Darion Kelley and Sergio Rivera may be on to something with their project Bodega Dream. Their recent EP entitled Chronic City is about ten minutes in length but showcases some potential.
They have been told that they sound like Chance the Rapper meets TV On The Radio. I’d say more TV On The Radio than Chance the Rapper. I would go as far as to say that they sound like Young Liars era TV On The Radio. They also infuse more hip-hop into their music and seem to take themselves a little less serious than TV On The Radio. In fact some of the music is downright playful in a good way.
The first “Gift For A Ghost (Intro)” revolves around intelligent rhymes, handclaps, piano and some low-end thunder. It surprised me how much they fit into the minute-long song and reminded me of something you might hear from Flying Lotus during one of his short cuts.
The TV On The Radio thing people have referred to happens in the first minute of “Unraveling.” It’s that dark, ominous atmosphere coupled with a driving beat they dig into. The songs get pretty wicked as they twist and contort synths. One of the guys sort of does this talk/rap thing towards the end of the song that works. Overall, “Unraveling” is a solid track and showcases some talent but the gold medal winner goes to “Chronic City.”
“Chronic City” features some straight up hip-hop and smacks you in the face with a number of different styles. It starts with a saloon-sounding playful rhyme that transitions into a dreamy atmosphere. The rhymes are full of metaphors as he talks about being covered in silver and forging material. It got as silly and unpredictable as the Eric Andre show at times but hell it's their god given right.
This appetizer of an EP leaves a lot of questions. Can the guys deliver a full-length album? Will they be able to file an adequate restraining order from the female fans? And when if ever will they achieve world domination?
My only issue with the EP is that the last two songs sound pretty different. Meld the styles effectively my friends and then you can sit back and let the money roll in.
Last year The Equal Ground reviewed TV|EP by Godfrey Turner Overdrive. The EP is a powerful expressive meld of punk rock, post-rock and hardcore. Godfrey Turner Overdrive is back with Visceral Light, which further solidifies the band as a genre bending group who will appeal to a vast demographic. This EP is impressive not only because of the dynamic balance between intensity and atmosphere but that hipsters, punks, emo kids and hardcore fanatics can find something to latch on to here. Like surgeons the band finds a way to please multiple sides but it never seems forced; a skill that many bands and artists have failed at.
The band’s ability to pull off intense distorted guitar action backed by pounding drums and bass is evident in the opener “Simple Words.” They reach some epic peaks in the song like right before the two-minute mark where they rock out Rage Against The Machine style. The second track “In Your Head” is where they start displaying the dynamic nature of the band. It starts off rather heavy but the second half is ethereal, atmospheric and rather beautiful at times. I admire the structure. A less skilled band would probably go soft first then heavy but the unusual structure was an unexpected pleasure.
“Limbo” is like a roller coaster going from light to heavy and back again with little warning. The distorted guitar is jagged and leaves waves of distortion as the vocalist sings. A delayed guitar adds another layer of depth before hitting a climax.
The highlight of the album was “Fractured Intentions w/Brad White” as the band’s strengths are put on full display. I got caught up in the disparate vocal parts and pure rush of the combined instrumentation towards the end of the song. It was chaotic one moment and then clean ambience the next. They close with “Break The Habit,” which is a song that gains more energy as it progresses.
I have to give it up for Godfrey Turner Overdrive. They found a niche that not many bands explore and are making it sound good. Rock on.
Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kate Clark is a talented songwriter who has been involved with music a good portion of her life. Back in the mid ‘90s before some of you were born Clark was rocking out in a band. She later graduated with a Music Education Degree from Duquesne University and just recently completed a three-song EP entitled Raising The Black.
Clark certainly can sing. She has a powerful voice, which is ultimately the anchor that holds down the music. The songs are atmospheric and she is going for an epic impact here. If I had to shove this into a genre I’d go with New Age but in some ways the label doesn't completely do the music justice.
The first song “Hard To Believe” may be the most moving of the three songs. She sings, “It’s hard to believe I’m standing here” and goes on to question how she got to where she is. The song delves into the existential dilemma the majority of people face at one time or another. “Hard To Believe” is built around atmospheric pads and piano. It serves to support her voice and does it well.
“Chaos” was the highlight of the EP. It’s more upbeat, contains percussion and I have to say I liked her voice a bit more when it sounded hopeful. She gives an exceptional vocal performance and I was hoping for a some more of that vibe after I heard it. She closes with “My Heart is a Rogue,” which is a slowing moving sprawling song. The song gets more intense in a number of ways as it progresses. There was more instrumentation including piano, which was an effective element.
This music will appeal to a certain niche of people. Imagine Enya if she was a bit more hip at times. That’s kind of what you have here.
Anxiety Fair are a four piece hard rock outfit that like to play with genre bending. The first track from their No Front EP, “Therapy,” charges out from some 80's roadhouse jukebox, built around a steady strum and beat and featuring a snaking solo during the bridge. But during the chorus there's something slightly out of place: the harmonized backing vocals. You might think they're more at home in a doo-wop number than in something this aggressive, but they fit surprisingly well. Little risks like these at times put the No Front EP in a category that's hard to label, and that is a very good thing.
The components of each song are mostly the same, and as such there's usually an abrasive edge to each one from the electric guitars. But some songs go out of their way to be different, however. “The Man I Wish I Was” is the EP's acoustic outing, played like a western song. The mood shift is echoed in the lyrics as well.
“The End,” appropriately the final track, is much more ambient: the drums are largely minimal and there's a good amount of space between everything as the guitars buzz and glow but don't overwhelm. It eventually hits a crescendo and everything bursts into a frenzy, reminding you that at their core Anxiety Fair want to hit fast and hard. Singer Chris Kouldukis even screams the lyrics to cement the style change.
Other songs are more typical of alt rock. “There He Goes” is an anthem of self-loathing that revolves around an almost thrashing strum before delving into lengthy, winding solo.
“Happy Man” is ever evolving, brimming with drum fills and crunching guitars, adding more and more the closer it gets to its slow-breaking finish. The No Front EP is a kaleidoscope centered around hard rock. The styles and influences may shift but at its core it stays firmly rooted in rock. A good adventure if you're willing to take
House is a four track EP from Tom Moore. Recorded in his house and completed in just a few hours, House has the tendencies of dream pop with a few other bits and bobs thrown in as well. It's guitar based (no drums) with both music and voice given a slight echo. The final product is surprisingly professional-sounding given the circumstances under which it was made.
All but one track fall under the three minute mark. Of those three, one is an instrumental/sound collage piece. What we're given with House are brief glimpses into a heightened sense of anxiety. “trk 2” is the standout of the group for several reasons. On one hand it's hypnotic, the melody built around a tumbling guitar riff. However, the lyrics themselves are somewhat disjointed both in ideas and pacing, disrupting whatever balance the music had. I absolutely love this. Some of the the lines are incredibly disquieting (“Don't you wish you knew/I'd have fucked you for your words”), and if you're just floating in and out of the song lines like that are going to force you back in.
“trk 1” and “trk 3” are both more upbeat musically but still carry a sense of worry lyrically. These opposites play well with one another and are made more effective by the tracks' short run time.
The closing track, “trk 4,' is a subdued and remorseful instrumental backed by the sound of a mechanical whistle. The few notes played are repeated as various found sounds are introduced and removed. It's more of an experiment than anything else and could probably end sooner than it does (the last forty seconds or so are a strange hum and followed by silence). But it's a nice way to end the EP regardless.
Quickly consumed and enjoyed, there's no reason to not check House out. Fans of dream pop and space rock will find familiarity in at least one track, and fans of the unusual can take away a lot from Moore's writing.
Los Angeles based four-piece Naked Walrus bring out three songs for their Stripped Down II EP. The collection of acoustic oriented rock-pop tunes show a fondness for catchy mid-tempo melodies and introspective lyrics. Though they tend to follow similar structures each song serves a different flavor for different fans.
We kick off with “Business Shoes.” Built around a descending strum, it's here where the lead electric is most used, adding a bit of tension to the chorus and assuming a leading role after the two minute and thirty second mark as it spirals into a solo and closes with a menacing riff.
“Movies” is our remorseful track and is really well done in that sense. The comparison and contrast of one's anxieties and life to movies may seem cliché, but it's really not the focus here as it only comes up in the chorus. Instead singer Dakota Gartner explores themes of disconnection and forcing make believe through unambiguous language, and as such this is the standout track simply by being the most human. There's some great drum work during the bridge as well, giving the expressive lead solo something to play off of.
“Brain Puddle” is the EP's send-off, an upbeat anthem about staring into the unknown and deciding to give it another go regardless. It's the shortest track here, just a pinch under two minutes long, and as such sticks to a verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure with no bells and whistles. This does add a sense of authenticity to what's being said, though, putting the idea of redemption and stability above all else. The sounds are the most lush here, too, with generous splashes of cymbals and chords echoing throughout the track.
Though brief, Stripped Down II offers a good taste of what Naked Walrus are capable of. If you're new to the group it's a solid starting place.
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
Joey Luis If Sunsets Could Speak Words 3.4
Jack and the' Saharian Sands 3.8
Writ on Water The Greyest Day 3.5
Cologne Vanilla Abstract 3.7
Exit Clause Exit Clause 3.6
My My My Tigers on the Dance Floor 3.7
Those Ghosts Delays 3.5
The immediate impression one is likely to get when they first listen to Soulscape is that Arbo is an electronic act. The opening song “Moon” could easily fit that bill: it's a mix of rigid beat, effect-laden vocals, and a complex soundscape of keys and synths. However, a large section of Soulscape is organic-sounding guitars. So the question is this: how do you classify Arbo?
The man himself, Josh Arbo, is a student of studio composition with an admitted focus on engineering as well. The technical aspects of what this means sadly goes over my head, but from what I can gather it means there's a lot of effort put into how things sound. This is clear on any given track, but what becomes apparent is that Arbo loves changing textures.
“Houses” begins with ringing guitars and quiet percussion. Arbo's own vocal performance seems lethargic as well, meandering to the changing point about three minutes in. Then we are buried in sounds: something deep in the background sustains through layers of buzz, the guitars suddenly become more jagged and pointed. When the vocals return, more dramatic then when we started, there's no more room for anything else. The song stops being a song and is instead a carefully measured collection of sounds.
At first “Promenade,” the album's sole instrumental, seems like it will return to the opener's electronica influences. What starts as a mechanical beat and throbbing synths (echoed with a cutting electric guitar) evolves into a high-reaching epic reminiscent of hair-metal songs; the drums boom louder as the synth ascends. Elements rearrange in the second half with the more aggressive sounds taking to the forefront. It's the ability for all these pieces to change yet flow together seamlessly that will keep your attention.
Soulscape is a complex, beautiful thing. Layered in inventive sounds and textures, there's tons to be discovered here, even for those who don't have finely-tuned ears.
Brad Hargett and NYC visual artist Nina Palucci makeup the duo Secret Rooms. They recently released a four-song self-titled EP Secret Rooms on Archipelago Records, which is a deliciously fun yet dark pop/dance experience. The songs utilize electronic drumbeats, various synths and more into a formidable canvas for both Hargett and Palucci to sing over. Hargett’s vocals are usually buried in the mix and covered in copious amounts of reverb. He often sounds like a mix between John Maus and Ian Curtis. In fact the music itself has similarities to John Maus. Palucci’s vocals are also usually covered in a thick hall reverb. Her stylistic differences contrast well with Hargett. Hargett has a monotone deadpan delivery while Palucci’s vocal style is more dynamic and expressive. It works well together and gives the songs added diversity.
The opener “Haunted Minds” starts with manipulated vocals laid down by Palucci. It quickly gets replaced by abrasive lead synths and an arpeggiated synth bass and electronic drumbeat. The groove is infectious, dark and brilliant to dance to. Hargett is in charge of vocal duties until about halfway through the song when Paucci enters. The way they decided to split up vocal duties wasn’t something you hear every day but felt was quite inventive.
“Velocity of Love” is slick on the verge of sultry. The delayed electronics and reverb tails create an atmosphere that would simply float away if it wasn’t for the bass and drums holding it down. Hargett and Palucci switch back and forth on vocal duties during the verse. Palucci sounds like a seductive temptress while Hargett is quite enjoyable as the Maus/Curtis hybrid.
The third track “Stars Apart” veers away from dark tendencies and replaces them with a poppy almost video game- esque like sound. The music is irresistibly catchy at times even though it was arguably the weakest link out of the four. “Secret Rooms” is an instrumental track and also the most experimental. The drums are heavily affected with manipulation while keys, bass and more create a rather simple but engaging array of sounds.
Secret Rooms has very little to feast on but it tastes darn good. The songs are inventive and keep you engaged throughout their duration. I’m very much looking forward to a full length from this promising new group.
As the saying goes, the more the merrier. This saying especially holds true if you’re in a soul, funk and blues inspired jam band. These attributes belong to the seven piece Melbourne Australia outfit Crayon King. The band has recently released their debut five-song EP entitled Strange Love. Though the title may hint at otherwise, Strange Love isn’t very strange at all. In fact it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a band inspired by funk and soul. There are funky guitar riffs, the likes of a mellowed out Carlos Santana, rollicking bass thumps, jazzy and funky soul infused organ, and enough brass and percussion to keep it all on the right track.
Collaborating with seven different people is no easy task thoug, and so the band had to elect a leader for direction. That task of keeping everyone on track came down to drummer James Webster who allowed each of the bands members to find their own space for their sound. One thing I believe helped most with the bands recording of the Strange Love EP was that it was all recorded live in a large room and was later touched up with overdubs before being mixed and mastered.
This live recording becomes evident both in sound and feel from the very beginning of Strange Love, as the first track “I’m Gone” gets the EP going. Right from the start the feel is right with organ keys bouncing away in the background, the bass and guitars rippling and banging, and the horns coming in to add depth and that well displayed funk that only the brass can add. Lead singer and principal songwriter Scott Nelson also gets the vocal grooves off to a good start. His vocals have a warmth to them of the kind that aren’t trying too hard to overdo the soul singers voice, and in this way their naturalness becomes instrumental in fitting into the overall feel of the band. But Nelson isn’t the only one who can take credit for the vocals, as one can hear over the course of several of the tracks a good amount of backing vocal harmonies that add so much, so subtly to each song they appear on.
Though soul and funk inspired, Crayon King didn’t forget how to rock either as is evidenced by the rocking and epic sounding guitar solo near the end of the track “Black Pole.” Even more so is best and most promising song on the record “Can’t Help,” a poppy jam session which recalls at turns such bands as Supergrass and Belle and Sebastian with its funky and rollicking bass, horn and organ trio, along with precisely placed hooks and backing vocals. The EP closes with the title track; a sprawling seven-plus-minute jazzy and mild meld of soft horns and drums, along with bits of feedback.
With the release of Strange Love, Crayon King have launched a solid soul EP out into the world, one that deserves attention from anyone looking for some straightforward good old fashioned pop influenced soul and funk to both chill and dance to.
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