Out of the basements of Connecticut lies an indie music scene that is certainly more worthy of recognition than is currently taking place. Luckily for us, a few of these underground artists decided it would be for the best to create an LP which sampled music from each of the bands, offering their listeners a collaborative listening experience that offers both diversity and originality. The result of this project is Calligrams an eight-track album with two tracks each from Dr. Martino, Spectral Fangs, Terrible Roars and Ghost of Chance. The songs range from surf-inspired jam rock to anthem rock and although this is a collaborative effort, the songs flow together as if they came from a single entity.
Calligrams starts off with a jam inspired track from Spectral Fangs titled “Stoned and Atoned,” which features heavy, surf-inspired guitar lines that are fuzzed out and articulate. The calm, smooth vocal delivery fits the song like a glove and the backing vocals further back-up the surfing nature of the song. Despite the feel of the song being heavy, Spectral Fangs does a good job retaining a sense of space between the verses and choruses. The song ends with a dramatically bent, crying guitar over the chorus that intensifies the vibe of the song. Their next track “Catnip” which ends the album possesses a similar feel, utilizing a choppy tremolo and big chorus. “Catnip” retains many of the same elements as “Stoned and Atoned” such as the harmonized backing vocals and hefty choruses, yet it is stronger and more organized with more parts and smoother transitions. The ending of the song features harmonized guitars and cascading drums that enhance the level of the song to a more dramatic and intense version of what proceeded.
Dr. Martino is a trio based out of Willimantic, Connecticut, whose members include Amy Shaw, Simone Puleo and Mike Kaminski. Their first song of the album, titled “CPC” (standing for “Clean Plate Club”) is a powerful indie rock song that contains a playful nature. The song is very easy to bang your head to and the shredding, wah-ed out solo toward the end of the song demonstrates that although the song is playful, it was made by serious musicians. Their next song, titled “Anna May” is in my opinion one of the strongest songs on the LP. Although the chord structure on this song is fairly simple, the vocals transform the song into an anthem-rock inspired piece. Similar to “CPC,” “Anna May” relies on the dramatic choruses to grab their listeners’ attention and it definitely works, as they are both catchy and powerful. The vocal mixing on this song, especially toward the bridge at the end of the song, is stellar as it makes the voice act as another instrument, further adding to the dynamic nature of the ballad.
The third track of the album, titled “Calling Out” by Terrible Roars, is by far the grooviest track on the LP. This song is interesting in that the bass line is the main focus with the guitar and vocals adding depth. When the chorus hits, the bass turns into an over-driven riff that is impossible not to bop your head to. The chill, falsetto-infused vocals fit very well with the song and the heavily reverberated guitar adds a nice touch of funky ambience. The choruses in this song are definitely its defining moments, but considering how strong it is, that is not a problem. Their other track, titled “June Gloom” is my personal favorite of the album. It starts out with an intricate drumbeat, again accompanied by a prominent bass line and rhythm guitar part. The vocal line in this song is much more prominent than its predecessor, which is positive, as the melody is exceptionally catchy and when the female voice enters, the song’s depth is just heightened. When the instrumental bridge hits, the song turns into a psychedelic wall of sound that seems to grasp every possible sound out of the air and transforms it into a beautiful sonic palette that catches you totally off-guard.
Ghost of Chance appears to me as a little bit enigmatic, as I would describe them as the LP’s closest thing to a shoegaze group, yet their first track on the album, titled “Can Opener” is played on an acoustic guitar. Despite the acoustic roots of the song, there is a surrounding ambience and drones that are subtle yet steer the listeners toward the correct direction of the song. I quite liked the vocal delivery on this song, and I feel that the more I listened to the track the more I noticed and the more I appreciated. Their next track “It’s A Drain” begins with some strumming behind the bridge of the guitar, which is soon accompanied by a fuzzed out riff played over a fuzzed out rhythm part. This song I would definitely categorize as shoegaze with lightly delivered, heavily reverberated vocals and guitars. The drumbeat to this song, especially in the chorus, is quite dance-y, which adds a unique element to the song. The song transitions well and all of the parts flow together very nicely. The second half of the song intensifies with a stronger riff and a nice buildup. It soon transitions into an energetic jam with intentionally clipping vocals and huge guitar sounds.
One thing that all of these songs have in common is that the mixing is consistently brilliant. Throughout the whole LP, I had a really hard time picking out improvements from that end. Both the audio quality and prominence of instrumentation was solid, and as a listener, that is truly something to appreciate. Calligrams is certainly something unique and I think that the idea can potentially set a precedent that other underground artists could follow. The notion of combining works to further overall recognition and reception is very smart, and I hope that these four bands continue striving for originality and continue making accessible yet artistic music.
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