Let’s start by breaking down the name of musician Marcus Kihn’s latest album; “Lascivious” is an adjective that describes anything evoking overt or offensive sexual desire. Being the musician’s sixth studio release, from the beginning you can feel this album just wanting to make sweet passionate sex with your eardrums.
Kihn is from Canada and has been making music for several decades and he pulls influences from neo-psychedelic idols like Pink Floyd and Massive Attack. He started playing with bands but soon realized he flourished most through creating music as a solo artist. This album exudes this truth, as the music is multi-layered and dynamic yet has an appreciation for simple contemplation, and is perfect background music for solitary relaxation. Each track has a meditative state and slowly draws you into a world of mysterious tranquility.
The album opens up with “Pangea,” which is a slow burning track that slowly turns into a bright fire. The usage of tribal drums and chanting lyrics results in transcendence to some ritual taking place down in the Amazon and I can even imagine being enveloped by the scent of smoke and dense forest.
A more mysterious and perhaps darker track is “Missing Heart,” which has an Indian vibe and reminds me of trip hop bands like Thievery Corporation. The song offers vocals from both a male and a female and together they make this song an emotional and ethereal trip. The effects are all different yet add a cohesive character that is quite hypnotizing. The lyrics “your soul’s delight will surely find you, looking deep within until it kills you,” give a beautiful image of self-discovery but at the same time the darkness of uncovering one’s true meaning of life creates a haunting effect.
The entire album is of high production quality and the usage of effects, vocals and supplemental instruments all blend together to create an ambient like jazz-infused sophisticated lounge album. Even though Kihn is the mastermind behind the album, the addition of talented vocalists, a flutist and an electric violinist give this album the depth and truth of experience that anyone craves in an album. Each song creates a distinct effect on the psyche and perhaps, the musician’s intentions on the listener’s reception is quite Lascivious.
Sunset Afire is a hard rock band from Brooklyn, NY that just released a three-song EP entitled event horizon. This three-piece band has been playing together since 2008 and initially released Travel Journey, a seven-song LP and then followed it up with an album of acoustic material in 2010. Their latest EP event horizon is only about 12 minutes long but they cram a lot in and it may serve well as a foundation for an upcoming full length.
The production is decent. The guitars were a bit thin with too much high end at points and I would have liked to hear more separation between the bass and bass drum. I also felt the vocals could have been treated better to fit into the music.
The EP opens with a solid song entitled “Revision,” which begins with no warning. Crashing drums, bass and distorted come at you all at once before stopping on a dime and then starting up again. The clean guitar picking was inventive and the vocalist sounded stoic and reminded me a bit of Ian Curtis from Joy Division. Perhaps the most unusual part of the song is the part when the vocalist overlays demon-like vocal overdubs on top of the normal lead. He sings “Move on don’t look back. No more revisions. Behind every story is the second truth.”
“Roses & Dreamers” is a first half experimental pop that works. Half way through the pile on the distortion which could have been effective except the production holds it back. It ends up sounding harsh rather than explosive.
“Arms of Time” was the highlight of the EP. The cascading guitars line and bass work climb scales and make for an effective verse. By the end of the song they are rocking out as hard as they can and it leaves a good impression.
Sunset Fire have produced a solid EP with decent songs but it could use some improvements with the sound quality of the songs. I'm looking to forward to a their next full length.
In the Hour of the Wolf is an intriguing blend of stoner rock with psychedelic swathes. And it’s from Costa Rica, which is just not a country I'd expect to produce such music. Echoed vocals, slick drum rolls that change tempo mid-beat, tough bass lines that help levitate the oceanic guitar work. There is a notable emphasis on vocals, which is interesting because of the thick, hazey string arrangements.
Distorted guitar notes often boil just below the surface of the more immediate sheen on instrumentation, sometimes getting in the way of a particular passage, sometimes highlighting a key instrument in a track. This means the vocals fade in and out of clarity and though the lyrics are sung in English, the accent and unexpected accentuation can damn a lyric into misunderstanding.But look over that little flaw, especially when the music itself will have much of your attention anyway. It is heavy as post-rock, but fraught with the heedless drumming characteristic of post-punk and the electronic fog that pervades shoegaze albums.
There are many moments to fall in love with, from the urgent drumming in "Wetlands" to the metallic anguish expressed in "In the Hour of the Wolf." I love the sound, the heaviness of it, the thick imagery concocted by the musicians, who use thick sounds to weave a tapestry of volume for the listener, but In the Hour of the Wolf also runs into problems of homogeny.
At some point it becomes difficult to distinguish one composition with another. There ARE many wonderful moments on the album, and they all run into each other. Not a bad thing, especially for this brand of heavy rock and roll, but people looking for something different will be disappointed. Devoted psych-heads, however, will feel right at home with The Great Wilderness’ In the Hour of the Wolf.
The Canadian group Danger Cat lays down sublime grooves that simmer with both anger and affability. The four-track EP Out of the Woodwork highlights the group’s talents for a funk-based rhythm section and grimy riffs.
The opener "Come Now" throws in a bit of post-punk production. It has a very sparse sonic quality whose gaps are filled in with aggressive guitar notes and loud, pulsating drumming. The other songs' audio quality follows the opener's blueprints, by giving each instrument a prominent place in production. "When We Play" is a much stronger number, in small part due to the vocalist's snarling delivery and topsy-turvy guitar work.
"Jean" softens the mood with its gentler chord progressions and melody. Toward the end we are treated to the most exciting moment on the EP. Swathes of guitar-driven noise mingle with the heaviest percussion heard thus far, bringing me back to my own golden days of radio-listening when the same compositional techniques dominated rock. "Battle" ends things on a lighter note, with more intrinsic interplay among the instruments, including some nifty strumming that adds play tones to the otherwise hard-wired sound.
Out of the Woodwork is a fun little EP with tight harmony and interesting mixing. It has a very garage feel to it and yet there is a sleekness in the work that helps to underscore the sometimes abrasive feelings translated through the musicians' music.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Jared Lucow 27 Lost In Heaven 3.7
Ponds & Fleshmen Better Days 4.0
Fallible Awake In Dreams 3.3
Dan Amor Rainhill Trails 4.1
Icarus The Owl Icarus The Owl 3.9
Matt King Songs For The Offering 3.7
Graveyard Club Sleepwalk 3.7
Snir Yamin Urban Stories 3.7
David Jacobson seems to have an endless reservoir of musical ideas and ingenuity. A couple of months ago we reviewed Escape From The Dungeon of Tears and Come Around Again!. He recently released an album called Still Waiting and an EP called Goodbye Dungeon of Tears. It’s obvious at this point that Jacobson has two distinct styles that he relies on for his releases.
Goodbye Dungeon of Tears EP is the follow up to Escape From The Dungeon of Tears and follows similar tendencies to the original. This lineage of material is somewhere in between Santana and Comets On Fire. It may or not be intentional that the recording is lo-fi giving off a 1970’s vibe. Throughout Goodbye Dungeon of Tears EP the star of the show is the lead guitar. He does do some singing but his vocals lay so low in the mix it ends up being a passive experience. I actually didn't even realize so much was going on lyrically until I clicked on the lyrics on his Bandcamp page.
The EP opens up with the psychedelic, hard rock meanderings of “The Weight Of Being.” It’s an effective rocker as he sings “Stare into the void, I see magical towers. They grow forth from the trees like some impossibly beautiful flowers. It all blossoms before my eyes. I call them to blossom before my eyes.”
“She Calls My Name” was the highlight of the four tracks as his vocals were a bit more present and I thoroughly enjoyed the cascading interplay between the guitars and bass. It contains an upward chaotic momentum and Jacobson sounded a bit like the lead singer of Band Of Horses on this one.
“Do You Remember?” is another solid track with plenty of lead guitar before closing with “The Ghosts of Ones Who've Loved Me”. There are a lot of things to enjoy about this EP but I think a 25% improvement in recording quality would go a long way. Jacobson has a great voice so it’s a shame I couldn't really make out what he was saying.
Still Waiting works in all the ways Goodbye Dungeon of Tears EP doesn't if only looking at the production aspect. Jacobson’s vocals along with guitar work steal the show on multiple occasions. Everything from the drums to the bass and guitars sit well in the mix and at this point proves to be Jacobson’s best accomplishment.
His songwriting is on point throughout the album. He starts off with the excellent “Getting Old; Getting Sad.” The song combines clean guitars, lead guitar and vocal harmonies to create an exuberant even festive vibe that contrasts with the somewhat gloomy lyrics. It revolves around a classic tale of a relationship gone bad and possibilities of the future ahead. Even if the outlook doesn't look so promising for that moment as Jacobson sings “Getting old, getting sad, and I'm moving on without you. With or without you, I'm going to find someone new.” the future feels promising.
“You Know Me” loosely plays with structure as he creates a psychedelic canvas for him to plea to his lover while “Because I Can” sounds like it was straight out of the 70’s. “Girl” was a very nice change of pace and made me scratch my head as to why Jacobson isn't doing more acoustic-based material. It really is some of his best work. The guitar picking is fantastic and the vocal line is just as good. His voice sounds just as good covered in melancholy as it does in exuberance.
The album closes with “We’re Still Waiting” which is arguably the catchiest tune on the album. It a rocking tune that will have you bobbing your head along in no time.
One of Jacobson’s biggest strengths is being able to effectively combine different emotional experiences such as melancholy, hope, guilt, etc. into a song. He does it successfully throughout Still Waiting, which may make it his most accomplished work to date.
Jacobson doesn't show any signs of slowing down soon and while there is still some room for improvement I am getting more impressed with his work as it evolves.
The pop-folk country group Heat and Lights is Tim Walker’s, from Grand Theft Bus, current side musical project complete with Andrew Butler on drums/vocals, Nick Cobham (The Olympic Symphonium, Force Fields) on bass / vocals, Brad Perry (Grand Theft Bus, Gravity Strike) on Rhodes and guitar, Dennis Goodwin (Grand Theft Bus, The Olympic Symphonium) on lap steel and guitar. Where in the World EP was mixed by Chris MacLean and Brad Perry at Comptish Studios, Durham Bridge, NB, Canada. Brad Perry mastered the EP.
The EP intro’s with “Show Me Where to Go” that begins with a bouncy Rhodes piano intro before getting into the story of being lost, “lost child in a foreign town / I’ve got this map but it’s ripped in half.” The guitar solo at the end really makes this track; it’s eclectic, jazzy with intense picking, with some qualities of country.
“All I Want is a Dance” begins with a jazzy-circus sound before wasting any time getting into a class analysis of different people. The song reveals Heat and Light’s sensitivity and simplicity; they are not interested in extravagance, “some folks have castles they like to call home / people to trim their shrubs and shovel their cold wet snow” but really, “All I want is a dance.” Their songs are emotionally declarative throughout but this one in particular goes as far as to satirize some folks’ absurd lives, as seen by the “castle.”
In “Maybe I Like the Blues,” Heat and Light underlines the vocals with psychedelic guitar riffs to produce a unique cross over between the psych-rock world and folk-country to lines like “I’m not doing much sleep then it’s always dawn.” The descending outro, kind falling down the stairs effect is definitely a compositional highlight in that track.
I want to hear more exploration of exciting guitar and Rhodes piano composition in their next album to expand some of the experimentation they’ve already showcased in Where in the World EP.
The Zurich-based three-piece band, Living Shape, churn up gloom rock that leaves a sweetly bitter taste in your mouth.
Living Shape is more about crafting mood than noise. The guitar hooks dissipate over patient drumming while layers of distortion slowly and casually pile up beneath the track. There are some tribalistic elements over the course of five tracks on their EP Bloom, mainly the percussive repetition and the dusty notes, which guide the melodies like flares in the sky.
The album opens with "Natural Spirit" which combines 1970's guitar distortion, organic live sounding drums and a dynamic vocal performance. "Singing With Crows" uses lighter guitar notes that evolve into sharper riffs and then form into softer notes to ease the track into its ending.
"Almost" features a fantastic guitar solo that electrifies over the linear rhythm section, and "Nasty Girl" grabs the listener's attention immediately with a hook proclaiming the singer's love for his nasty girl, which is already ear catching, but the nuanced studio effects make the repeating claim intoxicating. "Bloom," the eponymous closer, though, which is the longest track on the EP, churns throughout its seven-and-a-half minute run. Brief lapses of comparable calm, serene guitar tugs and easy percussion occur in between the heavy melancholia.
Bloom is an impressive EP for the control the musicians demonstrate over their instruments. No tune is left unguided, and each song flows easily and happily through the murky mood that most of the tracks create. Tense moments are punctured by powerful musical swells neither jubilant nor overbearing, but simply existing as an example of the Teutonic tunes these Swiss can create.
Just by listening to The Disparrows recent release Making Others Rich you can make a very educated guess that these guys are from LA and listened to other hard rock bands from LA that sprung up in the 80’s and 90’s. Fans of bands like Mötley Crüe, LA Guns and Dire Straights will not want to pass this one up. Their album contains 11 solid songs of hard rock that adhere to a high aesthetic. The production is nothing short of stellar and the songs are ones that you can turn on at your next party or enjoy in the middle of your work day.
Forming in 2010 the band has quickly created a chemistry that was apparent on their self-titled album and solidified with Making Others Rich. These guys play well together and not only in that they are all technically accomplished musicians but in the way they show restraint to better the songs and to know when to push.
The album jumps at you right away with “Detroit City.” It has a classic feel to it. Mixing elements of hard rock and blues with an anthemic chorus, Weber the vocalist chants “Downtown Detroit” in a way that makes you want to join him. “All The Same” utilizes 80’s sounding synths that will remind you of Dire Straits while “Cry To Me” has an infectious piano that works well with vocals. “Blackbird” isn’t a Beatles cover but instead is the first introspective ballad type song the band tries and pulls off. The drums sound huge - like they are being played in a concert hall - and Weber covers his voice in melancholy. And how could you leave out the lead guitar part that reminded me of some of the lead work Slash used to do for Guns N’ Roses.
They revert to good time rock and roll with “Come The Morning Time” and “High Tonight.” “Lose It All” has some wicked organ and a memorable lead vocal line. The band closes with “ A Little Bit Longer,” which reaches for nostalgic, grand heights. It’s a big closer that ends with a bang.
The Disparrows aren't incredibly original but they can write a good tune that you may want to hear again. There are a number of solid songs on this album that fans of hard rock will embrace.
I like listening to bands that are combinations of other bands; these types of bands typically have a great deal of experience writing and performing music, and that expertise tends to bleed heavily through the music they produce. Quebec City’s Los does not disappoint in this department. The band is comprised of members of local touring bands, a decided advantage that shines in their first physical EP Romances.
“Ghost” has a grungy rock introduction that quickly blends into a more laid back surf vibe. It’s a shorter song at just over two minutes, so it’s over almost as quickly as it began.
I want so badly to believe “Nature Boy” is a tribute to Ric Flair – and to be fair, the song leans that way (though it could just be mind association on my part). There is a lot of attitude and bravado in this song, so it’s easily listenable by anyone who needs a little pep in his or her step.
“Jelly Spoon” has a sort of ethereal, saccharine feel, helped along by the guitar singing sweetly in the background. It’s a little difficult to make out some of the verse lyrics on first listen, but it’s clear that there are a lot of well-written words in this song so it’s worth the close listen.
“The City” uses a call and response technique in the chorus, with deep voices counteracting the lighter tones and providing a really nice amount of contrast in the song. This song has, by far, the most energy of any song on the album – you can hear the passion here, as clearly as you can understand the chorus.
This was, all in all, a nice listen. I like the form of surf alternative grunge rock that Los plays – it sounds different from what’s being played now, and that’s a phenomenally good thing. Romances woos the listener, dangling meaty support riffs and addictive vocals in front of our face for the short time that the songs are playing.
If anything, I would suggest a longer EP – while the four songs show a decent range of skills, it seems as though they’ve only scratched the surface of their true potential. That said, this serves the purpose of an EP by getting the taste buds primed for the experience, and leaving the listener anxiously awaiting the next taste. Definitely give this a good spin.
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