a softer, more sensitive side to White Wires' Midwest-flavored garage wailing.  Toss a funnel-full of quirk rock a la the Replacements, some angular arrangement surprises, and a pocketful of infectious hooks and this kinetic burst might just grab ya. 

Pack of Gurus – Bolero b/w Mystery Date

Every music lover has at least one.  Your holy grail.  That one record that you just can’t find, but damn, you need to have it.  Toss over the nation’s bedsheets, dig through the cyber-garage sales, lose yourself in spiderwebbed nooks and crannies, you’ll look every where to find a copy.  In some cases, it may take years of looking just to find another human being who even knows what band you’re talking about.

That’s the way I was with this 7” 45 by Upland, California’s Pack of Gurus.  Way back in the day as a disc jockey at KSPC FM in LA, I played the crap outta this definitively tasty mash-up of garage, new wave, and surf organ spy rock.  I couldn’t get enough of it’s seemingly random, oddball collection of influences somehow mashed together into two highly addictive agit-songs.  But after leaving the station, damned if I’d ever be able to find it again.  Years of searching passed, then decades.  The internet was no help.  The only online store I ever found Pack of Gurus listed must’ve gone out of business years ago because they failed to respond to any of my 2247 emails.  At $35, I considered it a bargain.  But alas, no luck.

Then ebay came to the rescue and for a mere $9.99 I nearly salivated myself to death as I opened up the package and beheld my very-own, moderately worse-for-wear copy of Pack of Gurus.  25 years in the searching!

So after all that build up, how did it sound?  Was it nearly as good as my fading memory had built it up to be?   Was it really the lost classic, holy grail of post-punk, LA rock that'd I'd imagined?

No. It wasn’t.  It was better.

"Bolereo", with its unforgettable spy-film, organ riff, was like a droplet of wine from heaven.  Totally synth/organ driven with a percolating bass line and those oh-so-angstful vocals and perfect harmonies, Bolero is a gold-plated nugget of D.I.Y. LA-spawned new wave pop.  Totally engrossing to my ears.  And the flip side “Mystery Date,” rang even truer than I remembered with it’s menacing bass, near Bauhaus-like feedback guitar intro morphining into a driving, distorto-guitar riff and singable melody.  Excellent period stuff.

Of course, after decades of searching, I’ve now found three other copies popping up here and there on ebay.  I think I’ll buy them all. Give me a back up copy for after the flood. And a back up for that back up.

Worth checking out if you’re so inclined. 


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ripple Music: 2011 Releases - Great Stuff in the Works

Ripple Music: 2011 Releases

In light of the success that we’ve seen here at Ripple Music over the last year, we wanted to look into our crystal balls and take a stab at what we see for the coming year, and then pass these findings on to you . . . the ever vigilant fan of heavy music! 2010 saw the label release seven titles, and 2011 is promising an even greater growth. Since the first release in June, Ripple Music has welcomed two additional acts to the family and has plotted out these follow up releases:

Scheduled for release in early April, we’re looking at a deluxe CD re-issue of the Stone Axe debut album with bonus live material, and a companion DVD featuring promotional videos and tons of live footage highlighting the bands epic performances. This re-issue will be released in conjunction with the bands trek across the Atlantic to tour the UK and parts of Europe that will culminate with their appearance at 2011’s Roadburn Festival in Holland.

While we’re on the topic of Stone Axe, word has come down from Tony Reed that the band is hammering away at material for a new album. No date has been set on the release, though initial discussions have us looking at a late summer street date.

Also featuring Stone Axe, we’ll be releasing the Heavy Ripples compilation double 7”, which will include the return of Brooklyn-based stoner-fied punks Mighty High, the introduction of blues-based retro rockers from the UK, Grifter, and on loan from the incomparable Small Stone Records, Sun Gods In Exile. The 7” will be packaged in a double gatefold jacket featuring the glorious artistic touch of Wayne Braino Bjerke. Expect to see this monstrous beast of sonic debauchery in April.

Speaking of Grifter, the band is partnering up with Ripple Music to release their upcoming album! The band is currently putting the wraps on the recording of new material and both parties are shooting to have the CD (vinyl?) released in May. A UK tour and potential U.S. tour are in the works in support of the as of yet unnamed album, though odds are, it will probably be self-titled.

Being that we talk with Tony Reed on a near daily basis, we have some information pertaining to another Reed project that has us rejoicing in our sleep. We’re looking at re-releasing the first Mos Generator album as a deluxe 10 year anniversary edition. The details are still being worked out in regards to time frame and content, but much like the deluxe Stone Axe CD, expect there to be some great bonus material to be included in this package.

On the doom metal front, is arm locked with Venomin James to re-issue their debut album, Left Hand Man, on vinyl! The album will be specifically mastered for the vinyl format and will include unreleased/live bonus material. Left Hand Man will be available in the first half of the year.

Poobah will be returning in 2011 with a brand new studio album entitled Peace Farmers. Originally self released by Jim Gustafson to a limited run of less than 500 copies, Peace Farmers acts as a great follow up to the re-issue of Let Me In and features a couple of updated renditions of some Poobah classics. Initially, Peace Farmers will be released on CD only, but as the case always seems to be, the door is open to press limited runs of vinyl to accompany the CD edition.

Santa Barbara’s melodic hard rockers Tripdavon are currently working on additional bonus tracks for the deluxe re-release of their latest album Sketches From Silence. As with many of the releases for the year, the time table isn’t set in stone, though we suspect that the album will be ready for mass consumption towards the end of summer.

Finally, Ripple Music will release the latest offering from Scotland’s Iron Claw. The as of yet titled full length album is comprised of all brand new material and includes the vocal talents of new member Gordon Brown. This will initially be a CD only release, but much like the Poobah release, there’s a great chance that it will also see a vinyl edition. Tony Reed is scheduled to master the album once it’s complete and should be available sometime mid-year.

That’s it for all of the major releases for the time being, though as things go around here, that could all change in a moment’s notice and the releases may double in quantity. Also, keep in mind, this doesn’t take into consideration any of the 7” single projects that are in the works, and possibly some big news for Ogre fans . . . so keep an ear out for that news as it becomes available.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Fitz and The Tantrums- Pickin' Up The Pieces

Retro music has never seemed so good. From the moment I first heard them I immediately fell in love with their sound and felt transported back in time. Fitz and the Tantrums is a fresh, familiar retro band that is inspired by 1960s music. Composed of six soulful individuals, Fitz and the Tantrums is an infectious band that knows how to rock.

Led by Fitz on lead vocals, accompanied by co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs, drummer John Wicks, James King on saxophone and flute, bassist Ethan Phillips and keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna, the 1960s music scene comes alive once again with their irresistible songs and their elegant attire. Looking at them and hearing their sound you could easily mistake the year and think it’s 1965. They sound like early 1960s radio and Motown.

Their vintage sound is immensely invigorating and that’s largely due in part to King’s saxophone defining their soulful sound accompanying Fitz and Scaggs’ vocals. Fused with tons of energy, listeners will be mesmerized by the pop songs and start dancing away on the dance floor. Good pop songs should make you want to get up and dance. Fitz and the Tantrums’ music is distinct.

The chemistry between Fitz and Scaggs is like that of Tina and Ike Turner. They got each other’s back musically; they complement one another on vocals and it shows. Their love and affection transcends the music into delivering mesmerizing musical performances and one hell of an album.

Fitz sounds like Neil Diamond and Daryl Hall (from Hall & Oates) creating a timeless sound for this brilliant band. Pickin’ Up The Pieces is an amazing album filled with ten tenacious tracks that will lighten up your day. It starts off with heavy keyboarding and tambourine on “Breakin’ The Chains of Love.” It’s like Ray Manzarek is playing the keys in a sweet sounding R & B song with Neil Diamond singing lead vocals and Tina Turner on backing vocals.

Following up, “Mr. President” is a political, piano heavy song that is a call to action you want to clap along with. The Temptations never seemed so good…I mean Fitz and the Tantrums are awesome on “Pickin’ Up The Pieces.” Literally, if the band was transported back in time they would fit in perfectly. Some individuals have described their sound as cliché, but their heart and soul is poured out in a wide variety of emotions. They are the epitome of what is meant by a band having soul.

Everything might appear formulaic, but everything from the hooks, the lyrics, and energy are genuine. Thanks in large part to Fitz and Scaggs’ chemistry. This is abundantly obvious on songs like “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” and “Money Grabber.” The heartbreak of gold diggers and directness of some songs is sheer brilliance.

An organ intro isn’t supposed to be moving, but somehow it works with “L.O.V.” The groovy sound makes the listener embark and be engaged with this funky, fresh “love” song. This powerful, passionate pop song has a catchy chorus that you can’t resist clapping along with the entire time.

Nothing is more malicious than “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” and is great way to handle a breakup from the male perspective. The album concludes with “Tighter” and to be perfectly honest I thought it was Elton John singing the entire time. It wasn’t until I double checked my iTunes that I realized it was still Fitz and the Tantrums. All the singles feel like classics and are full of compassion. It’s a testament that this group is destined for great things. The Silver-Lake based sextet is even more majestic live than the album and worth checking out if you have the chance.

-- Mr. Brownstone

Buy here: Pickin' Up The Pieces
Buy here mp3: Pickin' Up The Pieces [+digital booklet]
Buy here vinyl: Pickin' Up the Pieces

Friday, December 24, 2010

Howl - Full of Hell

Full disclosure: yes, there are forgettable songs. Yes, they stay in D flat too long. Yes, this album rocks so hard those previous yes's don't matter.

Full of Hell showed up so high on my year-end "best of" list that I owed my soul to review it. (Satanic legalese semantics. You understand.)

First off, I practically sucked the metaphoric phallus off of their first EP, Howl.

Second, I pre-ordered Full of Hell (I never do that) from the Jonsing for its sludgy grooves... and all to absolutely no disappointment here, daddy-o.

Third, I have bought not one, but two tickets to see Howl live, and failed to make both engagements. These are the only times I've not made it to a gig I pre-paid for. Both times for strange reasons I won't go into here. I don't know what the metal deities are trying to tell me, frankly.

And I don't care. I refuse to listen, Buddha/ Jahovah/ Moses/ Allah/ Ganesh/ Satan! Howl's power over me is too strong! Now back off and heed my four areas of Howl's awesomeness!

Ahem. *Adjusts tie.*

Area A: Riffs

The record is as close to my riff Nirvana/ Valhalla as I've gotten thus far in my journeys on this plane: in my metal nerd fantasy world, I imagine the greatest sludge album to be composed entirely of riffs as good as Black Sabbath's Into the Void: snakey, sessy riffs in minor and diminished chords, detuned and played lento. All the songs on this record are riffs constructed to work together. If that sounds oversimplified, it really isn't: think about it, most sludge/ doom records aren't all riffs-- they're a riff here and there, linked by open (i.e., BONNNNNG!) chords.

Not that that doesn't sound good, but it's not memorable at all. Very nearly anyone in the world can pick up a guitar or bass and sound the open note. Fewer can write actual riffs that flow together. Howl do, baby.

Area B: production/ engineering/ mixing

Think ...And Justice For All. Dry. Very dry.

At first I didn't like it: the Howl ep sounded very different, more saturated, warm. After many listens, the nearly bone-dry production grew on me, and it made me respect the record even more, as it emphasized the songwriting-- there's no so-amped-up-it-clips production to mask a lack of skill in the songs' construction.

Track highlights: Asherah, Jezebel, Heavenless, The Scorpion's Last Sting, and The Day of Rest.

Area C: Drums...?!

99% of drums are never noticed: that's pretty much the function of that timekeeping device, to keep everything together, animate it-- invisibly. There's only two reasons to notice a drummer: because they suck, or because they're awesome. Howl's Timmy St. Amour is delicate, tasteful, fast, graceful yet still heavy. He's the perfect foil for the simple thick riffs. He, Behemoth's Zbigniew Robert Promiński, aka Inferno, and Intronaut's Danny Walker are three of the most perfects skinsmen I've heard in the last few years.

Area D: album cover

Well, just look up there at that motherfucker. I put in high-res for a reason.


Buy here: Full of Hell
Buy mp3: Full of Hell

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Budos Band - III

Staten Island’s finest instrumental Afrobeat band went into the studio for their new album with the intention, according to their bio, of making a psychedelic, doom-rock record but admit that it came out sounding like a Budos record. That’s not a bad thing at all considering that The Budos Band are one of the best musical units around regardless of category. The creatively titled III is their third album and picks up where the first two left off, but do contain some darker grooves.

Album opener “Rite of the Ancients” is The Budos doing business as usual – upbeat, funky and tighter than hell. Excellent horn charts, powerhouse grooves and hypnotic guitar lines weave in and out of the overall sound. “Black Venom” is up next and is indeed named in tribute of Black Sabbath and Venom. It’s a darker groove than standard Afrobeat and the organ is way up front and mysterious sounding. Unfortunately, there are no musical references to any of Venom or Sabbath’s classic material but here’s hoping they cover “Angel Dust” and/or “Supernaught” soon.

For a bunch of guys from Staten Island, NY they can get downright exotic sounding on jams like “Mark Of The Unnamed” and “Raja Haje.” And I thought the most exotic thing you could get on SI are some decent rice balls. The album is paced very nicely with faster ones like “Unbroken, Unshaven” mixed up with slower ones like “Nature’s Wrath.” 11 songs in 38 minutes is just the right amount of time for a band like this. It leaves you wanting more and will have you reaching for their other two albums since no one else really sounds like The Budos Band. The only dud on the album for me is the Beatles cover “Reppirt Yad” (read it backwards). On previous albums they’ve done creative remakes of Sly’s “Sing A Simple Song” and the Temptations’ “My Girl” but this one kinda bores me. It doesn’t help that I’m not really a Beatles fan and don’t ever need to hear that song ever again but, hey, it’s the last song on the album and easy enough to skip over. It will probably help sell them a few copies, so more power to them.

The Budos are an outstanding band that should appeal to anyone with a pair of ears. Some of the guys pull double duty with the incredible Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and record for the consistently funky Daptone Records. As good as the records are, the live show is even better and a lot of fun. Let’s hope the next one is a double live album (recorded in Brooklyn at Southpaw, naturally).


Buy here: The Budos Band III
Buy mp3: The Budos Band III

Buy from Daptone Records:  Here

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two Royals by Penfold - Featuring The Last Royals and Royal Thunder

The Last Royals - Crystal Vases b/w Backseat Lovers

It’s sad, but my very profitable work as genealogist for the two royal families of New York may quickly be coming to an end.  You see dear waveriders, at the moment the future of these two grand bloodlines is in serious jeopardy.  Only one young man from each family is left to carry on each esteemed line.  In a bold stroke of luck for this writer the two men in question, Eric James and Mason Ingram, have decided to join forces in a musical venture appropriately titled The Last Royals.  I sincerely hope this title is in jest.  I’m not well suited for any other profession.

Now let’s talk about this musical venture, shall we?  These two debut singles taken from a recently released EP represent pop music near the summit of Mount Perfection.  Seriously, these songs are extraordinary!  The Last Royals describe themselves as ‘urban walking music’.  If that is true, you should expect to see people in downtown cityscapes either happily skipping along or walking at a quickened pace while undulating wildly.  I know that is how I would be transporting myself while under the influence of that soundtrack!

“Crystal Vases” is the first song on offer.  The vocals tell a bittersweet tale of a man admiring a vase that has survived a bad break up and now functions as an ashtray.  Would you think a song concerning this topic would be depressing?  While that is certainly a reasonable assumption, the music played behind this sullen tale makes it strangely jovial and celebratory.  The song is very well structured.  It gradually builds itself up from a humble guitar/vocal start, crescendos with added instrumentation to the chorus, then brings the energy level back down in order to build once again to the finish.  And then there is “Backseat Lovers”.  This synthesizer driven monster will have you bouncing off the walls!  I’m reminded of Cake at their funkiest.  The highest compliment I can pay The Last Royals is that after listening to these songs repeatedly, I’m most upset that I can’t have the instant gratification of immediately hearing more of their music.  Download these songs now!

Download Link -

Royal Thunder  S/T EP

You know, sometimes it’s really not enjoyable being a royal appointee.  This is one of those times…but hey, it’s a job.  After having cut ties with my previous genealogist position in New York, I moved south to Atlanta where an old friend of mine put in a good word for me with the royal family of Georgia.  Upon my arrival I appeared before the court, ingratiated myself with the important parties involved, and thus became the new royal image manager.  The first order of business requiring my attention was to hear applicants wishing to become the ‘Official Thunder Manufacturer’ of the royal family.  Apparently the royals of Georgia were big meteorology buffs who already employed people in the positions of ‘Official’ lightning catcher, tornado chaser, hurricane designator, and cloudscape portrait maker.  ‘Thunder Manufacturer’ was simply the next position that needed to be filled.

And that waveriders is how I found myself sitting behind a table in an empty gymnasium, judging the merits of hopeful ‘thunder’ applicants, bored out of my skull.  You would not believe how many people took to the stage before me and simply yelled “BOOM!” as loud as they could.  It was stunning and baffling at first, but eventually it became mind-numbing.  That’s not to say there were no standouts, however bad they might have been.  First there was a one-man-band with two bass drums on his back and cymbals in his hands.  That guy was interesting.  Second, there was the smug DJ who simply laid his large speakers face down and played a series of bass tracks at extreme volume.  Yeah, no.  Lastly there was the old, manic traditionalist who brought in a thin sheet of metal which he expertly manipulated to produce the sound of a clap and several rolls of thunder.  Impressive, but not what I really wanted.  Thankfully Royal Thunder (how appropriate) eventually took the stage for their audition.

The three members of the band set up their gear onstage, tuned their instruments, and proceeded to demonstrate their power.  All seven songs from their EP, counting the introductory track, were played in order.  It was uncanny how easily the band’s music could be compared to an actual thunderstorm.  The introduction utilizes the female lead singer’s haunting voice to create the first hint of tension, as if you can just make out dark clouds forming on the horizon.  You can feel something heavy is approaching.  “Sleeping Witch”, the first proper song, simulates the cloud mass rapidly overtaking your postion and the rain pouring down.  “Mouth of Fire” and “Low” represent the brunt of the storm.  Thunder and lightning abound and the rain is being blown almost sideways from gale force winds.  “Grave Dance” quiets things down for a few moments, as if you are in the eye of the monster swirling around you, but before long the full force of the storm has returned.  “Hotel Bend” mimics the sound of the storm winding down, and the last song “Deacon” proves that one needs to be cautious no matter how quiet and seemingly peaceful things become.  Many storms throw one last round of brute force your way before finally leaving the area for good.

Okay, now that I’ve gone on perhaps too long concerning what the music reminds me of, it’s time to acquaint you with what the band actually sounds like.  As I mentioned before, there are three members in this band.  Mlny Parsonz plays bass and sings, Josh Weaver strums the guitar, and Jesse Stuber beats on the drums.  Together they create some haunting, groovy, doomy, muscular, beautiful tunes.  Instrumentally I often think of the mighty Black Sabbath, but the vocals are another matter.  It is a failing of mine that I can not come up with an adequate comparison for Ms. Parsonz’s exquisite vocals.  I’m certainly reminded of someone but I can’t quite put my finger on it, and for that I apologize.  What I will say is that the vocals are truly fantastic, and are definitely a highlight of the listening experience!

Obviously after listening to Royal Thunder I had found my new ‘Thunder Manufacturers’.  All of the remaining applicants were dismissed, and I hurried to inform my employers of the hiring.  They were going to be thrilled!

-- Penfold

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Orange & Atlas - Euphoria

It was the cover art.  I came eye to eye with the album cover for Euphoria  - a photograph of a woman laying in bed, between the sheets, fully clothed, with an incredible rack and a massive set of speakers.  Then, I did what any music loving heterosexual male would do when confronted with such an image - I played the CD.

I was sucker-punched.  With a title like Euphoria and the sexual connotations of the cover  art I was hoping for something with a woman’s voice.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe because a picture of a woman in bed with a gigantic sound system makes me think of old Hollywood musical movie temptresses. I was not expecting an almost completely male played folk-filled, jazz instilled, rock effort with solid harmonies, poetic lyrics, and beautiful orchestration.

Let’s get this out of the way right now.  If you don’t like that slice of rock represented by R.E.M.,  Son Volt and The Jayhawks and their ilk, move on.  You will not like Erik Orange and Atlas Levan, the songwriters for, and leaders of the band Orange & Atlas that produced Euphoria.  The CD from these two Dallas, Texas residents (by way of Oklahoma) will only produce Euphoria in some. Although CD is uneven in parts, there is something distinctive and extraordinary about many of the tracks that make it worth a listen.   

The band consists of Levan and Orange on guitars and vocals.  Orange also plays the keyboards and he covers bass duties on the track “Falling Stars.”  Drums and percussion are pounded by Bo McCarty and the bass is almost all Shane Harris.  Harris also sings on “Falling Stars.” 

Some double tracking was performed to produce the sound. On “Drunk Love” Kevin Webb sits in on slide guitar.  He also plays on two tracks - slide guitar and lead guitar -  that were combined to produce the end result on “I Fall.” Some of the drums were dubbed electronically. The liner notes give Carl Amburn credit as a “Guest Musician” for “drum programming” on “Hardly Seen” and “Another Lonely Time.”  He is credited with the handclaps on “Island” and as a co-producer of the release with Orange and Atlas.  

Every song is driven by  acoustic guitars and swells and moves in rhythm with orchestrated crescendos and perfectly timed drums and percussion.  There is emotion yet a sense of calm in the music.  

Now, I can understand if you don’t want to listen to it  With all that electronic gadgetry, the recording tricks and those genre limitations you might say it just isn’t “real music.”  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  Does it really matter? To some it will and, if it does, cthen just check out the cover art.  If it doesn’t, and it is the sound the matters, then you are in for a treat.

- Old School

Buy here mp3: Euphoria
Buy here: Euphoria

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hypnos 69 – Legacy

Simply put . . . I am not worthy. I am not worthy of the exquisite sounds, the illustrious tones, the magnificent melodic overtures that make up the songs of Legacy, the latest release from Belgium’s Hypnos 69. I’m not worthy of the monumental high and emotional thrill ride that this music takes me on. I’m not worthy of having this epic piece of music in my collection. I am but a mere mortal in possession of a gift from the Immortals.

Legacy is an epicurean journey of the mind set to the beat of off-time music and explorative musical tones and chord progressions. Hypnos 69, from what I can tell from listening to this recording, is a band that’s influenced by the progressive flourishes of Pink Floyd, the dooming crunch of Black Sabbath, the compositional intrigue of Camel, and the heavy tones and melodies of Deep Purple. All of these sounds are in plain sight throughout the album, and I’m sure that for the more experienced music listener who is deeply rooted in the sounds of the early to mid 70’s, there’s even more to digest. The album is absolutely that rich in sound . . . progressively heavy psychedelic, brimming with incredible musicianship and overflowing with infectious melodies. This is a definite Top 10 for 2010!

The album starts off with a near eighteen minute sprawling opus that never feels like it’s more than five minutes long. There is so much going on in this one song that I could probably write a thousand words on it. “Requiem (For a Dying Creed)” blasts out of the speakers with these great Hammond organ passages that are accompanied by a fantastic guitar run from both the six string and four string variety  . . . the sounds are immediate and chaotic, but never so all over the place that the music doesn’t flow. No, my friends, the musical intro of the first minute and a half to two minutes is the stuff of legend. The howl of the Hammond immediately brings to mind those fabulous days of Deep Purple’s most glorious moments. In fact, the vocals of Steve Houtmeyers have a little bit of that bluesy Ian Gillian grit. They’re rough, but rich in texture. Then there’s the melodic theme that runs through the entire length of this track! Crom! It’s one of those melodies that you’ll find yourself humming throughout the day. And, like all good eighteen minute epics, this song breaks into a luxuriously mellow passage about five minutes in, capturing those extra elements of emotion and intrigue, before the song returns to the main theme and rocks us into the ether. Oh . . . here’s a new wrinkle for you . . . Hypnos 69 utilize a lot of wind instruments, both in brass and wood, and they work the instruments to perfection. They’re never overused and when they make an appearance, it’s of a grand scale such as the jazzed out break at the 7:30 minute mark of this track. As far as extended prog-rock fair goes, “Requiem (For a Dying Creed)” is perfection!

Waveriders, let me put it to you this way . . . I don’t want to play any other album right now. I have a stack of discs that I’m supposed to be listening to for future review and I just don’t wanna’. Legacy ranks right up there with Stone Axe II and Les DiscretsSeptembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées in albums that call to me like a haunted voice in the night. By the end of the first track, the music takes an uplifting quality of hope and success over challenges faced. Stunningly moving!

“An Aerial Architect” follows the lead track and doesn’t let up in intensity. Opening with a massive attack of saxophone that lends a weight to the riff, this song evolves (or devolves, depending on your perspective) into a grooving off-time Sabbath inspired riff. What I dig about this track is how the band work the horns into the riff . . . the guitars almost have the feel that they’re complimenting the other instruments instead of the other way around. Check out the great synth work going on at the midpoint of the song and how they act as an interesting transition to the softer passage of the song. The guitar work in this break, though really subtle, has a ton of flavor . . . and then as the music transitions once again, the guitars explode with aggression, trading licks with the saxophone to create a conversation of various tones.

“My Journey To The Stars” as of the writing of this review is my favorite tune on the album. There’s an inherent creepy groove in this song that makes me think of some of the quieter moments that a band like Opeth works into their oppressive sound. This one is a fairly laid back number, leaving a lot of space between notes and is propelled by Houtmeyers’ voice. The mixture of the understated guitars and synths makes this song a psychedelic standard, taking the listener on the same journey to the stars, but it’s the flute and/or woodwinds that make this song a masterpiece. Now, add in the searing Gilmour-esque guitar solo the morphs into a heavy rhythm in the last half of the track, and I hope that you all strapped yourselves in for this cosmic flight. This is the kind of prog-rock that I can get behind! Hypnos 69 write a great song and use their technical and virtuosic talents to expand on the ideas. They make sure that the song has substance before they garnish the hell out of it.

“The Sad Destiny We Lament” is another softer song, at least on the outset. Powered by infectious melody over a softly strumming acoustic guitar and the ebbing and flowing hum of synths, the vocals tell tale of personal challenge and torment. “The Empty Hourglass” brings back the heaviness with the thunderous pounding of a bass drum and the distorted throes of the guitars and Hammond organ . . . damn, this song is near eleven minutes of outright bliss! Heavy, yet tasteful. Listen to the break just after the three minute mark . . . straight up Brubeck off-time stuff akin to “Take Five” or “Blue Rondo A La Turk”. Throughout this review, I’ve yet to mention the drum work, so let it be known now . . . the drums are phenomenal and this song is one of drummer Dave Houtmeyers’ standout performances. Psychedelic genius!

Released on the Elektrohasch label, Legacy is my first foray with the label and after perusing their coffers, I’m very, very intrigued by what I see. Back to Hypnos 69, these guys have apparently been around since 1995 and have released a bunch of stuff since 2000, even a split 10” with Ripple favorites Colour Haze. Oh goody . . . it also appears that Legacy has been released on double vinyl just for my pleasure! Seriously, Waveriders . . . if you like the sounds of heavy psychedelic progressive rock from the 70’s, Hypnos 69 are the band that you must investigate further. These guys do it right. Their compositional skill is first and foremost and they expand on the music from there, not the other way around so that it all sounds like senseless noodling. The solos are impassioned expressions of the individual performers much like one might find on a jazz recording from the late 50’s or early 60’s. In all, Legacy makes me feel good.  For the past three weeks, I haven’t wanted to listen to much else . . . sure, I’ve forced myself to, but I keep running back to this album, trying to find any excuse to put this in front of everything else in its way. Thank you, Universe. Thank you.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thulium – 69 EP

Damn it, I hate it when this happens!

Ok, here’s the truth.  I know music is going digital, but here at the Ripple office, we get so many cool CD and vinyl submissions that the digital promos tend to  . . .er . . . wallow on my hard drive for some indeterminate amount of time before I get around to playing them.   Sorry, that’s just the facts.  In the car, I play CD’s.  In my office I play vinyl.  I play digital . . . when?

Then something like this happens and I get all flustered.  See I just pulled up and hit the play button on this 3-song EP by UK band, Thulium.  I don’t have the slightest idea how long this set has been languishing amongst the 1’s and 0’s of my desktop.  A month?  Six?  97? 

What I do know is that I’ve been depriving myself of some killer music.  A hard band to classify, Thulium do it all on these three songs and do it with major aplomb!  “Running” kicks this affair off  with major adrenaline.  Copping a riff sequence that reminds immediately of the Sex Pistols, the boys drop into a monter TSOL/New Model Army type of gritty, poppy, guitar post punk madness.  Damn it!  This song smacks me upside the head and calls me Suzie!  Love the gruff voice, the bellowing bass line, those crunchy guitar chords.  Why haven’t I been listening to this for years?

Recently, (and often) I’d hailed the chops of Portland’s The Estranged, one of my favorite post-post punk, punk bands.  Let’s add Thulium to that list now.   Aggressive alternative?  Post punk metal?  I don't know what to call it.  Just play it..

But the boys prove right away that they’re no one song ponies.  “Craving” keeps the intensity at full throttle with their post-punk meltdown of jangling guitars, street gutter chords, step-infected vocals, and killer chops.  Just like “Running”, “Craving” wraps all this aggression into some mighty tight, hook-laden pop smarts.  Another pure winner.

The boys, who hail from France, England, Canada, and Hungary, cite bands like Audioslave, Nickleback, and Foo Fighters as influences, and I suppose so, but I hear so much more and less than that in their sound.  More, in the terms of aggression and punk attitude, less in terms of commercial bowing to the mainstream.  And certainly (thank God) no Nickleback.  This is pure, spittle rock and roll.

The EP ends with the piano and acoustic guitar driven “90 Days of Sorrow,” a beautiful downer of a ballad.  It serves to showcase the band’s scope and talent, even if it ends the EP in stark contrast to the blitzkrieg of the opening songs.

Personally, I can’t wait to hear more from these guys.  If this EP is a true testament to their talents, a full-length Thulium album will be eagerly anticipated around the Ripple office.

And it won’t sit on my computer for months.


A Sunday Conversation with Massy Ferguson

On the red leather Interview couch, Massy Ferguson.

Ethan Anderson: vocals, bass
Adam Monda: guitar, vocals
Dave Goedde: drums

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

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

ADAM: Well, I grew up with seven older brothers who experienced me to music at an early age. When I say music, to my brothers, it was The Who. I was raised with the ever present blasting of Tommy or Quadrophenia always in the back ground. What a powerful band that at the same time could be destructive and melodic. I still love the Who, and Qudrophenia is still blasting in the background for me. I guess an epiphany for me came later in the 80's when a band called Big Country came out with their single 'In a Big Country'. They were awesome guitar players and it seemed nobody was playing guitar in the 80's. The
melodic guitar riffs and expansive sound made me want to learn to play guitar.Not just play guitar, but play in a rock band.

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?

ADAM: For me, it works both ways. Sometimes I start with a riff or some chords and say hmmmm what do I have here? Sometimes I'll have a melody and jot some words down or I just have the riff and call Ethan and say do your thing to this. This kind of writing can be frustrating and time consuming but often ends up for
the better because everyone in the band can chip in and help out. Sometimes (not often enough) the magic happens and I pick up my guitar and a riff, chords, and words are mysteriously teleported in my head? From where? Keanu Reeves in the Matrix? Spock? I' not sure, don't care. I am thankful to them. This is the
most exiting kind of writing to me because it is spontaneous and you don't ruin it by thinking about it to much. You can really think a song to death.

Who has influenced you the most?

ADAM: When I really started playing guitar and writing songs it was all Paul Westerberg and the Replacements. The albums of Let it Be, Tim, and Pleased toMeet Me, simply inspired me. The Replacements were all I really listened to for along time. Their songs were honest, interesting, funny, and often sad. Always done in a don't give a shit attitude. They are rock in all the glory....and misery.

ETHAN: Good point. With Adam's instrumental song ideas, it's clear that he's influenced by 80s college rock and bands like the Replacements. Him and Dave got me into Paul Westerberg. I we all have our individual influences but when we first started playing, I think we all gravitated somewhat to 70s southern
rock. That doesn't mean we're trying to be the next Skynryd, because that will never happen. But it's definitely made a dent in our overall sound too.

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

ETHAN: I think you can find it anywhere. For me, it mostly comes from words, situations. Sometimes you'll hear someone say something and you'll think "that's lyrical." With our song "Wenatchee Eyes" it came from when we played a winery in Eastern Washington and everyone in attendance was getting hammered. This trashy girl was drinking straight out of the bottle, falling off her chair and giving us this drunken, sexy look. Wenatchee was the closest town to this place, maybe that's why Adam looked at me and said, "man, she's giving us Wenatchee Eyes." We both were like, "that's gotta be a song title." And it was ...

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

ETHAN: I like to think of us as rock first, twang second. We're at our best with up tempo songs that evoke broken bottles, fisticuffs, hooting and hollering. We also have songs that are more slow and earnest. Most of all, we're our own take on rock americana, songs that sounds good in a lot of different places: A dive bar with a drink in your hand, a outdoor concert in the park on a hot day, a block party, etc.

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

ETHAN: Personally, as far as lyrics, I'm trying to tell stories from where I grew up in a small town in Washington state. We have a particular brand of crazy here that makes for interesting subject matter. I want to represent what it's like to be from here, live here, and accumulate stories here. I think we're trying to be honest with the lyrics without losing that rough edge. I don't see the world as being all roses, I see the world as a messed up place with occasional extraordinary moments. For me, most of my extraordinary moments
have been playing music.

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

ETHAN: The moment that comes to mind was when we played Europe in 2007. Our first show was at a youth hostel outside of Amsterdam called Camping Zeeburg. We should have known by the name that it was a campground for stoners who were too baked to do anything but drewel and play checkers. It was like playing an insane asylum. What was Spinal Tap-esque was that we couldn't find real drums for Dave, so he had to play our friend's electronic drums. Dave kept messing up the settings, sometimes he'd hit a drum pad and it would sound like trash cans clanking, other times like animals making noises.

The show was ... how can I say, unorthodox. It's amazing how electronic drums can have 1,000 different sounds, but none that sound like actual drums :) That show was also distinct because it's the first place that ever gave us 36 drink tickets. We're only a four piece, so you get the idea.

What makes a great song?

ETHAN: A great song is a combination of completely original and tastefully derivitive. When I say derivitive, I mean vaguely reminiscent of other great songs in the past. I recently heard Black Keys' "Unknown Brother" for the first time and I had this sad longing for something I couldn't place. It felt like a lost song that I had loved as a kid but hadn't heard in years. That's pretty impressive because it's a new song. It's hard to pinpoint one specific thing all great songs have. A great doesn't always need to have amazing lyrics, but
when it does, you get that deeper bond with it.  A great song can change your life.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

ETHAN: Speaking of great songs ... my first was not. The first song I ever wrote was back in 1993 with my buddy Levi, when we were in high school. It was called "Why?" and, since I was really into Pearl Jam at the time, I tried to make it sound like I was Eddy Vedder singing. I think I even did one of those grunge "yeah-hah-hah" vamps. Think the lost Collective Soul song and you pretty much got the idea. Not my best work. I'd like to think I've improved since then. Me and him were always emulating guys that we liked, like most young songwriters. Levi had a song "I Want You Back Yeah, Yeah" that we used to sing that was kind of Best Kissers in the World inspired. I recently started hanging out with Gerald Collier, the former front man of Best Kissers in the World... maybe I should tell him I know where he can find his long-lost song :)

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

ETHAN: Without a doubt the song I'm most proud of on our album is Freedom County. It is about some misguided militia guys who tried to break away from the county where I grew up and make their own rouge county. I always loved the story. It was so frontier, so emblematic of the anti-government attitude
of so many people in the northwest. Although I thought the guys were kinda insane, I admired their pluck.  I tried to write the song from the perspective of both sides, tried to make it pretty even handed. I'm proud of what the end result was. Some people think it's the best track on our album.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

DAVE: I still think Ryan Adams can write some pretty great stuff when hewants to. Craig Finn from the Hold Steady creates a pretty evocative world in his songs. Jay Farrar of Son Volt continues to write some pretty amazing stuff.

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

DAVE: In a perfect world, we'd have the convenience of digital with the sound of vinyl. But I do think something has been lost with digital, unfortunately. The experience of taking out the record, putting it on the turntable and listening to it all the way through, maybe looking at the artwork while you're listening. You couldn't immediately skip the next song if it didn't grab you out of the gate. No random playlists; you were listening to one artist's work for a sustained period. The digital thing encourages less engagement with a single
work, and more flipping-about. Which I guess is perfect for our ADD culture.

We,at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

DAVE: Definitely Easy Street Records on lower Queen Anne in Seattle.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice

DAVE: Never really thought of it as an either/or proposition, but...generally, beer is the drink of choice with this band. We sweat a lot on stage, so beer is probably the better drink to replace those bodily fluids...

ETHAN: Beer is like our Gatorade, without the benefits (electrolites) and with quite a few drawbacks (hangovers, beer gut)
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