June 25, 2009

New records we got in the office today

Francesca Reggio & Blue Shift- State of Motion
The Nubbish- Blumpkins By The Bagful
These United States- Everything Touches Everything
Or, The Whale- (Self-titled)
Hurricane Chaser- The Map Is Not The Territory
Big Nixon- Sixfourfive
Ed Hale- Ballad On Third Avenue
Jake and the Jakes- Back in Black and White
Fool’s Gold-(Self-titled)
Golden Bloom-Fan the Flames

June 24, 2009

New records we got in the office today

This Blue Heaven- Quicksandglass
Adrenalin Traffic- BRING on the THUNDER
The Medders- (self-titled)
Bankrupt and the Borrowers- Beers on the Bible
Calaveras- Green Girl

June 23, 2009

Farewell to The Blacks

The Blacks, The Red Verse, The Ferocious Few
Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, CA | June 18, 2009

Some groups fade away. The Blacks go down in a furious blaze of glory. San Francisco’s darkest three-piece mounted a final stand Thursday night at Rickshaw Stop, cementing their potent two and a half year alpha-garage legacy with an encore-laden tambourine orgy that forever confirms what we’ve known all along: it is indeed better to burn out.

But if this was some kind of crazed, Bud-soaked wake, it was also a celebration of the dearly departed. Out of loss comes gain. And so Tiger Songs, the band’s propulsive, trash-rock extended play graced the decked-out Tricycle Records display tables. Plus, as is customary with most record release parties, two other kick-ass bands and a steady flow of Red Bull ushered in the main attraction.

Bay Area natives The Ferocious Few paid first respects, quickly proving to a packed-tight house that only half of their name is misnomer. The Few are actually two – guitarist Francisco Fernandez and drummer Daniel Aguilar. The ferocious part is totally legit. Summoning manic, devil-chasin’ spirituals, Fernandez smoked through a string of hoedown tunes with the bluesy yowl of Robert Johnson and an acoustic guitar made of dynamite. “Gasoline & Cocaine” channeled the revved-up grit of the duo’s by now semi-legendary impromptu street performances, while the stomping swing of “Heaven & Hell” sounded much more wicked than anything Dio could think up.

Wedged between two high-octane counterparts, The Blacks’ well-dressed label mates The Red Verse came on like the eye of a storm, deadpanning through a chill set that kicked into gear with an inspired cover of The Clean’s “Anything Could Happen.” When singer Alex Oneil popped a guitar string one song in, bassist Andrew Galluccio crooned a sappy R&B standard, the name of which will be withheld to protect guilty parties. Still, it pleased the crowd, who shouted for more even as Oneil returned. This is what you’d call “taking one for the team.” Well done, Andrew.

And well done Blacks. Calling it quits never felt so good, or entailed so many damn tambourines for that matter. In an epic show of no-holds-barred, Stooges-style melee, Luisa, Gavin and JDK Blacker for the last time conjured all of the things that make them great – pummeling guitar music, horror-movie chic attire, and yes, a giant box full of tambourines. The trio fired a first parting shot with chugging new single, “Gravitas,” a sinister garage rocker with nasty descending riffs and screamo backing vox. It’s a mad mash of Garbage and B-52s that would be the best track in either band’s catalog. It also launched a marathon set of wild-eyed, senses-clearing rock ‘n roll (“White Girl,” “Sunday Boys,” “The Split”) – not so much swan song as screaming death knell. At one point, the band shared the stage with a couple dozen drunken, amateur percussionists as JDK’s grand tambo-experiment breathed its last gasp. This is the kind of stuff that sent all home with hangovers and bittersweet recognition that the sayings are absolutely true: once you go Blacks…

top left: Francisco Fernandez of The Ferocious Few
bottom right: JDK Blacker of The Blacks

New records we got in the office today:

Monte Casino-Torsos and good Times
The Franklin Kite- Explosions & Batteries
Paul Sachs- The Refuge
These United States- Everything Touches Everything
The Old Stoic- (self-titled)
The Devil, My Pocket- (self-titled)
A.A. Bondy- When The Devils Out
Solvin- Self Affliction
Buskin & Beatteau- Red Shoes and Golden Hearts
Angela Luna- Hope Nation
Grand Archives- Keep In Mind Frankenstein
Serengeti & Polyphonic

Chicago, IL
Produced, engineered and recorded by Polyphonic the Verbose at Waheed’s Room in Chicago | Mastered by Mike Wells Mastering

Folowing their 2007 release, Don’t Give Up, dynamic duo Serengeti & Polyphonic (aka David Cohn and Will Freyman, respectively) have rapidly gained recognition in hometown Chicago and beyond for their ambient, beat-laced avant-rap with a social conscience. Now the boys’ follow-up sophomore album, Terradactyl, continues to combine the best of lyricist Serengeti’s wry words with producer Polyphonic’s tasteful, original beats.

Lead track “Bon Voyage” steps in on cold, staccato synths that transition to shimmering baroque that trickles down Serengeti’s understated vocalization like a rain shower. “My Patriotism” passes through Parisian-style street jazz with appropriately playful corresponding lyrics and “Playing in Subway Stations” runs melancholy folk throughout electrode-spiked drip-castle synth texture. “My Negativity” is a tiptoe arrangement of rhythmically picked strings, rounded acoustic guitar, and the slightest hint of video game synths. The accompaniment of “Steroids” clicks along simply – an understated arrangement allowing Geti’s quickly issued lyrics to come across clearly. By the end of the song, he is whispering sweet nothings into the listener’s ear: “Those who don’t juice, bleed.”

Meanwhile, lyrics take a break on “La La Lala,” which centers around a childlike melody sung darkly against a cool beat; sinister new wave filtered through hip-hop. Crinkly bass and twinkling synths cushion Serengeti while he races alongside Polyphonic’s warbling, glitchy production on “Move!” “Patiently” is another starry-eyed bass beat, rising to a grandly symphonic altitude and then unraveling decidedly into a distant melody. Uninhibited by hip-hop norms, Serengeti & Polyphonic play freely in their own musical playground, and the explorative work that follows is as insightful as it is original. (Anticon)
Mulatu Astatke/The Heliocentrics
Inspiration Information Vol. 3
Recorded at Quartermass Studios in East
London, UK

Mulatu Astatke is to Ethio Jazz what Fela Kuti is to Afrobeat. The Ethiopian born, London and Berklee College of Music-educated icon fathered the style and you can’t discuss the funky Eastern-harmony centric hybrid without him. For the third record in the Strut label’s Inspiration Information series – which features collaborations between artists and their influences – UK’s The Heliocentrics, an acid-jazz and hip-hop beat factory collective, absorb Mulatu and a handful of other Ethiopian artists into their world to produce the freshest and funkiest album of the recent past not shipping out of the Daptone Records warehouse.

If Astatke’s merger of the five-tone scale prominent in Ethiopia with American groove wasn’t genius enough, updating the style with the further experimentations in funk of the past 40 years through The Heliocentrics is straight Stephen Hawking. Elements of 1970s electric Miles Davis, The Dropper-era Medeski, Martin and Wood, and 1990s lighting jungle beats fuse perfectly with the Astatke art form. The record, produced with an analogue purity that turns the snare into a cannon and the cymbals into 30-foot ocean swells, almost tricks you into believing you’re bumping a DJ Shadow beat sculpture.

The variety of instrumentation on the collaboration keeps track after track an adventure, from the rawest violin since Wu-Tang’s “Reunited” on “Masenqo,” to the “Let Me Clear My Throat” bari sax on “Fire in the Zoo,” to traditional Ethiopian strings and flute. Astatke is a vibes and percussion player himself, adding enough layers of groove for a comfortable hike from his native deserts to the top of Kilimanjaro. (Strut Records)
-Nate Leskovic

June 22, 2009

Seven Years Bad Luck

Asheville, NC
Written, recorded, produced and mastered by Michael O’Shea in his own studio in Asheville, NC

After flirting with the Chapel Hill music scene for a month as a drummer, Michael O’Shea embarked on an intense musical retreat in his Appalachian hometown, emerging in early 2008 as a multi-faceted one-man band by the name of Kinjac. Now the philosophy-student-cum-musician follows his interactive debut full-length, The Upside of Down, with a politically charged second helping: Seven Years Bad Luck. On this album – which was written, recorded, produced and mastered in only a single month – the multi-instrumental musician frames not-so-distant U.S. politics with uncomplicated melodies, aggressive live instrumentation and dense layers of varied electronic accentuation.

With opener, “The Fall,” the album dives headlong into an exciting textural landscape of edgy rock, digitized percussion and tinny synths. O’Shea rhythmically chants, “You can think what you want but it doesn’t change the facts of the matter/The only fact of what’s the matter with you/You seem to think in terms of false and true,” with an electronically-altered, dirt-tinged irreverence reminiscent of Lo Fidelity All-Stars. O’Shea’s vocals return like an unhinged cabaret singer filtered through an old telephone on “Terror.” To this he adds a contrapunto of strings that transition into bottom-heavy bass, trip-hop percussion and the album’s lifeblood, raw electric guitar. “Breaking Mirrors” follows a similar trajectory, moving from one industrial synth aggressor to the next, pulling back occasionally, and then pouring forth with slashing intensity, only to arrive at an unexpected jazz conclusion.

The album culminates with “[Wake Up America],” in which a passionate political speech criticizing economic decisions plays uninterrupted over anxious, warbling synths and rumbling, stripped-down drums. When the speaker cries, ‘Up with wages!” the music rises chaotically along with him. It’s hard to miss the message inherent in Kinjac’s beat-saturated guitar reverb and fuzzy synthesized angst. (The Solotechne Collective)
-Lulu McAllister
Mark Lennon
Down the Mountain

Los Angeles, CA
Produced by Mark Lennon | Recorded at Universal Music Publishing Group Studio in Los Angeles, CA | Engineered by Mike Fennel and Mark Lennon | Mastered by Eddie Tomecko at Audioworks

Mark Lennon brings Carolina to SoCal with his third album,
Down the Mountain. Incorporating different genres, Lennon continues to create his own blend of folk, country and rock ‘n’ roll while staying true to his Southern groundings. 

A calming strum of the acoustic guitar draws you in on the first track, “Down the Mountain.” Lennon’s raspy, yet cool voice invites you back to a more simple time while allowing for short guitar rips and merging background vocals. Gentle strikes of the piano begin the second track, “My Hometown,” as lyrics take the listener on a nostalgic journey down a countryside memory lane. A 40-second instrumental solo of piano and guitar peacefully allows you to drift into classic folk and country melodies before winsome lyrics paint more of a reminiscent picture. 

Integrating vocals by Simone Stevens offer a sweet accent alongside the sax-like tone of the third track, “Wildside.” A slight country twang enters in the next track, “What I Could Be With You,” while a bit of rock edge emerges with guitar solos in “I’m Doin’ Fine.” 

Picks of the acoustic create hints of a southern folk background in the song “Tennessee,” including softhearted lyrics such as, “We are just along for the ride/trying to find out what’s on the other side.” 

The album finishes with the powerfully vocaldriven “Broken.” This track is a perfect mixture of heartfelt lyrics, easing yet engaging melodies and, similar to each Mark Lennon song, it tells a story and takes the listener on their own musical journey of keeping roots while chasing dreams. (Vegabonds Tune Records)