Pink Dolphin Presents: Scary Monsters (an electronic tribute)

https://pinkdolphinmusic.bandcamp.com/album/pink-dolphin-music-presents-scary-monsters-an-electronic-tribute

When anybody asks me who my favorite musician of all time is, I don’t hesitate to tell them that it’s David Bowie. He was a man who was of his time, ahead of his time, and before his time. Pop musicians before Bowie never really evolved their sound. Yeah sure Ozzy Osbourne’s sound drastically changed when he left Black Sabbath, and had Rand Rhoads as a guitarist. There are probably innumerable examples like that.

But nobody before Bowie, killed a persona at the height of it’s popularity, to pursue something entirely different. Not only would he pursue something different, but each time he changed his sound, he evolved his sound. The best analogy I can make is imagine a martial artist, who is the world’s greatest kick boxer. Who after winning the heavy weight championship of the world, decides to get into Sumo Wrestling. Trains super hard, and becomes the world champion of Sumo Wrestling, then changes to Brazilian Jujitsu. Meanwhile, as he changes from sport to sport he adds his own personal flair to it, adds it to another sport, and BAM he creates something entirely original and destroys the competitors while doing it.

So when any artist is doing a cover of Bowie, we’re also participating in a piece of musical history. That’s mainly because Bowie was the king of being into something “Before it was cool.” There’s so many different genres, artistic influences, cultural references, and soundscapes that it’s only now with the globalized digital world we live in that we can see how the fuck the underground gay scene, mimes, kabuki theater, Pink Floyd, and Andy Warhol can even be synthesized into something entirely new.

With this broad spectrum of musical creativity, an artist has so much to work with. Even in this album, since Bowie used so many different genres techniques, sounds, and influences that any artist doing a cover of Bowie can almost do anything, and still it’s within the realm of possibility for a Bowie song. For example if you ask me to play a Black Sabbath sounding song, I’m not going to bring out a synthesizer. Ask me to play a Kraftwerk sounding song and I’m not going to bust out my ole acoustic guitar. Ask me to make a David Bowie sounding song, and I can literally do anything.

So with that preface, let’s dive in and review this wonderful album. The first song Cyber Monday – It’s No Game (Part One) already starts strong with the very first sample. In Bowie’s original It’s No Game (Part 1) it starts off with what sounds to be a tape recorder, maybe a cassette, or even a Walkman. I don’t know. Mainly because I never grew up using a cassette player. Yet when Cyber Monday uses that old classic internet dial up tone, we already know what it is.

It’s genius because it does two things, one updates a classic, because more people probably remember the internet dial up tone than a cassette player. And two provides a sort of commentary on music itself. We aren’t finding music rummaging through Record stores, we find music by internet streaming services. This kind of meta-commentary is often used by Vaporwave and if you’re going to be covering David Bowie, what’s a better place to start than by using a variety of different genres?

Next we go to the actual musical arrangement of this song. Where instead of using heavy reverbed out guitar, they use these spacious shimmering synths. Which anybody who really has dived into Bowie’s catalog knows how forward thinking he was in regards to synthesizers, and pioneered many of the sounds we take for granted. Using synths to cover guitar based songs can be tacky, if not out right disrespectful, to an original song. Yet this is David Bowie we’re talking about. In South Park it’s a running gag that any idea that’s out there, “The Simpsons already did it.” Which in this case, any musical idea can be answered as, “Bowie already did it.”

So when in the original song, the guitar sounds like it’s hooked up to an amp that is sparking out, short circuited, and on fire. The question is: how you can provide the same type of sound using a synthesizer? Then the next question that has to be asked is: does it sound good? The answer to that is: yes, to both of those questions. The synths take on this razor thin electronic hum that sounds so sharp that it would cut your ear drum. It’s the perfect synth answer to the bizarre guitar tone on the original song, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better synth tone.

Yet there’s something missing in this track that’s not in the original. That is the sample of a Japanese woman speaking. Now when Scary Monsters was released in 1980, hearing a Japanese woman speak on an album would call back to some exotic, mysterious world. Since at that time, unless you were incredibly cultured, or were David Bowie himself, Japan was still an enigma to most Westerners. Now with anime, video games, manga, etc. Japan doesn’t really hold that sense of mystery. I already have some conception of Japan. So listening to it now, it doesn’t provide the same emotional response as it would back in 1980. So when Cyber Monday removes it from their cover. It improves the song for modern listeners.

Because let’s face it, if there was a movie that had a bunch of Indians eating frozen monkey brains it would seem tacky, stereotyped, and not true. But in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which was released in 1984, it seemed more believable. Mainly because people were ignorant of India, and it’s in that ignorance that you’re able to feel some sense of exploration into unknown territory. Yet we’re not as ignorant as we were 30 years ago. So when listening to this song now, it’s a great rock track with some Japanese woman speaking for some reason.

So next up is Foreign Technology – Up The Hill Backwards. The original Up The Hill Backwards is a lot more stripped down in terms of bizarre guitar tones. While at the same time is very vocal centered, with a droning organ, heavy hitting drums, and has an incredibly interesting groove. The main takeaway for this track would be, that it is a rock song. You could see almost any rock band covering it, and it would still work in their style. It’s a basic rock song, as much as David Bowie could be considered basic. With this simple foundation, the surprise will be how Foreign Technology utilizes this simple structure, to express their own sound.

So when listening to this track the first thing that you have to notice is the beefed up guitar tones. Then there’s the almost bagpipe sounding synths. Which before the droning organ in the background was so distant you’d swear you were hearing it from another county. You know when a cover is going to be great, when it already sounds ten times larger than the original.

The other thing is that while the original track was stripped down, it provides a lot of opportunity for experimentation. Which is in and of itself exciting, it’s like when you ask a Jazz musician to play their own version of say, Jingle Bells. Each musician’s interpretation of the song is going to sound incredibly different, yet each one is going to be jingle bells. You’re not excited to hear jingle bells, you’re excited to hear the artist play their version of it.

While the intro is hard hitting, beefed up, and sounds gigantic the rest of the track takes on a more spacious quality. Both in terms of sound, and thematically. While Bowie’s original song had the vocals in the forefront, and instrumentation in the back. This song does the complete opposite, and provides an entirely different kind of experimental tone. To begin with, the distorted vocals sound like an Astronaut floating out in space. Combine that with the reverb drenched spacious instrumentation, that constantly shifts, changes, and mutates. Kind of calls back to some sci-fi space exploration into some new unknown world. And what’s a more fitting tribute to the Man Who Fell To Earth?

Next up we have Depussy – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). The original Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is still as fresh today, as it was the day it released. It’s so entirely bizarre, and thoroughly entertaining. It’s the song that also kind of bridges that gap between Berlin Trilogy Bowie, and “Phil Collins” Bowie. Basically after overcoming drug addiction, experimenting with Kraut rock, electronic, ambient, and world music. All of this to spite his former manager who ripped him off. He needed a way to branch out from the world of experimentation to the popular mainstream. And no song really encapsulates this better than Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps.)

This song in particular, since it is the namesake of the album, has a lot of potential for any artist covering it. Since it is the song, of the album, that transitioned Bowie from Experimental artist to Phil Collins 2.0. There are either two ways to go about it, you can make it more pop friendly, or more experimental.

Or instead you can do what Depussy did, which is make the song live up to it’s name “Scary Monsters.” From the bass thumping Techno beat intro, to the menacing vocal growl, this track lives up to the name “Scary Monsters.” In fact if they ever made a remake of Blade (which I know they won’t because Hollywood sucks) this would be a perfect song for it. This song is so menacing, yet with the upbeat tone of the original song it doesn’t go overboard into edge lord territory. In fact with it’s fast paced hard hitting synths, it provides the track with a lot of energy, and provides action to an upbeat albeit experimental song.

This kind of heart pumping beat provides the song with a pop edge. Because let’s face it, everybody loves a song that pumps them up. There is nobody on Earth who just listens to music to contemplate the nature of existence. Sometimes you just want to let loose, get in a fight, dance at a club, or dunk on some fools who think they’re the next MJ.

So like the original song, while it is experimental, it still retains a pop edge. Though how David Bowie accomplished it, and how Depussy accomplished it are two entirely different means, they still nonetheless accomplished an experimental pop song. So while each version ended up in the same destination, the journey taken was wildly different.

Next up we have Destination – Ashes To Ashes (Destination’s Messed With Major Tom Mix). Ashes to Ashes is one of my all time favorite songs. Ever. I cannot understate how much I love this song. It’s a song that I would always skip, when I first discovered David Bowie. Mainly due to it’s bizarre intro, and the bizarre groove it had. Then there was David Bowie’s fragile vocals. His voice (which at the time) sounded like it was going through puberty. I couldn’t listen to the whole song all the way through. I kept skipping it, over and over again. It wasn’t until a girl I had a crush on started to date another guy that I was finally in the right headspace to listen to the song.

Which really fits in well with the theme of Ashes to Ashes. David Bowie’s first hit was Space Oddity. A song that got him to the top of the pops. Yet a song that almost doomed him to be a one hit wonder. Created during the time of the Apollo moon landing. It was a song about a man, Major Tom, an astronaut who gets launched into space. Who the public admires as a hero, only to then have his communication cut off from the rest of the world, and now drifts helplessly out in the black abyss of space.

Then Bowie defied expectations, became Ziggy Stardust, and became the rock star he longed to be. Then came the drugs, the alcohol, the terrible management, a divorce, sobriety, a different, sound, and now we get to Ashes to Ashes. A song where the heroic astronaut finally is able to get back into communication with the rest of the world. And when he does, the world is horrified to find out that he’s become a junkie. Where the general public doesn’t want to know what shirt he wears, rather they tell their kids that if “You wanna get things done, you better not mess with Major Tom.” A man that fell from grace to become a loser. So when a romantically rejected 16 year old me gave this song a second chance, well you can see why it resonated with me so much.

So with that kind of emotional baggage, Destination has a lot to live up to. The question is, are they able to live up to this epic tragedy? Well obviously I’m writing a review on it, so yes, they are. One of the reasons I passed on the song originally was because of the bassline, and the groove. It fit incredibly well with the theme of the song, that is of drug addiction, and emotional isolation. Everything felt off kilter and as a result you don’t immediately understand the tragic nature of the song during the beginning parts. Destination, on the other hand does an excellent job of setting up the immediate tragedy of the song.

How do they do it? Well it’s mainly due to the instrumentation that they’ve chosen. The plucking bass in the original highlights that kind of false sense of bravado when you’re under the influence. While the electronic keys provide that melancholy sound that the song is themed after. When you combine these two elements, at first listen, they clash together. Which is why I suspect I kept skipping this song when listening to it. Destination on the other hand does something different. They focus on the melancholy keys, distort it, allow it to mutate, and it conveys both inebriation and tragedy very effectively. While the bassline is instead replaced with this synth swirling around your ears.

By utilizing modern techniques of electronic music, Destination is able to convey the melancholy theme of the song in an incredibly effective way. Yet there is one thing that is impossible to do. That is have David Bowie’s vocals. Like I said before, David Bowie’s vocals, when I first listened to the track, turned me off from the track. His vocals were so vulnerable, and it sounded like he was fucked up when he sang about being fucked up. They were so experimental, and he pulled it off so well that it cannot be replaced. They are vocals that each time I listen to them, they resonate more and more with me. Mainly because I’ve matured both as an artist, and as a musician.

Don’t get me wrong I believe that the singer for Destination did a fantastic job. She has a beautiful voice, that is a pure joy to listen to. Yet in this track out of all the tracks in the album, I firmly believe that nobody can surpass Bowie in his vocal performance. It would be like if Hollywood did a remake of The Godfather. No actor would even remotely want any of those roles. Mainly because the shoes that they have to fill are far too large for any actor to fill. Likewise with this song, and Bowie’s experimental approach to his vocals, no singer could ever replicate the depth of emotion that he brought to the track. But I have to hand it to Destination they got closer to capturing the emotional vulnerability of Bowie, than I thought that anybody could.

Yet due to Destination’s strength of being able to effectively use synthesizers, utilizing nearly every tool at their disposal they were able to convey that level of emotion that was in the original. This track is a behemoth, it is so well done, that for any band to convey the complex emotions of the original deserves a listen. This out of all the songs on the track is the most daunting challenge, and Destination did an amazing job. It took a lot of courage to even cover this track, and I have my utmost respect for them as artists. They were Rocky Balboas against an Apollo Creed, and the fact they are able to go the distance and stand on their on two feet, is something to be proud of.

Next up is Dead Amps – Fashion and unless you literally have had no contact with the outside world for 30 years, you’ve undoubtedly heard this song. It’s an incredibly pop sounding song. While yes, it’s still David Bowie, and it still has his unique flair. It’s so popular that there’s a realm of possibilities with the song. To understand what I mean, take Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. It’s an incredibly popular song, yet there’s still a lot that can be done on it. For example, the guitars could be heavier, Ozzy could be replaced with anybody, the guitar solo could be improved, etc. It’s the same principle with this song. Bowie doesn’t have to be singing on it, like with Ashes to Ashes. It’s just a fun song about fashion.

So with that in mind we have to look at how Dead Amps approaches this song. Like I’ve said before it’s a fun song about fashion. So what they really have to do is capture that fun. After all David Bowie wasn’t just a pioneer in music, but in fashion as well. This song while at times is incredibly goofy, is also capturing Bowie’s emotional reaction to one of his favorite past times that is fashion.

So let’s see how they go about this. Instead of the guitar intro, they use a heavy distorted synth. Which works so well for this track. The guitars in the original, while yes they were excellent, they also could be seen as abrasive. Which can be attributed to the specific guitar tone that is used throughout the album. By using a fuzzy distorted synthesizer, the song is able to be more pop sounding, and thus friendlier. And if a song is friendlier, well it’s going to be more fun.

Then there’s the vocals where the track really shines. Like I’ve mentioned before there are some songs where the vocalist can be replaced, and it wouldn’t make a difference, or even improve the song. While Bowie is an excellent vocalist, his vocals are not needed in this track. Yet with Dead Amps female vocals, and particularly the chorus “Turn to the left, Turn to the right.” By double tracking the vocals, and adding a bit of female charm to the track, the track instantly becomes so incredibly fun. Then there’s the fact this is a male song, sung by a female there is a possibility of a duet, while before there was only Bowie. The interaction between male and female vocals works so well for this track. And then just to add even more charm there are the robotic vocals. Which is just the icing on the cake.

All throughout these various synths are used throughout the song, and provides it with such a campy feeling. Then when there is guitar it’s so well produced and does such a great job at providing a funky rhythm section that, I can honestly say that this song is great on it’s own, without the baggage of being a David Bowie cover.

Next up we have Nathan Carlson – Teenage Wildlife. It’s a David Bowie song that looks back to the past. To those 1950’s teenage Americana of getting your own car, and driving Pacific Coast highway. It’s his most nostalgic, and has those 50’s throwback sounds. With the crooning background vocals, old rock rhythm sections, of the 50’s with the perfected guitar tones of 1980. This is the song, where if you don’t like the guitar tone of the album, this is the track that you just have to admit sounds good. It captures that sense of nostalgia that we all falsely have of our teenage lives.

So I highly doubt that Nathan Carlson has the 1950’s as a frame of reference for his teenage years. I know nothing about the guy, but just call it a hunch. Then what would be our version of the 50’s? What genre tropes can we use to invoke those feelings of nostalgia? If only there was a retro genre that captured that wave of emotion of our youths…Oh yeah, retrowave. That was probably the worst sentence I’ve ever written, but you get the idea.

Even if you didn’t grow up in the 80’s, you had parents who listened to 80’s music. We all latch on to certain aspects of it, the synthesizers, the robotic vocals, the electronic bass, etc. If Bowie was alive today he would have remade his song the way that Nathan Carlson has. Because it’s not the particular sounds that makes this song what it is. But it’s the emotions the song invokes. That of nostalgia. For people in Bowie’s age range, it would have been the 50’s. For us it would be the 80’s-90’s. This song excels because it so well captures the 80’s aesthetic. Instead of great guitar tones, it’s great synth tones. Nearly every compliment of the original song can be attributed to this song, except it’s with synths.

Now we’re getting into some interesting territory with, Waffensupermarkt – Scream Like A Baby. The original track is very dramatic. With a nearly campy start, with it’s drama, then it’s spooky synthesizers, and various people’s vocals double tracked. Is a lot like Fashion in that it’s a fun song. All though it’s not because Bowie is really into babies screaming like he is into fashion, but because it’s just a fun campy song. I mean there is a misconception about experimental music. Most people have this image of a tortured soul living down deep in a basement. Alone with their synthesizer/guitar/whatever and making bizarre tragic music, to make sense of their bizarre tragic nature. When in actuality making experimental music is just having a party by yourself, and trying to see how much weird shit you can get away with.

So with a name like Waffensupermarkt what kind of music do you imagine they create? Hip hop? Bebop? Surf Rock? No. You don’t have a name like Waffensupermarkt without being experimental. Like I said before the track has a dramatic beginning, the riddle to this song is how Waffensupermarkt combines the drama, and experimentation into something his own. He beyond exceeds expectations.

The vocals are beyond creepy, and the synths can be so overpowering that they overwhelm you. Yet like I’ve said, making experimental music is incredibly fun. Listening to this track you know that this was probably a joy to make. Each synth is so unique, and something you’ve never heard before in your life, and just when it gets you to a point of familiarity, everything changes. Then you’re back to the experimental playground that Waffensupermarkt has provided.

Yet it’s the ebb in flow of the experimentation where the drama occurs. Where the atonal soundscapes provide the tension rather than Bowie’s dramatic vocals, and composition. By constantly shifting from the familiar to unfamiliar, we as a listener get conflict, resolution, and then more conflict. By embracing the experimental Waffensupermarkt is able to create a song that combines the creativity and forward thinking that Bowie was famous for. And it is definitely not a song for the faint of heart. Yet if you’re like me, make music, or just want to listen to something new. Then this would definitely be the track to checkout.

Now we’re in the homestretch 3 more songs to go. Next up is SutajioWest – Kingdom Come. Now Kingdom Come is another song that I believe is perfect. It’s the song where all the ideas of Scary Monsters come together and get ironed it. If I wanted to introduce someone to this album, this would probably be the song I would show them first. It does the best job at summarizing everything that the album is about. While at the same time, it’s a song that can stand on it’s own. Nearly everything about the track I believe is perfect the guitars, the bass, background vocals, Bowie’s vocals; everything is just perfect.

So now with SutajioWest he doesn’t really have the luxury of being able to create a summation of the cover album. Mainly because it’s a collaborative effort. Yet if there is one theme on this album it would be the creative interpretation of an artist who was renowned for his creativity. With that summation of the album SutajioWest does what this album does best, which is to be creative.

While the original song was very much a refinement of all the ideas that was throughout the album. SutajioWest creates something wildly different, yet somehow it captures the same kind of emotion. The song itself is about a man who has a rough life, either due to economic circumstance, or some emotional turmoil. Who just pleads for Kingdom come, where he no longer has to endure what he’s been put through.

Bowie used the backlog of all the techniques used in the album to convey this kind of quiet desperation, while SutajioWest has a different approach. From the distant vocals that sound so broken down, to the thumping trudging beat, and the synths that seem to never find a resolution, everything in this track paints a bleak picture. Then coupled with the electronic soundscape creates a cold and unwelcoming environment. While Bowie avoids synths during this song, and instead uses guitars, bass, and back up vocals. Bowie’s song sounds far more optimistic. While SutjijoWest’s cover sounds like a cold mechanized walk to the gulag. And what’s more relevant to our modern lives than some cold mechanized environment? Which like previous tracks on this album is a different journey to the same destination.

Now we get to the last song with vocals, Mark LaFountain – Because You’re Young. So with the original the track immediately starts off with some western kind of twangy guitar, and then there’s the glittering synths that flutter in the background. It’s again one of those incredibly upbeat fun songs that leaves the audience demanding an encore. The ending vocals in particular will knock you on your ass. It’s just so well executed, usually when you get to the end of an album, or on the B-side it’s where the creative spark of the artist begins to die. Yet with this song, it still maintains so much potential that it makes you excited to listen to the whole album all over again.

Yet this album is a collaboration, there isn’t any artist fatigue when there’s a collaboration like this. And when you listen to every track you can tell that each and every single artist has poured their everything into it. And Mark LaFountain is no different. While the bass was great in the original track, it’s in this track where the bass really takes off and becomes it’s own. I mean when listening to the original track, I’ve never thought the bass could be improved but God Damn Mark LaFountain has proved me wrong.

Then there’s his vocals. And God Damn this man can sing. Truly if there was a contender for a Bowie vocalist, this guy would be it. Nearly everything in the original has been improved in this track, and I don’t say that lightly. I mean David Bowie was known for being a great Saxophone player and I can imagine him listening to this, and going “Damn I should have played the sax in this song.” Then there’s the synths, guitars, everything is just pure excellence. If Mark LaFountain isn’t on your radar, then you need to readjust your life priorities and listen to this man’s music.

Finally we get to the end of this excellent album, of a collaboration of fantastic musicians with REKKT – It’s No Game (Part Two) [Instrumental]. Now even though the original had vocals, it wouldn’t be insulting to a David Bowie song for their to be an instrumental cover. After all this was a man whose B-side contained some of the greatest instrumentals of all time. And like the rest of the B-sides it departs from the main album by having an almost 50’s feel to it. With great backing vocals, old rock rhythm guitars, etc.

REKKT brings back the abrasive side of Bowie’s album. With a dubstep influence that fits perfectly with the bizarre guitar tones of the rest of the album. With a heavy synth that calls back memories to the Bowie produced Iggy Pop album it’s a great homage, and yet at the same time a great update. There’s one thing to retain an artists music to it’s purist element. But by that time you’re doing nothing more than just being a cover band. Bowie himself was incredibly creative and innovative at nearly every point in his career. By taking such a radical departure from the original source material, and yet at the same time utilizing some aspects that were lost in the source material. REKKT is both departing, and returning, to and from Scary Monsters.

And like I’ve said before this is a creative tribute to the artist who constantly changed his style, look, sound, and image all for the sake of his art. This collaborative effort is both a living monument to Bowie the artist, and to artists everywhere who were inspired by his work. REKKT recognizes this, and by creating an entirely new sound for an old classic, he is honoring Bowie the way he should be honored.

Every single artist on this album should receive nothing short of the highest praise. It takes a lot of balls to do a David Bowie cover. The man never lost his creative edge, and continued creating even when he was battling cancer. Not only did he continue to create but he continued to innovate. So when historians look back at this period of time, Bowie will be seen as something as a Mozart or a Beethoven. Some musical anomaly that happens only once in every generation. An artist who was able to constantly push the boundaries of what it meant to be an artist.

I believe that it’s impossible for any musician to deny David Bowie’s large presence on the music scene. We all have that moment of hero worship when it comes to his vast body of work, and for a group of musicians to create such creative works to honor him is nothing but spectacular.

This is a beautiful album that any Bowie fan should love, and appreciate. It will always remind us of why we fell in love with his music in the first place. And hopefully it will shine a light on the talented artists who did such a great job at honoring a great man. I knew from the moment this album was announced that it was going to be great, and it far exceeded my expectations. You all did a great job, and should be proud of yourselves. You have my sincerest thanks.

And with that I give this album my full recc.

YUNG CHUCK: His whole entire soundcloud page

You know when you’re browsing youtube late at night. You’re watching some minecraft videos, and before you know it you’re watching some freaky shit. Whether it’s pimple popping videos, people acting crazy on police cams, weird schizophrenic streamers, we all have gone down that rabbit hole.

I’ve only touched on youtube, but I believe I’ve found the weird part of soundcloud, and God damn is it amazing. YUNG CHUCK is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. At one point he will floor you with his creativity only to say, “Fuck it, I’m going to throw in random anime samples because why not?” It’s that kind of mystery in an artist that has everybody intrigued, where the thin line of genius and insanity is so razor sharp thin.

Now obviously since I’m not doing a review on an album but instead an entire soundcloud page this is going to be different than most reviews. I’ll mainly just be using songs to illustrate my point.

So let’s begin with weeoweeoweeo first off the name should kind of give you a hint as to what artist he is. Nobody who is trying to “make it” in the conventional sense would ever name their song weeoweeoweeo, unless there is some untapped market of people looking up nonsense song titles. Secondly one of the really interesting parts of YUNG CHUCK is that he will establish such great ideas, only to abandon it, destroy it, or let it devolve into gibberish.

Which is so refreshing to hear. As I’ve said before, yeah sincerity is a great thing to have in music. But if we look to the Kurt Cobain’s, Tupac’s, Jimi Hendrix’s, Jim Morrison’s we’re only going to kill ourselves or get killed. When an artist takes something so personal, and individualistic as music and completely makes a joke out of it, you’re either going to be pissed or laughing your ass off by the sheer audacity of it.

So to begin with this track begins with weeoweeoweeo and then there’s this vicious synth, and these edgy lyrics which you will hear so often on cloudrap. Then he raps about his nipples. It’s at this point where if you don’t get what he’s doing then please invest in my magical healing crystals on Ebay I really really need the cash.

Now the beginning of that song is so well executed (besides the weeoweeoweeo). It sounds so much like that edgelord cloudrap that you hear all the time. That YUNG CHUCK really shows his hand that he is more talented than you would be led to believe. In fact I would place money that he could easily make that kind of edgelord trap music, but the fact he abandons it so easily kind of shows the fragility of that particular music genre.

Nearly every aspect of this song, and nearly every aspect of every other song he does is almost a commentary of the state of underground music. Where anime samples are overused to death, males bragging about some false sense of machismo, edgelords being edgelords, etc. Because as soundcloud artists would like you to believe they’re popping Xanax, shooting cops, and catching up on the latest episode of My Hero Academia. It’s all nonsense, nothing on the internet is real, and yet people will still slop this shit up. Which is why in those song in particular I love the Jimmy Neutron Carl sample, almost so anti everything that soundcloud rap is, that is in and of itself is hilarious.

Now if you don’t believe me that YUNG CHUCK isn’t a talented producer then listen to Harvey Bean (beat)  which sounds so amazing. It’s the kind of song you want experimental hip hop to sound like. The song borders on being a cacophony of noise yet at the same time being so incredibly harmonious. It’s this kind of song where you see what YUNG CHUCK would be if he wasn’t poking fun at soundcloud, or just having fun on soundcloud (I have no idea what his motivations are.) Whether it’s crafted on a DAW or he uses samples, the point remains that it sounds amazing.

The same principle can apply to Achieve Nirvana which has this amazing rock track. Whether it’s sampled, or handmade is irrelevant. Since the does such a great job of switching between genres, beats, vibes, etc. And it all sounds amazing.

Which brings me to my next point. Remember when I wrote that article about Cringe? In that article I wrote that artists will purposefully sound mediocre, and goosestep in line because they’re so afraid that people will ridicule their music. Which is something so incredibly annoying, and draining to music as a whole. Yet YUNG CHUCK is probably the most fearless person I’ve ever seen online in my entire life.

I can’t tell you how many artists I’ve seen take professional headshots, go to photoshoots, pay people money to get “Professional” music videos, and all of it to look “legitimate.” Then there’s YUNG CHUCK in a school girl outfit. Which I love so much. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing someone dump a bucket of ice cold water on a party. Especially when everybody takes themselves so seriously.

Yet what’s truly ironic is that YUNG CHUCK is succeeding more than these wannabe “Professionals.” Why? Well, if you’re in a creative field and you want to be successful, then why don’t you–I dunno–BE CREATIVE!

So with everything his image, to the music he makes, the bizarre lyrics, to the absurd samples. Everything is just a breath of wild and crazy air. That you cannot help but enjoy. And if you don’t enjoy it, then you don’t get it, and you’ll need to reread this whole entire article all over again.

With his unique approach to music, his image, and everything else. I can’t help but give this guy my recc. Check him out, and hopefully you’ll get as much joy out of him as I did.

Musicians as Authors: AKA Performance isn’t everything

This will be one of the most controversial posts I’ll make on this page, but it’s an argument that needs to be made. But before I do that, I have a confession to make: I hate going to concerts.

I’ve been uncomfortable in nearly every concert I’ve ever been to. Whether it’s when an all white audience moves their hands in the air, like a scene in 8 Mile. The constant standing, the one drunk dude who tries to fight you if you bump into him, and of course that particular annoyance of idol worship. Where the musician is Holier than thou, and every thing that they say whips the crowd into this amorous frenzy. Even though the object of their desire are at best 10 yards away from you.

Everybody always seems more into the particular artist than I do. Everybody dresses to the nines in weird little get ups for that particular artist, for that particular scene, and you never know whether they do it for appearance or to express some sincere form of fandom. It’s a social event for an individualistic experience, that being, your musical preferences.

Yet it’s weird that music seems to be built around this foundation of expression. Imagine if novels never existed. That in order to to make any work of fiction you had to make a play, act in it, and then be judged on how charismatic you were on stage. Imagine all the great novelists Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Dickens, Lovecraft, etc. If all of their art was considered moot all because they didn’t have a stage presence? That’s idiotic right?

But music is TRADITIONALLY a social event. You had to form a band, get many different people to play many different instruments, you had to actually play live to be heard, you had to tour to promote your album–you get the picture.

Yet times have changed. I literally have an entire electronic orchestra at my fingertips, I don’t need to get other people involved if I don’t want to, in other words I am in a way an author of sonic soundscapes. Which is why when Deadmau5 says all DJs just press play and every single journalist, musical purist, armchair rockstar, all got in arms–seems to me to be completely idiotic.

Say for a moment that was the case, how does that invalidate the art form? He made all of the music, even though he couldn’t physically play it. It would be like somebody reading a book and saying that it was terrible because the author couldn’t build a set to it. It doesn’t make sense. Not only does it not make sense but it also stifles the creativity of an artist.

Now obviously there are cases when a band’s live show does spectacularly well. Where you have to go to see them live just to feel the energy of the crowd, see the amazing special effects and stage props, feel the bass thumping deep in your chest, meet some cool and interesting people. I will begrudgingly admit that to be one of the major benefits to going to a live concert.

Yet at the same time when a show doesn’t have a live show, doesn’t perform, and you only judge them by their music–it can be, for me at least, a much more rewarding experience. You use your own imagination, picture your own fantastical world to explore in, and that’s why for me live concerts always leave something more to be desired. Because let’s face it, the book is almost always better than the movie.

So when I hear up and coming artists struggle with stage fright, have terrible stage presence, and aren’t social butterflies–I always want to tell them that it doesn’t have to be this way. But because in our cultural imagination we have it ingrained that not only must an artist, write, compose, sing, but also perform. Which speaks volumes to the amount of talent to the artists who can do all of these things. Yet at the same time artists should not beat themselves up, if they fail to perform.

We as musicians take so much for granted, we literally can achieve studio quality music from the sanctity of our bedrooms, we don’t have to have record label executives telling us how an album should sound, we don’t have to tour across country to promote our new material, we have complete creative control. And yet we will beat ourselves up for having so much freedom.

So if you are a struggling musician trying to make it big, there are many different avenues for many different types of people. If you don’t have to perform, you don’t have to. If you would rather perform, then by all means go. Yet it has to be known that there are more ways than one to become a successful musician.

Pool View: Victory Formation

A song comprised of guitar loops, harmonized screaming, Post Punk basslines, a beat switch up, and a fucking saxophone solo. If you just read that and are thinking to yourself, “How the fuck is this a song?” Well my friend, rest assured you’re normal. Pool View on the other hand is definitely not normal.

Now you may think that I don’t like this track, far from it, I LOVE THIS TRACK. I have no idea how Pool View was able to combine any of these ideas, I have no idea how the formation of this song even came to existence, I have no idea what his influences are, I have no idea how he came up with this song.

This is kind of existentially terrifying for me, as a creative person I can kind of see the gears turning in someone’s head when they release a track. I can kind of pinpoint their influences, see who they borrowed from, what genre they’re paying homage to. Yet with this artist, I can’t.

It’s that full unbridled creativity that draws us into art. When we see something like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, or even The Matrix. We’re blown away by the vision of its creators. Yet with each of those films, if we are culturally astute we can see the influences of other media. Star Wars is just Flash Gordan mixed with some Akira Kurosawa, Joseph Campbell, and WWII serials. The Lord of the Rings is an amalgamation of European myths. The Matrix is a homage to every sci-fi ever. Etc.

With this little microcosm of a song, maybe you hear a bit of musical influences. For me personally I heard a bit of Red Hot Chili Peppers in the intro. I heard a bit of Hip Hop, Jazz, punk, etc. Yet it’s the fusion of all these elements into something entirely new that astonishes me. It astonishes me because even though it seems familiar, it’s not. It’s like landing on an alien planet. It seems like Earth since it has life, and solid ground. But everything around you is so unfathomably different.

Everybody has heard the announcement that A.I. will eventually be creating music. And nearly every artist, musician, has had to roll their eyes at this statement. Yet for the people who believe in that, could an A.I. come up with a song as original as this? Fuck even 99.99999999% of the population isn’t creative enough to come up with something remotely as original as this.

So if you think that music as an art form is dying. I implore you to checkout this song. It is honestly amazing. It’s the type of song that you listen to, that makes you checkout some of your previous tracks, tracks that you thought were “Too weird,” and forces you to take that creative leap of faith. Because if you don’t, other artists like Pool View will.

Pretty O.P. : Satisfaction Guaranteed

So I’m going to be honest. I am 100% biased when it comes to this review. This guy has been making back to back masterpieces, and to say that I’ve been unaware of him would be a lie.

Usually whenever you hear underground music, it sounds like it came from the underground. With trained ears you can hear the mic pops, the muddied bass lines, the out of tune vocals, etc. Yet it’s because of its sincerity that we keep coming back to it, again and again. But what if I were to tell you that there was a soundcloud musician out there, whose songs brim with sincerity that sounds so polished, so pristine, and so perfect that it makes every person on soundcloud look like the amateurs that they (and I’m including myself) are?

Now I introduce you to Pretty O.P. a musician who lives up to his name. Where to begin with this song? The first time I ever listened to Pretty O.P. I was blown away by his vocals. He’s got so much range, and it has that quality that everybody loves in a singer which is his ability to emote. They say that the mark of a good singer is his ability to stay in tune, and the mark of a great singer is to stay in tune and emote. This song is no different, yet he introduces so many new elements to his vocals that you cannot help but be amazed by his singing.

Then there’s the musicality of Pretty O.P. the chord progressions, the electronic flourishes, the pitch perfect guitar solo, the ebbs and flow of the track. There is literally hook after hook in this song. In one moment you’re blown away by the acoustic chord progressions, then there’s this psychedelic dubstep sounding synths (a phrase I never thought I would ever write), and then it goes lo-fi with the ambience of children playing over what sounds like a tape recorder.

So you’d think after that one long ass run on sentence that that would be all there is to the track. You’d be wrong. It’s better to listen then to read a review so I implore you to checkout an artist who has been slaying it, track after track.

Blue Ceremony: Slow Dance

I really didn’t get into music until I was 13. Sure I bought 50 Cent, Eminem, Xzibit, Godsmack, Linkin Park, and Papa Roach albums. The 00’s was really a terrible time for music, and finding any good album was like finding an oasis in a desert. It wasn’t until I got into skateboarding that I accidentally found bands like Joy Division, The Smiths, The Cure, Bauhaus, etc.

It’s a magical moment when you discover a whole music genre that you never knew existed. For me Goth music, Post Punk, Alternative, Indie, whatever you call it, was a genre I dismissed. Being raised in Southwestern Ohio, if you were in any way, shape, or form associated with Goth you’d automatically be called a Satanist, or whatever. To find out that this genre of music had some of the best, most sincere pieces of art was such a great surprise.

So discovering this song, is like a nostalgic recall of that time. It has all of the trademarks of great Goth bands. The guitar reverb heavy sound, that sounds like it’s being played in a bat cave. That creepy choir that borders on atonal creepiness, to full on camp. The beat that provides this sense of momentum before fluttering off into the night. And then finally those excellent vocals. The kind of post punk vocals that sounds like a vampire seducing some kind of young girl. This track has everything going for it.

Soundcloud usually gets a bad rap. It’s entirely deserved since the majority of the time it’s awash in the mediocrity that is cloudrap. So to find not only a unique artist, but one that fully embraces a genre that doesn’t get that much attention on soundcloud–is completely worth it. Not to mention the fact that this is a solo artist (as far as I can tell) which still blows my mind.

Anybody, and everybody who is an artist goes through a goth phase. Whether it’s through fashion, style, or art–we’ve all gone through it. And even though I am dudebro model 3.5, I still really enjoy the artistry that goes into this genre. Because of that I don’t have to go out on a limb to suggest you listen to it. But if you’re still unconvinced, then if you appreciate great art, great music, or just want some spooky tunes to groove to, then check out this song.

 

Meme-Brane: Shriek

So with a name like Meme-brane I kind of expected this album to filled with meme music. Distorted minecraft music, Despacito 2: Electric Boogaloo, the Shrek movie played at .0000003 speed. I was ready to listen to the ear drum melting music of the Zoomer meme generation. Then I saw the cover art. “Hm, maybe there’s something more to this artist,” I thought to myself. And then I listened to it. My jaw dropped down to the floor, and I was blown away.

To begin with it has everything I love in electronic music. It has these bizarre sounds, heavy drums, this cold detached nihilism, layered synths, dirty guitars, etc. When a lot of people say they don’t like electronic music, they usually refer to how artificial it all sounds. That there is no humanity in it aka emotion. And most electronic music sounds like the life has been sucked out of it. This is not the case with Meme-brane. Nearly every track is perfectly arranged, structured, intricate, and meticulously thought out.

So a better comparison for this type of music would be instead of picturing a virtuoso playing a violin in front of a crowd. Imagine an author instead. When you read say, Hemingway, Faulkner, Salinger, or Tolstoy–you know that every single line that is written was written with a purpose. There isn’t a period, comma, or word that isn’t carefully chosen, poured over, and thought through. Even media that is a collaborative effort such as film, envies the ability of authors to single handedly create their own worlds. The modern electronic music producer has the same ability, and listening to Meme-brane you cannot help but feel that this author has complete mastery over his sound.

To start with this album review we have to go to the beginning. The first song n1 is an incredibly intro, and what caused me to be so excited for this album. It has this distorted Brian Eno-esque synth playing. Which is incredibly minimalist, but which serves the song, and as a result the rest of the album.

It’s like when an author starts with an amazing opener, like let’s say, A Tale of Two Cities starting line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That opening line provides so much mystery. You immediately want to know how something so contradictory could take place. If you read more in-depth you realize that this is an excellent foreshadowing, because you know that there is going to be a lot of drama. There are going to be incredible highs, and incredible lows. You know everything this book is going to be about in the very first line. Yet the enjoyment is to see how the author plays this out.

Likewise with this album with the distorted synth mantra being played, the heartbeat that sounds like the electronic pulse of a machine, the swirling distorted pad in the background, and the shimmering keys that are being played. It sounds more like the birth of an electronic beast. Since I’m at the age where everybody is getting married and having kids, there’s nothing a parent loves than hearing the heartbeat of their unborn child. I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me with their phones and made me listen to their unborn child’s heartbeat. Though instead of a child, an electronic album is being born.

This is where the authorship shines through. This is where where we change from reviewing an album, to reviewing a world. A world that Meme-brane has invented, and immediately from the intro we are thrust into this sense of mystery. This is Meme-brane’s version of, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

So with the next track Exponentialism we see the formation of what this electronic birth has brought us. It immediately begins with where n1 left off at. A seamless transition that rewards the listener for listening to the whole album rather than one song. This bizarre little electronic beat limps along. It’s obviously not strong enough on it’s own, and as listeners, we know that something needs to be added to it. The question is what? And the mystery is how Meme-brane is going to add to this track.

So along comes another beat. That just feels a little off. This syncopation adds this feeling of unease. It’s off balance, something isn’t right. We need a resolution, and when we get bizarre vocal samples. We are still not getting much help. If the beginning was an electronic birth, this song is a struggle for survival. For when we do get music that does provide us with a resolution, it’s harsh, brutal, and violent. The synths are heavy, distorted, so sharp they’d cut your eardrum. The samples are so strange, and alien to us that it’s like the ambient sounds of an alien planet. Then there are the guitars that are so heavy, and distorted they’d make Slayer blush. This is not a peaceful resolution to the mystery we were presented with.

This is the music equivalent of man who wakes up and has amnesia, and when he looks into the mirror, fails to recognize the man looking back at him. Then when he returns to his room, he finds a blood trail, follows it, and finds a murdered woman in his bedroom. We as listeners know that this mysterious sound that Meme-brane has provided for us, is not going to be peaceful. There’s going to be conflict, there is going to be harshness, there is going to be drama, and more importantly there is going to be emotion. Something that every person who doesn’t like electronic music, feels that’s missing in electronic music.

Now the scene has been set. We know the general rules of the album, and the next song Exit Strategy compounds on the ideas that were introduced in the prior song. We’re introduced to that same syncopated drum beat, except this time this sinister synth growls in the background. In terms of say a novel, or a movie. This is the part in the act where we get over the initial shock of the mystery presented before us, and now we’re fully enveloped into the world the creator has presented before us.

This sonic soundscape of a world we listen to is as ominous as it is mysterious. The track ebbs and flows, and has that typical dynamics in music. Yet it’s not played out in a stereotyped manner. Usually when a track gets quiet, it’s more meditative, introspective, emotional, melodic, etc. Yet here in Exit strategy. The music is just filled with this ominous sound. It’s bubbling right beneath the surface. You can hear the building tension, as though a rage is building up inside of you. And then when it finally gets loud, it’s abrasive, harsh, confrontational, and overall beautiful.

Next up we have Three Skinny Sisters which starts off with this incredible drum beat. Personally I love variety when it comes to drumming. Sure, the best thing you can do is create a beat that serves the song. Yet when a drummer knows when to use every tool (or drum kit) at their disposal it creates a different kind of mood. That being said, it creates a mood. With the gate-reverb kind of sound, and tom fill ins. It has this 80’s throwback kind of sound. Mix that in with the basslines you got a groove. So now that there’s an electronic groove going on, what do you do next?

Well seeing as Meme-brane has this authorship going on, and given the previous songs, this isn’t going to be a simple groovy song. We’re already immersed into the world they created so with the introduction of this sinister atonal synth. It creates this ominous sound. Which is only more ominous with the introduction of an arp that is so sharp, so vicious, that it gets your blood pumping. Which culminates in this orgasmic fat thick sounding synth, and at the end a chaotic swarm of shrill synths swarm upon your ears. It’s one thing to create a groove, it’s a whole other matter when it’s sinister.

Next we get to (404) Hope Not Found. Which is probably one of the greatest song titles that has ever been created. I kicked myself as soon as I read it for not coming up with it myself. Even looking at the wave points of this track you’re already hinted at the buildup that will transpire. Nearly every song has this excellent crescendo in rising tension, and how to get you pumped up. Yet it’s in this track that I have to mention the pure creativity of Meme-brane’s sound.

As I’ve mentioned earlier the drums on every track is incredibly well done. Each serving the song, and each providing additional emotional context. Yet it’s in this track where you realize the creativity behind each track. The beat is this amalgamation of drums, distorted synth bass, and metallic hi hats. It’s the fusion of these elements which creates this unique sound. Most artists are comfortable in having a few tools at their disposal and using only those tools. In this track you get an understanding that Meme-brane is not only adept at crafting great music, but at the same time exploring the possibilities within each song. You can imagine Meme-brane tinkering on an individual synth, a cymbal, bass, or whatever to achieve that perfect sound. Experimenting, combining each texture to create something of their own.

So while I’m on the point of experimentation. It’s no surprise that this track has some of the most experimental sounds of the whole album. As as soon as you hear the distorted robotic vocals on (404) Hope not found, you can’t help but smile. It’s the kind of sound that as an artist you see all the time (either as a DAW plug in or guitar pedal), you’ve probably tinkered with it, but have never found the use for. Listening to it so well executed in this track, provides that kind of joy when you realize that a door has been opened. That there are more venues for creativity than you’ve realized.

Now as I’ve said, you have to look at this album through the lens of an author. Any great writer can tell you how to make something dark. So I’ll paraphrase George Lucas, it’s easy to make someone cry, all you have to do is to kill a puppy. That’s easy. Yet it’s the dichotomy between dark and light that creates great art. Or in other words, your audience needs a breather. They need something to lighten the load. Usually in film it’s those comedic moments, or maybe just a comfy introspective page in a book. Something that lightens the mood. Which the next track Angel Grinder does perfectly.

The synths have the complex melodic structure. Which given the previous track is an excellent way to settle your audience down. The complexity  offers up an easy way to deescalate the harsh brashness of the previous tracks. While the melody offers up a way to truly lull you into a state of relaxation. Add on to this the soft pads in the background, and you’re already on a new state of chill.

Yet this song is called “Angel Grinder” and we’ve established the Angel. Now we gotta get to the Grinder. There’s this distorted synth, that gets introduced soon after the relaxing synths. It’s not enough to disrupt the peaceful mantra that you’re in, but it’s enough to say it’s not relaxing. Then there’s this ambient noise, a sort of guttural growl of a beat. Which kind of reminds me in those old Survival Horror games, where you find a safe room. There’s always this incredibly chill music that’s being played while at the same time a zombie is staring at you right outside the doorway.

When the beat kicks in, it adds a degree of energy to the track, a sense of momentum. The guttural growl of beat is still audible, but then there’s this clear synth being played, and quickly the guttural groan is gone. Then what is followed is a series of tape loops, glitches, electronic flourishes that pulsate, and flutter around, before finally finishing in this perfect ending.  Where all the sounds die down except for that peaceful pad, that creates the ultimate chill atmosphere.

So after the relaxation that was Angel Grinder, we gotta get up, and the next song for that is Factorial. Which has a lot of energy compared to the previous tracks. Either due to tempo, or simply by the way it sounds. While the tracks previous to it, were this bubbling under the surface viciousness, this track is of pure momentum. This track also has some of the best synth structure I’ve heard in a long time. Every synth is made so well, and sounds so radically different from anything I’ve heard that I could write an entire review on them by themselves.

Then there’s the beat. The beat in this track doesn’t come out until a quarter way through. And when it does, it’s not like the rest of the percussion which is always a little bit off beat. It hits on time, and it hits like a truck. It’s an incredibly bass-y kick, that combined with the clear precise sounding synths, distorted guitars, and deep electronic hums all blend well together to create this really enthusiastic sounding song. Which is an incredible feat since nearly every song prior to this was used to create an ominous, vicious, brutal sound, and yet the same tools are being used to create an incredibly upbeat song. You can’t help but admire Meme-brane after listening to this song, for not creating a unique sound, but creating a unique sound that can create so many different emotions.

Next up we have, ArcheTriptych which has one of the most bizarre intros I’ve ever heard. The beat sounds almost like noise music, as it squeals, mutates, and pulsates through. Then the drum beat starts, and then forms the cacophony into harmony. Which as I’ve mentioned before, is something I truly enjoy. It’s always a joy to hear something, in anybody’s work, that sounds so weird and atonal to then morph into a melody, and it’s always fun to figure out how it’s done. In this track it’s mainly accomplished by anchoring the sound to the drumbeat and then add additional instruments.

Then as the track progresses, as the drums play along, the synths stutter and pause, and the guitar’s power chords surge throughout the track. A bizarro kind of groove begins to emerge. Whereas before when a song had a strong groove it had a sinister quality, this track in particular has such a strange and mysterious sound. It’s almost like the music equivalent of finding Cthulhu. Something so alien and foreign that it defies human imagination. When I say I have never heard of anything like this before that is 100% true, and I believe it’s due to Meme-brane’s background in creating Ambient music.

I’ve reviewed plenty of Ambient albums and ambient albums can have some of the most original ideas. Since by it’s nature it’s not tied down to any musical structure, it instead relies on textures, different kinds of sounds to create different kinds of moods. It’s in this track where you see how because Meme-brane had a background in Ambient music, that Meme-brane is able to create such evocative pieces of music. Even the genres that Meme-brane self titled himself after Synthwave, Industrial, Gothic, Breaks, etc. I can’t think of a single artist that is able to create such unique sounding music.

Finally we get to Veil of the Cryptographer. Which immediately shows the ambient influence. With a swirling electronic ambience, and deep growl of a synth, punctuated by a sharp and precise beat. With 8 songs preceding it, you’d think Meme-brane wouldn’t be able to surprise you, yet you’d be wrong. In nearly every song there are key characteristics that carry through. Key sounds that is unmistakably Meme-brane’s sound. Yet there’s always an introduction of either a new instrument, new arrangement, a new subtraction, sample, etc. That always surprises you. You never know what to expect, and with a song that’s 8 minutes long it defies imagination how Meme-brane is able to keep the creative juices flowing for so long.

The best comparison to make is that it’s like reading about an intense weight lifting program from Arnold Schwarzenegger. You hear about how many hours he poured into the gym, the amount of willpower he poured into being the best bodybuilder, and you sit back in awe thinking to yourself how that’s humanely possible. It’s the same principle with Meme-Brane’s creativity. When after 8 songs, and during an 8 minute long song, that Meme-Brane is still able to remain fresh, creative, you cannot help but admire this superhuman power of creativity that Meme-brane has unleashed onto the world.

This album is by far one of the most unique, and interesting sounds I’ve ever come across, and I implore anybody to check it out. For any artist who has writer’s block, listening to one track of Meme-brane, you’ll be able to come up with a thousand new ideas that you never thought was possible. As I said I came into this album review thinking it was meme music, and came out of it blown away. I still have no idea how Meme-brane was able to pull this off, and with that I give this album my full uncontested Recc. You must check this out.

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.

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.