The New Pollution: Pushing Back

There’s a reason why there seems to be a generation of kids “Born in the wrong generation.” Turn on any Rock station and if it’s not Dad Rock it’s the exact same band you’ve heard a million times. That Nickelback pseudo grunge sound. Where every guitar sounds like pristine sludge, and every vocal sounds like a guy taking a shit.

Rock music used to be the experimental genre. It was the genre that kept pushing boundaries, going to new strange places that you’d never imagine music would go. Yet here we are stuck between, “I couldn’t make it as a poor man” and “There goes my hero.” Ad nauseum until either we, or the radio industry dies.

Yet there’s still hope. Rock music, as Neil Young sang, “Can never die.” Even though it’s stagnating, there are still bands out there pushing boundaries, trying new things, and approaching music with modern sensibilities. And this, ladies and gentleman, is where I introduce The New Pollution.

So to begin with, let’s rewind to the best period of rock music, the 60’s. Every Rock band you look up to in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s etc. All revere the 60’s and there’s a good reason why. It was a period of unprecedented experimentation. A period where the torch was passed from the experimental avant-garde composers of the 50’s to the up and coming rockers of the 60’s. Where tape loops, layered instruments, distorted vocals, genre bending, etc. were the norm.

Yet something happened, and that period of unprecedented growth soon stagnated. As each decade went on rock music became more and more confined. And who better to explain how this happened than Frank Zappa?

This extends to even the micro-level of music blogs, underground music, producers, etc. Where people are afraid to step outside their own little box, because they don’t want to upset the “taste makers” in who actuality know as much as you or I do about music.

So imagine my surprise listening to this band, a band who is completely unafraid to experiment. The first track Pushing Back is an incredible start to an amazing album. To begin with track opens up with this wild buzz saw of a guitar. The kind wild and crazy sound that you would imagine some band in some rough dive bar in the middle of Arizona playing. From just the tone and how treble-y it is, it immediately distinguishes itself from most of indie rock.

Yet what captivated me was what happened next. Usually with such an in your face aesthetic that the guitar tone provides, a band usually sticks within that narrow sound. If this was any other band, there would be this thick fat bass, distorted guitar, lo-fi vocals, and that’s it. And the rest of the album would all sound like that. Maybe there would be an acoustic guitar here and there. But I don’t have to describe it that much, since you already can hear what I’m talking about, because you’ve heard a thousand times.

So now let’s go to where the song deviates from the norm. You can hear this from the vocals. The vocals are drenched in reverb, and this doesn’t fit that kind of dive bar aesthetic I was describing earlier. Yet it does work extremely well with what follows. And what follows is these synth flourishes, you hear it now and then in the beginning. It adds a little quirkiness but doesn’t really change the song. But slowly and surely everything changes. The dive bar becomes this psychedelic journey as the synths take over, and then it’s at that point everything clicks. The reverbed out vocals fit perfectly and now you understand the song.

It reminds me of really great Jazz. Jazz can be a cacophonous nightmare, if the people don’t know what they’re doing. But when you see a really great Jazz Improv, it blows your mind. Because you will hear the most exotic, fresh, and innovate sounds that you’ve heard. This song like really great Jazz Improv has that since of exploration. The synths are so well musically structured, and are so well paced out. Like in a really great jam session when you just know to show off, or to let someone else show off. The sound just gels together and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was all recorded live. It just has that energy.

Next we get to Pushing Back-Chinese Hackers Remix. This track has a tongue and cheek feel to it. Since it’s titled as the last song, except it’s a Chinese Hackers remix, and it almost sounds nothing like Pushing Back. It’s one thing to experiment, yet it’s another to have fun with it. When people usually think of experimental art, they think of these super intelligent people who have these crazy ideas. Who work super hard to perfect that crazy idea into something that resembles art.

It’s another to listen to someone just have fun and experiment. Better yet imagine a band onstage playing Improv Jazz. The audience is super serious, the band is incredibly serious, pompousness swirls around in the air like cheap cigar smoke. It’s all very tedious. Then imagine, say Metallica, after they play one of their sets, and they’re getting their guitars tuned they decide to play the Pokemon theme song, because why not. Immediately there’s a tonal shift. I want to go listen to that Metallica song, and I don’t want to listen to that jazz improv group. Because one is incredibly fun, and the other is incredibly pompous.

So when I compare, don’t compare The New Pollution to Improv Jazz. What I mean is that they are able to have the musical complexity that you would find in really heady music. Yet the same time it’s with a tongue and cheek feel, and every track just feels so fun and energetic.

From the soulful trumpet that wails in the background, the groove bass and percussion that drive the track forward, the weird little synth and guitar flourishes, and distorted and mutated vocals. Everything about this track is just this fun musical journey. It’s the kind of song that just let’s you be free. When a song has this anything goes kind of experimentation, it carries with it an everything goes kind of attitude. Which I could imagine being absolute hit being played life. Because after all, who doesn’t want to get rid of false pretensions and just let loose?

Finally we get to Sad Pricks. Which has this Joy Division kind of guitar and bass relationship. Where the bass provides the main melody and the guitar has this more rhythmic kind role. Then the song opens up, with this psychedelic organ. Which is immediately reminiscent of 60’s music. This coupled with the double tracked vocals, provides this great throwback. And what a better throwback to experimentation than invoking the 60’s?

Then the chorus kicks in with this beautiful organ, and great guitar panned to the left. It all is just so fun. Then when the track ends it ends with this out of control guitar solo. That just has so much energy, that you can’t help but listen to this album with a smile on your face. Then of course there’s the added bonus that song is literally titled Sad Pricks. Which again is so tongue and cheek you can’t help but like this.

Yet this review isn’t over yet. Usually when reviewing a band I just plugin their music video at the end, and don’t provide much commentary to it. Yet these guys deserve a shoutout for their music video. If you don’t get the music from the album, the music video will definitely clear things up. It’s so fun, so inventive, and so unpretentious that you cannot but help but enjoy it. Like people always say, “I’ll vote for that guy because he’s someone I can sit down and have a beer with.” These guys just look like they’d be a blast to hangout with. It has that youthful exuberance that you can’t help but appreciate. So I implore you to checkout the music video as well. It’s just as great as the album itself.

So obviously with not only an album review, but a music video plugin. I am going to give these guys my full recc. The album is short and sweet, and it’s got charisma. And let’s be real, if you got charisma and you got great music, well you’re going to go far.

Dissonance: Ascent

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https://dissonanceband.bandcamp.com/

There’s always that one band.

There seems to be a common theme in music lovers, where in adolescence they loved everything that was blasted on the airwaves. Then one day, all of a sudden, it all changed.

If you were to ask them about that moment it would be like asking a romantic about their first kiss, or an alcoholic their first beer. It’s that band that changes their perspective from music, from that of a bystander to that of a participant. It’s the band that made them change their wardrobe, by new headphones, get a new hairdo, and change their lifestyle. In that moment when everything clicks, when you finally find a band that speaks to you, challenges you, and changes the lens through which you see the world–nothing can ever replace that feeling.

So when reviewing albums, there’s always that romantic notion of the underground. Currently finding great music in the mainstream is like trying to find an oasis in the desert. Yet to find buried treasure you have to go underground. So with great joy, I am pleased to review Dissonance’s Ascent, a musical tour de force with the capability of being that band to someone out there.

The first song, Break Myself is a great introduction to the album. The first thing to notice is how great Dissonance is at blending genres. Musicians have this terrible habit of stampeding to one kind of sound, one kind of style, and then when it’s beat to death, nobody wants anything to do with it. So all the innovation within that genre dies because nobody wants to be associated with it.

For example in this song you can hear traces of EDM, House, Techno etc. In fact you could probably pinpoint the decade, or even the year, in which each sound was popular in electronic music circles. Yet what Dissonance does is incredibly amazing in that each genre is blended together, synthesized, and restructured in a way that makes this album sound so incredibly unique.

Listening to this track, or any other part of this album–you understand the artist’s taste. They stuck their chin up, and embraced electronic music. Whereas other people try to runaway from a certain type of sound. Dissonance is able to evolve that sound in an incredibly unique way. That coupled with the variety of subgenres within each track–creates this electronic music fan’s wet dream of an album.

So that’s just with the electronic aspect of the track, then there’s that late 90’s guitar, beautiful vocal harmonies, and larger than life drums. It’s one thing to embrace all of electronic music, it’s another when you improve electronic music.

What do I mean by improving electronic music? One of my main gripes with a lot of EDM tracks is with the beat. People harp on how important the beat is. There are entire youtube tutorials on how to make the perfect kick, how to program 808’s, the best way to make hi hat triplets, etc. Yet it all sounds so similar, and it’s similar in a way that lends itself to mediocrity.

This isn’t the case with this track. The drums have that stadium rock kind of feel. When I first heard the drums I wasn’t thinking EDM, I was thinking Led Zeppelin. It’s details like this that push the genre forward. It would be like if there was no distorted guitars in Heavy Metal. The music could sound dark, it could sound menacing, but as soon as you introduce some distortion to the sound everything changes. Having these heavy real drum kits pound away is as important to EDM as distortion is to Heavy Metal. It’s one thing to create a beat to dance to, it’s another to create an emotion with a beat (primarily that of aggression). That’s one of the reasons why people don’t like electronic music, because it doesn’t sound human, aka has no emotion. And that’s what separates Dissonance from the kid making tracks on soundcloud.

Then we get to the next song Poison Kiss which continues this musical exploration. This track borders on being pop. In fact I could see this being some kind of mutated pop music. Where Lady Gaga was bathed in radioactive waste and blasted with gamma rays. Instead of getting cancer, she would have superhuman abilities to create really great original music. (Also it should be noted that I actually like Lady Gaga, especially her song Alejandro.)

So what do I mean by this mutated pop? This song has the structure of a pop song. It has the feel of a pop song. Yet there is this musicianship that prevents it from being full on pop. There’s this layer upon layer of synths, subtle guitar tones, and chord progression that’s far more complex than what’s on the radio.

Now this isn’t to detract from the music, or to critique it. The best comparison to make is that it would be like eating a gourmet burger at a restaurant. Everybody knows what a McDonald’s burger tastes like. Yet when you’re at a gourmet restaurant and they offer up a burger. It’s immediately going to pique your interest. Because you want to know: what does a gourmet burger taste like? The same principle applies here, you want to know, given the musicianship of the previous track, what a pop song would sound like through the creative lens of Dissonance. Which is an incredibly rewarding experience to listen to.

Next up we have Murder of Love, which has such a creative intro. It’s the type of intro that as a musician you kick yourself for not thinking of it yourself. Then the rest of this song has this sensual kind of groove. Then the lyrics which paints this kind of doomed romance that most adults find themselves in. That passionate kind of love, which is in equal parts love and hate. You want to get out of the drama, but at the same time the drama reels you back in. These lyrics are so incredibly precise and anybody who has ever been in those kind of relationships, it will immediately resonate with you.

I-I’ve been a victim of your love, like many before
So many before
You- You strangled me with all your charms
I yearn for more

It doesn’t get it any realer than that.

Then when we get to the chorus and this is where another one of Dissonance’s talents shine through. Listening to all of the tracks that preceded it, you get a glimpse of how incredibly talented Dissonance is at vocal harmonies. But it’s in this track that you really understand how well it’s done.

The best comparison I would make is that the vocal harmonies are like George Harrison’s guitar playing. George Harrison is famous for his incredibly precise, and melodic lead guitar. And while he wasn’t the most technical, or the most blues inspired guitarist, his guitar always served the song. It always made the song better. So for vocal harmonies to take on the technicality of a musical instrument, and still retain that simple melodic structure is an incredible feat. If you don’t believe me play a piano chord. Then when you’re done, try to layer your vocals to that piano chord and see how difficult it is.

Next up we have Taste. This song in particular, calls back to a Nine Inch Nails influence. Which isn’t a bad thing. If you don’t like Nine Inch Nails then you are a mouth breathing troglodyte. Yet as great artists, Dissonance manages to make their own unique take on it. Which can be attributed to a more modern sound. Dissonance as I’ve said before isn’t afraid to take pieces and parts of modern electronic music and making it their own.

One example of this would be panning the synths all around your ears, and having this 3 dimensional kind of sound. So while it does have a throwback to a band that was incredibly popular in the 90’s (and is still pretty popular but for the sake of argument, we’re going to be looking at 90’s Nine Inch Nails) it still manages to make it incredibly fresh. By being so progressive and using modern production techniques.

Then we get to Drive which also begins with this crazy creative intro. And it’s also interesting because it starts off so atonal, and so abrasive. It’s one thing to have an abrasive sound, it’s another to warp and bend that abrasiveness into a melody. We as listeners know and trust that Dissonance will resolve this in their music, but the mystery is how they are going to do it.

They accomplish this by anchoring this abrasive sounding synth to the vocal melody and beat. And when they do this, no longer are we talking about abrasiveness, we’re talking about an atmosphere. The sultry vocals and the instrumentation, combined with the abrasive synths create this cool vibe. The abrasiveness creates a sense of danger, while the sultry vocals ooze a degree of coolness. But nothing is cooler than flirting with danger.

I touched on briefly on the vocals, but the vocals throughout the album are incredibly well done. But it’s in this track where the just fit in so perfectly. It’s like when you see an actor in a certain movie role. Like Al Pacino in The Godfather or Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad. If you were to replace either actor in the movie/tv show that they were in, it would completely change the entire movie for the worst. Likewise you cannot have this song with any vocals, except for the vocals in this track.

Finally we end on Starstuff a track that is so incredibly fun to listen to. Usually artists do one or two things when ending an album. They either make the last song the most depressing song ever, as sort of a statement on society/their emotional state/political views etc. Or they end it on a high note, a celebration of all that has come before it.

Dissonance chooses the latter and decides to end on a celebratory tone. Which is absolutely perfect for this album. Because this whole entire album is really a love letter to electronic music. It’s a celebration of everything that has come before it, during it, and improves on areas where it is weak. Which takes a certain love and devotion to electronic music to understand it’s flaws and improve upon them. While at the same time embracing what made electronic music resonate with them so much.

The whole entire album can be a “Best of” selection electronic music. But it’s not the synths that sell the album. Though expertly done, it’s the vocals, the beat, the guitar, all of the other elements that are usually in electronic music. That are usually neglected, but here are fully fleshed out, and because they are fleshed make this album such a joy to listen to.

A bad musician always defines themselves to a genre, a mediocre musician defines themselves to what they aren’t, and a great musician defines themselves by who they are. Dissonance understands that they are an electronic music band. Yet they know enough about their own particular strengths to allow them to shine through. Those moments of individuality that really sets the album apart from the rest of the music scene.

And as I have said before great individuals make great art, and it’s when a band makes great art that they become that band. When I said that this group had a potential to be that band. I sincerely meant it. There is enough innovation, and individualism for even the most hardened music cynic to take another look. So I implore anybody who makes music to check these guys out.

And with that, I undeniably give this band my full recc.

Death and Daddy Issues: O//X//Y//G//E//N

The 90’s was a great time for music. Okay we say that, but we don’t really mean it. For all the 90’s babies nostalgia porn that’s plastered all over the internet, you’d think that 90’s influenced music would sound like the 90’s. Well that’s where you’re wrong, my friend. What everybody got from the 90’s was “Everybody was depressed so let’s put together some atonal keyboards, randomly placed hi hat triplets, and pop xanax.”

People memory-holed why 90’s music was so great. Yes you can look at the subject matter, fashion, aesthetic, and whatever. But let’s be real there was one sub-genre that took the world by storm–Grunge. And what made Grunge, Grunge? The Grungy guitars!

If there is one thing I keep harping on is how an excellent guitar tone can make or break a song. And Death and Daddy Issues’ guitars encapsulate so much of what made Grunge great.  Immediately the track starts off with this wet reverb bass. Which in and of itself is such a joy to hear. When you start off a track with an excellent sounding bass–the most underutilized instrument in rock–you’re off to a great song.

And then you hear it. The guitar. Which wails, screams, growls, and trudges along. Grunge guitar playing always took the best of both worlds. They used the slow heavy sound of heavy metal, and the out of control simplicity of punk to create this new concoction. Where virtuosity wasn’t center stage; rather it was passion that stole the show, and made every guitar solo before it sound dated. When you listen to tracks like this you’re not blown away by the fact the guitarist infused Jazz chords, and Bach. You’re blown away by the passion and the music.

Which brings me to my next point. The vocals. Now it’s no secret that usually grunge vocals, or even alternative rock vocals sounds like nothing that preceded it. Punk is too raw and unprofessional. And metal was either too polished, or brutal to have mass appeal. So new types of vocal styles emerged, that were either hit or miss.

The vocals in this track are absolutely phenomenal. It’s got the energy and rawness of punk, while maintaining a degree of tenderness that wouldn’t be found in most rock tracks. Which allows this emotional rollercoaster of a song to commence.

We’ve been 20 years plus of without the 90’s, and it’s a shame that most of the musical innovation that was accomplished during that time is being forgotten, simplified, and outright bastardized. Luckily for you and me there are bands like Death and Daddy Issues that are keeping the spirit of the 90’s alive. And with that I give this song my full recc. Please check it out!

 

Lunar Femmes: Mar de Sueños

There’s a reason why “Enjoys long walks on the beach” is such a common phrase in the dating market. There’s something about peering out to that vast deep blue sea that stirs the heart of every romantic. Whether it’s the tranquility of the waves, the endless possibilities out on the horizon, or the fun of just being able to jump in and swim in the ocean. There’s something about the beach that resonates with us on such a deep and profound level.

So when a song is able to capture all of these individualized emotional moments it’s an incredible feat. Especially when the song is less than 4 minutes long. So let’s dive right in, and see why this song deserves your listen.

Immediately we’re greeted with these shimmering synths, and this almost tape loop kind of effect in the background. Which does a great job setting up the rest of the track. Right off the bat, you hear the main motif that will be played throughout the track, but more importantly you become enveloped in the atmosphere of this track. Which is further compounded on by the sample of waves on the beach.

It’s important to note how impactful a sample can be to a song. A lot of artists will spend hours upon hours tinkering with different synth setups, effects, chord progressions, etc. to achieve a certain kind of feel. Yet they don’t look outside of music for inspiration.

Now this isn’t to downplay the rest of the track, the instrumentation is incredibly nuanced, complex, and beautiful. Yet it’s the atmosphere that reels you in. You can have the greatest melody, yet if you don’t have a great atmosphere for that melody to grow and flourish, then it’s all a waste. It’s like having a gigantic luxurious bed, with purple silk sheets, purple drapes, and with a golden head and foot board in an empty room. Yeah it’s a nice bed; but imagine how much nicer it would be next to a roaring fire, with a bear rug, Renaissance portrait, or whatever (I’m not the best at interior design). The atmosphere is what sells the luxury of the bed. Just as the atmosphere sells the melody of the music.

So now that we have the atmosphere of the track out of the way, let’s dive into the rest of the track. Every synth in this track just screams relaxation. Yet it’s not the kind of relaxation where you just cuddle up in bed, and watch netflix. Due to the upbeat tempo, and the 80’s lo-fi sounding drums it provides an energy to the track. That coupled with the luscious calming synths provides inertia to your relaxation. Like when it’s a Friday, and you want to let loose so you go for a swim at the beach. It’s an active sort of relaxation.

So for anybody who enjoys some nice relaxation, and a sound that truly transports you to a nice day at the beach. This is the track for you. I give it my full recc and would encourage anybody to check out the rest of Lunar Femmes catalog.

 

boycalledcrow: Emerald

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CD: https://wormholeworld.bandcamp.com/album/emerald

Cassette: https://hollowaytapes.com/album/h008

One of the great thing about being a 90’s babies is that we grew up in a golden era. We didn’t recognize it as such, but there’s a reason why there is so much nostalgia for that period. Everything seemed tailor made for us. Then when as we got older, things got more bland. We couldn’t put our finger on it. But we knew something was missing.

Fast forward to today and we consume media to the point we’ve become morbidly obese. And like somebody who is morbidly obese, we consume these empty vacuous pieces of media, not because we enjoy it, but because we are starving. Starving for something more meaningful, starving for something with more soul, starving for something original–you get the idea. So if we wanna figure out how we can be fulfilled–we gotta work for it. Luckily you have me, and luckily there are artists like boycalledcrow.

Now there’s a reason why I bring up “media” in this album review. First off look at the cover art. Then listen to Clouds and Flurt. So what form of media do you recall? Movies? Literature? Plays? Video Games…?

It’s video games.

Now video game music is an incredibly bizarre phenomena. Since the art form is so new, it’s an accident that most of the music that we liked was even likeable in the first place. Plays always had music, ever since the Greeks, there was always some type of music being played. And since movies were originally an extension of theatre, it wasn’t frowned down upon to be a film composer. Even the silent film era, music was an integral part of the medium.

Video game music was basically a cop out. It was for artists who never fulfilled their dreams. Yet our generation lapped it up. Even today look up game soundtracks of the 80’s, 90’s or early 00’s. Look at the amount of views there are. On paper this should not be happening. How could the music of people who couldn’t make it in the music industry be popular? How did they make music that resonated with people with the lack of hardware, instruments, and studio polish of most major label bands?

So now we get to boycalledcrow’s album Emerald. An album that has refined the music of misfits into an art form.

There are 10 tracks on this album, and boycalledcrow somehow figured out 10 different ways to create a feeling of comfiness. Now unless you wake up on a bed of nails, drink bleach to wake you up, and shower in acid–you, like anybody–should love feeling comfy.

To begin the review let’s start at the beginning, Clouds. The first thing you hear and what is a defining part of this album is the ambience. How does boycalledcrow accomplish this? Mainly through his ability to craft these swirling pieces of background ambience. They always have this really melodic structure even though at first listen they don’t appear to be melodic at all. Rather they swirl around a melody, touching it ever so gently, and then dispersing. Which in all actuality, sounds like what vaporwave should sound like, since it’s sound is so ethereal.

Then there’s this pitch perfect kick drum that introduces the next crucial piece of this album. Which are the synths, which as mentioned before has this video game type of aesthetic. While every track carries this aesthetic, it’s hinted at with Clouds and compounded on with Flurt. While yes, the 8-bit synths in Flurt can at times be distorted and morphs into something atonal–it never really loses it comfiness. Mainly as part of the generation who grew up on video games, the synths carry a sense of nostalgia.

Now I don’t believe I’ve ever made any claims on being objective, but personally anything with that 8-bit video game kind of sound has immediately garnered my attention. I say that it carries with it a degree of nostalgia. As it does for the rest of my generation. Yet not for the reasons that you think. You see, even though people born in the 90’s always talk about how great the 90’s were, it’s almost always never what the 90’s were like. Rather it’s what we wished the 90’s was like.

Growing up you’re never fully conscious of the things around you. Everything floats around you, you never really are apart of the experience. Then the things you do experience, become apart of you to so much a degree that you don’t recognize that it’s apart of you. If you sat anybody down and asked them what their favorite games growing up would be, people would rattle off games like Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy 7, etc. None of those games have that characteristic 8-bit sound. Yet ask any “90’s Baby” what they loved about video game music, and you get the same answer the 8-bit synths.

So with just two songs, boycalledcrow has done something really remarkable. He’s created the musical ambience of time traveling back to the 90’s. That time we briefly remember as kids, and the things that emotionally resonated with us. He’s created a sense of familiarity, a sense of coming home. It would be the equivalent of showing our grandparents old adventure serials of the 40’s. Even if they didn’t grow up on them, it still emotionally resonates with them.

Yet as I said before, even though we all say that we grew up on that 8-bit style of synth, it’s almost always never the case. So now we get to the next song on the album Ghost. This is the more authentic version of what “90’s babies” actually grew up listening to. The ambient tape loops, fuzzy bass, crystal clear percussion, and zombie like moans (which sounds like something out of an N64 game) is more or less what we actually grew up with.

The 90’s and 00’s were a transition period where everything became either incredibly sincere, or either incredibly corporate. You had artists like Kurt Cobain who wrote songs about being sad, and showed how sincere he was by shooting himself. Then you had Biggie and Tupac who wrote songs about being gang bangers, and show how sincere they were by getting shot. I know I’m simplifying things for effect but the fact of the matter is we were not apart of that.

I grew up when Brittany Spears and Boy Bands were getting popular, and if you liked them it meant you were a mouth breathing troglodyte. So by complete accident I, and other people of my generation got funneled into video game music. I mean what other options were there? Listen to music that you had to follow with 100% sincerity, and either be thought of as a wrist cutter or gang banger. Or listen to music that everyone thought was shallow and if you enjoyed it you were an idiot for liking it. Either way we had no say in the conversation, but we did have one piece of media we could like. Without any judgement from our peers. Video games.

Since video game soundtracks had a lot of moods to capture. Think of any video game of that period, and think of the different genres they had to pull off whether it’s the creepiness of a Resident Evil, the since of wonderment of The Legend of Zelda, or the melancholy piano of Silent Hill. When I say boycalledcrow sounds a lot like video game soundtracks. It’s not a pejorative. It’s the highest praise you can receive.

Because if we return to Ghost it is musically an incredibly avant garde piece of music on paper. From the repeating tape loops, to the shifting rhythm, and the zombie like moans–if you were to take this to someone who didn’t grow up on video games–it would be incredibly experimental. Yet for millennials it’s impossible not to feel a sense of familiarity, and therefore comfort in the sound. And it’s all due to video games. From the people who couldn’t make it in the music industry, still trying to create good music. So since they were still trying to create good music, they were going to use the tools of the experimental, underground, classical composition, etc. To create the music we grew to love. And why I believe it’s so easy for boycalledcrow to make such emotionally resonate music.

To illustrate this point let’s look at the next song, Distant. With it’s spacious luscious keys, that has this incredible sense of intimacy to it. Which is a pretty difficult task to accomplish. Capturing a sense of warmth and a sense of distance. Before you listen to it, postulate on how you would try to accomplish it. What type of scenario would cause you to feel distance, and yet feel a since of intimacy? Now that you have the scenario–and here’s the tricky part–what would it sound like?

So I’ll give you my take, and then I’ll offer an explanation of how it’s accomplished. It’s like after an incredible first date, when you have dinner and both of you have this incredible chemistry. Then after dinner, you drive her home, work up the courage to kiss her, and on the car ride back you feel this intense sense of intimacy. The person just left and you drive farther and farther away. Yet the connection you had just grows more and more inside you. How boycalledcrow accomplishes this feat is mainly the instrument choice which provides a sense of distance, and then the music structure which has an incredible sense of warmth. Combine these elements together and BAM! You get a song like Distant.

Next up we have Birds. Now Birds is the song I would show anybody to illustrate how great boycalledcrow is at creating melodic synths. The snyths have this heavenly kind of melody to it. From the spacious keys and textures that reverb throughout the background. To the melodic piano and synth arpeggios.

I always praise artists who understand synthesizers. That they’re not like an electric guitar that you can bend, hammer, or spontaneously interject your own flair to. Yes it can be done on synthesizers, but when you’re dealing with electronic music you need to understand music in and of itself. You need to have a bit of an ear for composition, structure, and general music theory. You’re not a rockstar, rather you become a composer. Replace any of the synths on this track with classical instruments and it would still hold it’s own. Yet it’s boycalledcrow’s ability to use the synths at his disposal, and utilize them in a way that creates this wonderful soundscape.

Now we get to Africa, and no it’s not a remake. This track with it’s 8-bit bass, exotic percussion, swirling pads, twinkling mallets, and synth arpeggios doubles down on the nostalgia. As mentioned previously that 8-bit sound always carries emotional weight since it’s always associated with video games. As a millennial video games were the default medium. But then boycalledcrow does something interesting.

He adds these exotic sounding percussion, and twinkling mallets. Which really adds to the child-like sense of wonderment. So what do I mean by that? Well, the percussion like any the percussion in any great song adds a sense of energy to the track. That, and the fact it’s so exotic, or rather has such a unique rhythmic structure which makes it exotic. Then there are the mallets which even further compounds on this since of child-like wonder. It could be because this sound is so often associated with childhood whether it’s from a music box, or a mobile (the thing above a baby’s crib) it all has that same texture.

Then combine that with a name like Africa. Now as an adult when you think of Africa you think of politics, humanitarian issues, social issues, or whatever. But ask a kid what they think of Africa, and 9 times out of 10 it’s going to be about Lions, Giraffes, Zebras, etc. It’s that child like sense of wonderment that what makes this track great. And showcases how boycalledcrow and create 10 different tracks of 10 different kinds of comfy.

Next up we have Butterfly and Vapor. Both are tracks that start off aggressive. Whether it’s the distorted synth arpeggios of Butterfly, or the sharp snare and growling synth of Vapor. Yet as I said before every track on this album is comfy how can something be aggressive yet at the same time be comfy? Well as mentioned before boycalledcrow has an incredible ability to create great pieces of ambience.

This ambience is able to seamlessly morph, fluctuate, and shift. This fluidity is what’s able to temper even the most aggressive of sounds. Yet it’s the juxtaposition of these two sounds which causes a different kind of comfy. It’s the kind of comfiness you get after working long hours, going on an exhaustive vacation, or being in a social setting for a long period of time. While physically taxing, these tasks are nonetheless relaxing. As the case with this song, the music might aggressive, yet at the same time you can still feel an incredible sense of comfort.

Finally we get two the last two songs of the album, Amber and Grid. Amber can serve as the best representation of this album. All of boycalledcrow’s strengths, of creating beautiful melodic pieces, while maintaining this incredible atmosphere are all in splendor glory here. Yet it’s Grid that’s the real show stopper. With it’s more dramatic intro as the kick introduces these spacious keys, hi hats that create this incredible sense of rhythm, and then an orchestral synth that overwhelms you. This song in particular has a larger than life appeal to it, and is the perfect ending to an already great album.

It’s the kind of ending you’d imagine that audiences would cheer for. As the band is about to pack up their things, the audiences demanding an encore, and then the band plays their most epic song. The band plays to an audience wide eyed, and jaw dropped. Then when they’re done, the audience doesn’t demand an encore anymore. Not because they weren’t satisfied, but because they are speechless.

Every millennial looks back in time and we look at how great the media we used to enjoy was. But the fact of the matter is, is that it was great because WE made it great. I highly doubt any CEO would have predicted that a Japanese Cartoon about an alien fighting other aliens over dragon balls that could grant wishes would be a smash hit. But WE made it into a smash hit. Music industry moguls would have never have guessed that video game music would be as enjoyed as much as it is today, yet here we are. And it is only possible because WE made it possible.

boycalledcrow did something amazing with this album. He showed us all the power that we truly had. That WE have the ability to create an oasis out of a desert. We can make great art that captures the things that we held so near and dear to us. So with that ability to create greatness, and a greatness that is unique to our generation, I give this album my full recc.

Cyber Shaman: Shaman’s Dark Electro vol. IV

There’s a loading screen in Fallout 2 that has always bothered me. It’s a man dressed in tribal clothes–tattoos, face paint, a skull necklace–wearing a Brotherhood of Steel helmet. The game takes place years after a nuclear holocaust. When man is on the brink of extinction. In the first game you encounter the Brotherhood of Steel, after voyaging out in this dark apocalyptic world, they are a breath of fresh air. They seem to be making scientific progress pushing humanity forward, and yet you have this lingering notion that they’re not going to survive. And they don’t.

We live in a time of technological comfort. Where everything is a keyboard stroke of coming true. Yet there is an existential angst that comes with that. What happens if it’s all lost? What happens if we lose it all? Are we all just brute beasts; doped up to forget our base nature?

We can see this conflict play out on Cyber Shaman’s Shaman’s Dark Electro vol. IV. In fact the very first song hints at this dichotomy and the conflict it brings. I mean, with a name like Guerro des son (War of sounds), and even the name “Cyber Shaman” brings about images of two complete opposites. Yet it’s in this dichotomy, that of the organic and that of the synthetic, which we hear throughout the album.

First off, Cyber Shaman is an amazing electronic music producer. I’ve mentioned earlier that musicians tend to lose their identity the more gear they have. Mainly because it causes them to become a jack of all trades and master of none. As a result their music sounds incredibly basic and bland. But not Cyber Shaman. Like a classical music composer Cyber Shaman is able to craft these individual synth textures, each one feeling fresh and unique. It hearkens back to when electronic music was first being made. When musicians threw away the manual to the synthesizer they were using because it was more fun to experiment and create new sounds, rather than use blatantly fake sounding strings. Or better yet, let me show you a clip of David Bowie, because who doesn’t like David Bowie?

Yet I said this album had a dichotomous nature, and I’ve only addressed the electronic side of things. Now let’s get into the organic. Throughout the album there is this amazing percussion, the first track Guerro des son does a great job of preparing the listener for the musical journey that they are going to make. With the bizarro percussion that is put through effects, and yet sounds like a junkyard drum kit. Or better yet, what a drum kit in an apocalyptic nuclear wasteland would sound like. Yes it’s put through a lot of effects, yet you can but hear the hint of tribal-like drumming throughout the album. The later songs compound on this idea, but this track is your first glimpse of what is yet to come.

The next track Renouveau (renewal) captures another aspect of the album that is quite unique to Cyber Shaman. Mainly it’s his ability to warp, and mutate each song. There’s a general sense of fluidity in his sound. Rather than being binary (Chorus, verse, Chorus) each track starts off with a motif only to mutate into something entirely different. And when I say motif, I don’t mean a series of notes that repeat themselves. Rather the motifs in this album are the individual synths and instruments used on each track.

The beginning of Renouveau sounds like you’re going on an underwater exploration. Only for the drums to harshly interrupt that tranquility. Then the track dissolves into this rhythmic electronic kind of seance. With the synths giving out this electronic howls. You can still hear–faintly–the underwater meditative kind of track in the beginning. Yet this track devolves from tranquility to that of anxiety. As though you while exploring deep underwater you encountered a cybernetic Cthulhu.

Now I’ve touched a lot on the percussion of Cyber Shaman, and yes it deserves all the praise it gets. But as I can’t make an argument on something being organic when I only provide one example. So for the next example we go to Attendre si peu (“wait so little” which is what google translate told me, so I’ll stick to it). Immediately it starts of with this guitar strumming, that so clean and then the distorted synths begin to disrupt this period of brief tranquility. The synths no longer sound like synths, they sound like the guttural noises a cybernetic monster would make.

Then as the electronic synths begin to fade away–as though they are low on power–you hear it. This lone trumpet. Which is so soulful, and so perfect for this track.

As I mentioned before there is a certain fear that comes along with technological process. A fear of losing it all. Where our overuse of technology can unleash a nuclear Armageddon, and we revert back to our primal nature. Yet, this is quite an abstract concept for music. After all how can this apply for an electronic music album? Well we can look to Myspace for that. One of the greatest tragedies in all of music is that almost all of it, we’ll never get to hear. Because it wasn’t written down. If you look at the historical epics, and tales of great music being heard, we have no idea what it sounds like. What was Alexander the Great’s favorite song? We’ll never know. What about Jesus, Buddha, Caesar, Cleopatra? What kind of music did they enjoy? We won’t ever know.

Likewise modern musicians find themselves in a similar predicament. We upload our music to streaming sites, hoping that it would be permanent. That maybe one day, somebody will hear it and really enjoy it. Yet as the Myspace fiasco showed us, nothing is permanent.

And nothing captures that kind of existential angst better than Attendre si peu. Where amidst the electronic digital behemoth a lone trumpet plays it’s beautiful siren call. The fact the whole album has this electronic orchestral feel to it, where everything sounds almost foreboding, and tribalistic–and to hear that lone trumpet. It’s an album worth listening to in order. Rather than cherry picking songs, because Cyber Shaman understands how to create music narratives. How to create a sense of consistency, lull the listener into complacency, and then only to surprise them with something so radically different that it becomes incredibly rewarding to find out.

So now that we’ve covered the existential fear of the digital era, now we go on to a different kind of fear. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Now it could be the I’m a nerd, and I like attributing science fiction to album reviews. Yet I cannot but help to bring the comparison to science fiction. Since this album is so electronically layered, and the medium, as they say, is the message.

Immediately the track begins with this electronic rhythmic wailing. As though you are observing an electronic black mass, done by machines. After all spiritualism/religion is a purely human phenomena. I don’t think Koko the Gorilla is really concerned about Gorilla Jesus. Yet there’s some existential angst that comes with the realization that there’s something out there that could become spiritual. For example there’s a certain kind of existential dread about meeting extraterrestrials, but then there’s the existential dread that they know something that we don’t. And their knowledge is so far removed from our grips of comprehension, that we become infinitely small in the universe. Where all religions turn to dust, and everything we believed for thousands of years, disappears within the blink of an eye.

Yet what if a machine becomes spiritual? What does that say about us? Was all of our spirituality merely the firing of neurons between synapses? Nothing more than electrical impulse? And the machines we create can have the exact same experience?

This song in particular hits that existential dread right on the head. As the black mass wails continue, a synth arpeggios along, and we faintly hear a sample. But we can’t make out what exactly it’s saying. Yet it is saying something. To us, it’s mere gibberish. But to the machines in the seance it could be a religious mantra, a black magic spell–anything. For in the time post-human–where all the skyscrapers become archaeological sites–we’ll never know what we’ll be remembered for. And that is a scary thought.

So with that kind of existential dread lingering throughout the album, Cyber Shaman, like any great artist knows when to alleviate that. The next 3 tracks build in an upbeat tone, Ridicule, L’Ordre, and finally to Métal Sucré (Sweet Metal) which is orgasmic to the ears.

Whether it’s the pads in the beginning that swirl around your ears, which is an oh so picturesque of a beginning. It almost begins like a robotic ballroom dance. With the synthetic violin playing this tender, vulnerable melody. It’s the kind of vulnerability you get when falling in love with someone. Where you strip down all the bravado, false assumptions, and get emotionally naked. And then you get actually naked for some baby makin’. Which let’s admit if you’re able to make a tender melody on an electronic instrument, is an impressive feat. Then there’s the actual context of the rest of the album, bordering on this cybernetic nihilism. Hearing this is such a catharsis. But it doesn’t end there.

Then you’re transported to some distant foreign country. The kind that you’d see in Indiana Jones. You know, something like Nepal–where even the people of Nepal think the Nepal of that movie is incredibly foreign to them. This is all propelled by middle eastern instruments, a brilliant percussion that gives the track momentum, synths that bubble in the background, and these beautiful female vocals. It’s the allusion to these cultural motifs, that’s ingrained in our collective unconscious that provides this track with so much momentum. That sense of exploring the unknown, that sense of adventure, the sense of action–which provides this track with so much of a catharsis.

Which is fitting after listening to an album that is so heavily electronic and has such an intense existential kind of atmosphere. I mean, why do we invent new technology? We do it because deep in our hearts, we are all explorers, and we want to know the mysteries of the universe. And we will keep pressing forward, regardless of the hazards, because the rewards are so much greater.

So finally we end with La Toune de la fin. Which begins with this focused synth melody. And when I say focused I mean a warrior’s kind of focus. A steel willed determination, which stands in contrast to the electronic distorted growl in the distance. Yes it’s an incredibly sinister sound, and one that does not provide a resolution. After all does our constant need to push technological limits account for the human condition? No. Yet here these two elements battle out, with amazing drums in the background, and the occasional melancholy piano keys. This is not such a clear cut answer, and I don’t believe Cyber Shaman wants to be resolved on this album.

Overall this album is a must listen for any music fan, or sci-fi nerd. Personally it was inspiring to see the limits of electronic music being pushed into new uncharted territory. And seeing creativity like that on display only drives me to be a better artist. Because these synths, and collage of sounds are something for any music listener to stop, and take a listen to.

So with his ability to create any amazing an electronic orchestra, I give this album my full recc. Please check it out.

To Buy or not to Buy? A Realist’s Guide to Gear

cropped-fc_550x550_white-3.jpgI’m probably not the best person to write this. After all, I am basking in the twilight of my Man Child years. That point in time where people no longer lecture you about your decisions, because you’re now just “That Guy.”

We’ve moved on to the digital age, and there’s a reason why Amazon has taken over nearly every aspect of our lives. You could blame it purely on capitalism. Yet that doesn’t stop me from buying some weird ass candy from Japan because somebody told me that it was the greatest thing ever.

We’re neck deep in this gluttony, and it’s over extending to our creative lives as well. I know SO MANY artists who are in this cycle of constantly buying shit that they don’t need. Whether it’s a $700 synth, a saxophone, a cello, a bass guitar, new plugins, a midi keyboard, etc. You get the idea. If you’re reading this, you’ve either done it, or you’re about to do it.

For me personally it was plug ins, and guitar pedals. Every single time I’d pay $60 dollars for a new pedal, thinking it was going to dramatically change my sound. That I’d be able to explore whole entire new landscapes–only to revert back to Fruity loops. Then the plugins I actually bought, one was The Sounds of India. And I have to ask, does any of my music sound anything like Indian music? The answer is no.

Why did I do it? Because I was really into the Blank Banshee song Cerulean. I thought the sitar that blended into the guitar in that track, was so fucking fantastic that I bought a $60 plugin that I never used. Then I remembered all The Beatles documentaries I’d watched where they went to India and how all of a sudden their music got all psychedelic from the Western/Eastern music fusion.

IF only my music could sound like THAT.

And that’s where the problem lies. Most of the time when somebody has a hankering for a new piece of gear 99.9999% of the time it’s because they want to sound like somebody else.

When I released my album, it was poorly received. One internet reviewer (who I paid) gave it a 1 out of 5 review. Which I agree with now in retrospect. Yet that review hurt so much at the time. That coupled with the fact I was ordered to go to rehab for my drinking, it was not the best time in my life.

In my therapy group there was one guy who took an interest in my music, and he listened to the whole album. He said he enjoyed it, all though he felt I hadn’t found my sound yet. And how could I have? I was buying stupid plugins trying to sound like every other person, when I had an entire DAW at my fingertips.

So when I quit buying plugins, started to explore the tools at my disposal–surprise I began to have a more coherent sound. A sound that was unique. A sound that was my own.

So before you buy that new piece of equipment, I have to ask: Have you explored all the possibilities your instrument provides? Did you try to write a song in a different key? Did you try to learn how to play it better? Is there a way to replicate the sound you want without needing to buy something?

And most importantly. Are you trying to sound like someone else?

There’s a reason popular genres always get stale. First there are the innovators, then there are the imitators, and then there are the record deals. It’s why music tourism is a thing. Why delve deep into a music genre when everybody is trying to sound the same? Why give that underground artist a chance when their music sounds like every other persons?

So for the answer to whether you should buy that gear or not. No. Not until you know every single nook and cranny in the gear you got. Not until you’ve worked on that piece of equipment for so long, that you are sicked and tired of looking at it. Because rock bands have been around forever and they’ve been doing just fine with a guitar, bass, and drums. If you can’t do more with an entire electronic orchestra at your fingertips–then I have two words for you.

Git Gud.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Cringe

HOLLYWOOD, CA – NOVEMBER 12: Tommy Wiseau attends the screening of “The Disaster Artist” at AFI FEST 2017 Presented By Audi at TCL Chinese Theatre on November 12, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Whenever I tell people I made an album (which isn’t often) I always get the same response. First they quickly acknowledge that it’s cool that I released an album. Then second, they always say that they used to make music, but they would never make an album unless everything was perfect.

Now you’ll notice that I said, “People.” This isn’t a one time phenomena. And it always struck me as odd that multiple people have said the exact same thing. As General Patton said, “If everybody is thinking the same thing, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

Then there’s the actual music producer community. If you go on any music production forum, there’s always the one guy who is a know it all. Yet if you listen to their music it’s always so bland. I remember one guy who spent $800 on a new synthesizer, made one song on it, and never used it ever again–lecture me on the microphone that I was using, since it wasn’t in industry standards. Let me repeat that INDUSTRY STANDARDS. As though we were real life music producers.

Yet I see the same pattern emerge over and over again. When people aren’t shilling out T-shirts, buying thousands of dollars worth of equipment, or not making music because they’re a “Perfectionist;” they’re trying to live in this make believe world like they’re apart of the music industry. Which they’re not. I’m not. You’re not. None of us are. Like I’ve said we’re in the underground. Whether we like it or not.

Yet there is something existentially terrifying about being in the underground. It’s a certain type of fear. It’s the fear of the cringe.

Nobody likes to be mocked, nobody likes to be made fun of, and nobody wants their art–that they’ve poured their everything into–to be cringey. In fact I am willing to bet, if you were to ask most artists whether they would be mediocre, or cringey. Without a doubt they would chose mediocrity.

It’s why there’s so much of an emphasis on imagery in the underground scene. Where people become their own corporate brand, where they measure twitter followers, and soundcloud plays like a stockbroker following the stock market. I’m guilty of it. You’re guilty of it. We’re all guilty of it.

Yet it’s not to measure success. Nobody is really making bread. I mean, there’s always the potential to make millions. But what do you hear more of: the amount of followers, likes, listens, comments, retweets, and shares their music has? Or how much money they’ve made since making music?

So why do we do it? Why do we keep up with social media? Why do we care so much about arbitrary numbers? Why do we care about industry standards? Why does everything just “Have to be perfect?” I’ll tell you why. It’s all about validation.

You see why scares people the most when they see a Tommy Wiseau, a Chris Chan, or any other cringe phenomena–is that maybe they’re like that too. We all have cringey moments. We all have flaws. Yet what makes people so cringey is the lack of self awareness of those flaws, and when push comes to shove they will always double down in the cringe.

Yet the same characteristics can be seen in any great artist. So what separates a Marlon Brando, from a Tommy Wiseau? Why was Marlon Brando so easily able to express himself fully in a way that was palatable to the masses, while Tommy Wiseau was unable to?

And the answer is simple: one wanted to be an actor, and the other wanted to be an actor. You can always tell when an artist HAS something to say. With that desire, that vision–that ember that’s burning deep inside of them–you can always spot them. There isn’t any seeking any validation from them. It’s not because they’re so aloof that they don’t care. It’s that they don’t give power over to other people. And really that’s the crux of the issue.

Was the reason you decided to make music was to be liked by people? To have people pat you on the head and tell you how much of a good boy you are? Or did you make music so that you can express something that you’ve felt? To make something that’s your own, that’s special to you, and you alone.

Or better yet, here’s a test for you. If nobody listened to your music, would you still make music?

Because no matter what, even if Marlon Brando never made it big, and would only be in the local theater he would still be an actor. Tommy Wiseau if he didn’t have 6 million dollars from selling Korean leather jackets (?) then he wouldn’t have been an actor.

No matter what I know I’m going to create. I’ve failed far too many times, took far too many risks, and I am either the dumbest/most stubborn person alive to keep on creating. Yet I have to do it. The question is, who do I give power to myself? Or to other people?

So when you make a song, or do any other creative endeavor–you should have nothing to fear. Because if you remain true to yourself, and make art that is yours, and yours alone. Then nobody can take that power away from you. And that my friends is how you avoid the cringe.

w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま: Haunted House Vol I: Texas Boneyard

https://flamingovapor.bandcamp.com/album/haunted-house-vol-i-texas-boneyard

So before I dive into this review, I have to ask a few questions: why do campy horror movies exist? What is their appeal? Why does the horror genre lend itself so well to campy-ness?

Sonia Sontag explained camp as, “[The] love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” Love of the unnatural if there was ever a better statement to summarize this album, I’d probably be writing for Pitchfork (lol). But seriously from it’s creepy samples, haunting textures, and creepy atmosphere; w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s Haunted House Vol I: Texas Boneyard does an incredible job at capturing a horror movie kind of feel. Yet it never gets too creepy.

What do I mean by creepiness? Well for this review, I’ll define creepiness as a feeling of fear or unease. Usually when musicians want to create a creepy atmosphere they’ll use atonal chords, odd time signatures (or no rhythm at all), a lack of resolution, unorthodox instruments, etc. Better yet, let me provide you a sample.

Now Tobe Hooper was the guy who not only made the movie, but also provided the soundtrack. Which at the time was radically different to anything that preceded it. Yes, there were classical composers who were trying to make “experimental” music like this. But it’s in the horror film genre that this atonal soundscape was able to really take off. It’s also why when reviewing an ambient album it’s easier to make allusions to film, rather than music.

So now I’ve laid the ground work for what constitutes as “creepy” music, I will now describe how w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s Haunted House Vol I: Texas Boneyard, deviates and embraces aspects of creepiness to create their own unique sound.

Let’s begin with the first song, Deadman Flesh. Immediately it starts off with this lo-fi distorted guitar. And as you know, I love novel guitar tones. This guitar in particular because of how it’s produced has this 80’s hardcore punk kind of aesthetic to it. This is back when punk was still in the underground, there wasn’t any studio polish, and as a result the lack of production created a unique kind of aesthetic. And as anybody who loves music, and has explored punk rock will immediately appreciate. Since punk rock is one of those genres where purity spirals are quite commonplace, and the more underground it is, the better.

Yet this guitar is not alone, it’s accompanied by another instrument. This instrument is as well a staple of a music genre, though not one you’d expect. The kick drum, which is a staple of EDM. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find any EDM music producer who doesn’t place a certain amount of emphasis on the kick drum. Which illustrates how important and integral it is for that particular genre of music.

We’re only in the beginning of the first song of this album, and already we can see this dichotomy between that of the underground, and that of the popular. So when the kick drum begins to ramp up, you’re already excited to see where it’s going to lead to. The floodgates are open with possibilities. Anybody who is willing to experiment with two diametrically opposed sounds sets up a large amount of expectation on behalf of the listener. And boy does w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま deliver.

Now this is where Deadman Flesh reveals it’s hand, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. After the distorted punk guitar, and EDM kickdrum we’re now introduced to the atonal horror samples, mixed in with a pulsating EDM bass, trap hi hats, and distorted guitar. Creepiness in music works best when it doesn’t have structure. Yet this music has structure. So when the traditionally creepy moans, guttural voices, and buzzsaw samples are in this song–they don’t create an atmosphere but rather they create an aesthetic. While Tobe Hooper used his music to create A Texas Chainsaw Massacre, w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま creates an punk rock EDM monster mash. And what’s not to like about that?

The next song Texas Boneyard. Delivers in the same way that Deadman Flesh did. Yet by conveying a different kind of emotion. The intro guitar, and tape loops create a kind of more melancholy experience. And yes it’s still danceable, but it’s not quite as danceable as before. This isn’t due to a lack of skill, nearly every aspect of this song is incredibly well done. From the distorted wailing samples, the rhythmically shifting hi hats, and melancholy guitar; it’s all excellent. Yet there is a lack of energy. And I don’t mean that negatively, as though there should be more energy in this track, that would be quite idiotic. The songs provides an emotional counterpoint to the one before it. Where Deadman Flesh was an emotional crescendo, Texas Boneyard is the emotion decrescendo.

What w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま accomplishes is that he uses the horror aesthetic to capture a variety of different emotions. Emotions that you usually wouldn’t find in creepy music. That’s because the emotion in creepy music is creepiness. There’s not much more you can add to it. You feel an emotion, it’s accomplished it’s job. By using a creepy aesthetic w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま is able to convey more emotions than just fear. And as Sonia Sontag said about camp, “[The] love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”

So this no longer is a creepy kind of album anymore, it’s an album about the love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. That combined with the EDM kind of music structure provides a more social environment. Since let’s be real, when you think of EDM you’re not thinking about some guy laying on bed, headphones on, contemplating Calvin Harris. You’re going to be visualizing a club. This album is equivalent of meeting those who are alienated like you. The ones who never fit in, and who always seemed to be outliers. Which is relatable since everyone is solipsistic we all imagine ourselves to be outsiders. So as we dive in deeper we’ll find more  layers of emotional nuance for the outsider in all of us. Which is created by w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s ability to fuse together different genres.

The next song The Wretched And The Brutal starts off with this Sonic Youth type of guitar. Which let’s be real if we’re going to be going down memory lane of punk/alternative rock music, there isn’t a better place to start than Sonic Youth. This doubled with the frantic drumming, creepy samples, and pulsating bass creates this sense of momentum. Which reminds me a lot like Joy Division’s Disorder. Which is an entirely different kind of sound than the EDM kind of genre fusion that preceded it. Now we’re moving into territory that’s more introspective. Even if Joy Division or Sonic Youth wasn’t on w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s mind when making this song. The cultural memory of this alternative dystopian disco sound, is going to provide a different set of emotions. Or in other words, we’re moving out of the club.

Now that we’re out of the club, we’ve left the group of misfits we belong to, and now we’re by ourselves. When we’re by ourselves it when we can be our true selves to it’s fullest potential. Slum is highly introspective. Why do I say that? Mainly it’s due to the unique soundscape that’s created. w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま has an incredibly unique sound. This first half of this track is pure w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま. There’s no other genre present for nearly half of the track. Kind of like when an introvert after a night of socializing needs to recharge their batteries. So they spend the next two days binge watching netflix in their pajamas.

For a creative person introspection is key. This is the time where the imagination can run wild. Which is embodied, in this track, by the aesthetically creepy samples, synth tones, ambience, and tape loops. So when the EDM influenced percussion comes back in, the sound is reinvigorated. For who can be you, but you? And who can be w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま but w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま?

Now we get Abattoir while most of has the genre fusions which produce unique kind of moods. This song in particular calls back to witch house. Though this isn’t a detriment to the album as a whole. w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s unique sound can still be heard on this track. This uniqueness cannot be overstated. Rather than dirty distorted synths that is the staple of witch house, we instead are met with this almost middle eastern kind of synth. This exotic touch, and minimalist percussion in the beginning, already sets the track apart from most of witch house.

This track in particular makes me recall an anecdote about Beethoven. Where his song No 25, Op. in G Major was a response to the happy simple dance melodies that were popular in his time. Beethoven being an individual and known for his brooding piano pieces, couldn’t help but be an individual. And as a result it became one of the best in genre. Not because he sold out his integrity and did what was popular, but rather tried his unique approach to an already established genre. Now it maybe a stretch to compare w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま to Beethoven, I can’t be that gracious of a reviewer. But the principle remains, even if an artist sticks to a genre and all of it’s tropes when they’re known not to, it doesn’t mean the song is bad. Quite the contrary, rather it’s an opportunity to express a genre through their own lens. And let’s be honest, behind every great piece of art there is usually a larger than life individual. Great art captures that individualism.

Finally we get to All Grey. An incredible track that distills all the ideas throughout the album into one song. It’s got the creepy samples, guitars, EDM precussion, and is the only song that features vocals. These vocals are a welcomed addition. As the deliver this punch to the gut emotional response. It’s impossible not to hear the passion in this song. Passion is the cornerstone to any individual. And with w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s utilization of so many different genres, you know that they’re passionate about music. Yet it’s in this song, with these unique set of vocals that we finally get an articulation of this passion.

So I implore anybody who has their ear to music to check this album out. It’s an album of the underground for the underground. It’s the music of misfits, of individuals, and of passion of all forward thinking musicians. Listening to the album was an absolute joy. I am 100% certain that anybody who takes the time to check this out, will be sure to enjoy this album.

So as a fan of the underground, and as a member of the underground. I give Haunted House Vol I: Texas Boneyard my full recc.

 

 

Vinyl Dial: Intergalactic Almanac

I’m a nerd. I know it’s shocking. You’d think a guy making soundcloud music, and writing reviews on underground music would be the captain of the football team. I know everybody is a nerd nowadays. Comic Con is a gargantuan entity. Comic book movies dominate the Box Office. More people watch youtube videos than watch TV. You get the idea.

Yet there seems to be this memory hole of what nerdom once was. My parents–being Gen X’ers–had that, “Hey let’s hangout with everyone,” kind of mentality. And I remember distinctly their friends being super into Spawn, Star Trek, old PC western RPGs, or really adult anime like Berserk or Ghost in a Shell. It was this “adult” kind of nerdiness that kids weren’t allowed to be apart of. It wasn’t squeaky clean, polished, or dumbed down. Kids weren’t apart of it because it was either too graphic, too intelligent, or too mature. Which made it all the more alluring to me.

So when listening to this album, it’s the exact same kind of feeling of uncovering something deeper. Going into unknown places. Exploring something complex and novel. Basically, it was like being a nerd all over again. I mean how can you not like cover art like this?

Vinyl Dial is completely devoted to their concept on this concept album. Which is an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish. Sure David Bowie has done a really great job at making concept albums. So has Pink Floyd. Yet even they will have songs that will take a backseat to the concept, in order to just add a song they really like. Perhaps it’s due to the fact the album is only 4 tracks, and because it’s only 4 tracks there is no filler.

Yet with the artwork above, it’s impossible to say Vinyl Dial made 4 songs because that’s what they were only capable of. Far from it. Everything in this album has that deeper layer, whether it’s the lore of the album, the lyrics, the album art, the musical composition, the vocals–I could go on and on, but you get the point.

So let’s get to the music, because after all this is a music blog. The first track Space Dragon opens up with this amazing drumming. Then when you hear the instruments–each one incredibly complex while at the same time melodic. This is one of those albums where it rewards repeat listens. It’s kind of like those paintings, where depending on your perspective, you can either see a duck or a rabbit. So for one listen you’ll really love the drumming, then the next listen you love the all the different synth textures, then the next you’ll love the lyrics and vocals. Which yes, I know that all the individual elements are supposed to synthesize, and create one sound. These songs are a lot more spacious, and vast. Almost as if you were out in space…

The album reminds me of an anecdote about Einstein that I read on Reader’s Digest. Where a guy met Einstein at a party, and Einstein asked the guy if he listened to Bach. The man confessed that he didn’t have an ear for music, and just sounded like chaos to him. Then Einstein told him that music is like math. Pop music, is like addition and subtraction. Movie scores are like multiplication. Bach is like calculus. Einstein then showed the man different records, and the man finally developed an ear for music. The same thing can be said about this album. Every song is like an entire album, yet when you breakdown and compartmentalize each aspect of it–it becomes incredibly simple and melodic. Which is something that when prog rock gets right is incredibly rewarding.

So when I say it’s nerdy, what I really mean to say, is that it this album requires a certain amount of devotion to music. Yet when you put this devotion towards it, and find all the idiosyncrasies of each track, it’s an incredible feeling. When Vinyl Dial takes you on a journey throughout the vastness of space, lyrically, they accomplish the same feat musically.

So the next song Polyhedral Cathedral, opens up with a spacious pad, amazing bass, rain samples, and the same incredible drum beat. Which reminds of Dark Souls–or anything from Soulsbourne series–where after learning about the mechanics of the individual songs, you immediately are rewarding with this beautiful environment. Everything in this track sounds beautiful, yet there is one instrument that is the rockstar of the whole song.

Which if I’m talking about rockstar, you know it’s going to be the guitar. The guitar is mixed so well into the track, that at first it just seems like part of the ambience, which it is. Yet as the track progresses the guitar starts to take center stage, and boy does it take center stage. I play guitar (badly). So when I hear someone shred I can tell the difference between someone relying on tricks and gimmicks, and someone legitimate talented. This guitar solo is Guitar God worthy. In fact if there was a youtube channel devoted to just the guitarist randomly shredding, it would instantly be a hit. Even if you don’t have the best ear for music, you gotta give props to the solo. Yes this guitar solo is extremely technical, but even the most casual music listener loves hearing a guitar shred.

Next up is Ad Astera Per Aspera, which has this electronic psychedelia in the beginning with a trudging along guitar. Then the track mutates, and warps into something that would be played during a final boss battle for an early 00’s sci-fi game. Which is fitting since this is a concept album, and as a concept album there is a story. A story that is incredibly fun, tongue and cheek, while at the same time being almost Lovecraftian. I’m not going to post any of the Bandcamp, or the lyrics up here. Because it’s so rewarding to see an album that has it’s own lore. Which is truly bizarre, creative, and so forward thinking.

I made the comparison to Dark Souls awhile back, and there is a reason for that. Dark Souls is a game that you don’t really need to understand the plot to enjoy the game–yet if you start figuring out the plot–you instantly want to replay the game. It’s the same way with this album. As soon as you read the write up, or see the lyrics you want to re-listen to the album instantly. To understand what I mean think of the kind of “mood” playlists there are. There are playlists to workout, to study, to get meditate, to get pumped up, etc. But for creative people, or people who just appreciate art, how many playlists have “imagination” playlists? Where the music serves the purpose of using your imagination. There are none.

Every kind of medium has co-opted nerd culture in some way. Whether it’s providing audiences Easter Eggs, room for speculation, ambiguity, etc. Music hasn’t really done that as well as other mediums have. I mean yeah, we have genius, but it’s used for the stupidest humanely possible songs. The bandcamp write up, cover art, and music all just add to this layer of depth. Where if this album ever were to make it really big (which I hope it does) people would be really engaged in it. I would love to see people’s artistic representation of the events that happen in this album, and I’d love to see a community come out of this album. It’s deserving of a devoted audience, not just for it’s music but for it’s presentation as well.

Finally we get to Bad Trip (First King’s ‘Bad Lullaby’ remix). This track is the sonic equivalent of a what machines dream of. It has that organic synth sound. Which is a contradiction, I know, but what I mean by that is that none of the synths feel like they’re the factory presets. Each one feels individualized and hand crafted. Which is applicable to every single aspect of this album. I know I talked about how great the guitar, and drums were in each track. Yet the same would be applicable to nearly every instrument from the samples, the vocals, the bass (which has an incredible groove), and especially the synths. This is the only track without vocals, which is a perfect way to end an album like this. You need time to breathe in the environment and reflect on the soundscape Vinyl Dial has created.

There’s no song in Intergalactic Almanac that feels half assed. Every song is firing on all cylinders, they are giving it their all, and you feel it. Almost any song you listen to, you can hear a bit of creative strain. Where the artist focuses so much on one detail that they forget to look at the bigger picture. This album is like one of those masterpiece paintings, where the more you zoom in the more intricate and complex it becomes, and yet each of those intricate little pieces could be a painting in and of themselves.

I would recommend this album to anybody who wants to truly “lose themselves” in music. The phrase is tossed out a lot, yet this is an album to truly explore. As I mentioned early the appeal of nerd culture was it’s complexity. Anybody who is a creative has the innate desire within them to explore. Yet we often find ourselves stagnant, and self absorbed. It takes albums like this (and pieces of art like this in general) to remind us of why we create. That is to explore, and create. And when an album creates something so worth exploring, then God Damn it explore it!

So I am undeniably going to give this album my recc. You cannot miss it. Vinyl Dial is so forward looking that if you don’t take some ideas away from them, then you’re going to be missing out.

Also as an added bonus here is some additional artwork for the CD release, courtesy of Vinyl Dial.