Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grifter Preparing To Pummel World With 1st Full Length Album

Ripple Music is proud to announce the new Grifter self-titled CD is in the final throes of post-production and set for release on Tuesday, October 4th in the U.S. Originally formed in 2003, Grifter has spent the better part of the last decade spreading their blues-based, riff heavy rock n’ roll message across the UK via live shows and a ton of physical and digital EP’s. Now, they’re ready to unleash their rip roarin’ good time on a world-wide level!

"Life ain't a bowl of work for "the man", pay taxes to "the man", obey "the man"...but when the working day is done, the rock and roll is all yours. Grifter play rock and roll!!!” states guitarist/vocalist Ollie Stygall on the mindset behind the new album and the bands musical intent, “We want you to buy our album. We want you to drink beer while listening to our album (or whiskey if you prefer). We want you to enjoy our album as much as we enjoyed creating it. Then we want to come to your town and play for you, play with you, drink with you and rock out with you...wherever you are and whoever you are. It's all about the rock!!!”

This gritty eleven track album is the bands first full-length effort with indie rock label Ripple Music, however, Grifter’s unique biker rock sound first appeared on the Ripple roster with their dual contribution to the Heavy Ripples, Vol. 1 compilation released earlier this year. To fill out the year, Grifter are performing numerous shows throughout the south of England, as well as preparing for a tour of UK and parts of Europe.

Pre-orders for the album will begin in September through the Ripple Music Store.

Free Download of Thrash Bash Compilation - July 2 - Toronto - Featuring Reanimator, Fatality, Titans Eve

Attention Metal Heads! In accordance with the head banging convention of 666, a FREE DOWNLOAD compilation has been put together for Thrash Bash III in Toronto on July 2nd in Toronto featuring tracks from Reanimator, Fatality, Titans Eve & Ash Lee Blade & more!!

Free Download of Thrash Bash Compilation - July 2 - Toronto -  Featuring Reanimator, Fatality, Titans Eve
Track Listing:
1. Reanimator - When The World Burns Down
2. Fatality - Thrash Fuck Eat Sleep
3. Ash Lee Blade - Hell Hound
4. Titans Eve - Tides of Doom   
5. Spewgore - The Ride   
6. Eternal Judegment - War Planet...Prisoners of Hell
7. Dimensions - Within Ourselves
Saturday July 2nd @ The Blue Moon
725 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON
$10 / 19+

Been Obscene - The Magic Table Dance

I’d like to start this review with an apology to Been Obscene . . . and to Elektrohasch . . . and to my cohorts in cohorts in crime at The Ripple Effect. You see, I’ve had this Been Obscene album topping my stack of CD’s for easily six months and it constantly got shifted from one side of my desk to my car stereo, back to some other corner of my desk, then back to my car again, and so on, such forth, etc, etc. The Magic Table Dance didn’t deserve such poor treatment. In retrospect, this album should have immediately had glowing words penned about its existence, exalted for its musical exuberance, revered by yours truly. But for some reason, I decided that it was best to let the sonic 70’s splendor represented on this disc to ferment within the very cells that make up my being for a good long time. In many ways, I’m glad that I’m just now getting to writing about this record. It’s passed the test of a fairly great amount of time and the luster hasn’t dulled in the least . . . in fact, it may have actually grown in radiance!

I don’t know a whole lot about the band in terms of how long they’ve been around or what their musical intent is or what their favorite flavor of ice cream is, and I can only draw from the music that makes up The Magic Table Dance. From what I hear, Been Obscene is a band that channels the best moments of 70’s-era Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, maybe a little Sabbath . . . basically, anything that sounds like it originally came from the early 1970’s rock arena without sounding like anyone particular band . . . and mixed it with a modern rock sensibility to make the whole sound relevant for today’s fickle rock n’ roll ear. More concerned with letting the music do the talking, the songs on The Magic Table Dance have a strong instrumental focus, however when the vocals set in, the melodies are rich and memorable. The music ranges from psychedelic and airy to borderline proto-metal and then ventures in to heavily progressive and epic movements, and all done with these great guitar tones that teleport the listener to that bygone era that has the Ripple staff reaching for their rattles and pacifiers.

Opening with the five-plus minute instrumental title track, Been Obscene teach us a lesson on song craft, slowly building the tension measure by measure, infusing lines of guitar melodies that will have you humming yourselves to sleep. The musicianship throughout the song (and album) is top notch, all members playing to their individual strengths, complimenting the other musicians as well as the song, and when their individual abilities need to shine, there soon becomes no question that these cats can chop away with the best of them. “Uniform” kicks in shortly after the opening mind fuck and the subsequent riffology has that awe striking ability to it. Y’know that moment when you sit a little further back into your chair, raise your head from your desk and gaze into some far and distant land and think, “Fuck. I get it.” The first minute or so of the song has a great and dense guitar riff crunching away while the fill laden drum pattern keeps flawless time, but then the riffs take center stage and crush the air from the song, creating a massive wave of tension. Just as quickly as the air is crushed from the space between the notes, this talented group of musicians open things up again and slow the pace down, letting the notes breathe over the steady throbbing grove of the rhythm section. And it only gets better once the vocals drop into the mix . . . soft, clear, a touch fragile, yet laced with an undercurrent of danger. In a word, memorable. In another, remarkable.

The band get a little psychedelically creepy with “Come Over”, complete with a riff that dangles in the air like a dusty cobweb in an old mansion. A little on the Sabbath-y side, but you have to dig deep into the Sabbath catalog to find the sounds. The groove is slow and sure, like a cat stalking its prey. The vocals are all sorts of bad ass . . . a little blues-y, a little jazz-y, a whole bunch of bad ass. Getting towards the midpoint of the track, the guitars open up to the same sultry bass groove and the wall of distortion assails us. This is the point where the individual performances of the various musicians shine like a thousand suns. Everybody excels well past the point where I would have expected in the song. In most cases, at this point of a song, the guitarist or the drummer is the lone stand out . . . going into some superfluous solo that really doesn’t add anything to the overall feel of the song. In the case of “Come Over”, every member of the band, every instruments suddenly pops out from the background like some weird sonic 3D image and fascinates the senses . . . never overplaying their parts, but never staying mundane or playing the same lick twice. Progressive, yet accessible . . . melodic and memorable, yet mentally challenging for the listener and the artist at the same time.

The near fourteen minute progressive epic “Demons” could easily been cast aside by the unknowing as a pretentious piece of music, but I say nay. The song is an ambitious piece of music that does what music should be doing . . . entertaining, telling a story, challenging the listener to think of music as something more than a three minute radio friendly chart topper. Thank you, Been Obscene. Thank you for breaking the mold and taking me on a journey that is more than a bunch of disjointed riffs haplessly strung together to eat up a quarter hour of my time. “Demons”, in now traditional Been Obscene fashion, builds note up note, then measure upon measure, idea upon brilliant musical idea, ultimately creating a well thought out and emotionally charged piece of music. In a classic prog-rock manner, the song ebbs and flows, hits its crescendos and then drops back down to subtlety, and then becomes raucous again. The middle explosion of sound, though loud and distorted, is filled with beautiful vocal melodies that somehow compliments and contrasts against the chaotic musical frenzy of the instruments. Pay attention to the guitar work towards as we barrel into the last quarter of the song, then while one is keyed in on this performance, adjust your listening just a hair to the drum work . . . I love the way these guys work together and great such a vibrant piece of sound. Pure art!

I apologized earlier, and I apologize again. I should have written about this album months ago. It should have joined label mates Hypnos 69 and been in my Top 10 list of 2010. Shoulda’, woulda’, coulda’. The Magic Table Dance is a criminally underappreciated album despite its rave reviews. It’s an album that grows with every subsequent listen, it develops into its own character and almost becomes a different experience with every new spinning. Steeped in the 70’s rock cup of tea, the sounds are familiar, but not overtly recognizable. The songs are so damn good that for those remotely interested in songwriting, you’ll sit in wonder as you listen to this group of fine musicians relay their musical ideas. Looks like I need to make another trip to the Elektrohasch Store and see about picking up this gem on vinyl . . . seriously, it’s better than I’m hyping right now!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Brent Hinds Presents: Fiend Without A Face

Fiend Without A Face/West End Motel: Don't Shiver, You're A Winner
The sun was halfway through its long descent down a cloudless sky.  Thanks to this small miracle, the sweltering heat of the day was slowly melting away.  I sat atop my horse, silently watching as newly lit oil lamps began providing illumination to chase the imposing darkness from storefront windows along the town’s main drag.  For one fleeting moment, I was at peace with the world.  But then the ever present weight of the badge pinned to my vest once again pulled me back to my sobering reality, and the duties that went along with it.

Being a sheriff can be very rewarding, but more often than not it’s a foolhardy, treacherous affair that is entirely too hazardous for one’s health.  Since I chose to become the Sheriff here four months ago, I’ve narrowly escaped death and dismemberment too many times to count.  Unfortunately it seems that only the worst, most brazen criminals make their way out to our little slice of heaven (or hell depending on your viewpoint).  And when it comes right down to it, my six-shooter and I are the only ones standing between them and outright anarchy.  I may not always like what I do, but by god, someone has to stand up to these brigands!

Earlier today a man visited my jailhouse with information concerning the worst outlaw currently terrorizing the plains.  He told me that none other than The Fiend himself would be arriving in town this afternoon on the four o’ clock train.  We’re talking about the highwayman who singlehandedly robbed over seventy armed coaches this year alone.  We’re talking about the bandit who has evaded capture for over three and a half years.  We’re talking about the legendary outlaw who folks say doesn’t have a face!  Why was he coming to my town?  What could he possibly want here?  The informant had no answers, but we were both sure of one thing.  Whatever brought The Fiend our way, it was best to assume that he would be up to no good after he arrived.

Throughout my admittedly brief run as sheriff, this particular informant had proven himself trustworthy.  On several occasions he offered up solid intelligence which never failed to pan out, so I had no doubt as to the authenticity of his current claim. Thinking critically on the situation, my main problem would be identifying The Fiend once he was inside my jurisdiction.  There would be at least a handful of people disembarking from the train.  That was certain.  What was also certain was that I had nothing to compare these people to. 

Descriptions of The Fiend were as varied as they were plentiful.  Height, weight, nationality, accented speech, clothing.  Each victim provided information which conflicted with previous witness statements.  Conflicting outside of one important detail that is.  Whether it was due to some kind of deformity or the use of an elaborate mask, The Fiend had no facial features.  Where a mouth, chin, and nose would normally be there was only a featureless, flesh tone surface.

The four o’ clock train arrived right on time, like clockwork.  Sure enough, I observed a good size group of passengers exit the train.  While the departing group was composed mostly of men, there were a few women to be counted among their ranks.  Unfortunately for me, every passenger had a normal face; teeth inside their mouths and everything.  This wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew that already.  I caught a break when the whole group in unison made their way to the West End Motel, located a short way down the street from the station.  Quickly I looked to the heavens and gave thanks for this small favor.  All right!  I might not know which of my suspects was The Fiend, but at least I knew where to find him (or her…I’m not in a position to rule anyone out just yet).

Okay, back to present day.  When I say the name Brent Hinds to all of you waveriders out there, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  Wait…don’t tell me.  Let me take a few guesses.  I’ll bet that more than a few of you happen to be Mastodon fans (like me).  Since that’s the case, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that name instantly brings a wide smile to your face as you recall some great metal you’ve listened to over the years.  If however you’re not one of those fans, you still might know Mr. Hinds.  You might recognize his rather unique visage, what with his wild red hair and beard, or the tattoo running up his forehead.  My point is that even though you might not think you know who Brent Hinds is, you stand a good chance of recognizing either him or his work.

Now I want you to take all of those memories, good or bad, and eliminate them from your mental database.  That’s right!  Banish them to the recycle bin, empty it, and then reformat your brain.  Trust me.  You’re better off coming at this new music with a clean slate.  So are we good?  Yes?  Okay then.  Hello there waveriders.  I’d like to introduce you to a guitarist by the name of Brent Hinds.  If you see a photo of this man, you’ll not soon forget him thanks to his wild red hair and beard, as well as the tattoo running up his forehead.  The real reason Mr. Hinds will stick in your mind however, is his fantastic guitar work and distinctive vocals spread across every track of the debut album from Fiend Without A Face.

Waveriders, if you need something different to break up your listening habits, boy do I have an album for you!  Fiend Without A Face will grab hold of you with a wonderful combination of rockabilly, surf-rock, a heaping helping of metal, and maybe a little bit of psychedelics thrown in for good measure.  No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  You read that correctly.  What we have here is a rockabilly, surf-rock, metal outfit that is determined to make quite a ruckus, and boy do they ever!  Open the doors to your mind’s pleasure center because this music is going to buzz your tower at excessive speeds, and you’re going to enjoy every moment of this circus stunt flyby.

Opening track, “Calypso”, sets off the proceedings nicely with vocals and instruments working in note for note unison to build listener expectations before they launch into the frenetic rockabilly/metal main portion of the song.  This track in effect mirrors the diversity of this album.  Some songs like “Black Grass”, “New York”, and “Stupido” stay close to a traditional rockabilly template.  Others such as “Green Slime”, “Tsunami”, and “Get Straight” lie wholly in the surf-rock camp.  Throw in more metallic fair like “Don’t Like”, something totally off the wall like the Mr. Bungle-esque “Cosmonaut”, and the punk infused “Hot Rod”, and now we’re really talking!  Another very impressive aspect to this album is how effortlessly Mr. Hinds switches singing styles to fit each song; often multiple times for different movements of the same song.  He demonstrates fantastic versatility, and his vocal contributions add tremendously to the overall musical atmosphere.

So there you have it waveriders.  We’re officially rewriting the book on Brent Hinds.  You know what, scratch that.  We’re not rewriting the book.  No!  We’re starting a new book which will prove to be just as interesting as the one that preceded it.  Besides, wait till I tell you about West End Motel.  If you think Fiend Without A Face was waaaaay too different, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.


Buy here: Fiend Without a Face & West End Motel
Buy here mp3: Fiend Without A Face/West End Motel: Don't Shiver, You're A Winner

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ripple Music Continues 1st Year Anniversary Celebration with Free Digital Compilation Album!

After exploding onto the scene June of last year, Ripple Music continues its path as one of the fastest growing Independent Record Labels in America!

Now, as Ripple Music moves into its second year, founders John Rancik and Todd Severin want to celebrate the enthusiasm of their music lovers (known as waveriders) with some Anniversary Specials.  As a thank you to their fans and supporters who’ve allowed Ripple to strike out and bring independent music to the world, Ripple is releasing it's first ever free digital compilation album. Free Compilation

Featuring  every band that has made the first year of Ripple Music such a success, Ripple's Anniversary album kicks off with Stone Axe, before heading down the Ripple highway of Poobah, JPT, Fen, and more.  And as a special bonus, The Anniversary Album features the world's first sneak peeks at two new Ripple releases; Grifter's self-titled debut album, and the eagerly anticipated A Different Game, from underground legends, Scotland's Iron Claw.  But the free compilation album may be available for only a limited time, so get over there quickly to get yours!

But wait, there's more.  Over at the Ripple Store, everything is still 15% off until July 4th, and every waverider who places an order will get their name placed into a drawing for a very special, last-one-of-its-kind surprise Test Pressing.

It’s all just Ripple’s way of saying thank you for allowing them to keep doing what they love, bringing the best music your way and putting the guts back into rock and roll!

Marion James - Essence

Today’s soul ain’t got the same soul.  In fact,  I’ll go out on a limb and say most recent popular soul music is just plain crap.  

What passes for soul today is technique.   Soul music’s original inner city sound of the black American ghetto is now measured in the number of octaves the singer can sing and the note for note interpretation of good chart - all of it fabricated by a packager and producer.  Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Joss Stone, Rihanna - they all have amazing voices and range. They sing modern soul, but it lacks soul.

The accompaniment for modern soul is slick and calculated.  It in no way reflects the innovative nature of church gospel and street corner rhythm and blues from which true soul music sprang.  Today, the singers are skilled but they are packaged in the same way - hi-hop, rap, love ballads.  It is performance art and the accompaniment is usually as bland as Lawrence Welk.

There was a time, however, in the not too distant past, when real soul music brought forth the struggle and emotion of an oppressed part of American society; where church going and alienated artists and street corner musicians innovated the sounds and techniques that gave it the soul for which the music genre is named.  It was about emotion, heart, struggle and it was sung and played by a new generation of poor aspiring musicians.  There was no Autotune.  Real soul music was from the soul.
Don’t believe me?  Try this.  First, go listen to Rihanna sing “Skin.” Technically perfect with a hip hop delivery and sexy, but soulful? Not really. Now, grab EllerSoul Records reissue of  Marion James’ 2003 album “Essence.” Listen to any of the thirteen tracks. Technically perfect? No.  Soul? Definitely.
Don’t know Marion James?  James had her first R&B hit, “That’s My Man,” in 1966.  She then spent the early 1960’s touring with a couple of musicians that left their own marks on popular music - her guitarist was Jimi Hendrix and her bassist was Billy Cox. The album “Essence” is a culmination, of sorts, of James’ life of blues, soul and jazz.  She came out of retirement in the late 1990’s to again write, record and tour the R&B soul style she pioneered in the early 1960’s.

For “EssenceJames assembled a band that could almost stand up to her mid-1960’s touring band.  She is accompanied by Double Trouble keyboardist Reese Wynans, Allman Brothers guitarist Jack Pearson, Motown’s legendary bassist Bob Babbitt, and Isaac Hayes’ drummer Chuckie Burke.  You won’t find music loops, Autotune, or gratuitous soft porn here.  You will find the essence of Marion James and the essence of real soul and R&B music.

From the first track, “Tables,” a James Brown-type dance soul song with scorching guitar and heavy bass, to the saxophone laden Billie Holiday-like last track the jazz standard “I Want To Be Loved (But By Only You),”Essence” is where you will find it.  It is soul.  Not just the music but the feeling.  Where does it come from?  Fortunately, the last track on “Essence”  gives all  a good idea of its origin. James provides a live interview wherein she discusses her life, the tutelage of Hendrix and Cox, and her relationships with other 1960’s icons. She even sings a couple of blues tunes alone as she plays the piano.  There is no band at all and the track was probably recorded in one take.  

If you want to hear real soul and R&B as it was originally intended, ditch Blige, Beyonce, Whitney and Rihanna.  Spin some James.  It comes from the heart - not from the computer.

- Old School

Buy here: Essence

Buy here mp3: Essence

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Soul of John Black - Good Thang

Good Thang
Big generalization.

I don't like R&B, but I love Soul.

The difference? Well . . . it's soul.  Soul has it.  R&B doesn't.  In my small, over-generalizing mind, soul is the music of musicians, reaching down deep into their inner beings to tell a story.  R&B is the province of producers sitting in the booth playing with vocal effects to make a buck.  You can keep your Usher's, I'll take Maxwell.  Not interested in Chris Brown, I'm into Bill Withers.  Don't want Beyonce.  I'll take Me'shell Ndgeocello.

Actually, right now, the only thing I want is The Soul of John Black.

The Soul of John Black is the work of one immensely talented John Bigham (JB), a long time veteran of the music scene. This guy's resume is his calling card in soul credibility, having worked with and written songs for Miles Davis, played guitar and keyboards with Fishbone for eight years, and toured and recorded with the likes of Eminem, Joi, Bruce Hornsby and Ripple favorite, Everlast. And let me tell you that experience shows on this magnificent outing.

It was back in 2009 that I first heard the enormously groovy vibes of The Soul of John Black and his album Black John.  Back then, I had no hesitation in labeling him a "soul savior" and hailing his album as "the soul album of the year." And wouldn't you know it, the cat has gone out and outdone himself on his newest album Good Thang.  If you're taste veer towards the grand ol' days of Stax, or the truly tasty sounds of pure '70's soul, Bill Withers and Al Green with a touch of the bluesy vibe of Robert Cray, this is the album for you.

I remember a while back, I did an interview with John, trying to dig down into his influences and methods.   When the interview was done I got an email from his publicity firm, apologizing --saying sorry over and over for his curt answers like:  

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

John: "My Music."

Personally, I couldn't understand what they were apologizing for.  I loved it!  I loved the authenticity of his answers.  I loved the fact that he had no time or patience for my meandering missives and instead preferred to let his music do the talking.  And that's exactly what he does on Good Thang.  This isn't an album of fancy production or over-the-top choruses.  This isn't an album designed to become the latest craze on YouTube or whatever.  It's an album of amazingly pure warmth, deeply organic, and teeming with authenticity of soul. 

Good Thang is every deep-rooted soul album you loved in the seventies, given a glorious shine and freshened up for 2011.  That's not to say the album is "retro."  It's not.  True soul is timeless, and that's what The Soul of John Black has fashioned here.  An album of timeless grooves and ageless emotions. Since his last album, John went out and got engaged and had a baby, and the transformation that's had on his life is rapturous.  Ignoring just-for-fun songs like "Digital Blues," and what comes across is the overwhelming theme of the album: how John found contentment in this sometimes cruel, not always fair world.  He's loving his family, loving his life, and that joyous flood rains over me like water to a man dying in the desert.  This is an album of joy and love, and really when was the last time you found one of those that didn't reek of being contrived?

Not here, John's passion and "life is good" emotion fills every groove of this album.  Forget anything else you've heard, this is the feel-good album of the summer in the truest sense of the word and it's just begging to bring the groove to your backyard BBQ or warm summer night of lovin'.

Song's like "Good Thang," and "Strawberry" elevate with the thrill of a man fulfilled with the woman in his life and the family he's creating.  Honesty here.  True honesty.  Whether played over a deep, retro-Al Green groove or played with a loose strung, backyard blues vibe. It's real, and that's all that matters.  Other songs, like "Digital Blues," or the massively funky "Oh That Feeling" keep the energy flowing and the butts ready to shake.  Throughout, the guitar work is perfect.

But I'm not going to go into each song here, and I'm not going to describe the guitarwork.  Really, if you dig old soul and blues, you owe it to yourself to explore these veins.  But no review of this album could be complete without a special nod towards "Lil' Mama's in the Kitchen."  This is the story of John waking up one day and staggering out of bed heading towards the kitchen.  He can smell the coffee brewing as he peers around the corner and see's his lady making breakfast.  There, he pauses.  Not to interrupt her, but just watches.   In that moment, everything crystallizes for him, everything about his life, his woman, his new baby.   His newfound joy for life.

It's such a moment of honesty that it nearly took my breath away.  His words are so clear I can almost smell the coffee and the bacon, see the baby perched up in the high chair in the corner.  He's watching her "in her family way" moving about, drifting from the stove to the refrigerator and suddenly it's so clear what he's working for.  What each song he writes is for.  What all the struggle is about.  There's nothing contrived here.  It's a man in love, determined to make the best of himself he can for his family.  He's watching his woman doing the most routine thing in the world and he's falling in love all over again.  He's "feeling good today" and damn . . . so am I.  Just hearing this song shot me immediately to all the times I just watched Mrs Racer sleeping with that little smile on her face, or dancing, or laughing at some horrible joke on television.  That's what love is all about. Not the grand gestures, but the littlest moments.

Ok, enough proselytizing.   But really, when is the last time you heard a song that made you feel something that powerful in your own life. 

And that's why I loved my "silent" interview with The Soul of John Black.  He really didn't have to answer my questions, and I really didn't have to ask them.  We just needed to let the music do the talking.


Buy here: Good Thang

Imaginary Cities – Temporary Resident

Gotta admit, I approached this one with a fair amount of trepidation.

Electro-indy pop ain’t really my thing.  That’s usually the playground of our valiant Koala and just about every bone in my not-wanting-to-be-turned-into-fey-mush body aimed to get this disc down to Australia and into her arms.

But it didn’t happen.  I’d already sent her a ton of music, and since she’s still a new scribe with us here at the Ripple, I didn’t want to inundate her more music than necessary and frighten her running and screaming away from the Ripple office.  Yes, that’s right; I can be merciful with our writers . . . at least at first.  Just call me Racer the merciful.

So, seeing that Koala’s docket was full, Temporary Resident fell to my pile.  Trepidation grew.  Antipathy followed closely behind.  I didn’t want something precious or cute.  I didn’t want a bunch of processed beats, lap-top music.  Just wasn’t in the mood.  Not my thing.  Seeing that Imaginary Cities was composed of only two musicians – multi-instrumentalist Rusty Matyas and singer Marti Sarbit – and my trepidation turned to full-on consternation.  I’d been flooded recently with a swarm of one-dimensional, near-anonymous, always grating, two-member indy rock.  I was looking forward to this about as eagerly as an annual enema.  And a sandpaper prep. 

Then I quit my mental bitching and put the disc in. 

Temporary Resident is an amazing album and Imaginary Cities are an amazing band.

Hailing from Winnipeg, signed at NXNW after only being together for a year, and already locking in the support slot for the 2011 Pixies tour, there’s just no doubt about it; Imaginary Cities are a band on the rise.  And from what magic unfolded before me on Temporary Resident, the sky just ain’t high enough for them to ride.

Unlike a lot of indy bands of this ilk, Imaginary Cities aren’t afraid to mix things up.  Jazzy textures, downtempo beats, heavier guitars, faded urban blues, even some bossa nova latin flirting, it’s all here and it’s all done with more passion than I’d ever expect from a two-piece.  And soul.  Tons of soul.

After all that hesitation, it actually only took Imaginary Cities 1 second of the opening song “Say You,” to capture my attention and hold it fast in their accomplished four-handed grip.  Like Bigfoot finally locked in a snare, they had me.  Riding the mother of all downtempo grooves, “Say You,” is so far up my alley that you can find my home and office sharing their zip code.  A killer organic bass locks in tight with that after-hours beat and makes my head soar off in a sea of groove.  Rusty knows how to compose a song, laying down just the instruments necessary to give the beat flesh and bone.  Never overwhelming the vocals or doing handstands for the sake of showing off.  Spartan and bass thick, my head is still bobbing just thinking about it.  Like some of the best of Babyfox or similar to one of my favorites Si*Se.  Pulsing and sexy and just flat out groovy.  I can never, and will never get tired of this one.

Which brings us to Marti’s vocals.  When I said I was captured after 1 second of this song, it wasn’t from the bass.  It was Marti.  With a natural languid flow to her delivery and a breathy innocence to her coy voice, Marti is a revelation.  She’s about as organic and unforced a singer as I’d ever heard in ages and her coquettish tone reminds me distinctly of one of the most brilliant singers of all time; Billie Holiday.  Imagine that demure voice, full of breath and pause, gracing some truly beautiful indy rock compositions instead of the old jazz standards and you’ll get Marti Sarbit.   Her tone and phrasing are simply engaging.  A touch of Edie Brickell.  A smattering of Erykah Badu.  Childish and unfalteringly sexy.  Captivating. A voice to fall in love with.

Then, just when I’d fallen for the easy downtempo of “Say You,” Imaginary Cities went ahead and mixed things up on me.  “Hummingbird” is pure accelerated, strummed indy pop. At first, I hesitated again.  I wanted more of “Say You.”  I wanted a whole album of that.  But Imaginary Cities are far too full of wanderlust to stick to one vibe.  I suppose the long Winnipeg winters make the heart amble, the imagination take off (hence the band name) and the soul stir, and Rusty and Marti take off to follow their muse.  Fortunately, the results make it all worthwhile, and once I let go of my wants and jumped aboard the Imaginary Cities train, it all just came together for me.   “Hummingbird” is immediate indy pop, hooky and melodic, and even with the increased instrumentation, the song still has a comfortable, organic feel.  As if Rusty and Marti invited me into their living room during the dead of winter to hang with them.  Light a candle.  Play some music.  Wait for the winter to pass.

And in many ways, that’s the biggest compliment I can give the album.  Whether on the wary “Calm Before the Storm,” the pulsating electropop bopping of “ Don’t Cry,”  the languid blues-inflected acoustic ditty “Ride this Out” or the angelic “Where’d All the Living Go,” Temporary Resident is always intimate. Comfortable.  Never forced.  Simply as organic, melodic, and as engaging as any album I’d heard this year.

Snob Music has hailed Temporary Resident as “the first great debut album of 2011.”  I’m not one to argue.


Buy here mp3: Temporary resident
Buy here: Temporary Resident

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Inevitable End - The Oculus


Sweden has always been know as a hotbed for really good metal. Sweden’s Inevitable End
are no different. These Swedes offer up brand new album entitled The Oculus. Known on previous albums as being more of a straight forward Death Metal and Thrash act.Inevitable End takes a different musical spin on The Oculus, combing a more frantic and aggressive style.

This album hits you like a freight train! The first track on the album, “Tell us, Parasites” . The track is almost The Locust like. Combining frantic drums and guitars. Vocals on this track are top notch. Both frantic and aggressive with an underling Death Metalish guttural.

“Zen” the third tack off The Oculus is awesome. The intro is a weird guitar riff then boom, drums and vocals kick in. This song is all over the place, mixing Death, Thrash, and Noise seamlessly. My favorite track on the album is called “The Oculus” which by now you know is the name of the album. The song again is frantic, making you want to bang your head and do a some moshing.

“Vergelmer”  is a Southern Metal inspired instrumental (maybe they are from Southern Sweden) that leads into the track “Chamber of Apathy”. If you like breakdowns, this song has a great one.  A hard hitting double bass and blast beats make this song stand out.

All in all Inevitable End’s The Oculus is a solid metal album. However you take you’re metal, (I’ll take mine with three Grinds and a dash of Power Violence please) you will find a track if not all of them that you dig.

Inevitable End goes great with: The Locust, Through The Eyes of The Dead, old Norma Jean, and countless other Grind, Death and Thrash bands. Be sure to check out Inevitable End’s The Oculus. It hit shelves and digital downloads on May 24th.


Buy here: Oculus
Buy here mp3: The Oculus

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Milk Maid- Yucca


Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae subfamily Agavoideae. Its 40-50 species are notable for their rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers. They are native to arid parts of North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. It is also the debut album of Milk Maid.

Yucca was recorded in Martin Cohen's flat with fellow Milk Maid members, Ian Hodson, Rick Entezari and Adam Carless. The rough recording suits the rough subject matter, but not the silky smooth music.

It all starts with “Such Fun” opening up with some really fun guitar riff that seems like it would be in place in some Fall Out Boy song but then the lyrics start and you realise that it far more NIN. In fact, these lyrics make Trent Renzor seem positively euphoric.
“I know a man who will cut your throat out for a buck or two”
Yep. No happy pop happening here...

What really trips me out though is that it is almost subliminal because the vocals are distorted by the happy pop melody. You really have to pay attention to understand that these are quite... messed up songs.... However, in the same stroke you are bopping along anyway!

This continues happening through the album with the next stand out being “Dead Wrong.” I had to listen to the song a few times to get the exact lyrics, but even though I didn't know what he was singing I was tapping along to the music. When I found out what he was singing, I was singing too! 
“Dead wrong, your killing yourself to cut your arms off.
Stabbing yourself in the guts,
You keep on holding on to a heavy stone,
That will drag you under if you don't let go.”

Don't freak out though! Not all of the songs are dark and dank!

“Girl” is the example I will whip out now. It's a sweet song about a lost love and the home recorded sound rough rock sound transforms into something soft and kind. The music supports this song really well, cleaner, smoother but still fun.

I love the fingerpicking in “Same As What” and the lyrics somewhat glum lyrics
“You're not worth the family that carries your name,
And you just say, you need more time,
 You can't have mine.”

Yucca is tied off with “Someone You Thought You Forgot,” a sad slow ballad. Very nice.

I really love how Milk Maid has managed to mix the pop music to their dark lyrics without making it sound try hard. It does have a certain air of eeriness. Yucca- great album, best savoured loudly when a couple in front of you on the train INSISTS on sucking face. Worst savoured walking home alone in the dark. Don't do that. It makes you jump at leaves. Creepy.... 

- Koala

Buy here: Yucca

No youtube links, but a sound cloud one!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Queensryche - Operation: Mindcrime and Rage For Order


Prime impressionable/adolescent years.

Operation: Mindcrime.

Progressive metal laden with heavy hooks,  complex guitar solos, and political messages.

Everyone's "greatest album ever" is usually indelibly linked to the most emotionally-impressionable times in their life: usually mid/late high school, though it obviously varies.

This emotional connection can obviously bias listening-- maybe I wouldn't like Operation: Mindcrime if I heard it for the first time today.

But the fact is, I did hear it for the first time, on cassette, after a glowing review of it in People magazine --of all places-- in 1988.

If I absolutely had to pick-- was forced to at gunpoint to-- just above Master of Puppets, I'd have to place Operation: Mindcrime as my Greatest Album Ever.

Tracks: "I Remember Now," the spoken intro to the concept album that Mindcrime describes, then "Anarchy X," a rousing militaristic instrumental... and then--

"Revolution Calling" and its clarion call to action... nearly 25 years later and it still gets me the same way it did in the late 80s... at 0:32 Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton's solos still represent to me the Ultimate Musical Statement of Revolution, however idealistic and naive that statement....

I know every Goddamn note by heart. Seriously. Not a single sound coming from this record --bass, guitar, drums-- do I not know like I know my own dick.

"I used to trust the media to tell me the truth, tell us the truth... but now I see the payoffs everywhere I look... who do you trust when everyone's a crook...? Revolution Calling...!"

My teenage world was completely rocked. Ideologically, musically, in all ways, really....

Maybe for old(er) readers Crosby Stills Nash & Young represent what I'm talking about... maybe it's Hendrix, or Dylan... for me, Operation: Mindcrime was the last gasp of angry political comment or activism (one that to this day makes me angry about political deception... makes me worry that the current generation is too hip/ironic enough to be angry about these political maneuvers....)-- one that taught me, whether intentionally or not, that we (as plebians, as groundlings, as common citizens) were consistently being lied to, and we should respond with anger and outrage to effect legitimate change in the political system....

See? I'm getting carried away already.

"Operation Mindcrime," the title track,  with its minor third Riff of Riffs (unusual for a progressive band to have a riff like this): F# to C# or D, and back again.... "I'm gonna take away the questions, yeah-- I'm gonna make you sure...." Exactly what you did, Geoff Tate and Company....

"Speak" with its Epic lick and riff... a guitar solo worthy of any other, anywhere....

"Spreading the Disease," with its innocence-shredding lyrics and verse riffaliciousness.... This song made me angry I wasn't an assassin in Service of the Truth... "He takes her once a week, on the altar like a sacrifice... religion and sex are power plays, manipulate the people for the money they pay, selling skin... selling God, the numbers look the same on their credit cards....Fighting fire with empty words, while the banks get fat, the poor stay poor... the rich get rich*, the cops get paid, to look away-- as the one percent rules America...."

It pierces that facade of irony, even now-- it makes me energetic and pissed off, it makes me wanna find a way to effect change and impact the political system....

"Suite Sister Mary," the greatest metal ballad ever. It begins with:

"Kill her. That's all you have to do."
"Kill Mary?"
"She's a risk. And get the priest as well...."

"The Needle Lies," perhaps the most rocking/metal tune ever, describes the narrator's struggles with heroin after his beloved dies... "Now, every time I'm weak, words scream from my arm...."

In all seriousness: my most perfect album ever.

20/10. A perfect record.

*Which references several literary allusions, from Adam X's book about politics, to Shelley, who also applied the idiom (scylla and charybdis) politically in an analogy of how society is poised between anarchy and despotism in his essay A Defense of Poetry (1820). The passage reads: 'The rich have become richer, and the poor have become poorer; and the vessel of the state is driven between the Scylla and Charybdis of anarchy and despotism'.

With Operation: Mindcrime in my top 5 albums of all time, if not the top, and Empire in the top 20... it seemed as though Queensrÿche's Rage For Order should be reviewed.

Great tracks:

"Walk in the Shadows," Geoff Tate's voice full of menace and self-loathing ("Our secret's safe for one more night... But when the morning comes, remember--I'll be with you.")

There's a ton of early/mid-20s self-loathing, hating the relationship we're in yet unable to get out vibe to this record, but it also solves Queensrÿche's primary (if only at the time) flaw: they're borderline fruity/too abstract progressive metal, in danger of disappearing up their own butt, BUT: the anger ("Rage"?) present in this record (and in Operation: Mindcrime, though already diminishing to an appreciable extent in Empire) makes it a Truly Great Record, one immune to age and trends, one that can be as appreciable in 2011 as in 1986.

The first side (fucking records and cassettes, how do they work?) is perfect: the second not nearly as, but still great. "I Dream In Infrared" with its haunting, gut-wrenching lyrics ("When you woke this morning, and opened up your eyes... did you notice the tear stains lining your face were mine?" and "I even feel alone when you're near, 'cause you... never understand. When we first met, I must've seemed... a million miles away. Strange, how our lives have touched, but... the time is right... I leave tonight... don't look in my eyes 'cause you've never seen them so black....")

Obviously, I am biased, but only because of the awesomeness.

Go listen to either one, or even Empire. I'm not completely full of shit. See what you think.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Delaney & Bonnie And Friends - On Tour With Eric Clapton

 Delaney & Bonnie On Tour With Eric Clapton

Racer’s been sending me links for all kinds of cool digital promos of new music but I’m having trouble with the computer again. They installed some new systems on my box at work and it’s been slowing everything down. The past two weeks lots of things have been stalling on me and causing me to reboot. The upshot of all this is that a friend of mine loaned me this Delaney & Bonnie box set and I’ve been playing the hell out of it and it’s brought back some great memories.

Way back when I was first starting to get into rock music in the late 70’s I used to go to the local public library and borrow records to help me determine just what kind of music I liked. The rock section was pretty small so I would grab just about anything available. This is the reason why I know that I don’t like Steeleye Span at all and that I find Procol Harum a little dull. One week I stumbled across an album by Delaney & Bonnie And Friends called On Tour With Eric Clapton. I’d heard plenty of Clapton on the radio, some I liked some I didn’t but I brought it home and gave it a spin and fell in love with it. Through an older brother I had been exposed to a lot of soul music like Booker T. & The MG’s and James Brown as well as a healthy dose rock & roll originators like Chuck Berry and Little Richard. This Delaney & Bonnie album appealed to me immediately and I made a cassette copy of it that I played all the time. A few years later the tape broke and I had started my path to heavy metal madness and never bothered to pick it up again.

So about 30 years later I’m at a friends place and he mentions that he just acquired a box set of 4 complete shows recorded on the tour that produced the album with Eric Clapton and would I like to hear some of it. From the first note, memories came flooding back and the music sounded better than I remembered. Jeezus, what a band! In 1969 Delaney & Bonnie were touring as the opening act for Blind Faith. Eric Clapton was so smitten with them that when Blind Faith broke up he joined their band for their next tour and brought along his friend George Harrison. It’s easy to see why these British musicians would be so impressed. England has produced a lot of great players and bands but it’s pretty hard to compete with a rhythm section of American dudes from the south. The core of the band is Bobby Whitlock on organ, Carl Radle on bass and Jim Gordon on drums. Do those names sound familiar? George Harrison used them on his album All Things Must Pass before they formed Derek & The Dominos with Clapton. The horn section of Bobby Keys and Jim Price would later join the Rolling Stones. Even backing vocalist Rita Coolidge went on to be a pretty big star not long after this. Dave Mason and Leon Russell turn up from time to time as special guests.

The original LP was only about 40 minutes edited down from 4 concerts recorded in December 1969. This box presents all the shows in complete form. It’s probably overkill for most but that’s why it’s a limited edition box set. The Royal Albert Hall show is the longest of all 4 shows and captures the band in peak form. There haven’t been too many bands that have been able to blend soul music with rock & roll and blues this well. This is southern music but not “southern rock” although it does rock. They boogie like no other on the uptempo songs like “Things Get Better,” “Coming Home,” “Where There’s A Will There’s A Way” and on Dave Mason’s “Only You Know & I Know.” Delaney and Bonnie’s vocals really shine on the slower ballads like “Poor Elija” and “Everybody Loves A Winner.” A highlight of most of the shows is a medley of the songs “Pour Your Love On Me/Just Plain Beautiful.” The band really smokes on this and there’s some great guitar interplay between all the guitarists. Most of the songs are repeated on each disc but there are some cool one time performances. A great version of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and a cover of Booker T.’s “Pigmy” are highlights of disc 4.

The original album is still in print and worth picking up if you’re low on funds, but if this sounds at all interesting to you go for the box. The packaging is very cool and it will probably be out of print soon. MP3’s from itunes do not due music like this any justice. Don’t be afraid to turn it up and get funky. And support your local library!


Buy here: Delaney & Bonnie On Tour With Eric Clapton
Buy here mp3: On Tour With Eric Clapton

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The House Harkonnen - Vol. 6

 Vol. 6

A film by Penfold.

Episode 6: 2009 – Present Day

Previously, we explored the rich history of The House Harkonnen. Thanks to the scarcity of true first-hand accounts, the House’s covert formation in 2003 has remained a mystery to much of the world. Historians only agreed on the 2003 formation date due to that being the origin year displayed on honorific patches worn by all House members. 2004 proved to be the year the House went public, actively promoting its ideals and endeavors in ever expanding circles of influence. In this episode, we pick up the history towards the end of 2009.

Countries around the globe were descending into chaos. Tumultuous protests were occurring on an almost weekly basis. Some of these protests lasted only hours before they were forcibly broken up. Others amassed so many people that they could not be stopped, lasting for several days before the crowds dispersed. Trained observers noted that the only thing holding back massive societal change was the lack of a unifying leader who could bring these disparate protesters together. Essentially, the world was a powder keg primed and ready to explode.

The House Harkonnen had bided its time until it was absolutely convinced its efforts would result in success. On October 15th, 2009 the four leaders of the House emerged from their lair, a modified lighthouse located in Silo Town, U.S.A., and traveled to central points on the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. Electronic and physical pamphlets had been liberally dispersed among the population centers of these continents prior to the House leaders’ arrival. This being the case, each leader was able to instantly connect with an army of eager converts ready to do their bidding.

According to plan, the House leaders spent a week and a half sermonizing how the priorities of The House Harkonnen mirrored those of the common man. New influxes of supporters streamed into House controlled campsites daily. It is estimated that the amount of supporters eventually numbered around 300,000 per House leader. Understandably, the local governments began to fear the power wielded by these four outsiders. They sent envoys in order to gauge the House leaders’ intentions. All of these couriers were sent back with the same response. It stated ‘We, The House Harkonnen, have come to your land to take over. If you don’t like it, that’s tough fucking news’. Cut and dried to say the least.

A few of the nearby politicians took the House’s statement of intent seriously, but most met their words with laughter and scorn. Unfortunately for them they were not aware of the secret weapon that House archeologists had unearthed back in the United States. Exactly one year prior those archeologists found a sealed urn buried deep underground. Inside that urn was a knife. It appeared plain and unvarnished. The only distinguishing element to the knife appeared to be some indecipherable text along the knife’s hilt. Detailed examination revealed that this knife was actually the famed ‘blade to take the world’. Historical precedent established that whoever possessed this fabled blade was destined to rule over everyone and everything.

Pity the world’s former powers. Praise The House Harkonnen.

Look waveriders. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve had yourself a nice, pleasant little run. Happiness and good fortune have proven reliable companions lately. During this time you’ve become enamored with some light and airy, poppy tunes that perfectly complement your current mind state. But wait. Hold on a moment. I also hear what that prophetic inner voice is whispering to you from the shadows. It’s foretelling that these good times can’t last. Pretty soon, you’re going to fall back to earth and need to listen to something merciless; something that takes no prisoners in its relentless effort to rock your socks off! It’s inevitable. And when that happens The House Harkonnen will be there, ready to bring the hammer down.

It appears that the state of Texas has another secret to tell. What may seem strange to some people is that this secret doesn’t call Austin home. The House Harkonnen is a self described ‘slop rock’ band that hails from Arlington, a large city inside the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The band has been plying their trade since the early years of the new millennium. In that time they have released six slabs of scathing rock upon the masses (although I can personally vouch for only four of those six slabs, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt on the remaining two), appropriately titled Volume 1 through 6. Volume 6, the newest to be released into the wild back in October of 2009, is the focus of our attention today.

There is no way around it people. Volume 6 is an absolute monster! It’s beastly! This album does more to rock my world during its half hour running length than most anything I’ve come across in recent memory. After a brief muscle flexing wall of heavy guitar tonality provides the proper introduction, the band mashes on the accelerator and never lets up. Honestly, this album…it completes me. So what kind of sonic template am I talking about exactly? What does this ‘slop rock’ sound like? Allow me to provide some insight.

First of all you have dueling guitars mounting a riff based assault upon your senses. The guitars are inescapable! They fill any void with a deep, rich, aggressive sound all the while in powerful harmony with one another. Second, the bass and drums lay down an incredibly thick, meaty groove on every song in perfect lockstep. Seriously, the propulsion they provide should come with a warning indicator about possible radiation exposure. Last but not least we have the vocals. During the majority of Volume 6 the vocals are very hardcore-ish in nature. They exhibit a primal urgency that connects deeply with any soul seeking honest, genuine emotion from their singers. To top that off, there is plenty of vocal variety on offer throughout the album. As stated you have the hardcore stuff, but there are also songs with clean singing, and others mixing the two approaches.

I could easily break down every song on this album. In truth, I would do so happily! Now let me explain why I’m not going to do that. It’s very simple. I don’t feel that my writing can do this music justice. Reading about tunes like these is all well and good, but actually hearing them will be far more impressive. Consider this a challenge waveriders; from me to you. Point your browser over to The House Harkonnen’s website (, click on the audio tab, start the player, and let Volume 6 energize you. To sum up, if you listen to “A Blade To Take The World” and remain calm and unaffected, you need to seek emergency medical assistance. Something is dreadfully wrong!


 Buy here: Vol. 6

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