Fire of Joy is a duo from France that was born last year. They recently released Fire Of Joy which is a ten-song self-titled album. This release is hard to label because each song felt like its own thing. The duo creates a mood or idea and then sort of just plays around with it. I would definitely consider this avant garde.
“Tiallath” is the opener and you are greeted with digital horns, angelic vocals and other elements. The constant is the bass line and everything else bleeds out or becomes a part of this equation. It feels like a non-sequitur towards the end.
“Shliiin” is similar in that there’s a beginning and an end that sort of blends together. It felt like a collage. Eventually a groove emerges and all sorts of ephemeral elements fade in and out including what sounds like Eastern vocals similar to Ravi Shankar.
“Archeaargh” is the centerpiece. The song opens with some great percussion and ends up going into all sorts of different places you would need to hear. There’s no denying it's unique, original and abstract.
“Yetlok” has organic drums and jazzy overtones while “Hotnii” sounds similar to a psychedelic carnival ride that’s malfunctioning. “Roarh” opens with one of the attention grabbing grooves on the album which is abstract but still grounded with elements which feel connected.
“Chek” and “Tanchyey” were also unique songs. I loved the beginning of “Tanchyey” in particular which was sparse and beautiful. The vibe is ominous on “Sineatey” and the closer “Mooneliy” is an eight-plus-minute journey.
I’m not a stranger to avant garde music and can easily appreciate artists like Oneohtrix Point Never and Aphex Twin. Fire of Joy feels very much aligned with these types of artists. It’s hard to know what to make of it at first and I encourage music like this to seep in over time for it to click. Recommended.
Northern Colorado’s Freak Delusion, is the recording handle for Solomon Rueb “and anyone who wants to contribute.” Rueb performed and engineered the parts himself, except for the drums, which were played by Dustin Phillips. They’re currently a studio act,with the goal “to grow into an actual band.” Look Sick is their debut, a four-track EP.
I hope they do, because basically, Look Sick is the 1991 record I always wanted, but could never find. Guitars are tuned down and distortion is turned up. Thick slabs of bass anchor the bottom end. Drums are precise but not over-technical. Baritone vocals are ethereal in parts, growly in others. The overall music is heavy, and maybe a little dangerous, but there are little pinpricks of light here and there (like the major thirds in “Red Flags”) and Freak Delusion hasn’t forgotten that many listeners do appreciate melody.
“Cheesing” is the first track which grabs us immediately with its heavy guitar groove. The riff reminded me a bit of Vinnie Vincent’s best work from Kiss’ Revenge, although Freak Delusion is able to shift meter and feels better than Kiss ever could. The vocals are pure Alice in Chains, and the production is terrific with various guitar parts and tones weaving their way through the song. Where was this in 1991? I needed it!
Freak Delusion keeps it going for the remaining three tracks. Guitars stay riffy, vocals keep you on your toes, and beat accents and time-signatures shift effortlessly. I particularly liked the long fadeout on “The Darkest Timeline,” where Phillips’ drums sound magnificent. Phillips adds a little sparkle to “We Travel In A Spiral” where he breaks out some cool-sounding cymbals (is that a China Boy?).
The final cut “Red Flags” was my favorite. The first guitar solo sings with Pink Floyd-like phrasing. The slower, darker second section features a guitar solo which may have been played by the bastard child of Brad Whitford and Joe Perry. Freak Delusion slows us down into an ending where the final note bends up to...a resolution? Almost? Well, maybe not, but it doesn’t matter. Break out your flannel shirts, grow out your scary facial hair and dreads, and crank up Look Sick, like 1991, never abandoned us.
Singer/songwriters JG Kemper (acoustic guitar/vocals) and Kayce McGehee (piano/vocals) make up the Los Angeles band Winter Plans. Their latest EP Ghosts captures the feelings of isolation in the hopes of creating a togetherness through shared experience, understanding and music. Kemper states: ”These songs were written about isolation as a means of bringing people together with a shared understanding and a reminder of the importance of the making extra effort for one another. The quick check ins, the random act of kindness and the grace of understanding are incredible gifts that we all must strive to share.” During the winter of 2019, JG began writing music about isolation. Little did he know, Covid was coming a few months later, and the rest of the world would understand isolation in a way never experienced before. During the spring last year, Kemper shared his work with McGehee and the two formed Winter Plans. Ghosts was written in Richmond, Virginia and Los Angeles, then recorded at 4th Street Recording in LA during the pandemic. Produced by Tim Brennan of Gold Sky Music in Nashville and mastered by Alex McCollough at True East Mastering, the EP also features appearances by Symbol Sweeney (viola) and Trevor Exter (cello), and additional arrangements by Tim Brennan.
The opening track by the EP’s same name, is a warm, gentle, acoustic number with an Americana feel. The highlight for me was definitely the cello and viola – such a rich sound! But the vocal pairing between McGehee and Kemper could not be any more perfect. There is the feeling of isolation with the song’s words, but the warmness of the instruments playing together makes up for the cold, melancholy vibes. Carrying on the juxtaposition between warm, rich melodies and sad lyrics is “Alone” – another great number featuring strings, and also piano. “Cost” puts the cello and piano front and center with the song’s melody. Kemper’s voice sounds a bit more rugged and worn here in the beautiful song. Next is “Panic” – a song that has a more ballad-like quality to it. More gently played, it seems than the others, with a greater viola, piano and vocal presence. If you like stringed instruments where you can just hear their heart and soul in them, you’ll love this one.
“Shake” features an acoustic to piano rhythm, where the instruments almost seem like they are in unison. McGehee has a greater presence her on vocal, where Kemper takes the backseat for a moment or two. There is a nice piano solo that builds up which I liked. Lastly there is “Night” – the band’s longest track. Lyrically, the words sound like they look back on memories, but also being aware of the present times we’re living. Dang, I don’t have any better words to say about this one other than you really should listen to it. It’s gorgeous! Musically, it reminded me of Paul Westerberg’s gentler acoustic numbers he did with the Replacements – songs like “Sadly Beautiful” or “Skyway.” But in terms of Americana music, this LA pair gives the listener a refreshing take on what you might think a traditional Americana band sounds like.
Lewis Merriman is the twenty-six-year-old artist behind Midnight Moonshake. Not too long ago he released his self-titled release and he is now back with Reflections. He explains: “The album is about love, pain and emotions. The past couple of years have been challenging, emotionally and mentally. These life events inspired me to be creative and express my feelings through music, helping me face and overcome fears.” I would say his description is very similar to countless artists I have reviewed over the years. It’s far and away the most common reason I read about why artists make an album. They go through hard times and use the creative process as a way to gain perspective and even heal. I’ve written about this before and it always strikes me how beneficial art can be not only for the audience but the artist as well.
“Pulses” is the first track and starts with a dissonant array of synths. The transitions are sudden and reverb laced vocals blend with atmospheric blend of pads, sine waves and more. It’s very atmospheric and usually floats away til the percussive elements ground it. I thought this was a great way to open.
Next up is “It’s Going Away” and this song felt a little more accessible and catchy. The vocal melodies in particular were memorable. That mood is dark but still sort of dance worthy. There are some subtle things happening as well that you might not pick up unless you’re wearing headphones.
“This Feeling” is next and contains a nice blend of elements. There is push and pull between hope and chaos. They come together in harmony at times and sometimes feel dissonant in a shoe gaze type of way. One of the best grooves hands down goes to “Nightmare.” The initial sort of funky sub bass was definitely one of my favorite moments. He does some spoken word with some delay and I couldn’t make out a word but didn't care.
“Worthless” initially builds a sense of tension and then transitions into new wave yet experimental type quality. Last up is “Moving On” and it has some unique production. There are arpeggiated synths, a ridiculous amount of transitions and some grooves. The song can’t sit still and finally finds a killer groove towards the end which might be the best moment on the EP.
Reflections felt like a formidable follow-up and very much builds on his strength from his debut. Recommended.
Dancing Flesh Fish is a rock noise recording project from Toronto, Canada. The band recently released a self-titled five-song EP Dancing Flesh Fish. I found the artwork and band name a mix between humorous and terrifying. The song is a mix of punk, rock and alternative.
The band get going with a short punk rock type song called “Broccoli'' which revolves around a couple distorted power chords, a blistering beat and repetitive melodies. It’s a blast of a song with tons of energy. The song is silly but fun. It’s a song that also sounds great live and will get your adrenaline pumping.
The next song is “Thunder” and there's definitely a change in mood and style. I felt like I was in a biker bar and not in a sweaty punk club. The song is a slow burn and sounds for lack of a better word “badass.” There is plenty of attitude and it makes you want to take a shot of tequila and get into trouble. “Cheater Slick” is another song that is just a blast. This has a pinch of spaghetti western and spy music. The riffs are great and so are the vocal melodies. It’s also the most dance worthy song.
Up next is “Hollow Tipped Heart” and we get into hard rock mode not too far from The White Stripes. I loved the vocals. The vocalist sings “stop mumbling, stop muttering, stop answering.” The last song is “Telegram Sam” and sounds more classic rock inspired with a good amount of Americana. It’s a different vibe than the other songs.
My critique is that the songs are a tad bit scattered. It felt like they were playing into specific genres rather than their own signature sound. For instance ““Broccoli” was their punk rock song and “Telegram Sam”was their classic rock summer jam.
Overall, I thought this was a good EP. The attitude, delivery and songwriting was top notch. It felt to me like this was music that was meant to be experienced live. On that note turn this one up loud and maybe crack a cold one before hitting play. Recommended.
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Neopoliten is a solo artist from La Crosse, Wisconsin who recently released Shapeshifter Assembly. The album is a mix of shoegaze, industrial and alternative. One of the things that stuck with me was that the songs often contained different vocal approaches almost to the point where it sounded like a different person.
The album starts with “Common Man” and begins with fuzzy guitars and a drum beat that is more upfront than the other instrumentation. Right off the bat you can hear multiple approaches in terms of the vocals. There is Trent Reznor like screaming but that changes to a more monotone shoegaze style. It works out way better than it sounds on paper. There are some very cool elements in the mix as well but you sort of need some nice headphones on to hear them.
Up next is “Bodies” and I would be very surprised if Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor weren’t inspirations on this song. The whispering, haunting vocals were both staples of the artists and you hear that. That being said there are also some Layne Staley style vocals . The music is very cool and a mix between grunge and shoegaze.
“Giving Up on Friends” is another solid tune and more upbeat and welcoming in some ways. The chorus is catchy and infectious. I liked the shoegaze sort of dissonance on the verse as well.
Next up is “Heaven’s Gates” which feels more metal inspired. I think it was the initial chords. The vocals are sort of calming but everything else feels like it’s unhinged and spiraling out of control. I loved the juxtaposition of it. “Dylan” and “Yesterday Erased” continue to form this unique foundation but “Everything’s Alright” was a highlight that is a shoegaze heavy song.
This album grew on me. Once I got to the fifth song everything started to click. The artist did a great job creating a unique signature sound. Recommended.
Priests Of Hiroshima is a six-piece musical outlet from Dallas, TX that released a self-titled ten-song album Priests Of Hiroshima. Their music sounds somewhere between Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park. It was when those bands were at the peak of their powers that you saw a surplus of bands coming out with a similar sound. This immediately reminded me of those bands from the vocal affectation to the general mood.
I got the sense the band is taking themselves and the subject very seriously. I really never got the impression that the band was having much fun or celebrating. They sound a bit pissed off and aggressive and maybe they have every right to be. I kept thinking of dudes in the gym doing bench presses to this type of music, mashing at a concert or just getting amped.
The band gets going with “Ragnarok” and right off they paint the dramatic mood with whispering vocals. There seem to be multiple vocalists however and they do a good job switching things up. The drums are a little intense throughout and I enjoyed the distorted guitar progression.
“Little Boy” is an ambient piece with some vocal samples thrown over it. The band gets back into song mode with “Long Division” and they sound a lot like Rage Against the Machine on this song. They also sing about very similar topics.
“Same My Name” continues with loud guitars and current social movements while “Mercury Rising” might have the best groove on the album. They continue with “Thousand Ghosts,” “Metamorphosystem” and Summa Omnia.” “Summa Omnia’ had more of a grunge feel which I enjoyed. “Oceanside Deliverance” and “Emergence” continue to build a similar foundation.
I remember seeing Rage Against the Machine back in the mid ’90s. It was still to this date the best concert I’ve ever seen. The band was all about us vs the powers that be. It was fuck the billionaires, the one percent and corporate greed. I ate it up. Now that I’m forty I’m not quite as pissed all the time but I like the fact that music like this is still being made by young people. It’s been a message we have seen with cultural protests, in our art and on the Internet. Priests of Hiroshima seems to be trying to keep that flame alive that was lit a long, long time ago.
Yarrows is a rock trio based in Penticton, British Columbia that have released their first full-length album. They identify as psychedelic country, existential dream rock and desert nocturne. I already like them just from that description!
The three members of yarrows all come from other bands. Stephanie Lines (lead vocals/acoustic guitar) is from Great Lonely Wild, Mathieu Drolet (lead guitar/bass) hails from the Karate Kids, and Thomas Hunter (percussion/backing vocals) came from Meet The Future. All their music is written collaboratively with lyrics by Stephanie Lines. The band says that Lines gets compared to Patti Smith. I’m a Smith fan, but Lines may technically be a better singer; the similarity is more in her direct, unadorned delivery. Lead guitarist Drolet cites Red House Painters, Calexico and Kepler as primary influences. Their soundscape comes from their “…experiences growing up in rural areas, the desert landscape of the southern Sylix / Okanagan territories, and the rapidly changing ecologies and technologies of our world.”
Lyrically the songs were crafted by Lines during a sweltering summer of personal upheaval and loss. Guitarist Drolet fleshed out Lines’ sketches with final touches added by percussionist Hunter. The album was recorded and mixed in Hunter’s Penticton basement and mastered by Timothy Stollenwerk of Stereophonic Mastering in Portland, Oregon.
The opening track “Blindness” establishes the yarrows’ sound: acoustically open, somewhat shimmery in a minor key with un processed lead and harmony vocals. Like early R.E.M., the band gets a lot of mileage out of a single jangly electric guitar, bass, and solid, roomy drums. Watching a live video on their website, to me this song suggested The Byrds performing something like “So You Want To Be A (Depressed) Rock And Roll Star.”
“Let Down” opens a bit like a Joe Jackson track, with stabbing guitar breaks and killer drumming. Lines does channel Patti Smith here with a beautifully aggressive lead vocal. “Can we terrorize ourselves / make our own minds / We are the living tide / you ain’t never gonna let us down / we can make the water rise.” I especially love the elliptical chord structure used here.
“So” filters Drolet’s guitar through shimmery tremolo and reverb, as he plays more of his bittersweet, suspended minor chords. The song kicks into double time halfway through, to bracing effect. It’s hard to hear some of the lyrics but Lines appears to be saying a bitter goodbye to someone who really should be sticking around.
“Shadow Train” adds acoustic guitar to the yarrows mix along with an even more intimate Lines vocal. The song alternates between quiet picking and a more aggressive “train time” rhythm. Lines brings a Gillian Welch drawl to the lyrics: “Oh there ain’t no sense in disagreeing with / these things we’ve gone and done… well, the tracks they keep on going / I ain’t never been so far away from home / they don’t turn the way they should, they don’t respect the mountains for their routes.” There’s more than a hint of Tex Mex danger in their arrangement.
“Icarus” locks into a laid-back rock groove with more of those yarrows stop-start rhythms. Nice lyrical device on the legend of Icarus: “I’m driving, still holding on / the wheels don’t get much further from the ground / into the sunrise / if we could go just a little bit faster / if we could reach just a little bit further / if we could try just a little bit harder / if we could fly just a little bit higher.. and touch our souls.”
“Into The Night” establishes a ghostly mood with a guitar that suggests distant car horns on a black night, peeking in and out as a stark counterpoint to Lines’ vocal. On this track especially, one gets a sense of the intimacy of the band’s live performance sound.
“Another Day” features a hooky guitar lick for a medium-tempo rocker in which Lines stretches her falsetto muscles. “Go To Sleep” ends the album with a busy drum kit rhythm and picked, natural sounding acoustic and electric guitar. Lines chooses to hold back on her singing a bit here, but this song is yet another wonderful iteration of the yarrows’ sound.
Overall, Stardust Motor Inn is a highly consistent and enjoyable collection of songs by these clearly talented players.
“Vivaldi Summer first and third movement,feat. Persian Santoor Binaural 3D in 432Hz” is a recent song from Art Tawanghar. There are a number of songs he did at 432Hz which apparently have some medicinal qualities. According to his website: “Listening to such a masterpiece in 432Hz can help to cleanse our energy, help us relax and tune out of this untuned world!” The website goes on to explain: “Comprised of four violin concertos written by Antonio Vivaldi in 1723, The Four Seasons is probably the Baroque composer's best-known work. Each of the four concerti is based on a sonnet —supposedly written by Vivaldi himself. Each sonnet is divided into three sections (fast, slow, fast), which correspond with the three movements in each concerto.”
This song is one that I wouldn’t have guessed I would hear coming from Art Tawanghar. I’m more used to beat heavy music that mixes with a lot of Eastern influence. This song is obviously more classical and I couldn’t think of anything that sounded like this from his previous catalog.
There are an array of strings on this song and it starts with a beautiful warm atmosphere that surrounds you. It sounds regal but comforting. There are some changes in the melody which have a romantic quality as if you are biking through a European shoreline.
The best moments however are when the strings becomes faster and what sounds like timpani drums enter into the picture. It’s exciting and fills you with anticipation. I would also say there’s a cerebral like quality to the music. I was thinking of the movie A Beautiful Mind. The track gets more fleshed out and it goes back and forth between momentum and homeostasis. I thought the last thirty seconds or so were thrilling.
As I mentioned this did not feel like a style I typically hear from Art Tawanghar. I have to say it was a nice change. On that note he has a tremendous back catalog and I encourage you to discover that as well.
MuskAUX is an artist from Richmond, VA. The artist mentions: “I play with live groups/bands fairly frequently. MuskAUX is my recording project, which gives me more freedom to work on writing, making new sounds and focus on the overall process.” On his release ESP you certainly get the feeling the songs are coming from one mind. The music sounded similar to instrumental hip-hop artists who work from a laptop.
The artist goes on to explain: “The songs themselves are short sort of sketches with a light and relaxed mood. I made them sound like they could be placed in the room as if someone was making a cup of coffee, without them noticing.” That’s an interesting description and I sort of understand what he means. The songs don’t call attention to themselves and I think this is mostly because there isn’t a focal point like a lead vocal. These are ambient groove based tracks.
The mood gets lit with “Up All Night” which is one of the more beat heavy and hip-hop infused songs. That being said, the mood is very chill and relaxing. It sounds like warm waves oscillating back and forth. The energy changes on “Looking at the Stars” but it’s subtle and I think it sounds a lot like the title of the song.
The serene and chill vibe continues to roll out with “Walking through Walls” which contains organ, wind elements and percussive aspects. I loved the deep bass beginning of “ESPresso” which contains some jazzy overtones. The ride cymbal melds with faint synths which then fade into bass led melodies.
“Diffuse” contains jazzy lead guitar while “Deep Ochre” has more of a new age quality to the elements. The relaxing vibes continue with “By Chance?” while “Unmistakability” is way more high energy in comparison to most of the other songs.
Overall, this is a fluid and seamless collection of instrumental tunes which I recommend listening to from beginning to end.
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