Saxophonist and composer Ayumi Ishito has been performing in New York’s vast music scene since completing her studies at Berklee College of Music in 2010. In the time up until now Ishito has played a wide variety of musical styles such as jazz, blues, gospel, funk, experimental, world music and too many other sub-genres to name.
This time spent honing her craft outside of the academic world has given Ishito a roundness that she couldn’t have otherwise obtained. She has lent her talents to such diverse acts as the jazz/blues band The Jazz Thieves, the free-jazz/dome metal band The Eighty Pound Pug as well as the Avant jazz trio, Nova Project. Most recently though Ishito has been at the helm, making her very first record View from a Little Cave, an album that has its roots in jazz but its compositions, vastly rhythmic and avant-garde to say the least, seem to have more in common with indie rock than classic jazz.
This indie-inspired take on jazz becomes evident from the wondrous tempo shifts opening title track as Matthew Albeck’s electric guitar wah’s alongside Yoshiki Yamada’s electric bass grooves and Takafumi Suenaga’s keyboards while drummer Carter Bales masterfully maneuvers the beat. All throughout Ishito’s saxophone blows out notes as pure as the hues of color perfectly separated in the natural lines of a rainbow. Next on the slow, yet intense lounge offering “Still Shallow” Ishito’s sax at times sounds like it is being blown by the ghost of John Coltrane even as a slightly fed back electric guitar lightly chugs along in the background.
The longest track on View from a Little Cave, “Road Song” begins with Ishito softly blowing her saxophone and the listener is struck by an image of a dark and underground jazz club late at night with smoke hanging about the air, and a single, soft blue spotlight falling like a shadow upon the stage. This doesn’t last long though as Ishito and the band launch into a contorted, and thinly veiled cover of Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place.” Ishito and her band experiment a bit with the blues as well as funk and reggae on the out-there track “Walking on Mars.” Here Ishito, even though she is the star of the show, takes her time coming in and out of the song, letting her bandmates set the mood for a bit before coming in to help sharpen it. This restraint is a gift and only helps to make these songs that much more exciting and experimental which she’s up again on the long guitar interludes of the closing track, “Thirsty for It.”
On View from a Little Cave Ayumi Ishito expertly straddles two different worlds. In one sense these songs harken back to the jazz of old, and often Ishito’s saxophone pays homage to this period, yet her compositions are wholly her own and have a relevancy in the indie rock music here and now. Though Ishito’s cave may be little, the view is quite expansive.
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
Submarine Machine Sunday 3.5
Negative School Strange Days 3.7
North End Alpha State 3.8
Den O' Bears Bare Naked 3.6
Charlotte Bridge Charlotte Bridge 3.9
CLONE AGE FUSE 3.7
Skookum Home Grown Blues 3.7
Juxta Juxta 3.5
Cameron Robertson a good while 3.7
Ancient Lake Ancient Lake 3.6
Photoride Photoride 3.6
Absent Tone Almost Dead 3.5
The Brooklyn-based band The Road To Ruin recently released their album Heartbeat From The Next Step. The band has a full lineup of musicians including Miles Stenhouse (vocals/guitars/keyboards/percussion), Sam Lubin (bass/guitar), Katie Ortiz (vocals) and Erik Sandfort (vocals/ keyboards). It’s a pretty eclectic blend of music that's extremely diverse with two lead vocalists.
The band opens with “She’s A Good Idea.” From the first couple of words Stenhouse uttered I was thinking he sounded like Neil Young. In fact the music sounded like Neil Young when he would rock out. On my second listen the similarities were confirmed in my mind. It’s a catchy song and pretty straightforward.
“Useless” has a distinctly different vibe. Ortiz is on lead vocal and she sings with a sassy inflection with a good amount of attitude. The fuzz bass is the lead instrument here and drives the song. Once I got to the third song “Not All Time Spent Idly Is Wasted” I wasn’t sure where this album was headed. This song contained atmospheric synths and other elements that gave the song an electronic feel. It has a bubbly, synth pop vibe and felt like a different band from the opener which had an American classic rock feel. The song also had a Flaming Lips flavor to it, close to something you might hear on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
Ortiz is back on vocals for “Crossroad Fever.” This is another highlight. The song has atmospheric airy pads and reverb laced guitars. “Glad It Wasn't You” has more of that classic rock feel except it has a couple of synths included in the mix.
As the album progresses there are a number of really good songs that got my attention. “The Freaks Aren't Freaks Anymore” was great. The vocal harmonies are exceptional and rings with a similar essence to “Space Oddity” by David Bowie mixed with some Flaming Lips.
My only minor complaint about this album is that I would have liked the songs to feel more connected to each other in terms of the palette of sounds and aesthetics. A song like “Slow And Easy On The Go” which is an organic sounding sing-along with country/pop vibe sounds significantly different to my ears than a song like “Crossroad Fever.” Sometimes limiting the palette of sounds (this includes reverbs and other productions techniques) a band uses can help an album feel more cohesive. That being said the songs on their own are easily worth the price of admission. I thought every song could stand on its own. The delivery was not only top notch from the vocalists but the songwriting was as well.
Overall, I would say this is their best release so far. The band is evolving and I have a feeling we'll be hearing more from them soon. Recommended.
Pilgrim Stories by Silvergirl is modern folk rock music at some of its best. The collection of four tracks comes out of Melbourne, Australia. The style is very much rooted in the folk music genre with a focus on storytelling as an art form. The pace of the entire set is easy enough to listen to but not so slow that the listener looses interest.
“Ocean Beast” starts off the album with an almost rock anthem feel that quickly gives way to an interesting story. The story has a strong beat and combines the rock feel you might find in the remake of a classic beach movie. This song could easily appeal to a younger crowd or an older one with carefully placed electric guitar solos to draw in those looking for a throw back to classic rock. I enjoyed the heavy piano focus as well.
“Helena Blue” is much more of a guitar heavy piece with that strong folk storytelling under current. This song was a bit less of the rock feel and seemed to be retro in style. This reminded me of a solid ’60s single by an undiscovered band. The cover art for the album is exactly how I would picture this song if you could “see” it.
I enjoyed the combination of the retro feel with enough added to make it something a pop audience could also sing along with. “Blue Surf Van” continues the surf feel of the album and was my favorite piece of the set.
This was very retro and something I could easily see in a classic beach movie but with the realistic update. Things don't always turn out perfect like they use to in the classic ’60s beach movies if you listen carefully to the lyrics.
“The Sun” ends the set with a solid folk rock goes pop tune. The idea behind “falling into your magic” lends itself easily to a break out single. This was easily the most marketable song of the four and seems to unify the theme of the album.
Overall I enjoyed the pace of the album and found it to be fun. I would enjoy hearing more from this artist. Looking forward to hearing more.
Sometimes you just get a certainly feeling when looking at an artist’s cover art, website and then listening to their music. In the case of Nick Black I was thinking class. The guy knows how to dress. Look at the perfectly matched attire he has on his cover art. Not only that but on his website he is adjusting his tie in one picture and in another sitting on a couch and looking at you like you’re in for a passionate evening. Snazzy.
His music reciprocates his image on his latest album entitled Deep Blue. It’s crisp, clean and refined. Stylistically he mixes pop, R&B and soul in a stew of sounds that are as attractive as his long locks.
He opens the album with the warm and inviting “Ocean” which contains clean piano, horns, string, drums and more which support his vocals. It’s a solid opener with a good amount of energy. Up next is “Grownups” which is super slick and funky sounding. The horns were extra warm to my ears.
My favorite song was “D.I.Y.” This was the number that would make ladies swoon. You can practically feel the sensual oils dripping down your back. The instrumentation is lounge-y and serene. As the album progresses there is an eclectic batch of songs including the upbeat and jovial “Let’s Be Glad” and the slightly bluesy “Reason To Stay.”
Black’s music was easy to enjoy. You don’t have to dig too deep to enjoy his music. There are some great melodies; he’s a good singer and is pretty diverse in terms of style. The next time I have that special someone over for a romantic evening I think Deep Blue will be a serious contender for being played in the background all evening.
David Rupley is a prolific artist who has released a number of albums in 2016. One of those albums Planetary Drift which is one of his most organic sounding albums to date. I’ve listened to some of his other material which often had more synths, electronic drums, etc. His music on this release felt psychedelic, ambient and ethereal.
He opens with “Enter Someone” which sounds like the fog of a leftover dream. The guitar is light and clean while other elements lightly bounce off of it. His vocals lay low in the mix with delay effects. It’s one of the highlights that felt extremely ambient.
Up next is the zany “Elevator Music In Space” which has a very different feel. The name is indicative of what it sounds like. However the music feels disorienting as if you were a robot and the nuts and bolts on your armor started to come loose.
“Going Nowhere” is a lot more of a straightforward song compared to the first two tracks. It’s certainly one of the catchiest songs on the album. The next song that got my attention is “Rounding” which is a meditative, hypnotic track while “Pennies” is a lo-fi sound avant-garde piece that seems to layer sine waves.
“Solar Planes” combines so many sounds it’s almost too much to take in. It sounds like two separate songs are laying on top on each other at times. “Sonar” is a slower moving song that revolves around a piano that is getting hit with different elements. “When I Was Young” has a pretty ominous sound while the title track fluctuates back and forth between dissonance and harmony.
One thing I respect about Rupley is that he shifts his palette with each album while still having a sound that feels related to his previous efforts. Rupley makes unique music and this album is a testament to that.
By all means when one thinks about its rich history and plethora of players over the years, big and small, it would seem that playing rock n’ roll is pretty straightforward. I’d go as far as to say that it’s also pretty simple, perhaps the easiest genre to master. So I don’t find myself getting too worked up about any new rock records as far as the “rock” part is concerned.
Surely there will be songs with licks that my ears will instantly adhere to, and there will be records that I really like and want to listen to, but there will be no feigned surprise or outpouring of the word “brilliant” to describe any new records. However when something comes along that I find pleasurable and can see below the surface of, I will contain my excitement but also give credit where credit is due.
In my opinion Toronto psych-pop trio Well Being is deserving of such excitement for their self-titled full length album Well-Being, which follows up on their Chambers EP, for which the band toured. Well Being took a little over a year to complete the nine songs on Well Being, and the time spent shows significantly in the quality of the songs.
Take the ripe-for-radio, ethereal rocker “Fear Love and Everything in Between” with its heart tugging vocal melodies mingling with vibrantly haunting feedback. It was good enough to catch the ears of the CBC which deemed it "an extremely well-crafted rock tune." Also extremely well-crafted is the blend of post-punk and shoe-gaze rifling through songs like “The Kuleshov Effect” with its jingly guitars and rhythmic handclaps, and the taut and upbeat, pounding rock of “Waterboarding.”
Despite their sound having more eclectic leanings, Well Being makes their sound more universally palatable by adding poppy hooks and slow builds which end up being worth the wait, as they are on the emo-inspired “Jean Seberg” and the sing-song, fist-pumping fight song “Don’t Complicate It,” which could be said to be the band’s mantra.
When listened to carefully Well Being is as seamless as a record can be, all the rough edges are smoothed out, the vocals, the instrumentation, everything sounds perfect, all the levels are aligned. But this is not the way in which Well Being should be listened to, rather it should be thrown on and forgotten about for as long as possible before it begins to draw you into listening to it, which it will. That is when the real appreciation of the mastery of this record begins.
Sometimes I get albums that just sound a bit too close to what the band is inspired by. Although this can be viewed as a good thing (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?), sometimes the music itself comes across as a bit too familiar. But, analytically speaking, everyone sees the purpose of the medium of music differently— to some, it may be to release or create something unlike anything anyone has ever heard before, and to others it could be to put out a record that sits comfortably amongst its peers and predecessors. In The Silver Thread’s newest album, titled Strange Currents, listeners are presented with a very recognizable old-school indie rock collection of tunes that are both well-written and performed, however it is nothing exactly new or distinct.
Strange Currents is certainly catchy— songs such as “Valentine on Fire” and “Whispering Wires” demonstrate the band’s ability to broadcast themselves in an enjoyable, friendly manner. Speaking generally, I think the songwriting on this album is both impressive and very mature. Because the band consists of just three people, two of which have been playing together for over fifteen years, the sound is very cohesive and comes across very naturally.
As far as instrumentation goes, the record is pretty bare bones. Consisting of a guitar, bass, drums and vocals, the sound itself is very accessible and not too complex. With this being said, there is not a time when the songs feel empty or deprived of anything. On the contrary, I think the band do a good job of filling out proper space in their music yet at the same time giving it room to breath and take in.
As far as production, the album sounds really nice. Although I disagree with some of the effects used on the album, I think that may be more of a problem in recording than production. Each song presents itself very clearly and I think the solid production allows the listeners to enjoy each song to its full extent, and it provides a very honest, accurate approach to the music.
I think if The Silver Thread want to set themselves apart from the pack, they are going to need to emphasize escaping their comfort zones . With this being said, they can absolutely retain a lot of the elements that they utilize to their advantage (strong songwriting, catchy chord progressions, fun riffs, etc.). I just think their music might be stronger if they decide to look a bit further. As is, I do enjoy the sound of the band, however it is just a tad too comfortable for me at times. I look forward to hearing what The Silver Thread does in the future!
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Shane Wesberry, Jeff McMullen, and John Walker are South Of Reality. The three-piece band released a nine-song self-titled album South of Reality. From the imagery on their album to their name you may have guessed they have some southern flair. It’s true you can definitely hear southern rock within the music. That being said the band incorporates different genres as well.
They open with “Stand On The Rock.” The initial organ sounds like it coming from a classic rock band from the ’70s. There is also a bit of an ’80s vibe which emerges on this song and on a number of others. It’s a pretty catchy song and the band is tight and in the pocket.
“What I Am” is a bit funky all things considered. It’s definitely a song where you can imagine people dancing. The southern boys from Texas also aren't afraid to use a synth. I have no problems with that. The vocalist sings, “What you see is what you get I live my life without regret.”
“Two For The Show” melds an Americana vibe with southern rock. It’s another catchy song with a single worthy viability. A personal favorite and highlight was “Fallen Warrior.” The verse has a great guitar riff that is layered with a subdued organ. More appealing was the warm melancholy and nostalgia throughout the song.
“Sleepers” gets into metal territory for a couple of moments while “Buried Bones” has additional percussive elements that give it a unique feel amongst some of the other tracks. They close with “Southland” which I thought had an overt arena rock quality to it. The guitars are huge on this track.
South of Reality isn't exactly reinventing the wheel and it's not the most contemporary sounding music out there. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I could see a lot of people enjoying this music. It reminds me of a lot of bands when I was a kid and I could see a lot of people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s enjoying this southern charm you don't hear as often these days.
Based in the twin cities of Minnesota, the four members of Kaleidoscope Effect met at McNally Smith College of Music, where they lived together and studied music production and recording. After releasing their first album in 2014, Kaleidoscope Effect released Ivories in late 2016 and are currently finishing up recording their second full- length album which will be released in 2017.
Swelling steel guitar chords, lazy yet crisp percussion and solid piano playing welcome the listener to the record in the intro of “Hazeltine.”.The track takes cues from alternative country, folk and pop styles with Jordan Goldberger’s mellow, alluring vocals leading the band through the dynamic tune and background vocals and guitars completing the soundscape as it progresses.
Reversed audio from a piano creates an ambient, experimental atmosphere in “Where Are You Tonight” before the song launches into the piano-focused, driving power anthem that is as harmonious and melodic as it is quick and aggressive. Pulsing bass and drum solos pepper the track, and carefully placed electric guitar riffs add much flavor to the song without overwhelming the listener.
The next track “Wondering” continues in the piano-heavy pop style that characterizes much of Kaleidoscope Effect’s music. Conventional song structure and mostly surprise-free chording choices make this song very accessible to fans of many genres, yet the band succeeds in infusing the song with their own personalities and unique style.
The album comes to a close with “Four Stories” a celebratory and thoughtful track that incorporates soaring vocals, ambient guitar riffs, powerful percussion and lush piano chords into a strong emotive piece. As a band, Kaleidoscope Effect has accomplished in a very short time what many bands fail to ever achieve, and Ivories is just one example of the group’s collective talent and skill.
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